This is supposed to be one of those cases where we see how the evil Gris cannot comprehend the virtuous Heller's actions... except I'm kinda in agreement with Gris here. So what, these Coast Guard boat jockeys deserve special treatment, but not Oozopolis or the Federal investigators going after the mob, who Heller helped set up for a bombing back in Book Two? What about those IRS agents? Do you have to be on a boat for Heller to spare you?
Whatever. Gris could call the Coast Guard and inform them that their ship has been captured by the guy they were trying to apprehend, but again decides he needs to figure out exactly what Heller is planning before making the call. So he watches as Heller wrangles the Sea Skiff and pulls it alongside the Coast Guard ship, then drags the paralyzed crewmen into the "salon" (which isn't on Wikipedia's glossary of nautical terms). He makes a pile out of all the rifles, throws some "caps" onto it, then inspects the damage he caused with his ray gun. He sprays the deck gun with a fire extinguisher to finish cooling it, then scrapes off the melted puddle that used to be the radio aerial and chucks it in the ocean, nature's garbage dump. After that Heller uses some bolt cutters to make it look like the radio antennae had been broken off rather than melted by alien weaponry. He finishes by changing into a spare uniform and continues boating along, towing the Sea Skiff behind him.
Gris keeps watching.
Heller puts the Coast Guard ship on autopilot and decides to respond to the faint but insistent messages that are managing to get through the damaged equipment. He reports a "little mishap" affecting the radio and engines, and that "Everybody is a bit flaked out." But the capture was a success and they're heading down the coast back to base, but oops the radio is going see you tomorrow bye.
Heller put down the mike and went back to gaze at the beautiful day.
It was probably his attitude, probably the way he propped his elbow on a radar and cupped his chin in his palm. Heller can drive anybody absolutely insane with things like that!
I went crazy. I phoned Captain Grumper.
"What's wrong now?" he said.
It was on the tip of my tongue to scream that an extraterrestrial had just seized his fast patrol craft. I checked myself in time. It would sound odd.
"The man," I said, "that you were supposed to capture has TAKEN OVER THE 81!"
It takes a while for him to convince the captain, though, I mean the boat just called in to say everything's fine. So Gris pulls rank as a Federal agent slash Rockecenter henchman and gets the Coast Guard to send out a recovery force, while Heller yawns and watches the seagulls and writes in the ship's log about encountering a 300-foot sea monster with orange wings and purple horns that breathes fire and speaks "Scandinavian."
But eventually three helicopters catch up with him and swing down low. Heller waves at them, and then "THE THREE CHOPPERS WENT AWAY!"
Gris demands an explanation, and the Coast Guard captain tells him that one of the helicopter pilots recognized the officer at the helm, "Chief Jive, one of the most able blacks we have in service." Gris drops the phone in shock from the reveal.
See, he had - along with me - assumed that nobody recognized Heller at the harbor because they were looking for the buck-toothed, bespectacled Whiz Kid "body double." But no, Heller actually blackened his face using that skin blackener doodad he used.... a long time ago, to buy that roadhouse in Connecticut that we haven't seen in forever. How convenient that the run-down bathroom he shaved in didn't have any mirrors to spoil this surprise for us. How convenient that Mortie the cab driver was half-blind from being sprayed with mace so he couldn't notice his friend changing ethnicity. It certainly made this revelation all the more...
No, it's still moronic, the equivalent of James Bond using an ingenious grappling hook disguised as a haddock to scale a wall right alongside a perfectly-usable ladder. It was totally unnecessary and just as uninteresting as all the other times Heller pulls an alien gizmo out of his ass to solve his problems.
I watched with great care. And I confirmed it in the pilothouse window reflection at last. Heller was black-faced! And blacks all look alike to whites. No wonder the day had looked so beautifully hazeless! He was wearing tan contact lenses!
I can't tell if this is more of the author being racist, or the author trying to satirize racism but failing due to his own racism.
(Bleep) Heller! How can you keep up with such a man!
Not with the Coast Guard, obviously. So Gris calls the Atlantic City harbormaster, introduces himself as "a Fed," and tips him off that the Golden Sunset is going to be attacked sometime today or tonight, so they should put the boat under armed guard and not let anybody approach, especially the Coast Guard. The culprit is a black fellow that is to be shot on sight.
Gee. Only way this could go wrong would be if Heller had a device that let him change race at will.
Back to Part Forty-Nine, Chapter Six