Book 2 in the Ocean Cowboys Series is another suspense-filled ocean drama that will keep you turning the pages. Olga is pregnant and Toivo is determined to have the baby delivered in a hospital. While they are gone, Shela, a young “cowboy” volunteers to watch their tuna herd. But she becomes the target of human traffickers and what ensues is a dangerous rescue attempt to save her. Of course the dolphins again play a major part in the adventure.
When I wrote Shepherds I had no intention of writing any other books with Olga and Toivo. However, as requests from readers kept coming, requesting more, I finally decided that I needed to come up with a plot that would match the first book for action and adventure and would provide something different. I hope you find the book fulfills all of that.
Links to buy Shela are:
https://books2read.com/u/braxpz This is a universal book link for all the distribution sites except Amazon (click on the link and then select the seller of your choice).
As an audiobook at Apple: https://www.apple.com/apple-books/
A sample from Chapter 1:
Monahar Kalparmit stood in the pilothouse of his rusty ship, a venerable tramp steamer that had served him well over the eight years that he’d owned her. His black, shoulder length hair was ruffled and uncombed, his brown eyes, red from lack of sleep, were widely spaced in a brown face weathered by the wind, sun and salt spray. His life hadn’t been easy, but it was a life he chose to escape the abject poverty that engulfed so many in his country. That what he did brought suffering to others hardly occurred to him. He made a living and that was all that mattered.
Monahar watched his crew help unload the cargo using the boom that swung on the midships mast. Two 20-foot shipping containers held the captives they’d managed to snare. Women and girls in one, men and boys in the other. The giant bins were hoisted from the forward hold and gently deposited on a waiting flatbed truck. Neither were very full.
It wasn’t his best trip. For the first time in a long while, they’d met with armed resistance from the backward villagers who were usually easy targets. Things were getting tougher and this time most of the men they’d managed to catch were older, skinny, and would not bring a good price. There were a few young girls who would bring extra cash but only a couple. The women he’d manage to round up were scullery maids, no more, no less, and wouldn’t fetch a good price either. Still, he would collect payment and try to learn what went wrong this time and improve. As the targets got smarter, he had to get smarter too. He hoped that his next trip would be better.
Scrutinizing the dockyards, busy with ships loading and unloading, the sea filled with the junk sailors tossed over the side and oil slicks from leaky vessels. Port had its own sour smell that went with the diesels, the smoke and the people. Monahar was happy to note that there were no police. Amazing what you could do even in a busy port if the right people got a piece of the profits. He was glad he didn’t have to deal with the local police. Leave that to the shore people, he thought. They made most of the profits anyway. And since there were no guarantees that people would remain on the payroll or that someone new would be willing to take money and shut up, he was certain it was a constant problem. Thankfully one he didn’t have even though he knew if the shore people messed up, it would certainly be a problem for him.
He glanced toward the bow, thinking about his ship and the repairs she needed. Originally, she’d been called Draco. Polaris was the name stenciled on her hull right now. She’d had many names over the years, a fact that bothered some of his sailors, but Monahar scoffed at the superstitions surrounding name changes. Polaris, the North Star. The last time he’d needed to change the name he’d picked Polaris hoping the star’s true direction would help guide Monahar to renewed fortune. But it was the ship’s condition that was his problem, not her name. Her paint was chipped and everywhere he looked there were drizzles of rust, and some spots that were approaching dangerous. The hull undoubtedly was covered with barnacles, so many that she wouldn’t make 20 knots anymore. Fortunately, he didn’t need speed to catch slaves; that was all done on land, and the only thing he ever chased on the open ocean were the occasional tiny, peasant fishing boats with only a single sail for propulsion. Every once in a while, that fisherman turned out to be young, strong, and valuable. When he could catch one alone, it was an easy capture. He smiled, remembering a few of those successful trips. And despite her condition, Polaris remained seaworthy so he was confident that she had a lot of life left in her. Still, with the smaller payments he’d gotten the last few trips, there wasn’t money for upkeep. She’d just have to get by for a little longer, or maybe a lot longer if things didn’t improve soon.
Monahar turned and paced to the aft windows in the pilothouse. He looked out over the stern. The containers were already sitting on the dock, loaded on a flatbed truck ready to be hauled away. Within minutes the truck drove away, heading for the secret location where the cargo would be inspected. Then Monahar had to wait for the buyer to show up, make him an offer, and complete the deal. In the meantime, he took note of the several other ships docked behind him, all bigger package freighters filled with God knew what. His tiny operation was hardly worth noticing, and fortunately, he didn’t get much attention. He sighed, wondering how long he’d have to wait until the buyer could examine the merchandise and come aboard to negotiate a price. He hoped it wouldn’t be long. Sitting in port always made Monahar nervous. He felt much safer at sea.
As time passed, Monahar began to consider going ashore and visiting one of his girlfriends. He was almost ready to do just that when he noticed his contact waiting at the gangplank. Somehow Monahar had missed the man’s arrival. He nodded to his crewman on guard to let Rojhonny aboard. Now comes the haggling, thought Monahar. Rojo will try to screw me out of what little I’ve got coming. He set his teeth. He was not about to let that happen.
After a few minutes, the clatter of boots on the iron ladder rungs signaled his guest’s arrival and Monahar turned to see Rojo enter the bridge. The man was about Monahar’s height, but much broader with hardly any neck. He had black hair, dark eyes and huge hands. He was dressed in a plain blue short-sleeved shirt, faded jeans and his ever-present black combat boots.
“Hello, old friend,” Rojo said with a smile, ducking into the pilothouse and looking for a seat. “Not a very good selection.”
“Which is your way of saying you aren’t going to pay what they’re worth,” said Monahar holding a fake smile while they shook hands.
“May I?” asked Rojo, pointing to the swivel chair in the center of the pilothouse.
“Sure. Want a drink?”
Rojo sat down, swiveled back and forth a couple of times and said, “My usual.”
“Okay.” Monahar opened the small liquor cabinet below the port windows and pulled out the bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch whiskey he kept there for just such occasions. He grabbed two glasses, poured a generous shot in each and handed one to Rojo. “Sorry, no ice.”
Rojo took a swig, sighed and said, “Doesn’t matter. Let’s get down to business.”
Rojo named a low-ball figure. Monahar rejected it and named his own figure. The two went round and round for nearly forty-five minutes. While they haggled, they managed to finish a couple more drinks each. Finally, they settled on an amount, just as they always did and then had one more drink to celebrate.
Rojo pulled a wad of bills out of his pants pocket and counted out the agreed cash. He handed it to Monahar. Monahar re-counted it and leaned over to shake hands. Monahar’s hand was swallowed by Rojo’s massive paw. Rojo held the handshake longer than necessary, almost as a sign that he was in charge. Instead of getting up to leave, Rojo said, “Do you ever see any of those swimmers when you are at sea?”
Monahar’s brow wrinkled. He thought about the freaks Rojo was talking about. Genetically-mutated people who herded tuna using dolphins as herd dogs. Disgusting abominations, that’s what Monahar thought of them though he’d never actually been close enough to one to know what they looked like. He had seen their rafts once in a while and heard stories from disgruntled fishermen who claimed the mutants were ruining the fishing for everyone. He’d even heard rumors about attempts to murder them but he hadn’t ever heard of anyone killing one. He guessed if there was any truth to those stories, that most often they escaped in their submersible rafts. There was a definite animosity between the swimmers and fishermen in general. Monahar really didn’t care. “I see them sometimes. Why?”
“Could you bring in a woman swimmer?”
“I don’t know. Why?” Monahar’s brow wrinkled, wondering what Rojo wanted and, more importantly, what would he pay for it.
“I have a client who’ll pay five hundred thousand U. S. dollars for one.”