By R. L. Keller
Chief Francis E. Sharkey hesitantly followed the police officer as they walked toward the holding cell in the jail in Honolulu. It wasn’t like it was the first time that he’d had to go bail out one or more members of his crew after a little too hardy a celebration on the successful completion of a cruise. His ‘meatheads’ worked hard, especially when the mission got a little crazy, as they tended to be all too often lately, and they deserved to blow off a little steam afterward. He’d just never had to bail out these two particular crewmen before, and it was causing a little uncertainty on his part as to how to handle the whole mess.
He’d been just about to settle down in the NCO Club at Pearl for a little celebrating himself – surviving an encounter with actual dinosaurs deserved a cold brew or two, he thought - when he was paged to the phone. There had been a brawl at one of the bars frequented by military personnel. While the two men in question didn’t start the brawl, they’d apparently more than kept up their end of it. Actual damage to the place had been kept to a minimum – obviously the owner knew his customers, and knew how to construct his premises for efficient clean-up – and the manager had happily accepted enough remuneration from the participants to more than cover what had been done.
No actual charges were being filed, but the pair was apparently pretty well stewed to the gills, and weren’t going to be released until someone from their boat came to claim them. They’d apparently been coherent enough to give the desk sergeant Sharkey’s whereabouts, so…here he was. There did seem to be a bit of a discrepancy somewhere along the line. Sharkey had originally been told the names of the two, but once he’d shown up, the desk sergeant referred to “the three of them.” The Chief just shrugged, showed his ID, and headed back to the cell to collect his charges.
As he reached the cell, filled with about a dozen or so men, a dark, curly-haired head slowly raised up from one of the benches close to the bars, its owner giving Sharkey a shy, through-the-lashes look and a somewhat dopey grin. The chief’s quick eye took in the lower lip, split in two places, slightly glazed eyes, one with a cut over it that looked like it had bled down onto the uniform collar before someone had plastered a bandage over it, and bruised knuckles on both hands. Looks like I’ll be disturbing Doc’s leave as well this evening, he mused to himself. “Hope the other guy looks worse than you do, sir,” he told his CO, Cmd. Lee B. Crane, US Navy Reserve, and captain of the giant submarine Seaview.
“Took him off to the hoshpital,” came the slightly slurred reply, before the dark head lay back down on the bench.
Despite the situation, Sharkey chuckled. He got a curious grin from the sergeant, who knew silver oak leaves when he saw them. “Skipper, you’re gonna have a time explaining this one to the CMO,” he told the man, all too happily. He didn’t bother with any further explanation to the cop. It would take too long, anyway. But apparently Crane wasn’t so far gone that he missed the comment, as there was a groan from the bench.
“Do we have to tell him?” came out in what was almost a little boy voice.
“And spoil all his fun?” came from a blond head on a bench set against the back wall, but still on Crane’s end of the cell. The face was turned to the wall, but Sharkey had no trouble recognizing Seaview’s Executive Officer, Lt. Cmd. Charles P. “Chip” Morton, even though the chief had never seen such a disreputable uniform in all his life. And that on a man who had a reputation for wearing only the crispest, sharpest-creased uniforms Sharkey had ever seen.
“Must have been some brawl,” he said cautiously. Along with a sharp uniform came a sharp mind attached to a sharp tongue. Even though it was Sharkey bailing Mr. Morton out, as it were, it wouldn’t be wise getting the XO ticked at him for smarting off too much.
The blond’s body turned and he sat up, somewhat unsteadily, facing Sharkey. The chief noted a collection of injuries pretty much matching the skipper’s, plus the torn and grubby uniform. “Had its moments.” Morton tried to grin, then grimaced as his facial injuries objected.
Sharkey turned to the sergeant. “Locals?” meaning whom his officers had tangled with.
“Marines,” the cop answered with a frown. Sharkey figured that the guy must have been one earlier in his life, because his frown increased as Sharkey’s grin increased.
“One of them, with a possible concussion,” the cop confirmed grumpily. “The other five, we got in a different cell.”
Sharkey’s pride in his two senior officers taking on six Marines, and apparently whipping their tails, showed all too plainly on his face, causing the sergeant to growl out loud.
“We had help,” Crane offered, also now turning to sit up, and he looked toward the furthest corner of the cell, where most of the other men were gathered. A man sitting on the corner bench who, until now, Sharkey hadn’t even glanced at, stood up and staggered forward. His uniform was even more disheveled than the XO’s, but there was no mistaking the four stars on his collar or the auburn hair that topped his craggy face. “Ah, Sharkey, ye missed a grand battle,” came Admiral Harriman Nelson’s distinct voice, alcohol making his Irish heritage come through loud and clear. “A grand battle indeed. ‘Taint nothin’ better than tamin’ the monster, yur best friends at yur side.”
Sharkey just shook his head. “Man, ain’t none of the crew gonna believe this one,” he muttered sorrowfully.