Sample Chapters - Deceptive Times Matthew Liburdi
Half-brothers, Red and Harry Street could not look or be any different. Harry, with his striking good looks, blond hair, blue eyes, stealth physique, and exceptional intellect, versus, Red, with his freckled skin, thin red hair, short stubby stature and vulgar mouth. For reasons Red could not comprehend, his father favored Harry, even though Red was the ‘splitting image’ of the old man. Unable to deal with the inequity, Red rejected his illegitimate younger brother.
After the untimely death of their parents, Harry was placed into foster care. Red dropped out of high school, joined the merchant marines, and disappeared from Harry’s life.
Harry, nick named “Street” by his friends, went on to graduate Valedictorian from high school and enlisted into the Navy SEALS. After boot camp then college, for ten years, Street commanded an elite underwater infiltration team. His extraordinary ability to complete missions without jeopardizing the lives of his men or civilians, mainly due to a special attribute he acquired as a youth. A clairvoyant sixth sense–Street’s ability to sense danger before it happened was untarnished, until on what he considered a routine mission. While infiltrating and planting listening devices throughout a terrorist camp on the tiny Island of Nusa Lembongan in the South Pacific–a coconut falling harmlessly from its berth, seemingly with a life of its own, set in motion a chain of events that not only left his best friend and partner, Robert Lankish, dead. For the first time in his career, the mission failed and a few days later; one of the largest explosions in Bali’s history rocked Kuta beach, killing 202 innocent people.
Unable to live with his failure, Street vowed never to put another human life in harm’s way and retired from the U.S. Military. Street took a job teaching Marine Biology at the University of Miami.
Three years later, his heart still heavy with remorse, a repercussion intervened in the form of a distress call from the one-person Street would have never expected to hear from–his estranged brother, Red.
Torn between bitter revenge, the unconditional love he felt for his brother, and the desire to make right what went wrong three years past. Street set aside his vow to remain neutral in the fight against evil, and with open arms, accepted his destiny.
Two days past
Captain Red Street, the owner and operator of a small expedition craft docked at Haulover Marina in North Miami, gave his crew the night off. Tomorrow morning, they depart for a two-week tiger shark expedition to the island of Mayaguana: A desolate atoll in the farthest outreaches of the Bahamas.
Even though Red was still hovering in his thirties, he looked like an aged salty seadog. Thin long layers of reddish hair pulled tight into a short ponytail, profound blue eyes, red eyelashes, and brows, rosy freckled skin, wrinkled in the right places, chubby cheeks, and a portly belly that looked anything but proportional. His brazened reputation for barking orders, and getting the final word in, even if it meant with insult, preceded his look. Red chased easy money, cheap women and smoked two packs of cigarettes daily since joining the Merchant Marines at the young age of seventeen.
Putting on his best jeans, oversized Tommy Bahama Camp shirt and cowboy boots, Red flagged a taxi and proceeded to his favored drinking establishment on the north side; O’Malley’s Irish pub. Two pints later, Red walked across the street to the exclusive gentlemen’s club called the Doll House.
With a beer in hand, Red took a seat center stage. Currently, a beautiful Cuban dancer he had been eyeing for months was seductively removing her panties in front of a group of Asian men to his right. Placing a twenty-dollar bill on the rail surrounding the dance floor, Red reclined into the soft cushion of the chair.
Drawn to the money, the dancer worked her way over to Red’s corner, collected the bill, and tossed it center stage. Lying on her back, she placed both hands on her hips and began swinging her legs freely in the air. Accepting her invitation, Red pulled another twenty from his wallet and slipped it into the pink garter around her left thigh.
“What’s your name, gorgeous?” Red said fixed in her strong gaze.
“My name is Talia, good-looking,” she responded in a sexy voice.
Breaking eye contact, Red devoured her body–his eyes traveling down past her full breasts, slim belly, and long, slinky thighs. He had been trying for months to talk to this girl, and tonight, boldly; he had measured up. Talia responded by spreading her legs. She placed her high-heel pumps on the rail in front of Red, bent her knees, and maneuvered her hips within an inch of Red's face.
“How do you like this piece of pie, big boy?”
Not one to turn down a seductive invitation, Red grabbed her thighs.
“Honey, clean shaven, and petite yet nasty–always my favorite type of dessert! Would you care to join me later for a drink on my private yacht?”
“Sure, I’m off in ten. After my dance, meet me at the front bar,” she said while arching her back.
Tongue-tied, Red could only smile. He never did have the gift of gab with women. “I’ll see you there in ten.”
A sense of accomplishment satisfied Red, as he made sure his hair was in place in the washroom mirror. With a confident stride, Red made his way towards the front bar and noticed Talia was already seated at a corner booth with a woman wearing a black business suit. Red pulled a stool, fired up a smoke and watched. The woman seemed to be doing most of the talking. She waved her hand in the air and flagged two odd-looking men seated across from her.
Even in the darkened room, the smaller of the two men appeared pale, practically albino, anorexic-thin, and wore a bright blue loose-fitting suit, highlighted with a white tie, white dress shoes, and a pair of silver-framed spectacles. The second man looked like an ex-football player: very tall, robust and with his thick greased black hair, dark complexion and tight-fitting pinstripe tuxedo, together, they both looked like gangsters right out of 1950 era Chicago mobster scene.
Oddly, as the big one neared the table, he turned and looked directly at Red.
Not one to back down, Red returned the stare, until prompted by the woman; the man finally turned away and sat down.
That was weird, Red sensed while taking a drag from his cigarette.
A few moments later, Talia stood, reached across the table, and grabbed a white envelope from the woman’s hand. With a long, confident stride, she walked away from the table.
Typical of the gentlemen’s club scene in Miami, Talia looked like a supermodel on steroids. With her full breasts and long, silky black hair that swayed to her walk, this dancer demanded attention from every patron in the bar. Rounding a row of tables, her olive-green eyes locked onto Red. She stopped in front of him and smiled.
“Can a pretty girl buy a handsome fellow a drink?”
“Why certainly!” Red fired back, “but how about we get outta’ here and head over to O’Malley’s across the road.”
To Red’s surprise, Talia agreed. Near the halfway point across the four-lane Boulevard–Talia stopped. She faced Red; purposefully made sure her cleavage was in his direct view, grabbed his face, and aggressively planted her warm lips on his.
Red responded masterfully. He wrapped his thick arms around Talia's narrow waist, allowed her firm nipples to caress his chest, and swiveled her hips into his growing bulge. For the next moment or two, Red forgot his surroundings. Talia grabbed his hand and walked him over to the alley in-between O’Malley’s and a carpet store. She pushed his back to the wall, unbuttoned her shirt, making sure her breasts were visible, and dropped to her knees. Red could only sigh as she unbuttoned his jeans. His fantasy had come true. Right until the sound of screeching tires from behind startled him.
Looking up, Red watched a black stretch limo with heavy tint on the windows come to a stop only a few feet away. Red aggressively pushed Talia to the side and buttoned his jeans just as two Cuban men climbed out.
“What do you two piece of longhorn cow turds want?” said Red as he watched the smaller man grab Talia by the arm and pull her towards the rear of the limo. “You know who you are messin’ with, you stupid puto son of a bitch! Release her right now or I’ll…!”
Before Red could finish his avowal, an oversized fist connected with his lower jaw. Red stumbled backwards onto the hood of the limo while a rush of warm blood filled his mouth. Adrenalin heavy, Red jumped up, took a wide sweep, and landed his fist firmly into the midsection of his adversary.
Although he had put everything into the punch, the Cuban did not even flinch. Looking up, Red immediately knew why. Standing in front of him was the same man giant–the gangster he had seen sitting with Talia inside the Doll House.
With a smile, the Cuban opened his jacket and pulled out a pistol. Pressing the barrel firmly into Red’s ribs, with his free hand, the Cuban picked Red up by his shirt, and threw him face-first into the front seat of the limo.
“Mr. Red,” he said in a strong tone. “Sit up and keep that mouth of yours quiet. Trust me, if you don’t heed my words, you will regret it!”
The side of his head sprawled on the dusty carpet, his feet somewhere up the seat back, Red, shook his head.
How did this bozo, know his name?
Fighting a rising trepidation to fight his way out of this jam, Red remembered what happened a few months earlier. His mouth got him into a bar fight with two heavyset men and he ended up in the hospital with a bruised rib and two broken teeth. The problem, this Cuban was one of the biggest, nastiest, and strongest men he had ever come across. In addition, he had a gun. Maybe it would be better to try to talk his way out. “Jesus, Mr., all you had to do was ask and I would’ve got inside the car on my own power. Why don’t we talk about this? What do ya want, money?"
The Cuban pushed Red’s feet to the side, sat down and shut the door. “You will know soon enough. Now sit up, and shut up, Mr. Red!”
“I’ll be damned if you think I’m gonna' be all nice and polite you oversized baboon until I know my girl is all right!”
The Cuban squeezed Red’s calf and roared, “Mr. Red. I said to sit up and keep quiet!”
The driver’s side door was still open. Red could easily crawl out and run for it. Overpowered and outgunned, Red decided to play along, at least, for the time being. Even if he did manage to escape, he would not make it half way across the street before the Cuban capped a few rounds in his back. Besides, Talia still needed his help.
Lifting his body off the floor, Red could hear Talia's voice through the driver’s side door.
“Look, you son of a bitch, I did my part. Now release me and don’t you hurt him!”
So, the miserable little bitch had conned me all along, thought Red, as the hefty body of the driver dropped into the seat and slammed the door. Before Red could sit squarely upright, the car was accelerating down the road.
Squeezed in-between two of the largest men he had ever seen, Red had no idea what to expect, yet, deep within, he did not fear for his life. What bothered Red, knowing that Talia played him just like the dirty old man he was, irked him. His past, and maybe his arrogant, insolent and overbearing lifestyle he pursed was finally catching up with him.
Similar to a doorbell, a buzz coming from the center console broke the taciturnity. Red watched the driver pick up a phone mounted just below the steering wheel. Watched his eyebrows furrow until finally he hung it up and pushed a black button on the dash. From behind, the opaque partition, separating the cab from the rear compartment, opened.
Immediately, a torrent of cigarette smoke flooded the interior.
Boy, I sure could use one of those, thought Red as he turned to sneak a peek. However, before Red could see anyone, the Cuban knuckled him hard on his right ear. In pain, Red reached up with his hand and immediately felt a warm trickle. Pulling it down, his eyes bulged. The tip of his finger was blood red.
“That’s the second time you made me bleed you turnip-eating son of a bitch. Next time I’ll kill you,” said Red as he wadded up the edge of his shirt and stuffed it into his outer ear.
“Mr. Red, you were told to keep your eyes forward and your mouth shut. I suggest you heed my words!”
“No, you better listen to me, Huckleberry Finn. You can go fuck yourself. I’m smarter than you think. If you didn’t need me, you’d of already killed me.”
With a strong European accent, a woman spoke from the back compartment.
“Mr. Red, if you were wondering, you were spot on. Yes, we need you alive. However, I suggest you shut your gob, your mouth Mr. Red and keep your eyes forward. If you follow these simple rules, no more harm will come to you.”
“No more harm will come to me! Lady, who do you think you are? Mrs. Ironside of North Miami? First of all, my ribs hurt, my ear’s bleeding and to top things off; I'm squeezed in-between Buda and Java the Hut up here. But you know what really irks me; you set me up using that whore Talia. My pride is hurt lady?”
Even though he was the one shanghaied and his ear throbbed, standing up to the lady made Red feel potent, almost commanding. Glancing towards the driver and then the Cuban, strangely, they both remained steadfast. Their eyes focused forward, like soldiers standing at attention.
“Mr. Red; if you keep mouthing off, being a Joey, from this point forward, unless you enjoy pain, I suggest you refrain from speaking. Only nod to my questions. Do you understand Mr. Red?”
Red could hear whispered voices behind. It sounded like three people; two men and the woman. How the hell does this woman know his name? Furthermore, it’s not Mr. Red. It's Captain Red, you ignoramus European bitch!
“Mr. Red, your silence confirms your accord. Now, I am going to ask you a few simple questions. All you need to do is nod to answer. Do you understand, Mr. Red?”
Unable to conform, especially to a cocky European woman, Red shook his head and blurted out. “No. No, I will not play this ridiculous charade. What do you think I am a puppet? Well, let me tell you something, Mrs. Iron side from across the pond. You just can’t come into these United States of America and start ordering people like me arou––?”
With authority, the Cuban knuckled Red on the top of his head–this time so hard, stars floated through his vision.
“That fuckin' hurt,” scowled Red while rubbing his head. “Listen, you giant meathead–if you hit me one more time, I’ll clam up and you and Miss Euro-bitch back there won’t get another word out of me!”
“Mr. Red, I have had my fill of your slag. This is your final warning. Nod to my questions; otherwise, one of your blokes, maybe, Rob, your second mate, or, perhaps, your slapper girlfriend, what’s her name, Chelsea that you treat so brashly, that has stuck by your side for six years, won’t be so lucky. Do you understand my meaning, Mr. Red?”
As if a light bulb went off inside his head, Red sunk back into the seat, raised his hands, and nodded. One thing he could not allow was someone else to suffer on the account of his arrogance–especially, Rob the cook.
“Good, I am glad you have come to your senses. Now, Mr. Red, if I understand correctly, you are the sole owner and captain of the dive charter vessel moored at Haulover Marina in North Miami called the Seafever?”
Ya, so what, common knowledge; thought Red as he looked toward the Cuban and nodded.
“Good, see how easy this is? Now, is it also true a private research organization named the Junco Group…let's see…based out of Miami, chartered your vessel for a two-week expedition to the Island of Mayaguana in the Bahamas?”
Now this was starting to get personal. How did this bitch get this information? It wasn’t even on his web site. The Junco Group secured the vessel two weeks earlier, buying it from a California-based dive shop.
Red nodded, in a perplexed confused fashion.
“Right,” said the woman as whispered voices again resounded from the back.
Taking advantage of the circumstance, Red shifted his body left and raised his torso as the driver made a sharp right turn onto a two-lane road. He could make out two silhouettes in the muted compartment through the edge of the rear-view mirror. The one on the right definitely was female. Her big hair gave her away. However, sitting to her left was, a male, bald, and very thin, who looked similar to the slender chap who sat down with Talia inside the Doll House. Both had a corresponding piece of diamond-studded jewelry on their collar, which in the low light appeared to resemble a swastika.
Proud, his little ruse worked so seamless, to get a better view; Red stretched his neck up slightly. There was a third person wearing a cowboy hat. However, before Red could distinguish his face, the driver’s big black eyes entered the picture. Startled, Red sunk back down into the seat as the driver reached up and repositioned the mirror.
“Mr. Red,” the woman finally said. “We have a proposition for you. There is still one cabin available on your charter to Mayaguana Island that leaves tomorrow morning. Correct?”
Red nodded, just to appease the woman.
“What we would like, Mr. Red, reserve this cabin for an associate of ours called Mr. Smith. For reasons that are not necessary for you to understand, we want you to transport Mr. Smith to Mayaguana Island. Once there, Mr. Smith will transfer to another vessel. Do you understand, Mr. Red?”
Nodding slightly, Red could only wonder how she acquired this information. Even more bizarre, why would she go through so much drama just to reserve a cabin?
“So not to draw attention to Mr. Smith, we have fabricated a story for you. You will inform the passengers and crew that Mr. Smith is an underwater video specialist working for a research group called National Underwater Explorer. You have agreed to transport him to the island, as a favor to the company. However, Mr. Red, there is a catch. When registering with immigration in the Bahamas, do not declare him.”
Red groaned. He knew not declaring everyone on board, could mean serious trouble, especially if the agent decided to board his vessel, and discovered him.
“Mr. Red, we understand that your first mate, Ed, usually handles immigration. However, to ensure secrecy, and success, we must insist that you personally assume this task. Do you understand your role, Mr. Red?”
Disgusted, Red shrugged his shoulders. Everything was coming so fast that there was no reason to answer; he’d never remember all this. Besides, he hated European women.
“Mr. Red, do you understand?” she said in a powerful tone.
Reminding Red who had the upper hand, the Cuban abruptly plunged the nose of the pistol deep into his ribs. Red grunted with a nod.
“Right, good show captain,” said the woman, this time in a mild tone. “Mr. Smith will arrive on the morning of departure with two suitcases. You will assign him to cabin six and inform the cleaning crew his cabin is off limits. In addition, Mr. Red, we are aware that your vessel has a median cruising speed of sixteen knots, with top speeds reaching upwards of twenty. This means, if you depart from Miami on time, let's see…7 a.m. tomorrow the sixteenth, you should arrive approximately thirty-five hours later at Mayaguana Island, sometime around 7 p.m. on the seventeenth. Do you agree with the math, Mr. Red?”
Impressed by her intelligence, yet unable to calculate the route in his head, Red exhaled loudly and just nodded.
“During the crossing, to avert suspicion, Mr. Smith will spend the majority of his time in the cabin, meaning, Mr. Red, your responsibility is to make sure he has plenty of food and drink.”
Before Red could respond, whispered voices again resonated from the compartment. While waiting, Red stuck his finger into his ear canal to check to see if it was still bleeding. Fortunately, it stopped. His finger was dry.
“Excuse the delay, captain. Did you understand what I just said?”
“Now, according to our calculations, sometime around 3 to 4 p.m. on the seventeenth, approximately fifty miles from the island, we want you to throw a party for the Junco Group, on the account. They allowed passage for Mr. Smith. After the party, Mr. Smith will deliver to you a set of GPS coordinates to the location where you will anchor at the island. Please be aware Mr. Red, it is imperative you anchor your vessel at these coordinates by no later than 7:30 p.m. that evening. If you are unpunctual, the safety of your passengers and crew will be in jeopardy. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Red?”
Before nodding, Red thought a few things through…
Blackmail, ransom, the safety of the crew and passengers–suddenly nothing made sense. They needed him and his vessel. That is why he was here. But who was this Mr. Smith and why did he so urgently need to go to Mayaguana Island? It was uninhabited. Nonetheless, there had to be a way out, but this was not the time or place.
Red nodded in agreement, playing dumb for now.
“Smart, Mr. Red, very smart, however, before I set you free, there are a few things I must declare. First, we selected your vessel because it has three engines. In the event of engine trouble, you still have two others to get Mr. Smith to his objective point on time. Secondly, because of your firsthand knowledge of the area, combined with your aberrant personality, you automatically qualify to command this voyage. You should feel special, Mr. Red.”
Tired of this game, Red covered his head with both hands and declared. “Whatever you say, queen-of-your own-country bitch! Now let me out of this car, immediately!”
Anticipating a blow from the Cuban, Red lowered his head and cringed. As the seconds passed and nothing happened, he lifted his head and looked up at the man giant. This time, the Cuban was looking down upon him with a smile.
“Jolly good, Mr. Red. I am impressed how long you held back your tongue. However, please refrain from further outbursts until the end of our meeting. Mr. Red, we understand this job will put undue stress or should I say pressure on your little brain, so to make you accountable, we will pay you fifty thousand dollars cash. You see, Mr. Red, by taking our money; you become a business associate, and business associates trust each other. Oh, and by the way, Mr. Red–don’t even think about going to the authorities. The consequences will be severe. Do you understand your duty, Mr. Red?”