Chapter Twenty Four





Joyce awoke to the repetitive thwop-thwop of a helicopter.  It was very close.  “Heave to!” shouted a voice from a loudspeaker above the noise of the rotor blades.  The boat was buffeted by the downdraft.  Joyce went to the hatch and peered up at the United Nations logo on the side of the craft.  A man appeared at the open doorway and jumped off, clinging to a line.  He descended on deck as Joyce jumped away from the hatch.  The helicopter moved off to the side, allowing her to hear what was being said.  “I’m an officer of the United Nations Maritime Enforcement Division,” he claimed authoritatively and very loudly to Stephen, who was at the helm.  “We have reason to believe that you are harboring a suspected felon on this boat.”  He unholstered a handgun and held it on Stephen.  “I’m going below to have a look around.  Don’t move a muscle or you’re dead meat, hear?”


Stephen nodded and the intruder opened the hatch.  He had gone down two of the stairs when he saw Earl below with Joyce by his side clinging to an arm.  “Well, well, well, he purred with a ‘gotcha!’ expression.  “What have we here?  Mrs. Cook, I presume.  You have an appointment with the authorities back in Seattle, Mrs. Joyce Cook.  Up on deck, both of you.”  He pointed with the gun.  As he retreated back up the stairs he stumbled on the top landing, which gave Earl the opportunity he desperately sought.  Earl ran up the steps like a rabid dog and grabbed his arm, wrestling the gun out of his hand.  Maintaining his hold on the pistol, Earl noted the length of its barrel. A real cowboy, he thought with disgust.  Thrusting the barrel between the enforcer’s buttocks, he shoved hard, causing the man to yelp in pain and climb back up the stairs to emerge from the hatchway.  The pilot of the hovering helicopter processed the drama and flew down to the boat in a threatening charge.  Refusing to be intimidated, Stephen took over from Earl, grabbing the man by the hair and prolonging his run from Earl until he moved past the helm over the transom and splashed into the sea.  The helicopter was very close, the end of the descent line laying limply on the bench.  Stephen reached for the dangling rope and tied it to a cleat.  The action panicked the pilot, who attempted without success to lift the helicopter against the straining line.  He motioned to another person in the craft, who wielded a knife to cut free of the restraint.  A freak gust hit the craft without warning, turning it on its side and tossing the man out, where he screamed down to join the other enforcer already in the water.  Now only the pilot was left aboard.  Unable to deploy the autopilot under the tether condition, the pilot was helpless.  They could see him use his radio for help, but he knew that he didn’t have enough time.  He eventually gave up and set the helicopter gently down on the water, whereupon Stephen quickly cut the line.  The pilot swam free as the helicopter sank, joining the other two men.  Joyce pleaded with the men to rescue the swimmers, but Stephen shook his head.  “They got off a call, so they’ll survive, Joyce.  At least they have a good chance to, as help is sure to be coming.  That’s a lot more than they gave us.  Let them be.”


The boat continued to drift away.  Presently the sails were redeployed and they picked up speed.  Within half an hour, the clouds had darkened significantly and the wind picked up.  Soon after that the boat was hit with wind and a deluge of rain.  “We won’t be found in this,” Stephen shouted to Earl, who stood with him at the helm.


“Thank God for that.  And I mean every word.”


The storm continued throughout the night, but behind the frequent gusts the wind was in favor of their direction of travel.  When the wind calmed somewhat, Earl voiced his concern to Stephen.  “You know that was a United Nations helicopter.  International.  It won’t help to leave the U. S. boundary.”


“I have a hunch that we were caught and I.D.’d on satellite.  Somehow they connected us with you, maybe caught even as remote a link as Cindy and Joyce being together in the hospital after Cindy smashed her wrist.  Anything’s possible with a supercomputer.”


“Or maybe it was just someone at the dock that supplied the information.”


“Could be.  At any rate, it’s still a big ocean.  Every hour that we don’t get caught makes it that much bigger.  Besides, I’m rapidly developing a pretty good hunch that God’s in charge of whether they find us or not.  Might as well relax as much as we can in this weather.”


“Good point.”




Chapter Twenty Five






A bright yellow sun radiated light and warmth out of a crystalline blue sky.  Cindy looked upward, her grim face showing displeasure with the benign weather, for she knew that the clear beauty of the new day welcomed forth the violence that she knew was inevitable.  Physically uncomfortable as the latest storm was, it had simply been too short-lasting for them to escape the United Nations’ enforcement agents.  She could picture them drawing an ellipse based on wind direction and strength of farthest possible distance about the longitude and latitude of the pickup point of the waterlogged agents.  The clear skies offered a golden opportunity for a grid search within that all-too-tiny ellipse.


Stephen came up to join her and offer moral support, but his consternation matched her own.  When the helicopter was sighted before noon, it was almost a relief to have the anxiety about it finally come to an end.  Having seen them and relayed their position back to their support vessel, the helicopter turned back toward the land to the east.


Within another two hours they sighted the support vessel coming up fast from the direction that the helicopter had returned.  Its hurried pace signaled a relentless determination to execute a pounce-and-snatch operation.  Joyce held Cathy tightly to her breast with a dismal, terrifying anticipation.  


The boat slowed abruptly just out of range of any possible small arms that the fugitives might have on board, and davits swung out to deploy a small and obviously expendable pickup boat.  It bumped against the hull of the sailboat and agents quickly swarmed aboard in trained, forceful haste.  Within seconds the men were shackled and the women beaten.  Cathy was ripped from Joyce and tossed onto the deck as Joyce looked on in horror through already swelling eyes at her utter helplessness.  The thoroughly subdued group was yanked aboard the other boat to huddle forlornly in the stern.    


When the pickup boat had moved a couple of hundred yards away from Forever Ours four of the crew began to use the fugitive boat for target practice.  Eventually a round hit a propane tank, causing an explosion.  Smoke billowed out and then flames.  The boat listed and began to sink at the stern.   Cindy wept openly at the callous destruction of her cherished dream.  A guard turned toward the noise of her wailing and laughed.  The sight enraged Stephen, who attempted to rise.  His hands cuffed behind his back hampered his movements, and before he could get to his knees he was kicked in the face.  His moans of pain shocked Cindy into silence, but Joyce responded by softly singing the hymn How Great Thou Art.  Earl joined her, and presently Stephen also.  Their guards frowned at them, but allowed them to continue.  After several more hymns they quieted, each speaking to God in silent prayer.




Chapter Twenty Six




The oppressive heat inside the Spartan bed of the military truck forcefully informed the prisoners that their destination was far from Seattle.


Terrified, Cathy was roughly hauled off the hot metal bed of the military truck and flung onto the concrete floor of a huge barracks along with a large number of other physically and mentally handicapped people, mostly children, both male and female.  Looking around, she saw that they were in a space void of furniture or comfort, although they seemed to be surrounded by metal bunks.  Closer in, they were surrounded by blue-garbed guards, all wearing expressions of disgust and anger.  The anger turned into uncontrollable rage as they approached with their batons and started indiscriminately beating the trapped prisoners.  Subjected to physical abuse throughout the night, her cries for bathroom relief had been ignored as if she didn’t exist for any purpose other than as a target to hit.  Eventually she was forced to empty her bladder and then her bowels into her tattered clothing.  Crying openly, she lay helpless and bleeding on the concrete floor in her own filth.  The smell was lost in the general miasma generated from other handicapped prisoners reduced to the same condition.  Eventually the blue-clad guards grew physically tired from their violence and backed off, allowing several fit female prisoners to enter the chamber to remove their clothing.  After they left, a fire hose was brought in and the high-pressure water applied to the bruised bodies to wash them off, adding to the assault on their tortured flesh.  The guards came back then, to drag them deeper into the barracks, where empty bunks awaited them.  There were no mattresses, just bare metal springs.  Cathy was tossed onto a bunk, the guard shouting “Stay there.  Don’t move or I’ll come back.  If I do, I’ll be real mad.”  He emphasized the threat with a shove of his baton into her stomach.


The enormous room was filled with the din of pain-filled wailing, which increased in intensity as the springs and metal straps bit deeper into flesh.  The odor of urine and feces returned, strengthening in intensity throughout the endless night.  In the morning the fire hoses returned, spraying down the helpless and agonized prisoners.  When the cleanup was finished, the guards wandered down the aisles between bunks, beating those who had managed to climb out of their sharp metal cradles until they returned in submission, and observing the others for sign of life given up.  Two were found in this condition and tagged on their toes.  Later in the endless day two fit prisoners trundled to the bunksides with carts, onto which they tenderly placed the bodies, and left again without speaking.


As the room heated up during the day, variants of the word “water” began to be moaned.  But it was becoming plain that neither food nor water would be provided to the inmates.


The cacophony of sounds reached a crescendo in the early evening before the return of the fire hoses, and began to diminish afterward.  The next morning a dozen inmates were tagged for removal.  The day after that the number grew to over a hundred and the great room became ominously silent.


Cathy succumbed on the fourth day, her passing unnoticed and unlamented by all but God.  



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