A Painful Extraction
He was trying to get his breathing under control as much from his recent exertion as from the intense struggle to control his temper. He had always thought violence against women was reprehensible, but in this case…
Lee gently probed his split lip with his tongue and wished again he had said no to this assignment. It had all started a few days ago when Seaview received an urgent message from ONI. One of their extractions had gone sour. There was no problem with the plan. It was the extractee. Olivia Redwine was a scientist instrumental in developing a new virus to be used in biological weapons. When she realized that the black market operation she was working for was going to cut her out of the profits, she decided to call on her American roots and defect. The information was too valuable to pass up.
The facility in which Dr. Redwine
worked was in a closely guarded compound on a small island off the coast of
Seaview was in the area observing a hotspot along one of the undersea mountain ranges. The call came through on the video phone and the captain took it in the nose.
“It’s just a quick in and out job, Commander. Should be no trouble at all.”
Lee ignored the groans and snorts from the Control Room crew behind him and listened to the details of the mission. The doctor had arranged to leave the compound the next day to travel to a nearby village for supplies. One of the compound guards would drive her and wait in the car. She would simply slip out of the shop without his notice and make her way to the village church where Crane would be waiting. From there it would be a quick walk down to the beach and then out to FS1. Easy.
Thinking about the poor frightened woman scientist waiting for help, Lee took the assignment, much to his XO’s disappointment. “You heard him, Chip. In and out.”
“And when has that ever been the way it actually worked?” Chip answered.
The Admiral was equally concerned, but couldn’t help being intrigued by the prospect of helping a fellow scientist. The plan went forward and would have worked but for one problem. Dr. Redwine.
Lee had gotten to the church a little early. Dressed in black jeans and dark shirt, he slipped into a pew at the back, where he could easily see anyone who entered. Pretending to be lost in meditation, he waited for the poor frightened scientist he was picking up. He was unprepared for the real thing.
The woman appeared in the doorway of the church and stopped. Placing her hands on her hips, she surveyed the dimly lit sanctuary with an air of disdain. So much for clandestine. Lee quietly cleared his throat to get her attention and made eye contact. She was tall, dark haired and model slim. A pair of skin tight white pants and a bright yellow silk blouse with a plunging neckline left little to the imagination. While he wished her appearance was a little more subtle, he couldn’t deny that things were definitely looking a bit more interesting.
Realizing who he was, she clicked noisily across the tiled floor in full length riding boots. She tossed a large travel bag at his feet and dropped onto the pew beside him. Her profile was as lovely as the rest of her. Definitely interesting, he thought. But when she turned toward him the image was shattered. Her eyes were an icy blue as cold as an iceberg. And her thin lips seemed to be twisted into a perpetual sneer.
“Well, at least you’re not one of those overly muscled military types.” She hissed openly assessing him head to toe.
“Perdoname, Senora. Donde esta’…”
“Oh, please,” she huffed, elbowing him painfully in the ribs. “It’s obvious who we both are so let’s skip the cloak and dagger crap and get out of here! Where’s your car?”
“Dr. Redwine,” Lee whispered, keeping his eyes straight ahead. “We need to be careful…”
“God, you’re a young one, aren’t you?” she asked inching closer to him. “I ask for the best and they send me a child?”
“I assure you I’m older than I look.” He was aware that her appearance and all the stage whispering was causing undue interest in them. “We need to move out before we attract too much attention. There is a path that leads through the cemetery behind the church. I’ll leave and wait for you where the path enters the trees. You wait five minutes and then follow me. Understand?”
Dr. Redwine bristled at the suggestion that she might be slow. “I think I can struggle along with such a brilliant plan.”
“Good, then, I’ll…” Just then Lee noticed a man standing in the doorway to the church. Or more precisely, filling the doorway. The guy was built like a Mack truck. Lee had a sudden mental image of the guy shrugging his shoulders and taking the doors off their hinges. As he watched through the corner of his eye, the man moved to the pew across the aisle from them and sat down. The wood groaned beneath him.
“We may have a bit of a problem,” Lee whispered, pretending to pray. “Do you know…?”
But Dr. Redwine was way ahead of him. “Carlos!” she hissed across the aisle in excellent Spanish. “What are you doing here?” When the man didn’t answer her, she said more stridently, “Are you following me?”
“Doctor,” Lee placed a restraining hand on her arm which she immediately threw off.
“I demand that you leave here immediately and return to the car. I’ll be along when I’m done.” The man didn’t even bat an eye.
Lee ran several scenarios through his head. Obviously, intimidation wasn’t working. They might be able to outrun the guy, but that slight bulge under the upper left side of his jacket could put a stop to that. And, he wasn’t ashamed to say that a physical battle with the behemoth would probably not end up in his favor. But, there was a chance that all Carlos’ strength was in his muscles and he could outsmart him.
Praying, for real, that Dr. Redwine would follow his lead, Lee put his arm around her shoulders and said loud enough for Carlos to hear, in the idiomatic Spanish he had overheard in the village, “Querida, calm yourself. He is only looking out for you, eh, Carlos?” Nothing from the hulk, but Dr. Redwine looked as if he had just placed a large dead fish in her lap. “He has discovered our lover’s retreat,” he hugged her a little closer, tracing her chin with his finger, “He is a man, he will understand.” As she looked at him, Lee tried to beg her with his eyes to play along.
Shrugging off his arm and nailing him with a glare, she snapped, “What the hell are you talking about?”
At this point, Carlos rose from his seat, crossed the aisle and reached for the doctor’s arm. “Don’t you dare touch me, you animal!” she cried, drawing back her arm to hit him. Everyone in the church had given up any pretense at prayer and openly watched the spectacle.
Lee wrapped both his arms around the irate woman pinning her arms to her body. In a desperate attempt to defuse the moment, he leaned close to her ear and said as calmly as possible, “Olivia, darling, please calm down.” Giving Carlos a knowing, man-to-man look, he smiled. “You see how ardent she is, Carlos. Surely you can give us an hour, or,” winking, “maybe two, to…you know?” For a moment, he saw something flash across the vacant eyes, and he thought he just might have gotten through to him.
But, “Olivia, darling” was not to be hushed. She twisted violently, sending an elbow directly into his left side at about rib number eight. Gasping he let her go, and watched the tiny spark of life disappear from Carlos’ face. “I will not be manhandled and drooled over by you or anyone else,” she huffed, straightening her blouse. “Carlos, you will return to the car at once and wait there for me.”
Carlos stood his ground, crossing his arms across his massive chest. “Well,” Olivia whirled on Crane, “you’re supposed to be the expert. Do something!” For a second, Lee thought the expert comment might be too subtle for Carlos, but then he realized that she had said it in English. The big man drew himself into a very impressive fighting stance but thankfully did not reach for the gun under his jacket.
The situation was escalating way out of hand. A couple of men in the church had risen and moved into the aisle. If they decided to come to Olivia’s aid, they could get hurt or worse. And, the priest standing at the altar was probably trying to decide whether to go back to the sacristy to call the local police. He needed to get Carlos outside. Still maintaining the lover’s tryst ruse, he placed a hand on the doctor’s shoulder, “I think you had better go with Carlos. We will have to wait for another chance.”
Olivia looked at him in astonishment. “Are you crazy? If we don’t leave now there won’t be another chance! They’ll ki…”
“Querida,” he nearly choked on the word, and continued in English. “We need to get him outside away from these people then…uh…I’ll think of something.” He gave her a not too gentle push into the aisle. He looked at Carlos, and shrugged, as if he knew he were defeated, gesturing toward the incredulous woman between them. Carlos nodded towards the door, indicating they should precede him.
Lee’s mind was racing trying to come up with some way to shake the human monolith, when his eyes lit on the rows of candles cheerfully burning on a rack along the wall. He made a few quick calculations in his head and when they were close enough, he pushed the doctor out of the way and lunged for the rack. Grabbing as many votives as he could hold he spun and threw them at Carlos’ head and turned back to the door. The sound of breaking glass and screams of pain let him know he’d hit his mark..
At the bottom of the steps, he snatched Olivia’s arm and pulled her toward the graveyard. When she dug in her heels, his grasp on her arm along with his momentum caused him to spin to the left and slam into one of the headstones. This time he was sure he felt rib number eight crack. “What the hell…did you…do that for?” he croaked.
“My bag! You left it in there!”
“Are your…research notes….in it?” Definitely cracked.
“Of course not,” she said condescendingly. “I sent those ahead in code. But my clothes, my jewelry…”
“Unbelievable!” he said pushing painfully off the stone . “Come on!” He took off running, his side screaming as loud as Carlos’ still audible howls. Lee found the path and ran along it as fast as he could, Olivia stomping and muttering behind him. A little more than a hundred yards in, he saw the stones he’d placed at the bottom of a palm tree. This would lead them to the secluded inlet where he had left FS1. He plunged into the dim wood ignoring the doctor’s protests. When they reached a patch of dense undergrowth, he dropped to the ground, hands on his knees, to catch his breath.
Olivia was barely winded, but then all her ribs were intact. She stood over him. “You’re out of shape.”
Biting back several possible acerbic and misogynistic retorts, he reached up and pulled her down beside him. “Keep your head…and the rest…of you…down!”
“You don’t have to be so rough!” Failing to get a rise out of him, she began to adjust her clothing. “This blouse is ruined. Pure silk. Look at this sleeve.” She flung out her arm to show him the tiny tear just as he was lifting his hand to wipe the sweat from his eyes. Her elbow connected with his forearm sending his knuckles crashing into his lower lip. He saw the blood on the back of his hand and barely managed to keep it from flying in her direction.
“Sorry,” she said off handedly, continuing to inspect her clothing.
“They do not pay be enough for this,” he muttered as he pulled out the small but powerful gun strapped to his leg.
“Well, what are we waiting for?”
Taking a deep breath and instantly regretting it, he answered, “To see if either your friends from the compound or the local constabulary are on our trail.”
“Well, we’re way ahead of them if they are. We’re wasting time.”
For once the damned woman was right, but he needed a minute to get the pain in his side under control. It wasn’t all that far to the beach, but it was rough going.
“For an agent, you certainly are scared of a little action.”
“You did everything but kiss Carlos’ ass back there. Why didn’t you just take him out?”
“Because…” He stopped himself refusing to argue with this incredibly annoying woman. “Doctor, you may be a whiz in the lab, but you don’t know jack about undercover work.”
“Well, I know a coward when….”
“Sshhhh!” he hissed. “Here they come.” The two hunkered down further in the undergrowth as three armed men moved quietly along a path not 30 feet from their position. Two carried military rifles, probably local police. They were lead by a very angry Carlos, his face and neck pocked with angry burns and gouges where he had tried to remove the hot wax. There was murder in his eyes. Lee looked to his right to check on his charge. For once, she was quiet and still. So far, so good.
One of the smaller men stopped, looking to either side of the path. “How do we know they did not go off through the woods?”
His partner shrugged, “That way goes to the inlet. No boat can get through that part of the reef.” He gestured farther down the path. “This way is the only way.” Lee grinned in relief.
“So, we take a boat out to chase them?”
The other man patted the canvas ordinance bag at his hip. “No, we blow them out of the water.” As the two men laughed cruelly, Carlos turned on them. They were instantly silent.
“No.” His voice was surprisingly soft but menacing. “You can kill the man. But the bitch is mine.” The two smaller men nodded vigorously and made to follow a few paces behind the big man.
That’s when Lee saw the movement and the glint of light on metal. He lost a precious second wondering where in the world she had hidden the gun in that outfit. But before he could do anything, one of Carlos’ men saw it too. With a shout, the man shouldered his rifle and the afternoon erupted with the sound of gunfire.
Carlos was the last to fall dead, taking at least a dozen direct hits. Lee popped the empty clip from his gun and reloaded. What a stupid waste. He looked over at Olivia still pointing her smoking gun at the huge man on the ground. There was such an intense look of hatred on her face, he reached out to push her arm down. “We just sent a very loud message to anyone within a five mile radius. We need to move.”
He stood slowly, muffling a groan and peered into the gloom looking for any signs of more armed men. He turned back to see Olivia moving towards Carlos’ body. “He’s already dead, doctor.”
“He called me a bitch!” she said through gritted teeth.
Anger allowed him to move faster than his various injuries should allow. He grabbed the doctor roughly and spun her around. “I’m sure he’s not the first one to call you that,” he said menacingly. “But he will definitely be the last if you don’t start listening to me. Now move!” He pushed her in the direction of the beach. Perhaps it was the command glare that had intimidated many a seasoned sailor, or the loaded gun he still held in his hand. Whatever it was, the doctor closed her mouth and followed him almost demurely through the woods.
They made it to the beach without encountering another patrol, although the shouts from the village were getting louder. Lee found the inlet where FS1 was half submerged, released the lock and climbed inside, leaving the doctor to fend for herself. At the bottom of the flying sub’s ladder he felt his reserves ebbing. With sheer force of will, he cleared his head and began the procedures for take off.
Ignoring the doctor’s awed stares, he dropped into the pilot’s seat and powered up. He winced as he reached for the seat harness and felt a trickle of warm blood roll down his side. “God damn it,” he growled.
“Unless you want to be thrown around this cabin,” Lee practically yelled. “You better sit down and buckle up!” The doctor complied with almost timid obedience.
The flying sub rose through the water just clearing the jagged reef no boat could have maneuvered, then plunged back into the sea to stay out of sight. Not as graceful a launch and reentry as Lee preferred but there wasn’t much room and he wasn’t in the best of shape. It took all his concentration and remaining strength to keep her level and trim on the way to rendezvous with Seaview. He ignored Dr. Redwine’s questions and finally her disdainful observation of him. It was easier.
When he felt the pull of Seaview’s
remote docking device, he allowed himself to relax his grip on the controls and
close his eyes.
Chief Sharkey opened the hatch to FS1 and stood back beside the Admiral and Chip Morton. As Dr. Redwine reached the top of the ladder, Chip stepped forward and offered his hand. Ignoring it, she stepped out into the control room.
“Welcome aboard, Dr. Redwine,” the Admiral said with a nod of his head. “I’m Admiral Harriman Nelson. This is my Executive Officer Chip Morton. I’m sure you’d like some time to rest and freshen up. I’ll have Chief Sharkey here escort you to your cabin.”
“I can hardly ‘freshen up’,” she snapped, “since that coward left my bag behind.”
The three men exchanged puzzled glances. “Coward?” the Admiral asked.
“That man they sent to get me.” Tossing her head, she crossed her arms across her chest. “For an ONI agent, he certainly can’t take a little action.”
Chip Morton looked at the empty hatch, wondering why his captain hadn’t come through it yet. “Where is Lee?”
“Oh, he’s still cowering down there. I think he may even be crying,” she added in amazement.
“Cap’n Crane?” the Chief asked, confused.
“He white knuckled it the whole way back here, white as a sheet and sweating like a pig!”
“Oh, shit!” Chip cried and practically vaulted over the railing and headed down the ladder.
“Chief! Call Sickbay!” the Admiral barked, glaring at the doctor.
“What’s all the excitement? He’s just having a panic attack,” she said dismissively. “You said something about escorting me to my cabin?”
The Admiral was momentarily paralyzed by the blinding thoughtlessness of the woman. Unable to think of any decent reply, he simply brushed her aside and followed Chip down the ladder.
Dr. Redwine turned back to encounter the scowling Chief flanked by 15 pairs of outraged eyes. “What?!” she demanded.
Below, Chip hurried over to where his friend and captain sat slumped in the pilot’s chair. He was definitely pale and sweating, but the set of his jaw and the furrowed brow screamed pain not fear. “In and out, no problem, they said.”
“It would have been,” Lee said with a groan, “if not for that…woman.”
“Ah, well, she’s not exactly your biggest fan either. Called you a coward.”
“Only sensible response to a
walking catastrophe.” Lee leaned back a
bit as it was getting harder to get a good breath. “You didn’t leave her alone in the control room,
“No, the Admiral’s with her.”
“The Admiral’s here. Take it easy, lad. Doc’s on his way.”
“Tell him to sedate her first…and make sure he gives her…a distemper and rabies booster, too.”
“Well, it can’t be too serious if he’s making bad jokes.” Dr. Jamieson motioned the corpsman to the other side of the chair and lifted Lee’s wrist.
“Not joking,” Lee gasped, pointing at his ribs.
“She did this to you?” Chip boomed.
“Well,” Lee shrugged, then gasped, “not the gunshot…”
“Gunshot?” It was the Admiral’s turn to shout. “What in hell happened out there?”
“You wouldn’t b’lief me if …I…” Lee’s eyes slid shut as he finally let go.
“That’s it, gentleman. Time to get this man to Sickbay.”
“Is he…” the Admiral’s anxious eyes locked on the doctor.
“Well, he’s been shot, he has a broken rib that’s causing problems with his breathing, and his blood pressure is a bit elevated, which is rather puzzling. Not life threatening but very painful. I’ll know more when I get him on the table.”
The Admiral and Chip watched lost in their own thoughts as their friend was gently carried out of the rear hatch.
“Coward?” the Admiral growled.
“Distemper and rabies booster?” Chip countered. “This story I gotta hear.”
“Absolutely!” the Admiral agreed, then clapped his XO on the back. “Let’s go see if our guest needs anything, like…water or kibble.”