The radio crackled with a chorus of hard-edged Maine accents as fishermen set the airways abuzz. "Whoa!" said a voice Jenkins recognized as that of his neighbor, Elwood Smalley. "Hear that big boomer?"
"Sounded like a jet fighter, only underwater," another fisherman said.
"Anyone else feel those big seas?" said a third man.
"Yup," replied a laconic veteran lobsterman named Homer Gudgeon. "Thought for a time there I was on a roller coaster!"
Jenkins barely heard the other voices chiming in. He dug a pocket calculator out of a drawer, estimated the time between the waves and their height, did some quick calculations and glanced with disbelief at the numbers. Then he picked up the cell phone he used when he didn't want personal messages to go over the marine channel and punched out a number.
The gravelly voice of Charlie Howes, Rocky Cove's police chief, came on the phone.
"Charlie, thank God I got you!"
"In my cruiser on my way to the station, Roy. You calling to crow about whippin' me at chess last night?"
"Another time," Jenkins said. "I'm east of Rocky Point. Look, Charlie, we don't have much time. There's a big wave heading right toward town."
He heard a dry chuckle at the other end. "Hell, Roy," the chief said, "town like ours on the water is bound to get lots of waves."
"Not like this one. You've got to evacuate the people from near the harbor, especially the new motel."
Jenkins thought the phone had gone dead. Then came Charlie Howe's famous guffaw. "I didn't know today was April Fool's."
"Charlie, this is no joke," Jenkins said in exasperation. "That wave is going to slam into the harbor. I don't know how strong it will be, because there are lots of unknowns, but that motel is right in its path."
The chief laughed again. "Hell, some people would be real happy to see the Harbor View washed into the sea."
The two-story edifice that extended into the harbor on stilts had been a source of controversy for months. It had gone up only after a bitter fight, an expensive lawsuit filed by the developers and what many suspected were bribes to officials.
"They're going to get their wish, but you've got to get the guests out first."
"Hell, Roy, there must be a hundred people staying there. I can't roust them out for no reason. I'll lose my job. Even worse, I'll be a laughingstock."
Jenkins checked his watch and cursed under his breath. He hadn't wanted to panic the chief, but he had reached the end of his self-control.
"Goddamnit, you old fool! How will you feel if a hundred people die because you're afraid of being laughed at?"
"You're not kidding, are you, Roy?"
"You know what I did before I took up lobstering."
"Yeah, you were a professor at the university up at Orono."
"That's right. I headed up the Oceanography Department. We studied wave action. You've heard of the Perfect Storm? You've got the perfect tidal wave heading your way. I calculate it will hit in twenty-five minutes. I don't care what you tell those motel people. Tell them there's a gas leak, a bomb threat, anything. Just get them out and to higher ground. And do it now."
"Okay, Roy. Okay."
"Is there anything open on Main Street?"
"Coffee shop. Jacoby kid is on the night shift. I'll have him swing by, then check out the fish pier."
"Make sure everybody is out of the area in fifteen minutes. That goes for you and Ed Jacoby."
"Will do. Thanks, Roy. I think. 'Bye."
Jenkins was almost dizzy with tension. He pictured Rocky Point in his mind. The town of twelve hundred was built like the seats in an amphitheater, its houses clustered on the side of a small hill overlooking the roughly circular harbor. The harbor was relatively sheltered, but the town's inhabitants had learned after a couple of hurricane-driven storm surges to build back from the water. The old brick maritime buildings on the main street bordering the harbor had been given over to shops and restaurants that served tourists. The fish pier and the motel dominated the harbor. Jenkins cranked up the throttle and prayed that his warning had arrived in time.
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.
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