This is a short story that falls after "Charity Benefit" and before "Weekend in the Country".

Riley's Halloween

By

Ada Richardson and Carolyn Brown

Stu Riley walked leisurely across the Institute grounds enjoying all of the Halloween decorations. It seemed most of the buildings were decorated or in the process of being that way. There was one glaring exception and that was the building where CJ's flying sub was berthed. As he made his way to the Seaview's sub pen where he was serving as part of the skeleton crew, an idea began to form in his mind. By the time he reached his quarters to stow his gear, he was whistling. Chief Sharkey shook his head when he heard the tune. He couldnít recall the name but knew it had a Halloween theme.

The day seemed to drag but Riley developed more of his plan with each boring duty. Occasionally he had to muffle a chuckle as a new idea took form. Finally, he was finished with his duties and could leave the Seaview. He knew CJ would be busy all night working with the Admiral in the Oceanography building. A baby Orca was sick and the two were determined to find out what was causing the illness.

Whistling the same tune Sharkey had heard earlier, Stu made his way to the construction site to see what type of paint he could find. Then, when darkness fell, he used the special code CJ had given him to enter her building. As he punched in the numbers and letters, he said a silent prayer that she hadn't changed it and stiffened slightly when he finished, expecting sirens to go off. He breathed a sigh of relief when the door opened in front of him.

When dawn was about to break, Stu stumbled out of the building carrying a bag he had taken from the construction building. He was beat and had to get rid of the evidence before anyone connected him with what he had done. Catching a whiff of the turpentine and paint he hoped no one else would notice. He wasn't even sure that he had gotten all of the paint off of his face without the aid of a mirror. With just minutes to spare, he ditched the paint cans in the trash at the construction site and his borrowed overalls went into the laundry chute with the other clothing left by the painters from the previous day. Running, he entered the sub pen and practically slid down the Seaview's ladder and spurted to the crew's quarters. By the time Ski and Pat showed up for duty, Riley was drinking his second cup of coffee in the crew's mess. The two shook their heads figuring their buddy had spent a wild night with some chick.

***

The sun had just risen over the horizon when Harry and CJ walked out of the Oceanography building together. He glanced at her and said, "Join me for breakfast aboard the Seaview?"

She smiled and replied, "After I shower and put on some clean clothes."

He looked down at his own and nodded in agreement. "Walk you to your apartment?"

"No, I left my stuff in the Flying Dolphin and it's in the opposite direction."

"Fine. See you in about an hour?"

"Sounds good, Admiral. Any chance of getting some of Cookie's special French Toast?"

Nelson grinned and retorted, "If he knows it's for you, he'll drop what he's doing and cook it while the rest of us just go hungry."

Her face reddened slightly and she looked away. She was always being teased about Cookie. From day one, the two of them had hit it off. She was one of the few crewmembers that the Seaview's chief cook would let in his Galley.

"Okay, you've made your point, sir. I'll eat whatever is on the day's menu. I hope its pancakes!"

Harry groaned and countered, "alright, I asked for that."

A slight shudder went through him as he remembered his last encounter with a stack of pancakes. It had been at one of CJís charity fundraising events. He almost gagged as he remembered placing that winning forkful of pancake in his mouth but as he had looked into the faces of the orphans cheering him on, he forced it to go down his resisting throat.

"I'll make a special point of telling Cookie what you're hoping for. Anything but pancakes!"

"Fine, Admiral. See you in about an hour."

Ten minutes later, she punched in the code and entered the building to get her clothing from the FD-1. In shock, she stared at her sub wondering if she was hallucinating. A few moments passed and then she gathered her wits and slowly walked around the flying sub. Every part of the outside was covered with dolphins. Some were wearing white sheets, others on brooms as if they were flying through the sea. Some were even jumping out of pumpkins. The best ones were those of her favorite sea mammal with the skeletons painted on their sides.

Time passed and she forgot she was supposed to meet the Admiral. She became mesmerized with the crude designs on the outside of her flying sub. Someone had gone to a lot of work to surprise her. It could only be one of three people. Nelson had spent the night with her taking care of the baby killer whale and she couldn't see Lee Crane doing something like this to her property. That left only one person and he was going to pay and pay dearly. The color of that paint was familiar and she would need some herself. So, she gathered her clothing from the sub and left the building, being sure to change the entrance code after she shut the door. A little late but she would remember to change it more often in the future. Then, she headed to the construction site.

It didnít take long for CJ to decide what payback Stu would receive. She busied herself and was soon lost in her own Halloween decorating.

***

Stu noticed when the Admiral came into the mess hall. He diverted his eyes and held his breath. However, his curiosity became too strong and he looked up again, expecting to find CJ following close behind. His eyes were glued to the door in anticipation. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Admiral pull Cookie to one side. Still no CJ entered. Did she find my artwork? Is she furious? Maybe she stayed behind to clean her sub.

Riley almost dropped his cup of coffee when he noticed the Admiral coming in his direction. Now, fear flooded him as he waited for the other shoe to drop. Yet, the Admiral ignored the young sailor, as he placed his tray opposite the skipper. At first, Riley refused to look in the direction of his two commanding officers. Finally, he had to know if the Admiral knew and was he telling the Captain. When he did brave a glance, all he saw was the Admiral with a frown on his face as Lee Crane hung on his every word. This didnít look good and Stu decided it was time to do some of those extra chores that the Chief had mentioned.

***

Jumping at any sudden noises, Stu expected to see either CJ or the Admiral come through the door and chew him out. With each passing hour, he regretted every picture that he had drawn. What made me think that I should decorate her precious flying sub? Knowing CJ, Riley knew that she would eventually figure out that it was he. Then, his nightmare came true. Feeling that someone was watching him, he slowly turned to the door. He could have melted into the floor when he saw the Admiral frowning at him. He definitely was upset about something and Stu didnít have to stretch his imagination trying to figure out what it was.

"After you and CJ are finished surfing, please ask her to return with you to the sub."

"What?" Stu stuttered. "Oh, okay, yeah, sure."

If the Admiral hadnít been looking at him so strangely, he would've beaten his head against the wall. How could I've forgotten that I was supposed to meet CJ to go surfing? Looking at his watch, he realized that he would have to hurry if he was going to meet her on time. Dread once more filled him as he began to wonder if CJ had found his decorations. If she hasnít, will I tell her? If she has, will she be furious?

With a look of aggravation on his face, the Admiral started to leave but turned back again to say, "I almost forgot that CJ said that she would pick up your board and meet you on the beach."

Seeing that this didnít seem to set easy with Riley wasnít something that Nelson had any desire to ponder on because he was still upset that CJ had missed breakfast. She had only called just before he came down here searching for her surfing partner. He knew he shouldnít expect her to account for her every minute but he couldnít help but worry about her. Still, she didnít even explain why she hadnít met him and seemed more interested in making sure that Riley met her at the beach. It canít be jealousy that I'm feeling?

"No, no. It can't be. CJ and Riley are just friends," Harry kept muttering as he stormed down the hallway.

***

Quickly cleaning up, Stu raced out of the sub and made his way to the beach. Not knowing what to expect, he approached CJ slowly. She was facing the ocean and from the back, she appeared calm. He knew this lady could control her emotions when she chose to and felt as if he was walking into a trap.

Deciding that there was no sense in putting it off and taking in a deep breath, he went around and faced her. She was smiling but it wasnít necessarily a friendly smile. This worried him even more. Facing the music was all he could do and he started to speak but she turned away and started walking down the beach, indicating for him to follow.

As they went down a slope, she pointed for him to go around the next curve. A small pumpkin sat before him with a carved arrow pointing to the next, larger pumpkin. Each contained an arrow and each time he looked at CJ, she would wave for him to continue to follow the trail of pumpkins.

Not sure why they were there or where they were going, he began to realize that this was payback time for him. Curiosity soon replaced dread and he wanted to reach the end of the trail and see what was there. The path continued on leading him upon a cliff. Suddenly, he stopped at the sight before him.

When he looked back at CJ, she could no longer keep up her act and broke down laughing. Even Stu had to admit that his surfboard never looked better. Now, there wasnít any doubt in his mind. Not only had she seen her sub, she also was hinting that he should never do something like that again. His board was decorated for Halloween. Ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, witches, skeletons and bats all danced around the surface of his board. Some even seemed to remind him of his shipmates.

After the laughter ended, they sat and talked for awhile, both agreeing that they should postpone their surfing plans and head back to the sub. Stu carried his board back to CJ's car while she picked up the trail of pumpkins. Then, he followed her back to NIMR on his motorbike.

***

Lee couldnít help but feel a little annoyed at the two giggling shipmates that came down the ladder. Why in the world is everyone in such a good mood today but the Admiral and myself? Shaking off the irritation, he caught only a little of the conversation that both CJ and Stu were telling Ski and Pat about their clever Halloween stunts. Maybe he had been in dry dock too long himself and needed a little challenging fun to clear his head.

All afternoon, Stu repeated the story of CJ's painted flying sub and his surfboard. After a while, he was beginning to aggravate even the best of his friends. Soon, everyone was avoiding him. When Lee saw this happening, he went to talk to the Admiral. With a smile he told the Chief to ask all of the skeleton crew to meet him in the Missile Room, but first he wanted Sharkey to give Riley some duties that would keep him occupied in the FS-1. Crane knew he didn't have to worry about CJ because she and the Admiral were going to be in the Oceanography building for a few hours checking on the baby Orca.

***

Finally, Stu finished with his work aboard the FS-1 and he was beat. Skipping the evening meal so he could catch a few minutes of sleep sounded like a good plan.

There it was, his wonderful bunk, and he almost melted as he landed square in the middle. Maybe he was very tired but the bunk seemed more cushioned than he remembered. As he lay there, he realized he felt a slight chill. As he turned to one side, he saw something oozing from under his pillow right next to his face. Startled, he jumped up, grabbed his pillow, and pulled off the cover and saw a layer of what looked like maybe dishwashing soap or detergent.

Utterly disgusted, he dropped the pillow onto the deck and pulled the sheet off his bunk and found more all over his mattress. Grumbling to himself, he decided he'd better clean it up before the others came back from chow. However, the more he tried to clean it up, the more it spread from his bed to the deck. Almost with a life of its own, it, the awful goo spread all over the room. Finally, he thought he was getting ahead of the stuff when he lost his balance, knocked over the mop bucket, and fell in the middle of the floor. Now, he wasn't laughing. As he tried to stand up and fell again, he was determined to pay back CJ or whoever was responsible for this trick.

***

While Stu was battling the soap monster in his quarters, CJ was facing her own monsters. First the door of her personal cabin stuck and she had to practically kick it in to get it open. Then when she finally got inside, the overhead light wasnít working. Carefully making her way to the desk she frowned as she wiped away a spiderís web from her face and hair. I havenít been gone that long, have I?

Trying to clear her tired brain, she couldnít remember when she had been here last. Thank goodness the desk lamp worked and she could see that Harry had put her notebook for the baby Orca on her desk. As she picked it up, she wondered if he had trouble opening his door too. Another thought concerning the Orca had occurred to her and she wanted to double-check her notes before telling him.

Needing to get some information from her computer, she switched it on and was startled when she heard a loud screech and laughter come from it. The pumpkins dancing across her screen almost made her laugh but she was too tired to enjoy another of Stuís Halloween pranks.

Sitting down at her desk and reaching for a pen, she almost cursed when it came out of the holder dripping with what looked like ink. It was too dark to find anything to wipe it off her hand and with a cringe, she wiped it on her new pair of jeans. Riley would buy her another pair if the sticky stuff didnít come off.

With almost clean hands she started to open her book but it didnít open. It took a few moments for her to realize that someone had glued the pages together. Upset, she hit the intercom button to find out where the Admiral was only to have her fingers stick to it. When he finally answered her, he wasn't in his cabin but in the Galley. What is he doing there at this time of night? she asked herself as she disconnected the intercom so she could go into the head to use hot water to wash her fingers free.

A few minutes later, she sputtered when the water from the faucet shot upward right into her face. After she got the intercom off her fingers, she dried her face. Leaving the cabin, she once more battled with the stuck door. Trying to retain some sense of calm, she knew she would have to talk with Nelson before the idea about the baby killer whale slipped away from her tired brain and then it would be Stuís turn to pay for his latest Halloween tricks.

While she stumbled in the dark, CJ was beginning to agree that the Seaview should be in dry dock. Lights were out everywhere. As she turned the corner next to the crew's quarters, she ran smack into someone. From the light of an open door, she could recognize Stuís features. They both started talking at the same time; furious about the latest pranks they had endured from each other when CJ realized she hadnít soaped his bed.

"Wait a minute, I didnít put soap on your pillow and mattress. I donít even know what you're talking about. Did you program my computer, ruin my best pen, glue my book shut or tamper with my intercom button? Was it you that fixed my water faucet so I would get soaked?"

Clearly confused, Stu showed no signs of knowing what she was talking about.

Seeing his puzzled expression, she stated, "I need to see the Admiral and then we need to do some ghost busting ourselves."

"Chief Starkey told me the Admiral had to see me immediately and thatís where I am going too."

"Letís go. I am anxious to get to the bottom of this."

"So am I." Stu remarked as he followed her down the dark corridor.

With barely enough light to find their way the pair was constantly bumping into each other. As they turned to enter the last corridor, they found footprints that glowed on the floor. Stu grabbed CJís arm and they came to a sudden halt. Hesitating only long enough for their eyes to adjust, they slowly went forward. After a few steps they ran into spider webs. At this point, all they could do was groan their disgust as they wiped them off their faces and hair.

The next encounter turned out to be a shower of grapes falling from an unknown source. Suddenly, CJ lost her footing and started to slip-and-slide. Stu tried to support her but they both went down. Wondering what else they might run into next, the two friends walked carefully with arms extended hoping to be forewarned of any other dangers.

Without warning, a net fell down from the ceiling covering poor Stu and causing him to fall. He tried to get it off but because of the webbing, it took both of them to accomplish the feat. CJ realized that she must have tripped a wire causing the net to fall.

There was nowhere to go but forward and the two were silently thinking of ways to repay whoever was doing this.

After the struggle with the net, CJ started listening more carefully to the noises around her. Suddenly, she heard something pop-and-crack like popcorn and hesitated a few seconds. Thus, she was able to miss most of the pail of ice water that fell before her but Stu wasnít so lucky.

As they shook off the water and looked ahead, the footsteps were gone. Nothing except total darkness lay before them.

Taking each otherís hand they slowly stepped forward. CJís outreached hand could feel a wall but it wasnít firm. What it felt most like was crepe paper. Carefully they began to tear away the barrier. As the wall came down they could see handprints of different sizes glowing in the dark.

As the two crept toward the glowing hands, they realized that they were on the Galleyís door. With a sigh of relief CJ reached to open the door.

True to the journey she found it encrusted with semi-moist pancake batter. Just wait until I get my hands on you, Admiral, she thought, as they slowly opened the door.

What she could see of the room was orange. It was glowing and flickering and as her eyes adjusted she realized it was a huge pumpkin. Its smiling face allowed the candle to show figures hiding in the dark.

Before long an ocean of glowing hands waving in the air surrounded them. Then, Kowalski flipped the switch and the crew of the Seaview met the two shocked crewmen with a cry of, "Surprise!!!"

Both CJ and Stu had to admit that they had been outfoxed. The guilty culprits were eager to confess their part. With an understanding of their fellow crewmates' pride, now, they were the ones that listened to how clever the tricksters had been. As the confessions continued, the two friends realized that they hadnít been the victims of all the pranks so carefully concealed around the sub. Each knew that outside these Galley's walls were other Halloween pranks waiting for someone to discover them.

Stu gave CJ a wink and a large grin. She countered with a click of their glasses and a quiet, "Happy Halloween."

The End

Please send comments to Ada Richardson at dancone@southshore.com and Carolyn Brown at chameleonjewels@netscape.net