Authors: R. E. McDermott
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Military, #Spies & Politics, #Assassinations, #Conspiracies, #Terrorism, #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Sea Adventures, #Thrillers, #pirate, #CIA, #tanker, #hostage, #sea story, #Espionage, #russia, #ransom, #maritime, #Suspense, #Somalia, #captives, #prisoner, #Somali, #Action, #MI5, #spy, #Spetsnaz, #Marine, #Adventure, #piracy, #London, #Political
A Thriller By
R. E. McDermott
Copyright © 2012 by R.E. McDermott
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
For more information about the author, please visit:
Rita McDermott Mayer
1942 - 2002
Sister, Aunt, Friend, and Wordsmith Extraordinaire
With this second book, I owe thanks to many of the same people as I did for the first. My wife Andrea was, as always, first reader and sounding board. Our sons Chris and Andy and daughter-in-law Jennifer provided support and comment, and my old friend Dennis Wright volunteered once again as an early reader, as did Theo Mandopoulos. As an aside, I would also like to thank Theo’s wife, Ada, for helping me choose a Spanish translator for my first book,
New to the team were Barbara and Anton Elsborg, who spotted some early inconsistencies and helped me ensure my Brits spoke like Brits. Also in the UK, Terry Watson and Simon Swallow helped educate me on the role of insurers in ransom situations. Apologies to both gentlemen for stretching the facts a bit to suit the demands of the story.
As always, friends and former colleagues from the marine industry were generous with their time and support. Captain Ken Varall read an early draft and flagged time and distance inconsistencies. Captains Bill Abernathy, Dave Fath, and Jay Lemon in the US, and Captain Jeff Thomas in the UK gave unstintingly of their time to share their experiences transiting Suez and to provide other details that enriched the story. Special thanks to Captain Bob Cameron for introducing me to Jeff in the UK, and also to Kurt Larsen of the American Bureau of Shipping for clarifying a point on current standards in drillship construction.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the publishing professionals to whom I owe a debt of thanks. Peter Gelfan of The Editorial Department did his usual fine job of finding the weak spots in the story and then helping me strengthen them. Eagle-eyed Neal Hock once again mercilessly purged the manuscript of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. And if an ordinary picture is worth a thousand words, then the covers of the talented Jeroen ten Berge must be worth many times that. Once again, he nailed the essence of the story exactly with his great cover.
Over a hundred readers of
volunteered to read the advance review copy of
. Space prevents me from mentioning each by name, but you know who you are and you have my profound thanks.
Any errors made, despite all this excellent help and support, are mine and mine alone.
Thank you for taking a chance on a new author. I sincerely hope you enjoy Deadly Coast. If you do, please consider the other books in the Tom Dugan series listed at the end of this ebook. And if you'd like to be notified when I release a new book, please consider signing up for my
Pingfang Complex Test Ground
Epidemic Prevention Research Lab
Japanese Imperial Army
Harbin, China - 20 June 1944
Shiro Ishii struggled to suppress his impatience as the last of the fifty
was led blindfolded into the test area and bound to one of the stout upright poles. He regretted the waste—a dozen subjects would have sufficed, but he wanted to impress. He lowered the binoculars and turned to his visitor, a man in the field gray uniform of a Waffen SS colonel, adorned with the crested serpent insignia of a medical doctor.
“That’s the last of the marutas, Doctor,” Ishii said. “It won’t be long now.”
The German grunted and continued to peer through his binoculars at the circle of poles and a pair of Japanese medical technicians fussing over a device in the center of the circle. He lowered the binoculars and turned to his host.
“I’m unfamiliar with the term. Does
mean ‘test subject’?”
Ishii smiled. “In a manner of speaking. It means ‘log.’ As you can see, our complex is quite large, and we can hardly publicize the nature of our work, so the curious are told the facility is a lumber mill.” Ishii’s smile widened. “And what does a lumber mill process but logs? In fact, a number of the overly curious have themselves become logs.”
The German smiled politely as Ishii turned his attention back to the distant circle just as the two technicians started toward him in a run. They crossed the five-hundred-meter separation and came to stiff attention in front of him, bowing deeply. He returned their bows with a shallow bow, and then barked at them in Japanese, sending them to a control panel. Ishii turned back to his guest.
“We’re ready, Doctor,” he said.
“You’re sure we’re safe here?” the German asked.
“Quite sure.” Ishii pointed to telltales, streaming from a pole in the light wind. “We’re well upwind. Now please watch closely. It will be over quickly.”
The German nodded and raised his binoculars as Ishii gave orders to the technicians and then peered through his own field glasses. Ishii saw a small puff of smoke in the center of the distant circle as his technicians triggered the device, and began a running commentary for his visitor’s benefit.
“Efficient distribution is dependent on the delivery device. For this test, we’re simulating delivery by artillery shell, with each maruta twenty meters from the point of impact. The gas inhibits the central nervous system, producing cardiac and respiratory arrests. The effect is immediate and near one hundred percent lethal, even in very small doses.”
Ishii paused his narration and watched through the binoculars as the test subjects stiffened and strained desperately at their restraints before collapsing like rag dolls, hanging from their posts by tethered hands. Within five minutes, all were dead. Next to him, the German lowered his binoculars and spoke.
“Very efficient. But what of residual evidence?”
“None,” Ishii said. “Unlike earlier agents, the gas causes no burning or scarring. Victims appear to have died of natural causes, as you’ll see during the autopsies. Of course, the enemy will know you’ve used gas, but proving it is a different matter. We’ve used the gas extensively here in China against both military and civilian targets for several months without problems.” He smiled. “Of course, the world cares little about the Chinese.”
The German appeared skeptical. “That may be true, but I hardly think we can use gas in the European theater with impunity. I remind you that, unlike Japan, Germany is a signatory to the Geneva Convention.”
“And if Germany is defeated, what will your fellow signatories make of your efforts at Dachau, Auschwitz, and elsewhere?”
The German stiffened.
“I mean no disrespect, Doctor,” Ishii said. “But there’s a time for propaganda and a time for truth. We both know this war isn’t winnable. The Allies have taken Rome and established a beachhead in Normandy, and your cities are being bombed into rubble. And here in the Pacific, we’ve been on the defensive for months. Last week, American bombers based in India destroyed the steelworks at Yawata. With American air power increasingly able to reach Japan, the situation is grave.”
“Such defeatist talk is bordering on treason!”
“I didn’t say we’re defeated, merely that we can’t win—a different matter entirely. Besides, what I’m proposing has approval of the highest authority in both your government and mine. Hardly treason.”
you proposing?” the German asked.
“A fighting retreat to our respective homelands, using
weapon at our disposal to convince the Allies that invading our countries would result in unacceptable casualties. We can’t win, but perhaps we can avoid losing. But we must act together. If either of our countries fall, the other must face the Allies alone. Japan leads the world in chemical and biological weapons development, and it’s in our best interests to share those weapons with Germany.”
The German nodded and and Ishii turned and gave more orders before turning back to his guest.
“My men will wait for the gas to dissipate and move the marutas to the morgue for the autopsies. It’ll take an hour or so. May I offer you lunch? We’ve a great deal of work this afternoon, and I wouldn’t like to approach it with empty stomachs.”
Epidemic Prevention Research Lab
Japanese Imperial Army
Harbin, China - 23 June 1944
Shiro Ishii sat at his desk and stared down at the plain, thin folder. Such a simple container for the last best hope of Imperial Japan.
was neatly hand printed on the cover, beside a TOP-SECRET EYES ONLY stamp. Everything in the folder was handwritten as well—details so sensitive that no clerical personnel were allowed to see them, regardless of security clearance.
Ishii looked up at a soft knock on his door, and slipped the file into a desk drawer before calling for the visitor to enter. Seconds later, Dr. Yoshi Imamura stood before Ishii’s desk, bent at the waist in a deep bow.
“So, Imamura-san. Did our German guest get away safely?” Ishii asked.
“Hai!” Imamura straightened from his bow. “He left an hour ago, Ishii-san.”
Ishii nodded. “And do you think he suspected?”
Imamura looked thoughtful. “I don’t think so. Why would he? Your presentation was very logical and convincing.”
Ishii smiled. “Thank you, Imamura-san. Is the shipment prepared?”
“As you ordered. Everything crated and ready. It’ll be taken by one of our destroyers to our submarine base at Penang and transferred to a German U-boat for the trip to Germany.”
“And have you given thought to who will accompany the shipment?”
“I have,” Imamura said. “Honda and Sato are the best candidates. They’ve both worked with the agent extensively and know enough of the plan to deflect any of the Germans’ questions.”
Ishii nodded. “I agree, Imamura-san, with one addition. You’ll join them.”
Blood drained from Imamura’s face. “Forgive me, Ishii-san, but is that the … best use of our resources? I’ve many other projects under development here and—”
Ishii cut his underling off. “None remotely as important as this, Imamura-san. You have time to brief a replacement on your other projects.”
“But Ishii-san, I—”
Ishii’s face clouded. “Imamura-san. You will go. It is the will of the emperor!”
“Hai!” Imamura cried, and bowed deeply.
Arabian Sea, off Oman
28 August 1944
Imamura lay sweating in the narrow bunk, cursing his inability to sleep and dreading the moment he’d have to surrender even the scant comfort of the bunk to Sato. Space was at a premium in the U-boat, and the three Japanese were allotted a single bunk they occupied in eight-hours shifts, spending the remainder of each interminable day trying to keep out of the crew’s way—a difficult task in the cramped confines of the submarine.
The boat smelled of unwashed men, and the
submariners’ diet produced a body odor unpleasant to Japanese sensibilities in the best of circumstances—in the congested U-boat it was overpowering. Worse still was the ever-present smell of diesel exhaust as the boat ran submerged at snorkel depth. The Germans took it in stride, but Imamura had been plagued with headaches since the second day out of Penang, and bouts of nausea caused by the unfamiliar diet sent him to the cramped and complicated common toilet with increasing frequency.
His mood brightened as he heard the rumble of ventilation fans and smelled a faint hint of fresh salt air through the miasma of the sub. They had surfaced! He crawled from the bunk and joined Sato and Honda, faces lifted to the nearest ventilation register like hungry pups nursing.
Korvettenkapitan Johan Jebsen stood in the conning tower of
, binoculars pressed to his eyes as he cursed under his breath and scanned the moonlit horizon. He cursed the luck that had seen
make two combat patrols without a single kill, and wondered if that had motivated his superiors to strip his boat of all but six torpedoes to turn it into a carrier of mysterious cargo. He cursed Allied air cover that forced him to run at snorkel depth during daylight at six knots. But mostly he cursed the fact that his rather liberal interpretation of his current orders had come to naught.
He was tasked with getting his cargo and passengers to Germany, but nothing precluded kills en route if the opportunity presented itself. He’d swung farther and farther north in pursuit of just such an opportunity, with no results.
Jebsen lowered his binoculars and heaved a sigh as he looked over the calm surface of the sea. The full moon was bright enough to make the horizon visible and the slight lightening in the eastern sky signaled the coming day. He had perhaps an hour of darkness left and then he would submerge and head south, thoughts of a kill forgotten. He started at the voice of the lookout beside him.
“Herr Kapitan, I have a ship. Two points on the starboard bow!”
Jebsen jerked up his binoculars and peered in the direction indicated. Sure enough, visible on the western horizon was a ship.
“Excellent! A straggler from some convoy, no doubt. Good work, Muller!”
Jebsen lowered his glasses and glanced again at the eastern horizon. The ship was steaming at a right angle to his own course. He could never overtake her submerged, but it would soon be daylight. If the ship saw him too early and got off a distress call, he was well within range of shore-based aircraft. Still, he’d be approaching the target from out of the rising sun and could probably sink her before she even saw him. Beside him, Muller seemed to sense his indecision, and Jebsen read disappointment on the man’s face. His crew needed a victory.
“Well, Muller,” Jebsen said, “what say we go hunting?”
“Jawohl, Herr Kapitan!”
Jebsen returned Muller’s grin and ordered flank speed.
It took well over an hour to close to torpedo range, but Jebsen’s timing was perfect. The rising sun was just above the horizon and felt good on the back of his neck as he approached the ship, hidden in the glare. He studied it in his binoculars. An American Liberty ship, ugly but utilitarian. He could just make out the name SS
on the bow.
Jebsen wasted no time in taking his shot. He fired two torpedoes from the forward tubes, his heart in his throat as the twin tracks sped away from
. The bridge watch on the Liberty ship must have seen them as well, because the ship started a desperate turn toward the sub to present a smaller target. But it was too little, too late, and the
had hardly started the turn when both torpedoes slammed into her starboard side. The sound of the explosion carried through the water, and Jebsen didn’t even have to report success before the cheers of his crew echoed up from the open hatch. Across the water, he heard the strident clanging of the ship’s general alarm bell and the moan of her whistle sounding abandon ship.
Minutes later Jebsen stood off the sinking Liberty ship and watched as the crew launched lifeboats and tossed rafts overboard. The ship was well down by the bow and sinking. He was debating another torpedo to hasten the process when he heard the drone of an approaching plane.
“Dive! Dive! Dive!” he screamed into the voice tube, and the loud
of the dive klaxon filled his ears. He watched Muller disappear down the hatch as the sea washed over the foredeck, and took a last nervous look astern at the British plane lining up for a run. Jebsen followed Muller down, closing the hatch behind himself and spinning the locking wheel. As soon as they were submerged, he’d make a drastic course change and dive deep. He prayed it wasn’t too late.
Imamura stumbled to the cramped toilet, oblivious to the submariners’ cheers or anything else but his own cresting nausea. He got there barely in time, and steadied himself against the bulkhead as he leaned face-down over the stainless-steel bowl. It was a long and gut-twisting ordeal, punctuated by dry heaves, leaving him trembling and sweat-soaked just as the terrifying sound of the dive klaxon filled the sub.
The deck tilted at a crazy angle, slamming him against the bulkhead. Imamura recovered and wrestled the toilet door open a second before a powerful explosion rocked the sub. The lights failed, plunging him into a pitch-blackness filled with the terrified cries of dying men. He felt water on his feet, then his knees. Rising pressure sent ice picks of pain into his ears, and he groped his way down the corridor as water rose above his head. He swam underwater, moving blindly and banging his head and limbs on unseen obstacles. Then suddenly he was free.