Historical Fiction Suspense


23 May, 1964

Júcaro, Cuba

The abandoned blockhouse was 200 yards offshore and perfect. Leftover from the Trocha, a line of fortifications built between 1869 and 1872, from Júcaro to Morón during the first war of Independence, it provided the ideal homebase for communication during the operation. Twenty feet high, twenty feet across, shaped like a square, and made of solid brick, it had stood the test of time. A narrow staircase on the outside wall led from the ground to a doorless entry at the top and into an open floor. It had an opening 4 feet wide around the entire perimeter to admit the air, and a tin roof covered the top of the entire structure. Jutting from the center was a look-out tower and eagle’s nest. It was here where the antenna was set up. 

The operations officer ran a cable down from the ladder that led from the eagle’s nest and onto the main landing where the rest of the equipment was in the process of being assembled.

“Here’s the cable.”

Handing the cable to the second officer, then climbing back up into the lookout tower and picking up a heavy set of binoculars, Officer One checked the view of the marina, looking for their contact. It was a bright, sunny afternoon. The sky was dotted with only a few white clouds and gave the officer a clear view. The slight breeze was warm, but not hot. In the shade of the shelter, it even felt cool. Now and then, salty ocean scents were carried along with it.

Sounds of static came from below just for a moment, then nothing, as Officer Two plugged in a pair of headphones.

“Ok. We’re ready. Time?” 

Officer One took the binoculars down to check. “Thirteen hundred, two seven. We’ve got three minutes,” then brought the binoculars back up and continued to scan the marina, at first seeing only dock workers, then…

“There he is! I see Diego…and…El Commondante himself! Send the message.”

The RS-70 Modular Radio Set was state-of-the-art and had a transmitter, receiver, keyer, teletype tape, burst encoder, 24 hour battery pack, plus additional interfaces and accessories. Officer Two quickly attached the tape cartridge to the magnetic head of the encoder. The message, pre-recorded onto the tape, was then connected to the RT-70 transmitter via the small AA-70 interface on the unit. Officer Two pressed the brightly lit, yellow button which sent the message as a burst transmission.

Condor, Condor, this is Sherlock. All is ready. Contact and target are in play. We are good to go. Gatekeeper and Hollywood are clear. Wetsuit is a go. Repeat, Operation Wetsuit is a go. Out.


Three men sat in a small motel room in Miami Beach, waiting and watching the machine sitting on the desk that faced a wide open window where they had positioned a long antenna that went from the sill to the open air right outside. The Seaside Terrace Motel boasted of air conditioned rooms and an ocean view, the reason for their choice, and the availability of a top floor room. The need for air conditioning made no difference. The room had one double sized bed, a night stand and a small television. But no one would be sleeping, much less watching TV.

The plan was simple. When Fidel Castro was out on one of his scuba diving trips, a spear from a speargun would be shot right through his heart while he was deep beneath the surface. Period. End his marxist, socialist regime and threat so close to the U.S. But as with anything so dangerous and risky. Simple is never easy. The Bay of Pigs was an embarrassing disaster. Several assassination attempts had failed before starting. Now the CIA was sending in a black ops team known to only a select few in the agency, and success was their only option. It all depended on their Cuban contact who was paid to bring Castro to a specific spot among the reef. To rely so heavily on one person was extremely dangerous. But there was no other way. They had to have an inside person, and as long as there was money enough, there would always be someone willing enough. 

The machine suddenly came to life…teletype tape began to spill from the side of the machine with a repetitive staccato sound. One of the men quickly grabbed the tape and read the message out loud.

“Well. Here we go,” he said. “Now all we do is wait.”


A figure dressed in a black wetsuit set the handheld transceiver down onto the floorboard. The message from Sherlock had given the go ahead for the mission. The small, wood hull power boat gently bobbed in the crystal blue waters of the Jardines de la Reina, the beautiful archipelago in the southern part of Cuba. Named by Christopher Columbus to honor the Queen of Spain, it was a favorite scuba diving spot of Fidel Castro. 

Sitting on the side of the boat that had been rented from the Júcaro marina two days earlier, Gatekeeper double checked the air tank, regulator, J-valve, and all parts of the scuba gear. Then lastly, strapped a small speargun just under the weight belt like a sidearm then placed the regulator and mask in place. Looking up at the driver, Gatekeeper gave a small nod, then dropped over the side. Once the diver was clear, the driver put the boat in gear and drove towards shore. Mooring in a small inlet among the thick mangrove trees along the shoreline, the driver got up and went to the back, picked up the handheld transceiver and switched it on.

“Sherlock. Sherlock, this is Hollywood, over?”

“We read you Hollywood. Go ahead”

“Gatekeeper is in position. Will inform when target is neutralized. Over.”

“Roger Hollywood. Out.”

Hollywood switched off the transceiver and set it aside. Pulling out a set of high powered binoculars from a duffle that was stored under the bench, began scanning the horizon for vessels, tension creeping into each shoulder. 

“Ok Diego, do what you were paid to do…bring him in…just, bring…him…in…”


Back at the motel room, the first man was getting nervous at the silence in the room. “Are you sure this is going to work? Can we trust them? I mean…they are after all..…” the man trailed off and didn’t finish his sentence. 

The other two ignored him and continued to wait by the machine.


It had been too long. Hollywood’s shoulders began to ache from holding the binoculars. Picking up the transceiver then setting it down again, indecision began to creep in. This was not going as planned. Gatekeeper would have run out of air by now and there was still no sign.


Sherlock looked up into the eagle’s nest. “Little Bear, do you see anything?” The officer had been peering for what seemed like hours through the high powered binoculars, searching the waters, searching the marina…searching for anything. Desperation could be heard in the voice that drifted down…

“No. I don’t see anyth…”

“Wait!! They’re back!” The binoculars gripped in a white knuckled grasp.

“What do you mean? Who’s back??” said Sherlock from below.

“ALL of them! Diego, Castro, the whole crew! They’re all getting off the dive boat!!”

Shock filled Sherlock’s eyes. Little Bear, in one swift move, slid down the ladder and grabbed the handheld transceiver, realization and outrage showing in every movement.

“Hollywood acknowledge! Hollywood acknowledge!!”

“This is Hollywood, go ahead.”

“This is Little Bear. Something’s wrong! Go get Gatekeeper!! Diego was a doublecross!!! GO NOW!!!”


The man in the motel room was pacing now. Walking from the door to the window and back again. The two men at the desk sat and continued to wait, looking out the window, half empty cups of coffee getting cold in front of them. All of them had worried looks on their faces.

“We should have heard something by now,” the first man said. The other two looked at each other.

“We should have heard something by now!!” the first man said again, angrier, looking back and forth at the other two men. “I knew we shouldn’t have trusted them!” The vein in his neck was sticking out as he gritted his teeth. “I knew we should never have used women!!” He spat out the word like it was vitriol.

The man sitting on his right stood straight up and punched him right in the nose. The first man staggered back, not so much from the punch as from the shock. A line of blood began to run out of his nose and down his lip. He quickly brought his hand up to catch it.

“Whaa…?! How dare…!!”

“Don’t you ever speak about our operations officers in such a way ever again! Do you hear me? They are professionals! They know what they’re doing! I knew we shouldn’t have brought you in on this operation! The only reason we did was because…”

The repetitive staccato sound of the machine startled them into silence. They stared at it frozen, as the teletype tape began to spill from its side.


Hollywood, trying to keep calm, put the boat into motion and headed back toward the spot she had left Gatekeeper, the power boat bouncing up and down on the water, making waves that crashed against its sides. When she arrived, there was no sign of her partner. Checking the coordinates again, she drove around the area searching for any sign of life. Her heart was beating rapidly. She knew the air in Gatekeeper's tank would have been used up by now. Anger boiled inside her at the thought of Diego. Diego Santana…when I get my hands on you! Murderous images came to mind of what she would do to him if she should ever see him again. 

Driving the boat around in what seemed like circles, she suddenly spotted something bright and yellow. It was Gatekeeper’s emergency diver’s buoy! She steered the boat over towards it and as she got closer, saw a figure floating between the waves. The water surrounding the body was dark red. Hollywood struggled to keep the panic down as she threw the ladder over the side of the boat, then jumped into the water. Gatekeeper groaned semi-consciously as Hollywood pulled her towards the ladder.

“I’ve got you friend. Don't worry, I've got you!”


The three men in the motel room were in a flurry of activity. Two of them were packing up the machine and their belongings, one was on the telephone.

“Havana. The safehouse in Havana in eight hours! And make sure a medical team is ready at the airport!”

The man hung up and joined the other two as they were heading out the door. He paused as he came face to face with the first man, bloody tissue sticking out of his left nostril.

“It wasn’t their fault,” he said flatly. Then pushed past him and headed towards the elevator.

February 17, 2023 19:07

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.