Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 29

Jimmy and I had no trouble getting back to the cruise ship, and the vests fit nicely. Before going to the Venezuelan ship, we had to retrieve the diamonds and talk to Haagensen. Something Higgs said was bothering me — they might not let us go after we make the payment. There had to be something we could do.

Our first stop was the bridge. We handed the captain one of the sat phones and explained how to use them, including speed-dialing the Naperville.

“Captain, we were told you should move this ship over to the other side of the Naperville. Is that something you can do while we have them distracted?”

“Not without making noise. We have to raise the anchor first, before we can do anything.”

“Did you ever see the movie, ‘Loophole’?”

“No,” he replied. “What’s that got to do with this?”

“Well, there was this new, high-tech safe installed at a bank that was fool-proof. There were vibration sensors, light beams, heat sensors and even air pressure sensors. No one could get into the safe from any direction without setting off alarms.”

“So?”

“You know what the thieves did? They set off the alarms, on purpose, several times a day with no indication of breaking in. In other words, they cried, ‘wolf.’ Then, when they actually did break in, no one believed the alarms and they got away with the heist.”

“So, what do you suggest?”

“Well, how about you raise and lower your anchor a little bit over the next hour or so?”

“When they see that nothing is happening, they’ll think there’s something wrong with the electronics … I get it.”

Jimmy spoke up, “Do you think you can start that soon?”

“Sure. What else?”

Jimmy continued, “As soon as we get to the Venezuelan ship, lift your anchor completely and start moving the ship. If anything happens, use the sat phone to call Captain Higgs.”

“And,” I interjected, “don’t wait for us.”

Haagensen nodded and we left the bridge, Fosse in tow.

“I can go with you,” he offered.

I needed to let him down easy. “That would be great, but we need you here to protect our friends and family. We’ve been working deals like this for a long time. We’d be better off without you.”

Jimmy put his hand on Fosse’s shoulder. “I’m counting on you, John. My wife is on board.”

Fosse seemed dejected, but he straightened up and replied, “You guys be careful. I don’t trust them.”

“We need a few things,” I said. “Duct tape, a pair of walkie-talkies and about a dozen emergency flares. Can you get them?”

“I … I think so ... Yes, yes, I’ll meet you at the lifeboat.” He left us in a hurry.

My cell phone rang, or rather, Leta’s cell phone. I reached for it and answered, “Hello?”

“Señor Ruger, we’ve been calling.”

“Yes, Captain, we’ve been out of cell range and we were held up at the Naperville. We rescued a man who was shot and left at sea …”

“No more delays, Ruger. Bring the payment now.” He hung up.

“I’m not sure, but I think he’s ticked …”

Jimmy laughed. “He must know that eventually more Navy ships will be showing up. Maybe we should just wait it out?”

“I thought of that. I just don’t know what this guy’s going to do when the Navy makes a move. I wouldn’t put it past them to sink us just to be on the world news.”

“I know … I wish I was sure about what we’re doing.”

“There’s no guarantee.”

“I’d better go tell Erin what’s going on.”

“Good idea … I’ll get ready and see you when you’re done. Meet me at my cabin.”

“Will do,” Jimmy said and he was gone.

I looked through the viewing glass to the light blue ocean and noticed how calm it was. The calm before the storm? I started for my room so I could get the diamonds and finalize plans with Jimmy.

I got to my door in just a few minutes and entered my cabin. Nothing was amiss, so I relaxed and sat on the sofa waiting for Jimmy, while also mentally preparing for the ordeal ahead, sort of like the old days waiting to bash in the door of a crack house. I wondered again whether I was doing the right thing. I thought about going alone, but I’d have a lot better chance if my old partner was with me. We still made a great team. I missed that.

For some reason I decided to call the office. Anna answered, “Hello, boss! Are you okay?”

“Yeah, safe for now.”

“And the pirates?”

“You know about that?”

“Of course, Amanda was nice enough to call. We assumed that you were alright, but it’s really nice to hear your voice.”

“The pirates left when the Navy showed up but we’ve got another little problem to resolve before we can leave.”

“How can we help you?”

“Nothing much you can do … How’s the office? You and Lola behaving?”

“Not really, but we are having fun making Jake do all sorts of things. He’s fun to embarrass, too …”

“He prefers ‘Jacob’.”

“I know,” she giggled. “We’ve been flashing him and making him run to the market for lady products … all sorts of fun. I think he’s enjoying himself, finally.”

“Please don’t make him want to quit,” I pleaded. “I like Jacob. I want him to stick around.”

“We won’t go that far, I promise. We want him to stay, too.”

“And, don’t have sex with the hired help!”

“No way, we wouldn’t do that.”

“Good to hear. Anything else going on?”

“I signed up three new clients … two are surveillance of cheating husbands and one is a bogus insurance claim to investigate. Lola’s working one of those right now.”

“Good work. I knew I could trust you guys with the business while I’m away.”

“You bet your ass you can! Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, we’re fine. Gotta go, babe. I’ll call you when we are heading home.”

“Okay, boss. See you soon!”

I hung up and felt a bit empty, wishing I was back at work dealing with the exasperating antics of the girls. They did make my life interesting.

A knock on the door and a “Patty-boy” from the hallway announced Jimmy was back. I let him in and got him to help me open the LCD TV to retrieve the bag of stones. We closed the cover back up and lifted the set back on the dresser.

“Ready?” I asked.

“As I’ll ever be.”

I double-checked the stones in my change pocket and looked again in the bag of diamonds, seeing if I could tell that there were cubics underneath. I couldn’t tell anything. I closed the bag back up and we were on our way to the lifeboat.

Fosse was waiting. “Whatcha need with these?” He was holding a box of flares and a few other things I’d asked for.

“You’ll see …” I took the duct tape from under his arm and knelt down. I rolled out about three feet of tape on the deck, sticky side up, then again alongside the first strip, then added 3 more. I pointed to the box of flares and Jimmy grabbed them from Fosse and set it next to me. One by one I took about a dozen flares from the box and set each one vertically against the horizontal set of strips of tape, side by side from the center out. Then I placed a few pieces across the flares to hold them together.

I stood up and adjusted by Kevlar vest. “Wrap that around me here,” I said, patting my chest.

“Ah, just like that fake suicide bomber case we had a while back,” Jimmy said. “I knew this looked familiar.”

“You got it.”

He and Fosse each took an end of the flare strip and attached it around my vest, flares up front. It wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. Jimmy picked up the roll of tape and wrapped it around me over the flares about three times and bit the tape, tearing it off the roll.

“Grab one of the walkie-talkies,” I directed and Fosse handed it to me. I placed it on the vest next to the end of the row of flares. Jimmy attached it with tape, leaving enough showing so that you could tell what it was.

Satisfied it was going to stay together, I asked for a jacket to cover the ensemble. Fosse left for a moment and came back with a large, fluffy, yellow waterproof jacket.

“That should work,” I said and put it on. I grabbed the other walkie-talkie and pushed it into one of the coat pockets. “Can you get Jimmy one of these?” I pulled on the jacket’s outer skin. “It’ll look off if I’m the only one wearing one.”

Like before, Fosse darted out and came back with the big yellow jacket, handing it to Jimmy.

“Let’s go.” I started down to the lifeboat with the ransom bag and waited for Jimmy.

We didn’t say much moving across towards the Venezuelan ship, when Jimmy broke the silence about half-way there.

“We’re going to survive this, right?”

I hadn’t seen Jimmy afraid in a long time. “Of course,” I replied, deciding to keep it simple. “We make the payment, we head back and they leave. Everyone is okay.”

“I wished I believed that.”

“Relax. Remember, I once drove a van loaded with a bomb several miles and into a field just before it blew. I think we can handle a simple ransom drop.”

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