Page 48


Halfway toward the mouth of the harbor, confident that distance and the engine's roar now protected them from electronic eavesdroppers, Garrison said, “Take me close to the outer point of the north breakwater, along the channel's edge.”


“Are you sure about this?” Della asked worriedly. “You're not a teenager.”


He patted her bottom and said, “I'm better.”


“Dreamer.”


He kissed her on the cheek and edged forward along the starboard railing, where he got into position for his jump. He was wearing dark blue swim trunks. He should have had a wetsuit because the water would be chilly. But he thought he ought to be able to swim to the breakwater, around the point of it, and haul himself out on the north side, out of sight of the harbor, all in a few minutes, long before the water temperature leached too much body heat from him.


“Company!” Della called from the wheel.


He looked back and saw a Harbor Patrol boat leaving the docks to the south, coming toward them on their port side.


They won't stop us, he thought. They have no legal right.


But he had to go over the side before the Patrol swung in and took up a position astern. From behind, they would see him vault the railing. As long as they were to port, the Amazing Grace would conceal his departure, and the boat's phosphorescent wake would cover the first few seconds of his swim around the point of the breakwater, long enough for the Patrol's attention to have moved on with Della.


They were heading out at the highest speed with which Della felt comfortable. The Hinckley Sou'wester jolted through the slightly choppy waters with enough force to make it necessary for Garrison to hold fast to the railing. Still, they seemed to move past the stone wall of the breakwater at a frustratingly slow pace, and the Harbor Patrol drew nearer, but Garrison waited, waited, because he didn't want to go into the harbor a hundred yards short of its end. If he went in too soon, he would not be able to swim all the way out to the point and around it; instead, he would have to swim straight to the breakwater and climb its flank, within full sight of all observers. Now the patrol closed to within a hundred yards-he could see them when he rose from a crouch and looked across the Hinckley's cabin roof-and began to swing around behind them, and Garrison could not wait much longer, could not- “The point!” Della called from the wheel.


He threw himself over the railing, into the dark water, away from the boat.


The sea was cold. It shocked the breath out of him. He sank, could not find the surface, was seized by panic, flailed, thrashed, but then broke through to the air, gasping.


The Amazing Grace was surprisingly close. He felt as if he had been thrashing in confusion beneath the surface for a minute or more, but it must have been only a second or two because his boat was not yet far away. The Harbor Patrol was close, too, and he decided that even the churning wake of the Amazing Grace did not give him enough cover, so he took a deep breath and went under again, staying down as long as he could. When he came up, both Della and her shadowers were well past the mouth of the harbor, turning south, and he was safe from observation.


The outgoing tide was swiftly carrying him past the point of the northern breakwater, which was a wall of loose boulders and rocks that rose more than twenty feet above the waterline, mottled gray and black ramparts in the night. He not only had to swim around the end of that barrier but had to move toward land against the resistant current. Without further delay, he began to swim, wondering why on earth he had thought this would be a snap.


You're almost seventy-one, he told himself as he stroked past the rocky point, which was illuminated by a navigation-warning light. What ever possessed you to play hero?


But he knew what possessed him: a deep-seated belief that the dog must remain free, that it must not be treated as the government's property. If we've come so far that we can create as God creates, then we have to learn to act with the justice and mercy of God. That was what he had told Nora and Travis-and Einstein-on the night Ted Hockney had been killed, and he had meant every word he'd said.


Salt water stung his eyes, blurred his vision. Some had gotten into his mouth, and it burned a small ulcer on his lower lip.


He fought the current, pulled past the point of the breakwater, out of sight of the harbor, then slashed toward the rocks. Reaching them at last, he hung onto the first boulder he touched, gasping, not yet quite able to pull himself out of the water.


In the intervening weeks since Nora and Travis went on the run, Garrison had plenty of time to think about Einstein, and he felt even more strongly that to imprison an intelligent creature, innocent of all crime, was an act of grave injustice, regardless of whether the prisoner was a dog. Garrison had devoted his life to the pursuit of justice that was made possible by the laws of a democracy, and to the maintenance of the freedom that grew from this justice. When a man of ideals decides he is too old to risk everything for what he believes in, then he is no longer a man of ideals. He may no longer be a man at all. That hard truth had driven him, in spite of his age, to make this night swim. Funny-that a long life of idealism should, after seven decades, be put to the ultimate test over the fate of a dog. But what a dog.


And what a wondrous new world we live in, he thought.


Genetic technology might have to be rechristened “genetic art,” for every work of art was an act of creation, and no act of creation was finer or more beautiful than the creation of an intelligent mind.


Getting his second wind, he heaved entirely out of the water, onto the sloped north flank of the northern breakwater. That barrier rose between him and the harbor, and he moved inland, along the rocks, while the sea surged at his left side. He'd brought a waterproof penlight, clipped to his trunks, and now he used it to proceed, barefoot, with the greatest caution, afraid of slipping on the wet stones and breaking a leg or an ankle.


He could see the city lights a few hundred yards ahead, and the vague silvery line of the beach.


He was cold but not as cold as he had been in the water. His heart was beating fast but not as fast as before.


He was going to make it.


Lem Johnson drove down from the temporary HO in the courthouse, and Cliff met him at the empty boat slip where the Amazing Grace had been tied up. A wind had risen. Hundreds of craft along the docks were wallowing slightly in their berths; they creaked, and slack sail lines clicked and clinked against their masts. Dock lamps and neighboring boat lanterns cast shimmering patterns of light on the dark, oily-looking water where Dilworth's forty-two-footer had been moored.


“Harbor Patrol?” Lem asked worriedly.


“They followed him out to open sea. Seemed as if he was going to turn north, swung close by the point, but then he went south instead.”


“Did Dilworth see them?”


“He had to. As you see-no fog, lots of stars, clear as a bell.”


“Good. I want him to be aware. Coast Guard?”


“I've talked to the cutter,” Cliff assured him. “They're on the spot, flanking the Amazing Grace at a hundred yards, heading south along the coast.”


Shivering in the rapidly cooling air, Lem said, “They know he might try putting ashore in a rubber boat or whatever?”


“They know,” Cliff said. “He can't do it under their noses.”


“Is the Guard sure he sees them?”


“They're lit up like a Christmas tree.”


“Good. I want him to know it's hopeless. If we can just keep him from warning the Cornells, then they'll call him sooner or later-and we'll have them. Even if they call him from a pay phone, we'll know their general location.”


In addition to taps on Dilworth's home and office phones, the NSA had installed tracing equipment that would lock open a line the moment a connection was made, and keep it open even after both parties hung up, until the caller's number and street address were ascertained and verified. Even if Dilworth shouted a warning and hung up the instant he recognized one of the Cornells' voices, it would be too late. The only way he could try to foil the NSA was by not answering his phone at all. But even that would do him no good because, after the sixth ring, every incoming call was being automatically “answered” by the NSA's equipment, which opened the line and began tracing procedures.


“The only thing could screw us now,” Lem said, “is if Dilworth gets to a phone we don't have monitored and warns the Cornells not to call him.”


“It's not going to happen,” Cliff said. “We're on him tight.”


“I wish you wouldn't say that,” Lem worried. As the wind got hold of it, a metal clip on a loose line clanged loudly off a spar, and the sound made Lem jump. “My dad always said the worst happens when you least expect it.”


Cliff shook his head. “With all due respect, sir, the more I hear you quote your father, the more I think he must've been just about the gloomiest man who ever lived.”


Looking around at the wallowing boats and wind-chopped water, feeling as if he was moving instead of standing still in a moving world, a little queasy, Lem said, “Yeah . . . my dad was a great guy in his way, but he was also . . . impossible.”


Hank Gorner shouted, “Hey!” He was running along the dock from the Cheoy Lee where he and Cliff had been stationed all day. “I've just been on With the Guard cutter. They're playing their searchlight over the Amazing Grace, intimidating a little, and they tell me they don't see Dilworth. Just the woman.”


Lem said, “But, Christ, he's running the boat!”


“No,” Gorner said. “There's no lights in the Amazing Grace, but the Guard's searchlight brightens up the whole thing, and they say the woman's at the wheel.”


“It's all right. He's just below deck,” Cliff said.


“No,” Lem said as his heart started to pound. "He wouldn't be below deck


at a time like this. He'd be studying the cutter, deciding whether to keep going or turn back. He's not on the Amazing Grace."


“But he has to be! He didn't get off before she pulled out of the dock.”


Lem stared out across the crystalline-clear harbor, toward the light near the end of the northern breakwater. “You said the damn boat swung out close to the north point, and it looked as if he was going north, but then he suddenly swung south.”


“Shit,” Cliff said.


“That's where he dropped off,” Lem said. “Out by the point of the northern breakwater. Without a rubber boat. Swimming, by God.”


“He's too old for that crap,” Cliff protested.


“Evidently not. He went around the other side, and he's headed for a phone on one of the northern public beaches. We've got to stop him, and fast.”


Cliff cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted the first names of the four agents who were positioned on other boats along the docks. His voice carried, echoing flatly off the water, in spite of the wind. Men came running, and even as Cliff's shouts faded away across the harbor, Lem was sprinting for his car in the parking lot.


The worst happens when you least expect it.


As Travis was rinsing dinner dishes, Nora said, “Look at this.”


He turned and saw that she was standing by Einstein's food and water dishes. The water was gone, but half his dinner remained.


She said, “When have you known him to leave a single scrap?”


“Never.” Frowning, Travis wiped his hands on the kitchen towel. “The last few days . . . I've thought maybe he's coming down with a cold or something, but he says he feels fine. And today he hasn't been sneezing or coughing like he was.”


They went into the living room, where the retriever was reading Black Beauty with the help of his page-turning machine.


They knelt beside him, and he looked up, and Nora said, “Are you sick, Einstein?”


The retriever barked once, softly: No.


“Are you sure?”


A quick wag of the tail: Yes.


“You didn't finish your dinner,” Travis said.


The dog yawned elaborately.


Nora said, “Are you telling us you're a little tired?”


Yes.


“If you were feeling ill,” Travis said, “you'd let us know right away, wouldn't you, fur face?”


Yes.


Nora insisted on examining Einstein's eyes, mouth, and ears for obvious signs


of infection, but at last she said, “Nothing. He seems okay. I guess even Superdog has a right to be tired once in a while.”


The wind had come up fast. It was chilly, and under its lash the waves rose higher than they had been all day.


A mass of gooseflesh, Garrison reached the landward end of the north flank of the harbor's northern breakwater. He was relieved to depart the hard and sometimes jagged stones of that rampart for the sandy beach. He was sure he had scraped and cut both feet; they felt hot, and his left foot stung with each step, forcing him to limp.


At first he stayed close to the surf, away from the tree-lined park that lay behind the beach. Over there, where park lamps lit the walkways and where spotlights dramatically highlighted the palms, he would be more easily seen from the street. He did not think anyone would be looking for him; he was sure his trick had worked. However, if anyone was looking for him, he did not want to call attention to himself.


The gusting wind tore foam off the incoming breakers and flung it in Garrison's face, so he felt as if he was continuously running through spiders' webs. The stuff stung his eyes, which had finally stopped tearing from his dunk in the sea, and at last he was forced to move away from the surf line, farther up the beach, where the softer sand met the lawn but where he was still out of the lights.


Young people were on the darkish beach, dressed for the chill of the night: couples on blankets, cuddling; small groups smoking dope, listening to music. Eight or ten teenage boys were gathered around two all-terrain vehicles with balloon tires, which were not allowed on the beach during the day and most likely weren't allowed at night.. They were drinking beer beside a pit they'd dug in the sand to bury their bottles if they saw a cop approaching; they were talking loudly about girls, and indulging in horseplay. No one gave Garrison more than a glance as he hurried by. In California, health-food-and-exercise fanatics were as common as street muggers in New York, and if an old man wanted to take a cold swim and then run on the beach in the dark, he was no more remarkable or noteworthy than a priest in a church.


As he headed north, Garrison scanned the park to his right in search of pay phones. They would probably be in pairs, prominently illuminated, on islands of concrete beside one of the walkways or perhaps near one of the public comfort stations.

P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com

***