"I'm sorry it had to be you, Victor. Or should I call you Agent Steve Sheffield? But to catch you
unexpectedly like this, I have to say, is surprisingly satisfying," Mr. Green taunted, his dark eyes flashing,
big hands resting on broad hips.

Steve would have responded if it weren't for the duct tape over his mouth.
He stood at the end of the pier. He squirmed as Cye Bloom and Oscar Shorn, Mr. Green's thugs,
wrapped chains around Steve's body from elbow to ankle.
Steve shook his head, whipping the night rain out of his eyes. The planks creaked under his feet but it
was barely heard over the cascade of water pouring off the rain gutters of the nearby warehouse.

"I gave all of my men different information about the meeting place," Green said, continuing to gloat. "You
gave yourself away, Steve, but I never figured my own body guard was a J. Edgar Hoover man. This last
step of my plan will be even more gratifying."

Cye padlocked the chain in place and stepped back. As Mr. Green's scam artist, Cye wasn't usually one to
get his hands dirty, but at this point, he was cold enough to do anything his extortionist boss ordered.

"He's ready, Mr. Green." Cye glared with narrowed eyes at Steve. "You were one of us, you piece of
nothing. I'm going to enjoy this."

"Let me do it, Mr. Green," Oscar requested. The rain made the gaunt addict look like a wet rat. He wiped
his running nose and flinched as a knuckle rubbed across his infected nose piercing. "Let me push 'im in."

Green ignored his men and stepped close to Steve, the crook's 300-pound bulk dwarfing Steve's lean

"If I remove the tape, screaming won't help you. No one else is around."
Green pinched one end of the tape and ripped it off. "And begging won't do you any good, either."

Steve took a deep breath and squinted at the stormy sky. This was it. Three years undercover; three
years of lies; most of those three years away from his wife and daughter. He was glad it was over, but he
didn't want to die like this--alone, a mystery for his family. The chains were so tight; they wouldn't find
his body for months.

"You won't get away with this, Green."

"That's what they keep telling me, and yet...here I am."

Green rested a big hand on the agent's shoulder. "Any last words?"

Steve looked to his left where the rainwater cascaded into the bay. The black water boiled with bubbles.
This was to be his grave. He gazed into Green's eyes.

"I have a daughter, a wife..."

"I'll send them flowers. Hold your breath, Steve." Mr. Green nodded to Oscar. "Do it."

Oscar wiped his nose again, and then gave Steve a shove. Steve squirmed as he toppled over the edge
of the pier. His eyes bulged as the three criminals passed from sight. Instinctively, he took a deep breath
an instant before he splashed into the bay's icy water. His ears popped as he sank. Bubbles from the rain
gutter swarmed around him, disorienting him, but he did not struggle against his steel binds. He had
watched the men wrap him. There was no escape.

He touched feet-first, and resisted the current that tried to knock him over. There seemed to be some
consolation if he could die on his feet, standing. He opened his eyes and peered up through the bubbles.
A light somewhere above the surface illuminated three figures gazing down into the water, but Steve
knew they couldn't see him. He was twenty feet down, new fish food amongst the bay's garbage and
other discarded debris.

Steve's lungs began to burn. Before he lost consciousness, he made a point of addressing his Maker one
last time in this life. He had gone to church with Alice for a while after they were married. He had become
a believer during that time. He now regretted not being more faithful in going with Alice.

Looking to his left, he saw a mass of metal about ten feet away through the bubbles. He could make out
only a silhouette, but it appeared to be the dump box of a dump truck-minus the truck. It was amazing
what had been dumped in the bay over the years.

A few bubbles escaped Steve's lips. His heart skipped a beat. The box lay upside down on the bottom of
the bay, leaning against an old wrecked and rusted car body. From Steve's angle, it looked like the dump
box was catching bubbles from the rainwater!

There was no point to look for hope elsewhere. Steve bent his knees and hopped. The weight of the
chains was constraining enough without the press of twenty feet of water. He hopped again toward the
mass of metal. His lungs were screaming and his mind began to blur.

Steve hopped two more times. He landed wrong and fell forward. A cloud of silt rose around his head
from the bottom. He looked up. He was only a few feet away, but there was no way he could get back to
his feet.

Squirming sideways, Steve rolled toward the box. His shoulder bumped into its edge first. The last of his
air seeped out of his lungs. He shifted his head under the lip of the box and felt air on his brow. He
kicked and wiggled farther under the box.

Steve craned his neck and puckered his lips, sucking air mixed with saltwater. He coughed, and then took
another strained breath. He relaxed a little, fresh oxygen coursing his brain. The rainwater from the
warehouse roof was keeping the upside down dump box supplied with fresh oxygen, like a fish tank's
oxidation machine. But once it stopped raining, he knew he would run out of air.

Steve used his heels to push himself farther under the box until he could sit up inside the container.
From the waist up, he was surrounded by air. He inhaled past his cries and prayers of thanks. Opening
his eyes, he saw only darkness. When he calmed down, he whistled twice to estimate the space around
him, like a bat in a cave. The dump box seemed to be over ten feet long and nearly as wide. It smelled of
rust and seaweed. A small popping sound from the rainwater's tiny bubbles reached his ears. He couldn't
hold back the tears. Had he been saved from a watery grave only to suffocate in an isolated metal tomb?

After a minute, Steve gained his composure and shifted his limbs. He was surprised to find that all of his
jostling had loosened the chain links slightly. He was able to rotate his left arm, but not free it because of
his sports watch on his wrist. It was held tight against his outer thigh by the chains. Determined not to
give up, Steve used his fingers to wiggle both hands out of the chains. After that, it was simply a matter
of shifting the gained slack to his hips and elbows.

Freeing his left arm first, Steve used his teeth to punch the light on his watch. It shined like a torch in the
darkness. Judging from the time Green had brought him to the pier, he had been under water for nearly
thirty minutes. He took a quick glance around the container before the light blinked off.

With one arm free, Steve worked quickly to free his right arm, and then was able to easily kick off the
rest of the chains. He rose to his feet and stretched his stiff limbs. Checking his watch again, he decided
to wait another thirty minutes before he swam to the surface-just in case Green was still hanging around.

Three hours later, Agent Steve Sheffield stood in an alley behind the bar known as Hangers. It was
Green's headquarters for extorting the city's privileged. Next to Steve was the Chief of Police, Morgan
Kraft, and ten of his finest.

"It's your show, Agent Sheffield, but I don't like the idea of you going in alone."

Steve patted the sidearm Chief Kraft had given him.

"I want to see his face. Just give me a sixty second head start."

Without waiting for confirmation, Steve hopped onto a dumpster and reached for the fire escape ladder.
He climbed up one flight, and then picked the lock of the back door to the bar.

Once inside, Steve could hear the throb of techno music drifting up the stairwell. It was after midnight.
Green was certain to be inside.

Steve kicked the door in and lunged into the lamp-lit office. From a sofa against the wall, Cye and Oscar
scrambled for their pistols, but froze when they saw that Steve had them covered. Mr. Green was seated
behind his desk, which was covered with stacks of money. His eyes bulged and he gasped in shock at the
sight of Steve.

"Good evening, Mr. Green. Surprise. You remember you told me to hold my breath, right?"

Green sat frozen for a few seconds, speechless, then he gasped again and clutched his chest as he fell
forward onto his desk, his cash cushioning his fall.

Steve quickly circled the desk to feel the man's pulse.

"He's still alive."

Steve confiscated Oscar and Cye's weapons as Chief Kraft barged into the room with his men.

"Nobody move!"

Steve slapped the chief on the shoulder as he moved around him.

"Call 911, Chief. Green's had a heart attack but he's alive. They're all yours. I'm going home to my family."

"Well, was it everything you thought it'd be? The look on his face?"

Steve smiled as he headed toward the door.

"To catch him unexpectedly like this? Yes, it was surprisingly satisfying."

Steve walked out of the room as Green groaned behind him.


by D.I. Telbat