Red Sun Over Panama

by H. Paul Doucette

Late Fall, 1941

Europe is ablaze as Hitler jackboots his way to total conquest. England is on the precipice as the Blitz has begun to reduce it to ashes and rubble. In the Pacific, Japan has begun stretching its might across China and the Pacific Islands, threatening India and Australia.

America is caught in the middle as it tries desperately to avoid becoming involved in a global war. But all that is about to change through an act of treachery that will shock the country to its core. Japan has decided to make its first move to cripple America's ability to challenge them in the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Canal.

Washington has grave concerns about the safety and security of the Canal as they have received reports of an influx of Japanese nationals arriving in the area. The Counterintelligence Police Corps has been charged with ensuring that the Canal remains open and free from sabotage and espionage. This has fallen to one agent: Paul Jarvis. He is dispatched to the Canal with a mandate to work in cooperation with agents from the FBI and the Office of Naval Intelligence.

It does not take long before he uncovers clues suggesting the possibility of a plot to blow up the locks at Pedro Miguel and Miraflores while investigating a series of suspicious murders. With the help of his partner, Sergeant Joe Duggan and the area MPs, he rushes to stop the attacks and capture the people involved.

The clock is ticking and in the distance the Red Sun on the western horizon rises higher.


Excerpt

Chapter One

 

Panama Canal Zone, November 1941

Bruja Point, Radio Post, Ft. Kobbe

 

Monday, November 24, 23:40 Hours

 

It was a moonless night, and the air lay heavy and humid over the surrounding area. A Quonset hut with a three-quarter ton U.S. Army truck parked near it, and a sixty foot steel-framed radio tower were the only things visible besides the dense jungle.

Four men sat in the small two-room Quonset hut. Each was dressed in U.S. Army olive, drab fatigues—shirts with sleeves rolled up and dungarees. One man wore three short stripes on his shirt, the others each had one on theirs. They were radio and signalmen from the Fifth Infantry based at Camp Paraiso, and attached to Howard Air Force Base. Their duty was to monitor all radio and signal traffic around the approaches to the Canal.

A Tommy Dorsey standard was playing on the RCA radio in the corner. Two large wall-mounted fans pushed the warm air around, giving little relief to the three men playing cards at a table near the back end of the room. The fourth man sat at the large radio transmitter with his feet up on the desk. He had a pair of headphones on and a bottle of Coca-Cola in one hand, while he used the other to flip through the pages of the latest Life magazine. The radio was set up at the other end of the hut separated from the rest of the room by a single wall. 

Just then, he heard the faint sound of intermittent beeps in the headphones. He sat up, put the bottle and magazine down, and strained to hear, reaching for the dials of the radio, trying to set the direction finder, and sharpen the sounds.

After several moments he leaned back and called out, “Sarge. You better come an' hear this.”

An older-looking man at the table looked up from the cards he held in his hand.

 “What?”

“It's that sound again. You know, the one we been hearin' the last coupla nights. Sounds like Morse code, but nothin' like I heard before.” The sergeant stood and came over.

“You better not be fuckin' wit me, Jones. Gimme dem phones,” he said when he reached the radio, placing them over his ears.

The young radio operator looked up at the older man, waiting.

“Hmm, yeah, yer right,” Sarge said. “Sounds like sum sort a code but it's gibberish. Makes no sense. Where's it originatin'?”

Jones went back to the dials, put on the second set of headphones, and adjusted the settings.

“Near's I can fix it, bearin's 300 degrees. Signal's faint, so I figure maybe twenty miles or more away.”

“Same as before. Okay, log it. I'll report to the lieutenant tomorrow. Good ears,” he said by way of a compliment.

“Thanks, Sarge. Whaddya think it is?”

“Dunno. Might be dem Jap fishermen dat's been around lately. Dey speak dat gibberish.”

“Hey, ya think it got anythin' to do with those other signals from the other posts that we been hearin' about?”

“Don't know. Jus' write it up an' put it in da box, okay?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I'm goin' back to da game. Don't fergit, log it,” he said, as he walked back to the table.

“Youse guys better not been fuckin' wit my hand or else...”

 

Monday, 10:20 Hours

 

The morning sun had burned off the fog that hung over Rodman Naval Station at dawn. The sky was clear blue, and it was already showing signs of being another scorcher. Soldiers  (often called GIs) and airmen were busy with their daily routines, and the sounds of planes preparing for takeoff on their patrols or training exercises carried into the office of Base Command. Three Quonset huts sat side by side at the end of the airstrip near the control tower. The tin paneling that made up their construction was already too hot to touch. Inside the middle one, clerks and runners were busy at their desks typing or filing.

The sound of a jeep braking outside the open door of the hut filtered into the office. A soldier dressed in fatigues, already showing sweat marks from the heat, stepped inside and stopped in front of the first desk near the door.

“Last night's logs and reports from Bruja,” he said, passing the clerk a large manila envelope attached to a clipboard.

The clerk took the envelope, then initialed the sheet on the clipboard. The GI turned and left while the clerk stood and headed for the office at the other end of the hut. He knocked twice on the door before he opened it.

“Sir. The morning logs and last night's reports from Bruja just came in. It's marked in red,” he said, stepping to the desk and placing the envelope down in front of the officer sitting behind it.

“Thanks, Charlie. Oh, ask Pete to come in and to bring me a coffee, please.”

“Sure thing, sir,” he said, then turned and left, closing the door behind him.

Lieutenant Joseph Fleming was in charge of a radio section with the Panama Signal Company, Military Intelligence Division, or MID, in Panama. This group was part of Communications Intelligence, or Comint, out of the Office of Naval Intelligence. Together, they were tasked with the defense of the Panama Canal Zone. This covered all areas from coastal defenses to the monitoring of radio traffic in and around the Zone.

A few minutes later, Sergeant Peter Franks knocked and stepped inside with a cup of coffee in his hand. Closing the door, he went and sat in front of the desk. He and Fleming have served together for the last six years. They first met while on a tour with MID in the Philippines. They had become good friends and under these circumstances, a certain easing of protocols was accepted.

“Sir?” Franks said, setting the cup down.

Fleming had been looking over an open file when he came into the office.

“The Bruja log from last night,” he said, looking up and sliding the file across the desk to him.

“What do you make of it?”

“You know what I think,” Franks said, picking up the file and giving it a quick read.

“So you still think we got us a rat in the woodpile?”

“Yep, I do, sir. All this does is confirm my suspicions. Only difference from all the rest of the chatter everyone's pickin' up is that this is pretty close to the Canal.”

“Yeah. I know,” Fleming said, sitting back with his cup. “Question is, where are they operating from? According to that report, whoever is sending messages is somewhere to the north and possibly within twenty miles of the Canal. That'd put him somewhere offshore or worse, on the coast.”

“Yeah, maybe. There's  a number of small islands out there, that's a fact. If it is someone on land, then we got us a spy operatin' in the area. One thing is sure, if there is something goin' on, then I figure they gotta be using a network of some kind. You know, a relay system or somethin'. Maybe even a sub. But there's no mistakin' the fact that they're usin' some sorta code.”

“Okay Pete, I agree, but what do we do about it is the question. We don't have the resources to handle this type of investigation.”

Franks just sat there knowing that the lieutenant was not asking him a question.

“Right. Pack up everything we got from Bruja and get it to me. I'm going to take this over to Captain Causton.”

“Yes, sir.” Franks stood and left the office.

"Red Sun Over Panama" by H. Paul Doucette

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Genres


WWII
War Thriller
Suspense

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