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       The Pirate, Part I: The Traitor, p.1

           Malcolm Torres
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The Pirate, Part I: The Traitor


  THE PIRATE

  Part I: The Traitor

  By Malcolm Torres

  Look for the continuation and the conclusion of THE PIRATE

  Part II: The Kingpin

  Part III: Big Daddy

  Works by Malcolm Torres

  Novels

  Sailors Take Warning

  Sailors Delight

  The Pirate

  Short Stories in the Sea Adventure Collection *

  Sixty-Four Days

  Shark Tooth Rosary

  Back to the Philippines

  Making Peace with Japan

  Pacific Northwest

  Crossing the Line

  iTunes Podcast: Lost at Sea with Malcolm Torres

  * Stories in the Sea Adventure Collection can be read in any order. They are often free.

  For more information about Malcolm Torres and to read the Ships & Sailors Blog go to

  www.malcolmtorres.com

  Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to your favorite ebook retailer to post a review and discover other works by Malcolm Torres. Thank you for your support.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or actual events is purely coincidental.

  Copyright ? 2017 by MT Press

  ISBN: 978-0-9860229-3-7

  All Rights Reserved

  CHAPTER 1

  Six months after volunteering for service in the US Coast Guard, Jack Turner stands lookout with a pair of high-powered binoculars on the bow of the cutter Allmayer, 45 nautical miles south of Key West. He scans the sea slowly as he was trained to do during his recent boot camp and basic seamanship course. He's looking for boats and ships or rafts of any kind. His position on the ship's bow affords him a circular view to almost all points on the compass. Three days at sea and all they'd seen were pleasure cruise ships out of Miami, a few oil drilling platforms, and a couple of deep sea fishing charters. The sea is running rough as the bow of the cutter rises high out of the water, the humid breeze blows in Jack Turner's face. Then the cutter crashes down between the swells, a spume of foam and salt blasts up around him.

  The watch leader had stuck Jack Turner out on the bow because he didn't turn green and start barfing when the ship left port and began tossing about on rough blue water. And Jack already had a deep tan, so there was no risk of sunburn. During his four-hour watches Jack put his ball cap over his crewcut, clamped the headset over his ears and braced the steel toes of his boots against the scuppers. He rode the bow up and down, scanning the open sea, checking in via radio every few minutes with the watch leader on the bridge.

  He hadn't seen any rafts even though the watch leader had made a big deal about keeping a sharp eye out for rafts. The watch leader said he had seen many rafts over the years. They were loaded with Cuban or Haitian refugees. He'd said it was the Coast Guard's job to turn them back. The watch leader also stressed that Jack should look out for speedboats and low flying planes because they might be drug runners. They'd call in a low flying plane and let the DEA go after them, but speedboats they'd intercept and do a board and search. The watch leader said DEA stood for Drug Enforcement Administration.

  With fifteen minutes until his watch is over, Jack wonders what they are serving in the kitchen for dinner. Then he remembers he isn't supposed to say, 'in the kitchen for dinner.' He reminds himself that he's supposed to be wondering, 'what kind of chow are they serving in the galley?'

  Jack lowers his binoculars and looks down at the sea sweeping past below the ship's railing. He sees his boots wedged against the scupper. He has to admit he doesn't mind being in the Coast Guard even though he'd never considered military service, not until he got arrested for stealing a car in Los Angeles, that is. The judge offered him military service instead of probation. His court appointed lawyer called it the jailbird program and encouraged him to take it. "Get out of LA," the lawyer said. "You're only eighteen years old. Do something with your life," the lawyer said. "Wouldn't you rather be in the Army or the Navy than on probation?"

  Jack wasn't sure at first. He was such a knucklehead. He had laid in bed in his aunt's basement, where he'd lived since he was twelve years old, and he thought being on probation would give him street cred'. Being on probation would make him look tough among his friends who were a bunch of punks and thugs. Looking back, Jack realized all they did was peer-pressured each other into petty crime and drugs when they weren't riding skateboards or wind surfing or playing Skyrim on X-Box.

  Jack looks down at his black boots and his blue uniform. He sees his name, TURNER, embroidered over the Coast Guard logo on his right breast pocket. He feels, ever so tentatively, that he is starting to belong to something. He belongs to the US government, that's for certain, but he belongs to something else. He belongs to a ship's crew of men and women. They are from all over the US and most of them are from a similar background - divorced or no parents. Most have a high school diploma or a GED. The smart ones have a few junior college credits. Prior to signing up and swearing in most of them had no prospects, no plans at all. Back in Los Angeles, living in his aunt's basement, under her dilapidated ranch house in Boyle Heights, Jack never thought beyond the next weekend. He was making a thousand dollars here and there stealing cars and SUVs. He thought he had it made. Then he fell for a glossy green Honda Civic that turned out to be a bait car. He remembered popping the driver's side door with his slim-jim and going to work on the ignition. Suddenly two LAPD cops and a Channel-7 news crew surrounded the car. Guns drawn. Cameras rolling. After they put the cuffs on him, the girl who had been holding the pole with the mic on the end, told him, "See yourself on TV this Thursday night at 6 and 10."

  He focuses his binoculars on the horizon, then zooms in on a faint white contrail at one o'clock. It seems to be a couple miles away. He stares for a moment but it's gone. Maybe it's nothing. Probably just the wind blowing the top off a big wave.

  He lowers the binoculars and looks down just as two dolphins break the surface and leap through the air together before plunging back beneath the waves.

  He smiles spontaneously, realizing what an incredible sight he's just seen. Something so beautiful he'd never have seen on the rough streets of LA. Two sleek and dark-skinned dolphins leaping out of the sea right before his eyes. He knows, but isn't sure how he knows, that seeing dolphins jumping ahead of the ship is good luck. He thinks maybe he's channeling some ancient mariner energy there on the bow of the ship. He wonders what good fortune lays ahead for him.

  And that's when he looks thorough the binoculars and sees the white spray on the horizon again. He can see it's a speedboat and it's moving fast.

  Jack mashes the transmit button on his radio and says, "Watch leader, this is bow watch, I have a bogie at one o'clock off the bow."

  "Roger, bow watch, keep 'em in sight."

  A few seconds later he hears the ship's public address system, with speakers in every compartment and on all the exterior decks, announce, "Launch the alert helo'." And Jack knows the pilot and the aircrew are already sitting in the chopper on the small flight deck on the Allmayer's aft end because he immediately hears it firing up its engine. The low whirr grows louder and louder and the thwock, thwock, thwock sound of its rotating blades echoes off the ship's metal decks. It fills Jack's ears with a sense of awe, because he realizes that he has kicked off a board and search mission. The metal deck begins to vibrate and shudder, because down in the engine room they've fired up the engines and put the ship
in high gear. In the blue sky the helicopter shoots past. Jack sees the pilot's helmet as he speaks into a mic wrapped in front of his mouth. And to his surprise, Jack hears the pilot say, "I've got a visual on the speeder at twelve o'clock. Now in pursuit, over." Two aircrew crouch in the chopper's open side door as it takes off across the blue sky growing smaller each second. Jack has a weird sense of vertigo as he realizes how big the sky surrounding him actually is.

  "Bow watch, keep an eye on that speeder," the bridge watch's voice crackles into his headset.

  "Roger, he's at twelve o'clock, dead ahead," Jack reports and sees that the ship and the chopper are both making a beeline straight for the speedboat.

  "We've got a runner," the pilot's voice in Jack's headset, followed by several verbal interactions between the bridge watch and the chopper pilot. Being new to the Coast Guard, on his first actual deployment at sea, Jack doesn't understand it all exactly. Between bursts of static there are short terse statements between men and women. Jack listens and understands that the speedboat is trying to run away and the chopper is authorized by the captain to go after it. The Allmayer is speeding up as fast as it can and something else about how far they are from Key West. Jack is surprised to hear that a DEA helicopter might be scrambled to help intercept. There is also something about a Navy ship somewhere nearby that can join the chase if needed.

  But it doesn't take long. Jack watches through his binoculars and sees the helicopter bank around and come in at the speedboat.

  It hovers for a few seconds.

  "Shots fired," the helicopter pilot's voice again.

  Jack watches the chopper pitch and weave in what looks like an evasive maneuver.

  The Allmayer's captain tells the chopper crew to fire back.

  The Allmayer is crashing across the waves for real now. Jack pulse ratchets up like it did when he'd broken into a car and was scrambling to hotwire the ignition. And then he sees smoke rising from the speedboat.

  The pilot's voice again: "Shooter is down, we've taken out one outboard engine and the shooter. The shooter is down."

  "Have you taken any fire?" the Allmayer's captain asks.

  "We might have," the pilot's voice comes into Jack's headset, "but all flight control systems appear to operating within normal limits."

  They are close enough now for Jack to see a tall lean guy with black hair, sort of Latin looking, standing in the speedboat with his hands raised above his head. The chopper hovers a little way off with both aircrew leaning out the side door, their rifles pointing at the guy on the speedboat. The Allmayer circles but doesn't get too close. A team on deck lowers a Zodiac raft and a minute later they are motoring across the water. Jack looks around. There are at least a dozen guns pointed at the speedboat.

  Jack wonders what is on the speedboat. What made the Latin guy try to run away? Why did they shoot at the helicopter? He figures it has to be drugs. Probably marijuana, but more likely cocaine, meth or heroine. He'd heard that decriminalizing marijuana in the US has been driving smugglers to harder more expensive drugs. The sleek green fiberglass hull bobs on the water. It's designed for a driver, maybe two passengers at most with its long, pointy bow and small cockpit. A hot looking lady in a black bikini appears on deck from down below. Jack raises his binoculars to get a look at her equipment. After all, he's been at sea for several days and he is a sailor. There are women on the Allmayer crew, but they aren't bouncing around in bikinis.

  The team boards the speedboat cautiously, pointing their handguns and rifles at the Latin guy and the woman in the bikini and what Jack figures is a wounded or dead guy on the deck. All three are quickly handcuffed. With the speedboat secured, the boarding party climbs back into the Zodiac and tows it back to the Allmayer.

  As soon as the Latin guy, the wounded guy and the chick in the bikini are brought on board, Jack is amazed to see his fellow crewmembers descend on the speedboat with chainsaws and pry-bars. They quickly tear up the boat's decks and uncover plastic sealed packages of white powder. Jack wonders if it's coke, speed or heroine.

  The watch officer tells Jack to leave his post and go aft to help offload the speedboat. He hustles back there. A senior officer tells him and a few others deckhands to go below and get some large plastic evidence tubs. They bring the tubs up from below and toss them to a few other deckhands who are down on the speedboat. A work crew forms and they set up a metal arm with a pulley on it, then feed a rope through and lower a cargo net to the speedboat. They fall into a steady rhythm of hauling tubs filled with large packages of drugs up from the speedboat to the deck. Then they pass the tubs down the ladder into a compartment that has EVIDENCE in black stencil on the watertight door. This is way more dope than Jack has ever seen. He wants to pull out his iPhone and snap a selfie with the shimmering blue sea in the background and a fat package of dope in his hand. It will be cool to post it a pic like that on Facebook for all his friends to like and comment and share. But he knows taking such a picture is totally unauthorized. Besides, he thinks proudly, I haven't been on Facebook since joining the Coast Guard eight months ago.

  The chainsaws cut open the speedboat's decks and bulkheads, filling the air with a tearing sound and the smell of burned gasoline. The crew hauls up dozens of big plastic tubs filled with packages of white powder. Several tubs come up full of fat vacuum-sealed packages of green weed. Through the clear plastic, Jack sees vibrant green marijuana covered with gold hairs. It's so weird because he knows it has a pungent odor, but since it is sealed inside plastic there is no smell at all. He wonders if the smugglers had sanitized the packages to outsmart drug-sniffing dogs that might come aboard at sea or upon arrival in Florida.

  Jack takes turns with the other deckhands, hoisting the tubs up from the speedboat. When his arms get tired of pulling, he takes a turn lugging tubs below. They go through a watertight door on the main deck and climb down a ladders to the evidence room below. He can't believe all this dope. It must be a million bucks worth on the street. Just being around it gives him a crazy contact high. He imagines having all these drugs and weed in his basement room, back at his aunt's house in LA. That would mean parties and cash. Lots of parties and lots and lots of cash.

  After all the contraband is unloaded and taken below, a couple mechanics climbed down to the speedboat. They unbolt the twin outboard Mercury engines and those are hoisted aboard the Allmayer. Next, they lower a hose and siphoned the gasoline from the speedboat's tanks. Jack wonders what they'll do with the gutted craft, certain they aren't going to tow it all the way back to Key West. That doesn't make any sense because they are supposed to stay at sea for another three days.

  Jack thinks it is pretty cool when the Allmayer's captain appears on deck. They are lugging the last few tubs of weed below. Jack is helping fasten cargo nets over the outboard Mercury engines.

  The captain is a short man and lean with a strong look like Teflon about him. He wears the same dark blue pants and shirt as Jack and the other crew working on deck. The captain's last name, HALL is stitched above his right breast pocket. Of course the captain has eagles embroidered on the points of his collars. His white hair is trimmed short and combed forward. His eyes and mouth are set in a serious look as he observes the activity on deck. Jack's memory flashes on the first time he met Captain Hall, a couple weeks ago. Jack's division officer introduced him. Captain Hall had shook Jack's hand, asked where he was from. Hall had looked Jack right in the eyes and said, "Welcome aboard, Son." And Jack truly did feel welcome. And he felt something else; something good down in his bones. Hall had called him 'Son.' Nobody had called him son since he was a little kid, since before his parents died when he was twelve.

  The captain walks over to Jack and says, "Good work spying this drug runner, Seaman Turner."

  Jack stands up straight and says, "Thank you, sir." Then he fidgets, not knowing what else to say.

  "You get the honors, Turner," the captain says
.

  "Honors, sir?" Jack asks.

  Several crew members standing nearby smile the kind of smiles that tell Jack he is about to experience a seafaring tradition, a secret ritual like crossing the equator or something.

  "Oh, you'll see," the captain says.

  One of the senior guys smiles and nods at Jack and Jack feels something unusual, some raw emotion he'd never felt before. It's a positive feeling; he knows that much right away. Honor maybe? Jack wonders. What is honor?

  Right then a deckhand who is carrying the last tub of contraband stumbles and drops the tub on the deck. One of the packages breaks open. That dank gold-haired weed is strewn all over the gray steel and black nonskid at their feet.

  "Clean this up," the captain says, then waves his hand and the speedboat, "and cut that loose." Then he turns to Jack and says, "You come with me, Turner."

  Jack follows the captain up two ladders and right onto the bridge. The captain gives orders to the helmsman and the navigator who immediately take to action. Outside the big windows, Jack looks in awe at the cutter's bow jutting out over the vast sea. The wide blue sky arcing over it all. What a spectacular view he thinks at the sight of waves pitching and rolling in all directions.

  Jack puts his hand on a railing mounted just below the window to steady himself as the cutter turns sharply. The captain and bridge crew shout commands, repeating each other to confirm what was ordered. Jack doesn't exactly understand them, but he can tell they are making a hard turn and activating a weapon of some kind.

  "Over here, Turner," the captain waves him to a panel of dials and buttons.

  A junior officer stands at the wheel with a headset on. She turns to the captain and says, "Sir, we're locked on now."

  "It's not every day you get to sink a smuggler's wreck, is it, Turner?" The captain points at a computer screen where Jack sees the gutted remains of the speedboat bobbing aimlessly on the waves.

 
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