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.”