Oh, and he is aware of the potential consequences of ordering Heller's death.
Oh, I knew I could count on the harbor master: they didn't like blown-up ships clogging their channels. Heller, I said, you are going to catch it good this time and I hope to the Gods that Lombar has removed your Grand Council contact, for tonight, you could get your head blown off. And a pleasure it will be to see it done.
Well, boss, I knew Heller's sudden death would lead to either an investigation or a full invasion, both of which would blow the lid off your whole plan to use Earth to take control of the Confederacy, at least until you'd found a way to either forge his reports or make them unnecessary. But see, I really hoped that you had already done that even though you hadn't yet given me the go-ahead to kill the guy. It's really the Gods' fault for letting me down. So we cool?
And then Lombar would shoot him.
Heller continues trolling the Coast Guard by plotting a course from Atlantic City to the Devil's Triangle, and continues to copy the logbook's "calligraphy" to report that the friendly sea monster was offering to help them solve the "mystery" of that million-mile, statistically-unexceptional patch of ocean. He then gives a speech to the still paralyzed - paralyzed is another word for "unconscious," right? because these guys were hit by a nerve-paralyzer beam but wound up asleep - National Guard crewmen about how hopefully their bosses will believe their story based on his work, and hops aboard his Sea Skiff.
As he boats towards Atlantic City, Heller talks to himself about cannibals, making Gris nervous that he suspects a trap until he realizes it's a Giovanni da Verrazano reference.
You could never tell when he was joking. It was a disconcerting trait, typical of the villain. Threw you off. He had owned the place once: he knew very well that, aside from Federal tax collectors, there were no cannibals in Atlantic City.
Zing. Gris just so happens to have a map of Atlantic City's coastline and harbors on-hand, and sees that Heller's taking a back-door approach through a waterway. He calls the harbormaster again to warn them that a desperate, black, PLO-trained terrorist is trying to sneak up on them. The other guy assures him that their guards have been supplemented with National Guard forces.
An oblivious Heller sails on for another half-hour, annoying Gris by drinking a (non-alcoholic?) beer. But as he nears his destination, he readies a dummy he manufactured out of spare clothes and pillows while Gris was... preoccupied last chapter, stuffs it behind the wheel, puts on some headgear, and jumps off the stern. Gris realizes that Heller also rigged a radio control for the ship's autopilot, so he can continue to steer the ship even as it's greeted by "A CHATTERING BURST OF MACHINE-GUN FIRE!"
What follows is not an action sequence. It may be written like one, but there's no drama or excitement to be had... um, let me rephrase that: there's nothing at stake except the boat. Heller is safely floating in the water, ignored, while his unmanned boat zips around getting shot at by clueless guards.
"I'm sorry," said Heller. "You were a good boat."
The Sea Skiff turned again. It passed under the bridge and was racing toward a nearby marina entrance.
The sharp staccato hammer of machine guns above the roar of the engines.
The crash of a shattered windshield!
The vicious multiple whines of ricochets!
A heavier burst of fire!
Still surging toward the marina docks, the Sea Skiff seemed to stagger. Then it went racing on!
A gout of flame!
The blue-white flash of exploding gasoline!
All the extra fuel cans must have gone up as one!
The remains of the rocketing speedboat hit the end of a pier!
Sure hope nobody was on that pier.
Heller dives when searchlights start scanning the waters, and only then does Gris think to call the harbormaster to inform him that they've just killed a dummy. But the man insists that they distinctly saw a non-dummy body fly up into the air, forcing Gris to use his Fed credentials and order him to continue the search.
Gris concludes the chapter fuming that Heller must've been tipped off by the message sent to the Coast Guard ship. "(Bleep) Heller! Him and his can of beer!"
In fairness, only part of it is Heller's fault, the rest is the ineptitude of the marina staff. We'll see just how catastrophically stupid they are next chapter.
Back to Chapter One