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Boats and Ships and Weapons: A Fearful Thing


Boats and Ships and Weapons: A Fearful Thing

My stories – adult and young adult – often feature boats or ships at some point. What’s the difference? Well, the easiest way to think about the difference is to realize that a boat can be hoisted onto a ship. The aircraft carrier on which I served as a young naval officer carried eight motor whaleboats. Each of those boats could carry about 60 sailors to and from shore, whenever the carrier was anchored in a city’s harbor: Hong Kong, Valparaiso, Acapulco, for example.


In A Fearful Thing, the fifth novel in my Rebecca Series of action-mystery stories, two of the major characters, Marie Campbell and Father Jack McGriff, are at one point captured and sequestered in a remote location. Their lives are in danger, as has been made obvious from the fact that their two bodyguards were murdered when Marie and McGriff were taken. Law enforcement agencies quickly gather to plan an assault on the building where the two are held. The use of heavy weapons is being discussed.


As Rebecca, her brother Luke, and Detective Sid Belton confer in this crisis, we read this:


They were a strange looking threesome, Rebecca wearing the dark, knee-length raincoat over her white tennis skirt and top, Luke with his elaborate shoulder rig worn over the full body camouflage outfit, and Belton with his shoulder holster covering his rumpled, pinstriped shirt and lightweight, dark-colored dress trousers and shoes.

Nor could they have been physically more unmatched, with Rebecca the tallest, Luke the broadest, and Belton the short, stooped, wizened warrior, leaning heavily on his multi purpose walking cane….


This will not do, gentlemen,” Rebecca said.

We’re not going to permit a gun battle here. Aside from the strictures of our [Christian] principles, a gun battle would be tactically the worst possible approach to getting Marie and Father McGriff out of there safely.


We’ve seen the map,” she said, “and we know where the tracking signal stopped. That appeared to be in a structure – presumably a farmhouse – no more than 100 yards from a small jetty, not far north of the inlet labeled Swan Creek. There must be a good-probability, low-violence approach that the three of us can engineer.”


While the murderers who have snatched Marie and McGriff are focused on defending themselves from the roadways and forested areas fronting their hideout, Rebecca and her team are thinking about the Potomac River behind it. Later, we read this:


The 19 foot Starcraft had a small cabin, forward, and a 25 horsepower Mercury outboard on the stern. The boat’s high gunwales and diminutive cabin were expected to be useful when the three-person crew grew to five with the hoped-for addition of Marie Campbell and Jack McGriff.


The “three-person crew” includes Rebecca and Luke. As you have seen from my previous post, Rebecca is a highly skilled user of Barrington Swords,12-inch throwing knives, and she is accurate at distances of 30 feet and more. Her brother has a distinguished past as a Royal navy boarding party leader. In that role, the fighting was at such close quarters that he preferred that he and his team use their hands, clubs, or, if necessary, knives, to do their work.


In my novels, Luke never carries a gun. He carries an array of tools, ropes, and knives to do what is needed, usually to rescue a member or members of the family or extended family.


I think you can imagine the kind of rescue of Marie and Father McGriff that is about to be attempted. Rebecca and her brother will approach from the river, and neither will carry a firearm, despite the fact that their enemy will be armed with automatic rifles.


What are the chances?



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