Bill and the Sting of Death

Preparation

Bill stood on the sunbathing pads with Harold near the covered hot tub. He hung on to the glass wall that pressed against his thigh. The top deck gently swayed in the relatively calm waters. Harold breathed deeply and looked up at the sky. The large yacht gently slid along the calm Gulf waters. Off to the left sat Cayo Agua. A few sunbathers who had arrived in their small craft sat sunbathing while others swam in its shallows.

The yacht gently maneuvered between the small desert keys that dotted the sea. The tepid air caressed Bill’s face, and a smile formed on his lips. He closed his eyes and took in the sea air through his nostrils. There was something about being aboard the ship that was different than the island. It was quieter. The wind carried the diminishing sunbathers’ laughter, and Bill felt his body relax.

He released the glass railing and let his legs adjust to the rolling at the top of the ship. Harold elbowed him and pointed. A small pod of dolphins swam on the yacht’s starboard side just ahead of the bow. One jumped into the air and flipped.

He spoke reverently to Harold, “I’m beginning to understand why you have this boat.”

Harold took in a deep breath and let it out. The grin never left his furry face. He said, “She’s a ship. I would have never thought of buying myself something like this, but it came along with the island. Well, I sort of asked for her.”

Bill’s eyebrow went up, “Sort of?”

Harold answered, “Yea. The ship originally belonged to John Richmond. I’m still amazed the man actually owned something fun and inviting. Anyway, I decided if I had to work with the CIA, I should get something for my trouble. When the opportunity presented itself, I asked for the yacht.”

“John named the ship Sweet Salvation?”

Joshua’s voice behind Bill made him jump. “No, Richard called it Sweet Revenge. Your brother was not fond of that name.”

Harold spoke up, “She’s been a refuge for us when we had to deal with Chuck. Also, I feel closer to God when I’m out here.”

Bill scowled, “So, like a Joel Olsteen thing.”

Harold replied, “Nothing like that. I feel this way on the cabin cruiser when I go out fishing. I like the yacht because my friends and family can experience this with me.”

Joshua said to Bill, “Maybe this will allow you to reflect. I understand we have some time before we get to Crossroad Key.”

Bill asked, “How far is it?”

Harold answered, “Not as far as you’d think. Darla and Garcia want to make sure the ship can’t be tracked. So, we take a few days and meander around the ocean. Satellites are tracking the ship and any craft around us. The underwater microphones that the U.S. put on the seafloor during the cold war listen for underwater craft.”

Bill said, “That must keep them busy. We’re in the Caribbean; boats are coming and going constantly.”

Harold only nodded.

Joshua spoke up, “I almost forgot, Darla said after you’re done introducing your brother to your beloved up here, she wants you all down on the main deck. We’re meeting at the aft dining table to discuss our plans.”

Bill asked, “Again?”

Joshua nodded, “It’s training. When your brain doesn’t need to think about your actions, you’ll make the right decisions even in the worst of circumstances.”

Harold rolled his eyes, “Because these meetings with Chuck always go according to plan. Well, let’s go.”

The three men headed down the spiral staircase and then down a second set of stairs to the main deck. Maria, Darla, Garcia, and Alice all sat waiting. Harold pointed Bill to the seat next to him. Joshua joined Maria.

Joshua spoke up first, “I still don’t like my wife being here.”

Alice responded. “Your lovely wife educated me on the way she has been left behind on every operation. There’s no reason she can’t stay on board ship while we are on the island. She’ll be in no danger.”

Joshua responded, “What about when we are transporting Chuck?”

“We’ll have ships in the area. Of course, that’s assuming we take Chuck alive.”

Garcia said, “Hang on, I thought this whole operation was to bring Chuck in.”

Alice responded, “It is. However, things happen in the field, especially at that location. I’m not going to risk any of you. If Chuck gets too unpredictable for my liking, I’m going to put a bullet in his head.”

Bill said, “Then why not let me kill him?”

Joshua asked, “You don’t have any regrets about killing those other men?”

Bill was silent.

Darla spoke up, “Let us handle the violence. This isn’t something you signed up for. Your job is to get Carol out of harm’s way. Now, tell me exactly what you’re supposed to do.”

Bill started to mindlessly drum his fingers. “I wait next to Harold. Chuck will likely be armed, so I shouldn’t move until I’m told, or he’ll kill Carol. Carol and I will meet halfway between Chuck and Harold, and I take Carol back beyond Harold towards a foxhole that’s out of sight.”

Alice said, “Perfect. Harold, what do you do?”

“I walk to Chuck and pretend to go willingly. The first chance I get, I go for the gun because Chuck likely won’t shoot me. After I remove the gun, you, Garcia, and Darla will swoop in to save the day.”

Darla said, “Darling, don’t sound so cynical. Alice will be spotting through her sniper scope. We will have no problem coming sooner if there’s a need.”

Bill asked, “What if Harold can’t get the gun?”

Harold smiled, “I force the situation.”

Bill asked, “How?”

“Darla’s been training me. I’ve learned all my rage does me little good if I don’t do a better job at directing it.”

Bill answered, “But, when I went berserk, I was able to shoot like a marksman, and I haven’t had any training.”

Joshua answered, “We still don’t know what causes this condition and why it only shows up in some people regularly. The rush of adrenaline, the hypersensitivity, and honestly, perhaps some divine intervention worked in your favor.

“I’ve watched over Harold during his training with Darla. Proper defense training is as much about self-control as it is attacking. Harold can focus his energy better.”

Harold spoke up, “It’s helped me not only fight better but work better. I’m always evaluating how I’m spending my time, and if the solutions and ideas I come up with for PDS are worth pursuing.”

Alice said, “Alright, let’s get back on point. Once Chuck is taken into custody, he will be brought to the yacht.”

Harold interrupted, “I still don’t see why it has to be my ship.”

Alice looked him in the eye and continued, “He’s being brought to the yacht because we have some questions that need to be answered in open waters. We’ve designed a cell, excuse me, stateroom below that will be able to hold him.

“The doctor will then assist us in our interrogation. Once we have the answers we want, we’re off to Guantanamo Bay to drop Chuck off at his new residence.”

Maria spoke up, “I don’t like you using my husband’s talents for torture.”

Joshua protested, “It’s not torturing. I’m going to work with Darla. The CIA’s drugs won’t work on a man like Chuck, but their drugs and my understanding of hypnosis may be enough to get us the information we want.”

Maria asked, “What if he refuses to talk?”

Alice gave Maria an icy stare, “He’ll talk.”

Maria glared back at Alice, “Torture.”

Alice answered, “Chuck has killed thousands in his lifetime and helped groups like ISIS get access to explosives and even drones. Tell me, whose life should I save, Chuck or a ten-year-old child who is being sex trafficked to perverts in an ISIS offshoot?”

Maria waved her off, “I’ve seen this growing up. One day you’re torturing a cartel member, and a week later, it’s a political rival.”

Alice answered, “That’s not who we are.”

“We’ll see.”

Garcia chimed in, “Are we all set then?”

Alice looked over at Garcia. Garcia mumered, “Sorry, I’m used to running the team.”

Alice looked around the table. “I know things are tense. They always are before an operation. Bill, take some time to get to know Harold and Garcia a little better. These meetings sometimes go awry, and the more we trust one another, the more likely we’ll all come out alive the other side.”

Bill nodded.

Garcia turned to Alice, “May I?”

Alice nodded.

Garcia said, “Meeting adjourned.”

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