Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 23

The next few hours went by very slowly. I had 3 conversations with Amanda and her FBI cohorts, but really nothing new to reveal. We were still staring at the Venezuelan ship’s gun barrels, and the U.S. vessel wasn’t doing anything about it, as far as we could tell.

No word from T.J., either. He wasn’t in his suite and no one had seen him.

I had retired to my cabin, not in any mood to fool around with Leta. Jimmy and Erin were spending the evening together, which I encouraged. I decided to find the captain and went to the bridge. He wasn’t there, but I was told he was in the formal dining room with his VIP guests.

The view hadn’t changed much since I was there earlier, except now it was getting dark, so, like the cruise ship, both battleships’ lights had begun to shine. There had to be a way to contact the U.S.

I sat back down in “my” lounge chair. As I was staring at the ceiling, my eyes found the bull-horn loudspeaker through the window just outside the bridge, and I had a thought.

I got up and figured out the way to the dining room. I saw both Haagensen and Fosse dressed up and entertaining passengers at a long table draped in white linens and adorned with large flowered centerpieces. Jazz was playing lightly in the background. It was as if nothing were wrong.

I approached Haagensen, bent over to whisper and said, “Captain, can I see you and Mr. Fosse in private?”

Haagensen seemed irritated but nodded, and he and Fosse excused themselves, following me to the kitchen.

“What can I do for you?” the captain asked, almost nonchalantly.

“We need to talk to the American Navy, and I have an idea.”

“I really think this will play out overnight all by itself. We should be on our way by mid-day tomorrow.”

“Why do you say that?” I was perplexed.

“Listen, there is an unspoken rule among the navies of the world. No matter what happens, even in wartime, passengers on a cruise ship are left alone as long as there’s nothing provoking action. We’re not going to do that.”

“I think we can launch a lifeboat and get to the U.S. ship.”

“No, that’s risky. Their sonar would pick you up almost immediately.”

I turned to Fosse. “What if we took one of those loudspeakers and ran it below the surface … in the water?”

“Well,” Fosse replied. I could see the wheels turning and he said, “That could work. We could play some rock music under water, which would mask any sonar-detectable engine sounds.”

“Exactly! We could play it for a couple of hours and then launch on the side facing away from the Venezuelans, and head on over in the dark.”

“No!” the captain said emphatically. “Too much could go wrong,” he continued, his Scandinavian accent becoming more apparent. “They could take the rock music as being … defiant. They might still hear, or see, the lifeboat. Anything we do can make us a target.”

“We’re already a target,” I argued. “The longer we’re here, the more chance they’ll fire one of those guns.”

We seemed to be at an impasse. There was silence for a minute or two, then Haagensen said, “I’m responsible for the passengers and crew. You will do nothing.” The stout officer marched away and I noticed the smile return to his face as he reached his guests. Fosse stayed behind.

“I’m afraid something’s going to happen while we’re waiting,” Fosse admitted. “What if the U.S. does something?”

“Wait,” I said. “The loudspeaker will work under water?”

“Yes, I believe so.”

“Can you wire one up to a microphone?”

“It’s already set up that way, for announcements.”

“I know, but under water.”

“Sure. But the captain said to do nothing.”

“I promise he won’t mind what I’m going to do. Let’s set one up.”

Fosse was hesitant but did join me on my way to the comm room off the bridge. “What’s the plan?”

“The ships are too far away to hear our speakers from here, but they are both listening on sonar.”

“So, we can send a message. What will we send?”

“Easy, my girlfriend’s phone number.”

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