“Shades of Justice” Chapter Twenty-five

As Buck was descending into the Philadelphia Airport through a light rain, Jack was staring through the mist, admitting to himself that he was an action junkie. Two days in an overly solicitous luxury environment tried his patience. The call he got from Captain Shorer cheered him up. When the authorities got their act together and a warrant, they raided the freighter and after a hard search a Coast Guard officer found a hidden compartment. When they broke in they found 23 young women in varying states of health and drug addiction. The ship was impounded and the entire crew under arrest without bail.

Kathy told Jack to stop pacing around like a tiger in a cage. Sally had needed the rest and eventually she snapped back to her previous outlook on life, but there were shadows. Not fear, but a looming question: What was she doing with her life? What she was doing before her kidnapping now seemed petty. She had long talks with Kelly who finally had to tell her that she was not at liberty to tell anyone what she was doing and to please stop asking. Kelly’s response shocked Sally. Kelly, seeing the shocked embarrassment, told her to talk to Kathy but warned her under that polite exterior, Kathy was a hard, tough warrior.

When the Lear touched down and taxied into the private plane section of the Philadelphia Airport, Jack told Kelly and Sally to either stay with the plane or wait in the clubroom. Buck or his co-pilot would show them. Jack told Buck he and Kathy would be no more than three hours and he wanted to leave for Pittsburgh when they returned with the new puppy.

Having a police badge certainly made traveling by air easier. Especially if you owned the plane. Their limousine was allowed to come up to the airplane. Jack suspected Buck’s longtime buddy chain of friends also helped. Shadow jumped in the back seat with Kathy and Jack. When the driver turned in shock to look at his canine backseat passenger, Shadow stared at him and yawned, showing off his massive jaws. The chauffeur asked Kathy if the dog was safe. Kathy said with her best impish smile, “The dog is safe and you will be too if you don’t upset him. He is very smart and knows if you like him. He prefers to ride up front. If he bothers you back here, I’ll tell him to jump up front.”

The chauffeur said, “No! He’s fine back there. Has he ever bitten anyone?”

Kathy was going to give the chauffeur another smart remark, but Jack stepped in and said, “Only on command unless he sees someone attacking us. Then he does his thing.”

Jack handed the chauffeur the address of the breeder’s kennel and said, “I want to be back here in no more than three hours. Can you meet that schedule?”

“Sure, unless you stay longer than an hour at the kennel.”

Jack had expected the address he was given was to a kennel. Instead the limo pulled into a driveway of a private house in an attractive suburban community. The chauffeur moved the limo around to the back of the house. A woman came out and introduced herself as Cynthia Morgan and invited them inside but suggested that Shadow stay in the car. Cynthia said, “Your puppy is in the house with his mother and she doesn’t like other dogs around her pup. She barely tolerates other people handling her pup. She is upstairs but would set up a tremendous brewhaha if she picked up your dog’s scent.”

Cynthia asked Jack and Kathy to wait in the living room and she would bring the pup down. Kathy nudged Jack and nodded at the sheets and covers over all the furniture. Jack shrugged. They both looked up as they heard sounds of a dog charging down the rug-covered stairs. Kathy was expecting a puppy still in the pick-me-up-and-hold-me size. Instead, a 40-pound bouncing bundle of brindle-coated Bouvier slid around the corner and leapt upon the couch while wagging his stubby tail. From couch to arm chair to floor and back again the streaking pup hit every piece of overstuffed furniture in the room before pausing and grinning at the two open-mouthed humans. Cynthia arrived and said, “He has show-dog manners but not much of any other training. I call him Tory, short for tornado, but you can give him a new name. His registered title is too long to remember. If you change his name put that on the form I’ll give you to send to the AKC. His shots are up to date. He is very healthy. I had the pick of the litter. He was the smallest but the heaviest. He has excellent conformation and loves the show ring. Unfortunately, the failure of the second testicle to drop disqualifies him for competing beyond the age of six months. Tory was on his way to be a great champion. Winning Best-in-Breed at the National Show for four- to six-month-old Bouviers when he was only four months, the youngest dog in the show, is no small thing. It breaks my heart to lose him, but my dogs have to pay their way.”

Cynthia was basically talking to Kathy. Jack was down on the floor bonding with Shadow’s son. Only Shadow didn’t know it yet. Jack stood up with Tory in one arm struggling to lick Jack’s ear. Kathy said, “Does he ever stop moving?”

“Only when he’s sleeping.”

Cynthia was very organized and had feeding instructions, health records, pedigree records, and her phone numbers. “If for some reason it doesn’t work out, I want him back. You come with very high recommendations so I doubt there will be any problems. Get him to a very good vet if you’re going to have him neutered. But not before he is a year old. The papers enclosed here explain all that.”

Jack asked Cynthia if he could take Tory out to meet Shadow. He had brought a collar and leash for him. Cynthia said, “My place is fenced in when the driveway gate is closed. But Tory can’t even spell ‘recall.’ So he will come back to you when he is done running as fast as he can for as long as he can.”

“I’d like them to meet off lead. I’ll close the driveway gate.”

Jack came back to get Tory after the gate was closed and Shadow was loose, checking the local scents. Jack put Tory down and he charged Shadow, who turned his shoulder and took the charge. Tory bounced back and Shadow, using the Bouvier hip maneuver, knocked Tory down and put his huge front paw on the wiggling pup. After a few seconds, Shadow backed off and let Tory come over and lick his face and then run off as fast as he could. Shadow ran after him and the two Bouviers played the age-old game. By the time Kathy came out, they were lying down side-by-side watching their human pack members. Cynthia came out and stood still in shock as Shadow and Tory walked up together to meet them. Cynthia said, “Your Bouvier is huge with show-dog qualities even with his graying muzzle. I’ve never seen Tory so calm with another dog. Shadow looks to be seven or eight years old.”

Jack said, while rubbing both dogs’ heads, “Shadow is close to eight. He’s serious about manners. He’ll help me train Tory. Before we go I’d like to see the bitch. I’ll put Tory and Shadow in the car.”

“Okay. But be careful with her. She’s very protective.”

The bitch was as standoffish as Tory was in your face. Kathy hoped the “puppy” would be somewhere in the middle. Tory’s father was a champion many times over.

Jack sat up front on the trip back to the airport. Kathy wanted to sit in the back with the sleeping dogs. Tory had his head in her lap and was sound asleep. She thought, I’ve only known this dog for 40 minutes and he’s already stolen my heart.

Jack said, “If we are going to change his name, the sooner, the better. Do you have one you like?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. My parents had a wonderful German shepard that I grew up with. His name was Gideon, it means warrior. Is that okay with you?”

Jack put his hand on Tory’s head and in his deepest voice said, “Henceforth, your name will be Gideon. Carry it well.”

“That sounded more like a baptism than a name change. But thank you.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Twenty-four

Jack estimated they would cover the approximate 40 miles to the marina in less than four hours. He used one of the cell phones he took from the Night Lady and called Captain Shorer. He was put right through. The captain said, “Jack, where in the hell have you been?”

“How about I tell you later. Now I have some intelligence for you. There is a freighter, Twisted Moon, tied up at the wharf in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island bound for the Middle and Far East. I am certain there are captives on board. When I hang up, I’ll fax you the contact instructions in our possession. With this information I don’t believe it will be hard to convince whomever that the vessel needs to be boarded and thoroughly searched. I suspect the women will be found in a hidden compartment. If these people think they’re in danger, they’ll dispose of all the captives. I have no evidence that will hold up in court. When you find the women you will have all the evidence you need.”

When Jack hung up, he knew the captain wasn’t happy. The world of criminal protection at the expense of victims had taken over effective law enforcement. Sally McGovern and at least a dozen other women would be on their way to a short life of sexual slavery if they had to count on conventional law enforcement to rescue them. Maybe his way was too hard, but the victims they had saved over the years never complained. Jack felt they could beat the odds only so long. Then someone might have to pay.

Sally had a bout with heroin withdrawal soon after the Surveyor was under way in the open ocean running at 25 knots. Kelly sat with her. She refused small amounts of morphine to help her down, telling Kelly that she wasn’t ever going to let anyone feed her heroin again. By the time Jack reached marker 675 and slowed to enter St. Simons Sound and the Fredericka River, Sally had made some improvement. Jack had called Buck, the pilot, earlier and told him to move the plane to St. Simons on Sea Island, Georgia, and to make reservations for himself, the co-pilot, and four others at the Lodge. They needed three bedrooms and Shadow had to be permitted in Jack’s room. He instructed Buck to remember that cost was not a problem and to reserve a year’s dry storage at the nearest marina in the company’s name for a 50-foot motor launch. Lastly, he asked Buck to please have a limo waiting at the marina in three hours.

******************************************

Two nights at the resort were wearing on Jack. Kathy knew it was time to leave when even she started getting bored. The downtime was needed and the sex was wonderful. She rolled off Jack and said, “Lover, it is time to be on our way. I don’t want to lose our edge. The rescue of Sally was better than textbook. We are on a roll so let’s go. I want to pick up our Bouvier pup. So crank up your toy plane and let’s get out of this plush trap. I’m ready.”

“What, you’re tired of sex and good food?”

“Food yes. Sex no. We Carolina girls like our sex quick, hard, and often. But we don’t want to kill our men, especially when they are over thirty.”

“Listen lady, have I ever left you high and dry?”

“No. But there is always a first time. So call Buck. I’ll get our poor girls without mates on departure alert for tomorrow.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Twenty-three

Kathy followed Jack out some miles beyond the three-mile limit until Jack slowed the Night Lady and put it on auto pilot just fast enough to maintain steerage. Kathy moved up to within 30 feet of the Lady and matched the speed and course. Jack hauled up the body below deck and laid him beside the three that fell in the initial attack. Using the tools and wire he found in the small engine room compartment, he wired a guesstimated 20 pounds to each body and pushed them over the side into 300 feet of water. Waving to Kathy he took over control and moved the Night Lady out a few more miles. When the radar showed no vessels were nearby, Jack disconnected the automatic bilge pumps and, using a one-inch drill bit, made a hole large enough to use the saber saw to cut through the double hull. He managed to weaken a foot square area that was beginning to spurt seawater. The spurting turned to a square foot fountain when he used a fire axe to knock the hole through. The Lady was beginning to settle when Jack motioned Kathy to come along side. It was an easy jump to the deck of the Surveyor.

“Goodbye to a beautiful boat and good riddance to the worst period of my life,” Sally said under her breath.

“Well, former cop,” Kathy said, turning to Jack. “Do you think anyone will be able to put this story together from the bodies and deliberately sunk boat?”

“No. They will probably never be found. Water is too deep over the sunken boat for amateur wreck divers to find. Not much metal on the boat and a 70-foot boat is not much of a wreck to dive on. In a few years ocean life will begin claiming the wreck.”

 

 

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Twenty-two

Kathy and Kelly were waiting for Jack’s signal to begin firing. As soon as Jack saw two men emerging on the deck, he called Shadow and leapt aboard the higher-riding Night Lady. He landed, rolled, and came up shooting. The three men on deck went down. Kathy had hit one of the men when Jack boarded the boat. All three of them were armed with .22 silenced weapons. Kathy took over the control of the Surveyor and Kelly boarded to finish the killing. Jack sent Shadow charging down the hatchway, following closely behind. He heard screaming as Shadow found one of the kidnappers wrestling with Sally. Her light robe was nearly torn to shreds. Her attacker had a screwdriver handle sticking out of his chest. Sally was doing the screaming and it wasn’t for help. Shadow knocked the man down and fastened his huge jaws on the back of the attacker’s neck. Jack called Shadow off and shot the kidnapper twice in the back of the head.

Jack saw Sally moving toward him and said, “Sally, Kelly is here with us. There’s little time. Come on deck now, we have to get out of here.”

“Kelly’s here?”

“Just up on deck making sure the kidnappers are all dead,” Jack said, motioning her to follow him.

“I knew she would come. She doesn’t know how to give up or quit. What is that wonderful dog doing here? I was too weak to finish that bastard and thought this is it. Then I saw this huge dog coming down the stairs like a streak. He never paused or growled. Just hit that creep like a linebacker and took him down.”

“That linebacker is my Bouvier, Shadow. He always knows what to do and is totally fearless. He hates terrorists and criminals. Don’t ask me how he knows. He has never threatened the wrong person. Come on, let’s get moving. Don’t worry about clothes. We have enough for you and I’m the only male and there’s not much of you I haven’t seen already.”

Jack helped an exhausted Sally up the ladder to the deck where Kelly ran over and hugged her. Both women were crying. Sally said, “Kelly, the only reason I could hang on is that I knew you would be trying to find me. How many people have a friend like that? I’ll love that big black dog forever. The thug was trying to put me in a body bag. Even sticking a screwdriver in his chest didn’t stop him. I stuck him too high. Then like a black flash the most powerful dog I’ve ever seen put the kidnapper down hard and would have killed him in seconds! Your friend called him off then shot the bastard. I was almost crazy and this man who came from nowhere, looked at me and, as cool as can be, said, ‘I’m with Kelly!’ I thought ‘I’m dreaming.’ Can this be true? My God, we are in the middle of the ocean. I love that man. Is he spoken for?”

Kelly laughed and said, “Yes and Kathy is almost as lethal as he is. So don’t even think about it. Come on board our boat and we’ll get you some clothes. Get dressed as fast as you can. We have to move. We’re not the cops or Coast Guard. Nobody knows we’re here. If we get caught, everyone but you would go in the slammer.”

Jack and Shadow made a three-minute search below deck and found nothing but two cell phones and some weapons. Nothing was found in any of the cabins. In a locked drawer in the cockpit Jack found instructions for meeting the Japanese freighter moored at the Fernandina Beach wharf. Stuffing the papers in this windbreaker, Jack called Shadow and jumped down onto the Surveyor’s open deck. Running up to the cockpit, he said, “Kathy, good job of tying us up. Kelly and Sally will be right over. I think she is okay. We’ll have to watch the drug thing. I’ve no idea how much she was given or even if she is addicted. There were vials of heroin in one of the heads.

“I’ve a couple of variations on our plan. I found the instructions for meeting the freighter. I don’t believe that ship is there to pick up one woman. There must be others on board. A freighter that size probably carries a crew of no more than five or six. It’s risky but we should be able to take it over and release the captives.”

“I agree we should rescue them,” Kathy said slowly. “But, then what? Where do we take them? I doubt they’re in as good shape as Sally. Do we kill the entire crew? If not, what is our escape plan? I can see success with everything but our getting back home safely. Sally will be okay. I doubt anyone but us knows she was gone. Kelly will explain to her why she must keep quiet.”

“Good questions. The same ones I couldn’t answer. The second variation. I call Captain Shorer tell him about the freighter and fax him the contact plans. Tell him time is critical. The freighter will be under way as early as tomorrow. Tell him nothing about Sally or the Night Lady. You follow me out a few miles into the ocean. I’ll dump the bodies and sink the Lady. You pick me up and we take the Surveyor to Brunswick. Put it in storage and have the plane pick us up at Sea Island. A day or so in a luxurious resort would be good for us. Do you like that plan better?”

“Yes! Let’s get started.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Twenty-one

6 AM Saturday, June 7th

 

At first light, the Surveyor moved eastward from the Cumberland Sound to a position five miles north of the northern jetty. Cruising slowly in the two-foot seas, Kathy and Kelly, in their bikinis, took turns at the telescope scanning the ocean to the west and north for vessels with the size and configuration of the Night Lady. Shadow was curled up on the floor of the cockpit, keeping Jack company.

They were ready for battle. Kelly was nurturing a cold anger for the men who kidnapped her friend. She had killed before and would have no qualms shooting the kidnappers. Jack was right, she thought, no prisoners. People profiting in human trafficking deserved no quarter. No rights being read. They had no constitutional rights. Like terrorists they preyed on the innocent and unsuspecting. They gave no mercy as they sold their captives into sexual slavery.

Jack was struggling to keep his focus. Cruising like this was mind-numbing. There were very few boats and fewer that even remotely resembled the Night Lady.

At 10:30 AM Kathy called out. “I have them. Behind us at our four o’clock about two miles off shore.”

Jack said over the intercom, “Okay, uniforms and weapons, and run up the big stars and bars. I’m going to bring us inshore of the Lady and about a half-mile back. If there are no fishermen at the south jetty, we’ll take them there. It may get rough so make sure you can hang on. Put on your life jackets.”

Shadow got up and started to go out the door. Jack said, “No, big guy, stay with me. Your time will come.”

Jack turned out into the ocean and made a sweeping turn to the north and east to bring the Surveyor into a southern heading behind and inside the line the Night Lady was holding. No other boats were within a few miles of their course. Jack gradually increased speed to 25 knots. The distance between the boats was steadily diminishing. The radar showed 300 yards and closing. They were within a mile of the entrance to Cumberland Sound. Jack said over the intercom, “Brace yourselves. Here we go.” Jack increased the speed to 40 knots. On board the Night Lady, the captain announced, “There is Coast Guard or some patrol boat behind us coming up fast. What do you want me to do?”

“Can you out run the boat?” Asad said as he hurried into the cockpit.

“No. They are much faster and it looks like they have a deck gun that is manned. If we try to run they will radio for help and maybe start shooting. We are in drug-running waters.”

Asad thought for a moment and said, “Let them come. We have all the right papers. It’s probably only a check for a fishing or traffic violation. If they ask you to stop, do it. The only danger is if they board and search the boat. They will find our prisoner. Get her into the weighted body bag and get prepared to dump her. There will be time. All American officials are so afraid of doing something wrong, it takes them a long time to do anything. If we are seen dumping a bag, it is nothing but a garbage violation. They will have no divers on board and the water is near 30 fathoms under us. What a waste of a fortune. Our people will not be happy. So don’t throw her over until I say so. I’ll get our papers ready.”

Below deck, Sally had been faking sleep for the last two hours. She knew she was due for another sedative soon. The faked sleep had delayed the drugs. Her head cleared and she had a good understanding of what was happening. Yesterday during her toilet time, she found and concealed a five-inch long screwdriver. At the first opening she was going to fight.

The captain of the Night Lady saw the patrol boat closing very fast. Jack used the siren to get their attention and switched on the loud hailer. He reversed the props and came alongside the slowing kidnapper’s boat. Over the loud hailer, Jack said, “Please bring the Night Lady to a stop. Bring all your crew and passengers on deck. I want to see them and don’t want to have to board you.”

The captain asked Asad for orders.

“Stop as they said. That .50 caliber machine gun is manned and so is the sailor standing near the cockpit. The huge dog must be one of those drug-sniffing dogs. For now do as they say. I’ll bring up one of the guards.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Twenty

While Kelly was stowing the food and gear and Shadow was exploring the entire boat, Jack was re-familiarizing himself with the controls and electronic equipment. After fifteen minutes he was confident he was up to speed. He gave a silent thanks to his father, who had given him extensive hands-on boat handling and seamanship practice. Jack looked up from the instrument panel and saw Kathy walking toward the dock. Jack thought, Her spy training with the CIA is always in the ‘on’ position. She didn’t want the taxi driver to know where she was going, so she walked the last few blocks.

High tide was just turning. A ten-knot wind was out of the southwest. Jack motioned to Kathy to cast off the fore and aft lines and get on board. Making allowance for the tidal current and the wind, Jack backed the 50-foot craft smoothly out into the river and headed north up the Amelia River to the Cumberland Sound where small craft coming to Fernandina Beach from the Atlantic would enter the Amelia River.

Jack called his two crew members to come into the cockpit. “Okay, crew here’s the word. Lissen up!”

Kelly said, “Aye aye, Captain.”

“At least one of you has the right protocol. Move in so you can see this chart.” Pointing at the Sound, Jack said, “I’m headed to this general location. I believe the Night Lady will have to enter through the Sound to get to the Amelia River and the freighter at the Fernandina Beach dock. I just don’t know when. So we will be looking for a place to loiter and watch somewhere near Egans Creek or on the Georgia side of the Sound. The Night Lady is a big boat, 70 feet long drawing five and a half feet of draft. She should be easy to spot in daylight. Her maximum speed is 33 knots. We have nearly 20 more knots at top speed. So we can easily catch her and make up for some timing mistakes on our part.

“When we spot her or even think we have, on go the official-looking windbreakers and ball caps. We must surprise them. If we don’t they may kill Sally and throw her weighted body overboard. They probably have a drill that does that. Getting rid of the evidence is a standard practice for kidnappers. There is not a big difference between the penalty for murder and kidnapping. I’ll lay out the attack scenario after I get a fresh look. It’s been awhile since I’ve cruised these waters.”

“We have some hours of daylight,” Kathy interjected. “Kelly and I could set up the telescope and get familiar with the optics.”

“We have fishing poles and bathing suits. Do everything you can to make us look like people cruising the river. Bikinis are good. Just don’t attract any studs. Be thinking of what we do after rescuing Sally. Head north or south? Stay with the boat or get rid of it? We don’t know what shape she will be in. If she needs professional help, that will be a problem. I expect she will be heavily drugged. Our medical kit has morphine and an IV set up. Beyond that there is not much we can do. Oh, while you’re playing tourists, look for secluded places we can anchor and go ashore with Shadow who is under cover as a drug sniffing dog who never learned to use a boat head and spreading newspaper is messy and offends his dignity.”

While Kelly and Kathy were on deck setting up the scope and viewing the shore line, Jack was studying the charts for places he could trap the larger Flybridge 70, Night Lady between a shoal and his boat, the Surveyor, not a bad name for a real estate developer. It even looks official. The Surveyor could easily run down the Night Lady. Another five minutes of scanning the chart and Jack remembered the jetties on the both the north and south side of the entrance of the Cumberland Sound. A dangerous hazard at high tide when they were awash. A plan began to come together. A little difficult for a three-person crew, but still doable. Jack called his crew and Shadow to come into the cockpit. When they were all there, Jack went over his plan, listened to questions, and assigned responsibilities.

When he finished, Jack said, “We have a little daylight left. I want to run a walk through practice of our roles when we hail and stop the Night Lady. Okay? Costumes on and let’s go.”

Kelly went to her position armed with two of the full automatic 12-gauge shotguns, a silenced .22 High Standard handgun and settled herself into the firing position behind the full-scale model of the .50 caliber forward deck gun. She thought, This thing is plastic but from 20 feet it looks real enough. She traversed the .50 caliber through its 150-degree arc. A little stiff but still believable and quiet. The shotgun now loaded with five rifled slugs was her primary weapon. Jack believed five rapid shots of the shotgun would convince anyone in poor light that the .50 had just fired a short burst. If need be, she could resume firing with the second shotgun.

Kathy positioned herself between Kelly and Jack’s position in the cockpit. She had the same firepower as Kelly. Kelly and Kathy were wearing dark blue windbreakers, baseball hats with their hair tucked in, khaki shorts, and white deck shoes. Jack yelled out, “You guys look good. Don’t forget your no-nonsense look and stay in your firing lanes. Yell if you have to move.”

Jack had the most critical job. He had to handle the boat and use the spotlight and loud hailer at the time of attack. If the Night Lady failed to heave-to immediately, he planned to use the power of the Surveyor to nudge the bow of the larger boat landward toward a jetty or shoal area where the Night Lady would not be able to maneuver. She needed six feet under her keel. He planned to drive her aground if she tried to escape. Jack thought the drill went well. Shadow took his position beside Kelly and barked when she yelled at her imaginary target.

The weather was good. Not much wind from the southwest. They had to maintain a 24/7 watch on craft coming through the entrance to Cumberland Sound. When they were all eating a supper of bologna sandwiches and clam chowder, Jack said, “Here’s my thinking. They’ll be running outside unless there’s a storm to avoid attracting attention to the size of their boat in the Inland Waterway. Boaters notice big expensive craft and some will notice that the boat crew is unfriendly and don’t look like rich tourists. They won’t run outside in the ocean down here. Coast Guard and police in this general area are careful about drug running in these waters. I doubt they will have the knowledge to run this section of the coast at night. The tides are enormous, current is strong and tricky especially coming into the Cumberland Sound. They will be tied up at some marina or anchored in protected waters out of the way of water traffic. All that to tell you, I don’t expect them to come through here at night. Probably no sooner than mid-morning. We’ll have to be sharp. The weather forecast for tomorrow morning is cloudy, with patchy fog and light rain. Just about perfect for us.”

Kelly asked, “Why?”

“I don’t want a lot of boat traffic that can see and hear some police action going on. If all goes well, we won’t need the shotguns. No prisoners. Use the .22 High Standards. When we rescue Sally and get her on board, we must get rid of the Night Lady. Carolina girl will take over the helm here and I’ll take the Night Lady well outside the three-mile limit and sink her. Kelly, you stay with Kathy and be prepared to launch the four-man zodiac to pick me up. The currents offshore from a strong ebbing tide coming out of the Sound with the added flow from the St. Mary’s River can make swimming a real experience.”

Kelly said, “One more thing, if Sally isn’t too drugged up, she can be a real asset. She is tough, pretty good at Aikido, and can shoot. She grew up in Montana on a horse ranch.”

“Good,” Jack said approvingly. “I’ll be happy if we just get her back.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Nineteen

Friday morning, June 6th

 

After a morning of dozens of unrewarding calls to marinas, Kathy got a positive response. A busy marina operator told her the Night Lady left his Hilton Head Island mooring at 8:00 AM. It was a seventy-foot, white Azimuth Fly bridge Cabin Cruiser. The captain paid cash for fuel and mooring charges.

Kelly was listening to the rapid fire phone calls to locate the Night Lady to get the plane ready with a flight plan. She was just coming to understand the extent of the Brandon wealth. New cars, luxury hotel suites, private plane, and nobody seemed to worry about expenses.

Kathy called Jack from the bedroom and said, “We barely have time. The boat left Hilton Head, South Carolina this morning. When it gets in open waters it can run at 25 to 30 knots. They can be in Amelia Island the day after tomorrow at the latest. Is the plane ready?”

“It is standing by. Gather what you need. Don’t leave anything behind that could help anyone to find us. We can eat on board. Let’s go.”

Kelly ran for her overnight bag. Shadow saw the action and jumped up, wagging his stubby tail. He was ready to go. Enough of this luxury hotel stuff.

Three hours later, the Learjet was making its final approach into the Jacksonville Airport. After loading their baggage into the back of the Chevrolet Suburban and getting Shadow settled, Kathy got behind the wheel. She loved to drive and was better at moving through traffic. Jack had no trouble with his passenger status. He needed to call a lead he had on buying or renting a suitable boat. He preferred to buy. Fewer questions and no awkward questions about damages. His goal was to have the boat in the water in a few hours. Kelly was driving a Ford Flex. Both cars were rented in aliases, using documents Jack’s contact in Pittsburgh had supplied.

Kelly’s job was to buy windbreakers, navy blue with the word Navy or Coast or some other official nautical law enforcement organization prominently displayed. With white boat sneakers and blue baseball caps, Jack thought they could pass for officials for the critical first few minutes. Not many other props were required, a loud hailer, big American flag, a 10x telescope and 4x binoculars. The shotguns and handguns came with the plane.

Before long, Kathy pulled into a shopping mall in Fernandina Beach with Kelly following. Through his contact Jack had found a used patrol boat to buy. Jack’s lawyer was now talking to the broker, arranging finances and transfer of ownership. Jack told them to fill it up with gas and he would be there with a check in 30 minutes. The boat was a three-year-old FPB 15M. It was designed to be a coastal law enforcement patrol boat, capable of top speed of around 50 knots. A local developer had used the boat to show clients oceanfront property until he went broke in the housing crash. The boat had been sitting in the marina for two years but had been kept seaworthy by the broker. The broker told Jack not to be put off by the plastic replica of a .50 caliber machine gun on the forward mount. If he took it off it would mar the deck. The previous owner used it to impress clients. Jack told him to leave it in place. He would deal with it later.

At Jack’s request, the broker said he would have the boat delivered to the shrimp boat docking area in two hours. Jack walked over to join Kelly and Kathy in the Ford Flex. He said, “In two hours we’ll be afloat. So let’s get the stuff we need. Kelly, add three sleeping bags to your list. Kathy, pick up rations for living on board for four days. Plenty of drinking water. Shadow will need a bag of his favorite kibble. There is an onboard galley but pick up some basic cooking utensils and tableware. I’ll meet the boat alone and take care of the paperwork. I don’t want to expose anyone else. We’ll load everything into the suburban. Turn the Flex in, we won’t need two cars. I want to be underway in three hours. I’m familiar with this type of boat. I’ll pick up the charts we need. The broker told me all onboard electronics are in working order.

“Kathy, after you turn in the Flex, get a taxi back here to do the shopping. Kelly and I will pick you and the groceries up at the Publix. Wait inside for us. We’ll find you.”

Jack dropped Kelly in downtown Fernandina near the shops carrying outdoor gear and clothing. He remembered where maps and charts of the local area were sold and quickly picked up what he needed to cover the Cumberland Sound and the Amelia River. He also bought charts for a hundred miles north and south of Amelia Island.

Jack arrived at the dock in time to see his FPB 15M coming in to tie up. The boat looked a little shabby. But that was better than having it looking new. He would polish the brass though. No official law enforcement craft would have dingy brass. The broker’s agent stepped ashore and introduced himself. He presented the sales contract and asked Jack if he wanted to inspect the boat before buying. Jack said, “No. You got it here and if there is anything critically wrong with it tell me now. If I find something seriously wrong with it in a couple of days, your broker will be in world of hurt. I paid a good price and expect good value.”

The agent said, “It is a bit shabby. But I’ll guarantee all operating systems work well and I would take it right now to the Islands.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear. Thanks.”

“Do you want me to check you out on the boat?”

“No. I’m very familiar with this class and have all the papers required. Here is your check. The local Bank of America is expecting you. My manager has set everything up. I’m too rushed for time to drop you back at the marina. Sorry about that, but that’s what taxis are for.”

Jack knew he had been abrupt but there just wasn’t time for pleasantries. When the agent left, Jack got Shadow out of the shady parking spot. Shadow knew about boats and at Jack’s command jumped on board. Jack followed Shadow. He saw that it looked better on the inside. He made sure the refrigerator was running. The water tank and fuel tank were full. Battery showing well. GPS was operating. In one of the lockers he found some vintage casting rods. Jack left Shadow on board and told him to guard. He locked the cabin door and left to pick up Kelly and Kathy. Kelly was standing outside the shop that sold outdoor clothing and equipment.

Jack pulled into the curb and opened the back hatch door. Kelly said, “Got everything and then some. Added several flashlights. Did you think of anything else?”

“No. Good job. Let’s go pick up Kathy.”

Kelly found Kathy just inside the store with four carts full of groceries and kitchen equipment. One entire cart was filled with water bottles and a case of Bass Ale. Jack was waiting at the loading curb when they came out of the store. With everyone working, they were on the way to the dock in a few minutes.

Fernandina Beach is a small town. Nothing in town is very far from anyplace else. Kelly gasped when she saw the boat. “Jack, it’s so damned big. Can we handle it?”

“No problem. One person can run it. It helps to have a few lower-ranking crew to help with tie-ups and clean ups. Let’s get it loaded up. The refrigerator is running. All systems are working. I want to get out of here at high tide. I want four feet of water under us. Kathy we have another…”

“Yes, I know you want me to turn in the suburban because we may not be coming back here,” she cut him off.

“That’s right. You’re always one step ahead. Kelly and I will get all this stowed and be ready to push off when you get back.”

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