Someone leaned out the open door of the helicopter as it flew past and fired a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. The missile screamed over the decks and exploded a few feet away. A column of water drenched the decks and jarred the boat. Some shrapnel ripped through side of the Goose above the water line.Warren kept the wheel hard left as he backed up until the rear of the boat faced the retreating helicopter. Steve, Sam and Diane had the perfect angle and ripped it out of the sky. It shed its rotor, then its tail section before breaking into pieces and joining its brothers in a watery grave.One to go, Warren thought with a sigh. He noticed his hands were shaking. He engaged the forward gear, then scanned the horizon. "Hey! Where did the last one go?" he screamed. Steve and Sam stood, searching for it.Warren gunned it and aimed for the heavy weather.Steve sprinted to the wheel house like a drunken sailor trying to keep his footing on the swaying deck and stuck his head in. "Can't see it anywhere. Could it have gone?""No!" Warren said. "I feel it. Look some more."Suddenly, a small explosion mushroomed in front of them. Warren jerked the wheel to avoid the pillar of water. Then, small blasts rained all around them."They're high above us," Steve shouted, "in the sun, dropping aerial bombs.""Hold on!" Warren bawled before slamming the throttle into reverse again. They backed out of the bomb pattern, turned and started back toward the coast. Warren saw the gunboat still racing after them, then swung around and headed away from land to get out from under the fourth helicopter.Warren saw it for the first time as it came out of the sun to follow the boat. The marshal headed for the heavy weather at full speed. The waves grew whitecaps as they approached the storm.Before the helicopter could gain the advantage of position again, the Goose entered the edge of the frontal system and it began to rain. The wind picked up and the vessel bounced hard on top of the enlarged swells. Warren eased the throttle back some to keep the boat from shaking apart. He could feel the jolt and hear the slap of each individual wave as the bow plowed through them.The clouds got heavier and lower, the rain harder and more intense, but it felt like freedom to Warren. Through the haze, though, he saw the helicopter, which meant it could still see the Goose.The Cubans in that last helicopter released their remaining bombs, but the wind carried them far and wide. They landed well away from the boat and the explosions were muffled through the roar of the wind.The helicopter veered off and headed toward land. That brought about a chorus of cheers from the Americans. But, Warren's neck burned a warning.The Goose entered the heavy weather. The clouds and rain enveloped the small craft as Warren kept the boat churning through the turbulent water, thinking they might actually be safe at last. When visibility dropped to a hundred feet he changed course to confuse the gunboat.Then, Warren heard something. The something turned into a buzzing. The buzzing immediately became a roar. The roar suddenly reached an earsplitting level and was gone as a large, black shadow fell for an instant. A wall of air rolled over the surface of the water like a tidal wave. An intense, white brilliance flashed off the starboard side, which coincided with a monumental explosion. The resulting combination of impacts threw Warren against the wall of the wheel house, knocking him unconscious. His last sensation was of the boat flying through the air.
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Kevin Warrick Fitzgerald (Author)
Mr. Fitzgerald lives south of Columbus, Ohio, and is hard at work on his next book.