Authors: Randy Wayne White
Privately the vigilante had been trying to come up with a plan to hit Cwong not only on Kira-Kira but at his two drop islands, Tongo and Mokii, too.
Trouble was, those islands were nearly thirty nautical miles away over open seaânot far in a car, but a hell of a long way to go at night in unfamiliar waters.
The inflatable boat and engine in one of the crates was no toy: an Avon Military MKII, seventeen feet long with an aluminum deck, an inflatable keel, and a seventy-horsepower Yamaha outboard. The literature said the boat weighed only four hundred pounds, and Hawker guessed it would do maybe fifty miles an hour in a pinch.
He decided to leave out the aluminum decking, in order to cut the weight of the boat to under two hundred pounds, not counting the engine. That would add a little speed and make it easier to drag up and hide on the beach.
But they had supplied him with only thirty gallons of gas in five six-gallon tanks. If he and Sha had to make a long emergency run from Kira-Kira, they'd need every drop of the fuel. They couldn't afford to risk it in a sixty-mile round-trip sabotage run.
Finally, though, Hawker hit upon an idea. It meant waiting maybe an extra day on Kira-Kira before he attacked, but that would give them that much more time to familiarize themselves with Cwong's compound. He didn't tell Sha anything about the plan. But he did get her to help with the assembly of the Avon, making sure she knew how to run it, switch fuel tanks, get the thing started with the pull rope, and use the choke.
He didn't want her stranded on that island if something happened to him.
They left for Kira-Kira just before sunset on the third day, heading out into big turquoise rollers with Hawker at the throttle and Sha hunched on the bow, wearing a baggy black wool sweater. All the weaponry he could possibly need was packed neatly beneath a tarp, everything tied down to the raft. He had made his last check-in call on the portable UHF and packed that tooâalthough he wasn't sure why. If he got into trouble on Kira-Kira, there was no way anyone wouldâor couldâbail him out.
Hawker found the most comfortable speed, finding the rhythm of the sea beneath. He opened the rubber boat up once, just to see what it would do. The boat seemed to gather buoyancy as it gained velocity, launching itself off the top of every wave. It jarred their kidneys and loosened their teeth, screaming along at what was easily fifty miles an hour.
The speed was there, all right, if they ever needed it.
Hawker dropped back to a comfortable thirty or so, checking his big luminescent diver's wrist compass every now and again, enjoying the bronze-streaked sky and the fresh sea wind in his face. It was a big ocean out there. It made him feel tiny, and he enjoyed that too.
Kira-Kira lifted out of the horizon almost immediately. It was a lot closer than the vigilante had expected. He slowed the craft enough so they would approach under darkness. They actually had to stop and drift for a while, waiting, not wanting to take the least chance of being seen. Then they peeled way out around to the back side, the side of the island with a rind of beach and then jungle climbing up the sheer mountain wall.
Sha pointed and said, “That the place. That the place where I come out when a little girl. Find my way out to that beach, saw some fishermens in a boat. They pick me up when see me wave at them, take me to next island. Take me five days to get to New Guinea. Little girl begging rides on boats.”
When it was dark, Hawker took the boat in over the reef. The reef came up within two feet of the surface on low tide, and the surf was huge. They had a wild surfboard ride in, with Hawker gritting his teeth, scared he'd lose it, pitchpole, and dump all his gear.
But they made it.
It was completely dark now, stars glittering above, a three-quarter moon making the beach milky white.
While Hawker pulled the boat up and cut branches and banana leaves to camouflage it in the jungle, Sha strung the jungle hammocks.
They ate a cold supper of C-rations, burying the cans. Afterward they sat shoulder to shoulder in the chilly wind, watching the surf roll in. Hawker put his arm around her once and held her for a time. She seemed comfortable enough, leaning her head against him. But then she broke away suddenly.
“I go my hammock now. Very sleepy. I take you across mountain tomorrow. Okay?”
“That's fine,” said Hawker. “Just fine. But do me a favor. Take the revolver I gave you to bed. I may go out in the boat for a while.”
“You not do anything crazy? You not try spy on Cwong this soon?”
“I won't do anything crazy,” Hawker said. “I'm just restless, that's all. I'd go for a walk, but this place is probably thick with snakes.”
Sha said, “Snakes last thing you got to worry about on this island.”
Hawker pulled on his black wool sweater and darkened his face with military greasepaint. He loaded mask, fins, scuba gear, and the explosives he would need into the boat. He placed the Colt Commando assault rifle, fully loaded, at his side. Then he pushed the boat back out into the water, hopped in, and started the engine.
He didn't relish the idea of fighting his way through the surf to the other side of the reef, so he decided to try running inside the atoll. The worst thing that could happen was that he'd knock the propeller off on a coral headâand he carried an extra propeller. Besides, the roar of the surf would help cover the noise of his engine.
Hawker ran through the darkness, gauging his position by the white surf line and the dark coast. He ran until he saw the lights of what he knew from the aerial photographs marked Cwong's big wharf. The vigilante ran still another half mile until the lights began to sharpen, then found an opening in the jungle. He swung the inflatable in, pulled it up, hid it, strapped the scuba tank to his back, carried mask fins and explosives back into the shallow water, and began walking toward the lights.
He had stopped farther away than he had to. Indeed, Hawker found himself walking for nearly half an hour before coming to the fencing and the bright vapor lights that separated Cwong's compound from the jungle. He could see the big wharf clearly, with its huge loading crane and two forty-foot plus diesel cargo craft moored there.
If Cwong's men were going to make a big drug delivery tomorrow night, they would certainly use those two boats.
Hawker's whole plan to damage Tongo and Mokii at the same time he was hitting Cwong hinged on that assumption.
He hoped to hell he was right.
He checked the time on his Seiko Submariner: 9:27
Then he took out two magnetic thermite clock-activated bombs and carefully set the detonators for 9:30
the next day.
According to his intelligence, the boats were to make their deliveries at 9
Half an hour would allow for late starts.
Carrying a diving light and the explosives in a canvas pack, Hawker waded backward into the water. The only other weapon he carried was his large stainless-steel Randall attack knife, the one made for him by Bo Randall in Orlando, Florida. He had that strapped to his calf.
The water covered him, green sparks erupting around his hands every time he moved them. These were bioluminescent microscopic creatures, tracing his path.
That wasn't good. Hawker decided he would have to swim the half mile to the reef, letting the rough water cover his trail.
When he got to the shallow inside edge of the reef, he poked his head up. He had roughly another quarter mile to go to get to the boats. Hawker took a bearing with the wrist compass, then dove back into the water.
It seemed to take forever to get there, traveling through the blackness. He kept expecting a shark to nail him at any moment. Finally, though, there were huge weird shapes ahead of him: the cement pilings of the wharf.
Hawker was in deeper water now, traveling along the bottom, his eyes locked on the green glow of the compass. When he saw the pilings, he relaxed a little.
When he began to ascend slowly, he spotted the bowl shapes of the boat hulls above him in the glimmer of moonlight.
He slid the canvas bag, the one with the explosives, off his shoulder.
Hawker reached up and touched the bottom of one of the boats with his hand, feeling the thin coating of slime and the occasional barnacle.
They had both been hauled recently, scraped and painted. Not a good sign. It might mean that Cwong took good care of his equipment, that he was a stickler for details. Perhaps he ran a tight camp. Hawker didn't like having neatness freaks as adversaries. They were dangerous people, because they usually prepared for everything. It was damn hard to catch them out.
Hawker followed the hull of the second boat until he came to the twin drive shafts that angled out through the stuffing box, ending in two giant brass props. There he rested for a moment, breathing easily through the single hose regulator. He could hear the chain-rattle clink of the boats above, washing against the quay. He could hear the woodwind grunts of fish, the pop and crackle of pistol shrimp. The silent undersea world wasn't really so silent after all.
After the vigilante had rested, he pulled open the plastic zipper on the canvas bag. Careful that his air tank didn't clank against the steel hull of the boat as he worked, Hawker removed one of the four magnetic bombs. He used the tiny underwater light on his wrist to check the timer once more. The twenty-four-hour dials were set for 2130 hours, 9:30
the next day.
If things worked as he hoped, the boats would each go to their respective docks on Tongo and Mokii. Then, while they were being unloaded, the bombs would disable each vessel, maybe taking some of Cwong's elite guards up with them. Cutting off their return to Kira-Kira would give Hawker more time to concentrate on destroying the complex there.
Hawker placed the first bomb just astern of midship, under where the engine and fuel tank would probably be. Swimming to the second vessel, he clamped the round platter magnet in approximately the same area.
The bombs were filled with three thousand grams of thermite, a composition that would explode, then burn, for about four minutes at more than 3,600 degrees. At that temperature, even underwater, it would burn through two solid inches of armor plating.
If the explosion didn't set the boats on fire, the thermite hitting the fuel tanks certainly would.
Hawker swam into the eerie dark maze of cement pilings beneath the wharf. He swam slowly, taking his time, careful not to brush against the barnacles. When he felt something heavy hit against him, a great weight sliding by, Hawker whirled around.
He forced himself not to panic in the darkness. Sticking his left hand out to fend off any attacker, he drew his big Randall knife in his right.
And nothing happened.
Not a sound.
Hawker took a chance: He twisted the lens of the dive light and shone it around quickly.
He didn't see a thing.
But something had come past him, all right. There was no doubt about that. Something big; something that knew he was there.
It could only be one thing. One of the big open-ocean sharks had to be cruising the shallows. It had probably sensed his vibrations and brushed past to see if he was edible. Hawker hoped to hell the fish had not liked what it felt.
He switched off the light, pressed his back against one of the pilings, and waited awhile longer. He expected to be hit at any moment, to feel the deadly crush of an angry shark's jaws.
Hawker waited and waited, until he realized it was useless to wait anymore. If the shark wanted him, the shark would get him. There was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
Hawker pushed away from the piling, worked his way carefully to the area he guessed would put him beneath the big cargo derrick, then surfaced.
He had come up short. He was still beneath the front side of the quay. Above him he could hear voicesâindistinct voices. They were probably speaking in Vietnamese; he didn't understand a word of that.
Hawker decided to stay on the surface. The big Rocket fins pushed him to the great cement base of the derrick. There he placed both of the remaining thermite bombs, setting the timers for 10
the following night. 2200 hours.
If luck was with them, he and Sha could get across the volcanic mountain and into Cwong's camp by then. Hit them from both sides, that was Hawker's plan. And the explosions would make them think the attack was coming from the direction of the sea.
The voices above him were louder now, more emotional.
He wondered what was going on.
No way was he going to stick around and try to find out. He pulled his mask down, submerged â¦ and that's when something hit him from the side, something big.
He thought it was a shark.â¦
All the little sensory nodes searched frantically, his brain checking every limb, expecting to find his legs gone, his chest ripped open.
But there wasn't much pain. Just that sense of being held, of being wrestled downward toward the bottom.
As the vigilante tried to pull his arms free, he was aware of a tube of light swinging crazily back and forth, swinging from the dark object that held him.
It was then that he finally realized he was being held by a man, another diver who had a flashlight attached to his wrist. It only took a microsecond for Hawker to realize that the diver had probably been on an underwater patrol and had spotted Hawker's light. Undoubtedly he had taken advantage of the overhead dock lights to hit Hawker from below, zeroing in on the silhouette the vigilante must have thrown.
Damn! Cwong's men were good.
The first thing the diver had done was rip the regulator away from Hawker's mouth; the vigilante suddenly realized that, in his fear, he had been holding his breath, not even noticing that he no longer had a source of oxygen. Fear can do that to a man.
But now Hawker had to do something. And the truth was that he was actually relieved he had been attacked by a man, not the shark that had nudged him earlier.