Stony Man: Red Frost
Port Angeles, Washington
6:35 AM PDT
day broke gray and chilly over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the
Chugash brothers were already fishing two miles off Ediz Hook, the
long, narrow spit of land that guards Port Angeles bay. Their
15-foot, open boat drifted with the current, rising and falling on
the widely spaced swells. To the south, the mill town of Port
Angeles was backdropped by the the dark, heavily forested flanks
of the Olympic mountains. The snowcapped peaks were hidden in a
ceiling of low clouds.
Stan Chugash sat on a
seam-split, life preserver cushion next to the 40-horse
Evinrude’s tiller; brother Bob sat amidships, facing him. They
were “mooching” for spring chinook salmon. As the dead boat
rode the incoming flood tide, they carefully reeled up and then
lowered spinning, plug-cut herring. A salmon’s take on the fall
of the bait was often almost imperceptible, and required
concentration and practice to recognize. The Chugash brothers had
been mooching these waters for more than 50 years.
Stan flipped the dregs of cold, bitter black coffee from his thermos cup and transferred the sticky white crust of glazed donut from his fingertips to a knee of his green vinyl pants. Under the windproof rainsuit, he wore three layers of clothes. “Would you look at that yuppie asshole,” he remarked. “Miles of water to drive through, no other boats in sight, and he’s got to crowd us…”
The 26-foot Alumaweld approached steadily from the west at four knots, dragging double downriggers behind. It looked brand spanking new. A Furuno radar beacon swiveled endlessly on the enclosed cabin’s roof. In the hull’s forest green side paint the name “Fisher King” was emblazoned in two-foot-high, silver flecked, cursive letters. Mounted on the stern were twin, four-strokeYamahas: more combined horsepower than Bob’s full-sized V-8 pick up. There was only one person in the boat.
“Think he’s drinking a gran-day lah-tay in there?” Bob said as he glanced over his shoulder.
“Yeah, while he’s surfin the Web.”
Both in their late 60s, the Chugash brothers had retired from the Port Angeles paper mill. They had been salmon fishing junkies since they were old enough to pull-start an outboard.
The bow of the Alumaweld turned slightly, aiming right for them. It wasn’t slowing down.
“You want to reel up and move, Stan? Fish the other end of the bank?”
“We got a dead boat. We got the right of way. Besides, if we move to another spot, that twerp will just follow us. Know why downriggers are so popular with numbnuts like him?”
Bob didn’t reply, he had heard the joke before. He knew nothing he could say would prevent him from hearing it again.
“They don’t have to hold a fishing pole and work a bait. It leaves ‘em free to scratch their butts with both hands.”
The collapse of the salmon stocks in Puget Sound hadn’t just put sportsfishers, Native Americans, and commercial fishers at each other’s throats. The bonhomie of the angler had come unraveled as well.
The Alumaweld bore down on the Chugash brothers.
“Shit, we’re gonna have to pull up, Stan. He’s gonna snag our lines on a downrigger ball.”
“If he don’t ram us first.” With an effort, Stan stood up in the narrow boat. “Get out the way!” he hollered, waving an arm over his head.
The man driving the Alumaweld cruiser stared at him through the tinted windshield, and kept on coming, same course and speed.
“He can’t hear ya, Stan. Let’s just move.”
“He can see me, though, the son of a bitch,” Stan growled. He locked his rod in the gunwhale holder and held out his hand.
“Give me a goddamn sinker, Bob.”
Under the visor of his brother’s parka hood, Bob saw a puffy, weather-seamed face flushed with fury. It was an “oh shit!” moment for the younger Chugash. “Stan, that’s not a good idea,” he said, then quickly added, “Remember your blood pressure…”
Stan reached down snatched an eight-ounce slip sinker from the thwart. The star varsity pitcher of the Port Angeles high Rough Riders circa 1955 cocked back his arm and took aim at the approaching windshield. “I’m gonna knock out every one of those bleached fucking teeth…”
“Stan, for pete’s sake…”
Then both of the Alumaweld’s downrigger rods bucked hard in their holders. The reels screamed like banshees.
“Well, I’ll be go to hell!” Stan snarled. “The bastard snagged a pair of fish right out from under us!”
As the man in the Alumaweld shifted his engines out of gear, Stan yanked the battered Evinrude to life. Gunning it, he circled wide, away from the certain collision, this while Bob reeled in both of their lines.
The Alumaweld driver, in a longbilled cap and hot orange down vest, exited the cabin, beelining for the pair of bent rods as his boat coasted to a stop. Before he could reach the stern, the Alumaweld lurched violently backwards, forcing him to grab for a handhold. In the same instant, a rip current appeared on the surface; the Alumaweld was caught in a swirling seam 100 yards long. Guitar string-taut downrigger cables sang and hissed as they sliced through the water.
As the Alumaweld rapidly reversed towards the Chugash brothers, waves of water cascaded over the boat’s splash well and onto the deck. The driver dashed back to the cabin, dropped the engines in gear, and pounded down the throttles. The twin Yamahas roared, their props sent up a plume of spray. The bow lifted, but the boat continued to move backwards.
“That ain’t bottom he’s snagged on,” Bob said with delight. “Something’s dragging him. He hook himself a gray whale?”
The driver stuck his head out the cabin window and yelled for help as he rushed past them. He sounded like a cat with its tail caught in a screen door.
“Hang on!” Stan shouted to his brother as he opened up the Evinrude’s throttle, trying to catch up and at the same time steer clear of whatever the hell was going on.
Two hundred feet ahead of the Alumaweld, the rip current suddenly parted. Black columns thicker than a man’s body slid up through the surface, draped with the downrigger flashers, cables, and cannonballs. The split in the rip opened wider, and the huge black sail of a submarine emerged.
“Hoo-hah!” Stan hollered at his brother. “Yuppie snagged a Trident!”
As the submarine surfaced, the angle of the trapped downrigger cables grew steeper and steeper, lifting the Alumaweld’s stern from the water, and driving down the bow. The Yamahas’ propellers bit into air, their 300-horsepower roar became a shrill, frantic whine. The motors’ water intakes sucked air, too. Redlined, overheating, the four-strokes belched white smoke.
From the way they were losing ground on the flat-black painted ship, Bob guessed its speed at close to 40 miles an hour, this while dragging the Alumaweld behind. He had seen The Hunt for Red October seven times. And Tridents from the Bangor sub base were always passing through the Strait on their way in or out of the Pacific. This sail was low in profile and sloped in the rear.
“Stan, that ain’t a Trident!” he shouted through a cupped hand.
Stan couldn’t hear him over the sustained shriek of the wide-open Evinrude.
“That’s a goddam Russian sub!” Bob screamed at his brother. “And it’s headed for the Hook!” Then their boat bottomed out, full length, in a wave trough. The sickening impact slammed Bob’s jaws shut and he nearly bit off the tip of his tongue.
Ahead, the Yamaha four-strokes sounded like lawnmowers hitting rocks.
Abruptly, they went silent.
Bob held on to both gunwhales as the sub’s foaming wake hit them. When Stan swung wide to avoid being swamped, he stole a look over his shoulder. The sub was already a quarter mile away. It was about the same distance from the Coast Guard Air Station on the end of the spit.
Stan slowed the motor to idle. He and Bob carefully stood up to get a better look. The low, long ship barreled toward land. It showed no sign of turning or stopping.
“Oh, my God…” Bob muttered.
The impact boomed across the water like a thousand-pound bomb, followed by the shriek of an impossible weight of metal grinding over the Hook’s jagged riprap. As the vessel grounded itself, its bow angled upward. Dark, oily smoke poured from amidships, enveloping the sail and masts, a slender, greasy pillar coiling into the overcast sky.
From a half mile out, the Chugash brothers could see the beached sub’s engines were still running full speed, the screw throwing a towering roostertail. The Alumaweld lay bottom up on the edge of the riprap. It looked like a Cracker Jack toy beside the massive black hull.
The yuppie was nowhere in sight.
|From the book: Red Frost
By: Don Pendleton
Imprint and Series: Gold Eagle/Stony Man
Publication Date: (year/month) 07/08
Copyright © 2007
By: Worldwide Library
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.