Author’s Note: The
facts given about
“What’s wrong, Skipper?” Dr. Will Jamison had been surreptitiously keeping an eye on his CO, Cdr. Lee Crane. The younger man was sitting quietly, reading reports. Every so often, almost absentmindedly, he would reach up to rub a temple. His close friends knew it to be an unconsciously given signal that he had a headache.
Lee didn’t even bother to look up. “I’m fine, Jamie,” came out automatically. Almost instantly it was followed by a grunt as a well-aimed elbow nailed him from the other side, delivered by his XO – and best friend – Lt. Cdr. Charles P. “Chip” Morton.
As Lee sent a glare the
blond’s way, Will couldn’t bury a chuckle.
The two younger men had known each other since their first day at
The three were sitting in an
outer room at the Pentagon waiting for their boss, Admiral Harriman Nelson, to
emerge from within the oddly shaped building’s bowels. Seaview was at
But Nelson had also been the one most adamant that Lee not be blamed for the unfortunate incident. It was, after all, no fault of Seaview’s captain that his mind had been taken over by a supposedly long-dead mummy. Not to mention that none of the four men were anxious to explain to said powers that be just how something that illogical could have happened in the first place. Lee, as usual, had been perfectly willing to admit that what happened was his fault. The Admiral, however, was able to convince him that the greater good – for all concerned – would be to keep his mouth shut.
Will’s subterfuge had been
fairly easy. As the boat’s CMO he wasn’t
expected to know much about Seaview’s mechanical workings. And he’d explained away Lee’s having spent
But he continued to quietly watch the young commander. Once Nelson had returned from delivering the sarcophagus and Lee had come out from under the strong sedative Will had given him – an order from Nelson to give him time to rectify the problems created by the…Will still wasn’t sure how to describe what had happened – Lee had seemed fine, if a bit quieter than usual. That was, for him, a fairly typical reaction – Lee tended to internalize his own problems, even while drawing out other crew members and helping them get past the weirdness that Seaview’s missions sometimes dissolved into. Chip had been his usual supportive self, teasing and goading Lee, and generally getting him past the worst of the emotional trauma Lee had been subjected to. But Will would keep an eye on him as well. Quietly and cautiously. While Chip could get away with harassing Lee because of the long years of friendship – and, Will suspected, Lee knowing that he couldn’t stop it anyway, such was the blond’s tenacious nature – Lee didn’t take well at all to being ‘Mother-Henned’ as he referred to the watchfulness the entire crew resorted to around their occasionally impetuous captain.
A grin slipped out as Will thought back on a few instances of how everyone aboard Seaview had come to keep tabs on Lee. For a long time Will believed that Lee wasn’t aware of it. Hard to imagine, as the man seemed to be aware of almost everything going on – even if he was half-dead or totally unconscious. It regularly drove Will crazy! But he finally realized that Lee was perfectly aware of it happening and simply chose to ignore it. Will had caught the sparkle in Lee’s eyes a few times, not totally overshadowed by the grousing Lee was doing at the time, over one thing or another – a crewman beating him to a simple repair job Lee had intended to do himself; JOs showing up during a crisis once they knew that their own sections were under control, and helping other areas get back to normal before Lee showed up to help as he always managed to do; Cookie going out of his way to prepare meals he knew Lee especially liked. Will had shared many a grin, especially with Admiral Nelson and Chip, as something was done behind Lee’s back to make his job a bit easier. Will’s grin spread at the thought.
But his musings were interrupted as Admiral Nelson suddenly appeared, his face stony and expression dark. “Sir?” Lee said instantly as he rose to his feet. Will quickly buried the grin the single word had almost created. Lee was pretty much the only person he’d ever seen be able to sidetrack a rampaging Admiral Nelson – and from the man’s expression that was what was about to happen.
“Outside,” Nelson growled, and all four men were silent until they’d left the building a good fifty yards behind. At that point a particularly ugly snort escaped Nelson.
Lee once again asked, his voice carefully controlled, “Sir?”
The others watched as Nelson struggled to control his temper before finally giving himself a shake. “Just a few idiots being more asinine than usual.” He flipped a hand and sent Lee a genuine smile. “Nothing I haven’t been putting up with for thirty years.”
“Sir…” Lee started once more, but was immediately cut off.
“No,” Nelson told him firmly. “It’s dealt with and over. I mean it.” He sent a particularly stern look Lee’s way.
Lee surrendered. “Yes, sir,” he said softly.
Nelson sent him a brusque
nod. It wouldn’t have been the first
time that Lee went behind Nelson’s back and placed on his own shoulders burdens
that he felt his, taking them away from Nelson no matter what the older man had
ordered. Nelson valued Lee greatly for
his conscientiousness. But not
occasionally wanted to slap him upside the head for it none-the-less. That thought brought a small smile. “Besides,” he continued, more under control,
“that episode is over and done with. The
idiots have gone on to a new and more outrageous bit of lunacy. Nothing that you need to concern yourself
with, but it will keep me here in
“We’ll still have to go back to the boat, if only for fresh clothes,” Lee offered with half a grin. It turned into a glare as once more he was nailed by one of Chip’s elbows. Both Nelson and Will chuckled.
“And I’ll call Security and have them throw your tails back off Seaview thirty minutes later,” Nelson warned him.
“Make it forty-five?” Lee asked meekly, but his eyes were sparkling.
Nelson let loose one of his better harrumphs. “Go, before I make it twenty,” he muttered, but could barely contain his own mirth.
“Yes, sir,” Lee acquiesced.
It was agreed that the three
would drive the rental car back to
Will sat in the back seat on the drive down, ostensibly continuing to read his medical journal but spending more time listening to the two up front kibitzing about where to go. After the first couple of suggestions Chip made and Lee shrugged off, Lee had suggested that Chip go off and find “something or someone” to relax with, expressing the desire to find a hotel and veg. Will didn’t interrupt, even though he knew that was exactly what Lee didn’t need, only because Chip exploded faster than he could. The resulting lecture nearly had Will bursting into laughter as Chip came a little unhinged that Lee didn’t even know how to relax, he so seldom did it. Will couldn’t see Lee’s face as he was sitting directly behind him, but suspected that Lee had sent Chip a sheepish grin as Chip finally smiled and reached out a hand, lightly cuffing Lee’s shoulder.
Conversation slacked off after that, limited to the occasional comments on things going on around them: a sign drawing out a silly comment, or a view a remembrance of some kind. Will wished that the two younger men would elaborate on a few things more as they teased each other – he didn’t so much feel left out as they would mention something and then laugh, as he would have liked more background, especially on Lee. He knew that, as an only child with a busy mom and a dad who had died early in Lee’s life, Lee had grown up depending on himself more than friends or outsiders for his daily dose of stability. Lee was one of the most under-control, self-assured people Will had ever met, but kept his own counsel more than Will thought totally healthy. Chip, from a boisterous, outgoing family, had been a godsend, adding a balance to Lee’s sometimes too quiet persona. On duty, as CO and XO, there was never any doubt of who was in control. Chip was a perfect match for Lee’s dedication to his boat and his crew. But off duty, or when circumstances warranted, Chip could add a silly side, loosening Lee up and allowing him to relax as almost no one else could.
As they neared
“Quick Lee, grab a net and catch it,” Chip smirked the quip. “He has so few he needs to keep all that he gets.” Lee snickered as Will sent the blond a quick glare. But the raised eyebrow continued to send an invitation to explain.
Will shook his head. “Nothing earth-shattering, Mr. Morton,” he grumbled
before he grinned at Lee. “It was that
sign back there, advertising the James River Plantations between
“How’s that?” Lee asked, turning further to see Will more easily.
“Ah…” Will breathed out. “Let’s see if I can get this straight. It gets a little convoluted. And the only reason I know this much is, an old aunt my parents used to visit occasionally when I was a child would relate the story every time we were there. She’d go on and on… ad nauseum to me,” he added, and both Chip and Lee grinned. “Although, my sister seemed to enjoy the tales. Its one of the oldest plantations, with quite a history going back to the early 1600’s. But a relative by the name of John Jamieson,” he spelled it for the other two, “a third cousin twice removed, or something like that, and don’t ask me when my line changed the spelling – I don’t have a clue – was a drummer boy during the Civil War. He was stationed there for at least awhile when it was used as McClellan’s Union Army supply base. In fact, if I remember correctly, ‘Taps’ was composed there during that time. 1862 I think, but I could be wrong.” He shook his head slightly. “Anyway, along about the early 1900’s sometime, John purchased the property and started restoring it. His family still owns it.”
“You’ve never been there?” Chip asked.
“Nope. Not really family of mine. Just a bit of a coincidence with a tiny thread of connection.”
“You should go while we’re this close,” Lee told him. “Might not have a better chance.” He sent Will a broad grin. “Spend some time strolling the grounds and pretending that you’re the plantation owner.”
“Geez, Lee,” Chip muttered. “Don’t give him any ideas. He’s bossy enough as it is now.” Lee cracked up as Will sent Chip a threatening glare, but both Chip and Will broke down and chuckled as well.
“Might just do that,” Will finally said. “In fact, why don’t the two of you come as well, since you can’t make up your minds on how to spend the next few days?”
There was immediate backpedaling, especially by Lee, and Will didn’t argue. It had just been a passing thought anyway. Although, he pondered silently, it might be fun to go see, and take a few pictures back to show Lu Tsi.* His wife would enjoy the history of the place.
Nothing more was said as they
completed the drive back to the Norfolk Navy Shipyard. Lee frowned and Chip snickered when, as they
requested permission to come aboard Seaview from the Anchor Watch, a decidedly
uncomfortable Davy Jackson, one of Seaview’s security men, passed on the
message that Admiral Nelson had already called and told him he was under orders
to toss both CO and XO off the boat if they were there longer than half an
hour. Lee was opening his mouth,
preparing to tell
Will headed first for
“You sure you don’t want to come with me, Skipper?” Will half-teased Lee. “I’d enjoy the company. You, too Chip, if you want.” He was expecting instant negatives so was totally surprised when Lee hesitated, seeming to ponder the suggestion.
A look of amazement briefly flashed past Chip’s face before being buried behind a grin. “Come on, Lee,” he said, nudging his friend with a shoulder. “Might be fun.”
“Harrumph,” Lee did a good Nelson impersonation. But he finally shrugged, sent both Chip and Will a little grin, and the three headed once more for the rental car.
By the time they reached
“Huh?” Chip interrupted. “According to my recollection of the history
lessons in school, I thought that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the
Will shrugged. “I’m just reading what the pamphlet says,” he told the blond.
“That was two years later,”
Lee said between bites of salad. The
other two raised identical eyebrows and pointed them in his direction, and he
sent them a small grin. “
“Okay,” Chip said. “That rings a bell in the very back of my brain.”
“You admitting to being a ding-a-ling?” Lee asked all too innocently.
Will couldn’t stop the instant attack of laughter the younger men’s hijinks caused. Chip’s high-test glare at Lee transferred to Will. “What else does the flyer say?” he muttered slowly and succinctly.
It took Will a few more
seconds to get himself under control, but tried as quickly as possible to get
back to the topic of
“By slaves,” Lee said softly.
Will nodded. “That was, unfortunately, the way of life
“And some of them weren’t the nasties we’ve been led to believe they all were,” Lee added.
Will nodded. “Especially in the early years. The slaves were originally treated like indentured servants, and some were eventually given their freedom. That didn’t last long, unfortunately. But there were still at least some good owners.”
“Like today,” it was Chip’s turn to contribute. “The news is mostly filled with bad stuff, not the good that goes on.”
“Makes better news,” Lee muttered, somewhat savagely stabbing a piece of the steak he’d ordered. “At least, according to the TV stations and newspapers. Seems to me we’d all be better off if we had more good things to occupy our minds. There has to be a balance between sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the warmongers, and exposing every little detail of someone’s life just because he or she is someone famous and deemed ‘newsworthy’.”
“Here, here,” both Chip and Will agreed wholeheartedly, and the conversation switched to happier topics for the rest of the meal.
They’d left the connecting door open between the hotel rooms and, once back, Will listened as Chip continued to tease Lee. Will didn’t check, but apparently Lee had gone back to his reports while Chip was flipping through channels on the TV. Will smiled. He was often amazed at how much Lee would put up with from Chip – while he frequently sent looks at the blond which would have any other member of the crew running for their lives, he rarely got truly ticked. A good thing, Will sighed silently. He was all too familiar with Lee in the middle of a temper storm. It wasn’t pretty! Thankfully the pair understood just how far they could push the other, and everyone else – including Will – stood back and enjoyed the show. That thought putting a smile on his face, Will went to bed.
Some time later he was startled awake by something. The bedside clock read 0240, and he lay there a second trying to figure out what it was he’d heard. Or saw. He had a vague memory of a black woman, dressed in old, worn but at some point quite presentable clothes, standing… He wasn’t sure. And the longer he tried to figure it out the dimmer the picture grew. He finally decided that it must have been an image from a history book, brought back by his memory following the earlier discussion he’d had about slaves. Eesh, Will, he chastised himself silently. Bad enough the Skipper has occasional nightmares. You don’t need them, too. He snorted softly. Better not mention this to Lee – especially after the last mission. Will got up briefly. There was enough transient light in the room that he didn’t turn anything on. He poked his head into the other room but both younger men were to all appearances sound asleep. He hit the head and then went back to bed. Happily he quickly fell back to sleep.
* * * *
“Earth to Jamie.” The teasing phrase, delivered by a grinning Chip, finally sank in and Will brought his wandering attention back to the table as the three finished the last of their breakfasts the following morning. He sent the blond a sheepish grin.
“Sorry,” he mumbled as the other two grinned back at him.
“Blond, brunette, or redhead,” Chip barely got out without giggling. He was immediately elbowed by Lee.
“Better have been black,” Lee said firmly, and then spoiled it by chuckling, “or Lu Tsi will kill him.”
Will glared at both of them, which merely increased their grins. He finally chuckled as well, but didn’t explain that the image that had awakened him during the night, that of a twenty-something slave woman, had once more invaded his thoughts and momentarily distracted him. One, he had no idea what was causing his sudden day- (and night-) dreaming. And two, the very last thing he wanted to remind Lee of at the moment was any kind of ‘spirit’ invading his mind and thoughts. By all appearances Lee was finally starting to relax and become more like himself after what had happened with the mummy. Will was most definitely not going to be the one to bring it all back up, however inadvertently.
He did need to say something, he realized as the two younger men continued to look at him. “Just thinking back on more of the stories my aunt used to tell,” he settled on. “I told you about John Jamieson coming back and buying the plantation.” The other two nodded. “His son, Malcolm, according to the flyer I was reading from last night, has been the main impetus since his father’s death in continuing to keep the place going. He’s turned it once more into a working, profitable farm. I think I heard that he even sometimes hosts tours of the house himself.”
Chip sent Lee a bit of a smirk. “Hey, the chance to meet Jamie’s family. Oh, the stories we could tell them.”
“Watch it, Commander,” Will threatened the blond. “Your next physical isn’t that far away.” Lee choked on the swallow of coffee he’d just taken. Will waited until he was sure that Lee was okay before continuing. “Besides, I told you, that side of the family is so far removed from mine I doubt that he knows I exist.”
“You know he does,” Lee reasoned.
Will shrugged. “Still, somehow I doubt it, Skipper.”
Chip turned to Lee. “What say we fix that in a hurry.” He waggled his eyebrows as Lee grinned and Will frowned, and Will changed the subject.
Turned out that they didn’t get the chance. When they got to the restored plantation Chip immediately asked, much to Will’s displeasure, but was told that none of the family was at the plantation that week. “Bummer,” Chip told Lee, and the three looked around the front gardens waiting for the next tour of the house.
Will buried a sheepish grin half an hour later as a tour guide, dressed in period costume for the late eighteenth century, escorted a small group of people which included the Seaview officers through the three-story Georgian-style mansion. While Lee was being a perfectly polite guest, Will could read extreme boredom oozing from the young man’s every glance as they walked through the building admiring the antiques and listening to the guide’s history lessons. Chip, at least, was spending a good deal of the time casting appreciative glances at the extremely attractive guide, and Will sent Lee a wink at one point as their eyes met.
Once they’d exited the house, the tour of the grounds was laid out as self-guided and Will turned to his two companions. “I must apologize,” he started. “While I’m enjoying myself immensely its quite evident that you two are bored out of your skulls.”
“Not really,” Chip quipped, sending a glance back toward their tour guide as she reentered the house.
Will grinned. “Her notwithstanding, I can’t imagine the two of you happily wandering around the gardens snapping pictures for Lu Tsi.” Both younger men shrugged. “Suppose you go find something to occupy yourselves for awhile, and pick me up in a few hours.”
“And what do you propose we do?” Lee asked with a slight grumble.
“Feeding him,” Will pointed toward Chip, “comes to mind. The snack shop didn’t look half-well enough supplied for that purpose.”
Lee chuckled and Chip frowned at him, before turning back to Will. Will thought that he could detect a slight nod, and assumed that Chip had picked up on the fact that if Chip ate, so would Lee. But he muttered none-the-less, “You have to eat, too.”
“I’ll be fine on the granola bars in my pocket, and maybe a bottle of juice. That will hold me until dinner.”
Lee softly elbowed Chip. “There should be several Civil War battlefields not far away. Your Dad would enjoy brochures and a few pictures.”
“They’re about as much fun as gardens,” Chip muttered. “Had my fill of them on the wonderful family vacations we took when I was growing up.” His intonation on the word ‘wonderful’ left no doubt that that wasn’t exactly the word he’d have preferred to use.
Lee grinned at Will. “One reason he joined the Navy,” he translated. “Got sick and tired of the Army very early in life.” Will chuckled, and even Chip was forced to nod.
“Learned early on that I wasn’t meant to march,” he agreed.
Will shook his head, still chuckling. He so loved these two young men, especially for the silly sides they all too infrequently presented. “Gone, both of you,” he finally ordered, before pointing a finger at Chip. “And if I find out you let him,” he nodded at Lee, “stick his face back in whatever report he was glued to yesterday…” He didn’t finish the threat, just crossed his arms over his chest and glared at them both. “This is R & R time. Rest & Recreation, not Read & Review.”
Lee frowned. “I knew it was a mistake letting him anywhere near a dictatorship most of the old plantations tended to be.” Chip burst out laughing and even Will was forced to grin. They agreed to return in three hours – Will told them that he wanted that long to wander around the grounds without hurrying; that he found great comfort in plants – maybe because so much of his time was spent inside walls and bulkheads.
He still breathed a huge sigh of relief as their car exited the parking lot. He was afraid that Lee had noticed him staring an extra long time down one of the hallways in the house outside the master bedchambers. The tour had continued without him for the moment it took him to gather his senses and he’d had to hurry to catch up.
He was positive now that, for whatever reason, he was the target of the…ghost? He’d seen too many things aboard Seaview to discount that definition. And he was also sure, now, that it had something to do with Berkeley Plantation. What, he didn’t have a clue. Especially since it wasn’t even his part of the family that was connected to the place.
Speaking of which, something
the guide had mentioned needed further verification and he tracked her down in
the gift shop. She wasn’t much help, but
the woman who ran the shop was able to add a bit. It seemed that John Jamieson hadn’t bought
the plantation from any of the surviving
* * * *
For the next couple of hours Will nearly forgot his little puzzle as he wandered around and through the terraced gardens, the walkways lined with groomed shrubs and an access driveway along the edge overhung with trees. There were small monuments commemorating the First Thanksgiving celebration as well as the writing of ‘Taps’. The story went that it was composed by one of McClellan’s soldiers one night, and played at dusk along the banks of the river. It was picked up by a Confederate soldier on the other side who echoed it back, and spread from there. Will wasn’t sure that he’d ever heard the history of the sorrowful melody, and spent a few minutes allowing himself to once more mourn the men he’d served with, over whose bodies the song had been played.
He gave himself a shake out
of his decidedly maudlin thoughts as a couple of small children raced past,
followed much more sedately by who Will assumed were their parents. He sent them a friendly grin and continued
his meanderings down toward the banks of the
Either way, for some reason
Will was glad to see them untouched, although he wasn’t sure why he cared, and
continued his walk. He stopped for a bit
at the graveyard and ended up learning another bit of family history. Besides members of the
He found himself once more
down by the banks of the peaceful
“We came back and hung around the parking lot for a bit,” Lee started.
“When you didn’t show up,” Chip continued the explanation, “we went over to the gift shop. The ladies there remembered us…” He sent Lee a frown as his friend snorted softly, and Will chuckled. “So they let us come look for you without having to pay another fee,” Chip finished, a slight grumble in his voice as Lee continued to grin.
“Sorry,” Will apologized. “Obviously lost track of time.”
“No biggy,” Lee assured him. “It really is kind of peaceful back here.”
“Better than looking at Civil War battle sites,” Chip growled ever so softly, but still audible to the other two. Lee elbowed him, albeit gently.
“We decided that we’d grab you, grab a bite to eat, and head back to Seaview,” Lee said, still grinning. Will instantly frowned, and Chip once more took up the narrative.
“The Admiral only told us that we couldn’t stay longer than half an hour to pack some clothes. He didn’t say anything about how long we had to be gone.” Will’s frown increased and he folded his arms over his chest and glared at both of them.
“We can leave you and the car at the motel and get a ride back,” Lee once again spoke. “No reason to cut your R&R short.” He shrugged. “But Chip will go stark raving fruiters if we keep him away from monitoring Seaview’s repairs much longer.”
Chip joined Will in glaring at Lee. “Watch it, junior,” he growled. “I’m not the one who phoned twice today to check on her.”
Will snorted and ended up
chuckling, grinning at them both. “Okay,
okay, I surrender,” he told them. “I
know when I’m licked. And we can all go
back.” He sent them sheepish looks. “There are half a dozen medical journals I
still haven’t gotten to.” That caused
chuckles all around and the three headed amiably back up the gentle slope to
the parking lot. A quick stop to clear
out the motel rooms and they headed back to
Security, and in particular
Davy Jackson, wasn’t overly thrilled to see them back so soon. As Lee once more got ready to assert his
authority over the man, Will stepped in.
“If the Admiral happens to call, see that it is transferred to me,” he
told the guard. Lee and Chip sent him
raised eyebrows but, when Will chose not to elaborate, they continued onboard
the submarine. Will sent
* * * *
The next morning, just before 1100 hours, found Will headed for the Wardroom. There was still only a skeleton crew aboard. But Will knew that Cookie had returned from R&R and would have at least some food available. Will wasn’t so much hungry as he was in need of coffee. He’d already gone through the pot he’d brewed in his office that morning. While it had tasted good, Will finally decided that he was in need of the semi-lethal concoction Seaview’s premier chef lovingly referred to as ‘joe.’
As relaxed as he’d felt, returning to his home-away-from-home, it had not been a restful night. With no apparent warning he’d been jolted from a sound sleep, momentarily unaware of why. Slowly the image he’d seen twice before – that of a young black slave woman – took shape, but this time only in his mind. She appeared to be extremely angry but Will had no idea why. He could visualize her lips moving but could hear no sound. She started shaking her finger at him, but about then he fully awakened and the image faded. Shaking his head, he tried to go back to sleep. After spending ten minutes tossing and turning he surrendered, got up, and spent the rest of the night reading.
Admiral Nelson had indeed called that morning. While Will could tell that he was still in a foul mood about something, he nonetheless chuckled as Will related his adventures with Seaview’s CO and XO – carefully leaving out any references to the ghost, or whatever she was. Nelson told him that he’d known about the elder Morton’s interest in Civil War history but hadn’t realized how much Chip disliked having been dragged off every summer to scratch his father’s itch. Will merely shook his head – he was always amazed at the bits of information his boss collected but chose to keep to himself. Not that he and Nelson didn’t have wonderful conversations on occasion. Nelson merely chose to let his crew relate, for the most part, those bits of personal intel they might care to, not blab them himself. Even to the extremely interested ears of his CMO. While he was well aware that Will was a physician who worked to treat an entire patient and not just a specific injury or illness, and to that end liked to know as much about those in his care as possible, Nelson still felt that such information should come from that person himself. Oh, Nelson had broken down on occasion and passed on this and that – usually bits of Lee’s history. But he didn’t make a habit of it, and those times he had broken his own rules there had been mitigating circumstances.
Will wasn’t at all surprised when Nelson easily accepted that his orders for R&R had been busted. Both older men, all too often, had to stand back and merely shake their heads at the younger men’s dedication to their jobs. While neither was overly thrilled about it, they also knew that there was very little they could do about it. It was a little easier at home, where the two could be ‘encouraged’ to take some time off. Here, while Seaview was injured, it had been a pretty hopeless venture from the start.
Once Will hung up he went back to his journals. But the almost constant yawning, coupled with his own empty coffee pot, aimed him toward the Wardroom. And he wasn’t disappointed – the big coffee urn was only half-full, with so few officers aboard. But what was there was nearly strong enough to hold a spoon upright all by itself! Will didn’t even take the time to savor the first mug full, so fast did it go down, and was halfway through the second before he noticed Cookie eyeing him speculatively from the Galley doorway. He grinned sheepishly before continuing to drink.
“The last time I saw you that in need of coffee,” Cookie told him, “you’d just spent fourteen hours putting the Skipper back together.” The chef wasn’t known for mincing words, although he was fairly careful around the ruling triumvirate.
Will merely grinned. “No such excuse this time. Thankfully,” he added, and they both grimaced slightly. “Just too many hours with too little sleep, and nothing to blame it on except myself.”
Cookie sent the grin back. “Know the feeling – unfortunately. One reason I learned how to make such strong coffee without it being too bitter to drink – needed to keep myself functioning during reactor training school.” Cookie had started out as Seaview’s junior Reactor Technician. During a crisis Seaview’s first year in service, when the cook aboard had been injured, Cookie filled in. Once his incredible culinary exploits became known – he’d tried to keep it hidden as, while a hobby of his, he didn’t think it very ‘manly’ for a submariner – Seaview’s captain at the time, John Phillips, had promptly rearranged his duties. While still serving as a back-up to Reactor Control, his main position was Seaview’s chef. Officers and crew had been reaping the rewards ever since!
Will saluted him with his mug, now filled again for the third time. “However it happened, I’m not going to complain,” he told Cookie, and finally managed a much more controlled sip. They were interrupted as Lee and Chip walked in, both with clipboards full of paper. They stopped, finding Will glaring at them, and exchanged guilty grins. “Work, work, work,” Will grumbled. “Is that all you two ever think of?” He pointed his mug toward the two clipboards.
Lee and Chip exchanged suddenly mischievous looks. “Yes,” they answered together.
Will snorted, but was forced to grin as the others, including Cookie, cracked up.
“Well, that and food,” Cookie added, with a pointed look at Chip before turning on his heel and disappearing into the Galley. “Lunch is almost ready,” floated back over his shoulder. As Chip seemed ready to follow, a frown on his face, Lee elbowed him. Lee and Will both chuckled and Chip headed for the coffee urn.
“Thought maybe you’d be off on another sight-seeing trip,” Lee said casually to Will as he, too walked over to the urn.
“And leave you two
unsupervised?” Will growled the old, familiar joke he and Nelson both used on
occasion. “Not a chance.” As Lee and Chip both grinned, so did he. “Besides,” he continued, “it was only
“Saw your light on early this morning,” Lee offered casually as the three sat down at their usual spots to await whatever Cookie deemed an appropriate noon meal.
Will frowned. “And what were you doing up?” he demanded. Chip choked on a swallow of coffee, Lee merely shrugged, and all three ended up smiling. Talk about your old, familiar, harassment, Will thought to himself. It regularly drove Lee’s friends crazy, how little sleep he seemed to function just fine on. But Lee continued to look at him and it was Will’s turn to shrug. “Just restless,” he admitted. The topic was dropped as Cookie appeared with three prepared plates holding open-faced hot beef sandwiches, oven-roasted potato wedges and fruit salad. The fullest of the three he handed to Chip as Lee and Will both grinned, before starting on their own not quite so full plates. Cookie disappeared, only to return shortly with another plate full of peanut butter cookies. Will chuckled out loud as Lee’s eyes lit up, and the three officers spent the meal in amiable conversation about nothing in particular.
* * * *
Once again Will’s sleep was disturbed. Not quite so violently this time, but still enough to make Will leave his bunk. Conscious of having his light spotted the night before, he closed the head door and only turned that light on, standing at the sink and staring into the mirror. What is it you want? he muttered silently, not to himself but to the vision of the slave woman he’d once again seen. Not appearing to be angry this time, she’d seemed almost pleading. But Will had no idea why and it was seriously disturbing him. He considered himself a very stable person, not given to fantasies and unreal fears. His fit-reps all through his career – even here on Seaview where he never knew from one minute to the next, sometimes, what was going to happen – all pointed toward his fellow officers seeing him in that same light. He’d survived everything Nelson’s missions had so far flung at him with his sanity intact, and now all of a sudden an image of a long-dead slave was driving him up the wall. Once again the image finally faded, but left him more bewildered than he’d already been. Briefly closing his eyes he finally splashed his face with cold water, turned off the light, and returned to bed. As feared, he couldn’t seem to go back to sleep. He was able to at least lie quietly, but spent the rest of the night berating himself for his inability to control whatever was happening.
It was while he was downing his fourth cup of coffee over breakfast that he’d thought to call his sister. He’d managed to fall asleep sometime after 0400 and had not awakened until almost 0730. He was actually relieved to find the Wardroom empty when he finally got there so that he didn’t have to explain his blurry eyes and less than amiable attitude. Cookie had taken one look at him, delivered a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and toast, and promptly disappeared.
Will was letting old stories run through his mind when it finally dawned on him what he’d casually told Lee and Chip in the car – that Alison had always been the more interested of the two in the stories their aunt had related. He had no idea what she would think about his calling her out of the blue and asking about what she could remember of those times. He’d just have to play that one by ear.
He finally settled on a version of the truth as he walked across the shipyard to someplace a little more private than Seaview. He was nervous enough about this whole episode – he didn’t want anyone else finding out. And especially Lee! Several of the other officers had returned from leave, along with about half of the crew. Hearing laughter from the corridor as he passed by the Crew’s Mess the previous evening, Will had found quite a collection playing poker – including Lee and Chip. Will didn’t stay, but the quick look he did take showed a thoroughly relaxed Skipper, laughing and teasing, memories of the last cruise seemingly forgotten, and Will would do nothing to change that if at all possible. He found a phone tucked away in a quiet corner of the Commons area in the BOQ and placed his call.
He grinned broadly as Alison’s voice answering the phone was followed immediately by the sound of a door banging and a young male voice yelling, “Mom, I’m headed to meet Larry at the Mall. I need $20.00.” Alison had two teenaged boys, aged 16 and 13, and 10-year-old twin girls. There was rarely a dull moment around the Massey household.
“Hi, Sis,” he told her with the grin still in his voice. “Deal with Greg. I’m not in any hurry.” He listened as Alison went through the twenty-question routine of what did her son need the money for, who else would be there, when would he be back, etc. She finally came back on the phone with a sigh.
“You and Lu Tsi want a few kids for the summer? I’ll gladly share.”
Will laughed openly. “It wouldn’t take you three days and you’d miss them so badly you’d be begging them to come home.”
“True,” Alison agreed. “But there are moments.”
The pair chitchatted for several
minutes as it had been awhile since they’d spoken, before Will got down to
business. He started by casually
mentioning his visit to Berkeley Plantation.
Alison was immediately interested so Will spent time describing the
place, and bits of history that he’d picked up.
Alison, it turned out, knew most of what Will told her, and he admitted
sheepishly that he’d not been overly impressed with their aunt’s stories and
had probably forgotten most of what he’d been told. Alison chuckled and teased her brother about
it. She was thrilled, however, when Will
promised to share the pictures that he’d taken.
Seems she’d always wanted to visit, but living in
“It’s an interesting place,” Will said with open reverence in his voice. “You can’t imagine the feeling of history that settles in around you, walking around. I mean, just looking at the side of the house where a cannon ball hit it during the Civil War… I don’t know,” he admitted. “It just gave me a weird feeling.”
“I’ll bet,” Alison agreed.
“Ah, along that line,” Will started, hesitated a second, and then tried to continue as casually as possible, “during the tour of the house, the guide was asked by one of the others about ghosts in the house and it got me to thinking. Didn’t Aunt Mabel say something along those lines? I have this vague memory…” He let his voice trail off, not wanting to dig himself any deeper into the little fib.
“Humm, now that you mention it…” It was Alison’s turn to pause for a bit, and Will didn’t interrupt. In fact, he was barely breathing. “Let’s see. How did that go?” Alison finally continued. “Something about a young woman. Black – apparently a former slave. Well, I guess that she’d be called a Negress back then.” Will grunted an affirmative, unable to get anything else to come out of his suddenly dry mouth. “Auntie said that there was a lot of speculation about who she was. She seemed to be fairly well-dressed, not wonderful, but not in slave’s rags.” Will remembered only too well the worn but at some previous point pretty dress the ghost wore. “That probably meant that she was a member of the house staff, not a worker in the fields.” That would explain seeing her in the house, Will told himself silently, but again only gave his sister a noncommittal sound. Alison chuckled in his ear. “You remember John Jamieson was Scottish?” she asked, and Will got a quick ‘yes’ out. “Well, seems she scared the holy you-know-what out of him after he bought the place. Told his son Malcolm that she was a banshee.”
“I thought banshees were Irish – that they were supposedly harbingers of death,” Will managed to get out fairly normal-sounding.
“They are, but the Scots have their own version. Apparently the Gaelic words sound fairly similar so the anglicized ‘banshee’ can be used for both.”
“Oh.” A thought floated through Will’s brain. “Do you know where Aunt Mabel’s stories came from, by any chance?”
“Actually, I do.”
“You were always more interested in them than I was,” Will reiterated his earlier comment, and was gifted with another of his beloved sister’s chuckles.
“Auntie, it turns out, was a friend of the son, Malcolm. If I remember correctly it’s his son, also named Malcolm, and his wife and kids who actually run the place now.”
“You know more about the plantation than I realized,” Will accused her, and got another laugh.
“Once the kids started so hot and heavy on the computer and internet I had to take a quick crash course to catch up. I’ve spent some time satisfying my curiosity.”
“Good for you,” Will told her. “Anyway…” he tried to nudge her back to the ‘banshee’, “was there more to the story?”
“Humm, let me think.” There was another pause, and another door slammed just before girls’ voices could be heard.
“Can we go play at Debra’s now?”
“Are your rooms clean?” their mother asked semi-sternly. Will heard a double affirmative. “Not very likely,” came over the receiver just loud enough that he knew he was the only one who heard it, and chuckled softly. “Okay,” Alison said a bit louder, almost reluctantly, and there was another sound of a door slamming.
“Your doors must have really strong hinges,” Will told her with a grin in his voice. His only answer to that was a growl.
“Where was I?” Alison continued, a little more calmly.
“John and his banshee,” Will told her, trying to keep his own voice steady.
“Oh, yeah. John didn’t want to talk about her but, since no one died after he saw her, Malcolm would occasionally bring her up in conversation. Apparently he saw her himself on a couple of occasions and wanted to know why John was so afraid of her; that she’d not seemed scary or anything. Eventually John told him.
“Seems John thought that he’d seen her before. When he was 13, and a drummer for McClellan’s Union forces during the time they were billeted at the plantation, he and a couple of his buddies stole a bottle of wine and went off to play like officers. They didn’t want to get caught so they went down along the edge of the river. They were trying to be quiet since the Confederates were just on the other side. He told Malcolm that the other two were giving him most of the wine and he guessed that he was getting pretty drunk. The wine was making them all feel brave and invincible. There were some islands in the middle of the river and they decided to swim out and see if they could spy on the enemy.” Will didn’t say anything, just saw in his mind’s eye the islands that had held his attention those days ago.
“John told Malcolm that they’d made it to the island fairly easily, but once there everything went a little screwy. As they started to walk through the trees to the other side John stumbled. He thought on tree roots, but it turned out to be bones. Human bones, because he saw the skull.”
“Oh my goodness. You said that he was 13?”
“And bombed,” Alison added with a grin in her voice. “Said that’s when he saw her – the Negress. They all thought that she was real for a second, until they realized that her feet didn’t come all the way to the ground.”
“What did they do?”
Alison chuckled. “According to what Malcolm told Auntie, ran like hell.” They both laughed. “They made so much noise getting back to shore that their own soldiers thought that the ‘Johnny Rebs’ were trying to overrun the camp and almost shot the boys before they figured it out. And apparently their commanding officers weren’t overly thrilled with them.”
“I can imagine,” Will muttered. He thought back on a few stunts he had pulled around that age, and how his ‘commanding officers’ had reacted. “Did they admit what they’d seen?”
“Not a chance. At least then,” she added, and Will tried not to pounce on the comment.
“There’s more to the story?” he asked, hopefully sounding nonchalant.
“Well, yes and no. John wasn’t sure if there was a connection,
but he apparently thought there was because of the appearance of the same
ghost/spirit/whatever-it-was. Seems there
were a handful of freed slaves with one of the units of soldiers under
McClellan who had worked at
“Ran away,” Will guessed.
“Always a possibility,” Alison agreed. “Anyway, the gist of the conversation was that the man who said he’d seen this Molly-person said that he’d not seen her, but her ghost. Guess it frightened all of them badly.”
“I believe a lot of the slaves were extremely superstitious about such things,” Will said. “Well, we’d call it superstitious, anyway.”
“Right. Apparently what little else John heard was that she’d been seen down by the banks of the river. Someone asked, was the man sure that it was Molly. The man described what she’d been wearing, and it seemed to be the woman John saw.”
“But both John and Malcolm saw her after John had bought the plantation in…what was it…1907 or so?”
“So Malcolm told Auntie. As I said, she frightened John and he didn’t want to have anything to do with her. Malcolm said that he saw her a couple of times but she just seemed to watch him, not try to scare him or anything, and he got so he ignored her.”
Alison paused, and Will wasn’t sure what else he could ask without having her think he’d somehow gone off the deep end. “Very interesting story,” he finally said into the silence. “It helped fill out some of what I learned the other day. Thanks.” He chuckled. “Have to admit, I called you on a fluke.”
“See, little sisters can be useful from time to time.”
Will laughed at the jab. “Yes, dear,” he told her with a bit of ‘put-upon’ in his voice, before chuckling again. “Mostly, I just remembered that while you used to actually pay attention to Aunt Mabel’s stories they bored me to death.”
Alison chuckled. “Yep, I seem to remember that, too.” Another door banged in the background and Will heard, “Mom, you promised to drive me to the pool. I’ve been waiting by the car for an hour!”
“Timothy,” Alison started semi-patiently, “I’m talking to your Uncle Will. Its still twenty minutes before the pool opens, and it’s only a fifteen-minute drive. Chill!” she ordered.
Will laughed. “Ah, the joys of summer vacation,” he told her. “Nice talking to you, Sis.”
“Smarty,” Alison growled. “Hey, why don’t you and Lu Tsi come for a visit? It’s been ages.”
“First chance we get,” Will promised, “but don’t hold your breath. Between my job and Lu Tsi’s volunteering, things can get hectic.”
Another door banged. “More hectic than here?” came the grumble.
Will chuckled. “Point taken.”
“Still happy with the job?”
Will raised his eyebrows, but said mildly, “While it has its moments, yes, I really do love it.”
“Terrific. That’s what matters. See you whenever, then.”
Will agreed, and they rang off.
Molly, Will thought as he continued to sit quietly for a bit, whoever you are, and for whatever reason, it would appear (he cringed at that terrible pun) that you’ve decided to connect yourself with the Jamieson family. Were those your bones that young John stumbled over? And if so, what were they doing on that island? Did you try to run away and only got that far? He sighed heavily and shrugged his shoulders. Well, sorry, but there doesn’t seem to be anything that I can do about it. He stood, gave himself a shake, and headed back to the boat.
Just for the heck of it he re-routed himself to the base library, and asked the attendant if they had any books on local area ghosts. Expecting to get a weird look for his weird request, the young ensign instead laughed softly. “Sir, you’re standing on the edge of some of the oldest European history in this country. We have ghosts everywhere!”
“I’m actually interested in
She led him off into the
stacks and started pulling books off shelves, which Will carried to a table in
a reading area. Glancing at the titles,
he first grabbed one called “The Hauntings of
* * * *
She’d never actually spoken to him before – at least out loud – so he was surprised when she did this time. Not only that, but she called him by name. Sort of.
It started out like what she’d done before: first just standing, staring at him, and then shaking her finger in a scolding manner, and finally almost pleading. He thought that he’d try calling her name – if it was actually Molly – but that didn’t seem to change anything. Until, for the first time, she spoke out loud. “Jamie,” she started softly. At first it didn’t sink in that there weren’t all that many people who actually called him that. Mostly it was just Seaview’s CO and XO. Lee had started it after somewhat accidentally hearing an old friend call him by the nickname, and Chip had picked it up shortly after. Will rather enjoyed it from the two – they were his absolutely worst patients, topped only by the pure stubborn willfulness of Admiral Nelson, and the nickname sometimes made it easier for them to communicate on a less tense level. “Jamie,” she said again, this time a little louder.
Then Will was startled by a touch on his shoulder. She hadn’t come any closer – he could still see her standing off a dozen or so feet from where he stood on the end of the dock where Seaview was berthed, being repaired. She’d startled him only a moment this time, so used to her was he getting, even considering that she was levitating out over the water. The touch, however, nearly had him jumping out of his skin. “Doc!” came sharply this time. He turned and found himself face to face with Lee.
A very worried Lee, if his expression was any indication, and Will struggled to get himself back under control. “Jamie?” again came softly, worriedly, and Will realized that it had been Lee calling his name, not the ghost.
“What’s up, Skipper?” he tried to ask casually, mustering up a small smile. A momentary frown crossed Lee’s handsome, all-too-young-looking face. Will had seen it before – any time one of Seaview’s passengers or crew were acting particularly dense about something, or trying to evade a direct answer. His grin spread honestly, albeit sheepishly, as that was exactly what he was trying to do.
“I called to you half a dozen times,” Lee started, slightly accusatorily. “You don’t usually ignore me like that.”
“True, Skipper. Obviously I’ve been taking lessens from you and Chip in how to ignore statements from me.” Under the circumstances, offense seemed the best defense – he certainly didn’t want to try to explain his distraction.
Unfortunately, under these circumstances, Lee wasn’t buying it. He crossed his arms over his chest and the frown deepened. “Care to try again, Doctor?”
“No,” Will answered easily, with an open grin. He watched Lee mutter something to himself far too low for Will to hear, and no way was he about to ask the man to repeat it. “Did you need me for something?” he tried to chance the subject.
Lee continued to send him a half frown/half glare, but finally relaxed. “I was just coming back from the Maintenance Office and saw you standing out here staring off into space.” His expression turned back to worry. “Sort of like you were over breakfast the other day at the motel.” He paused and gave Will a long look. “And again that afternoon, down by the river at the plantation.”
Will was instantly reminded of how hard it was to get anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, past Seaview’s CO, and especially if there was even the most tenuous connection to the boat and her crew. It caused his own expression to go slightly embarrassed. “Just wool-gathering,” he tried to explain it away. “I assume that you were catching up on how Seaview’s repairs are coming.” This time, although Will was sure that it was with definite reluctance, Lee allowed himself to be sidetracked.
“As long as we’re here they’re suggesting we re-do some other areas of wiring as well as the main, damaged, ones. The plans were already in the works, scheduled for the next major refit, but it actually makes sense to do it now. It will only mean an extra two or three days here. Chip’s already revising the shore leave schedule and giving everyone extra time.”
“I don’t suppose that that schedule includes either you or him?” Will tried to make his voice hard, but he grinned broadly when Lee’s response was a return of the frown. “Didn’t think so,” he admitted easily, and Lee’s expression softened as well. “Can’t blame a man for trying,” he added.
Lee finally smiled softly. “Actually”, he admitted, “I’d be concerned if you didn’t,” and he sent Will one of his little-boy, through-the-lashes looks.
It rarely failed to amuse Will that the man in control of one of the most advanced pieces of military technology afloat in the world could look that young and innocent. It had the usual effect this time as well, and Will grinned broadly. “Have to have some constants in the world, I suppose.” He chuckled slightly as a bit of Lee’s frown returned. “I suppose we’d better be getting back – Chip will be wondering what bureaucratic entity swallowed us.”
That drew a snort from Lee. Halfway back he sent Will a speculative glance. Will chose to ignore it, and Lee finally let the conversation drop.
* * * *
“Jamie?” This time when Will heard the voice he stopped staring at the slave ghost and looked around. He was, however, almost as startled as he had been earlier. Lee was sitting on the edge of his bunk, worry all too evident in his expression. “Are you okay?” Lee continued. “What’s going on?”
Will glanced at the chronometer on his desk – now that he finally focused on the fact that he was in his own cabin, laying in his own bunk – and discovered that it was almost 0200. The first thing he could think of to say came out as a grumbled demand. “What are you doing here?”
The worried expression never left Lee’s face. “Trying to figure out why you were calling out in your sleep,” he answered openly, unaffected by Will’s ill humor. “Who’s Molly? I can’t remember you ever mentioning anyone by that name.”
Will tried to brush him off as he’d done earlier that day. “It’s nothing,” he said as casually as he could and then sent Lee, who was still dressed in his uniform, a glare. “Why aren’t you in bed already? For pete’s sake man, would you get some decent rest for a change? You drive me crazy with the little sleep you seem to survive on. We’re in port, the repairs are going well…”
“Jamie,” interrupted Will’s tirade in Lee’s soft, worried voice, and Will knew that he was sunk. He’d tried the age-old complaint hoping that he could once again sidetrack his Skipper. And his friend. But it appeared that the friendship was, this time, uppermost in Lee’s mind, and his obvious worry wasn’t going to be so easily outmaneuvered. Will took a deep breath and surrendered with a small grin. “Just a little nightmare, Skipper. Nothing to get upset about,” he tried.
“It’s upset you,” Lee said simply, and continued to sit on the edge of Will’s bunk, watching him closely.
“Yes,” Will admitted, “it has. But it’s nothing to concern you.” He still had every intention of buffering Lee from Molly.
“What’s wrong?” The quiet question, Lee’s voice filled with genuine caring and concern, threatened to undo Will’s resolve, and he sent Lee a fond look as he finally sat up.
“Its okay, Skipper.” He had always found it hard, with all of his military training, to call Lee by his first name. He wished that he could now, but he was afraid that the unfamiliar familiarity would set Lee’s sonar off even more than it already was.
Lee’s look of concern turned slightly shy and innocent, but there was a decided sparkle in his eye. “Best not let Lu Tsi find out you have a new girlfriend.”
Will snorted and threatened to backhand Lee. “And what makes you think I tell you all my secrets?” he muttered. He was relieved to see Lee smile, but it didn’t last long before returning to the concerned look of before.
“Who’s Molly?” Lee repeated. Softly and respectfully. Not demanding. But expressing a willingness to understand, and help his friend.
Will took a deep breath, weighing his options. He could brush Lee off, he was sure. It wouldn’t be easy, but do-able. Or, he could just surrender and explain what was going on. He’d originally not wanted to cause Lee any more distress than he’d already been through the last cruise. But it appeared that his trying to shelter Lee from the current situation was causing just as bad a problem, if not worse. “Make you a deal, Skipper,” he finally said with a small grin. “You go crash, let me do the same, and I’ll tell you in the morning when we’re both more awake.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Lee told him firmly.
“I have no doubt of that,” Will muttered, but he sent Lee a soft chuckle. “Now, off with you and let an old man get his rest.” At that Lee laughed out loud. He still sent Will a bit of a raised eyebrow, but left without too much reluctance. “And get some sleep,” Will ordered as Lee appeared to hesitate ever so briefly at the door. Lee grinned broadly, gave Will the barest of nods, and pulled the door gently shut behind him. Will sat for a bit, shaking his head slightly at the young man who had become so much a part of his life. Chuckling softly, he finally laid back down. Happily, ‘Molly’ left him alone the rest of the night.
* * * *
There was no sign of Lee in
the Wardroom the following morning, and Will briefly thought that he might be
off the hook. That thought was
immediately followed by wondering just why Lee wasn’t having his usual light
breakfast, which instantly led to what trouble the young man might be in the
middle of – such was Will’s train of thought over his occasionally impetuous
young CO. But a quick question to
Higgins, Cookie’s assistant, supplied the needed answers. Cookie was off on shore leave, although
Higgins told him that it was a buying trip to the closest Farmer’s Market for
special supplies for the trip home. Lee
and Chip had eaten a bit early. Higgins
wasn’t sure what the XO was up to, but Lee had wanted to try and reach Admiral
Nelson to apprise him of the slight delay in leaving; he’d apparently been
unable to do so the day before. Both
Will and Higgins cringed at that bit of intel.
Not that Nelson would be upset, just that it meant the Admiral was
probably buried in meetings, and the delay would leave even more time for him
to have to deal with people in
Will was finished with his breakfast and leisurely sipping the last of his coffee, trying to decide if he should track Lee down or head for his office and hope Lee would forget last night, when Lee solved the dilemma by poking his head through the Wardroom door. Even knowing the conversation was inevitable, he still played ‘The Game’ and frowned. “Don’t you ever forget anything?” he complained.
It caused Lee to grin – as Will intended. “Try very hard not to, Doc,” he said with an easy smile in his voice. “Want to take a walk? The weather is glorious this morning.”
Will polished off the last of the coffee and stood up. Leave it to Lee to realize that, whatever was bothering Will he’d rather no one else found out about it, and gave Will the opportunity to tell Lee somewhere a bit more private than the confines of the submarine.
Neither said much as they made their way to the boarding hatch. Lee gave the guard on duty a quick smile, signed the exit sheet, and told the man that he and Doc were merely going for a walk to stretch their legs and would be back shortly. When they were away from Seaview and about halfway down the dock Lee, while not stopping their casual stroll, turned his head far enough to send Will a raised eyebrow.
Not knowing quite how to start, Will kept it simple and stuck to the facts: his first ‘encounter’ in the motel room, the subsequent sightings, and his conversation with his sister. He watched carefully but, other than a couple of momentary frowns, Will thought that Lee took it quite well. “That’s it, Skipper,” he finished his narrative. “I don’t have any real information. Just a lot of bits and pieces that may or may not go together.”
Lee was silent for a bit as they continued to walk around the long dock. “And one apparently ticked off ghost,” he added, with a shy look at Will.
“Uhm,” was Will’s only response.
“You think that it was ‘Molly’s’ bones that John tripped over.” It was more statement than question. Will merely shrugged. “It’s what makes the most sense – why ‘Molly’ seems to have attached herself to the Jamieson clan.”
“Suppose so,” Will agreed.
“And if she’s still ticked, I suspect that means that her bones are still there.”
“What are you getting at?” Will suddenly realized that Lee was quickly processing everything Will had told him, studying it just as he would a puzzle on the boat.
“We need to go to the island, find them, and put them…humm, not sure.” He momentarily frowned. “But bury them properly, for sure.”
Will harrumphed. “Skipper, that was over 140 years ago. They can’t still be there.”
“Don’t know why not,” Lee disagreed. “Some trace of them, at least. They wouldn’t have totally decomposed in that time, would they?”
Will considered that for a second. “Depends on the conditions, of course. But something might still be there. The larger bones at least,” he conceded.
“From the quick glance I gave the islands it didn’t look like anybody ever goes there.”
“But how would we find them? We don’t even know which of the islands the boys swan to. We can’t search them all.”
“It’s not like we can bring
Seaview up the
“No, of course not. But there has to be someplace close downstream that we can launch a boat. As to finding her, that’s the easy part. I’d say that she’s been spending all those 140-plus years trying to get someone to do just that. We get you to the area and with any luck at all she’ll take you right to her.”
“But why me?” Will was definitely not sharing Lee’s sudden enthusiasm for this project.
“I think she’s been trying every connection available. She apparently tried with the other freed slaves – the ones with McClellan’s unit. She tried John, once he came back and bought the plantation. She tried Malcolm, the son. We can only assume that she’s tried the rest as well. But she can’t get anyone to help. They are either afraid, or simply ignore her. You were the next Jamieson to show up.”
Will sent him a speculative look. “I have to admit, Skipper, that you’re making a good bit of sense. And, that you’re taking this a good deal better than I thought you would, considering…” He stopped talking as Lee’s face flashed briefly with pain. Will wanted to kick himself for so bluntly bringing up all the memories of the mummy incident. Not to mention all that happened with Krueger.
Lee had himself back under control almost immediately, and sent Will a shy smile. “Let’s just say that I’ve had other, less traumatic, encounters.” *** It was his turn to get a speculative expression. “That’s why you didn’t want to tell me.” It wasn’t said with accusation, but with understanding, and Will nodded with a small smile.
“Guilty as charged, Skipper,” he admitted.
Lee sent him a fond smile but was almost immediately back to pondering the project. “How much lead time do you need to leave?” he asked. “What kind of supplies do you need?”
Will frowned. “A fully stocked ERK **** for sure, if you’re going,” he muttered, but was forced to grin along with Lee’s sheepish one. “Other than that I’m not sure.”
“Some way to carry the bones, for sure,” Lee started his list out loud as he and Will headed back toward the boat. “Heavy plastic bags or a tarp. Shovels, flashlights in case we’re out overnight.” He glanced at the sky. “Weather looks good so we shouldn’t need rain gear, but some overnight supplies, just in case…” He stopped walking and looked at Will. “I’ll head over to the base motor pool and see what they have available for transportation.”
“You want to leave right now?”
“Why wait any longer? The faster we get it done, the faster Molly gets off your back.” Lee sent Will another shy smile.
Will shrugged. “What do you need me to do?”
“Actually,” Lee admitted, “nothing right now except get what you need together. Let me see what I can set up first, and I’ll let you know when I get back to the boat.”
Will nodded, and stood watching as Lee strode briskly down the dock toward the buildings at the other end. Knowing how persuasive Lee could be, he didn’t expect it to take long to get things organized to Lee’s satisfaction. Will decided that he’d better not waste too much time. His crack about the ERK had been an instant gut reaction but, all things considered, the fully equipped first aid pack wasn’t a bad idea. As were extra rubber gloves and some cushioning towels. In case they did, actually, find bones they were certain to be brittle, if not already well decayed. Extra precautions were only reasonable.
Will still wasn’t convinced
that there would be anything to find.
However, having broken his silence, he was starting to pick up some of
Lee’s… I’m not sure I’d call it enthusiasm, he told himself as he headed
forward to the Nose after putting together what he thought that he might need
The grin was still on his face as he came down the spiral stairs into the Nose. “Do I dare ask what you’re plotting?” he was challenged, and turned to find Chip standing at the chart table.
“Probably better if you don’t,” Will told him honestly, the grin staying in place.
“Is Lee back aboard? He said that he was going out to stretch his legs with you.” The expression on Chip’s face said all too plainly how much Chip wasn’t buying that explanation.
Will shook his head, still smiling. “He headed over to the motor pool but should be back shortly.” Chip raised an eyebrow but, when Will chose not to explain further, frowned and went back to whatever he was working on. “Problem?” Will couldn’t help asking. Certainly, Seaview’s needs would take precedent over Will’s ‘problem.’
“No, no,” Chip assured him, still staring at the clipboard in front of him.
Will’s grin faded. More than anyone else on the crew, Chip was always the one that kept the closest watch over Lee. Their long friendship was responsible for most of the attentiveness. But Will knew that Chip had another, work-related, reason. Lee had become such an integral part of NIMR that Chip worried, should anything ever happen to Lee to permanently take him away, that both the Institute and Seaview might not ever recover. “He’s just helping me scratch an itch,” he told Chip by way of explanation, and hoped that Chip would leave it at that. It seemed to work as Chip’s frown turned into a small grin. But he didn’t say anything further and Will settled into a chair in the Nose, watching what activity he could see on the dock.
It wasn’t a long wait. Will didn’t see Lee’s return but there was no mistaking the cadence of steps down the ladder into the Control Room. As Lee turned to face Chip he also caught sight of Will, who had stood up. “Chip,” he started before either of the others could say anything, and after taking a quick glance at the several crewmen who were maintaining the minimal Watch needed even under repair situations, “has Kowalski reported back from Leave?” Both Chip and Will raised identical eyebrows.
“Catching a couple hours of rack time,” Chip told his CO, unasked question very evident in his voice.
Lee didn’t oblige. He grabbed the nearest mic and paged
Seaview’s senior rating to the
“Not a problem, Skipper.” Kowalski sent his XO a quick look but focused on Lee.
Lee held out the sheet of paper he’d written on. “You’ll find most of those items in the aft storage locker. Grab them, and an overnight bag for yourself, just in case, and meet Doc and me topside. There’s an SUV towing a trailer with a zodiac. Stow the gear in the back. I’d like you to accompany us on a little fishing trip.”
“Not a problem, Skip,” Kowalski answered promptly. His voice was tinged with uncertainty but he spun on his heel and headed off to comply with the slightly strange request.
Chip’s look turned even harder. “What are you up to, Lee?” he demanded. “You don’t use a zodiac to go fishing.”
“Depends on what you’re fishing for,” Lee answered lightly, with a grin at Will.
“And the supplies you sent Ski for – what do they have to do with fishing?” Lee shrugged, continuing to grin. Chip started to turn his glare on Will but was interrupted.
“Mr. Morton,” Lee ordered, and Chip instantly turned back, his hands dropping to his sides. Not a word was spoken, but Will watched as Chip’s stiff position relaxed and Lee’s smile threatened to reappear.
“You’ll be back when?” Chip’s voice had lost its sting. “Just in case the Admiral should call,” he added. Will had walked far enough toward the two to see the slight grin now on the blond’s face.
“Hopefully tonight.” Lee’s voice had also returned to normal. Will had to carefully control his own expression. He’d watched these two young men in any number of situations over the years. While Chip could – and would – torment Lee no end, there was never a doubt in anyone’s mind that Lee allowed it only up to a point. “Tomorrow morning, latest,” Lee continued, and sent Will another quick grin.
“Harrumph,” Chip did his best Nelson impersonation. It earned him a quick slap to the shoulder from Lee, and a not quite buried snort from Will.
Lee turned to Will. “You about ready to go?”
“Just need to grab my bags,” Will assured him. “I’ll meet you and Kowalski topside.” Lee nodded, and Will headed out.
Once he’d grabbed the ERK, and hurriedly packed a quick overnight bag for himself, he joined Lee on the dock. Lee immediately grabbed the bags and stowed them in the back of the SUV. “Why Kowalski?” Will couldn’t help ask.
“Figured that we might need an extra pair of hands, and Ski will keep his mouth shut,” Lee told him.
Will smiled. Seaview’s senior rating had been the most ticked off when Lee had first come aboard the submarine following Capt. Phillip’s untimely death. But he’d also quickly become one of Lee’s most staunch supporters – once he’d cooled off. Despite their difference in rank, the two had formed a strong friendship based on mutual respect. Ski would follow Lee into hell on nothing more than a verbal request. Will shuddered involuntarily. And has, he admitted silently.
“Jamie, what’s wrong?” came softly from Lee.
Will had to instantly get his expression under control. Nothing, but nothing, got past Seaview’s way too young looking Skipper. Plastering a frown on his face Will muttered slowly and succinctly, “I’m fine!” It was the line several people, Will included, had been known to scream about when delivered by Lee. And, it had the exact reaction Will intended – Lee burst out laughing and sent Will his shy little boy, through-the-lashes, look. Will held the frown another second before also chuckling softly, and shrugged. “Nothing major,” he finally lied. The crew’s instant acknowledgement of and reaction to any order Lee chose to give was a very major deal. It had all too often been the only thing that had gotten everyone home safely.
Nothing more was said, but both were still smiling when Kowalski appeared with the strap of a medium-sized duffle bag draped over each shoulder. “Sorry it took so long, Skipper,” he apologized as Lee helped him stow them next to Will’s things. Will noticed a small bag that he assumed was Lee’s, already in the rig. “Took me awhile to find everything.”
“Not a problem, Ski,” Lee assured him. “You drive while I navigate.” Kowalski jumped in behind the wheel and Lee settled into the passenger seat after opening the back door for Will. Once inside Will saw him pick up what looked like a marked map – he assumed that someone at the motor pool had given Lee directions. Will didn’t even want to speculate on what tale Lee had told. He merely sat back and tried to enjoy the ride.
* * * *
In a shorter time than Will had imagined it would take they were pulling into a riverfront park, complete with boat launch, a dozen or so miles downstream from Berkeley Plantation. Kowalski had proven to be just as aggressive a driver as Chip, even pulling the trailer. But, Will had to admit, at no time during the trip had he felt uncomfortable with either the rating’s speed or driving skills.
The first order of business for Will and Lee, who were still wearing khakis, was to change. Will buried a grin as Lee pulled dark jeans and midnight blue jersey out of his pack – Chip called the outfit Lee’s ONI uniform. Kowalski was still wearing what Will assumed he’d returned to Seaview in, jeans and a t-shirt, so he and Lee launched the boat while Will changed into slacks and polo shirt. They got a few looks from others in the park – hard not to with both SUV and zodiac clearly marked as Navy issue. Lee had told the other two on the drive up that, if they were asked what they were doing, to properly identify themselves as NIMR personnel who were on a fact-finding trip gathering research for Admiral Nelson. Will had snorted at that one, assuming that this wasn’t the first time Lee had used that excuse for his own reasons. Kowalski had sent Will a slightly raised eyebrow but Will knew that there was no way the rating would question Lee. So far he’d done or said nothing except in response to an order from his CO. Will knew the rating well enough to expect nothing less. Lee had chosen his ‘extra pair of hands’ well.
Once the bags were secured in the zodiac and the SUV parked and locked up, the three jumped into the craft and headed up river. They traveled at a sedate pace, attracting no more attention than could be helped. Mid-week, they quickly left the few other boats and personal watercraft that had launched at the same park behind. Will did see Lee frown once, and looked back to see a PWC seemingly following them a safe distance behind. But as both Will and Lee turned to watch it, the rider apparently decided that he might not be welcome and turned around and headed back toward the park area. Will glanced back every so often, as he noticed Lee doing the same thing, but they weren’t bothered again.
With the relaxed speed, it was late afternoon before they neared their target. Will had sent Lee a grin and a nod when Lee had taken a hand-held GPS unit from his small pack about halfway there. Leave it to Lee not to totally depend on Will’s ‘sightings’ to make sure they had the right place. Although, as they neared the first of the 6 small islands, Will looked across and could recognize the lower gardens of Berkeley. Lee directed Kowalski, who was piloting the zodiac, to slow down and slip past the islands on the side opposite the plantation. There were only open fields on that side of the river, so less chance that they’d be spotted.
Will had gotten progressively nervous as they’d neared their target but had tried to remain outwardly calm. Lee had helped, sending him several almost shy smiles as they drew closer. Will tried to open his mind to nothing but a sense of peace, and hoped that Molly would show herself as Lee thought she would. If not it was going to be a very long night. Will knew Lee well enough to be fairly sure that he wouldn’t give up the hunt without a thorough search.
As they reached the end of the small chain of islands without Will ‘seeing’ anything, he could only send Lee a shrug. Lee sent it back, had Kowalski reverse course, and they headed slowly back the way they’d come. Will saw the rating look between Lee and Will, total puzzlement clearly visible on his face, but he wordlessly complied with the order. Will could feel for him – here he was, on what could only be described as a fool’s errand, blindly taking orders on nothing more than faith in the man who was giving them. Will was forced to smile – Lee was doing pretty much the same thing, accepting Will’s statements at face value.
But the smile was almost instantly wiped away when he caught a glimpse of movement. They were just passing the tip of the largest of the islands. Will wasn’t sure what he’d seen, and he stared into the trees. He glanced at Lee as he realized the zodiac had stopped, thinking Lee must have seen ‘whatever it was’ as well, but Lee was staring at him. He took a deep breath. “Something, Skipper. But not sure what. There,” and he pointed.
From the plantation side this island had a fairly straight shoreline. However on this, the backside so to speak, it had two distinct cuts that almost separating the island into three areas, plus a smaller one that somewhat separated the eastern piece into two segments. That piece was almost seahorse-head-shaped, the middle rectangular, and the western-most almost square. The biggest cut was between the two upper parts and it was into this area that Lee directed Ski to drive the zodiac. It wasn’t closest to where Will thought that he’d seen something, but it was the best place to tuck the zodiac at least partially out of sight.
Lee quickly directed Kowalski on what equipment needed to be carried and what could be left in the zodiac, grabbed his share, and then turned expectantly toward Will. Will buried a grin as Lee’s pack was slightly larger than Kowalski’s even though Will had watched the rating do his best to grab as much as he could. But Will could only shrug at the unasked question in Lee’s face. “I’m not sure, Skipper,” he admitted. He glanced around. “What I saw…or think I saw, anyway,” he added with a slight shake of his head, “was that way.” He pointed to the square western end.
Lee nodded. “Might as well start there and work our way east.”
Will took sympathy on an obviously confused Kowalski. “Bear with us, Ski,” he said kindly. “Neither the Skipper or I have totally lost our minds.” He sent Lee a small grin. “At least, I don’t think so.”
Lee chuckled, gave the rating’s shoulder a quick backhanded tap, and nodded. “We’re sort of playing this by ear.” His grin spread. “Well, by eye,” he amended, and Will was forced to chuckle as well and nod, and he grabbed his med kit. With Lee leading the way through the dense scrub trees and brush, Will following, and Kowalski bringing up the rear, they headed to the closest end of the long, thin, island.
The walking wasn’t easy. Will tried to keep watch around him, on the lookout for any sight of Molly, but instantly found that he had to watch instead where he was putting his feet. Who knew how many years of undisturbed tree and brush growth, with apparently the occasional wind- and water-triggered fall of same, made for some very treacherous footing. A soft oath behind him told him that Kowalski was having the same problem. Lee glanced back only briefly, but instantly slowed the pace even more than the easy one he’d originally set. Thankfully they still had sunlight – Will didn’t think much of his chances at getting through the tangled mess underfoot in the dark.
It wasn’t far to the upper end of the actually fairly small island, although the footing made it seem to take forever. Once there Lee stopped and looked at Will. But when Will looked around and then sent him nothing more than a shrug, Lee reversed course and headed carefully back the way he’d come and toward the eastern end of the island.
Will was rapidly losing what little enthusiasm for this plan that he’d had. From the plantation, the undergrowth hadn’t looked all that bad. But now that he was actually here there was absolutely no way they were going to be able to search these islands. Maybe, given a couple of years or so, he muttered silently after tripping for the umpteenth time on some fallen vegetation, and with the entire crew scouring the place on their hands and knees. He snorted at that. That would go over well with the crew. I can hear them whining already…
He was distracted from his dark brooding by a sharp crack, and an otherwise firmly-footed scrub tree suddenly fell between him and Lee. At least, he thought it was between them – he’d gotten further behind as he’d muttered to himself. But a soft curse ahead of him had him almost yelling. “Skipper,” he demanded.
“I’m fine,” came back, although not in Lee’s normally firm voice.
Will growled out loud as he tried to hurry forward, Kowalski right at his heels. “What happened?”
There was a slight pause. “Not sure,” Lee admitted. Will reached him at that point and found Lee sprawled on the ground, crawling out from under the branches of the fallen tree. He gave Will a shy smile. “One minute I’m walking along, and the next I got a tree in my face.”
Despite the situation, Will was forced to smile. As he knelt down next to Lee he reached inside his pack for a gauze pad and gently pressed it against the right side of Lee’s forehead where a trickle of blood was starting to run down. “What else hurts?” he asked. He watched as Lee visibly walked himself through all the major body parts and flexed his joints.
“Nothing a hot shower won’t cure,” was his diagnosis. Will snorted, but limited his ministrations to applying a bit of medicated salve to the minor head wound and taping a clean gauze pad in place. He was closing his pack when movement to his left caused him to stop and stare.
“Jamie?” Lee asked
“There,” Will answered softly, and pointed toward the plantation side of the island. He looked around and decided that they had made their way through the center section and had just entered the ‘neck’ of the seahorse head-shaped lower piece.
“Molly?” was Lee’s next question as he started to pick himself up off the ground.
Will nodded, but his verbal affirmative was interrupted by a loud “What the hell?” from Kowalski.
“Easy, Ski.” Lee transferred his gaze from Will to the rating. Will did as well and discovered that Ski was not looking in the direction that he had spotted Molly, but toward where the tree had dislodged. Will looked as well but saw nothing but trees and brush. “What was it?” came Lee’s calm question to the obviously spooked Kowalski.
“Are you sure we’re alone?” Ski asked, never taking his eyes off of the spot he’d been staring at.
“We hope not,” Lee answered whimsically, with a wink at Will. “Did you see someone?”
“I saw some thing, Skip,” Kowalski said with disbelief in his voice. “I was trying to figure out why that tree fell over all of a sudden.” He finally looked at Lee. “I think it had help.”
“Humm,” Lee offered thoughtfully, and looked at Will. “I was right earlier; Molly is definitely ticked off for some reason. Are you sure its not at you?”
Will sent Lee a glare. “It wasn’t me she landed the tree on, Commander,” he said firmly, but sticking to the light attitude Lee had established. When he got the expected grin he continued. “Besides, she’s still over there.” He glanced toward where he’d spotter the apparition. She didn’t seem as bright as the other times he’d seen her, but it was definitely the same woman.
“Well,” Lee said, brushing dirt and small twigs off of his clothes, “everybody keep your eyes open.”
“For what?” Kowalski asked. “Sir,” was only a slight afterthought, and earned him grins from both Will and Lee.
“Anything you wouldn’t expect to see on a tiny bit of land in the middle of a river,” Lee told him, and then turned to Will. “You’ll have to take the lead here, Jamie. I can’t see her.” Will glanced at Kowalski to catch his reaction to that comment. But when the rating continued to look around them, he headed cautiously toward where the ghost woman was ‘standing’.
He was moving slowly, dividing his attention between Molly and where he was placing his feet, when a grunt and the sound of someone falling caused him to stop and turn. Ski was laying face down in the accumulated underbrush. “Ski?” Lee was asking as he took the couple steps back to offer the rating a hand up.
Kowalski’s expression was angry. “I could swear somebody shoved me in the back and knocked me down,” he growled.
“Are you hurt?” Will interrupted.
“Nah, Doc,” the rating answered, his tone of voice softening. “But if I get my hands on the joker…” His voice trailed off as he looked around him.
“Not sure hands will do it,” Lee admitted with a wink at Will. “What was it the ‘Ghostbusters’ used – a vacuum cleaner strapped to their backs? Something like that, anyway.”
“Ghosts?” Ski asked, again looking back and forth between the two officers.
“Maybe I should take a closer look at your head, Skipper,” Will muttered. “You’re being strangely silly.” Lee sent him a broad grin, and Will turned to Kowalski. “But yes, Ski, we are, actually, following a ghost.” He watched as Ski started to brush himself off. “And maybe a poltergeist, considering what’s happened to you two the last few minutes.”
“Maybe Molly’s just jealous that you brought company,” Lee offered. Will glared at him, Lee’s grin broadened even more, and Will turned back toward where he’d last seen the slave woman.
Will wondered what would happen when he actually got close to the apparition. He wasn’t looking forward to it after a few things that had happened on Seaview. He was just considering that those very same incidents might be the reason Lee was being a bit silly – that he was trying to distract Will from thinking about them and what had happened because of them – when a rush of wind hit him. He glanced at the sky and wondered where all the clouds had suddenly appeared from.
Obviously Lee and Kowalski were thinking the same thing. “That was fast,” came out of Lee’s mouth at the same time Ski muttered, “This is getting weird.”
Will tried to ignore both their mutterings, as well as what was causing it, and focus on the task at hand. Obviously, the faster they finished their…investigation? he thought to himself. That describes this project as well as anything… the faster they could get out of here and back to the safety of the boat. Well, relative safety, he added with a small internal grin, and turned back toward Molly.
He managed three steps, and was just starting to pick out a spot for his foot to land on the fourth, when a humongous gust of wind literally caused him to fall forward. He was able to break his fall somewhat by reaching out his hands. While his head and shoulders remained off the ground, from his chest on down he landed on the tangled mess underfoot. “That’s going to leave a mark,” he was muttering softly when a shout caused him to look back. He could just see the top of Kowalski’s head over the top of the brush from another fallen tree, but he didn’t see Lee. He was about to ask when the rating shouted a beseeching “Skipper?”
“Where is he?” Will demanded
“There.” Ski pointed under the tree. When there was continued silence even after Will joined in the yelling, both did their best to burrow under the fallen tree, each from their own side.
They reached Lee pretty much at the same time. Will immediately checked for a carotid pulse and let out a relieved sigh when he found it to be strong and steady. Lee was laying face down, with the trunk of the tree only half an inch above his head. On a hunch Will ran his hand through Lee’s short-cropped hair and discovered a growing lump on the back. A groan greeted the discovery, and Lee started to move.
Kowalski laid a hand on the shoulder closest to him as Will did the same on his side. “Commander,” Will ordered sharply, hoping to get Lee to focus on the order.
It worked and Lee stiffened. “Huh?” came the soft mumble, followed by an even muzzier, “sir?” and another groan. Will grinned as Ski, apparently understanding Will’s tactic, snickered.
“Skipper, lie still,” Will continued in a slightly gentler voice. “You’ve been smacked on the head – again. I need to make sure that that’s all the damage before you start fighting with me.” Again he heard a snicker from Lee’s other side. Lee must have heard it as well because the look on his face turned into a frown.
Because of the tree, Will directed Kowalski to check the parts of Lee’s body on his side while Will slid his hands down what he could reach, asking questions as he went. Mostly, he wanted to listen to Lee’s tone of voice and gage how coherent the man was. Pleased with the results of both exams, he asked Ski to try to get a handle on how much trouble they were going to have getting Lee out from under the tree. The wind continued to howl, the sky kept getting darker, and Will was concerned that another tree could fall at any moment, trapping more than Lee.
Kowalski, after a bit of reconnoitering, solved the problem by crawling back next to Lee’s waist, carefully adjusting his center of balance, and slowly standing up, lifting the fairly slender trunk enough that Will could assist Lee to crawl out from underneath. Once out of the tangle Lee tried to stand up but Will wasn’t having any part of it. “Sit,” he ordered. “Stay,” he added as he turned to grab his bag.
“Woof,” Lee muttered softly, causing Kowalski to laugh out loud before he could control it.
“Good boy,” Will added to the silliness, but looked closely at Lee for a couple of seconds. Lee seemed unaware that he was listing slightly to starboard. Kowalski noticed, and positioned himself at that shoulder. Will sent another silent prayer of gratitude that Lee had chosen to bring the senior rating along. Besides having first aid training, he was one of the few people that Lee was openly and truly comfortable around in situations where he needed physical assistance. Will sent the rating a nod and once more reached for his bag.
As he did he glanced at Molly. He’d seen several expressions on her face over the last several days but this was the first time that he’d read open worry. “Calm down,” he told her quietly, knowing that the other two men wouldn’t hear him over the continuing wind. “I have priorities. You’ll just have to wait your turn.”
A quick once-over-lightly proved that, while Lee was mostly okay, he was going to have a pretty spectacular collection of bruises over most of his body from the double onslaught of having the tree hit him and throw him forward into the rough mess underfoot. What worried Will more was, Lee had definitely gotten his bell rung. Pupils were equal but a bit sluggish to react to Will’s penlight. He was having some difficulty tracking promptly to Will’s questions, although he did eventually answer them correctly. Or, as correctly as he ever answered medical-type questions about himself. He tried to convince Will that he was just fine, of course. It was so typical a response that Will had a hard time smothering a laugh. When he simply glared at Lee, not saying a word, Lee finally allowed a quick sheepish grin to show and lowered his eyes.
“Thank you,” Will told him,
finally allowing some of his own grin to show.
The frown returned when the first raindrops started falling. “We’d better be getting back to
“No,” Lee ordered as soon as his slightly muddled brain registered what Will had said. “Not yet.”
“Skipper,” Will started, but was cut off.
“We’re this close, Jamie,” Lee implored. “We have to finish this.” Lee started to stand up before either Will or Ski could stop him, but he instantly toppled backward. Kowalski grabbed him before he could totally fall, and eased him back into a sitting position.
Will took a deep breath, biting back a growl. He’d locked horns with his stubborn CO often enough to recognize when he was likely to lose. The best he could hope for was to limit the damage. “Okay, Skipper,” he told Lee in a firm voice. “But we do this my way or no way. Understand?” When Lee sent him as good a glare as he could muster, and Will merely sent it back two-fold, Lee finally nodded. “Thank you,” he told Lee in a slightly softer voice. “Where’s that tarp?” he asked Kowalski. The rating dropped his pack and pulled it out. Between the two they spread half of it on the ground, shifted Lee over to where he could sit on it, and then draped the other half over the top of him, protecting him from the worst of the rapidly escalating bad weather. “You stay put,” Will ordered Lee, “or we leave right now.” When Lee once more nodded Will looked at Kowalski. “Okay, Ski, looks like its up to you and me from here on out.”
Will picked up Lee’s pack and had taken a couple steps toward where he could still see Molly, even through the now driving rain, when a loud “Whoa!” came from behind him. Kowalski had grabbed his pack but instead of following Will was standing still, staring off to Will’s left.
“What’s wrong?” Will asked, instantly worried.
“You didn’t see that?” the rating asked, his voice filled with a combination of disbelief and fear. Will looked where Ski was pointing but didn’t see a thing except trees swaying in the wind.
“Kowalski,” came sharply from under the tarp and the rating straightened up.
“Sir,” he replied instantly to the strong command tone in Lee’s voice.
“You have a job to do,” Lee continued firmly. “I don’t care what you see, or even think that you see. Your orders are to follow Doc’s orders to the letter and complete this mission no matter what. Do you understand, sailor?”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Will almost felt sorry for the rating, although he knew what was behind Lee’s strong command. Lee wanted Ski to ignore everything but the task at hand. Not easy, given the unusual circumstances. But if anyone could do it, it would be Seaview’s senior rating – and one of Lee’s strongest supporters.
“Come on, Ski,” Will encouraged him. “It’s not far.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Will carefully didn’t laugh. While he carried the rank of Lt. Commander, it was rare for the crew to address him as anything other than ‘Doc.’ Ski was obviously going to be extremely careful not to further tick off his CO.
As Will said, they didn’t have much further to go. Only another ten feet or so, although what was going to happen at that point Will had no idea. Kowalski had broken out heavy-duty flashlights. Will was careful not to point his directly at Molly as the first time the beam went straight through her, spooking him slightly. ‘Something’ was continuing to spook Ski, but he dutifully followed Will and tried to keep his verbal outbursts to a minimum. Will thought that the rating had finally spotted Molly but he kept looking off to their left. Whatever it was, Will couldn’t see it. And, in fact, didn’t try really hard as he realized Molly was pointing to the ground directly under where she hung in the air, her ‘feet’ about a yard off the ground.
Stopping just short of the spot, Will carefully examined the ground. Molly’s expression was now one of satisfaction so Will assumed she’d brought him to where she wanted him. Now, he just had to figure out why. “Ski, help me search the ground, right in this area.” He marked the boundaries with the bean of his light.
“What are we looking for?” the rating asked, still glancing back and forth between Will and several yards to the left of where they stood. The rain and wind, if anything, had continued to increase in intensity, and Will found himself yelling even though Kowalski was only a couple of feet away.
“I think bones,” Will told him. “Just be careful, and bag anything that you wouldn’t expect to find in a place like this. Here,” he added, pulling heavy latex gloves out of his bag. “Use these.”
Kowalski moved around to Will’s right, knelt down, and started sorting through the accumulated undergrowth. Will saw him continue to glance up from time to time and try to look through the now pelting rain. The wind was still howling, and both men kept their eyes on the surrounding trees. At one point there was a crack further back, toward where they’d left Lee. Will didn’t see any fallen trees that hadn’t already been there, and right at that moment Kowalski came up with something that wasn’t wood.
Will quickly identified it as a pelvic bone, one of the heavier, thicker bones that were the most likely to have survived the elements after all these years. If it did, in fact, belong to Molly. There was no way under these conditions that Will was going to take the time to try and identify it as male or female. He had Ski wrap it carefully in a section of towel and they both went back to searching. Ski almost immediately came up with the other pelvic bone at the same time Will’s hand hit something rounded, and he carefully maneuvered a skull from the surrounding plant materials. “Wow,” Ski said as reverently as he could, and still make himself heard over the storm. Will merely nodded, wrapped the skull in more toweling, and continued the search.
Another five minutes yielded only a thighbone, and Will was about to call a halt. He’d glanced at Molly after he packed away the skull. She had a smile on her face. Her image was rapidly fading, but Will wasn’t sure if that was because she thought that her vigil was almost finished or Will was simply having more trouble seeing through the still worsening weather. At the same time Kowalski came up with something that was neither wood nor bone – something in the shape of a rough rectangle, about the size of one of the Admiral’s oversized scientific journals - there was another loud crack behind them. They gave each other a nod, carefully packed up their finds in a large plastic bag, and hurried as fast as they could back to where they’d left Lee.
It didn’t concern Will too much when he stood up to not see the tarp he’d left Lee under, so hard was it now raining. Also, the tarp was a neutral color so didn’t stand out like a bright color might. What did raise the hairs on the back of his neck was finding his way blocked by another fallen tree. “Skipper,” he yelled, hoping to penetrate the storm.
“Still here,” came back, happily from the other side of the tree. Kowalski quickly shifted the slender trunk and the two made it back to their CO.
“Can we leave now?” Will
asked Lee, forcefully controlling the near panic he was feeling. As he lifted the tarp he added, “
“Works for me,” Lee told him and attempted to stand up. He wobbled, and both Will and Kowalski grabbed him from opposite sides.
“Ski,” Will said as soon as he decided Lee was only momentarily dizzy and not suffering from anything more serious, determined when Lee almost immediately re-opened eyes he’d closed and glared at his CMO, “go get the boat and bring it closer.”
“Belay that,” was Lee’s instant order. “We stay together.” Will let out a grumble but didn’t argue. Lee’s logic was sound even if his head wasn’t totally at the moment. It would be safer not to get separated.
“Then let’s get going before we all drown on dry ground,” he practically yelled over the storm. He tried to guide Lee by the arm he still held, back the way he thought they’d come.
“No,” Lee once again ordered, and pointed to the tarp. “We packed it in, we pack it out.”
There were times when Will wanted to take Lee’s logic and stuff it up a dark place! However, knowing that it would be totally hopeless – not to mention a complete waste of time that he didn’t want to take any more of than necessary at the moment – he growled under his breath and helped Ski stuff everything back into the packs. It wasn’t easy, as wet as things had become. Which only served to remind him how wet all three men were as well. Will took a deep breath. That won’t change until we get back to the park – even though we have dry clothes with us it won’t do any good until we have a way to stay out of the weather. He glanced up at the sky but the only thing that accomplished was getting him a face full of water. He started to reach for one of the packs but Ski had already slung the straps for both over his shoulders. Will sent him a grin, picked up his bag and the one with the wrapped bone, plus whatever it was that Ski had found, and turned to the rating. “You take the lead, Kowalski. I’m not sure that I could find the right way.” He returned both Lee and Kowalski’s quick grins. “Then you, Skipper,” he continued. “I want you where I can keep an eye on you.” It was Lee’s turn to frown, but it was followed fairly closely by a quick grin and an abbreviated nod. Ski looked around to get his bearings before heading in what Will could only assume was the direction of the zodiac. Between the wind, rain, and darkness, he didn’t have a clue.
It was a slow, laborious walk. Will could only grin as Kowalski tried to keep one eye on where he was going and the other one on Lee. He relaxed a bit as Lee didn’t seem to have much more difficulty walking than either of the other two, although he did tend to reach a hand up to his face more often. Will was sure that Lee was fighting a pretty good headache but, as there didn’t seem to be much else wrong, figured that they’d gotten off, all things considered, pretty lucky. At least so far. They still weren’t totally safe, as evidenced by another falling tree narrowly missing Ski. His abrupt stop had Lee walking into him, and Will bumping Lee. But once they got sorted out, continued on. Will tried to shine the flashlight he carried more in front of Lee’s feet than his own. Lee sent him something of an amused look, but merely nodded and carefully picked his way through the jumble of underbrush.
Will was beginning to wonder if Kowalski hadn’t missed where the boat was, so far did he think they’d walked, when the rating made an abrupt left. A few more paces and there was the zodiac. Will and Lee waited until Ski had bailed out most of the water that had accumulated in the bottom from the storm, tossed in the packs, and turned to offer Lee a hand getting in. Will buried a grin as Lee actually accepted the help – another indication that the strong-willed young man was actually acknowledging that he wasn’t in top form at the moment. Will was tempted to make some comment but immediately squashed the thought. It would only serve to embarrass Lee, and Will had no wish to put him that ill at ease. So far, despite a bit of stubbornness, Lee was being fairly compliant. Will was loath to do anything to mess that up.
Once Ski had Lee safely settled he turned to Will. Will handed him the sack first, which Ski stowed safely in the bow of the boat before giving Will a hand aboard. Will tried to get Lee to lay his head down but didn’t argue when Lee refused. As Ski got ready to shove off, Will thought that he caught another glimpse of Molly. She seemed to be nodding, a smile on her face. Will found himself nodding and smiling back – he wasn’t totally sure why.
Whatever malicious entity that seemed to be plaguing Lee and Kowalski got in one more shot. As the rating pushed the boat away from the island another tree fell right on top of them. Lee saw it coming and reached out hands to try and keep it from landing. Kowalski was a bit faster and moved so that the trunk fell across his back, keeping it off Lee. Ski let out a groan and Will was immediately concerned. “I’m okay,” the rating assured him as he shoved it off and to the side, letting it fall into the water as the zodiac moved away from land. Will saw Lee grin at the old, way too familiar line.
“Gonna smart for awhile, though, I bet,” Lee offered, humor in his voice. “I’ll make sure that Mr. Morton gives you extra shore leave. A couple hours with a good masseuse ought to make it feel better.” Will chuckled softly as Ski got totally embarrassed, but nodded nonetheless.
All three men shared looks of confusion as, leaving the islands no more than twenty yards behind them, the heavy storm suddenly stopped. While it was still dark – although now more from it being late evening than cloudy – both the rain and wind were almost instantly gone. All they could do was look at each other and shrug. “Poltergeist for sure,” Lee offered.
“They can do that?” Ski asked. “The storm, and all the other stuff?”
Lee shrugged. “So I’ve heard.” He looked at Will. “Any ideas, Doc?”
Will shook his head. “Not a one, Skipper. Ski obviously saw something that I didn’t.”
“Yeah,” Kowalski muttered harshly, but immediately he gave both men another sheepish grin.
“Just a piece to the puzzle we’ll probably never get an answer to,” Will offered.
“Maybe one that can be laid to rest along with Molly,” Lee told him.
“I’d like to think so,” Will agreed. “I hope that this hasn’t all been a total waste of time and energy.”
“Not a chance,” Lee said with conviction. He sent Kowalski a quick grin. “Not sure that Ski would agree.”
The rating returned the grin. “Happy to help, Skipper.” He paused. “Whatever it was we did,” he added thoughtfully. That drew grins and quick snickers from both Lee and Will.
“If we ever figure it out,” Will told him, “we’ll make sure we let you know, too.”
“Appreciate that, sirs.” Will grinned as once more Ski included him in the ranking. Somehow he didn’t expect it to continue once they got back to the boat. But one never knows, he thought to himself. He and Lee both chuckled as Ski added a bit belatedly and almost to himself, “Although I’m not totally sure I want to know.”
Conversation was light after that, all the way back to the park. Will kept a close watch on both younger men. Kowalski wasn’t overtly showing evidence of today’s adventures but Will had no doubt that he’d be feeling it in the morning, after a good night’s sleep. As teasing as Lee had been with his suggestion of a massage, Will thought it a perfect idea.
Lee was a slightly different
matter, although Will had little doubt that the man would argue to his dying
breath that he was “Just fine!” Will had
to actually bury a chuckle as that thought hit him now. While Lee was definitely fighting a headache,
and any sudden movement caused a bit of dizziness, Will was fairly sure that a
good night’s sleep would go a long way toward making most of the symptoms of
this ‘fishing trip’ go away. Will
thought, perhaps, that the best way to handle his most reluctant patient might
be to simply give him to his somewhat overprotective XO/big brother once they
got back to Seaview. Will could be
pretty sure that, after the scene in the
More quickly than Will thought they could, Kowalski pulled the zodiac onto the boat ramp at the now mostly deserted park. There was still what looked like the remnants of a picnic of some sort going on at the other end. From the revelry it sounded more like a beer party. But they paid little notice to the returning boaters, and the Seaview group ignored them as well. Will fussed only about everyone changing into dry clothes, but other than that didn’t say much. Kowalski quickly established that he would see to getting the boat back on the trailer. Will was surprised that Lee wasn’t more insistent about helping but he caught Lee giving him a couple of surreptitious looks and figured that Lee was doing his best to stay out of his CMO’s line of fire. Will merely nodded as he and Lee shifted packs and bags into the back of the SUV, and offered what minimal help Ski needed to get them ready to head back. Will did try to get Lee to lay down on the back seat for the return trip, but Lee ignored him and got into the front passenger seat and Will chose not to argue the point.
* * * *
Their return to Seaview shortly after midnight went roughly as Will had thought it would - with one minor difference. Admiral Nelson was waiting alongside Chip on the dock. Apparently the gate had notified the sub when the three entered the shipyard. Chip took one look at a still slightly wobbly Lee and growled, “Fishing trip?”
“Down, Chip,” Will intervened before Lee could do more than frown and start to open his mouth. “The Skipper just got his bell rung. Why don’t you go stuff him in a hot shower and then see that he hits the rack for what’s left of the night.
“Need to see to the supplies and rig,” Lee tried to bypass Will, but he was instantly outvoted.
“I’ll take care of everything,” Ski was first to talk, but was overruled by Nelson.
“There’s no reason anyone needs to do anything at this hour,” he told the group. “The rig can stay right where it is and be dealt with in the morning.”
“Aye, sir,” came from both Ski and Lee.
Will, though, headed for the back of the SUV and pulled out both his pack and the bag holding the bones. “These come with me,” he announced to no one and everyone at the same time. He stopped and glared at Chip. “I could have sworn I gave you an order.”
Chip finally chuckled. “Aye, sir,” he told Will before turning to Lee. “Come on, junior,” he teased a once more frowning Lee. “I want to hear all about the ‘big one that got away.” That drew grins and chuckles from everyone else, although Nelson turned a raised eyebrow at Will.
“I could really use
some coffee,” was, however, all that Will told his boss. Nelson nodded and followed along quietly as
everyone went inside. Once Kowalski
headed for Crew’s Quarters and Chip pointed Lee in the direction of Officers’
Country, Nelson followed Will as he headed for
Will did so over a second mug full of coffee. He very carefully laid the bones out on the exam table, going over the whole tale with Nelson. He started somewhat hesitantly, but quickly realized that Nelson was just as intrigued as Lee had been, nodding his agreement to the steps that had been taken and seeming almost disappointed not to have been along for the just-completed expedition. The last article to come out of the bag was the whatever-it-was that Kowalski found, and Will lay it gently on the table next to the bones.
Nelson raised an eyebrow but Will could only shrug. “Haven’t a clue,” he admitted. “Ski found it just as the storm was getting too much to ignore. We grabbed everything we had and left.”
Nelson reached out a finger and gently touched the box-shaped find. “Feels like it might be old oilskin. Something wrapped up to protect it for whatever reason, anyway.” He gave the thing a long look from all sides as he worked through his own second mug of coffee. “Mind if I take this down to the lab?”
Will grinned. Nelson absolutely hated puzzles. “Not a problem,” he told his boss. “I’m curious as well what it might be. With any luck, maybe something inside will explain these.” He waved a hand at the bones. “From a quick inspection, now that I can actually see them, they do look to be female.” He paused. “Not even too sure what I should do with them now that I have them,” he admitted.
“Humm,” Nelson muttered, still studying the box-shape. “I think you might contact the local Historical Society in the morning, for starters. They should at least be able to give you a way and place to inter them properly.”
Will nodded. “Good idea. And on that note,” he added, covering the bones and putting a note on top that read DO NOT TOUCH, “I think I’ll take myself to bed.”
Nelson nodded. “Lee?”
Will grinned. He had actually been wondering if Nelson
would let him go to bed without a direct question as to Lee’s health. “I’ll track him down in the morning. If Chip doesn’t haul his tail down to
“Does sound like you’ve had a bit of a day,” Nelson agreed. Will nodded, Nelson left, gently cradling his puzzle, and Will headed for his own shower and rack.
* * * *
Will surprised himself and didn’t feel too bad the next morning when he awoke only a bit later than usual. He’d had a thought as he showered that he might need to join Kowalski in tracking down a good massage this morning.
The Wardroom was empty when he got there just after 0700 and he pointed an eyebrow at Higgins, Cookie’s assistant. “I took coffee to the Admiral in his lab about 0630,” Higgins answered the obvious question, “and you just missed the CO and XO. I think they were headed for the Circuitry Room to check on repairs.”
“Did Captain Crane actually eat?” Will asked with a grumble that caused Higgins to grin.
“Had seconds,” Higgins answered, and his grin spread. “Said that he worked up an appetite yesterday.”
It was Will’s turn to grin. “He did that for sure.” His expression changed to thoughtful. “I did, too, come to think about it.”
Higgins nodded. “Two slices of ham, extra pancakes and scrambled eggs coming right up.” Will grinned and went to pour some coffee.
He chuckled silently to himself as he realized that, what with everything that had happened yesterday, he’d not thought about eating once. It hadn’t even occurred to him that food had been left off Lee’s list of supplies. Better not bring that one up, he told himself. I’d never hear the end of it as much as I harass Lee about his eating habits. Or lack thereof, and he allowed himself a wry grin.
Forty-five minutes later, when he’d not only worked his way through Higgins’ extra-large breakfast but also three pieces of toast slathered with raspberry preserves, he filled his coffee mug for the fourth time and went in search of the Admiral.
As expected, Will found him in his lab. To one side of the long table Nelson was sitting at was the carefully unwrapped outer layer of whatever it was that had been with the bones. Will assumed a book of some sort because that was what Nelson had his head buried in. What wasn’t expected was, the lab wasn’t filled with a blue cigarette haze as all too frequently happened when Nelson spent any length of time over a project without coming up for air. True, Will noticed that the air revitalizers were going full blast, but the ashtray to Nelson’s left only held a few cigarette butts. Nelson apparently caught him staring at it and chuckled. “Needed to keep this under as clean cover as possible,” he told his CMO.
“That never seems to bother you when it comes to your lungs,” Will snapped before he could cut it off. The two had locked horns so many times over that topic that Will tended to keep most of his complaints to himself anymore as it just served to tick Nelson off.
This time, however, he shrugged, sent Will a small grin, and promptly changed the subject. “You came up with quite a find,” he said, and nodded to the book.
“Oh?” was all Will said, allowing the misdirection. He was actually thankful that Nelson hadn’t exploded as he was wont to do when Will – or anyone, for that matter – irritated him.
“It’s a journal. Of sorts, anyway. Very fragile, but remarkably well-preserved for how long it’s apparently been out there.”
Nelson smiled. “Your friend, Molly.”
“You’re kidding,” was all that Will could get out. Nelson’s grin spread and Will walked around the table to stand at his shoulder, looking down at the writing on the pages. It was barely legible – at least to him. Cramped letters run together, spelling atrocious from what little Will could actually make out. He pointed a raised eyebrow at Nelson, who was looking up at him.
“Takes some deciphering,” the Admiral agreed. “At least I didn’t have to try to read the entire way to the last page of the journal.” The book was opened maybe a fourth of the way from the front, and he indicated a marker at a point just over halfway through.
“That’s as far as it goes?” Will asked.
Nelson nodded. “It ends rather abruptly,” he told Will, his voice losing all traces of humor.
“I gather you’ve spent the night reading.” Will couldn’t stop the grumble in his voice. Nelson was a worse workaholic than Lee!
“Once I started, it kept me intrigued,” Nelson admitted.
Nelson’s grin came back. “So,” he said, “suppose we go corral Lee. I think that he’d like to hear the tale as well.”
They ended up in the Wardroom. Higgins immediately brought Nelson a bountiful plate of breakfast. He also brought out several split bagels and a tub of cream cheese. Chip had included himself in the group, with no one’s objection. He immediately helped himself to a bagel, to everyone else’s grins. Nelson ate while Will explained the previous few days’ adventures to the blond, but in general terms. He left out a good portion of the spookier parts, only putting in what he needed to, to get Chip up to speed with what had caused the ‘fishing trip’ the day before. Will noticed a few looks exchanged between the two younger men and figured that Chip had badgered Lee for details the previous night. But neither interrupted, or challenged what Will chose to leave out.
When he finished, Nelson took over. He explained that what he’d carefully opened had proved to be tightly bound oilskin. Inside he’d discovered what turned out to be at first what a child would use to do daily school lessons. As he progressed carefully through the fragile pages he was able to reassess what he was seeing.
It had indeed belonged to someone who’s first name was Molly. It seemed that she was the daughter of one of the house servants, and at some point was allowed to join the master’s children in their lessons. There appeared to be fairly lengthy gaps of time in the journal, as the writing had gone from almost illegible, to barely better formed letters but horrible spelling, until toward the end it was fairly readable but the words were phonetically spelled and the language usage uneducated. He glanced up at that to see if he was making sense to the others.
“You mean, the words were what the slaves of the time might use instead of what we would consider normal usage,” Lee translated.
Nelson nodded. “Very basic,” he agreed. He asked Chip for a clean piece of paper from the XO’s almost-always present clipboard. “This is a bit that I remember from one of the pages. Don’t ask me why,” he added, and quietly endured the grins from the other three. They’d all worked around him long enough to understand that his brain tended to function slightly differently from most people. They read along as he wrote. “When ladies and gemmens come to see you and de dogs come wid ‘em, dey come in da kitchen, and our dogs jump at ‘em, dey git to fighten, den uncle he throw de cold water on dem, and dat part ‘em.” *****
“A little like listening to some of the old Negro spirituals,” Will offered.
“Exactly,” Nelson agreed. “I found it interesting to read it so phonetically written. Well,” he amended, “once she got to that part of her writing.” He sighed. “The early parts of the journal had me starting to go cross-eyed.” The others sent him grins.
“So,” Will got back to what he really wanted, “was there anything to explain why we found her – well, apparently her – out on that island?”
Nelson nodded. “I think so. As I mentioned earlier, the journal ends rather abruptly. But if you do a bit of reading between the lines…” He paused and refilled his coffee mug before continuing.
“There’s enough to know that as she matured she became one of the full-time kitchen help, and eventually either full-time or at least part-time maid to the lady of the house. There aren’t any last names given, just ‘Master’, and ‘Missis’… He spelled that last word.
“I was told at the plantation
that it left the
Nelson nodded. “From the estimated timetable we can assume those were the owners during at least the latter part of Molly’s tenure there.” He got quick nods of acceptance from the others before continuing.
“Right near the last of the written pages in the book she starts to mention someone she calls the ‘young master.’ My guess, its the owner’s son.”
“Makes sense,” Will agreed.
“Anyway, she talks about him being flattering to her, but she says he’s told her that she can’t tell anyone.”
“Oh, oh,” Lee muttered.
Nelson nodded with a frown. “I think we can translate that as ‘young buck hitting on the servant behind his parent’s back, considering her a safe target.’ Unfortunately it all too often happened.”
“Yeah,” it was Chip’s turn this time to mutter.
Nelson turned to Will. “I think that may be one reason that the volume was so tightly wrapped; that she kept it that way so there was less chance of someone accidentally reading it. But I’m only guessing.”
Will nodded. “Makes as much sense as anything,” he agreed.
“Almost the last page, she’s all excited. Seems she thinks that she’s with child.”
“Oh no,” “Damn,” and the beginnings of something even stronger were muttered before being abruptly cut off.
“She says he wants to meet her that night, before she tells her ‘Missis,’ who she seems to have a lot of respect for and almost a friendship with from a few of the things she says, so she can help plan the wedding.”
“He killed her,” was Lee’s instant interpretation. “She was going to tell the boy’s mother and he killed her.”
“I suspect that you may be right,” Nelson agreed.
“And the malevolent entity that Kowalski and I encountered, that was him.”
“What makes you say that, Skipper?” Will wanted to know.
“He didn’t want either her or that book found.”
“Why didn’t he go after me, then. I was the instigator of that whole thing.”
“Probably because, however she was managing it, Molly was protecting you,” was Nelson’s assessment. “Her connection was to you so she couldn’t help the others.”
Will thought about that, and the rest of the story Nelson had tried to piece together from the journal. “It all makes sense,” he told the others.
“Probably as much sense as we’ll ever manage, from what we have,” Nelson told him. “Perhaps the local Historical Society might be able to piece more of it together. I think that’s who should get the journal.”
“Absolutely,” Will agreed. “I’ll check with the base office to see who to contact. As you said last night, they should also be able to have the bones properly interred.” He started to stand, but was stopped by a soft question from Lee.
“What are you going to tell them?” He send Will a quizzical grin.
Will took a deep breath. “As little as possible,” he said sheepishly. That drew grins and chuckles.
“You’re going to talk to the Jamieson family, though.” Lee made it a statement. Will cringed. “You need to,” Lee insisted.
“Maybe I’ll just let the Historical Society decipher the journal.” He sent Lee a quick grin. “I’ll tell them that I accompanied you on a sample collection trip for the Admiral, and we stumbled across the bones and book by accident.”
“Coward,” Chip muttered, but both Lee and Nelson chuckled.
Even Will grinned. “Guilty as charged,” he admitted. “I’m really not anxious to admit that I was contacted by a ghost and led to the spot by visions.”
“Just blame Lee,” popped out of the blond’s mouth, then almost instantly he turned bright red and ducked his head. “Rats,” came out miserably. He looked up at the friend. “Sorry,” he told Lee.
But Lee was grinning, and shrugged. “You’d usually be right,” he told Chip with a matter-of-fact tone.
Will decided that he’d do his best to sidetrack all of them away from the old memories. “Admiral, if you’ll get the book into something I can transport safely, I’ll go pack up the bones. I think the faster I get everything off Seaview, the faster we can all put this behind us.” As both he and Nelson rose to leave, Will watched Lee reach out and give Chip’s shoulder a light cuff. Both grinned – Chip still a bit embarrassingly – and Will knew that the two would put Chip’s little faux pas quickly behind them.
As he headed toward
A strong shiver hit him as he realized how easily he was accepting that this sort of thing could happen again. Admitting that he’d seen far too much in his years as Seaview’s CMO not to expect more of the same, he gave himself a shake. Best get this adventure laid to rest… he groaned out loud at that terrible pun, no matter how accurate it was, and allowed himself a wry smile, before the pattern starts all over again. His grin spread. Gotta be prepared for anything when it comes to looking after my ‘family.’
* Will Jamison’s wife, Lu Tsi, used with permission of her creator, Cris Smithson.
** Published by J. F. Blair, 1998
*** See “One-Eyed Jack” by Liz Martin
**** ERK – Emergency Response Kit
Paraphrased from “Frances Fedric : Slave life in