Overview


Modern Pirates of the Caribbean

Terror stalks the Bahamas. Someone is killing wealthy seagoing tourists, leaving no clues to the identity of the marauders and no trace of their victims’ bodies. The Bahamian police are baffled, and when a Coast Guard boat is discovered on a reef, its officers murdered, tourism authorities realize they need outside help, or this crime wave ...

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Operation Caribe

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Overview


Modern Pirates of the Caribbean

Terror stalks the Bahamas. Someone is killing wealthy seagoing tourists, leaving no clues to the identity of the marauders and no trace of their victims’ bodies. The Bahamian police are baffled, and when a Coast Guard boat is discovered on a reef, its officers murdered, tourism authorities realize they need outside help, or this crime wave will ruin the islands’ biggest business. 

Team Whiskey, U.S. soldiers-turned-pirate-hunters, have tangled with Somali pirates, retrieved millions of dollars of stolen cargo and thwarted other high-seas piracy. They run to ground a gang of ruthless Caribbean pirates, but before they can tie up the loose ends, they have unfinished business to settle with Asia’s pirate kingpin. When they return, they face a threat more deadly than any piracy, a plot that’ll blow the Caribbean sky high, unless the pirate hunters can do what even the U.S. Navy cannot . . .

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429993647
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 376,609
  • File size: 449 KB

Meet the Author


Mack Maloney has written many action-packed novels, including the bestselling  Wingman series. He lives outside Boston, Massachusetts., where he is working on the next exciting Pirate Hunters adventure.

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Read an Excerpt


1
 
Off the coast of Somalia
 
THE OH-6J ATTACK helicopter circled the mega-yacht twice before landing on its stern-mounted helipad.
The copter was armed to the teeth with a .50-caliber machine gun attached to each side of its fuselage, small winglets holding mounted rocket pods, and a 30mm cannon that jutted out of its nose. The copter was painted ghostly gray; a decal on the pilot’s door identified it as Bad Dawg One.
Six vessels were anchored around the mega-yacht. Crews from four Kenyan patrol boats, a French destroyer and a Spanish minesweeper anxiously watched the copter land. A U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser, the USS Robert J. Messia, lurked nearby. A forest of antennas sticking out of its bridge was the only hint that the cruiser frequently engaged in intelligence operations.
An enormous black-and-green vessel ten miles away was barely visible in the haze. It was a supertanker of sorts, but it was not full of crude oil. Rather, it was an LNG carrier—as in liquefied natural gas. The ship was more than a thousand feet long, with five large geodesic dome shapes protruding from its deck. These domes contained 500,000 cubic feet of highly explosive LNG. The ship sat at anchor, no other vessels anywhere near it.
The rotors on the OH-6J finally stopped spinning and five men climbed out. They did not look like military types. Each wore his hair long and sported a stubbly, rock-star beard. One had earrings dangling from both lobes; another’s open shirt revealed tattoos of ammunition belts crisscrossing his chest. The copter’s pilot had a black patch over his left eye. One man walked with a prosthetic leg. A fifth man was missing his left hand.
Colonel Omir Zamal of the Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah, Saudi Arabia’s version of the CIA, was waiting for them. A large man stuffed inside desert battle fatigues, he was surrounded by heavily armed guards. Indeed, there were armed men scattered all over the huge yacht’s upper decks.
Zamal’s aide was standing next to him. At first sight of the five men alighting from the helicopter, he whispered to his boss: “Are these the people we’ve all been waiting for? Or have they just escaped from a carnival?”
Zamal approached the men and offered only the briefest of introductions; there were no salutes, no handshakes.
“What’s the situation?” the man with the eye patch asked him.
Zamal indicated the huge LNG ship in the distance. “The pirates who seized it are definitely Somalis,” he said in heavily accented English. “They killed six members of the crew when they came aboard, and now they’re threatening to blow up the ship if their demands are not met.”
“And what are the demands?”
“Two hundred million dollars,” Zamal replied starkly. “In cash.”
The man with the earrings let out a whistle. “Now, that’s some serious coin.”
“How much is the ship worth?” the man with the patch asked, studying the LNG carrier through an electronic telescope held up to his good eye.
“More than a billion dollars,” the Saudi officer said. “With the LNG on board? Maybe another hundred million.”
“They picked the right ship to swipe,” the man without a hand said.
“These pirates were well-prepared,” Zamal told them. “They brought lots of food and water on board with them. They also brought ammunition, military radios, batteries, even a satellite dish so they’re able to monitor media broadcasts and listen in on military communications, including NATO radio traffic.”
“They’re smart,” the man with the tattoos said. “And that’s scary.”
“It gets worse,” Zamal said. “They’ve rigged the ship with explosives—lots of them. So blowing it up is no idle threat. And they did not plant these explosives in any haphazard fashion. They put them in just the right places to cause the most damage in the shortest amount of time.”
“How do you know that?” the one-eyed man asked.
“Because they posted a video of it,” Zamal replied. “On YouTube.”
“You’re kidding.…”
The officer snapped his fingers and his aide pulled out a BlackBerry. He punched up a video that showed a collage of shadowy figures placing explosives below the LNG carrier’s decks.
“They must have studied the structural stress points of this type of LNG tanker,” Zamal explained. “Our experts tell us those charges are planted in such a way that if they blow up, they’ll instantly ignite the liquefied gas. If that happens, that ship will light up like the sun and everything will be gone in about two seconds.”
“How many crew are left alive on board?” the one-eyed man asked.
“Just six now,” Zamal said. “It’s a highly automated ship. Computers and GPS take care of all the work. A single person can drive the whole thing.”
“And how many pirates are there?”
“Five in all,” Zamal said.
“And any idea where they are on board?”
“Again—they’re outsmarting us,” Zamal replied. “They came aboard wearing clothes similar to the crew. Heavy work shirts, overalls, bandanas, hard hats. They have the real crewmembers doing their routine maintenance tasks, so when we look through our long-range binoculars, we can see people walking around on deck all the time. We just don’t know who’s bad and who’s good.”
The one-eyed man studied the ship further. “And how much gas is in that thing again?”
“A half-million cubic feet,” Zamal replied.
The man with the earrings whistled again. “If it blows, it will make a pretty big hole in the ocean.”
Zamal nodded grimly. “Now you understand why we’re all anchored so far away.”
*   *   *
ZAMAL BROUGHT THE five men below and led them on a long trek to the front of the huge pleasure craft. It was like walking through a luxury hotel. They passed by gigantic guest areas, salons, spas and dining areas. Giant bedrooms led into lavishly appointed private lounges and Jacuzzi spas. One cabin featured an infinity pool looking out onto the sea. Another held a movie theater, complete with candy counter and popcorn machine. Still another had six billiards tables, and another, a complete tailor’s shop. One of the largest cabins was a children’s playroom. It was filled with a variety of toys, many of which were strewn about on the floor. Dozens of boxes, unopened on the shelves, held more.
“The owner is a big movie fan,” Zamal explained, playing the unofficial tour guide. “He loves billiards and dressing well. And, as he has many wives, he also has many, many children.”
They finally reached their destination: the captain’s master galley. This cabin had the look of an ultra-exclusive, modern restaurant, all tablecloths and candles and tasteful chandeliers. The mega-yacht’s owner, Prince Saud el-Saud, was waiting here. He also owned the hijacked LNG carrier, which bore his name. A small man with a huge mustache and glasses, he sat at the head of an enormous dinner table, wearing the traditional Saudi thwarb and ghutra an iqal, looking worried.
Sitting to el-Saud’s right was a younger man, a Westerner wearing sunglasses and a bad suit. To his left sat an older African man wearing rumpled doctor’s scrubs. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
The five visitors fell into seats at the other end of the table. The Prince studied them up and down. He knew a lot about them; most people in this part of the world did, especially those who made their living moving cargo on the high seas.
They were Team Whiskey. Former members of the elite Delta Force of the United States military, they’d been part of the small army of American special forces who’d pursued Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. The rumors said Team Whiskey actually cornered bin Laden near the mountain fortress of Tora Bora and had him in their gun sights, only to be ordered by someone at the highest level of the administration in Washington to let him go.
When bin Laden escaped, Whiskey raised such holy hell with their higher-ups, they were eventually bounced from the U.S. military altogether. Their leader—the man with the eye patch—created such a stink, he was imprisoned for seven years on trumped-up charges and then forbidden to ever set foot on U.S. soil again.
Prince el-Saud had obtained dossiers on each man. The team’s leader, “Snake” Nolan, had lost his eye, and apparently part of his sanity, during that futile chase after bin Laden. “Crash” Stacks, he of the blond spiked hair and dangling earrings, was the team’s marksman and could put a bullet up someone’s nose from four miles away. “Gunner” Lapook, the tattooed giant of the group, was the weapons expert and door-kicker. When the team needed to do a forced entry, he always went in first. “Twitch” Kapula, a native Hawaiian, was the team’s explosives man. Small and muscular, with dark skin and Polynesian features, he’d left his right leg, and part of his sanity, back in Tora Bora, too.
The fifth team member was “Batman” Bob Graves, the man missing his left hand. In a world where prosthetic limbs looked like real human appendages, Graves’s false hand most closely resembled a Trautman Hook. An invention of the 1920s, it was two pieces of dull steel, each about four inches long. With its slightly bent tips, the hook’s functions were limited to pinch and release and little more.
Team Whiskey had reunited six months before, and eventually reinvented themselves as an anti-piracy outfit. Banking on their special ops skills and far-reaching connections, they had delivered in a very short time results that were nothing short of fantastic. They’d fought two small wars against a powerful Indonesian pirate named Zeek Kurjan, finally killing him and destroying his large seafaring gang. They’d recovered a multimillion-dollar Indian Navy warship after Somali pirates had hijacked it near the Maldives. They’d saved a cruise liner full of Russian mafia bosses from a mass-poisoning attempt in the Aegean Sea, and they were believed to have been involved in the recovery of a unique multi-billion-dollar microchip buried on an uncharted island off East Africa.
Their success had brought them much wealth—and a reputation for being able to handle virtually any job. They were also undeniably American in looks and demeanor. Hard-bitten, hard-drinking, cynical, bitter—and very tough. Though they were all in their late 30s, each man looked old beyond his years.
The prince finally addressed them. “I admire your past accomplishments. You’ve done some brave and amazing things in the past few months. In fact, from what I’ve heard, someone should make a movie of you. But I must be clear: We are in an entirely different situation at the moment, one that is only matched by the unusual circumstances that led me to ask you here.”
“And what are those exactly?” Nolan asked him.
“That’s my LNG ship out there and I want it back,” el-Saud told them. “But obviously, considering the cargo it’s carrying, there can be no gunplay involved in its recovery. One bullet in the wrong place and the whole ship and everything around it will explode like an atomic bomb. So…”
The prince nodded to his aides. They wheeled in a laundry cart carrying four enormous satchels. Each looked to weigh a couple hundred pounds at least.
“This is the ransom,” he said. “Two hundred million dollars—all in five-hundred-dollar bills, just as the pirates demanded. All I want you to do is deliver this to them so I can get my ship returned to me.”
The team was bewildered.
“You called us here just to deliver a ransom?” Nolan asked.
The prince nodded. “The pirates refuse to allow any military to be involved. No U.N. No Red Cross. I need someone I can trust to handle such a large amount of money. And besides…”
He let his voice trail off.
“Besides what?” Nolan asked.
“Besides, one of the pirates’ demands is that you make the ransom transfer.”
Nolan was taken aback. “Us, specifically?”
“Yes, by name,” el-Saud said. “They are insisting that you and your associates act as the middlemen, or there is no deal.”
“This smells like a setup,” Nolan said.
“That’s because it is,” the prince said bluntly. “Like everyone else around the Indian Ocean, these pirates know who you are and what you’ve done. We’re listening in on their radio transmissions. Your names have been mentioned; your history has been discussed. I don’t have to tell you how these pirates feel about you. You’ve killed their brothers, their cousins. So, they’re probably going to kill you once the ransom is delivered, just to increase their reputation in the pirate underworld.”
Nolan almost laughed. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “These mooks say the only way they’ll release the ship is if we deliver the ransom to them. And the reason they want us to do it is so they can kill us and increase their street cred. Yet, we won’t be allowed to take any firearms with us to protect ourselves?”
Everyone at the other end of the table nodded. “That’s it in a nutshell,” el Saud said.
“And actually, gunplay will be impossible,” Colonel Zamal interjected. “The pirates are being very aggressive about searching anyone coming aboard. They even brought metal detecting wands with them. It would be impossible to carry a firearm aboard that ship.”
“How do you know all that?” Nolan asked him.
For the first time, Zamal indicated the man in the doctor’s scrubs. “They allowed Dr. Bobol here aboard to treat one of the pirates injured in the takeover. He went over in the Spanish ship’s helicopter. Tell them your experience, Doctor.”
“I was frisked three times,” Bobol said. “Then I was buzzed with wands another three times. They did everything short of molesting my private parts and doing a full cavity search. They, on the other hand, are heavily armed and seemed quite willing to shoot me had I stepped out of line, stray bullets be damned. They have the frisking process down to a science. They will detect any weapons on you immediately—and when they do, they will kill you instantly, and not later on. I’m sure of it.”
A silence descended on the room. Nolan thought for a few moments, then asked: “Are there any Americans aboard the ship?”
“No.”
He turned to the man in the bad suit and sunglasses. “Then why is the ONI here?”
The man shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The team knew he was an agent from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence—his cheap suit gave him away. ONI was basically the CIA of the seas, and because of Team Whiskey’s ex-Delta, expatriate status, the little-known agency had been a thorn in their side since they’d started their maritime security business. This also explained the presence of the shadowy USS Messia nearby.
“We are here on an unofficial basis,” the ONI man said finally. “Purely in an advisory capacity.”
“Put that through the bullshit meter, please?” said Nolan.
The agent’s face turned crimson. “We’re here because the gas in that carrier came from Qatar; Qatar’s export partner is ExxonMobil,” he admitted. “And we want to protect their interests. As well as those of the Saudis and, of course, the prince himself. But, for the record, the ONI feels it’s an impossible situation we have here and, again for the record, we recommend you don’t go through with it.”
Nolan just rolled his eyes and turned back to the prince. “You expect to pay us for this job, right?” he asked.
“Ten million dollars if your efforts are successful,” the Prince replied somberly.
Nolan thought about this, then said: “What if the ransom gets delivered, but we still get popped? We’re just, what? ‘Collateral damage?’ Is that it?”
Again, the prince just nodded. “It is a truly impossible mission,” he said. “And I can understand every reason you would want to turn it down. It seems lose-lose no matter how one looks at it. But I felt I owed it to you to ask.”
Nolan looked at the rest of the team. Each man tapped his own ear twice.
Finally Nolan asked, “Can my associates and I have a few minutes to talk?”
*   *   *
THE TEAM WALKED toward the front of the boat, emerging onto the bow.
Zamal followed and kept an eye on them from a respectful distance. The five Americans were soon locked in an intense discussion.
The Saudi intelligence officer couldn’t imagine what they were talking about. They were being offered a job that could only result in their deaths. What was there to discuss?
Yet, ten minutes later, they were back in the captain’s galley.
“Twelve million,” Nolan told el Saud.
The prince was shocked. “Are you certain?” he asked. “The chances you’ll survive are almost nil.”
“Then make it fifteen,” Nolan said. “You’ll only have to pay us if we succeed, so what difference does it make?”
The Prince thought a moment, then asked: “Seriously?”
Nolan looked at his colleagues. Each man touched his chin.
“Seriously,” Nolan replied. “We’ll take the job.”
Once again silence descended over the galley. The prince and the ONI man plainly were shocked the team was going ahead with it. Even Dr. Bobol looked incredulous.
Again, Zamal broke the tension. “What do you need from us then?” he asked Nolan.
The Team Whiskey leader thought a moment, then said: “First of all, Doctor, please draw us a diagram of exactly where the pirates stood when you went aboard and while you were being searched.”
“And second?” Zamal asked.
Nolan indicated the four large bundles of money. “We’ve got to put that into a few wooden crates and nail them tight,” he said. “We know what it’s like to carry loose bills on a helicopter.”
*   *   *
WHILE THE OTHER team members visited various cabins within the yacht in preparation for the mission, Nolan climbed up to the bridge and got on the radio.
He called the pirates on the LNG carrier ten miles away. The gang’s leader answered.
Nolan’s first words were: “We’ve got a problem.”
“Who is this?” the pirate asked in heavily accented English.
“The people you insisted deliver the ransom to you.”
“You are the Americans? The Whiskey people?”
“Yes.”
The pirate leader said something to someone off the mic. Nolan heard muffled laughter in the background.
“They have the ransom,” Nolan told him. “I just saw them count it. Two hundred million in five-hundred-dollar bills.”
More laughter.
“So—what is this problem?” the pirate leader asked.
“That much money weighs almost a half a ton,” Nolan replied. “And we have only a small utility helicopter. Yet delivering it that way is the only option. We can’t parachute it because that would require a large plane, and it would be a rough landing on that deck. And I understand you don’t want it delivered by sea, is that correct?”
“Yes, it is,” the pirate replied. “Do you have a solution, then?”
“We’ll have to break it up into wooden crates,” Nolan replied. “And deliver them one at a time. There’s no other way.”
A long silence on the other end of the line.
“How many people work for your company?” the pirate asked.
“We are five.”
“Are they all with you now?”
“Yes.”
Another silence, and then the pirate spoke again: “We’d be fools to trust you, so this is what you must do. Deliver the first crate—and leave your four men behind. Deliver the other crates—we make sure the money count is right, then the ship is yours and we let the crew go.”
“Along with me and my men?” Nolan added.
“Yes—of course,” the pirate said quickly.
“One hour,” Nolan told him, again hearing more laughter from the other end. “You can expect us then.”
Forty-five minutes later
COLONEL ZAMAL WAS standing outside the cabin where Team Whiskey was getting ready for their mission. They’d requested this place as their prep room, a lounge that ran off the gigantic kids’ play area.
“You only have ten minutes to get airborne,” Zamal said, checking his watch and banging on the cabin door. “We must stay on schedule.”
The door opened a crack; the man they called Batman stuck his head out.
“What time is lunch served on this boat?” he asked Zamal.
Zamal was thrown by the question. “Anytime the prince wants it,” was his reply. “Why? Are you hungry?”
The man patted him lightly on the shoulder with his hook hand.
“No—not now,” he said, closing the door again. “But maybe later.”
*   *   *
FIVE MORE MINUTES went by. Zamal anxiously paced the passageway. He was more convinced than ever the Whiskey team members were crazy. It was almost a certainty that the pirates would kill them once the ransom money was paid. It was a no-win situation. Yet the team was going ahead with it.
Finally the cabin door opened again, and the five men came out. Zamal had expected to see them dressed in full battle gear, but the opposite was true. They wore no body armor, no military fatigues. Not even combat helmets. They were dressed as before: camo shorts, shirts, sneakers and baseball caps. And they were carrying no weapons that he could see. All they had in hand was Dr. Bobol’s drawing and a letter of terms from the prince.
As they started up to the helipad, Zamal stopped them.
“My apologies,” he told them. “But the prince insists.”
With that, he frisked each member quickly. When Zamal declared them to be clean, they resumed walking toward the helipad, where the crates of money awaited.
Zamal started to follow but then glanced into the empty cabin. It looked unchanged, except for two things. It smelled faintly of ammonia, and in the wastebasket was a handful of torn plastic, the remains of some kind of packaging. Zamal took out the refuse and read the few words he could find on them: One was “Mega Blast.” Another read “Zapper-500.”
Zamal scratched his head, baffled.
“What on earth is this stuff?” he thought.
*   *   *
STRIPPED OF ITS weapons, the copter nicknamed Bad Dawg One circled the LNG carrier once before landing on the helipad in front of the ship’s massive stern-mounted superstructure.
The five pirates were waiting. Just as the doctor’s drawing had indicated, four of them were standing in what appeared to be prearranged spots, one at each corner of the helipad. Each was carrying an AK-47 and had a machete tucked in his belt. As predicted, they were dressed like the tanker’s crew and had their faces covered with bandanas save for their eyes. The fifth pirate was stationed on the railing about eight feet above; he held an RPG launcher.
Batman was piloting the copter; Twitch was in the copilot’s seat. Nolan, Gunner and Crash were riding in the passenger compartment in back, straddling the first wooden crate. They were all eyeing the pirates, especially their weapons. More than ever, Whiskey knew one stray bullet, and this corner of the Indian Ocean would go up.
They waited in the copter, engine running, until the pirates motioned them to get out, one at a time.
Again, just as the doctor had said, the team members were subjected to an intense search. One by one, the pirates roughly frisked them, once, twice, three times. Then they played the metal-detecting wands all over their bodies, paying special attention to their boots and belts, looking for small, hidden firearms. Batman’s metal hand and Twitch’s false leg set off the wands, but no weapons were found.
Finally cleared, Batman gave the boss pirate the letter, handing it to him between the metal clasps of his hook.
“This is from the prince,” he told the pirate. “It contains the conditions we’ve all agreed to.”
The pirate took the letter, put it under his arm, and then looked at Batman’s hand appliance. He asked, “Crocodile?”
Batman shook his head and pointed to the pirate on the railing above and said, “RPG.”
The pirate boss smiled, displaying a set of red-stained teeth. He put his AK-47 in his left hand and held up his right, showing that it was missing its index finger. He laughed and said to Batman, “Crocodile.”
“Unlucky you,” Batman said.
Then, in one swift motion, Batman flicked a six-inch razor out of his hook and slashed it across the pirate’s throat.
At the same moment, Twitch yanked off his prosthetic leg to reveal a twelve-inch-long serrated bayonet. He brought it over his shoulder and down on the second pirate, splitting him open from his chin to his navel.
Gunner and Nolan instantly reached into their crotch areas, the one place they knew the Muslims would not search, and retrieved tiny plastic water guns. Both were filled with ammonia. They fired at the eyes of the third and fourth pirates standing about five feet away, causing both to drop their guns. Two kicks to the scrota, two kicks to the temples, and both pirates were dead.
The pirate up on the railing was looking down on all this in shock. The blood, the screams—it had all happened so fast. He finally pointed his weapon down at the team but hesitated. This gave Crash enough time to pull a Zapper-500 toy dart gun from his crotch, go into a three-point stance, and squeeze the plastic trigger. The dart, sharpened to a razor point, hit the pirate in the throat, puncturing his windpipe. The man gagged horribly, fell over, and drowned in his own blood.
And that’s all it took. In a matter of seconds, the pirates were dead, victims of the Muslim prohibition of feeling another man’s private parts. As a result, the ship and crew were safe. And the prince’s $200-million ransom was still intact.
All without using gunplay.
Sort of.
“Lose the evidence,” Batman reminded them.
Nolan, Gunner and Crash calmly walked to the side of the ship and threw their toy guns over the side.
Then, looking around and seeing a job well done, Batman said, “OK, let’s get some lunch.”


 
Copyright © 2011 by Mack Maloney
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  • Posted January 26, 2012

    GREAT READ AS USUAL

    I HAVE BEEN A FAN OF MACK MALONEY EVER SINCE I READ THE FIRST 3 BOOKS. I REALLY LIKE HIS KICKA** STORIES. THIS BOOK WAS JUST WHAT I EXPECTED IT WOULD BE.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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