Read Choppy Water Online

Authors: Stuart Woods

Choppy Water (2 page)


They departed the Carlyle at five
, instead of six, for better traffic conditions. They were on the ramp at Teterboro by five-thirty and attracted no attention while boarding. Faith, Stone’s pilot, introduced them to her Air Force copilot; there was no stewardess on board for the short trip.

They were allowed an early takeoff and given a clearance of direct Rockland. Forty minutes later they set down. There Stone, Holly, and the head-of-detail Secret Service agents, Bill and Claire, got into Stone’s Cessna, while the other agents boarded a couple of SUVs for the drive to Lincolnville and the ferry. The two pilots had accommodations in Rockland.

“The yacht club has given us the use of their building,” Bill said, “and we’re taking in our own bunks and a cook.
We’ll be out of your hair most of the time. Claire and I will use your guesthouse, if that’s all right.”

“Certainly,” Stone said, taxiing into position.

They landed at Islesboro fifteen minutes later, and Seth Hotchkiss was there with the 1938 Ford Woodie station wagon to transport them to the house.

Once at the house, Stone showed the agents around, then they left for the yacht club to get that organized.

Stone lit a fire, and he and Holly settled down before it with cups of cocoa.

“This is all I want to do while we’re here,” Holly said, “just sit and stare into the fire.”

“I imagine your brain will be occupied with other things,” Stone said, as her cell phone rang. She switched it off. “I can return calls later.” She snuggled next to him.

“What’s in the big briefcase?” Stone asked.

“Three big briefcases,” she said. “The rest are in the SUV, on their way. They contain lists of potential cabinet appointees and their dossiers, appointments to the Supreme Court and others, legislative proposals, executive orders to be signed on inauguration day, et cetera, et cetera. We’ve taken a whole motel in Rockland for staffers, and some of them will show up each day with briefing papers. There are two press pool people, sworn to secrecy and not to publish until we leave here. A press announcement is being made that I’m bound for an undisclosed location in Florida for a few days of rest and planning and will have no visitors.
in Washington wants to visit.”

“I can imagine.”

They had lunch, just the two of them, and the Secret Service people were invisible, as promised. After lunch, Stone went into the village to the store to pick up a
New York Times.
“You want me to order it daily for you, Stone?” Billy, the owner, asked.

“Sure, Billy.”

“What’s going on over at your place?” Billy was also the head selectman and a human switchboard for local news and gossip.

“Just a few friends up from New York,” Stone replied. “We’re working on a new business proposal for next year.”

“Dino and Viv along?”

“They’ve been invited, but it will be later in the week before they turn up.”

That seemed to satisfy him, and Stone went home with his paper and a quart of ice cream.

Stone backed out of his parking space, just as another car pulled in next to it. When one of the two occupants opened a door, Stone saw a black leather bag full of camera equipment on the back seat. He stopped and, looking up, saw Billy standing on the store’s front porch, greeting them. Stone caught Billy’s eye and did a zipping motion over his mouth. Billy got it. He pointed this way and that, giving directions.

The two men got back into their car and drove off in the wrong direction.

Stone drove quickly back to the house, pulled into the
garage, and pressed the button to close the door. One of the Secret Service men was guarding the front door. Stone said, “There are photographers on the island, looking for us, so get all your guys indoors and their car out of sight.” The man spoke into his radio, then followed Stone inside. Stone looked out a window and saw the photographers driving toward them. He got a robe from the coat closet and tossed it to the Secret Service man. “Take off your coat and put this on,” he said. When the man was properly costumed, Stone handed him his newspaper. “Answer the door and improvise,” he said.

Stone heard car doors slamming and ducked back into the living room. A moment later there was the bang of the knocker on the front door. Stone directed the agent with a lift of his chin.

The man unfolded the newspaper, tied the robe, and opened the front door. “Yes?”

“Mr. Barrington?”


“May we speak to Mr. Barrington?”

“You’ll need to go to New York for that,” the agent said. “He’s let me have his place for a few days.”

“You mean he’s not on the island?”

“Yes, but it’s the island of Manhattan. Anything else I can do for you?”

“Yes, what’s your name?”

“Why do you want to know?” the agent replied politely.

“For our story.”

“No stories here,” the agent said. “Good day. If you hurry,
you can catch the next ferry. Otherwise it could be six or seven hours. It’s a refueling day.”

The two men ran for their car and fled the scene.

“You get an Oscar nomination for that one,” Stone said to the man.

Holly was just coming downstairs. “I heard a car leave. Who was here?”

“A couple of photographers,” Stone replied. “Al here told them a fairy tale, and they bit.”

“Oh, good,” she said.

Stone turned to the agent. “Was that true about the ferry?”

“It certainly was,” Al said, “except for the refueling part. I’ve alerted our people on the mainland to stay out of sight until they’re gone.”

Stone went and sat down next to Holly. “How did they get on to us?”

“Maybe a local ashore,” Al said. “Your airplane’s in the hangar, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and locked up.”

“We can’t have them looking up the tail number. If you like, I can call the FAA and have your number removed from the public-access registry.”

“What a good idea,” Stone said.

“Al,” Holly said, “can you have his face removed, too?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Al replied.


Stone was reading the
when a cell phone rang. “It’s not me,” he said, to nobody in particular.

Holly produced a phone from a pocket. “It’s Ham,” she said. “Hey, Ham.”

“Hey, baby. There was a story in the papers this morning, said you were somewhere in Florida. I had to run off a couple of people before breakfast. Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m . . . Remember that place I told you about?”


“I’m there.”

“I’ll put up a sign,” he said, and told her his idea. “Have a good time,” Ham said, then hung up.

Holly hung up, too. “The Florida story in the papers worked. Ham’s had visitors.”

“If they knew how good a shot Ham is, they wouldn’t have bothered him,” Stone said.

“He’s putting up a sign on the gate saying ‘She ain’t here, and the dog bites.’”

Stone laughed. “Do you think that will stop them?”

“No, but it’ll make them think twice.”

“Whose cell phone are you using?”

“A campaign worker’s. She’s driving home to see her folks in Texas this week, with mine in her handbag.”

“That’ll keep ’em busy.”

“You’d better not use yours,” she said.

“It’s turned off. Joan can call me on the landline, if she needs me.”

As if on cue, the landline rang. “Al, will you get that? If it’s a woman, it could be my secretary, Joan.”

Al picked it up. “It’s Joan,” he said.

Stone picked up the extension on the coffee table. “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself,” she said. “You’ve had a dozen callers this morning.”

“Tell them I’m on my way to Texas, driving.”

“Okay. Dino says he and Viv will be at Rockland around noon today.”

“I’ll have the Cessna pick them up. Is he using a police aircraft?”


“That’ll work.” Dino Bacchetti was Stone’s old NYPD partner who was now New York City’s police commissioner. Dino’s wife, Vivian, was COO of Strategic Services, the second-largest security company in the world.

“Anything else?”

“Nothing that can’t wait until you’re back.”

“Bye.” Stone hung up. “Al, New York City’s police commissioner and his wife are arriving at noon at Rockland. Can one of your guys fly them over to the island in my 182?”

“I’ve got three who are licensed,” Al said. “I’ll pick one.”

He got on his radio.

Stone held off lunch until the Bacchettis arrived. They got settled in, then went down to the dining room.

“Anybody bugged you up here?” Dino asked.

“We blew off a couple this morning,” Stone said. “They’ve tried Ham’s place in Florida, too.”

“You know about not using cell phones?”

“Sure. Holly’s using a friend’s, who’s driving hers to Texas this week.”

“Nice move,” Dino said. “Holly, did you get a lot of fan mail in the way of death threats during the campaign?”

“Not what I would call a lot,” she said. “Just the usual alt-right nuts. I passed them on to the Secret Service.”

“You should expect to get your share of those, Stone,” he said. “You’ll be surprised at how popular you’re going to get.”

“Holly and I are going to be in different cities most of the time,” Stone said. “That’ll help a little, I think.”

They finished lunch and had coffee in the living room, by the fire.

“Viv,” Stone said, “where are you just in from?”

“Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco, where I had a little time to catch up with my jet lag. Holly, we haven’t congratulated you properly: we’re so happy you won.”

“Thank you, Viv. I’m still sort of in limbo—can’t quite believe it. That’s why I’m so happy to be up here with you all.”

Bill and Claire came into the living room “Excuse us for disturbing you, ma’am,” Bill said, “but Claire and I have to run over to the mainland for a security meeting. We’ve rented a house in Lincolnville, so we’ll foot it on the ferry. All our people are either on post around the house or over at the yacht club.”

“See you later, Bill,” Holly said.

“Yacht club?” Viv asked. “They’re sailing?”

Holly laughed. “No, they’ve rented the clubhouse for bunk and rec space. They can watch TV and play Ping-Pong during their off hours.”

Viv stood up. “C’mon, Dino, let’s get some of this unaccustomed fresh air. A walk would do us good.”

Dino put aside his
and got up. “I’m okay with that,” he said. They got their coats on and left.

“What would you like to do this afternoon?” Stone asked Holly.

Holly walked over to the window and looked out over Penobscot Bay. Stone’s dock was only yards away.

“Is that your little yacht?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s called a Concordia.”

“What I’d really love is a sail.”

“Then why don’t we have a sail?”

“If we tried, it would cause a kerfuffle with the Secret Service. They’d have to find a boat, then follow us.”


“Stone, do you have a sail bag in the house?”

“Sure. In the garage, where the spares are.”

Fifteen minutes later, Stone left the house, a big sail bag over his shoulder. The Secret Service man at the rear of the house met him. “Going somewhere, Mr. Barrington?”

“Yes, I’m going to try out a new sail on my boat.”

“Where’s the president-elect?”

“She’s upstairs having a nap, and she doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“Right, sir.” He returned to his post.

Stone reached the dock and stepped into the cockpit of the yacht, then unlocked the companionway hatch and opened it. He lowered the sail bag carefully below. “Okay, the coast is clear,” he said, “as long as you don’t come on deck just yet.”

The sail bag’s zipper opened, and Holly struggled out. “I’m good.”

“Just have a seat in the saloon. It’ll take me a few minutes to get underway. And if you will, go up forward and hand me the genoa. The bag is labeled.”

Holly found and handed the sail up to him. Stone bent it onto the forestay, then went aft and got the engine started.
Shortly, they were motoring out of the harbor, past a line of mostly empty moorings.

“You can come up now,” Stone said, “but sit on the cockpit floor. Those guys have binoculars, and I don’t want them to spot you.”

Holly tossed up some cushions, then came up the companionway steps and crawled aft, making herself a comfortable perch in the cockpit.

Stone hoisted the main and the genoa, switched off the engine, and let the boat reach along in the light winds. Soon they turned the point and were in the bay proper, the house and the yacht club now out of sight.

“What a day for it!” Holly yelled. “I feel free again. I haven’t felt that way since the campaign started!”

“We’re not going to see a lot of traffic out here in November, but if we spot somebody, resume your seat on the cockpit floor,” Stone said.

The breeze picked up a little, and their speed increased.


They had been out for a good two hours when Stone felt a gust for the first time. He looked aft and saw low, dark clouds on the horizon. “Uh-oh,” he said.

“You didn’t get a forecast?” Holly asked. “Bad Stone!”

“I was too busy smuggling your ass onto the boat!” Stone came back. “Stand by to luff up!” He turned into the wind and the boat slowed. “Let’s get these big sails down, and put up a small jib. Find me one up forward.”

Holly sprang to it.

Stone cranked the main down and into the reefing boom and secured it, then freed the genoa halyard, while Holly came out the forward hatch with a jib and started pulling the genoa into the forepeak. Shortly, she had the small jib clipped onto the forestay and the halyard affixed to the sail, and Stone hauled on the halyard, which led aft to the
cockpit for shorthanded sailing. He pulled in the jib sheet and winched it to the proper angle, then bore away toward home.

An hour later the sky had darkened, and big drops of scattered rain were falling on them. Stone sent Holly below for foul weather gear, and they suited up before the rain became steady.

“That’s the right sail for this,” Holly said.

“Yes, I think we can ride it all the way in.”

The wind was increasing, and whitecaps appeared on the dark water. “Twenty knots, by the Beaufort scale,” Stone said. Lightning flashed. Then they got a big gust, and the yacht heeled. “That’s thirty knots,” he said. The sea was choppy now, with waves of three or four feet. They pressed on, in rain and increasing fog.

“There!” Stone said, pointing at a boat. “That motor yacht is the outermost one on the mooring line.” Other boats and a lot of empty moorings began appearing. They were running down a sort of alley between the rows. “We’re right on course for my dock,” he said. “Tell me when you spot it.”

Holly went below, then her head popped up through the forward hatch. “Nothing yet!” she yelled. Then, a moment later: “Dock ho! Come five degrees to port.”

Stone made the slight turn, then saw the dock. He started the engine, then dropped the jib, and Holly climbed on deck, a mooring line in her hands.

Stone eased alongside the dock and stepped ashore with
the stern line and made it fast, then he went back aboard and cut the engine.

Holly stuffed the jib into the forepeak, then went below and emerged into the cockpit. It was raining hard now, and the wind was up even more.

“I don’t think we’ll bother smuggling you into the house,” Stone said. “Nobody can see us in all this, anyway.” He got the cockpit a little neater, then locked the hatch and took Holly’s hand while she climbed onto the dock. He followed, and they began staggering toward the house, against the wind. Finally, its shape emerged from the gloom.

“Where’s our agent on the back door?” Holly asked.

“He’s taken shelter. Drowning isn’t one of their duties, is it?”

“Quite right.”

They shed their foul weather gear on the back porch and stuffed it into a locker to keep it from blowing away, while Stone unlocked the back door.

It was warmer inside, but the fire had died. Stone rebuilt it. Shortly, they were comforting themselves with bourbon and a blaze.

“I guess Dino and Viv got caught out, too. They must have taken shelter somewhere.” A moment later, the doorbell rang, and there was hammering on the door. “That’s them.” Stone went to let them in.

Dino and Viv stumbled into the house, soaking wet.

“Where the hell have you been?” Dino demanded.

“Holly and I went for a sail,” Stone replied.

“Lovely day for it,” Dino said, backing up to the fire. “Is there such a thing as Scotch whisky in this house?”

“You two go upstairs and change,” Stone said, “and we’ll have drinks for you when you come back down.”

The two climbed the stairs, carrying their wet shoes. Ten minutes later they were back, dry and changed. Stone handed Dino his usual Johnnie Walker Black and made Viv a martini.

“Where are the Secret Service people?” Dino asked, after a gulp of his Scotch.

“Bill and Claire are on the mainland, at a meeting,” Stone said. “I guess the others are taking shelter at the yacht club. Nobody should have to stand outside in this rain and wind.”

“Oh, yeah,” Dino said, “you forgot to tell us about that.”

“The vagaries of Maine weather,” Stone replied. “Luckily, we had time to get our sails down and into foul weather gear before it got serious.”

Holly’s borrowed cell phone rang, and she answered it. “Yes? Hello, Bill. Where are you? We guessed as much. We just got back from sailing, and the Bacchettis from a walk.” They could hear his raised voice. “Now, take it easy, it’s not their fault. We sneaked out of the house to the dock and sailed away. All is well.” She listened, then hung up.

“Bill is upset with us,” she said, “and with his detail, too. He and Claire are stuck in Lincolnville for the moment; the ferry won’t sail in this weather. Oh, Seth and Mary are stuck there, too; they went in for groceries.”

It was getting darker, so they switched on the living room
lights while Stone put more logs on the fire, then they all sat down with a second drink.

“I’m hungry,” Dino said.

Holly got to her feet. “Come on, Viv. Let’s see if we can find something to snack on before we get any drunker.” The two of them disappeared into the kitchen. The lights went off, then came back a couple of seconds later.

“The generator has kicked in,” Stone said. “At moments like this, I’m glad we have it.”

“Does this bother you at all?” Dino asked.

“What? The weather?”

“No, the Secret Service. There was no one at the front door, and we sheltered out there, sort of, for half an hour, until you finally let us in.”

“There was no one at the back door, either,” Stone said. “With all of us gone, I guess they took refuge at the yacht club.”

“Do you have a phone number for them?”

“Only for Bill, but he’s stuck on the mainland.”

“Call him and ask if he’s in touch with his detail.”

Stone dialed Bill’s cell phone from the landline.


“Bill, it’s Stone. Have you been in touch with your detail?”

“No, the cell service on the island must have gone down.”

“But you reached Holly.”

“That was before the weather got really bad. I didn’t bring a handheld radio to our meeting, but as soon as we’re across to the island, I’ll round up everybody. I’m sure there’s
nothing to worry about. We hear there’ll be a break in the weather soon, long enough for us to get across.”

They hung up. Stone looked across the room at Dino, who had his pistol out of its holster and was shoving in a magazine and working the action.

“What’s wrong?” Stone asked.

“I don’t know, but something. I’m going over to the yacht club and check on those guys.”

“I’ll come with you,” Stone said. He opened a concealed room that had been his cousin Dick’s office and found himself a gun and ammo, then got them both some dry foul weather gear.

“It’s letting up a little,” Stone said, grabbing a pair of Surefire flashlights and tossing one to Dino. “Let’s go.”

They left the house by the back door.

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