OFF THE Mangrove Coast

There were four of us there, four of the devil’s own, and a hard lot by any man’s count. We’d come together the way men will when on the beach, the idea cropping up out of an idle conversation. We had nothing better to do, all of us being fools or worse, so we borrowed a boat off the Nine Islands and headed out to sea.

Did you ever cross the South China Sea in a 40-foot boat during typhoon season? No picnic certainly, nor any job for a churchgoing son — more for the likes of us, who mattered to no one, and in a stolen boat at that.

Now, all of us were

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