The original version of this story appeared in “Silent Running 5” (2000). My thanks to Lill H whose comments and suggestions inspired me to rewrite it and post it here!
By Sue James
May 1st, 1981
"Are you going to resign on me now?" Lee Crane leant back in his chair, a teasing grin on his face. "Take up a nine to five desk job so you can go home every evening?"
"No," Chip Morton smiled lazily. "Can you see me in a desk job?"
"No," Lee shook his dark head. "But then I never saw you as a husband and father either!"
"Point taken," Chip responded pleasantly, "but Kate and Jamie cannot be equated with a desk!"
"No ...." Lee looked speculatively at his friend. If anyone had asked him ten years ago, or even five, which one of them would have finally settled down to being a married father Lee would have said himself. Despite his "marriage" to his command, the world famous submarine Seaview, he did like the idea of a settled home life with a wife and children...if only he could find the woman who would put up with his frequent absences and unexplainable injuries. He had thought Chip would stay single for ever...enjoying a succession of female admirers and then flying east to visit his sister and her large family whenever he had a desire for a bit of stable home life. Chip had always been adamant that he had no need for a wife, and had often complained that his sister’s mission in life was to see him get married when he had no intention of doing so. Yet here he was with both a wife and a two week old baby son and totally crazy about them both.
"Are you sure you're not going to spend every cruise worrying about home?" Lee asked now.
Chip shrugged his broad shoulders." Not while I'm on duty, no. I'm not going to become a liability, Lee just because I've got a son."
"No, I guess not," Lee grinned. "But what about Kate? How does she feel about you being away sometimes for weeks on end?"
"She's quite happy," Chip said thoughtfully. "I mean it's not as if I've just sprung it on her. She knew what my career was before we got married and she accepts that I’m often not around. Anyway, she won't be on her own over the summer; my niece is coming to stay."
"Your niece?" Lee made an enquiring face. "Which one?"
"Katie, of course."
"Katie? Little Katie?"
"Not so little," Chip grinned broadly. "She was sixteen in February."
"Sixteen!" Lee groaned in a theatrical fashion. "Where did the years go?"
submarines," Chip responded drolly, amused by Lee's horrified reaction to
the age of his eldest niece born when they were both midshipmen at
"Mind? Why should I mind?" Chip continued without giving Lee a chance to reply. "I admit I wasn't too keen at first. I still think of her as a kid but she's not a kid anymore and being the eldest of four has made her very responsible. It was her idea that she came as soon as she heard that Kate was pregnant. She adores babies, she wants to see the West coast and she and Kate get on brilliantly. Kate thinks it's a marvellous idea. In fact..." he sighed. "I didn't really get a say in the matter...Kate, Helen and Katie virtually agreed the whole thing without even consulting me."
"That's good, "Lee smirked. “I'm glad to know that you are being kept under control."
July 1st, 1981
Chip yawned widely and rubbed at his eyes with his right hand.
"Tired?" Lee asked, unnecessarily.
It was on the tip of Chip's tongue to deny it and some indication of the degree of his exhaustion that he didn't even bother to try. "I'd forgotten how much young babies can cry at night," he admitted, slightly sheepishly. "Jamie seems to have done nothing but scream since we got home. I'm beginning to think it's my fault since Kate says he was fine when I was away."
"Ah, jealous of a rival for his mother's affection!" Lee grinned and then quickly resumed a more serious expression as Chip glowered at him.
"It's not funny, Lee."
"No." Lee frowned at his desk and then sought to change the subject. "When does Katie arrive?"
"Katie? Last time a baby kept me awake she was the culprit," Chip muttered tiredly.
"Yes," Lee said patiently. "But isn't she arriving this month?"
"Today." Chip yawned widely and shook his head in an attempt to banish the heavily feeling of sleepiness that had a grip on his brain. "Katie comes today; she arrives at LA in....." he paused to look at his wrist watch "... six hours."
"You're not meeting her!" It was a statement rather than a question but Chip responded anyway.
"I am," he nodded tiredly.
"You're not," Lee said in his best Captain's voice. "I'll go and meet her. You're in no fit state to drive."
"True," Chip nodded agreeably. "But I have to go, Lee. She's my niece and besides," he grinned suddenly, "Helen has undoubtedly lectured her on the dangers of accepting rides from STRANGE men." He emphasised the word strange and looked teasingly at his friend.
"Funny," Lee didn't laugh. "And what would Helen have to say if I let you go and you drive across the freeway into the path of a ten ton truck?"
"I've no intention of crashing my car," Chip muttered indignantly.
"Maybe not but you are too exhausted to drive anywhere," Lee argued.
"Katie doesn't know you," Chip muttered belligerently.
"She does," Lee sighed. His friend was getting bad tempered, a sure sign that he was overtired.
In the end they both went. They'd travelled less than five miles before Chip fell asleep in the passenger seat. When they arrived at LA International Lee left his friend, still sleeping deeply, in the car and set off to the arrivals area. Although he hadn't seen Katie Marshall since Chip and Kate's wedding two years before he was positive that he would recognise her and he did. She came confidently through the Arrivals gate wheeling a trolley, which contained a large suitcase and an overnight bag. Like all of the Marshalls Katie was tall and had the same long legs as her mother, Chip's half-sister. Her honey blond hair shone as it hung loose on her shoulders and her blue eyes were unmistakably Morton eyes. She was wearing white jeans and a bright blue T.shirt which accentuated her perfect young figure. Lee suddenly wished he was twenty years younger and squashed the thought immediately. Katie was looking around uncertainly, obviously expecting to see her uncle.
Lee stepped forward and her slightly serious expression vanished to be replaced with a grin that was reminiscent of her mother’s.
"Uncle Lee!" She sounded pleased to see him.
"You recognized me then?" Lee smiled his most charming smile.
"Of course," Katy grinned and threw her arms around him in an enthusiastic hug. "But where's Uncle Chip?"
"I'm here!" A voice from behind made them both jump and Katie whirled round. "Uncle Chip!" She flung herself into his arms and he hugged her. "Was this strange man bothering you?" he asked her teasingly.
"Who? Oh, Uncle Lee?" Katie shook her head. "Of course not. I wasn't expecting both of you to meet me." She looked from one to the other happily. "Where are Aunt Kate and Jamie?"
"At home, waiting for you," her uncle told her as Lee lifted her case and overnight bag from the trolley. Katie looked admiringly at him as he held the case off the floor with ease. "Wow!" she grinned. "I could just about haul it on to the trolley; you make it look empty."
"Years of practice!" Lee smiled at her, unaware of just what his smile could do to a teenage girl. "D'you want a drink before we head back?"
"Yes, please" Katie looked questioningly at her uncle who was watching the exchange between his niece and his best friend with a hint of amusement in his blue eyes. "Is that okay, Uncle Chip?"
"Sure," he grinned at her. Personally he wanted to head back to his wife and son as soon as possible but he was aware that Lee had driven a long way in the heat while he had slept and was doubtless in need of refreshment. They headed across the airport concourse to a McDonalds outlet where Lee bought the drinks while Chip and his niece found a table.
"So, how come you both came to meet me?" Katie asked happily as she sucked through a straw at a large strawberry milkshake
"Your uncle wasn't in a fit state to drive," Lee told her as he waited for his coffee to cool.
"You mean you were drunk?" Katie's eyes widened in surprise as she looked closely at her uncle.
"NO! I was not drunk!" Chip spoke indignantly. "I was ...." he hesitated, hating to admit that he'd been too exhausted to drive.
Lee had no such inhibitions. "He was overtired," Lee told Katie with another smile. "He slept all the way here. I didn't think your mother or your aunt would appreciate it if I'd let him sleep behind the wheel of his car."
"No, they wouldn't," Katie, agreed. She looked again at her uncle. "Are you sick?"
"I'm fine," Chip smiled tiredly at her. "But Jamie is just like you were. Doesn't understand that nights were made for sleeping."
"Me?" Katie looked confused.
"What your uncle means," Lee continued in his charming mode. "Is that your new cousin cries all night and ruins his sleep, same as you did many years ago."
"I didn't?" Katie blushed.
"You did," Chip assured her. "But I was younger then and on vacation. I didn't have to be up at the crack of dawn.”
"I can't wait to see him," Katie enthused as she finished her milkshake. "My first Morton cousin. Mom says he looks just like you, Uncle Chip."
Chip laughed. "Your mom would. I think Jamie looks like Kate."
"And Kate thinks he looks just like your uncle," Lee put in. "I think Jamie looks just like Jamie!"
"I think it's time we went home," Chip said, seriously. "It's a long drive."
It was a few
minutes past 1900 hours when Lee finally drove onto the redbrick drive of his
friend's hill-top home and shut off the engine. Katie looked out of the window,
her blue eyes shining with excitement.
She had talked most of the way home and Lee had, to Chip's tired mind,
encouraged her by responding
to her enthusiasm and telling her about places to visit in
Before they could release their seat belts the front door opened and Kate appeared. Wearing dark red jogging bottoms and a white T-Shirt her jet-black hair hung loosely to her shoulders and her feet were bare. In her arms she cradled her two and a half month old son. Chip's weary expression fled to be replaced by a warm smile as he released his seat belt and unlatched the car door. Katie had already leapt from the front passenger seat and was racing the last few yards up the drive.
"Aunt Kate! Aunt Kate! I'm here!" She called unnecessarily.
Lee had climbed out of the car and now regarded his friend across the roof. "Energetic, isn't she?"
Chip grinned. "I'd like to say it's her genes but it's probably got more to do with her age."
Lee laughed. "Well, I meant what I said in the car. I’ll come over on Thursday and take Katie off your hands for the day. Show her the local sights.”
"Yea, thanks," Chip nodded. "And thanks for the lift. You coming in for dinner?"
"No," Lee shook his head. "I've some paperwork to attend to before that meeting tomorrow. I'll see you Thursday. Bye Kate, Katie...." He waved at the woman and the girl who were chattering outside the front door and made to climb back into his car.
"Uncle Lee! Wait!" Katie tore back down the drive and round to the driver's side of the car, her hair flowing out behind her. She bent down and kissed the surprised Lee on the cheek. "Thank you for coming to collect me," she said gratefully. "And don't forget you promised to show me round Seaview.
"I won't," he grinned at her. "Bye now!" he turned the key in the ignition and the engine purred into life. With a final wave Lee put the car in gear and disappeared down the Morton driveway.
Katie waved until he was out of sight and then rushed back up the drive to her aunt and cousin leaving her amused uncle to follow on behind her.
The Mortons were only just finishing breakfast on Thursday morning when Lee arrived to take their guest on a tour of the city. When Katie saw Lee’s car her blue eyes almost popped out of her head. “Wow!” was all she could manage as she stared at the bright red sports car gleaming in the early morning sunshine. With the top down the black leather interior shone giving off a distinctive smell. Katie walked right around the car in admiration before turning to an amused Lee “Is this yours?”
“Sure is,” Lee grinned widely, showing off his perfect white teeth. “Nothing but the best for our special guest!”
“But I thought that car you drove on Tuesday was yours. Do you have two cars?”
“No,” Lee laughed. “I borrowed that from the Institute car pool because I knew that we wouldn’t get all three of us AND your luggage into this beauty. Besides” he winked at Katie. “Your uncle isn’t appreciative of my taste in cars.”
“That’s because you have no taste,” Chip muttered from his position on the front step.
“It’s you who has no taste,” Lee said confidently as Katie looked from one to the other of them in astonishment and then said, with an apologetic glance at an amused Chip. ”Well, I think you have great taste Uncle Lee. Are we leaving now or are you coming in?”
“Depends if you’re ready or not,” Lee told her.
“She’s been ready since dawn,” Kate said now as she joined them out front carrying her baby son.
“That’s because I’m still on East coast time,” Katie said with a smile.
“Is that so?” Lee grinned and glanced at his wrist-watch. “Well, we’d better be off then or you’ll want lunch before we get to the end of the drive!”
had laughed then and thanked Lee as he held open the passenger door so that she
could climb in and sink into the luxurious leather seat. Wait until her sister
“Ready?” he grinned at her, amused by her obvious appreciation of his car.
she smiled at him and waved cheerfully at her Uncle and Aunt as Lee put the car
in gear and it moved smoothly down the drive at the start of her first
Californian adventure. In the days that
followed Lee took Katie on a tour of Seaview
and the Institute, played her at tennis, took her on a sightseeing drive up
the coast and accompanied her and the Mortons on a visit to
"Lee says Katie's excellent company," Chip commented at breakfast a week after his niece's arrival. "Lively, intelligent...a typical Morton, of course," he said smugly as he tucked into a bowl full of cereal.
"Only by name," Chip grinned.
"Maybe...." Kate tucked into her own cereal, her expression serious. "But Morton or Marshall she's developed an outsize crush on Lee."
"A what?" Chip looked quizzically at his wife. "Did you say "crush"?"
"Aha," Kate nodded. "I thought it was just her natural exuberance and friendly nature at first but now I think she is seriously in love!"
"But she's only 16," Chip protested. "Lee's old enough to be her father!"
"I know," Kate responded patiently. "But 16 year old girls don't think about boring old facts like age, especially when they've developed a crush on a handsome man in uniform and particularly when the man in question is single and as thoughtful as Lee is."
"Yes, but Lee's known Katie since she was born," Chip argued with what he thought was perfect logic. "The first time I saw Katie Lee was there."
"Katie doesn't remember that," Kate pointed out. "She's young and impressionable and Lee, bless him, has gone out of his way to be attentive to her."
"Yes, because she's my niece and he's known her all her life" Chip frowned. "Not because he's got designs on her."
"I never said he had. He'll probably be as horrified as you are but the fact remains that your niece has fallen head over heels in love with your best friend."
"Great!" Chip muttered sarcastically. "What am I supposed to do about it?"
"Tell Lee," Kate said sensibly. "Least if he knows he can be on his guard and won't inadvertently encourage her further. Then we can see how things are when you return from your cruise next week."
unbeknown to her uncle and aunt, Katie was in her bedroom staring at a photo of
Lee and dreaming about her next trip out with him. The photo was one of a
number she’d taken since her arrival in
Lee was the perfect gentleman and, on arrival at the Institute, he had leapt out and walked around the car to open the door for her. He’d shown the same courteous attitude throughout her visit, holding her hand as they crossed the gangplank and assisting her up and down ladders and over doorsills.
Kate had thoroughly enjoyed her visit the highlight being the view from the famous windows and seeing the cabins of the captain and exec. Seeing Lee’s had given her a mental picture of his personal space on the massive sub and she had committed as much detail as possible to memory. Seeing her uncle’s cabin had been strange because of the photos he kept on the wall of her parents and herself with her brothers and sister. It was odd to imagine their photos traveling all over the world on the massive submarine. However, it had been the time spent with Lee that had really made her day. He had been so attentive; taking her to lunch in the Institute’s impressive cafeteria and introducing her to everyone they met as his friend, Katie, not as Commander Morton’s niece. He’d asked interested questions about her life back home and her plans for the future and had told her funny stories about his visits to her family home when he and her Uncle had been studying at Annapolis. She really couldn’t wait for her next trip out with him and wondered when it would be and where. She hoped it wasn’t going to be another one that her Aunt and Uncle came on because although she had enjoyed the trips they’d all taken together she had much preferred the ones she’s taken with Lee on his own.
"You ARE joking?" Lee Crane looked seriously at his friend.
"Afraid not," Chip shook his blond head. "Granted she's got no taste but the fact remains that my niece has a crush on you, pal."
"Don't mock it," Lee responded seriously. "I'm very honoured but I don't think I've done anything to deserve it. When does she go home?"
"She's only just arrived and as you well know she doesn't go home until the end of the summer. You can't get away from it that easily."
"Yes, "Ouch!"" Chip growled. "It's all my fault of course. Let women start organising your life for you and look what happens!
Lee grinned. "That's a bit dramatic, isn't it? Who's letting women run their life? Not you?"
"I let Helen and Kate arrange Katie's visit against my better judgement."
"You were glad there'll be someone with Kate and Jamie when we're away."
"Yeah, I know," Chip sighed. "But she's only 16, Lee. She's just a kid and she's always hero-worshipped me. It stands to reason that she'd fall for you, the great Skipper of the famous submarine - young, single and attentive. Kate says we mustn't treat it as a joke, that Katie is deadly serious. I don't want her to be hurt, Lee. Helen will kill me!"
"She'll probably kill me as well!" Lee grinned and then quickly took on a more serious expression as Chip glared at him. "Can't you have a word with her?"
"And say what?"
"Tell her how dreadful I am. Drop hints about all my women."
"Too late for that, pal. Kate says you've already told Katie you're available."
"I have?" Lee was shocked. "I haven't, Chip. Honestly. What sort of an idiot d'you take me for?"
"That's best not answered," Chip smirked. "Seriously, Lee. You must have said something to give her that impression. She's not stupid."
Lee frowned. "I don’t know. I think she may have asked where my girlfriend was once and I said I didn't have one at the moment. Well, I don't...." he said defensively as Chip looked accusingly at him, "...not a specific girlfriend at this specific time."
"You could have said that you have several hanging on a thread," Chip muttered.
"Yes, but I don't," Lee argued. "I just have several female friends and..."
"You could have lied..."
"I don't like lying and, besides..." Lee leant back in his chair with a sigh. "I didn't see any need to. I just took it as an interested, innocent question. How was I to know she had designs on me?"
"I don’t know," Now it was Chip's turn to sigh. "I sure didn't notice."
"I promise I'll be really careful around Katie from now on," Lee promised. "Where is she today, anyway?"
"She's gone shopping with Jan's daughter and her kids," Chip replied. "They've invited her to a beach barbecue tonight as well. I think it's Todd's birthday."
"Todd! Maybe she'll fall for him instead. Nice medical student."
"He's still too old," Chip frowned.
"Maybe," Lee shrugged. "But at least she's getting to know other people here. Hopefully, she'll have forgotten all about me by the time we get back next weekend!”
“She better have,” Chip said darkly as he picked up his clipboard and headed for the door enroute to his own office. “Or you’re in a whole lot of trouble!”
“Thanks,” Lee spoke to the door as Chip disappeared through it, then got up and went to the window to look out at the ocean view. His friend’s revelations about his niece’s crush on him had come as a shock and he didn’t quite know how he felt about it. Amused? Flattered? Concerned? Like Chip he sure hadn’t noticed for himself. He thought back to the tour of Seaview he’d given Katie. Had there been any clues? And if there had been clues why hadn’t he noticed? Sure she’d thrown her arms around him many times in greeting or farewell and he’d returned her hugs but he’d thought they were just youthful enthusiasm. Katie Marshall was a breath of fresh air. She was energetic, enthusiastic and intelligent and had appeared genuinely interested in everything about his beloved submarine asking sensible, thoughtful questions. He honestly hadn’t seen any signs that she was infatuated with him and he was worried that he may have done or said something to inadvertently mislead her. He didn’t want to hurt her and was glad that they were about to embark on a week’s cruise. He had been very serious when he told Chip that she would, hopefully, forget him while they were away.
However, far from forgetting all about him
Katie was busy informing others of her interest in the Seaview's skipper
and her plans for the future. While the massive submarine cruised the waters of
the Pacific Ocean she wrote to her younger sister back in
Hi! How are things back home? I hope you are enjoying
the summer back East. I’m having the most amazing time out here. You really
must come out here yourself one day; you'd just love the Seaview. It looks
fantastic in photographs but the real thing is a hundred times better. I've
been all over it with Uncle Lee who is the captain. Do you remember Uncle
Chip’s best friend, Lee? He’s very tall, dark, and handsome. I've been seeing a
lot of him since I got out here. He's taken me out to lots of places cos Uncle
Chip's too busy with the new baby and everything. I don't mind cos I'd rather
go out with Lee than Uncle Chip. He’s
got a fantastic sports car. It’s bright red with lovely leather seats. I felt
like a film star when we drove along the coast with the top down. You’d love
In case you're wondering, Jamie is cute and I enjoy looking after him when Lee is not around. I almost told Aunt Kate about me and Lee but she might tell Uncle Chip and he probably won't like it. He's a bit stuffy now that he's married. Please don't tell Mom and Dad...you know what they're like! Do write back and tell me all your news.
Deryn Marshall read the letter through twice and then gave it to her mother to
read. Although she and Katie were close Derry was extremely jealous of her
elder sister's good fortune to spend the summer in
After an uneventful routine cruise to check out some repaired systems, the Seaview returned to base after five days at sea to be met by Katie Marshall.
"Hey, Mr. Morton," Seaman Kowalski came down from topside with the news. "Your niece is here to meet you. She's waiting on the dockside."
"Thank you, Kowalski.” Chip acknowledged the news with a nod of his blond head. “Is she on her own?"
I'll bet it's not me she's come to meet, Chip thought to himself as he finished checking off departing crewmembers on his clipboard.
"Everything okay?" Lee came cheerfully into the control room wearing his uniform jacket and with his cover tucked under his arm.
Oh, that'd be right. Give her the whole handsome in uniform bit, Chip thought as he handed over his clipboard to be signed and reported formally. "Crew all gone ashore, sir. Everything's secure. The Admiral's still in his lab says he'll be a few hours yet."
"I know," Lee signed the clipboard and returned it to his exec. "You coming ashore now?"
"Sure," Chip hesitated. "Uh, there's someone topside waiting to meet you, Lee."
"There is...?" Lee's face lit up momentarily with interested anticipation and then dropped again. "Ah, you mean Katie!"
"I do indeed," Chip nodded. "Beats me who let her down here."
"Angie I expect," Lee shrugged. "She could have come to meet you."
"Cubs may win the World Series!" Chip retorted. "We could go a whole year without a single untoward incident occurring aboard Seaview."
"Point taken," Lee frowned thoughtfully. "Why don't you go on ahead, take her home and I'll leave when the coast is clear?"
"Coward!" Chip laughed.
"I'm not," Lee said seriously. "I'm just trying to avoid giving Katie the wrong idea. If I go up there with you I'll have to be pleased to see her which I will be but she'll get the wrong message from a friendly greeting. The alternative is for me to be off-hand with her and I don't want to do that, Chip. She's a nice kid and I like her. I don't want to upset her."
"You can't avoid her for the rest of the summer."
"No, but the less she sees of me the better. If I don't come out with you she'll at least know that I wasn't in a great hurry to get out and see her. For all we know she may have found another interest while we've been away. You can find out how things are now."
"Whatever you say, Skipper!" Chip put his own hat on his head and ascended the ladder to go ashore. The sun was bright and very warm and Chip was glad of the shade his uniform hat gave his eyes as he hunted in his breast pocket for his sunglasses. Slipping them on he scanned the dockside for Katie and saw her waving at him. Waving back he made his way forward and crossed the gangplank. Katie ran to meet him. She was wearing very short white shorts, which showed her long tanned legs to perfection and a dark pink sleeveless T-Shirt. Chip didn't think she was suitably attired to wait around where lots of hot blooded men could se her and then wondered if he was getting too stuffy as he neared forty!
"Where's Uncle Lee?" Katie greeted him as she gave him a hug.
"He's got some paperwork to finish," Chip told her.
"Oh, will he be long?"
"He'll be a while."
"Aren't you waiting for him?"
"No," Chip shook his head. "I want to get home and see Kate and Jamie. Has everything been okay while I've been gone?"
"Yes," Katie nodded her eyes on Seaview’s sail. "Where will Uncle Lee go when he leaves here?"
"Home, I guess," Chip frowned slightly. Obviously their few days away had done nothing to cool Katie's infatuation with his best friend. If anything she seemed to be worse. He'd have to think seriously about having a talk with her.
"Why don't you invite him for dinner?" Katie was asking now.
"I might," Chip shrugged, "but not tonight. Tonight I want to spend with my family. Now are you coming home with me or not?"
"I suppose so," Katie sounded reluctant and a little mutinous. She really wanted to stay and wait for Lee but she sensed from her uncle's expression that he wouldn't agree to such a suggestion. He really could be a bore at times.
They drove home
in silence. Katie appeared to be sulking which was unusual for her. Her sister,
Katie came to dinner that evening wearing a dark pink sundress that didn't quite reach her knees and strappy sandals. Her hair had been washed and hung loose to her shoulders. Her nails had been polished and she wore eye make-up. She looked suddenly older than sixteen and made Chip feel positively ancient. She had been such a pretty little girl and had grown into a very attractive teenager. He was sure she could attract any guy she wanted and wondered why she had to become obsessed with his best friend. She looked speculatively around the dining room and it was obvious that she was hoping Lee had turned up unexpectedly like he often did. She had certainly dressed in hope, Chip thought. A few weeks ago he would have thought that she looked lovely but now he felt that her appearence was somewhat provocative and he wondered, idly, what his sister would say. As if on cue the phone suddenly rang. Chip walked through to the living room and picked up the receiver on the fifth ring.
"Hello...." Before he could say any more his sister's voice cut him off.
"Chip...its Helen...." She said unnecessarily.
"Helen!" Chip responded, as he usually did to a call from his beloved elder sister, with warmth and enthusiasm despite the war-like tone he'd detected in her voice. "D'you want to speak to Katie?"
"I want to speak to you!" Helen responded in a voice that Chip well remembered as trouble. "What's all this about Katie and Lee Crane? She's only sixteen Chip and you're supposed to be keeping an eye on her NOT letting her run around with your best friend who is old enough to be her father and should know better. I must...."
"Whoa! Helen, you've got it all wrong believe me. Hang on a sec...."
Katie had followed Chip into the living room in the hope that it was Lee on the phone and stayed when she realized it was her mother. Chip didn't want to argue with his sister in front of her so he covered the receiver with his hand and spoke to his niece with the sort of voice he usually used on the crew when he wanted something done without question. "Go and give your aunt a hand in the kitchen, please while I talk to your Mom in private."
Katie looked surprised and a little suspicious but did as she was told without question. Chip watched to ensure that she did go out to the kitchen and not to the extension in the hall and then turned back to the phone. "Sorry, but I didn't think you'd want Katie listening in on the conversation."
"What's going on, Chip?" Helen Marshall was still annoyed.
"Nothing!" Chip spoke confidently. "There is nothing going on between your daughter and Lee except in her over-active imagination and how come you know about it anyway?"
"Oh, he'll love that," Chip muttered sarcastically.
seem to have paid her a lot of attention if what she wrote
"Yes, as a favour to me," Chip protested. "Honestly, Helen, you know how Lee is. Katie has got totally the wrong idea." He sighed. "I wouldn't have let her anywhere near him if I'd known what would happen. She's known Lee all her life. He's just another uncle to her or so I thought and he's quite horrified by her ideas."
"I can imagine," Helen said dryly. "So you think it's harmless?"
"I think Lee's harmless," Chip replied. "I'm not so sure about Katie's mind. I never realized teenagers could become so besotted."
"You were one once," Helen reminded him. "Listen. Are you sure everything is okay. Maybe I should talk to her?"
make her mad at
"She is my daughter, Chip. I do feel that I should have a word with her about it.”
“You think she’s going to listen?” Chip felt slightly uncomfortable challenging his sister’s authority over her daughter but he didn’t see that Helen could do much about it from three thousand miles away. “I’ll talk to her, Helen. After all, Lee’s my friend and she’s living in my house. I ought to deal with it.”
There was silence at the other end before Helen replied reluctantly. "Okay, you talk to her but if she’s becoming a problem you let me know, Chip.”
"I will," Chip frowned at the wall, aware that his sister wasn’t entirely happy with the situation. “She knows you’re on the phone so you better have a word with her or she’ll be suspicious.”
"Of course I’ll have a word with her,” Helen agreed, “but I won’t mention Lee. Give my love to Kate and Jamie and I'll call again soon."
"Sure, bye Helen." Chip put the receiver down and went to fetch his niece. He'd have to have words with her now. Tonight would be as good a time as any, so long as Kate didn't mind.
"I thought I'd take a walk along the coast this evening," Chip said as they finished dinner. "D'you want to come along?"
"Who? Me?" Katie eyed him suspiciously. She had been somewhat subdued during dinner and Chip wondered if Lee's absence or her conversation with her mother was the cause of it.
"Yes, you," he grinned at her.
"Is Uncle Lee coming?"
"No," Chip shook his blond head and Katie's face fell.
"You don't want to spend an evening with your poor old uncle then?"
"I thought you'd want to spend it with Aunt Kate. Why don't you two go out and I'll look after Jamie."
The offer was tempting but both Chip and Kate shook their heads. "I'm tired," Kate said, "but I know your uncle would like a walk. He always gets restless when he's been at sea. Go on, Katie. You've hardly spent any time with Chip since you arrived."
"He hasn't been here."
"I'm here now and I'm available," Chip grinned at her. "When you were younger you used to fight with your brothers and sister for my attention. You should make the most of me!"
"Okay," Katie grinned back. She knew she was his favourite niece and, maybe, if they went out, they could talk about Lee. "Are we going now?"
"As soon as you've changed."
"Changed?" Katie's voice was indignant and she looked down at her dress. "Why?"
"Because,” Chip replied, patiently. "You're not suitably dressed for an evening walk. It'll get cold when the sun goes down."
Katie frowned and eyed her uncle's clothing. He'd changed out of his uniform as soon as he got home and now wore faded navy shorts and a navy and white polo shirt. "You're only wearing shorts," she pointed out. "Won't you get cold?"
"It's not your legs I was thinking of," Chip said patiently. "It's your shoulders."
"Uncle Lee said I look good in this dress."
Chip refrained from rolling his eyes heavenward as he responded, still patiently. "Uncle Lee is right; honey but he wouldn't think it right for an evening walk along the beach."
"Okay," Katie stood up. "I'll go change."
"I'll kill Lee," Chip muttered as soon as Katie had left the room. "Fancy telling her she looks good in that dress!"
"But she does look good in it," Kate said annoyingly.
"Sure she does but he didn't have to TELL her, did he?"
"It's not Lee's fault she's got the wrong idea," Kate said patiently. "He was just being nice."
"He turned on the charm," Chip growled. "He should've guessed what would happen."
"To be fair he hasn't had a lot of experience of teenage girls," Kate pointed out. "And he doesn't turn on the charm. He just is charming."
"You think so?" Chip's blue eyes took on a glacial shine. "My wife thinks my best friend is charming?"
"Sure," Kate smiled teasingly. "But it's you I love Chip and right now you're just in a bad mood because you think you've let Helen down."
"I..." Chip opened his mouth to protest, amazed at how easily Kate could read him in much the same way that Helen could.
"I'm ready!" Katie's re-appearence put an end to anything Chip was going to say. She was now wearing faded denim cut-offs, a T-Shirt proclaiming her allegiance to the New York Giants and trainers that had definitely seen better days. "Are you coming Uncle Chip?"
After walking for several miles Chip stopped and sat down on the sand. Katie looked down at him enquiringly.
"Thought we'd take a breather," Chip said in explanation.
"Fine," Katie flopped down beside him, digging the heels of her trainers into the sand.
Chip wondered if now would be a good time to say what was on his mind. They'd talked so far of general topics - the weather, Katie's parents and siblings, common family memories, Kate and Jamie. When Katie attempted to bring Seaview and Lee into the conversation Chip had said that he wanted to relax and forget about his job and she dropped the subject. Now she gave her uncle the lead he wanted by asking: "Does Uncle Lee like to relax and forget about his job?"
"Sometimes," Chip nodded. "But he's married to his work, Katie. It's very important to him. He..."
"Mom used to say that about you," Katie responded matter-of-factly. "Until you met Aunt Kate. Uncle Lee just hasn't met the right woman yet or, at least he may have, but he hasn't realized it yet."
"Possibly," Chip smothered a grin. Katie sounded so knowledgeable, so confident. He was positive he'd not been like that at her age. "But Lee's not like me, Katie. He...."
"That's true," she interrupted. "He's so dark and handsome. He's got real film star looks. I told my best friend, Jenni about him on the phone and she says he sounds gorgeous."
Chip dropped his head into his hands and wondered how to squash his niece's exuberant enthusiasm without being too brutal. Katie was still babbling on: "Jenni says she'd like to meet him but I told her I didn't think that would be possible. She'll just have to see the photos. I think...."
"Katie..." Chip interrupted now. "Do you know how old Lee is?"
"Same age as you, isn't he?" She shrugged, unconcerned.
"And do you know how old I am?" Chip queried curiously.
"Thirty-seven," Katie nodded. "Fourteen years younger than Mom. A real baby brother, not just a kid one like Jason and Timmy."
Chip almost gave up. He knew who Katie took after - her mother. Like Helen she had an answer for everything but he pressed on determinedly: "Thirty-seven is pretty old, Katie especially...."
"Old? You're not old, Uncle Chip. Just mature," Katie flung her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. "You make thirty-seven sound ancient!"
"Well, it is," Chip insisted. "When you're only sixteen."
"I don't think so," Katie disagreed. "But I suppose it depends on your point-of-view. Personally I like older men."
Chip groaned. "Listen, Katie...."
"Did my Mom put you up to this?" Katie interrupted again, something that she was aggravatingly good at.
"Up to what?" Chip asked in his most innocent voice.
"Of course not," Chip protested. "Why would she do that?"
"You wanted a private word with her," Katie frowned at him. "Why?"
"That's my business." Now it was Chip's turn to frown. "Listen Katie, I'm only trying to help. You're very young and....."
"Doesn't Uncle Lee like me anymore?" The latest interruption was tearful. "Is that why you're talking like this?"
"Of course, Uncle Lee likes you," Chip sighed and put his arm around her. "But he's too old for you, Katie."
"Did he say that?"
"No...No, he didn't but I…."
"I think it's up to me and him to decide then, don't you?" Katie spoke angrily. "It's nothing to do with you really. You used to be fun but now you're married you're acting like my Dad, thinking I'm too young to know my own mind."
Chip was shocked. Sweet, amenable little Katie talking to him like that. Maybe she should go home. This freedom from her parents seemed to have gone to her head. "While you're living with me I have a right to act like your Dad," he said now. "And if you don't like it, maybe you'd better go home so your parents can keep an eye on you."
"No. Oh, please, Uncle Chip. Don't make me go home. I like it here. I'm sorry if I was rude to you. I didn't mean to be and I do love being here with you and Aunt Kate and Jamie and besides you're going away soon and...."
"Okay. Okay." Chip found it incredibly hard not to laugh. "I won't send you home but, please Katie, give some thought to what I said, huh?"
"I guess," she nodded, reluctantly.
"Good. Now let's get home shall we?"
"I'm glad Jamie is a boy," Chip remarked as he reported the evening events to his wife. "I don't think I'm cut out to deal with teenage girls."
"The next one might be a girl," Kate said solemnly but with a twinkle in her eye.
"Maybe we'd better stop at one then," Chip said gloomily.
"Oh, don't be so glum," Kate said cheerfully. "I was thinking about this whole situation and I think we've got too concerned about it."
"We have?" Chip was unconvinced.
"Sure we have. We've warned Lee and he's taken steps to keep his distance. That's all we can do really. You'll be going to sea in another week and by the time you come back Katie will only have a week left with us. She'll go home and her obsession with Lee will die. After all teenage crushes on older people are just a part of growing up. They always die a death."
"Sure they do," Kate sounded confident. "Didn't you ever have one?"
"No," Chip started to shake his blond head, then a thought occurred to him and he grinned. "Well, maybe I did....once...but I was a lot younger than Katie."
"You were?" Kate stopped brushing her dark hair and sat down on the bed her brown eyes alive with interest. "You’ve never told me.”
Chip shrugged. "It was nothing. I’d completely forgotten about it until now.”
“Oh, but it can’t have been nothing,” Kate asserted. “Who was it, Chip? How old were you?”
"It doesn’t matter,” Chip frowned.
“It matters to me,” Kate said teasingly. “Was it one of Helen’s friends?”
“No,” Chip sighed. “It was Chris’s sister.”
"Chris’s sister?" Kate’s eyes widened in surprise. “Which one?”
"Beth of course."
"Wasn't she a little old for you?"
"Maybe. I was thirteen. She was twenty three/ twenty four. She still lived at home then so she was around a lot and she was a lot of fun. Always ready to go swimming or play ball. In the beginning she was like another a sister to me but I did develop feelings for her that weren't the least bit brotherly."
"Did anyone know? Did she know?"
"I don’t know. If anyone did nothing was said. I just grew out of it. Jack came along and I knew I was too young to compete. That's what Lee needs, of course, someone his own age to scare Katie off."
"Mmmm, but from what you've said about tonight I think Katie would just compete," Kate sighed. "I never thought I'd say this, Chip but I shall be almost relieved when you sail."
"Great!" Chip scowled. "Now my wife wants to get rid of me."
"No, I don't," Kate shook her dark head. "But you know what I mean."
always the sensible one," Chip said now in exasperation. "Now if it
"If it was
Chip laughed. His
wife's assessment of his younger niece was very accurate. From the time she
could walk and talk Derry Marshall had always gone directly for what she
wanted, regardless of the consequences and usually with very little thought.
Katie had always been the even-tempered, thoughtful one not given to
"It'll all work out in the end," Kate said confidently as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Sure it would, Chip frowned. But how long until the end and what would happen before they got there?
"How's Katie?" Lee asked cheerfully the next day when he and Chip met to go over the post cruise reports.
"Still in love with you," Chip growled in reply.
"Oh, dear," Lee sighed.
"Yes, oh dear," Chip glared at his best friend. "What were you thinking of, Lee? Telling her she looked good in that little pink sundress!"
"I was probably being polite," Lee protested.
"Okay, I was being polite," Lee frowned. "I am sorry, Chip. I didn't know she was going to fall in love with me. I haven't had a lot of experience of teenage girls."
"That's what Kate said," Chip admitted grumpily. "But the fact remains that she is still in love with you. Helen's been on the phone accusing me of not looking after her and...."
"How does Helen know?" Lee interrupted. He had the greatest respect for Chip's elder half-sister and her husband and didn't like the idea that they might think he was leading their daughter astray.
"Thank you," Lee replied solemnly and then frowned as Chip scowled heavily at him.
“It’s a good job Jamie’s a boy,” he attempted to lighten the rather serious atmosphere. “I’d hate to see you doing the protective father bit if this is your protective Uncle bit!”
“You’d be on the deck now with a broken nose,” Chip muttered darkly.” It isn’t funny, Lee I’ve tried talking to her but she has an answer for everything. She won't listen to me!"
"Can you blame her?”
"Put yourself in Katie's shoes," Lee said patiently. "You're her uncle. She probably thinks you sound like her father...or her mother...or both!"
"Thanks," Chip muttered sarcastically, uncomfortably aware that Lee was right for hadn't Katie accused him of trying to act like her father?
"How about I come for dinner and bring some competition with me?" Lee suggested hesitantly.
"Why not?" Lee said defensively. "We're still good friends. She would act the part as a favour to us."
"Katie would see straight through it," Chip shook his blond head. "Or she might get upset or she might decide to compete. Either way it would probably add to the problem and I don't want to leave Kate with a three and a half month old baby and a distraught teenager. Katie was supposed to come out here to help not to increase my stress levels. I think you should keep away from her until we sail and when we get back there will only be one week left until she flies home."
"Whatever you say," Lee nodded. "I don't particularly want to upset her either. Maybe it will just die away."
"Maybe..." Chip wasn't convinced. "Shall we get on with this report?"
"Why can't I come and say goodbye to you and Lee?" Katie Marshall looked mutinously at her uncle. "I haven't even seen Lee since you got home from your last cruise and now you won't even let me say goodbye to him."
"Security," Chip said firmly. "Nobody is allowed to wave us off, Katie, not even Kate and Jamie."
"Well let me go to Lee's house then."
"Lee's sleeping on the sub tonight. He usually does before a cruise. I told you Katie Lee is married to his work," Chip spoke gently aware that his niece was upset.
"He only needs someone to distract him," Katie glared at him. "But you won't let me. You always say he's on Seaview or out of town."
"It was the truth," Chip lied, hating himself for doing so. "I'm sorry, Katie but that's the way it is."
"I hate you," Katie glared at him. "You're ruining everything and when I see Lee I'll tell him." She stormed out of the room leaving her uncle feeling shocked at her temper, upset at her words and amused that she still believed Lee would have her if it wasn't for the interference of her fuddy-duddy uncle!
Seaview enjoyed a relatively easy mission visiting some Pacific atolls where a friend of Admiral Nelson's was carrying out some research and investigating seismic activity in the same area. The only untoward incident came on their way home when two members of the crew started a brawl in the Control Room. The two men involved had been bickering on and off for days and, in hindsight, Chip thought it would probably have been wise to ensure that they were not on the same watch. It would certainly have saved him from a spectacular black eye, which he received when he attempted to break up the fight.
know what they were fighting about?" he asked Lee as they approached
"Never mind," Lee said sympathetically. "Maybe Katie will feel sorry for you and forget about me."
"Maybe..." Chip wasn't convinced and he was right. While his wife reacted with horror as soon as she saw his face Katie was concerned only for Lee. Convinced that her uncle's swollen eye was the result of some major incident aboard the submarine she exclaimed in horror: "Oh, my goodness. What about Lee? Is Lee okay?" And without waiting for a reply she left slamming the side door behind her.
Chip looked despairingly at the door. "Lee's fine," he said as he made to go after her.
"She'll come back," Kate said confidently. At that moment she was more concerned about her husband than his errant niece. Chip looked terrible. His left eye was swollen and closed and there was a cut above his eyebrow.
"What on earth happened, Chip? I thought it was just a routine cruise?"
"It was," Chip muttered tiredly. "I just tried to break up a fight between two of the crew."
"Because I didn't want them fighting," Chip replied, matter-of-factly. He looked again at the door. "I should go after her, Kate."
"She'll come back," Kate was positive she would. "She can't go far without transport."
"I suppose not," Chip was not convinced. "She's my responsibility...." he sat down wearily at the kitchen counter.
"She won't thank you for going after her," Kate spoke confidently. "She's been on cloud nine
all day knowing the Seaview was due back and I'm afraid it wasn't because she was excited at the thought of seeing her dear old uncle again."
Chip attempted a smile but failed. His head ached and he was desperately tired. All he wanted to do was go to bed and sleep but he couldn't just sit and wait for his niece to come back. Lee lived three miles away. What if she tried to walk there? He'd never forgive himself if something happened to her on the isolated mountain road that led to Lee's old house. He stood up.
"I'll go after her," Kate forestalled him. "You stay here and keep an ear open for Jamie."
Reluctantly Chip agreed as Kate picked up her car keys and opened the side door. It wasn't quite the homecoming he'd had in mind but then when did things ever go exactly according to plan?
After leaving the boat Lee Crane had made a quick visit to his Institute office and had then headed for his car which he'd left in its reserved spot in the covered carport at the rear of the Administration building. On the steps he ran into Angie, Admiral Nelson's attractive secretary who had dated both himself and Chip in the past and remained resolutely single. Chip maintained that it was because she was only really interested in Lee with whom she'd had a long on-off relationship but Lee disagreed. He had voiced the opinion that he thought her heart was given to her work and her employer and that she probably preferred older men. Chip said she'd be old herself if she waited for Nelson to notice. This particular afternoon Lee thought she looked a little down and he greeted her with concern.
"Hi, Angie. How are you?"
"Fine," she smiled at him. "Just a bit tired. Even when you're at sea I'm run off my feet with all the Old Man's various projects."
"You need a holiday," Lee smiled.
"Is that an offer?"
"Not right now," Lee was non-committal. "But what about an evening out?"
"I'm too tired, Lee," she shook her dark head.
"Okay. A meal. You have to eat. I'll take you out for dinner."
Angie hesitated and Lee added persuasively. "I'll take you back to my place and cook you dinner."
"Cook?" Angie eyed him quizzically.
"I'm a good cook," Lee said confidently.
"Okay. That'd be nice," she acquiesced.
"Good, that's settled then," Lee smiled. "Is your car here?"
"Yes," Angie nodded. "I'll follow you."
After leaving her uncle and aunt's Katie Marshall had fled down the long drive of their hilltop home and along the street, her only thought being that she must find out if Lee was okay. The sensible, level-headed part of her mind argued that the best thing to do would be to go back and ask her uncle but the infatuated, emotional side of her mind insisted that her uncle would probably lie to prevent her seeing Lee and she wanted to be sure about what, if anything had happened to him. She stopped running at the end of the street and stood for a moment to regain her breath and decide how to proceed. Should she go to the Institute or Lee's home? Going to the Institute would mean facing security. Last time, when she'd gone to meet Seaview Kate had arranged for her to be allowed in and her uncle's secretary, Jan had collected her and taken her in. She doubted that the guards would let her in on her own especially as they probably knew that her Uncle had gone home. She decided to head straight for Lee's and to wait, if necessary until he came home. Deciding it would be unwise to go back and try to borrow Kate's car undetected she turned on to the main road and going against all she'd been taught hitched a ride.
Kate Morton turned left at the end of the drive and drove slowly to the end of the street keeping an eye out for Katie. When she reached the junction with the busy main road she stopped and looked both ways hoping to see a sign of the teenage girl. Surely she couldn't have got far on foot? Sighing heavily Kate indicated left and headed for the Institute. Maybe Katie would have tried there first.
Lee was uncorking a bottle of wine when the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it,” Angie called and went to the door her bare feet making a pattering sound on the wooden floor. Opening it she found a familiar looking girl standing there. Tall, with shoulder length blond hair she looked hot and flustered and a little uncertain.
"Hello," Angie spoke in a friendly tone while trying to recall where she'd seen the girl before. "Can I help you?"
Katie frowned. "I...." she hesitated. What was this woman doing here? Was she caring for Lee? Did he have a sister? As she hesitated Angie recalled who she was. "You're Chip's niece aren't you?" she smiled at the girl. "Are you okay? Did you want to see Lee?"
At that point Lee appeared in the hallway carrying an open bottle of wine. He'd changed out of his uniform into jeans and a lemon colored casual shirt. Katie blushed as he approached the door. "Katie?" He eyed her in a puzzled but friendly fashion. "Is everything okay? What are you doing here?"
"I...I don't know...." Seeing him standing there apparently fine and holding a bottle of wine Katie suddenly realized that she was interrupting something. Obviously there was nothing wrong with him and this woman wasn't his sister, she must be his girl friend. Horrified she turned and fled back down the drive. Lee, realizing that something wasn't quite right, started after her. "Katie. Wait!" He yelled at her as she reached the street and turned left. The gravel hurt his bare feet and slowed him down and by the time he got to the end of the drive she was nowhere in sight.
"Damn!" His expression was serious as he walked back up the drive. Why had she come there and did Chip and Kate know she'd come and what had she thought when she saw Angie?
"What's going on?" Angie was confused. "I thought that was Chip's niece?"
"It was," Lee sighed. "I'd better call him.”
Chip was pacing restlessly around the ground floor of his home when the phone rang. He picked it up almost immediately. "Kate?"
Lee detected anxiety in his friend's voice and wondered what was going on.
"It's Lee," he replied. "Chip, I've just had a flying visit from Katie."
"A flying visit?" Chip queried warily. "What d'you mean, flying?"
"She didn't stop," Lee said apologetically. "I think she was discouraged by Angie's presence."
"Angie?" Chip groaned. "What's she doing there?"
"Having dinner, or she will when I get around to cooking it. Katie didn't stop. She didn't even say anything; she just looked a bit confused and rushed off. I tried to go after her but she'd gone. Did you know she was coming here?"
"I thought she might," Chip sighed and told Lee what had transpired when he arrived home. “Kate went after her but I guess she missed her. How did she get to your place so fast?"
"I wouldn't know," Lee replied, concerned both for his friend and the errant Katie. "I'll start a search from this end. She's probably on her way back to you but I'll pick her up and drive her."
"Thanks," Chip was grateful. "I'll stay here until Kate gets back."
Lee drove carefully along the three-mile route between his house and Chip's, his hazel eyes peeled for a sight of Katie. He realized she could have taken a different; less direct route but hoped that her unfamiliarity with the area would cause her to stick to the easiest option. There was, however, no sign of her and he pulled into Chip's driveway in a mood of apprehension.
Chip opened the door before Lee had gotten out of the car. It was obvious from his face that she hadn't arrived home.
"She could have taken another route," Lee said optimistically as he followed Chip into the house.
"She could've gone anywhere," Chip responded, his voice flat. He had spent the past fifteen minutes going over the worst-case scenarios in his mind and had almost convinced himself that his niece was in some sort of danger. "How did she get to your house so quickly after she left here?" he challenged his friend and Skipper.
"You already asked that question," Lee frowned slightly, “and I said I didn't know. Maybe she got a cab?"
"Maybe she hitched," Chip said darkly.
Lee said nothing in response because there was nothing he could say when he had had the same idea himself. Instead he asked: "Where's Jamie?"
"Asleep," Chip replied. "He........." The ringing of the phone made both men jump and Chip was quick to pick up the receiver.
"Chip. I'm at Lee's...." Kate didn't even give him chance to say "Hello". "Angie says Katie came here but ran off again. She said Lee went after her."
"He did but he didn't find her," Chip sounded a lot calmer than he felt, anxious that Kate shouldn't realize how worried he was becoming. "He's here now. Where have you been?"
"I went to the Institute. I thought she's go there first because you're always telling her Lee is married to the place. I wish I hadn't, if I'd come here..."
"It's not your fault," Chip said reassuringly. "Why don't you come home now? Lee thinks she probably took a different route here. Hopefully she'll turn up soon."
"Okay. I'll come now. I love you Chip."
"I love you too," he smiled at the phone but the smile disappeared as soon as he put down the receiver. He stood staring at the floor, his mouth set in a grim line. For several minutes neither man spoke, and then Lee said: "Shall I go out and look?"
"Look where?" Chip looked up and Lee could see the very real concern in his friend's good eye. "Lee, she went racing out of here without even bothering to ask what had happened to me, she was so obsessed with seeing if you were okay. She wouldn't trust me to tell her the truth. Kate said she'd been excited all day because we were coming home and it wasn't because she was missing me; then she arrives at your place and finds you with another woman!" Chip sighed heavily. "She wouldn't listen to me, Lee. She thought she knew best. Now she's seen Angie in your house and she's probably upset. I'm not saying she's right but I bet she's not happy and she's not gonna come back here to hear me say, "I told you so."...Not that I would," he grinned slightly. "But she probably thinks I would. She thinks I'm out of touch."
Lee sighed. He thought Chip sounded tired and disheartened and he felt responsible. He knew he hadn't deliberately encouraged Katie to fall in love with him but she had and he couldn't help feeling that it was his fault. He wished he hadn't asked Angie back to his place, and then he would have been there alone when Katie called and maybe she wouldn't have run off. He had tried so hard to avoid hurting her and he was very fond of her in the way that an uncle might be. He hated to think that she'd run off because he'd inadvertently upset her. And he hated to see his friend looking so worried. It was time to take action.
"I think we should organize a search party," he said quietly.
"A search party?" Chip looked surprised and then shook his head. "Oh no, Lee. Not yet...." A search party was like admitting that the situation was serious and Chip couldn't quite allow himself to think that it was.... at least not to anyone else. "She still might come back."
"She might," Lee agreed. "But if she doesn't Chip, the sooner we organize a search the better.
It’s getting late, we don’t...." He stopped and turned around as he heard a door open. Kate and Angie were coming towards them.
"She's not back?" It was a statement rather than a question. Kate could tell by the serious expressions on the men’s faces that Katie hadn't come home.
"I thought we'd organize a search," Lee said, his voice calm and in command.
"That's a good idea," Kate smiled gratefully at him. "If she's wandering around upset she could easily get lost. She doesn't know this area all that well."
"You probably know her best, Kate. Is there anywhere particular you think she might have gone to?"
Kate looked thoughtful. "She enjoyed the shopping mall," she said after a while. "And she loved the beach. If she wanted to be alone for a bit she might well have gone there. There's plenty of secluded shoreline."
"There are plenty of secluded mountains," Chip put in. His voice had an edge to it. "Hell, Lee. She could've gone anywhere."
Lee looked sharply at him. He could see that his friend was overtired and that the concern he naturally felt for his niece was causing him to lose his usual calm, levelheaded approach to
a problem. "Then we'll search everywhere," he replied calmly. "I'll get on to Chief Sharkey. Get him to organize some search teams. You stay here, Chip. You need to rest and....."
"I'm not staying here," Chip said his tone belligerent.
"Somebody needs to be here in case she comes back," Lee argued.
"Kate and Angie can wait," Chip challenged, his voice was cool but there was an underlying threat in it. "She's my niece, Lee. My responsibility. I appreciate your concern but we're not on Seaview now. You can't tell me what to do."
"Sure," Lee recognized the determination in his friend's voice and noted the challenging look in his good eye. He doubted that Chip would've listened to anyone at that moment and he couldn't really blame him. "This'll be our base. I'll phone Sharkey now."
Katie Marshall trudged along the sand, her hands in her pockets, tears still falling unchecked down her face. How could he? How could Lee have taken another woman back to his house when he knew that she was waiting for him? Where had she come from? Lee had said that he didn't have a girlfriend and Uncle Chip had confirmed it. He said he was married to the job. Where had he found that woman then? It was all Uncle Chip's fault...he'd kept her away from Lee. He hadn't let her go and say goodbye before they sailed. Had he known about the woman? Why hadn't he told her? Or had Lee found another woman because he thought she wasn't interested anymore? Or because Uncle Chip had interfered? She'd always adored her uncle and been proud of his work on the famous Seaview...now she hated him and Lee and the whole rotten west coast. She wasn't going back to be lectured or laughed at. They all thought she was silly for loving Lee, well she'd show them, she'd go back home, she didn't want to stay here anymore. She'd make her way to the freeway and hitch a ride to the airport. She didn't actually think about what she would do when she got there.
Chip walked along the beach where he and Katie had walked when he'd tried to talk to her
about her feelings for Lee. It was a quiet part of the coast, with rocky outcrops and little inlets where someone could hide secluded away from the more popular bathing spots. He hoped she might have come here to be alone if that was what she wanted. He walked briskly for the sun had gone in and dark storm clouds were gathering out at sea. He didn't relish the idea of being caught in a storm and, more importantly, he wanted to find Katie before the rain came. He felt so guilty over her disappearance. He wished over and over again that he'd gone after her as soon as she'd run out the door when he returned home. She probably wouldn't have believed his assurances that Lee was okay and they probably would have argued but it would have been preferable to her running off like she had. He knew that it was irrational and unhelpful to keep dwelling on something he couldn't change but the guilt he felt was overwhelming. When he thought about how his elder half-sister had looked after him...eight years she'd taken care of him and he couldn't look after her daughter for three months without her disappearing. What if they couldn't find her? What would he tell Helen and Chris?
Teams of men from
the Seaview searched all over
Jack and Annie
Sturgess were heading towards
"She's a bit young to be hitching all on her own especially at this time of the evening," Annie said as Jack slowed down. "You better stop Jack before some truck driver picks her up."
"It might be a trap," Jack said worriedly. He'd read about people using youngsters to get drivers to stop, and then the thugs would come out of hiding.
"Don't be silly," Annie said. "It's broad day light, there's nowhere anyone could be hiding, just stop and let's see what that girl wants."
Jack stopped the car a few hundred yards past Katie and Annie opened the door. "Where're you headed for, dear?” she called.
Katie shook her head.
"Where d'you live?"
"Just visiting," Katie shrugged. "I'm going home now."
"Okay. Get in," Annie wasn't convinced they were doing the right thing but she was a kindly woman with grown up children and she didn't like to leave the girl at the mercy of all sorts of strangers even if she did suspect she wasn't quite telling the truth. "We're going to LA. We'll take you there."
"Oh, thank you," Katie was very grateful. "Thank you very much."
Kate and Angie stood at the big picture window looking over the Morton's back yard as lightening pierced the dark sky and the sound of thunder almost drowned their voices. Katie held her four-month old son in her arms. Every time the thunder crashed he whimpered but he didn't cry for which Kate was grateful.
"It's going to pour any minute," Angie observed. "I hope Katie’s found shelter somewhere.”
"So do I,” Kate shivered. She hoped that maybe someone had found Katie already and that they were on their way back. Or maybe the threat of a storm would have induced Katie to make her way towards home? The girl didn't like storms. She knew Chip wouldn't come home not until Katie was found; he'd stay out there all night if he had to and she couldn't blame him. She knew he felt guilty and she did too. If only she hadn't stopped him from going after Katie. If only one of them had gone straight after her, but Chip had looked so awful and the girl hadn't had any money on her or any car keys. Kate had honestly thought she'd come back and she felt so guilty because she'd been wrong and now the search teams would all get soaked as the rain had started to fall in great gusting sheets, splattering loudly against the windows.
Lee Crane stood for a moment trying to get his bearings as the wind howled around him and drove the rain right into his eyes. When he'd first noticed the signs that a storm was brewing he'd ignored it feeling that they should carry on searching regardless but now that the storm was here he realized that searching was impossible. The sky was so dark, the rain too heavy. Visibility was zero and it was hard to stand up against the wind and the lashing rain. They weren't dressed for such weather and already he was soaked to the skin. Hopefully Katie would have found shelter somewhere. Even if she hadn't it was unlikely they'd find her in this. He doubted it would last long. He would make his way back to his house and change. He signalled to Burns and O'Reilly to follow him and led the way back down the mountain road to his home. He hoped the others had had the sense to find their own shelter until the storm blew over.
Chip sat in the lee of some rocks, his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms wrapped around his knees. He rested his aching forehead on his knees and waited for the storm to pass. He'd been too far along this secluded bit of beach to find shelter when the rain finally came and now he just hoped that Katie had found somewhere warm and dry to wait while the storm unleashed its fury. Chip quite liked a good storm and enjoyed standing at the window watching the forces of nature at work but he wasn't enjoying this one. He was soaked through and his right hand was throbbing where he'd caught it when he slipped scrabbling over the rocks. He'd wrapped his handkerchief around the angry cut to try and stem the bleeding but it had soon become soaked with rain and blood. The waves crashed on the rocks behind him and he was glad that the tide was out else he'd probably be swept out to sea. He wondered if Lee and the others had found shelter or whether they were all as wet as he was. He was beginning to think that he would be exceedingly angry with Katie when they eventually found her but suspected that he would be too relieved to care.
"Where are you going in LA?" Annie queried as they drove south.
"The airport," Katie couldn't be bothered to lie.
"Are you meeting someone?"
"No. I'm going home."
With no luggage? Annie was concerned. "You got a ticket?"
"A ticket?" Katie repeated the question. "What for?"
"For the airplane," Jack put in. "You can't fly without one."
Katie was quiet. How could she have been so stupid? She hadn't given the matter a thought. She'd been so upset that all she'd thought of was going home, she hadn't thought about tickets or luggage, or what her parents would say if she turned up unexpectedly without anything. They'd be furious and Uncle Chip would tell them everything and she'd never be allowed to go anywhere again.
"So have you got one?" Jack's voice interrupted her thoughts.
"No….No I haven't," Katie sobbed. "And I don't want to go home."
Jack and Annie Sturgess heard the whole sorry story over coffee at a service station. How Katie had come out west for the summer to help look after her new nephew while her uncle was at sea, how she'd fallen for his best friend and how nobody understood and said he was too old for her and how she had seen him with another woman and had run away because she was angry and upset and she didn't want a lecture from her uncle.
"I imagine he's very worried about you," Annie said. "You must have been gone for a few hours now."
"He wouldn't be. He was hurt...."
"Yes, he came home from Seaview with...."
"Seaview?" Jack interrupted. "You mean the submarine Seaview?"
"Yes," Katie nodded. “Uncle Chip is her executive officer, Uncle Lee is her captain."
"Lee is the one you fell for?" Annie guessed.
Katie nodded. Annie smiled. She wasn't surprised. Lee Crane was a good-looking man. She'd fall for him herself if she were younger. "Our youngest son works on the Seaview," she told Katie now. "Joey Sturgess. He thinks the world of your uncles. I should think they're both worried about you and your Aunt as well. I think we'd better take you back."
Katie's face paled. "But you can't. You were going to LA. It's a long way."
"We can't leave you here, can we?" Annie argued. "Besides, you said your uncle was hurt. If there was trouble on their last trip I want to check on Joey."
"I don't know if there was," Katie said in a small voice. "Uncle Lee was fine but Uncle Chip had a black eye and a cut on his face. He looked like he'd been fighting. My mom would kill him if he has. He's her little brother," she explained.
"I'll tell you what," Jack said. "Why don't you give me your Uncle's phone number and I'll ring him and let him know you're safe, then we can head back."
"Okay,” Katie resigned herself to the fact that she'd have to go back. Uncle Chip might be mad but at least Aunt Kate would understand. She just hoped they hadn't told her parents she had disappeared.
The force of the rain began to diminish and the sound of the thunder was becoming more distant. Obviously the storm was on the move. Chip stood up slowly and pushed his wet hair back from his forehead in a bid to stop it dripping into his one good eye. The rain had soaked right through his clothes and he shivered as the cold began to seep through his whole body. Reluctantly he turned round and headed back home to change. He’d already managed to sustain two injuries in one day; he couldn’t afford to get a chill as well.
Lee looked out of the window as the storm passed and wondered whether he should resume searching where he had left off or whether to look elsewhere. Nobody had called in so, presumably, no-one had found her. He just hoped she'd found shelter somewhere.
Kate and Angie were restlessly pacing the house together. Neither of them could settle. Jamie, sensing their anxiety, wouldn't settle either. They both jumped when the phone rang and Jamie started crying. Angie picked up the receiver as Kate tried to soothe her fractious son.
"Hello. Is that Mrs. Morton?" Jack Sturgess queried.
"No. I'm a friend," Angie replied. "Who's calling?"
"My name is Jack Sturgess. My wife and I picked up a young girl on the freeway. Katie Marshall. She...."
"Katie? You've found Katie?" Angie didn't wait for the man to finish. "Kate they've got her."
"Who has?" Kate offered Jamie to Angie and took the receiver.
"A man, Jack Sturgess and his wife found her on the freeway," Angie said, her eyes shining as she took Jamie and handed the receiver over. Jamie promptly started yelling again and Angie had to retreat with him as Kate said: "Hello. Mr. Sturgess? Is Katie all right?"
"She's fine," Jack told her. "A little tearful. We've heard the whole sorry story and she's agreed she wants to come back. It'll take about an hour to get to you."
"We could come and get her," Kate said with relief. "I don't want to put you to any trouble, Mr Sturgess."
"It's no trouble," Jack Sturgess assured her. "Katie said there was a bit of trouble aboard the Seaview. Our Joey works on there. My wife wants to check he’s okay."
"He's fine," Kate said. "There wasn't any trouble. Chip, my husband, has got a black eye but the crew are fine. A lot of them are out now looking for Katie. I'm sure someone could drive down and fetch her. Unless you were coming this way?"
"No. We're headed for LA but we can come back Mrs. Morton. It's no trouble. Just give us your address."
Kate did so. She was aware that she'd have to fight to stop Chip driving down to fetch Katie and she didn't think he should with darkness fast approaching and his left eye out of commission. It would certainly be easier to let these people bring Katie home and they did sound very willing. She put down the phone and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Relief that Katie was fine and that they hadn't had to tell Helen and Chris that they'd lost their daughter. Now she could stop worrying and feeling guilty and, hopefully, Chip could as well.
glad to be leaving us and going home?" Lee Crane asked his passenger as he
drove her to LA International for her flight back to
of," Katie shrugged. "I'm looking forward to seeing Mom and Dad again
Lee grinned at her. They'd had a long talk and had, to Chip's surprise, managed to reach an agreement whereby they could be friends but Katie understood that Lee was too old for her and she should be looking at guys neared her age and nearer to her home. Chip had thought that she was too besotted to suddenly accept that Lee was out of reach but he hadn't realized just how shocked she'd been when she'd realized that she'd been missing for so long and how many people had been out in the storm looking for her. Kate had burst into tears when she'd finally come home which had upset her and she'd been horrified when she found that her uncle needed three stitches in his cut hand, something that she knew wouldn't have happened if she hadn't run away.
"Maybe I could come back again next summer?" She turned to look at her uncle in the back seat.
"Maybe..." he responded non-committedly. “You just make sure you don't tell your mother about my little mishaps."
"I won't," Katie agreed with a guilty glance at his bandaged right hand. "Thank you for not telling her about what I did."
"We all make mistakes," Chip assured her. "I wouldn't want your Mom grounding you for the next five years."
"Did she ever ground you?" Katie asked curiously.
"No," Chip shook his head. "I usually managed to ground myself."
"Ground yourself?" Katie was puzzled.
"Whenever I did something that made her mad enough to ground me I usually ended up getting hurt."
"Mom always says you were accident prone," Katie remarked.
"Nothing's changed," Lee put in now. "Except half the time your Mom doesn't know what's going on."
"Isn't that a bit deceitful?" Kate asked seriously.
"Probably," Chip nodded, "but we all need to keep our little secrets, don't we?"
Katie nodded, solemnly. There were things in life that were best kept secret for everybody's sake and she wasn't about to break her part of the bargain. "I know what," she said now as the airport came into view. "When you get married and have children Uncle Lee I'll come out and help you same as I did Uncle Chip."
"I'll hold you to that," Lee smiled as he drove the car along the airport approach road. He ignored the grin he could see on his friend's face in the rear view mirror. Let him laugh...one day he'd meet the right woman for him. One day....