Introduction by Dean Koontz
Crissy Harkinson knows all about the cash that left the Gold Coast of Florida, headed for the Bahamas on board a pleasure boat. It came from Texas, unrecorded, intended as a bribe. Now it is Crissy’s last chance for the big score she’s been working toward for years, using her brains and her body.
Then other people get involved, including a Texas lawyer too cool to commit himself to anything or anybody, a beautiful Cuban maid who might not be as silly as she seems, and a pitifully broken girl, adrift and unconscious in a tiny boat on the giant blue river of the Gulf Stream. Turns out these are shark-infested waters. And none of them are going down without a fight.
Praise for John D. MacDonald and The Last One Left
“As a young writer, all I ever wanted was to touch readers as powerfully as John D. MacDonald touched me.”—Dean Koontz
“A stunning adventure.”—Chicago Tribune
“John D. MacDonald created a staggering quantity of wonderful books, each rich with characterization, suspense, and an almost intoxicating sense of place.”—Jonathan Kellerman
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 24, 1916
Date of Death:December 28, 1986
Place of Birth:Sharon, PA
Place of Death:Milwaukee, WI
Education:Syracuse University 1938; M.B. A. Harvard University, 1939
Read an Excerpt
AT THE SMALL bon voyage party at the Delmar Bay Yacht Club Kip and Selma had given Howard and Junie Prowt a little brass plaque to affix to one of the bulkheads of the HoJun. It read “Oh Lord, thy sea is so vast and my boat is so small!”
Pull off the backing paper and press the gummed back of the plaque to any smooth clean surface.
Out in the middle of the Gulf Stream, at ten o’clock on the bright morning of a windy and cloudless day in May, Howard Prowt, braced on the fly bridge of his thirty-four-foot Owens cruiser, knew the precise corner of the exact drawer where he had stowed the gift, and fought the absurd compulsion to go below and find it and peel it and stick it up.
The stacks and tan cubes of Fort Lauderdale were below the horizon astern. He had plotted his course exactly as he had been taught in the Power Squadron classes, making the proper allowance for the northerly run of the Gulf Stream, and for standard deviation and compass deviation. He had computed his time of arrival at Bimini on the basis of 2300 rpm on his twin 150’s. They had left Pier 66 at 8:30 and had passed the sea buoy at fourteen minutes before nine. At eleven minutes past noon the HoJun should reach the channel across the bar outside Bimini harbor.
Nobody told you how it would be. How it would feel. That was the trouble. They just said it could get a little dusty out there in the Stream. They didn’t tell you about the strangeness, the alone-ness, the strange blue color and the power of it. There was an indifference about it, a lack of interest in you and your little boat. It changed the way everything looked and felt.
Howard Prowt kept trying to scan the dials, to check oil pressure, temperature, rpm’s—and to check the performance of the automatic pilot against the compass, then would find himself staring, mind empty, braced for the next long lift of the hull, the teeter, the crash that would send water flashing white out to either side of the bow.
It’s a good day to cross, he told himself. They build them for this.
The HoJun had felt massive, ponderous, trustworthy in all the other places he had taken her since accepting delivery last November. She had looked large tied up at their backyard dock on Heron Bayou, sizeable in the yacht club boat basin. He had learned exactly how she would respond in all conditions of wind and tide, priding himself on that gentle touch on the throttles which would ease her so close to a dock that Junie, on the bow, could step ashore with the line and put the loop over a piling. There had been several short cruises, and one long one—up to Stuart and through the lake and down the river to Fort Myers, then down the Gulf Coast to Marathon, and back home through Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. He had taken her into some ugly chop in the Gulf, and had handled her in a tricky following sea. In his navigation he had always double-checked his course and had the pleasure of seeing the target markers, after long runs, loom out of the sea mist.
But this was not the same. It made everything else seem like pretend. This was not the same sea they had watched two years ago from the recreation deck of the little Italian cruise ship which had taken them through the Caribbean, as far down as Curaçao.
They had stood at the rail and looked down onto that sea. This one lifted, rose, pushed itself up into great gleaming humps higher at times than his line of vision on the flying bridge, with one in ten foaming white against the incredible laundry-blueing blue as the wind toppled the tip of it. He tensed his stomach each time the HoJun seemed to hesitate before lifting to it. Atop those long silky bulges he could see for miles, see the random pattern of the waves breaking. Then she would tilt, smash—making a jangling and thumping and clattering below, and a moment of noise, vibration and cavitation from the twin screws—then glide down the far side of the hump to that point where, as she dug her nose deep and sent water slashing back against the pilot house windshield and the fiberglass which protected the fly bridge, he could not see more than fifty feet in any direction.
He held fast against the motion, telling himself that this was not some deadly and dramatic shift in the weather pattern. It was just as the man at Pier 66 had predicted. “Wind swinging very slow, Mr. Prowt, be almost direct out of the east in an hour, and a couple points north of east by the time you’re clear of the Stream. Be a pretty fair swell, nothing you can’t take okay; but once it’s swiveled all the way out of the north, the five-day forecast says it’ll be maybe three days before I’d want to take it across. So you go now, you’ll be fine. It won’t have time to build the Stream up to a chop. I’d say you’ll have a ten-knot breeze, freshening come evening. A pretty day to cross.”
But nobody had described the absolute indifference of these swells, and the way they dwindled the HoJun to a silly little toy, and its owner to a foolish, childish fellow who had wanted to play captain.
He had listened on the 100-watt ship-to-shore, heard nothing but nasal, casual, fishing-hunting talk on one channel, Miami marine placing phone calls on another, silence on the Coast Guard Emergency channel.
One of these ponderous wallowing tumbles will tear a gas line loose and one engine will die and the spark from the other will ignite the loose gas in the bilge. Or a battery will shift and pull a cable loose and the engines will both die. Or some seam will give way in the hull, bringing in more water than the bilge pumps can handle.
Another painful abdominal cramp made him gasp and hunch himself. Great time for food poisoning. That lobster last night?
And, Oh God, here comes the biggest one yet!
She lifted up and up, toppled over the crest with an uneasy corkscrewing motion, the cavitation lasting longer, glided down the blue hill and smashed her bow deep enough to send solid water streaming back along the side decks.
Exactly what the hell am I doing out here?
“I think, honey, that next May we’ll cruise the Bahamas. Get Kip and Selma to go along. Take a whole month pooting around. Maybe go over as far as Eleuthera. How about it?”
“When you have enough boat to get to the Bahamas, and when you live so close, and when maybe next year they’ll make you Fleet Captain of the Delmar Bay Yacht Club, then you go. Or they’ll think you incompetent or timid.
So I’m timid, he thought. Outboards they bring over here. They race from Miami to Nassau when the seas are higher. Any boat has a lot of safety factor, and this one was new six months ago. But I came out past that sea buoy feeling like Horatio Hornblower, and right now I am one scared, retired wholesale grocer from Moline out in the middle of all this tumbling blue indifference that doesn’t care whether I sink, blow up or make it across.
Always wanted a cruiser.
God, just get me there!
Junie, fighting for balance, clutched at his arm, startling him. She tottered away with a jolly whoop of dismay, grabbed at the pilot seat, settled into it and grinned at him. Her grin was uncharacteristically broad, her gray eyes not properly focused, her sandy-blonde hair matted damp with sea water, her color so bleached under her deep tan it gave her flesh an odd saffron tone. Above her denim halter her skin had a plucked-chicken look, so pronounced were the goose pimples.
He knew that she was both nauseated and terrified, and trying with a touching gallantry not to show either. But terror had to be stronger than the nausea, because she hated the increased swing and dip of the flying bridge, avoiding it except when it was dead calm.”
Neither of us belong here, he thought. It’s all some kind of pretend. She’s a fifty-eight-year-old housewife and mother from Moline, and since we moved down here she’s dieted and exercised and trimmed herself down, and baked herself brown, turned from gray to blonde, wears these play clothes, even talks in ways which would puzzle the placid Moline matron of two years ago. But it is all pretend for both of us—damn fools out of a yachting magazine ad, tricked finally into playing our game out here where all of a sudden it’s all turned real.
“Getting rougher, darling?” she called over the sound of wind and sea and engines.
“Staying about the same. You feel better?”
“A little.” The fixed smile stayed in place, even when she stared ahead.
Full fuel tanks, he thought. Full water tanks. And that damned couple of tons of provisions we carried aboard and stowed. Riding lower in the water than she ever has, and we have to get into this.
He made a businesslike routine of reading all the gauges, wearing his seamanship frown.
“Something wrong?” she called, the smile gone, her mouth pinching tight, bloodless lips sucked in, looking suddenly like an old, old woman garbed for some vulgar ingenue role.
“There’s not a damn thing wrong!”
“You don’t have to shout at me, Howard. I mean—I don’t understand the engines and things. And it just seems to get—worse and worse.”
He patted her on the shoulder. “Everything’s fine. Really fine.”