James Hayman: Those of you who have been following the adventures of McCabe and Savage in The Cutting and The Chill of Night will be pleased to know that the third in series, Darkness First, will be coming out at the end of June. I’ve gotten so many emails asking me when the book will be available that I thought a little sneak preview would be appreciated by those who’ve enjoyed the first two. Here is the first half of the Prologue to the story. I’ll follow up with the second half of the prologue in my next blog on this site.
3:15 A.M., January 7, 2009
The Bay of Fundy
The volume of water flowing into and out of the Bay of Fundy on every tide is more than double the combined flow of all the rivers emptying into all the oceans of the world. However, the man standing in the stern of the old fishing boat, peering out through night-vision binoculars, gave no thought to Fundy’s legendary tides or, for that matter, any other natural phenomena. He was intent on finding the boys.
For the fourth time in thirty minutes, he raised the glasses to his eyes and scanned the dark expanse of water for any sign of the inflatable kayak. He saw nothing. Just a low blackness broken only by the reflected twinkle of lights from the city of Saint John to his right and from the more scattered buildings beyond the beach at Sandy Cove, a mile and a half dead ahead.
Not one to give up easily, the man divided the sea before him into quadrants and looked with painstaking thoroughness once again. Quadrant by quadrant. Inch by inch. Still he saw nothing. There was no sign of them.
It was already 3:15 on a freezing cold January morning. The two should have been back an hour ago. The operation had been rehearsed and their instructions clear. If anything went wrong, anything at all, they were to call. He’d given them disposable cell phones, one each, for just that purpose. Cell reception had been checked and found acceptable. Still he hadn’t heard from them. Maybe that’s what you got for working with idiots.
Perhaps the kayak had capsized on the way back, dumping the boys, their cell phones and their precious cargo into the icy waters of the bay. If that was the case, the game was over and he might as well crank up the engine and head back to Eastport. Still it seemed unlikely. Back in the beginning, before he trained them, it might have happened that way. But both were now experienced paddlers and the sea tonight was a flat calm. No way should they have capsized in seas like this.
Another twenty minutes passed before he felt a vibration in his pocket.
“You’re late,” he said.
“Yeah. Sorry about that Conor” said Rory, at twenty the older of the brothers.
“No. No problems. Getting to the beach without being seen just took longer than we thought.” The kid spoke in a breathless whisper. “But we’ve got the shit and we’re heading back.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
“I’ll tell you man, everything went smooth as,”
“Not now.” He cut off the eager voice on the other end. “Tell me when you get here. Then we can celebrate.”
He broke the connection without waiting for an answer, stuffed the phone back in his pocket.
It took the boys twenty-two minutes to paddle the mile and a half to the boat. He watched them pull alongside. Rory in the stern. His younger brother Scott, who was eighteen, up front. Both looked as excited as little kids on Christmas morning.
The man extended a boat hook and Rory slipped the strap of a waterproof bag on to the end. The man hauled it in. Lighter than he expected. Amazing, he thought, how little five million dollars could weigh. Rory and Scott clambered up the boat ladder and over the gunwale. He told them to haul the kayak on board.
While they worked at that, the man unzipped the bag and checked the contents. It looked to be all there. What he’d been working on for months. Forty white plastic bottles, each labeled with Barham Pharmaceutical’s big red B logo. Each with 1,000 80 mg tablets inside. Forty thousand tabs in all. He did the math for the hundredth time. Not because he was uncertain of the answer but simply because he enjoyed thinking about it.
Street value in Maine for Oxycontin was currently 120 bucks per 80 mg time-release tablet. Times 40,000 it came to exactly 4.8 million dollars. At least it did as long as he stayed disciplined, stuck to plan and didn’t push too many tablets on to the market too fast. Like anything else, street price was a matter of supply and demand. Maine and Washington County in particular had one hell of a demand. And now, with American pharmaceutical companies changing their manufacturing process to make it more difficult for addicts to crush or melt the tablets for an instant hit, he was in charge of the biggest and best supply.
He opened a bottle, picked out a tablet and examined the small greenish disk. The number “80” was stamped on one side, the abbreviation “CDN” for Canadian stamped on the other. He dropped the tab back in, screwed on the lid and returned the bottle to the bag. He stowed it in a small cubby in the wheelhouse.
When the kayak was safely on board, the man popped the tops off two bottles of Bud, handed one each to Rory and Scott and told them to go down to the cabin, change out of their wetsuits and warm up. Then they could tell him all about their triumph.
Dressed in jeans and heavy woolen jackets, the two boys sat side-by-side on the lone bunk and sucked at the beer. “Nothing to it,” Rory said, grinning like this was the biggest day of his short meaningless life. “Security was pathetic just like you said. Just one old fat guy. He starts asking Scott some questions, I come up behind, stick the gun in his neck and tell him not to be a hero. He wasn’t about to be. Practically pissing his pants. Took us right to the stuff. Right where you said it would be. Scott loaded the bag. We moved fast. In, out and gone in less than three minutes. Two blocks away before we heard the first sirens.”
“Where’s the security guy now?”
Rory didn’t answer immediately.
“Where’s the security guy now?”
“Dead. I shot him. Twice.”
“Yeah. I wasn’t sure he was dead the first time. So I shot him again.”
“No question the second time?”
“No. Half his head was gone.”
The man nodded. “Good.”
He hadn’t been sure Rory could handle killing the guard. Maybe the kid was tougher than he thought.
“I don’t know why we had to kill him,” said Scott. “He wasn’t causing any problems.”
“Because, my friend, he was the only one who could link any of us to any of this. He saw your faces. You’ve both got records. It had to be done.”
“Yeah. Maybe. I guess. Still, it didn’t feel right.”
“Cheer up. You did what you had to do,” he said. “You did good.”
Both smiled at that. Praise from the master.
“You didn’t wear your wetsuits inside the building, did you?”
“No. We left them in the kayak like you said. Wore what we’re wearing now. But it wouldn’t have mattered. Nobody saw us except the guard,” said Scott.
“And he’s not gonna be talking anytime soon,” Rory added with an imbecilic grin.
The man smiled back. No point ruining their moment of triumph by letting them know the guard wasn’t the only one who’d seen them. That the pharmaceutical distribution facility they’d just broken into was under constant video surveillance. Or that, by now, the entire Saint John police force was checking their faces against a computerized database of drug offenders. Probably every cop in the province of New Brunswick had printouts of their images taped to their dashboards. No. There was no point telling the boys any of that. It would just upset them and make finishing the job that much harder.