CHIEF Howes immediately regretted agreeing to Roy's urgent pleas, and was overcome by a numbing sense of uncertainty. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't. He'd known Jenkins since they were kids and Roy was the smartest one in class. He had never known him to fail as a friend. Still. Oh hell, he was near retirement anyhow.
Howes switched on his flasher, nailed the accelerator and, with a smoky screech of tires, roared toward the waterfront. While he drove the short distance, he got the deputy on the radio and told him to clear out the coffee shop then to go along Main Street with his PA system blasting, warning people to get to high ground. The chief knew the diurnal rhythms of his town: who would be up, who would be walking a dog. Luckily, most businesses didn't open before ten.
The motel was another story. Howes pulled over two empty buses on their way to pick up schoolchildren and told the drivers to follow him. The cruiser squealed to a stop beneath the motel's canopy, and the chief huffed his way to the front door. Howes had been on the fence about the motel. It would spoil the integrity of the harbor, but it might bring in jobs for locals; not everyone in town wanted to be a fisherman. On the other hand, he didn't like the way the project was rammed through to approval. He couldn't prove it, but he was sure there had been bribes at town hall.
The developer was a local named Jack Shrager, an unprincipled land raper who was building condos along the river that ran off the harbor, further despoiling the town's quiet beauty. Shrager never did hire locals, preferring foreigners who worked long and cheap.
The desk clerk, a young Jamaican, looked up with a startled expression on his thin, dark face as the chief burst into the lobby and shouted: "Get everyone out of the motel! This is an emergency!"
"What's the problem, mon?"
"I've been told there's a bomb here."
The desk clerk gulped. Then he got on the switchboard and began to call rooms.
"You've got ten minutes," Howes emphasized. "There are buses waiting in front. Get everyone out, including yourself. Tell anyone who refuses that the police will arrest them."
The chief strode down the nearest hallway and pounded on doors. "Police! You must evacuate this building immediately. You have ten minutes," he yelled at the sleepy faces that peered out. "There has been a bomb threat. Don't stop to gather your belongings."
He repeated the message until he was hoarse. The hallways filled with people in bathrobes and pajamas or with blankets wrapped around them. A swarthy man with an unpleasant scowl on his face stepped from one room. "What the hell is going on?" Jack Shrager demanded.
Howes swallowed hard. "There's been a bomb threat, Jack. You've got to get out."
A young blond woman poked her head out of the room. "What's wrong, babe?"
"There's a bomb in the motel," the chief said, becoming more specific.
The woman's face went pale and she stepped into the hallway. She was still in her silk bathrobe. Shrager tried to hold her, but she pulled away.
"I'm not staying here," she said.
"And I'm not moving," Shrager said. He slammed the door.
Howes shook his head in frustration, then guided the woman by the arm, joining the throng heading for the front door. He saw the buses were almost filled and yelled at the drivers.
"Get out of here in five minutes. Drive to the highest hill in town."
He slid behind the wheel of his cruiser and drove to the fish pier. The deputy was arguing with three fishermen. Howes saw what was happening and yelled out the window, "Get your asses into those trucks and go to the top of Hill Street or you'll be arrested."
"What the hell is going on, Charlie?"
Reprinted from Fire Ice by Clive Cussler by permission of G. P. Putnams Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Clive Cussler. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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