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"We have a visual on the boat." Coast Guard Lt. Commander Olivia Carver's gloved fingers tightened around the helicopter's control stick and she increased airspeed. The chase was on.
Olivia's heartbeat matched the tempo of the rotors. Sweat bonded her flight suit to her body and trickled between her breasts. Counter-narcotics had become her reason for existing and she was damn good at it.
"They've got those motors running wide open, the fricking hull is half out of the water," her copilot, Crenshaw, said.
"Weapons ready," Turner, the helo's gunner, announced.
Homes dotted this part of the waterwaynot much chance Olivia would give Turner permission to fire that big gun. The danger to civilians was too great and the sound of the machine gun would bring complaints. The public wanted to be protected, but they didn't want to see or hear it in their backyard.
She dropped altitude to fifty feet, then twenty, and buzzed the red boat cutting through the water. "Turner, you see any weapons on board?" she demanded, as she pushed the helo into a steep starboard bank to set up the next pass.
"That's a negative, ma'am." Turner leaned out the gunner's door to watch the boat. "But we sure scared the crap outta them. They about smacked into a dock."
"Jacksonville OPS, we're confirming three white males on target boat," Crenshaw reported, "and they know we're here."
Olivia's pulse raced from the adrenaline roaring through her. She took several deep breaths and angled the helo to swoop in again. This time she took it down to twenty-five feet, tilting the bird from side to side.
"Assholes didn't even slow down," Crenshaw muttered.
"Kee-rist. They're driving it like they stole it," Turner added.
"Give them the speech, Lieutenant," she ordered, positioning the helicopter to fly above the boat.
Crenshaw flipped on the loudspeaker. "Red Donzi, this is the United States Coast Guard. Cut your engines immediately."
"I repeat, cut your engines immediately."
The three men turned and gave them the finger. Olivia could clearly see them laughing.
So, the boys want to play.
She pressed airspeed to the max. A half-mile south, she swung the helo back in a direct line with the speeding boat.
"Turner, close the door and tighten your harness."
"Ah shit, here we go again."
"You do the same, Crenshaw." She yanked her own harness straps.
"What's going on?" Crenshaw sounded nervous.
"We're doing what we were ordered. Stopping them." He'd been her copilot for five months. About time she broke him in. Olivia dropped altitude and tipped the helo's nose toward the water.
"How?" Crenshaw's voice went up two octaves.
"Keep us from yawing, L.T., I'll do the rest."
"Ho-lee shit," he yelped as the tilt angle increased.
The red Donzi sped toward them. The helo advanced toward the boat.
Olivia increased the angle until the helo's black nose pointed to five o'clock and the tail rotor at eleven, high above them. Thirty-nine feet of rotor blades whirled like a gigantic fan kicking up water.
"You're doing great. Better than my last copilot. Just keep it up. They'll stop. They always do."
"You've done this before?" Crenshaw's voice went up another notch.
"Yes, sir," Turner drawled. "This is the commander's very own 'stop or be sliced and diced' method of getting the bad guys. Ya get used to it after a while."