Daniel Ganninger - Icarus Investigations 02 - Peeking Duck, page 1part #2 of Icarus Investigations Series
Case File #2 of Icarus Investigation
Copyright © 2014 by Daniel Ganninger
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To Garrett, my best little buddy
Chief Mate Dimitri Petsoro stood at the helm of the ocean vessel, sharing his gaze between the vast electronic instruments that lay before him and the dimly lit bow gliding through a blackened sea. The rumbling of the giant diesel engines turning the screws of the cargo vessel vibrated through the steel hull of the ship and the heels of the man standing watch on the bridge.
The minutes of the morning seemed to tick by exceedingly slow. It was proving to be another uneventful night aboard the Trusian. The six hours Petsoro had been on duty had begun to weigh on him, and his eyes grew heavier with each passing moment. He attempted to invigorate himself with a quick gulp of strangely brewed coffee and a brisk walk across the bridge from port to starboard.
“Only a few hours to go,” he reminded himself, picturing his bunk and a nice, soft pillow.
His duty time would soon be up, and he would get an eight hour reprieve before his next session. For now, he watched the hypnotizing movement of the radar as it spun slowly, revealing nothing but open Pacific seas ahead.
The Trusian was a large container ship, a Panamax type vessel due to its breadth and length being at the maximum limits that the Panama Canal’s locks could handle. Only a day before in Hong Kong, she had been loaded with a cargo of electronics, clothing, household goods, food, raw materials, and about any other item imaginable. The Trusian was underway to the port of Los Angeles before making course to the Atlantic Ocean through the Panama Canal, and ultimately to ports in Spain.
“Dimitri,” an older man announced from behind the first mate. “Is everything secure?”
Dimitri swung around, startled at the voice. “Yes, Captain. No inclement weather is forecast for our route. Everything is on schedule.”
“Very good. You have the bridge. I’m going to get some rest in my cabin,” replied Captain Olgary Svenson.
“Yes, sir. Have a good sleep.”
Captain Svenson gave a nod of his head to his second-in-command and headed for the bridge door. He was tired and worn after a blistering loading schedule in Hong Kong. They were already a day behind and every hour missed resulted in money lost for the shipping company.
Captain Svenson was an experienced Norwegian Captain, but he was just beginning to know his new crew. He had recently joined the Trusian after the previous Captain had been deemed unfit and relieved of duty. Svenson had been informed it had something to do with the man’s fondness for strong drinks.
After the Captain had left, Dimitri turned to the helmsman of the vessel. “What do you think of our new officer?”
“He nice enough, I guess. Got rough sand in his blood. No more at-sea-party,” dryly answered the Taiwanese seaman known as Pi.
Dimitri laughed at the comment and sat down in the leather back chair in front of an instrument console. “We may be in for a long voyage,” he sighed.
“What to make of this Captain?” Dimitri thought, somewhat perturbed he hadn’t been given the opportunity to take over the ship. But he knew how things worked in this business. It took years upon years to get your own command of a vessel of this size and expense. Dimitri sighed again and got up to get one last check on the weather.
He strolled to the satellite linked computer at the rear of the bridge and printed out the latest weather report. It continued to show good sailing ahead; clear skies, four to six foot seas, and no convective weather systems moving into the area. Dimitri figured they would soon pay for this excellent weather once they hit the Panama Canal and the potential stormy weather of the Atlantic.
No one on board the Trusian knew the specifics of the cargo they carried, but they were keenly aware of its balance and weight load. The ship held steel containers that would ultimately land on railway flatbed cars making their way to shipping and manufacturing centers across America. The bill of lading carefully listed out the contents of each container, but the crew couldn’t care less about what was inside. There was no concern as long as things inside the steel boxes didn’t explode and wreak havoc on the ship. This particular shipment was no different than any other.
Dimitri and the captain had pored over the list of items that were scheduled to come aboard. It was a standard list of flat screen televisions, automobile parts, clothing, and all sorts of other inane objects from manufacturing plants throughout China. It was ultimately no concern to him what they carried or even if they lost a container or two. That was what the massive insurance policies the vessel carried were for. Dimitri had been on many a voyage in rough seas where the steel pegs holding the containers together gave way and a few on top of the stack fell into the abyss, never to be recovered. It was not something any Captain wanted to report, but it happened nonetheless.
The large ship continued to cruise slowly through the water, traveling at about ten knots, leaving a vast swath of foam behind the vessel. The hour was just passing four in the morning and Dimitri started his four to eight A.M. watch. He stared blankly out the front windows of the wheelhouse as Pi began to bob his head to some sort of ghastly sitar music streaming from his portable music player.
The men didn‘t know it, but there were other things stirring in the ocean around them. Not sea-life or even another merchant ship, but a small, black speedboat following closely in their wake for the last ten miles. The boat cruised almost silently, and under the noise of the large diesel engines of the Trusian it became virtually undetectable.
The black boat suddenly roared ahead quickly. It had about a mile to close on the larger ship and did this in minimal time as its engines went to full power. The speedboat continued to move forward in the wake of the ship, its top covered with black canvas which allowed it to blend in with the sea underneath. As it neared the stern of the Trusian, the boat slowed and quickly maneuvered out of the sea foam churned up by the larger ship. The small boat raced to the port side of the ship, parallel to the containers sitting at the stern, but behind the colossal superstructure where the bridge and crew areas were located.
It grazed closer and closer to the steel hull until it was about ten feet away. Suddenly, from beneath the black canvas, six men emerged in black fatigues with black helmets, goggles, and small backpacks. Using three small guns that resembled shotguns, they shot grappling hooks up toward the steel cable that separated the deck from the gunwale, or upper edges of the side of the ship. The hooks, with a rope trailing behind, sliced through the air, making contact with the cable on the deck until it held fast and strong.
The men pulled on the ropes to check for the integrity of their connections and moved quickly, pulling the ropes taut to the deck of the smaller boat. One by one they attached themselves to the rope, and in a carefully choreographed movement, turned on their backs with two hands on the rope and their legs crossed over the top. As each man started up the three ropes, the remaining men readied them
It was a quick process. In less than five minutes, the first group of three were on the deck of the ship as the hooks strained against their connection with the cable. The second group of three followed and clamored their way aboard. They pulled the grappling hooks off the cable and allowed them to fall back to the black boat. It slowly cut its engines and maneuvered behind the ship as the remaining crew pulled the ropes back in the boat.
There were now six uninvited guests aboard the Trusian, and they had just committed an act of piracy. The men moved silently with diligence and purpose. They removed their packs and armed themselves with small, semi-automatic assault rifles equipped with noise suppression devices. The group fanned out, taking strategic positions out of sight next to the stacked containers, while the lead man made a number of gestures that sent the remaining men scurrying in different directions. They progressed toward the main superstructure that housed the crew quarters, bridge, and the deck that led down to the engine room.
A watertight hatch was all that separated the men from the interior of the ship. It opened easily and the men filed inside. A team of three men raced up the first staircase to the upper decks as the second team descended into the bowels of the vessel.
There were twenty-three crewmembers aboard the Trusian, a number the black clad men knew well. It was their primary objective to secure all twenty-three, using deadly or non-deadly force. Due to the early hour in the morning, half the crew would be bunked up, while the other half took on the duties of running the ship.
The second team of men immediately went to the engine compartment to subdue the crew there and stop the engines. The pirates wanted to create confusion before they attempted to round up the rest of the crew.
The mercenaries waited at the engine compartment door, and the lead man checked his watch. Everything had been timed down to the second. He prepared a smoke grenade before he gave the order to proceed. He looked at his watch again and gave a wave while he slid the smoke grenade into the engine room. It immediately gushed a foul cloud of gray smoke that hid their position as it wafted into the large open space.
The engineer manning the controls of the diesel engines noticed the smoke quickly. He panicked and began to run for the control room door as the men in black streamed in, coming face to face with the engineer.
A look of shock crossed the engineer‘s face as he confronted the men, but they were too quick. In a few seconds they swept his feet out from under him, causing him to fall flat on his back. The men flipped him over, pulled his arms behind him and tied his wrists with plastic ties while another aggressively put duct tape over his mouth. They didn’t stop to ask questions or even move the man. Instead two of the men continued into the control room while the other searched for the seaman that assisted the engineer. The sailor was found easily, working behind one of the roaring engines. But upon seeing the masked pirate, he attempted to run. He was rapidly scooped up by the gunman who pistol whipped him to the head. The armed man tied him in the same manner as the first captive and left him lying flat on his stomach, groggy from the blow to the head. The pirate then raced to join his comrades in the control room.
The group of marauders assembled in the engine control room, and without speaking, disabled the engines. This immediately sent a warning to the bridge of some impending problem in the engine room.
Dimitri was jolted from his stupor and sprung into action. He grabbed for the phone to the engine room as the propellers of the large ship began to slow and warning lights on the bridge began to illuminate.
“I can’t get a hold of them,” he yelled to Pi, who was already trying to diagnose the problem.
The men had no idea what was going on but assumed it had to be something problematic; an engine fire, broken shaft or gear, or some other catastrophic issue. They never in their wildest dreams would have thought it was a signal for the other group of pirates to enter the bridge.
As the men attempted to diagnose the problem with the ship‘s engine, the bridge door swung open, revealing a black clothed man with an assault rifle coming toward them.
“On your face,” the pirate yelled at the men.
Dimitri reacted to the sight. He had been trained in this type of intrusion, but at this time of the morning, his reactions were slow. He turned to lunge at the emergency siren button on the bridge console and was met with a suppressed round of gunfire that strategically cut at his leg and dropped him to the floor, leaving him bleeding at his thigh. Pi witnessed the gunfire and immediately threw himself to the floor with his hands over his head.
Dimitri never made it close to the warning siren and stared groggily up at the gunman as he lay bleeding on the bridge floor. The pirate moved quickly in securing Pi with plastic ties on his hands and legs before doing the same to Dimitri. One man was all Dimitri could see, but the area was beginning to grow black. He felt a tug at his leg as the gunman applied a tourniquet to the wounded thigh, causing him to wince in pain.
Dimitri began to stabilize his gaze and heard the faint muffle of suppressed gunfire, and screams, coming from the outside hall. He was hearing the remaining crew being rounded up, one by one, by an unknown group of gunmen. He had no idea why they were attacking the ship or how many of them there were, but he knew they were in serious trouble.
“What do you want us to do?” I asked incredulously over the phone to a potential client. I listened to the explanation intently before hanging up.
“What do they want?” Jane asked as I flashed her a confused look.
“They want us to basically steal the thing,” I answered dryly, “another one of Galveston’s great leads. What kind of business have we turned into?”
Jane shrugged her shoulders and continued on with her work, ignoring my grunts of displeasure.
Icarus Investigatory Services, or “Ick” as we lovingly referred to it, was beginning to turn into some strange, clandestine, corporate espionage company. I am co-owner of our investigation company and run the day-to-day operations, the “keeping us solvent” part. Dan Galveston is my business partner, and right now, I was none too happy with him. He was in charge of the acquisition of clients. Lately, however, he had been scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Our business had been growing since a national case we were involved in broke a few years ago. We hit it big with an investigation involving the retrieval of a super efficient battery called “Flapjack”. We were able to recover the most revolutionary of energy storage devices while subsequently getting a U.S. Senator and a billionaire thrown in jail. We also kind of caused the implosion of a multinational company in the process. Suffice it to say, we had a major bump in business after that.
While publicly we couldn’t acknowledge our role in this event, occasionally a newspaper or magazine reporter would grace our door asking some questions. Most reporters turned and walked out of our humble office, determining that there was no way in hell that two guys with dilapidated furniture in a rustic 1960’s era office could have pulled off such a coup. That was just the way we wanted it. Icarus Investigatory Services was never linked to the scandal, but in closed circles we were the talk of the town.
This success allowed us a steady growth of new clients, all by word of mouth. We worked with everything from Fortune 500 companies to secretive government agencies. If it was information that was needed, and the law could be stretched, then we were the company for them. Investigation was our key business, but we delved into anything related to “information gathering”, as we liked to refer to it.
Many times we squeezed or elongated the laws of the land to accomplish what we needed, but we always evaluated if it would benefit the greater good in the long run. Not to say that we hadn’t been burned a few times, but for the most part we worked hard to do what we thought was right. We wouldn’t be winning any Nobel Peace Prizes for our efforts, or a Chamber of Commerce community award, but our conscious was as clean as it could get.
We continued to
Then, about six months ago, I noticed a sudden change in the level of our clients. Wild requests began to roll in. A casino asked if we could locate a pig that could paint. A furniture store wanted us to find wood from the late 18th century so they could make “colonial” furniture, and an entrepreneur wanted us to find investors for a car that ran on cow manure. Our clients were becoming, to put it mildly, a little more insane, and highly unrealistic.
I had myself partially to blame. I let my cohort get out of control and lose focus, jeopardizing our future prospects. Galveston had gone from keen investigator and excellent marketer to a babbling pile of horse turds. Maybe that was a little strong, but the guy that convinced me to go into this business was not the same guy I knew today. It wasn’t because of some mid-life crisis or alcohol abuse, or even displeasure for the job. Those I would have accepted. Instead it was all because of a former acquaintance, a former friend—a woman.
Galveston informally split with Elizabeth about nine months ago. Their relationship was at best, tumultuous, and at worst, strange. They lived an ocean apart. Galveston lived here in San Diego, California, while she lived in London, England. They would spend several days together, doing God knows what, then not talk again for months.
Galveston met Elizabeth years before. He was a U.S. Diplomatic Security Officer in England partnering with MI-6, the English equivalent of the CIA, where Elizabeth was a spy. It was an off again, on again, and then off again relationship. Neither knew how to make a relationship work, but each of them seemed to enjoy the chase.
Elizabeth must have tired of the situation because during a bombshell call she destroyed Galveston’s small world. She informed him she met another man and had been dating him between the times Galveston and her weren’t seeing each other. Then again, it was never clear when they were actually together. Elizabeth had fallen for an investment banker in London and announced to Galveston she was getting married. She wanted to settle down.