Iceberg: The Sequel
“How would you like a month’s vacation?” Lee Crane grinned at his executive officer as the latter took a seat opposite his captain’s desk.
“A month’s vacation?” Chip Morton frowned uncertainly. “You serious?”
“I am,” Lee smiled at his friend’s reaction. “We’ve had a message from Weather Camp Alpha. They’ve finally finished their research. We’re leaving on the 23rd to go get them.”
“And you don’t want me to come?” Chip questioned, his blue eyes beginning to narrow into a frown.
“Of course I want you to come,” Lee frowned back, “but you said you didn’t want to go on any return trip to fetch Dr. Westhal and her team. You said you’d take a vacation.”
“I did?” Chip shook his blond head in surprise. “I don’t remember.”
“Believe me, you did,” Lee smiled. “And you were quite serious about it too.”
“Obviously!” Chip remarked, rather sharply.
“Yes,” Chip’s tanned face was intensely serious. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be offering me a month’s vacation and proposing to take Seaview under the ice without her executive officer.”
“It’s not an order, Chip,” Lee almost laughed at the chagrin of his XO. “You’re welcome to come if you want to but you were so sure that you didn’t want to go back that, under the circumstances, the Admiral and I were willing to accommodate you.”
“I see,” Chip shook his head again. He felt confused. “Did I really say I didn’t want to go back?”
“You did,” Lee nodded. “Just before we transferred you to Bethseda. I said at the time that I didn’t believe you but you were adamant.”
“I honestly don’t remember,” Chip looked rather sheepish. “And, even if I did mean it at the time, I do want to come, Lee. And I want to lead the team to go and collect Dr. Westhal and her equipment.”
“Are you sure?” Lee’s voice took on a concerned tone.
“Positive,” Chip replied confidently. “I….” He hesitated and looked down at the floor before looking back up at his friend. “I….I’ve been having nightmares about the explosion. It might help if I went back and saw the camp again. All I remember is the dark and the pain.”
“That’s not surprising,” Lee responded quietly. “What about Dr. Westhal? Do you want to face her hostility again?”
“I don’t think she’ll be hostile,” Chip looked levelly at his commanding officer and best friend. “But that’s something else I need to know, whether or not she still hates me.”
“I don’t think she does,” Lee commented seriously. “The Admiral says she always enquires about you whenever he’s spoken to her and when I spoke to her at the camp she sounded more like Helen than the frosty Dr. Westhal.”
“My charm must have melted the ice!” Chip grinned.
“You never did tell me what you two talked about,” Lee remarked curiously.
“I know,” Chip nodded. “And I’m not going to tell you now, either.”
“Because I don’t feel that I should, Lee. Maybe, when we’ve seen the last of her.”
“Did you tell Helen?”
There was a pause before Chip answered and when he did his voice took on a defensive tone. “Yes. I had to, Lee. I needed to talk about what happened and Helen isn’t a part of the situation. She’s not going to tell anyone.”
“I know,” Lee said calmly. “You don’t have to apologise, Chip. I’m just curious but I guess my curiosity will have to wait.”
“I guess it will,” Chip agreed. “Do you want me to start on arrangements for our return?”
“Sure,” Lee nodded.
“I’ll get right on to it,” Chip stood up and moved towards the door leaving his Captain to doodle on the notebook in front of him. As he opened the office door he heard his friend call his name.
“Yes?” Chip turned his head to look back at his CO.
Lee Crane smiled his warmest smile. “I’m glad you’re coming with us. And I wish I’d had a bet with you when you said you didn’t want to come. I knew you’d change your mind.”
“Maybe… but you’d feel guilty if you’d taken advantage of an injured friend,” Chip retorted and left before Lee could make any reply.
Two weeks later as Seaview neared the co-ordinates to collect the scientists from their North Pole camp her captain and executive officer were relaxing in the wardroom after finishing their dinner.
“Are you sure you still want to go to the camp tomorrow?” Lee asked curiously.
“Yes,” Chip nodded. “Though I confess I’ll be glad when we’re all safely back on board Seaview.”
“So will I,” Lee admitted. “There’s too much scope for possible disaster out on the ice and it’s incredibly frustrating having to wait here for news.”
“Now you know how I feel when you’re off on some dangerous venture and I’m stuck here waiting,” Chip commented.
“I suppose so,” Lee looked thoughtful as he took a sip from his coffee mug. “But I think you’re better at waiting than I am. You’re calmer and you’re good at hiding your feelings. If I hadn’t been stuck in my cabin under doctor’s orders when you were stranded out there, the whole crew would have known how frustrated and worried I was.”
“I’ve just had more practice,” Chip grinned in a bid to lighten his friend’s unusually introspective mood. “Don’t worry, Lee. This time we’ll be in and out of there so fast you won’t know we’ve gone. And I promise I won’t try and fix anything!”
Lee smiled broadly. “I’ll hold you to that!”
Seaview surfaced without incident the following morning and within half-an hour Lieutenant-Commander Morton and his team had left the confines of the massive submarine for their return walk to the weather camp. The weather was cold but there was no wind and the sky was clear with bright sunshine enabling them to make the three-mile trip in good time. As they neared the camp they saw that Dr. Westhal’s team had already begun to dismantle some of the huts and were packing up their equipment. When they reached the perimeter of the camp the unmistakeable figure of Marion Westhal approached them. Chip stepped forward, knowing that it was difficult to differentiate between him and his men when they were all wearing identical arctic clothing and sunglasses.
“Good morning, Dr. Westhal.” He held out his gloved hand.
“Good morning, Commander Morton.” The scientist shook his hand and smiled. “It’s good to see you again. As you can see we’ve started the dismantling process and now that your men are here I estimate we should be ready to leave within the next two hours.”
“Good,” Chip nodded. “We’ll set to work straight away.” As Marion Westhal moved away he turned to the man on his left. “Mr. Morrison, why don’t you take your team and start on that building over there.” He pointed ahead of them. “I’m just going to have a look around and assess what else needs doing.”
As Craig Morrison and the rest of the Seaview team set to work Chip wandered off to survey the camp. Even in its partially dismantled state he found that memories began to surge in on him. A cold shiver ran down his spine as he heard again the sound of the stove exploding and smelt the burning of his clothing. In a subconscious bid to protect his hands he jammed them deep into the pockets of his parka and, as he did so, he felt the touch of a hand on his right arm. He turned slightly to find Marion Westhal looking at him through her own dark glasses.
“Are you okay, Commander?” Her voice was low but obviously concerned.
He nodded, his hands still jammed into his pockets.
“Do you want to see my hut?” the doctor continued quietly. “It’s still in one piece.”
Drawing an unsteady breath, Chip Morton nodded firmly. “Yes. Thank you, Doctor.” His answer was short and sharp and he removed his hands from his pockets as he followed the doctor to the hut that had served as her office and sleeping space. As they entered the place where he’d been injured and had spent more than twenty-four hours lying helpless and in pain he removed his sunglasses and surveyed the room in silence. It was like seeing it for the first time.
Without taking his eyes off the bunk where he had been stranded with his face and hands swathed in bandages he said quietly: “I didn’t have a clue what this place looked like. All I could remember was how I felt.”
“That’s understandable,” Marion Westhal’s voice was quiet and came from somewhere behind him. “Do you feel better for seeing it?”
He shrugged slightly. “I don’t know,” he turned to look at her. “I’m relieved that I can see it but I don’t know if I feel any better. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.”
“I’m sure it was,” Marion Westhal nodded in agreement, “and I’m truly sorry that my attitude made it far worse for you than it needed to be.”
Chip blinked in surprise. The last thing he had expected was an apology from Marion Westhal and he wasn’t sure what to say in reply. He looked down at his shoes and then back at the doctor. “You had your reasons,” he shrugged. “I don’t hold it against you, Doctor.”
“That’s very generous of you,” Marion Westhal smiled at him. “And now you’ve been back maybe you’ll be able to put it all behind you, Commander.”
“I hope so.” Chip shook his head vigorously in a bid to shake off his memories and pull himself together. He smiled at Doctor Westhal and slipped his sunglasses back on to his face. “We’d better set to work, Doctor. The sooner we’re finished here, the sooner we can return to Seaview.”
Back on the Seaview Lee Crane stood on the bridge and viewed the spectacular arctic scenery before him with unseeing eyes. He looked at his watch for the fifth time in half-an-hour and wondered with increasing impatience how his exec was getting on with the icy Dr.Westhal. Lee couldn’t help but find the whole situation intriguing. The meteorologist had been so hostile towards his XO and then, after Chip’s horrifying accident she had changed her attitude completely and the only thing his friend would tell him was that he had reminded her of someone in her past. In a bid to try and discover something about that past Lee had asked Admiral Nelson a few probing questions but without success. Now, as he waited for the shore party to return he went back over the conversation he’d had with Nelson a few nights previously.
“Are you looking forward to seeing Dr. Westhal again, Admiral?” Lee had asked casually as they enjoyed an evening coffee in Nelson’s cabin.
“Yes, I am,” Nelson had nodded. “She’s a wonderful woman, Lee and a brilliant scientist. I’m looking forward to discussing her latest research with her.”
“How long have you known her?”
“Oh, about twenty years. We met at a
“And you got to know her well?” Lee hoped he sounded casual enough with his questions.
“Well enough” Nelson nodded as he selected a cigarette from the packet on his desk. “We’ve met on many different occasions.”
“Was she ever married?” Lee enquired as the Admiral put the cigarette into his mouth and lit it.
“Once,” Nelson took a puff of his
cigarette. “Sam Westhal was an astronomer, died of cancer five years ago.
“Ah, ha,” thought Lee. “Maybe Sam Westhal had looked like Chip?” He hoped he still sounded casual as he asked: “And what was he like, this Sam Westhal?”
Nelson looked curiously at his young
Skipper. “Why all this sudden interest in
Crane shrugged. “Just curious, she is a little reticent about herself. I thought it might help me to communicate more easily if I knew something about her.”
“So ask her,” Nelson continued to eye Crane curiously. “She’s quite a private person, Lee. I doubt she’ll discuss her past with you but I’m sure you’ll find her forthcoming if you ask about her work.” He scratched behind his right ear with a pencil and his eyes suddenly twinkled. “You’re not thinking of asking her for a date, are you?”
Lee Crane laughed. “Of course not, Admiral. She’s a bit old for me.”
“She certainly is,” Nelson agreed with a grin, “though she does seem to be rather taken with our exec. Every time I’ve spoken to her during this research she’s enquired about him.”
“I think she was upset by what happened to him,” Lee said quietly.
“That’s not surprising. She…”
The sound of the intercom interrupted Lee’s thoughts and he forced his mind back to the present to be told that the shore party had begun their return journey to Seaview. Immensely relieved he reached for his binoculars and began scanning the snow-covered terrain for the first sign of them.
Chip Morton was sitting on his bunk in the process of pulling on clean socks when there was a knock on his cabin door.
“Come in!” He looked up and grinned as Lee Crane entered the room. “I wondered how long it’d be before you came to interrogate me.”
“I haven’t come to interrogate you,” Lee protested. “I’m just interested in how you got on out there.”
“It was okay,” Chip replied as he finished with his socks and reached for his shoes. “I’ll write my report after I’ve had something to eat. I’m starved.”
“It’s the parts you won’t put in the report that I’m interested in,” Lee responded honestly as he sat down on the edge of the desk.
“Such as?” Chip looked up from tying his laces, a challenging look on his face.
“Such as, how do you feel? Did it help you to see the camp again?”
“I’m not sure,” A frown crossed Chip’s face and he looked down at the floor. “It was….” He paused and took a deep breath. “….hard. Harder than I thought it would be.”
Lee waited and when it was obvious that his friend wasn’t going to say any more he enquired gently: “Are you glad you went?”
Chip looked up again, his expression serious. “I think so. It was interesting to see Dr. Westhal’s hut, to know what it looked like.” He shrugged. “Maybe I’ll stop having nightmares now and maybe I won’t.” He stood up. “But right now I’m going for lunch. You coming?”
Lee nodded and stood up himself. “How was Dr.Westhal?”
Chip grinned. “She was fine. She still seemed quite concerned about me but who knows what she’ll be like now she’s back on Seaview and can see me clearly without any bandages or arctic weather gear to obliterate my features.”
“Well, you’ll find out tonight,” Lee commented as he reached for the door knob. “The Admiral’s throwing a special dinner for the landing party and the scientific team.”
“Oh, great!” Chip groaned. “I was hoping to have a rest.”
“Rest this afternoon,” Lee said as they left the cabin in the direction of the wardroom. “It’ll be fine, Chip. Cookie’s going to put on a great feast. You’ll love it.”
The dinner was due to start at 20.00 hours and, as the time to get ready approached, Chip Morton found that he was feeling nervous about seeing Dr.Westhal again. He hadn’t seen her since they had returned to Seaview over eight hours ago and he wondered how she would react to seeing him clearly again without all his arctic weather gear masking his appearance. He wasn’t nervous for himself but for her. Now that he knew the reasons for her hostility towards him he was reluctant to stir up anymore bad memories for her but if she wouldn’t tell Admiral Nelson, what could he do? Pretend to be sick? That would just have Jamie insisting he report to sickbay and Lee would probably see right through it. Maybe, she would decide to stay away? She must be tired after all. With that hopeful thought in mind Chip left his cabin and set off, reluctantly, for the dinner.
When he arrived in the wardroom he found that the Seaview contingent, including the captain, had arrived in advance of their scientific guests.
“I thought this was for the landing party and scientists?” Chip gave his friend a sideways look as he entered the room. “I don’t think you qualify!”
“Captain’s privilege,” Lee responded with a smile. “It’d be rude for me to stay away.”
Chip made a face, which Lee ignored, just as Marion Westhal entered the room. He paused and watched with apprehensive interest as she made straight for Admiral Nelson and gave him a hug, which was enthusiastically returned much to the amusement of the Seaview personnel. Then she turned to survey the room and her grey eyes fell on the exec. For a moment she just looked at him, her expression as unreadable as his often was, then she smiled and her whole face lit up as she crossed the room towards him. Taking both of his hands in hers she looked directly into his face.
“Commander Morton. It’s good to see you properly again and to see you looking so well.”
She looked him up and down and for a moment he thought that she was going to hug him too but she just smiled again as he thanked her and, at that moment, the Admiral asked them all to be seated and the first course was served.
The dinner was an entertaining affair with
Marion Westhal and her team regaling the rest with tales of the past six months
living in the
“She really likes you now, doesn’t she?” he began as they walked down the passageway towards Officers Country.
“It would seem so,” Chip responded wearily.
“So what happened?” Lee frowned. “It must have been something big for her to change her attitude so completely.”
Chip stopped walking and turned to face his friend.
“It was big, Lee,” he said bluntly. “In case you’ve forgotten a bloody stove blew up in my face and NO,” he continued before Lee could say anything, “it wasn’t the explosion that changed her attitude, it was the talk we had afterwards and there is no way that I’m going to repeat that to you or anyone else on Seaview so will you, please, stop going on about it. You’re becoming obsessed over something that really doesn’t matter anymore.”
“I’m sorry,” Lee reached out and laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder. Obviously his questions were beginning to irritate his exec. “I guess I have become a little obsessed but as an observer Dr.Westhal’s change in attitude is quite intriguing.”
“I know it is,” Chip acknowledged with a tired smile. “But it’s not important, Lee. You just have to accept it as a mystery and surely you’re used to accepting that we can’t always solve all the mysteries we come across.”
“Yes,” Lee nodded thoughtfully. “I’m sorry, Chip. I won’t mention it again.”
“Good.” Chip gave him another weary smile as they resumed their walk in silence.
It was the following evening that Chip Morton acknowledged a knock on his cabin door and looked up from his paperwork to find Marion Westhal entering the small room.
“Am I intruding?” she enquired, her hand on the doorknob. She appeared uncertain and there was a hint of nervousness in her voice.
“Not at all,” Chip shook his head. “Please have a seat, doctor.” He indicated the chairs in front of his desk. “I was just catching up on some paperwork.”
“I don’t want to disturb you,” Marion Westhal said and put out a hand to touch one of the framed photos on the desk. “May I?”
“Go ahead,” Chip nodded and, as she picked up the photo and began to study it, he regarded her thoughtfully. He hadn’t seen her since the dinner the previous evening and had heard that all of the scientific team were resting. He was surprised that she had voluntarily entered his private quarters and he wondered what she had come for.
“So are these children all yours?” she regarded him quizzically as she turned the photo she was holding towards him.
Chip grinned. “None of them are mine. They’re all my sister’s.”
“But this one….” She pointed at a blond haired little boy. “… Looks like you.”
“I know,” Chip nodded. “But he’s not mine.”
Marion Westhal put down the photo and picked up the second one.
“My sister and brother-in-law,” Chip commented before she could ask.
“You never said that you had a sister,” Dr. Westhal remarked as she studied the picture.
“You never asked,” Chip replied matter-of-factly.
“She doesn’t look like you, does she?” Marion Westhal looked at him and then back at the photo. “She looks more like your Captain Crane to me.”
Chip smiled. “I know, but she’s my sister.”
“Are you close?”
“Yes, we are,” he nodded as Marion Westhal put the photo down and looked directly at him across the desk.
“You’re lucky,” she said, a wistful note in her voice.
“I know,” Chip, responded quietly and then, impulsively, he said, “I know that you had brothers but did you have any sisters?”
The scientist shook her head. “No, I only had brothers. There were three of them, all older than me and they all died in the camp.” She paused. “I sometimes wonder what they would have been like, whether we would have had good relationships as adults but I’ll never know.”
She sounded so sad that, without thinking, Chip said quietly, “It’s hard, isn’t it?”
Marion Westhal regarded him curiously, “That sounds like the voice of experience, Commander.”
Chip frowned and looked down at his desk before looking back up at the Doctor. “I had a brother,” he said, his voice low. “Tim was eighteen months younger than me and we were inseparable but he died in the same accident that killed our parents.”
For a moment, after his words, there was silence and Chip was uncomfortably aware of Dr.Westhal’s scrutiny as he looked down at his desk. It was the Doctor who finally broke the silence, her voice quiet and full of sympathy.
“So you lost your parents and your brother; that must have been very hard.”
“It was a long time ago,” Chip attempted to change the subject. He couldn’t believe that he’d even shared such personal information with someone he barely knew. It was rare for him to tell anyone about his past and very few people knew that he’d ever had a brother. Yet he was beginning to feel as if he’d known Marion Westhal for years.
“Forgive me if I’m being too nosey, Commander but were you there…in the accident, I mean?” she asked now, her grey eyes fixed on his face.
Chip shook his head and looked directly at the scientist as he replied. “No, I wasn’t there. If I had been I’d probably not be here now.”
“And your sister?”
“Helen’s a lot older than me,” Chip smiled
as he usually did when referring to his sister. “She was already married and
living thousands of miles away in
“And you moved in with her?” Marion Westhal guessed.
“Yes,” Chip nodded. “I was lucky. Helen could have left me with distant relatives but she decided to keep me.”
“She must be very proud of you.”
“I think she is,” Chip agreed and then looked levelly at his visitor. “Is that what you came for, Doctor? To talk about my family? Or was there another reason?”
Marion Westhal looked momentarily embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Commander. I didn’t mean to pry into your private life although it is interesting to know more about you. What I came for was to thank you.”
“Thank me? What for? ” Chip was baffled.
The scientist took a deep breath: “For helping me. When I first met you at the Institute, the memories that came flooding back cast a cloud over the whole project. The fact that I was expected to work with you made it very hard for me to squash those memories back where they belonged and I’m afraid I became quite irrational and I took that out on you. I hoped that once we’d left Seaview I would be able to forget and concentrate on my work.” She paused for breath and smiled slightly. “But then you came with us.”
Chip shook his blond head, a confused expression on his face. “So why do you want to thank me?”
“Because, talking to you was very beneficial to me. Apart from my late husband you are the only person I’ve talked to about my experiences during the war. Although it wasn’t easy at the time and I was reluctant to share the past with you I have found it immensely helpful. I know that you suffered a great deal at the time and I’m really sorry for that but you did help me and I am grateful. I’m also grateful,” she paused again and took a deep breath, “that you tried to fix that stove. I was well aware afterwards that it could have blown up on me when I was alone.”
Chip shook his head again unsure of what to say. He had very bad memories of the whole incident and, although he’d been pleased to find out why the frosty doctor had hated him so much, he wasn’t sure that it justified the pain and fear he’d experienced.
He frowned slightly and asked curiously: “If it helped to talk about it why didn’t you tell the admiral or Lee before we sailed?”
“As I told you before I didn’t think anyone would understand,” Marion Westhal replied patiently. “And although it helped me to talk to you it wasn’t easy, Commander and I didn’t know it was going to help. I only told you because you made me so angry and you wouldn’t stop asking about it. In the end I thought it was only fair to share the reasons for my irrational behaviour with you. The fact that I found it so helpful was a bonus I really didn’t expect.”
“Well,” Chip sighed heavily and leant back in his chair. “I’m very glad it helped you, Doctor Westhal but I’d really like to put the whole incident behind me now.”
“I can understand that,” she smiled warmly at him. “Have you talked to anyone about what happened out there?”
“D’you mean have I told anyone about your past? No, I haven’t,” Chip paused, debating whether or not to tell the truth and decided that he would. “At least I haven’t told anyone connected to the Institute.”
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Marion Westhal said quietly. “What I meant was have you talked to anyone about what you suffered at the research station.”
“A little,” Chip admitted reluctantly, “but I’m a bit like you Doctor. I prefer to try and forget and concentrate on my work.”
“I see,” she nodded. “So who did you tell about my history?”
“My sister,” Chip spoke almost apologetically. “I spent three weeks with her and her family when I was released from the hospital. She wanted to know what had happened and it wasn’t classified so I told her but I haven’t told anyone else even though Lee is desperate to know why you’ve changed in your attitude towards me.” He grinned suddenly. “It’s driving him quietly mad.”
“And you’re enjoying his frustration?” Marion Westhal raised her eyebrows questionally.
Chip shook his head. “Not really. I did at first but since we set out to collect you and your team he’s become quite obsessed about solving the mystery. He’s beginning to get on my nerves.”
“So why don’t you tell him?”
Chip frowned in surprise. “I guess I don’t think it’s my place to. It’s your past and you said you found it hard to talk about it. I don’t think it would be fair for me to start sharing it with other people when you’ve obviously kept it a secret for so long.”
There was silence while Marion Westhal looked appraisingly at Seaview’s exec. “You know you are quite a remarkable young man, Commander,” she said at last. “After all my hostility and everything else that happened you’re actually putting my feelings above your own.”
Chip looked down at his desk, feeling embarrassed by the praise she was directing at him but looked up when he heard her next words.
“You can tell Captain Crane as long as he
promises not to tell anyone else, not even Harry,” she paused. “Your captain
was as confused as you were by my hostility, you know and he was willing to
postpone the whole project after he hurt his foot just to protect you. I think
I owe it to him as well to tell the truth but don’t tell him yet, Commander.
Wait until we get back to
“Okay, thank you,” Chip smiled gratefully. “I have to admit that I was surprised when you came in here, Doctor. I thought you would do your best to avoid me.”
Marion Westhal laughed loudly. “Do you think I would have come into this small space voluntarily and sat this close to you if your appearance still frightened me? No, Commander,” she stopped laughing and became serious again. “That’s part of the reason I wanted to thank you, because after we talked I ceased to feel threatened by you. It helped that the bandages hid your face but you became a real person to me, rather than a face from the past. Now when I look at you I see Commander Morton and not some Nazi soldier.”
“I’m glad,” Chip gave her another smile. “It’s good to know that we can both put what happened out there behind us now.”
She smiled back and stood up. “Yes, it is, but I’ve taken up enough of your time. I’d better go. I’ve got paperwork of my own to do. Goodbye, Mr. Morton.”
Chip stood up and offered his hand. “Goodbye, Dr. Westhal and thank you for coming by.”
“My pleasure,” she smiled as she shook his hand and then opened the door and disappeared.
Seaview had docked at
“Lee, Chip,” Nelson greeted the two younger men. “Marion and I are going ashore now. We’ll be in my office for the next few hours if you need me.”
“Very well, sir.” Lee nodded at the admiral and then turned his attention to the scientist. “So you’re leaving us now, Dr. Westhal?”
“I’m afraid I am, Captain,” Marion Westhal nodded sadly, “but before I go I just want to say thank you for a wonderful trip. I have enjoyed my time with you all very much. Harry was right,” she glanced at Nelson, “when he said that you two are the best men to command his special baby.”
“Thank you, Doctor. Maybe you could take another trip with us sometime,” Lee held out his hand and Marion Westhal shook it warmly before turning to Chip and offering her hand. “Goodbye, Commander Morton.”
Chip shook her hand as he said; “Goodbye, Dr. Westhal. I’m glad your trip was a success.”
“Thank you,” she smiled warmly at him and then, much to his consternation and his companions’ amusement, she reached up and kissed his left cheek. “I’ll never forget you, Commander,” she said as she released his hand and turned so that her gaze took in Lee as well. “Goodbye, gentlemen.”
“Your ears have gone red,” Lee commented quietly as they watched Nelson and Dr. Westhal leave.
“So will yours in a minute,” Chip growled. “When I hit you.”
“Hit a superior officer? That’ll mean a court martial,” Lee grinned. “Chip, that woman obviously likes you as much now as she hated you before. Are you sure you didn’t do anything to make her change her opinions so drastically?”
“As I’ve told you before I didn’t do anything except get hurt,” Chip scowled at his captain, “but in order to bring this whole saga to an end I will tell you why she hated me and why she doesn’t now tonight…at my apartment.”
“Your place? Can’t we go to a bar or a restaurant?”
“It’s private,” Chip responded shortly. “I don’t want eavesdroppers. You can bring the beer with you.”
“Fair enough,” Lee agreed. “But are you sure that you want to tell me? You said before that it wouldn’t be right.”
“Didn’t stop you from asking again, did it?” Chip remarked with resignation. “And, no I don’t particularly want to tell you, Lee but Dr. Westhal said that I could when she’d gone. She seems to think that she owes you an explanation.”
“Shall we finish these reports then?” Lee changed the subject, unsure of what else he could say without irritating his exec. “Then we can leave.”
“Fine by me,” Chip nodded and turned his attention back to his clipboard.
That evening, over pizza and cold beer, Lee listened with increasing guilt as Chip told him the story of Marion Westhal’s unusual past. Now that he was hearing the horrifying truth he wished that he hadn’t kept on at his friend to tell him about it. He hadn’t expected the Doctor’s reasons for hating Chip to be quite so shocking.
“I’m sorry, Chip,” he said quietly as his friend finished relating the story. “I shouldn’t have kept on at you to share it. Poor Dr. Westhal; I’m not surprised that she couldn’t handle the sight of you.”
“It does make sense now that I know about it,” Chip agreed. “It certainly took my breath away; I had no idea she had such a terrible story to tell. I felt really guilty when she told me although I know it wasn’t my fault. How was I supposed to know that I had a German “twin”?”
“Did you tell her that you have German ancestry?” Lee asked curiously.
“I didn’t volunteer it,” Chip said seriously. “I didn’t think it would be a good idea but then she asked so I told her about my mother’s family. I also told her that I take after my father and anyone who disputes that only has to look at Jason.”
“Yes. If my looks came from my mother’s family Jason wouldn’t look like me because Helen and I had different mothers.”
“True; not that I was going to dispute it.” Lee paused to take a long drink from his can of beer. “What I don’t understand is, if you reminded her of this Nazi how come Marion Westhal became so friendly towards you? I understand that she didn’t feel threatened by your looks when your face was covered in bandages but what about that display of affection this afternoon? It didn’t look to me as if your appearance threatened her at all!”
“I asked her that,” Chip replied seriously. “She said that once she’d seen beyond my face and got to know the person underneath a little she didn’t feel threatened anymore. Now when she looks at me she sees Chip Morton and not some Nazi soldier. She also said that talking to me was very helpful to her. Apparently the only other person she’s spoken to about it was her late husband. I doubt some overpaid psychiatrist could have done any better.”
Lee opened a second can of beer as he asked, “What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Are you still having nightmares?”
“No,” Chip shook his head. “At least I haven’t had one since I came back from the camp.”
“Bet you’ll have one tonight?” Lee said teasingly.
“Because Dr.Westhal kissed you,” Lee laughed. “Your face was a picture.”
“She just took me by surprise,” Chip protested. “After all it was quite a contrast to the first time we met!”
“Yes, it certainly was,” Lee laughed again and lifted his can. “Well, here’s to the successful end of our encounter with the frosty scientist!”
And with that they sat back to enjoy the rest of their beer and pizza.