Somewhere between the Florida Keys and Cuba...
Under cover of darkness, he braced himself in the helicopter’s open hatch, marking time as seconds ticked away. His flippers tipped close to the edge.
Exactly the way he lived.
Adrenaline pumped through his veins.
Perspiration gathered beneath his wetsuit. He ignored the discomfort like a hundred times before.
They flew low over the water. Wind-whipped backwash pelted his face and salty trickles ran into his eyes and mouth. Blinking back the sting, he scrubbed a gloved-hand over his stubbled chin.
What the hell was he doing here? Time spent in a Cuban prison still echoed in his nightmares.
What choice did he have?
It was his job.
He lived it. And he loved it.
Of bigger concern right now should be that he’d pushed the limits of their helo crew’s fuel and patience.
What he wouldn’t give for a fast boat or submersible right about now.
“Listen up,” he shouted to compete with the whump–whump–whump of rotary blades. “You know the drill. Fall behind and you’re shark bait!”
The Crazy Eights responded with a resounding, “Hooyah!”
He opened the floor hatch, flashed the pilot a thumbs up and took that leap of faith through the hell hole. Seven men followed his lead from air to sea. As the last man splashed down, their ride veered left and then out of sight.
In the eerie glow of chem sticks, he took a quick head count before fitting the breathing apparatus of the chest-mounted tank to his mouth and setting a grueling pace for their two-mile ocean swim.
His labored breaths filtered through the rebreather like the rasp of some sci-fi creature on The Twilight Zone.
When a murky shadow stirred the phosphorescent algae in his path, he reached for the KA-bar strapped to his thigh, but the hammerhead moved on as if sensing a far more dangerous predator in the water that night.
Sixty minutes later, the frogmen surrounded their objective. The hull of the ocean salvage vessel, the OSV Lily Pad, measured two hundred and fifty-five feet from stem to stern.
As his team bobbed silently in the water, he waited to give the signal to board. Once issued the command would pass from frogman to frogman without fail.
© Rogenna Brewer
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