Between Havana and the Deep Blue Sea
by Darrel Bird
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique
*Between Havana and the Deep Blue Sea*
Jim Grady walked hurriedly back and forth from his old pickup and the docks found on the Intracoastal waterway that snaked around St. Petersburg Florida.
As he methodically loaded the supplies on his 36 ft. Morgan sailboat ‘Dancer’ he packed them away. Most of it was water in gallon jugs.
When he finally made the last trip he climbed on-board the fiberglass boat and started stowing the supplies away.
He had brought enough supplies for a month he hoped. He had not had time to plan all that well and he knew what he was about to do was about as insane as one can get yet he knew he had to try.
After stowing the supplies Jim made himself some hot tea and sat down at the dinette which served as a chart table also. The boat had a fold down chart table by the radio equipment but it wasn’t big enough to be comfortable.
Jim sat sipping his tea and thought about the past few days that led up to this.
His older brother Randy was a missionary and it looked to Jim like he would die being a missionary.
If Randy thought it was God leading him he would walk into the gates of hell with a smile on his face and Jim figured he had done just that.
Randy had ‘felt the call’ to go to Cuba when half of Cuba was trying to get to Florida anyway they could.
“They come in on inner tubes tied together fer cry’in out loud.” Jim thought as he pondered his brother’s predicament.
“And in on boats that take two to sail and six to pump the bilge fer cry’in out loud! With women lay’in in the holds pukin their guts out.” He mumbled under his breath.
“And Randy just had to pick Cuba fer cry’in out loud! He could have gone to the pigmy’s in darkest Africa and been safer than Fidel Castro’s Cuba.” Jim mumbled into his tea.
So Randy had left his wife Linda at their home in Clearwater and sailed to Havana on a freighter out of Tampa.
Jim had been off on a diving trip when Randy left or he would have tried to talk him out of it.
The trouble was that Randy saw everybody as innocent and he had a heart for all people.
Jim was different. His friends said he was hard as nails and mean as an alligator.
Jim had word through the Cuban grapevine that they had stuck Randy in a prison near the North-West coast of Cuba. He had gone down to little Havana and found someone who could explain just where Randy was and what his chances were of getting out. According to the Cubans they were zilch.
They said the Cubans imprisoned him for subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social law which meant that they could throw you in prison for breathing.
Jim knew Randy had little chance to survive those kinds of conditions and the Cubans corroborated that. About the only chance anyone had of surviving that prison was a tough Cuban who has spent his life on the streets of Havana eating rat meat and living off hookers. It’s a dangerous game and Jim knew that Randy was not that ruthless and anyway he didn’t weigh one fifty soaking wet.
Jim knew he had to go and that was all there was too it. His brother was a good man; when Jim went there to visit his brother didn’t even have a TV.
“And they prey three times a day fer cry’in out loud!” Thought Jim and Jim knew that many of those prayers were for him. Jim knew the Lord, but Jim did not have the ability to be anything other than he was. He felt no call on his life such as that and he knew he was rougher than a cob around the edges.
Jim went to church when he felt like it, but his was the life of a vagabond and had always been since he left home.
When Jim went to Randy’s house to visit he prayed when they preyed, but he got right to what was on his mind.
He figured if the Lord had anything to say to him it wouldn’t take all day and half the night to ‘gitter said’. So no sooner than he popped down on his knees he was ready to get back up again and get on with whatever program he had planned for the day.
He knew that Randy was different. Randy never got on to him nor criticized him and after their Dad and Mom died they had grown close. They had a younger brother who had grown a beard and moved to Oklahoma into a cabin so far-out in the sticks they had to pump sunshine back in to him.
Jim thought about calling Jerrod their younger brother then thought better of it. He was dangerous and foolhardy and Jim couldn’t risk what little chance his brother had by going in making noise. Jim knew his younger brother to be stubborn and Jim knew if he took him it would be trouble and his every sense rebelled against it.
Jim walked back and snaked the AR 15 from under the forward berth and started taking it apart. He cleaned it and oiled it and put it back in the canvas bag after checking the four clips which were taped together back-to-back with black duct tape. He had 200 rounds of ammo including the AR 15 and the Glock 9 mil. He knew that when he shot all that off they would both be dead anyway and wouldn’t need any more. In fact it wouldn’t take 50 rounds to get them both killed.
He got out the plastic explosives and the detonators and the little electronic sending unit he had stolen from the National Guard Armoury. His conscience bothered him about having to break into the Armoury but he saw no other choice. He knew he would have to have plastic explosive and not dynamite and he would have had to steal the dynamite anyway because he had no federal permission to buy the stuff.
You couldn’t shape a charge with dynamite without drilling and he didn’t figure they would just let him waltz in there and drill a hole in their prison without some powerful objections.
That night about nine he threw his sleeping bag on the forward berth and went to sleep with the boat gently moving back and forth as if she couldn’t wait to be loosed of the mooring lines.
He slept but awoke with the slightest sound; he awoke about one and made a trip to the head to relieve his self.
Jim awoke again at dawn to the mournful sound of an outboard motor and knew that someone was heading out for a morning of fishing.
He popped his head above the hatch just-in time to see the Boats stern light round the bend to disappear under the causeway.
“Well, I might as well take a run up to the restaurant and get some breakfast and get this show on the road.” he muttered to the surrounding air.
Jim hopped in his old Ford and she started with a groan and wheeled his way toward the nearest restaurant.
He sat drinking coffee as he waited for his food. His mind was a mile away on-the-job he had set out to do.
The dope he had from the Cubans was the prison lay on a group of Islands just a little offshore and there was an inlet through it called Arch. De Camaguey so he planned on sailing past the Bahamas without stopping. He didn’t want a run in with the Bahamian police because of the AR 15 and the Glock 9.
They told him the prison lay in a hole with surrounding low hills on the west and some jungle running out to sea to the north. They had drawn him a detailed map of the island inlet and the terrain surrounding the prison.
If the Cubans were correct he had a picture in his mind of the place. There was a smaller lagoon where he planned to hide the boat.
The Cubans said he might be able to succeed then looked at him somberly, made the sign of the cross and one said “Mama Mia!” And Jim said “You got that right.”
The prison was no more than three acres in all. It was just a small place that used to be a military outpost and they had made it into a prison. The place was not even on the maps, but it was there all right.
His plan was to hide the boat and sneak through the jungle to the prison and scout it out before trying anything.
The waitress finally arrived with his food and he wolfed it down then took a last swig of coffee and got up to leave.
He knew he wouldn’t be drinking any more coffee the whole trip, just water; he needed to arrive there with his body clean and alert.
He walked to the counter to pay and the waitress that had waited on him came to take his money.
She gave him a come-on smile from behind the register, but Jim just looked at her straight-faced and she turned to go looking a little miffed.
He figured she was from one of the colleges in the greater Tampa-St. Pete area. The most of those women were in collage and were waiting to marry and have babies and he wasn’t interested.
Jim Grady had a rather handsome face although he had a faint scar he had gotten in a bar brawl on the upper side of his left cheek above his cheek bone.
His blonde hair was whitened by the years of sun and salt water. His face was a deep brown and most women were attracted to him. He weighed a hundred seventy pounds and had laugh lines around his eyes.
The problem was that he lived on a sailboat and was never in one place very long.
They knew his truck at the docks so he planned to just leave it there until he got back if he did get back.
He pulled up at the dock and stood looking at the ‘Dancer’, she was low in the water, but he knew she would lighten up as he consumed the water that he had stowed on her in gallon jugs.
He climbed aboard and sat down at the dinette and started ticking off his list again one more time. He thought of the sails in the sail locker, one extra main and one extra jib, the storm jib, the spinnaker and the drogue.
The sails were all original to the boat but were in good shape.
The ‘Dancer was Dan Morgan’s old boat which he had been fortunate enough to snag in a drug sale from the feds and had bought her for a cool five thou.
She was a sloop-rigged boat with a tall mast to support a large Genoa and she was fast.
Dan Morgan had beefed her up for his own safety and Jim felt fortune smiled on him the day he got her.
He had bid against a couple other yokels for her, but they weren’t serious.
The Dancer had three quarter-inch thick glass port lights and you could seal the hatches airtight and she sported a full lead keel.
She was fully self-righting and if the sails hit the water she would eventually pull herself loose and right herself providing the hatches and port lights were dogged down.
The ‘Dancer also had a self-steering of his own making so he figured he could single hand her then use the little Perkins diesel to sneak her through the tight places.
He went over his course again on the charts then rolled the charts up and laid them in the chart locker.
Jim thought he better pray so he knelt down by the aft birth and said “Lord I am fixing to get myself in bad place. I can’t refuse to go so if you don’t help me I will probably be in an even bigger fix. If I don’t live through this one please forgive me my faults and failures.” ”Amen.”
When Jim climbed into the cockpit and started removing the sail covers a voice called to him “Where you off to Jim?” it was old Sam hunter, the dock tender.
“Out for a couple weeks may be down to the Bahamas.” Jim didn’t dare tell him where he was going, the news would be in Cuba before he got there.
Sam came down and loosened the lines from the docks bollards as Jim cranked the diesel from the pedestal; he turned the large stainless wheel hard over and pulled astern as Sam threw the lines on to the boat.
“Good luck Jim” Sam waved.
“Good luck to you Sam.” Jim returned the wave.
Sam was about eighty years old and he no longer took his boat out. He mostly sat around the docks in his strait backed chair and he would see you off or welcome you in then pass the news along.
At times he would putter on his boat, but the sides were turning green and the chain plates were leaking long rust streaks down her sides, her sails long rotted Jim imagined.
Jim followed the same course as the earlier boat he had seen and turned the wheel hard over to starboard to get her into the narrow channel under the causeway which would take him out to sea.
As soon as he passed under the causeway he set the helm and started unfurling the sails turning the handles on the Lewmar winches with an expert smoothness that showed long familiarity.
Jim thanked God that Dan Morgan had built this boat for extreme seaworthiness with the extra lead in her keel, waterproof hatches and extra thick port lights.
The wind began to catch the sails and the boat heeled over under a stiff onshore breeze so he set a south-east tack for the lower tip of Florida.
His course was to miss Key west by only about five miles. He planned to miss Andros Island in the Bahamas by twenty miles then set a course that would take him to the island chain where the prison was. It was not classified as an island, but was instead a finger of land that ran north from Nuevitas Cuba.
It had a cut through it and that was where he had to go. The lagoon lay inside that cut.
Jim had a bright sun with not many clouds in the sky and after he got well out to sea he had to reset the southerly tack.
He set the self-steering about noon and went below to cook himself something to eat. He opened a can of beef stew and sliced off a chunk of the fresh bread he bought at the bakery and with a bottle of water.
He headed back up top. He ate the stew out of the can and washed the bread and stew down with sips of water. He tossed the can overboard then lay on the cushions in the cockpit to take a nap.
He awoke about four thirty and checked the compass; it was off course a couple points so he reset the self-steering.
The boat remained on course while he slept so it was easy sailing that first day out.
About sundown a squall came marching across and he had to reduce sail and take the helm. He broke though the squall two hours later just as the sun dropped below the water.
Jim held the boat on course through the squall so he was still on course. He snapped the lifeline on to the rail and worked his way forward to check everything out before dark and found everything to his satisfaction.
About ten he ran his binoculars over the horizon for lights of ships but saw none so he set the self-steering and went below. He fixed himself a cup of hot tea and checked the radio for the weather and was thankful there were no hurricanes out there. If he was lucky he would be back before any hurricanes showed up.
It was only a ninety mile run to Cuba from Key West but he planned to sail a dog-leg course because of a series of reefs which took longer.
The next morning he saw a coastguard cutter about a mile away and he wondered if they would want to board.
It turned out they were more interested in the fast drug runners than a lone sailboat so they passed to his port. He waved and the lookout waved back.
Accept for the drug runner’s people were friendly at sea and knew they depended on one another. Even drug runners had been known to stop and give a hand, but not often. They usually would go around a boat in trouble.
“Idiots” Jim thought, as sure as they went around if the boat had a radio they would alert the coastguard who would know why they circled a vessel in distress.
He heard the VHF radio squawk to life as the Captain in the Coastguard vessel hailed him using the hailing frequency. He reached around the hatch and picked up the microphone.
“This is the sailing vessel ‘Dancer’.” He replied.
“What is you heading sir?”
“Andros” said Jim.
“Seen anything out of the way?”
“No, you are the first vessel I have met.”
“Fine, thank you and good luck. out.”
“Thank you sir and good hunting.” Out.” Jim reached in and hung up the microphone and sat back down. The weather was still with him.
He was thankful that he had worked out a good yet simple self-steering for the boat. That meant he didn’t have to take long hours at the helm accept in bad weather. He also depended on his radar reflector.
He didn’t use the standard tri-fold Radar reflector sold in the ships chandlers. He had become acquainted with an old fisherman who was 76 years old who had saw his standard tri-fold radar reflector. The he old man had told him “Go down and buy two big round stainless steel salad bowls like they use in commercial restaurants. Bolt them together back-to-back and you will look to radar like a large ship.” So he did and he did.
“Thank God for old fisherman” thought Jim smiling as he glanced fondly up at his salad bowels tied to the mast.
One sailor who moored next to him one day smirked “Are those salad bowls ya got there?”
“Yep, couldn’t afford a real radar reflector like yours, so I hung my salad bowls.”
The sailor of the sleek looking vessel just at looked at him in pity. “What a jerk” thought Jim “They are awful proud of their money yachts till they get run over by a freighter.”
About four Jim had to take the helm again and work his way through another squall.
These squalls come marching across the devils triangle and is harbinger of hurricanes this time of year. About six he broke through the squall and looked at its backside and saw a waterspout form, “bad news that.” He mumbled. He set the self-steering and went below.
The next day he was nearing his way point 25 miles off Andros Island, the Bahamas so he began a south-westerly swing toward Cuba.
He used the sextant to get his position although he had a GPS he knew he needed to keep those skills up. “Thank you Mr. Satellite” He mumbled. He was in the habit of talking to his self. His was the only human voice out there and he figured his own company better than most anyhow.
A day and a half later he looked at the chart and checked his position. He pulled down the sail and threw out a sea anchor because he was thirty miles off Cuba.
It was about three pm and he set out to wait for dark. He scanned the horizon for Cuban patrol boats, but didn’t see any.
He went below and took out the charts and worked out a course using his present position. He then plotted a course to the cut that separated the Island.
His present position had been his unknown until now so he could work the course in fine detail.
He planned to make a run for the cut under full sail and using the big Genoa for speed arriving at the cut about one or two o’clock in the morning.
He would feel his way into the lagoon using the depth sounder and at first light find the cutback that lay inside the lagoon the Cubans told him of.
They thought he could get the full keel boat back into that and be at least partly covered by the overhanging Jungle.
He pulled out the black pants, shirt, shoes and boots and laid them on the table with his survival knife that had a wicked ten inch blade.
The AR 15 and the Glock 9 he left in its place under the forward berth. He was watchful as the sun sank below the waves. He kept glassing the horizon but didn’t see anything accept a trawler off in the distance just above the horizon.
The trawler made him nervous and he kept watching it but it came no closer and soon he just caught the deck lights above the waves and knew it was heading the other way.
As full dark fell he pulled in the sea anchor and raised the main and then the big Genoa and headed for the cut.
The wind caught the big Genoa and she heeled over until the water was swishing along the edge of the scuppers and the ‘Dancer’ leaped through the waves.
He set the self-steering and went below and quickly pulled on the long black pants and shirt. He applied camouflage to his face, neck and hands.
He strapped the knife to top of his leather boot and pulled out the AR 15 and the Glock 9. He shoved in a clip and he was ready and by that time he was sweating profusely in the get-up.
He looked around the cabin then turned out the light and went top sides. He released the self-steering and adjusted his course slightly.
He swept the horizon with the powerful binoculars with one hand and kept his other hand on the wheel. He didn’t see anything as he neared the coast of Cuba.
He got close to the finger of land and he saw the cut in the moonlight. The cut was a little off to starboard and he made the adjustment. He set the self-steering and quickly lowered all sail and that brought him to the entry of the cut.
He cranked the little diesel and glanced at the depth sounder as he entered the cut but there was still fifteen feet under the keel.
The boat puttered along hardly making any noise and he spotted the opening to the lagoon to starboard.
He felt his way into the opening slowly then cut the engine and let her drift trying his best to spot the cutback into the swamp the Cubans had told him about.
He prayed earnestly that he had not been taken advantage of by the Cubans. He tasted salty sweat on his lips in the sullen heat. The boat slowly stopped in the still water and he cranked up the diesel.
The engine sounded unusually loud in the still of night inside the lagoon as he ran it up again and cut the engine.
He finally saw what looked to be a cutback into the trees.
He could just barely make it out so he cranked the little engine again and using forward and reverse he worked the boat closer. His depth sounder read two feet under the keel.
He kept easing her in until the stern was clear of the sides of the lagoon and looked at the depth sounder, Zero feet, he cut the engine. He was in.
Sweat was pouring off him by now and he took huge swallows of water and swallowed two salt tablets.
Not a breath of air was steering in the close watery jungle covered cutback.
He eased his way to the bow of the boat and tied a mooring line to a large overhanging limb then walked back to the cockpit and sat down to wait for first light.
As near as he could tell it would be about an hour and a half before he could see to cut camouflage for the boat, then he would sleep the day away.
He sat in the cockpit and listened for the slightest sound above the insect noise coming from the jungle.
At the first light he listened carefully then reached up and started pulling the lowest limbs down into the stern and cockpit and tying them to the safety rails that circled the boat.
He worked steadily for an hour and a half sweating in the steaming heat then put the final touches on it with smaller foliage hung over the stern. He then made himself a thatch of crossed foliage to cover the aft hatch. Descending the steps into the cabin he pulled the thatch over the hatch and sat down at the table sweat rolling off him in rivulets.
He hooked the little 12 volt fan to the alternate battery and flipped the battery switch and held the fan in front of his face.
The air down below was close and fetid and he swallowed two more salt tablets and lay down in the heat.
He had been awake now twenty-four hours and after ten minutes or so he dropped off into a fitful sleep.
He slept off and on that day and when the sun was behind the tall trees surrounding the cut back he was ready to go anywhere but the cabin of the boat.
He decided he would explore his way back into the jungle of tangled trees, undergrowth and vines.
He slipped off the bow of the boat and waded in the murky water into the jungle and began hacking a trail through it toward the prison.
He stopped and listened repeatedly as he hacked his way through the jungle about a thousand yards. He listened again and heard a dog bark and turned and followed his own trail back.
When he got back to the boat it was dark. He waded the water back to the boat and taking hold of the bowline pulled him self up over the bow and lay there exhausted.
Finally he made his way back to the hatchway and down the steps into the cabin. He left the thatch cover off in the dark and was relieved to feel a tiny breeze waft its way down into the cabin.
He drank more water and slept until first light then took the AR 15 out and holstered the Glock.
He made his way back through the jungle and finished hacking his way to the prison clearing and lay behind a log just at the edge of the clearing. He reached over slowly and silently sliced off a large fern with the razor-sharp knife and pulled it over himself.
He was looking across the front of the clearing at a large three story concrete affair built like a fort with large walled courtyard in front.
The prison had barred windows to the south a large barred gate in front with concertina wire atop that. A guard tower stood with a guard perched on the edge smoking a cigarette.
The front of the prison faced the small hill. The road ran out from the front around the hill and came within twenty feet from where he lay so he was looking from the front left corner of the prison.
He needed to get a look through that gate so he made his way back a piece into the jungle. Finally he found where he thought he might be able to cross the road and climb the hill.
He came to the edge of the jungle. He slung the AR 15 across his back and crawling on his elbows he slid into the ditch. He glassed the guard tower until he saw the guards looking into the prison then he made a dash across the road and fell into the other ditch.
He crawled into some low brush. He circled the hill then made his way to the top and he could see right over the gate into the prison yard.
Jim saw what had the guard’s attention. They were letting the prisoners out into the yard.
There were no inner or outer fences. There was the large outer gate with a single concrete wall so Jim figured they mostly kept the prisoners locked in their tiny cells. The Guards had their rifles trained on the prison yard.
Jim brought the powerful binoculars to bear on the prisoners and he let his glass sweep over the dark-skinned ones. Some were standing in small groups of two or three.
Some he knew he couldn’t see for the wall and the guard tower. He scanned the ones he could see until he came to a light skinned man in kaki pants and a dirty white shirt.
He had come out the prison door and stood no more than fifteen feet away from the single prison entrance.
Jim’s heart leapt as he recognized his brother. He quickly adjusted the glass until he could make out his features clearly.
He looked closely at his brother’s face. His face was drawn and he had his arms crossed and he could see he was shivering in the heat.
“Fever.” Jim thought as another shudder went through his brother’s shoulders “Bad fever.” And his brother’s eyes looked hollowly staring at nothing.
As Jim studied his brothers condition a guard came up and jabbed him with the butt of a rifle and his brother stumbled back and fell to hard ground. The guard said something and brandished his weapon at Randy and toward the door.
A cold dark deep anger rose in Jim and gripped his heart with an icy hand as he brought the AR 15 forward.
He caught himself. “No, not yet you bastard.” He muttered. He felt helpless as he saw his brother stagger back into the steel door of the prison.
He swept his glass over the building looking for a weak spot, but found none but the front gate. A plan began to form in his mind. He would need some diversion.
“Why not blow a hole in the back and take the front guard out and take Randy out the front?” He mulled. Getting him out any other way would be next to impossible. He had to get him out the front, around the side and into the jungle and down to the boat.
“That has to be it” thought Jim as he backed away from the top of the hill and scrambled back the way he had come widening the path through the jungle as he went.
He made his way back across the road and into the jungle then made his way back to the boat.
He sat at the little table with a blank writing tablet, breathing hard, as he began to sketch the prison.
“Geez!” He muttered “I got to do this in daylight! There must be twenty personnel in that place.”
As he sketched the building he knew he only had one of two choices. He could try to kill all the guards and go in and get him. He could blow a hole in the back of the prison and try to take him out the front while the guards are being distracted by the explosion. He also had to blow the gate so he could get through to get Randy.
“This is insane.” “There were just too many factors that would have to go right. The guards and other prison personnel would have to fall for the diversion.
“I will have to shoot the tower guard without the shot being heard by other prison personnel plus I will have to blow the front gate. There is a chance the guards, if they rush back into the prison will not hear a shot through the thick concrete walls, but they might hear an explosion. Geez!” Jim mumbled on.
“But if I don’t do it I don’t think Randy will last… Geez he looks to be bad sick.”
Jim stopped mumbling. But his lips moved as he stared at the cabin ceiling.
Finally he made up his mind.
Jim decided he didn’t have a fool’s chance either way but the later plan sounded the best. Even if they brought them out into the yard the next day he no guarantee of that.
Randy didn’t look in good enough shape to make it through that stretch of jungle to the boat if by some miracle he got him out.
“Well we might as well go down together because I’m not leaving here without him.” Jim muttered and at that moment he became calmer than he had ever been. There was no more doubt and misgiving.
Jim looked at his hands and said “Lord, I don’t know much about the Bible. I know my brother is all right with you, but I don’t know if I am all right with you or not because of what I am about to do. I know I will have to kill one of those men tomorrow and perhaps more, but I got to do it. You do what you have to do with me, I ain’t gonna hold it against you. And well… I guess that’s all. I just wanted to talk to you early to be on the up and up with you.”
Jim swallowed two more salt pills and refilled the little waterproof case. He ruffled around the galley drawer and found a small plastic bottle of aspirin to shove down his brother providing by some miracle they ever reached the jungle.
He awoke at dawn and sat at the table and kneaded the plastic explosive into a pliable dough in two separate pieces. He checked the little transmitter and put them back in the bag.
He would set the larger charge on the back of the building first.
If luck was with him he would blow the gate after the other charge went off. He hoped that would draw the prison personnel back into the prison.
He figured he would have to shoot the guard in the tower, Perhaps two. He would wait for his brother to come out then set the first charge off.
Jim headed off into the jungle to arrive at the prison about nine thirty. He circled to the back and set the shaped charge on the concrete wall of the back of the prison inserting the electronic detonator.
He then worked his back the way he had come to get across the road to the hill.
Working his way up to the top of the little hill he came to the position he had occupied the day before.
Jim scanned the prison ground, but it was empty. He looked at his watch and waited. He had almost decided they weren’t going to allow the prisoners to come out that day when the steel door to the building opened and the prisoners started filing out led by two guards.
There was one guard on duty in the tower and when the prisoners started walking out the guard aimed his rifle at the yard.
“Good, they’re depending on the tower Guard to quell any trouble.” Jim thought.
He glassed the compound and counted four guards on the ground, the two that led and the two that followed the prisoners out through the steel door.
Jim saw his brother over about the same distance from the door he was yesterday and he still looked sick.
He saw him bend double with a coughing fit then straighten slowly back up and wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. His eyes looked dull and glassy and he was gasping for air after the fit of coughing.
The same cruel guard who had hit him the day before stood about twenty feet away. He looked at Randy and laughed.
Jim’s anger started again and he forced it back down. He wiped the sweat off his face savagely with his glove and set himself to blow the charge, but his ear cought the sound of a truck coming toward the prison and he waited.
It was a plain pickup with a canvas covered back. “Supplies?” Jim wondered, the driver wore a white tea shirt. “Could I get so lucky?” Jim thought excitedly, and he got ready to blow the rear charge as soon as the truck was pulling through the gate.
As the truck pulled up in front of the gate a guard came over and began unlocking the gate. He motioned the driver through and as the truck was pulling through Jim hit the transmitter button and the charge went off and shook the building and the ground.
The shockwave ran through the whole compound with the force of the blast.
Jim shot the guard in the tower through the head. The other guards started running back into the building and Jim headed for the gate as fast as he could run.
The driver of the pickup had stopped the truck with the back blocking the gate open. Jim couldn’t believe his eyes.
The driver just sat there as Jim raced past him headed toward Randy. He ran up to Randy and Randy ducked down.
Jim grabbed him by the arm and yelled “Let’s go, we gotta go!” and began pulling him toward the gate. Jim slung the rifle and pulled the Glock 9 in one swift motion pulling his brother along at the same time.
The driver started getting out of his truck and Jim aimed the Glock at him. The driver hurriedly pulled his leg back in and slammed the door.
The driver looked as if he had just discovered there were ghosts. Jim thought about putting a round through the door then though better of it. The man looked harmless enough.
Jim shuffled past him pulling Randy and looked into his scared eyes as they past, and in twenty seconds they were in the jungle. His brother staggered sucking in great gulps of air through his wheezing chest.
He looked at Jim with horror in his eyes. Jim slapped his face gently and said sternly “Look at me! Its Jim Randy, I’ve come to take you home! Now get hold of yourself!” Understanding began to dawn on Randy as he saw through the camouflage smeared face at who had hold of him.
Jim took out the aspirin yanking to top off and shoved his hand against his brother mouth. He forced five aspirin into Randy’s mouth and then shoved a canteen to his lips and said “Drink.” Randy coughed as the water poured into his mouth and he had no choice but to swallow. He choked on the water, but the aspirins were down.
“Come on, we don’t have much time.” And he drug and carried his brother through the jungle toward the boat.
Jim had a good trail cut through the jungle by now, but his brother was in bad shape and he was afraid he might kill him dragging him.
He backed up to him and took both his arms over his shoulders and leaned forward and took his weight on his back in a fireman’s carry and shuffled toward the boat.
He finally shuffled up to the edge of the water and sank down. His brother slid to the side. He gasped for air and thought he was going to pass out.
His skin was slick with sweat, his clothes soaked. The salty sweat burned his eyes and he tried to clear them. He reached down and got handfuls of salt-water and bathed his face then he bathed Randy’s face.
He knew he didn’t have time to lose. How was he going to get Randy over the bow of the boat?
“Randy, you are going to have to climb on to the boat when I lift your legs, if you don’t we are dead men, do you hear me?” Randy nodded weakly.
“Come on!” Said Jim as he pulled Randy on his feet and down into the water. When they got under the bow of the boat the water was waist-deep.
Jim said “When I heave you up you grab the rail and pull yourself over. Ready?” And Jim heaved Randy up.
Randy grabbed the rail, then with Jim pushing he flopped over on to the bow of the boat.
Jim struggled to grab the bow line and heaved himself up enough to grab the rail and pull his self over.
Jim grabbed Randy and dragged him back to the cockpit of the boat. He started slashing ropes that held the limbs to the rail. He reached up and cut the big line he had fastened to the limb.
He then made his way back to the cockpit and jammed the starter on the boat.
The little engine’s starter groaned and then began chugging and he threw the boat into reverse and started backing out of the cutback and into the lagoon.
As soon as the bow cleared the cutback he swung her around and shoved it into forward gear and opened the throttle wide open and the boat slowly began to pick up speed.
In ten minutes they were in the cut and headed out to sea. Jim walked forward and threw the rest of the debris from the camouflage overboard and began to winch the sail.
He got the main up then the big Genoa and walked back to the helm. He examined his brother and he looked worse than when he found him.
He grabbed the wheel and spun the wheel over some and the sails cought the wind.
“Can you hang on to the wheel while I haul up the spinnaker? “ He asked Randy. Randy looked at him at first not comprehending him.
“Hold the wheel?” he asked. “Yes the wheel Randy, I need you to hold it where it’s at while I haul the spinnaker.” Randy shook his head and reached for the wheel.
It only took Jim a few minutes and he was back at the helm. “Ok, you can turn loose now. “ Jim said gently, but Randy held on until Jim said “Randy, move your hand.” And he gently forced Randy’s hand from the wheel.
The boat had heeled over and begun to leap through the water as the big spinnaker ballooned out and the wind cought the big sail with a booming sound.
“That’s another miracle.” Jim thought. “The wind is at my back.”
The big spinnaker could not be used effectively accept downwind.
Jim set the self-steering and got Randy below on a bunk and gave him five more aspirin. Then he climbed back to the cockpit and grabbed the binoculars and started scanning the horizon but didn’t see anything at all. “Geez” he said. “We may make it.” And the boat sailed on without hindrance.
Jim went below and stripped of the filthy camouflage and put on clean shorts and a tea shirt and began heating some chicken broth for his brother.
Randy looked like he had passed out and Jim bathed his face with the now tepid water from one of the jugs.
As Jim bathed his brother’s pale face with water he remembered a classmate who had been in a bad car accident while drinking and had ended paralyzed.
The church had prayed for him to be healed. He had been able to walk again and he was walking to this day. The kid was sixteen at the time.
He and another classmate had been drinking and driving fast and has missed a curve going eighty-five. The other kid was killed and Jack almost was.
Jim thought it might be a good-time to pray. There were no church people to pray so it was up to him.
Jim knelt down beside the berth and prayed for his brother that God would heal him.
Jim didn’t pray long that time either but he prayed fervently and as best he could. He got up and went back up top.
He scanned the horizon again, but saw no one accept a distant ship.
He thought about hailing the ship on the VHF but thought better of it because his brother had no papers and the ship could be Cuban. His brother would be a wanted man in Cuba the rest of his life.
“No, I’ve got to get him to the states.” Jim muttered. “The Bahamas are even too risky.”
He knew his brother had no insurance and they might quarantine the both of them and the boat.
An hour later he went below and his brother was sitting on the edge of the birth looking a little drunk.
Randy looked up in surprise as Jim came down the steps into the cabin and Jim looked even more surprised. He grinned at his brother.
“How did I get here?” “This looks like a boat.” Randy said wiping his face on the back of his hand.
“We are on my boat and we are under full sail for home.” Jim replied. “Don’t you remember?”
Randy sat and thought a second and he said “I remember being in the yard and someone running up to me and grabbing me and dragging me toward a truck, that was you?”
“Yeah.” Jim replied. “I was a little short of time for niceties.”
“You about scared me witless, I thought it was the devil making a run at me. I thought sure I was being drug off to hell.”
Jim looked at him sharply, but he could see Randy was serious.
“No wonder I had to drag you!”
“You looked bad sick to me” Jim said.
“Can you eat some food? I can make you a can of chicken noodle soup.”
“I think so.” Randy replied, and Jim got up to make the soup.
Randy ate the soup in silence with sips of water between while Jim told him about the trip to the boat.
“You got to drink all the water you can hold because you have lost fluids. You get back on the berth and rest now. I got to get up top and sail the boat.”
“Here. See if you can get these on.” Jim said as he handed him a pair of Bermuda shorts, a T-shirt and clean socks. “Get these on and get some rest.”
He handed him five more aspirin “Take these all. They’re hell on the stomach, but not near as bad as fever at sea. I got too go topside for awhile, but you just rest.”
Jim went back up the steps to the cockpit and ran his binoculars over the horizon. There was nothing in sight.
He saw the sails were losing some power because the wind was dropping. They sailed on four more hours until the wind dropped to the point the boat was barely moving.
The big spinnaker would pick up any breeze and it was the only air moving the boat forward. Randy came up the steps looking a little better as he had changed into the clothes Jim had given him. The Bermudas shorts pulled tight by his belt looked way too big. Randy had lost much weight.
Jim was so amazed that Randy had recovered so quickly he said so.
Randy sat down on a cockpit seat cushion across from him and said “I have told you many times how God answers our prayers Jim.”
“Yeah, but I’ve never seen something like that.” “You were in bad shape; I know it had to be God. I was afraid you weren’t going to make it.”
Jim went below and came back up with two aspirin, two salt tablets and a litre of water and handed it to him.
“Take these and try to drink all the water. If you start getting sick at your stomach try not to heave. You need to keep the liquids down”.
“You better go below and rest now Randy”. He followed randy down the steps. When Randy lay down on the forward berth he clipped the little 12 volt fan to the footboard of the berth and aimed it towards his brother’s face.
He patted his brother’s arm and headed topsides again.
He hadn’t said it to his brother, but he had felt a change in the weather. He could always feel when the weather changed. It was like a sixth sense and it was never wrong. It was a change in barometric pressure his body picked up he supposed, he just did not know.
He had no more than got topside and sat down to scan the horizon when he heard a low muttering sound to the west. He put his glasses on what looked like a long low cloud bank peeping up over the water.
He looked at the tell tails which still hung motionless in the still air. The air was oppressing and the sweat poured off him. He swallowed two more salt tablets and a big slug of water from a litre bottle.
He heard another low mutter as the cloud bank slowly grew across the western horizon.
“Big storm that, just what we needed.” He thought wryly.
Jim was not superstitious but he didn’t dare scratch the mast. He had seen people do it, but he felt it was somehow akin to daring God and he didn’t want anything to do with it. There could too much wind and these waters had their share of that this time of year.
He didn’t believe all the superstition about the devils triangle, but he had no answers for where the people got to either.
He figured maybe because of such storms as the one rising out of the west had a lot to do with it.
He glanced up at the still limp tell tails again then looked at the clouds that looked to be piling atop the others in great anvil shapes. They looked as if they were trying to reach the outer atmosphere.
He heard a low rumble that rolled across the cloud front and ended in a cavalcade of low warning mutters.
He saw a big wad of Sargasso weed floating near the boat and a wave gently lift the weed mass and passed on under the boat.
He went below and shook randy awake “Storm brewing.” He said flatly and began stowing any loose items away that he could find. He tossed randy a litre of water, got himself one and squeezed passed Randy to go topsides again.
Randy followed him and looked at the cloud bank which now covered the western sky.
The thunder muttered as if the storm was gathering strength as it advanced toward them. The thunder crashed then rolled off across the cloud front to end in a low mutter. Jim reached over and cut the diesel which he had been running to keep the batteries charged.
The air was even more stifling and the storm was brooding as if it was making up its mind what it wanted to do to them.
“There’s a big blow coming Randy. I’ll take down the main and the jib and raise a storm-sail and we’ll let her run before the wind.”
“Look Randy, it’s going to get rough. According to where we are it will probably blow us straight for Key west.”
He said this as he worked his way around the cabin of the boat dogging down the port lights and the top cabin hatch. He gave the last large wing nut a final twist and began to take down sail.
His brother who knew nothing about sailing started toward him and Jim motioned him to sit back down.
“I’ll get it.” Jim said. “You just stay put.”
He took down the main and the jib and fed them into the sail locker and dogged down the covers.
Taking out the tiny storm-sail he ran her up to mid stays. He walked around the boat checking the stays and the chain plates and found everything right.
He glanced at a tell-tale and saw it move and felt a little breeze on his sweaty skin.
He saw the waves begin to pick up as the storm pushed them ahead of the wind.
He fed the drogue off the bow so it would reduce the discomfort of riding out a storm in the cabin of a boat. Then he lashed the wheel amidships and sat down and looked around.
He clewed up the boom and gave the line a final tug leaving the boom straight with the keel. He didn’t want that coming loose.
“Ok, everything looks good. We’ll ride it out below. “Try to keep calm or you’ll get sick for sure. It’ll try to toss you around, but try not to worry. This boat is built to withstand a hurricane.”
As he said that a gust of wind hit the boat and made the stays shudder.
“Let’s get below.” He followed his brother down the steps and loosed the thick re-enforced hatch pulling it closed.
He turned the wheel on until he felt the hatch snug against the gasket.
He turned on the overhead tube fan and it began pulling air down into the cabin.
Randy said that he would like them to have a word of prayer so they prayed. Randy prayed for all the souls at sea. He prayed for their family and his wife at home in St. Pete and for the church in general.
This time Randy’s droning voice did not bother him. For the first time he lifted his heart to God thanking him for his brother’s safety, healing and deliverance from that hell-hole of a prison.
For the first time in his life Jim didn’t feel like he had all the answers. The happenings that had taken place had shaken him.
He thought about the truck pulling in just before he blew the back wall of the prison out and thus not having to blow the gate.
He thought about the strength that he had to carry his brother through that jungle and get him up on the boat.
He thought about the healing that he had witnessed. He thought about the location of the prison because he knew that if he had been sent to an inland prison it would have been impossible for him to affect a rescue.
Jim saw clearly for the first time there was some power that worked according to some pattern at times and this was one of them.
As Randy prayed, Jim gave thanks to God that day and he regretted his earlier casual approach to God.
When they finished praying the boat was beginning to move and the Jim could feel the vibration from the wind blowing through the mast stays.
He felt the drogue begin to pull the bow of the boat into the wind.
Within thirty minutes the water began to crash on the top deck as the boat began to be tossed in the rollers. He looked through the port light above the dinette and could see the foam blowing off the tops of the waves.
As the waves rose higher the boat would rise with them and then drop sickeningly as the wave receded.
Jim estimated the waves to be around forty feet. Another wave would roll in and the boat would raise higher and higher then drop into the trough.
The wind howled through the mast stays.
He looked at Randy whose face was growing pale and sweat beaded his forehead. “Don’t lose it on me brother!” And he had no more than said that when Randy lowered his head in the plastic bag he was holding.
About five minutes later he vomited again and it began to worry Jim. Randy’s face had taken on a bluish tint.
Jim knew randy was in no shape to withstand seasickness. Randy held on to the sides of the berth with white knuckles.
The noise was growing deafening as the wind began to howl and moan through the mast stays, mast and boom.
It would howl then moan and fade away to howl again.
The boat would lurch as it climbed a tall wave and the wind would catch it and fall back down between the waves.
The water would crash down on the top deck trying to push her under only to rise again.
Jim saw Randy’s lips moving so he thought he must be praying “You need to keep confidence in the boat!” Jim yelled to be heard above the roar.
Randy lowered his head into the bag again and heaved. Jim shoved a litre of water at him and motioned him to drink.
Randy looked at the bottle sickly and shook his head no. Randy was sweating profusely.
A larger wave lifted the boat and slammed it down and Jim saw the water cover the port lights in back of Randy. The noised stopped as the boat labored to rise and finally broke through to hit another blast of wind.
“If we hit a reef, we are a goner.” Jim thought.
Jim was afraid for Randy. He had lain down on the berth and the only movement Jim saw was from the motion of the boat.
Jim began to pray earnestly for his brother, “Lord don’t let my brother die. I know we are in your hands. I know now that we always have been. Forgive me for my petulant ways and get us home. Linda needs him and I need him.”
He was answered by another wave and a blast of wind that shook the boat like a Terrier would shake a rat.
Jim checked Randy’s pulse intermittently as the storm lasted another four hours mainly because of the storm driving the boat before it as it went.
The wind finally died down to a steady breeze and Jim turned the wheel on the hatch and raised it back and dogged it to the steel rail that held it rigid. He welcomed the fresh air that had been washed by the rain.
He could see the glow of the sun to the west as it set below the backside of the clouds. A narrow slit between the clouds and the water shot red rays toward them and caused the tops of the waves to glow.
Jim surveyed the boat for damage but found none. He went below to Randy. He rolled randy toward him so he could feel his face and check his pulse.
When he felt Randy’s clammy forehead Randy opened his eyes. What worried Jim was not seasickness although prolonged seasickness could kill a person.
He remembered his neighbor who had ask to go with him and his buddy diving. They had left that morning about eight and thirty minutes out the neighbor had gotten seasick and had lain down in the isle of the cabin.
He had wrapped himself in a stinking canvas tarp and would not move the whole trip and yet five minutes after they had docked the boat that night he perked up and was Fine.
But Randy’s case was different. The neighbor was in good health when they left and Randy was not.
Jim bathed his brother’s face in water and put the fan on him again. He needed to tend Randy, but he also needed to get under sail and get him to land as soon as possible so he left him and went top side and began to pull sail from the sail locker.
It took him about forty-five minutes to raise the main and the Genoa. He set the self-steering and went below.
Randy was coming around and he helped him sit up. He said “Randy, we have to get some liquid down you and keep it down.” Randy nodded sickly.
Jim looked around in the food locker and found a bottle of Seven Up and uncapped it and handed it to him. He took it and raised it to his lips and drank. He sputtered and coughed weakly.
Jim rumbled around the food locker again and came up with the last can of chicken broth. He mixed that with water and heated it on the alcohol stove.
His brother had drunk about a quarter of the soda so he took the bottle from Randy’s hand and handed him a cup of the hot broth.
“Drink this with about two minutes between swallows. Here is my watch can you see the hands?” His brother nodded. So he slipped the watch on Randy’s wrist.
“I need to get the spinnaker up. Be back in a few minutes.” Again his brother nodded.
Jim pulled out the spinnaker and winched the big sail up. The sail caught the wind with a boom and the boat leapt forward and began to slice through the water. The air began to rush into the cabin.
When he returned below his brother had drunk the cup of soup “Please Lord, don’t let him throw up.” Jim pleaded.
Randy kept the stuff on his stomach; the air coming into the cabin helped.
Jim was nearing exhaustion from the constant movement and work load, but he knew he couldn’t rest.
He searched through the medicine chest for something that may help Randy and the closest he could think was antihistamine.
He decided to give him one and see the effect.
The pill made Randy drowsy but otherwise Jim saw no side affects.
Randy lay down in the birth and closed his eyes and in a few minutes Jim could tell he was asleep. He watched his chest and his breathing was be regular although shallow.
Jim didn’t like to spend too much time below with the big spinnaker flying so he sailed the boat and checked on his brother periodically for the next two hours.
Finally after some time his brother awoke and Jim persuaded him to eat some saltine crackers and wash them down with water.
By five thirty that evening Jim opened a can if pork and beans and they shared that with slices of the bread that was getting stale. The centre was still edible. Randy was weak, but able to talk.
“Look Randy we should be sighting St. Pete about noon tomorrow and we have to talk.”
“Go ahead.” Randy said when he sensed that his brother was bothered about something.
“I think it is better to not talk about this too anyone. It’s better that we just let it lie and we don’t want the government involved in this do you understand?” Randy nodded. “You can tell Linda some of it. Just keep the details to your self. She will understand.”
He didn’t tell him about shooting the guard and he didn’t figure on telling him either. He figured it better left unsaid.
“Why did you take such risk to come after me?”
“I just did what I had to do that’s all. Let’s just leave it at that. I’m going to take down the spinnaker and set the self-steering and get some sleep. Are you able to go top side and keep an eye on the compass?”
“I think I can.”
Jim taken the spinnaker down and came back down and crawled wearily into the birth and closed his and immediately sleep took him.
Randy sat and watched his brother sleep. He prayed “Thank you father for Jim.” And tears welled up in his eyes with love for his vagabond brother.
Jim slept for six hours and awoke with a start looking around the cabin for his brother. He was confused and wondered if the he had been dreaming and the last several days had not happened at all.
He dragged himself wearily out of his berth and drinking a slug of water he went topside. There was Randy sitting by the wheel. Jim was relieved it had been no dream and his brother was safe.
“It’s beautiful out here and so peaceful.” Randy said, a big moon was just beginning to set off in the west.
Jim checked the course and the rigging and made a small adjustment to the self-steering.
At eleven that day Jim saw the outline of the shore and Tampa bay begin to take shape and by three he started taking down sail.
When he was through stowing the sails in the sail locker he cranked the little diesel for the run under the causeway and back to the docks.
Old Sam met them at the edge of the docks and Jim threw him the lines. “Where you boys been?” He enquired.
“We’ve been out for a sail.” Jim replied his face showing no emotion.
Old Sam was getting absent so absent minded he didn’t remember Jim leaving by himself.
Thirty minutes later they were pulling in at Randy’s home in Clearwater.
Randy’s wife spied Jims old truck pull into the drive and ran out into the yard. Randy and Jim got out of the truck and Linda grabbed Randy and hugged and kissed him then hugged Jim. She hugged and kissed Randy again and then Jim.
When she finally settled down Jim motioned her into the house over Randy’s shoulder. She looked at him and nodded and led her husband into the house and sat him down in the living room. “Can I get you guys something?”
“Get Randy some Aspirin he’s had some fever, nothing for me.”
She disappeared into the kitchen and came back with two Aspirin and a glass of iced Tea for each of them; she sat down and looked at Jim.
Jim explained the trip and the prison break skipping over the details. He impressed on her the need to keep mum about it.
“Just live your lives as if this never took place Linda. The fewer people know about this the better it is you hear?” Randy said looking at her sternly, but his eyes softened as he looked at her.
She came over and hugged him. “Thank you for my Randy.” And she kissed him on the forehead.
“The thanks go to God, without his help this would not have happened; we had far too much gone right to call it luck.
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