The Einstein Papersby Craig Dirgo
With the Chinese on the brink of unraveling Einstein's fabled Unified Field Theory, anti-terrorist operative John Taft must act swiftly or the United States will soon be on the bottom rung of a new world order.
- Pocket Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.18(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.12(d)
Read an Excerpt
Two miles south of Hampton Bay, New York, three miles east of land in the Atlantic Ocean, Ivar Halversen turned his head slightly in the brisk wind and glanced over the sailboat's gunwale. He watched a harbor seal who was floating on his back dive down as the boat passed. Shifting position to relieve the pressure on his back, he spit into the saltwater to his side. To the north, a wall of clouds had formed and was slowly advancing southward. Halversen was already chilled -- the temperature had dropped sharply and was becoming colder by the minute. The dingy yellow wax-treated canvas slicker and rain pants he wore provided little insulation against the increasingly harsh wind. Wiping his dripping nose on the back of his wool glove, Halversen stared at the sea. Salt spray, blown from the sailboat's wake and whipped by the wind, cut into his cheeks, the only part of his skin still exposed beneath his tightly secured hood. He adjusted the wheel of the boat slightly and continued north.
Though usually at home and at ease on the water, Halversen was tense and apprehensive. His feeling of fear was undefined, but real nonetheless. The feeling of dread began the first instant he heard mention of the vessel named Windforce. A visual inspection of the decrepit sloop at the marina in New Jersey did little to alleviate his unnatural concern. From when he had first climbed on her decks to the instant he had stepped off and foolishly accepted the job of transporting her north, the vessel seemed to be mocking him. The spooky feeling the vessel exuded at the dock was just as palpable now. He found himself peering fore and aft as if expecting the grim reaper to suddenly appear. The result of not finding anything amiss only heightened his sense of unease.
Halversen felt as if he were being watched.
Old, weathered, and poorly maintained, the Windforce was a boat past its prime. She had been constructed in Connecticut of hand-selected white Florida cypress and fine New England oak at the turn of the century. Twenty-seven feet in length, with her decks carefully trimmed in teakwood, she had been an expensive boat in her day. Her brass fittings were now covered with verdigris, her sails bleached by the sun and frayed at the edges. The vessel had most recently been stored out of water and the planking in her bull was loose, allowing water to slowly seep into the lower cabin area. The fabrics that covered the cushions on the benches belowdecks were torn and tattered, and when Halversen had inspected the insides of the cabinets he found so many spiderwebs that it looked like they were filled with thin cotton candy.
During the Windforce's long life at sea the United States had experienced the conversion to electricity, the growth of both automobile and plane travel, and the assassination of two presidents while in office. Now, as 1965 drew to a close, yet another war was claiming the youth of the nation. Windforce was a vessel from another age, an antique whose time had passed.
Recently purchased by a new owner who was unfamiliar with boats, Windforce was found to be rotting out from under herself. When the cost of needed repairs appeared to exceed her value when completed, the decision was simple. After a long and fruitful life, the boat was due to be scrapped in Providence.
The Windforce was on her final voyage.
As Halversen continued sailing north he tried to visualize the Windforce when she was new. He tried to imagine the fun times people had shared aboard her decks. Unfortunately his mind drew a blank. The only thoughts he felt were troubled ones, and his imagination was sadly lacking.
"Just a tired old tub now," he muttered to the distant wind.
Halversen was thankful he had sailed the waters off the East Coast for nearly thirty years. A voyage north can be treacherous in good weather. Even with a new boat and modern navigation aids it was tricky, the winds and currents constantly changing. Single-handedly sailing a decrepit old boat, with only a compass to navigate, was two degrees short of suicide. If he didn't need the money he'd be home in bed right now.
He took his position and sailed on.
The Windforce was under full sail and racing toward the cloud bank as Halversen passed Long Island and rounded Montauk Point. The dark wall forming the squall line was now directly ahead. He steered into the blackness. Visibility was quickly diminishing in the tossing tempest. As the troughs between waves grew deeper and more erratic, Halversen stood as tall as he could on the stern, straining to see through the wind-whipped spray over the bow. More than once, the wheel was jarred from his hands by the waves and be struggled to keep Windforce on course.
The sound of the foghorn broke through the storm. It was from the car ferry just leaving New London, Connecticut, on its return passage to Long Island. At the sound of the horn he braced his feet on the deck and struggled to mark his position on his soggy chart.
He was just south of Block Island.
Twelve nautical miles from New London, aboard the ferry Pawcatuck, Captain Ira Blanchard stared at the radar set intently. The dim green screen showed a few flecks as the wand swept side to side in a half-circle. This weather is not fit for man or beast, Blanchard thought to himself. No one would be out here unless he was an idiot -- or had no other choice.
The view from the window of the pilothouse on the Pawcatuck was a gray void. Blanchard wiped off the mist inside the windshield with his handkerchief, then flicked on the outside wipers to dissipate the rain splattering on the glass. After warming his boots for a second over the heater vent on the floor, he reached over and refilled his coffee mug from the pot on the bridge.
"Real bitch of a storm," Blanchard said, staring straight ahead out the window.
Second Officer James Conner, who was standing with a clipboard in his hand monitoring a bank of gauges on the pilothouse wall, turned to reply. "We've seen worse, Captain," Conner noted casually.
"It's early in the year," Blanchard said quietly.
"You know the fickle ways of the Atlantic, sir," Conner replied.
"Double-check the radar," Blanchard ordered.
Conner scanned the set quickly. "All clear, Captain," he said.
"Then maintain present speed, Mr. Conner," Blanchard ordered. "I'd like to get home for dinner."
Aboard the sloop Windforce Ivar Halversen had his hands full. The aged sailboat groaned in agony as wave after wave rolled across her bow, each one stronger than the last. Struggling to maintain his northerly heading, Halversen continued to navigate with the compass and the now quite soggy marine chart. The storm intensified every second that passed, and visibility was now measured in mere feet. Any noise was swallowed by the wind whistling around his hood.
Unknown to Halversen, the giant car ferry Pawcatuck continued at full speed, the wooden sloop Windforce an almost undetectable speck on its radar set.
Halversen felt but did not hear the main sail rip. He raced to the bow and lashed down the shredded sail with a dirty piece of sisal rope. He was starting back to the helm when he first noticed the Pawcatuck steering straight for the Windforce. The ferry was less than fifty feet from his starboard bow and advancing fast.
Halversen raced back to the wheel, slipping hard on the drenched decks and wrenching his knee. Reaching his hand up from his place on the deck, he cranked the wheel left to the stops in a futile effort to steer the Windforce out of the path of the Pawcatuck.
The Windforce strained to turn but the winds were strong against her. Barely responding to the rudder, the sailboat was turned sideways by a wave. It moved directly in front of the path of the advancing car ferry.
Halversen glanced in horror at the massive black metal hull of the Pawcatuck towering above him, looking for all the world like the wall of a giant skyscraper. Before he could leap over the side, the red Plimsoll mark on the Pawcatuck's hull struck him savagely in the chest. He was thrown behind the helm as the sharp edge of the metal hull broke the main mast with a shower of slivers.
On board the Pawcatuck they never saw nor felt the collision with the sailboat. The ferry tore into the Windforce and plowed through the aged boat with barely a shudder. The Pawcatuck's steel hull and giant diesel-powered propellers split the Windforce's wooden hull in two, then quickly ground the planks into pieces, spitting them to the side like pencil shavings in a hurricane.
His spine shattered and wedged tightly behind the sailboat's wheel, Halversen was unable to move his limbs as the Windforce plunged downward. At first he fought the impending death trying in vain to force his brain to move his paralyzed limbs. Acceptance of his fate came quickly. Pinned fast to the remains of a boat he had been only hired to deliver, Halversen accepted the inevitable and opened his mouth to the seawater. As the remains of the shattered boat descended into the inky black abyss, his muscles relaxed against the pressure of the water. Arms flapping eerily, he sank into the depths.
The Windforce and sailor Ivar Halversen were no more.
Twelve days after the mishap, a life ring with the name Windforce stenciled on the side was found on the beach at Block Island. Two years later the ring was donated to the maritime museum at Montauk, Long Island, along with a load of salvaged marine parts for a display entitled: Flotsam and jetsam of the Seas. After the exhibit ended, it was hung on the fence leading to the museum along with hundreds of others. The sun and salt air wreaked havoc on the painted letters until finally they were hardly visible at all.
Copyright © 1999 by Craig Dirgo