Artifact Prologue


Show time!

Peta Whyte struck a Bob Fosse dance pose in front of the brooding edifice that was Richmond Hill Prison. Despite the tension of the moment, she smiled at the strange juxtaposition. The two-hundred- yearold fortress, with its view of Grenada's harbor and the crystal blue Caribbean, was a perfect symbol of the harsh reality that now controlled her island, an island that had long been considered the jewel of the West Indies.

The U-shaped harbor and surroundings looked like a miniature Monte Carlo. A rainbow of brightly colored tin-and-wooden houses, small hotels, and provision stores which stocked little more than the necessities of life - rum, rice, cigarettes, and beer - meandered from the top of several hills down to the business and restaurant district which fringed the water. Fort George, like Monte Carlo's famed Castle- Fort, crested the top of the right-hand hill. Below it, hidden from view on the far side of the hill, lay the central marketplace. Looming over that, at the top of Church Street, stood a cathedral whose bells pealed melodically and often. At the top of the opposite hill, replacing Monte Carlo's casinos, was a gun emplacement which surrounded and essentially hid the island's only radio station from view.

From where she was standing, Peta could hear her Rasta friend Jimmy and his buddies playing soca on the steel drums that lined the fringes of Tanteen Park, which lay directly below her. In her mind's eye she could see the familiar scene at the bottom of the hill. Across the street from Jimmy, in front of the entrance gates to the docks, a series of booths sold food, smokes, and fireworks. Outside the neighboring fishery, old ladies, unmindful of the country's unrest, were sitting at open grills, cooking corn and jacks, the long silvery fish so abundant in the waters around the island. The jacks looked like overgrown sardines and, even grilled to a crisp and eaten bones and all, tasted like kippers.

Between the bountiful waters and the fruit and vegetables available all year just for the plucking, the only reason anyone went hungry on the island was out of sheer laziness, Peta thought, wishing that she could be among the vendors and musicians, acting like a carefree teen instead of someone with murder on her mind.

Only, if she were, her mentor and friend, Arthur Marryshow, would be as good as dead, and it would be as much her fault as it would be the Communists' who had imprisoned him.

Obedient to her instructions, Jimmy continued to play. His beat wafted up the slope on Grenada's sunset trade winds, heralding the end of the old year and the start of the new. Any excuse was good enough for a party. And why not? Tomorrow would be time enough to return to politics; tomorrow, when everyone had slept off the rum and the beer and the ganja. She had told Jimmy to keep playing loudly for at least an hour or until she returned, whichever came first.

It occurred to her now that he would have played on anyway, and that a more intelligent instruction might have included telling him what to do if she didn't come back, like calling her next of kin.

Such thinking was, she knew, counterproductive. She stopped herself and glanced up at the small window of the cell where Arthur was being held in solitary. His crime: suspected espionage against Grenada's Cuban-backed New Jewel government. If her friend and mentor was watching, her pose would send him a message, a reminder of their trip to New York three years ago. The trip had been her thirteenth birthday present - and his thirty-first.

Peta had been a precocious thirteen. Her mother had been working several jobs since her father's untimely death four years earlier, so Peta was left to take care of her younger siblings. Saved from feeling sorry for herself by natural intelligence and a streak of innate pragmatism, she'd managed to be practical, popular, and a good student.

All of which Arthur rewarded in as many ways as he could, including the trip to New York. They'd seenAll That Jazz, and declared the movie's risk-taking protagonist to be their hero. Later, they'd eaten dinner at a place called Danny's Seafood Grotto, and vowed to return there every year. On New Year's Eve.

A good plan, Peta thought. Except that someone should have told the Cubans not to interfere with Grenada and told the New Jewel Movement to disband. Instead, a hunger for power and for the blood of the enemy, whoever that might be, had turned her island into a madhouse.

This was a small island. Half the people were related, and the rest knew each other's business. Which was how she knew that William, her cousin's husband, would be on guard duty outside the prison tonight.

She rubbed her shoulder, bruised from the heavy backpack she'd lugged up Richmond Hill for William and his partner. William was a militant, sadistic bastard who for the last few years had hit on her at every opportunity. He'd be happy to see her, and easy to convince that the real reason she'd trekked up St. George's highest hill to spend New Year's Eve at the island's only prison was that he was, finally, irresistible.

And just in case his ego was on vacation, she'd brought ganja and the sweetness of the birthday cake and...

It had all sounded so simple in the planning that she hadn't had time to be afraid or to indulge herself in prayers or wishful thinking. Besides, above all else, she was a doer. Even were that not her nature, she'd be a doer now. She was damned if she was going to let them put Arthur Marryshow up against a wall and shoot him.


Or take machetes and hack him into pieces as a lesson to others who might be thinking of not toeing the line. Rumor had it Maurice Bishop and his Commie henchmen planned to do one or both of these things on the first day of the New Year.


With that sobering thought and the renewed realization that she was the parrot fish, the designated decoy, Peta took a last look at Burns Point and at the lagoon which lay adjacent to the harbor. She could see theAssegai, Fredrick "Frikkie" Van Alman's 120-footer, anchored in the lagoon. The schooner rocked gently, and Peta wished that she were there too, lying safely in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

Trusting that her partners in this rescue attempt, Frik and his ex -  Green Beret buddy Ray Arno, already had their asses in gear, she put on a dash of lipstick and adjusted the backpack. She hiked her short skirt level with her panty line and tuned in to Jimmy's calypso. Never more aware of her physical beauty, and determined to use everything that good genes had given her, she set her body into deliberately sensual motion. Dancing around the corner of the stone facade of Grenada's fortress prison, she prayed for this exercise to be over fast, as planned. It was one thing to play tease; it was quite another to have to deal with fully aroused male libidos.

"Hey, Joe. You see what I see?" Her cousin's husband and his Soviet-made submachine gun leaned in a triangle against the wall. He touched the weapon as if to reassure himself that it was still there, removed his dark American shades, and grinned at Peta.

"I see it but I don't believe it." His buddy, squat and ugly as a blowfish, grinned back. "Whatchou doin' here, girl?"

Peta danced into the circle of their lechery. She took off the backpack, dug into it, removed the ganja, and threw it to William. "Natalie says happy New Year."

"You telling me you came all the way up here to give me this?" From his breast pocket he pulled out a packet of rolling papers and removed one. Reaching into the plastic sandwich bag filled with marijuana, he removed a couple of dried buds and rolled them between his fingers, which caused the bits of leaf to fall into the paper while the seeds and stem remained in his fingers.

"I need you to do me a favor, Willy," Peta said as she watched him roll the ganja-filled paper into an expert joint.

"Anything." William licked the end of the paper, rolled his tongue at her, and lit the joint. "Almost anything." He drew deeply, then offered it to her. She took it and toked, drawing less deeply than it appeared, and passed it to Joe.

"It's my birthday," she said, taking the boxed cake out of the backpack.

Joe opened the box and pulled matches out of his pocket. He counted the candles. "Sixteen candles," he sang out, jiggling himself. He put his arm around her and kissed her full on the mouth. "You legal now, girl."

Peta pulled away. Grinned. Felt like throwing up. "I got a friend inside."

"You want to go inside and celebrate with him?" Joe asked. "We not good enough for you?"

Willy laughed. "Sir fucking Dr. Arthur Marryshow, right?"

Happy birthday, dear Arthur, Peta thought.

"How about we light a fire under that cocksucker and turn him into a candle?" Joe said.

Animal! Peta thought, deliberately feeding on Joe's callousness to harden herself for what lay ahead.

"Great shit." William took another toke from the joint. "Bring anything else, sweetface?" He rummaged in the backpack and found the beers. "Let's party." He opened one of the bottles and slugged down the contents. "You too good to us, girl." He belched loudly. Joe roared with laughter.

Their noises covered the sounds for which Peta had been waiting, three in succession, Frik's practiced imitation of the distinctive deep-throated howl of the Mona monkeys he'd often hunted for his dinner pot. She looked at the sky. In the way of the Tropics, darkness had suddenly come upon them.

"Tell you what," William said. "We'll save the good doctor a beer and a couple pieces of cake in case he's alive in the morning."

"How about some for the other guards?" Peta asked, ignoring the loud beat of her heart in her ears.

"They's inside. They'll never know the difference. Nobody out here but us."

There was a moment of silence as one man toked and the other opened and slugged down another Carib. Too late, Peta tried to cover the silence.

"What the fuck was that?" Joe said.

"Didn't hear a thing." William put his arm around Peta and pulled her toward him.

"Well, I did."

"Okay, so maybe a dog took a loud dump. If it bothers you, go see what it was."

Beer in one hand, weapon balanced by his forearm and lying across his shoulder, Joe took a step in the direction from which Peta had come. "I think I'll just do that," he said. He bent first to extract a large and messy chunk of birthday cake.

"You'll miss the real party." Peta pressed herself against William.

"I'll be back," Joe said. "Have to take a piss anyway. Might as well do a tour while I'm at it."

He didn't seem particularly worried until the sound came again - the harsh clang of something against metal. He stiffened and moved toward the noise.

Dear God, forgive me, I didn't want it to come to this, Peta thought, as she swung into the action she and Ray had rehearsed.

Quickly, using maximum energy and strength, she removed the scalpel that had been disguised as part of her belt buckle. Imagine Willy's a goat, she told herself; she'd helped kill those often enough before a family feast.

The illusion worked, aided by a massive rush of adrenaline. Before he realized what was happening, William's carotid artery had been neatly slit. Her cousin Natalie's husband.

She turned her attention to Joe, who was just about to round the corner that led to a scene he could not be allowed to witness. For a split second, she diverted her focus to William's submachine gun.

"Don't even think about it, sweetface." Joe turned around, his weapon cocked. "This no toy in me hand, you know. Now, you mind telling Joe what be going on?"

"Sick dog was feeling me up," Peta said, knowing how stupid she sounded after giving both of them the come-on.

"Sick dog?" Joe motioned at her with the rifle. "You sick bitch, if you ask me. C'moverhere." She didn't move. "Be a good girl, sweetface. Drop you knife and come over here. Slowly."

She walked toward him, swaying her hips. She was taller than he was by some inches. As she came close to him, she could see over his right shoulder. Two figures stood behind him, no more than thirty feet away and exposed in the fullness of the New Year's Eve moon.

Watching her, Joe put the remainder of the cake into his mouth. "Want some?" He held two fingers of icing next to her face. "Might as well. Fat won't matter when you's dead and you's going be dead in a minute, you don't tell me what's going down."

He had allowed Peta, encouraged her, to come close enough to implement Ray's lessons. Praying that he had not yet released the safety on his weapon, she struck fast, kneed him in the crotch, and when he doubled over in pain, jabbed her thumbs into his eyes, then struck with the edge of her hand to the back of his neck. The gun clattered to the ground, along with his bottle of Carib. Clutching his balls and whimpering, Joe buckled and fell facedown into the dregs of the beer that had trickled from his bottle.

Thinking of the danger to Arthur, Frik, and Ray, and to herself, Peta did what she had to do.

He's a goat, she told herself again.

In an act punctuated by the repeated clatter of a hard object against metal, she picked up Joe's submachine gun and smashed his skull.

"I - "

"We saw what happened, Peta," Ray said. "Thank you."

"You all right, kid?" Frik asked.

An irreverent thought flashed through Peta's mind. These two men were having fun. Educated, well traveled, experienced, they were not much more than altered, older versions of what William and Joe might have become. Ray, a demolitions expert turned stuntman, had come to Grenada to shoot some scenes for a Hollywood movie, and had stayed on when the revolution heated up. The truth was that he'd rather be shooting a gun than a film. As for Frik, the stocky expatriate South African was an oil magnate whose wealth was exceeded only by the size of his ego. Like Joe, he saw himself as irresistible to women. He acted as if he were Hemingway incarnate, and looked the part, especially when he had a crossbow slung over his shoulder.

"I had to hit the bars first," Frik said, as if there were any way he could have been that accurate.

She looked at the crossbow, which was now in his hands. So the sound that had nearly gotten them killed earlier was an arrow - or a bolt, as Frik called it - hitting the bars of the window of Arthur's prison cell and ricocheting back to the ground.

"Had to warn Art to get out of the way."

Art? It's Arthur, you dumb shit, Peta thought. She looked up at the window. Arthur was looking down at them. Even in the moonlight, she could see that his face was thin and drawn. He was a huge man, almost six feet five. Before his arrest he'd weighed over 250 pounds. By all reports, he had lost nearly a hundred of that during his year of confinement.

Peta waved and smiled at him, trying not to let her body language show how scared she really was, but he seemed to be too focused on Frik to notice anything else.

Frik was preparing to send up another bolt, attached to a nylon fishing line which was in turn attached to a rope.

"Let's get this show on the road," Ray said.

Frik nodded, and this time the bolt found its mark between the bars. Arthur signaled to them, bolt in hand, and immediately began pulling up the rope. Ray checked the small black bag that was attached to his belt. It contained, he had told her, a fine powder, a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum. He patted his pocket, as if to reassure himself that he had the magnesium strips and matches he needed for ignition. Arthur disappeared from her view for a moment, then reappeared, giving a thumbs-up.

Ray tested the rope. "Hold it taut at the bottom," he told Frik as he handed the end to the Afrikaner. Moments later, Ray was effortlessly scaling the wall, working his way upward toward the small barred window.

"Keep your eyes open, my little miss," Frik said, holding on to the rope. "We can't be sure someone won't come looking for those buddies of yours."

"They weren't my buddies," Peta said, more sharply than was necessary.And I'm not your little miss! She needed to release some of her pent-up fear and guilt. This was hardly an auspicious beginning to her adulthood. She knew that she'd had to kill to avoid being killed herself, but that didn't mean she liked playing God...any more than she liked being patronized.

Above her, Ray had reached the window. First he pulled the magnesium strips from his pocket and wrapped them around the bases of the three bars farthest from the rope. After that, he took the explosive from his belt, tamped some of the aluminum - iron oxide compound around each of the bars, and lit a long match. He touched the flame to a fuse attached to the magnesium strips, then, with the skill of a coconut thief, slid a dozen yards down the rope. A series of crisp sizzles followed, each accompanied by a flash of light. Darkness returned.

When Peta's eyesight had adjusted, she saw that there were huge scorch marks on the masonry below the window, and the bars had been bent out of the way. Ray was already halfway down the rope.

As soon as the stuntman reached ground, Arthur eased his spare frame through the window and followed suit. When his feet touched solid ground, he stopped for a moment as if the physical effort had worn him out. He bent over and took several deep breaths, then straightened up.

"Let's go," he said.

Taking their cue from Arthur, the four of them raced, as fast as his slower pace would allow, down the hill toward Grenada Yacht Services and the comparative safety of theAssegai .

The gated compound of GYS was unattended after midnight. Peta watched Frik use his membership key on the entry gate's massive lock. As she walked inside and heard Frik click the lock shut behind her, she became aware of the silence. She realized, with wonder and what was almost a sense of discomfort, that no alarm had been raised at the prison. She was wrenched out of her thoughts by the sight of a large gun emerging out of the shadows.

"Evening, Frik."

Peta breathed a sigh of relief as she recognized the voice and short, slight figure of Emanuel Sheppard, an old friend and freelance boat captain who seemed to live at GYS. "I see you brought some company."

"Actually, amigo, if you know what's good for you, you didn't see anyone," Frik replied.

A sly look washed onto Manny's face and rolled away again with the tide of his easygoing nature. Peta had known this man her entire life, and had never seen a single person rattle him. Everybody seemed to trust him implicitly. She was sure that he knew almost every secret on the island, and just as sure that not one of them would ever pass his lips. If you pushed him, the most you'd get was a sly glance and a tall story about his days in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States security forces.

The group hurried along the creaking boards of the Grenada Yacht Services piers until they came to the two-masted beauty of theAssegai .

Frik's Great Danes, Sheba and Maverick, greeted them ebulliently as they clambered on board, though Peta knew that the animals would not be so friendly were their master not in the group. Frik wasted no time in starting the engines. Still on the dock, Manny cast off the tie lines, and the yacht began a stately drift, aided by the motors, which thrummed to life.

"Happy New Year, all," Manny called out in a stage whisper. Then softer, "It was nice not seeing you again."

As they cleared the harbor, Arthur turned to Peta. He bent down to lift her into the air. Still too weak to do so, he simultaneously hugged and reprimanded her.

"Happy as I am to see you, girl, I want to know what you're doing here." He released her and looked at the others. "This is hardly a child's game."

The warmth Peta had felt with Arthur's arms around her instantly dissipated. "Damn it, Arthur, I'm not a child. Tell him, Ray. Tell him why I'm here."

"This was all her idea," Ray said, somewhat grudgingly. "She planned the operation - "

"And set it up," Peta interrupted. "I killed two men so theseboys here could play Scaramouche meets Robin Hood," she went on. "Killed. As in dead. William - "

"Natalie's William?"

Peta nodded. "He's lying on the ground up there with his carotid sliced by one of your scalpels. And Joe - " She put her hands over her face.

"I'm sorry, Peta," Arthur said quietly. After a moment he added, "What are we waiting for? I, for one, could use a drink."

In short order, the three men were seated around Frik's large wooden outdoor table, where a bottle of Westerhall rum, a dish of nuts, three highball glasses, and a bottle of guava juice awaited their return. Peta cynically assumed the last was her reward.

Arthur poured himself a short glass, adding juice, rather than his usual straight-up tumblerful. "It's been a long time," he said. "Happy birthday, Peta. Happy birthday to both of us."

No one said much more until the rum was half gone. Peta sat away from the other three, on a locker which, she presumed, held life jackets. The spot was ideal in that she was close enough to see and hear them, yet far enough away from them to deal with the distraction of her own thoughts, which were none too pleasant. Every once in a while, a flying fish arced from the water, its silvery scales flashing in the moonlight, or a star shot across the heavens. She took solace in those signs, telling herself that the universe had forgiven her trespasses against it.

To port, she could see that they were rounding the peninsula of Point Saline. In a few minutes, the lights of the Cuban encampment would be visible, and the great black expanse of the airstrip they were building.

Her mind returned to the events which led up to tonight.

Why had Arthur, her father's godson, insisted upon playing hero and martyr? Sure, he was a Marryshow and thus by nature a political beast, but as much as she adored him, she sometimes wondered about his sanity. Everybody knew he was none too fond of Prime Minister Bishop and his Communist regime, but so what? Arthur was a doctor, for God's sake, not a warrior or a politician. He could have kept his nose clean. Then he wouldn't have been arrested, and she wouldn't have had to kill two people.

She stopped. There was no point to those thoughts. She turned away from the receding coastline of her home and focused on her three shipmates. While they were unique in many ways, and two of them weren't Grenadian, they were typical of Grenada's male population, who were die-hard chauvinists. Arthur was less so than most, at least in their private moments, but in the company of men he acted little better than the rest, who adored females of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages but believed them to be creatures of service, there to nurture them and to bed them. Like the others, he had no quarrel with women entering nurturing professions. They could become doctors and nurses and teachers. Anything else, law for example, or engineering, was a man's domain.

Like drinking rum, which, too, was some pathetic rite of manhood, she thought as they started on the second half of the bottle. Westerhall was as close as they could get to pure alcohol, so it was none too surprising that their tongues loosened. They began to regale each other with a succession of stories of prior adventures which grew more daring and less believable in inverse proportion to the amount of rum left in the bottle.

By five minutes to midnight, they were well into their next bottle. In their drunken state, they seemed to have completely forgotten that Peta was there.

"We are the best," Frik said, raising his glass.

"The very best," Ray agreed, doing the same.

"Uh-huh." Arthur tilted his glass in their direction.

Frik started to hold forth. Peta stopped listening until the end of his pronouncement. "...Daredevils Club," he said. "We'll meet every year.... New Year's Eve's a good time. Swap stories. See which of ushas taken the biggest risk. Whatcha think, guys?"

Peta glanced at her watch in the moonlight. Thirty seconds and it would be 1983. She rose to her feet and approached the table. "Happy birthday, Arthur," she said.

"Happy birthday, Peta," he echoed.

"And happy New Year...everyone." She turned toward Arthur. "Are we all going to meet at Danny's Grotto for our birthdaysand the Daredevils Club."

"Not you, little Miss Sweet Sixteen," Frik said, grinning inanely. He looked at the others. "You're a succulent piece of meat, but you're a kid. Besides, we don't play women's games."

"S'right," Ray added. "You're just a kid. I'm not gonna be responsible for a kid risking her life on a stupid stunt. Especially a girl."

"What doyou say, Arthur?" she asked, in a voice so soft that she seemed to be shouting. "Do you also think I have to grow balls to be a Daredevil? You're a plastic surgeon. You could make me some. Or is killing two men enough to prove that I'm as tough as you are?"

"She makes sense, gentlemen," he said, looking at Frik and Ray. They shook their heads vehemently. He turned back to Peta. "I'm outvoted," he said. He had begun to slur his words. "Besides, I promised your father that I'd keep you out of harm's way." Clearly exhausted and more than a little drunk, he put his head down on the table, in the crook of his elbow, and fell asleep.

Peta looked back at the small spot on the horizon that was Grenada. She imagined she could hear music and shouting as, all along Church Street, bells rang out.

"Happy New Year, assholes," she said, loudly this time. Then, disgusted, walked toward the prow of the boat and stared into the vast, dark ocean that lay ahead.

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