Dirty Bop to Blighty: part 2

Illustration: Liz Argall

Illustration: Liz Argall

fiction by Diana Deverell

When Bo arrived, he quickly key-carded them both through the steel door marked CREW ONLY.

“You’re a guest of the ship for dinner,” he said, guiding her to the buffet line. “Seein’ as how you’re my Auntie Dawna. Or near enough.”

“Near enough,” Dawna agreed, inhaling the aroma of pork chops in mushroom gravy wafting from the array.

As she and Bo filled their plates and took seats at a table under the portside windows, they quickly mapped out the intersections in their lives.

Dawna had known his Nana all her life. And he’d met her dad, aka The Chief, top cop in Amity until he’d retired.

Bo was certain he’d seen her play at UT, sitting between his Nana and her Grandma Oly while they cheered the Lady Longhorns on to the Big Dance.

“And now you’re an FBI Agent,” he marveled. “Got something to do with those guys using the conference center?”

“Training them,” she replied.

You’re training the Department of Homeland Security?” he asked, awed.

She laughed. “Not training those guys. Helping them train law enforcement officers from Eastern Europe.”

The mess was nearly empty, the chow line nonexistent, and no one was using the two personal computers. Dawna figured other crew members had eaten earlier and gone outside to enjoy the good weather.

Even so, she lowered her voice and leaned toward Bo.

“I’m supposed to be helping, at any rate. But something feels off. Homeland Security may be planning a surprise. And I don’t like surprises. Let me ask you a couple of questions, see if you’ve spotted anything that backs up my idea.”

He frowned. “Be a pleasure to help, just don’t know if I can.”

“Well, did you notice any unusual additions to the crew in Bergen?”

Bo brightened.

“Funny you should ask. A six-man repair team came aboard last night. Nobody in the engine room was expecting them and nobody seems to have met any of them before, either. So far, all they’ve done is shut down half the communications. No cellphones work and the crew have no off-duty internet access.”

Dawna leaned closer. “You’re saying the ship is cut off from the mainland?”

“’Course the bridge has other alternatives. This only affects the passengers and lowly crew like me.”

So Dawna couldn’t easily phone anyone in the Bureau. Which turned Bo from a potential ally to her only ally in her plan to stop Keedy.

“Anything unusual about the passengers?” she asked.

He pursed his lips, thinking.

“Well, those Hells Angels are weird. I’m a cadet and my training schedule put me on board back and forth to Newcastle without a break from April 15. I’ve seen dozens of British bikers head over to Norway to try out the mountain roads. When they make the return trip, you can tell they’ve done some hard riding. But those six who boarded this morning?

“They haven’t taken this ferry while I’ve been aboard. This means they had to get to Bergen overland. Hell of a trip from England. Yet, you’d never know it from looking at them. All clean and shiny, like they just walked out of a biker store.”

“Very helpful,” Dawna said, pushing her dishes aside. “Let me think for a minute.”

She watched Bo clean his plate as she assessed the situation.

Keedy could well be backed by a 12-man team of phony bikers and fake repairmen. Likely all carrying walkie-talkies so they could coordinate the exercise he was mounting.

Keedy’s trained agents would easily overwhelm the 18 unequipped, uncoordinated, and unprepared cops. Except that, because of his blundering approach, they weren’t totally unprepared.

Which only made things worse.

Other participants besides Alek had to be planning preemptive actions. She imagined the havoc that would result when nine pairs of paranoid East European cops got going.

She couldn’t let that disaster unfold at an ILEA conference. She had to force Keedy to cancel his exercise and convince the agitated participants he’d done so.

Bo’s face was twisted with concern over her long silence. “What do you think?”

“I think I need help.”

Dawna checked her watch. Seven o’clock. For one hour, the ferry had been moving away from the Norwegian coastline. No time left for investigation.

She had to preempt both Keedy and the conference participants. And she had to act now.

“Can I count on you?” she asked Bo.

He grinned. “’Course you can.”

She scribbled her cabin number on a business card and passed it to him.

“Meet me there in ten minutes. I’ll round up a couple more folks.”

Dawna took off, zipping around other passengers on the stairs up to Deck 8 and weaving through the packed tables in the Seven Seas buffet restaurant to the section set aside for conference participants.

She was pleased to find that Keedy and his staffer weren’t present.

She saw the Moldovans and Hungarians clustered at one large table, so intent on their discussion they probably didn’t see her.

She easily located Alek and Oksana and, under cover of a friendly greeting, asked each to come down to her cabin urgently.

On her way out, she noted that the two Russians weren’t in the restaurant.

By 7:15, she was explaining her concerns about Keedy to Bo, Alek, and Oksana. After she outlined her plan, Alek sighed with relief.

He’d overheard Boris and Vladimir using an insulting nickname for Keedy, the Russian word so obscene he refused to translate. He feared the two of them had skipped dinner to plot their own move and he believed the Moldovans and Hungarians were also cooking up something.

He agreed that speed was critical and suggested some fine-tuning of her proposal.

At ten minutes before 8:00 when Keedy pushed open the conference center door, Dawna and her team were ready for him.

Oksana moaned, doubling over in her chair. Her panting was raspy and the tap water matting henna-tinted strands of hair to her forehead looked like real sweat.

With a worried shake of his head, Alek clicked the stopwatch function on his cellphone, pretending to measure the minutes since her last contraction.

“She’s in labor,” Dawna told Keedy. “Her doctor told her day before yesterday that the baby’s in breech position.”

“And remains there,” Alek said, resting a protective hand on Oksana’s belly in masterful TV medical-drama style.

“She requires a cesarean section. We must get her to a hospital.”

Keedy eyed Oksana.

“Surely, the situation isn’t urgent,” he said. “This is her first pregnancy. She’ll probably be in labor all night. We can have emergency services standing by in Newcastle.”

“No.” Alek’s Einstein-curls shook with his fierce negative.

“I have paramedic training with focus on emergency childbirth. We must intervene before labor progresses farther.”

On cue, Oksana’s moan escalated to an agonized scream.

Alek frowned at his ticking cellphone. “We have far fewer than 12 hours.”

Dawna put a firm hand on Keedy’s wrist and waved the other toward Bo, who was standing in the doorway to block anyone else from entering the conference center.

“This sailor will escort us to the bridge,” she informed Keedy, tightening her grip.

“We must convince the captain to turn back to Stavanger.”

Keedy shifted position, putting his back to Oksana and Alek. When Dawna angled her body to face him, he jerked free from her grasp, shoved his chin close to hers and spoke in an angry whisper.

“We are not turning this ship around.”

Dawna didn’t lower her voice.

“What, you’d risk the life of both mother and child rather than change course?”

“Keep it down,” he murmured. “We don’t have a choice. We turn back, we run a major national security risk.”

Stunned, Dawna stared at Keedy, processing what he’d said—and what he hadn’t.

She’d expected him to suggest calling a chopper to pluck Oksana off the top-deck helipad, and she was prepared to turn that proposal to her advantage.

But if emergency medevac had occurred to him, he’d quickly ruled out the half-hour or more of stationary idling required for safe touchdown and liftoff at sea.

He must want the boat to proceed at full speed into international waters. Which told her Keedy’s planned maneuver was no training exercise but an exactly timed rendezvous.

“You’re making a bust,” Dawna said flatly. “On the open sea where U.S. laws don’t apply. Your target must be among my cops. You think one of them is dirty. What, is Vladimir taking payoffs in return for allowing Chinese illegals to cross Russian borders?”

“Those two Russian cops are expediting the transfer of nuclear material to a terrorist cell in Britain.” Arrogant certainty put steel in Keedy’s hushed tone.

“Final destination is the U.S. Their arrest and interrogation is vital. And I have set up this op to accomplish that neatly and quietly.”

to be continued . . .

“Dirty Bop to Blighty” was originally published in the September 2010 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. A native Oregonian, Diana Deverell was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer and served in Washington, D.C., San Salvador, and Warsaw, before she moved to rural Denmark to write full-time. Visit www.dianadeverell.com for more about her writing.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 12, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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