“Atlantic Threat” by Tom Sheehan

A series of strange bubbles of unknown origin broke the water only 25 or 30 feet from Jasper Henry, resting in a fog bank in his kayak on a morning trip on the Atlantic Ocean. An excellent swimmer and kayaker, his vest strapped in place, he was a mere mile from his home in Nahant, a Massachusetts peninsula running into the ocean from Lynn. At first floated in the thought it was a sea turtle, the bubbles were so large, like balloons had let go their breath below the surface. But he suddenly became aware of a huge presence below him, a huge presence, one he had never imagined, shadowy but solid, seen but not seen, spelling displacement to the core.

He was leery, World War II in high profile, his brother Jim off in the South Pacific, on that other body of water, and treachery possibly afoot in his homeland. He was 13, but his mind loaded with imagination at every vector made him a reader, a romantic, and a slight adventurer who could still make a fist. He had seen a movie a week earlier where a troop of Boy Scouts had made the difference, thwarting off danger, saving the innocents. He loved the movie, took it into his dreams, saw scenes over and over again in his half sleep, and could see the puffy cheeks of the young leader, Jackie Cooper, boy movie star. It was high adventure for Jasper Henry. And he had heard about German U-boats on the prowl on the coastal Atlantic, the east coast.

With a decision as quick as his paddle, Jasper Henry drove himself against the fog bank, heard more bubbles popping up behind him, followed by a whoosh of noise coming from underwater, and small waves touching like hands and fingers on the sides of his kayak. He made a low profile, shifted his paddle, and drew it onto his craft and kept it motionless. Holding his breath, letting all curiosity find silence, sitting at the very edge of the gray fogbank, he felt a mysterious and different wetness on his arms. He was not alone in the waters off Nahant.

Afraid to breath, to move, he kept the profile log-low on the water, heard the final bubbles break the surface, saw a hand paw at the water and a strange head appear, a head with an apparatus on it, like a diver’s helmet. The apparatus and the hands moved toward the shore, halted, looked about, seemed to stare past him and the kayak, continued on.

Jasper kept his frame low, log-low. The figure of a man eventually stood up in shallow water, took off the apparatus, walked onto land’s edge, found a large stone, stuck it into the skull of the apparatus with difficulty, walked back into deep water, dove, and came back up without the apparatus. He stumbled back to the shore, started a search for something, found it and withdrew a black bag from under a pile of stones. Quickly he dressed in clothes taken from the bag, put the clothes he wore into the bag and carefully buried it under a pile of rocks. He walked onto Nahant proper, took a turn, climbed a rocky path, and set off as though the morning had called him out for a seaside walk.

Jasper, with his heart beating, disbelief and fear pounding his senses, paddled ferociously, beached his kayak, ran up on the other side of a big rock, and saw nothing of the stranger. The swimmer, the man up from the depths of the ocean, was nowhere in sight.

Then panic hit him like a fever. He heard his brother Jimmy say, “Don’t let him get away from you, Jazz, I’m counting on you.” He ran down the first street and there in the front yard of Donnie Brougham’s house was Donnie’s bike, the new Western Flyer with handlebars a yard wide. He grabbed it on the fly and took off.

Ten minutes later he still had no sight of the man, blond hair, blue shirt, black pants, and black sneakers. Nobody walked this end of the road. The fog had not crossed onto Nahant proper. The diner at the beach was lit up as usual, the police cruiser parked outside with several other cars. He put the bike beside the diner and through the window he saw Officer Rogalski getting his morning coffee from Perly Gates, who owned the diner, two fishermen having a small breakfast at a window table and two older ladies having coffee and rolls, and the blond man in a blue shirt, black pants, and, he was willing to bet, wearing black sneakers.

Jasper kept hearing his brother’s voice, so he walked in and said to Officer Tim Rogalski, “Hi, Tim. How are you this morning? Foggy, huh?”

“Well, Jasper, were you out there today at the point?”

“Oh, no, Tim. I just wanted to tell you something.”

The blond man shifted in his seat at the counter, turning his head slowly, pretending to look around the room.

Jasper said, “I have to tell you, Tim, that I borrowed Donnie Brougham’s new Western Flyer bike, not a week old and it was right out on the lawn in front of his house where he left it. Can you imagine that? Right out on the middle of the lawn.” His hands were on his hips as though a teacher was expressing concern about a student to another teacher.

“Gonna teach him a lesson, huh, Jasper? Good idea. His father’s got more money that he can count, so Donnie’s got to learn from someone else. Might as well be you.” He looked up at Perly Gates and said, “Kid’s ahead of the game already, ain’t he, Perly?”

The door opened into the small diner and another man walked in, slapped the blond stranger on the back, and said, “Hi, Greg, I told you I’d make it. The walk on the beach was great, all the way from over in Swampscott. How was yours? And the eggs smell great or is it the bacon?”

He sat beside the blond, pointed at the blond’s plate and said to Perly, “I’ll have that, but doubled, if you don’t mind. Another coffee for the officer, too, if he wants one. My walk was just great. I feel like celebrating.”

Rogalski said, “Thanks, mister,” and to Gates nodded his head and added, “Might as well while I’m here. It’ll come in handy. I’ve got to do some coast-watching later today. We’ve had reports, pretty firm ones, that German U-boats or submarines have been spotted off Nantucket and up in Maine. Nahant’s not far from either place. When we hear those kinds of reports, we think about spies being set ashore, so I’ve got to keep a sharp eye.” He rubbed his hand on Jasper’s head, and offered him a salute. “Keep it up, Jasper, I’ll be watching you.”

“I might as well go out with you, Tim,” Jasper said, “and take another spin back to Donnie’s house, see if he calls you before I get back there. I bet he does, or his father does.”

Rogalski winked at Gates and the policeman and the boy on the watch left the diner together.

Jasper wheeled around a corner on the bike, came back to the house a few doors from the diner, a garrison being repaired, scrap lumber in odd piles around the yard. From a seat on a carpenter’s horse he had a view of the whole street where five cars sat against the curbing and the small parking lot across the street where four cars were parked. Beyond the small lot ran a narrow section of the beach, and beyond that the Atlantic ran all the way to the horizon. A ship dotted the very fringe, the Atlantic as calm as the morning kitchen at home until his father walked in, the day already loading him down, his mother doing her best to smile, cheer on the day for him, and worry about Jimmy on some open sandy beach in another ocean.

Wondering if he’d be able to see a car if the blond got into it, thinking the other man might not have walked all the way from Swampscott, all along King’s Beach and then the whole causeway onto Nahant, he thought about his options, how best to see and record any plate registration numbers. If they were up to no good, he’d have to record it somehow. Could he remember the numbers of one plate? Of more than one plate? His breath, as with each problem appearing, came heavy again.

At some point, not sure when it began, his stomach hurt, a small throb of uneasiness making news. He could hear his father say, “At least it’s not my heart, which is not down that low.” His mother would smile to make him feel easy, as if she had laughed at his small twist of humor.

Jimmy’s voice came back, secretly, but with a nervous edge to it. “Don’t let them get away with anything, Jazz.” He always loved how his big brother called him Jazz, the only one in the family, the only one on the whole island of Nahant.

In the solace of that thought, the nub of a carpenter’s pencil slipped its dark slabby lead into his awareness. It was hardly two inches long. He leaned down to pick it up even as he looked at the cars, counted them, tried to read the numbers. He couldn’t read them all, and guessed that he could never remember them all.

Jimmy, from way off, his voice thin and weary, simply said, “Think, Jazz. Think.”

The weariness in Jimmy’s voice made hum jump and hustle. He grabbed a piece of clean scrap wood, dry, almost off-white in color, and in a second act picked up a dozen or so used nails, leaped on the Western Flyer, hoped Donnie or his father had not called the cops, crossed the road, did a few wheelies in the lot, and at the end of the lot, close to beach sand and the ocean, he printed the number of each car’s plate on the board. He made the trip four times, did four wheelies, and checked the numbers one last time. They were complete, correct, all Massachusetts plates.

Down the causeway in its slow curve into Lynn, he rode back towards the diner to get the numbers of the cars parked on the street. Up a slight rise he drove the bike, pushing hard on the pedals, found another site to study the cars, and waited for the men to exit the diner. With a nod to himself, he was glad he had also noted each number by location, in the lot and on the street, and by relative positions.

The last time he had seen Donnie Brougham, they had a fight about some movie. He could not remember what it was about, who won. But Donnie would call the cops if he had seen him take the bike. Behind a high bush he stashed the bike, returned his watch, remembered the smell of bacon and eggs in Perly’s place, heard his stomach acknowledge the aroma, wondered how his father had been this morning, how his mother was doing.

The two men, the swimmer and the walker, came out of the diner and he decided to note the walker as “W” and the swimmer as “S” whenever he recorded any comments about them. He studied them as they stood away from the diner about a dozen feet. W looked up and down the street and across the parking lot and along the beach. Jasper somehow knew he was looking for Rogalski, who was not in sight. The man wore a thin summery jacket that carried an emblem he was not able to figure out, some golf club emblem he assumed. He wore a pair of pants that sure looked to be suit pants like his father’s, but were not walking pants, not beach pants. And he too wore sneakers, the kind S had on. He looked down at his own sneakers, black high tops, and a buck a pair from the Converse Rubber in Malden.

Then, right there on the sidewalk as if they were out in front of their own house, like they belonged someplace, W in a secret move handed S something from his pocket, shook his hand, and walked up the street, climbed into a Chevy, backed up, turned around, and headed off down the causeway towards Lynn, slowly, easily, as though he might be counting the waves of the new tide, looking at the early women walkers. Jasper checked off the Chevy plate number with a W.

S, also looking around, perhaps also searching for sight of Officer Rogalski, crossed the road and entered the parking lot where he sat down in a Packard two-door car with a hood as long as the Erie Canal. His uncle Owen had the same 1939 model, the same long hood with the same threat of power under the hood. Once he said he ran it up to Portland, Maine on a few stretches at 90 miles an hour – 90 miles an hour!

Jasper marked this registration numbers with an S, realized he should do some more reading about U-boats on the coast, and suddenly remembered he had seen a few likely magazines in Easy Eddie’s Barbershop but hadn’t given them much attention, his father sitting there, drumming his fingers on his knee like he was counting the hairs falling off a head. That’d be easy too, sneaking looks at Easy Eddie’s magazines, or else he’d look in Santry’s Drugstore and slip behind the door with a few other magazines off their rack, fill in the threats of German U-boats, here and all along the eastern coast. Vaguely he recalled a U-boat once was suspected of being in the Gulf of Mexico, just beyond New Orleans. It made him shiver, and he felt the sting in his stomach start anew. Rogalski’s comments in the diner might have carried too much information.

The Chevy was long out of sight, and the Packard, once that engine got warmed up, could be out of state in an hour or two. He didn’t know which way to turn, who to turn to. It would not be Rogalski who’d fake interest, drink coffee, rest, but remember other tales Jasper had told, and snuff it off like one of his butts right into the gutter. Nor would his father help, too angry early in the day, too tired at night, his mother at such times too busy making up for all other things in the house.

He wished Jimmy was here. Then, as if coming from an intolerable distance and bouncing off a clean rock of Nahant, like a bugle call or a razor’s edge, he heard Jimmy say, “Don’t let them get away from you, Jazz. I’m counting on you.” When he added “We’re all counting on you,” that did it.

All the things he thought he should do started to fall into order, and a small joy of being in control began to find some appreciation. The glow was short-lived when he saw the Packard start up, move down the parking lot to the far end, and stop in a new spot. S stood up outside the car, took off his shirt and put on a short-sleeved summer shirt, as though he was preparing for a walk.

Jasper panicked. He thought that S would go back to the rocky landing place, look for his stowed gear, destroy it or get rid of it in some manner. He had to beat him to it. Without looking back, he retrieved Donnie’s Western Flyer, flew out a back yard and raced away toward the rocky point without S seeing him.

Or he hoped so.

He resisted the urge again to look back. The pedals came up hard against his feet, his thighs felt the thrust coming back into them, and then found and matched it with his own power. The sound made by a ’39 Packard was comparable to his energy, he believed for a moment, as he drove hard over a hill and saw the whole Atlantic out there, the one small ship on the horizon. He wondered if a U-boat’s periscope watched the ship as he did, saw it better than a dot on the horizon, saw it as an easy kill. The movie whoosh of a released torpedo sounded in his head, he saw the light of an explosion on a thin, thin horizon where the world fell away.

Staying away from Donnie was important; he’d mess up everything and every which way. Donnie and his father would run with it, their mouths blabbing like babies, terror running out of their mouths so all Nahant would go all abuzz, explode…and miss what was important.

He drove harder, ditched the bike down between two slabs of sea-worn stone, and scampered down the rocks. In a few minutes he had the hiding place located and recovered what was hidden there. It was a black bag, smooth and oily to the touch and made him think of the table covering on his mother’s kitchen table, the red and white squares leaping into his mind like a strange checkerboard, how water would run right off the edge.

Not daring to take time to look into the bag, he grabbed it tightly, climbed between rugged rocks to keep his profile and silhouette as indistinct as possible, and found the bike where he’d left it. His stomach hurt once more, now tingles of pain as though needles were loose in him, flashing their points around with little care, no care. Down two lawns he rode, off the street, keeping out of sight, and suddenly saw S turn a corner ahead of him, on a casual walk. Jasper ducked behind hedges, flattened the bike, lay down with the oily black bag still in his hands. His breath was heavy and fearfully noisy as he tried to hold it in place.

S was coming down the street leisurely, as though he was a neighbor from the other end of town or over from Lynn or Swampscott for a morning constitutional, the sun only part way up in the sky, the sky a perfect blue on a day coming perfect – for a U-boat spy checking out Nahant, perhaps trying to cover his tracks, or retrieving the buried black bag.

Jasper wondered why S’d dare come back. Was there something in the bag he had forgotten? Didn’t dare leave behind for discovery? Would slap him in jail in a minute? If he waited and it was found by someone that someone might think it had fallen from a boat or ship, to be claimed by the finder, carried off to be lost forever in the heart of the country, in the heart of America.

Or point fingers where fingers should be pointed.

S passed him as he hid behind the hedges thick as grandma’s oatmeal, heart pounding all the while. He waited until the blond was out of sight around a corner, jumped on the bike with the bundle and headed down toward the beach. On the way, behind his own house, he hid the bundle inside the tool shed, tossing it onto the small shelf above the door.

Meanwhile, the Packard bothered him. A few Halloween tricks came across his mind, and one of them loomed as a definite possibility for immobilizing the vehicle. He decided against stuffing a potato into the end of the muffler or pulling spark plug wires from the engine. A dozen other pranks rode his memory from past nights of the holiday.

The few wheelies he performed in the parking lot attracted attention only for a while, and when he rested he rested beside the long-hooded Packard and with utmost caution, alert to anybody who could see him if they wanted to, stuck two slivers of wood into the air stems of the tires on one side, and loosely tossed the nails from the construction site around the area. It might spend some of S’s time to think about nails in the tires. It was the easy part of the equation of “how and fixed.”

Air began to escape its tight compression and leaked until the tires were flat and the Packard settled lower on the ocean side of the lot. S was not in sight as he gazed back toward the rocky point, so he sped back on another street, came to the rear of Donnie Brougham’s house and saw Donnie in front talking to his father, and saw the cruiser come to a stop out front. Rogalski slid from the cruiser, just as Jasper walked from behind the house.

There was instant yelling from father and son and Rogalski did not say a word until Jasper reached them. “Hello, Jasper,” he said. “How you doing today?”

“Oh. I’m fine, Mister Rogalski. I just came up from the point and saw Donnie’s new bike back there near the shed and was telling myself how great it looks. I love those wide handlebars.”

Rogalski said, “I had a report his bike was stolen, but I guess that was a mistake.” He turned to Donnie and asked, “Didn’t you say you left it out front, right on the lawn last night. Donnie” Is that correct?”

“Well, maybe I forgot. I sure won’t leave it around anymore.” His father walked off in a huff. Donnie ran to get his bike and Rogalski said, “Where you headed, Jasper, home or down the beach? I’ll give you a ride if you want one.”

“Can I ride in the front seat?”

“Sure can,” Rogalski said, slipping into the cruiser. Jasper went in the rider’s door.

Before the cruiser came to a stop, Jasper spotted the Packard leaning on the whole left side in the lot, but he said nothing to the policeman who paid no attention to the vehicle.

He wanted to get to Easy Eddie’s Barbershop or Santry’s Drug Store, catch up on U-boat information. He caught the edge of something he had forgotten, but it didn’t surface. Worries crowded him that all he had seen wasn’t real, wasn’t dangerous. Maybe it was a test of home defenses, alertness, the home guard, as it were. Rogalski always seemed kind of sleepy at the switch.

During the day, S went off after he had seen the condition of the car, walked back toward Lynn and returned a few hours later on a bicycle with a bicycle pump across the handlebars. When the tires were fixed, he placed the bicycle and the pump in the trunk and drove off down the causeway, towards all America. It was the last Jasper saw of the Packard, but he knew the sound of the engine, could pick it out of a dozen different cars.

After 9 PM he went to bed at his father’s insistence, knowing he’d be unable to sleep: he hadn’t warned anybody yet: not his parents, not Rogalski, not anybody. Not even the FBI. He sat up in bed at that. The thought sat there in his mind, fermenting, thinking of what he could say. How to phrase it.

Past midnight he heard an automobile. The tappets said it was a Chevy. Nobody on his street came home at this hour, though a few families did have one, and Pete and Jerry Milburn each drove one. The car turned around down the street and slowly passed his house again, and he could imagine S or W checking him out, the oily black bag discovered and taken away.

“Oh, Jimmy,” he said, “will playing cops and robbers bring trouble home? I remember Dad always saying, ‘I know you’ll never bring trouble into the house. Was he talking about something like this?”

The next night it was the Packard he heard, the thrusting purr of the engine. He couldn’t imagine how big the engine was beneath that long hood. It was well after midnight as the Packard went cruising down a few streets, but not his street. Could he take that as a bit of security? Was he clear of them as their suspect who had taken the black bag? That made him laugh in the back of his throat, but not loud enough for anybody to hear. There was no one he could tell what he knew about S and W.

Just Jimmy, but so far away it made him cry.

The newspaper the next day carried a report of U-boats off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire and one report of a woman being caught as she came up on the beach in Maine in an inflatable craft and she carried a large sum of American money. Police whisked her away before newspaper people could even talk to her or take her picture. She might have slid into the middle of the country if one man had not been on watch for the country, an old WW I veteran, his eye on the horizon, the beach, and odd entrants to his neighborhood.

Jasper read the story when his pal Barry Reese left it on his doorstep. Barry had two brothers in the war, one in Germany and one in the Pacific. Not yet 6 in the morning, they chatted a while about last letters and known places their brothers had been.

Jasper read parts of the story to Barry who replied, “If I caught someone like that I’d bash their brains in with a baseball bat, even if it was a woman.” He could do it, too, Jasper knew, as Barry was the best hitter on the island, picking right up where his brother Buddy left off when he joined the Marines.

Barry said, “My dad watches the whole coast line some days from the second floor back porch. Mom thinks he’s sleeping, but he’s got his bird glasses in his hands all the time.”

Jasper said, “My father just gets mad all the time, like he never sleeps.”

“Maybe he just want to be out there with Jimmy and can’t. That makes some guys mad. Ever think of it that way?”

Jasper said, “Maybe. I hope so.” Then he said, “’Member that triple Buddy hit in that last game? How sweet was his swing, huh?”

Then Buddy reported, “Rogalski says he’s the best he’s ever seen from here to Gloucester, and he’s seen ‘em all.”

It had all gone around and come back again.

Maybe Rogalski was the chance for him.

The fog was in again, sliding in with a soft breeze, and sat on the grass as well as the rocks at the end of Nahant. Jasper felt a minute chill touch him. The sea was making noise, too, the swells coming ashore, washing sand, washing rocks, running out of breath on the beach, the ranks of waves eternally deep. Boat motors had begun to hum their morning music. Road traffic was steady on the causeway. The gulls were quiet, some other birds as noisy as ever, and chipmunks and squirrels played tag along the stone wall and in the trees and he could hear their chatter snappy as popcorn.

He heard Jimmy, too. “It’s time to step up to the plate, Jazz, Your turn at bat. Pick a good one. Right in your wheelhouse. Give it your best shot. Slap it silly, Jazz.”

In bed that night, he chose Rogalski, “He didn’t snitch on me to Donnie or his father, but it has to be on my terms,” he kept saying, making an oath of it. He had checked the black bag in darkness, just making sure it was still there, untouched, unopened by him. He wondered again why had had not opened it. The thought of secret explosives thumped at him, or sticks of dynamite to cripple some special target, shut down a bridge, a tunnel, the subway. That kind of surprise was too much for him; let the police take care of that.

The radio in the house was on continually as his mother listened to war news all day, especially about the Pacific campaigns. She kept shining Jimmy’s pictures on the mantel above the fireplace, his First Lieutenant’s bars of gold as shiny as a new coin, his smile handsome enough to wilt a dozen hearts. His patience at building model planes was unequalled, and when one was finished, like a P38 or a British Spitfire with expended .22 caliber shells added like supercharger exhausts on each side of the balsa-covered and camouflaged fuselage, it made him want to fly. His heart would soar when Jimmy wound up the elastic band motor, stood tall on a high rock and commissioned each model to flight and to the sea. Off they’d go, in a nice steady wind, the propeller striking for more air, pulling the nimble little craft until the moment of death came, and it dove out of the sky and into the Atlantic. Once or twice they had tears, measuring the work put into the craft, or thinking about the pilot, the war on top of everybody…and Jimmy’s turn not far away.

So, trying to bolster his confidence, he thought again and again what he’d say to Rogalski. When it was all settled he realized he’d have to admit a few lies he had already told the officer .., and be prepared to face the consequences.

Rogalski, coffee in hand came out of the diner and approached the cruiser, Jasper leaning against the trunk of the vehicle. “Tim,” he said, his voice as deep as it ever had been, his eyes downcast. “I need to talk to you on some very important matter. Nobody can hear us. It has to be a secret for now.”

The officer, a sly smile on his face, said, “Jasper, I know all about you sneaking out of the house to go on your kayak rides ever since you got Jimmy’s room downstairs and your folks never knowing. I used to do the same thing when I was your age.”

“Oh, I heard all about you as a kid, Tim. Everybody knows, but this is real different. This includes something about Jimmy out there fighting the Japanese on some crazy island nobody’s ever heard about, and the other guys who are fighting in Europe.”

He took a deep breath and added, “This is life and death of someone somewhere I just know it. I heard you about your coast watch. I’ve seen you doing that, some early mornings, some evenings.”

He took another breath and said, “I saw something, Tim, I was afraid to tell anybody. I didn’t even tell my parents, but I saw something you should know about or the FBI or whoever.”

Rogalski looked into the boy’s eyes, took his own breath, and replied, “No more crap in it, Jasper. Not a single word.”

“I have proof, Tim, in my tool shed. I saw a man with a crazy thing on his head come out of the water near the Point after lots of bubbles came up first. He came on shore, took the thing off his head, found a big rock and went back in the water and dove and came up without it. Then he looked for a package, which was a black bag buried under some rocks, changed his clothes and put his wet clothes in the bag and buried it. I have the bag in my tool shed. Like I said.”

“Let’s go look at it.”

“There’s more, Tim, lots more.”

Rogalski nodded again, and then shook his head. “What else, Jasper. Is it going to get better?”

“I hoped it wouldn’t be like this, Tim. There’s a lot more. Remember that morning in the diner when I told you I stole Donnie’s new bike, and one guy there said he walked from Swampscott and felt so good he told Perly he’d buy you another coffee?”

“I remember.”

“Well, the fellow that he met in the diner is one of them. The other one, blond hair, blue shirt, black pants, black sneakers, is the one that came up from the water with that thing on his head.”

“My God, Jasper, you’re making me a little upset with all this made-up drama.”

“Tim, when I prove this is all real to someone and you were the first to think it was all a joke, you’ll be laughed at. I’ll tell Jimmy when he comes home and he’ll tell all his buddies.”

“Is that all of it? Rogalski said?”

“He came up out of a submarine. I can show you where he dumped the thing on his head.”

“Now that has got to be the end of it, Jasper. You’re getting way ahead of me.”

From his back pocket, Jasper pulled out the piece of wood with the registration numbers on it, explained about all the cars listed, showed him which two cars were directly involved, showed him the Massachusetts plate numbers, described the vehicles, drew Rogalski‘s memory to the ’39 Packard. A pal had one just like it, and the one in the parking lot came quickly to mind. He explained the S and W marks.

“Is that it, Jasper? I think you’re starting to convince me it’s worth checking.”

“There’s some more, Tim. The Chevy has gone past my house on a couple of nights and I’ve heard the Packard on the other streets, and I’ve seen S walking by and I hid from him. When I flattened his tires on the Packard, he knew someone was on to him. He went off and came back with a bike pump and pumped up the tires. If Jimmy was here, he’d go after him right away.”

“Let’s go look at what’s in that bag.” It was like Rogalski had joined the ranks.

“I’d be afraid of that, Tim, those guys getting near my house. If I could tell Jimmy somehow someway he’d get real upset.”

“Okay, you go home, keep watch. I’ll be off in a couple of hours, and I’ll keep patrolling, then after dark I’ll sneak over your place come in the back side and meet you in the tool shed. Is that a deal?” Then, as though he had gained a whole lot of smarts and odd information since he had last talked to him, he asked Jasper, “You still use the window from Jimmy’s old room to sneak out of the house?” It was like the cop had known everything there was to know except how to catch spies.

“Yes,” Jasper said, put in his place a bit, “as long as you don’t tell anybody and swear to it.”

It was the first time Jasper Henry ever shook hands with Patrolman Tim Rogalski. The closest was an occasional pat on the head.

The round-faced and usually lazy policeman had made some secret arrangements other than what he had with young Jasper Henry. He had a friend invite them to a secret home showing of new paintings by a noted Nahant artist…out of the house…out of the way. “And keep them as late as you can.”

And at the far end of the causeway, sitting outside a restaurant at the Lynn shore circle, another close friend watched every Chevy and Packard that came into the rotary and headed down the causeway to Nahant. Both these arrangements were with Rogalski’s high school pals, still as tight-fisted as ever, and tight-mouthed. Except for the one watching traffic.

Near 10:30 he telephoned the Henry home where Rogalski waited his call. “The Chevy’s coming.” He repeated the plate number. “It’s one of the two cars you’re interested in, Tim. I’ll watch for the Packard. Good luck, whatever it is.” He hung up the public phone and went back to his Ford pick-up truck. It was 10:45 on a thick, dark night, overcast and rain predicted.

Rogalski and Jasper, at the receipt of the phone call, had slipped out of the house and into the tool shed. Jasper told him to touch the black bag on the shelf. He touched it with his fingertips and advised, “It’s waterproofed alright, and thick. I bet it was heavy.”

Jasper heard the Chevy tappets coming across the darkness. He didn’t know where the car was, but it was somewhere on the next street, on the backside of the Henry property.

“That’s the Chevy, Tim. That’s it.” His excitement was almost visible, and Rogalski said, “I sure hope I didn’t make a mistake here, Jasper, but we better not get cornered in here. We’ll go behind your father’s woodpile. I’m betting they don’t dare carry guns, but I have mine.”

They’d talk about it afterward, how the voices, even in whispers, came to them on the clear night air, the voices of S and W, most all of it in English, and all of it pretty audible.

W was talking, with near a curse in his voice, “You should have taken the dumm bag with you.” One word was clearly German. “You have me deeper in this than I was supposed to be. All I want is my money and to be done with this. If U-509 is sunk because of this, they’ll kill us. Cousin Hans is a crew member. I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, my last trip to Spain. It’s all getting worse because of a dumm kid.” The German dialect came again on the one word, as if it was a pet word. He must have stepped on the rake Jasper had forgotten on the lawn. The curse was cut short, as if he had stuffed his fist in his mouth.

It was S’s turn, and he said, “The parents of the family are out. If the boy’s here, he’s got to be alone, asleep. We get the bag, take care of him, and get off this stupid island.”

W said, in a paraphrase, “This dumm island.”

S, seeming conscious of their voices carrying in the night, said in a new whisper lower than before, “He must have hidden it. If he told the parents the police and the federal men would be all over the place. So he must have hidden it. Let’s first look in the shed. The door’s open. Perhaps it’s in there.”

One of them stepped on a shovel, or stubbed his toes. “Got damm,” he grunted, pain in his voice, his reserves beginning to break down. “Es ist alleswegen dieserdummen Jungen.

Somehow, Jasper Henry knew he was being cursed. He tried to remember it. He had to tell Jimmy when he came home, not yet knowing it meant “It’s all because of that stupid boy.”

The pair of agents entered the tool shed, half as big as a garage, and pulled the door closed behind them and began a quiet search, now and then a tool touching another tool, a saw blade clattering upon a hammer or rake handle popping on a shovel handle.

None of it was alarming in tone, but it provided some cover noise for Rogalski who grabbed a three-foot piece of 2×6 Jasper’s father used to keep the woodpile aligned and to prevent it from falling onto the neat grass.

“Shhh,” he whispered and held his finger against his mouth, stepped from behind the pile silent as an Indian, and reached the shed without making a sound.

When he jammed one end into the ground as forcefully and as silently as he could, he slammed it with noise and great force against the door and quickly sat on its incline. It jammed tightly against the door – and all hell broke loose inside, and out.

Rogalski fired his pistol in the air three times, three loud bangs that cruelly invaded sleeping Nahant.

Most of the neighborhood and much of the island heard the gunshots and also heard Rogalski screaming in the darkness. “Call the police! Rogalski here on the Henry property in trouble. Officer needs assistance! Call the FBI, hurry! Hurry! Rogalski needs help. Officer needs assistance.”

The shots sounded like an invasion was taking place. But it really wasn’t and wasn’t going to come this time by way of the U-509, because of Jasper Henry and Tim Rogalski, insular coast watchers.


Jasper’s mother was in the kitchen and did not see the official looking uniformed man get out of an official looking somber gray vehicle. He was a Marine captain, his brass shining like a whole new day along with all the ribbons and medals on his chest, and a yellow telegram envelope in his hand as he looked once at the address on the mailbox and then again and started up the walk in a very serious but slow stride.

A neighbor, who had moved in only a year earlier, held her breath. Mr. Henry, she knew, was at work and his wife was in the kitchen most likely. She wondered if pain ever ceased hanging on to people, or crowding them, and she didn’t know where young Jasper was.

But he was at the window of his room, saying again and again, “Es ist alleswegen dieserdummen Jungen.” He knew it by heart and also knew he’d have to give up his room too, as previous connections had allowed his new captain brother to deliver his own wounded-in-action telegram to his parents.


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