The Charity Benefit
Admiral Harriman Nelson sat in his office looking in total disbelief at his sister, Edith, as she continued to tell him about the charity function and the part she expected him to play in it. Her voice was filled with enthusiasm as she told him how it would help the needy children in Sister Angelaís orphanage by raising money for clothes and food. He tried to get a word in but his younger sister knew him too well and kept talking knowing he was too polite to interrupt her. However, when she got to the part about cross dressing, he gasped in shock drawing coffee into his airway. He choked and coughed spattering the coffee he was drinking all over Angieís typed reports lying on his desk.
"You canít be serious?" He croaked out as Edith beat his back trying to help him.
"I am....and before you choke to death, dear brother, breathe... thatís it ....now listen to me. The whole function is being done along that theme because Sister Angelaís brother is the famous drag performer, Phillipe, of the club Eltoro in Mexico City and heís volunteered his services."
"I donít care if heís the President of the United States. Thereís NO way Iím going to humiliate myself by dressing up in womenís clothing and....."
"Sorry, Harry, but Sister Angelaís already notified the local Santa Barbara newspaper and the reporter called to let her know that he released the news to the media. By now the President probably knows as well as the International community. If you back out, youíll really be ridiculed and it wonít be for making a fool of yourself by performing in drag." She stated sweetly leaning down and kissing his cheek. "Also, you wonít be alone. I intend to inform Lee and Chip that theyíre volunteering as well as Chief Sharkey and a few more of the crew."
Poor Harry just gave her a pitiful look before he groaned and buried his face in his hands. "God, how did he get himself into these situations?" When Edith asked him earlier in the month to volunteer for Sister Angelaís charity reception, he thought about reading a few poems or sonnets from Shakespeare. Now, thanks to her, he and his crew would be entertaining an audience while dressed in womenís clothing.
Edith just smiled and left him to inform Lee and the others. She knew how Harry reacted when he was forced to do something he didnít want to do. He would bellow and roar at first and then, he would face it head on like any other challenge. He just needed time to get use to the idea.
A week later, Harry and Lee were in his office reluctantly being measured for their costumes when Angie burst in and retorted, "Sir, excuse me but Dr. Jamisonís nurse just informed me Edith collapsed at the Institute Cafeteria."
"My God!" He exclaimed in alarm pushing the tailor away from him. "Did she say what was wrong with her?"
"No, sir. Just that Edith had fainted and Dr. Jamison was still examining her."
"Very well, Angie. Have a jeep brought around so that I can get over to the Med Bay as soon as possible." Nelson ordered as he went to get his hat and coat from the closet. "Lee, the tailor can continue with you while I go check on Edith."
"Forget that, sir." Lee retorted with feeling. "Iím as anxious as you to know whatís wrong with her. Iím coming with you and wonít take no as an answer."
Harry nodded and they both rushed out of the office as Angie phoned for their ride.
When they reached the Med Bay, Jamison walked out of an examination room and pulled a mask away from his face. Seeing them, he talked briefly to a nurse and then, walked over and replied, "Admiral, Edith will be fine. Sheís contracted a bad case of the flu thatís going around. Iíve isolated her to prevent further outbreaks here at the Institute."
"Are you sure itís only the flu? Angie said she collapsed at the Cafeteria?"
"Yes, she has all the symptoms but Iíll keep an eye on her and let you know of any change. How are things going with the benefit?"
Nelson just grimaced at the mention of the show while Lee glanced at the two men with a worried expression on his face. Finally, he asked, "Admiral, whoís going to serve as our assistant now that Edithís sick?"
At his words, the Admiral paled wondering the same thing. "No way was some strange woman going to get her jollies ordering him around on how to walk, dress, and apply makeup!"
Jamison smiled inwardly knowing his boss wasnít going to like Edithís suggestion for her substitute but all he could do was pass on the information. "Before I left her room, your sister mentioned that CJís back in California visiting Judith Bates. She suggested asking her to serve as your consultant. Well, I need to get back to my patient. Iíll keep you updated about Edithís condition. Good luck with things."
"Er...sure doc, please do." Nelson muttered trying to absorb what heíd said about CJ.
After Jamison left, Lee looked at his boss and had a hard time keeping a smile from his face. The idea of CJ taking Edithís place as their teacher for this crazy benefit was ideal. She knew all of them and wouldnít get a swelled head ordering them around. In fact, the guys would get a kick out of seeing her again. However, Nelson might have a problem with working with her.
"Sir, should I do as Jamison suggested?"
"Er....what?" Harry asked absently coming back to the present. Heíd been thinking back to the past about his last meeting with CJ.
"Admiral, are you all right?" Lee asked with concern wondering if he was coming down with the flu, as well.
"Oh, Iím fine, Lee, just wool gathering. What do you think of Edithís suggestion?"
"Well, considering thereís no way we can get out of doing this crazy benefit, I think CJ would be ideal. However, she might not want to instruct a bunch of rowdy sailors on how to dress and act as women."
For the first time, a genuine smile appeared on Harryís face as he replied, "All we can do is find her and ask. I have to admit, Iím looking forward to seeing her again but wish it was under different circumstances."
Lee smiled too and asked, "Do you want me to contact Ms. Bates?"
Nelson shook his head no and headed out of the Med Bay. Puzzled, Lee followed him wondering what his boss had in mind. When they were back in his office, the Admiral asked his secretary to call the car pool and reserve him a car.
Angie picked up her phone and replied, "Should I also reserve a driver and security detail to accompany you?"
"That wonít be necessary. Lee and Iíll be going alone. On second thought, please inform Mr. Riley that heíll be accompanying us and can serve as our driver."
She nodded and dialed the number for the car pool.
Two hours later, Riley parked the car in the same parking lot that CJís car had stalled months before and turned off the key. He turned to his two commanding officers in the back seat and said, "Sirs, Judith said Rick Adams would meet us at Pollyís Outdoor Cafe and take us to the roller blade contest. She couldnít meet us herself because sheís competing in the event."
The Admiral nodded anxious to find CJ, ask her, and get back to the Institute ASAP. His desk was piled full of work demanding his attention and he said as much before he got out of the car. He was having a hard time admitting to himself the real reason heíd come along. If CJ refused their request, at least heíd be able to see her briefly. Also, the day was beautiful. It would be nice to just walk among young people and forget for a while the hectic life he led.
They reached the bleachers and had to climb up near the top where Rickís friend, Jose Domas, was saving a place for them. All of the other seats were filled with cheering students and faculty enjoying the event. Jose shouted above the mayhem that Judith had just finished competing.
Suddenly, the cheers got louder as a female competitor appeared, skated up to the edge of the large concrete bowl, and stopped to adjust her helmet and knee pads. Her long, light brown hair was in pigtails and dark goggles covered her eyes to protect them from the bright sun.
When she was ready, she bent her knees and jumped down into the bowl. As her speed increased, the competitor extended the height of her flips and jumps. The crowd went wild and stood to cheer her on. Harry found himself joining Lee and the others wanting to let the woman know just how much he enjoyed her display. Riley and Rick exchanged looks and smiled wondering if the older men knew the competitorís identity. Finally, the woman did one last jump and flip which positioned her directly above the area where she had entered. She bent her knees just before she landed balancing herself so she wouldnít fall back down into the bowl. Then, she stood and waved to the crowd.
Rick jumped up onto the bleachers and waved his arms to get her attention. When that didnít work, he put his hands next to his mouth and shouted out, "CJ, up here."
The woman turned in their direction and looked into the crowd trying to find him. When she spotted Rick and his companions, she stiffened briefly and then returned his wave. After this, her fellow competitors joined her and they all waited for the judges to tally the scores. When the results were in, CJ stood as the winner in first place with second shared between Judith Bates and a tall Oriental woman named China Sunshine. Rick Adams was beside himself when he heard the results and let out a loud wolf whistle which caused poor Judithís face to turn beat red in embarrassment.
The audience thought the competition was over but one of the judges stood holding a microphone while another approached the winners and spoke briefly to CJ. After he got the go ahead, the first judge stood waiting for the crowd to settle down so he could speak. Nelson saw the puzzlement on faces around him and wondered what was going on. "Surely, they werenít going to change their minds?"
His question was answered when the judge said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. ĎJí and her friends have agreed to put on a special show for us in celebration of reaching our financial goal to build the Universityís new pediatrics research facility to study childhood diseases. Also, I want to remind you that there will be a hand gliding exhibition at Clayton Hill following this special entertainment. So, set back and enjoy, my friends. Youíre in for a special treat."
Surprise crossed Rick and Joseís faces before they settled back to watch. The three men sitting with them did the same.
Down below, CJ watched a certain part of the audience wondering what in the world Nelson was doing here along with Stu and Lee. China and Judith saw her watching and looked up to see what she found so interesting in the crowd and exchanged smiles when they saw what caught her attention. She turned back in time to see their smiles and just sighed and shook her head. Then, the music started and she bent down and jumped back into the concrete bowl. Her friends bent down and one-by-one followed her in.
They jumped and flipped just missing each other as they passed in the air. As the musicís tempo increased, so did their speed. This continued and the tension built. Finally, the audience let out a loud aha as the three women clapped hands in midair with each other before landing in the bowl for the last time. Everyone stood and clapped loudly while the women skated up the sides and out of the bowl.
Lee Crane laughed loudly in joy and clapped just as hard as the rest of the spectators before pushing his way forward and downward until he stood behind the winner. CJ gasp in surprise when he pulled her into his arms and lifted her up to plant a big kiss on her lips.
After he put her down, she grinned up at him and replied, "My, my, Captain, what did I do to deserve that?"
He shook his head and said, "For putting on the best show Iíve seen in a long time."
"I wasnít the only competitor and entertainer, Captain." She responded with twinkling eyes.
"Well, youíre the only one that Iíd dare kiss outright without the thought of getting punched out by an angry boyfriend in the audience."
CJ cocked her head slightly and said softly, "How do you know that, Captain?"
A young man saw CJ standing beside Lee and shouted out, "Hey, Teach, everything is packed and weíre ready to head out. Are you still riding with us?"
She turned to answer him and Lee replied, "CJ, the Admiral and I need to talk to you. Would you ride with us to Clayton Hill so we can discuss it?"
CJ hesitated wondering if it was wise. Every time she got involved with these men, things became dangerous and intense. Sheíd planned to spend the next few weeks relaxing and teaching a short course at the University. "However, it wouldnít hurt....no not this time." Sighing she stepped back from him and shook her head. Then, she turned and skated in the direction of the young man. Stunned, Lee just stood staring after her.
When Nelson finally reached him, he was surprised to find him alone. He grabbed his arm and replied, "Whereís CJ?"
"On her way to the hand gliding exhibition."
"She refused to help us?" He asked as disappointment coursed through him.
"No. She wouldnít even listen."
For some crazy reason his response made Harry angry. "Did you tell her about Edith?"
"She didnít give me a chance and just left with a group heading for Clayton Hill."
Nelsonís expression became stern and he turned to Riley standing beside him and ordered, "GO get the car. Weíre going to a hand gliding exhibition."
When they arrived, Riley had a hard time finding a place to park. This didnít do anything to improve the Admiralís temper. By the time they left the car and walked up to the other observers, CJ was ready to take to the air. She couldnít wait to feel the sea breeze flowing by her face. She had hated to tell Lee no but didnít want to get involved in anything serious for awhile. It felt so good to just have fun with Judith and China. Now, laughing with joy, she made a running leap and jumped.
As CJ sailed away, Judith followed soon after. China stood waiting to make sure they were far enough out before she took off into the air. The three of them twisted and turned in the air currents. Harryís temper cooled as he watched their aerial ballet wondering where they would land on the beach below.
Soon, CJís friends started heading back and downward but she went out farther over the water catching an updraft. As her height increased, she started removing her safety gear letting it drop into the sea. Riley drew in a sharp breath as he watched hoping he was wrong. Nelson heard him and looked over sharply at the young man. Dread filled him and he looked quickly back at the woman.
"Sir, she wouldnít do it to us again, would she?" Stu asked in disbelief.
"Do what?" Lee asked in puzzlement.
Nelson stiffened and his hands formed tight fists as he tensed waiting for her to jump. He relaxed somewhat when she started back down waiting to get closer to the water before she let go, dropped, and disappeared into the sea. He let out a deep breath of relief that heíd been holding inside as her head popped back above the surface. Suddenly, joy passed through him and many others as three bottle-nosed dolphins jumped high in the air around her singing their beautiful song. This continued while a boat headed toward CJ to pick her up.
Lee stood by the others spellbound as he watched the woman jump. The smile reappeared on his face and he shook his head once more as he replied, "I donít believe it. This was all planned. You both knew what she was going to do when she left the others, didnít you?"
Riley turned to him and drawled out, "Aye, sir. She did the very same thing to the Admiral and me the day we gave her a ride to Barnswell Cliff when her dolphin was in labor. At least today she was much closer to the water before she jumped. Last time she dove off the cliff top much higher and closer to the rocks below."
The Admiral didnít listen to their conversation. His attention was entirely on the boat that had picked up CJ. It was heading toward the beach below. It was obvious she would probably leave by sea but there was a slight chance that she and her friends would come up the cliff road. Just in case, he intended to be waiting for her. He turned to Riley and ordered, "Get the car. Weíre going to try and waylay CJ and the others if they come up this way."
Sighing inwardly, the poor sailor went to follow orders wondering when the man would acknowledge CJ affected him more than he was willing to admit.
Meanwhile, CJ jumped onto the beach. One of her students waved and asked if she wanted to hitch a ride with them back to the University. She looked up the cliff top at the crowd and then over at her friends who shook their heads no. Thus, she shouted back that they would travel by sea. When CJ made this decision, it was to irritate Nelson so much that he made a drastic decision of his own. Lee and Riley kept quiet as they accompanied him back to see Chancellor Jacobs at the University. Finally, after four hours of trying to ask CJ a simple question, the three of them headed back to the Institute.
The next morning CJ showed up to an empty classroom. The note posted on the door merely said the course was canceled and for the instructor to come to the Chancellorís office. Later, she left his office in disbelief. As she walked down the sidewalk, her steps quickened until she was at a dead run. Inside her temper flared bright red and she had to get it under control before she paid the head of the NIMR a visit. If she didnít, he would get the satisfaction of knowing how much his meddling had affected her. It must be something very important for Nelson to go such measures. As she continued to run, a plan began to form in her mind. Now, her speed slowed as she began to run for pleasure instead of necessity.
While CJ jogged, Stu Riley loaded his surf board in his car and headed for the beach. He had the day off and was going to catch a few waves. The local radio station said the surf was high and after yesterday he needed some down time. Boy! What a bummer. Heíd felt like a yo-yo with Admiral Nelson pulling the string. "When was he going to admit CJ got under his skin?"
After he parked and pulled his board out of the back, he turned to see a smiling CJ standing behind him. "Hi, sailor. Want some company?"
Riley gulped and nodded wishing he could disappear into the sand. The glint in CJís eyes told him she was up to something and that their meeting was no accident. However, he wasnít about to turn her down. So, the two of them spent a joyful afternoon challenging the sea while the Admiral stewed in his office wondering why CJ didnít come to read him the riot act for asking the Chancellor to cancel her course. By the time the sun set that evening, CJ knew what Lee wanted to ask her and why Nelson had flexed his muscles.
The next morning Lee was awakened from a sound sleep by someone ringing his doorbell. When he opened the door, he found a smiling CJ on the other side. She looked up at him and rocked her head slightly from side-to-side as if taking inventory.
He stared down at her with tired, bloodshot eyes and croaked out, "CJ, what are you doing here at this ungodly hour?"
"Oh, I couldnít wait to get started. Have you ever wondered how you would look with red, curly hair and dressed in a long, green evening gown?"
While Lee faced a jubilant CJ, Harry decided to get up and stop trying to fall asleep. Heíd tossed and turned most of the night. His thoughts drifted from performing in the Charity Benefit, his was worry about Edith, to his anger at himself for letting his guard down and doing something rash because of his feelings for an elusive younger woman. To him and many others Chameleon Jewels ĎJí a.k.a. CJ was an enigma. Not only was she the President of one of the most famous salvage companies in existence, J & Associates, but also was personal friends with many influential people scattered all over the world. In addition, her background gave her a primeval edge in many situations for Chameleon grew up experiencing two different worlds. Her mother was a native American Indian woman belonging to a tribe called simply The People, who traced their ancestry back to the mysterious Anazazi, and her father was white, a man of German-Irish decent with a very volatile temper. CJ was a strikingly, beautiful woman who looked more white than native American. She stood five and a half feet tall with long, light brown hair that hung below her waist. Her most characteristic feature was her blue-green eyes that seemed capable of looking at times into a personís soul.
With so much turmoil running through his mind, Harry had awakened with a splitting headache and decided to go to the Institute gym. He thought a good workout would remove some of the cobwebs and help him get a grip on his emotions about CJ and the dreaded benefit. When he opened the door, he heard voices inside. One of them was Phillipe. He would recognize that twangy voice of his anywhere even underwater where he wished he could throw the obnoxious little twit. Then, he heard Leeís voice mixed in with Chipís plus Riley and Pattersonís. Next, he heard Chief Sharkeyís outright anger at something Phillipe said and finally a loud crash in the background followed by complete silence.
Filled with alarm, he rushed in to find out what was wrong and was greeted by loud laughter. Kowalski was dressed in a white, chiffon evening gown which was covered with bright red paint. Chief Shaky stood close by with a look of utter mortification on his face while Phillipe stared at him completely speechless. CJ was bent almost double and hugged herself with her arms as her body shook with laughter. Lee and the rest werenít fairing much better. Then, Ski pulled the wet dress away from his legs and lost his balance falling in a reddish-white heap. Thatís when CJ lost it completely and sat on the floor beside him. Harry stared at his men dressed in various womenís attire, at the woman on the floor, and started to laugh, as well.
Completely out of breath, CJ tried to stop giggling but every time she looked at Francisí face and Ski on the floor bedside her, she started to laugh all over again. Finally, even Phillipe grinned and shook his head. Nelson heard Patterson tell Sharkey he should play basketball more often. Maybe then he could hit his intended target. Thatís when he suspected the Chiefís intended victim was the irritating female impersonator.
Soon, his men slowly gained control of themselves. Poor Sharkey hurried to Skiís side to help him up and kept apologizing and asking him if he was all right. Harry found himself at CJís side reaching out his hand to help her up. Her warm touch sent tingles all through him and her teary, bright blue-green eyes caused him to draw in a haggard breath as he tried to control the weakness in his knees.
However, his control returned in full force when she said softly, "Youíre going to pay big time, sailor, for your interference with my course. I had my heart set on teaching it."
"If youíre that upset, what are you doing here?"
She leaned close to him and whispered, "This benefit is for a good cause plus the guys needed someone they would feel comfortable with. My payment will be seeing you, the famous Admiral Nelson, dressed to the nines in drag up there on a stage for the all the world to see."
When he stiffened at her teasing words and started to pull away, she tightened her hold on his hand and said, "Admiral, Iím sorry.....seriously, I really couldnít refuse once I heard everything because I knew how it must be affecting you and the others. Believe me when I say, I can understand a little of what you must be going through and hope I can help in some way to.....well....lessened the stress."
Harry relaxed and squeezed her hand briefly before he released it. Then, he looked around the room at his jovial men and started to feel guilty. Deciding it was best to clear the air, he glanced at her and said softly, "CJ, I appreciate your understanding and want to apologize. I shouldnít have asked Chancellor Jacobs to cancel your course. If you want me to, Iíll go call him and explain why I was such an ass."
Hearing the regret in his voice was punishment enough for her. However, she couldnít resist saying, "Admiral, after Riley told me everything, I contacted Mr. Jacobs and explained about the...ugh...misunderstanding. He seemed very curious to say the least but agreed it would be possible to teach the course here on the Institute grounds. All I NEED is your approval and your agreement to furnish transportation for my students."
Nelson shook his head yes not trusting his voice. Inside he was breathing a sigh of relief that he was getting off the hook so easily. He knew CJ didnít like ANYONE, even him, going behind her back and interfering with her business.
He was about to extend the olive branch and suggest that she accompany him to his office when Phillipe walked up. The man slipped his arm through hers and replied, "My dear, I canít believe that CRAZY sailor actually tried to hit me with a can of paint. Then, the rogue didnít even apologize afterwards. My nerves are frazzled. Letís go have some lunch before I do something uncivilized."
A look of distaste passed briefly across CJís face as she dislocated herself from the man and said stiffly, "That CRAZY sailor happens to be a VERY close friend of mine and I donít blame him one bit for what he did after you insulted him. In fact, I think YOU owe him an apology."
"Never!" He retorted stepping back from her. "You must be as deranged as he is if you think I would be endangered so and then take the blame. Heís lucky I donít have him incarcerated!"
When Phillipe insulted CJ, Harryís blood boiled and he started towards him intending to knock some sense into the stupid little twit. However, CJ was use to handling her own battles and didnít want the Admiral doing something reckless because of her. Therefore, she quickly stepped between the two men preventing an altercation. Seeing that he didnít have a choice, Nelson stopped but he was still upset and his blue eyes blazed with anger. Phillipeís Mexican temper was just as hot and his black eyes sparkled with fire. He stopped also but only because of CJ.
After a few moments, CJ sighed and replied, "Admiral, I appreciate your assistance but Iím perfectly capable of taking care of myself. So, please let me handle this, OK?"
Nelson nodded curtly and stepped back. He wasnít pleased by the turn of events but didnít want to make things worse. It was DAMN hard defending the honor of a modern woman like CJ but he admired her spirit and independence.
Relief flooded across CJís face and she mouthed a silent, "Thank you" to him before she turned to Phillipe. She shook her head slightly as she stared at the famous entertainer. "I thought you volunteered to aid with this charity benefit to help your sister and the children in her orphanage. You wonít gain anything by insulting me or my friends. I suggest that if you canít commit yourself fully, you take your inflated ego and leave." Then, she turned back to the Admiral and replied, "Sir, can we go take of that matter we discussed earlier?"
Harryís face broke into a slight smile as he nodded his agreement and slipped his arm through hers. Then, they left the gym and a stunned Phillipe standing with his mouth open in shock.
The other men exchanged looks before a proud Chief Sharkey said to Ski, "Come on, kid, letís get you out of that messy costume so we can continue to practice our routines. As CJ said, this benefitís for a good cause and we canít let Sister Angela down."
As the Seaview men continued to get ready for the benefit, a preoccupied Phillipe sat down nearby. At first CJís words had shocked him. Then, anger replaced the shock as he thought of how insulting her words were. "How dare she speak to him in such a way? Didnít she know how famous he was?" Then, he heard the stocky sailorís words to his companion about not letting Sister Angela down, and he knew CJís words were true. He was thinking of himself and his image and not the childrenís needs. It had taken a woman who didnít know him to be extremely honest and straight forward with him.
While Phillipe reflected, Harry and CJ entered his office. Angie looked up in surprise and then rose to greet them, a smile of joy appearing on her face briefly before her professionalism took over. "Good morning, sir. Your messages are on your desk. CJ, itís good to see you again."
She nodded in greeting while the Admiral said, "Thanks, Angie. Please get Chancellor Jacobs on the phone."
"He already called, sir. He had an emergency meeting but said everything was set up on his end. He said you would understand."
Nelson smiled and replied, "Then, notify the car pool that transportation should be provided for CJís students...how many?"
"Twelve, sir. One van should be sufficient. Judes and the others will travel with China in her van."
"Are you sure? I can furnish two if needed."
"No, they wanted to have their own source of transportation."
"I suppose you also have already picked out where you would like to teach this course?"
"Would I be so presumptuous, Admiral?" She asked with twinkling eyes.
"You? Of course not!" He returned enjoying the slight pink color her face turned at his teasing rejoinder. "Maybe the Oceanography building would do?"
When she nodded, he said, "Angie, please..."
"Err....sir...CJ already suggested it and I set it up. I just assumed she had your permission and I...well...went ahead."
"Thatís fine. Donít worry about it. You said my messages were on my desk?"
"Yes, on top of the letters you wanted typed."
"Good. Iíll sign them so you can get them out in todayís mail. CJ, would you like to join me for lunch at the Cafeteria? This shouldnít take too long."
CJ sighed inwardly knowing if she didnít agree he would stiffen up again and go all professional on her. Sheíd thought about going over to the Oceanography building to get things set up but keeping him relaxed was more important. So, she replied, "Sounds good, sir. Iíll visit with Angie while you take care of business. Maybe, Iíll have time to give her some pointers on how to negotiate for a raise."
He started to reply to her hint about taking too long but his private phone began to ring. Sighing, he hurried inside his office and closed the door. Fifteen minutes passed before he finished with the call. Then, he glanced at the messages, signed the letters, and went inside his private bathroom to splash some cool water on his face. His head was pounding again and he popped some more aspirins in his mouth washing them down hurriedly with water. As Harry combed his hair, he stared at his reflection in the mirror. "Why was it so DAMN HARD for him to admit he enjoyed spending time with her? What if she was younger, stubborn, spirited, and so confoundedly independent? She was also one of the most considerate and beautiful women heíd ever met!"
As these thoughts ran through his head, CJ was doing some reflecting of her own. Her conversation with Angie had ended abruptly when her desk phone rang. While Nelsonís secretary talked, CJ stood and walked up to the office window and looked out over the Institute grounds. She was restless and a little worried about giving Nelson the wrong impression. "DAMNIT! Every time she was around the man, her resolve to keep her feelings for him in check weakened. It didnít help that he was extremely intelligent, a genius in fact, loved the sea, and so roguishly handsome that when he smiled, her knees felt weak. He was also stubborn, tenacious, had a bad temper, and used to being in command of every situation. She could tolerate the first three but not the last! That was the main reason she couldnít relax and follow her heart!"
Angie finished her call and hung up the phone. She sat looking at CJ wondering what was wrong. She was about to ask when the Admiral opened his office door. Heíd changed and the smell of his shaving lotion filled her office with a pleasant smell. His blue eyes twinkled as he asked, "Well, do I have a chance of meeting your salary demands or should I declare bankruptcy?"
Nelsonís secretary smiled as she stated, "Oh, I think youíll be able to meet my price, sir. CJís advice was good but fair. You may just have to dig a little deeper in your pockets but youíll still have bus fare."
At her words, Harry grinned and looked over at CJ. "Iím lucky I didnít get another phone call. You wouldíve owned the Seaview by now!"
Neither woman had a chance to respond because almost as soon as his words ended, his private phone began to ring once more. The smile left his face and he went back inside and closed the door. It took him over an hour to satisfy the pesky Congressman Parker that he wasnít about to bankrupt the entire country. His head was pounding so hard that his eyes blurred. His blood pressure was probably through the roof too. The DAMN man always got to him. He was an expert at pushing his buttons.
Groaning, he stood and slowly walked to his office door. He might as well cancel his plans with CJ. He wouldnít be good company anyway. His hand was on the knob when his phone rang for the third time. He stood letting it ring for some time tempted to pull the cord out of the wall. Then, military discipline took over and he sat down and picked up the receiver.
Angie sighed when she saw the Admiralís telephone light start flashing for the third time. "Iím sorry, CJ. This tends to happen to him a lot. Thatís why he usually ends up skipping lunch or ordering a cold sandwich from the Cafeteria."
CJ smiled and replied, "I donít mind waiting but why donít we call the Cafeteria and have something warm brought here. When it arrives, Iíll take it in and make sure he takes a break. You can hold all of his local calls and I will personally disconnect his private line. What do you think? Are you game?"
Angie grinned and started dialing the phone.
Twenty minutes later, Harry groaned and rubbed his aching head. He was tempted to take some more aspirin but didnít dare to on an empty stomach. He assumed CJ had gotten tired of waiting and left. He stood slowly and walked to his office door once more wondering if the DAMN phone would start ringing again. However, he was lucky this time and was able to actually open the door. Then, he stepped back quickly to prevent being overrun by the cart CJ was pushing into his office.
"CJ, what the hell........?"
"Sir, watch your language. I know youíre hungry but be patient. I can move the cart only so fast or the food will spill."
"Whatís going on?"
"Well, I decided if Mohammed couldnít go to the mountain, Iíd bring the mountain to him. Now, please sit down, sir, while I serve the food. However, the first thing I intend to do is to disconnect that DAMN private phone."
Harry sat down as ordered and watched CJ proceed to turn off his private phone and shut the inner door. Then, she served them a warm, tasty lunch. As he ate, his headache disappeared and he decided it wasnít necessary to always be in charge of every situation.
Four days later, CJ turned off her slide projector wishing that Judes and China would leave. Ever since sheíd shared lunch with Nelson in his office, it had become a daily ritual between them. Today he was going to bring a picnic lunch and take her down to the beach before the afternoon session at the gym. Her friends couldnít resist teasing her a little about the time she was spending with the head of NIMR. He walked in on the last bit of teasing to find CJ threatening good naturedly to flunk both of them if they didnít shut up and leave. Her face turned bright pink when she saw him. Her friends made a hasty retreat leaving the two of them alone.
Harry wondered why CJ was so quiet during their drive to the beach. However, he decided to wait and see how things progressed before he asked what was wrong. In his opinion she looked quite fetching. Her eyes were covered with dark glasses and her long hair blew freely in the breeze. She wore a white tee-shirt and cutoff jeans over her two-piece swimsuit.
While the Admiral drove, CJ was deep in thought. Until her friends started to tease her, she hadnít thought too much about their daily lunch, only that she enjoyed his company. Now, she was a little worried about what she had set in motion with that first lunch date and as a result was quite distracted. Thus, she jumped slightly startled when he reached out and touched her arm.
Concerned, he asked, "Is something wrong?"
"No, sir. Just thinking and you startled me."
"Good. I thought it might be the razzing your friends were giving you about me." He replied with a smile.
"Admiral, Iím sorry you walked in on that....itís just that....well.... their comments got me to thinking, thatís all. Donít worry about it."
"Are you sure youíre not upset?" He asked once more as he stopped the car.
"I said no. Now, can we drop it?"
"Good. Iím going for a swim before we eat." She stated getting out of the car.
"Want some company?"
"Suit yourself." She retorted as she removed her clothes and ran down to the water and dove in wanting to put distance between them.
Nelson stood watching her swim out away from the beach and him. He closed his eyes in disappointment. The last three days had been so encouraging and now they were back to square one. He wondered if he should even unpack the lunch box until he heard the sound of dolphins on the wind and looked out to sea. When he saw CJ swimming surrounded by her three dolphins, determination filled him and he went to join her.
Later, they both lay on the beach enjoying the sun. CJ regretted being so short with him earlier and had done her best to make up for it. After their swim with the dolphins, the smile had returned to his face. They had eaten the great lunch his housekeeper, Maria, had prepared in amicable silence before taking a short walk along the beach. When he had reached out and taken her hand, she let it remain in his. Now, they lay side-by-side, and he still held her hand.
Finally, it was time to head back, he to his office and CJ to work on the benefit. They both avoided the subject of lunch for the next day until he stopped the car. CJ stared down at her hands waiting for him to take the initiative. When he stayed silent, she pulled the handle to open the door and turned to him. "Thank you for the lunch, sir. I guess I should go and let you get back to work."
He looked over at her wondering what to say. Then, he saw the hesitation in her eyes and he smiled. "Do you want to want to make it five in a row?"
"Are you sure, sir? You know what they say, repetitiveness can be habit forming."
"Would that be so bad?" He whispered not looking at her.
"I guess that would depend on the experimental conditions, sir." CJ said softly looking over at him.
At her words, a large smile appeared on his face and his eyes actually twinkled as he reached over and took her hand. Then, he stated, "Why donít we discuss the parameters tomorrow?"
"Very well, sir. Will I see you later at the gym?"
He groaned and retorted, "Yes, I guess I have no choice in the matter. Every day the benefit gets closer and I dread it more."
"Well, chin up, sir. Itís for a good cause."
"I know but that still doesnít help when I think of getting up there in front of everybody dressed in womenís clothing." He said in a voice filled with resignation. "Iíd rather face an ocean filled with enemy destroyers than perform in this benefit."
"You really DO dread it, donít you, sir?" CJ stated filled with surprise. "I knew you did because of the cross dressing but thereís more to it than that, isnít there? Itís the idea of performing in public and being the center of attention."
A look of surprise crossed Nelsonís face as he stared at her speechless. Then, he nodded silently and squeezed her hand that he still held before he released it and got out to open the door for her. CJ allowed him to do the amenities without any objection. Ideas were flashing through her mind on how to get him out of this fix without allowing him to lose face with the public. She didnít even object when he took her hand and helped her out of the car.
Before he turned to leave, she said, "Sir, thank you for a very nice lunch. Iím sorry I was so short with you at first. Maybe thereís a way I can make up for it somehow."
Harry chuckled softly, "CJ, donít worry about it. Youíve more than made up for it by coming and helping us out after I had your course canceled. Thatís the only good thing to come out of this crazy benefit, getting to see you again. Now, Iíve got to go back to work. See you later."
"Yes, sir. Later." She said as he got back into his car and drove off. She stood watching him until he drove out of sight. Then, she hurried inside the small apartment Nelson had arranged for her while she was at the Institute. After a fast shower, she dressed and headed over to the Med Bay to talk with Dr. Jamison.
Later, CJ sat in Jamisonís office waiting for his answer to an important question.
"You want me to what?" Tim Jamison spurted out in disbelief staring at CJ sitting on the other side of his desk. "I thought the Admiral was the skipperís partner. Why should I have to take his place?"
"Because the man really dreads performing in drag and Iím determined to get him out of it. If you take his place and Phillipe agrees with my plan, Nelson gets off the hook but still gets to contribute his part plus Edith will be able to be in the show."
"Youíre determined to do this no matter what I say, arenít you?" He stated seeing the stubborn look on her face. "I hope the Admiral knows how lucky he is to have a friend like you in his corner."
CJ smiled and responded, "Thatís beside the point, doctor. Your answer?"
Jamison laughed and said, "Why not? Iíve always wondered if I had any acting ability. If you can get Phillipe to agree to the program change, Nelson agrees, and Edithís strong enough by the benefit, I donít see any problem."
She grinned and stood. "Thanks Doc. Now, Iíd better get Edithís imput. After all, this benefit was her idea."
Three hours later, Harry walked into the gym to find Jamison and Crane practicing the skit that he was suppose to perform with Lee at the benefit. Puzzled, he walked over to find out what was going on. When they filled him in, instead of being pleased Nelsonís face reddened in anger.
"Whereís CJ?" He hissed out.
Lee stared at his boss wondering why he was so mad but decided to let him iron it out with CJ. "She went out to dinner with Phillipe. I think they said they were going to the Marina."
Nelson nodded curtly his thanks and started to leave. Then, he turned back and retorted, "Donít waste your time practicing doctor for I have no INTENTION of backing out on my obligations!"
After Nelson left, Jamison just smiled and replied, "Letís continue practicing, Captain. The Admiral doesnít know it yet, but heís just met his match in CJ. He flexed his muscles and got her here and now is mad because sheís doing the same in return."
Lee smiled and went to turn on the music.
Meanwhile, CJ and Phillipe were enjoying a nice dinner and conversation. The famous entertainer wasnít such a premadonia once a person got to know him. Heíd listened to her idea about replacing Nelson with Jamison and including Edith in the benefit. The concept of having an open contest and having the two Nelsonís be the Masters of Ceremonies appealed to him and it would earn more money for the orphanage. However, he was surprised when CJ suggested that he leave because Nelson was on his way to the Marina.
"Why would he react that way? He never wanted to do this benefit in the first place?"
"His sister knows him better than anyone and she told me what to expect. Donít worry. He wonít be upset with you so I suggest you go ahead and leave. If youíre here, heís bound to make a scene. Anyway, heíll wait till weíre alone before he reads me the riot act."
"You donít seem worried. In fact, you seem to be looking forward to the confrontation."
CJ laughed softly amazed that he was right.
Five minutes after Phillipe left the restaurant, Harry walked into the front door and stood waiting to be helped. His anger had cooled somewhat but he still was pretty upset. "Why hadnít she discussed it with him first before she had Jamison replace him?"
When the waiter brought him to her table, CJ looked up smiling sweetly and said, "Iíve been waiting for you, sir. Will you join me for an after dinner drink or should we leave and go somewhere more private?"
Flabbergasted, Nelson stared down at her smiling face for a few moments while the waiter stood patiently waiting for him to make up his mind. Finally, he sat down while CJ ordered them a fruit drink. While they waited, he continued to look at the woman who had turned his life upside down from day one wondering what she would do next.
After the waiter brought their drinks and they were alone, CJ sipped hers and replied, "Admiral, you went to a lot of trouble to get me here to replace Edith when she got sick. I came and have done my best to help. Yesterday, you admitted to me that being the center of attention in public under these circumstances was bothering you more than cross dressing. I came up with an option that would allow you to bow out gracefully from performing and share a spot with your sister that would still be important. Edith said you would react as you have because I took steps without your permission to solve this problem. However, she said you would come around to my way of thinking after you blew off some steam. Everyone involved has agreed to the idea except you. Therefore, I suggest you sit here, enjoy your drink, and think about it some more. Donít worry, Iíve already paid for it. Now, please excuse me for I have a class to get ready for. Good night."
Harry sat there in shock and watched CJ walk out of the restaurant before he slammed his glass on the table and rushed out after her. She stood waiting for him by his car swinging her purse nonchalantly back and forth as if she didnít have a care in the world.
When he reached her, she said, "Going my way, sailor?"
His answer was to take hold of the car door and jerk it open. Then, he growled out, "GET IN!"
She did as he requested and he slammed the door after her. Then, he stomped around to the driverís side and got in and slammed his own door. The drive back to the Institute was spent in stony silence. CJ relaxed and laid her head back against the seat waiting for the next explosion. She was a little surprised when he drove to the beach instead of back to her apartment. When he stopped the car and turned off the engine, she continued to sit beside him relaxed and enjoying the sound of the waves hitting the beach.
Harriman Nelson was doing his best to control himself but CJís nonchalant attitude was the last straw. She had invaded his thoughts and dreams ever since they had met. Heíd done his best to control his emotions around her and hide his real feelings but he was only human. The outburst that CJ waited for wasnít anger but an end to a long period of frustration as he turned, took hold of her arms, and pulled her roughly against him. The feel and taste of her soft lips against his was more than he dreamed. His hard kiss of anger turned more gentle as she moaned softly in response. Then, to his surprise and joy, she slid her arms around his neck and responded to his kiss with one of her own.
When he released her, she sat back stunned at what occurred between them. Never in her wildest dreams had she expected him to react in this manner or her response to it. She didnít know what to say or do except to turn to him. He was gazing at her with a dazed expression on his face. He seemed as stunned as she was about what had happened. In fact, he reminded her of a young boy with his hand caught in a cookie jar. This thought made her smile and she put her hand against his face to caress his cheek. His hand came up covering her smaller one and brought it against his lips. When he kissed her palm, she drew in a sharp breath as her whole body trembled in response. Then, he gently squeezed her hand before he released it and restarted the car.
Instead of heading back to the Institute, he drove up the coast. He slipped his right arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. CJ laid her head against his shoulder and snuggled close to him. Neither said a word the entire trip and just enjoyed being together.
The moon had long set and the first rays of dawn were peaking on the horizon before Harry took CJ back to her apartment. When he opened her door and took her hand to help her out of the car, he pulled her close for a few moments not wanting the time they spent together to end.
"See you at lunch?" He asked hoarsely against her hair.
She pulled away just enough to see his handsome face and whispered softly, "Why not come in and Iíll cook you breakfast. Iíve been told I cook a mean omelet."
"Iíll have to check in with Maria. She usually gets up about now to cook me breakfast. I canít stay long either because I need to get home and change before my first morning appointment." He rambled out suddenly very nervous at the thought of being alone with her in her apartment.
CJ smiled in understanding. It was just starting to sink in how much he had revealed to her. They both needed a break to absorb what had happened. She stepped close to kiss his cheek and said, "Maybe we should take a rain check on the breakfast, sir. You have an early appointment and I have a class to get ready for. See you later at lunch."
He smiled in relief at her understanding and walked her to her door before heading home. Later, as he showered, Harry hummed and finally started to sing loudly as he scrubbed himself clean. His housekeeper, Maria, smiled when she heard him. It had been quite a long time since she had heard Senior Harry sing in the shower.
Meanwhile, CJ jogged to the Oceanography building. Her thoughts werenít on what she was going to present to her class but on a certain man and how much he had come to mean to her. When she reached the outer door, an NIMR security guard was waiting for her. He handed her an envelope and left. She stood for a few moments looking at it before she read its contents. Then, she stood holding the note and staring south at the bright, blue sky. The note read:
Things are going well at the newest salvage site. Glad to hear you got to
teach your class, after all. Harry can be a bear at times but he always means
well. Glad Edith is feeling better. Tell her sheís in my thoughts. Good luck
with the Charity Benefit. Let me know how it turns out and also when to
expect you back here.
Hope to see you soon,
For a few minutes, she had allowed herself to daydream but Louís note brought a dose of reality reminding her of responsibilities elsewhere and that her time in California would be short. Sighing, CJ turned back and entered the building wishing that she could just wad up his note and forget it.
By the time she finished teaching, CJ was still indecisive about how to answer Louís question on when to expect her back at the salvage site. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a phone ringing nearby and then by a knock on the door. Sighing once again, she got up and went to see who it was.
Much to her surprise, it was the same security guard who had brought her Louís note.
"Sorry to bother you, Maíam, but Admiral Nelsonís secretary has been trying to contact you. Apparently, your desk phone isnít working."
"Yes, I turn it off when Iím teaching. Thank you for the message. Iíll contact her right away. By the way, what are you doing back here? You delivered my note over two hours ago." She asked in a voice demanding answers.
The man stood at immediate attention and responded, "The Admiral assigned me to you this morning. Said I was to be at your beck and call ready to do anything that you might require. He tried to reach you at your apartment and here to inform you but your phone wasnít turned on."
CJ stared at the stiff young man and sighed for the third time that morning. "Very well. Please wait outside while I contact the Admiralís secretary."
The security man nodded and left the room. CJ sat for a few more moments thinking before she dialed Angieís number. The assignment of a personal guard could mean a number of things but after last night it was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Nelson was letting her know in a very subtle way that things were different between them.
By the time Angie answered, CJís face wore a smile and her eyes twinkled. "Hi, whatís up?"
Angie grinned herself at the sound of CJís cheerful voice. Now, it started to make sense why the Admiral was in such a good mood even though he had an unexpected visitor scheduled for later that afternoon.
"Hello, CJ. The Admiral was hoping you could join him here at his office for an early lunch. Heís got appointments back-to-back this afternoon and didnít want to cancel your date."
"Tell him Iím on my way. Also, could you tell him the surprise was a nice thought but I prefer that he cancel it. Heíll understand what I mean."
Perplexed, Nelsonís secretary said she would pass the news on to her boss. After hanging up, CJ gathered her notes, stuffed them into her pack, and went to inform her personal helper that he was no longer needed.
When CJ reached Nelsonís office complex, she stood outside for a few minutes catching her breath after the fast run from the Oceanography building waiting for poor Carson to catch up. The young man had insisted on accompanying her. However, he wasnít dressed for the short marathon and CJ felt sorry for him. Once inside, she insisted that he remain in the hallway outside Angieís office. This time he was glad to follow orders.
Nelson was sitting at his desk talking on the phone when CJ opened the door and walked into his office. Her cheeks were pink from her run and the band around her head was damp with sweat. He sat back continuing to listen as he watched her go to the food cart and get a cool drink before ducking into his bathroom to freshen up. Harry shook his head wondering if her assigned guard was still conscious
When CJ walked back into his office, Nelsonís office door was open and he was no where in sight. Angie told her that he would be back shortly and to make herself comfortable. Then, she left and shut the door behind her. Taking her advice, CJ freshened her drink and went to look out the window. Even though it was hot, she opened it enjoying the fresh air. As the sea breeze blew past by her face, she wondered about Lou and the others depending on her. She was in the process of deciding how to delegate duties so she could stay longer in California when she heard Angieís voice telling someone that the Admiral wasnít in. Then, the door burst open and she stood face-to-face with Admiral Jiggs Starke.
The look of utter astonishment on the manís face was priceless. Then, he retorted, "CJ, what in the world are you doing here? Whereís Nelson? When we talked earlier, he didnít say anything about you being here. Is Emmery with you?"
CJ just stood looking at the man listening to his demanding questions. When she didnít answer him immediately, his face reddened in anger and his eyes flashed as he continued on in his loud, commanding voice that had put many sailors in a state of fear, "Are you deaf, woman? ANSWER me!"
CJ was still silent as she stared with unwavering eyes into his angry ones. He might put the fear of death into men under his command but he had no affect on her. He continued to glare at her waiting for her to succumb to his will. Finally, unable to help himself, Starke looked away momentarily from the blue-green eyes that looked so calmly back into his.
When he looked back ready to start demanding again that she answer him, CJ was grinning back at him. Her eyes were twinkling with joy as she walked up and kissed him on the cheek before saying, "Itís good to see you too, sir. Howís your knee?"
Jiggs chuckled good naturedly as CJ stepped back and continued to look up at him. The joy at seeing him was obvious by the expression on her face and in the sound of her voice.
When Harry walked in a few minutes later ready to play referee, he found the two of them having a jovial conversation. He stood for a few seconds observing his old friend and the woman who had the uncanny ability of being able to mellow even the head of SubCompac. Then, he cleared his throat and growled out, "Jiggs, what are you doing here? Our appointment was for later this afternoon."
"Oh, hi Harriman. You didnít tell me we would be sharing lunch with CJ. Now, why, I wonder, could something that IMPORTANT be left out of our earlier phone conversation?" He asked with a sly grin looking at his old friend.
"Sheís my luncheon companion, not yours. Also, our appointment wasnít for lunch but two hours from now. What are you doing here so early?" Nelson asked gruffly going around his desk and taking the seat behind it trying to control his temper. Heíd counted the hours all morning eagerly awaiting for the time when CJ would be coming to join him for lunch. After last night, heíd hoped for a more intimate meal. Now that was out of the question with Jiggs here.
CJ saw the uncomfortable look that flashed briefly across Nelsonís face when Starke teased him about her. "Confound it. She was glad to see the Admiral but knew how Nelson felt. Sheíd experienced it herself when Judes and China teased her yesterday!"
"Sir, if you need to discuss some important topics with Admiral Nelson, I can go to the Cafeteria and eat."
"Nonsense, CJ. What Nelson and I have to discuss can wait. Thereís plenty of food for the three of us, isnít there, Harriman?" Jiggs retorted making himself more comfortable on the couch where he and CJ were seated.
Knowing Nelson would be uncomfortable, she stood and said, "Thanks all the same, sir, but I think Iíll go ahead and leave. It was good to see you again, Admiral. Iím glad your knee has healed so well. Admiral Nelson, will I see you later at the gym?"
Harry stood quickly and walked her out with her. After they reached the hallway, he said softly, "CJ, Iím awfully sorry about this. Maybe we could have dinner to make up for it?"
Before she answered him, she looked around noticing that Carson was gone. When she turned back, CJ was about ready to say it wasnít necessary for them to have dinner together until she saw the hopeful look on his face. In response, she leaned close and replied, "Iíll agree only if we can eat in and Admiral Starke doesnít join us. After our late night and the afternoon still to go, Iíd prefer to relax."
He smiled and replied, "Iíll ask Maria to cook us a light meal. Starke will not be there, I assure you, even if I have to lock him in the Seaviewís brig."
The thought of Starke bellowing to be let out of the brig caused CJ to laugh softly before she stated, "That thoughtís very tempting, sir, but Iíd feel too sorry for the poor sailor standing guard duty. If thereís no way to get out of it, bring him along. I can stand his teasing and nosey questions if you can. If he gets too obnoxious, Iíll help Maria with KP duty and YOU can entertain him."
Harry just shook his head and squeezed her hand briefly before leaving her and heading back into his office. Once he was back inside, Jiggs grinned and watched as his old friend walked stiffly by him to go and sit behind his desk. Apparently, Harriman was put out that heíd showed up unexpectedly. It was written all over him.
After he sat down, Harry looked up at Starke and retorted, "Now, I want to know why youíre here two hours early and why it was necessary after our conversation earlier?"
Jiggs just smiled and replied, "My previous meeting ended earlier than expected and I thought Iíd join you for lunch. I didnít know you already had a lunch date and with CJ of all people. Why did you let her leave so soon? Things were just starting to get interesting!"
"I bet they were. Now, CAN we get on with it? I have a busy afternoon ahead of me."
"Arenít you going to enjoy this scrumptious lunch with me? These fresh melons will melt in your mouth. Also, I want to congratulate you for finally admitting that you have feelings for the woman and doing something about it!"
Harryís face reddened slightly after Jiggsí statement and he cleared his throat. "Whatever I do or donít do concerning CJ is NONE of your business. If thatís all you want to talk about, I suggest you leave and let me get on with my work."
"OK, Harriman, I can take a hint. Iíll stop teasing you. Now, stop being such an old fuddy duddy and get over here and help me eat some of this lunch while I bring you up to date on that matter we were discussing earlier."
Nelson gritted his teeth and stood to do as Jiggs suggested. At least CJ had agreed to have dinner with him and if Starke decided to spend the night, he would lock him in the Seaviewís brig himself before he let the man spoil it.
After Jiggs left, Harryís afternoon seem to drag by. Every meeting went longer than expected. By evening, he was running on empty and had ANOTHER splitting headache. He couldnít understand why he was experiencing so many lately. The only time he felt good was when he was with CJ and eating some of her healthy food. Thinking of her gave him the needed energy to take some more aspirins and head home.
When he opened the front door and walked into his bungalow, the smell of food made him feel worse instead of better. Suddenly, he felt dizzy and hung onto the door frame until it passed. Then, he made his way to his bedroom to change before CJ arrived. After splashing some water on his face and changing, Harry felt much better and made his way back into the living room to relax on the couch. He started to read the evening paper when laughter and the sound of two people speaking fluent Spanish drifted out from inside the kitchen. He smiled because he recognized Mariaís voice but the other one sounded unfamiliar to him. Deciding she must have a friend or relative visiting, he stood and headed to the kitchen to say hello.
Harry opened the door to find Maria and CJ working side-by-side at the counter preparing dinner. Their backs were to him and they didnít know he was in the kitchen. CJ was cutting up fresh vegetables for a salad while Maria peeled some fresh fruit. Both women conversed and laughed as they worked. They were discussing the Charity Benefit and the day Kowalskiís costume got covered with red paint. He quietly stepped out and went back into the living room. As he sat on the couch, many thoughts ran through Nelsonís mind. CJ seemed to fit in no matter what the circumstance or situation. He smiled as his mind drifted and he dozed.
CJ found him asleep later and wondered if she should leave and let him rest. She bent over him wondering what to do. Deciding to leave, she started to stand back up when he reached out taking her arms firmly and pulled her down close against him. Then, his mouth claimed hers in a gentle, deep kiss that seem to go on forever. When he released her, she pulled away. Her cheeks were flushed because heíd taken her completely by surprise. It didnít help matters any that Maria walked in just as Nelson let her go. When she saw what was going on, his poor housekeeper turned quickly and went back into the kitchen.
Harry watched CJ wondering how she was going to respond. He didnít have long to wait. She first stared at the door leading to the kitchen and then back at him.
"Confound it, Admiral. Thereís a time and place for what just occurred. Now, whatís Maria going to think?"
"That I was only defending myself."
"What....?" She asked with a puzzled look.
"What else was I suppose to do? Here I was sleeping all innocent like in my own home when I awakened to find someone standing over me. Youíre lucky I recognized you in time." He replied finding it hard to keep a straight face.
CJ stared at him baffled until it hit her. "Why you ornery.....you were playing possum and set me up....when Maria came in, you pulled me down......youíre going to regret that, sailor."
Harry watched the emotions pass across her face as he grinned up at her.
Then, he put his arms up to protect his face as CJ attacked him with a soft couch pillow. Joy flooded through him as he experienced another bout of dizziness and was glad he was sitting down. Thank goodness his head wasnít pounding.....the aspirins were upsetting his stomach though....he felt his lunch coming up....put his hand across his mouth and tried to rise.....lost his balance...tried to regain it.....down he went....CJ grabbed him and his lunch came out all over her.
When he finished throwing up, CJ wiped his face with the front of her tee-shirt and helped him sit back on the couch. His face was pale and feverish. He groaned as another wave a nausea hit him. This time the couch and carpet were his targets as she kept him from retching on himself and falling onto the floor. Maria heard the commotion and came rushing into the living room to help. She quickly saw what was going on and went back into the kitchen to get a moist cloth to wipe her bossí face. Seeing that she was a mess, Maria told CJ to go into her bedroom and change into one of her robes.
After she had changed, CJ called the Med Bay to let Jamison know he had another flu patient. When the doctor heard her news, he told CJ he would send an ambulance for Nelson to transfer him to the Med Bay. After Edithís reaction to this strain of the flu, he wanted to be able to monitor the Admiral closely.
Harry didnít agree with Jamison and argued with the man when he came with the ambulance to get him. He said he would prefer to stay in his own home. However, the doctor was firm and insisted that he was going to the Med Bay whether he liked it or not. Nelson wasnít able to argue much because he felt terrible. The aspirins had worn off and he ached all over plus he was mortified that heíd thrown up on CJ. "Of all the things to do." However, as usual sheíd taken it in stride. When the driver was ready to take off, Jamison was in back with his patient and the woman in Nelsonís thoughts was up front hitching a ride back to her apartment for some fresh clothes.
Later, Lee found her sitting in the Med Bay waiting room. At first he was concerned that she was a patient too until she told him why she was wearing the large white robe.
"He actually threw up on you?" He asked incredulously.
She sighed and nodded anxious to hear word from Jamison about the Admiral before she left. Lee watched her closely until the doctor came out and updated them. She sat quietly beside him but she didnít take her eyes off the door that led to the isolation ward. Only when she heard that Nelson was as comfortable as possible did she allow Crane to escort her back to her apartment.
That night, CJ did some deep soul searching about the relationship that had begun between Harriman Nelson and herself. She tossed and turned as many thoughts passed through her mind. Her own responsibilities were numerous and she led a very full life but something was missing. "However, was this man capable of accepting her life style and who she was? Only time would tell. Also, Lou had sent another message insisting that she was needed elsewhere and practically demanding to know when she was arriving. Damn the man, anyway! If he wasnít careful, friend or not, he was on the verge of finding out that NO ONE, not even him, ordered her around!"
The next day seemed strange when lunch time came and she didnít spend it with Nelson. After she called Jamison to check on his condition, CJ jogged about fifteen miles, swam with the dolphins, and worked out in the gym before the Seaview men showed up for practice. Lee was the first to arrive and found her sitting on one of the floor mats. Her back was against the wall and her head down against her knees.
In concern, he walked up and squatted down beside her. "Are you all right?"
She lifted her head and her blue-green eyes met his hazel ones briefly before they looked away. Sighing inwardly, CJ shook her head and rose smoothly in one graceful motion. She liked this man. They were very good and close friends but he was also very close to Nelson. If she confided in him, he would be put in the middle of things.
"Is it the Admiral? Has his condition gotten worse?" He asked grabbing her arm and pulling her around so that he could look closely at her face.
"No. As of two hours ago, he was OK. However, the Doc has declined on continuing to be your partner in the benefit. His duties at the Med Bay wonít allow it."
"Then, why do you look like death warm over and DONíT tell me to mind my own business. Weíve been there before and you KNOW Iíll keep at you UNTIL you tell me." He said in a voice filled with determination and stubbornness.
"Lee, please drop it. I....."
"No way, CJ. NOW, whatís wrong?"
She glared up at him and pulled her arm free ready to read him the riot act when Chief Sharkey walked into the gym. The man knew instantly that something heavy was going on between them. He started to make a discrete exit but stopped in place when Crane saw him.
"Chief, CJ and I are going into the back office. Under NO conditions are we to be disturbed. Is that understood?"
"Aye, sir." Sharkey retorted standing stiffly at attention. When the skipper used that tone of voice, anyone in his crew knew to follow orders to-the-letter.
Crane nodded and grasped CJís arm once more intending to make her come with him. That was a mistake because the moment he did, he went sailing through the air and landed on the mat at her feet. As she stood with her hands on her hips looking down at him, Lee heard clapping in the background. He turned his head and found various members of his crew scattered near the gym entrance.
His anger of feeling like a fool in front of his men disappeared when CJ reached out and grasped his hand jerking him to his feet. Then, she whispered out, "Bow, you confound, wonderful nuisance if you donít want everyone, besides the Chief, to think somethingís wrong."
Grateful that she was allowing him to save face, Lee followed her suggestion but growled out under his breath as they bowed, "I donít care if you throw me again and again, Iím not letting this matter drop until you tell me whatís wrong!"
"Well, get ready to become one with the mat, Captain, because unless you can throw me, will you earn the right to interrogate me. Is it a contest?" She asked with glowing eyes gearing up for the challenge.
He was about to answer her but Phillipe approached the two of them. His face wore an expression of awe as he first looked at the small woman and then the tall man wondering how she had managed to throw him. "Heíd probably allowed her to do it as a favor. No matter. What he had in mind would bring the audience to its feet!"
"Oh, my dear. This is just fabulous. I have a number of ideas on how we can work this into the benefit. The two of you can portray Samson and Delilah. It will be our biggest draw. Or we can...."
CJ looked at the bubbling man in front of her feeling total defeat. She turned to Crane and just nodded before she walked in the direction of the back office. Surprised, he followed her glad for the first time that the cross dressing premadona had agreed to produce the benefit.
A slightly miffed Phillipe was about to follow the skipper and CJ when Chief Sharkey approached him asking his advice about applying stage makeup. The cross dresser was so stunned that the man was actually asking him for advice he forgot completely about the two people leaving the gym. Poor Francis groaned inwardly as he braced himself for what was coming. "What one had to do in the line of duty!"
Kowalski was close enough to hear what was said between the two men. He approached Sharkey in concern and put his hand against his forehead. "Are you feeling all right, Chief? Should I call the Doc or something?"
Sharkey dislodged Skiís hand and replied in exasperation, "Of course not. What makes you ask that?"
Ski grinned and responded, "Well, Chief, after hearing what you asked Phillipe, I just assumed that you must be delirious or something."
Francisí face turned slightly red and he blustered out, "Iím perfectly fine, kid. So drop it before I assign you to KP duty."
Ski grinned and tried not to laugh as he replied, "Sure thing, Chief. Just wanted to make sure."
A short time later, Sharkey cringed inwardly as he heard Patterson and Riley laughing with Kowalski. By tomorrow the whole crew would know heíd asked the little twerp for advice. "Man, he hoped the skipper and CJ appreciated his sacrifice!"
While the Chief asked this question, Lee sat in the back office and crossed his arms waiting as he watched CJ pace the room like a caged lion. Heíd never seen her wound so tight. Usually she was so calm that it was disconcerting.
Finally, she turned to him and said, "Iím sorry, Lee. I thought I could talk about it but I canít. Youíre too close to the problem. It wouldnít be fair to put you in the middle."
He lost his pretense of calm and stated, "I know part of it already. Tish told me in passing at lunch that Emmeryís been sending you messages. Is there something going on in your company thatís got you climbing the walls?"
When he mentioned Lou, CJ stiffened and stopped her pacing but she still wouldnít look at him.
"So, it is Emmery. Let me guess. Heís pressuring you, wanting to know when youíre coming back. The jackass is probably green with jealousy afraid that the Admiral will convince you to stay longer. Am I getting close?"
A smile flickered across CJís pretty features before she turned to face him. "My, my, Captain! You do ramble on, so. Next youíll be reading palms for a living."
"Come on, CJ. Stop trying to change the subject. Let me help. I care a lot for you and if it wasnít for the Admiral....well....you know what I mean....Iíd be on the video phone in a minute telling Emmery what he could with his damn demands!"
A genuine smile of joy appeared on her face as she walked up and gave him a big hug. He pulled her close in return wishing for a moment that she felt more than friendship for him but knew it wasnít in the cards.
When he released her, she said, "Come on my gallant friend. Weíve spent enough time on my personal problems. I appreciate your concern but Iím the only one who can solve whatís bothering me. Besides, Phillipe needs to be informed about Jamison and that neither of us are interested in doing a skit about a female Samson and a male Delilah."
Lee laughed and followed her back to the main gym. He was glad she didnít want to do the skit. His masculinity was taking enough of a beating already.
Time passed and the Charity Benefit drew near. CJís class ended and she was able to devote more time to the benefit. The rest she spent at the beach and swimming with her dolphins. Nelson got over the flu but his strength returned slowly. Doc released him from the Med Bay with strict orders to take it easy. When Harry found out CJís itinerary, he made a point of showing up at the beach his first day out of the hospital. She was pleased to see him and offered to put suntan lotion on his back so he wouldnít burn in the sun. He was so pale and thin. At least now, he seemed happier and not so depressed.
As she rubbed the oil onto his skin, she thought back to when he was ill. Then, his mood ranged from despondency to ill-temperedness, giving the entire nursing staff nightmares because they never knew what to expect from the sick man. Even his sister Edith wasnít able to cheer him up. Finally, in desperation, she called CJ asking the woman to visit her grouchy brother. Jamison agreed but had CJ dress in gown and gloves and to wear a mask to prevent contamination. CJ agreed but knew the possibility of catching the flu was nil. Sheíd already been exposed directly by Nelsonís kisses and should have come down with it by now. However, she followed the doctorís orders knowing it was the only way he was going to let her see the Admiral.
That night when she entered his room, Harry was in a bad mood. All day long heíd waited hoping CJ would come to see him but knowing it wasnít possible, cause Doc had limited his visits to irritating nurses with their poking and prodding. "Another day gone that he couldíve spent precious time with her."
After a day of feeling miserable and being exposed to women in blue, he wasnít about to put up with more. So upon seeing another, he gasped out in between coughing, "Get out before I throw this bedpan at you. I MEAN it, DAMNIT! I may be sick but Iím still in charge of this place and have had all Iím going to put up with for today!"
"Well, well. So, now, itís a bedpan, is it? I guess throwing up on me wasnít enough jollies for you, Admiral. However, I refuse to put up with that humiliation no matter how sick you are!"
Harry dropped the bedpan and it clanged against the floor as he stared at the woman dressed like all of the nurses that had been in his room that day. He must be hallucinating. Doc would never have allowed CJ in to see him. That didnít mean she wouldnít get in if she really wanted too. She had an uncanny knack of getting in to any location no matter how tight the security. He started to ask if it was really her when he had another coughing attack. Every breath was precious and agonizing as he hacked up phlegm.
CJ didnít hesitate but approached him and put her arm around his shoulders holding him up until the attack passed. Then, after he lay back against the bed, she wiped his face and replaced his nasal oxygen tube that had become displaced during his bout of coughing.
When he was able to breathe more freely and his throat had stopped aching, he croaked out, "CJ, Iím sorry I..."
"Never mind, sir. Just rest. Iíll stay right here and make sure no one else bothers you tonight."
In response, he reached out to take her hand in his like so many times before but felt latex glove instead of her smooth skin against his. CJ pulled her hand away only long enough to remove the glove. When she placed it back into his, he sighed in contentment and closed his eyes.
Thereafter, CJ spent many of her nights dozing in a chair by Harryís bed. Jamison became concerned and threatened to limit her visits but stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the expression on her face. It was a mixture of anger and frustration mixed in with concern for the doctor and his patient. For Tim had started spending all of his time in the Med Bay in case Nelson needed him. "How could he blame her for doing the same thing!"
While CJ reminisced, Harry lay on his stomach and enjoyed the feel of her small hands against his back. "God, but he could get use to this. If only she wasnít going to leave right after the benefit. He wanted so much to tell her about his idea of remodeling the shark tanks on the Seaview to hold her dolphins but was afraid she would react badly to his brainstorm." Lee had told him about her reaction to Louís requests that she head back to the salvage site right after her class ended. The suave Captain had been able to worm it out of Tish, NIMRís head of communications, after a few glasses of champagne. CJ had told Emmery specifically that her time was hers to do with as she liked. She hadnít taken any long term shore leave in years and her younger sister had agreed to run the company in her absence. Her message to Lou hadnít included when she would return but Nelson just assumed like Lee that it would be right after the benefit. "What else would keep her here? Surely not him. They may have enjoyed a few tender kisses and romantic moments but the woman was still very formal referring to him by Nelson or by Admiral, sir, or sailor. Never by his first name."
After she finished with his back and shoulders, CJ replied, "OK, sailor. Itís your turn to repay the favor."
Harry sat up at her words and silently took the oil from her hands and watched her pull her long tresses forward revealing her neck and bare back. He squirted the oil onto her skin and methodically started to rub it around. He didnít know exactly when his touch turned more sensual but became aware of what he was doing when CJ drew in a shuddering breath and her body trembled beneath his hands. He stopped automatically unsure of how to proceed.
When she whispered softly for him to continue, Nelson finished quickly and handed her back the bottle. Then, he stood and walked down to the water putting distance between them while he regained control. "How could he have been so stupid? To daydream and forget himself. What she must think of him, now."
CJ sat and watched Nelson stand by the water. Knowing he must be angry because heíd revealed more of his feelings to her, she let him stew for awhile. Then, she decided he needed to stop being so serious plus he was spending too much time in the direct sunlight after being inside for so long. She looked around wondering what to do when she spotted the small ice chest nearby. Grinning like a cat that had just swallowed the canary, CJ picked up the container and stealthily approached the man. Harry was deep in thought and didnít hear or see her until it was too late. He drew in a deep breath of surprise as she poured the cold, icy water on his back. After the initial shock wore off, Nelson found it invigorating, especially when he saw the mischievous expression on her pretty face. He turned the tables quickly by grabbing the ice chest and emptying the rest of the contents over her head. Then, before she could retaliate, he picked her up and threw her into the sea.
After CJís icebreaker, they spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying each otherís company. Neither mentioned Harryís short lapse of self control but the sexual tension was bound to arise again between them and both wondered how they would react when it did.
Finally, the day of the benefit arrived. It was being held at the Santa Barbara auditorium. Security was tight because the President was attending the benefit. Everyone in the audience stood and clapped as Phillipe walked onto the stage and stood at the podium.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Charity Benefit for Sister Angelaís orphanage for needy children. I originally was going to be the Master of Ceremonies for this event and all of the acts were going to be in drag, but at the last minute we decided to have a contest and let it be open to any type of act. Since, Admiral Harriman Nelson and his sister, Edith Nelson, were unlucky enough to both come down with a nasty case of the flu, neither will be able to perform. However, so that they can still be involved, both will share the position of Master of Ceremonies. Now, it pleases me to turn things over to the two of them."
Everyone stood and clapped as Harry and Edith walked on stage and bowed. Then, they both sat down at a table near the front of the stage and to one side as to not interfere with the performers. Harry was wearing his dress uniform and looked very handsome while Edith wore a dark blue, formal evening gown and her red hair was swept up in the latest style. Small diamond earrings adorned her ears and she wore a beautiful matching necklace and bracelet.
Nelson spoke into the mike and said, "Thank you, Phillipe, for that wonderful introduction and I want to reiterate his thanks to all of you for coming. The first act will be performed by Captain Lee Crane and NIMRís Deputy Director, Katie James. Their act will be a reincarnation of the famous Sonny and Cher song called "I got you Babe" produced by MCA Records, Inc. However their act will be a little different for both will be dressed in drag. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Katie and Lee."
Everyone stood and clapped as Lee and Katie walked on stage. Crane wore a long black wig and a long, slinky, lime-green evening gown with a choker collar. Two-inch clogs of the same color adorned his feet while long, lime-green gloves covered his hands and lower arms. His face was made up quite well too. He wore dark, thick, false eyelashes and his makeup emphasized his prominent cheekbones. In his right hand he carried a green fan that he fluttered in front of his eyes. All in all, Crane was very attractive in his female attire. Katie wore a manís wig and a fake mustache on her face. She was dressed in menís black trousers and a black vest of the same color and a bright red, long sleeved, shirt. On her feet, she wore flat-heeled, red tennis shoes. In her left hand she carried a long, red cane. They began to sway and dance to the music as the song started to play.
Lee:They say weíre young and we donít know.
We wonít find out till we grow.
Katie:Well, I donít know if thatís all true.
ĎCause you got me, and baby I got you.
When Katie sang this verse, she hit Lee on his tush with her cane and he almost lost his balance. He turned and glared at her but she ignored him and continued to dance. The audience went wild with laughter.
Katie:Babe Both: I got you babe, I got you babe.
When they sang this verse, Lee hit Katie over the head with his fan. She turned in anger, but Lee just twirled his fan in a sexy motion against his face and continued to dance. Katie kept trying to retaliate by hitting Lee again with her cane but he kept his distance. Laughter occurred again at their shenanigans.
Lee: They say our love wonít pay the rent.
Before itís earned, our moneyís all been spent
Here Katie puts her hand to shield her face from Leeís and pulls a wallet from her pocket and shows a wad of green bills. She flashes them for effect before she puts them back into the wallet and slips the wallet back into her pocket. Chuckles broke out when she did this.
Katie:I guess thatís so, we donít have a pot.
But at least Iím sure of all the things we got.
As Katie danced around, she accidentally stepped into an empty pot sitting on the stage. Her shoe got stuck and she hops and shakes her foot. Laughter breaks out as she tires again and again but it wonít come off. She tries to pry it off with her cane. It still wonít come off. Lee flutters his fan to cover his face and laughs at Katieís predicament. Finally, he feels sorry for her and comes over and puts his foot against the pot and pushes hard. Katieís foot comes loose but Leeís dress tears up the side almost to his hip. Men from the Seaview sitting in the front row hoot and holler...some even let out a wolf whistle when Leeís bare leg is exposed. Other members of the audience cackle and laugh. Then Katie throws the pot off stage while Lee ignores the response to his predicament and starts fluttering his fan once more. They start to dance once again. Katie limps a little showing her foot is sore from being in the pot.
Katie:Babe Both: I got you babe,
I got you babe.Katie: I got flowers in the spring.
I got you to wear my ring.
Lee smiles and picks up a bouquet of flowers from a side table and hands them to Katie. She takes them and blows Lee a kiss. Then she pulls a ring from her pocket and slips it over the end of her cane and slides it down Leeís arm to his hand. He flutters his fan coyly before he pulls it off and slips it over his third finger on his left-gloved hand. Katie blows him another kiss and they continue to dance.
Lee:And when Iím sad, youíre a clown.
And if I get scared, youíre always around.
As Lee sings this verse, he pretends to be sad by putting his hand near his eye to catch a false tear. Katie picks up a toy clown puppet and starts to pull its strings and makes it dance. Lee smiles and flutters his fan. Suddenly, a loud clap of thunder occurs off stage. Lee cringes in fear. Katie dances close and slips her arm around Leeís waist as if to protect him from being scared. Then, they separate and continue to dance. The audience claps loudly in response.
Lee:So let them say your hairís too long.
ĎCause I donít care, with you I canít go wrong.
As this verse plays, Lee comes over to Katie and rubs his hand along her hair. Then, he puts his arm around her shoulder and holds her close for a few seconds before releasing her.
Katie:Then put your little hand in mind.
There ainít no hill or mountain we canít climb.
Lee puts his hand in Katieís as these verses were sung and they walked together across the stage as if they going together up a hill.
Both:I got you babe,
I got you babe.Katie: I got you to hold my hand. Lee: I got you to understand. Katie: I got you to walk with me. Lee: I got you to talk with me. Katie: I got you kiss goodnight. Lee: I got you to hold me tight. Katie: I got you, I wonít let you go. Lee: I got you to love me so. Both: I got you babe, I got you babe,
I got you babe, I got you babe,
I got you babe.
As the above verses played, they continued to hold hands, walked and talked; Lee held Katieís hand and kissed her; in turn Katie put her arm around Lee. They continued to walked together across the stage and finally exited as the words ended. The audience stood and clapped loudly once more as Lee and Katie came back on stage and took a bow.
Edith Nelson spoke into her mike, "Thank you, Captain Crane and Ms. James, for that VERY entertaining performance. Our next skit is one based on the Grimmís Fairy Tale of "Rapunzel". Executive Officer, Chip Morton plays the part of Rapunzel, seaman Kowalski is the wicked witch who stole Rapunzel from her parents, and Ms. Angie Peters is the Kingís son who rescues her. Please give them a grand welcome."
The audience claps and the curtain opens with Chip sitting up in the tower humming a tune. His costume makes him look like a young woman. Heís dressed in a blue gingham dress and bonnet and his hands were covered with white gloves. His cheeks are rosy as are his lips and his eyelashes are just long enough to be noticed. Kowalski walked on stage and stops at the bottom of the tower. His costume makes him appear like an older woman. Heís dressed in a long, off-white dress with a high collar and long sleeves. His hands are covered with light brown gloves and his feet are covered with brown, high-top womenís boots. Heís wearing a red wig that was fluffed so that the hair stuck out high on his head. His face is made up in the following manner. His cheeks are covered with loud, red rouge and lipstick. His eyes are covered dark eyeliner and false eyelashes. There was a large mole near the left side of his mouth.
Ski looks up at Chip and says, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel. Let down your long hair."
Chip looks down and replies, "Yes, dear old mother, Gothel."
Then, he proceeds to throw down a heavy rope the same color as his hair hitting Ski on the head knocking his wig off. The audience began to laugh as Ski shakes his head and acts like heís about to pass out. The audience continued to laugh and really hooted when finally, he sees his wig and picks it up to put it back on his head. Now, itís sideways. He proceeded to climb up into the tower and bopped Chip with the rope in mock anger. Then, he looked into a mirror next to Chip, straightened his wig briefly, and hugged Chip like they were mother and daughter. Then, Ski climbed back down and left but the audience could still see him.
As soon as Ski disappears, Angie walks on stage and over to the bottom of the tower. Sheís dressed in an outfit of forest-green like an English prince of medieval times complete with hat containing a feather. She looked up at the tower and mimicked Ski and said, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel. Let down your long hair."
Once more Chip throws the rope down and this time hit Angie on the head and knocked her hat off. She fell to her knees and shook her head acting as if she was seeing stars. The audience laughed once more and continued when her nose made contact with her hatís feather and she sneezed. Finally, she stood and climbed up the rope. When she reached the top, she and Chip kissed.
After a few moments, Angie said, "I love you, Rapunzel. Will you marry me?"
Chip acted coy and responded, "I must think. Come back tonight."
Angie nodded and went back down the rope and left but the members of the audience could still see her.
Ski came back on and yelled up, "You shameless harlot. You will pay dearly for betraying me. Let down your hair."
Chip looked down and followed his orders. When Ski reached the top, he acted like he was going to punish him but just as he started to hit him, Angie placed an arrow in her bow and shot him in the back. Ski fell out of sight and Angie came back to the bottom of the tower. The audience clapped with joy.
She yelled up to him, "Rapunzel, my love. Let down your golden hair."
Again he followed orders and almost hit Angie in the head. The only way he missed her is because she bent to wipe her boot. The audience laughed as she stood up and climbed back up the rope. Once more she kissed Chip. Then, she used her knife to cut his hair, tied it to the tower window, and they both climbed down, and left the stage. The audience stood and clapped as Chip, Ski, and Angie walked back on stage and bowed.
Harry spoke into his mike, "Thank you so much Ms. Peters, Mr. Kowalski, and Mr. Morton for such a fun piece of entertainment. Now, Seaman Patterson and Phillipe will demonstrate how a high fashion photographer and his model obtain all of those fantastic photos. Letís give them a big hand."
When Nelson finishing talking, he leaned back and looked over at his sister and smiled. Things were progressing quite nicely. The first two acts had proceeded without a hitch and the donations were pouring in. If things kept up like this, Sister Angelaís orphans would have money for years to come.
Ten minutes later, Edith got ready to announce the next act when Mr. OíBrian approached her with a special communicae. When she read it, she gasped out loud in disbelief. Harry looked over at her wondering what was going on.
He and everyone found out when his sister stood up and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, itís just been brought to my attention that an anonymous donor has just offered to double whatever proceeds this Charity Function brings in tonight plus underwrite the prizes for the winners of our contest. This a most generous offer as everyone whoís entered has already agreed to donate the prizes back to this charity. I know Sister Angela will be very pleased. Now, that Iíve made this announcement, I would like to introduce the next act."
As Edith continued on with her introduction, Nelson and many other members of the audience sat back in their chairs quite stunned. The estimated proceeds already predicted for the benefit exceeded $250,000 and with the anonymous donorís addition, they may pull in close to a million dollars.
Meanwhile, CJ was working back stage helping out plus setting up a surprise with Riley when Ski came rushing in and retorted, "The Admiralís sister just announced that some anonymous dude just volunteered to double whatever proceeds this function draws in plus underwrite all of the prize money."
"Man, I wouldnít mind being in that guys shoes. Having so much dough that I could just give it away!" Riley said with a wishful expression.
"Yeah, me too!" Ski said in agreement.
Patterson shook his head. "Not me. Anyway, the guyís probably getting a big tax deduction. I guess Uncle Sam really socks it to people like him."
CJ just smiled to herself when she heard the sailors. It seemed her idea to donate money anonymously was the main topic of conversation. Finally, she stopped and leaned back against the wall to enjoy the show that continued to get better by the moment. Katie walked by just as Sharkey commented that neither Riley nor Ski would know what to do with that kind of money and the guy probably had servants to wait on him hand and foot. She stopped and stared at him in surprise.
Lee noticed her reaction and eyed Chip. He shrugged his shoulders indicating he didnít know what was bothering her. She looked over at her friend CJ waiting to see if she would say anything.
When she stayed silent, Katie sighed and replied, "Francis, thatís a very sexist attitude. Why does the person donating the money have to be a man? Also, I know people with that kind of money who wouldnít dream of being waited on by others!"
The poor Chief just turned beet red and made a hasty retreat. When Katie turned back to ask CJ why she hadnít commented about the manís sexist attitude, she and Riley had disappeared.
CJ had more important things on her mind and so did Stu Riley. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think he would be doing what was about to occur. When she had first approached him with her request, he was unsure, especially after meeting her three friends. But he trusted this woman with his life and if she said it would be safe, he was willing to try. Now, he couldnít wait for everyone else to see how special this woman was and to see the Admiralís reaction.
Later in the evening when the benefit was about to end, Mr. OíBrian approached Edith Nelson for the second time with a piece of paper. This time however, her reaction was different. She looked over at her brother and then out at the audience. What she was about to announce was going to shock everyone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Iíve just been informed that a last minute entry has been entered into our benefit contest. Iíve been assured that there will be no danger to anyone for all of the performers will be contained and secure in a caged area. So, please everyone please donít become alarmed or panicked in any way." She waited for a few moments to allow what sheíd said to be absorbed before she continued. "It gives me great pleasure to present Chameleon Jewels ĎJí doing the harvest dance of her tribe, The People. Seaman Stu Riley will be playing some of the music. The other members of the cast will be a few of Ms. ĎJísí four legged friends."
After Edithís announcement, Harry sat up as if someone had sent an electric current through him. Many others did the same. One man in the audience smiled in disbelief and sat forward in eager anticipation.
When curtain came up, the auditorium became very quiet. CJ sat on a rock beside a running stream. She was dressed in a long, light brown, buckskin dress and moccasins. Her hair was braided Indian style and silhouetted each side of her face. She was surrounded by two wolves. One was coal black and the other was gray except for a white ruff around his neck. A large Palomino stallion stood behind her. A white marking in the shape of sun was prominent on his face. Seaman Stu Riley sat off to one side. He was dressed like an Indian brave in the same color buckskin as CJ. There was a small set of drums in front of him that he started to pound with a round piece of wood that he held in his hands.
When she heard the drums, CJ stood and began to slowly move her body in rhythm with the beat. Her hands began to move and drew out a picture of the sun, moon, and stars as the harvest dance continued. At one point, CJ threw her head back and let out a howl at the full moon. The wolves sat back on their haunches and howled in response. The horse shook his head slightly and snorted but he didnít move as the two wolves rose and walked up to him. When they were close enough, he bent his beautiful head and touched noses with them and CJ continued to dance. Suddenly, Riley began to beat the drums faster and faster as the woman went through the mock dance of a thunderstorm in full force. By the time the dance reached it climax, the woman had everyone under her spell.
When the drums stopped, the large auditorium was so silent that the sound of a pin could have been heard echoing as it hit the floor. Suddenly, the President of the United States stood and began to clap his hands as pride rushed through him. Never in all of his days had he seen the dance done more perfectly than by the woman standing and bowing by the young sailor. Who but Chameleon could have thought of bringing wild wolves and that hellion Palomino onto a public stage? The young man must really trust her and the horse sensed it.
After the Presidentís response, the rest of the audience joined in and the applause thundered out as CJ approached the horse and jumped onto his bare back. Then, the beautiful animal bent his front legs and put his head low as he took a bow. As he stood back up, Stu Riley with his heart in his throat jumped up behind her and CJ guided Morning Star off stage and the wolves followed.
It was Harryís turn to announce to the audience the benefit was over and how the judges would be picking the winning act and announcing the prize winners soon but he was still in shock. Sensing his dilemma, Edith took over and did the amenities.
Backstage China Sunshine and her boyfriend, Jose Domas, quickly took charge and helped CJ and Riley get the animals out of the auditorium safely and into the trailer parked by the back loading dock. Once Morning Star was inside and locked in place, the wolves jumped in behind him and quietly settled in. If anyone strange tried to enter or bother the horse, they would be faced with a pair of angry wolves.
Only when the woman was satisfied that all was well with her friends did she feel it was OK to accompany Riley back inside the auditorium to change her costume. They were barely inside the door when a Secret Service agent approached them and indicated that Ms.íJí should accompany him.
Stu stiffened beside her and said, "CJ, do you want to go with this dude?"
She smiled at the sailorís protective attitude but replied, "Donít worry, my friend, I can take care of myself, remember?"
He grinned sheepishly realizing how he sounded. If she could survive around a couple of wild wolves, this man would be childís play in comparison. He nodded silently and started to go on inside but CJ stopped him.
"Riley, please keep this to yourself. I canít explain but itís very important that no one else knows about this."
He looked down into her pretty face and wondered where this was going to lead. However, she returned his glance with those calm, blue-green penetrating eyes of hers and he found himself nodding in agreement even though he didnít like it. He watched her disappear down the hallway with the man in the three-pieced suit. Riley didnít trust any of these silent men who guarded the President and appeared out of nowhere to order people around. He wouldnít feel at ease until she returned.
After the young sailor left, CJ followed the man. Neither spoke during the journey to the Presidentís private quarters set up for him in the auditorium. The man spoke into a mike located on his arm. Then, he ushered her into an inner room where he checked her for any hidden weapons by running a scanner over her from head to toe. She stood quietly letting him perform his duties. The equipment he used was the most modern in existence. She wondered what he would do if he knew her company held the patent rights.
When he was satisfied that she was clean, he opened the inner door and motioned for her to enter. She walked in and stood silently waiting. It wasnít long before the President entered. He turned the jamming device on that he held in his hand and laid it down on the table directly in line with the security camera. Then, while the head of his Secret Service guard cussed with anger, Henry McNeil, the President of the United States, grinned with joy as he swept CJ into his arms and planted a kiss on her cheek.
After he released her, he laughed and stated, "Cuz, you really take the cake. No one but you would have the gall to bring wild wolves onto a public stage!"
CJ stood silently watching him. Her face was hard to read as usual. She waited for the bomb to fall. He would NEVER take a chance like this just to congratulate her. When she didnít return his smile or laugh, he became more serious wishing just once they could be relaxed with each other. However, it was her wish to have their family connection kept confidential. Anger rushed through him for what he had to ask of her but once she heard his request, she would be out the door planning her strategy.
He was right because when she heard his news, she became all business until the preliminaries were over. However, she didnít seem in any hurry to leave. In fact, she seemed a little amused by his news. When she cocked her head slightly and smiled, he cursed silently under his breath.
DAMN-IT, Chameleon, you already knew! Why did you let me ramble on making a fool of myself?"
"Well, you have to earn your salary and I had to make sure you had a good reason to break our agreement to keep our relationship a secret."
He turned and slammed his fist down on the table containing the jamming device. It bounced slightly but stayed in place as he retorted bitterly, "What youíre not saying is you needed to be sure that you CAN still trust me. DAMN, I thought you WERE different than the rest of the family!"
She stood waiting for his anger too cool. He may be a VERY distant cousin but heíd inherited enough of the ĎJí genes to have the German-Irish temperament.
CJ didnít have long to wait. One thing about the man holding the highest office in the land, he was a stubborn individual but practical and cool headed rarely losing his temper. Thatís why she trusted him while the rest of the family didnít.
"Sir, Iím sorry if I gave you that impression. If I lost faith in you, you would be the first to know and why. You know I donít PLAY games!" She stated in a steady voice.
Henry drew in a calming breath and found himself relaxing as she brought their relationship back to the necessary impersonal one. When he turned to continue, she was beside him looking at the map of the location where the French Ambassadorís son had been kidnapped.
Before CJ left, he sat on the edge of the desk where the map lay and asked, "How do you do it?"
"Do what?" She asked in puzzlement still concentrating on the matter at hand and hoping the people attempting Jean-Claudeís rescue were successful so she wouldnít have to go in herself to handle the situation.
"Never lose your temper."
She smiled and stated, "Well, someone in our crazy family has to keep their cool, now donít they?"
He grinned knowing there had to be more to it but he didnít press the issue. When she got ready to leave, he hugged her not caring how she might respond. Much to his surprise, she returned it with one of her own.
Before she opened the door, CJ whispered, "Take care and make sure those men of yours DO their job and protect you or theyíll have to ANSWER to me."
Henry stared at the door after it closed behind her as he said softly, "I love you too, cuz."
After she left the Presidentís quarters, she followed her escort back to the loading docks. The trailer containing her horse and the wolves was gone. Seeing how much time had passed, she hurried quickly to the dressing room to change. Much to her surprise, Riley stood beside it still in costume.
When he saw her, relief washed over his face. "Man, CJ. I was about to come looking for you. We won first prize and the audience is waiting to see us accept it. I stalled and told the Admiral you were taking care of the animals but even heís becoming impatient. You know how he is when he loses his temper!"
She slipped her arm through his and laughed, "Letís go before smoke starts coming out his ears."
Riley laughed in return and decided that if she was in such a good mood, he didnít have to worry about her little disappearance earlier to see the great man. He couldnít wait to walk out onto the stage with her to accept first prize. In his opinion, he was the winner just being her friend and his eyes filled with happy tears. He was so glad that her car stalled on that fateful day when he went to pick up the Admiral at the University.
Nelson stood on stage beside Edith as Riley and CJ came to claim their prize. His eyes glowed as he watched her approach. "God, she was beautiful and such a mystery. Just when he thought he was getting to know her, she revealed another secret about herself!"
When they reached the podium, Edith spoke into the mike, "Ms. ĎJí and Mr. Riley, I am proud to present to you first prize for the most fascinating act performed at this Charity Benefit."
CJ took the envelope from the woman and looked at Riley who nodded. She smiled and returned the envelope to Edith. Then, they stood waiting while the other prizes were presented. She glanced over at the Admiral. He hadnít taken his eyes off her since sheíd came onto the stage. It was very disconcerting. Suddenly, she felt the need for fresh air and was the first off stage when the curtain came down. She didnít take time to change but made her way to the loading dock door. This entrance wasnít used by the public and she was able to be alone.
Time passed and the auditorium was empty when CJ made her way back down the empty hallway to the dressing room. It seemed so peaceful now that the show was over. She sighed also knowing that her shore leave was over and that she would have to head back south soon. She couldnít make up any more excuses to stay in California even though she wanted too. It would be better to leave quietly without seeing anyone, especially Nelson.
When she reached the door and opened it, the dressing room was dark and she ran her hand along the wall trying to find the light switch. Without warning the light came on temporarily blinding her. She drew back instinctively not knowing what to expect. As her eyes adjusted, she looked around and saw a man sitting inside. It was Nelson. Stunned, she just stood there staring at him.
Since Harry had been sitting in the dark and closed his eyes before he turned on the light, his adjusted quickly. He saw the surprise on her face and her hesitation when she saw him. He rose quickly and approached her. While she was gone, he and Lee had been called in to see the President. They would be leaving aboard Seaview in two hours on a delicate mission and he wanted to see her before they left. He couldnít tell her why but wanted an opportunity to say good-bye.
"Well, you finally decided to come back. Trouble with your four-legged friends?"
"Er...no. I just needed some fresh air and lost track of time." She said avoiding him and making her way inside. "What are you doing here, anyway? Itís very late and youíre still recovering."
"I was waiting for you, CJ. I needed to talk to you. The President has commandeered the Seaview for an important mission. We leave in two hours. I had to see you to let you know I....well...Iíve enjoyed our time together.....and...hope we can spend some more time together in the future. That is if you want too."
When she didnít answer right away, severe disappointment ran through him and he turned away intending to leave.
His hand was on door knob when she said, "Harry, where do you think youíre going after declaring yourself so openly?"
The sound of his first name coming from her lips caused him to stop in mid-stride and grip the door knob hard for support. Heíd waited so long to hear CJ say his name and now that she had, he couldnít stay. However, that didnít mean he had to leave this very minute. He turned back to find her looking at him. Her hands were on her hips and her blue-green eyes actually seem to glow with a gentle radiance. A weakness passed through him and he knew it wasnít because of his illness. He pushed the door back closed and locked it from within just in case some unwanted security guard decided to check the room. Then, he turned out the light and proceeded to show CJ just how much he cared for her.
Two hours later, Harry and Lee were standing with Chip around the plot table deep in conversation. Finally, Crane looked at his watch and retorted, "Admiral, how long do we have to wait, anyway? The crewís all on board and the Seaviewís ready to set sail. It seems that the person the President said was so vital to this mission could at least show up on time!"
"Calm down, Lee. The President said they would be here. Remember when we talked, he was having trouble locating the person in question."
"Well, Iím eager to get started. A boyís life is at stake, after all. I wanted to discuss the mission with you further after our meeting with the President but you disappeared."
"Yes, I wanted to tell CJ good-bye. I knew she would be gone by the time we got back from this mission."
"Oh, sorry, sir. Was she upset?"
Harry smiled as he remembered their farewell. Then, he saw Lee and Chip grinning at him. He cleared his throat and stammered out. "Er...no. She wasnít upset. Not in the least. Now, letís drop it, shall we?" Then, he became more business like and said, "Chip, have Sparks contact the security gate and see if this mysterious person has arrived, yet."
As Morton turned to walk to the radio shack, he heard a sound above him on the forward ladder and looked up to see who was coming on board. When he saw who it was, he gasped in surprise and dropped his clipboard. As it clanged on the steel floor, the person climbed on down and stood looking around the Control Room at the number of surprised faces.
When the unexpected visitorís eyes met those of the Captain, the person said, "Sorry, to be late, sir. After the President notified me of this mission, I had to get some special equipment together that would be needed. Itís on the upper deck. Could someone bring it on board for me? Itís very delicate and needs to be packed carefully."
Lee looked at the person standing by the forward ladder and a large smile appeared on his face. He looked over at the Admiralís stunned expression and knew his boss was as surprised as he was.
"Mr. Morton, have the Chief supervise the equipment detail and then find suitable quarters for our guest."
"Er..aye, sir. Right away." Chip said still stunned by the turn of events.
When their guest approached the plot table, Nelson motioned for Crane and the person to follow him to the observation nose. Then, he hit the knob shutting the inner crash doors and waited till they were isolated from the Control Room.
After they were alone, he turned in anger and growled out softly, "What in the HELL are you doing here and your answer better be a GOOD one or Iíll PERSONALLY escort you off the Seaview, myself!"
The person standing before him stiffened visibly and pulled out a set of papers. "Sir, this is a note for you written in the Presidentís own personal code. He had an idea you would react this way. Before you explode further, I suggest you contact him and confirm my orders."
Harry grabbed them, reopened the crash doors, and headed for the radio shack. Their guest just sighed and sat down in one of the chairs in front of a table to wait. Lee shook his head and followed the Admiral leaving their visitor alone.
When Nelson returned, he sat down across from his guest and sighed, "Iím sorry but DAMNIT I had no idea that you sometimes....."
"Worked for the government?"
"Yes." He said looking down at his hands wondering what else he was going to learn about their unexpected visitor. "Am I forgiven?"
"On one condition, Admiral."
"If youíll welcome me aboard, sir."
A smile slowly appeared on Harryís face as he stood and walked around the table to stand by his unexpected guest. After the person stood up, he leaned close and whispered, "With pleasure." Then, he pulled CJ into his arms and kissed her.