|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By Roderick Thorp
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Roderick Thorpe
All rights reserved.
Shifting his weight from one foot to the other in the swiftly-moving Zodiac, Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Sam Merrill played his maglite over the hull of the big wooden ketch riding low on the gently swelling, glassy sea. An old timer in soiled white paint, the ketch was fifty-five or sixty feet long at the waterline. And dismasted – the main mast was now an eight-foot stump, with sails and sheets draped over the gunwale, floating on the water. Merrill cut the little outboard down to a burbling idle and told his four sailors to listen.
Silence. A boat this size in this condition made no sense. There had been no heavy weather in these waters for a month. No running lights, no signs of movement cutting through the faintly phosphorescent mist. And it was dead in the water. In what looked like the only fresh paint on the vessel, black letters spelling G H O S T were spread across the fantail. No home port, another oddity for a boat of this type. It looked like a set-up. People could be below decks playing possum. But why? Merrill pressed the transmit button on his handheld radio. His cutter was a quarter of a mile away. "We've got to board," he whispered.
"It's a dirty job, but that's why we make the big bucks," answered Scott Waller, his second-in-command.
"Keep your ears on," Merrill said. "If you don't like what you hear, come get us on the double."
"'S no lie."
Merrill pocketed the radio. He flipped on the bullhorn and hailed the ketch, running through the whole, government-issue "This-is-the-United-States-CoastGuard," rap. No answer. Merrill ran through it again, his voice echoing over the still water.
With an uneasy shudder, he turned up the engine power again. "Lock and load," he whispered to his sailors over the engine's smooth thrumming. Was there something else he was supposed to say? "And keep your heads down," he added.
As he unholstered his .45 and released the safety, he realized that he was the only one who was standing up. He was supposed to be – - he was the officer and gentleman, by Act of Congress. Big bucks? Merrill's wife, an intensive care nurse, made twice as much money as he did.
COAST GUARD NETS BILLION DOLLAR DRUG HAUL!
Key Largo, FL (Combined Wire Services) – In a daring midnight raid in stormy seas forty-five miles southeast of here a small band of brave young Coast Guardsmen stormed a mysterious "ghost" yacht to seize more than one billion dollars in gold, cash and South American contraband. Coast Guard sources said today that the raid, in which Lieutenant Commander Samuel R. Merrill, Jr., of Kalispell, Montana, performed ancient sailing maneuvers to bring the yacht under control, constituted the largest seizure of drugs and money to date in America's long struggle with South American cartels ...
SENATE COMMITTEE HEARS DRUGBUSTER MERRILL
Washington, D.C. (AP) – In a surprising finish to a pointed, sometimes heated exchange on the efficacy of America's war on drugs that followed handsome, amiable Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Samuel R. Merrill, Jr.'s account to the Senate Oversight Subcommittee of how he brought the Ghost yacht into harbor, Senator Ivar Ward (D., Arkansas) threw his arm around the shoulders of the young officer, and pronounced him, "America's best, the real right stuff ..."
MERRILLS LUNCH AT WHITE HOUSE
Washington, D.C. (UPI) – Hero Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Sam Merrill and his wife, Amy, spent almost two hours at lunch in the third-floor private quarters of the White House today after a brief, deadline-timed photo op in the Rose Garden. The Merrills fly out of the nation's capital tomorrow for, in the President's words, "a much-deserved" vacation in the Bahamas ...
In the mirror on the half-open bathroom door Amy Merrill could see over Sam's bare feet to CNN's Headline News on the television screen, the image mirror-reversed so the graphics looked as if they were printed on the Cyrillic alphabet. Sam had turned on the Headline News because he was still tracking the bullshit, as he called it. The phrase as good as any for the helplessness he felt in the face of the lies being told about him. You're a hero, Sam. America needs a hero now. It had been a very long thirty days. The Merrills had found themselves propelled into the presence of people who not only believed the bullshit but worshipped it. For Sam, hours of briefings on exactly what to say to the media. For Amy, being guided by him to an understanding of how the government "wanted to play this deal". For them both, through Senator Ward telling Sam how proud the American people were of him while he checked out Amy's bod – not slyly, either – calling her "The Little Lady." Was that the male euphemism for Tight Pussy? With "spunky" added later to mean Good Fuck? What was with that guy? He had clung to them like wallpaper. Given the focus of his gaze, she was surprised she had not heard him use the word Perky, that wonderful male word for girlish breasts – – or, for that matter, felt the Senator's hand gliding down the curve of her ass.
It might have been hilarious if it had not been such madness. On the third floor of the White House even the President of the United States had sat in orphanage Sunday silence, his hand in his lap, while waiters in white jackets carefully served artfully decorated plates of cold poached salmon with dill sauce. The image of an intimidated – or bored – Chief Executive had left Amy thinking, This is the crap Sam risked our future for? Sam had told her that as the frail inflatable boat had come under the shadow of the abandoned big ticket sailing yacht, his stomach had almost failed him. What hadn't failed him? His laughter had stopped. This was the man who had always been able to cheer her up, in his phrase. The headlines had overwhelmed the truth of the experience and even the truth of their lives, politicians chasing after him in search of photo ops all the way to the elevator to the third floor of Pennsylvania Avenue.
We need a hero? She knew that Sam felt like a complete fraud. After one terrible night of exultation and relief and that admission of stomach-wrenching fear, there had been nothing going on between the Merrills for almost a month. Zero sex. It was beyond strange for them, considering how they usually bounced off the walls when he was fresh home from sea duty. They had been lovers since high school. They were old pals together.
Perhaps this was why therapists were shoveled on practically everybody whenever there was a public disaster. Amy was not really worried – yet. The Coast Guard was more like the police than an army or navy. All Sam had ever wanted to do was sail, and the smaller the boat, the better. If a military-style boarding had frightened Sam into temporary incapacity, she could live with what it said about Sam's true character. He would work his way through it. He wasn't a tough guy, like the macho assholes of the DEA. If people thought the FBI and ATF were problems, DEA was the worst of them all, undertrained agents up to their necks in money and drugs all over the world with little or no oversight. This month had clinched it for Amy Merrill. Being a Coast Guard wife was as close to her own government as she ever wanted to get.
It must have been a slow news day: the television screen was showing a condensed, rapid-fire version of the whole long saga, starting with the computer generated recreation of the boarding of the ship – close enough, Sam had told her, except for the stormy seas, the first of the month of public relations enhancements, added whitecaps, spray and pitching deck – - the spidery computer-generated members of Sam's crew swinging down into the hatches intercut with real footage of the bags of dope and money piled into the overhead, then the ketch in tow, arriving at Miami, the Coast Guard ceremony in the sunshine for Sam and his company, the images tumbling over each other, the media attention, the politicians latching on, Senator Ward actually elbowing a Coast Guard officer aside, all the way to the Rose Garden before lunch, the President playfully squaring off with Sam like a boxer at a weigh-in.
"Just a photo op, Sam," Amy remembered hearing. "Then we'll go upstairs for lunch."
And at last, something brand new, the ceremony late this afternoon at the airport just down the road from this hotel. The quaint military band had been brassy and off-key in the well-worn uniforms nevertheless as bright as the tropical sky, the blinding white clouds and the shining, thrashing palms. Amy put down her toothbrush and spat into the sink. "Sam? Are you watching this?"
Their hotel room, courtesy of Resorts Worldwide, was filled with open suitcases, baskets of fruit, vases of flowers. She and Sam had already put some of the stuff out on the balcony. His socks were on the floor. The television showed them getting off the plane, waving like Hollywood assholes. Sam's head was back on the center of his pillow, his mouth open, a low rumbling emerging. Snoring? After all these years, it had taken something like this to reveal she had married a snorer?
She tossed the socks on a chair, turned off the television set and put out the lights, taking a last look from the balcony at the swimming pool four stories below. She was ready for swimming – first thing tomorrow. She got into bed and nudged Sam to roll him onto his side so he would breathe less noisily.
He sat up abruptly. "Huh?"
"I'm sorry, babe. You were snoring."
"Wanna fool around?"
He hadn't heard her. Sometimes he could get so tired after sea duty that he could seem to be awake when he was really asleep.
"Get your rest, babe. We'll talk in the morning."
He leaned over her. "You don't wanna fool around? With me? I'm a official guv'mint hero."
He had been pretending – the snoring had been a joke.
"Official guv'mint moron is more like it. I hope you were kidding with that friggin' noise. You're a little young for your soft palate to collapse."
"What? Was I snoring?"
She reached under her head for her pillow to hit him, but he pinned her wrists down, kissed her cheek and her neck. She repositioned herself so he would get the right spots. "Does this mean you're ready now, big stuff? You getting hot for me?"
He was working his way down from his shoulder, slowly and intensely. "You're the who's hot. I hate to tell you what I was thinking at lunch yesterday at the White House."
"Right, the White House. Never again. Next time tell them I have PMS. All right, what were you thinking? You're going to spill it anyway. You love telling me what a pig you are."
He freed her arms. "Shut up, you love hearing it."
"Only because you try to make it nice. It's the thought that counts."
"I was thinking of what I really wanted to eat. I was. It got so bad, I couldn't look at you. I had to focus on somebody else to calm down. Don't ask who."
"Eeeeew! Women know that goofy look. She must have thought you were making a pass at her! Ugh! The waiters are probably still wondering what's wrong with you." Amy laughed and ran her hands through his hair. "Very resourceful, Commander. Now maybe we don't have to worry about being invited again. Or maybe we do." She raised her hips and pushed down on his shoulders. "If you see something you like, don't let me get in your way."
"Look who's making it nice. I love you, Amy."
He made that old, bad joke, she gave him a noogie, a little one, and then rubbed it better, and he got busy, gently. Very gently. She rubbed his head and worked her hips. She had never had to teach him anything about this. He'd done it right the first time he'd ever got her pants down. Fifteen years old. After that, she'd known exactly what she would get for her sixteenth birthday. "I almost couldn't wait," said the birthday girl that night. She'd been in love with him ever since. She held his head and worked her hips faster. When she began to feel too sensitive, unable to take anymore, he raised her legs and filled her. She climaxed quickly, with a shuddering sigh, and then him, and soon after they were asleep, still tightly coupled, holding each other.
They made love again at dawn, awakening ready for it, without foreplay, much talk or even thinking, their own long slow ride, the odor of their sex strong in the moist air. Nice, they whispered to each other. Nice. Exchanging nuzzles and little kisses, the muscles of her vagina whispering involuntary contractions around him in the way they had discovered years ago so he could almost feel the dampness of those old country sheets of their very first afternoons together. He had to look into her eyes to see if she was remembering, too, and he wanted to think she was. They had this moment with each other more times than he could count. She hugged him tightly and spurred him to the short strokes, ending in a very sudden rush of orgasm together, another emptying of the tension that had been concealing his exhaustion this past month. Soon he was thinking he wanted to do it again, but he was asleep again before he knew it, awakening when he heard the shower at two-oh-three in the afternoon, according to the digits of the hotel clock radio.
He rotated through the bathroom one step behind her, hugging her, kissing her breasts and backside. She gave him that little-girl smile that said they were fine again.
"Are you hungry?"
"Starving. For food."
"That's what I meant. For food."
"Well, food first."
"Come to think of it, we won't really starve."
"No, we really won't.
A little after four o'clock they were at poolside in bathing suits and short-sleeved shirts, a half-finished brunch congealing on their plates. In the lengthening shadow of the hotel's main tower, he was signing autographs for mommies and kids, their voices drowned by the scream of private jets angling down toward the airport. The line of autograph seekers extended fifteen feet. On the other side of the table, Amy had turned her chair around to catch the sun. Her eyes were closed, so people thought she was asleep and left her alone.
Merrill was doing what he had been told: sign the autographs, smile, look people in the eye, show interest. Make it personal. Because he was a official gov-mint hero, there was nothing he could really do but submit. He knew Amy was thinking that anyone should be able to see that they were trying to unwind. They hadn't even been able to get food in their bellies. Around someone they recognized from television, many people acted as if they had never heard of a code of personal behavior. He had already found out that some people didn't care if they found him standing up to a urinal. That the line here at the table was shortening quickly was doing nothing for Amy's fuse, even if he was the only one able to see the symptoms, a certain hardening around the corners of her mouth.
Finally only one woman remained waiting as a white DH-125 slid across their field of vision toward the runway, low enough to let Merrill see the rivets in the fuselage, so loud the surface of the coffee in his cup quivered. Amy lifted her head and looked around irritably. He asked himself what did a plane like that cost? He realized he had been seeing so much money lately he was ready to believe he had some of his own.
Merrill signed a menu the last woman had thrust under his nose.
"You didn't finish your brunch."
"We weren't hungry."
Amy sat up. It was like watching the menu crumple into dust, as he saw her eyes burning a hole in his skull. He was remembering that he had thought they had awakened too late to order breakfast in their room. The manager had told him, "If there is anything we can do, just ask." Merrill should have asked for breakfast delivered to the room. They didn't have to put themselves at the beck and call of the public. This time was for them anyway, even if they were already feeling better.
"Make it 'For Benny and Al,'" the woman said.
He had remembered to leave space above his name.
"Can you make it personal?" the woman asked.
"Yes, of course. Just tell me how."
Amy stuck out a corner of her lower lip to blow a wisp of her blond hair back into place. "Let's get the hell out of here," she said.
"You got it," Merrill said, as he made it personal for Benny and Al from their Grandma and Sam Merrill in the room he had left for that, too. "We'll see what there is to do," he said for the woman's benefit. "I haven't had a chance to look at the brochure."
Excerpted from Hot Pursuit by Roderick Thorp. Copyright © 2014 Roderick Thorpe. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.