Hurricane Hole

Hurricane Hole

by John Kerr
     
 

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A gripping combination of espionage and tragic love is set against the backdrop of the tropical Bahamas and the celebrated murder of Sir Harry Oakes, the wealthiest man in the British Empire

Tom Hamilton, a young American undercover agent, arrives in Nassau in late 1942, when German U-boats are sinking dozens of Allied merchant ships in the

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Overview

A gripping combination of espionage and tragic love is set against the backdrop of the tropical Bahamas and the celebrated murder of Sir Harry Oakes, the wealthiest man in the British Empire

Tom Hamilton, a young American undercover agent, arrives in Nassau in late 1942, when German U-boats are sinking dozens of Allied merchant ships in the Caribbean. Posing as a playboy, Hamilton has been sent by his Washington bosses to investigate Nils Ericsson, a Swedish industrialist with known ties to the Nazis, whom he suspects is building a case for the U-boat fleet in Hurricane Hole. Hamilton falls in love with a beautiful Englishwoman, Evelyn Shawcross, but with her affiliation to both Ericsson and the Duke of Windsor, wartime governor of the Bahamas, his operation to foil the plot could prove hazardous and deadly.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fine writing . . . a compelling tale. I can see why people are so interested in this writer."  —Atlantic Monthly on Cardigan Bay

"A finely woven tale of artful deceit and determined bravery...[a] highly entertaining thriller." —San Antonio Express News

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780709099055
Publisher:
Hale, Robert Limited
Publication date:
06/01/2013
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Hurricane Hole


By John Kerr

Robert Hale Limited

Copyright © 2012 John Kerr
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7198-0972-9


CHAPTER 1

GLANCING UP FROM his newspaper, Tom Hamilton stared out the windshield of the twin-engine Cessna at the flat expanse of the Caribbean, patches of deep blue amid shades of turquoise, sparkling under the strong noonday sun. 'How much longer?' he asked.

The pilot, a young navy lieutenant wearing a denim shirt and a wrinkled pair of khakis, glanced at his watch. 'Twenty minutes, maybe,' he replied. 'Just a short hop from Miami.'

Hamilton glanced down at the shimmering water and asked, 'What sort of depth is it here?'

'Let's take a closer look.' The pilot made a slow banking turn, descending to an altitude of 500 feet. 'There,' he said, 'the water's so clear you can see the sandbanks.'

'What do you figure? Thirty feet?'

'Yeah,' said the pilot. 'I haven't looked at the charts.'

'Not much room for a sub to operate,' observed Hamilton.

'Not on this side of the island,' said the pilot. 'They steer clear of the flats. The deep channel's on the northern side. Up toward the Abacos, and from there it's a clear shot to Florida.'

Hamilton turned back to his Miami paper. After ten minutes passed with no sound but the drone of the engines, he said, 'Look at this.' He jabbed his finger at the newsprint. 'Almost the whole page is war news. "Marines Gain on Guadalcanal.' 'Russians Fall Back in Mid-Caucasus".'

The pilot glanced at him through aviator sunglasses. 'Yep,' he agreed. 'And some of it good for a change. There she is,' he added, pointing toward a patch of light brown and green on the horizon. 'New Providence Island.'

Hamilton peered out as the small plane crossed the boundary from sea to shore. The sandy coral soil was covered with a thick blanket of pale green vegetation; sea-grape, banyans, palms, and the taller Australian pines. Passing low over a brackish pond, he observed a cluster of shanties where a knot of nearly naked black children was pointing up at the plane. Throttling back the engines, the pilot angled the nose straight for the ribbon of runway and within seconds the tyres bumped and the plane rolled smoothly toward a Quonset hut. A Union Jack fluttered above a sign with the words: OAKES FIELD – Nassau. Hamilton observed the fences topped with silvery concertina wire and a row of RAF Spitfires parked in a recently built hangar. 'Looks like they've been busy,' he commented.

'You should have seen what was here before,' said the pilot. 'This guy Oakes is supposedly worth a fortune, and he built this airfield for the local authorities.'

'Very generous,' said Hamilton as the engines sighed to a stop. 'Yes, I know about Harry Oakes. Richer than Croesus. And though he's as much an American as you or me, he managed to acquire a British title.' The pilot gave him a puzzled look. Hamilton grinned. 'Sir Harry,' he explained.

'I get it,' said the pilot, though he didn't. 'At any rate,' he added, 'they've just upgraded this field into a training base for the RAF. Built the whole thing with US dollars under Lend-Lease.'

'How long are you staying?' asked the pilot, as Hamilton opened the door.

'That remains to be seen. But if anyone should ask, this is my plane and you're my pilot.' Hamilton jumped down on the tarmac and reached for a bulky duffle bag and suitcase. 'OK, Lieutenant,' he said. 'Thanks for the lift.' By the time he reached the Quonset hut, a damp stain had formed on the back of Hamilton's shirt. He dropped his bags and mopped his brow.

'Your passport, please,' said a plainly bored British official. 'Hamilton,' he said, studying the passport. 'What brings you to Nassau?'

'Business. And a little pleasure, on the side.'

The official arched his eyebrows. 'What sort of business?'

'Real estate. And I was hoping to do a little fishing —'

'There's a war on,' interrupted the official.

'So I hear.'

'Goddamned American,' said the official under his breath. He slapped a stamp on the passport and said, 'There you are. I trust you'll enjoy your stay.'

'Thanks,' said Hamilton with a smile. 'How can I get a ride into town?'

'If you're lucky, you'll find a jitney outside.'

When Hamilton walked up to the sole taxi, the driver, whose tattered straw hat was pulled low over his face, was sound asleep. Hamilton examined the windowless British car, of indeterminate age with a fringed canvas top. 'Excuse me,' he said. Hamilton gave the man's shoulder a shake. 'Sorry,' he said in a louder voice. 'Could you —?'

'Hah, hah,' laughed the driver as he sat bolt upright, his hat falling back to reveal a round, cheerful face. 'You surprised me, Cap'n.'

'I was wondering —'

'Hop in. Wherebouts can I take you?'

Hamilton tossed his bags in the back and said, 'The British Colonial.'

In a cloud of dust, the jitney lurched down a narrow road that merged with a two-lane highway. As they sped along in the open air, Hamilton admired the graceful homes along Cable Beach, with manicured lawns and matchless views of the crystal Caribbean. Within fifteen minutes Nassau lay before them, Government House and the old stone fortifications at the top of a hill overlooking neat rows of buildings and a long wharf. Conspicuously above the rest was a tall pink structure with white awnings above the waterfront. Observing Hamilton's inquisitive stare, the driver said, 'Pretty, ain't it?'

'The town, you mean?' said Hamilton.

'The Colonial. Your hotel, Cap'n.' As the driver manoeuvred around a mule-drawn wagon, it dawned on Hamilton that they were driving on the left, British-style. Once they entered the town, he noticed the British constabulary on the corners, in starched white uniforms and hats trimmed in gold. The driver sailed past pale-pink and yellow buildings, turned on Georges Street, and drove neatly up under the hotel's portico.

'Good afternoon, sir,' said a uniformed bellman in a pleasant accent. 'Welcome to Nassau.' He reached into the back for Hamilton's bags.

Hamilton reached into his pocket for a roll of bills. 'Sorry,' he said, 'but I forgot to change my money.'

The driver grinned and said, 'Your dollars will do jus' fine.'


From his balcony Hamilton enjoyed a panoramic view of the city centre and waterfront. He checked his watch, debating whether to call his contact. First things first, he decided, stepping inside and snapping open the clasps of his suitcase. After unpacking his shaving kit and putting away his neatly folded shirts, he unzipped the duffle bag and reached inside for his .25 Beretta, wrapped in a soft chamois. Hamilton checked the action of the nickel-plated pistol and then placed it underneath his shirts in the dresser. Dressed in a sea-island cotton shirt and charcoal slacks, he stood before the mirror running a comb through his damp hair. Like his late father, he was turning prematurely grey in his mid-20s, with a touch of silver at his temples and a shock of white in the dark cowlick. With an otherwise youthful face, the salt-and-pepper hair and dark eyes had a striking effect. Securing the comb in the bristles of his hair-brush, Hamilton walked out on the balcony and surveyed the layout of the town and waterfront, bathed in the evanescent light of the gathering dusk. After a few moments he went inside and took a slip of paper from his wallet and picked up the telephone. After giving the operator the number, he listened to the distinctive British double ring.

'Sassoon residence,' answered a man in a pleasant Bahamian accent.

'May I speak to Sir Philip?' said Hamilton.

'May I say who's calling?'

'Tom Hamilton.'

After a few moments, a woman's voice came on the line. 'Hello, Mr Hamilton,' she said in a soft Southern drawl. 'Philip and I were hoping you could join us for dinner.'

Hamilton hesitated. He expected the first contact would be a discreet, private meeting. 'Sure,' he said after a moment. 'And where should I —?'

'We'll send a car. Seven-thirty, at your hotel.'

'Fine. I'm staying at —'

'The Colonial. We'll see you shortly, Mr Hamilton.'

Hamilton scratched his head, wondering what else Sassoon might have confided to his wife. Judging from his dossier, Philip Sassoon was a rich, elderly Englishman, confined to a wheelchair, an amateur as far as espionage was concerned. Hamilton knotted a regimental tie, slipped on a blue blazer, and, with a final glance in the mirror, let himself out.

The evening was pleasantly cool and the air perfumed with the fragrance of tropical blossoms. Listening to the rustling of palm fronds, Hamilton checked his watch just as a cream-coloured Bentley convertible swung into the hotel drive. A tall Jamaican wearing a dark suit climbed out, idling the engine, and walked around to open the passenger door.

'Mr Hamilton?' he said.

Hamilton nodded and got in. He leaned back on the soft leather upholstery and glanced at the driver as he sat behind the wheel. 'You work for Mr Sassoon?' he asked.

'Sir Philip,' the driver corrected him with an easy smile as he started down the drive. 'My name's Carter.' He turned and accelerated up toward Government House, the neo-classical columns of which were brightly illuminated against the evening sky. As they drove along in silence, Hamilton stared at the burled walnut dashboard, his face faintly illuminated by the glow of the instruments and his hair tossed by the wind. Leaving the town, he turned to the driver and said, 'Where are we headed?'

'Cable Beach.' The driver pointed to the lights of the ocean-front houses sparkling in the distance. 'Another half-mile and we'll be there.' He slowed and then turned into a gravel drive with a hand-painted sign that said 'Eves'. The large house at the end of the drive was partially obscured by tropical shrubbery and tall palms. The driver switched off the ignition and said, 'Follow me, Mr Hamilton.' The house was a modern design, white with plate-glass windows, a contrast from the distinctive colonial architecture in Nassau. Standing in a pool of yellow lamplight, Carter rang the bell, and a Bahamian woman, wearing a black uniform with white lace collar, answered the door.

'Annie will show you in,' said Carter, following Hamilton inside.

'Thanks for the lift,' said Hamilton, as he started down the hall, aware of the sound of men's voices. On the far side of a spacious, blue-tiled living room, a silver-haired gentleman in a dinner jacket was engaged in conversation with a distinguished-looking man seated next to him, while a blonde in a black cocktail dress lounged against a bar.

"Scuse, me, Sir Philip,' said the maid. The men looked up. 'Your guest has arrived.'

Hamilton walked quickly across the room, certain that the man seated in a wheelchair was Sassoon. 'Hello,' he said, extending his hand. 'I'm Tom Hamilton.'

Sir Philip gave Hamilton a vigorous handshake. The blonde appeared at Sir Philip's side, placing an arm on the back of his chair. Hamilton glanced briefly at her deeply tanned face and bare shoulders. 'Lady Sassoon,' said Sir Philip.

'Marnie,' she said, in the same Southern accent Hamilton remembered from the phone.

'And my friend Geoffrey Hopwood,' said Sir Philip.

'How do you do,' the older gentleman said solemnly, giving Hamilton a limp handshake.

'Let's get you a drink, Mr Hamilton,' suggested Marnie. 'You've come a long way.'

'How long?' asked Hopwood.

'All the way from Texas,' explained Sir Philip.

Hamilton followed Marnie to the bar, where a broad-shouldered Bahamian in a coffee-coloured jacket was standing with an expectant smile. 'What can I fix you?' he asked.

'A martini,' said Hamilton. 'On the rocks, with a couple of olives. Now,' he said, turning to Lady Sassoon, 'if you'll call me Tom, I'll call you Marnie.'

'Fair enough,' she said with a smile.

'Tell me, Marnie, where did that Southern accent come from?'

'Tennessee,' she said. 'Cleveland, Tennessee, to be exact.'

'Here you are, sir,' said the bartender, handing Hamilton his drink.

Hamilton followed Marnie over to Sir Philip's side. 'This is quite a place,' said Hamilton.

Sir Philip nodded. 'I built it in '36 when I moved out from London. For the climate,' he explained. 'After my illness, I couldn't tolerate the cold and damp.'

Hamilton studied the elaborate wheelchair, upholstered in green leather, and noticed the slackness of Sir Philip's trousers. Above the waist, he was powerfully built, with wide shoulders and a thick chest. He wore a thin moustache that reinforced a certain rakish impression with his tanned face and dark hair streaked with grey. 'Pull up a chair, Mr Hamilton,' said Sir Philip, 'and tell us what brought you to Nassau while we wait for our other guests.'

Hamilton made momentary eye contact with Sir Philip, searching for a clue but finding none. Marnie settled on the sofa, crossing her long, shapely legs, while Hamilton chose a rattan armchair. 'Well,' he began, 'I thought I'd combine some business with a little pleasure.'

'What sort of business?' asked Hopwood, who remained standing.

Hamilton glanced from Sir Philip to Hopwood. 'Real estate,' he replied. 'Developing a resort hotel.'

'We've more than enough hotels,' said Hopwood. 'And most of them are empty.'

'The war won't last forever,' said Hamilton with a shrug. 'And I've got something a little different in mind. A hotel with a casino. After all, Nassau's just a hop, skip and a jump from Miami.'

'Where were you thinking of placing this hotel?' asked Sir Philip. Hamilton detected the slightest suggestion of a knowing look.

'On Hog Island,' said Hamilton. 'I understand there's nothing there, and it's right across from town.'

'Well, I should have thought a young man like yourself,' said Hopwood, 'could find something, well, more productive to do, what with the war on. And not going very well, I might add.'

The maid reappeared and said, 'Sir Philip ... the other folks are here.'

'Show them in, Annie,' Sir Philip called out. 'Let's take our drinks on the terrace.' Marnie rose from the sofa and grasped the handles of his wheelchair, swivelling it toward the open French doors. Hamilton politely waited for her to roll her husband out on the terrace and then followed the couple outside. Hurricane lamps flickered along the border of the terrace, and the boom of the surf was carried along on the breeze from the darkened sea. The sound of dance music came from somewhere in the distance. Hamilton turned around just as a man and woman entered the living room. Like Marnie, the woman was tall and striking, in a pale-blue chiffon dress that accentuated her trim figure. She smiled briefly and began walking toward them with her companion, a short man with a dark moustache and slicked back hair. Like Hopwood, he was wearing a dinner jacket, a degree of formality Lady Sassoon's offhand invitation had failed to suggest.

'Hello, Evelyn, my dear,' said Sir Philip as the pair stepped outside.

'Mrs Shawcross,' said Hopwood with a slight bow.

'Evelyn,' said Sir Philip, 'let me introduce an American visitor, Mr Thomas Hamilton.' Turning to Hamilton, he added, 'And the Marquis de Videlou.'

Hamilton shook the man's hand. 'Hello,' said Hamilton, turning to Evelyn Shawcross. 'A pleasure.' In the faint light of the lamps he was struck by her deep-blue eyes, dark hair and soft, pale skin that must have been shielded from the Caribbean sun. She briefly looked in his eyes and smiled.

'Good evening, Mr Hamilton,' said Georges de Videlou in a thick French accent. 'Welcome to Nassau.'

CHAPTER 2

IN CONTRAST TO the rest of the modern house, the dining-room at Eves was richly appointed with an antique walnut table, matching sideboard, and high-backed Chippendale chairs. An eighteenth-century silver tea service gleamed beneath an oil painting of a coal-black thoroughbred stallion. Sir Philip, elegant in a white dinner jacket, smiled at his guests and signalled to the servants to begin serving. Annie ladled soup from a porcelain tureen, which Henry, the genial butler, served the dinner guests.

'You were saying, Mr Hamilton,' said Hopwood, 'you're in the oil business?'

Hamilton nodded. 'That's right. Along with cattle ranching.'

Evelyn, placing her fingertips together at her chin, smiled and said, 'You don't fit my idea of a Texas oilman.'

'Maybe I should have turned up in boots and a ten-gallon hat,' said Hamilton with a smile.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Hurricane Hole by John Kerr. Copyright © 2012 John Kerr. Excerpted by permission of Robert Hale Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

John Kerr is the author of Cardigan Bay, Fell the Angels, and A Rose in No Man's Land. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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