Read The Hamlet Warning Online

Authors: Leonard Sanders

The Hamlet Warning

 

 

The Hamlet Warning

 

Leonard Sanders

 

 

 

© Leonard Sanders, 1976, 1991

 

Leonard Sanders has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

 

First published in 1991 by Pocket Books.

 

This edition published in 2015 by Endeavour Press Ltd.

 

 

 

Part One

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Minus
12
Days
,
02
:
57
Hours

Loomis was awakened by distant gunfire. He lay motionless with the caution of long experience, listening, analyzing, the old familiar tightness rising in his groin. This might be the day. Traffic had ceased on Calle 30 de Marzo a block away, an ominous sign. At his bedside, Mozart was still playing softly on the tape deck, Geza Anda’s recording of Concerto No. 21 in C with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, a strange counterpoint to revolution. From two thousand yards away came a dozen more scattered rifle shots, the explosion of a grenade, a burst from an automatic weapon, then silence.

Loomis sat up. The taste of last night’s rum was strong in his mouth. His head throbbed. Already he was sweating heavily from the heat. He was old and tired and not yet forty-eight. And he was thoroughly sick of war. But he long ago had lost all illusions. He knew what the sounds meant and what he had to do.

Tossing back the thin sheet, he swung his bare feet to the cool tiles. He paused on the edge of the bed until a momentary dizziness passed. Geza Anda was in the midst of an exquisite and intricate passage, one Loomis loved most of all. He waited until the movement ended before switching off the tape deck. He didn’t bother searching for slippers but crossed barefoot to the veranda, pulling a robe around his nakedness as he walked out into the fierce morning sun, now ten o’clock high.

Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the western hemisphere, lay sweltering under a soft tropical breeze off the restless Caribbean. From his veranda, the city was a symphony of smells: of flowers and ocean spray, of fish and sugar cane, of fresh coffee, rich river silt, and, above all, of permeating poverty. Narrowing his eyes against the glare, Loomis looked out across Calle 30 de Marzo to the roofs of the Old Town, a remarkable contrast of modern, dazzling white stucco and crumbling, golden-baked masonry centuries old. The lush green of palm, mahogany, almond, and laurel filled spaces between buildings, a constant reminder that the city was not far removed from the jungle.

Nothing seemed amiss in the main business district. Loomis walked to the edge of the veranda and put a hand on the huge, bullet-scarred Doric column for support as he leaned over the railing for a better view. Below, at the palacio’s wrought-iron east gate, framed in the brilliant red of carefully cultivated poinsettias, the six sentries were alert, peering to the southeast, where a dark plume of smoke was drifting up against the bright blue sky.

Always the unexpected. No matter how much planning, how much attention to detail, always the fucking unexpected. At the Bay of Pigs, no bombers. In Vietnam, the real enemy had been nine thousand miles away. And Uganda. What the hell had happened in Uganda? He couldn’t remember.

Behind him, the phone rang. He crossed to the bed and picked up the receiver.

“How is the head this morning?” Bedoya asked in English. 

“I may live,” Loomis said. “That’s the only encouragement I can offer.”

Bedoya laughed. “Four or five more
cocolocos
, and you might have been on the verge of getting drunk.”

“That would be a terrible thing to contemplate,” Loomis said.

“We’ve got a rumble.” Bedoya was proud not only of his English, but also of his mastery of slang.

“You could have fooled me,” Loomis said. “I would have sworn it was shooting. What’s happening?”

“City Bank. A robbery.”

“Well, get the jeep out. We’ll take a run up there.”

“O.K., Captain.”

Loomis cradled the receiver, making a mental note to give Bedoya another lecture on titles. He’d never been a captain. He wasn’t one now.

He went into his awkward, oversized bathroom and waited patiently for warm water. Living in a palace was no bed of roses. Trujillo’s attempt to reproduce the glories of the Italian Renaissance in Portland cement had ignored certain conveniences and in all respects had only partially succeeded. Despite his size, six feet three and two hundred and twenty pounds, Loomis often felt dwarfed by the high ceilings and immense spaces of the
palacio
. His quarters, in the extreme northeast corner of the second floor, had been Trujillo’s own offices. The corner room, now divided into the bath and bedroom, once served as Trujillo’s outer office and waiting room. Trujillo’s personal office, facing east, was now the main portion of Loomis’s quarters. Loomis didn’t consider the historic aspects worth the price. The rooms, heavily scarred during the bombings and shellings of the 1965 revolution, retained a heavy institutional aura despite the efforts of the decorators with their draperies, paintings, and Louis XIV trappings. But Loomis didn’t especially mind the dehumanized atmosphere. He’d survived in far worse surroundings. He washed away the night’s accumulation of sweat. As he toweled his face, he studied his reflection in the full-length mirror, assessing the damages of decades of war, barrels of booze, and various emotional disappointments too numerous to mention. He scowled at the image. He would win no beauty prizes.

He dressed carefully — a fresh pair of slacks, boots, an old Corps blouse, and a Stetson. Unlocking the arms cabinet by his bedroom door, he hesitated.

The engraved .380 Belgian automatic was a gift from El Jefe. He usually wore it. But for certain, one-shot protection, he preferred a dependable revolver. He strapped on the .357 magnum Colt Python. He took down a 9-mm Heckler & Koch MP5A4 submachine gun, checked the load, locked the cabinet, and walked down the stairs to the huge corridors leading to the east portico. En route, he checked guard stations, making certain no one had left his post in the excitement.
Palacio
security was marginal, at best. The major problem was that the
palacio
was not designed as a residence, but as the seat of government — the congress and the presidency. El Jefe, a widower, had installed an apartment adjacent to his office shortly after his rise to power. Gradually, he had commandeered and sealed off most of the sprawling east wing into a virtual fortress.

Bedoya was waiting at the wheel of the open jeep, grinning widely at Loomis’s obvious hangover. Bedoya was a twenty-eight-year-old Boca Chica native whose parents had been slain in one of the Trujillo regime’s periodic housecleanings. They were buried in an unmarked grave — the pastures of Trujillo, in whimsical Dominican vernacular. A revolutionary from the time he was in knee-pants, Bedoya knew the background of every governmental official of importance and the political persuasions of each prominent Dominican. Loomis probably would have made him his second-in-command even if they hadn’t established a quick, close rapport. 

Bedoya was tall and thin — almost frail — but Loomis knew that his wiry build masked a surprising toughness.

Behind Bedoya, a young soldier clung to the mount of an M1A6 air-cooled Browning machine gun, pointed skyward. Loomis swung into the empty front seat and winced at the pain shooting through his head as Bedoya gunned the jeep down the drive toward the east gate. They zoomed past the guardpost and roared up Calle Julio Verne toward the growing pall of smoke.

Loomis pointed a thumb at the soldier behind them, and spoke in English. “Does he know which end of that thing to point?”

“Sure,” Bedoya said. “He has even fired it once. Think I would bring along an amateur?”

The street, normally crowded in the relative coolness of morning, was now deserted. Cars and trucks stood abandoned along the curbs. Curious faces peeked from shop windows and doorways.

As the jeep neared the tree-shaded Parque Independencia, Bedoya slowed. An army truck and a squad of troops blocked the street. Beyond, near El Conde Gate, an overturned, bullet-riddled 1985 Chevrolet was burning furiously in a bed of pink bougainvillea. Seven bodies lay sprawled in various positions around the car. One body also was burning. Two of the dead were wearing the drab-green uniforms of the Policía Nacional. Bedoya signaled to a sergeant, who approached the jeep.

“This is Señor Loomis, captain of security to El Jefe,” Bedoya said rapidly in Spanish. “Where is the senior officer present?”

The sergeant pointed. A crowd of civilians was being corralled beneath the trees, apparently in a search for witnesses. A colonel stood nearby, bellowing orders. “Colonel Escortia,” the sergeant said.

Bedoya drove the jeep up over the curb. As they passed the blazing car, the stench of cordite and burning flesh failed to improve Loomis’s lingering hangover. He leaned close to Bedoya.

“I am
chief
of security to El Jefe, and a civilian, you simple moron,” he said. “When you introduce me to the colonel, get it right.”

Bedoya grinned. “O.K., Captain,” he said.

Loomis recognized Colonel Escortia from the newspaper pictures. There was no mistaking that small, rotund, compact figure. Although Loomis had made a routine study of his file, they had never met. He remembered that Escortia had weathered several revolutions, always fortunate enough to be stationed at some remote garrison in the
cordilleras
and able to remain relatively clear of capital politics. This time he might not be so fortunate. The colonel had just been returned to the Distrito Nacional as a reward for his successful campaign against an elusive, especially barbaric band of guerrillas in the Cordillera Central.

The colonel turned and glanced briefly at the jeep, then studied Bedoya and Loomis as they stepped out and walked across the thick, lush carpet of grass toward him.

Bedoya, surprising in any language, spoke in flowing, formal Spanish. “Colonel Escortia, permit me to have the honor of presenting the Señor Clay Loomis, chief of security to El Jefe.”

Escortia saluted, then shook hands. His eyes lingered over Loomis’s Colt, boots, and hat. “Of course, the
norteamericano
,” he said. “Your reputation precedes you, Señor. Even in the remote regions where I have been stationed, we have heard of you. I understand that you speak our language like a native and that you have taken the ills of our poor country as your own.”

The colonel spoke as casually as if they were meeting at some embassy lawn party. Eloquent, Old World bullshit. Loomis tended to like it. He attempted to match the colonel’s aplomb.

“You are very kind,” he said, falling naturally into the formal address the colonel had chosen. “Clearly, the bandits of our city are learning the lessons you have been teaching the rural insurgents.”

“Unfortunately, I also have much to learn,” Escortia said. He gestured toward the bodies. “These were the decoys. I took the bait.”

Rapidly, he explained. Ten men were involved in the robbery, sealing off all entrances to the bank. A clerk tripped a silent alarm, alerting headquarters of the Policía Nacional. When word came over the army radio, relayed by the police, the colonel correctly assumed that if the bandits successfully escaped from the bank, they probably would flee westward on Calle El Conde and away from downtown congestion. He promptly moved men to El Conde Gate in support of the police routinely stationed there. As the car roared toward them from out of heavy traffic, the bandits opened fire. In the fierce fighting that followed, no one noticed until too late that a second car braked, made a right turn onto Palo Hincado, and presumably fled northward into the residential section. Escortia assumed that car contained the other five men and the money from the bank.

“Any description?” Loomis asked.

Escortia glanced at the roundup of witnesses. “Five men in an old Pontiac,” he said.

“How seriously was the bank hit?”

“Two dead. Three wounded.”

“I meant, how much money?”

Escortia sighed and raised his eyebrows. “The first estimates are more than five hundred thousand pesos.”

“Ramón El Rojo?”

“Who knows? The bodies have no identification. But it is probable. The weapons they used are of Polish and Czechoslovakian origin. I have the entire area cordoned. There is still hope.”

Loomis looked back toward the
palacio
. All seemed peaceful there. If the bank robbery were a diversionary move, Ramón no doubt would have struck elsewhere by now. All tactics pointed to the bank, and to the bank alone. The five dead revolutionaries had been sacrificed for five men in a Pontiac and half a million dollars in pesos.

The soldiers were now separating the witnesses, checking ID’s, herding the civilians like cattle, rifles and automatic weapons at ready. The people didn’t protest. They were accustomed to it. They’d had plenty of practice. A flock of parakeets in the trees overhead seemed far more disturbed by the soldiers’ actions.

Parque Independencia. The irony of the charade was not lost on Loomis. Here, on this spot, now painstakingly landscaped and rich with tropical flowers, the flag of independence once was raised over the Dominican Republic. But the true independence was brief, only a few short months between three hundred and fifty years of demeaning colonialism and one hundred and thirty years of the worst succession of dictatorships the world has ever known. Now, after almost five centuries, were these people ready to throw off their shackles?

The bank robbery might have been the first major step. Or, it might be the first decisive move toward another century of enslavement. Loomis did not know which. But he suspected the worst.

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