Some very heated goings on were taking place in the half closed office at NIMR. The weekend cleaning staff shook their heads and tried to concentrate to keeping the place squeaky clean but it wasn’t easy. The angry voice permeated all the way down the corridor and past the Admiral’s office…
“Look, I’m desperate! Nobody can find anything wrong with her! But I know there is. You’re telling me you can’t even fit my baby in until next week? Yes, she’s seen specialists, I can’t count how many, no, but…but…hello? Hello? Damn, Blast, and Tarnation!”
In moments the frazzled man emerged, slamming the door behind him and stomping his way toward the stairs, with a detour by the water cooler. He managed two gulps when he noticed the brightly colored flyer on the community bulletin board and perked up. “That’s it. Maybe one of her own people can figure it out what’s wrong with her…I’d better brush up on my Italian…”
“Well, that’s what he said,” the elderly Mrs. Myers gossiped
over her sandwich with other seniors who worked at NIMR
part time for a bit
of extra cash. ”He’s going to have to go all the way to
“I didn’t know he had one.”
“Oh yes, he was quite concerned. I wonder what’s wrong with his little girl.”
It had been difficult if not impossible to enjoy the Chicken
Alfredo at the noted restaurant. The
Italian Wine Festival was in full swing. The entire
He put his baby to bed and he began to wonder if he’d been imagining things like everyone said. Certainly she had functioned properly…but no, there was something wrong and come hell or high water he was going to find out what.
Tomorrow came all too soon for his exhausted body but not nearly soon enough for his mind The scent of grapes growing happily along this stretch of road did little to appease his despair as he waited for yet another diagnosis.
“I couldn’t find anything wrong,” Angela Belesario said as she as she sat down beside him,stunning even in in her uniform, “I think you’re just a bit over anxious. It’s not uncommon for… new father’s. You haven’t had her very long have you? Trust me, there’s nothing to stop her from having a full and healthy life.”
“Thank you for your time; not everyone would take her in on a Sunday. How about some lunch, on me?
“Thank you…I know a great little place…”
It was a short drive but just as they were going to turn into the parking lot, he hit the brakes. “Look! Look! Over there…could be her twin…yes…yes…I wonder…”
One more day of shore leave, Chip Morton sighed. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and he indulged himself with another swing of the golf club. But his solitary game would have been a lot more enjoyable with Lee’s company, especially as it gave him someone to taunt about his lack of skills with the 9- iron.
It had been hard for Morton to ease out of the ingrained subordinate role he maintained as XO of Seaview, but with Crane’s encouragement and exasperation, he was finding it easier now to refer to the Captain as Lee,in private as well as aboard.
He wondered if Crane was enjoying his two week respite as much as he. It wasn’t easy being Captain of Seaview and Chip blessed his lucky stars he didn’t have the volumne of responsibilities that Nelson was constantly adding to those of Crane. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise Chip at all if Lee soon found himself drafted to the even more mundane duties such as fielding requests for services and checking the budget for them. NIMR was getting a bit too big for it’s britches vs. staff, and Nelson naturally wanted someone he could not only trust, but also that he didn’t have to hire.
Lee, of course, hadn’t complained. In fact he was rather good with middle management. Something Nelson must have seen when no one else saw nothing but the Captain. And thanks to Lee, Chip’s position as Commissary Officer had been switched over to O’Brien, the Captain citing the fact that the XO was already over taxed with own duties aside from Seaview. But what about Crane himself, Chip had to wonder. He practically lived at NIMR or aboard Seaview, even on shore leave. The man was impervious to his limitations. Except in Golf, that was.
“I knew it! I knew it!”
“Now that we know what the problem is,”Angela said, washing her hands, “I’m still not sure a transplant is the correct thing to do.”
“You said it would be a minor operation and...”
“If it’s warranted. I’m not sure it is.”
“I’ll discuss it with Al, after all we’re discussing his baby too, but I’m not making any promises.”
Monday came and Seaview’s Second Officer
couldn’t help noticing one sympathetic stare after another. First
at the front gate, then in the
“Okay, what?” O’Brien finally asked, as he grabbed the clipboard waiting for him on one of the crates yet to be signed in and loaded.
Before anyone could respond he was interrupted by one of Security’s golf carts driving up.
“I’m here to take you to Admiral Nelson, Lt.,” Smitty waved, “He said right away.”
“Take over Connors, ”O’Brien ordered, “and don’t snitch any Twinkies when you stow them aboard, Mr. Morton was in a real snit when we ran out last time. And any tongue lashing will be on your heads this time.”
“I’m so sorry, sir, ” Angie said gently as he entered Nelson’s outer office.
Sir? The Administrative Assistant hardly ever called anyone ‘sir’, except maybe the Admiral or sometimes the Captain.
“Lt. O’Brien is here, Admiral,” she clicked the intercom.
“Ah, yes, come in, Frank, come in, ” Nelson replied and no sooner said, appeared from his office and took O’Brien by the arm, “Please see that we’re not disturbed, Miss Abernathy.”
Frank? With a backward glance at Angie he followed Nelson into the inner sanctum.
The door closed and O’Brien stood at attention.
“Oh, at ease, at ease man. Sit. Whisky?”
Whiskey? “Oh, God, sir, what’s happened?”
“Relax son,” Nelson poured out two jiggers into the Irish cut crystal and handed him one.
Son? Uh oh. There was only person in the solar system he knew of that Nelson ever used that familial term toward and it wasn’t him.
“Now, Lad, I think it’s high time we had a little talk,” Nelson handed him the drink and sat down.
Lad? Little talk? He had to be in deep doo doo.
“Now, Frank, I want you to know you can come to me about any personal problems without fear or embarrassment…we’re family here…I’d like to help.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We know about the baby, son. If your daughter isn’t getting the medical attention she needs, well, leave it to me. We can fly her to the Mayo Clinic or even St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital..”
“Sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Now, now, lad, you don’t have to deny it. There’s no stigma toward illegitimacy nowadays. At least not here. A child is a gift from God.”
“What are you talking about? What child? It’s not that we haven’t tried but…”
“Then there’s no baby?”
“None that I’m aware of, sir.”
Nelson reached for the intercom, “Smitty? My office, now,” he turned it off. “It seems as though we may have been victims of a very bad joke.”
Nobody liked being on the carpet. And it wasn’t the soft plush that made the Chief Security Officer squirm.
“But I got it straight from Al, sir,” Smitty said, “It’s not like him to get his facts wrong.”
“I don’t have a child!” O’Brien almost shouted.
“Well, maybe he got it from one of the cleaning ladies. They and the security watch were the only ones in Admin on Saturday.”
“What exactly did Al say?” Nelson asked as he took a drag on his cigarette, damn and blast the Surgeon General’s warning…
“That Lt. O’Brien was in his office, using the speakerphone. That he was really upset about his his baby needing a specialist.”
“I haven’t been in my office since we broke for Shore Leave! Except for this morning. Not to mention the door was secured all that time and nothing looked tampered with!”
“It appears, gentlemen,” Nelson mused, “that we had ourselves an intruder. Smitty, find out just whom Al got his info from…Miss Abernathy?” he clicked the intercom,” Get me the police.”
“Does anyone else have access to this office?” Detective Amy Ames asked in the crowded Jr. Officer’s office, brushing her blonde bangs aside as she dusted for prints.
“Well, not exactly, no ma’am,” O’Brien said, “We used to enter individual codes that were assigned to us by the computer. Now some of the locks do a retina scan. ”
“For some of the offices, “Smitty explained, “but not all of ‘em are converted yet. All of them still have keys.”
“Sirs?”Al entered with an elderly lady, “This is Mrs. Myers. Is this the man?”
“Well,” she peered into Frank’s face, a bit too close for comfort,” no, at least, I don’t think so. No, I’m sure it’s not him. He was tall and dark like you, sonny, skinnier though. And his hair was real messy. Not neat and trim like yours. Older. Tanned. Weird eyes…”
“Weird eyes?” Nelson asked.
“They reminded me of my kitty…she’s a real dear…”
“Well, not exactly. But he said he was taking the kid to her own people and brushing up on his Italian…”
“Was he in any kind of uniform?” Nelson asked.
“Sloppy boy that, no, no uniform that I ever saw around here. Shirt hanging out of his blue jeans. No socks. Just sneakers.”
“Appropriate I suppose for sneaking around,”
“I checked and rechecked the locking mechanism,” Smitty approached, “Hasn’t been tampered with. Which means only one thing.”
“He had to have bypassed the retina scan or used my pin number,” O’Brien said.”
“Or had a key.”
Nelson took another puff on his cigarette, the smoke already leaving trails in the small space, “We have to assume this intruder may have compromised all our offices. I’ll report this to Washington and Submarines Pacific right away. Smitty, pull the the logs of everyone who entered and left the grounds this weekend, evaluate all the security cameras, and get the complete personnel list on who has dependant children under oh, I’d say three or so.This could be an inside job.”
“Yes sir…uh, you want me to call the Skipper? He’s not scheduled to report until late tonight. I got his new emergency pager number on file. He’s gonna’ be awful p.o’d about this.”
“No. He’ll be here soon enough. Morton should be in a couple of hours….Mrs. Myers, if you’ll go with Detective Ames to police headquarters, perhaps they can do a composite sketch from your description..”
“Well, this is no help!” Morton coughed and flung the security tapes on Nelson’s desk, “And, nobody entered or left the grounds that wasn’t authorized to do so! Not to mention the fact that nobody has any children under five and…”
“I know, I know…Chip, that cough sounds awful. Go home and go to bed. We don’t set sail for a few days anyway.”
“Just the residue of the bug bomb they used in Lee’s and my offices. Speaking of office’s why Frank’s?”
“That’s been bothering me too. Chip…I hate to say this, but what if O’Brien’s not being quite honest with us? What if he does have a little girl and is desperate for help?”
“You don’t believe him?”
“I want to…but…what other choice do we have?”
“He’s too distraught about this to be openly dishonest.”
“That’s not proof Chip.”
“Neither is assuming he has a love child. Word’s out that his his wife’s found out about the scuttlebutt and is livid…I’ve sent him home for the duration to settle things.”
“If it wasn’t him, can you think of why an intruder would break and enter just use the phone?”
“Frankly, no sir.”
“Admiral Starke’s furious. He’ll be here in a matter of minutes with a forensics team to scour the institute and Seaview. As a precaution all of our essential codes have been terminated. You’ll have to memorize these new ones before we sail…”
“Oh swell…Lee’s really going to be p.o’d.”
“You might as well go over the galley manifest; the men refuse to stow the rest of the crates without your permission.”
“It seems O’Brien told them there had better be enough Twinkies to last the upcoming cruise on pain of an appointment with you. They want to make sure everything’s accounted for so they get the blame for it if somethings goes astray.”
“Oh good grief. I’m not that bad, am I?”
“Well, you have been known to put the fear of God into most of the crew when it concerns your stomach. Even Lee said he was glad he was on the opposite side of your tongue last cruise.”
“At least I have an appetite. You know, if he doesn’t gain some weight, he might not pass his Reserve fit rep coming up. Couple of weeks, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but he’ll pass, never fear. I have a secret weapon,” Nelson pulled a drawer, and lifted out a Tupperware container,popping it open, “ but just to keep you happy, here, have one.”
“Brownies! Thank you sir!” Chip tasted one eagerly, then stopped, “er..where did you get these sir?”
“Edith sent them. Made them from scratch. ”
“Uh, yes…very sweet of her…but…uh…er…I’m not sure Lee will gain any weight with these, sir.”
Nelson furrowed his brows and tasted the other side of Chip’s hastily discarded and offered square, “Oh, lordy, These are awful…I swear she’ll never catch a husband with these.”
‘Is she trying to?”
“Not really, but still being single when all her friends are married seems to be preying on her mind. She tends to get into a domestic mood when she feels spinstery. Probably due to our mother’s mindset about a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Totally outdated, she knows, but when I told her about Lee being too underweight, well, she got to work, in more ways than one, apparently, “he flipped the intercom, “Chief Jones? Has Cookie reported for duty yet?”
“I see, are any of the Mess Specialists there?”
“No sir, but the cafeteria’s open.”
“Connect me to the Manager.”
“Culinary Specialist Foster, how can I help you, Admiral?”
“Is there any way to repair badly botched brownies?”
“Store bought or home made sir?”
“That could be a problem. Are they burnt?”
“No, they just taste awful.”
“Well, you might be able to crumble them up, put them into a brownie pudding cake…”
“Great, have someone come pick them up and make them edible. And not a word to Miss Nelson if she should ask.”
“Er…Miss Nelson? Miss Edith Nelson, your sister, sir?”
“I think her identity is pretty apparent, Foster.”
“Uh..”the man hesitated.
“Sir, no disrespect, but if Miss Nelson baked them, well, sir…er…I’m afraid there’s no cure, sir.”
“Was it a gift sir?”
“Yes, to fatten up or impress the Captain, I’m not sure which.”
“Frankly sir, I don’t think he’d notice. I hear from Cookie that there’s something seriously wrong with his taste buds, sir. Or he just doesn’t like food. Except maybe Cherry pie. Cookie says if given a chance he’ll eat an entire pie in one sitting…maybe Miss Edith should concentrate on that, uh, but not homemade sir. She can buy one from a bakery or grocery store and just tell him she made it…”
“It’s not like my sister to be dishonest.”
“No, sir, I didn’t mean to imply…but…er…it might be the only way to win the Captain’s attentions, especially with all the other dames here trying to bait him with food too…I mean…er….”
“Never mind. Thank you.”
“What are you going to do sir?” Chip asked after a moment. Bait him with food? If it were he, Chip, he would have been captured a long time ago….
“What else can I do…”Nelson closed the lid.
“You’re not actually thinking of giving them to him are you?”Chip asked, aghast.
“It’s the thought that counts. I’ll ask Cookie to whip up some cookies or something to appease him for the cruise.”
“Yes sir…maybe you should add a small bottle of the pink stuff to the present.”
“Frank? What are you doing here?” Morton asked after having finished logging in the galley supplies and deciding on a bite in the Wardroom.
O’Brien was downing some pre packaged Jell-O.
“I couldn’t make her believe me! Kicked me out. Honest sir, I don’t have a kid! Not anywhere, and I never…I mean…Debbie’s the only…I mean…”he blushed.
“I believe you Frank. I’m sure when this is all over and we have the rascal behind bars, we’ll all have a good laugh…surely there’s something more available to eat than this?”
“Not really, sir. The cafeteria’s got soup and sandwiches...”
“If the Captain were here he’d have a cow. We need something a bit more substantial than that, even if we’re not due to sail for a few days. Come with me.”
“It’s a disgrace Harriman! A disgrace!” the Commander of Submarines Pacific paced in Nelson’s office. “I don’t care that the forensics team believes nothing was compromised. The intruder still could have done immense damage with access to O’Brien’s files, lesser security clearance notwithstanding. And now you tell me it might be a mistake, that it just might be your Second Officer simply using the phone!”
“Might being the operative word, Jiggs. We won’t know much until the composite sketch and the fingerprints are done by SBPD.”
“When will that be? It’s getting late!”
“I’m not sure. The witness is a little old lady with bad eyesight and, possible dementia. Thought the intruder’s eyes were like a cat’s.”
Starke groaned, then his stomach rumbled.
“You have any hot food available this time of night?”
“The Cafeteria is always open, though there is a difference in what’s available depending on the time,” he checked his watch, “probably still has a few things available…soup and corn muffins probably.”
“Oh gawd, spare me. You forget I’ve eaten there before. I swear you get your food supplies from Army surplus.”
“There is nothing wrong with Spam, Jiggs. In fact…there’s a Hawaiian barbeque recipe that’s really quite good. I always take seconds..”
“Never mind. Is the Mess team aboard Seaview yet? At least their food’s good.”
“Cookie will report tomorrow, the others the day after. And the Cafeteria food is every bit as good as Seaview’s. Just because you don’t like TexMex… ”
“Well it should have come with a warning…”
“Chip? O’Brien?” Nelson called out, surprised to see the men in the rather deserted food court of NIMR’s all hours cafeteria.
“Sir?” Chip tried to say but it wasn’t easy with the mouthful of yellow sponge cake almost spraying out the word, some of the miniature projectiles landing in his mug of hot chocolate and on top of the remant of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“Never mind,” Starke said, “care if we join you?”
“A pleasure, sirs, help yourselves.”
“I didn’t know the Cafeteria stocked junk food,” Nelson winced, “Only Seaview…Chip?”
“We needed…some comfort food. Don’t worry sir, I already logged the Twinkies out and put them on my tab.”
“Just so you remember that when you get a craving…”
“A psychic?” Starke fumed.
“Do you have any other ideas, Jiggs?”Nelson asked.
“I sense…urgency,” the psychic furrowed her brows as she touched the phone.
“Even so,” Ames said, “we weren’t able to tap any of the Saturday calls from this number to any medical facility, here or elsewhere, only to various auto dealerships,“so it couldn’t have been that urgent, or Mrs. Myers got it all wrong…”
“Or not,” the psychic continued, “the last calls were made by a mature male, he was…concerned for his little girl. Very concerned…but…he wasn’t up to anything in here…no guilt…no criminal intent on entering…I sense he just wanted to use the phone.”
“There are other phones available!” Morton fumed, “and this office, as a Jr. Officer’s is secure. How the hell..”
“Oh shut up, “Jiggs said. “Enough of this nonsense.”
“Go on,” Nelson ordered.
“I sense a deep feeling for this little girl, only slightly less than what he has for the lady in his life…”
“Then where’s she been all this time?” O’Brien asked, “Why not use her phone?”
“I’m unsure…confused about that….she’s someplace… wet. But she’s not the mother, that much I do know.”
“Just what is the medical urgency?”Starke asked.
“The little girls feels…wrong somehow.”
“She feels wrong? What kind of diagnosis is that?”
“That’s what the man feels.”
“Okay, so what’s this man look like?”
“I can only sense what he feels, nothing more…except,” she furrowed her brows, “he has a cat’s eyes.”
The lights were blazing at NIMR when Captain Crane reported to the gate at 2300.
“Welcome back Captain,” one of the guards took his ID and scanned it. “She’s looking great!” he indicated the cherry red Alpha Romeo import.
“Thanks,” Crane patted her dashboard. “Feels great too. What’s going on? We don’t sail for a few days.”
“We er…had a breach of security. Bull session’s upstairs.”
“Is everyone okay? Seaview?”
“Yeah, but Admiral Starke’s still here, had in a forensics team, cops, even a psychic earlier…”
In seconds Crane had revved his engine and raced to park in his reserved parking spot in front of the familiar building and literally ran up the stairs two at a time to Nelson’s outer office.
“Down here, Lee,” Nelson’s voice called from O’Brien’s office down the corridor.
“Skipper! Boy am I glad to see you,” the Lt. said as Crane entered, “We had a break in.”
“I know, the gate told me. What happened?”
“Somebody busted in here.”
“We’ll discuss it later,” Starke said, “That hair’s not regulation Commander.”
“Sorry. It will be when we sail. Now,” he sat on the edge of Frank’s desk, “fill me in.”
“Excuse me sir,” Chief Jones stopped by the door with Crane’s duffle, “The gate said you’d arrived. Want me to take your gear aboard?”
“Sure, yes, thank you.”
“Oh, this must’ve fallen out,” he handed Crane a photo that had fallen on the floor.
“Where are your shoes in this picture?”Starke asked as he grabbed it from Crane’s hand.
“I hadn’t put them back on yet. It’s kind of a long story,
but if you must know, in about ten years I’ll have my own vintage bottle of
wine, with a hint of athlete’s foot tossed in for good luck. It was part of the Italian Wine
Festival and Renaissance Fair. Did you know that stomping wine in your bare
feet is therapeutic? Especially as I’d spent all weekend driving
all over the
“I thought you said nobody had access,” Starke scolded Nelson over a beer in the Admiral’s bungalow.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t even think of Crane. As Captain, of course he has retinal access and a master key to everything except my safe.”
“Why didn’t he use his own phone?”
“He told us; his office was still suffering from the effects of the fumigation and he came up here after the motor pool found nothing wrong…”
“What about his eyes? They sure don’t look like a cat’s to me!”
“Well,” Nelson laughed, “I was confused about that myself until I remembered a little while ago that Detective Ames had mentioned in passing that when Mrs. Myers was taken home she waxed on and on about her kitty having eyes that kept changing color. And all this time we thought our intruder’s eyes were shaped like a cat’s…“
“I’ve heard of chameleon eyes. Not a good thing for a crew to be able to read the Captain’s moods just by the color of his eyes.”
“Actually, they can’t. Trust me, I’ve tried. But there’s no consistency to the color changes. Jiggs, he really is sorry for all the trouble..”
“I know, but the next time he talks about his car, he’d better be sure to refer to it as an it, and not as an infant, or he’ll answer to me!”
“I’m not sure if he’ll be able to follow that request; as for the lady in his life, well, at least we know Seaview’s first in his heart, as befits her master.”
“I wonder if that wine’s going to be any good. I’d like to try it when it’s ready.”
“Actually, it may be gone by then. He and this Angela hit it off right away. Wouldn’t surprise me if we see them discussing carburetors and taillights over the vintage sometime in the near future…he’s invited her aboard Seaview for dinner when we get back from this cruise.”
“Speaking of dinner. Did he get any? You had him report rather late didn’t you?”
“Was his choice before we even broke for shore leave, but never fear, I made sure he was fed. I gave him some homemade brownies… from my sister Edith.”
Later that night as Nelson brushed his teeth and prepared for bed, he found himself uneasy. Should he have resorted to retribution for what was, after all, a simple misunderstanding? Certainly it wasn’t really Crane’s fault, all this trouble. Combing his hair, yet another few strands fell out, victims of the stress due to Lee Crane…should he call Lee and warn him about the Brownies? Nahhh.