Bestselling Author Amy J. Fetzer
Bestselling Author Amy J. Fetzer
 

Excerpt - Chapter One

Come as You Are
December 2007
Amy J. Fetzer

International waters
Northwest of Jamaica

It was supposed to be an easy retrieval.  Pick up and delivery.

Now they were Fed Ex with assault rifles and hauling ass.

The door of the speeding chopper thrown open, Logan hung onto the oh shit strap, and sighted through high-powered binoculars at a ship, that up until eight minutes ago, was dead in the water. 

With no answering hail or a distress signal, the luxurious 140-foot killing machine at top speed was rudderless, cutting through the surf and kicking up boiling waves.  Effectively thwarting any asinine attempt to board her.  That would be me, Logan thought, holding on as he glanced at the radar.  Closing in on Cuban waters. 

“I thought this thing could do over a hundred?”  Wind battered his face, nearly knocking off his headphones. 

“We’d use up too much fuel,” Sebastian said.  “It’s a long way back to land.”

Logan threw him a look and words died.

“Christ.  Hold on,” Sebastian warned.  “Going postal.”

Logan gripped the strap as Sebastian pushed the chopper to its limits, the force slamming him against the interior.  I really need to learn how to fly, he thought, bringing the binoculars into position again. 

“We’ve got bad guys,” he said as two figures appeared in the passageway, then moved to the stern.  “With scuba tanks.”  Logan quickly zoomed in on their faces as one man looked up, his smile vicious seconds before he pulled on his mask and executed the backward fall into the sea.  He had something in his hand.   

Below the chopper, a 43-foot turbine Scarab speedboat slowed long enough for an Interpol agent suited in minimal dive gear to drop into the water and search.  It was useless, the targets already deep, their bubbles churning with the waves.  Logan focused on the yacht closing in on Cuban waters. 

“No sign of the divers,” Max said, watching out the opposite side.  “No pick up boat near enough either.  A hundred miles out in shark infested waters?”

“He’s got help.”  Anchored under the ocean had to be a propulsion torpedo.  Or worse, a submarine.  What any of it had to do with a privately owned yacht, wasn’t a concern.  Their job was to find it and bring it back to port--but not from inside Cuban territory.

That bad taste in his mouth was quickly going sour, and Logan turned away from the open door, reaching for the harness.

“What do--?  You can’t be serious, man,” Max said.  “It’s got to be going forty knots!

“I don’t see we have much choice.”  Logan slipped into the harness.  “If anyone’s got a flash, clue me in now.”  Strapped and locked in, he clipped the cable, then pulled on a helmet. 

“It’s suicide,” Sebastian said with resigned calm.  “The wind speed alone will push you back fifty feet.”

“Then drop me on the bow.” 

“Let Interpol blow it out of the water before we get near Cuba,” Sebastian said.  “They take protecting their waters very seriously.”

Logan didn’t look up as he snapped his gun into the holster.  “We aren’t being paid to destroy it, or do you have this month’s payments handy?”

“I’m on welfare,” Max groused, and reluctantly manned the wench.  “You really think anyone’s still alive?”

Logan leaned out as Sebastian shifted the chopper to the right and ahead, he knew what he’d find.  Nothing.  Seven people were on board the yacht when it left a Miami port.  Five crew including the captain, and only two passengers.

Logan shifted to the edge of the chopper, his feet braced on the door treads.  The wind snapped at his jumpsuit, loosening his footing. 

“I can’t get any closer, the yacht’s too erratic,” Sebastian said.  “We have more company.”  To his right, a black screen screamed the demarcation of international waters and blips coming toward it.  “A Cuban Naval ship and it just launched four attack boats.”  They couldn’t see them on the horizon yet, but they were moving fast. 

“Interpol is ready to fire!” Max said, launching between the seats and grabbing the radio. 

The Scarab wasn’t manned with rockets, but while one boat circled for the attackers, on the other, an agent stood at the prow and lifted a shoulder-mounted stinger into position.  Logan could see Riley aboard the Scarab, his weapon drawn on the agent to stop him.

Max called frantically over the radio, then looked back at Logan.  “Not yet, not yet!”

But Logan was already sliding over the side.

Max hit the wench, lowering him.  “He’s got a death wish, I swear,” he muttered, then into the radio repeated, “Interpol, stand down!  Cuban forces approaching.”

Sebastian angled the chopper to the left, swinging Logan like a pendulum and putting him within a few yards, but the sea and the speed hampered.  Dropping him on a boat that was already going nearly fifty miles an hour covered a lot of distance.  By the time Logan reached the yacht, it would already be gone.  He had to get in low, and avoid the antenna and satellite dish on top that would hit the chopper skids or impale Logan before he landed. 

Then they didn’t have to worry about it.

The yacht took its direction from the current and Logan saw his chance evaporating.  He hit the clip release and dropped on the roof of the bridge, the impact sending him sliding down the slopped surface, across the windshield.  He grabbed for anything to stop himself.  The satellite dish broke off in his hand seconds before he crashed into deck chairs.  Man, I really don’t want to bounce.  The force snatched the choice.  He was airborne, smacking into the bow railing.  The rail broke away on impact, and he scrambled to grip the flagpole and latched on.  For a couple seconds, he stopped, then the pole bent, and he went over the side like wet fish.

He caught the twisted metal with one hand, the sudden stop nearly tearing his arm from the socket.  He dangled for a moment, beaten like a banner against the side of the yacht.  He could hear Max though the radio in his helmet, but couldn’t understand anything beyond the noise of splitting waves.  If he fell, he’d be crushed under the ship or chewed by the propellers.

He strained his muscles to pull his legs up to the deck, but the metal started to tear.  He risked drawing his gun, and fired two shots at the Plexiglas portal, then jammed his foot in the rim, pushed up for a better grip, then hoisted himself over the side.  He fell to the wet wood floor.  The chopper hovered. 

“The Commies are coming, and the Scarabs are approaching from your east, armed till that yacht reaches the marker, then we’re all fair game,” Sebastian said into his helmet radio.  “Gitmo Bay went on alert and Cuba is not answering our hail.”

Guantanimo Bay Marine base.  Well crap.  Start a pissing contest with the Cuban Navy over this?  He pushed off the floor and hurried to the bridge, throwing open the door.  The collision sirens blared in the empty bridge as he rushed to the wheel.  The throttle controls were smashed and at full speed.  He pulled them back, knowing it was useless, then hit the emergency engine stop.  No response.

Oh, you knew what you were doing, you bastard.  He didn’t look up, didn’t want to see the attack boats speeding toward him and rushed around to the computer console, typing.  Nothing responded.  The ship was still traveling at incredible speeds and she had full tanks.  Logan dropped to the floor and rolled under the console, pulling wires.

“Cutter, come in, come in.”

“I’m here.”  He gave them a run down.  “I’m trying to get into the computers and stop the engines.”

“You’re half a mile from a marker.  ETA less than four minutes.”

Great, nothing like a little more pressure.

Logan disabled one computer.  Whoever did this had destroyed the steering controls, but not the engine operations.  Logan disconnected it from the main console, then leapt to his feet, tapping keys again.  The engines roared high and he smelled burning oil.  It’s going to explode, he thought, and take anything within five hundred yards down with it. 

He cut the circuits to the engineering, and emptied the fuel into the sea.  Not environmentally correct, but let the tree huggers deal with that.  He went to the wheel, and tried turning it, but the craft refused to budge.  The engines weren’t cutting off, too much fuel in the system still, and he raced back to the computer and blew the ballast on the right side.  The ship listed dangerously, and started turning away from the marker and Cuban ship, but only slightly.  They’d still collide.

Steering was gone, the throttle high and damaged--he couldn’t stop it.  There was no connection between the operating computers and the engines.

He left the bridge and ran down the curved stair well to belly of the ship.  The LCD panels were lit up, the horn blaring a warning of the oncoming collision.  Yet the entire access panel was smashed and smoking.  He followed the computer wires from the panels to the electronic console, then yanked a handful of wires.  Nothing.

“Well shit,” he muttered and went to the electrical panel, flipped it open and reached to switch off circuits and found them smashed and melted in the on position.  “Gimme a break here!”  Rushing topside and back to the bridge, Logan’s view filled with the Cuban naval ships, as big as the yacht, but faster and heavily armed.  While the Cuban ship recognized the oncoming collision and made to turn, a few thousand tons of steel didn’t skip on the water.  He blew more ballast, nearly capsizing the yacht as it tipped sharply to the side.

“Cutter, get off that thing!” Sebastian shouted in his ear mike.

“It’s too late.”

Logan braced himself.  Impact in five… four… three… two...  The gray steel hull of the ship filled the windshield as the stern hull impacted with the prow, scrapping its sides.  The megaton ship pushed the yacht aside like a bath toy, throwing Logan across the bridge as the yacht rocked violently, nearly on its side, and took on water. 

“Oh hell no.  You’re not sinking with me aboard!”

Hanging onto the door, Logan struggled to reach the ballast doors switch, using shelves and cabinet doors to pull himself toward his target.  He slammed his fist down on the switch, unloading the left side.  He couldn’t tell if it worked, the impact still propelling the rudderless yacht sideways.

The vessel shuddered violently, engines choked.  “Come on you steel bastard, just die!”

The fuel finally spent from in the engine’s chambers, the craft started to slow and almost righted itself.  She still had a drunken tilt to her, yet was sea worthy.  Oily smoke curled up from below decks into the pilothouse.   The ship bobbed on the waves.

“Cutter, Cutter!” Sebastian shouted his call sign over the frequencies.

 “I’m here.” Logan yanked at his helmet strap, then winced when Max whistled. 

“Jesus, you’re lucky,” he said.   “The Cubans are standing down.  Guantanimo Bay must have gotten through.  The other ship is banged but above the water line.”

“They’ll probably bill us.”  Logan didn’t exhale a breath before the engines blew, bearings ricocheting inside the hull like a pinball machine.  Exploding parts hit the floor under his feet.  He tried dropping anchor, but even that failed.  At least it was clear of the other ships, he thought as he removed his helmet and pushed his fingers through his hair before he fixed the transmitter in his ear and adjusted the mike.  

Then he smelled it.  The familiar scent of death.  He looked around the bridge, just noticing the blood splatters.  Everywhere.

“Max, get down here.  Tell Interpol we’ll need a video camera.”

It wasn’t until he left the bridge on the leeward side that he realized it wasn’t water that made it slippery, but blood.

*

The ocean’s depth squeezed on his lungs, yet his air flowed freely as the propulsion torpedo dragged him through the water.  He felt the pitch of the sea, the jolt of ships colliding, and smiled around his regulator.  The impact shuddered through the water, scattering sea life in all directions, but he experienced only a ripple.  He held tight to the torpedo as it pulled him toward the fishing boat anchored two miles away.

The agents and whoever was in the chopper wouldn’t find anything he didn’t want them to find.   He’d made sure of it.  His orders were clear. 

No evidence to follow. 

He checked his watch, the digital read out counting down. 

#

Drawing his weapon, Logan moved forward.  The evidence of someone being dragged was obvious.  A victim’s handprints, like claw marks to keep from going over the side, smeared the passageway and rails.  The chopper hovered over head as Max lowered to the vessel, dropped and rolled.  He hurried to Logan as Interpol’s Scarab pulled along side.  Logan let down the emergency rope ladder and agents boarded.  

The two agents, Brewer and Medina from the South American offices, were chasing sea pirates when Dragon One asked for assistance.  Three vessels had been attacked recently, so they were more than happy to lend a hand.

“I’m past the fail safe mark,” Sebastian said over the radio.  “I’ve got to return for fuel.”  

Logan waved and  Sebastian rocked the chopper before he headed toward land. 

“We’ll take below decks.  Crews quarters,” Medina said, handing a compact  video camera to Max, then sighting through another, he made a general sweep of the area.  After synchronizing radio frequencies, they moved off. 

“It’s slippery, so watch it,” Logan said. “I didn’t notice blood below decks, but then, I wasn’t looking for it.” 

Brewer nodded, his expression grim and angry.  

In the aft of the ship were the staterooms, galley, and dining/living room.  Logan and Max circled the deck, sections of polished wood still gleaming with fresh wax, others stained red with blood.  A massacre. 

They entered the main stateroom.  Long wide doors were open to the elements, and Logan kicked aside towels and lotion bottles, ignoring the padded chaises about to topple into the sea.  The sun brightened across the deep maroon sofas, the wood tables, and a wet bar.  In inclement weather, the doors would slide closed and seal the passengers in a warm cocoon.  Not this time.

Logan and Max passed through the main cabin, and headed toward the private staterooms as the agents scoured the belly of the craft into the engine rooms.  He could hear them tearing open anything suspicious, the destruction rising though the dying ship.  Max trailed him with a small video camera, his weapon drawn.  But Logan knew there was no threat.  No reason to hope.  They cleared each cabin, and were outside the main stateroom when the agents joined them.

“There’s no one here.  They put up a fight.  There’s a lot of that.”   Medina gestured to the blood splatters.

 Logan recognized the pattern.  Point blank range, in the head.  An execution.  He nodded and entered the main cabin.  His aim faltered, something inside him crushing his lungs when he saw the wedding gown hung haphazardly on the door.  

“Oh man.”  His gaze snapped around the cabin.  A bride’s frothy veil and a pair of man’s shoes and jacket lay tossed in the corner.  The cabin was a shambles, yet like most ships, everything with weight was bolted down, including the bed, wide screen TV and its components.  The bed linens were tangled, body depressions still visible, a bottle of champagne up ended into a silver bucket now tipped on its side on the floor.

“There’s still ice in it.”   Max nudged the bucket, and watery ice melted into the carpet. 

“The TV is still on,” Logan said.  “I couldn’t cut the electricity.”

“They run on battery,” Max explained.  “Separate from the engines.”  He stepped to go look, but Medina stopped him.

“I’ll cut the power,” he said as Brewer spoke into the radio to his home base. 

Logan scowled at him. 

“Its international waters, and now a mass murder.” 

Logan nodded and moved around the large stateroom, searching for identification, careful not to disturb more than was necessary.  Max picked up the TV remote and  pushed play, the screen blinked on, the video from the wedding playing.   Logan heard him groan with sympathy, and glanced briefly.  The wedding videographer was going from table to table and recording best wishes from the guests.  He looked away, his gaze traveling over the cabin.  Why?  Was there anything of value other than the ship itself?

 “If it was pirates,” he said, “Then why not keep the vessel?  Why kill them all and crash the ship?”

“A cover up?” Max said, still watching the video.   “Yachts aren’t built for speed, and you know how I like a good conspiracy theory.”

“Turn that off,” Logan snapped as he hunted for the passports.

“Not yet, look at this.   I’d swear that was your dad.”

Logan turned sharply, his gaze narrowing on the screen.  Max froze the frame, then backed it up.  Logan moved closer, a hard chilling pulling on his skin.  His mom was there, laughing with his father.  Instantly, he turned up the volume and heard his father say, ‘like a daughter to me.”

“Oh Jesus,” Logan whispered, then started riffling through the drawers like a wild man.

Medina reached to stop him, but Max stepped in the path.  He rewound the CD to visions of the bride just as Logan found the passports.   For a heartbeat, he stared at the identification, then sank to the edge of the bed, his throat closing tightly and burning. 

Oh God no.  He handed over the passports to Brewer and muttered, “Cassandra Furman.   Twenty-three.”   He rubbed his face, then stared at the wedding video.  “I remember when she was born.” 

Logan let the memory slide through his mind; the little dark haired girl who lived up the road, pampered from the moment she arrived.  A fiery temper and rebellious, Cassie was the belle of the neighborhood.  Which was hard to do since the plantation where he grew up had been in his family for a couple hundred years.  About fifteen years senior to her, he’d left home when she was still a child, but remembered little Cassie sitting on the side of the long oak-lined drive, waving a small flag, her face peering over a poster welcoming him back from Desert Storm.  She had a crush on him then, and he’d adored her, but he hadn’t seen her much since she was in high school.  His eyes burned as he looked at the dainty wedding gown, knowing this would destroy so many families.

“They’re from South Carolina.  I’ll give you the information you’ll need for contact.  No, when you do, call me, I’ll do it.”   He shot out off the bed, his fists clenched. 

He wanted to pound something.  Max went to pat his shoulder, then thought better of it.

A horn blasted, and they rushed to the side of the craft.  The second Scarab pulled along side, a body in a dive suit lay in the bottom of the speedboat.  Riley pointed  accusingly at agents.  There wasn’t much left of the diver.  They’d apparently shot the dive tank and the body was a grisly mess, an arm missing.  One down, one to go.  He watched the horizon in the false hope that the diver would surface.  If the bastard had a rebreather, no telling where he’d turn up.  Logan never got a good look at the tanks, but that smile he’d remember until he died.  Or till he killed him. 

He pushed away from the rail.

“Logan we need to split.  Interpol has to handle it now.  We can’t do anything more.” 

He would, alone.  “Board the Scarab, I’ll be right back.”  Logan turned back into the luxurious cabin and after he’d handed the passports over, he ejected the DVD out of the player and slipped it in his vest pocket.  He held his hand over it for a moment, bitter rage welling inside him.  Then just as quickly, he pushed it aside to search the cabin once more with Brewer.  Mentally, Logan fitted the light dust rings to the bric-a-brac scattered on the floor.  He picked up a couple of pieces, positioning them into place.  The diver had something in his hand when he went over the side.  Like a small jar or a cup.   But most of what was here was either broken beyond recognition or near its original position.  So what did he take?  What was worth the lives of seven people? 

Squatting, he flipped up the bed skirt, and shined his flashlight into the dusty darkness.  Nothing.  Not even dust.  He straightened, then started to leave the cabin when his attention caught the alarm clock.  It was still running.

“Didn’t you cut the power?”

Brewer kept inventorying the cabin.  “Medina did, yes.”

“You’re sure?”   Max said the cabins electrical ran on batteries, but . . . Logan grabbed the end table, pulling at it, but it was bolted to the floor.  Then he lightly grasped the cord, following it to the wall.   He pushed a chair aside.

It wasn’t plugged in.

He let go and stepped back. “Oh Christ.  We gotta bail.”   Brewer frowned over his shoulder, but Logan grabbed a handful of his shirt and pulled.  “Bomb!”

The two men rushed to the upper deck, shouting as Logan ran for the bow.  He didn’t stop and dove, arching his body to get far away from the ship.

The blast erupted, sending him head over ass twice before he hit the water.  The impact stunned him, pain screaming through his skin as he sank deep, the pressure pushing on his skull, his ears, and the underwater vibration shaking his brain.  He swam away from the explosion, arms digging into the water.  A shudder echoed in the depths, the sea warming quickly, the force of the blast pushing him along.   He prayed the team got clear.

His lungs strained, pinpoints of light fracturing in his eyes, and he dove deeper, debris raining like missiles.  Shrapnel clipped his shoulder, and he flinched, losing precious air, but the debris kept falling, dropping like stones and kicking up silt.  His body wanted air, now, and he struggled for the surface in wide hard sweeps, releasing increments of air until he didn’t have anymore.   He shot out of the water, then bobbed, sucking in a lung full.  He whipped around, searching for the Scarab boats.  The pair were circling the arena around the yacht ablaze like a Viking ship to sent to Valhalla.  That was too close.

Without fuel in her tanks, the explosion wasn’t as bad as it could be but the bomb leveled the first two decks including the pilothouse.  The Sea Empress looked as if attacked by a can opener, thick metal peeled back and tattered.  There goes any chance of getting paid.

He waved and a Scarab headed toward him.  One was damaged, the tear in the hull just barely above the water line so they had to take it slow.  Max leaned and reached out for him, and Logan grasped his forearm, then rolled into the boat.

But not before he glimpsed the white wedding gown floating nearby, the lacy arms torn and outstretched before it sank under the sea.

 

Inside the Pentagon

Months later

General McGill didn’t earn his three stars without hearing a lot of carefully worded bullshit.  This time the pile was getting deep, and considering his company, it was almost natural for them to color information.  Just not this brightly.

He’d been acting Deputy Director of the CIA Special operations for less than a week, something he’d lobbied against till the Secretary of Defense ordered him into the position.  McGill thought the SOD wanted to shake things up, scare some people.  A recent intelligence leak to the press had him clamping on his people so hard their necks hurt.  But that would have been an easy job.  McGill wasn’t certain the president was aware of this meeting, or who was covering their ass and what for.  But his number one target was less than ten feet from him.

On the other side of the long conference table, Elizabeth Jacobs sat erect, her spine stiff, eyebrows high with indignation.  At forty-eight, the sharp red suit and carefully applied make up was just a smoke screen.  She was a cobra who was off the map when it came to understanding how special operations worked.  To her, they were all expendable.  Oh she’d bemoan the loss of a service member, but that didn’t stop her from pushing to send more into a dangerous situation.   She was the tactical director on a mission that failed miserably.  Even stripped of her clearance and control, she couldn’t stop behaving like an operative in the field.  Everyone was an asset and expendable.  Including her own.

It turned his stomach to look at her.

“Are you suggestion I leave this to the good ol’ boys, General?”

There’s a reason I wear three stars, cup cake. 

With a light shove, he pushed the folder to the center of the table.  “Your strategy was deeply flawed.  You should have aborted at the first shot fired.  You went forward with bad Intel, people are dead.  Now you want to leave him there?”

“He understood the consequences and while regrettable, he knew the dice before he rolled it.  You’ve read the data, the psych reports.  He was more than willing to take this assignment.”

“At your behest.”

“I’m paid to get the job done, General, and my career speaks for itself.”

He scoffed.  “I’ve read it.  Its pretty shaky in some spots, even before this.”  He flicked a hand at the two-inch thick file between them. 

Her expression turned as snotty as a rebellious teenager concerned by a parent as she said,  “Operations always have kinks that must be dealt with in a matter of seconds.   I did want needed to be done.   And frankly, I wasn’t aware that you had full authority over the matter?” 

Seated around the room, men sat back collectively and attention shifted to the Secretary of Defense.

“Liz.”

She looked at the Secretary, her skin reddening as if she just remembered his presence. 

“While this was initially your operation . . .”

Her shoulders tensed, too smart not to know she was being stiffed out.

“It’s not anymore,” he added.  “Insuring that our man is brought home is our only consideration now.”

“Then a clean sweep is wiser.”

The SOD tilted his head.  “You’re not being asked to participate, you’re being ordered to turn all remaining documentation over to the general.”  He stood and she rose slowly.  “Today.”

She didn’t look anywhere but at the Secretary.  “Sir, I must argue your decision. I’m prepared to return and rectify this problem myself.”

“That’s not an option.”  He nodded to somewhere behind her and a young man moved to her side.

He didn’t touch her; they’d allow her the dignity of that.  She showed nothing.  Not a flicker in her expression nor twitch in her body.   She’s a cool customer.

“We’ll discuss your future after the holiday.”

She only nodded and with her escort, left the room. 

The Secretary looked at McGill.  “End this, tie it off.  Go outside if you have to.  The US can never be implicated.  Never.  With the present state of unfriendly attitudes from this country’s leader, we have to come away clean or the consequences will be insurmountable.” 

McGill saw the stress on his friend’s face, how he’d aged in the last four years.  It wasn’t a job he wanted, ever.  Right now, he wasn’t liking this one either.

“Joe, it’s your game.”

McGill looked down at the files on his lap.  He hated cleaning up his country’s messes. 

Too often, we’ve become our own worst enemy. 

Back to previous page