A DARK BLUE FLAG with squared Greek zigzags in white snapped overhead as the cutter chopped the waves. Nobody was talking, wouldn’t even let the media gal trot out her credentials. The only thing they’d made clear was that Mitchell and Ms. Conreid were now “guests” of the Mediterranean League.
Peter leaned against the stern rail next to the 12-millimeter machine gun and a sailor keeping an eye on him. There was another 12-mm up forward alongside the five-inch gun for lobbing shells, and the twin diesels were supplemented with a pumpjet engine for speed. Poor old Nereid, bobbing and wallowing on the tow line, hadn’t stood a chance. He’d have to do some fast talking this time.
Etse k’etse. They were damn lucky it was a Med League patrol hauling in their catch, not the Sons. And it looked they were following the same course Conreid had paid for, to the Demodakis home base on Thia Nea. The engines hummed down as they cut speed approaching the bare island, white rock cliffs wincingly bright even through his shades. He rubbed his temples, hangover still throbbing with the engines. They seemed to be taking a circuitous route toward the island, weaving closer in a looping course as the sailor they’d left onboard Nereid powered her up and snugged in closer behind the cutter.
“Siga, siga.” Slow and easy. Another sailor portside gestured up to the flying bridge, and they slowed again, edging starboard before making another sweeping curve and heading for a rocky breakwater where waves dashed themselves to foam against the cliff.
More shouts, gestures, and they were aiming for a narrow entrance to what looked like a cove.
Peter moved to the port rail, craned over the side, couldn’t see anything darker in the deep purple-blues. But that itchy sixth sense was prickling his back again, and he could feel them down there. Mines. He closed his eyes, fought off a shudder.
“Efthia,” the sailor was calling out. Straight ahead.
Peter blinked. They were easing through the cut in the breakwater that nearly sealed off a circular cove, into a fishing harbor where gulls swooped and cried. He took a deep breath of the fresh salt breeze.
Vaulting over the side and onto the concrete quay before the cutter touched the bumpers, he raised his eyebrows and gave a humorous shrug toward Leeza for the benefit of the guards on board. Still silent, they gripped their automatics—looked like Chinese design recycled plastic—but didn’t stop him as he grabbed a line and grinned at the sleepy-looking reception committee in blue uniforms. Probably hauled out of siesta.
“Kali spera.” He waved an arm at the men grappling lines. “Siga, siga.” He directed, helped them snug bobbing Nereid up against rotting tires.
He took another breath of hot air spiced now with the smell of fish and tar. Sun glared off the quay, shattered across the clear turquoise cove and narrow stony shingle, blazed over stark cliffs and the rock slope zigzagged by a goat path. He tilted his face, tracing the trail up to a gleam of windows. White walls and blue-painted balconies of a low villa shimmered in an impossible patch of green. Mirage?
Above it, at the top of the cliff and real enough, a missile launcher hunkered.
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