This story fits in the Season Three Time-Line.
Till the Storm Passes
Lee Crane bent down on his knees looking out at the churning ocean before him. The waves were breaking in huge swells as the wind whipped sea spray in all directions. The rain was bearing down hard and he doubted that the extraction would be made. It wasn't unexpected, he and the sub's captain had talked about the weather forecast before he was put to shore three days ago. Still, it was worth a try.
He turned on his compact radio and pulled up the antennae, “Red Dog, this is Blue Stray, come in.”
“Go ahead Blue Stray, we read you.”
“Looks a little rough out there. Over.”
“Too rough, no pick up tonight. We'll try again in 48 hours.”
“48 hours. Acknowledged.”
Short, sweet and simple. Another 48 hours on this Caribbean island. Oh well, Lee thought, it could be worse. The typhoon was headed their way and the beach wasn't the safest place to ride one out, so Lee turned and started back toward the tropical forest behind him. He had passed by and avoided, a village about four kilometers back. He'd go there, find an inn and just wait out the storm.
His olive tone complexion fit well with the many European descent people who had colonized the island in the 1800's, and French was one of his better languages. He decided that instead of hiding out in a hole somewhere, he might just play a drifter or tourist, and spend the next few days waiting the storm out in comfort.
The mission had been clean, and there were no unfriendlies on his tail. The intelligence he had gathered had nothing to do with the local government, although they weren't privy to his mission here. His job had been to retrieve intelligence on the private business dealings of a certain wealthy man who was suspected of funding some very illegal arms deals.
Lee had entered the warehouse office photographing papers, facilities, and people of interest and had handed off his intelligence to his contact with ease. He wasn't carrying information on him, and there was no reason to believe that he was in any kind of danger, except for the typhoon moving in from the sea.
He made his way back to the village and was soaked through by the time he got there. The village had several inns, and he had plenty of local currency so he picked the better facility and signed into a room. Comfort here was relative. The village wasn't exactly on the tourist trail, so the inn wasn't extravagant, but the influence of the western world was still evident and Lee's room even had a private bath. After he secured a room, he headed to the nearby market area and returned with a change of clothes. He indulged in a long hot shower, something he didn't get to do on the boat. He was feeling hungry so he thought he'd take a walk and pick a nice cafe for dinner, then all he had planned was catching up on the sleep he had lacked these last few days.
He walked along slowly, he wasn't in a hurry and he wanted to know where everything was. It was habit, always have an escape plan. He walked all the way to the far end of the village where a small quaint church sat. Its architecture reminded him of the California Missions he had seen and he figured it was probably just as old. There was a priest outside sweeping the sidewalk, his long black robe nearly touching the ground. Off to the side was a small cemetery and on the other side was a long two story building. There were children playing outside, and he reasoned it was an orphanage.
He smiled as he watched the children play, and the older “Sister” wearing a black robe was kind and caring as she interacted with the children. They were playing with a ball that escaped their grasp and ended up near Lee. He reached down picked it up and tossed it back, receiving a wave from a young boy.
He turned and walked down the opposite side of the street until he picked a cafe and settled in for a hot dinner of the local specialty. Espionage work was either fast paced and dangerous or hurry up and wait and boring. In this case, he had spent the last few days in the fast paced and dangerous category, so he really didn't mind the down time.
* * * * *
Lee woke to the sound of pounding on his door, or was it shudders against the window? He sat up and realized it was both. He hurriedly got dressed barely getting his shirt pulled up on his shoulders as he opened the door.
“Please Monsieur,” the hotel desk clerk asked in a combination of the local dialect and French, “the storm is approaching. We must move further inland.” Lee nodded and turned to gather what little belongings he had.
“No time Monsieur, the trucks outside can not wait.”
Lee slid his feet into his boots and followed him out to the hall. Great! further inland, Lee thought as he considered that he'd probably have to walk an extra ten miles back to the beach in two days. But if the locals were this upset, then he knew he should be concerned. They had learned which storms to run from and which to weather out at home.
Lee was led to a truck packed with village people and he piled in the back as the truck began driving away. The truck drove away headed off the rugged road further inland when Lee caught sight of a woman in a long black robe calling after the truck.
The noise from the truck and the terrible storm was too loud as the truck bounced along without noticing the aging nun. Lee tried to call out, but the driver either couldn't hear or was driven by his own fear. Either way, Lee knew he had to do something. He stood up and vaulted out the side of the truck rolling with the inertia. He rose up and looked back at the truck as it moved onward, and then turned and jogged back to the Sister.
“Oh Monsieur, merci,” she cried frantically. The wind howled and branches were creaking and falling all around them. Lee looked around for the safest place to ride out the storm and started to turn.
“No, Monsieur, the children.” Lee spun around, children?
“What children, didn't they all go on the trucks?” He yelled over the sound of the storm.
“Oui*, all but two children. They are brother and sister and have hidden, I can not find them.” *(pronounced “we”).
No wonder she's frantic, Lee thought. “Where do we start first?”
She pointed back toward the orphanage as she and Lee ran toward the Church's compound. They entered the orphanage looking through room after room. The Sister called their names as she searched while Lee echoed their names in other rooms.
“Josue! Marisha!” Lee heard a sound from a closet and ran to open the door to see the two children hiding and clinging to one another. He knew they were frightened and called for the Sister, then turned toward them and smiled.
“Salut,” he said as he tried to coax them out. The young girl was probably only four years old and immediately reached for Lee's neck. The boy was about six and less trusting, but when Lee reached out his hand Josue took it. They hurried out to the hall as Lee yelled for the Sister over the wind. Just then a loud creaking noise was heard and a tree came crashing down through the roof off to their right.
“Soeur!” Lee called for the Sister as they made their way downstairs. Another crash was heard and Lee leaned down picking up Josue and began running for the door. The Sister came down the stairs after them as he pulled the door open. Flying debris was whipping across the yard, and Marisha began whimpering as she clung to Lee's neck, burying her head into his shoulder. He turned back around, and shouted over the storm.
“Is there a root cellar large enough for us to hide in?” She nodded and they ran back toward the kitchen. Lee followed her carrying both children, the Sister opened the back door and pointed to the wooden door that lay across the root cellar along the outside wall. More trees fell, their creaking sounds were deafening as they preceded the crashes. It was only about ten feet to the cellar door, but the flying debris was getting worse. Lee put Josue's hand firmly into the Sister's and then handed her the little girl.
“I'm going to open the cellar door,” Lee yelled over the raging storm, “then I'll come back for you.”
She nodded and Lee took off toward the cellar. There was a pad lock on the door and Lee pulled on it hoping it wasn't latched, but it was no good. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his lock kit, two pieces of thin metal and began working the lock. The wind was whipping his hair around his face as he worked. It wasn't the best conditions for picking a lock, but Lee had worked in less than favorable conditions before and kept at it until he felt the lock shift. He pulled the lock free and stood to pull open the door that lay nearly horizontal on the ground. As he stood he was blindsided by flying debris as an airborne branch nearly took his head off.
He fell to the ground clutching his head and trying to stay conscious. He could barely hear the Sister calling him as he stood and pulled the door open, he found the latch that would secure the door in an open position and hurried back to escort the Sister and the children. Debris continued to batter him as he faced into the wind. He picked up Josue and placed the Sister and Marisha in front of him, shielding them with his body as they made their way toward the cellar. He guided the Sister down the cellar and followed down with Josue and then placed him on the floor as he went back on top to close the cellar door. Lee reached to unlatched the door from its open position when he caught a flying bucket squarely on his left side. He grunted and grabbed for his rib cage, then went back for the latch and freed the door. He stood up and pulled the door down over the top of him as he descended down the stairs and slid the sliding latch into place securing the door closed.
Lee stopped to breathe and took the steps down into the root cellar that housed grains, fresh fruit and vegetables. He looked around the room dug tall enough for him to stand upright. It was well maintained and functional, but carried nothing in it that was not normally found in a root cellar. He'd have to get blankets and water if the storm didn't blow over soon. But for now, it was safe from the falling trees and flying debris.
The Sister had moved against the back wall trying to comfort the children as Lee felt the adrenalin leave his body. He needed to sit down fast, things were starting to get fuzzy so he walked over to an adjacent wall and slid down, closing his eyes as pain began to register in different parts of his body. The children were crying, and Marisha broke free from the Sister and ran burying her head into Lee's chest. He opened his eyes and instinctively wrapped his left arm around her, his side felt like it was on fire, but he didn't want to move the girl.
He looked over at the Sister as she explained. “Their mother died two years ago, their father worked very hard taking care of them, but he recently succumbed to a fever. They identify with you because you are a man.”
Lee nodded and released a gentle smile, “It's alright.” He looked down at the bronze skin of the little girl, their coloring indicative of a mixed heritage of European and native, not unusual at all for this region. Marisha began to calm down pulling her thumb to her mouth, and closing her eyes. Lee pulled her close and leaned his head back against the wall, his head pounding nicely. He heard the Sister begin to rustle, Josue had also fallen asleep as well and she was adjusting his head down on the floor. Then she walked over and picked up Marisha, speaking as she did so.
“Merci Monsieur, you are very kind.”
Lee nodded as he let loose the child and then wrapped his right hand around his side. The Sister looked around and found several burlap sacks that were folded neatly in the corner and placed them over the sleeping children and then walked over sitting on her knees besides Lee.
“Monsieur, you are hurt?”
“Its alright Sister, not bad,” he added a small smile to convince her to which she just shook her head. She reached into the folds of her habit and produced a white handkerchief folded neatly into a square, and began dabbing at the blood on his forehead as she spoke.
“I am Sister Celeste, I have not seen you here before.”
“No, I'm just passing through.”
She had finished patting away the blood from his forehead and sat back against the wall beside him. She was in her seventies, but spry and full of energy, her eyes had a way of twinkling when she spoke and her face carried wrinkles that spoke of a face that smiled a lot.
“I do not know what I would have done if you had not come back for us. Isn't our Heavenly Father wonderful to send you to us?” She added gratefully.
“I'm glad I was here to help.” Lee looked upward, evaluating the storm, it continued to howl and Lee didn't expect it to quiet before morning. There was another crash outside, Lee realized that a tree had fallen very close to the cellar door. He didn't get up to check though, the wind was doing too much damage just now.
Sister Celeste patted his leg that was closest to her and rose heading over to a bag of grain. Lee started to get up when he realized that she intended to move the bag over to use as a pillow, but she “tut-tutted” motioning him to stay put as she drug the burlap sack over beside Lee, patting it as she positioned it near the wall.
“It will make a good pillow, I'll make my bed by the children,” she said pointing toward the other wall, “In the morning we will talk.”
Lee smiled, Sister Celeste was the captain of this boat and so he just nodded in agreement. He moved his body and positioned his head on the grain and closed his eyes. He was tired, the headache was the worst, his ribs weren't busted just sore and bruised. He listened to the sound of the storm outside and before he knew it, he was asleep.
* * * * *
He woke the next morning feeling better, he had a slight headache but nothing drastic. He turned over to see Sister Celeste pulling out fresh and dried fruit for breakfast. She turned and noticed that he was awake and brought over the small box she was using as a serving tray.
Lee smiled warmly and pulled out a piece of dried fruit and a banana, the children were still sleeping and Lee thought he would venture out to get some supplies, since the storm showed no signs of letting up.
“Sister Celeste, I'm going go get some blankets and water, is there anything else you need while I'm out?”
She looked over at the children who were shivering in the cellar's 58 degree constant temperature, “Thank you Monsieur, you seem to know just what the children need.”
He stood up, leaving his banana for later and started for the stairs. The wind was still howling and he figured it probably wasn't going to blow over any time soon.
“I'll be back soon, if anything should go wrong stay here. Its safe.” Then he flashed her a reassuring smile and left.
Once he opened the horizontal door he was bombarded again with the wind, he placed the door back down and ran for the kitchen door. He figured the blankets would be upstairs in the bedrooms so he headed back up the staircase. He entered the first room he came to and started pulling wool blankets off the beds. He grabbed six blankets and headed down the stairs back toward the kitchen. As he entered the parlor the windows suddenly lost their integrity and blew inwards, sending shards of tiny glass in all directions. Lee instinctively turned his back burying his face in the blankets.
The wind was howling even more through the hole left by the blown window pane, as Lee pulled himself up off of the floor feeling tiny pricks of pain throughout his back. He went to the kitchen and grabbed four quart size mason jars filling them with the water he got from the hand held pump at the kitchen sink. It was well water and should still be fresh. He filled the jars and placed them in the center of a blanket pulling the edges up like a hobo's sack. He looked around the kitchen and spied some canned food, might as well he thought. He was going to have to make two trips, but it would be worth it if the storm lasted until tomorrow.
He grabbed some cans and searched the drawers until he found the simple can opening tool. He opened several cupboards looking for anything useful, and smiled. He reached inside and pulled out a jar of cookies, he didn't know how often the children got treats like these, but Josue and Marisha were going to have them today. He brought bowls and flatware to eat with, and threw in some mugs, they might as well be comfortable. His hand brushed against the coffee beans in a bag. That sounded real good, but as far as he knew there wasn't a way to make that happen in the root cellar so he shrugged his shoulders to himself and headed back to their safe hole in the ground.
He made his first run to the door and was met by the waiting arms of Sister Celeste as she took the blankets and water from Lee. He closed the door and went back for his second load, a wooden crate that he had filled with the can goods and such. He stopped at the door and spotted some hand towels and threw them in the box. If you were going to be stranded out in a storm in the middle of the jungle, it was nice to have the supplies so close, the thought brought an inward smile as he headed back to the root cellar.
He made it back and secured the hatch after handing Sister Celeste his box of goodies. She shook her head, “I wondered what you went back for,” she said worriedly.
“Just some supplies that might make it a little easier tonight.” Lee climbed downstairs and carried the box over to a cabinet, it was then that Sister Celeste caught sight of the spray of red dots on the back of Lee's shirt.
“Monsieur, what happened?” she said guiding him back toward the wall to sit.
“It's okay Sister, just a little flying glass.”
But Lee's dismissal was completely lost on her. She retrieved a jar of water and a hand towel and motioned for him to pull his shirt off.
“No ma'am, its not bad.” Lee said trying to deter her, but she already had the tails of his white shirt out and his lower back exposed.
“Lay down, I will remove the glass, they will get infected otherwise.”
He started to object, but her insistence was overpowering and it was creating more of a stir than it was worth, so he graciously complied taking his shirt off and laying down on a blanket she laid out for him.
He laid his head on his folded arms and looked across the room at Josue and Marisha who were sitting up eating fruit. He hated to see children have to deal with the harsh realities of life and was glad that Sister Celeste was here to care for them. He perceived that she truly loved the children, probably every child at the orphanage received the same benefit. Lee didn't have any experience with orphanages, but he rather thought that her kind of love was unusual.
Sister Celeste dotted away the blood of each spot and carefully looked for embedded glass, after about a half hour she finished as he sat back up thanking her.
“I am sorry you have suffered for trying to make our stay here more comfortable,” she offered as he rebuttoned his shirt.
It was true that if it had been just him, he would have stayed put, but the children were cold and he could do without longer than they could. It was no sacrifice what he did.
“Its alright, I didn't mind,” he said, then switched gears, “the storm should pass by morning and the village people will be back after that. We'll just make the best of it.”
“I think you are a kind soul Monsieur...?” she drew out the “mister” trying to elicit a name from him.
“Just Monsieur, I'm only here till the storm passes and I know that you're safe.”
“Ah, so you are an angel that the Heavenly Father has sent to us in our time of need, so I think you are...Gabriel.” She nodded approvingly as if the name fit.
Lee chuckled, he had been called a lot of things in his life, he wasn't sure “angel” was one of them. At Lee's chuckle Marisha bounded up to join him on his lap. Lee didn't mind, he was comfortable with children. He had always figured that by this time in his life he would have a house full of them. But things hadn't turned out that way. The crew speculated that he was “married to his work” and Lee didn't do anything to dis-spell the idea. But the truth was that he hadn't found the right woman who would accept his job as part of who he was. He just figured when it was right he would know, like Chip did when he found Monica.
Josue rose and came over to play along side of Marisha, Sister Monica started to shoo them away as they played around him, but Lee spoke up.
“Its alright Ma'am, they're okay. Not much else for them to do down here anyway.”
Lee watched them play but the noise on top brought his attention back to the storm. He sat with his head leaning back on the wall, he didn't mean to be so broody, but the storm had brought back a memory that Lee just assumed had stayed buried. It had been early in his career, and he had been serving on board a destroyer waiting for his appointment to Groton for submarine training. He was a young ensign then, less than a year out of the Academy. He had also just began taking little “jobs” for ONI.
He had been tagged by ONI early because of his knack for languages, that coupled with his natural athletic ability had been enough for ONI to approach Lee. They trained him and had built upon his boxing experience teaching him the art of self defense. Even in his early assignments, it had become apparent that Lee had a knack for getting out of tight situations. His handlers were impressed and Lee had already taken three short assignments in his young early career. But the storm reminded him of one in particular. He remembered the empty feeling he had after that assignment.
The F-14 Tomcat had landed at Pearl for Lee's debriefing, and after receiving his “job well done” and “atta boy” he found himself walking along the beach. He hadn't even had a chance to change out of his g-suit and he barely noticed it as he ambled along without direction. He ended up on a lonely, deserted area of the base. A rock sea wall was just off shore and Lee could see rocks lined up just like stepping stones so he made his way over and sat down.
The sky was dark and angry, but Lee didn't pay any attention, it matched the dark and angry mood inside him right now. The mission should have been easy, it should have been a quick in and out without anyone getting hurt, but it hadn't ended up that way. Lee's whole perception of who were the good guys and who were the bad guys got blown to smithereens when his fellow ONI operative turned out to be a double agent. Lee had barely gotten out with his life dodging bullets the whole way back to the extraction point.
Most of his bruises were covered by the green g-suit, bruises he had sustained as he and Stinson fought for control of the intelligence. In the end, Lee overpowered the double agent and took the intel running for his life. Only Stinson knew exactly where the extraction point was, so he was hot on his tail the entire time. Lee's gun had been relieved of him and all he had was the swiftness of his legs. He made it to the extraction point with the intel, the Navy Seals giving him coverage as he boarded his zodiac. As he lay in the back of the zodiac trying to catch his breath he could hear the gunfire being ineffectually shot his direction.
What had hurt the most was realizing that Stinson had betrayed both Lee and his country. Stinson was a seasoned operative, and had taken Lee under his “wing” teaching him many tricks of the trade that had kept him alive all these years. It was a betrayal that Lee had a hard time coming to terms with. Jeff Stinson was ready to kill Lee on the spot, and would have if Lee hadn't used some of his own tricks of the trade.
As Lee sat on the sea wall he wondered if he could continue taking these missions for ONI. When you couldn't tell who was the good guy and who was the bad guy then maybe it was time to get out of the game.
Small rain drops began to drop and cover his face and hair, he sat there a few moments longer and then stood up. When he turned around he was surprised to see someone standing on the shore, presumably waiting for him. It was a Navy officer, and Lee knew who it was right away and smiled despite his dark mood. He hopped across the stepping stones and landed on the beach looking directly into the face of Ensign Chip Morton.
“I thought I saw you at the base,” Chip offered, explaining how he ended up here at this remote part of the beach.
“How long have you been here?” Lee asked ducking his head.
“For awhile. You looked like you were deep in thought, I didn't know if you wanted company.”
Lee crooked a half smile and moved his head toward the base indicating that they should start back.
“I guess I wasn't much in the mood for company, but I'm glad you're here now. At least I know I can count on you.”
Chip's head turned slightly toward Lee, “Care to explain that?”
“Not really, I think maybe I just need to be with a friend right now.”
“Good. 'Cause as your friend I was going to ask you if you had enough sense to come in out of the rain?” Chip added a smile as he walked along side Lee. Chip knew that Lee took ONI missions from time to time, and he was sure that his presence here in the g-suit indicated that he had just completed one. He knew he wasn't going to get an explanation, so Chip didn't push it as he walked along with his hands in his pockets, grateful for his cover as the rain began to come down harder.
Lee stopped, looked up and let the rain wash some of the heat away from his mood. He looked over at Chip and smiled, “I'm here til tomorrow morning, you got plans for dinner?”
Chip returned his smile, “Sounds good. Are you set up at the BOQ*?”
“Yeah, they've got me taken care of.”
“Good, 'cause I ain't going to dinner with you looking like a fly boy.”
Lee smiled, the gentle banter Chip's way of lightening a heavy mood. Lee figured that the espionage game was like this. There were good guys and bad guys, sometimes it was hard to tell the difference but he figured he would make it past this disappointment. It was really all about protecting other people anyway, and he figured that every once in a while he would have to weather a storm like this.
He looked down at the resilience of the two children before him. And here they all were, weathering this storm together. Life's ironies never ceased to amaze Lee and he smiled, letting the children play around him as Sister Celeste opened cans and heated the contents over the kerosene lamp that lit their safe place. Sister Celeste was the perfect example of why he did these little jobs for ONI. Chip had restored his faith in people all those years ago, and Sister Celeste had confirmed it once again with her complete lack of selfishness.
* * * * *
By night fall, the storm began to lessen and Lee felt that by the morning it would be safe to venture outside. The children had fallen asleep against Lee again, as Sister Celeste gently lifted them and took them back to their “beds”.
“We'll stay here till morning, I think by then the storm will have passed,” Lee said as Sister Celeste finished tucking Josue and Marisha in.
“Oui, I think the storm is getting better. Will you stay and let us thank you properly?”
“No ma'am, I'll stay until the village people return, but then I'll need to be on my way.” Lee answered gently.
“Well Gabriel, I will pray for your safe journey...where-ever that takes you.”
* * * * *
Lee sat back at the shore and thumbed his transmitter on. “Red Dog, this is Blue Stray do you read me?”
“Go ahead Blue Stray, we read you loud and clear.”
“You got a ride waiting for me?”
“Sure thing, see you aboard.”
Lee signed off and continued to scan the horizon as the tell tale sign of a conning tower rose out of the sea followed by churning bubbles as the deck broached the water line. He waited as he watched the black zodiac make its way toward him. Off in the distance, there were only traces of the storm as the dark clouds were replaced by white fluffy clouds speckled in the sky. The early evening sunlight bathed the clouds turning them into fantastic hues of orange and red.
He smiled as he thought of Sister Celeste and the children, Josue and Marisha. He had left all his currency with Sister Celeste for the children, and had left their village feeling strangely refreshed. At least on this mission he knew exactly who the good guys were.
Till the Storm Passes
* BOQ = Bachelor Officer's Quarters
Author's Note: The personal relationships in my stories follow the lead of the television series, which is why Chip is married in the second season (note the wedding band that shows up). Lee remains unmarried throughout the 4 seasons. In my universe, Lee Crane finds the woman of his heart and marries after season four.
Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and her main characters belong to Irwin Allen