"And Then They Came..." (Prologue)
For some time, many of Justifiable Evil's readers have asked for a sequel to the book. For the last year, I have been working on it, and I am close to finishing it in about a month, particularly with the forced lockdown to which we have all been subjected. But precisely because of the lockdown, it may be a good thing to share the sequel with so many of you who, like me, don't go out from their homes at this moment.
I intend to publish one or two chapters per week, and that should last us for about 30 or more weeks. The book, titled "And Then They Came..." is a work in progress (even the title may change when I finish writing and polishing it), and I still have about five or six chapters to write, but it will be finished by the time we get there.
Even if you did not read Justifiable Evil, the sequel stands on its own. Those who did read the first book will recognize (and sometimes grieve for) some of its original characters.
I hope you enjoy it!
And Then They Came...
Two years before the present.
A storm was coming, the wind from a strong squall skimming over the ponderous, rolling surf. It was a dark night, a moonless night, its blackness only interrupted by the opaque froth of an occasional breaking wave, and by the faint, distant glow of Puerto Rico’s coast.
The turret of a submarine briefly broke into the surface, only to be buried again by the sea. But then it reappeared with more strength, followed by the upper deck of the emerging boat.
A swarthy, squat man wearing a captain’s hat opened the hatch of the turret and climbed to its platform, looking through a pair of binoculars at the coast. He was followed by the ship’s second officer—not much taller than his commander—who waited quietly for instructions. In the distance, lightning silently flickered. Illuminating dark clouds and heralding the arrival of a massive downpour.
“Do we still have a fix on them?” the captain asked, still sweeping the coast with his binoculars.
“Our bow is aligned directly with the pings, sir,” the other officer responded.
“Signal the shore.”
The second officer pointed a gun-like object at the sky, and it shot out a thin, green, nearly solid beam of light. He began to move the gun with his hand, projecting a large, green circle on the clouds above them. Moments later, a similar light responded to the signal, directly in front of the submarine’s bow.
“Get ready to fire,” the captain said calmly.
“Get ready to fire!” the second-in-command shouted into the hatch.
The dull trail of a torpedo grew out of the bow of the sub, a bright red light at its tip flashing underwater. For a few seconds, the two officers watched the submerged tube rush towards the shore. Then they climbed down into the sub.
“Dive!” Thew captain shouted. “Dive!”
* * *
A tow truck waited on the sand by the shore, a cable running from its lit front cabin to a buoy floating several yards away in the dark water. Next to the truck, Angel San Miguel, a tall, elegant man in his forties, and Czecka, San Miguel’s massive associate, stared intently into the sea.
“Do you see it?” San Miguel asked, more to himself than to the others near him. Only those who knew him closely could have detected the faint trace of anxiety in his voice.
Czecka, the immense man standing next to him, continued to scour the horizon for the approaching torpedo, his large eyebrows—the only hair on his face except for a square, rectangular mustache—knotted in intense, almost comical concentration.
The Hulk-like giant did not answer. Instead, he walked closer to the water, the muted lightning in the sea occasionally outlining his massive figure, like that of a receding Frankenstein.
Inside the tow truck, Da’ud, a chubby, balding, bearded man listened through a set of headphones.
“The package is heading our way,” he said excitedly.
The torpedo’s red glow became visible just a few seconds before it slid into the shore. Czecka moved towards it with surprising quickness, slamming the red light at its tip with one of his boots, and breaking it into a thousand pieces.
Laughter followed as Daniel, a trim athletic man slightly shorter than San Miguel, and Faberge, so nicknamed because of the exaggerated amount of cologne that he used, approached the beached underwater projectile. Daniel stuck a steel rod into the still rotating blades of the torpedo, stopping them abruptly.
“Hey Czecka!” Faberge hooted. “That torpedo nearly hit you!”
“Lucky for the torpedo, huh?” Daniel said, slapping Czecka’s back. The taciturn giant eyed him with undisguised annoyance.
Da’ud backed the tow truck towards the shore, stopping just a few feet from the torpedo. Daniel attached the back of the projectile to a hooked cable, and then, very carefully, the tow truck reeled the torpedo in, until it hung vertically from the truck’s tower. Random raindrops started to fall on the beach.
Suddenly, a police siren whooped out of the palm trees behind the men, and the headlights from a patrol car illuminated the beach. Two policemen emerged from the car, one brandishing a single-barreled, pump-action shotgun, the other carrying a pistol.
“Hands on your heads! Place your hands on your heads!” shouted the policeman closer to San Miguel’s group. He was tall and fit, his muscles bulging out of his short-sleeved shirt, but he looked puny as he closed in on Czecka.
The men at the beach reluctantly raised their hands. The muscular policeman pointed his shotgun at them.
“Form into a line, walk to our car,” he ordered.
A torrential downpour suddenly swept in from the sea.
“Move, goddamn it! I’m getting soaked here!”
The men casually strolled to the police car, further infuriating the policeman.
“Spread your arms and your legs, lean against the car,” he ordered, shouting to be overheard by the sudden onslaught of rain. “Cover them,” he said to his partner—a younger man who seemed to be more scared than the arrested men—as he approached them.
Only San Miguel complied. The burly policeman angrily shoved Faberge and Daniel forward, but failed to budge Czecka.
“So you think you’re tough?” he said to the rebellious bear-sized man. “Let’s see how tough you really are.”
The muscular officer kicked Czecka behind his knee, but the huge man’s leg remained as unaffected as if the man had kicked a stone column.
“Goddamnit! Godoy, watch him while I frisk him.”
“Relax, officer,” Faberge said as the policeman roughly patted Czecka’s back and flanks. “We were just fishing.”
The younger policeman laughed nervously, wiping water from his face with his free hand. “Fishing, really? For what? Exploding fish? We saw the lights in the sky. What do you take us__”
Two bullets thudded into the policeman’s back, and he instantly dropped to the ground.
Almost casually, Czecka stretched out his right arm, grabbed the burly policeman by the scruff of his neck, and slammed his head through the police car’s rear window, raking his neck over the cut glass and nearly severing his head.
George, a short, black, pleasant-looking man with a wide, toothy grin, walked out from behind a distant palm tree. In his right hand he carried a high-powered rifle with a telescopic sight.
“Let’s finish this up,” San Miguel said to the others in a business-like tone, straightening up and walking around the two fallen policemen.
Wearing earbuds and listening to a Lady Gaga song, George looked distractedly at his boss. Czecka walked by him and tore the earbuds off with one of his bloody hands, continuing to stride towards the torpedo.
“Clean up this place,” San Miguel said to the gunman from behind him. “We’ll take the bodies and the car to the farm.”
Frowning, George shouldered his rifle and headed towards the police car.
“I save their lives, and this is how they repay me?” he mumbled. “Cleanup! Who do they think I am, their nigger slave?”
As George neared the younger policeman, the man moaned. George drew his gun, pointed it at the policeman’s head, and fired.
No one reacted to the gunshot. San Miguel watched Czecka and Faberge lower the torpedo into the tow truck, while Da’ud reeled in the buoy floating in the water. As the squall from the sea continued inland, the rain dwindled to a steady, light sprinkle.
“Damn!” George muttered to himself. “Now his brains are all over the sand!”
“Serve you right for taking so much time to deal with the police,” Daniel told him laughing. “Next time, pay more attention to what’s happening around you, instead of listening to music.”
“I was paying attention!” George replied plaintively, while searching the nearly decapitated policeman’s pockets. “I took care of them, didn’t I?”
Czecka grunted as he covered the torpedo in the tow truck with a white, dirty tarp.
“We’re ready,” he told San Miguel.
“Good. Don’t wait for George. You and Da’ud drive ahead. The rest of us will catch up.”
Czecka nodded, and climbed into the truck on the passenger side, tilting it towards him. Da’ud followed, turning on the engine and wordlessly driving away.
San Miguel watched them leave. The two men were transporting the most precious cargo he had ever received, and common sense suggested that they should be escorted by additional firepower in their second car. But Czecka was in the truck.
And nothing could stop Czecka.
* * *
“The tropical weather outlook bulletin issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted that a large area of disturbed weather, associated with a tropical wave, is exiting out of the coast of Africa and heading due West over the Atlantic Ocean. Although showing some organization on the satellite imagery, the wave lacks surface circulation at this time. Because the Sahara dust in the atmosphere ahead of it is absorbing a lot of its moisture, environmental conditions are not conducive to the strengthening of the system for the next two days. After that, the disturbance could gradually become more organized, as it moves westward to northwestward at 18 mph towards the Lesser Antilles. NOAA will keep the system under observation, and report any changes to its status.”
(To be continued)