Red Sun Over California

by H. Paul Doucette

Sergeant Paul Jarvis, newly married has been re-assigned to CIC’s new base of operations in California where they will be working with the Office of Naval Intelligence. Upon arrival he is immediately sent on an investigation of a theft ring operating in San Diego and at the naval station there. He soon discovers that one or more of these criminals has been taking pictures of ship movements which are being passed on to a Japanese agent. He also uncovers a connection to the West Coast mob boss, Mickie Cohen.

As his investigation moves forward, he finds himself once again venturing south of the border into Mexico in his pursuit of the Japanese agents and one of Cohen’s men. It isn’t long before he is once again neck deep in a life and death fight to capture them, all the while trying to stay ahead of the mob who are out to stop him.


Excerpt

Prologue

 

San Diego, California

August 1942

 

Sammy Lee sat at a small table in the kitchenette of his two room apartment above Fung Wah’s Chinese restaurant located in the Chinese area of Chula Vista. He worked as a busboy in the restaurant, but in reality, he was an agent with the Tokeitai—the intelligence arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy—and a member of the Black Dragons, the most powerful of the secret societies in Japan. He was able to pass himself off as a Chinese because his grandfather had married a woman from Macau and he had inherited many physical traits from his grandmother’s race.

When he was sixteen years old, his father had enrolled him in the naval school in Tokyo where he rose to the highest level of achievement as a cadet. This brought him to the attention of the Tokeitai. By the time he graduated, he was a devoted nationalist. He was accepted into the intelligence group and underwent extensive training for a mission to the United States. Once ready, it was arranged for him to be sent overseas in 1935 by way of Singapore. His orders were to establish himself within the Chinese community in San Diego where he was to learn as much as he could about the area and the American Navy’s activities there. He was given enough money deposited in a secret account to set up a network of informants. So far, he had managed to get three gaijin, or white people, on his payroll: one a common gangster and two others. He also had a woman; she was a local prostitute and his sometime lover.

Another part of Lee’s cover was as a member in one of the local gangs, dealing in the opium trade as a runner. He had gained entry through the Black Dragons’ connection with the trade in China. This gave him access to the local criminal underbelly where he found easy access to people who were not overburdened by patriotism or loyalty to the government. The gang members had been instructed to keep their eyes open for potential people known to work in the defense industries.

He sat listening to the radio. It was playing one of the new songs by Benny Goodman. He liked swing music, one of several American things he had acquired a taste for since being here. Things like baseball, American women, bourbon, and Lucky Strike cigarettes, the latter two of which he was enjoying now while he waited to go to a meeting with one of his contacts.

He had first met Larry Coburn through his connection with Pete Kiley about six months ago. Seems Coburn had acquired a taste for opium and Asian women. He was a two bit hustler with an arrest record for mostly petty crimes. The man had even served a couple of short stints in the joint. He was like so many thugs Lee had to deal with: dull witted, big, and brawny. His cauliflower ears and broken nose showed the telltale signs of time spent living hard times on the street. No one would ever doubt that he was a hard case. Lee’s interest in the guy was due to the fact that he worked at the Consolidated Aircraft plant as a riveter; it was a trade he had learned while serving a twelve month stint in the state penitentiary.

When Coburn was finally released from prison, he had hooked up with some of his old cronies. They were now working for a local mobster named Pete Kiley. Larry had heard of Kiley when he was inside; word was that he was connected to Meyer Cohen up in LA. He joined Kiley’s crew as hired muscle and was told to keep working at Consolidated. The gang hung out at a local bar in National City, one that was supposedly owned by Kiley. It was a place for people like Larry—street thugs, ex-cons, bone breakers, and killers. It also served as a place to pick up the odd job for some bookie or other who needed to hire muscle for a collection or to make a drug run to Mexico as a gun hand.

A month or so later, he was introduced to a Chinaman named Sammy Lee. Lee was particularly interested in what he knew about Consolidated’s production work. Coburn didn’t seem to have a problem with that, especially since Lee was paying good money for the information. He usually met up with Lee once a week at the bar to pass on whatever he had to sell. It was that time again, and Coburn arrived for their meeting.

When Lee stepped inside, he spotted Larry sitting alone at the bar watching a game of nine ball. Places like these were something Lee always liked about America: the neighborhood bar. They had a mystique of their own, a sense of the neighborhood and the people who lived there. Many were at times open and welcoming while, at other times, they were dark and menacing. No wonder that Hollywood always included them in so many of their movies like a character in the story.

He went to the bar, ordered two beers, and then walked over to the corner.

“Larry,” Lee greeted, sliding onto the empty stool next to Coburn. He signalled the bartender to bring over the two beers. The bartender put the bottles of Pabst on the bar top. Lee passed one to Coburn.

“Thanks,” Larry said, taking the bottle.

Lee looked over his shoulder when he heard someone curse out loud. The shooter had potted the winning ball and the loser was throwing a bill on the pool table.

Turning back to Larry and leaning in, he asked, “What have you got for me?”

Larry reached inside his jacket, pulled out a folded envelope, and slid it across the table. Lee picked it up and opened it, easing a couple of the sheets of paper out by an inch or two. He saw that one was a drawing of something.

“I want more money from now on,” Larry said, lifting his beer to his mouth.

“Whaddya mean, more money?” Lee asked as he folded the envelope and slipped it inside his own jacket.

“Like I said. I want more. Dis stuff is good, an’ I gotta feelin’ you’re passin’ it along to somebody else.”

Lee felt anger rise inside of him but remained calm on the surface. “I pay you plenty. Why should I pay you more?”

Larry finally turned and looked at him. “’Cuz I gotta pretty good idea where yer passin; it to, an’ if I’m right, then both you an’ me are lookin’ at some real hard time if certain people ever find out. Now me, I ain’t too worried, see. But you, well dat’s anudder story, ain’t it? If ya get my drift.”

“Are you threatening me? Because if you...” Lee began, leaning back.

Larry just smiled. “Look, ya got a good thing goin’ here, yeah? What’s anudder fifty to ya? Ain’t like you guys don’t got da money, right?”

After a moment, Lee said, “I’ll let you know. You still at the same place?”

Larry Coburn nodded. “When?”

“A couple of days. Meantime, keep getting what you can,” Lee said standing up, finished his beer, then turned and left.

* * *

The fog was thick, damp, and cold. It was heavy with the smell of the Pacific Ocean and traces of diesel oil and smoke from the boat yards a mile or so to the west. The fog blanketed the street in a grey-white shroud, creating an overall eerie feeling accentuated by the early morning silence.

The street was dark these days since the newly imposed blackout order. Traffic was minimal, mostly military vehicles moving to and from the naval station and the odd private car. The street was lined on either side with a dozen or so cars. Every so often, someone appeared out of the fog, usually a civilian either heading home or to work. Other than that, no one was up and about at this hour of the morning.

The young patrolman was dressed in a greatcoat to protect himself against the damp Pacific fog. The garment hung halfway down below his knees. He strolled casually down the sidewalk, eying the storefronts and alleys for any signs of mischief. A two-foot long nightstick was looped around his wrist. He absentmindedly tapped it against his coat in time with his steps. He liked this time of the day, in the fog with the salty tang on his lips.

This used to be an easy beat, but since Pearl Harbour and the steady influx of civilian workers and military people it had become less quiet. Nowadays, people from all over the country were arriving daily, looking for work or coming to enlist in the Navy or the Marines. With this migration came a whole new set of problems: drunks and hookers and a growing concern with local criminals looking to cash in. These days, before leaving the precinct, his standing orders were to watch for drug dealers and anyone who looked ‘suspicious’.

He was halfway down West 6th Street nearing Highland Avenue when, from somewhere ahead, he could hear the sound of someone running. Tightening his grip on the billy stick, he moved forward, keeping alert for any trouble. After about fifteen steps, he heard a soft moan coming from an alleyway just ahead. He pulled out his flashlight and flipped it on, panning the alley’s approaching entrance.

“Police! Who’s there?” he called out.

Nothing. Then he heard another groan, louder this time.

He stood at the entrance and shone the light into the darkness. Almost at once the beam of light landed on the body of a man lying against a wall. He rushed forward and dropped to one knee, laying the stick on the ground as he placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. He angled the light on his face, and that’s when he saw the blood.

“Mister. Mister, can you hear me?”

“Uuugghhh,” was the only sound the man could make as he barely clung to consciousness.

“Okay, okay, jus’ take it easy, buddy. I’m a cop. I’m gonna go an’ call for help, but I’ll be right back, okay? You hear me?” Another groan was all he heard.

The cop stood up and hurried back to the sidewalk. The nearest call box was on the next block, so he had to run. Once he finished calling in and was told that an ambulance would be dispatched as well as a couple of on-duty detectives, he was ordered to go stay with the victim and wait.

 

"Red Sun Over Panama" by H. Paul Doucette

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Genres


WWII
War Thriller
Suspense

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