Arch Patton

It Was 1993

Chapter 22

The pilot had wangled a small bolt cutter from somewhere. The advantage of the thing was how easy it was to conceal (being less than the length of a normal man’s arm), the disadvantage was in its diminished cutting capability. And the longer anyone stood on the deck at the hatch, the more likely they were to be noticed. So attempting to cut the lock on the radio shack door didn’t even bear discussing. They would just have to play the cards they were dealt. Atlantis came up with the idea of laying in wait to surprise the German, but once they surprised them, what then? Subduing the man and then getting him restrained and into the shack without attracting attention wasn’t viable. They would have to lay in wait inside, and hope that the man would notice that the lock securing the door was gone, and then have enough curiosity to open the door, since neither the hatch nor the radio room had a porthole to see through.

“Can Harpo make it up the ladder?” Cyn asked, as they made their way through the passageways.

“It’s more a steep stairway than a ladder,” Arch answered. “I think he’ll be fine, but if necessary I think I can carry him up. He’s solid, but he’s not really that heavy.”

They arrived together at the bottom of the ladder.

“What’s the plan,” Doug asked, hauling the bolt cutter out from under his shirt and experimenting with opening and closing it.

“Simple,” Arch replied. “Atlantis and I will go up to the hatch. I’ll do the cutting while she looks out and blocks the view of anyone on deck who might be able to see us. Then I’ll go in, take the lock, and wait for everyone to show up. Atlantis will come get you.”

“I can go,” Cyn said, immediately.

“No, I thought of that,” Arch said. “You’re better with Harpo than anyone else. I’m more afraid of you guys being discovered than I am of getting caught breaking into the shack.”

There were plenty of crew members bumping around through all the lower deck passageways, but very few passengers, and no crew on the upper deck.

“I don’t like the kidnapping thing,” Cyn stated, having grudgingly given into the argument about staying with the dingo. “Isn’t that treated sort of like murder?

“We’re not kidnapping anyone,” Arch replied, for the benefit of all. “Kidnapping is taking someone from somewhere to somewhere else, and then detaining them. We aren’t taking the German officer anywhere. Detention would be the crime, if it ever got so far as to there being charges.”

Arch felt guilty in saying these words.

The authorities, state or federal, could always charge kidnapping. In fact, the ship was on the high seas where piracy might even be the more likely charge, and that would be as serious a charge as murder. And that’s if nothing went wrong. Violence in such situations is almost never planned. It just happens. When people and guns mix with the high emotion of fear, anything can happen. Cyn had the Colt in her bag but Arch hadn’t considered taking it for fear of making the situation, which was pretty dire already, totally untenable. Besides threatening the German, or anyone with a gun, rarely worked the way it did in Hollywood productions.

Atlantis and Arch went up the ladder and through the hatch at the top without incident. Just as before, nobody was visible on the upper deck. Arch dogged the hatch behind them, just to give a few extra seconds of warning should someone come up the ladder and use it. He hadn’t asked Doug and Cyn how they would explain waiting where they were with the dingo if they were discovered. Arch knew they would think of something.

To Arch’s great relief the lock was on the hatch.   It secured the wheel at the center, controlling all the dogs around the edges. Once locked inside the radio shack, the wheel arrangement would make the place impregnable except for entry using welding equipment.

On their first pass Atlantis and Arch went by the door without stopping.   They took in everything they could see, then headed over to the rail to look out over the ocean. The sun was beginning to set in the distance, but it was still fully light outside.

On their second pass they stopped. Arch checked the lock, and it was as he figured. The lock wasn’t large, but it was of high quality and durable. It was a Master Lock. Not exotic, but probably too tough a steel for their bolt cutter to cut through without taking longer than they had. But Master Locks’ had one major weakness if you knew it. And Arch knew it.

“Come on, let’s get back down the ladder,” he said, turning to head back toward the hatch they’d come through to get to the upper deck.

“The bolt cutters aren’t big enough?” Atlantis asked. “There’s nobody up here so you can take your time working on it.”

“I can open it in two minutes without a bolt cutter,” Arch answered. “And it’ll be undamaged so we can leave it hanging on the hinge, instead of it being missing. More than likely he’ll simply open the hatch thinking he left it unlocked. That’s better then no padlock. Even the open lock is a bit of problem there.”

“Unless I lock you in,” Atlantis said.

Arch stopped abruptly, just before the hatch.

“What?” he said in a hushed tone.

“I lock you guys in, and wait,” she replied. “The German’s never seen me and obviously there’s no report out on us yet. Why not?”

“Why in hell didn’t I think of that?” Arch said, shaking his head and opening the single dog he’d secured before they came out. “Brilliant. Simple and brilliant. There’ll be no reason for him to suspect anything.”

“Thank you,” Atlantis said, following him down the steep steps to the lower level where Doug, Cyn and Harpo stood waiting, looking back up at them.

“I need a Coke can and a sharp knife,” Arch said to Doug, heading down the steps. “A tin snips would be better, but I don’t think we’re going to get those.”

“I have a pen knife,” Doug said, “and this is a service deck. There’s got to be soft drink cans all over the place.”

“I’ll find one,” Atlantis offered, immediately starting off down the passageway.

“Now you’re a burglar too?” Doug asked. “You think you can get into a padlock with a penknife and a coke can? Why do I doubt that, but then why would you say it under these circumstances if you couldn’t? I need a drink.”

“Let’s stay together for a minute,” Arch said, in a calming tone.

Doug was fidgeting to get a drink and he’d only been without one for a few minutes. A drunk was a problem in their situation, particularly a productive one like Doug, but a falling down drunk could be the death of them.

Doug reached into his back pocket and pulled out his keys. On the ring was a small Swiss Army Knife. He handed the set of keys to Arch.

“That should do it. Only one cutting edge, but I sharpen it all the time myself. “It’s can cut soda can aluminum all day long.”

Arch opened the blade implement of the knife. It was small, but it would do. Just then Atlantis appeared, walking up with a big smile on her face.

“Coke, just like you asked, and empty.”

padlock-shimArch knelt down on the floor, put the coke can on the rugged surface and began to carefully cut the top of the can off. Then he cut off the bottom. He worked slowly to keep from bending the thin aluminum. Finally, he cut out a shape that looked like a small hand with its middle finger extended, and with one smaller finger on each side of the bigger one. When he was done he stood up, holding the small piece in one hand. He kicked the remains of the can to the side of the passage.

“Okay, let’s do it again,” Arch said, heading up the steps. “I need about three minutes to work on the lock. I can use the body of the knife to tap the shim so I’ll keep the keys for a bit.

Atlantis came up with a great idea. She’s going to remain on deck after locking us inside the shack. When the German comes back he’ll have no reason to suspect anything. Then Atlantis knocks on the hatch and we let her in.”

“Since you don’t need any time at all on the lock, let’s all go up together this time,” Doug said. “I want to see this.”

Arch turned to look down. It made sense. Having a small group on deck did increase the likelihood of being discovered, but it was a tradeoff Arch was willing to try if it kept Doug from disappearing to go find a supply of alcohol.

They returned to the locked hatch. There was no one else on the great white expanse of deck. Arch went straight at the lock. He pulled it away from the hinge as tightly as he could and then slowly began pushing the ‘finger’ of the metal cut out he’d formed down between the shaft of the lock and where the shaft entered the lock. He pulled it back out, rubbed his cutout against the sandy-painted floor for a bit, and then returned to insert the edge into the lock. Once it was a quarter inch in, he curved the aluminum finger around the shaft which caused the two smaller cutouts on each side to extend outward. Arch wrapped those so they overlapped and held the now curved shim in place. He pulled out Doug’s car keys and held the Swiss knife so the edge of it was against the shaft of the lock. He began tapping on the shim’s thin edge. The aluminum eased on down into the lock, taking up whatever space was between the shaft and the lock’s base. On about the twentieth tap the lock op

“Holy shit,” Doug exclaimed, he and the others having watched the whole operation silently while Arch worked. “Does Master Lock know about this?” he asked.

Arch pulled the open lock off, and handed it to Atlantis. He wound the wheel counter-clockwise and slowly eased the dogs out of their slots. When he pulled the hatch open they all piled in. Arch turned to look at Atlantis, standing with the lock in her hand.

“We can’t get out once you lock that lock,” he said, his tone one of seriousness.

“And I know I can’t do that coke trick, either,” she replied.

Arch nodded.

“Okay, button us up. The wheel turns clockwise. Line up the two holes when it’s close to being too hard to turn the wheel.”

“Here,” Cyn broke in, “take my bag, in case you need anything.

Atlantis grabbed the cloth bag and then swung the hatch shut.

The hatch closing felt like a giant cell door thudding shut. Arch shook his shoulders in reflex, listening to Atlantis wind the handle shut. They would have about half minute, maybe a few seconds more, when the German came.

“Yeah, not a good feeling,” Cyn remarked. “Maybe I should have stayed out there with her and Harpo. I feel trapped in here.”

“A beautiful woman and a dog may go a long way toward making our German Communications Officer feel better,” Arch replied.

In truth, he knew he wanted her inside because she was too visible on the deck and therefore raised the risk level. He didn’t want to admit it, but she also made him feel better when she was close, like she made worth living and working for.

“I suppose we could have given her the bolt cutters,” Cyn said to Doug, who was busy setting the heavy things down on the only desktop. “I mean, just in case. Then she could have cut us out of here if all else fails.”

“Nope,” Doug said, sitting down at the desk in the small shack’s only chair.

He swiveled around and then back, placing his elbows on the surface of the desk and interlacing his fingers.

“We’ve got to cut all the wires in here. The bridge will have ship to shore, but it’s not appropriate for what they’ll need in order to turn us in once we’re gone. It’ll take twenty minutes for them to alert everyone. We may need that twenty minutes pretty badly. The stuff in here would allow them to go straight through.”

“Oh, the bolt cutter,” Cyn said, her voice a small whisper.

Doug went through the desk drawers one after another.

“Voila!” he exclaimed, loudly.

He pulled a half bottle of Peppermint Schnapps out of the bottom drawer. It was a pint bottle, which gave Arch some relief. The pilot immediately unscrewed the top and took a great pull.

“I feel tons better,” Doug said, wiping the back of his right hand across his face. “Now the maestro goes to work,” he said, taking hold of the cutters and heading over to the bulkhead that held a full bank of stacked radio equipment.

“What’s the plan when that guy opens the door?” Cyn asked.

“Damn,” Arch said, under his breath.

The .45 Colt was in the bag Atlantis had. It might have come in handy with the German, in spite of his feelings about the use of violence when it could be avoided. He looked over at Cyn. She met his eyes and then quickly looked away to see what Doug was up to. Arch wondered if Cyn had made the bag transfer on purpose, but he felt he wasn’t entitled to ask the question.

“He’ll step through the hatch like I did, probably turn to close it and hit the light switch at the same time,” Arch speculated aloud. “He’s not big. There’s duct tape in one of those desk drawers Doug was going through. We can make the German into a mummy until we’re out of here."

“Okay,” Cyn answered. “Now for another one. What happens if somebody comes and tries to get in here before we get to Maui, and are out of here?”

“That’s a good one,” Doug said, taking a break from his snipping and cutting to walk back to the desk and take another long pull from the Schnapps bottle.

Arch sniffed. The small enclosed cabin now smelled badly of booze.

“The Schnapps is our only hope, in that case,” Arch said. “If he’s got it in his desk on duty, then he’s got a problem. On board a ship everyone’s problems quickly become known by everyone else. They’ll know he has a problem too.”

“So?” Cyn asked, not getting it.

“They’ll think their communications officer is drunk or passed out, and there’s no way they’re coming through that hatch anytime soon to find out,” Doug replied.

“We hope,” Arch added.

Harpo moved to Arch’s side and nudged him in the thigh with his muzzle. Arch looked down at the dingo.

“No food,” Arch said, apologetically, “and I’m sorry about the smell.”

Harpo looked over at Doug working away across the space of the small cabin, and sniffed once, lifting his nose into the air. Arch laughed out loud at the gesture.

“Yeah, you sort of happened into a rather mixed bag, didn’t you?”

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