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Authors: Edwin Attella

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THE FOURTH WATCH

BOOK: THE FOURTH WATCH
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545

Attella, The Fourth Watch

 

PROLOGUE Spring, 2000

Fuqing, Fujian, China

THE GENERAL STOOD AT THE
WINDOW
and watched the traffic snarl
around the docks. Acres of Junks created a filthy floating city in
the mouth of the bay, and cargo boats and fishing vessels
maneuvered around one another in the roads to get in and out of
port. The harbor was crisscrossed with the wakes of ships coming
and going, and out beyond the bay huge tankers and merchantmen
plied the Straits of Taiwan.

The General had cargo in the holds of many of
the ships that were leaving port and steaming across the one
hundred miles that separated China from Taiwan. Some of the cargo
was human. Peasants eager to leave their homeland, on a quest to
reach The Golden Mountain, America, and fortune. All such passage
was arranged through the General, and he was paid a handsome fee
for his service. $30,000 US. Half upon departure. The balance owed
by the family that remained behind. If the peasant died in route
then he or she would never be heard of again, and the family would
be in his debt. If he or she reached America, or Western Europe,
they would be in the service of the organization controlled by the
General in those places until they made good on their obligation.
Often that day would never come, because the interest on the
balance could keep the debt open for a lifetime.

But the most profitable cargo was the white
powder. Since the easing of tensions between Taiwan and the
mainland, trade between the countries, which had always gone on
illegally, had exploded. Hundreds of ships of all sizes flooded the
ports on both coasts. The harbors in Taiwan were clogged with
vessels day in and day out, and even if Government Inspectors had
not been handsomely bribed, they would have had little hope of
intercepting enough product to have an impact on the General's
operation. The Americans and Europeans had an insatiable hunger for
the white powder, and the General pumped as much as much of it as
he could across the seas.

But there was a threat to a part of his
operation in America. His organization had many tentacles of
course. And the loss of any one would not cripple him. But if one
tentacle was chopped away, then another may follow, and if another
then perhaps more. Soon he could become a head with nothing to
propel him. If his competitors sensed a weakness they would become
like sharks in bloody water, and then he would be in danger. No,
one must never weaken. One must grow. In strength there was
deterrence. If others in his organization saw that he was willing
to sacrifice one of them, they might seek the protection of a
competitor. He could not take such a risk. This is why he had
ordered elimination of the problem. He knew full well that if it
was not handled properly his troubles could escalate. But he had
approved a plan that minimized his risk, and he knew that the risk
of doing nothing was greater.

The General turned and glanced at the clock on
the wall above his desk. In his mind he calculated the time
difference and smiled to himself. It would be over soon.

*****

Natick, Massachusetts

RED WHORLEY'S NERVE ENDINGS
jangled with the adrenaline rush that surged
through his body. He dropped the phone back into its cradle,
staring at the ceiling, seeing nothing, his mind racing. He knew
what was going on now. Knew about the shipments, about the inside
action, which of his people had betrayed him. Through his man with
the police he even knew how they worked it, how the stuff moved
once in country, and how he had been duped and his company used. He
felt the rage coming again, the sound of his own blood in his ears.
The son of a bitch, he thought for the millionth time. But now the
trap was going to close. He snatched up the phone and dialed. He
tried to calm himself as the exchange rang through.

"Mr. Shipley's office," a woman's voice said
on the other end.

"Hello, Dana, Red Whorley, is Donnie
in?"

"Oh, Hi Mr. Whorley," she said, "he sure is.
I'll send you through."

Donald Shipley ran the largest construction
firm in central Massachusetts. He and Red had started their
companies at around the same time, and what had begun as a business
relationship had matured into a close friendship over the years.
They had played golf together, with two other friends most
Wednesdays for more than a decade.

Shipley came on the line. "Hey," he
said.

"Hey. Listen Don, I've got to beg off this
afternoon."

"What'dya have, a broad on the side? You're
out, then back in, and now you're

out again?"

Whorley had planned to go to Paris with his
wife, Samantha, this week and had

canceled out of the foursome. But then he'd
gotten the call from his guy with the cops who told him that he
thought something would go down this week. Thursday or Friday he'd
said, so Red told Sam he'd meet her in Paris over the weekend,
telling her he had a last minute business obligation that he
couldn't avoid. She had gone on ahead without him because her
mother was there. He'd told Shipley of the change in plans and that
he was back on for Wednesday. Now he had to cancel again. "Sorry
pal, I got to meet with someone this evening. I can't get out of
it. It's last minute, I know, but it's important."

''No, that's alright. My brother-in-law has
been bustin' my balls to play. I'll get

him to fill in."

"Thanks, and remember, I'm out next week too.
I'm meeting up with Sam this

weekend."

''Yeah, well, count your change carefully, you
can't trust them frogs."

Red laughed. ''1 hear ya."

"I'll see ya."

Whorley hung up and sat back in his chair, and
the smile left his face.

*****

Worcester, Massachusetts

HE FOLLOWED HER DOWN THE
PATH
toward the barn; the sound of their
feet crunching on gravel was the only sound.

"You can bring him out through here," she
said, sliding open the big door and going into the dark. He could
smell the animals before he heard them. His eyes adjusted and he
saw the stalls running away to the right. She led him straight
through, past the stalls to a door on the opposite side of the
building. She pulled that door open and he could see a brick
walkway stretching ahead, and a helicopter sitting on a cement pad
in the distance. Another brick path met this one at right angles.
''I don't expect that anyone will be looking out the windows, but
if they are, and the moon is up ... "

He nodded, the palms of his hands clammy.
"It's too far to go."

"The garage then," she said. ''It's a straight
shot, but nearer to the house, but you'll be behind the hedges
almost right away."

They went back in and down the corridor toward
the back. Just as he reached the

corner where the stalls began, a giant black
head reached out over the half door.

"Jesus," he said, jumping back.

The animal had an eye the size of a dinner
plate. It stared right at the man, its lips peeled back off its
teeth and it snorted and hissed.

"Jesus," he said again, his heart
racing.

The horse brayed and shook, it's eye never
leaving him. "For Christ sake, they'll hear him
downtown."

She laughed. "You don't think we hear horses
out here? Besides, there's no one

around." She turned to the horse, but moved no
closer to it. "Alfred," she said.

The animal backed into the stall but then
lunged forward again. The man slid along the back wall to the
door.

"That's the biggest friggin' creature I've
ever seen!"

''It's his," she told him. "He rides it early
every morning, then feeds and brushes it, and talks to it like it's
human."

They went back out and down the
walk.

"What's that?" He asked, pointing to a squat
shack set further up the path between the two buildings.

"His hot house," she told him.

He looked at her quizzically. ''Hot
house?"

"Yeah,” she smiled, ''you know, steam room or
whatever. In the winter he goes in there. Says it cures colds.
Drinks whiskey with honey, bakes himself, then takes a swim if the
pools not frozen, or rolls around in the snow."

"You're kidding."

It was not supposed to be like this. They were
just supposed to meet and be sure about it. Get the details down.
She would give him the key and the clothes. Show him where to go
through the garage and the path to take to the pool. But then they
were inside, in the cool shadows and the passion took them. They
climbed the stairs and on an old blanket in the back of the
apartment they urgently stripped, and joined and spent themselves
as they had done before.

Later they stood and looked down on the road
and shared a drink. He nodded to himself. It would work - with a
little luck. Her arms were around his waist. He could feel her
breasts against his bare back. There was too much invested, too
much at stake, too much danger from the suppliers. The crazy fool
had all the money and toys he would ever need. If he had only let
it alone, it would have never come to this.

He turned into her arms and kissed her. He
took the glass from her hands and put it on the windowsill. "Once
more," he said.

*****

Tanshui, Taiwan

THE SNAKEHEAD'S EYES WERE WATERY
SLITS IN HIS FACE.
The opium pipe boiled
under his draw. He was dressed only in a thong and sat lotus style.
Two naked girls lay together like Siamese cats on a bed in one
comer of the room. The American stood uncomfortably off to one
side. He was dressed in a tan suit, the knot of his tie loosened,
his skin slick in the stifling heat. His stomach was tangled with
nerves and his discomfort was magnified by the sick-sweet smell of
the smoke rising from the pipe and filling the room.

The Orientals skin was slick and golden. He
did not look at the American as he spoke. "This business with your
barbarian master, when will it be finished?"

The American cleared his throat.
"Tomorrow."

The SnakeHead drew the opium deep into his
lungs and watched the girls, who were making love now. There were
hypodermic needles, and heroin, on a tray on the floor next to
them. The American wanted to get the product and get away from this
psycho as soon as possible. But he knew that he would have to wait
him out, because it was part of the game with these people, and
because he knew that this was a very dangerous man. He'd heard a
story about a Russian gangster who had insulted Mr. Chun, the name
by which the SnakeHead was known outside of triad circles, by
refusing to join him at his table at a restaurant in Hinh Shu. The
Russian had been with another party and had openly rebuffed the
invitation. The humiliation was more than Mr. Chun could stand. The
following day, the story went, the Russian was grabbed off the
street and taken deep into a swamp near the American military base
at Chung Shan. His manhood was cut away and he was left there for
the crocodiles. A soldier on patrol found his head and torso in a
pit near the fence line a week later.

The American shuddered now as he remembered
the story.

"An interruption of service would be most
inconvenient," Mr. Chun said, smoke drifting from his
nostrils.

''None anticipated, I'm told," the American
said.

"My master has expressed his personal concern
in this regard." Chun said.

The American licked his dry lips. "There is
nothing to worry about," he said.


Ah," the SnakeHead turned his
eyes on the American for the first time, "good."

He uncoiled from his seated position
effortlessly. He was small and hairless, his musculature rippling
under his skin as he moved. "There is a package for you by the door
in the other room. I will pass your assurances along."

The American beat a hasty retreat, delighted
to be leaving, but wary with the veiled threat implied in the word
'assurances'. As he was leaving he could hear the sounds of Mr.
Chun climbing in among the women.

BOOK: THE FOURTH WATCH
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