Darla M Poulos
Virgin Islands / West Indies
"Admiral Nelson, the Sea Cub has docked," reported his Executive Officer Lt. Chip Morton over the intercom.
"Very well, we’ll be right down," answered Nelson. A couple minutes later the Admiral’s footsteps could be heard on the circular stairs, followed by Adm. Jiggs Starke’s, Nelson’s longtime friend and Annapolis classmate.
"Where’s Crane?" boomed Starke. He was well known for his loud demeanor and brusque manners.
Chip quietly lowered the logbook he’d been going over onto the plot table and calmly said, "He’s in his cabin…with his wife."
"Heather, still hung over?" asked Nelson leaning on the plot table and fiddling with the ruler. "Maybe I should check on them."
"Doc just came by on his way to liberty and told me she was going to be fine. He gave her a shot to reduce the symptoms and suggested the Skipper keep an eye on her," responded Chip.
Starke cut in with, "I don’t get it Harriman, in all the years I’ve known Heather I’ve never known her to lose her head like that. What’s Crane going to do about it?"
Nelson shrugged his shoulders and said, "Probably put her over his knee. Hell, I don’t know."
"Well, he’d better do something. You can’t let these women get out of hand. If that were my daughter, I’d throw her in the brig. I can’t imagine it Harriman, drunk, on a narrow balcony stone rail, ten stories off the ground. How’d you get through it?"
"Very carefully," replied Nelson with a twinkle in his eye.
Starke guffawed. "Nerves of steel huh?"
Nelson nodded and said, "A good stiff drink helped too, especially after I contacted Seaview and gave Lee and Doc the whole scoop." He shook his head remembering then went on. "Lee lost a good deal of his color last night and I thought Doc was going to readmit him to sickbay. It’s a good thing Kowalski flew him to Santa Barbara to get us. I don’t think Lee could’ve gotten past his anger he was so worried."
"Well Harriman, I know what that is like. My own daughter Melonie is quite a handful at times even if she is a grown woman. She, being friends with Heather, well…at times, they really put me through the paces," he paused grinning and reminiscing. He was going to say more when he caught the painful expression on his friend’s face. "Harriman, you only did what you thought best."
Nelson quietly responded with, "I know that Jiggs, but my past has come to haunt me. I’ve found out to my amazement that I really wished I could have seen Heather grow up." He threw the ruler down he’d been toying with. "I’m glad though that you were a part of her life once in a while, kind of a surrogate father so to speak," he smiled at that. "At least she wasn’t quite so alone. Thank you Jiggs."
"No need to thank me Harriman. I was glad to do it." Both men became quiet for a moment lost in their thoughts.
Chip had discreetly moved off to the communications shack to take a message during the Admiral’s conversation. Sparks and most of the men had been given liberty when they had docked last evening.
"Affirmative, Victory, we’ll see you in a couple of days. Seaview out," replied Chip flipping a switch.
"What’s going on Chip?" asked Nelson as he came up to the radio shack.
"The salvage barge is ready to go back out to the site where the Revelation sank. The captain of the tug replaced her winch with a bigger one. I really hope this turns our luck around Sir," stated Chip getting up from the chair. "We’ve more than had our share of bad luck this cruise out."
"You’re right about that," agreed Nelson. "Lee filled Sharkey and I in on the details on our way back from Santa Barbara in the FS1. Nothing like visitors on board when you’re trying to accomplish a mission," chuckled Nelson looking at Starke as he teasingly said, "Jiggs, I assume you did give them a hand?"
Starke threw his hands in the air and expostulated, "I had to keep these young officer’s on their toes," he looked directly at Chip. "After all, Crane was laid up in sickbay along with Capt. Masters. Someone had to oversee the operations of the salvage. Unfortunately, we did have a run of bad luck."
Bad luck was only half the problem thought Chip. Murphy’s law was sure at work here. Anything and everything went wrong the moment we got our new orders to salvage the Revelation. The weather was still uncooperative after the hurricane had passed. The Revelation had sunk onto a small thin ledge bow first which crushed most of the boat. The chemicals they were after had been stored in the crew’s cabin under the pilothouse. When the boat hit the ledge it buried them deep inside the wreck. To make matters worse it was in a deep, narrow trench 250 feet down with a strong current running through it. The Victory had been ordered to help with the salvage. She was an old boat with even older equipment. The weather had finally cleared and that was the end of their good luck. From there on in, it was one equipment failure after another.
"If it weren’t for bad luck we’d have no luck at all," Chip told Lee on his last day in sickbay. Lee Crane had been laid up in sickbay recovering from hypothermia, a beating from Jeffrey Baxter and a stubborn case of cellulitis in his left hand. "Tony is about to be discharged from sickbay and the brass will be here." Come they did, George Peoples with the CIA, Adm. Starke from SubComPac, representatives from the DEA and ONI all flew in on the Flying Sub to debrief Capt. Masters. The only light at Chip’s end of the tunnel had been Melonie Starke, a tall slender dark haired beauty with aqua eyes and an ONI agent who had arrived with her Father.
Chip walked to the table in the nose pausing at the plot table long enough to grab the logbook he had set down earlier. There were mounds of paperwork waiting for him. Usually, Lee shared in his duties of the paper world, but he knew his Captain wasn’t quite up to snuff yet and the nap would do him good.
"This sub is not a ship, it’s a boat!" yelled Heather. " I don’t believe you. If you knew nothing about the Lynx why are you threatening me with Baxter?"
"I work for your boss, George Peoples, I’m his secretary, it was my job to know about the Lynx, but I didn’t know who the Lynx was. I swear it!" screamed Debra Woodgate.
"I don’t believe you…I don’t believe you…I don’t believe you!
Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview woke up with a start and quickly looked around his cabin seeing nothing. He sighed in relief. It’s only a dream from when I was in sickbay a few weeks ago. He ran a shaky hand through his sweat soaked hair. I wonder what brought that on? It must be because we are at the Sea Cub’s homeport and Peaches is here working for the corporation that owns the private island we’re docked at.
He glanced over at his sleeping wife who was still curled up against him. He lifted his arm and read the time from his watch. "13:38." He realized he’d been asleep for over two hours. Wouldn’t Doc be pleased if he knew I took his advice?
Heather moaned in her sleep and let out a dainty snore. He grinned at that. So good to have you back aboard Seaview love, even if you are hung over. I can understand why you got drunk, but did you have to climb on top of that balcony ledge? The Admiral nearly had heart failure. I nearly had a heart attack, just hearing about it. Tomorrow morning will be soon enough to dole out your punishment, I think I’ll let you stew about it for a while, it’ll teach you a lesson and give me time to cool down. Right now, I’m still in the mood to put you over my knee!
Lee rolled over and got out of bed. It wasn’t often he had the luxury of taking a nap, but for once time was on his side. Seaview and her crew had just completed a mission rescuing an ONI agent named Jaguar. What a bust that turned out to be. Who’d have believed Tony Masters, Captain of the Sea Cub would turn out to be the Jaguar, Heather’s old partner from her CIA undercover assignment? It’s been over a year now since she was the Lynx and her cover had been blown. Little did Nelson and I know when we rescued her from the safe house that it would change all of our lives.
Capt. Anthony Masters my old friend and rival. Well, at least we are even now. Jaguar had gotten Heather out from under the clutches of Jeffrey Baxter, a drug king pin in Colombia and a year later Lee had rescued him from the same fiend. It had been close, too close. Lee had gotten captured trying to get Tony out. It had taken Nelson, Heather and the combined efforts of both their crews to get them out. Of course, nothing went as planned and they all were captured with the exception of Nelson. Lee shuddered recalling the memory as he went into the head to refresh himself. His ribs were still sore and it hurt to breathe in deeply. At least my hand is healing nicely. He splashed some water on his face, brushed his teeth and used the can. His toilet complete he came out and checked on his wife. Still snoring logs I see. He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and inhaled the smell of stale whiskey.
"Pugh!" he said out loud waking the occupant in the bunk.
Heather looked up and shaded her still sensitive eyes. "Do you have to make so much noise?" she complained with a groan while turning over.
Forgetting he had just gotten out of the bunk himself and still perturbed about her being drunk on the balcony rail he sharply responded with, "That’s what you get when you sleep all day. The daily routine goes on like it or not…especially on a boat." He sat down on the bunk next to her and swatted her one on the derriere as a reminder of what was to come.
That got her moving. "Blast you Lee Crane!" she made it to her knees only to sink down on the pillow again. " I’d hit you, but I don’t have the energy," she quietly railed. She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. "Damn, my head hurts."
"Serves you right, love. Maybe next time you’ll think twice about getting drunk, climbing on railings and scaring people half to death."
"I didn’t scare anyone," she bit out burying her head under the covers.
"Oh no? You’d better have a look at your Father’s head. I think he is sporting some gray hairs now," quipped Lee as he got up off the bunk and walked towards the door.
She threw the covers back and meekly asked, "Why are you being so…so mean?" Her mind was groggy and she couldn’t come up with something stronger to hurl at his head.
Lee had just made it to the door when he turned around and retraced his steps back to the bunk. He towered over his wife with a disgruntled expression. "Heather Nelson Crane, I can forgive you for most of those stunts you pulled on the Admiral. I can even forgive you for spinning out in my car going 95mph…"
Heather defensively cut in with, "I was only doing 70 when those dogs ran out in front of me."
Lee slapped the side of his leg in exasperation, "Well, excuse me! 70 is way too fast for that treacherous dirt road. What were you thinking?"
"I…"What to tell him? How do I explain that I was hurt and…and yeah, I’ll admit it… jealous when I saw Peaches on the monitor? How do I tell him in that moment, I believed everything that Dr. Pinnell had told me? That all my fears and insecurities got the best of me? She looked up at her husband with bloodshot eyes. He’s angry and with good cause. I did scare them all half to death. She tried again. "Lee, I …I was just so lost! I felt so alone. You have to understand," she cried.
"Understand what?" he was losing patience with her. She’s driving me nuts. Her insecurities have got to stop. When is she going to trust and have faith in me? I know Dr. Rivers said it would take time, but I’ve got responsibilities. I’ve got a boat to run. We’re still on a mission to recover some dangerous chemicals the state department and CIA are both interested in. All the visitors… I can’t be worrying about her right now.
Heather felt her husband’s annoyance with her. I don’t know how to explain what I was feeling. I can’t even explain it to myself. "Lee, I …" she slammed her fist down on the bunk frustrated. "We’d just gotten off the Revelation and the next thing I knew, I’m waking up in medical at NIMR and not on Seaview where I wanted to be. Dr. Pinnell was there and you weren’t…" She saw Lee wince at that statement. "No one was, not even Father or Sharkey …Dr. Pinnell told me I was a failure and no one wanted or needed me anymore…I tried not to believe her, but I couldn’t cope with it all, I was so alone…" she bowed her head trying to get a grip on her emotions. The feelings were just too fresh.
Lee sat down on the bunk and pulled his wife onto his lap his anger lessening. The Admiral had explained a good deal of what Dr. Pinnell had done psychologically to his wife and the reasons for most of Heather’s behavior. "Heather, you’re not alone. I love you, but you have to learn to trust me."
Her head popped up and she looked at him with wonder. "I do trust you. In the car I heard your voice. You told me to trust you and that you loved me. It’s what made me slow down the car, unfortunately it wasn’t soon enough to avoid the spinout. At least, I didn’t hit the dogs and smash your car," she said in earnest.
"I could care less about my car. It’s you I was worried about!" snapped Lee as he hugged her tighter. "I must have driven Sparks nuts waiting for the Admiral to get back to me. Do you have any idea how long a minute is when you are waiting what alone hours?"
He heard her giggle. "It was not funny!" grouched Lee out of sorts. "Then, when the Admiral finally called me, he told me you’re totally skunked and passed out in our bed. Thank God, he didn’t tell me about the balcony rail until we boarded Seaview!"
He felt her cringe at that statement. In a deceptively low voice he asked, "And what love were you trying to prove by being on top of that stone ledge drunk no less?"
Heather swallowed hard. She didn’t know how to explain this at all. "Well you see…I just got back to our penthouse after the spinout when the termination notice came from the CIA and…you have to understand…"
There’s that phrase again thought Lee, his temper building.
Babbling nervously she went on feeling her husband’s aggravation, "I was still pretty down in the dumps even though the Admiral had given me a dressing down…sort of…I mean, I didn’t know at the time how he really felt about me even though I should have…"
"Damn it Heather! Get to the point."
She looked up at her husband’s enraged face and swallowed again. She hurried on, "I found the whiskey and a box of shot glasses in the cupboard, you know the ones the crew gave us with the naked girls…" she saw her husband roll his eyes, "I hated those glasses…" her husband squeezed her, she took a deep breath, "Anyway, I started drinking because I felt like such a failure. I was thinking about the Revelation and how I blew it as a decoy, then the plan failed and we were all caught…"
"Heather," she heard her name softly.
Louder now with a hint of panic, "It was my fault, I should have been prepared, I should have known Baxter would try something. After all, who knew him better than me?" Tears were starting to roll down her face.
"The balcony ledge Heather," again the soft voice with a hint of pain.
"Like I said, I’d been drinking. I was drunk. I felt like a failure. I thought everything was lost. I …dared the fates to take me!"
She buried her face in his shoulder hoping against hope he’d understand.
He didn’t. His temper came to a head for he was worried, apprehensive and disappointed. What happened to the woman with the spunk and grit? After all we’d been through, why had she given up?
In a hard voice, he said, "Let me get this straight. You gave up?"
Heather sat straight up and looked into his eyes. She saw pain and disillusionment. "I didn’t give up I was just testing the fates…" she saw his look of disbelief, "It’s a game I’ve played since I was small, a game to see if they… wanted me… I would dare them with some outrageous act. If I died, they wanted me and if I survived, they didn’t."
She looked down at her hands surprised to find her wedding ring there. When did I get my ring back? Baxter had taken it. He must have given it to Lee after all. She looked back up to her husband’s face with awe only to see sparks shooting out of his eyes. She swallowed again and hurriedly finished. "Lee, you have to understand, at the time, I felt that no one cared…"
Lee was livid. She risked her life on a dumb game? A damn dare? A dare she made herself? How irresponsible can she get? He grabbed her by the arms and shook her until her teeth rattled. He snarled, "How could you? How could you behave so irresponsibly? When are you going to trust me? When are you going to have some faith in me? I love you! How many times do I have to say it?!" He saw her wince and knew her head hurt. He went on unable to quell his anger, "Damn it Heather, I should turn you over my knee right now and be done with it!"
"You just try it!" yelled Heather as she reared back yanking her arms out of his hands. The momentum caused her to fall off his lap leaving Lee to grab at empty air as she landed on her behind with elbows smacking the deck. Totally stunned, she sat there red faced and indignant with her legs entangled with his.
"Heather, are you all right?" asked an instantly contrite Lee as he quickly unwrapped his legs and knelt down beside her putting a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her.
"I’m fine!" she yelled her Irish temper making itself heard as she shrugged his hand off her shoulder. Her pride demanding, "Just leave me alone!"
Lee got up as if burnt and in a cold voice said, "Very well." He slammed the door on his way out. "Women!" he yelled as he went down the empty corridor.
Her anger boiling over, Heather slowly got up and crawled back into bed. What right does he have to judge me? He wasn’t there. He has no idea what I went through…he doesn’t know what its like to be alone, totally alone, to feel like no one cares. How dare he discipline me? She punched his pillow letting off steam. So, I played a dumb game? So what! She thought about that for a few minutes. She recalled his face. He wasn’t just angry he was…scared. What if I would’ve fallen? What would he have done? What if it had been reversed? I would’ve been terrified! I remember only to well what it felt like when Baxter had taken him and I thought there was no hope. I went crazy. Dear God, what have I done?
She unconsciously felt for her wedding ring seeking the comfort it always gave. She remembered when he first put it on her finger when he had married her. He had such love and hope in his eyes…Startled, she realized he loved her even then. It was months before he told me though. Sharkey had said that was why he yelled at me all the time, because he cared about me. She recalled the disappointment she had just seen in his eyes. Oh Lee, I’ve let you down. I’ve hurt you with my stupid insecurities. Can you ever forgive me? I do trust you. I do. In that moment she realized a truth, he did love her with his whole heart and trust is a part of love. Her lonely past be damned. I can’t change the past. What’s done is done. Learn from it and go on. Face the future with an open mind. She grabbed his pillow and hugged it to her chest. She made herself a promise. She would never doubt her husband’s love again.
Four men were in a corridor leading to the conning tower hatch on their way to liberty. They heard a door bang shut followed by the bellow of their Captain.
"Sounds like Heather’s up," quipped Kowalski checking his wallet to see how much money he had.
"No doubt about that," second Riley combing his hair.
"She’s in for it now," mourned Chief Sharkey.
"You really think so, Chief?" asked Patterson as they stepped onto the main deck. Sunshine greeted them.
"I know so, kid. I told you about all the stunts she pulled on the Admiral and me," he ruefully shook his head. "Whew! It’s been a rough ten days."
The ratings looked at each other and grinned. "She kept you on your toes didn’t she?" teased Pat.
"Couldn’t keep up with her could you?" added Riley with a wink to the men.
Sharkey glared at his men then smiled and fondly said with a deep sigh, "You know it guys. It’s like chasing a whirlwind around." A round of laughter was heard as they walked the deck to the gangway that lead down to the pier.
"There’s Chief Davis and the guys, now, you know what the plan is. Chief Davis and I are going to check out the Sea Cub after we run an errand for his Captain. We’ll meet all you guys in town at the Sea Cub’s favorite bar wherever that is."
"Got it Chief," said Riley as Sharkey went to join Davis. The two chiefs moved off towards the base. The men spotted Hertz and Owens of the Sea Cub down by the skiff that was taking them to the mainland. As they walked towards the boat Riley mused, "I wonder what the Skip will do to her?"
Patterson smirked, "Yeah, I wonder if this time she’ll get that spanking he’s always threatening her with?"
"I bet you twenty dollars he doesn’t do it," quietly stated Ski.
"You can’t believe that? Don’t you remember how bugged he was?" protested Pat.
"Of course I do, after all, I flew him back to Santa Barbara to get them." As drunk as she was I’ll never forget the look on his face when he carried her aboard the FS1. He really loves her. "He’ll come up with some kind of punishment, but he’ll not lay a hand on her," emphatically stated Ski.
"Okay, you’re on, twenty bucks," agreed Patterson. Riley also nodded he was in.
"Women!" That was the phrase Chip heard alerting him to the fact his Captain was up. He looked up in time to see Lee scowling as he came down the stairs.
Lee walked over to the sideboard and poured himself a cup of coffee adding sugar and a splash of milk. He then walked over to the table and sat down next to Chip setting his coffee cup down with a thump. The coffee sloshed over the side and Chip quickly moved the papers that had been in danger of getting wet.
Keeping a straight face he innocently asked, "Something wrong Lee?"
Startled, Lee looked at his XO as if noticing him for the first time. "No, why do you ask?"
"You seem a little stressed out," Chip said carefully, "Everything all right with Heather?"
"She’s fine," he answered coldly, "Where’s the Admiral?" He picked up his coffee and took a sip.
"The Sea Cub just docked. He and Adm. Starke went to check her out."
"Oh, really? Why didn’t you page me?" asked Crane annoyed.
Chip opened the logbook and handed it to Lee, "Here sign this. The yeoman brought it up to date."
Lee skimmed it over and quickly signed his name then handed it back to Chip who put it on a pile of papers. "Doc said you and Heather needed time alone and not to ah, bother you unless the boat was sinking."
Lee scowled again, "He said that?"
Chip calmly replied, "Well not in so many words. You know how Doc can be."
"Yeah, he does push his weight around. I don’t know where we’d be without him though."
"Probably in the doghouse."
Lee gave a ghost of a smile. He looked down at the piles of paper and sighed, "Here let me give you a hand with some of this paperwork." He reached for the stack under the logbook.
"Ah Lee, that pile is done. The fresh stores are loaded and the Victory is ready to set sail in the morning. The men will be back from liberty by 06:00 and as soon as I finish the duty roster and you approve it we’re out of here."
Lee looked at his watch, "You must have set a record."
"Not really Lee, it is past two and I’ve had few interruptions."
"You and Melonie have plans tonight?"
"Yeah, we’re taking in the sights and dinner on the mainland. She’s down in her cabin finishing up her own paperwork."
"Kind of nice having a friend of Heather’s aboard isn’t it?"
Chip nodded turning a bit red.
"After the conversation I had with Nelson, I wonder if I should tell Heather she’s been doing her job in her absence?" pondered Lee.
"Heather is not the jealous type Lee, I’m sure she’ll be more than pleased. You did put her fears to rest didn’t you?" Chip knew the story of Heather’s life. He’d been dating Melonie Starke for almost a year and she was Heather’s best friend.
Combined with what Lee, his captain and friend had told him he knew most of the happenings of her life.
Lee gave him a sour look, "Well, I guess you could say that. We, ah, had a fight about her being on the balcony ledge. You did hear about that story, didn’t you?"
Chip nodded that he had. It had inadvertently come from Chief Sharkey who was clearly worried about his goddaughter.
"I’m having a hard time forgiving her for that stunt. All the others, I understand, but this one I can’t. It’s just so irresponsible of her. Chip, what would I have done if she’d have fallen?"
Chip could see his friend was more disheartened than anything else. He felt they’d work out their problems in due time. Trying to be positive he said, "Well she didn’t, so thank God and get over it."
Lee finished his coffee as he thought over what Chip had said. He’s right. Deciding they both needed a change of scenery he suggested to his XO, "Lets go visit the Sea Cub."
Crane and Morton had just stepped off the gangway when Chiefs Sharkey and Ed Davis from the Sea Cub came hurrying by.
Davis gave them a quick salute and hurried on his way. Sharkey stopped out of breath. "I didn’t know Davis…could walk so fast."
His Commanders grinned and Chip said, "He’s probably in a hurry to inspect his boat. He is the COB and they’ve been away from her for a long time."
"Yeah, I guess you’re right," lamented Sharkey, "I know how I’d feel if I was away from Seaview for that long."
The men walked the short distance to the Sea Cub that was tendered in her private berth. They asked permission to board and her Captain, Tony Masters granted it. He was on crutches and was surrounded by the smiling faces of Chief Davis and the Sea Cub crew. Lee was happy to see his friend back at the helm of his boat.
"Couldn’t wait to see her, huh Tony?" he teased walking up to him and shaking his hand.
"You know it, Lee," replied Tony looking at his friend and silently nodding his thanks. Lee patted him on the back and solemnly said, "She’s missed you too, Tony."
Sharkey shook his head in wonder and said to Chief Davis, "Ya know, you just never know how things are going to turn out. It’s hard to believe a little more than eight weeks ago we were fighting on top of a pool table at the White Pelican. Now, look at us."
Davis gave a big laugh, "That’d be true enough. Look at our Skippers. Who’d have believed that?"
Crane and Masters were very much alike in looks and abilities, which in turn created a very competitive friendship that lasted through the years. The men had grown up together, went to the Naval Academy, became submarine captains, transferred to the Naval Reserves and retained their ONI status as agents. The men each worked for private corporations, Crane for the Nelson Institute of Marine Research (NIMR) based out of Santa Barbara and Masters for the World at Risk (WAR) based out of the West Indies.
Davis tapped Sharkey in the stomach, "Come on, I’ll show you the boat." Capt. Masters cleared his throat and gave the Chiefs a stern look.
Sharkey paused and Chief Davis suddenly realized his mistake. "Beggin your pardon Skipper, I plum forgot we’re not on the fishing boat anymore. Permission to take Chief Sharkey on a tour?"
"Permission granted, Chief." Davis noticeably relaxed and started to go when his Captain said, "And Davis…back on the Revelation…" Davis looked puzzled waiting for his Skipper to finish. "That was a job well done."
"Yes Sir!" he saluted both Captains Masters and Crane. The Chiefs proceeded to go below passing the Admirals who were coming up through the hatch.
Adm. Starke’s voice carried through the conning tower hatch. "I tell you John, this is one hell of a boat. It rivals Seaview in everyway except for two things."
"Oh, what’s that?" asked a familiar voice. A moment later Stark, Nelson and Adm. John Perkins made their appearance on deck. Adm. Perkins was a robust man in his fifties with a sense of humor. He had been aboard Seaview when they were on a mission to expose a traitor that had also been on board.
"It doesn’t have the herculite windows or the flying sub."
"That’s because Harriman here won’t part with the formula," teased Perkins lighting a pipe. He passed the lighter on to Nelson.
"Now John, we’ve been through this before," hedged Nelson taking out a package of cigarettes from his pocket.
Before more could be said Crane and Morton came up to Adm. Perkins and shook his hand. "I didn’t know you were associated with the Sea Cub," stated Lee.
Adm. Perkins smiled broadly at the other two Admirals and said, "I guess it’s time to let these two in on the secret. After all, they did rescue my Captain here." He patted Tony on the shoulder and Tony returned the gesture with a smile.
"Your Captain, Sir?" asked Lee surprised.
"Why, yes. Tony works for me when not on assignment for ONI."
"But, Sir you’re actively in the Navy," stated a confused Morton.
Perkins chuckled, so did his Captain. "That’s part of the cover. We’re really all reservists like you. I have an active status with ONI and other organizations in protecting world peace. We work much like NIMR only Nelson here is into marine research." He grinned at the men and went on, "Unfortunately, Tony got more deeply involved with Baxter than we had originally anticipated. As he got deeper into his assignment there became a need for help from varying organizations such as the DEA and CIA. That’s how Heather as the Lynx got involved. ONI started the original assignment because Baxter was transporting chemicals as well as drugs across the oceans to the People’s Republic. We needed to find out what kind of chemicals and for what purpose. One thing just naturally lead to another and the more we found out the deeper Tony got into his cover."
"Until he made Commander for Baxter," stated Nelson handing back the lighter after he lit his cigarette.
"Yes," stated Perkins and looked at his watch. "Tell you what, I have a few matters that need my immediate attention so, why don’t you all join me for a very informal barbeque? Say around 18:00 hours." He turned towards shore and pointed with his pipe to a house sitting on a bluff that overlooked the beach, docks and sea. "That’s my house. There’s a footpath that leads to it from the back of the base or you can drive up the curving road. I’ll assign you a couple of jeeps." He shook hands with each man. "Glad to have you aboard."
"Oh John, I nearly forgot. We have a CIA assistant deputy director aboard…"stated Nelson exhaling smoke.
"Anyone I know?"
"Possibly, his name is George Peoples. He’s Heather’s old boss."
A strange look passed between Adm. Perkins and Capt. Masters. Perkins hesitated, "Peoples you say?" at Nelson’s nod his mouth twisted, "By all means, bring him along." He turned towards his Captain and said, "Give Crane and Morton here a tour of the boat then have Davis give all the men here a tour of our facilities. I want you to get some rest." Capt. Masters started to protest. Adm. Perkins clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Tony, that’s an order. You just got out of Seaview’s sickbay and I don’t want you to have a relapse. You’re not up to par yet even if you think you are."
Tony somewhat chagrined agreed to his Admiral’s order with a smirk. Perkins guffawed and went down the gangway.
This sounds familiar, thought Lee and Chip. The camaraderie between the two men reminded them of their relationship with Adm. Nelson.
"Humph," groaned Starke, "These young officers need to respect their superiors. Why in my day…"
Nelson interjected with, "Jiggs, lets not go into the new old Navy theory." While his friend mumbled something under his breath about what’s the Navy coming too? Nelson threw his cigarette over the side and asked Tony Masters, "What’s Perkins got against Peoples?"
Tony grinned that winning smile of his and simply said, "Lets just say Adm. Perkins doesn’t have a high opinion of him."
"Amen to that," said Lee backing him up. The Seaview men chuckled at that. They all remembered how he treated Heather when he had debriefed her. Nelson had practically thrown him off the boat. He was only on board now because the CIA had ordered him to recover the chemicals that Baxter was transporting to the People’s Republic when the Revelation sank.
Tony showed Lee and Chip around the Sea Cub. They met up with Chief Sharkey who was standing just inside the missile room hatchway listening to Chief Davis dressing down his junior ratings about the boat needing a spit and polish shine. "Now, listen up you goldbricks. This is a disgrace, I can’t see my face on the deck…"
The officers all grinned knowing the Chief was glad to be back on his boat. Capt. Masters interrupted him with, "Chief, there’s time for that later. I need you to finish showing the Seaview men around the island."
Davis complied after giving each of his men the Chief’s eye and "When I get back here head’s will roll…"
The rest of the afternoon passed quickly by as Davis and the Seaview men climbed into a couple of jeeps for the grand tour. The Seaview men marveled at how similar the facilities were to NIMR. The island was self-supporting with only the employees and their families of World At Risk living there. The completed tour ended at the winding path that leads to Adm. Perkins’s house.
"Well Chief, this is some place. I must say, very impressive," praised Nelson. "You have a right to be proud of it."
"Thanks Admiral. The men and I do enjoy being part of this organization." The Chief was nervous for he wasn’t used to dealing with so many brass at one time, "Ah, Sirs, I hope you don’t mind me saying so, I’m …we’re right glad to have the Seaview as friends instead of rivals…and Admiral, thanks for rescuing our Captain."
Nelson taking pity on the nervous man smoothly replied, "No Chief, we owe you and your Captain a debt of gratitude for rescuing my daughter." Lee also nodded his head at the Chief.
Chief Davis could only concur for he and his men had a soft spot for Heather also.
Lt.( j.g). Melonie Starke juggled a tray laden with toast and tea as she opened the door to Capt. Crane’s cabin. She flicked the light on and heard a groan from the bunk.
"Rise and shine sleepyhead. The day’s a wasting. Besides, I need to tell you all the scuttlebutt while the men are away." She set the tray down on Lee’s desk and watched as Heather sleepily sat up and licked her dry lips. Melonie poured tea into a cup and handed it to her. Heather took a sip and grimaced. Her stomach wasn’t ready for this yet.
"I didn’t know you were aboard Seaview," said Heather pleased to see her best friend.
Melonie hid her shock at the appearance of her friend. Heather was ashen in color with long red hair snarled around her shoulders. She’s lost weight and she looks so tired. What the hell happened to her? Chip told me all about the Revelation and Baxter. She should be well on her way to recovery. So, this must be the result of what that quack Dr. Pinnell put her through. No wonder Lee’s been acting like a bear with a sore paw. He’s worried. And here I thought my Father growled a lot.
"I came aboard with Dad and my Commanding Officer after Tony was released from sickbay. My CO along with the DEA Chief, your boss from the CIA, " she saw Heather go rigid and frown, "and my Father debriefed him on the way back to the Virgin Islands. The DEA Chief and my CO left as soon as we docked. I have orders to follow through with the results of the salvage of the Revelation and then return with Dad to San Diego." After a brief pause, she asked, "Heather, why the frown when I mentioned George Peoples?"
Heather crumpled the bed sheet in her fingers then with a slight blush simply stated, "He’s no longer my boss. The CIA terminated my job." She took another sip of tea. It tasted better this time and her stomach was settling down. Melonie placed the tray on her lap.
"You’ve got to be kidding," exclaimed Melonie. "Why, you’re one of their best agents," she defended.
Heather looked up and met her friend’s seeking eyes. "Spoken like a true friend, but the truth is they did can me." She started on the toast surprised to find she was somewhat hungry.
"Do you know why?"
Heather shook her head, "No, they didn’t give me a reason, though I suspect it has something to do with my leave of absence. I think, Doc said something about a possible emotional breakdown in his initial report. That and the fact I was caught while undercover, even if it wasn’t my fault, well…let’s put it this way… the CIA doesn’t want to expose me to more emotional problems. Ah hell, face it, I’m a liability waiting to happen, besides George Peoples never liked me anyways."
Melonie put her hands on her hips as she sat down on the opposite end of the bunk. "Now, why do you say that?"
Heather shrugged her shoulders, "Just a gut feeling. He was always cold to me. I never felt like I could talk to him. He’d only been my director for a short time before I went undercover. You know, when Father and Lee found me at the safe house for awhile there, I was convinced it was Peoples that had betrayed me."
"Well, you know it turned out to be Debra Woodgate’s boyfriend..." Heather finished the first slice of toast and started on the second one. "Ah, speaking of Peaches, I, ah, saw her on the monitor back at NIMR when Lee had contacted the institute," she looked down at her hands suddenly nervous, "What…you were on Seaview when she boarded," she brought her head back up and looked Melonie straight in the eye, "How much flirting did she do with my husband?"
"Very little. Lee wouldn’t let her near him. It was almost comical watching him avoid her. He was really annoyed about you taking off in his car without an explanation. He didn’t realize right away that it was Peaches who had triggered your actions. Men are so dense at times." Both women laughed at that.
"You didn’t tell Lee that I once went undercover as a racecar driver for the Women’s Powder Puff Race at Tri-City Dragway?" It had been one of her first assignments for the CIA.
"No, to tell you the truth, I didn’t even think of it. Of course, none of us knew the reasons behind your flight. We all waited on pins and needles. Then after what seemed like forever your father finally contacted Lee and Doc. I don’t know what was all said at that point for the conversation took place in sickbay. The next thing we knew, Lee came flying back up to the control room with Ski in tow and poof, they were off in the flying sub. None of us knew what happened until he came back with you, Nelson and Sharkey. Later, Sharkey told Chip and I what Dr. Pinnell had done to you."
She saw Heather’s perplexed look and inquired, "Your Father did explain about the hidden camera in the shrink’s office didn’t he?"
"It seems to me he tried, but I was pretty drunk and he’d said he would explain it in the morning when I felt more like myself. I haven’t seen him yet, though."
Melonie wasn’t sure if she should relay the story or not so she asked, "If you want, I can tell you what Sharkey told me and then maybe you’ll have a better understanding where the men are coming from." Heather nodded and Melonie told her what Adm. Nelson’s theory of Dr. Pinnell’s plan had been. She also told her his theory that Dr. Pinnell had murdered her old psychotherapist. When she had finished Heather was shocked. What little color Heather had before the story was now gone.
"Damn, I had no idea…and to think I fell for it. No wonder Lee’s so disgusted with me." She thought about all the rules she had knowingly broken trying to get her Father’s attention. Sheepishly, she said, "For a while there, she had me believing… I really doubted their love…damn my stupid insecurities…"
Melonie knew her friend well and softly said, "You played that ridiculous game again, didn’t you?" She remembered a time when they had just graduated from boarding school and Adm. Starke had taken them to the Grand Canyon before she entered the Naval Academy. Heather hadn’t passed the academy’s entrance exam and she was at a loss as to what to do with her life. Having nowhere else to go, she had stayed with the Starkes until she was accepted into a college. While at the canyon, they’d taken pack mules up to the top of a huge plateau and dismounted. Her Father had been busy attending to the animals needs leaving the girls overlooking the canyon. There had been a fence to protect people from falling off the edge and Heather had climbed on top of it on a dare she made herself. She then proceeded to nimbly walk across it to Melonie’s horror. Melonie had yanked Heather off the fence terrified. I never told my Father.
Heather blushed and nodded. The toast she had eaten suddenly felt like lead in her stomach. She set the tray aside on the bunk.
"Damn you Heather! When are you going to learn to trust someone? When are you going to quit relying just on yourself?"
Heather near tears, "I’m trying, but it’s hard. I’ve never had anyone to rely on before except me. It’s hard to trust," she sobbed. "Some inner part of me won’t let go!"
Melonie moved beside her friend and hugged her. "Heather, you must have faith. Faith and trust go hand in hand with love. I know your Father loves you and that Lee loves you! Surely, you don’t doubt his love?"
Heather wiped angrily at her tears, her pride beaten, "Of course not! He’s showed me often enough."
Melonie sensed Heather needed a friend, now more than ever. She kept silent letting her friend ramble on. She nodded she understood.
"That part of me always doubted." Heather paused collecting her thoughts, never before had she opened up entirely to another human being, not even Dr. Rivers her old psychotherapist. To give away her deepest thoughts and fears was unheard of. She’d seen others do it and the confidences came back to haunt them. With Melonie, her old roommate from boarding school she felt a bond not just as a friend, but as a sister also.
For the third time in twenty-four hours she decided to trust in someone. Am I playing the fool? No! She took a deep breath and in a whisper went on, " A little voice inside me taunts me so much... It kept saying Lee would grow tired of me… tired of all my insecurities…that I wasn’t good enough for him…that I wasn’t worth his love or any ones…especially my fathers…because it’s my fault the woman he loved is dead…it kept saying that I was living in a dream, that sooner or later they would forsake me… That voice made me easy prey for Dr. Pinnell. Oh Melonie," she cried forlornly, "That part of me couldn’t believe that he could love someone like me, a loser."
Heather glanced at Melonie’s face and knew she understood. It gave her courage to finish. "Well, I realized a little while ago that Lee meant all those things he’s been telling me…that he really does love me and that he wasn’t just saying them to pacify me…You know, he’s never going to forgive me for that stupid stunt…"
"Which one?" teased Melonie trying to get her in a better frame of mind as she picked the tea tray up off the bunk and stood up.
Heather didn’t fall for it. "The balcony one. I saw the disappointment in his eyes."
"He’s not disappointed in you. Not really, he’s just worried…and angry…at you and himself."
"Why would he be angry at himself?" she asked rubbing her aching head.
"Because, he’s Lee Crane. He feels responsible for all that had happened to you at NIMR and on the Revelation," explained Melonie heading for the door. She grasped the knob, opened the door then turned around glancing back at Heather.
"That’s nuts, none of it was his fault. The circumstances were out of his control," fumed Heather. "I don’t believe this!"
"Well, that’s how he feels and its up to you to change it." She watched as comprehension lit Heather’s face.
"Believe me, I will…of all the …"
Melonie left closing the door after Heather got up still muttering about Lee as she went into the head. She secretly congratulated herself on a job well done.
The Seaview Officers had a couple of hours to kill before dinner with Adm. Perkins. The Admirals decided to get some relaxation of their own in and had gone fishing. Chief Davis ordered a crewman to break out the fishing gear and show them where the best fishing spots were at around the island. Once the Admirals were on their way, Chief Sharkey and Davis took off in a skiff for the mainland to join their men at the Sea cub’s favorite watering hole. Capt. Crane went on an impromptu inspection of Seaview and Chip found Melonie waiting for him on the main deck.
Chip asked Melonie if she wanted to go for a walk along the beach. She complied and they strolled hand in hand down the quiet shore. They were silent for some time just relishing each other’s company until they came to an outcropping of rock a half mile from where Seaview was docked.
"Did you see Heather?" asked Chip knowing very well that she had.
"Yes, she’s…recovering," giggled Melonie biting her lip. "I think she’s more hung over this time then she was after her debriefing a year ago."
"The debriefing hangover had been a purely protective measure not to remember a grisly ending of a DEA agent."
"Yes, I know. Lee had sat with her through that one also," she smiled, "Remember how angry he was at George Peoples for up setting her so?"
Chip laughed, "Yeah, he was fit to be tied. Even then, I think he loved her."
"Mmm, I know he did. It was written all over his face when he looked at her…kind of like you," she gently teased.
"What? That I love Heather?"
"No, you dolt," she pulled him into her arms and Chip was lost in her beautiful aqua eyes. "Oh Melonie, I love you."
"And I love you," she softly whispered as Chip claimed her in a deep kiss.
A moody Capt. Lee Crane took his time inspecting the boat. He was still angry. How could she have been so thoughtless to risk her life like that? Doesn’t she realize how much I love her or, how many others care and love her too?
The boat was quiet with most of the men on liberty. He could hear the hum of the blowers scrubbing the air drawing in the fresh and exhausting the stale. He undogged a hatch and pulled it up forgetting about his sore ribs. Pain shot through him. He cursed. It all came back to him in a flash, the Revelation, his failure to protect his wife, which he realized was the real reason for his anger. She’d been hurt, beaten with a whip, for heaven’s sake. I could’ve lost her as easily as not all because I’d gotten caught getting Jaguar out. I should’ve known, Baxter would use Jaguar as bait to trap either me or Nelson in order to get to Heather. He knew I would come for him. He had his own intelligence network namely Dr. Pinnell. Then, after a miraculous rescue what do I do? I let Dr. Pinnell take her off the boat! I could have ordered her back here, but instead, going against all my instincts I let everyone talk me into ‘doing what is best for her.’ Best, my ass, it almost got her killed. Again, I let her down. She was so alone…so desperate…I know she had Nelson and Sharkey, but she needed me… Suddenly, he had to see her.
Lee made his way to his cabin and quietly went in. He noticed the whiskey smell was gone. Heather must have opened the vents to let the fresh air in. There was a pile of dirty linen on the deck. The bunk had been freshly made up. He looked over to the head where the door stood ajar and steam was coming out. A blow dryer started as he reached the door. He watched as his wife wrapped only in a towel blew her hair dry. A few minutes later she shut the dryer off and brushed out her silky thick locks. Lavender filled the air. She proceeded to wrap the cord around the dryer then bent down to stowe it in the custom made cabinet under the sink. Her hair fell forward and the towel loosened giving Lee a tantalizing view of a long slender suntanned back. Suntanned? He belatedly realized it was from the sunburn she’d received aboard the fishing boat when Baxter had ripped the back of her shirt open to extract his punishment. The bruises she had sustained were now yellow in color. An angry red line ran down the length of her back. Doc had said there’d be no scar, but it’s there. Will it fade in time? His heart turned over. She stood up and ran her fingers through her hair preparing to braid it. He found himself reaching out and burying his hand in the softness of it.
"Don’t," he simply said making her jump. She quickly looked up as a flash of fear shot through her eyes. It smote his heart. He remembered Baxter yanking her hair and slapping her. Relief followed as he saw her fear disappear and then to his amazement love glowed from her eyes. For me? She went fully into his arms and hugged him leaning her head against his chest. She closed her eyes and felt alive for the first time in two weeks.
Heather’s warm powder scented body produced an immediate reaction within Lee. It reminded him just how long it had been since they had kissed goodbye aboard the FS1 on that fateful night when he’d gone on his mission to rescue Jaguar. His hand that was buried in her hair drew her head up and his mouth descended. He kissed her hungrily. Sweet, like Tony said, annoyed at the thought, he deepened the kiss. Feelings came to life, love, tenderness, protectiveness and possessiveness…a need to bond and re-establish the ties that bound them together…feelings, he’d taken for granted…never again.
He never felt Heather unbutton his shirt nor would he remember her unfastening his pants. He only knew he was suddenly free of his clothes and the towel between them had disappeared. Her soft warm skin against his was too much. The silken arms wrapped around him were creating havoc with his senses. He couldn’t wait any longer. He had to have her, had to claim her and make her his once again. With very few preliminaries, he lifted her and took her against the bulkhead in the head.
Admirals Nelson and Starke had immensely enjoyed their short time fishing. They’d caught several fish and had the crewman drop off their catch at Adm. Perkins’s house for part of the night’s barbeque. They’d just returned to Seaview and were in the control room when a couple of moans were heard. Before they could react another set of moans echoed the first.
Starke in an overloud voice, "That reminds me of the days when Peaches was on board."
Nelson shook his head wondering why the vents were open in Lee’s cabin. It’s suppose to be sound proofed. He vaguely wondered where the second set of moans came from. Apparently, I have more than one randy officer aboard.
Starke belatedly realized there was more than one woman aboard Seaview. Filled with anxiety, he immediately took off for his daughter’s cabin that was located on ‘B’ deck. Nelson guessing his intent followed close behind. Pounding on her cabin door Starke yelled, "Melonie, open this door and that’s an order!"
Nelson trying to pacify his friend and somewhat apprehensive of what they’d find said, "Jiggs, she’s a grown woman."
An upset Starke turned to Nelson and sarcastically replied, "I know that, but she’s not just some loose woman aboard Seaview, she’s my little girl! He pounded louder and with more force. "Damn it woman, open this door!" his voice echoed throughout the almost empty boat.
The door remained closed.
His patience at an end, he turned the knob surprised to find it unlocked. He peered in finding no one there. "What the devil? There’s no one here. Where is she?"
"Right here Father," said an irate Melonie Starke with hands on hips walking down the corridor. "I heard you bellow, everyone left on the boat did, so what’s so important that you have to practically knock my door down?"
Ignoring her unaccustomed outburst, Starke raged, "Where’ve you been and who are you with?"
"Dad, I’m not a kid that you can order about. I’m a grown woman," she replied indignantly.
"As your superior officer and father I can order anything I want!" Starke stared at his daughter not used to having her talk back to him. "Is this what you’ve learned in the Navy?" he shouted exasperated.
"Are you asking me as my Father or my Superior Officer?"
Melonie chewed absently on her lip. A nervous habit Adm. Starke recognized, I got her now.
What to tell him? He’ll have Chip for dinner for sure if I tell him the truth. We’ve got a mission to finish and I don’t want hard feelings between the men. It’ll be just too uncomfortable for everyone. Besides, I want to break him in gently. She looked at her father’s set face. Fat chance that will happen, drat, why’d he have to come back to the boat so soon?
She was saved an explanation when they heard through the ventilation shafts from above in the corridor, "Damn you Lee Crane, you’re in no condition to be doing this. Why, you can’t even catch your breath. Let me see those ribs!" yelled an irate Heather.
Nelson gave a long sigh. "Here we go again…"
To his annoyance, both Starkes burst out chuckling. Adm. Starke looked down at his own daughter, "That doesn’t let you off the hook. Now, answer my questions."
Again, they heard through the airshafts, "My ribs look no worse than your back does!"
Nelson looking harassed, "I think it’s time I check on Heather, she’s obviously up. I still need to explain about Pinnell." He turned and headed up to officer’s country.
Melonie wisely held her tongue about the fact Heather all ready knew about Dr. Pinnell. She felt it was important that Nelson explain his side of the story to his daughter. She turned back to her irate Father. She looked him straight in the eye and with her back ramrod straight stated, "Father, I am your daughter, but I’m thirty-one now and old enough to make my own decisions in life. I will always be grateful for the wonderful parent you have been."
Starke made a gesture to interrupt, but Melonie reached up and put her arms around his neck. Starke unused to any display of emotion in public what alone aboard a submarine was flustered. He tightened his jaw not knowing what to expect.
Melonie smiled at him with his ‘favorite little girl smile’ and quietly disarmed him with, "Thanks Dad for caring about me and know I love you." She then kissed him on the cheek, turned and started down the corridor.
Starke totally astonished with the turn of events blustered to himself. He absently watched his daughter as she began to climb the stairs and realized she had just pulled the wool over his eyes. He barked, "Melonie!"
Adm. Nelson arrived at the Crane’s cabin door just as Heather opened it. She was dressed in a short robe and carrying a bundle of sheets reeking with whiskey. Seeing her father, she felt her face heat up. She felt guilty for all the trouble she had put him through and was having trouble facing him.
"Hi Father. Lee’s inside, I’m on my way to the galley. You know, we only have one washer and dryer and I’ve got to get to them before the men come back," she nervously giggled.
"Humph," groaned the Admiral. "Heather, belay that for now I need to talk to you." He turned and walked into the cabin not giving her a chance to reply. She dropped the sheets on the deck where she stood and went in curious to what her Father had to say.
Lee was at his desk reaching for some paperwork. "Admiral, catch any fish?" he smiled. He opened a folder filled with notes about the salvage of the Revelation.
"Enough to add to dinner, we sent them to Perkin’s place."
"Perkins?" questioned Heather. "Adm. John Perkins?" She had been silently standing by Lee’s desk.
"Yes," replied Nelson. Seeing her baffled look, he realized along with Lee, she was completely in the dark about where they were. Due to Dr. Pinnell’s orders, they had kept the details of their mission and position from her in order to protect her emotional state. If only we’d have known then what we know now about the doctor. It would have saved a lot of heartache, thought Nelson as he silently examined his daughter.
He didn’t like entirely what he was seeing. She still looks somewhat hung over. Well, that in time will take care of itself. She’s showered, on her feet and her eyes are sparkling again. That’s something. Now, if only she’d get some of that Nelson spunk back. He recalled the balcony scene. I never saw such emptiness in an individual. What if I hadn’t come along when I did? Would she have jumped? No! She’s no quitter. So, what was she doing up on that rail?
Nelson reached up and scratched behind his ear. "Heather, why were you up on that balcony ledge last night?"
Heather groaned, not this again. Why, can’t they just let it die?
Lee goaded her masking his anger, "Go ahead Heather. Tell your Father, why you were on the rail."
She gave her husband a dirty look, wishing she wouldn’t have, when he scowled back at her.
Nelson noticed the conflict between them and was glad for it. I see Lee has everything well in hand. He’s still upset from when I told him about it this morning. Good. I hope he gives her a run for her money. She really has met her match in him. I hope he turns her over his knee. I should have done it years ago. What a fool I was. Megan, can you ever forgive me?
"Father, you’re never going to understand this. I don’t even understand it."
"Oh? Try me," replied Nelson in a strict parental tone of voice.
Defensive now, she responded, "I was playing a stupid game and before you blow up at me, Lee has all ready raked me over the goals." She crossed both arms in front of her and pouted like a small child daring her Father to say more.
"I see," said Nelson a stern look on his face. He looked over at Lee for confirmation.
Lee ever so slightly nodded, a hint of a smile on his face. Continue on Admiral.
Nelson started to pace and rub his chin. He walked behind his daughter and said, "That same stupid game you played when you were with the Starkes at the Grand Canyon?" He heard her gasp. He went on relentlessly, "The one where you climbed on top of the safety rail and tried to walk before Melonie pulled you down?" He absently glanced back at his Captain noticing his jaw tightening. He came around to the front of the desk and looked down at his daughter’s astonished face. "Did you think I didn’t hear about that?"
Heather was totally discomforted. Her tongue felt stuck to the roof of her mouth. How did he find out about that? All those years ago, why didn’t he say anything? Had Melonie told her Father? Would she tell them about what I just confided in her? Will they use it against me? Damn, why’d I open my big mouth? When am I going to learn not to trust…Blast! I’m doing it again.
She sighed deeply wanting to run. Coward. Her stomach turned over still sensitive from the whiskey. I’m never drinking that stuff again.
"Heather, I want an answer," demanded her Father in his best Admiral’s voice.
Reluctantly she replied, "Yes, it’s the same game…I had no idea Melonie told her father…"
Lee cut in with, "How many times have you pulled this trick?" she shrugged her shoulders, he slapped his desk making her jump. "How many times, Heather?"
Hesitantly, "A few," her own anger and frustration building, she said with perverse pleasure, "Actually, I’ve done worse."
"I don’t believe this!" shouted Lee rubbing his forehead his hand trembling.
Heather’s temper got the best of her, "Damn it! What difference does it make? It was a long time ago. I’ll not do it again. I swear it!" she looked at her Father with heat and hurt radiating out of her eyes. "All those years ago, you didn’t care if I lived or died. Why, the hell should I have cared?" She saw him wince and quickly looked at Lee. His face was full of fury like she’d never seen before. That spanking is coming fast. She whirled around intent on making the door when two hands grabbed her and turned her around. She expected them to be her husbands, but they weren’t. They were her Father’s and he was livid.
"Yes Heather, I knew! I knew everything about you. I kept track through various sources. Even in your younger years, your Grandmother reported to me with glee all your antics. You seemed to spend an enormous amount of time in your room." He let go of her arms and turned away from her as if disgusted. Deep in his own anger, he didn’t see the agony flash briefly through her expressive hazel eyes. "Melonie didn’t tell her father, Jiggs had seen it himself. He was so disturbed by the incident he didn’t say anything to you. Only me!" Nelson had his daughter’s rapt attention and continued on with his tongue-lashing, "Furthermore, I knew all about the pranks you pulled in boarding school and college. Do you know how many times they called me?"
Heather could only shake her head no. She was astonished that her father knew anything about her at all.
"Dozens, I can’t tell you how many times they almost kicked you out. You, my quiet tongue-tied daughter…" he laughed at the memory. He started pacing again. "You could never say two words to me without a direct question from me. I used to think it was because you were shy, but I found out it was only when you were around me..."
And around my grandparents, it was better to be seen and not heard…sometimes not even that...
"Fair enough, I thought, after all, I practically abandoned you." He looked over at Heather and noticed her bewilderment. Softer now he asked, "Heather, why couldn’t you talk to me?"
Heather’s mind was in a whirl, she never thought about what her father had been feeling. She just assumed he hadn’t wanted her. Her grandparents had told her that often enough before they had died. Had my grandparents played us against each other? I know they didn’t like my father. It would’ve been fitting revenge for their daughter’s death. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have been created and therefore my mother would still be alive. Oh, how I wish it had been me that died instead. Growing up without anyone to love you is awful. I can’t tell him what it was really like living with my grandparents. It would break his heart. I know now, he did what he thought was right leaving me with them. Little would he know that boarding school had been heaven compared to the first years of my life with the exception of Sharkey’s family…
Sharkey’s parents, Patty and Shaun Sharkey were her aunt and uncle. Shaun had been her Grandfather’s younger brother. There was fifteen years between the two brothers. Her Grandparents were in their early sixties when Heather had been born and Megan, their daughter and only child had died. Nelson was in the Navy ready to ship out. Not knowing what to do with a small infant and grieving over his loss, he left Heather with her grandparents. Her grandparents took to traveling as much as possible. She always felt it was to get away from her. They left her with Sharkey’s parents in New York often and she had grown accustomed to Sharkey’s big family of six kids. Sharkey was the oldest child and her godfather. He had taken his responsibilities seriously in keeping an eye on her. After she turned five and started school everything had changed. She’d by accident overheard an argument between her uncle and grandfather concerning her. Her uncle wanted her to have more stability now that she was starting school. Sharkey was eighteen and joining the Navy. His father still had five kids to feed and it was time her grandparents learned to deal with their grief. So, the trips ended to Uncle Shaun’s house and she’d been cut off from her beloved godfather. Thus, began the loneliest period of her life.
Lee sat silently observing the numerous expressions that had crossed his wife’s face. Her eyes are full of misery and she’s still not telling us everything. He looked over at Nelson who was pacing again. He’s missed it, no doubt lost in his own thoughts. He looked back at Heather. She’s compromising. Damn it, Heather. Trust us.
Hands fisted at her sides and staring at her bare feet she began in a hushed voice, "Father, it was like this. I pulled the pranks because I wanted you to notice me. I needed you so…I wanted you to come visit me and then when you did…I didn’t know what to say to you. I wanted your attention, but when I got it, well, I was scared that I’d blow it. So, I tried to be exceptionally good for you and make a nice impression on you in the hopes that you would…like me..."
She slowly brought her eyes up, saw the pain in his face and didn’t want to hurt him further. Her voice thick with emotion she quietly continued, "I know now, that you loved me and that you couldn’t get by the anger and grief." She reached out to her Father and tenderly squeezed his shoulder. "It’s all right Father, I understand and I forgive you."
"Oh, Heather," mourned her Father taking her into his arms. He held her for some time neither wanting to break the contact.
Lee froze at his desk pencil in hand watching father and daughter. What is she still hiding? Nelson mentioned her grandmother and the pain in her eyes was so intense. What happened in her young life to cause her to distrust people so? Lee inadvertently snapped the pencil. It startled all three of them. Heather pulled back from her Father and grinned a mischievous little girl smile, "Well, now that the stew is in the pot what’s for dessert?"
Everyone laughed for the tension was broken. "I need to get the laundry done," said Heather. She opened the door and picked up the dirty sheets from the deck and proceeded to the galley.
Nelson lit up a cigarette and inhaled deeply. He then made himself comfortable on a corner of Lee’s desk.
"Well Lee, I don’t think she’ll try anymore of those stunts."
"No Sir, come morning, she’ll regret she ever made that stupid game up, what alone played it," replied Lee incensed all over again. Nelson could only imagine what Lee had in store for his wife.
"Lee, I brought with me a copy of Heather’s sessions with Dr. Pinnell. I want you at your leisure to review them. It might give you some insight as to what she went through."
"All right, Sir, if you think it’ll help, I’d be glad too."
"You know it. When is she ever going to fully trust us?"
"Dr. Rivers said it would come in time." He held up a hand when Lee started to interrupt. "Lee, you have to have patience. It’s not easy for her mostly because of me."
"Admiral, you did your best."
Nelson got up off the desk and shut the door Heather had left open. "My best wasn’t good enough and…" he ran a hand over his tired face, "I’m afraid we’ll have to deceive her yet again."
Lee gave him a questioning look.
"George Peoples is aboard this boat, she mustn’t learn of the deal we made with him."
A deep sigh was heard from his Captain. Nelson chuckled, "You still don’t like him do you?"
Looking directly at Nelson, "No, there something odd about him. I don’t like his attitude towards Heather either."
"Mmm, well neither do I. But, unfortunately, he’s aboard until we get those damn chemicals from the Revelation."
Nelson finished his cigarette and looked at his watch. "What’s taking her so long to put a load of laundry in? I still need to explain about Dr. Pinnell."
Heather shoved the sheets into the washer and turned on the machine. She added the soap and closed the lid. Next, she checked the dryer, sure enough, some sailor had been in a hurry to go to liberty and left his coveralls in the dryer. She pulled them out noticing Riley written on the inside collar tag. She carefully folded the clothes smiling to herself and laid them on the table in the crew’s mess. She turned to go when she ran into a hard body.
"Excuse me," she stammered only to freeze. The cold eyes of her former CIA boss were staring at her. "Mr. Peoples? I…I didn’t know you were aboard." Why didn’t they tell me?
"Obviously," his eyes raked her body making her inadvertently shiver. "You’re out of uniform or is this the new navy look?" he asked sarcastically.
A red blush started at the base of her neck and swept up into her face. She’d forgotten she still had her robe on. "Ah, no, I…I… Blast it! He’s no longer my boss. I don’t have to walk on eggshells. "I usually have my khakis on, but I just got up." Oh, that sounded great. It’s late afternoon. "I mean, I was ill and now I feel better," she flatly replied as her pulse rate increased.
"You mean hung over, don’t you?" he snickered. "I was in the control room when Crane brought you aboard."
Vexed, Heather refused to answer. She started around him holding her robe tighter about the neck when he put a hand on her arm halting her momentum. "You really landed on your feet didn’t you, just like a cat?"
"What is that suppose to mean?" she defensively demanded as she pulled her arm free from his tight grip.
He coldly chuckled as his brown eyes bored into hers. "Oh, come on. You got drunk when I debriefed you all because you couldn’t face what happened to you. You wanted the Seaview men to feel sorry for you… Poor little Heather," he mimicked. "Of course, a little pity goes a long ways. You were a lousy agent. Your ineptness got you caught and Daddy had to rescue you. How convenient that you should marry the Captain of this boat." He ran his eyes insultingly down her body again. "Tell me Heather, were you sleeping with the good Captain before I debriefed you?"
She gave him her haughtiest look and with a voice that could freeze the ocean they were docked in said, "That Sir, doesn’t deserve an answer."
"You little bitch! You have no idea, do you?" He stood there with hands clinched and a look of consternation on his face.
Her temper immediately exploded. "What is your problem? I haven’t seen you in a year and you jump all over me, why?" She held out her hand in supplication.
"Why? You dare ask me why?" Seeing her blank look he went on, "I’ll tell you why," he repeated. "You cost me my promotion to full director. You and that worthless secretary of mine, Debra Woodgate, at least she got canned immediately after the traitor was exposed, but you… " He advanced on her his jaw tightening, "you cost me dearly."
"I don’t understand. What did I do?" she innocently asked.
Standing in front of her with a look of loathing on his face he lashed out, "When you were caught, control of the operation went to ONI. My other two agents were in minor positions. Jaguar was now calling the shots for his organization or should I say organizations." He shook his head in disgust. "The exposure of Baxter’s operation would have advanced my career, but you had to go and blow it!" He spat on the deck making Heather’s stomach turn over. "Now, because of you I have to grapple just to hang onto the position I now have, following up on open cases that were once mine to command!"
"I’m sorry Mr. Peoples. It wasn’t my intention to get caught and cost you your job. As you know, it did cost me my job."
"You think your blown cover cost you your job?" he asked incredulously. He laughed a mirthless laugh. "I’ll tell you how you lost your job. It was a…" he was cut off by Adm. Starke coming into the galley with an empty coffee cup.
"You two, getting reacquainted?"
Starke could hear their raised voices down the corridor. He’d overheard enough of the conversation to know trouble was brewing. He also knew about the deal Nelson and Crane had made with him to keep Heather safe.
After the traitor had been caught two months ago, Nelson had vouched for Peoples integrity. The link in his office to the spy being Debra Woodgate his secretary had been out of his hands. The CIA employed a vast majority of retired Navy men in their administration. Nelson’s influence had saved Peoples’ job in exchange that Heather would lose hers at the appropriate time when her leave of absence was up. Nelson had pulled in that marker when Dr. Pinnell, Heather’s psychotherapist had certified her ready to go back to work with the understanding she was never to know about it.
"Adm. Starke," blustered Peoples nervous now. He never liked this man or his too quiet daughter. He always felt threatened by the big man. He resented the feeling. Admirals? Who needs them?
Starke ignored Peoples as he refilled his coffee cup. He listened for the antagonists to continue. They didn’t. He turned around and said in an overloud voice, "Did I interrupt something?"
Heather, who was used to his loud voice just shook her head and in a subdued voice murmured, "No Sir, nothing important."
Starke noticed her lack of intensity and didn’t like it. "Heather, you’re looking much better this morning!"
She blushed. Did the entire boat see Lee bring me aboard last night? "Thank you Sir," she replied with a spark of indignation in her eyes as she looked down at her robe, "I need to get back to my cabin…" She left not waiting for a comment.
Starke felt better after seeing the spark relight in her eyes glanced over to Peoples in time to catch his look of disgust. He immediately took exception to it. "You got a problem Peoples?" he bellowed.
Peoples forgetting whom he was talking to exclaimed, "Since when are women allowed to roam submarines with robes on no less?"
"That all depends on what you’re asking Peoples, do we let women roam submarines or do we allow women to wear robes? Now myself, I’d prefer women to wear nothing…" he guffawed.
"That is not what I meant and you know it!" shouted Peoples his fist balled.
"Then state what you mean Peoples," Starke calmly said enjoying himself.
"She’s dressed in nothing but a short robe. It’s indecent. This is no way to run a boat! I should report this…"
"Report to who Peoples?" Starke boomed a stern expression on his face. Seeing People’s lip tighten and curl downward he added, "Maybe you should report it to the President or ComSubLant." He snapped his fingers, "That’s it. Report it to the Atlantic Sub Command, after all the Pacific Sub Command who is represented by me, is ignoring it. I could care less what she wears, even though I’m sure Crane cares," the last said with a smirk. You arrogant bastard, call my surrogate daughter a bitch, well you? I’ll mop the deck with you, yet! He waited for Peoples to say something. When he got no response except a heated glare he bullied, "Well, come on Peoples, make an administrative decision. What are you going to do?" He folded his arms in front of him still holding his coffee cup.
Peoples looked at the big man who towered a foot over his head. He knew he was being made fun of. I hate Navy men! They all act so superior… pompous asses. He let out his breath vexed that he had been holding it and said, "You sub drivers are all alike." He then stalked out of the galley. He heard Starke’s mocking laughter behind him.
Heather lost deep in thought entered Lee’s cabin surprised to find her Father still there. What had People’s meant by those statements? What was he about to tell me? She walked to the closet and reached for her khakis.
Nelson and Crane looked up from the salvage notes they’d been studying upon hearing her enter. "Well, it’s about time. Where’d you take the wash, Timbuktu?" kidded Nelson. He received no response.
Crane frowning, said in a louder voice, "Heather, your Father asked you a question."
"What?" she seemed confused to the men. "I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention." She brought out one of the uniforms she always wore and laid it on the bunk. She sat down on the bunk and waited for Nelson to repeat the question. Her thoughts drifted. Why was he so hateful? Did I really blow his promotion?
Instead of repeating the question he asked, "Heather, are you all right?" She missed the question again.
Lee concerned now for this was not like his wife to be so distracted got up from his desk. He went over and sat down beside her putting his arm around her and drawing her against his chest. "Heather, what’s wrong? You seem deep in thought."
Feeling safe and secure in his arms she tentatively began "I ran into George Peoples in the galley." She felt her husband tense. "He was…worked up, especially at me."
Lee felt her shudder and exchanged worried glances with Nelson who was now sitting behind his desk. Softly Crane coaxed, "What do you mean love?"
She sighed deeply, "He blames me for his lost promotion. He said it was my entire fault because I screwed up and got caught. Evidently, he was in charge of the operation for the CIA with me feeding him the information. When I got caught, control went to Tony. I guess, when the film came out the credit went to ONI or WAR." She paused and Lee sensed there was more, he patiently waited. A few moments later she went on, "He also said something odd about my termination, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Adm. Starke interrupted us before I could find out what he meant." She sat up and missed the anxious looks again exchanged between the two men. "I need to get dressed," she stood up and reached for her clothes on the bed.
Lee stopped her with, "Heather, we’ve been invited to Adm. Perkins for a barbeque."
Heather put her hand on her stomach and moaned, "A barbeque? Oh Lee, I don’t know if I’m up to that. Can’t I beg off?"
"No, I’m afraid you can’t. Tony Masters will be there and he wants very badly to see you." Lee got up from the bunk and hugged her again. "We don’t have to stay a long time. I’m sure they’ll understand about your hangover," he teased.
She playfully socked him in the arm.
"Why don’t you wear the white sundress I bought you in St. Martin?"
"Okay, good idea. It’ll be a nice change from the khakis." She put the uniform away and pulled out the simple dress with a pair of white sandals to match and went into the head to get ready."
I guess I’ll have to tell her about Pinnell later. Troubled, Nelson looked at his watch and in a low voice said, "I’m going to find Jiggs." He cast Lee a look that said we’ll talk about Peoples later. Lee scarcely nodded as Nelson left the cabin.
Standing by the head door Lee informed his wife, "Ah Heather, Debra Woodgate is going to be there with Tony." He heard something fall in the stainless-steel sink and grinned. This ought to be an interesting evening. Heather no longer has to walk on tiptoes around Peaches. I can’t wait to see the sparks fly.
Lee had just changed into a fresh uniform when Heather came out of the head. He whistled low and suggestively said, "Hey, "Lady, you look great." Heather lightly blushed pleased with the comment. She reached up and kissed her husband’s cheek. "Oh Lee, I love you so." He took her fully into his arms and gave her a deep kiss regretting they didn’t have more time.
They broke apart when Chip’s voice came over the intercom. "Lee, you’re wanted in the radio shack. Capt. Hayes from the Submarine Whitefish is on the SSIX."
Lee pushed the button down on his desk intercom and replied, "Very well, I’ll be right down."
"The SSIX?" asked Heather curious.
"It’s short for submarine satellite information exchange, a communication satellite used exclusively by subs. I’ll meet you on the main deck." She nodded and they went their separate ways.
Crane keyed the mic pondering the latest developments, "Very well, Lance. We’ll take it under advisement. Over."
"We’ll patrol the perimeter for a while and see if that tin can shows up again," advised Capt. Hayes sounding determined. "We’re heading for Norfolk, but we’re in no immediate rush. We all ready have permission from ComSubLant to pursue the matter. Over."
"Very well, Captain, please keep us advised. Over and out," he closed the channel.
"What’s up Lee?" asked Chip seeing his Skipper’s serious face.
"It appears we have an unmarked destroyer nosing around the salvage site. Apparently the Whitefish has run into this boat before and had a brief clash with her."
"Depth charged?" speculated Chip. This doesn’t happen very often now that we’re at peace. "I wonder what country she represents?"
"Hmm, more than likely the People’s Republic. It was where the chemicals were bound before the Admiral sunk their boat. They’re probably looking after their interests." Seeing Lt. O’Brien standing by the main hatch ladder Crane ordered, "Bob, keep an ear tuned for further details." He then tapped Chip on the chest with his knuckle, "Come on, we’re late for dinner." He started up the ladder with Chip behind him. "I thought you and Melonie were going to the mainland?"
"We were, but we got out voted by Adm. Perkins and Starke. Melonie’s pretty sure her Father is on to us."
They reached the main deck spying the women by the gangway. "Well Chip, all I can say is I hope you got a pair of earplugs," he gave him a sly look, "either that…or fast legs."
"Ha ha," snickered Chip as they came up to the women and overheard a comment, "A bet? The whole boat is betting on this?" exclaimed Heather astonished. How am I going to face the men again? They’re all laughing at me.
Melonie shook her head yes.
"Blast it Lee, did the whole boat see you bring me aboard last night?" griped Heather.
"Not the entire boat, just most of it. They were curious…of course, it didn’t help when you vomited all over the deck on the way to our cabin."
"I didn’t do that…did I?" she asked incredulous.
Three pairs of eyes assured her she did. A tuna clipper sailed by reminding them all of the Revelation. In it’s wake a strong odor of fish could be smelled. "Yuck," moaned Heather as she covered her nose with her hand to keep the nausea down. "I think my stomach is now allergic to fish and whiskey."
The two couples climbed into a jeep with Chip at the wheel. They took a leisurely drive through the base and up the curving road to Admiral Perkins house. Magnificent, was the only word that came to Melonie’s mind as she looked at the house spaciously spread out before them. It reminded her of a picture in a house and garden magazine that she used to drool over.
They walked up the marble steps to the wide doubled-door entrance. The door opened and Adm. Perkin’s aide, Lt. Pete Schrems greeted them.
Heather chirped with a smile, "I remember you. You were on Seaview a couple months ago."
"Yes, Mrs. Crane I was. So very good to see you again, especially without the bruises on your face. I knew under the color you were a beautiful woman," he good naturally jested with boyish charm.
Heather grinned, "Why thank you Lieutenant."
The Captain gave a wry smile to his wife, that’s a night I’d like to forget, and a sullen glance to the lieutenant. The man instantly sobered.
Chip silently smirked remembering the night also. I never saw Lee so keyed up. He’d paced the deck like a caged cat much like last night in the control room waiting for the Admiral to call.
Lt. Schrems unsure if he overstepped his bounds, led them from the entranceway through the great room of the house to the wooden veranda that overlooked the sea.
Melonie held her breath. She couldn’t come up with a word for the picture spread out before her.
"Breath-taking," murmured Heather. The wide veranda reached out over the rocks. White wicker furnishings were meticulously placed for viewing the clear blue sea. Large potted plants with bright tropical flowers accented the wooden terrace in corners and on top of the safety rail. Heather paused and leaned over the rail to get a view of the rocks below. She felt a hand firmly grip her arm and a nervous Lee whispered in her ear, "Don’t even think it."
She stiffened, "Oh for heaven’s sake, you’re never going to let me forget that are you?"
"Probably not in this lifetime, I might forgive you…in time, but I won’t forget," replied a sober Lee pulling her away from the rail.
"Humph," she pouted feeling down hearted. They caught up with the others as they descended a curving stairway that spilled out onto a matching wooden patio where the barbeque was being held. A lush tropical garden was sprawled out on the other side of the patio and a pool was visible beyond it. Adm. Stark and Nelson, along with George Peoples were lounging around the wet bar talking to Adm. Perkins who was behind it serving drinks. A table was laid out with various fruits, vegetables and salads. A large grill was set up and the smell of smoking fish filled the air making Heather’s stomach flip. It had to be fish. A tall, dark, handsome man on crutches and a slender blonde woman dressed all in peach made their way slowly up from a secluded garden. They were completely enthralled with each other and didn’t realize their visitors had arrived. Heather immediately recognized the couple as none other than Tony Masters and Debra Woodgate.
Seeing them together thus Heather was totally surprised and the astonishment showed plainly on her face. "I had no idea. Are they an item now?" she quietly murmured. She recalled seeing them together at the Sea Sprite Bar in St. Martin, but hadn’t thought anymore about it. It finally dawned on her that Tony had been the reason Peaches had boarded Seaview last night when she had witnessed the scene on the monitor with Lee.
Lee observing his wife’s reaction grinned. "Yes, they’ve been together since the traitor was exposed. Debra lost her job and Tony offered her one here. I originally thought it was because he felt sorry for her, and wanted to help out. While in sickbay, Tony and I had nothing much to do except talk. He’s been interested in her since they met at the dance."
Heather felt vastly relieved until the striking couple approached them. Debra ignored Heather with a look of loathing and slid her long silky arms up Lee’s chest and wrapped them around his neck. She then leaned heavily into him and tried to give him a kiss on the lips. Lee embarrassed turned his head in time and it landed on his cheek.
Heather saw red. Some things never change and this time I can do something about it. Her eyes shot flames and she reached up to tear her nemesis out of her husband’s arms only to be stopped by a man’s hand on her arm. She stared at that hand on her arm and brought her hot eyes back up to a laughing pair of blue ones. Tony Masters… Jaguar, my old partner, I would’ve never guessed. The few times I’d run into him undercover he had reminded me of a fierce pirate. She felt totally ill at ease. "Jag…Tony, so good to finally meet you," she stammered. That sounded lame considering he once kissed me under a table.
Tony always the gentleman lifted her hand and bestowed a kiss upon the palm. "My lady, you are quite beautiful when you’re all done up and not looking like a plain jane," referring to her undercover disguise. He earned a blush from Heather, a scowl from Lee and a heated look from Debra. Tony returned her glower with a sly smile. Serves you right, cara. Two can play this game.
Melonie had been quietly watching the reunions taking place. She gave a slight cough breaking the emotions of the moment. Capt. Crane used the moment to step back out of Debra’s arms. He turned to Melonie and Chip, "I believe you two know all of these people."
Chip smiled at Peaches and Debra in turn gave a cold-eyed frown to Melonie. She remembered seeing the woman in the control room when she boarded last night. Tony took Melonie’s hand and kissed it much like he had Heather’s. "It’s a pleasure as always to see my email contact, both on board and off," he chuckled. What a looker. She looks more beautiful now then she did when I passed the microfilm to her. He saw Chip take a step closer to her. So, that’s the way the law reads.
Perkins and Starke joined the group. Adm. Starke put his arm around his daughter giving Chip a baleful glare. Lee feeling the tension in his wife wrapped a comforting arm around her. Debra Woodgate full of animosity gave Heather and Melonie an icy glance as she snuggled against Tony content for the moment. Tony, in turn laughed full and hearty at a jest Adm. Perkins had made about women. George Peoples nursed his drink and moodily stared at the entire group.
There’s enough conflict here to fuel a reactor thought Nelson as he downed his drink at the bar. He lit a cigarette, inhaled and let the smoke calm him as Lt. Schrems, now attending the bar refilled his glass with scotch.
The fish was done and the group sat down to eat at a couple of patio tables that had been put together for the occasion. Conversation centered on the salvage mission. Lee repeated what Capt. Hayes from the Whitefish had relayed about the destroyer being seen at the salvage site.
"Well, according to Maritime law the Revelation can be claimed by anyone who stumbles across her and she’s in International waters," stated Nelson reaching for a second helping of fish. He noticed Heather hadn’t touched hers. He smiled and couldn’t help but tease her, "Stomach still upset? Here have some whiskey, it’ll cure what ails you." He burst out laughing at the face she made.
"Very funny Father," said Heather with all the dignity she possessed. She was sitting between him and Lee.
Debra over hearing Nelson’s comments cut in sounding sweet as honey, "Why Heather, you didn’t tell us you were expecting. How exciting."
Lee choked on his food and Heather patted his back clearly remembering another dinner when she had kicked him under the table. When the spasm had passed Heather became unusually quiet, Lee noticing this took his cue, "Excuse me, I ah, it must have been a bone." He looked down the table at the grinning faces and knew he hadn’t fooled anyone. He stared down at his wife’s bowed head and gently took her hand under the table. He leaned over so only she could hear, "It’s all right love, you’re going to get over this hangover, I promise." She looked up at him internally grateful for his kind words.
Nelson was disturbed by what he had just witnessed. It reminded him of something that he had forgotten…
Debra not to be put off crowed, "Well, is it true? Are you expecting?"
Lee felt Heather tense. What’s up now? It must be she doesn’t want Peaches to know about her hangover. He covered for her. "Debra, Heather is not pregnant, at least as far as we know," he felt her hand tighten. Casting her a quizzical look he went on and finished with, "She’s been under the weather lately that’s all."
Debra was clearly disappointed, "Oh, I’m sorry to hear that." I would have loved to see her fat and bloated. Her body ruined with stretch marks. Maybe I’d get lucky and she’d croak like her Mother did. "You know whiskey, lemon and honey really are a good cure." She had the satisfaction of seeing Heather flinch. No, it couldn’t be. She examined Heather closer and noticed her white pallor, the tightening of her mouth, the redness in her eyes. Oh, this is rich; she’s hung over! She giggled out loud earning a frown from Tony.
"Don’t push it Debra," he ordered under his breath.
Not caring what anyone thought, especially him, she went on in an innocent voice, "Heather, you must try this fish. It’s so flaky and the aroma is superb. It’s seasoned with just the right amount of spices and is swimming in its own juices…"
That did it. Heather clapped a hand over her mouth and stood up not knowing where to go. She was totally mortified.
Adm. Perkins seeing her predicament pointed and said, "Past the garden to the pool. There’s a head in the bathhouse."
She took off without a second thought.
Debra gave a helpless shrug and went on eating ignoring the fierce looks of the men. She looked up in time to see George Peoples smile and wink at her.
Dinner continued, but the spontaneity was strained. Adm. Perkins could see the Captain was distracted. He brought the conversation back to the Revelation. "So Capt. Crane what’s next on the agenda? I heard the Victory was heading out first thing in the morning."
"Yes Sir, she is." Lee looked questionably at the Admiral wondering how he knew about the Victory.
Starke amused by Crane’s evasiveness loudly reassured him, "No need to worry Captain, Adm. Perkins has been in on this mission from the beginning. The Victory was being repaired in War’s shipyard."
Crane looked relieved and said with more enthusiasm, "I apologize Sir, I didn’t intend…"
Adm. Perkins cut him off, "No need to apologize. I’d rather have you too cautious than too lax. Now go on," he ordered as he silently held up his empty glass to his aide.
After looking in the direction his wife went Crane started to brief him on the plan the Senior Officers had come up with. He was relieved when Melonie excused herself and went to check on Heather. "Once the Victory is in the mooring lines she will rig a new downhaul cable to the Revelation to replace the one that snapped. We’ll check the attachments of the old securing lines to see if they’re still useable. At present, the lines were left secured to the buoy still on site. We, along with divers from the barge will alternately work at coupling new attachments to key positions on the Revelation to give the slings added support. Once all this is accomplished, we can start to raise her again. The new winch should be able to easily pull the back haul cable up. The depth is only 250 feet and shouldn’t give us much trouble."
"Sounds simple enough, so why is it taking so long to salvage?" Perkins asked.
Stark sarcastically stated, "John, you should have Mr. Morton answer that question."
Chip put on his best poker face and explained, "The weather topside played a key factor for a few days. The Victory was having trouble with the surface waves. Then we found out there was a strong undercurrent down below making it difficult for the Victory’s divers to get the slings around the boat. They finally managed to get her ready after three prior attempts. They had raised her about 100 feet when the current increased to 2.5 knots. The bearings on the winch were old and couldn’t take the stress. They burned out and if that wasn’t enough, the stress of the increased current put too much pressure on the backhaul cable. The cable snapped, the slings gave way and dumped the Revelation back on the narrow ledge of the trench."
"What’s the depth of the trench?" asked Perkins.
Nelson who had studied Lee’s notes prior to dinner stated, "About 1600 fathoms. The terrain is riddled with deep narrow trenches and underwater mountains. This particular trench is like a V, the deeper it goes the narrower it becomes. If the Revelation were to slip off the ledge it’s possible it won’t even hit bottom, but become wedged within its walls."
"Hmm…" was Perkins only comment. Dinner ended and Lt. Schrems started clearing the dishes. Debra excused herself from the table leaving the men to talk in private. Coffee was served. It was decided to wait on dessert until the women rejoined them.
Lee glanced at his watch for the fourth time and decided it was time to find his wife. What the hell is taking so long? He excused himself noticing Chip and the Admirals seemed relieved he was going after her. So, they’re concerned too. He by-passed Peoples and didn’t like his priggish expression.
He heard Starke cruelly bait the man, "So Peoples, tell my friends here why women shouldn’t wear robes on submarines."
Lee actually turned around and looked at Starke thinking he hadn’t heard the question correctly. One look at the staunch admiral told him he had indeed heard right. He cast a glance at Peoples’ troubled face. He smugly smiled. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer man.
Melonie found a white faced Heather sitting on a cement bench by the pool lost in thought. She sat down next to her friend and waited for Heather to notice her.
"I can’t go back there. I’ve embarrassed them all. Lee really should’ve let me drown. I’m nothing, but trouble. He should’ve married that barracuda. She always knows how to act in public, knows just what to say, how to dress..." She twisted her hair tighter in her fingers plucking at her split ends.
Melonie recognized the habit knowing it meant she was in deep turmoil. If she starts biting her hangnails I’m in deep trouble. She bit a hangnail and Melonie groaned.
"Enough Heather! Stop the pity party," demanded Melonie.
"Just what is that suppose to mean?" cried Heather her fists balling in her lap.
"It means, get off your duff and fight."
"Yes fight!" Melonie went on. She was known as a quiet and reserved woman until her ire was raised, then she turned into her father.
"I know a lot happened to you in your lifetime, but you have a family now. A real family and that she-witch can’t take them away no matter what she pulls. They love you no matter what you do."
Heather seemed struck dumb. Melonie went on, "Further more, you have friends that care. Friends like me, Chip, the men from the boat and even my Father!" She grabbed Heather’s hand and squeezed. "Friends Heather, true friends that will be with you through thick and thin. Friends that won’t betray you…trust us Heather."
Heather was greatly moved. She knew it had taken courage for Melonie to speak to her like that. Melonie, the quiet one, they went together like fire and ice, Heather always blowing off steam, Melonie always calming her down. How ironic that she wants me to get mad. "Okay, I get it...The hell with the Debra Woodgates of the world," exclaimed Heather with a new confidence.
"What about the Debra Woodgates of the world?" nastily asked Peaches intruding.
The women were startled. They hadn’t heard Debra come up behind them.
Melonie turned and quite elegantly answered, "It’s none of your business. Leave us alone."
Debra snottily came back with, "Oh, you poor little Admiral’s daughters, you think you have all the answers, don’t you?"
"Answers to what?" asked Heather puzzled.
"Life and men," preened Debra, "That’s why the Debra Woodgates of the world rule and you drool."
"At least, we’re not whores," Melonie flatly stated.
Debra slapped Melonie hard across the cheek splitting her lip. A giggle came from Peaches. That felt good. I’d like to hit her again. Who do they think they are?
With hatred in her eyes Heather stood up and reached for the Sea Witch that Cookie was so fond of calling her. Witch indeed. Debra seeing Heather’s livid expression started to back up towards the pool her rival following. She turned to run just as Heather grabbed her arm and swung her around. Debra violently tried to wrench her arm free by pushing against her opponent. The movement forced Heather to the edge of the pool where she lost her balance still holding onto Debra. Peaches screamed as both women fell into the pool with a splash. They came to the surface and Debra made an attempt to swim for the ladder. The water hadn’t cooled Heather’s fury, indeed it only increased it. Fire sizzled through her veins and Heather grabbed Debra Woodgate by her long blonde hair. For over two months she had wanted to punch the Sea Witches’ lights out.
Pent up emotions long held in check flared and erupted. "Damn you! Damn you to hell and back, you lousy bitch!" she raged.
Debra made an attempt to get loose by diving under water. Heather refused to let go and went under with her. The struggling women banged into the side of the pool and Heather brought Debra up pinning her against the wall. Debra never being a strong swimmer pleaded, "Please, don’t hurt me."
Heather relented in spite of the fact she wanted to pound her into oblivion. She couldn’t bring herself to hit her. So, she did the next best thing...
Tony Masters awkwardly got up from the table with the excuse he needed to stretch his broken leg. He went in search of Debra knowing she’d be brewing trouble for someone, most likely the women. He knew Debra had a black heart She’s just like me, ruthless, that’s why we go so well together, we think and act alike. The difference is I have friends in the civilized world and she’s totally alone. His friends, except Adm. Perkins had no idea what drove him. They had no idea to what extreme he would go to accomplish a mission or a purpose in life. Tony Masters hated men like the Baxter Brothers. He enjoyed bringing them down. He enjoyed the challenge for a cause. He ran into Lee in the garden.
"I thought you went to check on Heather?"
"I did, but she’s deep in conversation with Melonie. Their discussion seemed serious and I didn’t want to interrupt nor do I want to eavesdrop," he’d reached the flowered covered trellis between the pool and garden and had overheard part of their conversation. He’d decided in that moment Melonie was on the right track. Women, they will never cease to amaze me.
Tony grinned. "Heather turned out to be quite a firecracker didn’t she?"
Lee chuckled in agreement.
"Beautiful too. You should have seen her undercover disguise. She had her hair severely pulled back and she wore thick glasses with the dowdiest clothes, no shape whatsoever. We had bets to see if any of us could lay her."
Lee immediately took exception to that statement by grabbing Tony’s shirt. "You did what?"
"Relax my friend, none of us made it to first base, she was all business." She also had a mean knee and a quick hand.
Lee released his grip shocked at his own reaction. "Tony, I don’t know what got into me, but when I think of anyone hurting her…I just get so mad."
"It’s all right. It’s the way it should be. A man has to protect those he loves, hmm? Sometimes we have to protect them from themselves and show the woman what’s good for her, even if she doesn’t like it." Ah Debra, my wildcat, you and I will be going around again. You’ve got to learn how to treat people right.
Lee wasn’t sure what brought that comment on. Must be Tony, is going to lay the law down to Debra. Good, she needs corralling. I wonder if he really loves the Sea Witch. The thought reminded him of what he had to do in the morning. She won’t be sitting down for a week.
A shriek and splash from the pool drew their attention. Lee took off with Tony hobbling as fast as possible on his crutches behind him. They reached the edge of the garden overlooking the pool. Lee could only shake his head at the spectacle before them.
Meanwhile the Admirals were becoming impatient. They wanted to finish their strategy meeting on the salvage job. They needed the Captains to be present.
"Women!" boomed Starke, "They do nothing, but distract a man." Starke looked directly at Chip who was finishing his third helping of fish.
Chip met his steely eyes refusing to back down.
Lighting up a cigar Starke point blank asked, "You think you’re good enough for my daughter?"
Chip schooled his face hiding his surprise as his heart raced and in a deadpan voice replied, "Yes Sir."
Starke never taking his eyes of the junior officer flatly stated, "We’ll see." He then got up and had Lt. Schrems fix him another drink.
Chip let out his breath wondering how much Starke knew about them, surely, not everything.
Nelson had noticed the exchange and kept right on talking to Adm. Perkins. "I think the Sea Cub should join us at the site, maybe act as a backup in case that tin can decides to pay another visit."
Perkins nodded in agreement.
A woman’s scream was heard followed by a splash.
"What the hell was that?" asked Perkins as the men got up to investigate.
Lee would never forget the sight that met his eyes when he and Tony came racing out of the garden. There in the shallow end of the pool stood Heather clutching Debra Woodgate by the hair. She was heatedly dressing the woman down using every cuss word she’d learned from the men as she dunked the Sea Witch repeatedly under water. What had Debra done to set her off so? He noticed Melonie by the bench holding her cheek. He groaned. That must’ve been it.
As if to confirm his thoughts he heard Heather growl in a low menacing voice, "You ever, EVER, hurt a friend of mine again I will do more than clean your clock!" she dunked her again and waited a few seconds.
Debra struggled to be brought up.
Heather brought her up and shoved the helpless woman over the edge of the pool refusing to release her. "That brings me to my next point…you’re to keep your hands OFF my husband, you hear me?"
Debra barely managed to take in a breath before Heather yanked her off the edge, shook her and dunked her again. She brought her up letting her suck in some air and angrily continued on with the tirade, "He’s MINE and I don’t SHARE what… belongs… to…me." She dunked her between each word.
Finally spent, she heaved Peaches over the edge of the pool where she landed in a heap half out of the water. Both women’s heavy breathing could be heard from where the men stood watching.
"That sounds familiar," quipped Tony as he started towards the women. "Where have I heard those words before?"
"Well hell, great minds think a like," defended Lee. I wondered how long she’d put up with Debra’s shenanigans. I’ll give her credit; she lasted longer than I would have.
Heather leaned over the side of the pool winded. She couldn’t begin to explain what had come over her. She briefly closed her eyes and heard footsteps. She opened her eyes and before her stood a pair of black issued Navy shoes. She looked up the long khaki legs of her husband to meet his sparkling hazel eyes. She couldn’t tell if he was angry or not.
"Lee, I can explain," she exclaimed as she started to climb out of the pool. Lee bent down and effortlessly pulled her out of the water by her arms. He could feel her trembling either from the evening air or her emotional state. He suspected the latter.
By this time, Debra realized Tony was standing over her. Still gasping for breath she sobbed, "Please help me!"
Tony dropped his crutches and bent down to retrieve her. Once on her feet, Debra hysterically screamed, "She tried to kill me! You all saw it! She tried to drown me." She buried herself in Tony’s arms and sobbed loudly.
Lee rolled his eyes as his wife became distressed. Here we go again, another academy award performance.
Heather looked helplessly up at Lee. "I wasn’t trying to kill the damn bitch, only scare her. I…was angry…" Out of the corner of her eye she saw the three Admirals standing there by the edge of the pool. Adm. Perkins looks shocked, Father has a glint in his eye and Starke looks…well I wonder if looks good kill? He must have seen Melonie’s face…or is he staring at Chip?
With Chip’s comforting arms around her Melonie chimed in, "She was only defending me. Debra attacked me." A bruise had formed where she had been assaulted giving proof to her words.
Debra wailed, "They were saying nasty things about me. I couldn’t help myself…please…you’ve got to understand…"
She cried louder. "Please Tony…"
"Easy cara," commiserated Tony. I’m all she has left in the world. Too bad, her father disowned her when he found out about Maclin. Of course, it didn’t help when he was forced to retire after the traitor was exposed. He noticed Lee had a smirk on his face and Heather had a mutant look. He sighed deeply. "Debra, I think it would be best if the other participants are willing, that we forget about this entire incident."
"No! She tried to drown me," Debra insisted peevishly.
A royal bitch to the end, boy, am I glad I never married the she-devil, thought Lee. Well, its time to end it. "Look, Melonie witnessed the whole episode, Heather didn’t try and drown you. That’s good enough for me."
Debra protested and Tony over ruled her. "Lee’s got a point. Let’s not make a big deal about this. I’ll take you home," he softly offered rubbing her back knowing it usually calmed her temper.
Knowing she was defeated, but not out done Debra snapped out one last parting shot, "I might be a bitch, but at least I didn’t murder my own Mother!"
A gasp was heard from more than one person.
"Debra enough!" Tony took her by the arms and very roughly pushed her away from him. "Go back to our bungalow. Now!"
Knowing she hit her target dead center, Debra cunningly smiled and walked back through the garden towards home.
Lee looked down at the white face of his wife and snatched her cold wet form up against him. She was like a doll in his arms. A lifeless doll whose eye’s would open and close at his will. He could feel her heart slamming against his chest as she stood perfectly still within his arms.
Softly, hesitantly, he murmured her name, "Heather?"
No response, not even a tensing of her body. Multiple thoughts ran through his mind, did she finally snap? She’s been through so much, Baxter, Pinnell, the ocean, captivity, beatings, hunger, spinouts, growing up alone, learning to love and trust…is it all over because of one vicious comment spoken by a vengeful woman?
Fear crawling in his belly he roughly repeated, "Heather, can you hear me?" In the back of his mind, he recalled a question she’d asked when he’d first met her. "You still blame me for my Mother’s death don’t you?" It had been directed at Adm. Nelson. Does she still believe that?
Grimly, Nelson recalled the same question. He and the others gathered silently around them and waited with bated breath. George Peoples stood complacently on the sidelines.
Upon hearing Debra’s taunt, Heather felt a sharp pain in her chest and a roaring sounded in her ears. In all my years of life no one ever accused me of murdering my Mother. Oh sure, I remember in school other Mothers pointing their fingers at me and whispering how tragic it was that my mother had died. They didn’t think I could hear them, but I knew, I knew what they gossiped about. Oh the poor little girl…alone in the world…she has a father, but he doesn’t want her…he can’t get over her death and it drove him to sea…her grandparents are so bereaved. Yes, I remember, they always looked at me with sadness in their eyes...never love. It is my fault, all the hurt to them and my father, if I hadn’t been born, she’d still be here…I really did kill her.
Heather…She heard her name as it echoed over the roar. Heather, snap out of it!
Lee. He sounds so desperate, like he’s in pain. She shook her head and looked up into troubled hazel eyes. "What’s wrong?" she quickly asked afraid.
She heard a long sigh of relief and felt his arms tighten around her. A hand burrowed itself in her hair and a kiss soon followed on her forehead and then her mouth. Her own arms crept up around his neck and she opened her mouth wider to give him free access. He tasted wonderful, like mulled wine. She vaguely realized it was the wine from dinner. She heard a throat clear followed by a chuckle. She broke the kiss when she heard her Father’s "Humph, she’s going to be all right."
Lee was amazed. The old Nelson spunk and grit have kicked in once again. She was completely down and now she’s on her way back up. Why? Because she thought I was in trouble. Oh, how I love this woman.
Nelson came forward and pulled his daughter into his arms, "Heather, I really need to talk to you. Care for a walk down the beach?" He knew it was her favorite place to go and he needed the privacy it gave.
Heather looked up at her husband who nodded his consent. "I’ll meet you back at the boat." He gave her a quick kiss on the temple not wanting to let her go. He watched as the Admiral led his wife down the path to the beach.
Starke seeing the evident concern on Crane’s face, "Quit worrying Captain, she’s made of tough stuff."
"Yes Sir, I know that, but she’s wet from the pool and…" a guffaw from the Admiral cut him off. "You don’t want her to catch a chill." Starke in an uncharacteristic move grasped Crane’s shoulder from behind, "I like your over protectiveness Captain, it shows you care not only about your wife, but about your boat as well." He wandered over to his own daughter leaving Crane to ponder his words.
Father and daughter silently walked the beach listening to the waves lap the shore. Nelson lit a cigarette breathing in the smoke and slowly letting it out. He wasn’t quite sure where he wanted to begin. Heather was grappling with the demons that Debra’s horrible taunt had produced. Oh, Mom I’m so sorry. Why didn’t the Good Lord take me instead? she asked, not realizing she’d spoken her thoughts out loud.
Nelson was appalled at the question. For years, I asked myself the same question. Why Megan? She was so young when she died. He looked over at his daughter and saw the anguish on her face. What has my grief and selfishness cost her? He knew the answer and didn’t like it. It’s time I forgave her.
"Heather, it’s not your fault."
"What?" she asked startled from her thoughts.
Nelson stopped walking and reached up to remove a long strand of hair from her face. "Your Mother’s death. It’s not your fault." He watched her face crumble as she struggled to understand what he meant. Is he forgiving me? Guilt had hounded her from the time she was little. Her birth had caused her Mother to die. All these years she had carried the guilt knowing it was her fault. She was the reason her father had left her.
"Honey," he couldn’t quite look her in the eyes for he knew he’d see the pain. "It’s taken me years to come to this understanding. Megan had lived her life, her purpose on earth was over. The Good Lord took her home and left you in her place, a gift from him." He threw his cigarette into the water and continued, "I alone abused his gift. All your suffering was my fault. Lay it at my feet."
Tears falling down her face Heather couldn’t let go and Nelson found his penance wasn’t done with her next statement. "But, Father I did kill her as surely as if …"
"Nonsense," he roughly growled. "Life is what you make it. There’s a beginning and an end. We do not have the privilege of knowing when that time will come. When it’s your time to go, you go! There is no rhyme or reason, it just happens," he remonstrated with a wave of his hand.
Heather didn’t know what to think about this turn of events. She felt …free. Free for the first time. Her Father had finally lifted the burden of her sin. Wouldn’t Peaches die if she knew she’d inadvertently done me a favor?
Nelson saw his daughter’s face light with understanding. His own burden was lifted too. If she forgives me I’ll have it all. He unexpectedly got his wish. Heather buried herself in his arms like a small child and said the words he didn’t know he was longing to hear, "Oh Father, I love you so much and I understand, I really do." He held her for the longest time enjoying the feel of her in his arms. He looked up into the heavens and thanked the Good Lord for his gift.
"I didn’t know you were the Lynx, I swear it. I don’t believe you, I don’t believe you…"
Lee awoke with a start again. Damn, that dream’s haunting me. He donned a pair of boxer shorts as he sat on the edge of his bunk. Heather came out of the head and crawled back into the bunk dressed in an old shirt of his that she wore for sleeping. What sleep? We made love most of the night. He had tenderly loved her with his body and spirit making up for the time they’d been apart, all the pain and misunderstandings were cast away. He had cemented the bond that would forever hold them together. This was a new day and a new beginning. He hated what he was about to do.
Without her realizing what he was up to he carefully took her in his arms and quickly laid her face down over his lap. His hand lifted the shirttail and her rounded bare bottom was exposed to his sight. He lovingly ran his hand over the soft skin as he said with regret, "Love, I can forgive most of the antics that you pulled on the Admiral. I understand the reasons why you were on the Revelation. But, there is one thing, as you know I can’t quite forgive. Albeit, I hate to do this, but I have to enforce the fact that I will not tolerate you foolishly putting yourself in danger again."
He raised his hand ready to bring it down when he felt her teeth lightly clamp onto his bare thigh. He grinned to himself for he couldn’t help but admire her spirit. "Heather," he said softly, "let go."
She refused and increased the pressure enough for him to feel her teeth dig into his flesh, but not break the skin.
"This isn’t going to get you out of your punishment," firmly warned Lee. He brought his hand down and lightly rubbed her posterior. Her whole body went rigid. Again, more firmly, "Heather, let go."
She stubbornly refused to relinquish his leg. He could feel her warm breath blow against his leg as she exhaled and took another breath. He could tell she was prepared for the worst. He increased the pressure on her buttocks with the weight of his hand as she increased the pressure on his leg. Keeping his arm braced across her back, he gripped her thick hair with his other hand pulling her head back. Her teeth sunk in deeper and he could feel a wetness dropping down onto his leg.
"Damn it, Heather!" he yelled yanking her up into a sitting position beside him. The pressure of her teeth had scrapped his leg leaving a red trail behind. He refused to look at her knowing her tears would be his undoing. He felt her quickly wipe her face. To his surprise she sat there silently waiting. It increased his agitation. He bolted from the bunk and stood before her hands clenched on his hips.
"All right, you win. I won’t belittle you by spanking you even though you deserve it." He ran his hand through his hair exasperated not understanding his own anger. It’s just so important that I get through to her. She can’t put me through this again. I can’t take it. He pictured what it must have been like to see her on the balcony ledge, lost to the world, heart broken. How close had she come to falling? She’d almost drunk an entire bottle of whiskey. What if the Admiral hadn’t pulled her off in time? He shuddered still not looking at his wife. He started to pace in front of the bunk running his hand through his hair again.
A totally chastised Heather sat still on the bunk. Her heart ached for her husband. It’s my fault. I’ve hurt him so badly. If only I’d have trusted him like he asked, this could’ve been avoided. My actions are inexcusable and I should’ve let him vent on me. ‘No,’ shouted her pride. ‘No woman deserves that.’ He wouldn’t have really hurt me. He’s just distraught and I caused it. I’ve pushed him to the limit. I wonder if he’ll ever trust me again? How ironic, that the trust issue is on the other side now. How will I ever make it up to him?
She decided to be up front. "Lee, I’m sorry."
He stopped pacing and bitingly said, "Sorry, doesn’t cut it." He finally looked at her crest fallen face. "Do you have any idea what it’s been like being out to sea and constantly worrying about you?"
She shook her head no.
"From the time I woke up in sickbay, I’ve been worried sick, sick you hear me? I knew there was something wrong, but I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me. I should’ve taken matters into my own hands, but everyone convinced me I was doing the right thing by letting Dr. Pinnell treat you. I know by what Adm. Nelson told me that it was awful for you. But, damn it, that doesn’t excuse your behavior and because of that behavior I have to punish you, for my own sanity, if nothing else to insure you won’t try something stupid like that again."
Upset with him for rejecting her apology, her own pride and Irish temper came to the fore. She stood up and shouted, "Blast it, I’m not some little kid. I told you I was sorry, I won’t do it again, ever!"
"That’s right. You’re never going to do it again if I have any say over it and I do!" He walked over to his desk and picked up a piece of paper and brought it over to her. "Here is a list of extra duties I expect you to perform. They are in addition to your other duties."
"My duties?" she scoffed feeling defensive. "The Admiral said any man on board can perform the job I’ve been doing." Still smarting from that conversation with her Father she went on, "After all, I didn’t make a difference. What do you need me for?"
"Look woman, those were and still are your responsibilities. No one on this boat has a free ride. I expect you to pull your weight." He saw her take a deep breath and held up his hand still holding the list. "Yes, any man can do the job, but it was created for you! Since it’s inception, it has become an important part of the workings of this boat. Now, Melonie has kept the books up for you, but its time for you to take back the responsibilities of your duties. I expect them to be completed Heather, today, along with these," he handed her the paper with the extra duties. She pouted as she read over the list. He hid a smile. "When they’re completed I’ll have more."
She looked up at him and crossly said, "And how long is this going to go on?"
He retorted, "Until I say otherwise," with that he went into the head to shower.
When Lee got out of the shower his wife was gone. It’s just as well. I was pretty rough on her. He got dressed not able to get her out of his mind. Blast, I did the right thing. It’s my job to protect her. I wonder where she went? He looked at the clock 05:52. Maybe I can catch up with her for breakfast. She’s too thin and I know she hasn’t been eating properly. Hell, neither have I. Doc’s been on me to eat this entire cruise. He finished tying his shoes. Things have got to change no doubt about it.
He quit the cabin and made his way down to the control room. He noticed his third in command by the main hatchway ladder. "Mr. O’Brien, are the men all back from liberty?"
O’Brien looked up into the dark eyes of his Skipper. "All present and accounted for with the exception of Chief Sharkey. With the Admiral’s permission he went over to the Sea Cub to lend a hand. They’re having problems with the hydraulic system." He nervously looked around the control room.
The men had grown unusually quiet.
"I hope it doesn’t delay them from sailing. They’re to be our back up at the salvage site." Nelson had filled him in late last night on the details he’d worked out with Adm. Perkins.
Hoping to encourage his Skipper O’Brien added. "Adm. Perkins said as he walked through, ‘They’d fix it or die trying.’"
The Captain raised an eyebrow.
"Those were his exact words, Sir," he looked down at the roster he held in his hand.
Noticing the time, Crane asked, "Where is Mr. Morton?"
A look of apprehension crossed O’Brien’s face as he reported, "On the bridge Sir, testing the equipment."
"Testing the equipment?"
"Yes Sir," he didn’t elaborate even though it was an implied question by his Skipper.
Crane glanced around the control room attuned to the mood of his boat. What’s going on now? He studied the men who seemed overly attentive. They’re waiting for something. His temper climbed a notch though he didn’t know why.
His junior officer reluctantly lifted his head, his face devoid of all expression. "Yes, Sir?" responded O’Brien, not quite meeting his eyes.
Out of the corner of his eye, Crane watched as Patterson and Kowalski gave Riley a warning sign to remain quiet as he came up to the sonar consoles.
Crane straightened to his full height and folded his arms, "Mr. O’Brien, what are you trying so hard not to tell me?"
His man swallowed, not a sound could be heard in the control room except the steady beeping of the equipment.
"When Adm. Perkins came aboard Capt. Masters was with him."
"So, where are they now?" What’s so odd about that?
"The Admiral’s with Nelson and Starke in the ward room eating breakfast. Sir," O’Brien’s eyes drifted back to the roster.
Losing patience with his man Crane barked out, "Well, go on!"
Inwardly wincing, O’Brien said, "Ah, Capt. Masters left…with Heather. Sir."
"Wow, did you see the look on his face?" asked Pat putting on his headphones.
"Yeah, he’s going to keel haul Capt. Masters," said Ski.
"I think the little green monster just bit him," stated Riley sitting down.
"Naw, not the Skipper, he’s above that," countered Ski as he adjusted a knob on sonar.
"Then, what kind of a look was that?" inquired Riley.
"Let’s just say he’s protecting his territory," speculated Ski.
"I wonder if he’ll make Heather walk the plank?" asked Riley.
The sun was just making an appearance when Lee came bursting through the conning tower hatch on the bridge. He found his executive officer with a pair of binoculars held to his eyes. It was quite evident he was spying on the couple down on the beach.
Standing directly behind Mr. Morton he asked roughly, "See anything interesting?"
Chip jumped a foot off the deck banging the glasses down on his nose as he quickly turned around.
"Blast it Lee, you scared me half to death," loudly complained his XO as he rubbed the offended appendage. He received no response making him groan. Lee was all ready busy studying the scene before him.
"Here, take these," he thrust the binoculars in front of Lee who immediately held them up to his eyes. "You’ll notice they’re arguing about something…probably Peaches," grinned Chip trying to get his friend to lighten up from his sullen mood.
Lee was mildly surprised to see his wife still dressed in his shirt with a pair of shorts on and no shoes. Her hair was down and blowing in the stiff wind. She was standing a foot into the surf that was pounding the beach. She must have left our cabin in a huff. That’s not like her to dress improperly when the men are aboard. She knows I don’t approve of shorts unless we’re off the boat. Men are men after all. I trust them, but let’s not tempt the fates. We’ve had that argument often enough, so why is she still in my shirt? Tony must’ve had something important to talk to her about. So, why didn’t he include me? I’m her husband after all.
Nonchalantly, Lee asked, "Chip, how did all this transpire?"
"Ah, well you see, Heather came down to the control room and she, ah seemed agitated. She asked permission to walk the beach. You know, how she enjoys doing that when she’s upset or wants to be alone with her thoughts." He saw his Skipper frown in consternation.
"Quit covering for her and get to the point, Chip." So, that’s where the little firebrand took off to, I should’ve known she’d defy me.
"Well, with Baxter’s reward still posted in the back of my mind, I told her I’d assign her a guard, but before I could Capt. Masters volunteered for he had overheard our conversation. So…"
"You couldn’t say no," finished Lee gritting his teeth. Damn Heather, she gets into more situations.
"Well hell, Lee, he was her former partner. He’s not going to let anything happen to her," assured Chip.
"You don’t understand Chip, Tony has an avid interest in her." Is that the little green monster talking?
Chip instantly got the point. "Lee, Heather would never cheat on you. She loves you. Just ask Sharkey or any of the men who were with you that night Baxter grabbed you. She went ballistic when she found out. Didn’t you see the bruise on her cheek when you were aboard the Revelation?"
Lee put the binoculars down and looked over at his friend, "I thought Baxter had put it there. I saw him hit her often enough."
"He did, but there was one all ready there from Sharkey."
"Sharkey?" asked Lee shocked. If Sharkey had hit her, she must’ve gone crazy. Sharkey loves her as much as I do. It would’ve taken everything he had to hurt his goddaughter.
"Yes, she was wild with grief when the Admiral told her you were captured. He grabbed her, but she fought him tooth and nail. The men had no choice, but to put her down."
A shudder went through Lee that had nothing to do with the increasing wind. He brought up the binoculars and found his wife again. She had moved deeper into the surf and Tony was now hobbling along the shoreline on his crutches.
"Some guard he makes," complained Lee. "He can’t move very fast on those crutches."
Chip grinned as Tony waved to Heather to come back into shore. She shook her head no until she saw him slip then went to assist him. Chip’s grin widened, when they saw Tony grab Heather to him and kiss her. He didn’t need to see Lee’s face to know what he was thinking. To all three men’s surprise, she slapped Tony soundly and took off into the surf again. Tony gave Lee and Chip a salute, grinned and started slowly off for his own boat that was docked down the beach.
Lee fumed with a few choice words while Chip laughed at Tony’s pranks. "I’m glad that’s Heather down there and not Melonie. I’d hate to have to take him out. Of course, beating a cripple would go against the grain," he rubbed into his friend’s ego.
Lee was busy watching his wife. He focused the binoculars closer in time to see her wipe her eyes. His heart went out to her. I can just imagine what’s she’s thinking. "The bastard, he’s leaving her there."
"Well Lee, he’s got big brother looking over his shoulder and probably figures she’s got enough help. I mean, I wouldn’t like you glowering at me," argued Chip with a smirk.
"I’m not glowering," growled Lee as he looked out to sea. "Heather’s sensitive where men are concerned and she doesn’t understand the jest behind his actions. I should pound some sense into Tony for…what was that?" He brought the binoculars back to where he thought he saw something. He looked over the crashing surf seeing nothing unusual.
Chip instantly tensed, "Something out there?"
Lee replied a bit breathlessly, "I’m not sure, I thought I saw something in the water. For a second, it just didn’t look right." The hair on the back of his neck stood up.
Chip ordered the officer of the deck to bring an extra pair of binoculars to him. Meanwhile, he too searched the waters. "See anything yet?"
"Nothing. I could have sworn I saw something though." Lee continued to sweep the sea. He noticed Heather was about twenty feet from shore. He wished she were on shore.
Sparks, who was the OOD brought up an extra pair of binoculars and gave them to Chip asking what was up. "Lee thinks he saw something."
"What was it like?" asked Sparks.
"Just a glint on the surface."
"It could’ve been the sun, she’s high in the sky now," volunteered Chip.
They continued to search. Lee noticed Heather had moved a little further out, she was now in about four feet of water. Again, the hair on his neck stood up. He vaguely heard Sharkey’s voice as he came on deck from the gangway.
"Lee, I saw it! About two thousand yards out," shouted Chip in his excitement.
Chip pointed and said, "At One o’clock."
Lee trained his binoculars on the spot. Again nothing. He continued to watch…finally, he was awarded with a fin. Terror tore at his heart. He immediately looked for Heather. She was seven yards from shore and directly in it’s path!
Lee thrust the binoculars at Sparks who deftly caught them. He yelled on his way over the sill’s ladder, "Get on the horn. Warn her, shark!" He nimbly climbed down the ladder to the deck. Once on deck, he ran by Sharkey shouting, "Shark!"
"Good morning, Sir," returned Sharkey puzzled at his Skipper’s odd behavior. He watched him run down the gangway to the shore. Curious he followed his progress to the beach where he saw Heather in the water and summed up the situation in a hurry.
Sparks keyed the mic to the outside intercom and broadcast the warning. "Heather, get out of the water, Shark! Repeat, get out of the water."
The men inside the boat all heard the warning. Nelson came flying down the spiral stairs with the other two admirals behind him and headed up the main hatch ladder yelling as he went to the startled faces of his crew, ""Don’t just sit there…"
Chip continued to watch the shark and to his horror found more than one. "Keep announcing. She doesn’t hear you! The surf is making too much noise." He watched as they homed in on Heather as she moved deeper into the sea.
Tony, who had almost reached the Sea Cub and being familiar with the echoes of the sound system, heard the frantic warning. He ordered the deck watch to the bow.
As he ran, Lee felt his sore ribs giving out. He had to make it. His patent leather shoes were slippery in the dry sand. He moved to the wet sand along the water’s edge. The elements seemed against him as the sand sucked his shoes down. No time to take them off. He angled his course towards his wife entering the water. She was still in about four feet of water. Most sharks attack in less than three feet of water. Come on Crane, move it. In the back of his mind, he heard the warning Sparks was broadcasting. Heather, can’t you hear that?
Heather was deep in thought. Why’d Tony kiss me like that? Doesn’t he realize the trouble it’ll cause? I don’t care if it was just a joke, it’s not funny, she raged. I have enough problems to contend with, I don’t need any more. She looked out to sea totally oblivious to the danger she was in. The surf pounded against her almost knocking her down. She laughed. How she enjoyed the water and the rhythmic sound of the waves. She heard the seagull’s cries from above issuing a warning. She looked carefully around seeing nothing. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her husband running full steam towards her. Ah oh, Lee must have seen that kiss. She looked past him to Seaview and saw the men in the conning tower and along the deck. Strange, there are more men on deck than usual. She glanced at her wristwatch; it’s not time to deploy, so they aren’t waiting to answer bells. Not knowing what was wrong, she unconsciously headed towards her husband’s racing form. As they approached each other she could see his face was clouded with fear and anxiety.
Lee was using the last of his reserves to make it to Heather, who was now four feet from shore and in two feet of water. He could see the shark’s fin behind her. Five yards at the most and closing fast, it’s going to be close. She’s finally seen me. She’s coming my way, almost in reach. He heard her call his name. Her face was filled with confusion. He snatched her up into his arms never breaking stride. He felt something grab onto his pant leg as pain tore into his calf. He kept running, letting the momentum push him to shore as he lunged out of the sea rolling onto land with Heather tight in his arms. Two gunshots from different directions echoed across the surf.
They lay in the sand on their side, Heather still wrapped in Lee’s arms. He was totally winded with his head pressed against her neck while sand covered both of them from the roll. His ribs were on fire along with his leg and he couldn’t stop panting. He could feel her pulse beat against his ear for she was totally still. Not able to speak yet, he looked up and noticed she was staring wide-eyed at something over his shoulder. He let go of her and forced himself to roll over onto his back. He turned his head and looked straight into the open mouth of the shark. It was close enough for him to reach out and touch it. He could see blood streaming from the bullet wounds to its head and his heart nearly stopped beating.
"Heather…are you…all right?" asked Lee trying to catch his breath and failing miserably.
Heather peeled her eyes away from the shark. The shark stunk and her stomach was taking exception to it. She looked into her husband’s pain filled hazel eyes and heard his rapid breathing, which put dread into her heart. "I’m fine, but you’re not." She got to her knees just as the crews from both boats descended upon them. Sharkey reached them first. He quickly handed his rifle over to Kowalski as he bent towards the couple.
"You guys all right?" he anxiously asked. They both nodded. He took Heather into his arms and quickly hugged her to reassure himself.
Lee noticed Owens from the Sea Cub had a rifle. "Nice shooting guys," he praised still somewhat winded. Doc made his way through the men to his Skipper’s side. The Admirals were behind him casting anxious glances.
"Doc, I’m fine," he tried to protest.
"Let me be the judge of that," flatly stated Doc as he did a respiration count and a pulse check. He then took his stethoscope out of his lab jacket and listened to his lungs for any diminished sounds. Satisfied with what he heard he said, "You pass."
The men all breathed a sigh of relief. Lee carefully sat up shrugging off Sharkey’s and Heather’s help.
"See, I’m fine."
That lasted until Doc spotted blood seeping down his leg. He tried to hide it under his other leg getting a raised brow from Doc and a frown from Heather. He grudgingly straightened his leg out stating, "It’s only a scratch."
Doc sighed in exasperation and checked the wound. "A scratch huh? This will probably take about twenty stitches to close if you’re lucky. The shark got a good nibble off of you."
Lee groaned, "It’s not going to keep me in sickbay, will it?" of all the damn luck. He looked heatedly at his wife. "Damn your flighty whims. This is your fault."
Heather gasped, "My fault? How was I to know there’d be a bloody shark out there?"
Doc tried to head off the argument he knew was coming, "Lee, take it easy, you probably won’t be stuck in sickbay, but you’re not going to be running any more marathons either." He looked at Patterson and Riley, "Let’s get him on his feet and back to the boat."
The men hoisted the Skipper up even though he steadily protested their help. He shrugged off their hands. "I can make it on my own," he emphatically stated. He stood there taking in the dead shark. "What do we do with him?"
Adm. Perkins interceded, "We’ll give it to the villagers on the next island. They’ll make good use out of it."
Captain Masters made his presence known from behind Crane, "Lee, I had no idea a kiss could cause so much trouble," he teased.
The men all held their breath. Crane glared long and hard at his rival. "Tony, I should punch you out for that stolen kiss, but I won’t," he gave a slight grin, "I’ve always wanted to go shark fishing, though I would’ve preferred to use different bait," he teased looking at his silent wife. The men shook hands and Lee said, "I’ll see you at the salvage site in a couple of days." Tony briefly nodded.
Lee glanced at his watch, "It’s time to get underway. Come on men, back to the boat." With a shout, his crew surrounded him as he limped back towards Seaview.
Heather stood rooted to the spot. She was staring at the bloody now dead shark. They made fun of me. Shark bait indeed, she bristled. She kicked the dead fish and it moved closing its mammoth jaws. A scream caught in her throat. This is too much! She backed up and hit the ground as another gunshot echoed across the beach.
Lee’s heart stopped along with his entire crew’s. They all quickly turned around and saw the Sea Cub’s crew gathered near the shark on the beach. Starke loudly murmured, "It must not have been dead yet. Strange…"
Lee instinctively looked around for Heather not spotting her long red hair among his men. He looked back at the Sea Cub crew. Some of the men were gathered around an object a short distance from the shark. He knew, he just knew what that object was. Forgetting about his leg, he took off again down the beach grateful it was a short run. Doc was right beside him. The men magically parted as they drew near.
He fell down on his knees beside her still form as Doc kneeled on his. "What happened?" he asked desperately as Doc did a quick exam on his wife.
Tony carefully bent down beside him, "She was angry, I could see it in her face."
"She kicked the Shark," said an excited crewmember from the Sea Cub.
"She did what?" asked Lee shocked.
Another man repeated, "She kicked the shark right in the head."
"It thrashed and snapped at her," stated Owens.
"Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen," expounded Chief Davis.
"I think it was more than she could take being a woman and all," said Hertz not unkindly.
"Heather has never fainted in her life," defended Lee glancing at Doc’s face. "Is she going to be all right?"
Doc straightened up from bending over Heather. "I think so, her vitals seem normal. I need to do a more extensive exam once we get her back aboard Seaview." Lee started to pick her up and Doc objected, "Sorry old man, not this time. Your leg is bleeding like a stuck pig and your ribs won’t take the added burden."
Sharkey who had quietly squatted down next to Doc reached over and effortlessly plucked her from the ground. "I have her Skipper." He cradled her like she was a newborn baby. "I remember doing this when she was small," he joked nervously.
The crew chuckled and Crane threw him an overprotective look. Nelson came up beside his Captain and put his arm around him daring him to shrug it off. Starke did the same thing on the other side and true to his character boomed, "Relax Captain, she’s in good hands."
Melonie was upset that she missed the whole thing. She’d been in the shower and had come out in time to find the entire boat nearly empty. Frank, Doc’s corpsman told her about the shark attack as he hurried to sickbay to get things ready. Not waiting for permission she climbed the main hatchway ladder and came out on the bridge. Chip was standing there with the binoculars practically glued to his eyes. Melonie came up beside him and asked, "What’s going on? Did I hear correctly about a shark?"
Chip, so intent about the happenings on the beach jumped again and banged his nose with the glasses. "Blast!" he snapped, "not again?"
He was once again ignored as Melonie’s interest was drawn to the beach. She saw most of the Seaview crew headed back towards the boat. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the condition of her friends. Both of them hurried down the conning tower hatch to meet the men below.
Seaview sailed on schedule with Lt. Chip Morton at her helm. "Bridge, prepare to answer bells. Cast off all lines…"
A little while later, Chief Sharkey reported they were out of the harbor.
Mr. Morton dived the boat and set the course and cruising speed. "Level off at two hundred feet, Maneuvering, come to course 145, Engine room, ahead two-thirds."
"Aye Sir," echoed over the intercom system. "Sparks, you have the conn. I’m going down to sickbay."
Chip arrived just in time to hear Doc say, "Twenty-three stitches, you’re lucky. The shark only nipped you."
"Humph," growled the Captain who was stretched out on his stomach on the examination table with only his shirt and shorts on. His wet shoes and socks lay on the deck beneath the table with his sodden pants where he had dropped them.
"You may sit up now," ordered Doc.
Crane did so and Doc noticed the bite mark on his thigh. "That’s a human bite. Where’d you get that?" he asked realizing immediately where he got it. He took out a fresh pad of gauze and poured some povidone-iodine cleansing solution on it. He methodically started cleaning the wound as he waited for an answer. This ought to be good.
Lee was in an atrocious mood and it was caused by the red-headed woman asleep in the bunk beside him. She had awakened as soon as they had entered the door to sickbay. Sharkey had gently laid her in the bunk and Doc had done another quick exam stating only that she had fainted. Heather had taken exception to that statement.
"I have never fainted in my life," she had quite proudly stated.
"Well, there’s a first time for everything," retorted her moody husband.
Doc had intervened, "Enough, you two or I’ll give you both a shot to shut you up." That had ended the bickering for a few minutes. Heather seeing her husband was being well taken care of fell into a deep sleep making up for the amount she’d missed the night before.
Doc seeing her exhaustion was disturbed, but given the agitated state her husband was in, kept it to himself. He was worried about his Skipper too, for he didn’t look much better than his wife. What am I going to do with these two?
"Skipper, I’m waiting," egged on Doc.
A low growl was heard from his Captain as he absently twisted his ring. Lee saw Chip come in and immediately inquired, "Everything all right in the control room?"
Doc sighed knowing he wasn’t going to get an answer.
"All is satisfactory," deadpanned Morton watching Doc clean the bite on his Skipper’s leg. Heather’s revenge no doubt. "We’re at two hundred feet, trim is satisfactory and cruising on course at two-thirds speed. How’s the leg?"
"Fine," snapped Lee. "As soon as I’m out of here, It’ll be better."
Doc sighed again, and Lee thought he was doomed. "You’re not keeping me here? Are you?" he scowled.
"No Captain," he saw his Skipper relax. "You’re still taking those antibiotic pills I gave you for your hand aren’t you?"
Lee shook his head yes, "As if you don’t remind me to everyday," he fretted. I’m sick of lectures.
"Good," was all Doc said.
"Good? That’s it?" questioned Lee not believing his luck.
"You had a tetanus shot last year and your body is still full of antibiotics." Doc picked up the pulse ox monitor and put it on Lee’s finger making it glow red. He waited as the machine did a pulse and oxygen count.
"Have you seen the Victory yet?" asked Lee of Chip.
"We passed her heading out of the harbor," reported his XO standing beside Doc.
The machine peeped and Doc announced, "Pulse 80 and oxygen reads 98%. Let me listen to your lungs again," ordered Doc putting the stethoscope in his ears.
Lee held still while Doc listened moving the stethoscope around in various places on his chest and back. "Breathe in and hold your breath." Lee did as asked.
"Again," repeated Doc "And once more."
"Good lung sounds. Your ribs are going to be sore a bit longer from the enforced activity. If you have any trouble let me know. You may go," ordered Doc.
"Thanks Doc," said Lee giving Doc a relieved smile. He quickly got up from the gurney and picked up his belongings and headed for the door with Chip behind him. He suddenly stopped causing Chip to almost run into him.
"Something wrong?" asked Doc knowing the question before he even asked it.
I’m going to let her sleep until she awakens on her own. She obviously needs more rest," said Doc glancing at his patient. "After she’s up I’ll run a few routine labs on her just as a precaution." He saw his Skipper’s eyes darken with worry. "Lee, I think she’ll be fine. She just had a bad scare, that’s all."
"If you say so, I’ll be in the control room once I get dressed. If you need me…"
"I’ll know where to find you," finished Doc.
Heather slept until noon. When her husband heard she was awake and all right, he immediately put her to work.
"We’re at the Coordinates, Skipper," reported Mr. Morton.
"All stop," ordered Crane.
"All stop," relayed Morton to the engine room holding the mic. "Maintain trim."
"Bring her up to ninety feet," ordered the Captain. "Up periscope,"
"Ninety feet," repeated Morton to the diving officer who in turn ordered the planesmen 10 degree up bubble. Sharkey started slowly pumping water from the trim tanks.
The XO flipped a switch on the island rail. Hydraulic pressure pushed the periscope upward on an oiled metal cylinder.
Crane pulled both handles down and started walking around the island even before it stopped. Morton hung on the rail waiting for his next order. "See anything interesting?" he asked.
"Rain, the seas are choppy like before." He walked slower around the island. "Strange, I can’t find the marker buoy."
Starke bellowed from the plot table, "It has to be there. Look again!"
"Yes Sir," replied Crane a tad miffed. He walked around the island again. "Nothing."
"Chip, what’s our keel to bottom depth?"
"Well, that depends…"
"Mr. Morton, the Captain asked you a question," boomed Starke.
"Jiggs, easy," interceded Nelson. "There are two depths here. One for the trench and the ocean floor."
Chip looked at the automatic depth control gage. "The ocean floor is 200 feet down."
"Ski, do you have a metal contact?" asked Crane still looking through the scope.
"Yes Sir, sonar shows one 400 feet down."
He got an odd look from all the officers. "Are you sure?" asked Morton.
Ski shook his head, "Yes Sir, it profiles like the Revelation."
"Riley, what do you hear on the hydrophone?" asked Crane.
"Marker buoy is 150 feet down, Sir."
"She’s slipped down further in the ravine," stated Nelson. "Lee break out the underwater camera."
"Yes Sir," he nodded to Chip, now behind sonar. The XO ordered Patterson to deploy the camera.
"Underwater camera deployed," relayed Mr. Morton as he took over the remote control for the one hundred thousand dollar camera. The camera was installed during their last refit. The monitor screen in front of the sonar console showed the picture perfectly. At 150 feet the men could clearly see the marker buoy. Chip lowered it to 190 feet. Off to the starboard side they made out the trench. He lowered the camera into the trench stopping at 250 feet by the ledge the Revelation was previously on. Skid marks were visible.
"When the slings gave way the Revelation must not have landed in it original position," mused Nelson. "Sharkey, what’s the velocity indicator show?"
"At present depth 2 knots, Sir."
"Do a readout in the trench," ordered Nelson.
"Yes Sir." Sharkey keyed in the needed information.
"It varies, near the top it reads 3 knots and descends to 6 knots at the bottom, Sir," reported Sharkey.
"Strong current," stated Starke. "More trouble."
"Humph," groaned Nelson.
By this time, Morton had found the Revelation at 400 feet. She was wedged on her side against a large rock and the trench’s sloping wall150 feet further down from where she was before.
"Well, she doesn’t look much different except for her position. It’s more precarious now. Take a look at the angle in the downhaul cable holding the buoy. The current is really swift," said Lee as he carefully examined the scene.
"We’ll have to stabilize the wreck with more cables from the Victory when she gets here. To tell you the truth, she looks like she’s ready to fall apart. The keel is gone, the bow is smashed and from what you said Lee before you jumped ship, the deck is in shambles. We might not be able to bring her up at all. She might literally fall apart if we move her again. We might have to go inside the wreck and find those chemicals ourselves," expounded Nelson.
That statement put dread in each man’s heart.
"Contact Skipper," sang out Kowalski on sonar.
Capt. Crane hurried over and stood behind his sonarmen. "What is it Ski?"
"Profiles like a barge. Eight thousand yards out."
"Probably the Victory." Crane ordered the periscope up as he climbed the steps to the island. Once the scope was up, he slowly walked around the island until he spotted the ship. "It’s the Victory all right. Chip, it’s time to take her up." He continued to slowly walk around the island making three more revolutions until he is satisfied no other boats were in the vicinity. "Sonar, any other vessel on the surface?"
"None Sir," reported Kowalski.
"Very well," stated the Captain satisfied. He turned to Sharkey, "Blow all ballast tanks. Surface the boat Mr. Morton."
"Surface. Surface," Chip ordered into the mic. Sharkey slowly turned the knobs. A rush of compressed air from the air flasks entered into the ballast tanks creating positive buoyancy. Seaview slowly climbed to the surface. Popping noises were heard as the hull expanded with the decreasing water pressure. Once on the surface, the boat swayed with the rhythmic motion of the waves.
The top hatch was cracked open. Crane and Morton climbed the ladder to the bridge followed by the two Admirals. The sun was high in the sky creating a glare over the ocean. The Victory stopped within 500 yards of the port beam within hailing distance of the Seaview. A brief conversation took place on the position of the Revelation. The Seaview men watched as the Victory got into her mooring lines.
The ten-man crew worked most of the morning putting great loops of cable along the side in preparation for dropping anchors. Then each mooring buoy with its separate ground tackle had to be exactly placed so that the anchors could grip the bottom. When it was done, the Victory was in a seven-point moor over the trench.
"Boy, I don’t think the Skipper’s ever going to get over his anger," muttered Riley to Harker in the galley. They were finishing up the lunch detail.
"Mmm, I know what ya mean. They’ve had their tiffs before, but never like this. How long has it been since the shark attack?"
"Too long," kidded Riley as he emptied the trash compactor. "I still can’t believe she kicked that shark. You could hear the Skipper dressing her down clear to the missile room when she woke up in sickbay."
"Speaking of sharks, did you ask the Skipper for permission to dump that?" blurted Harker. "You know, we’re in shark infested waters."
"Ya Harker, I know. There’s no diving today, so we can get rid of the garbage. It’s stinking up the whole boat and the fish smell is making Heather puke," replied Riley as he reached for a dishtowel and a clean plate.
"She’s still puking?" asked Harker surprised as he washed another dish and rinsed it in the sink.
"Only when she gets a whiff of fish. You know the Revelation was a fishing boat and the smell just bugs her stomach. Personally, I think it’s tied into all the bad memories she has of it." He grabbed the dish and quickly wiped it putting it in the hopper.
"That might be true Riley," agreed Harker, then in a low tone of voice, " but Mr. Peoples thinks she’s hitting the sauce behind the Skipper’s back. He says every time he’s ever seen her she’s either drunk or sick."
Ski, who was mopping the mess hall deck joined in on the conversation, "Harker, be real. Don’t believe everything you hear from that man. Peoples has it in for Heather. You know she would never do that."
"Mmm, I suppose…" He continued to wash the dishes for a while whistling off tune. " By the way, Ski, you owe me twenty bucks," reminded Harker.
Ski gave him a dirty look.
Harker ignored the look "I’ve seen how slow she’s walking and how carefully she sits down," razed Harker. "Besides, Mr. People’s said as much." He grabbed a pan and put it in the sink to soak.
Riley jumped in and said, "The Captain didn’t do it. You know, he’d never hurt her. He gave her extra duties to perform that’s all."
"Oh, you mean like cleaning the air vents. I heard People’s complaining about the dust and noise she made. Then, she had to clean all the officer’s cabins from keel to con." snickered Harker. "I bet she found some interesting stuff in there, if you get my drift."
Ski took offense to that. "Watch your mouth Harker," he warned.
"Those aren’t my words," protested Harker. "Mr. Peoples was the one spreading scuttlebutt about Mr. Morton sleeping with Starke’s daughter. You know, they’re sneaky about it. You don’t hear the moans like you did with Peaches, but we got eyes," he laughed.
Kowalski dropped the mop, came around the counter and grabbed Harker by the shirt then pushed him up against the bulkhead. "I’m only going to tell you this once, stop the scuttlebutt on Heather and Melonie. What the top brass does is their business," he shook him for emphasis. "Got it?"
"Sure, I got it Ski," he spat. "What’s it to ya anyways?" whined Harker as Ski let him go.
"I don’t like Mr. Peoples. He’s making nothing but trouble for the Skipper. He complains about everything. I can’t wait until we get those chemicals so he’ll get off the boat," crouched Ski as he went back and picked up the mop.
Riley finished drying the plates and threw the towel over his shoulder, "The Skip can handle Peoples, but what I don’t get is why is he still mad at Heather?" he asked as he helped himself to a soda. "I mean no one feels free to talk to her. She’s got to be hurt by our actions."
"The men aren’t being mean on purpose. They’re just supporting the Skipper. He’s hassled about his wife for she has a habit of acting before she thinks. You know how trouble follows her around." He leaned on the mop and grinned, "Of course it follows him around too." He bent over the mop again, "Nah, he’s not mad at her just concerned. Besides, the salvage is taking up most of his time."
"Well, at least we were able to fire the explosive bolts into the wreck and anchor the new holding lines before bad weather set in again. Patterson said the pressure and current were really rough down there. He was down there only a short time and was having trouble with his coordination," recounted Riley sipping his soda.
"That happens sometimes in deeper dives. Four hundred feet is not that bad, but the pressure wears you out," add Ski.
Harker let the water out of the sink. "I heard Mr. Peoples complained to Washington that the brass were dragging their feet on this project. He wants them to act faster and be less cautious. He thinks they’re in it for the money."
Riley choked on his soda, "That’s a damn lie."
Ski stopped mopping the floor again and came up to the counter. "How do you know so much about Peoples?" he bluntly asked.
"He plays cards with us every night. His cabin is just forward of our quarters. He said he’s bored and needs something to do."
"Oh really? Does the Skipper know this?" asked Ski.
"Of course, he does. He’s suppose to know everything that happens on this boat. Right? After all, that’s why he’s the Captain."
"Look George, you’ve gone on long enough," said a simmering Nelson throwing his pencil on his desk. If he says one more thing about Crane I’ll throw him overboard.
"It’s the Captain’s fault we’re not moving fast enough," speculated Peoples heedless to Nelson’s thoughts.
"Blast it, we know you want those chemicals, but I won’t endanger the men’s lives to save time. The downhaul cables are coupled. As you know, the wreck is too unstable to move. The current is swift and the men are exhausted by the time they reach the site. That problem combined with the depth of the dive puts a time limit on how much each diver can take even with the special mix of helium and oxygen."
"There’s got to be another way!" argued Peoples gripping the arms of the chair he sat in.
"There is and we’re working on it," assured Nelson. As an after thought he asked, "What’s the big hurry anyway?"
To Nelson’s surprise Peoples seemed nervous all at once. Why?
"My superiors are getting impatient." He stood up seemingly in a hurry to leave. "Speaking of them, I need to get back to my reports." He turned and left the cabin not seeing Nelson’s questioning look.
"The trench is too narrow for the flying sub to descend very far down," said a subdued Crane as he stared at Nelson’s plan on the table in the observation nose.
"Too narrow, my ass," retorted Peoples in a sharp voice. "You’re just afraid to take chances," he accused.
"That’s right Mr. Peoples, the lives of the men on this boat are my responsibility and I and only I will say how this operation will be completed!" barked the Captain.
"I can have you relieved of that responsibility. One call to Washington…"threatened Peoples.
"This is a privately owned boat Mr. Peoples and only Adm. Nelson can relieve me of duty if he sees fit," countered Crane. They were standing nose to nose over the table.
"And he doesn’t," interrupted Nelson seated at the table his hand rubbing his forehead. "Enough! This bickering will not get the job done. The sooner we work out a solution, the sooner we can all go home," he exclaimed slapping his hand on the table. "Now, both of you sit down."
With heated glares both men sat down. A chuckle was heard from Capt. Masters. The Sea Cub had joined the site early that morning. Crane irritably asked, "What’s so funny?"
Tony exchanged a look with Chip who was at the plot table shaking his head at the whole conversation. He was saved from answering when Starke cut in, "Harriman, this plan will work," he looked around the table seeing the varying expressions.
Adm. Perkins prodded, "Go on Jiggs, you’ve the conn so to speak."
"All right instead of using the flying sub we can use the diving bell."
"We’ve been over that," flatly replied Crane. "The current is too strong."
"Listen up Captain," bluntly ordered Starke. He knew the captain had been under a lot of stress. He wasn’t happy with what he’d been seeing the last few days. The man looked terrible. He knew he wasn’t sleeping for he’d run into him more than once in the wardroom during the night. A video would be playing of Heather’s sessions with Dr. Pinnell. He never intruded for the anguish on Crane’s face was something to behold. So, he’d quietly shut the door and left him to his privacy flipping the do not enter sign on the door.
"We can’t drop her out of Seaview’s hatch freestyle because the current would create more than a 50 degree angle, so the next best thing is to put her on a downhaul cable."
Nelson immediately understood. "That’s it Jiggs, good thinking. Why didn’t I think of that? Because my mind has been elsewhere... He shook his head clearing the cobwebs.
Before anymore could be said Peoples impatiently asked, "What are you talking about?"
"The bell with the divers would pressurize to the correct depth on the way down and up from the site. The men wouldn’t have to fight the current and it would save their strength. It would give them more time to work the site."
"Why can’t the Victory’s divers do the job? After all, they have the deep diving suits?" asked Peoples still in a snit.
Starke bellowed, "We’ve been through this Peoples. The Victory has four divers, they have the equipment, but the Revelation is a mass of jagged metal. The long air hoses have been caught or snagged more than once creating more trouble than they’re worth. On top of that, their master diver has a stomach ailment. The same ailment half the men on Seaview and the Sea Cub have had."
Peoples snorted, "We all know who’s fault that is." He looked spitefully at Crane. "You let the men go ashore in a strange port."
Resentful of the comment, Crane heatedly responded, "The men deserved a break after what they’d been through with Baxter. It wasn’t a strange port, Master’s men knew it well," he looked at Tony for confirmation.
"That is true Peoples, how were we to know they’d get food poisoning?" he said backing Lee up.
"Food poisoning? Is that what you’re calling it? More than likely they picked it up from Crane’s wife. She sure been tossing her cookies enough lately and please don’t tell me it’s from the hang over," nettled Peoples.
"The hangover’s not entirely her fault. She couldn’t handle the fact she was fired from the CIA," defended Lee.
"Well, we know whose fault that was," smugly stated Peoples looking at Nelson. He knew he’d hit home when he saw Nelson’s mouth pinch. Encouraged he sneered, "So tell me Crane, why is she sick most of the time?"
Lee was angry and bothered. He didn’t know why she was sick all the time. That seemed to be the million-dollar question of every man on board. He lowered his eyes to keep Peoples from realizing how deeply the conversation was affecting him. He’d been busy overseeing the salvage. Washington was on his back even though Nelson took most of the flack from them relieving him of the heat. The men had been sick albeit most were on the mend, but they were weak. The food poisoning had affected a few of his divers making it impossible for them to go down to the site.
Peoples became impatient and asked again, "Come on Crane. Why is she sick?"
Nelson, sensing Crane’s thoughts came to his and Heather’s defense, "She became sensitive to fish. Now, enough said on that subject and back to the diving bell." He cleared his throat and lit a cigarette. "Here’s what we’ll do. The main boom from the Victory will attach a lift wire and haul out the bell from Seaview’s hold. The bell will be kept on the Victory until the salvage operation is complete. We’ll run a new downhaul cable from the decks of the Victory to the stern of the Revelation. It will have to pass through the spooling device and be secured to the winch drum in the diving bell. That will give us a clear scope of cable to the wreck. The Victory should be able to handle this with no problem. It’ll be like a rescue mission."
"So Admiral, being a novice at this, how does the bell work on a downhaul cable?" asked Peoples.
"The bell is really divided into two sections. The upper section is known as the hatch trunk where the deep-sea viewports are located and the men sit. Floodlights are mounted on top of these windows to be used for deep dives. At the top on the outside of the bell, there are connectors for the high-pressure air hose and power cable. They extend inward to the various instrumentation and accessories needed to operate a diving bell. There are also reserve air tanks inside the bell in case something goes wrong."
Nelson finished his cigarette and snuffed it out in the ashtray cluttered with other butts. "The lower compartment has a massive spring loaded hatch which can be entered through the trunk hatch. At the bottom of the bell is another hatch of the same. When the bell is diving freestyle or another words attached to a cable and weighted down with ballast we don’t use this compartment. But, when situations arise where a downhaul cable is needed, such as the one we find ourselves in today because of the strong current or for another example, as in a rescue of a submarine it comes in mighty handy. The winch below is operated from the trunk hatch and hauls the bell down the cable to seal snugly around the skirt of the torpedo room hatch on a stricken sub. The rate of descent is controlled by a clutch. Once the bell couples with the hatch the ballast is pumped out and then we can open the hatch into the sub. Now, in our case, the men will have free access to the ocean and be closer to the wreck thereby conserving their energy and extending their dive time at the site."
"When can we get started?" asked Peoples impatiently.
"Right away," answered Nelson getting up from the table. He walked over to the radio shack, "Sparks, patch me through to the Victory."
Peoples’ questions haunted Lee as he stood on the bridge overseeing the transfer of the bell to the Victory. He’d had no time for Heather. They were like two ships passing in the night. He’d found the duty she hated doing most and had assigned her to it until further notice. Cookie reported she was handling all her duties well, but the fish smell was about to do her in. He’d smiled at that. That will teach her to defy me. Some of the men fished daily for recreation since they were on the surface and idle in the water. Not realizing to what extent the fish affected her, he’d ordered Cookie to have her clean the fish as part of her extra duties. He was soon to regret the whole idea as he had quietly watched from the bridge…
"All right Heather here’s what you do," explained Cookie. He had her sit down on the warm deck. He picked up a fish from the small pile beside her. He laid the fish on an over turned bucket. With a sharp fishing knife from the galley, he scraped the scales off the fish then slit the belly open. He cleaned out the guts and expertly pulled out the backbone intact. Next he cut the head off and dropped it in the pail with the guts. "Now, you try it." He handed her the knife throwing the fish in a beat up old basket.
When she took the knife, she gritted her teeth as she awkwardly cut open the fish. She swore a blue streak when the scales of the fish dug into her hand. After wiping her hand on her pants to ease the sting she tore out the backbone. It had broken into pieces, so that she had to pick out the bones indivually. When she was done, she whacked off the head and held up the mangled fish for Cookie’s inspection. The men laughed and made fun of her.
"Not bad," Cookie encouraged as he gave the men a sour look. "Try it again."
She tried again without much success. The men offered her many tips on how to clean the fish. Their laughter and teasing, Lee could tell, grated on her nerves, but she seemed determined to take it in stride. As time went on, she got better and faster at cleaning the fish. The ribbing had finally slowed down much to his relief.
Lee continued his vigil from the bridge as the day grew hot and the deck became stifling. He noticed sweat poured down her face and a hand often went to her stomach. Once in a while, she stood up and stretched her back to work out the kinks and drank some warm bottled water. Occasionally, she’d look over at the sea and she’d swallow hard. He could clearly see her face for she was sitting directly in front of him totally unaware that she was being observed. Something doesn’t seem quite right. I’m being over protective. A little hard work never hurt anyone. She’s just not used to this type of work, that’s all.
"Here’s a beauty for ya," proudly stated Harker as he dropped a large squirming fish onto her lap as the men watched wondering what she would do.
Lee held his breath as Heather looked at the fish with its open mouth and swishing tail. A look of loathing crossed her face. She instantly clapped a hand over her mouth rapidly breathing in and out. She took her hand off her mouth and gave it a disgusting look as she wiped it once again on her pants, then she wiped her mouth on her sleeve pushing the moving fish off her lap.
"Oh no," she cried in anguish as she jumped to her feet and raced to port landing on her knees in time to retch over the side of the boat.
Some of the men roared with laughter, while others were appalled. Lee watched as she sat up with fire and hurt in her eyes. She’s had enough and so have I. He started down the conning tower ladder feeling the pull of the stitches in his leg. He paused midway giving his leg a rest and heard Peoples cunningly bait his wife.
"What’s the matter Heather, did the itty-bitty-fish remind you of the shark?" he maliciously laughed, "Chomp. Chomp." Nervous laughter was heard from the men.
Harker joined in, "Are you going to kick this fish in the head too?" More laughter from the men with a few suggestions on what she could do with the fish.
Lee started to descend the ladder again, his displeasure growing as he watched Heather reach for the pail of fish guts. Her face full of rage and her eyes shooting sparks she started to stalk Harker and Peoples with the pail of fish guts. The men were fast at ducking behind other men. She faked a few out by pretending to throw the contents of the pail. It quickly became a game amongst the men, bets were laid and teams divided. One group of men tried to help her corner a victim, while the other side tried to keep her from succeeding intentionally blocking her path. Each time she came close to throwing the contents the men darted out of the way increasing her frustration.
"Hey, Fishbait, come and get me," jeered Peoples as he ran behind the conning tower.
Harker corrected him, "No it’s Sharkbait, the Skipper called her Sharkbait," he took off after Peoples running around the conning tower.
Heather had reversed course and ran the opposite way around the sail waiting until they made the last angle. When the men were in sight, she threw the contents of the bucket. It landed just as he’d jumped down from the conning tower in front of the men hitting him square in the chest.
The deck became suddenly silent. Heather instantly dropped the bucket and took off at a dead run.
He’d caught her before she made the conning tower side hatch. She was furious and embarrassed. "Let me go!" she’d screamed with desperation in her eyes.
His own anger coming to the fore and heedless of his sore ribs he’d picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. She pounded on his back and he felt every hit. He tightened his grip on the struggling woman’s legs and swatted her hard on the behind. The men once again roared with laughter. That had only increased her fury. She increased her struggles to get off his shoulder when to all their horror; she vomited down his legs and in the back of his shoes.
He had quickly pulled her into an upright position and set her on her feet. Her legs refused to support her and she nearly crumbled to the deck as he grabbed her arms. Great racking sobs could be heard as she weakly fought to get away from him. His anger abruptly left him as he realized there was more at stake here than her woman’s pride. He’d never known her to carry on so in front of his men. He held onto the struggling woman pulling her tight against him until the insanity passed. Gradually she regained her composure and he knew she was probably mortified. Very carefully, he picked her up and cradled her in his arms. Heather put an arm came around his neck and buried her red face in the crook of his neck. He carried her down the conning tower hatch stairs and through the corridors of Seaview to their cabin. They got many strange looks from the men including her father, who just turned and shook his head as he went into his cabin. He could well imagine the trail they were leaving behind.
Heather was still as a mouse when he’d made their cabin. He wasn’t quite sure where to set her down with fish-guts and vomit all over both of them. Finally, he set her on her feet by the head. To his surprise she just stood there staring at the deck. Gently now, for he didn’t want to upset her more than she was, but curious at the same time he asked, "Heather what happened up there?"
Still staring at the deck she stammered, "I’m ah, I’m sorry."
"That’s it? You’re sorry?" he asked dumb-founded. "You behave like a wild woman and all I get is a I’m sorry?"
She looked up at him totally dismayed. She nervously ran a dirty hand down through her hair stopping at the bottom of her braid where she pulled out the rubber band. Not understanding her emotions herself, she very shakily pleaded, "Look, I don’t …I don’t know…the fish smell got to my stomach. I tried to get away…before I…did you in." She fidgeted with the ends of her hair getting a whiff of fish as she looked down at her clothes. "Augh, I’ve got to get out of these clothes." She hurriedly took them off in front of her speechless husband and stalked into the head leaving the clothes in a pile on the deck.
Lee heard her brush her teeth, then the shower came on and he decided to join her. He stripped off his soiled clothes and kicked them to join Heather’s on the deck. Heather seeing him thus moved against the back wall of the shower and made room for him. It was a very tight fit for the shower was confining. He picked up the soap and handed it to her. She lathered her hands and began to rub them gently over his muscular body when he heard her gasp.
"What’s wrong?" he asked alarmed.
Very carefully she rubbed her fingertips over his bruised ribs. She leaned her forehead against his chest and squeezed her eyes shut. "I forgot about your bruises. Did I hu…hurt you much?" she stammered angry with herself.
"No love," he softly said. "I’ll be all right," he whispered in her ear and kissed her temple.
Very carefully now, she kneaded his body and worked her magic on him. He knew she was trying to make up for the embarrassment she had caused him. He let the water and his wife soothe him as he wondered at the secrets she carried. Trust me Heather, I know you’ve had more than your share of pain, but you have me now. I’m here love, share your fears with me, run to me with your troubles, have faith in me… please…he looked down at her bowed head. She’s trying so hard to please me… little does she know it’s useless…I am all ready more than well pleased with her. He lifted her face up and brought his head down and gently kissed her.
The men were still giving him odd looks and at times patting him on the back with a smirk or twinkle in their eyes. He couldn’t figure it out. On top of that his conscience smote him for he hadn’t been able to keep a close eye on Heather. She was barely talking to him. Actually, she’s too tired to talk to me, the second she hits the bunk she’s out. He, on the other hand was having trouble sleeping. The dreams wouldn’t let up and he’d taken this time to review Heather’s sessions. He had a much better understanding of what his wife had been through and why she’d landed up on the ledge. It still doesn’t excuse it. His responsibilities weighed heavily on his shoulders……
A crack of thunder brought him out of his gloomy thoughts and he looked up into the sky. Great, a storm, he looked over at the Victory. Well at least the bell made it over to the barge okay. How long have I been daydreaming?
Nelson climbed out of the hatch on the bridge with a half smoked cigarette in his hand. "Storm huh?"
"One thing you can never depend on is the weather," lamented Lee as he watched the storm clouds roll in. The submarine swayed heavily in the water.
"Humph," agreed Nelson. "You going to take her down?" he asked flicking the last of his cigarette into the ocean. I really need to break this habit. It’s going to be the death of me.
Lee studied the horizon, Clouds as far as I can see with no relief in sight. Blast will we ever get this mission over with? He watched as the Sea Cub dived to smoother depths. The Victory was taking the five-foot swells in stride. The bell was swinging on the boom as the men from the barge were lowering it into her cradle. They quickly lashed her down and went below. Crane reached for the microphone. "Prepare to dive. Lookouts below."
The Seaview grapevine was at work again.
"I’ll bet you twenty bucks she is," stated Simmons as he secured the aft hatch.
"I’ll bet you thirty she isn’t," countered Ski putting away some tools.
"She has that look," said Evans. "That same look my wife had."
"Yeah, and she’s tired all the time," added Simmons climbing down the ladder.
"Not only that, her walk is different and she rubs her back a lot. I don’t think its because her ass is sore either," insisted Clarke.
"You know Ski, you still owe me twenty bucks from the last bet."
"Don’t start that again," muttered Ski and he walked forward.
Heather was more than relieved when she heard the klaxon alarm sound off as she absently peeled potatoes. Now, maybe my stomach will settle down once we’re off the surface. She was seated at one of the long tables in the enlisted men’s mess adjacent to the galley. The going was tedious and she hated the job she was doing. I won’t complain though. I’ll never complain again as long as he doesn’t make me clean fish. She heard the trim tanks fill with water. Oh Lee, are you ever going to forgive me for defying you and embarrassing you? I had only wanted a quiet walk on the beach before we sailed. Was that asking so very much? She knew it was for she hadn’t asked his permission to take the walk. She nicked her thumb. She was used to using a potato peeler instead of a sharp knife. Her hand cramped up and she dropped the knife. There was a big kettle to fill with potatoes and she realized with a sinking heart, she was only half done. The fresh stores had come from the Sea Cub’s port and Cookie wanted mashed potatoes for tonight’s dinner.
Lee’s more than had his say this time. She thought back to when she had awakened in sickbay after the shark incident. She’d barely made it to the head in time. Doc had her put on a gown and then he’d carefully examined her. When he was done he did some lab work…
How long have you been sick like this?" he’d asked concerned.
Sheepishly, she had answered, "Only a couple of days. How long does a hangover last?"
"Not this long," replied Doc with a smile. "Heather, you may get dressed now. I’m going to run a couple tests on your blood work in the lab. Wait for me."
She reluctantly picked up her sandy clothes and shook them out. This is all I’ve got until I can get back to the cabin. She had quickly dressed wondering what Doc would find. When he’d come back with the results, she had literally been shocked.
A small argument had taken place, but in the end, she’d won.
Doc picked up the mic, "Skipper, this is sickbay."
"Doc, I’ll be right down."
She’d been nervous. She’d not forgotten the fight they’d had earlier when he almost warmed her backside. She looked down at her clothes. Shorts and his old shirt, he’s going to have a fit.
That had been an understatement, she thought as she climbed through the air shafts to clean each one. Her knees and back were killing her. The dust was thick and she sneezed often. When Lee had limped into sickbay he had the dreaded list in his hand. He’d tossed it at her and had heatedly dressed her down for the clothes she’d had on and for putting herself in danger again. When he was done, he’d asked if she understood everything he’d just said. His eyes had lacked all warmth and Heather had felt cold clear down to her toes. Much to her disgust she’d meekly answered, "Yes Sir."
The men had complained about the dirt and noise especially Mr. Peoples as she vacuumed the shafts out with a long air hose connected to a compressor in the engine room. To make matters worse, after the shafts were done, she had to climb on a ladder and clean each vent. When that task had been completed, she started in on the officer’s cabins, then the guest cabins and last, but not least their own cabin. She’d found some interesting items in each cabin. I’m not snooping, but what is Melonie’s nightgown doing in Chip’s cabin? They can’t be doing it under Starke’s nose can they? Chip would have to be crazy, she giggled, crazy in love. I remember when Lee used to…she stopped thinking and changed the sheets.
A few days later, she’d found herself in the galley once again. She’d crossly yelled at Lee in front of the men. She’d made the mistake of telling him what he could do with her cooking and how much she hated doing it. Serves you right, big mouth. He’s the Captain. The boat and the mission have first priority. You know that. So, he finally gets some free time and what do you do? You, blow up at him. Blast my temper. Well hell, I was mad. The men have all been strangely distant from me. It hurts. I can see the speculation in their faces…since the shark incident they don’t know how to take me anymore. It’s my fault…Dr Pinnell was right. Women don’t belong on submarines. I am underfoot and in the way. No wonder he’s been ignoring me… And blast those damn duty lists that keep appearing on my desk. She picked up the knife again with a sigh and started peeling……
Sharkey was off duty and had been ordered to get some extra rest for he and Patterson would be the first to dive using the bell. When the weather refused to cooperate, he found himself with extra time on his hands. I’m going to get a fresh cup of coffee and join the men for a movie before dinner. He walked into the enlisted men’s mess and noticed Heather by herself day dreaming.
"A penny for your thoughts?" he asked.
Startled, she’d nicked herself with the knife. "Blast, I hate this job," she railed. With Sharkey, she was always free to be herself. She carefully held a dirty towel speckled with blood to the cut.
"How many times have you done that?" asked her godfather concerned at the amount of splotches he had seen.
She looked down at her bloody hand repulsed, "Oh, Sharkey I’m a lousy cook. I can’t even peel potatoes right," she softly whined.
"Well, for one thing you have to pay attention. You were a million miles away. What were you thinking about?" he asked grabbing hold of her hand causing her to drop the knife. He prodded her hand open and saw the bloody blisters, the real reason for the splotches. He sucked in his breath. "The Skipper know about this?"
Heather snatched her hand back and picked up the knife, "No, and you’re not going to tell him,’ she hastily ordered. "I don’t want him to know how incompetent I am."
Sharkey knew just the opposite, she’s very good in the kitchen, but she just hates to cook. She doesn’t have the right temperament for it I guess. He went into the galley, got a knife, came back and sat down beside her. He reached for a potato.
Not understanding, Heather asked, "What are you doing?"
Cookie said you had to peel potatoes correct?"
"Did he say you couldn’t have help?"
"There you have it kid, after all, home economics was my best class in high school," bragged Sharkey.
"Get out of here," laughed Heather.
Lee Crane also found some extra time on his hands. He had ordered Heather back to the galley after a brief altercation in front of his men. He’d kept tabs on her most of the day. She’d gone through her normal duties even typing up the notes from yesterday’s meeting with the brass for Nelson. He finished the last of the taped sessions with Dr. Pinnell. "Damn, that woman. Heather didn’t have a chance against her," he raged out loud. She’d shrewdly used all her insecurities against her. Shoot, I would’ve had trouble not believing her. Heather tried to trust me. She said she heard my voice in the car. Then, why was she on that ledge? She needed me, plain and simple and I wasn’t there. The damn shrink made sure Heather had been cut off from everyone who loved her.
He got up and decided to find his wife. The air needed to be cleared between them. As he walked down the corridors of Seaview, he heard a movie playing in the wardroom, music in the crew’s quarters, the rattle of dice on the acey deucy board and the snap of the cards from a card game. All seems well. He smiled.
He quietly walked into the galley and got a cup of coffee. He looked over the counter and saw Heather and Sharkey peeling potatoes with their backs to him. What’s he doing helping her? This was to be her punishment. He was going to interrupt them with a reprimand when the conversation took an interesting turn. He leaned on the counter and quietly sipped his coffee.
"I got straight A’s if you can believe that," proudly stated Sharkey.
Heather looked up at her godfather with love in her eyes, "I bet your Mom was proud of you," she softly said.
"Hmm, yeah, I guess so." He finished with the potato, laid it on the table and reached for another one totally unaware his Skipper was observing them from the galley.
"So, that’s why you gave me a tea set for my fifth birthday?" giggled Heather. "The nesting instinct huh, Shark?"
"That tea set was a birthday present as well as a goodbye gift...remember, I was going into the Navy?"
Heather became unnaturally quiet. Lee’s ears perked up, so did Sharkey’s.
In a sad tone of voice she murmured, "It was the last time I saw you for a long time…until the accident. You know, I played with that tea set every day."
She absently nodded her head yes, "I spent a lot of time in my room Sharkey. Grams and Gramps were old and wanted quiet. They didn’t want to deal with a young precocious child. I learned to do quiet things like read books and write stories in my head. I was never allowed to have friends over from school. Every little thing set them off and I couldn’t seem to please them." She dumped the remaining potatoes from the sack onto the table. Sharkey kept peeling. Lee stopped drinking his coffee.
"Every so often, I’d be busy playing and I’d feel Gram watching me with the oddest expression on her face…" She stopped what she was doing and thought about that a second. Sharkey kept on peeling. Lee didn’t move.
"She’d start to cry for no reason, I swear Sharkey, I didn’t do anything to make her mad, but she’d stare at me and start to cry. Of course, then Gramps would get mad at me and send me to my room…I spent hours in there…that’s where your tea set came in handy. Do you remember the first and only party I had with you?"
Sharkey nodded his head not trusting his voice. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, you set a place for me and yourself. I also remember you putting out two other place settings with empty chairs. Your only doll was in a highchair," he grinned at that. So, did the Captain. Curious Sharkey asked, "What were the other two places for? Imaginary friends?"
Heather sliced the potatoes into chunks that Sharkey had peeled. "No, they were for my parents. One for Mom and one for Dad and after you left, one was for you." She cut the potatoes with a little more vigor. "I used to pretend…I had the most outlandish conversations with all of you," she shyly smiled.
Sharkey could only nod his head. His eyes were misting. He lowered his head, so she couldn’t squarely see his face. Lee turned around, but couldn’t move from the spot. His coffee forgotten. Heather kept talking unaware of the emotions that surrounded her.
"One day Gram was going through some drawers in the hallway and by accident I saw some pictures in there. I asked her if I could see them. She slammed the drawer shut and told me not to bother her about them. I was only six at the time and I was curious, for I’d never seen a picture of my Mother and I had often wondered what she looked like. Truth to tell, at the time, I could barely remember what my Father looked like." Sharkey gave her a slight grin. "Well anyways, one day, they both were taking a nap. So very quietly, I snuck out of my room and went through one of the drawers in the hallway." She finished cutting the potatoes and waited patiently for Sharkey to finish peeling the last one.
Sharkey was totally mystified. He never dreamed her grandparents who were his aunt and uncle had treated her this way. I wonder if the Admiral knew? My guess is no. "Heather, finish the story…did you get a picture?" he asked forgetting about the potato. Lee found himself gripping the counter.
She took the potato from Sharkey and finished peeling it. "Yes, I found a small one of them both when they got married. I still have it. Years later, I framed it and put it in a safety deposit box when I went under cover. It’s all I have of Mom." She looked pensively at Sharkey noticing the sad expression on his face. "Sharkey, what was my Mother like?"
It was almost the burley chief’s undoing. He stared at her for a long time trying to get his feelings under control. "Heather, look in a mirror. Except for your hair you’re the spitting image of her. Beautiful, all fire and stubborn just like the Admiral has said so many times."
A red blush crept over her skin and she stood up. "You’re being kind Sharkey, I could never be even half the person she was." She started to pick up the heavy pot of potatoes when a wave of dizziness over took her. She quickly sat them back down. Damn, not again.
Sharkey lost in his own thoughts missed her actions, but the Captain hadn’t. He immediately came up behind her and swept her up in his arms. "You’re finished here and you are going to sickbay."
"Sickbay," exclaimed both Heather and Sharkey at the same time.
"You can’t fool me any longer Heather Crane, you’re sick and I want to know just what is going on," exclaimed the captain.
"Lee, it’s only the fish. I haven’t puked once today. I swear it," she pleaded trying to ease his anxiety.
"Maybe not, but you just swayed like you were going to faint," he argued as he carried her to the door.
"I have never fainted in my life," she objected in a huff.
"Try that one again, sweetheart," he scolded as he started down the corridor.
"Blast it Lee Crane, put me down!" she loudly protested, "I’ve got dinner to prepare. Cookie is counting on me, we have guests coming from the other boats…"
Sharkey heard them arguing all the way to sickbay, it was music to his ears. The Seaview grapevine will be running hot tonight.
"Well, well," smirked Starke to Nelson in the lab. "The boat is coming to life."
Nelson actually guffawed.
"Skipper, I wish to talk to my patient alone. Please excuse us," Doc expertly maneuvered the Captain to the door. Crane turned to protest only to have the door shut in his face. What in the hell is going on? He felt ill at ease standing in the corridor like an expectant father, so he went in search of Nelson. He found Chip in the wardroom playing a game of gin rummy with Melonie.
Chip seeing his look of unease and having overheard Heather’s protests carefully asked, "Doc kick you out?"
A scowl from his Skipper told him what he needed to know. "Lee, sit down and we’ll deal you in. Doc will page you when he’s ready," assured Chip as he shuffled the cards.
Lee didn’t buy it. They’re hiding something from me. What could possibly be wrong that she hasn’t told me about?
Serves me right for ignoring her for the past few days. I couldn’t help it though, I’ve had my own duties to perform.
Still though, she’s my wife and my responsibility.
Lee sat down and asked, "Melonie, if Heather were sick she’d tell you about it wouldn’t she? I mean, you girls talk about everything, don’t you?"
Melonie seeing his distress tried to calm him down with an easy smile. "As far as I know Lee, the fish smell is all that ails her."
"But she fainted on me once and almost did a few minutes ago," brooded Lee twisting his ring as he rested his elbows on the table. He ignored the cards that had been dealt to him.
"Lee," Melonie put her hand on his arm and compassionately said, "I’m sure it’s nothing serious. In view of all that’s happened to her during the last month I would bet you my last dollar…that it’ll just be a simple case of nerves."
"You really think so?" he asked plainly agitated. He picked up the cards, looked at them and threw them down.
No. Melonie chewed her lip and patted his hand trying to give him encouragement. There’s something wrong all right, but it’s not nerves.
"Heather, you’ve got to tell him. The man is worried to death."
"I know that Doc, but it’ll break his heart," cried Heather pounding the gurney with her fist.
Doc noticed the blood on her hand. He shook his head as he silently examined her hand. He reached into the medicine cabinet and took out the yellow iodine cleanser and went to work not changing the subject.
"The longer you wait the harder it’ll be. Time is running out," seriously warned Doc.
Heather bowed her head, "I know, but he’s got so much on his mind. You said it could probably wait until we returned to port."
A long sigh from Doc. "Quit putting the words back in my mouth. This mission is taking a lot longer than we anticipated. He’s going to find out sooner or later. What are you going to do if something happens?" He finished cleaning her hand and wrapped a light dressing around it.
"I don’t know Doc." Two tears slid down her face. "I just don’t want to hurt him. He’s been through enough with me."
Doc reached out and gave her a hug, "Heather, I’d give anything if things could be different for you, but I’m afraid it’s not possible. I’m sorry."
Heather nodded her head. "I’ll tell him soon, I promise. Can I go?"
"You’ll tell me immediately if you have any pain or bloody tinge?" persisted Doc.
She listlessly answered, "Yes," her voice broke as she got up from the examination table.
Doc stood by the door; he reached up and tenderly cupped her chin seeing the misery in her eyes. Kindly he said, "Try and get some rest, if…"
Heather could only nod.
When Heather stepped out of sickbay, she found her husband leaning against the bulkhead with his arms folded and a determined look on his face. Oh boy, I’m going to have to tell him.
Lee seeing her tearstained face became alarmed. He took her into his arms and hugged her to him not understanding her emotional state at all.
Heather felt his love and warmth enfolding her. She drew strength from his strong arms. I always feel so safe in his arms.
He carefully asked, "What’s wrong love?"
Heather closed her eyes relishing the feel of his body. She could hear the men’s voices in the corridor and suddenly realized where they were. I can’t tell him here. This needs to be done in private. She looked up into her husband’s beautiful eyes. "I need to talk to you, but not here. Can we go to our cabin?"
"Sure." They started forward when Lee heard his name paged over the intercom.
"Skipper, Sparks, the Sea Cub wants you on Gertrude."
Crane picked up the nearest microphone, "Sparks, hold the phone I’ll be right there."
Heather expelled her breath. A reprieve. Her husband gave her a quick peck on the forehead. "I’ll meet you in our cabin."
George Peoples was under pressure. He had to get those chemicals and he had to do it soon. Time was running out.
Capt. Crane made his way to the radio shack, picked up the phone and flipped a switch. "Tony, what’s up?"
A chuckle was heard from the other end. "Just wondered if dinner was still on the weather not cooperating and all?"
"Rain or shine, Cookie’s prepared a feast."
"Good to hear it. Mind if I bring an extra guest?"
"No problem. Anyone I know?" asked Lee with a thread of suspicion in his voice.
"Ah, yeah, you could say that…it’s Debra…"
Lee inwardly groaned, "Sure, no problem. I’ll warn the women. See you at 18:00 hours, out," he slammed the receiver on the hook. "Just what we need, World War III," he growled.
He caught the hidden smirks of several crewmen as he surveyed the control room. He walked around the control room checking on operations. Everything seemed to be in order and running smoothly. He left the conn in Sparks’ capable hands. He made his way to his cabin only to find Heather not there. An expletive echoed down the corridor. Well, I ever get to the bottom of this mystery? He vaguely recalled the bloody towel on the mess room table. He decided to pay Doc a visit.
Adm. Nelson went into sickbay with some questions of his own. Much to his annoyance he couldn’t find Doc. He started to leave when he noticed a medical record sitting on top of Doc’s desk. Seeing whose it was, he picked it up and started to read…
Doc was reviewing the same record when the Captain came through the door. He’d been expecting this visit, but not this soon. Had Heather finally told him? I can’t tell. Either way he’ll have this same expression on his face. He decided to play it by ear.
"Skipper, what brings you back here so soon? Your stitches bothering you?" he solicitously asked.
"They itch," coolly replied Lee sitting down on the corner of his desk.
"Good, that means the wound is healing," replied Doc as he shuffled some papers on his desk. He calmly waited not wanting to spill the beans if she hadn’t told him.
The Skipper gave him his best command stare, "Doc, what’s ailing Heather?"
So, she hasn’t told him. Damn, what a pickle. I’m her doctor; I don’t want to break a confidence. On the other hand, Lee is my Captain, if he orders me to tell, I’ll have no real choice. What to tell him?
He cleared his throat, "Nothing that a little rest and time won’t take care of," he hedged.
"Blast it Doc, don’t beat around the bush. I know there’s more to this," he coldly snapped. "Now out with it!"
Doc stood up and gave the Captain his best professional medical look. "I can’t Lee."
"Can’t? Why not?" roared Crane leaning hard on the desk.
Doc stood stoically by misery apparent on his face. He mentally flinched as his Skipper vented his spleen.
"I’m the Captain of this boat. It’s my duty to know everything that goes on aboard her. I’m responsible for one hundred twenty-five men; no make that one hundred twenty-seven men and two women. Their well-being is my responsibility. Now, what’s wrong with my wife?"
Gently now, Doc said, "Skipper, I promised Heather I wouldn’t give away her secret. Now, as my commanding officer you can order me to break my word. So, I ask you, are you ordering me to break my word?"
"Damn it Doc, you know I can’t do that. It wouldn’t be right," he hung his head defeated and played with his ring. "Just tell me this, what she has, will it endanger the men or the boat?"
"No Skipper, it’s nothing like that." Doc saw the underlying hurt in his eyes and was about to go on when Lee sadly said, "Why Doc? Why can’t she trust me?" he began to pace the office frustration obvious with every step.
"It’s not a matter of trust Lee. She just doesn’t want to hurt you." Doc saw a wide variety of emotions go through his Skipper’s eyes with that statement. Somewhat panic stricken his unflappable Captain asked, "What do you mean? She’s not going to die or anything is she?" He unconsciously rubbed his head messing up his hair.
"No Lee, not if we take care of the problem relatively soon. As far as I know, no one as ever died from what ails her." As long as they seek prompt medical treatment when the condition becomes acute.
In his mind, Lee played back the doctor’s words. He was more confused than ever. He shook his head to clear it.
Doc took pity on the man, "Lee, she promised to tell you. Now, the best thing you can do for Heather is make sure she gets more rest and eats properly. She needs to build up her strength. The last three weeks have been hell for her. The emotional strain alone from her escapades with Baxter and Pinnell were more than enough to do a person in. I know you’re having problems with Peoples. Her pride must’ve taken a severe blow when she lost her job with the CIA. Do you understand?"
Lee shook his head that he did. "She needs to start seeing a shrink again doesn’t she?" If only Dr. Rivers were alive, he’d know what to do.
"It probably wouldn’t hurt, but that is for a future time. Right now, she has reached out for the first time in her life. She is very vulnerable now. Lee, what she really needs is all the love and support you can give her. When she finally tells you what’s wrong, please don’t lash out at her for not trusting you. She really loves you and only wants to spare you pain."
Lee was totally confused and now extremely disturbed. He thought over everything Doc had told him and still couldn’t come up with an answer to the dozens of questions that raced through his mind. He didn’t know anymore now then he did before, except that something was drastically wrong with the woman he loved.
He stopped pacing and looked helplessly at Doc. "All right Doc, you’re the doctor. I’ll do everything I can to support her."
Doc exhaled in relief, when the Skipper went to look for his wife. "Heaven can only help us."
The storm dissipated before dinner. Seaview had surfaced along with the Sea Cub.
"The Captain from the Victory along with the brass from the Sea Cub are coming to dinner," informed Cookie as he dressed the table in the observation nose with Seaview’s best china and dinnerware. "I’m even going to serve the meal."
Excited, he said to Heather as he looked over the table, "We haven’t had a meal like this for a couple of months. The change of pace should do us good. There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal," he chuckled. He noticed Heather’s pensive face, "I promise you, we’re not having fish." She gratefully smiled. He went whistling back to the galley.
When Lee had caught up with his wife she’d been helping out in the galley. Heather had been ordered in no uncertain terms to sit in one of the recliners in the observation nose until dinner. Lee didn’t want her to so much as lift a finger. She grinned at that considering only two hours ago she was lifting a kettle that weighed half what she did. He had just escorted her to a chair when his attention was demanded in the control room. It was okay with her for she wasn’t ready to tell him what he wanted to know. Just being close to him is enough for me. If only I didn’t have to hurt him, if only things could just once work out normally in my life. Melonie, dressed in a khaki uniform joined her in the nose. Both women talked companionably until the dinner hour was announced.
Their guests arrived and Heather forgot about her problems. Sharkey had met them topside and brought them down the spiral stairs where the brass were waiting. Adm. Perkins led the way, followed by the Victory’s Captain, William Olson. Captain Masters from the Sea Cub carefully worked his way down the stairs with his crutches followed by the most beautiful woman Capt William Olson had ever seen. The Seaview men quietly groaned and the grapevine warmed up for the evening’s events.
Debra Woodgate was dressed in peach like usual. She smiled demurely at the men knowing each man’s eye was upon her. Surprising everyone, she kept her hands off the Captain and stood quietly by Tony’s side. George Peoples approached her and gave her a warm welcome. She seemed momentarily startled by this, but played the game supremely.
The two women standing in the observation nose received a cold greeting as usual from her blue eyes until Tony nudged her forward. With false warmth Peaches said, "So good to see you two again." She looked up at Tony who nodded his head. She took in a slight breath and not meeting either woman’s eyes said, "I’m sorry about the other day. I, ah, I don’t know what got into me." She looked back up to Tony as if seeking approval.
"It needs work cara," he quietly teased.
Melonie and Heather exchanged glances. This, can’t be the Peaches we know? What did Tony do to her? Both women coolly accepted the apology instinctively waiting for the true Sea Witch to make herself known.
Lee seeing their baffled faces almost laughed out loud. He came up to Tony and said, "Excuse me, but I need to talk to Debra a couple of minutes alone." Not giving anyone a chance to say anything, Lee took Debra’s hand, much to her delight and led her aft. Peaches gave Heather a haughty look as she passed her by.
"Ah, there’s the real Sea Witch," emphatically stated Melonie to no one in particular. Heather grinned and a few chuckles were heard from the control room crew.
Dinner was superb. Cookie, true to his word, had out done himself. There was succulent roast beef with mash potatoes and gravy, fresh vegetables, a long with salad greens and cherry cobbler for desert. The conversation centered on the Revelation. Heather noticed Lee and Chip seem preoccupied with the happenings in the control room. The men on the sonar consoles seemed especially attentive to their duties. From her vantage point next to her husband, she noticed Sparks seemed unusually busy in the radio shack. Dinner was ending when an excited Sparks came up to the table message in hand.
"Captain." Three pairs of eyes answered him. He realized his mistake immediately and tried again. "Captain Crane, the Whitefish has sent a distress call. They’re being depth charged!"
It became dead quiet at the table and in the control room.
"Depth charged?" boomed Starke. "Are you sure man?"
"Yes Sir, it was a short cryptic message on SSIX."
"Very well Sparks, carry on," ordered Crane. The men instantly left the table and went into the Control room. They all gathered around the plot table.
Nelson said, "Where’s the Whitefishes’ last reported location?"
Lee pointed it out on the map. "We’ve been tracking them for the last few hours on the electronic sub board when Lance radioed me he had a destroyer on his tail. He tried some evasive maneuvers to shake them, but as you can see it did no good."
"Humph," groaned three admirals.
"It’s a decoy," loudly announced Starke. "They want those chemicals. They must be really powerful for Baxter’s people to go to all this trouble."
Peoples joined in, "Under no circumstances can they have them. I can’t stress enough how dangerous they are. You’ve got to protect them!" he demanded.
The admirals made a fast decision. The Sea Cub would go and assist the Whitefish. Seaview would stay and protect the Victory and the salvage site. A quick plan was worked out on the plot table. "Whitefish is a hundred miles north. Once that tin can is done shelling them she’ll head for us. We best be on full alert," warned Nelson.
"I could call the men to battle stations, but I think it’s too soon for that. That tin can is going to want to make sure we took the bait," remarked Lee.
"You’re damn right he will," agreed Perkins. "He’ll keep depth charging until he spots one of us on sonar. Then, he’ll high tail it out of there."
"And head straight back for us, where we’ll be waiting," added Nelson his lips pursed. He threw the pencil down on the table.
"I doubt if he knows there are two subs in the area."
"That will be our advantage then," smiled Capt. Masters.
"It’s a plan, lets go!" ordered Perkins. "No matter what, Whitefish needs us." He turned and headed up the steps.
The women stood quietly in the background taking in all the happenings. Melonie critically kept an eye on George Peoples. Debra as usual was bored. She went over and held a short conversation with Peoples drawing him away from the men. His eyes darkened for a moment until he realized Melonie was observing him. He quickly cut her off and rejoined the officers. Debra conceitedly shrugged the slight off with a sly look on her face. She sat down in an empty chair by the table as a crewman cleaned it off. She thought about the short conversation she’d had with Lee.
"Debra, did you know who the Lynx was when Heather was undercover?" he’d asked.
"No, I never had access to that information. I didn’t find out she was the Lynx until we boarded Seaview."
"How’d you find out then?"
"I ah, cheated, I used George’s password to get into the CIA personnel files."
Then Maclin, who received his information inadvertently from you, never knew who she was until he boarded Seaview."
"That’s correct. I told him."
"Did you know he was connected to Baxter?"
"Did either of you know what the Lynx’s cover was when Heather was working for Baxter?"
"No, only George and his director knew."
"Debra," called Tony bringing her back to the present, "it’s time to go."
Debra got up and walked the short distance to the stairs. Lee was standing there by Tony. She started to reach up to kiss him goodbye when she heard Tony clear his throat. She reluctantly dropped her hand. "Goodbye Lee."
The Seaview men watched as Debra climbed the steps behind Admiral Perkins. Tony paused at the bottom of the steps seeing Lee’s puzzlement. He waited for the question hiding his smile.
Lee scratched behind his ear, "Ah Tony, what did you do to her?"
Tony smiled that winning smile of his, "I withheld the one thing she craves most."
Lee raised an eyebrow.
Understanding lit everyone’s face. After the guests disembarked Crane ordered Seaview back under the water and a vigilant watch was kept on sonar and in the communications shack.
Capt. Crane knew he wouldn’t get any sleep tonight. He left O’Brien in charge of the control room after calling the next duty watch in early. He and the admirals figured trouble would probably appear at dawn. He wanted the men well rested for what was to come. He needed to talk to Nelson. He followed him to his cabin.
Starke decided to take the Captain’s advice and do the same. He walked his daughter to her cabin and kissed her goodnight.
Heather decided she might as well get some sleep too. The strain of the day had taken its toll and she was dead tired as usual.
Her shoulder ached and she figured it was from peeling all those blasted potatoes. She changed into another of Lee’s old shirts, brushed her teeth and carefully climbed into bed trying to find a comfortable position for her aching back.
Starke had just gotten to officer’s country when he saw Nelson with Crane on his heels enter Nelson’s cabin. He knocked on the door hoping he wasn’t interrupting anything. He heard Nelson call, "Enter." and he opened the door. Crane was perched in his usual position on the corner of Nelson’s desk.
"Sorry Harriman, but I need to talk to you." He saw Crane tighten up. "Relax Captain, this concerns you too."
Lee didn’t know what to think about that comment. He’d hoped to have a few minutes of the Admiral’s precious time. He wearily got up from the desk and stood behind Nelson.
Starke lit up his customary cigar and sat down in a chair across from Nelson’s desk. Getting right to the point he said, "I don’t think Maclin betrayed the Lynx."
Astonishment showed on Crane’s face. Nelson just pinched his nose. "Oh?"
Starke seeing Lee’s look of surprise barked, "You think you’re the only one having nightmares Captain?"
Lee somberly answered, "I have no idea Sir."
"Of course not!" snapped Starke. "You’ve got more problems than Carter has liver pills." He laughed at his own joke.
"All right, Jiggs, get to the point," cut in Nelson taking out a piece of paper. He pulled a pen out of its holder on the desk.
"I’ll let Crane take it from here, he’s the one that talked to Peaches about it."
Again a look of surprise crossed Lee’s face. "I keep having this dream…" he looked over at Starke who was carefully lighting a cigar. He told Nelson about the fight he over heard in sickbay a couple months ago. "After about the 3rd night I started wondering if we missed something. Debra verified my doubts." He tiredly looked down at his hands and realized he was twisting his ring. He clenched his fists.
"Interesting," stated Nelson curious now. "Okay, lets figure this out." He put a one on his paper. "Heather said only three people knew who she was. What three? Did she ever say?"
Lee nodded his head, "Actually, when we were at the safe house she said only three peoples besides Jaguar knew who she was. She never really said who they were."
"Hmm, the likelihood of a secret’s being blown is proportional to the square of the number of people who’re in on it."
"What’s that Harriman?" queried Starke puzzled.
"First Rule of Security. All right, now it’s four. Four people knew who she actually was." He started his list. One, there was Tony Masters who was Jaguar. I believe we can discount him. Two, her contact Melonie Starke, I believe we can safely check her off the list."
Adm. Starke guffawed at that.
"Three was her boss, George Peoples. He may or may not be crossed off," recanted Nelson.
"Surely, you don’t think he’s the culprit?" blustered Starke. "He’s been with the CIA for years."
"One never knows Admiral," pondered Crane starting to pace behind Nelson’s desk.
"Whose the fourth?" Starke bluntly asked tapping his cigar in Nelson’s ashtray.
"That’s a good question, more than likely People’s director or the director of operations. The CIA in order to keep its agents safe, use only the minimum amount of key people attached to the agent. In Heather’s case George Peoples and another superior. They’d be the only ones to know an agent’s true identity. Even the paperwork is kept minimal, one folder for each key person with a code name that is changed monthly."
"So, another words, only Peoples and his boss or the director of operations knew who Heather was," repeated Crane coming to a halt.
"Yes, that is correct," stated Nelson dropping the pen and taking out a cigarette.
"Then whoever blew her cover didn’t just know about the Lynx, but knew exactly what her cover disguise was," stated Crane becoming agitated. He started pacing again.
"Yes, exactly," assented Nelson lighting the cigarette and inhaling.
"He would have known totally about the operation with Baxter," heatedly exchanged Crane stopping beside the desk.
Nelson agreed with a shake of his head.
"Damn!" exploded Crane slapping the desk with his fingertips as he turned around and clenched his hands in front of him. "When and if I get my hands on him…"
"Easy Captain, we all feel the same way," expressed Starke sucking on his cigar. I’m glad I’m not the culprit.
"Then, Maclin couldn’t have done it, unless whoever this person was told him," reasoned Crane turning towards Nelson.
Starke excited now, "Let’s get Heather and explain it to her. She’ll be able to tell us who the fourth person was."
"No," said Crane in low annoyed voice.
"No Captain?" frowned Starke not comprehending Crane’s motive.
"It’s late. She’ll be asleep. She seems to require a lot of rest lately. Doc said it’s the emotional strain she’s been under." Lee could’ve gone on, but the Admirals seemed to understand. He could have sworn Nelson looked discomforted when he mentioned Doc. What does he know that I don’t know? In a piqued tone of voice, "I’ll ask her in the morning providing that destroyer doesn’t pay us a visit."
"Very well," said Nelson stifling a yawn. It was the men’s clue to vacate his cabin. Starke snuffed out is cigar and took it with him as he headed for the door. Crane was behind him when Nelson called out.
"Lee, stay a minute."
Starke quit the cabin as a pair of moans were faintly heard down the corridor.
Not paying attention to the moans, Lee apprehensively waited at the door. He suspected by the Admiral’s tone of voice he was upset by something he’d said.
"Lee, I know what’s eating you." Before Crane could say anything he held up his hand. "I know what’s wrong with Heather," again he held up his hand as Lee strode back to his desk. "I finally recalled what has been bugging me about Heather. I went to talk to Doc, but he was elsewhere and her medical record happened to be on his desk. The same record you’d read when she first came aboard and we acquired them."
"Sit down," commanded Nelson. He reached into his drawer and pulled out two glasses and a bottle of scotch.
This is going to be bad if he’s pulling out the whiskey. Lee sat on the corner of his desk. He watched as Nelson poured the drinks and handed him one.
"Drink up, you’re going to need it."
Lee sipped his drink.
Nelson got up and started to pace with a hand in his pocket. "As you know by reading her record, at 15 she lost an ovary to an ovarian cyst. It had burst and there’d been no saving it. The condition happened again only this time the doctors were able to save her other ovary, but they couldn’t tell how much damage had been done, so…"
"It limited her chances of ever having a child. Her menses are completely irregular or nothing at all. I know all that," confirmed Lee impatiently swirling his drink.
"Do you remember why she refused to marry you?"
Lee sighed, "You mean when I demanded to marry her? She wanted love not just duty and honor." He took another sip of his drink.
"Yes, that is true. But, aside from that, her greatest reason why she had refused to marry you was her fear that you’d leave her if she can’t have children. That’s why your marriage contract stated if you found someone to love she wouldn’t stand in your way. She didn’t want to deprive you of children for she knew how much you’d like to have them someday."
Lee was taken aback. "We’ve discussed kids before, but Admiral I swear, I knew all this before I asked her to marry me."
The Admiral gave him an odd look. Lee ran his hand through his hair irritated. "All right, demanded, I didn’t want to give her a chance to turn me down. You know the whole story…"
Lee unfazed went on, "Having children would be nice, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t have any. I love the woman more than my own life. Put her aside indeed. Where does she cook up these ridiculous ideas?" He knew the answer, it had been in one of Heather’s sessions with Dr. Pinnell. Understanding hit him hard between the eyes. She had made her feel worthless in my eyes. Oh, Pinnell, you played her insecurities well against her.
He downed the rest of his drink. "What’s wrong with Heather?" his hand shook as Nelson poured him another one.
"I want you to know she didn’t tell me nor did Doc. She’s …" a fierce bellow from the corridor followed by heavy pounding on a door a ways aft interrupted them. Nelson and Crane ran out of Nelson’s cabin to find Starke beating on Morton’s door.
"Jiggs," Nelson demanded, "what’s going on? You’re waking the entire boat."
The door opened and there stood Melonie in one of Chip’s shirts. Morton was behind her dressed only in boxers.
Starke made a lounge for Morton as Nelson threw himself in his friend’s path. Starke totally enraged bellowed, "Harriman, I told you it was one of your men and that I’d wring his neck if I caught him! I should’ve known it was you!"
Nelson once again blocked his way with Crane pushing himself in front of both Admirals. He gave Chip is most notorious Captain’s stare. "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" he commanded.
By this time, the noise had attracted the rest of the officers including Doc. They stood in the corridor astonishment plain on their faces.
"Well, I’m waiting Mr. Morton!"
"I want him arrested!" boomed Starke making another try for the officer. "The charge, conduct unbecoming of an officer."
Melonie made herself known at this time. "Dad, you can’t arrest him!" she yelled.
"No? I’m your father and your superior officer. Arrest him and that’s an order!" he bellowed at the officers.
In a voice none of them had heard before, Melonie barked, "You can’t, he’s my husband!"
Starke broke through Nelson and pushed Crane out of the way. He lunged for Chip knocking him out cold with a quick right hook. Melonie, totally appalled grabbed onto her father’s back and pulled him off her husband who had hit the deck in a heap. She squeezed in between Stark and Chip daring her father to hit her. By this time, Nelson and Crane had regained their footing and muscled their way in front of Starke pushing him back. Melonie turned her back on her father and tried to straighten Chip out as best as she could. Doc finally made it through the door with Sparks behind him. He bent down on his knees to examine his patient.
"Is he going to be all right?" cried Melonie still more angry than not.
"I don’t know, he’s out cold," mumbled Doc trying to get a pulse in the middle of the menagerie.
Starke wrestled both officers off his person and shouted, "Leave me alone! I’m all right!"
"Good, because I’m not!" yelled Nelson shaking his head his ears ringing.
"Will you all be quiet, I can’t hear myself think," ordered Doc. He checked Chips eyes, which were equal in size. The Exec started coming around much to the relief of everyone, but Starke who wanted to belt him again.
"Chip, sweetheart, are you all right?" asked a panicked Melonie shooting daggers at her father. She started to cry and it was Starke’s undoing. "Oh, honey," he gruffly pacified shaking off Nelson again and bending down on a knee, "I’m sorry. I won’t hit him again. I might court marshal him, but I won’t hit him again."
Melonie pulled herself together much like Lee had seen Heather do on countless occasions. "Dad, I don’t know if I can forgive you for this," she sobbed as she put Chip’s head in her lap and bent over him. Doc could’ve sworn, he saw her wink at him from under her hair that had fallen in her face. Sharkey handed Doc his stethoscope so he could listen to Morton’s heart rate. He quietly sat the medical bag down by the doctor thinking, what is this boat coming too?
"Melonie, it was just the shock. Why didn’t you tell me?"
Chip moaned and put his hand on his cheek. A bruise was forming and the cheek was starting to swell. Melonie gently put a hand on Chip’s forehead and brushed back his blonde hair. "Dad, I was afraid to tell you. Chip wanted to right away, but I talked him out of it." She glanced down relieved to see his blue eyes staring up at her.
"Afraid? Of me?" asked Starke astounded.
One look from his daughter’s aqua eyes told him what he needed to know. "Oh, Melonie, I’m your Father, you don’t have to be afraid of me. I love you honey. I only want what’s best for you." He looked menacingly at Chip again.
"Don’t even think it Dad or I’ll never speak to you again," warned Melonie her voice hard as steel.
"Okay, I apologize, does that help?" Starke bellowed.
Chip didn’t think so, his ears were ringing and birds were singing in his head when Doc ordered him to sickbay. Sharkey and Sparks helped him up and followed Doc down the corridor.
Before Melonie left to follow her husband Starke asked, "Would you at least tell me when you got married?"
"We were married in San Francisco before Jaguar was captured." Lee helped her up and she quickly made her exit.
"San Francisco," was all Starke said as he went to his cabin.
Lee made the rounds down to the control room. The crew gave him a wide-eyed stare when he first came down. He realized they, like everyone else on board must have heard Starke’s bellowing.
"Anything?" he asked Lt. O’Brien.
"Nothing Sir," his lieutenant replied.
"Very well, I’ll be in my cabin."
Lee quietly entered his cabin to find his wife, as he suspected asleep in their bunk, her red hair spread out over the pillow. He was a bit surprised the noise in the corridor hadn’t awakened her. The soundproofing really does work. He checked the vents. Sure enough they’re closed. Thank you Adm. Nelson. He went into the head and did his nightly routine. Except for his shoes, he kept his clothes on in case he was called to the control room before morning.
Carefully, he sat down on the bunk and observed his sleeping wife. There’s something different about her and it’s not just her emotional state either. I just can’t put my finger on it. He pulled the covers back and noticed his shirt had come unbuttoned leaving her body exposed to his sight. He carefully lifted the shirt, knowing her body well, he checked her over not coming up with any answers. He frowned at the yellow iodine and picked up her hand to examine it. The white bandage was missing. He’d noticed it at dinner, but had been distracted with the evening’s events. He was appalled at the blisters and cuts. She shifted in her sleep, a slight moan was heard and she moved her arm over her head. He looked his fill once again realizing her breasts seemed fuller. Could it be or is she finally gaining some weight? She’s so thin…He spanned her abdomen with his hand. She’s narrow through her pelvic area; she’d need to have a c-section for sure. Maybe that would have saved her Mother’s life. Stop it Crane, it’s a one and a million shot that she’s even pregnant. Still…he ran a hand over her belly again noticing a slight puffiness to one side. Is it possible? The signs are definitely there. The doctors hadn’t ruled out a pregnancy only the probability. He grinned. Could we have beaten the odds? Why can’t she tell me about it? Why would it hurt me? Above all, what did Doc mean about that statement if we treat her in time? What’s wrong with her? He covered her back up and pulled her up against him loving the feel of her warm body next to him. He tenderly kissed her brow, tucked her head under his chin and gradually fell into a troubled sleep. Heather opened her eyes and stared at her husband’s face for a long time. She bit back the tears that threatened to come.
The betting pool was hard at work. Several men all ready had placed bets on the latest fiasco.
"Do you think Starke will court marshal Mr. Morton?" asked Riley climbing into his bunk.
"Maybe Morton will press charges against Starke. Wouldn’t that be something? After all he did hit an officer," replied Patterson reading a photography magazine.
"I think they’ll cancel each others charges out for Melonie’s sake. She was pretty mad," recalled Ski. He’d been in officer’s country doing a maintenance check in a wiring panel when the melee broke out.
"I don’t know Ski, Starke was teed off. I bet you ten bucks he presses charges," said Pat flipping a page.
Riley with his hands behind his head added, "I’ll bet you ten bucks Morton will counter Starke’s charges."
"I’ll bet you both twenty bucks that nothing comes of it. Think about it. Mr. Morton is now Starke’s son-in-law."
"Ugh," groaned Riley. The other men chuckled.
Adm. Nelson walked into Starke’s cabin with two glasses and a half of bottle of whiskey. His friend and comrade was quietly smoking a cigar with his feet propped on top of a desk.
"Well, Jiggs, what do you have to say for yourself?" asked Nelson in a nonjudgmental tone of voice.
"If that whiskey is for me, pour me a double," crouched Starke. He drew on his cigar long and hard letting the smoke ease him.
Nelson obediently poured a drink for both of them and handed one to Starke. He raised his own glass and in a sonorous voice said, "To daughters, where would we be without them?"
Starke guffawed at that and downed his drink. "You know Harriman, I’m not the easiest person to get along with."
"Tell me something I don’t all ready know," teased Nelson nursing his drink.
Starke ignored the comment and continued on, " I know that. Melonie has never given me much trouble, well except, when she’s with Heather." He looked at Nelson and raised his glass. Nelson poured him another. "What I mean is, she’s a good girl." He studied his cigar. "All at once, right before my eyes, I realized my little girl has grown up and no longer needs me. I don’t know how to take it."
Nelson stood beside his friend and patted him on the back. "It wasn’t easy for me to let Heather go either. I think it’s like that between a father and a daughter, albeit, Lee is a fine son-in-law. It was a relief to turn her welfare over to him, even though I wasn’t around enough to have any claim on her. I know, for you it is different. You were a hands-on father, but in all honesty, I have to say, Chip is a mighty fine man and officer. He’ll take good care of your daughter and make you proud."
"He’d better," barked Starke, "or I’ll blacken his other eye."
"Humph," groaned Nelson. "You’re not really going to press charges are you?"
Starke drew on his cigar again, "No Harriman, but he’s not to know it. I think I’ll let both of them squirm for awhile."
Capt. Crane was up at 05:00 hours. He took a quick shower that consisted of wetting down, lather and rinse with the water shut off in between to conserve fresh water. Chief Sharkey had reported the water distillery was having trouble keeping up. He then donned a fresh set of clothes. Twice during the night, he gotten up and went to the control room to check the status of the boat. He could have used the multifunction display that was in his cabin for the same report, but felt better going to the control room in case any unknown problems had crept up. Lt. O’Brien had orders to report even the smallest suspect sonar or radar contact, but Lee wanted to reassure himself that everything was on the up and up.
He by passed his bunk and decided to let his wife sleep in. She usually got up with him to start the day’s routine. He took Doc’s advice and wasn’t taking any more chances with her health. If she is pregnant, I don’t want to cause any problems and if she isn’t, well, I’ve worked her pretty hard. She can use the rest. Besides, maybe it’s time to forgive her for that balcony stunt. I only hope she thinks before she acts from now on…Right…Who am I kidding? Having made that decision, Crane felt a burden lift from his shoulders. He left the cabin and went out to greet the day.
At 06:00 hours Capt. Crane was back in the control after completing a thorough tour of the boat. Everyone was now on alert status. Seaview was at ninety feet and he was on the periscope island checking the surroundings.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing," he stated to Mr. O’Brien puzzled. "It just doesn’t figure."
"What doesn’t figure Lee?"
"Chip! You’re out of sickbay," stated a surprised Lee. "I thought Doc said he was keeping you there." Chip had a nasty black and blue bruise on the left side of his face. "Ah, does it hurt much?" he solicitously asked leaning over the island rail.
Chip standing beside O’Brien replied, "My pride hurts more than the bruise. I never knew Starke could move so fast. He came down to sickbay and well, I don’t want to say what he really said." They heard snickers from some of the men. Chip frowned and gave them a serious command stare. "Needless to say, when he was done, Doc felt sorry for me. He said, If, I can withstand Starke dressing me down, then I’m ready to go back on duty. So, here I am. Now, what’s up?"
"Hmm, that’s just it, nothing. We have all the antennas rigged out and we’re getting nothing back, except an aircraft carrier complete with escorts to the north of us and a cruise ship to the south."
"Maybe that tin can is laying low," suggested Chip as he put his hand on the rail and his foot on a step.
"Could be, but I don’t like things I can’t explain. I have a feeling they’re around here somewhere waiting…waiting for us to either make a move or finish the job with the chemicals."
"Skipper, Capt. Masters of the Sea Cub is on the satellite link Sir," rang out Sparks.
"Activate monitor over sonar," ordered Crane. Riley turned it on as the Captain stepped down from the periscope island.
The picture came into focus with a sullen Capt. Masters standing behind the sonar consoles in the control room. Wet, soot covered men, some with open wounds and burns could be seen filtering past him on their way aft. There was confusion and fear evident on many of their faces. It reminded the men only to well of the time Seaview was sunk in a minefield.
"Lee, I have bad news. The Whitefish has been sunk. There are numerous casualties," reported Tony in a tight voice and visibly upset.
A look of outrage mixed with horror crossed the Seaview’s crew faces.
"Any loss of life?" quickly asked Nelson who had walked up beside Lee and had caught the grisly announcement.
Tony hung his head down and wearily rubbed his forehead. He squared his shoulders and his voice shook as he answered with regret. "Yes, we counted nine men including the Captain." He tightened his grip on his crutches. "The boat was crippled on the bottom. They were still being depth charged. Lance went aft to help his men. The bulkhead caved in over the engine room. He drowned."
The Seaview men were frozen in place, their expressions grim; Lance had been a classmate of Tony and Lee’s. Tony ran a hand over his face. "We got there to late to assist them, except to help with the wounded. Luckily, they were only 325 feet down. We’re still in the process of rescuing them with our diving bell. What we need though is the FS1. We have five men that are critical and numerous others that need to go to a Navy hospital. You’re the closest boat."
"No problem Tony. I’ll send her with Patterson and Frank, our medical corpsman right away. Is there anything else we can do?" asked a shaken Crane.
"No, just be careful. The Whitefish’s exec said they came out of the blue, if you can believe that. One minute they were hunting them and the next they were the hunted. Since we arrived on scene, they were able to shut down the reactor and salvage the logbooks. We’ll bring up the bodies we can get to, then seal the hatch."
"Very well," stated Nelson. "Keep us informed. Out." The screen went dead.
"Kill the monitor," ordered Crane. "Mr. Morton, prepare the flying sub for immediate launch. Mr. O’Brien order Patterson and Frank up here on the double."
"Yes Sir," replied the solemn officers.
The flying sub was launched and Seaview remained on alert status. The captain was once again at the periscope carefully looking around. "Sonar anything?"
"No Sir," replied Kowalski.
"Not even a ping Sir," answered Riley.
"Skipper, Capt. Olson from the Victory on Gertrude," announced Sparks.
"Very well, Chip, take her up."
"Aye Sir," replied Chip standing by sonar. He grabbed the mic, "Prepare to surface, full up angle on the planes. Surface. Surface." He then took over the periscope as Crane went to the radio shack.
"Bill? Lee, Your men ready to make a dive?"
"Ready when you are. How’s the Whitefish?"
"It’s sunk. We, ah…we lost Lance," murmured Crane. "I’ll tell you about it when we come over."
"Sorry to hear that," he paused. "We’ll break out the bell. Out." Lee hung up the phone.
Seaview reached the surface and the main hatch was cracked.
Crane barked, "Men, keep a sharp lookout. I want to know about anything before radar picks it up."
The men headed topside binoculars in hand. Chief Sharkey headed up the ladder being OOD for this watch.
"Chief," said Crane. Sharkey stopped in mid-step.
Yes Sir?" responded Sharkey coming back down the ladder.
"We’re going ahead with the dive. I know you’re OOD this watch. So, Winters is replacing you. We’re keeping the same rotation of divers and you’re scheduled for the next dive."
"Aye Sir, ah Patterson was to be my partner, he’s off in the FS1 now, so who do you have in mind?"
Nelson cut in, "Well Chief, I guess you’re stuck with me," smiled Nelson.
"Very well Sir," grinned Sharkey. "You know, I always enjoy your company Sir." He turned and went aft.
"You’re going Sir?" questioned Crane not really surprised.
"Why not? It looks like a beautiful day for a dive. Break out the gig."
"Aye Sir," answered Crane nervous.
The gig was pulling along side the Victory. Crane asked as Sharkey threw the heaving line to a man on the ship. "You’re sure you want to continue with the dives? That destroyer is lurking around here somewhere."
"I know that Lee, but we can’t waste time. It might never show up. We have our men and instruments to rely on. Now, if you get even an inkling of trouble, haul us up." He reached for the accommodation ladder that was by the stern.
"Yes Sir," reluctantly replied Crane and followed the Admiral up the ladder. Once on deck, they found it to be busy with activity. The bell was attached to a lift wire and the lashing lines were thrown off. A man had previously checked the gasket and tested the hand wheel inside the main hatch. Other men were seen checking over the diving equipment and coiling down hoses. The supporting buoy had to be unattached first before the bell could be put on the downhaul cable. A couple of divers jumped into the water with a light lifting wire from boom number two. The winch pulled a bit and the wire was attached to the buoy. The buoy was flooded to negative buoyancy and unclamped from the downhaul cable then lifted to the deck.
During the time it took to get the buoy out of the water Nelson and Sharkey along with a diver from the Victory got into their diving suits. They climbed into the bell and the hatch was dogged. The bell was lifted into the water and a man from a whaleboat scrambled onto the top of the chamber to disconnect the lift wire. Now the bell was only attached to the downhaul cable with a power hose and retrieving line from the Victory. The large winch on the Victory started the payout cable, the ballast tanks were flooded and the winch inside the bell took hold of the cable. It pulled the bell down below the surface and disappeared.
After the bell vanished, Crane made his way to the pilothouse. Before he went in he looked over at the Seaview’s bridge. There stood Adm. Starke, Chip, Heather and Peoples. I bet they’re as nervous as I am. I know the admiral and chief have many dives credited to them, but each time is always a risk. And that destroyer…He looked out over the horizon seeing nothing but haze and clouds. A minute later he glanced back at the Seaview’s bridge and noticed Chip and Starke had gone below. George Peoples was arguing practically nose-to-nose with Heather. He couldn’t hear what was being said for the wind and the crashing waves. A moment later, People’s grabbed her arms and shook her making Lee’s pulse pound. What the hell is going on? How dare that bastard touch what’s mine? He continued to watch hoping one of the lookouts would come to her rescue and knowing they were to well trained to take their eyes off the horizon. Where’s the OOD? He spotted Winters on the main deck. His eyes went back to the bridge relaxing when Chip came out of the hatch with a sweater in hand. He started to hand it to Heather who in that moment broke away from Peoples, snatched the sweater and angrily went back down the hatch. Chip, having missed the entire argument only shrugged his shoulders.
An angry Lee Crane went inside the pilothouse after casting a stony look to Peoples that stated he’d seen everything. When I get back aboard, you’re going to be sorry. He heard the calm voice of Nelson through the underwater speakerphone. "Fifty feet, clutch is working fine. Two hundred feet, current has picked up here. The bell is at a five-degree angle. The downhaul cable is vibrating. Three hundred fifty feet, we can see the outline of the wreck. Four hundred feet, we’re here." His voice sounded shrill from the depth and pressure of the bell.
Nelson lifted the floor hatch inside the bell and said, "Remember men, the previous dive team said the wreck is somewhat unstable even with the holding lines attached." He and the men descended into the bottom of the bell while Sharkey secured the upper hatch. Pressure was equalized and the bottom hatch opened. They swam out into the depths.
The Revelation was on her port side with the crushed bow sticking out over the thin ledge. The top of her was loosely wedged against the ravine wall, while what was left of the stern was tightly held between large formations of rocks. When they swam out from under the bell Nelson could see the explosive bolts that had been attached to a solid part of the stern. The downhaul cable was clamped to the bolts. The other four support lines had been placed in strategic places to keep the Revelation in place.
An eerie silence met their ears, complete utter silence except for the bubbles from their oxygen tanks. Beyond the floodlights shadows could be seen in the semi darkness. Nelson being a marine biologist knew they were in what is considered by scientists to be the sunlit zone. The first five hundred feet is the warmest and sunniest part of the sea. Plant plankton lived here and used sunlight to make food, which in turn feed other sea creatures.
Nelson swam in the lead with a high beam flashlight. He carefully scouted the wreck looking for the spot where the other divers had started cutting. He soon found the path through a hole on the starboard side, which faced upward. It led them from beneath the splintered deck through the nearly intact rear window into the partially crushed wheelhouse. From there he went down what was left of the access hatch to the galley where they came to a wall of steel. This was where the Revelation’s bow had caved in upon itself. It looked as if the galley had fallen into the forward hold of the boat. A small tunnel that was almost completed led the way into the galley where the previous divers had left the cutting torches and crowbars. Each man picked up a tool and went to work.
On the deck of the Victory, everyday duties were performed. The routine remained constant day to day. Lee Crane nervously paced the deck counting off the time as he had with each dive. I miss being able to dive, but Doc absolutely forbids me to go down there with these ribs. He occasionally glanced at the sky and scanned the ocean. The atmosphere among the Victory crew was relaxed. Each man knew his business and did their job well. So, why am I the only uncertain one? Why do I have the feeling something’s not right? He noticed one older man with a cap low over his eyes on top of the forecastle peering intently out to sea. Lee followed his line of vision seeing nothing amiss. He looked back up and the man was gone. Strange? Knock it off Crane, he was probably just enjoying the sight. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling and looked back out to sea again.
Down in the depths the men worked steadily on. The going was slow for only one man at a time could use the torch at the end of the tunnel by the galley. He would tire then the next man would take over. Little by little they cut into the steel hull stripping it away layer by layer. They were barely through when the boat began to shift. Sand came up from the ledge’s bottom and rocks came tumbling down from the ravine’s walls to hit upon the wreck. An octopus was chased out of its hiding place and headed straight for Sharkey who was at the other end of the tunnel. Nelson grabbed the extra torch and jabbed it at the sea creature. It’s tentacles suctioned onto the sides of the shaft not wanting to move. A long arm reached for Sharkey and Nelson turned the torch on it full blast. It screamed back and went deeper into the wreck. The boat settled down and the men nervously went back to work.
It was much to Crane’s relief when the pressurized bell came back up to the surface. The lift wire was reattached and the boom from the Victory hoisted the bell out of the water onto the afterdeck. The hatch was opened by a deckhand and out jumped Nelson followed by Sharkey and the Victory’s diver.
"How’d it go?" flatly asked Crane coming up to the bell.
An excited Nelson replied as he started taking off his wetsuit, "We’re though the bulk head that blocked the galley. We located the box, but the fridge is wrapped tightly around it. The galley is compacted to almost nothing. The fridge is all that protected the box or I think it would have been a lost cause. We need to cut enough room to pry the fridge off the box. That’ll be the job of the next diving crew. Then, we can finally haul the chemicals up."
"Good, that’ll make Peoples’ happy at least. The sooner we get those chemicals up here the sooner we can get him off the boat. Could you tell if the box was damaged?"
"Not really. It looked fine in its present state. The current down there is strong. The Revelation keeps shifting. It’s possible she’ll land up falling deeper into the trench."
"Mmm. I’m not sure I like the sound of that especially with the bell sitting at the end of the downhaul cable."
"Well, there’s not much we can do about that. We’ll just have to take the chance."
"I suppose," mused Crane. "How are the holding lines?"
"We carefully inspected them before we left. They’re fine. I couldn’t find any frayed edges in the ropes and the clamps are still tight."
Lee let out his breath slowly. "Very well, that makes me feel better." But, he still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
The next dive wasn’t going to be made until after lunch. The Seaview men had graciously been invited to dine aboard the Victory, but with the threat of the destroyer hanging over their heads they opted to go back to the sub. Besides, Lee was antsy to find out what had transpired between Peoples and his wife. They climbed down into the gig and he told Nelson what he’d seen on the way back to Seaview.
"I have no clue what they were arguing about. Unless, it had to do with that crack Peoples made to Heather before we left the Virgin Islands," explained Crane with dread in his heart.
"Are you talking about the guilt trip Peoples laid on her or the fact he’d almost told her about our deal to get her terminated from the CIA?" asked Nelson. Starke had told him about the conversation he had interrupted.
Sharkey had been steering the gig minding his own business until he’d heard his goddaughter’s name mentioned. Then he couldn’t believe his ears and unconsciously blurted, "What? You made a deal to get her fired?"
Both men knew Sharkey was as overprotective of Heather as they themselves were. The three of them had formed a common bond and therefore, Sharkey was always free to speak his mind when it concerned Heather, though he was careful what he said in the presence of the men. Somewhat embarrassed Nelson hastily replied, "Sharkey, it was for her own well-being. We couldn’t take the chance of James Baxter getting a hold of her."
"James Baxter? Jeffrey Baxter’s twin brother?" inquired Sharkey.
"Not only is he a problem, but I refuse to let her go. She’s staying right here aboard Seaview where she’s safe," emphatically snapped the Captain.
Sharkey looked torn seeing both sides of the coin. They’re only trying to protect her, but her Irish pride will never allow her to accept the fact. "Boy, is the fur going to fly if she ever finds out you two made that decision for her." He shook his head and sighed. The gig came along side Seaview.
"If, is the magic word Sharkey. Peoples made a deal with us in order for him to keep his job after Maclin was exposed. So, for his own sake, he has nothing to gain by telling her about our deal," reassured Nelson not feeling so confident anymore.
"Maybe, maybe not," said the Chief as he threw the heaving line to the deck crew.
"What’s that suppose to mean?" asked Crane.
"Look Sirs, we all know how he feels about Heather. He’s spread it all over the boat. He blames her for his failed promotion."
"That is so unfair," railed Crane. "She survived and he’s holding it against her. She had no control over the situation once Baxter knew who she was."
Nelson looked strangely at Lee as if a light bulb had come on. "Sharkey, explain to us the reasons behind that statement you made a minute ago," urged Nelson.
"Ah, well, you all ready vouched for him that it wasn’t his fault that Maclin had gotten the information from his office. You know, Maclin had picked it up off of Debra’s desk. So, now unless you want egg on your face you can’t go back on your word no matter what the deal was between you, but he can."
"That’s it," exclaimed Nelson.
"What’s it?" asked a confused Sharkey.
"Sharkey, you might have saved the day. I need to talk to Jiggs." He quickly climbed out of the boat and headed for the conning tower hatch leaving both men wondering…
Crane and Sharkey had just come down the conning tower stairs and started around into the long corridor that led down Seaview’s length when they spotted Heather in the forward section. She gave them both a dirty look, turned her head and climbed the stairs to officer’s country.
"Oh, boy," said both men in unison.
"Good luck, Sir," murmured Sharkey as he patted his Skipper on the back and turned to go aft.
"Thanks Chief," he turned to go then hesitated, "Chief, have you noticed any thing different about Heather?"
"Different Sir?" They heard a door slam forward. Both men inwardly cringed.
"She seems more tired, short tempered, not feeling well…"
"She’s always short tempered Sir, but now that you mention it, she seems distracted."
"Yeah, like her mind’s on some problem she can’t quite figure out. At first I thought it was about her Mom, but after the conversation in the galley well…well I don’t think that’s it," reasoned Sharkey.
"Well, go on. You know her better than anyone else on board, what do you think it is?" asked Crane plainly upset.
Sharkey sadly sighed, "To be honest Sir, I haven’t a clue. I can tell you this though, whatever it is, it’s eating her up."
Not feeling the least bit encouraged Lee went to find his wife.
Heather came into the computer office she shared with Chip and viciously slammed the door. How dare they? How could they do that to me? My own husband and father, how dare they make that decision for me? She was so angry she kicked a file drawer shut that had been left open. She flounced down on her desk chair seething inside and waited…
When the door opened Heather expected it to be her husband. It turned out to be Melonie. She was keenly disappointed for she was looking forward to a fight. She’d been shocked when Peoples had snidely told her on the bridge that her father and husband had made a deal with him. A deal that she would ultimately lose her job! She’d stood up for them, telling Peoples in no uncertain terms he was a liar, a fraud and where he could take his nasty accusations. He’d gotten mad at her and grabbed her arms in a punishing grip. Likewise, in no uncertain terms, he’d spelled the entire deal out to her. Something in his eyes told her he was telling the truth. He’d laughed and pushed her away from him making her feel unworthy. His last words had cut her deeply.
"They’re only using you Heather. In the end you will see."
She hadn’t believed him. I won’t fall for that trick again. I won’t. He was probably in cahoots with Pinnell after all, she’d seemed eager enough for me to go back to work. I trust you Lee, but it doesn’t mean you can walk all over me. I am my own person like it or not.
The morning had gone slowly by even though she’d lost herself in her work. Her abdomen and lower back ached more than usual adding to her all ready sour mood. I should see Doc, but there’s nothing he can do now that the flying sub is gone. It’ll just have to wait. She had just finished washing dishes in the galley from the noon meal when she’d seen her father walk by. She knew Lee and Sharkey would be right behind him. She’d given him an angry stare, but he hadn’t noticed. She wondered what had been on his mind. Probably some scientific discovery he made down on the bottom. I wonder what it would be like to go down there? She doubted she’d ever find out for she was in no mood to ask.
Melonie had her own problems. She’d spent the night down in sickbay with Chip. Once, the headache had gone away he had slept through the night. Her father had actually come in and checked on him. Unknown to Chip, he had apologized again. She knew her father loved her and underneath the gruff exterior he was hurting because of her. They’d gotten married on the spur of the moment not wanting to deal with all the problems a wedding would create especially with her surly father. Belatedly, she realized the problems were still there and now she had to deal with them. The only question was how?
"My," said Melonie to Heather, "You don’t have to give me such a gloomy look. A simple I don’t want to talk to you would do and I’d leave."
"Oh Melonie, it’s not you I’m mad at. I’m sorry. I saw Lee come aboard and thought it was him," she pouted.
"Mmm, does that mean I need my earplugs again?’ she quipped as she sat down in Chip’s desk chair.
Heather had the good grace to blush. "Yes, you probably will. I’m angry enough to bite his head off." Both women were lost in their own thoughts when Lee opened the door.
"Am I interrupting anything?" he politely asked not looking at his wife.
"No," from Melonie
"Yes," from Heather.
He ignored Heather and turned to Melonie. "By the way, congratulations on your marriage to Chip. He’s a fine man."
A gasp was heard from Heather who was instantly on her feet. "Why didn’t you tell me?" she asked going over to hug her friend elbowing Lee out of the way.
"It’s a long story, that you don’t want to hear right now," smiled Melonie breaking the embrace. "I’ve got some problems of my own to work out. I’ll see you later." She left the office leaving the two antagonists alone.
Heather glowered at her husband who stood braced in the middle of the room with his arms folded. "Well?"
"Well what?" she snapped her hazel eyes shooting sparks.
"Are you going to let me in on your secret?" he baldly asked.
"Secret?" she asked stubbornly playing the game.
"Yes, the secret on what’s wrong with you. Doc won’t tell me anything." He ran a hand through his hair. A sure sign he was upset.
Good, she thought still angry. "There’s nothing to tell. I’m fine. Never felt better," she yelled spreading her arms in the air. They came to rest folded under her heaving breasts.
Lee took a long look at his pouting wife. Women, I’ll never understand them. Something’s eating her in more ways than one and she won’t tell me anything. She’s angry all right and it has to do with Peoples. He must have told her. The picture of him shaking Heather on the bridge ran through his mind. He instinctively looked at her arms. Bruises were peeking out from under the short sleeves of her shirt. In a flash, he had a gentle grip on her right elbow as he pulled up her sleeve for a better look. "Damn it. I’ll kill him," he growled letting go of her. He started for the door.
Heather blanched and quickly planted herself in front of her husband. "Lee no. It’s nothing! It’s really nothing," she pleaded wrapping her arms around his waist. She pictured everything in a flash, Peoples’ dead body, the court marshal, the brig, life without him, "No," she moaned. "I’m not worth it."
Her words crystallized in his mind infuriating him more. "The hell you’re not! Stop putting yourself down! I love you and no one, you hear me? No one hurts what’s mine!" He carefully tried to move her aside. She tightened her grip. Her back was against the door now. She looked up at him with anger radiating out of her eyes and shouted, "Damn it. I won’t have this baby alone!"
That stopped him cold.
She clamped a hand over her mouth horrified at what she’d just blurted out. All the dozens of times I’ve rehearsed this in my mind and I just blurt it out. How am I going to tell him the rest? It took all the nerve she had to look him in the eyes again. She saw all the love and happiness she’d known she would find. Her heart broke. How can I hurt him? His smile is as wide as the Grand Canyon, oh dear God, how can I hurt him? Why can’t things ever be right for us?
Lee grabbed her to him and lifted her up like a small child twirling her around. "Oh love I knew it. I just knew it. We’ve beaten the odds," he exclaimed happy. He kissed her long and hard. "Does your Father know he’s going to be a grandfather?" before she could answer he went on, "Of course, he does. That was what he was trying to tell me last night, why he had the whiskey out." He hugged her again burying her face against his shoulder. He felt her stiff body against him and knew instantly something was wrong. Slowly he pushed her back so he could see her face. She was crying and he didn’t think they were tears of joy.
Softly he asked as his heart rate increased, "Heather, you do want this baby?"
She shook her head yes as more tears flowed down her face. He reached out and touched her cheek with his thumb catching a tear. "These are, I take it, tears…of joy?" He held his breath fearing the worst.
She shook her head no and his heart sank. Doc’s words flitted through his mind. She doesn’t want to hurt you. More sharply than he intended, "Then what is it?"
Heather cringed, the moment was at hand, and I don’t want to do it. She looked into his beautiful eyes and saw pain, apprehension and a hint of anger.
"Skipper, there’s a bogey on the bridge!" came the announcement over the intercom.
Both of them groaned as Lee reached for the speaker box on Chip’s desk. "I’ll be right there," he responded all business once again. He quickly ran out the door, down the corridor, to the spiral stairs. He double-timed it down around the stairs, ran through the control room as a man announced the contact on radar. He was up the ladder to the bridge in a flash with a pair of binoculars in hand that he’d grabbed from Chip in the control room.
He picked up the microphone, "Sparks, did they identify yet?"
"No Sir," reported Sparks in the radio shack.
"Start calling them. If you get no answer warn them off within a mile or we’ll blast them!" ordered Crane still watching the sky.
One of the lookouts pointed to the plane. "Two o’clock Skipper."
Crane searched and found what he was looking for. The plane was directly in the sun making it hard to identify. He belatedly realized there were two. Of course, they always fly in pairs. They kept to their course directly towards Seaview. Lee brought the mic up to his mouth ready to call battle-stations. They’re giving me no choice.
Sparks’ voice came over the intercom, "They’re ours Sir, two Navy Tomcats from the aircraft carrier John F Kennedy. They’re requesting a flyby."
"Permission granted," said Crane relief evident in his voice. He lowered the mic as Chip came up next to him with his binoculars. Crane kept his eyes trained on the planes still headed towards Seaview. The Tomcats gradually dropped in altitude one behind the other. When they’d almost reached the boat, one inverted and saluted the Captain and Admirals who just made it to the bridge. "Show offs," spouted Starke. The boat vibrated from the noise of the jets and the sound was deafening.
The bell was ready for another dive Lee noticed peering over at the Victory. "I’d better get back over there. None of our men are going down this trip, but I still feel responsible," he reluctantly said handing the binoculars to Chip. He climbed over the sill onto the conning tower ladder and made his way down to the deck. He was upset at leaving Heather like he had, but duty called.
"Chip," asked Nelson watching Lee get into the gig, "have you seen Peoples?"
"He went over to the Victory a little while ago." He looked over at the Victory’s afterdeck and pointed. "See, there he is."
George Peoples was avidly talking to the three divers who were preparing to go down in the bell.
"He’s seemed to have made some friends," remarked Starke off handedly. It was a joke for most of the men on Seaview had been ignoring him due to their Captain’s animosity towards him.
"I noticed most of the card games have stopped between him and the men," stated Chip in a monotone voice.
Nelson chuckled, "Especially after that meeting we had yesterday. Yes, the men are definitely showing their loyalty and respect to their captain." His grip, suddenly tighten on the sill. He watched as Lee angrily approached Peoples with fists clenched.
"I wonder what’s up with that?" asked Chip baffled at his Captain’s behavior.
Starke put in, "Looks like he’s going to straighten Peoples out on something or other."
"Humph, that’s what I’m afraid of."
Nelson looked back over to the Victory and groaned again. Lee Crane had a hold of Peoples’ arm. He roughly yanked him around to the back of the bell. The three men on the Seaview’s bridge held their breath until Peoples reappeared holding a hand to his chin. Lee was behind him with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. By this time, the three divers were inside the bell. Lee grabbed Peoples’ once again and hoisted him inside the bell. The look on Peoples’ face was pure fright before Lee slammed the hatch shut and dogged it. He casually rubbed his hands as he yelled back to the deckhand to lower the bell into the water.
Starke grinned, "There’s going to be hell to pay for that maneuver, but the look on Peoples’ face was priceless."
"Humph," groaned Nelson with a ghost of a smile. "We can handle it."
When Lee had left Heather, she went straight for the head where she was violently ill. It was the first time the emesis wasn’t related to fish. When she was through, she decided to find Doc for the ache in her back had turned into a mild pain and the throb in her shoulder wasn’t letting up. Doc wasn’t in sickbay. She went back into the corridor trying to decide if the matter really needed pursuing when Simmons informed her Doc was topside fishing. Not wanting to interrupt Doc’s R & R she decided to leave well enough alone for the time being and went into Lee’s cabin. The pains are more bothersome than anything, besides the flying sub is still gone. There’s no way to transfer off, we’re in the middle of the ocean. I’ll just have to ride it out. It’ll be okay. It’s not the baby. My shoulder’s still sore from those blasted potatoes. She sat down on the bunk more tired than she cared to admit. A twinge of pain pulled on her right lower abdomen. I’m just going to rest for a little while.
The sun beat down unmercifully on the dark head of the man who impatiently walked the deck of the Victory. The bell had been down for some time and at last report all was going well. So, why can’t I shake this feeling of doom? It’s got to be because we all want to go home. How long has it been since we started out to rescue Jaguar? Three or four weeks, at least…Blast, I can’t remember. He ran a hand through his sweat soaked hair. He checked his watch and knew the bell had to be on its way back up soon. I wonder how Peoples’ liked the deep? I know he hates closed in places. He barely tolerated Seaview when she was underwater. Serves him right. I’ve had it with his lies and innuendos about Heather. He’s so cold to her and to think she once worked for him. He sighed as he turned around on the bow and started back towards the stern. I need to talk to her about that deal we made with him. I know that was the reason behind her anger today. Bastard, he didn’t need to hurt her like that. She’s got more pride than the entire crew put together. How do I expect her to trust me when I pull stunts like that on her? I don’t regret the deal. I’ll do anything to keep her safe.
The bell came back up out of the water and was reattached to the lift line. Lee waited at the end of the stern for it to settle on deck. The hatch was opened and out came the divers. A man named Lichon reported they were able to get the box free from the fridge that was wrapped around it. They’d just gotten it into the first tunnel when time was up. The next dive team would have to finish the job.
"That’s the first good news I’ve heard today," said Nelson in the observation nose as he and the officers ate dinner. "We could wrap up this mission after dinner."
"Those are my thoughts exactly," agreed Crane sitting to Nelson’s left. "Chip, is Peoples still on the Victory?"
Chip was sitting across from Lee with Melonie beside him. Her father was at the other end of the table. Chip swallowed a piece of fish and replied, "Yes Sir. He’s ah, afraid to come back here." He tried unsuccessfully to smother his smile.
Chuckles were heard around the table. Lee looked askance at all of them. Receiving no answers he simply said, "I can explain."
Nelson speared a french-fry with his fork and thought, Where have I heard that comment before?
"No need to Captain," boomed Starke. "Some things are better left unsaid," he guffawed reaching for another roll.
Melonie spoke up, "Will someone kindly let me in on the joke?"
Heather froze with her fork in the air. She was eating meatloaf while the rest were eating fish. She had followed the conversation pretty well and instinctively knew what they were all getting at. She reached over to Lee’s right hand and turned it towards her to confirm her suspicions. Teeth-marks all four knuckles. The brig passed through her mind again. She exploded.
"Of all the lame-brained things, you hit him!"
"Well, someone has to take care of you," Lee retorted perturbed at her outburst.
"I can take care of myself," she insisted dropping her fork. "And that reminds me…" she glared at all the men there.
"What right did you have getting me fired from the CIA?" Her eyes were hot as coals with deep hurt behind them.
"Humph," from Nelson as he lit a cigarette, Starke swallowed his water nearly joking, Chip kept right on eating glad he was out of it and Lee nervously put his arm around her shoulders. She shrugged it off and he thought, this is it, the fat is in the fire.
"Heather, we’ll talk about this in private," softly demanded Lee starting to get up.
Her hands fisted on each side of her plate. "No, we won’t. You’re all here and I know you all made this decision together. Now, I want an answer!"
A sigh was heard around the table. It was dead quiet in the control room.
Nelson calmly said after taking a long draw on his cigarette, "Heather, there are a few things you don’t know about. I had every intention on explaining them to you when you’d first came back aboard, but we got sidetracked."
"Go on, I’m listening," she mimicked in the Captain’s best voice. Lee hid his grin as he sat back down. He could see she was going to be stubborn to the end. Well, maybe it’s time we laid all our cards on the table. Noticing the avid attention from the control room crew he ordered the dividing doors closed.
"All right, I’ll give it to you straight. You know, Jeffrey Baxter has a twin brother named James. He’s the more powerful one of the Baxter brothers. Sources say he’s doubled your reward money to two million. Pinnell was his contact person throughout your therapy. She was also in contact with Peoples. She wanted you to go back to work, so the CIA would put you on assignment and Baxter would have easy access to you."
Heather, gasped, "You mean someone in the CIA would’ve set me up to be kidnapped?"
She mulled all that over for a moment. The men could see the gears turning and secretly smiled at each other. Her head popped back up and she exclaimed, "All right, I can buy the fact that you all had my best interests at heart, but why couldn’t you just have asked me? It really was my decision to make." She took a deep breath, "And furthermore, for your information I was going to quit for I rather like living on Seaview and NIMR. What grounds did Peoples use to fire me?"
Starke cleared his throat and looked away. Nelson played with his cigarette. Chip asked for the salt with Melonie squeezing his hand under the table and Lee reached for his glass of water wishing it were something stronger.
Heather studied each person and came to her own conclusion. "You had Doc furnish proof that I was crazy didn’t you?" hurt evident in her voice. "They must have laughed themselves silly when I applied for reinstatement," she mumbled half under her breath. No one could look her in the eyes and she knew it was true. I really am crazy, board certified. With a heavy heart she got up to leave the table unable to deal with the humiliation.
"Sit down Heather, now!" it was an order from her father. Having no fight left in her, Heather slowly sat back down. The twinge in her lower abdomen had become a dull pain. She blocked it out no longer caring what happened to her. Lee put his arm around her and she left it there not understanding why he even bothered.
"Now," said her father, "we’re going to get all this straight once and for all. I’ve had it with misunderstandings." That got her attention. She numbly waited for him to begin.
"Heather, who besides Tony, Melonie, and Peoples knew you were the Lynx?"
Surprised showed on her face, "Adm. Silvers, assistant director of operations. Why?"
"Because either he or Peoples betrayed you to Baxter."
"No way, I can’t believe that," said Heather in a voice full of bewilderment. She absently picked up a french-fry with her fingers realizing she was out of ketchup. She asked for the condiment.
"You said Baxter came personally for you when your cover was blown. Debra didn’t know who you were until she boarded Seaview. Maclin got his information from Debra. He didn’t even know you at the Pelican. It wasn’t until after he boarded Seaview that he found out you were the Lynx."
"Okay, I get that part. One of the two men ratted on me directly to Baxter." Something in the back of her mind nagged at her. She took it a step further not understanding how she came to this conclusion. "He used Maclin as the fall guy to take the heat off his person. Someone in the CIA must have had suspicions about one of the men. So, its possible either Peoples or Silvers is a mole for Baxter."
"Not Baxter, Heather, the People’s Republic. The Baxter brothers allegiance is to the People’s Republic," calmly stated Nelson finishing his cigarette and snuffing it out.
The People’s Republic, horror of horrors, she felt her husband’s body become taut. She leaned fully into his shoulder and gripped his leg.
Her father scratched his neck, "Ah, Heather, there’s more. We didn’t realize this right away, but we think you’re the someone who got to close to the mark and that’s why your cover was blown. It wasn’t by accident Baxter found out about you…you were set up."
"Me?" she put her hand up to her chest in question. "But, I can’t recall…I don’t…"
"Yes, you," verified Nelson. "Think Heather, you must’ve passed on vital information that rattled the mole’s cage. When Lee and I arrived at the safe house you begged me not to notify Peoples that we had you. If memory serves me correctly your exact words were ‘those procedures will get me killed.’ "
Heather turned red in the face totally discomforted with the memory. "I was pathetic." She heard a chuckle from her husband. "You don’t have to rub it in," she scoffed casting Lee a waspish look.
Lee plastered an innocent expression on his face and made no comment. Pathetic was only half of it. She could barely stand on her feet. She’d been beaten and starved. By the time three weeks had passed in that pit I’m surprised she even knew her own name what alone remember anything of importance. Shoot, one day about did me in…
"What’s more," continued Nelson, "you turned white as a sheet when Peoples appeared for the debriefing. Now," he looked directly into her eyes, "Peoples was your boss, why, I’ve asked myself several times, why were you so afraid of him?"
Heather didn’t have an answer. She nervously picked up her butter knife and twirled it in her fingers. Why, can’t I remember? What am I still blocking out? Lee carefully took the knife from her and set it down next to his plate earning a dour look from his wife.
"You don’t have good luck with knives love," he gently touched her lacerated thumb.
"Potatoes and fish aren’t my forte," she countered. Not coming up with any answers she finally asked, "What’s this got to do with getting me fired?"
"Everything," announced Nelson. He had all their attention. "We vouched for Peoples credibility after Maclin, the spy was exposed. He needed our word to keep his job. If he were the mole, it would’ve secured his cover. We, at the time had no way of knowing this, so we made a deal. A good word from us in place of your job; now, he had a choice to make. One was to ignore our deal and follow Dr. Pinnell’s recommendations, reinstate Heather then, assign her some place where she’d come up missing. That would’ve given Pinnell the reward money and silenced Heather from ever recalling what she’d stumbled onto." He glanced around the table seeing heads nod in understanding. "But, then he’d have us to deal with and we’d have created a real ruckus." He smiled at Heather.
Heather looked down at her plate feeling quite warm. "But, you would’ve had to go back on your word."
"Maybe, maybe not as Sharkey said, we’d have egg on our faces." Nelson smiled that secret smile of his and elaborated, "By going against our deal, Peoples would have created doubt or the very least, cast suspicion on himself in persisting that you go back to work. We’d have asked ourselves why. Why would he want you back at the CIA? So, his second choice was to fire Heather on Doc’s recommendation that she was emotionally unfit even though she could possible turn evidence against him."
He stopped talking and sipped his coffee. "Doc had submitted his medical opinion and Dr. Pinnell has submitted hers. Once the CIA found out the motive behind Pinnell’s, then Peoples would have a hard time explaining why he believed her and not Doc. He’d lose face with his superiors or create a lack of confidence in his leadership abilities. He needs his position as assistant deputy director to carry out his duties for Baxter and the People’s Republic. If he really believed Pinnell’s psych evaluation report that your were well and he wasn’t a double agent, it wouldn’t have mattered. He’d have fought Doc’s opinion or maybe even had Heather evaluated by another doctor."
Heather crossed her eyes and Starke clarified Nelson’s last statement. "Another words, if there’d been no ulterior motive and he wasn’t worried about us making waves, he would’ve fought Doc’s letter of writ and gone with Pinnell’s recommendation to get you reinstated for the money if nothing else. The man is greedy. The bottom line is he doesn’t want us to cast suspicion on his cover."
"You’re forgetting one thing, Peoples doesn’t like me. He was glad to get rid of me, so why would he want me to come back to work if he was legitimate?"
"We’re assuming he’s not," insisted Nelson, "and don’t forget, this is all speculation."
"What if it’s Silvers instead?" she argued.
"It wouldn’t matter," added Starke finishing his dinner. "Silvers is Peoples’ director, the same information would pass through his hands. It’s possible he could even set Peoples’ up to take the fall in the end. Personally, I don’t think its Silvers. He’s an admiral, retired after twenty-five years in the Navy. It’d be a shame."
"All right," said Heather, "the mole’s cover is more important than getting me kidnapped. My cover was blown because he thought I was on to him or too close to the mark. Kind of an ‘I’ll get you before you get me deal.’ Wouldn’t he still be fretting that I’d remember the information that would incriminate him?" She picked up her fork and grabbed back her knife to cut the meatloaf that was now cold on her plate. "Where’s the ketchup?"
"Possibly," replied Nelson. "Melonie, you were her contact. What was the last piece of information she sent?"
Melonie had quietly listened to the conversation at hand. She also thought back to when Heather’s cover had been blown. There’s more here than meets the eye. Was it a conspiracy? Peoples had been desperate to get all the information he could out of her when Heather had been debriefed. He was livid when she got drunk. He was going to take her back with him to Washington soused and all. If it hadn’t been for Lee and Adm. Nelson…
"She emailed me that she’d found some paperwork that troubled her. She was going to do some more digging. That was the last I heard from her until Jaguar contacted me."
"Did you relay the information?" asked Chip getting into the conversation.
"Yes, to Peoples himself," she unconsciously shuddered. "She didn’t say not too and I was under orders to report to ONI and the CIA every time I heard from her." She suddenly realized the consequences of her actions. Almost in tears she exclaimed, "Heather, I nearly got you killed!"
"Nonsense! You were only following orders. How were you to know that Peoples would turn out to be a possible traitor?" Heather reached out and squeezed her friend’s hand across the table. "It’s okay, don’t give it another thought," she reassured her.
She looked at her husband still not sure if she was willing to forgive him for his part in the deal with Peoples. "Let me get this straight, you sent a medical report that contradicted Dr. Pinnell’s opinion in the hopes that the mole would still come after me by giving me my job back? "
Lee shook his head, "No love, quite the opposite, at the time the medical report was sent we didn’t know anything about the mole. That theory has just come to light. The original deal was made after Maclin was exposed. We wanted it to sound like you really went off the deep end. If you were permanently off the CIA’s payroll, we hoped James Baxter would forget about you by thinking you’re too unstable to bother with." He handed her the ketchup that had been sitting by his elbow.
"I still could’ve just resigned," she said mulishly shaking the bottle when none came out. She took the cap off and slid the knife into the nearly empty bottle scraping down the sides.
"Don’t you get it?" parried Lee a bit put out by her stubbornness. He watched the last of the ketchup drip on her plate and over her fingers.
"No," she frankly said licking her fingers.
"If you just resigned from the CIA, they’d want you from time to time to do special assignments. The work there is never done. I want you out of the spy business," Lee emphatically declared. "I want you safe, you hear me? Safe." He reached out with a fry of his own and stole some of her ketchup.
Heather suddenly felt very well loved, she reached out and stole his fry saying pensively, "You know, you could have told me that in the beginning."
Lee rubbed his forehead as if he had a headache.
Nelson started to get up from the table, "Safe, now there’s a word for you, unfortunately, Baxter has an award out on all of us."
"What?" gasped a startled Melonie knocking her spoon on the deck.
"That’s old hat," teased Chip trying to lessen her fright as he bent to pick up the wayward spoon. "We’ve been threatened for years. That’s why security is always so tight and everything is hush-hush."
"What are we going to do now?" asked Lee looking at his watch and pushing his plate aside. "And what are we going to do about Peoples?"
"Peoples will hang himself in time. He wants the chemicals and they’re close at hand, I recommend we send the next divers down and wrap this episode up. Who’s next on the rotation?" inquired Nelson.
"Riley and Kowalski. They’ll have the honors of bringing the box aboard. I guess it’s fitting considering they were there when this whole saga began. I might even go down myself," said Crane getting up from the table.
"Doc will never allow it," reminded Chip pulling back Melonie’s chair and rubbing his ribs as a reminder.
"I didn’t mean to dive. I could just ride down in the bell with the men." Heather gave him a wistful look and started up the circular stairs. "They’ll only be down there a short time. The bell is pressurized. It wouldn’t be any problem at all."
"Lee, you don’t have to convince me. Go ahead and go," chuckled Nelson. "We’ll be waiting on the Victory’s deck."
"All right then, Chip order Ski and Riley to the gig. Have the Chief meet us there too. He might as well see the end results."
Lee’s enthusiasm was spreading. The men not on duty asked to be up on deck so they could watch the happenings. After all, they’d all been a part of it in one-way or another. Capt. Crane gave his approval as long as precautions were taken and the lookouts kept to their duties.
Ski and Riley were partly in their scuba gear with Sharkey waiting in the gig. "Man, I can’t believe we’re almost done," murmured Riley to Ski as he checked his tanks over.
The Captain came out on deck and received a few pats on the back on his way to the gig. "Skipper seems happy too. It’s hard to believe it all started a little over a year ago," reminisced Ski. "Heather sure turned out to be a surprise."
"Yeah," laughed Sharkey. "She really livened up the boat. You never knew moment to moment what kind of trouble she’d get into. Remember the time she was found on top of the torpedo rack?"
All three men chuckled, "And the Skipper had to go up and get her down. He was fit to be tied," snickered Riley. "Why was she up there anyways?"
"They’d had a spat about something. She climbed up there to be alone. You know as well as I do, there’s no privacy on a sub," commiserated Sharkey as he primed the motor for the Skipper was getting in.
Lee hearing the end of their conversation was struck by a sudden thought, "Where’s Heather?" he asked looking around. The men all looked, but didn’t see her.
"I don’t know Sir, it’s not like her to miss out on something this important," responded Sharkey killing the motor as his Skipper stepped back on the deck. Crane went to the conning tower hatch and picked up a mic, "Heather, report to the main deck on the double." He hung the mic up in the bracket and impatiently waited. Some of the men filtered back down below for they realized it would be a while before the chemicals would be brought up. Others milled around fishing and talking. Lee carefully checked the horizon and the sky for what he knew not.
Heather had gone back to the office and relieved herself in the head. She noticed a bloody tinge that Doc had told her about. The pain in her belly had intensified a little more. She thought everything over in her mind that had been said at dinner. What’s nagging at me? What am I trying to remember? What was I on to? It had something to do with my OE job, but what? She went over every aspect of the job she did for Baxter. She knew his organization forward and backward. She heard her name announced over the intercom. Blast, what’s up now? She quickly walked up to the main deck and found her husband waiting for her.
"Heather, would you care to go down in the bell with me? It’ll be a short trip." In a lower voice he whispered in her ear, "I saw that look when you went up the stairs."
Surprised he’d known she started to say, "Yes," when a slight wave of pain was felt in her lower right abdomen reminding her she needed to find Doc. She absently kneaded her belly under her loosely folded arms. She hesitated long enough that Lee asked, "You do want to go, don’t you?"
She could see he wanted her to come, but was reluctant to state it in front of the men. "Yes, I’d love to. How long do you think it’ll be?"
"Maybe an hour or more. It’ll give us some privacy," he encouraged. We can talk about the baby and the secret you still hold.
She stared at the stern of the Victory scarcely aware she was studying its namesake, VICTOR Y, odd that the Y is separate from the rest of the name, somebody must have goofed. An hour or more, that’ll be okay. I’ll have to report to sickbay when we’re done. The chemicals will be up and we’ll be underway. It’ll all work out in the end. She gave him her brightest smile as she climbed into the gig.
Inside the bell, Captain Crane manipulated the valves. When the ballast tanks were flooded he closed the valves. He checked the life support equipment. The oxygen flow was normal. He started the winch and it groaned to life from the flooded chamber below. He carefully watched the depth gage as they descended. When they reached twenty-five feet he reached for the mic and reported topside their depth. He continued to read the depth in intervals until the bell reached the desired depth of four hundred feet.
Heather watched through the view port as they went down. Sunlight filtered through the water gradually fading as they went deeper into the ocean. It was much like sitting on Nelson’s front porch she decided when Seaview dived. Lee flipped on the exterior lights and dimmed the interior ones creating better visibility. The chamber was cooler now and Heather was thankful for the sweater Lee had insisted she wear. The bell angled more as they headed towards the bottom.
A vibration could be felt and Lee explained, "It’s caused by vortex shedding of the cable in the current. It’ll get better when we’re closer to the bottom."
They descended a little further, then, with a clunk, the bell settled on its rim around the explosive bolts and clamp at the end of the cable, which was attached to the splintered stern of the Revelation. Lee ordered the boom operator to pull the bell back up six feet. This created a slight ten-degree angle on the bell for it wasn’t attached to anything solid except the downhaul cable underneath and the backhaul cable on top. The current pushed the bell making its position a little rocky, but not a problem for the men to use the escape hatch. The men had sat quietly during the descent. They each gathered their gear and climbed down to the lower chamber. Heather could hear the pressure equalizing and in a few minutes she could see them through the floodlights heading towards the side of the boat where they soon disappeared.
Lee turned away from the instrument panel and put his arm around his wife. He pulled her onto his lap and held her tight against him. She moaned and he loosened his grip enough for her to find a comfortable position. Her head came to rest under his chin against his shoulder. He felt her kneading her abdomen, her knuckles brushing his stomach.
"Something wrong love?" he softly asked as he slowly ran his fingers up and down her back in a soothing motion.
She instantly ceased the movement and hesitantly brought her head up to look him in the eyes. "Lee, there’s something I have to tell you," her voice sounded sad to his ears.
He braced himself and tried to reassure her at the same time, "Honey, surely it’s not the end of the world, tell me what’s been troubling you so?" She broke eye contact and leaned her head against his shoulder as if it was too heavy for her neck.
"Oh Lee, I’m so sorry," she felt him stiffen even more. She could hear and feel his heart slamming against his chest; I don’t want to do this. I love him so much and I’m so afraid…
She heard him say almost in a whisper, "Sorry for what? Come on love, spit it out."
She took a deep breath. "The baby is ectopic…Doc thinks it’s tubo-ovarian" She couldn’t get any further for the tears were clogging her throat.
"I…I don’t completely understand," he stammered. "I know what ectopic means, but what’s the rest of it?"
Fighting the ache in her heart she gasped out the rest, "Doc said he wasn’t sure…that an ultrasound needs to be done… but he knows the baby is in the fallopian tube…and he thinks it’s in or real close to the ovary…He told me what symptoms to watch for…and…" she burst into tears. "I’m…so sorry."
He rocked her for a while wishing they were in his cabin and not four hundred feet beneath the surface. When she calmed he asked, "Doc is sure about all of this?"
She wiped her face with trembling fingers and looked unsuccessfully for a tissue to blow her nose. Lee produced a handkerchief from his pants pocket. "Yes, he said my hCG level was elevated and when he examined me he could tell. He figures I’m about six weeks pregnant…now maybe seven. I had no idea. I’ve been so tired and out of sorts. I thought it was just stress from being captured by Baxter and Pinnell’s forced sessions. Then of course, there was the fish…"
Lee thought back seven weeks, "That would make it about the time I tore up that useless marriage contract," he grinned.
"It wasn’t useless," she protested hitting him lightly on the chest with her fist. "It was for your own good," she paused for a moment. She nervously toyed with a button on his shirt, and then in a small voice said, "You just might wish you’d kept it. If we’d been home and caught it sooner, Doc could’ve use methotrexate to dislodge the embryo as long as it was less than 3.5 cm. If the embryo is lodged in my ovary…it’ll have to be removed and that means…that means there will be no children from me…Lee, I lost my other ovary to a cyst a long time ago…and I know you want to someday have children…and" he cut her off by putting his hand over her mouth.
"Damn it Heather, you listen to me and you listen good. I didn’t marry you on the sole purpose of having children. I’ve known about your medical problems practically from the first time you boarded Seaview. It’s part of my job to be acquainted with everyone’s health records. I love you woman, I’ve loved you from the time I first met you on the back porch of the safe house." He heard her intake of breath. Gently, he lifted her chin up and looked deep into hazel eyes so much like his own,
"Heather, I will never leave you for any reason. You have to believe me." There’s that phrase again. I can’t believe I just used it to get my point across and here I rebuked her for saying it. Now, I understand how desperate she was. "And Heather, I understand about the balcony and I forgive you for it, but you have to promise me that you’ll never…ever scare me like that again."
Heather was totally lost in his compassionate and loving eyes. "Oh, Lee…" she wrapped her arms around his back and gave him a watery kiss on the neck. Her throat was raw from unshed tears and her chest hurt with the need to cry again.
Lee could feel the trembling of her body as she struggled with her Irish pride and the pent up emotions inside her heart. "Honey," he again started running his hand up and down her back in a soothing motion, "honey, its all right. Let it out, just let it all out."
"Oh Lee," she choked. "I love…" a tender kiss on the forehead was her undoing and the dam broke. A long time later she finished her I love you and handed him back a soaked handkerchief.
Kowalski and Riley found the wreck to be eerily silent and unnerving as it had been on their other dives. They wound their way through the wreck with their flashlights chasing out sea creatures of all varieties, sea snakes, puffer fish, a ray and even a turtle that’d been sitting on a coil of rope. They found the waterproofed box at the end of the tunnel by the galley. It was the size of a very large ice cooler with handles on both ends. They tugged and pulled it slowly through the narrow tunnel up into the partially crushed wheelhouse. It was a tight fit and both men had to stop and rest several minutes to get their strength back.
Riley spoke into his throat mic, "We’re going to have to break the rear window out the rest of the way." He tried pushing on it with no effect.
Ski joined Riley and they pushed together. The window stubbornly refused to give. "This is crazy," huffed Riley out of breath. "Why won’t she give?"
"I don’t know, maybe it’s the water pressure. One thing’s for sure; we’ve got to take the box through it. There’s no other way unless we create another path." Both men groaned at the thought.
"It’d take too much time and effort. The box is heavy and clumsy. We’ve got to break this window out," he tried pushing at the frame again. After a few more moments of trying Riley muttered, "No good Ski, it won’t budge. I guess we’ll have to do it the hard way."
"Wait a minute Riley, I’ll go back and get the crowbar and torch that was left by the entrance. Why didn’t we think of that before?" He swam down the path that led to the outside of the boat.
Because, thought Riley, the pressure is all ready starting to bother us. Pat said it fogs your mind and creates havoc with your coordination. While Riley waited he looked around the silent tomb shining his flashlight on the destruction through the rear window. It was becoming darker around the wreck and he wondered if the sun was going down on the surface. He checked his diving watch. 20:18, too, soon for a sunset, must be overcast. He moved around in the cramped space and stepped on something soft. Curious, he lifted what was left of the chart table off the object. The object lifted and grinned at him. Ski picked that moment to make his presence known and touched his shoulder sending Riley a foot off the deck. Ski gritted his teeth to keep from laughing until he saw the object in front of them.
"What the hell is that?" he asked terrified. He tightened his grip on the crowbar ready to use it if need be. He shined his light directly on the offending object.
Riley, who had a minute longer to study the object said, "Its…it’s the giant."
"What?" Ski looked a little closer keeping the crowbar high on his shoulder. The object was tall like the giant and bloated. The flesh on his face and hands had been partially eaten away. "Yuck, lets get going." He pushed the giant back further into the wreck with the crowbar feeling gooseflesh rise on his arms as he did so.
Ski used the torch to cut out the frame of the window as Riley worked the crowbar loosening the edges. In a short period of time they had the window out. Indeed both men had extra adrenaline to do the deed for they wanted to put as much distance as possible between them and the giant. Once the window was gone, both men wasted little time in getting the box out of the wheelhouse. They quickly worked it through the rest of the wreck to the bell that was suspended a few feet above the stern. Ski tapped on the window making Heather jump inside. It was time to carry out the rest of the Admiral’s orders even though he didn’t understand the reasoning behind them at all.
When Ski tapped on the window Heather had been half a sleep. The pain in her belly was getting worse. It was now one grade up from a constant throb. She rubbed it often much to Lee’s dismay. He called on the intercom to the Victory that they were ready for the next phase.
"Heather, you mentioned symptoms. What did Doc say they were?"
Not wanting to worry him she vaguely said, "Mmm, he said I’d have pregnancy symptoms."
"Pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness, mood-swings and tiredness?"
She averted her eyes, So, he noticed all that. "You’ve got it."
Lee studied her face and knew she wasn’t telling him everything. Knowing his wife well, he deciphered her vague comments. "All right, those are pregnancy symptoms, now tell me the rest of it. What are the symptoms when the baby gets to big for the fallopian tube?"
"Ah, nothing especially, some pain maybe a bloody tinge in my panties. Nothing really to it." She forced herself to smile at him.
He could tell the smile was strained. "We’re in trouble aren’t we?" he asked resigned to the fact.
"Not yet," she encouraged. "Once, we’re on the surface Doc will know what to do. I had hoped this wouldn’t start until Pat was back with the flying sub. Of course, with our luck…"
"We’ll be on the surface in a few minutes as soon as the platform with the divers gets down here to lift the chemicals. The box is too big to fit in the lower hatch of the bell and I don’t want to leave the men by themselves."
"I understand Lee, I’ll be okay. Don’t worry." She could hear the men jostling something around underneath. "What are the men doing down there?"
"They’re just carrying out the Admiral’s orders."
A little while later the platform made its appearance in the depths. Ski tapped on the window again and gave the okay sign. Lee and Heather peered out the window and watched as Riley and two divers from the Victory rode up on the platform with the chemical box in the middle. Ski came in through the bottom hatch.
"Whew, I’m glad that’s over," he said taking off his gear. The buckle to his weight belt snapped off and landed next to his Skipper.
Lee jokingly said as he picked it up, "Here Heather add another diving belt to the OE expense account."
She took the buckle and froze. Expense account? A picture of her flipping through receipts flashed through her mind, she was in Baxter’s office doing an audit when a name caught her attention.
"That’s it!" she exclaimed.
"What’s it?" asked Lee becoming alarmed.
"The Victory, her owner, it’s not the Navy," she simply stated.
Not knowing what she was getting at Lee replied, "No, Peoples hired it from the area."
"You mean Port Gallin don’t you?"
"Baxter’s port? What’s that got to do with it?" he asked perplexed.
"You really don’t know do you?" frowned Heather as she got up and kneaded her abdomen. She was having trouble sitting still.
"No, I don’t. Peoples sent her to us because the Navy’s salvage boats were to far away. One’s in Hawaii and Japan and the other two are based in West Virginia I believe. He wanted us to get started on the salvage job right away for fear some other country would claim the rights to the boat. You can ask Chip about all the details, I was laid up in sickbay at the time."
"Lee, we’ve got to warn the Admiral now." At his blank look she went on. "Listen, the Victory is owned by a V Y Slivers." He didn’t say anything and she realized he still didn’t get it. "Lee, Adm. Silvers name is Victor Y Silvers. I saw a receipt for the Victory in Baxter’s papers with V Y Slivers on it. I think it was misspelled. Slivers / Silvers either way this boat is the admirals."
Lee ran the information through his head. We’re looking for a link to Baxter, is this it?
"The stern Lee, the Victory’s name. The Y is separate from the name. How many men have the name Victor with a Y for a middle initial?" she doubled over in pain.
Ski grabbed her the same time Lee did. "What’s wrong with her Skipper?" he asked as his commander sat her back down.
A low whistle from Ski, "My sister-in-law had one of those once. It’s rough." He noticed his Skipper lost a good deal of his aplomb.
Crane grabbed the mic and in a voice he didn’t recognize as his own ordered, "Haul us up."
No response. He tried again, "Victory, this is the diving bell, haul us up."
Silence. Growing impatient Crane tried a new tactic. "Seaview, what’s going on up there?"
A stifled moan came from Heather setting his nerves on edge. Danger signals were going off in his mind. Lee tried again, "Seaview come in!"
The power went out plunging the bell into darkness. A few moments later the bell listed and caught them off guard throwing them to the other side. It swung suspended for a short time then gradually settled on a rocky angle on the broken stern of the Revelation.
"What’s happening?" yelled a terrified Heather. She frantically groped for something to hang onto which turned out to be her husband. Lee could feel her nails digging into his ribs. "Easy Heather, the backhaul must of have parted from the payout drum."
In a shaky voice she asked, "Does this happen very often?"
"No, not usually…" even though we’ve had more than our share over the years. "Help will be down in a little bit." He didn’t believe it for a moment, but he wasn’t about to tell her that. The sound of something landing on top of the bell confirmed his fears as Ski said, "That sounded like the power cable."
Lee felt his way around the bell with Heather still clinging to his shirt. Exasperated, he sharply said, "Heather let go. Now, is no time to panic." He turned to what he thought was the instrument panel blindly trying to locate the auxiliary power switch.
Heather immediately let go knowing he was right and stumbled to a seat. Her heart was beating double-time and she didn’t think it was from the pain in her belly.
After fumbling with a couple of knobs Lee found the switch and flicked it on. The bell was bathed in red light. "Well, at least the auxiliary is working."
Ski looked out the view-port trying to locate the source of the clunking noise they’d just heard. His eyes gradually adjusted to the dark and with the help of the floodlights, he was able to distinguish the thick cable intertwined with the backhaul cable. "Skipper, take a look at this." He moved aside for his Captain to see out of the port. The power cable had been cut clean in two!
Crane anxious and baffled by the activities above grabbed the mic again. "Seaview, can you read me? Sparks come in!"
Nothing could be heard from the radio. The bell swayed with the strong current heightening Heather’s sense of fear. She timidly asked, "Why aren’t we drifting upward if the backhaul cable is down?"
Lee feeling guilty for being sharp with her earlier explained, "The bottom winch is still clamped to the downhaul cable. I can’t move it up or down. The end of the downhaul cable has a clamp that’s attached to the explosive bolts that had been placed in a solid place in the stern of the Revelation." He read the gage for the oxygen. "At least we have three reserve air tanks. They’ll last us for a while."
A muffled sound of twin screws could be heard as a boat pulled away.
"That sounded like the Victory," said Ski used to underwater sounds from being on sonar. Another set of screws was heard quieter than the others. "Seaview moving off." Ski put his ear up against the glass and listened intently. "Something’s going on up there. I think I can hear another set."
Lee was astounded at how good his sonarman was. "What else do you hear?"
Ski stood for some time in the growing quiet of the bell. Condensation could be heard dripping down the uninsulated sides to form a puddle on the deck. "Seaview’s picked up her speed." A puzzled expression crossed his face.
"What is it Ski?" quizzed the Captain his voice strained.
"I don’t know Skipper. There’s three sets of screws up there, but I get the feeling all is not well."
Up on the surface Nelson and Starke had joined Peoples on the stern where boom number two was backhauling the platform with the chemical box on it. Sharkey, much to his disappointment, had been ordered to stay in the gig. The square platform broke the surface with its four steadying lines taking the weight of the box as the boom operator guided it over to the afterdeck. Riley came up beside the Chief in the gig after surfacing lifting his facemask.
"Where did everyone go?" he pointed with his head towards Seaview. The deck was strangely empty.
"Mr. Morton ordered the decks cleared. I guess that cruise ship on radar is veering away from her stated course and heading our way. The Admiral isn’t taking any chances," responded Sharkey looking over at Seaview. He could see the lookouts diligently keeping watch over the sky and horizon. "Aren’t you supposed to be heading for the pressure well?"
"On my way Chief," he grinned putting his mask down on his face and swimming off towards Seaview.
"Some people’s kids," mutter the Chief. Sharkey was nervous. He felt for the pistol underneath the bench for reassurance. He adjusted the small earphone asking Sparks if he could read him.
"Read you loud and clear, Chief." Sparks had all other channels closed including the diving bells. The admiral wanted no distractions.
Adm. Nelson and Starke watched as the boom operator settled the platform carefully on the deck as the two Victory divers stepped off. They quickly threw off the steadying lines and the hoist moved aside as a man with a cap low over his eyes approached the group on the deck with Capt. Olson. One of the divers bent to open the lid when Nelson exclaimed, "No, don’t lift the lid, the chemicals could be unstable after being under water so long. We need to give them time to adjust to the current temperature."
"Good thinking Admiral," said a deep voice causing Peoples to look up sharply and gasp.
Nelson gave a cool knowing smile. "Well Victor, you finally decided to make yourself known. Somehow I didn’t think it was Peoples. He’s greedy, but not fool hardy."
Starke had been as surprised as Peoples. He was feeling let down by the older admiral. "Why Silvers? Just tell me why," he asked in a gruff voice.
"Why?" grinned Silvers, "My allegiance is to the Peoples Republic. I’ve been undercover for almost my entire life. Does that really surprise you?" he seriously asked.
The admirals didn’t answer. Peoples blustered, "But, Sir, you’ve been a part of the Navy, this country…"
Silvers spat on the deck and all three men took offense. "You really think I care?" he sharply snapped. "They don’t own me. I’m my own man and after this job I’ll be free to do what I want. Go where I want!"
Nelson trying to diffuse his temper, "So, it all boils down to greed and money."
"Let’s not forget power, Harriman. Power is the key. You’ve always exalted power even as a young man. You had the means to support yourself and your dream. I’ve had nothing. When the People’s Republic approached me I went gladly. I hated you, did you know that?" he sarcastically asked.
"Why?" asked Nelson as he reached up to scratch behind his neck. He pushed a concealed button taped to his back. Sharkey received a beep in his ear. He immediately notified Sparks, "It’s a go." He took the pistol and slowly climbed up the ladder.
Inside Seaview, the XO was carrying out his orders. He had their marksman Simmons take a position on the bridge with a laser rifle. He focused in his sight on Silvers. Down below, Melonie waited beside her husband at the plot table.
"I should be there on the boat with them," she quietly fretted feeling guilty being left behind.
Chip looked at her with a platonic expression on his face. "You were ordered to stay here by the admiral."
"Only because he’s my Father. Any other agent would’ve gone. I’m under orders from my CO, I should be there, Peoples got to go," she answered petulantly.
"Only because they weren’t sure if he was the guilty party or not, besides he was all ready on board. Melonie, what’s wrong? This isn’t like you," asked Chip feeling harassed.
All at once, she realized how she sounded. "I’m not being very professional am I?"
Chip sighed and softly said taking her hand, "It’s all right. We’re all a bit edgy. Why don’t you go down and help Doc? You’re first-aid trained and with Frank still gone he probably could use a hand."
To his relief, she smiled and did as bid.
"You ask me why I hate you?" queried Silvers incredulous. "From the time we’ve been in the academy you’ve had it all. Power, money, brains, self assurance need I continue?" Nelson stood sedately still listening. "You’ve never had to struggle like I have. Things always came easy for you, even love." He saw Nelson stiffen and genuinely smiled for the first time.
"Oh yes, the beautiful Megan. Did you know I was in love with her?"
Nelson astounded shook his head, "No, I didn’t even know you knew her."
"We were steadily dating until she met you. She gave me some song and dance about how perfect your love was." He was lost in thought for a moment, then, an ominous laugh was heard across the deck. It sent chills down the men’s back. "But, I got even with her and you through Heather. Did you really think everyone forgot about her? I kept tabs on her for years. It was with my manipulations that she landed up in the CIA. I knew, one day I could use her."
"You exposed the Lynx to Baxter?" expounded Peoples oblivious to the Admiral’s theories.
"Yes," he murmured. "Poor Heather, fit right into my plans. It was I who made sure she got the assignment. What better way is there to get even with old friends? Too bad, Megan didn’t live to see her precious daughter suffer at a madman’s hands, but you did, huh, Harriman? She wasn’t in very good shape when you found her…was she?" he sneered. He saw his own hatred reflected in Nelson’s eyes.
He continued on insultingly, "Baxter had his fun playing with her emotions. I read your doctor’s report. Baxter must have succeeded in breaking her…I have to admit Dr. Pinnell did her justice in her report. She was so disappointed when you put out to sea to rescue Jaguar. Then, Baxter captured her again, cheating her out of the reward money. Poor Jeff, he died so foolishly. He was supposed to sell Heather out right to a very interested sheik, but he did like his entertainment…I was more than surprised to see her on your boat cleaning fish. That’s not a very dignified position for an Admiral’s daughter. She still has a strong aversion to fish I see, could it be Baxter forever left his mark on her?"
Nelson ground his teeth to keep from attacking Silver’s contemptuous face. He noticed the deckhands all had side arms and they were pointed right at them. "Heather has suffered enough because of me. She’s an innocent in all of this," he waved his hand wide. "Your fight is with me, leave her be."
"I’m afraid I can’t do that Nelson. She knows my connections, you all do. Therefore, you and Seaview have to die. Loosen the bell," he ordered.
"No!" yelled Nelson lunging for Silvers only to be brought up short with a gun going off. He felt pain explode into his left forearm crawling up into his shoulder and vibrating down through his hand. A warm wet trail of blood splattered across his chest as he grasped his arm and fell into Starke.
Silvers, out of the corner of his eye saw the red dot of a laser being fired. He yelled, "Hit the deck!" as he himself did likewise. The laser hit Capt. Olson in the chest and he crumbled to the deck. Angry now, that Nelson had one over him, he shouted, "Proceed with stage two."
The laser continued to provide cover hitting various items on the deck while Starke dragged and half carried Nelson towards the side of the boat. Peoples seeing where Starke was headed stood up from the deck where he’d been prostrate and gave the Admiral a hand with Nelson.
Sharkey reached the top of the ladder in time to see the laser hit Capt. Olson. He carefully aimed his gun at a man on the forecastle who’d been about to shoot Starke in the back. He got off the shot and the man fell with a crash to the afterdeck. As the Admirals rushed for the ladder he moved over to one side keeping his foot levered on a rung and leaned against the side of the stern. Together with the laser marksman, he kept most of the Victory’s men pinned down as the Admirals and Peoples made their way down the ladder.
Unfortunately, some of the deckhands were out of the laser’s dangerous rays. One cut the power to the boat as another cleanly chopped the power hose to the bell with a fire axe. He then proceeded to start cutting the main payout cable with a heavy-duty pair of wire cutters.
Sharkey had seen the power cable slip over the side. He carefully looked around for the man who cut it spying him as he cut diligently on the payout cable. He took aim and was about to fire, when a bullet hit the bulkhead close to his head. He ducked down and came up eye-level with the side of the boat. By this time, the man had finished cutting the cable and it snaked over the side of the stern.
Nelson saw the cable fall overboard and felt a moment of panic. They’re safe for now. The bell is self-contained. Lee will engage the auxiliary power and life support system. Starke helped guide him down the accommodation ladder into the waiting gig. The admiral settled Nelson in the bottom of the gig, then immediately sat down by the motor and started it up. Peoples and Sharkey still firing his gun at random to keep the men at bay clamored down the ladder. Once everyone was in the gig, Starke released the heaving line and maneuvered the boat away from the Victory. He opened the throttle and headed towards the starboard side of Seaview, which provided cover from any bullets the Victory might send their way.
Mr. Morton heard Sharkey’s "We’re on board" relayed through Sparks’ ears and ordered "Engine room ahead two-thirds and step on it!" Seaview lurched forward and out of range of the Victory who was cutting her mooring lines and preparing to get underway.
"Mr. Morton!" the sonarman had a look of terror on his face. "That cruise ship profiles like a destroyer!"
"What?" yelled Chip nearly losing his composure. He quickly looked over the man’s shoulder to see for himself. "Six thousand yards and closing. Helmsman alter course five degrees right rudder."
"Five degrees right rudder, aye." Seaview changed course and so did the destroyer.
"Looks like she’s coming right for us Sir," said the sonarman.
"Hmm, yes it does and I don’t like it."
"Like what Mr. Morton?" bellowed Starke from the after hatch coming forward; a shaken Peoples was right behind him.
Chip saw blood on his shirt and wanted to ask what happened, but there wasn’t time. "We got a tin can heading straight for us. We altered course once and she changed course with us."
"Do it again," ordered Starke.
Chip complied and the destroyer once again changed course with them.
"She wants to ram us," baldly stated Starke. "What are you going to do about it?"
Chip barely heard him. He was furiously thinking about a ploy he once heard done during World War II on a diesel submarine.
The Exec picked up the mic and ordered in a calm voice he didn’t feel, "Lookouts below, seal all hatches. Engineering full speed."
Starke started to interfere, but decided to hold his tongue curious as to what the pokerfaced Exec was up to.
"Sound battle stations."
Sharkey who had come forward ordered into the mic, "General quarters. General quarters. Stand all battle stations." He tripped the klaxon alarm. It sounded throughout the boat as men scrambled to their stations and hatches went slamming shut. Various stations reported.
"Torpedo room manned and ready for firing."
"Engine room manned and ready."
"Damaged control manned and ready."
"Very well," replied the Exec "Standby for possible dive. Prepare to be rammed."
Sonar called out, "Four thousand yards Mr. Morton. She’s picked up speed."
"There’s not enough time Mr. Morton," bellowed Starke. "The destroyer is closing in on us at full speed. Our closing speed is approximately forty knots. We’re due to collide within seconds."
Boats steer from the stern, not the bow, thought Chip.
"Left full rudder," ordered Morton. This exposes our starboard side to the tin can. Come on take the bait.
The helmsman swung the rudder full over. "Rudder is left full," he yelled. Seaview’s bow swung to port.
Chip held his breath with his eyes glued to sonar. "The destroyer has changed course with us. She’s swung her bow to starboard trying to ram amidships...he’s falling for it."
Starke gave him an understanding look.
Starke barked excited, "With our hard-over rudder, our starboard is swinging towards the destroyer, opening itself up to a broadside collision."
Seconds now separated them from being rammed. They were fifty yards from the tin can when Morton with sweat pouring down his face ordered, "Right full rudder!"
The helmsman instantly turned the rudder and yelled with fear in his voice, "Rudder is right full."
Seaview stopped her swing to port and began to curve rapidly to the right. The rudder was hard-over as was the destroyer’s headed towards them. Both boats were at full speed with water spraying from both bows. They passed side by side only a few feet apart.
"Crash dive," ordered Chip relieved his ploy worked. "Find us a thermocline for that tin can will want to depth charge us now."
Starke knew the XO was right. "Good thinking Mr. Morton. Thermal layers are always prevalent after a storm and we just had one yesterday." He walked over to the plot table and started studying the map. Chip stayed behind the sonarman’s back.
Sure enough, the destroyer turned around in a wide arc and came after them as Seaview headed towards the bottom.
Chip spoke into the mic, "Rig for silent running, rig for silent running. Rig for depth charges, rig for depth charges."
The destroyer was gaining on them using active sonar. "They have a fairly good idea where we are," complained Starke softly. Before anything else could be said they heard a sound that struck terror in all of their hearts.
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!
Seaview shook, her hull expanded and contracted, while raining down insulation and dust partials over the crew. A water pipe burst forward and a man ran and quickly tightened the valve.
"Thermal layer two thousand yards," announced sonar in a very low fearful voice. He held onto the console with the sway of the boat. Circuits blew and the smell of smoke and sweat filled the air.
"Helmsman, alter course ten degrees left rudder," ordered Morton barely above a whisper his voice wooden. He gripped the plot table as the pencil and ruler vibrated off onto the deck.
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!
"Aye, left rudder is ten degrees," confirmed the helmsman in a near whisper as he did his superior’s bidding. The whole boat groaned.
"Depth keel to bottom?" inquired Morton dust making him wheeze and his eyes water. The deck grew slippery from the burst pipe and Peoples crashed to the deck. Starke yanked him up seeing his eyes wide with fear.
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!
Sharkey in a low voice, "Six hundred twenty feet." He clung to the island rail with Starke. Seaview shuddered, tossed and turned jerking the men to and fro.
"Very well, take her down to six hundred feet. Let’s hug the bottom for awhile."
Down in sickbay, Doc had his hands full with a contrary Adm. Nelson who didn’t want to be there at all. Starke and Sharkey had quite literally dropped him off at sickbay and had immediately left for the control room with Peoples following behind them. Doc had quickly pulled on his latex gloves and ordered the Admiral to sit down while Melonie cut his shirtsleeve off.
Doc examined the wound thankful the bleeding was controlled. He next did a quick set of vitals and was satisfied with the results. Melonie helped him take off his shirt and cut off his t-shirt much to his protests.
"Admiral, the shirt is ruined anyways and a sickbay gown is more convenient with the IV," she diplomatically argued.
"All right, all right. Get on with the show. I’m needed up in the control room. Hurry up Doc and get the bullet out," Nelson crouched. I know Chip can handle Seaview with no problem, but I don’t like not knowing what’s going on. There’s Lee and Heather to consider and I know Jiggs is topside probably in Chip’s way.
Doc had him lay down on the table and extend his right arm. A rubber tourniquet was placed tightly around his upper arm making his veins stand out in his lower arm.
Doc said to Melonie, "Pay attention. I’m going to start an IV. If I need help later on…" he didn’t finish the sentence for they were suddenly at a slant as Seaview did her crash dive. They could clearly hear the screws of the other boat as she passed by them on the port side. The order for silent running came over the intercom.
"What is Morton up too?" faltered Nelson as he tried to get up. Melonie’s soft hands pushed him down; her aqua eyes were full of concern and some fear. "Easy Admiral," she comforted in a low quivery voice. She grabbed the IV pole to keep it from rolling with the solution hanging from above.
"Don’t move Admiral. I need to get this IV in," quietly ordered Doc as he examined Nelson’s hand pushing down a couple of veins with a fingertip to see which one was more viable. He picked one and used three alcohol wipes to clean a spot on his hand. Next with his teeth he pulled the cap off a 20 gage angio-cath needle.
"Big poke," he flatly whispered.
Nelson winced as Doc carefully inserted it into the vein until he got a blood return. Doc then slipped the hub off the other end of the needle as he advanced the catheter deeper into the vein and pulled out the hard needle leaving the slender floppy catheter in place. He capped the needle with the cap in his teeth and dropped it on the exam table beside Nelson. Next, he took the plastic tubing and attached it to the end of the catheter then set the number of drips from the IV bag that contained a normal saline solution with lactated ringers. He finished by putting a wad of 4 x 4’s under the needle for support and wrapped surgical tape around the cath and tubing to hold them in place.
"You handled that well, Admiral. We’ll get an x-ray to see the precise position of the bullet then, if possible, I’ll take it out." He noticed Nelson seemed on edge and distracted. "Relax Admiral, its all downhill from here," he smiled at his patient.
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!
Doc and Melonie were thrown to the deck with Melonie still grasping the IV pole. Nelson gripped the examination table and hoped the brakes held. The instrument tray went flying across him to land in the bunk beside him. He had to get to the control room and rolled off the table with the next wave of the boat. Pain shot through his arm and then he was brought up short by the IV tubing and Doc.
Inside the bell, the depth charges were muffled, but they still felt the concussion of the blasts. It roughly rocked the bell in the turbulent waters. The wreck shifted continuously as the foundation crumbled away underneath it. Rocks and gravel pelted the bell echoing inside as the occupants were tossed to and fro.
"Kill the auxiliary! The last thing we need is a fire," shouted Crane as he rolled back and forth on the deck his wife underneath him. He hit his head sharply on an object and saw no more.
Ski obediently reached up and found the switch when the pitch of the bell threw him in the control panel’s direction. It instantly plunged the bell into darkness. He could hear the moans of the Revelation as her hull screeched and slid toward the abyss below them. If the ledge gives way or she falls over its edge we’ve had it. There’ll be no way in hell to get free of her. Another round of muffled explosions were heard further away this time. He counted the seconds until the concussion hit. The bell swayed and the wreck groaned. Ski felt movement as the Revelation vibrated and slid a few more inches. Seaview is moving away. She’s putting distance between us. I hope they find that thermal layer. A moan inside the bell brought him out of his thoughts.
"Skipper? Heather? You two all right?"
Heather in a tear filled voice, "I…I don’t know…Lee’s on top of me and not…moving." Her husband felt like dead weight on top of her. Her head was pressed against his chest with his collarbone pressing into her forehead. He had grabbed her when the first explosion had occurred throwing her to the deck before the concussion had overtaken the bell. Cushioned in his arms she had felt very little effects of the blast. Now, he wasn’t moving and she was scared to death.
Ski reached out and felt for the couple finding their legs. He moved his way along until he found his Skipper’s shoulder. Very carefully, he moved him off Heather and laid him on his back. He heard a moan and a hand grabbed his arm.
"Skipper, are you…okay?" he tentatively asked not able to see anything.
Lee wasn’t so sure. His head was thumping and something warm was running down the side of his head to puddle inside his collar. His stomach felt kind of peculiar and it reminded him of another time when he had a head injury. Oh no, not this again. I can’t be sick now! He sat up making his head spin and nearly banged into Ski in the darkness. He held his stomach and forced down the nausea. He realized it was dead quiet.
"Seaview?" he questioned in an anxious tone while rubbing his head feeling for the laceration with his fingers. He found a swollen bump just inside his hairline. He could hear Heather breathing beside him and was momentarily relieved.
"She’s moved off. Probably looking for a thermal layer to hide in," exhaled Ski not realizing he’d been holding his breath. "Do you want me to turn the auxiliary back on?" He was relieved he wasn’t in charge anymore.
"Yes," Lee reached down and felt for Heather’s shoulders pulling her up into a sitting position as Ski found the control panel and hunted for the master switch.
A moan filled the bell as the soft muted red light came on. Heather doubled over with her head coming to land on Lee’s leg. Hot fiery pain clenched her abdomen with a constant throb, her pulses quickened and sweat beaded her forehead as she unconsciously kneaded the side of her abdomen. She pulled her legs up while she panted softly trying to keep her fears at bay and not letting the men see how desperate she was. I’m screwed. I’m so damn screwed. I should have listened to Doc. He could’ve had me off the boat and this could’ve been avoided. Now, I’ve got to worry him even more. Blast and double damn. How’s Lee ever going to forgive me for this one?
"Heather? You all right?" asked Lee his voice unsteady. His heart was pounding hard in his chest as he leaned over her. Blood dripped down from his head to land on her face much to his irritation. He tried to wipe it off and hold his hand to the cut at the same time.
She instantly looked up with her eyes rounding in fright when she saw the blood on her husband’s face. Ignoring the pain in her abdomen, she sat up and reached for his face.
She burst out with, "You’re bleeding."
Relieved to see her spunk he grinned, "No, really?"
"This isn’t funny," she snapped the tension getting to her. "Ski, find me the first aid kit." She carefully parted his hair with gentle fingers and located the cut. It looked about 2 cm long and deep. He winced and she moaned.
"Yes Sir," remarked Ski not realizing his slip as he reached for the box. "One thing nice about the bell, everything is compact," he joked trying to make light of their circumstances.
Heather didn’t answer. She was too busy trying to see how badly hurt her husband was. Ski opened the box and handed her a couple of 4 x 4’s, which she used to put pressure on the wound. "One things for sure, head wounds sure do bleed." She held the gauze to his head trying to recall what Doc had done during his last head injury. She looked into his hazel eyes trying to see if the pupils were the same size. She realized she was getting the same scrutiny from him.
"You’re the injured one here," she testily replied checking his wound. The bleeding was slowing. Ski handed her another set of 4 x 4’s. She silently doubled them with one hand and exchanged them with the soaked ones.
"You’re not telling me everything. You’re hurting…bad," he accused. She clenched her teeth. "See, I can tell."
"I’ll live," she assured him.
"So, will I," he agreed.
Ski turned down the corners of his mouth and nodded his head.
Seaview was silently making her way along the ocean floor eluding the destroyer above. They were heading away from the salvage site in hopes of getting the tin can to follow. Every so often they would let loose a ping to keep her on their trail.
"I hope this works," grumbled Starke. "If it doesn’t, Crane and Heather are toast."
They were gathered around the plot table along with Sharkey and Peoples. Riley had gotten out of decompression and had taken over sonar. Seaview had buried herself in an opaque field at the bottom of the ocean where sonar pulses could be obscured and pings tend to be reflected.
"Mr. Morton, we’re twenty thousand yards ahead of the tin can," announced Riley on passive sonar.
A deep sigh was heard throughout the control room. "Time to kick butt," expressionlessly exclaimed Starke leaning on the plot table.
Morton picked up the mic, "Helmsman, come to new course of 170, right rudder twenty degrees, maneuvering bring her to ninety feet, ten degree up angle on the planes. Engine room all ahead full. Secure silent running. Periscope up." Chip climbed the island as Sharkey flipped the switch for the periscope. He felt very alone standing there on the island, the weight of command heavy on his shoulders. It’s never easy to take a life, but he thought of the men on the Whitefish and Nelson…
He looked through the scope in the direction of the destroyer. He noticed to his amazement it was almost dark. He could just make out the destroyer’s outline and sure enough, she’d made a course correction with them. He ordered Seaview brought around so that they would be at a ninety-degree angle when the torpedoes fired.
Not looking up Morton asked, "Chief, you got a firing solution?"
"Yes, Sir all primed and ready on tubes one and three."
"Very well." He watched as Seaview continued her turn and the destroyer came directly towards them at the correct angle.
"Prepare to fire."
"Flooding tubes," reported Sharkey flipping the switch to the outer doors. "Outer doors opened."
"Recheck firing solution,"
The Chief rechecked the data he’d earlier entered into the computer. It was a simple problem of target geometry. "Firing solution confirmed."
Morton waited until they were at the correct range that had been entered in the computer system. "Fire one and three!" he ordered into the mic.
"One and three fired," was heard over the intercom from the forward torpedo room.
Seaview shuddered as the electric powered mark 48 torpedoes ejected from the tubes. The torpedoes were running at forty-five knots and easily guided by Seaview’s sonar systems. The torpedoes-target closing speed reached sixty. They had projected a two-minute run with ninety seconds all ready completed.
"Both fish have capture, they’re running straight and true!" yelled Riley watching sonar.
Seaview shook and Morton still looking through the periscope pronounced, "It’s a direct hit! Scratch one destroyer."
Starke, who was standing next to Chip, slapped him hard on the back. "Well done, Mr. Morton!"
Nelson, down in sickbay had refused to go under general anesthesia. Doc was using a local to take the bullet out. He was just closing the wound when the announcement came that they sunk the destroyer. Nelson tightly smiled feeling partially vindicated. Now, all we have to do is retrieve Lee and Heather and hunt down the Victory.
Doc broke into his thoughts by saying, "You’re lucky Admiral, the bullet came to rest right by the bone. I couldn’t find any fragments. You’ll be good as new in no time flat."
"Humph, Doc, when you’re done have Sparks patch me through to the CIA. I need to report on Silvers."
"Yes Sir," he paused, "I believe, Peoples is handling all the details as soon as Mr. Morton gives the all clear sign to use communications." Doc saw him frown in dismay. "You still don’t like Peoples do you?"
"Well, cheer up. We should be able to contact the bell soon. I’ll even let you talk to her if it makes you feel better." He received a chuckle from his patient.
Lee Crane consulted his watch not happy with the time. It feels like we’ve been down here forever. I’m going to have to make a decision soon. He glanced down at his wife who was curled tightly in his arms, her hand ceaselessly kneading the right side of her abdomen. Her breathing was fast now and he could feel the rapid beat of her heart as she pressed against him. Every so often, a moan would escape her rigid control.
"Ski, wet another 4 x 4."
The sonarman took a clean gauze pad, opened the jug of water that had been kept with the emergency supplies and held it to the mouth carefully pouring the liquid onto it until it was sufficiently soaked. He silently handed it to his Skipper.
Lee took the wet pad and carefully slipped it between Heather’s bloody lips. "Here love, suck on this for a moment."
She did as ordered grateful for the moisture. Her mouth felt like paste from her hard breathing mixed with the taste of blood where she occasionally bit the inside of her lips to keep from screaming. The fire in her belly was almost unbearable and she controlled it by sure will alone. She closed her eyes and missed the worried look the men exchanged over the top of her head.
Ski studied the Skipper and his wife. What a pair these two make. They’re both trying to fool each other that they’re okay, but they can’t fool me. Heather’s in so much pain she can’t see straight and those moans…they’re driving me nuts. And the Skipper, he seems kind a dazed, probably from the knock on the head. I’d bet money, he has a mild concussion either that or he’s going into shock on me. I’m no medic, but I think I’m in trouble.
The wreck shifted jostling the bell drawing both men’s attention. Ski mumbled, "I don’t even want to know how close to the edge we are."
Lee scowled not liking the idea either. He liked the plan that he’d come up with even less. He’d seen the way his man was observing him. He probably thinks I’ve gone off the deep end. So, I’m a little light headed? They must be too, the air in here is starting to get thin and if Seaview doesn’t make it back here soon…"Ski, the bell is pressurized for the ascent to the surface. If we were to cut the downhaul cable to the winch below we could blow ballast and surface."
"That’s true Skipper, but wouldn’t we come up like a cork popped out of a bottle once the cable is released?" He swallowed a sip of water and passed the jug to his captain.
"We could flood the lower chamber first, then cut the downhaul cable. From there we could do a controlled ascent letting the ballast out gradually." Lee took a sip of the water and handed it back to Kowalski.
Ski tightly capped the container and rubbed his chin. "What about the chemicals? The admiral didn’t want to disturb them any more than we had too."
"They were transferred into a couple of water tight coolers weren’t they?"
"Yes, the original containers are some type of glass with compressed lids. The box we put the rocks in was lined with a Styrofoam buffer." He started to chuckle.
"What’s so funny?" asked Lee annoyed, his nerves on edge.
"Sorry Skipper, but I bet the look on Silver’s face when he checked out the box was something to behold."
Lee grinned, "I bet you’re right. Now, what if we brought those coolers up here first, then…" The wreck shifted making a groaning noise. Gravel could be heard coming down on top of the bell and the Revelation. "She’s going to go soon. I think we’d better put this plan into action." A scraping noise came from the wreck and they could feel the motion as the bell swayed in the current.
"Forget the ballast," commanded Crane. "Cut the cable. We’ll have to take the ride."
Ski wasted no more time by reaching for the lower hatch cover. He quickly undogged it and pulled it open. He climbed down into the lower half and located the two coolers that came from the admiral’s lab. Good thing, the admiral thought to put these in here before we transferred the bell to the Victory. He quickly grabbed one and handed it up to the captain who was waiting up above. He passed the second one up and received a pair of small wire cutters. A discouraged look crossed his face.
"Sorry Ski, this is all I can find in the tool box." A harsh grating noise spurred him to action. He could feel the vibration as the ground beneath it started to crumble and give way. The wreck was moving and the angle increased. He cut faster. It was slow going. The cable was thick and the cutting tool did little damage with each slice.
"Hurry up Ski!" shouted the Captain peering out the view port. He could only see a little ways out for the water was becoming thick with dirt partials. He could hear and feel the Revelation breaking up below them.
He turned to peer down into the hatch when suddenly the whole ledge gave way with a lurch. The wreck started falling knocking him to the deck on top of Heather’s legs. The bell swayed chaotically giving him a feeling they were on a merry-go-round. The sphere slanted throwing both of them to the side. Sparks shot from the panel and he made a lunge for the breaker switch, flipping it as he was yanked backward to the deck. The bell was plunged into darkness again.
When the lights went out, Ski kept the cutters attached to the cable and frantically kept cutting. He held on by lying over the top of the drum with a leg braced on each side bending low to the deck as he continuously cut beneath the spooling device.
"Come on Ski, come on!" yelled the Skipper.
Another cut another snip…and they were free. Immediately, the bell shot upward pressing Lee and Heather to the deck and Ski to the drum. Lee thought it was like riding a roller coaster complete with screams up a big hill and waiting for it to reach the peak…they were brought up short with a sudden stop and held at an angle. The sudden halt of movement tossed them briefly into the air and threw them hard against the deck. What happened? We should have hit the surface and then some at the speed we were making. The payout cable must have snagged in the wreck. And those screams…Heather?
Breathing hard and feeling pain in his ribs he stayed still a moment trying to calm his heart down. Damn, are these ribs ever going to heal? He could smell the acrid smoke from the burnt wires in the control panel. His head was on the hatch cover and he slowly rolled over, coughed and choked out, "Ski… you all right?" It was pitch dark in the bell and he could see nothing. He fumbled around for the flashlight that had been by the toolbox.
Ski stumbled through the hatch holding a hand above his eye as Lee sat up shaking his head to ward off the lightheadedness still feeling for the flashlight. Something wet ran into his right eye stinging it. He wiped his eye with the back of his sleeve hoping it was just sweat, but knew his head wound was bleeding again. He held his fingers to the wound and felt the dampness. He pressed the bandage tighter against his head and held it with more pressure.
Blood was streaming into Ski’s eye at an alarming rate that only he could feel. "I think I need the first kit," muttered Ski as he closed the hatch one handed and dogged it. His legs gave out and he heavily sat down.
Lee became exasperated as he looked for the allusive light. "Come on where is it?" He found the water jug, which was on its side and he righted it, his knee hit the toolbox causing him to swear and then his fingers skimmed the medical box. He quickly handed it to Ski by sense alone. "Here’s the first aid kit. How badly are you hurt?"
"Just a cut above my eye. That was some ride!" he groped for the box taking it out of his Skipper’s hand.
"Do you need help?" asked Lee beleaguered as he again resumed his hunt for the flashlight. He was afraid to try the circuit breaker in case it sparked wasting more of their precious air. The atmosphere felt heavy and he was perspiring with the effort he was making.
"No, I’m okay." Ski opened the box and fumbled for the bandage he was looking for by feel alone. He found a thick one he assumed was a pressure bandage and ripped open the package with his teeth and put it against the cut leaning his head back against the bulkhead. He could hear his Skipper slowly working his way around the bell.
Lee located his wife and found the missing flashlight, which was next to her. He flipped it on only to find Heather in a crumbled heap. She was unconscious, her breathing still rapid and her face pale. Relief and fear both attacked his senses, relief that at the moment she wasn’t feeling any pain, but why is she unconscious? Is it the baby or some new injury? He gently turned her over and she curled into a tight ball. She’s still feeling the pain, damn!
"Heather? Can you hear me?" he hoarsely asked as he flicked on the fluorescent trouble-light that was part of the flashlight and sat it on the deck for illumination.
She moaned loud and long putting dread in both Ski’s and his heart. "Honey, I’m right here. Can you hear me?"
She slowly opened her eyes as if it took great effort. Her teeth were clenched and Lee could see fresh blood run out the corner of her mouth. "Easy love, it can’t be much longer now." He hoped he sounded convincing for the words seemed hollow to his ears. She scarcely nodded her head and closed her eyes. She started to rock to relieve the pain as she rubbed her abdomen.
Lee wiped his own eyes trying to convince himself it was just from the sweat on his forehead. He looked at the depth gage. Seventy feet. He checked the air gage. A little more than an hour was left. Seventy feet separated them from the surface. If he went out and cut the fouled cable the bell could then surface. He could use Ski’s aqualung. The water was warm here. It’s a plan. He observed his man in the shadows of the flashlight noticing the nasty cut above his eye. His eyes were closed and he was resting.
A voice over the radio startled him. "Seaview to diving bell come in Lee." It was Nelson’s. He found the mic and with joy and relief in his voice responded, "Lee, here. Admiral, is Seaview all right? Did you sink that destroyer?"
A chuckle was heard from the other side. "Yes, Chip saved the day. I’ll fill you in later. How are all of you?"
Lee glanced at Heather’s unmoving form and that of his sonarman who now had his eyes open. "Heather’s in a bad way. Ski has a nasty laceration above his eye."
"And you Lee?" The Admiral’s voice sounded tired to his ears.
"I’m fine, never better." He refused to look at Ski. "How soon before you reach us?"
"We should be there within thirty minutes. How’s the air?"
"We have enough for about an hour. We’re at seventy feet. The payout cable is caught on the wreck below us." He absently looked out the view port seeing nothing, but darkness. He glanced down at his wife. Her eyes were open and it made him feel better, then she moaned and choked on a sob.
With hope in his voice, he asked, "Is the flying sub back yet?"
"Negative, Patterson had to make three trips with all the wounded from Whitefish. Then, bad weather moved in at Baltimore grounding him. Lee, Doc wants to talk to you."
Nelson had brought up his homing device board with Morton and Starke looking on. Doc was then able to surmise their medical situation as he studied their pulse rates. They’re both tachycardiac. Lee’s at 100 and Heather’s at 110. Stress can do that… Hmm, on top of that she tachypnea with a respiration rate of 24, but Lee’s is at 20, if the air is fouled it would make breathing more difficult, still he said Heather was in a bad way. Pain? Surely, it’s not the baby. She promised to tell me if she had any signs. So, why do I have this bad feeling? He took a deep breath and asked, "Skipper, how much pain are you in?"
Lee scoffed, "I’m fine, but Heather isn’t…she’s in a lot of pain…has been for some time." He gripped the mic tighter as if it were a lifeline. "Doc, what can I do? We have no medicine."
Doc heard the desperation in his captain’s voice. He tried to diffuse his fears by asking in a steady voice, "Where is her pain?" He all ready knew and it put dread in his heart. If her fallopian tube bursts… she could very well bleed out before we can get to them.
Lee in a tight voice answered, "It’s in her lower abdomen. That’s bad…isn’t it?"
Doc knew time was running out for Heather. He glanced at Nelson who was standing quietly beside him with his arm in a sling leaning against the plot table. The homing device board was located to the left of sonar for handy use. He could see the Admiral was clearly aggrieved about their situation. He was beginning to wish he’d insisted that Nelson stay in sickbay.
"Lee I want you to elevate her feet higher than her head. Keep her NPO, another words, no food or drink." He hated to worry his captain further, but he had no choice. "We’re leaving this channel open, if she starts to hem…bleed I want to know about it immediately."
"All right Doc," replied Lee in a gravely voice. Doc noticed on the HD board that his pulse rate increased.
Nelson in an unsteady voice asked, "You’re thinking about surgery?"
Doc gave him a stern look. "There’s going to be no choice," he paused, "Admiral, I’m a simple ship’s doctor not a gynecologist, but at the moment I’m all she’s got. Now, I think it’s time you get some rest." He gently took the admiral by his arm and headed back down to sickbay turning at the aft hatch at the end of the control room.
"Chip?" Morton was by sonar still staring at the HD board while Starke was at the plot table scribbling on a pad of paper.
Chip looked up disturbed by all he’d just heard. "Yes Doc?"
"I’m going to need Jenkins, he’s a paramedic and Perez, who is a first responder."
"You’ll have them," assured Morton as he lifted the mic.
Lee checked the gages again and sighed deeply as he sat on the deck next to the burned out control panel gripping the flashlight. Where’s Seaview? They said thirty minutes. Our air is definitely going foul. He was sweating profusely as were the others. Heather’s rapid breathing is exhausting the air. He tiredly picked up the mic, "Seaview, come in."
"Seaview here," replied Chip concerned. He didn’t like the sound of his voice. "Lee, you all right?"
"Air is getting thin. Heather…she can’t help it…She’s using more air than we anticipated. What’s your ETA?"
Chip understood the situation, "Ten minutes, just hang on and quit talking. The depth charging we took loosened a few wires in the circuitry room and it slowed us down…"
"Very well, we’ll hang tight." Lee hung up the mic and did a visual sweep shining the flashlight around the bell. Ski was resting against the bulkhead on the other side of the control panel. Heather was curled up in a tight ball in front of the oxygen tanks. She refused to keep her legs elevated much to his chagrin. He was deeply worried, no scared is more like it. He’d lost his patience with her leaving her to bear the pain alone while he checked the gages. He moodily looked at the coolers full of chemicals. I wish I could kick them to smithereens. If it weren’t for them and Baxter, we’d be home by now. Heather would be in a hospital, pain free and safe…some protector I am. If it weren’t for me she wouldn’t be pregnant in the first place. If she’d never met me she’d be…dead. That thought brought him out of his self-pity and he scooted back to her side.
Heather was in a haze of pain. She knew the men were put out with her and that her moans were getting on their nerves. They were hard to conceal now. The pain had started in her lower abdomen and seemed to radiate through her entire body. Drawing her legs up and rocking was the only way to ease it at all, if only I could get up and pace, but there is no room. Is this what labor is like? She didn’t think so. At least you get to rest between contractions and at the end you get a reward. I’m going to have…nothing. In her weakened state, she thought about all the things Dr. Pinnell had tormented her with. Her insecurities got the best of her. The tight control she’d held in check for so long broke and the tears fell causing her to choke as she tried to hide them. She curled tighter inward hoping not to annoy the men further. It’s not fair, I only wanted to spare him pain and heartache, and instead, I’ve foolishly increased it. I deserve whatever I get. It’s only fitting that my life should end like my mother’s.
She felt herself being picked up and set on Lee’s lap. Warm loving arms wrapped around her giving her the security that she desperately craved. His hand gently press her head against his shoulder while he tenderly wiped at her tears with his thumb. "Easy love, I’m here," he encouraged in a reedy voice. "It won’t be long now." His hand went to her hair and he caressed it in long even strokes. She buried her nose in his neck inhaling the strong scent of sweat and blood mixed with his cologne.
She savored the moment willing it to last forever. I feel so safe. There’s no place I’d rather be. "Lee," she said in a husky whisper not moving her head off his shoulder, "I’m sorry for all the trouble…I’ve caused you…" she fidgeted on his lap, no longer able to sit still.
Lee heard the strain in her voice. "It’s okay Heather, don’t give it another thought…"
"The past year…has been the best in my life…" she found herself panting with the effort it took to speak.
The hairs on the back of his neck rose and he instinctively tightened his arms around her. "Shh, love, please…"
"I found love…true love and a…family…" her voice went up an octave as the pain consumed her. She kept on determined to finish. "I love you…so much…and…" a scream welled up from deep inside. Her fingers dug into his shirt. She felt pressure, then a razor sharp pain tore through her abdomen as a great rush of liquid gushed between her legs…she knew she was lost.
Lee felt the easing of her fingers from his shirt as her hand slipped slowly down his chest. He panicked, for the first time in his life, he totally panicked. "Heather?" he buried his hand in her hair pulling her head back. It was totally limp and fell back onto his shoulder. He blindly felt for a pulse and found none. "Heather!" a moan broke from him as he felt a hot wet substance soak through his pants onto his lap. "Oh no…" Fear, like he’d never known tore at his insides. "HEATHER!"
It was Ski, who came to his rescue. He quickly elevated her legs over the oxygen tanks as his skipper clutched her to him. He fumbled for the flashlight that was beside his skipper, the light still on. He shined it onto their faces and his heart skipped a beat. Both of their faces were pure white. His skipper seemed to be going into shock and Heather was as still as death.
"All stop," ordered Morton. "Release the divers."
Seaview came to a complete stop over the diving bell. Two divers, with a retrieving line went out and quickly clamped it to the top of the bell. The next step was to cut the cable that was holding them in place from the sunken Revelation.
"Flood the tanks, Ski" ordered Mr. Morton.
"Tanks flooded to negative buoyancy," reported Ski as he turned the valves. The weight of the bell had to be heavier than the water surrounding it, so that she wouldn’t float to the surface when the payout cable was cut. He felt the bell drop down and knew the cable had been severed. Another moment passed and he felt the movement of the bell as Seaview’s winch hauled it in by the backhaul cable.
His part done, he went back to the couple on the deck. The flashlight provided a dim illumination of the scene before him. He doubted if his skipper was even aware of his presence as he tried to reassure him that help was here. He was still unable to determine the condition of Heather for his captain refused to let him touch her. He just keeps rocking her like there is no tomorrow. Ski felt the bell come into the hold and settle on the deck. The hatch was undogged and the faces of Doc and Chief Sharkey met his eyes. He felt extremely relived as he helped hand over the chemical boxes that were in the way of the entrance. He climbed out and Doc took a quick look at his cut and ordered him to sickbay.
Doc’s professional eye surveyed the situation as he climbed into the bell. Sharkey waited at the hatch entrance. The bell was rancid with the fresh smell of blood. His captain looked horrible with fresh and dried blood mixed with sweat on his face, shirt and pants. He sat there in a stupor rocking his wife not acknowledging his presence. I doubt if he even knows he’s back aboard Seaview. Doc bent down on his knees and took a pulse from Heather. It’s steady, but weak He slipped a portable oxygen mask over her face that Sharkey had handed him.
In a firm voice he said, "Lee, I need to get her to sickbay." His only response was the tightening of his skipper’s hold on his wife. Doc started to lift her out of his arms and that brought a response from his commander.
"NO, you can’t have her!" his voice cracked and he buried his face within her hair as he hugged her.
Doc calmly said in a low soothing voice, "Lee, please, I need to start treatment…"
"No, you’re going to put her in that…cold place…" his mind shied away from what the place was. He haltingly went on, "She’s mine…I won’t let you…take her away from me."
Doc understood and reassured, "Lee, she’s alive." He grasped his skipper’s arm not surprised to find it trembling.
"No, you’re lying." He refused to take his eyes off her white still face. He cradled her tighter against him turning his shoulder away from Doc and Sharkey. "Leave us alone."
Doc tried a new strategy. "I tell you Lee, she’s alive. Here…" he took his hand and spread his fingers over her throat, beneath her chin, where the pulses are strongest and pressed inward, "feel her pulse. It’s steady." He held his hand captive and urgently said, "Lee, can you feel it?"
A moment went by, then another. Doc heard his Skipper draw in his breath as enlightenment dawned in his eyes. Then he heard a fierce plea, "Doc, do something!"
Doc lifted her out of his Captain’s arms and transferred her to Sharkey’s waiting arms as he leaned forward into the bell. "Get her down to sickbay. I’ve all ready briefed the men and Melonie on what to do." Sharkey left and Doc turned his attention to the Skipper.
Lee was struggling to his feet, the pool of blood on his lap traveled down the length of his legs to drip on the deck. Doc wasn’t sure if it was his or Heather’s. He seems to be moving his extremities okay. If that blood is all Heather’s, we’re in trouble. I need to examine his head wound then get him to sickbay. He scrambled out of the bell ahead of his skipper. He turned and caught Lee at the hatch’s entrance just as he climbed down forcing him to lean against it. "I want a look at your head."
Lee waved him off, "I’m okay. Go take care of Heather." He tried to get up, but Doc held him in place by removing the bandage that was stuck to his head by the blood.
"Hmm, not to bad, a couple of staples will take care of it." At his Captain’s blank look he went on, "Staples are easier to put in for surface lacerations that are not too deep..." His pupils are lacking their characteristic luster and a bit dilated. His face is pinched and without expression, respiration is rapid, but shallow, his pulse is…Doc picked Lee’s wrist up and mentally counted as he kept track of 15 seconds on his watch. Pulse is weak and rapid with a count of 110. He’s in shock no doubt about it. He pulled Lee up by the arm and they started aft towards sickbay with Doc still carrying on the one sided conversation. "…and are less painful. The head has very little nerves. I’ll probably use derma bond glue on Ski’s laceration…" They arrived in sickbay and he turned his care over to Melonie.
Lee’s numbed mind had trouble comprehending Doc’s orders to Melonie. Doc then disappeared into the alcove where his desk was and pulled the curtain. Lee caught a glimpse of Heather lying deathly still on the examination table with a clean hospital gown on. His man Jenkins, the paramedic was starting an IV. He soon found himself stripped of his own clothes. Melonie gave him a bedside bath washing off the blood and grime. He was dressed in a blue gown, then tucked into a bunk with his feet elevated on a couple of pillows as plastic tubing was placed in his nostrils for oxygen. In the silence of sickbay, Melonie proficiently attended his head wound meticulously cleaning it out and gently stuffing fresh iodine soaked gauze in it until Doc could take care of it personally. He vaguely noticed Nelson asleep in a bunk and Ski resting in another with Sharkey sitting beside him talking in a low murmur. Nelson? Why’s he here…did I miss something, I can’t seem to remember? He rubbed his temples.
Melonie had watched where Lee’s eyes had strayed too. He’s becoming more aware of his surroundings. That’s good.
"Lee, the Admiral is going to be all right. Doc gave him a mild sedative to help him sleep. One of Silver’s men shot him in the arm." At his dazed look she continued as she brushed the hair back off his face. "It was Silvers who betrayed Heather…he was a double-agent just like Nelson and Dad had theorized." She witnessed Lee’s eyes darkening with anger and pain. She finished with, "Silvers got away, but the Navy has been alerted. They will find him." She squeezed his hand, "Get some rest. When this is done, Heather is going to need you."
He refused to let go of her hand and pleaded, "Don’t leave me. I need…" He turned his head away discomforted. He started to shiver.
Doc had given explicit instructions to Melonie on how to treat a man in shock. She went to the heated alcove and pulled out a warm blanket. Throwing it over him, she pulled up a chair and held his hand. She watched the varied expressions cross his face as they overheard phrases from the anterior office that was now a treatment room. The medical supplies Doc needed had been gathered and put on his desk before the bell had come aboard. Doc hadn’t wanted his patients to be a witness for what he knew was in store for Heather. Unfortunately, their voices could be heard and Lee’s apprehension and confusion was soon apparent. She paraphrased as much as she could to the afflicted Captain.
"Hang a 1 liter bolis of NS lactated ringers 125 cc per hour…"
"That means she’s getting normal saline and sodium chloride fluid filled with nutrients such as salt, water, potassium, calcium chloride and B1 carb, she’s probably dehydrated. The line will probably be kept KVO, which means to keep her vein open, so that Doc can administer what drugs she’ll need or any other IV fluids." He silently absorbed the meaning of all she said.
"Jenkins, start another line for a pack of fresh frozen…"
Melonie continued, "Fresh frozen plasma is white clear platelets that help clot the blood, usually given in O negative, the universal donor. After that, he’ll type & screen her and do a cross match to make sure her blood is compatible when he gives her a couple of units of packed RBC’s, which are the red heavy sticky red blood cells. They’re rich with oxygen and nutrients. Doc is establishing another IV for the blood to be given. He has to build her up, so she can tolerate the surgery." She saw him turn pasty at that statement. She gently squeezed his hand, "Lee, there is no other way to save her life. Doc has no choice." A violent shiver ran through his body. Doc, didn’t tell me what to do if he got worse.
"She’s starting to come around…she seems to be in a great deal of pain…"
"Give her 4mg MS IVP."
They’re giving her morphine by the IV or intravenously pushed."
"She’s vomiting! Suction! An air hose could be heard as it cleared her mouth and airway. "Roll her on her side. I’m giving her 1.25 mg of inapsine B I."
"That’s a drug for nausea and he’s giving it to her by injection," softly add Melonie her own voice unsteady. A monitor went off startling everyone in sickbay.
"What’s her stats, Perez?"
"Pulse 120, respiration 28 and blood pressure is 70/40… and dropping…"
" She’s hypotensive…"
"Come on Heather… fight…"
Melonie didn’t need to explain any of that. Lee let go of her hand and turned on his side away from her.
6 weeks later
Lee Crane sat on a small knoll tucked into the side of a large mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He pensively watched the waves crash against the rocks below as he twirled a long stemmed weed between his fingers. He loved it here, the rugged beauty, the wildness of the surf and the solitude it brought.
When they had come into port at Santa Barbara, Seaview had gone into dry dock. Nelson wanted a complete refit done after the depth charging she’d received. He also ordered the entire crew to get some long deserved R & R. Nelson took off for his cabin in the mountains, Chip with Melonie headed for Hawaii and Sharkey accompanied by Heather’s secretary, Myra went to New York.
It was a sunny, quiet, lazy kind of day that gave him much time to reflect on the past. He stretched his long legs and brought them back to a bent position resting his elbows on each one. In the distance of the ocean he could see two dolphins at play. Hmm, I wonder if they’re Flip and Flop Heather’s pet fish? Never again will she be in the ocean. The shark incident ran through his mind and he shuddered. His leg had healed fine leaving only a light scar as a reminder. Children’s voices echoed up the hill from the beach to the right of him. He looked over and casually observed a mother playing with her children making sand castles. He grinned enviously wishing it could be so for him. Nothing would make him happier, than to have seen Heather large with his child. Beggars can’t be choosers his mother had told him often enough. Be grateful for what you have for you never know when it might be taken from you. So true, he lamented. He had begged silently for her life, the love of his heart. A love he hadn’t even known he’d wanted or needed, but had been granted on that fateful day over a year ago, when he’d found a waif on the back porch of the safe house. Until that time, the sea had always been his mistress and Seaview had filled his heart.
The boat had been strangely quiet when he and the men had been released from sickbay. Doc had preserved the embryo (or as science aptly called it products of conception) in a sealed specimen container. Days later, they gave it a burial at sea, it was only fitting for it was conceived at sea, it was born at sea and it died at sea…The men including Starke and Peoples had shown their respect and had solemnly assembled on deck. Chip had given a short eulogy followed by the 23rd Psalm. If only…life is made up of should have been, could have been and if only…He crumpled the weed and cast it down the hill.
A woman lying next to him on the beach blanket awakened and stretched. Lee fell on his side and took her warm body into his arms silently thanking the Almighty above. "Have a good nap love?" he asked looking deep into her eyes so much like his own.
She reached up and ran a finger lightly down the side of his face loving the warmth of his eyes as he stared into hers. She had a sneaking suspicion that he’d been brooding again. "I had the most wonderful dream…"
"Oh?" He rolled onto his back pulling her with him to his shoulder. "Tell me about it, " he encouraged as he kissed her on the brow and wrapped his hand in her long red hair. He inhaled deeply smelling lavender.
A little bit shy, she tentatively started, "I dreamed about my Mother. She was holding a baby girl with dark curly hair and eyes the color of the Admiral’s…" She heard his intake of breath, and lifted her head to peer up at his face afraid she’d hurt him.
He smiled, "Go on honey."
"She told me that our child was beautiful and that she was taking care of it until her loved ones could join her." Lee petted her unwoven hair running his hand down the length of it on her back. She felt him begin to relax with each stroke of his hand. "Lee, I think my mother needed our child more than we did…Does that sound odd?"
"No love, the Good Lord works in mysterious ways. It’s not for us to question why."
The two dolphins were chattering in the distance over the waves. Heather heard them and sat up recognizing them. "Flip and Flop, they’ve come to visit us." She stood up and kicked off her sandals. "I’ll race you in!" she took off at a dead run.
"Blast it woman! You’re not going in that ocean, you hear me?" he fruitlessly yelled as he chased her down the hill.
2 days later
Lee Crane rounded the dining room corner by passing the buffet table where a child’s china tea set was displayed. An 8 x 10 picture of a much younger Admiral Nelson and his wife, Megan stood in honor beside it. Chief Sharkey had brought the items home from his parents house where all of Heather’s childhood toys and possessions had been stored. He glanced down at the picture only to stop and pick it up. He studied the picture for a long time wondering what their life and love had been like.
Thank you Megan for your beautiful daughter. She’s the light of my life. Take good care of our daughter until we get there. I hope she’s not a handful like Heather is.
He smiled as he put the picture back and started on his way, a sense of well being filled his heart. He turned around and gave the picture another quick look. He swore for Megan had winked at him.
End of Part 3
This story is dedicated to the victims of the World Trade Center
Readers: Kiss and hug your loved ones, for in a twinkling of an eye things can forever change. In my line of work, I have seen it often.
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