The Nineteenth Year by Jevic, The Tarheel Writer    The Nineteenth Year
by Jevic
The Tarheel Writer
Chapter Ten
"A Night to Remember"

Back to Chapter Nine
"The Ring"
On to Chapter Eleven
"Allies"
Chapter Index

Jevic's Story Page

The Nineteenth Year by Jevic, The Tarheel Writer

Action Adventure
Violence
Sexual Situations
Rated Teen 13+

Proudly presented by The Tarheel Writer - On the Web since 24 February 2003. Celebrating 20 Years on the Internet!
Tarheel Home Page

The limo pulled up beside, when compared to the Concorde, a modest ten passenger Lear Jet. Two men in Air Royal International uniforms greeted them and assisted with their luggage. The friends climbed on board. Everyone took a seat except Timmy. One of the uniformed men entered the jet.

"Your flight plan has been filed, we've topped off the fuel tanks and you're all set to go. Sure you don't need a first?"

"I'm sure. Thanks anyway."

"Ok, have a good flight." He turned and left. Timmy closed the hatch and secured it.

"What'd he mean by that?" asked Teri. Timmy frowned a moment.

"By what?"

"First?"

"Oh, he wanted to know if I wanted a First Officer, a co-pilot."

"Oh," said Teri. "Wait a minute. Who's the pilot?"

"I am, silly girl. I've been flying since I was eight. I'm even certified to fly the Concorde. So relax. Would you like to sit up front? I'm sure these two can find something to occupy their time while we make this short flight," he said while wiggling his eyebrow in a suggestive manner.

"Sure, I'd love to. I like things that go fast." Daniel rolled his eyes. Cody giggled.

"Right oh then, boys get buckled up while the 'fast one' and I get us ready to taxi."

Timmy patiently went through the pre-flight checklist with Teri assisting him. A short fifteen minutes later the Lear Jet was slicing through the afternoon sky making its way toward thirty-three thousand feet. Teri watched in wonder as Timmy expertly maneuvered the jet toward their cruising altitude. Just as they leveled off, a red light started blinking on the console to Teri's right. She thought nothing off it as Timmy leveled the jet off and engaged the autopilot. Thoughts of her friends in the back faded from her mind as Timmy pushed his seat back and slowly rubbed his hand over the growing lump in the front of his pants. Teri smiled and licked her lips. Timmy grinned and unbuttoned his trousers. The zipper purred as it made it way down. The bright white of the boxers beneath gleamed in stark contrast to the navy blue trousers. The long hard shape confined by the soft cotton was clearly defined. As Teri leaned over with full intention of nuzzling against it, the shriek of the alarm brought everything into focus.

"What the hell?" she stammered. Timmy quickly assessed the vast array of instruments lining the cockpit. The sound of a sharp crack had Teri looking out the window. As Timmy looked over her shoulder, the starboard engine erupted in flames.

"F-fire!" she screamed. Timmy quickly flipped the fire extinguisher switch. The fire immediately dissolved to nothing but smoke. More alarms echoed through the cockpit.

"What the hell's going on?" yelled Daniel from the door.

"Sit down and put your seatbelt on," yelled Timmy.

"What the fuck is this? Strap in and die?" Daniel shrieked. Timmy turned and looked Daniel squarely in the eye.

"Put your parachutes on. They're in the galley, in the cabinet below and to the left of the sink. Bring us ones as well. Then put them on … securely … and get ready," he directed with deadly sincerity. Daniel paused a second, then nodded. Timmy turned to Teri. "I'm taking us out to sea where we won't hurt anyone if we, ah, have to ditch." Teri heard the words, but the meaning was lost in the vast array of flashing red lights on the console in front of her. Another loud bang quickly brought her back to her senses.

"What was that?" she asked looking on as Timmy struggled with knobs and switches. "What was that?!?" she screamed.

"Teri, it's nothing I can't handle." Timmy quickly took of survey of the instruments. The starboard engine was gone. Fuel was at three quarters. No problem there. Hydraulic system pressure was on a slow decline and the wheel was beginning to get sluggish. There was no response from the stabilizers and the temperature of the port engine was on the rise. But the most alarming news was that cabin pressure was slowly falling. That last bang must have made a small hole in the fuselage. All Timmy's training was kicking in, but his training never told him how to deal with scared crew and passengers.

"What the hell was that?" Timmy turned and saw Daniel in the cockpit doorway clutching two parachutes. Cody was right behind him. Timmy turned back toward the console. The jet was now shaking violently.

"It's going to seem as if we're going to crash, but I need to get us below ten thousand feet and I need to do it fast. So grab a seat and hold on. Timmy disengaged the autopilot and took hold of the wheel. "Here we go!" he called out as he pushed the wheel forward sending the jet into a nose dive. "May Day. May Day. May Day. This is Whiskey Zulu Niner Seven. I'm declaring an in-flight emergency," Timmy said as calmly as he could into the microphone.

"Whiskey Zulu Niner Seven, this is Belfast Radar Control. We have you on radar and show you currently in a rapid decent. Please advise the nature of your emergency." Timmy held on the wheel as hard as he could, but he needed help.

"Teri! Grab the wheel!"

"What?!" she shrieked.

"Grab the wheel and help me keep her steady. We're going to have to level off soon and I'll need some help, so grab the wheel now!" Teri hesitated. "NOW! Grab the wheel!" She reached out and took hold of the wheel. It was vibrating and jerking back and forth with a mind of its own. Timmy quickly glanced at the airspeed indicator. Seven hundred fifty knots. Way too fast.

"Belfast, we've lost our starboard engine, lost stabilizer control and instruments indicate a drop in hydraulic system pressure. I'm also indicating a slow loss of cabin pressure. We're headed down to ten thousand."

"Roger Niner-Seven. We'll clear some airspace for you. Can you make Belfast?" The question loomed over Timmy's head. His answer was the one statement that every ear, on the ground, and about the jet, hung on.

"Belfast, we're going to try, but I doubt it. I've been watching the temperature rise on the port engine. It's only a matter of minutes before she lets go."

"Understood Niner-Seven. Keep us advised."

"Teri, help me pull back on the wheel. We've got to level her off." Timmy strained as he pulled back on the wheel. Teri was still in shock. "Help me, damnit!" Teri grabbed the vibrating wheel with all her might and pulled back. Daniel and Cody, securely strapped in the cockpit jump seats could only watch as the ocean below them grew steadily closer. The whine of the port engine increased. The jet shook violently as Timmy and Teri tried to level her off. Daniel watched the altimeter intently. Ten-thousand. Eight. Six. Five. Forty-five hundred. And finally. at thirty-seven hundred feet, the view of nothing but the ocean through the cockpit window was slowly replaced with half ocean and half horizon. Another loud bang shook the aircraft. An alarm sounded out. Timmy looked to his left and knew what he was going to see even before he looked. The port engine was a ball of flames. He quickly flipped the fire extinguisher switch and watched as the flames immediately went out. The sound in the cockpit quieted quickly. Apart from the occasional shudder, everything was quiet.

"We've got a choice here," said Timmy softly. "We can either bail out or try to ditch in the Irish Sea." Teri's eyes were wide open. Her normally dark tanned skin was white. She quickly turned and looked at Daniel. His reassuring half-smile calmed her fears.

"What are our chances of ditching?" asked Daniel.

"It'd be like hitting a brick wall at five hundred miles an hour," said Timmy.

"Then I'm all for bailing out," chimed in Cody.

"Jumping out of a jet at five hundred miles per hour is like dropping a feather in front of a box fan on high," Timmy said quietly.

"Why not put out the flaps and slow us down a bit?" asked Cody.

"We've lost hydraulic pressure. The flaps won't respond."

"What about lowering the landing gear. Wouldn't that create enough drag to slow us down?" Timmy jerked around in his seat and looked at Cody.

"An excellent idea, although I've never lowered the landing gear at five hundred miles an hour."

"There's a first time for everything," Cody grinned.

"OK, hold on. This might be rough." Timmy pulled the level for the landing gear. The jet shuddered and lunged downward. "Teri, pull back on the wheel!" he screamed. Both Teri and Timmy pulled back on the wheel as the jet slowed dramatically under the increased drag of the landing gear. Timmy watched the air speed indicator as it quickly dropped … five hundred, four hundred, three hundred, two hundred.

"It's working!" yelled Cody.

"Yeah, but this jet stalls at one-ten. We don't have much time!" He quickly engaged the auto pilot. "Come on. Auto pilot's on. Let's get out of here." They all quickly unbuckled their seat belts and moved back into the cabin.

"We've got to jump at the same time or we'll be separated," said Cody.

"That's right, mate," agreed Timmy. "Stand back, I'm gonna blow the hatch." Everyone moved back away from the hatch.

"Timmy, wait!" shouted Cody. Timmy looked back at his new friend. Cody quickly gathered a piece of rope from the safety locker. He tied one end to himself and then tied the other end to Timmy. "We can't have you getting off before the rest of us."

"That's you, Cody. Mind always in the gutter," Timmy said smiling.

"You be careful. Just blow the hatch. If you blow anything else I'll accuse you of being bisexual," Cody said as he smiled back.

"If I did decide to be bisexual, it'd be with you," Timmy said with a wink, then he yanked the lever opening the hatch. The wind caught the door and ripped it from its hinges. The sound of the wind whistling by the door was deafening. "We don't have much time. We should grab on to each other and make a run for it," yelled Timmy. The other three nodded in agreement. "Count to three, then pull your rip cords!" he yelled over the sound of the wind. They all looked at each other.

"Wait!" yelled Daniel.

"We haven't the time to wait!" yelled Timmy.

"Teri, throw your ring into the cock pit!" Daniel yelled over the howling wind. Teri acknowledged the meaning of Daniel's directive. She quickly took the ring off and tossed it into the cockpit. The friends joined hands and together, they ran toward the door.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The OIC (Officer in Command) at Belfast Radar Control took the slip of paper from the aircraft radio operator, glanced at it and turned to the shipping radio officer.

"Broadcast these coordinates on all frequencies. We've got an aircraft down and need all assistance." Casey O'Brien, the junior radio officer took the coordinates from the OIC and turned back to his console.

"Crimey, second week on the job and there's a plane down," Casey thought to himself. He quickly keyed the console for broadcast and began his message.

"This is Belfast Radar Control. Attention all ships in the Irish Sea. This is Belfast Radar Control. Attention all ships in the Irish Sea. We have an aircraft down. Coordinates 54 02 77 North and 5 22 71 West. Request all shipping traffic in the area to render assistance. Repeat … 54 02 77 North and 5 22 71 West … any ships in the area, please contact Belfast Radar Control immediately." The radio operator looked up at the OIC and waited for further instructions.

"Repeat the message every minute til we have a response. The Belfast Coastguard is on the way, but ships in the sea could render help first. Keep trying laddie. There must be a boat nearby that can help." Casey nodded and turned back to the radio console.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Captain Mike Mitchell took the offered cup of coffee from the mate and sat back in his chair. Running cargo from the United States to England and then to Ireland wasn't exactly a prestigious job, but the shipping company paid well. He ran a tight ship and was revered among the company fleet as a demanding captain. A strict professional, complete with a decorated military past, he demanded nothing less than perfection from his crew. Crewmembers waited for months for the opportunity to server under him. The bonuses paid when cargo was delivered prior to deadline was great compensation, but the pride of being able to serve under Captain Mitchell was envied from coast to coast.

"Pardon me, captain. A message from radio," the mate said as he offered a slip of paper to the captain. He took it nodded at the mate, dismissing him. Captain Mitchell sipped his coffee then opened the folded piece of paper. As the read the words, the coffee cup found itself abandoned on the counter adjacent to the captain's chair.

Captain Mitchell stood quickly from his chair. He darted to the chart table, made some quick calculations and then looked up.

"Helmsman, come around to 234 degrees."

"Aye aye sir. 234 degrees." The First Officer was immediately at the captain's side. The note from radio was passed from hand to hand.

"An aircraft down, sir?" the First Mate queried.

"And very near by. Get a rescue boat ready."

"Aye, sir."

"All ahead flank," Captain Mitchell yelled out as he grabbed his binoculars.

"All ahead flank, aye sir." Captain Mitchell scanned the horizon. The reported aircraft's position was less than ten kilometers away.

"Lucky the Irish sea is calm today," the captain thought to himself.

"Radar report!" he barked out.

"Nothing on screen sir."

"Keep a diligent watch. There's lives at stake."

"Aye, aye sir." The prow of the SS Shaw sliced through the waters with ease as her engines pushed her through the Irish Sea at her top speed of 28 knots.

"Cut back on all the unnecessary. I want to see thirty knots. I know she can do it." His orders echoed across the bridge as the ship pushed forward with every possible resource available.

""Rescue boat at the ready, sir!" Captain Mitchell looked at his first officer and offered a small smile. That small smile spoke words of compliment and the first officer knew it. He beamed with pride at serving under the best captain in the company fleet.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Nineteen year old Dillon Rankin stood at the rail and watched as the waves gently rolled by the giant cargo ship. It was just ten days ago that he had hugged his mother and father goodbye in New York. The idea for taking a trip before college had been his. After scouring the Internet for travel deals, he decided on a cargo ship. Being one of ten passengers on the ship was a relief for the young man who enjoyed solitude. Watching the waves slide by was hypnotic. In fact, he found it to be his favorite pastime. The books he brought to read were captivating, Spider Solitaire on his laptop was challenging, even with two suits, but standing at the rail and watching the waves soothed his troubled soul like no psychologist could.

The shift in course was more than obvious as the giant ship heeled over to port making its sharp turn. Dillon grabbed the rail and held on. The vibrations under his feet suddenly increased. He glanced up toward the bridge and saw thick black smoke coming from the sole stack. He quickly glanced back at the waves. The ship had indeed increased in speed. The calm sea was being sliced open as the ship raced through the waters of the Irish Sea. Something was up and Dillon was keen on finding out what it was. A crewmember hurried by headed for the boats.

"That doesn't look good," Dillon mused as he quietly followed the crewmember.

He watched from around the corner as three others joined the crewmember. They quickly pulled the tarp off of one of the lifeboats. They worked quietly and efficiently and within a matter of moments had the forty-foot lifeboat mounted on davits. Dillon watched as the crewmembers donned life vests and all but one got into the lifeboat.

"Rescue boat at the ready, sir!" he heard one of the men call out into a handheld radio.

"What the hell is going on?" Dillon thought to himself. "Is something wrong with the ship? Is someone overboard?" A hand on his shoulder interrupted his thoughts. Dillon spun around to look directly into the face of an officer.

"You shouldn't really be here. It's much safer on the upper decks," the officer said.

"I w-was just wondering what was going on," stammered Dillon.

"Nothing to worry about, lad. Seems there's a plane down in the area and we've been called into assistance," the officer explained.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"Contact, just off the port bow!" came the call. Captain Mitchell grabbed his binoculars and scanned the horizon.

"Helmsman, come about to two five three."

"Two five three, sir, aye."

"Slow to one quarter."

"One quarter, aye sir." Captain Mitchell focused his binoculars on the bobbing shapes in the sea.

"All stop," he ordered.

"All stop, aye." The giant ship slowed and finally stopped in the middle of the Irish Sea. Luckily, the winds were still calm. The rescue boat was lowered and quickly made its way toward the dark shapes in the water. Although the SS Shaw was primarily a cargo ship, she still had accommodations for ten passengers. All ten of the passengers on board, including Dillon Rankin, clung to the rail on the boat deck as they watched the rescue boat pick up the survivors. The observance was interrupted by an officer tapping on Dillon's on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, sir. You have the largest cabin on board. I apologize in advance, but we'll need your quarters for the survivors. You will be compensated … "

"Of course, of course! Bring them to my quarters. I'll be happy to help in any way I can," Dillon said as he watched the rescue boat being pulled on board. The survivors appeared to be a woman and three young men. They were all soaked to the bone. "Be sure to bring some extra towels. And they'll need some food and something to drink and some dry clothes."

"Certainly sir." Dillon watched as crew members put blankets around the survivors' shoulders and led them below decks ... to his quarters.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Captain Mitchell made his way down from the bridge. His moves were deliberate. An officer led the way, all the while filling the captain in on the survivors. He processed the information in the only way he knew how … professionally. It had been many years since the captain had overseen a rescue mission. That mission had pulled soldiers on board. The scene was pure chaos; people screaming for medics while other people screamed out in pain. Captain Mitchell shook his head and cleared the memory from his mind. He focused on the present. Three young men and a young woman with no injuries, mild shock and only mild exposure were a far cry from the scene from so many years ago.

The seasoned captain walked briskly down the companionway. The echo of his shoes on the steel floor brought the memories back. He was younger then, more reactive than proactive. The rank of captain was still new. Stepping into the room, he was immediately greeted by his radio officer.

"Troop transport down, sir. Here's the coordinates," the radio officer said as he handed his new captain a slip of paper. The captain glanced at the numbers written there and looked back up at the radio officer.

"How many on board?"

"Sixty-three, sir."

"Thanks, Sparks." The young captain made his way back to the bridge and barked out the orders to come about to a new heading. The rescue was textbook perfect with all hands saved until the commanding officer about the plane came up to him and made a strange request.

"Report no survivors, captain. It's vitally important. This mission is top secret." The new captain was appalled. To make such a successful rescue and then to have the Army Officer tell him not to report it was like winning the race and then leaving without accepting the trophy. Being young and anxious to prove himself, the captain was torn between radioing his triumph and keeping silent.

The clicking sound of shoes in the companionway came to a stop and so did the memories of years past. The officer opened the door to the passenger quarters. Captain Mitchell walked in. He watched for a moment as crew members prepared hot food for the survivors. He recognized one of his passengers comforting a young woman. Another young man, wearing crew clothes was also sitting next to her. He was clutching a cup of coffee in one hand while rubbing the young woman's back with his other. Two other young men suddenly appeared from the head clad only in towels. Some quick calculations were made in the captain's head. First and foremost, he knew the facilities on board were designed for one person at a time. Seeing two people wrapped in towels raised his eyebrow. The captain cleared his throat loudly enough to garner the attention of everyone in the cabin.

"I am Captain Mitchell. Welcome aboard the Shaw. I trust my crew is making you comfortable. Is there anyone I can notify that you've been found?"

"Captain, please report no survivors." Captain Mitchell looked long and hard at the young man in the towel. "It's vitally important, sir."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The radio was crackling with messages. Casey O'Brien worked the traffic like a seasoned professional. Keeping up with which ships were responding, telling other ships too far away what was going on, urging any other ships in the area to respond and keeping tabs on the Belfast Coastguard Cutter was a monumental task, but the junior officer handled it with ease. The senior office in charge monitored all the traffic. He smiled to himself as he reached for his coffee. The decision to hire this kid had been a good one. After sipping his coffee, he looked up to see his newly hired operator standing before him with a slip of paper.

"Why does it always have to boil down to a slip of paper?" he mused to himself. "I wonder if Captain Smith had the same thought as he took the slip of paper while he stood on the bridge of the Titanic?"

"This just in from the Shaw, sir. She's on the scene." He looked at the eyes of the junior radio operator and knew what was on the slip of paper before he read it. He'd had that same look many times before … the look of helplessness.

"Sometimes, laddie, regardless of what we do, people lose their lives," he said quietly. "It's all part of the job we do. It's not glamorous, but it is often rewarding. Today, however, you've seen the stark reality of it all. You're a good lad, Casey. I want you to take the rest of the shift off."

"Sorry, sir. There's still a lot of traffic out there and they need to get sorted out."

"Right then, take care of it, but knock off a wee bit early tonight. You've had to deal with more than most junior officers. That's an order, lad." Casey smiled slightly and headed back to his console. He tried not to think of the lives lost in the Irish Sea and concentrated on coordinating the shipping traffic there. Soon, he would be with his mates at the pub and the ale they would drink would put all of this behind him.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"I can't believe you don't want people to know you're alright," Dillon said looking at Daniel who had just returned from a conversation with the captain. "You're not making much sense."

"There's a whole lot more going on here than you'll ever be aware of," Daniel said as he sat down next to Cody. Dillon wasn't about to give up.

"Don't give me that shit. You don't wreck an airplane and talk the captain of this ship into reporting no survivors without something really bad going on." Daniel started to say something, but Dillon beat him to the punch. "Lookie here, bud. You're all Americans except for Timmy over here and Americans don't just crash airplanes and claim everybody died without one hell of a good reason." Daniel jumped up and walked briskly over to Dillon.

"You're right. Ordinary American citizens don't do that, but covert operatives do. So just pretend we're not really here and the crash never happened. We'll get off at the next port and you can go on your merry little way." Something in Dillon snapped. His face reddened in anger. He knew when he was being talked down to. The jocks in high school had done that enough. Superior intelligence, graceful moves in gymnastics and a propensity to watch "Will and Grace" instead of "Monday Night Football" didn't cloud his judgment. He knew when he was being duped. And his gaydar told him who was fighting on his own team.

"Listen here, fag," he said, his voice dripping in sarcasm. "I know what I see and that's you and Cody over there. You make quite a nice couple, by the way. And then there's the breeders over here. No offense, but you two are obviously together," he said to Teri and Timmy. "The thing that bothers me the most is why this screwed up, tag team bunch of idiots doesn't want anyone to know they're alive." Dillon pushed Daniel down into a seat and continued. "It's pretty obvious you people want someone to think you're dead. I'm not a rocket scientist, but my dad is active CIA." Dillon sighed deeply. "Boys and girls, I know a spy when I see one and right now, I don't see one. What I do see is a cute gay couple and a cute straight couple in a whole lot of trouble." Daniel stood up from his chair.

"Look, Dillon, you don't know the half of it."

"I know what I see. My daddy didn't raise no fool. In fact, what I do see is four people taking on the big bad wolf. So you can come clean with me, tell me what's going on and let me help you out, or you can get huffed and puffed and blown away. I don't claim to be the answer to all your problems, but I do understand what it's like to be up against odds that are way against your favor." Daniel sat down heavily beside Cody, who immediately wrapped the distraught young man in his arms. Cody looked up at the brash American that had called their bluff and plead their case.

"Our very lives are at stake here. The big bad wolf is a real person. He needs to think we died." Teri stood up abruptly.

"I don't know what planet you came from, but I'm ready to shove that planet right up where the sun don't shine. We've been through more than you can imagine and some little rich CIA boy isn't about to stick his nose where it doesn't belong without the risk of getting it bent outta shape, if you catch my drift."

"Whoa, darlin'!" Dillon started.

"Don't you even think about calling me darlin' you, you fag."

"Aaah, guilty as charged," Dillon said holding his hand over his heart. "Yes, I'm gay. And yes, my dad is CIA. And yes, I want to help. Am I an idiot? No. I have knowledge that you might find useful. I have money. I have time. And, I have interest, but most importantly, I have connections."

"So, what do you know about the NSA?" asked Cody.

"Cody!" hissed Teri. He looked at her with defeated eyes. She signed and sat down.

"The National Security Agency?" asked Dillon.

"Yeah, the NSA. They're after us. And I wouldn't be surprised if British Customs were after us as well. And then there's the police in Georgia. Add to that our friend with the severed head, several car chases, getting shot at, the dead NSA agents, the whacked porno king, the black boxes and one lost Lear Jet and you begin to get the picture."

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Casey O'Brien stood on the docks and watched as workers finished tying up the giant cargo ship, the SS Shaw. He wondered what it had been like to find the bodies floating in the open sea. The very thought brought grief to his heart. The tragic death had deeply affected him. He was connected to it, yes, physically distant, but still intimately close. It was his radio message, his very own voice that sent out the message. It was his plea for help that didn't get answered in time. His connection was over the airways, but now he wanted to be connected up close and personal.

Standing in the shadows next to a stack of cargo trailers, Casey lit another cigarette and waited. The day seemed like a dream, no, a nightmare. Despite his best efforts, people had died. He remembered when his mother died. That too had seemed like a dream. The only thing that made it real was seeing his mother in the coffin. To see her lying there, still, cold and unmoving, that made it real. And now he was here again, waiting for the dream to end. He wanted to see the bodies unloaded. Then it would all be real. Then he could close this chapter and move on.

The cough several yards behind and to his left caused Casey to quickly turn. He spotted a man crouched down behind another cargo trailer. Casey's presence went unnoticed as he continued to watch the man watch the ship. Casey wondered why the man was hiding. What was he up to? What was he looking for? What was he waiting to do? Casey didn't like any of the answers that paraded through his mind. Action needed to be taken, now. He darted back through the shadows and made his way toward the dock master's office. All those afternoons of running around the dock while waiting for his dad to finish up work were paying off. Casey moved quickly and quietly. Turning a corner, he stopped and knocked quietly. Without waiting for a response, he opened the door and went inside.

"Dock master?" Casey called out.

"Over here," came the response. Casey recognized the voice.

"Mister Tulley, it's Casey O'Brien."

"Aaah, Casey. How are ya lad?"

"Fine, thank you sir. I was just out on the docks and noticed a strange man 'round the cargo trailers. He looked pretty suspicious to me and I thought you should know about it. It looked to me like he was up to no good." Michael Tulley raised an eyebrow. He knew Casey's father. Their families had been friends for years. Casey wasn't the kind of lad to make up stories or stretch the truth.

"OK, lad. I'll have the boys take a look." The dock master picked up his two-way radio and alerted the dockworkers. Then he joined Casey outside and had the lad point in the direction he last saw the strange man. Tulley had his men spread out and search the vast dock area the cargo trailers were temporarily stored in.

The area was off limits to the general public for security reasons as well as safety. Giant cranes picked up the trailers and moved them from incoming ships to the dock. The trailers were stacked on top of each other, often as high as ten trailers. Then as trucks arrived, the crane would lift them down from the top. Trucks would hook up to the trailers and take them away for delivery. Inside the trailers were all kinds of goods destined for industrial hubs, stores, factories and distribution centers. Security was always an issue around the docks.

Michael Tulley had dealt with some unscrupulous characters in the eighteen years he had been dock master. Someone was always trying to break in to a trailer and make off with the goods. It was a constant battle and tonight was no different. The men had a lot of ground to cover. Just over four hundred trailers were currently on the dock. Lighting was minimal at best. The workers relied on instinct, their own familiarity with the docks and, of course, very powerful flashlights. Casey and Michael joined the workers as they diligently searched in and around the stacked trailers.

"Hey, Tulley! Over here!" one of the workers shouted. Michael and Casey ran over to where several workers had gathered. There on the ground were a half dozen cigarette butts. "Looks like someone's been waiting for something." The words had no sooner left his lips when the sound of a boat starting caught everyone's attention. The men ran quickly to the edge of the dock and watched as a dark shape moved off into the blackness of the harbor waters.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Dillon Rankin stood on the boat deck of the Shaw and watched as flashlights darted in and about the stacked trailers. At first he thought it curious, but soon realized the lights were looking for something, or someone. He glanced back at the four people he had just met, standing just inside the bulkhead and grinned. They had been right. Someone was evidently checking on the no survivor report and Belfast dockworkers were tracking them down. The flashlights suddenly turned toward the water. Evidently, the sound hit the dockworkers' ears before Dillon heard. The distinctive sound of a boat starting echoed across the waters of the harbor. The roar of the engine that followed was the only evidence a boat was leaving the dock. The lack of lighting and the blackness of the water concealed the boat's getaway. Dillon turned to his new friends and smiled. It was time to move, and move quickly.

In less than two minutes five people were down the gangplank and moving toward an approaching car, hopefully unseen by prying eyes. The previously arranged car slid to a stop. All five people quickly made their way inside, but the fifth paused a moment and looked toward the roving flashlights on the far end of the dock. The memory slammed into him like the slug from a 45 caliber.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Daniel hid in the bushes. The eleven year old was visibly shaking from the cold and from the fear. For nearly four months he had lived in both heaven and hell. The hell was obvious as he and the other young boys were made to perform daily before the camera. The forced sex became second nature. The smelly old fat men became semi-tolerable. All the bad things he was subjected to, including the loss of Timmy were somehow offset by the feeling of belonging … the feeling of being wanted, needed and, in a twisted sort of way … loved. All the things he desired most from his parents, he got from the evil men that made him fuck and get fucked in front of the camera. After the first month, the sex became an escape. He was able to enjoy the closeness of boys just like him. Daniel knew in his heart that what he was being made to do was terribly wrong, but he found some comfort in being able to hold tight to someone in the same situation … to share intimacy with the person … to commiserate silently by sound, but screaming out loud by deed. Stan knew the desire, he knew the way a young boy's mind worked and he worked that knowledge … using the fragility of young minds … the innocence of young bodies … the desire of young hearts for love.

Daniel stared at the roving flashlights as he held his breath. He tucked further down into the bushes. His naked body shivered in the chill of the nighttime air. Thank God the fog was starting to roll in. He desperately wanted to get away, but at the same time, he didn't. His heart told him to stand up, but his mind told him to stay hidden. His body shivered uncontrollably. The fog rolled in quickly, but the flashlights grew closer. Timmy's memory stood as a beacon, a lighthouse of hope. He had been the one person who held them all together … the one person who provided the love, the care and the understanding that balanced out with the horrible acts the boys were made to perform. It was Timmy who made Daniel stay hidden in the bushes. It was Timmy who would ultimately deliver Daniel from the hell. But the reality was the bright flashes of light, as flashlights grew ever closer.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Captain Mitchell stood on the bridge of the Shaw while his First officer oversaw the unloading of the cargo. As he watched the five young people run down the gangplank, he thought about the story the young kid had told him and slowly shook his head, all the while grinning to himself. He knew too well the evil and greed that consumed otherwise rational men, including the owners of his shipping company. Sending ships to sea with less than the minimal crew necessary, sending ships out with less than full fuel tanks causing ships to be top heavy and assigning sailors not even trained in basic seamanship were just a few of the captain's concerns. The main problem was the whoring out of the fleet to passengers who innocently put themselves on ships that barely passed safety regulations and were crewed by sailors who could barely put on a life vest. These thoughts filled the captain's mind, but at the same time, he knew every man had his price. The company owner's price was reduced labor cost and therefore increased profits. Damning the very personal risks to their employees, the owner's figured that's what insurance is for. Allowing ships to leave port with less than full fuel tanks saved money. After all, fuel was cheaper in foreign ports. Training costs money, money that would be much better invested in board of director's personal portfolios. Despite his demand for perfection, the captain knew every man had his price. Fingering the generous amount of bills in his pocket, the captain's smile faded. Was he just another whore? He pushed the thought aside and turned back to his duties.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


On to Chapter Eleven
"Allies"

Back to Chapter Nine
"The Ring"

Chapter Index

Jevic's Story Page


The Nineteenth Year is © 2008 by The Tarheel Writer.
    This work may not be duplicated in any form – physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise – without the author's written permission. All applicable copyright laws apply. All individuals depicted are fictional with any resemblance to real persons being purely coincidental.


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