Note : For Sharon and Kim – cos I promised you both a Chip-centric story.
FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED
Chip Morton walked into the en-suite bathroom off his bedroom at the condo on the grounds of the Nelson Institute for Marine Research, which he called ‘home’ when he wasn’t on board his boat.
Shedding his clothes as he went and, un-characteristically leaving them where they fell, he turned the shower to its highest power setting.
After economy showers on the boat for over a week – and Seaview’s officers’ quarters were more than generous but, with 125 men on board, fresh water was always at a premium – it was a joy to get back to unrestricted bathing.
Dropping his wash bag on the vanity, he un-zipped and pulled out his razor and shaving foam. Lathering up, he quickly scraped the day-old stubble from his chin and jaw and rinsed off the razor. He was lucky enough to enjoy a light beard growth – certainly being fair-haired helped. Unlike Lee, who sported a five-o’clock-shadow by fifteen hundred hours and shaved twice a day more often than not.
He pulled open the shower door, doffed his boxers, and stepped into the steamy enclosure, shutting himself into the hot, wet, almost soundproof stall. Stepping under the pressurised jets of just-short-of-scalding water he allowed it to beat down on him for several luxurious minutes without moving. His near-ecstatic groan was barely audible above the sound of the cascading liquid. Bracing his forearms against the polished wet tiles he revelled in the sheer volume of the flow as it pelted onto the tight muscles across his lightly tanned shoulders and down his rigidly defined spine.
He was wound way too tight and he knew it.
But, damnit, it had been almost two months since he’d seen Lee – over a week since they’d spoken on the phone – and all the hot water in the world couldn’t alleviate the anxiety flooding his system. He knew – KNEW – something was about to break and his friend and brother would be in the thick of it once again. And HE would be over three thousand miles away and absolutely, bloody, useless!
Sweeping back the short blond hair that was dripping persistently into his eyes he straightened, grabbed a washcloth and a bar of soap and proceeded to lave his tension-overloaded body as if he could ruthlessly scrub away the feeling of helplessness that pervaded him.
Usually that first shower after hitting port was relaxing and to be sumptuously savoured. Chip snorted, rinsed quickly and shut off the now cooling water. If he stayed in here for a month it wouldn’t help.
Nothing would – short of heading to
Grabbing a towel and wrapping it around his lean hips, he stepped from the shower and snagged a second one to blot the excess water from his hair before draping it around his still taut shoulders. Side-stepping the uniform he’d left strewn on the bedroom floor he wrenched open the top drawer in his bureau and pulled on fresh shorts and an undershirt.
A plan beginning to formulate, he moved to the wardrobe and donned chinos and polo shirt. Reaching into the depths of the closet he accessed the hidden safe by way of the digital code, grabbing his preferred Sig and tucking it into his waistband before he snagged a linen jacket from a nearby wooden hanger to cover the almost invisible bulge. As a Navy Reserve commander – and NIMR operative (sometimes seconded to Naval Intelligence) – he was licensed in most US states to carry concealed so that wouldn’t be an issue.
Something in his gut told him he needed to be armed tonight.