*A huge thanks to Kate, for tirelessly reading and beta-ing this story. I wouldn’t have finished the story without her help and encouragement. Thanks too to Diane for a little reassurance when I needed it most.
A TIME FOR TRUST
can’t sail without a doctor,” Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton
He grabbed the phone. “Admiral, we can’t find Doctor Jamieson. He hasn’t reported in at the gate and nobody’s seen him.”
“I’m sure he’ll be here soon,” Nelson replied. “I’ll have Angie make some inquiries just in case he’s been held up by something. I’ll see you in my office in twenty minutes.”
“Aye, Sir.” Chip replaced the phone and paced back to where Sharkey was standing. “Chief, I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. He’s probably walking down the gangway right now.”
“Yes, Sir,” replied Sharkey, his expression hopeful.
Harriman Nelson pressed the intercom on his desk. “Angie, ring Doctor
Jamieson’s house and put him through if he’s there. Oh, and find out where that medical
convention he attended was being held.
I think it was in
Nelson tapped his pencil on the hardwood desk. Jamie had never missed a scheduled sailing – for pity’s sake the man had never even been late for a meeting. There had to be a good reason. He looked at his watch, four hours before they set sail. He couldn’t wait any longer for Jamie to turn up. Lives depended on their expediency – Lee’s life depended on it.
There was a quick knock on his door and Angie walked in. She looked worried. “I couldn’t get in touch with him, Sir, I even tried the gate again. Nothing.”
“Hmm, what about the conference?”
“It was being held at the Boston Intercontinental Hotel and Convention Centre. He gave his presentation two days ago. That was the last time the organizers remembered seeing him. He checked out of the hotel yesterday morning, but nobody saw him leave because he used the express checkout service.”
up a cigarette and looked out of his window. “I want you to contact the police
and hospitals in
He looked at his watch again. Three and a half hours to departure. Where was the doctor?
“What then, Admiral? Would you like me to file a missing persons report?”
Nelson nodded. “Yes, do that. Oh, and get me the personnel files on all of our current doctors. It looks like we’ll need a temporary replacement.”
“Thank you, Angie.”
As Angie opened the door, Chip walked into Nelson’s office.
“Chip, sit down. It looks like we’re going to have to take on a replacement doctor for the mission.”
Chip frowned. He knew that Seaview would rendezvous with Lee after another ONI mission. No doubt he would most likely make his way on board with injuries. Jamie knew him and despite the bickering that went on whenever Lee was in sick bay, he trusted and respected the doctor. That relationship had been hard earned by Jamie. If Lee had injuries after the mission, who knew what type of reaction he’d have to someone new.
“Do you have anyone in mind, Sir?”
“Not yet, Angie’s just pulling the files on the Institute doctors.”
At that moment his secretary knocked on the door. She looked flustered.
“What’s wrong Angie?” asked Nelson, a lump suddenly forming in the pit of his stomach.
Barrington’s in hospital with glandular fever and Doctor McDonald’s
Nelson rubbed a hand over his head. “That does it then, we’ll have to get a temporary replacement in to take Doctor Jamieson’s place. Angie, get me Admiral Starke.”
“Yes, Admiral,” she said, hurrying back to make the call.
“We need a doctor here by fifteen hundred hours or we’ll be forced to sail without one.”
Chip sat quietly in the chair and watched the Admiral’s reactions. He was obviously worried, most probably as much about Lee as Jamieson. Nelson hadn’t wanted Lee to go on the ONI mission, but the Captain had insisted since it had involved an old friend.
“Chip, let Frank know that we’ll be sailing without Jamie. If worst comes to worst, he’ll have to take over Jamie’s duties. Let’s just hope we manage to get Lee back unscathed this time around.”
“Yes, Sir, but what about Jamie?”
“Do you have any ideas where he might have gone? Did he mention anything else to you about the conference?”
“No, just that he was giving a talk on something, some type of new discovery, cancer therapy, I think.”
“I just hope he’s alright and not lying injured or dead somewhere,” Nelson said quietly.
“Me too, Sir.”
Nelson let out a long sigh. “I suppose you’d better get back to the Seaview.”
Chip pushed himself out of the chair. “Yes, Admiral.”
“I’ll let you know if I hear anything.”
“Thank you, Sir, I’d appreciate it. If Lee…well, I just hope he comes back without a scratch.”
“So do I, Chip, so do I.”
Three hours later, Nelson was pacing the deck of the observation nose. “Sparks, any word on Doctor Schaefer?”
“I’m sorry, Sir, nothing yet.”
Nelson grimaced. “We can’t find one doctor, now we’re missing another.”
Doctor Barnes is requesting permission to come aboard,” said
Henry Barnes,” repeated
that wasn’t the doctor Jiggs was sending. Ask
Nelson felt a growing apprehension. Nothing had gone right since Jamie had disappeared. Now the Navy had sent a complete unknown to replace him.
Lee struggled aboard the FS1, half-dragging the ONI agent with him. His own cuts and bruises would have to wait. Peter Kellogg was a very sick man. He’d been hiding out in the forest cabin for more than two weeks with very little to eat. Lee thought he had pneumonia on top of malnutrition. He quickly removed Kellogg’s mask and diving suit and eased him onto a bunk.
“Sharkey,” he said breathlessly as he wrapped several blankets around Kellogg. “Have Jamie stand by on Seaview as soon as we dock.”
“Uh, I’m sorry, Skipper. Jamie’s not onboard,” said Sharkey, powering up the engines.
“What! Where is he?” asked Lee, worried that something might have happened to the doctor.
was called away to a conference in
Lee frowned. “Do we have someone standing in for him?”
“Doctor Henry Barnes. He comes highly recommended,” said Sharkey, almost too enthusiastically.
The agent began coughing hard, desperately trying to take a breath between the spasms. Lee grabbed the oxygen from the first aid locker and put the mask over Peter’s face.
“Peter, it won’t be long. We’ll have you on Seaview before you know it.”
Kellogg grabbed Lee’s arm. “Lee…take the film, it’s in the locket around my neck,” he panted.
Sharkey urged the FS1 even faster towards the submarine. He didn’t like the way things were playing out, the agent looked really ill.
“No, you’ll give it to Johnson yourself,” Lee insisted, gently pushing Peter’s outstretched hand away.
Another coughing fit racked his body. “It’s too late for me. T…take it. Tell Claire I love her, and I…I’m sorry.”
“No,” the cry tore from Lee’s throat. “Sharkey, how long to Seaview?”
“Five minutes, Skipper. They’re standing by.”
It was the longest five minutes Lee had ever felt. Peter had been a long-time acquaintance, who’d become a good friend. Several times he’d gone on ONI missions with Lee, once he’d even saved Lee’s life. He knew it was his turn this time to do the same for Peter. He hoped to hell that the new doctor was even half as good as Jamie. He held Peter’s wrist, his pulse was getting weaker, the pallor of his skin even worse. Lee felt a small jolt as the FS1 docked.
As soon as he had Sharkey’s green light he opened the hatch, not waiting for them to open it from inside.
He was greeted by Kowalski’s face. “Ski, I need the doc down here now.”
“He’s on his way, Skipper.”
“He’s not here already? We radioed ahead twenty minutes ago. You’d better get down here and see what you can do.”
He got out of the way to let Kowalski down the ladder, closely followed by Admiral Nelson. Lee returned to Peter’s side, he was in a bad way. He seriously doubted that he’d survive the night.
Lee heard Admiral Nelson’s voice behind him. “Yes, Sir?”
He felt a hand on his shoulder. “Come on lad, let Ski do his job.”
Lee reluctantly took Nelson’s advice and stepped aside to give Kowalski more room.
More footsteps came down the ladder. “Where’s my patient?”
Lee arced up at the tone. The doctor didn’t even sound as if he was taking the medical emergency seriously. It was completely different to Jamieson’s quiet, caring and efficient bedside manner.
“Where were you, Doctor?” Lee’s voice was full of barely controlled anger. “We gave you plenty of notice.”
The short skinny man shrugged as he knelt next to Peter. “I was checking my inventory, I just forgot the time.”
Lee stepped forward, his fists clenched at his sides. “What do you mean, ‘you forgot the time’?”
Nelson held him back. “Let’s leave the doctor to his patient, Lee.”
He looked angrily at Nelson. “This isn’t over. If he dies…” Without another word he climbed out of the FS1.
You’d better pray he comes through this, Doctor or I’ll see to it that you never work for the Navy again, thought Lee grimly.
He left the FS1 and went to his cabin to clean up. Without looking in the mirror he knew that he was a sight. Three days worth of beard covered his face, interspersed with dried mud from where he’d fallen on the track while carrying Peter to the beach. He gingerly removed the top half of his wetsuit and pursed his lips at the purple bruise on his right shoulder. When he tripped he somehow managed to maneuver Peter into a different position so he wouldn’t be hurt. In the end, it had been Lee’s shoulder that had borne the brunt of the fall.
He took a quick shower and shaved. Before he had a chance to open the door, there was a knock. He opened it to find Admiral Nelson standing before him.
“Admiral! I was just going up to see Peter.”
Nelson stood where he was. “Do you mind if I have a few words first?”
Lee stepped back to let him step into the cabin. “What is it?”
“I’m sorry Jamie wasn’t here, Lee. I’m not sure where he is.”
“Sharkey told me. No clues at all?”
The Admiral shook his head. “I’m worried about him. It’s not like Jamie to disappear without a word.”
“The new doctor, where’d he come from?”
Nelson took out a cigarette and lit it before he replied. “I’m sorry, Lee, I tried to get an experienced Navy Reservist, but it just wasn’t possible. He had a case of claustrophobia at the last minute.”
“What aren’t you telling me?” Lee asked, his voice suddenly terse. “If he’s not Navy then what is he?”
“I’m afraid the only one we could get on short notice was attached as a medical officer at the old shipyard.”
Lee could feel his temper rising rapidly. “When was the last time he was operational?”
“Five years ago.”
“So for the last five years,” he said carefully, “he’s been treating cuts and bruises? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“Now, Lee,” the Admiral warned. “Don’t make any snap judgments. You’re tired and it was a difficult mission. Get some rest before you go up to sick bay.”
“Is that an order, Admiral?”
Nelson’s face softened. “No, it’s a suggestion.”
if you’ll excuse me, Admiral, I’m going to
The Admiral stepped aside for him, and Lee quickly made his way aft.
When he arrived Frank was working on Peter who was still conscious. As soon as Peter saw Lee he grabbed his arm and pushed the locket into his hand, squeezing Lee’s fingers around it before he could protest.
Lee watched as Peter began struggling for breath. Before his very eyes he began arresting.
“Frank, where’s the doctor?” asked Lee, alarmed.
“I don’t know, Captain. I just slipped into the storeroom to get another IV bag and he was gone.”
Lee swung angrily around and snatched at the microphone. “Doctor to sick bay. Medical emergency!” He turned back to Frank who had already placed the defibrillator paddles against Peter’s chest. “What can I do?”
The corpsman pressed a button and Peter’s body arched off the table – there was no response. Frank shoved a resuscitator into his hands. “Breathe for him while I do compressions.”
Lee quickly placed the mask over Peter’s face, making sure it was properly fitted. He’d done all the courses, but it had been a while since he’d taken part in an actual resuscitation. Lee lost track of time and how many occasions Frank had paused to let Lee give Peter a breath. He was concentrating so hard that he didn’t notice Frank stop the compressions. A hand fell on his arm.
“Captain,” came Frank’s soft voice. “Captain.”
“Lee, he’s gone.”
He hadn’t even noticed the Admiral was beside him. Frank gently pried the resuscitator out of Lee’s hands and stepped back. Lee placed his hand on Peter’s, his flesh already beginning to feel cool, as a lump rose in his throat.
“Come on, lad, I’ll take you to your cabin.”
Lee pulled himself together. “I’m fine, Admiral. Where’s the Doctor?”
His eyes met Nelson’s. In that brief moment, Lee could see that the Admiral was as torn up as he was. He clenched his jaws together.
“I’m not sure.”
Lee took one last look at Peter’s body. “I’m sorry, my friend,” he whispered before leaving him to Frank.
Before Nelson could stop him, Lee shot out the door to look for Doctor Barnes.
“I’m sorry, Sir, I couldn’t do anything more for him,” said Frank sadly.
“It’s not your fault, Frank. You did your best. He didn’t get medical treatment in time.” Nelson picked up the microphone. “Mister Morton to sick bay on the double. I’ll be back soon, I have to find Captain Crane. Please inform Mister Morton of the circumstances.”
“A bad business,” muttered Nelson to himself as he left sick bay, hoping to find Lee before he got to the doctor.
Nelson watched as his Captain left the boat. He’d wanted to debrief him a little better than Lee had allowed him. It bothered him that he hadn’t opened up to him about either the mission or Peter Kellogg. Not to mention the scene that had played out when Lee had finally found the replacement doctor. Barnes had been in the officer’s mess re-filling his coffee cup after Kellogg had passed away. Lee had told Nelson in no uncertain terms what he’d thought of the doctor and Nelson’s decision to allow him on board.
“I think he just needs some time alone,” said Chip, coming to a halt beside him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so angry, Chip.”
Chip’s blue eyes never left Lee as he continued up towards his office. “I don’t blame him, Sir. The doctor was clearly incompetent…ah, if you don’t mind me saying so.”
Nelson shook his head. “I’m sad to say that I have to agree with your assessment. Did Lee tell you where he was going for his shore leave?”
“Hmm, you’d best head ashore yourself and get some well-earned rest. I’ve a feeling he might need us after he’s had time to think about things.”
Chip, make sure you find out exactly where he’s staying at
Nelson watched as Chip left the boat and hastened to catch up with his friend. He hoped Lee would turn to him if he needed to talk. He shook his head again and sighed. It had been a difficult trip and he was glad it was over. Heading back below, Nelson packed his bag and left Seaview for some shore leave of his own.
hours later Lee drove up to a quaint house in an attractive
An attractive woman in her forties answered, her red hair cascading down around her shoulders.
She smiled and reached out to hug him. “Lee, what are you doing here? What a lovely surprise. How long can you stay? Peter’s not here right now, he’s off doing something secret again.”
Lee closed his eyes as he returned her embrace, wondering how happy she’d be in a few minutes. Finally he gently shook himself free and held her shoulders. “Claire, I’m sorry. I’m here on official business.”
He watched the fall of her face. The knowledge of what he was about to do was reflected in her eyes.
Claire Kellogg already knew that her husband was dead. She’d been at a friend’s place when the same thing had happened. She swallowed as a sob escaped from her throat.
“No, please, Lee, tell me he’s alright?”
Lee caught her in his arms as her legs gave way and carried her inside to the couch.
“How did it happen?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
“I…let me get you a drink first.” He rose to go to the kitchen when Claire grabbed hold of his hand.
“No, I need to know now. How did he die?”
“I’m sorry, Claire,” he said apologetically, as he felt pain in his heart. “I can’t tell you the specifics. Only that I was with him when it happened. I…I found him too late, I couldn’t do anything to save him.”
He fought the emotion that threatened to choke up his own throat and forced himself to stay calm if only for her sake. The last moments of Peter’s life were branded into his memory, the smell of sick bay, the monitor beeping until the last beat of his heart sounded.
Her tear-soaked face looked up into his, suddenly screwed into an angry mask. “Nothing? You couldn’t do a thing to save him? I don’t believe you,” she cried. “Get out! Get out of my house. I never want to see you again.”
She pushed him away from her so suddenly that he tripped over a small table and landed on his sore shoulder. He gasped with pain before struggling to his feet. “I’m sorry, Claire. I really am,” he said quietly as he made his way to the front door. “If there’s anything I can do…?”
She glared bitterly at him, still shaking with unspent emotion. “I’d never ask you for help in a million years, Lee Crane.”
He stood uncomfortably in the foyer, then reached for the door and left. Perhaps much later he would visit her again. Right now her feelings were too raw with the shock of Peter’s death. As he unlocked his car, he saw her sister drive up.
“Lee, how’d she take it?” asked Mary.
“I’m glad you could come,” he said softly. “I’m afraid she’s pretty angry with me right now. With good reason, I didn’t bring him home for her.”
“I know you would have done everything possible to save his life, Lee,” she said kindly.
“It wasn’t enough, Mary.” He stared back at the door, deciding what to do.
Mary reached out to him and pulled him into her arms, giving him an affectionate hug. “She’s a strong woman, maybe in a couple of weeks…” Her voice trailed off. “Thanks for calling me, Lee. You know they were trying for a child, but it never happened.”
Lee’s reply caught in his throat.
She took his hand and squeezed it. “It wasn’t your fault. He decided to go on the mission, it was a choice he made.”
“I owed him, now it’s too late. The last thing he told me was to let Claire know how much he loved her and that he was sorry, perhaps you would pass that on to her for me.”
“Of course, Lee.”
He shook away the memories and forced a smile. “Thanks, Mary, I’ll be in touch.”
Lee got into his car and sat for a couple of minutes until he was sure Claire would answer the front door. He watched in the rear view mirror as it opened and Mary pulled Claire into her arms on the front porch. This moment had been something he dreaded, but now it was over. His next task was to find Jamieson and God help him if he didn’t have a damned good reason for missing Seaview’s departure.
Admiral Nelson paced his office, pausing occasionally to stare at Seaview sitting peacefully in her pen. Unfortunately he was feeling anything but the same as his invention. It had been four days since Lee had requested and been granted extended shore leave. Since then he hadn’t seen or heard from him. He started pacing again. He’d been waiting for Chip to appear and was becoming impatient. It had been over an hour since he’d left a message for him. Where the devil is he?
Nelson turned on his heel and continued pacing until there was a knock on the door. “Enter!”
Chip hurried through the door. “I’m sorry, Admiral, there were some problems loading supplies on Seaview.”
“Never mind that,” Nelson snapped. “What’s more important is finding our errant Captain and our Doctor. Have you seen Lee since we docked?” asked Nelson.
“No, Sir. Why?”
Nelson rubbed his chin. “I had a disturbing telephone call from Peter Kellogg’s sister-in-law, Mary. Apparently with ONI’s blessing, Lee took it upon himself to tell Peter’s wife that he’d passed away. She was distressed that Kellogg’s wife had said some things that made Lee very upset.”
Chip sat down slowly. “You’re worried about him?”
“I think we should try to find him,” admitted Nelson. “He took Kellogg’s death badly, blamed himself and Doctor Barnes.” He sighed. “And me to a lesser extent. If I hadn’t accepted that doctor, things might have been different. I thought Lee was going to kill Barnes when he found him in the mess instead of attending to Kellogg. Thank God you made it there in time and calmed him down.”
Chip loosened his tie. “Where do we start?”
handed him an airline ticket.
“Before we docked, Lee mentioned something about some time at
the time being, I’d prefer to keep this low key. I doubt that Lee’s in
Chip looked at his ticket. “I guess I’d better pack.”
Nelson looked at his watch. “I’ll pick you up from your place in two hours.”
“I’ll be ready. What do we do if he’s not there?”
The older man pursed his lips. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now let’s get moving. I want to catch that plane.”
“Yes, Sir,” Chip responded, fervently hoping that Lee would be at the ski resort.
moment, Lee was nowhere near
Katerina Murev leaned against the ruins, listening before she stepped through the wall. Lee followed her through to what appeared to have been a kitchen.
“We will wait here for a while,” whispered Katerina.
She pulled out a small parcel of food and spread it out on the floor before sitting beside it. “Eat, Lee.”
He sat back against a wall and cradled his rifle in his arms, positioning himself so that he had a clear view of all the entry points. “What are we waiting for, Katerina?”
She held out a piece of bread and cheese for him. He sighed and took it with a grateful nod. From previous experience he knew that there was no point trying to press Katerina into talking, she’d just clam up.
Several years ago he’d worked with her in the field and had been very impressed by her professionalism. She was a dedicated agent with the KGB, but an undercover operation to neutralize a mutual threat had thrown them together. They had their own ideals but both believed in the same values that drew them together in their mission. Nevertheless, it had been a difficult decision for him to ask for her help to find Jamie. If he was caught in a foreign country, that was one thing, but it would be instant death for her if it was discovered she’d helped a westerner.
He finished off the cheese and stood up, stretching his weary muscles. “What now?”
She rested her long body back against the wall beside Lee. At just over six foot tall, she was nearly as tall as him. Lee let his eyes linger for a moment. Katerina was trim, but she had all the attributes he liked in a woman. When he’d first met her, he had resisted her discreet attempts to turn their working relationship into something else. It would never have worked. He turned his head and brought his weapon up as a low whistle floated through the cold winter air.
“It’s time. Follow me,” she told him, lithely getting to her feet.
“Where are we going?”
She gave him a mischievous smile. “You’ll see, my American friend.”
Lee followed her outside the ruins and across the open space to a large warehouse. She indicated that he should stay where he was, and slipped off into the night. He wasn’t about to let her go off on her own, so he ignored her order and tried to catch up as quietly as he could. She approached a doorway that still had two heavy metal doors attached and began to open one.
“Katerina, wait,” Lee whispered as she eased inside.
He made it to the doors as quickly as he could and caught a glimpse of her as she ran off through the moon-sprinkled warehouse.
Cursing silently he gave chase and saw her slip through a side door. He did the same, only to find himself surrounded by men holding Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles. Each man wore dark clothing and balaclavas masked their faces.
“You led me into a trap,” he said bitterly slowly raising his hands as his weapon was removed.
“Hands against the wall,” ordered one of the men in broken English.
Lee did as
he was told as unseen hands conducted an efficient search of his clothes and
body. He was in a world of trouble
now. Here he was in the middle of
Katerina stood before him, a beam of moonlight reflecting off the long blonde hair that flowed from below her thick beaver skin hat. “Lee, it’s not what you think.”
“What do you mean?” he asked angrily.
She put her hand on his shoulder. “Trust me, Mllaya Moyna,” she replied tenderly.
Lee’s hands were secured behind his back. A gag was tied around his mouth and a cloth bag pulled down over his head. It was loosely fastened around his neck. This was a good sign, he thought. If he was going to die, it wouldn’t matter what he saw. Maybe there was some chance? His instincts hadn’t told him Katerina would betray him, and his feelings were usually right. He relaxed somewhat and allowed himself to be guided to their destination.
stood in front of the Copper Mountain Club
Resort Hotel, stamping his feet and rubbing his gloved hands together. It hadn’t occurred to him when Lee
had told him he was going to the resort that the ski season had just
ended. Still, there had been a late
snowfall that made him long for
“Dammit!” snapped Chip, shoving the door as far open as its abused latches would allow. “Nothing! He checked in but there are no clothes or personal effects in the room. He must have left right away. The manager told me that he’d even paid in advance.”
“A false trail,” muttered Nelson. “He knew we’d come looking for him and he’s covering his tracks.”
“What next, Admiral?”
Nelson stared at the snow-topped peaks and shook his head. “I don’t know, Chip. If Lee wants to disappear then he will. Maybe it’s time we focused our attention on Jamie’s whereabouts. There might be a clue there.”
“You think he might go after Jamie?”
Nelson gave him a grim smile. “What would you do if you were in Lee’s shoes right now?”
nodded. “I’ll book us
on the next flight to
Lee was in a bad mood and it wasn’t getting any better. He’d tripped over rubble on the ground a number of times and was sure he’d cut a knee the last time he’d gone down. He had to admit that the men who’d taken him prisoner had managed to catch him most times before he fell. They’d taken great care not to damage him in any way, and it made him curious. Katerina had told him it wasn’t what he thought – then what was it? He’d been shocked when she’d led him straight into the waiting arms of his captors. Since they didn’t wear uniforms, he was pretty sure they weren’t military. Perhaps some type of mercenary group, but he didn’t think Katerina was into blackmail or extortion.
“Stop!” Ordered one of his captors in Russian.
rough hands undo the hood and his hands.
He was pushed softly into a small cell, the door closing quickly behind
him. It didn’t take him long
to untie the gag. As he did, he
looked at his surroundings. The
cell was small, cold and dingy, but at least he wasn’t restrained. He sighed and sat down on the seemingly
un-infested bunk and pulled up his trouser legs. Just as he’d thought there was a
deep cut on one knee, the other was just bruised. He roughly shoved them back down and
gave a soft curse. He suddenly felt
stupid for letting himself get caught so easily. Maybe Jamie wasn’t even in
The next thing he felt was a hand circling his wrist. On instinct alone he twisted the hand and had the man down on the floor beneath him groaning with pain until he heard the snick of a safety catch.
“Come now, Commander, is that any way to greet an old friend? Please let him go.”
He looked up at a bear-like man who held the 9mm pistol like it was an extension of his own hand.
“Lee,” gasped the voice below him. “You’re really hurting me.”
Lee froze where he was, then quickly helped the man to his feet. “Jamie?” he asked incredulously.
The man didn’t look anything like the Will Jamieson he knew. His eyes were tired and bloodshot, a few weeks worth of beard covered his face and he looked skinnier than Lee had ever seen him.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Lee growled, suddenly angry. “You should have been on Seaview when she sailed four weeks ago.”
“That’s enough!” yelled the man with the gun, which was still aimed in Lee’s direction. “Come along, Doctor. It’s obvious he needs some time to calm down. When you can speak with a civil tongue to Doctor Jamieson, then you will be shown some courtesy.”
Jamieson gave Lee an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, Sir. I really am.”
Without further explanation he walked out of the cell, leaving Lee alone once more. In hindsight, that probably hadn’t been a wise move as Lee now felt the urge to punch something really hard and the nearest thing was the door.
“Yaroslav, don’t worry, I know he’ll calm down. Right now he’s angry. I’m not sure why but there’s always a good reason. I’ve never seen him like this before,” said Jamie, hoping to smooth the way for Lee. “He won’t be a problem. I know Lee Crane. Once he sees the children he’ll do what he can to help.”
“I agree with the Doctor,” said Katerina. “Otherwise I would not have risked bringing him here.”
Yaroslav nodded. “I understand, but I will still take some precautions until I can be certain. If the Russian Special Forces discover us…” He ran one finger across his neck in a scythe-like motion.
“Please, trust our instincts,” pleaded Katerina.
“Very well, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Now, it’s late. Doctor, why don’t you get some sleep? You’re tired, I can see it,” rumbled the big man.
nodded. He was tired. He couldn’t remember a time over
the last few years that he’d ever felt this tired. The chain
of events his abduction had set in place had far reaching ramifications. He hadn’t expected his Captain to
come looking for him in the
He stood up and stretched. “You’re right. I’ll catch a couple of hours then check on the children.”
Before Jamie even had a chance to leave the small office a trim brunette in a nurse’s uniform hurried into the room. From the color in her face it was obvious she’d been running.
“Yes, Linda? What’s wrong?”
“Please, come quickly, it’s Marisha. She’s taken a turn for the worse.”
Jamieson muttered a string of swear words under his breath. If anyone from Seaview had been listening they wouldn’t have believed it. He followed Linda quickly down the long corridor and into a large ward. It wasn’t a normal ward. The walls were lined with children’s beds and cots, all full. One glance was enough to see that the children suffered from various stages of illness. Marisha was worse, tossing and turning, a lather of sweat on her face.
“When did you notice she was like this?” asked Jamie, checking her heart rate and respiration.
“Not long, maybe ten minutes,” she replied in halting English.
He picked up the chart to check when Marisha had the last dose of medication and looked at his watch. “I can’t give her any more for an hour. Keep her cool and I’ll put in an IV to keep her fluids up. Once the drip’s in, administer 2 cc of morphine to help with the pain, then I want you to get some rest.”
Linda visibly relaxed as Jamieson spoke in his normal calm manner. “Thank you, Doctor.”
He gave her a smile that belied the fear he felt in his stomach. “She’ll be fine.”
Once the drip and morphine had been administered, Linda left Jamie to watch over the girl. It was going to be a rough night, one of many since he’d made the choice to see this through. He put his hand on the girl’s forehead. It was still hot, but felt like it was cooling, then he got comfortable on the chair beside the bed.
“Lee, if I come in there, will you be nice?” Katerina stared at him through a metal grating in the door.
He ignored her and lay back on the bed. Still, he heard the door unlock and then relock behind her.
“You weren’t very nice to your Doctor. Why?”
Lee continued staring at the paint peeling from the ceiling. “Why do you think?”
“What, because you think he is a traitor?”
It was a question that had begun to nag him and Katerina was forcing him to acknowledge it. “No! I don’t know.”
She made a rude sound. “Do you have any idea how much trouble Yaroslav went to just to kidnap him and bring him here?”
He turned his head to meet her eyes. “Kidnap him?”
“That’s right. Surely you didn’t think he would betray you or his country?” She tsked. “Lee, that’s so unlike you. What happened to make you so bitter?”
become bitter? He hadn’t
noticed, but he remembered the last thing he’d said to the Admiral had
been uncharacteristically harsh.
Now he was stuck somewhere in
Katerina sat beside him. “Lee, please, look at me. Your doctor is a very good man. I know you’re angry. I don’t know why, please tell me?”
Lee cradled his fist in his left hand and sat up. “If Jamie had been on Seaview when I’d returned from a mission, there’s a possibility – a strong one - that one of my good friends would still be alive.”
She stared morosely at her feet. “Oh.”
“Is that all you have to say?”
“What can I say, Lee. Once you see what he’s done here – what he’s doing, you’ll understand.”
“And when will that happen?”
“Now, Commander. Since you are behaving like a reasonable man again I will allow you some freedom,” said Yaroslav. He’d entered unseen behind the KGB agent. “Katerina, why don’t you escort our guest to Doctor Jamieson, on one condition - he must promise not to try to damage any more doors.”
Lee didn’t miss the wry humor in the big Russian’s voice. He sighed, defeated. “I promise,” he replied grudgingly.
Yaroslav called two guards into the room. “You understand, Commander, I trust you on Katerina’s recommendation, but I must still be cautious.”
“Of course,” Lee replied graciously, still feeling more than a little confused at the turn of events.
Katerina led him down a long corridor, which was equally as dark and dingy as his cell.
“Where are we going, Katerina?”
“You’ll see. I think you will have quite a shock, my Lee.” She stopped in front of two swinging doors and flung them open. “After you.”
The sight before him was nothing like he’d suspected. There were children of all ages playing, sleeping and being tended by two nurses and Jamie. His breath caught in his throat as he realized that some of the babies had severe birth defects.
Jamieson looked around from what he was doing and gave Lee a tentative smile. “How are you feeling, Captain?”
Lee didn’t answer, but stood where he was, staring open-mouthed at the scene before him. Jamie motioned for one of the nurses to finish what he’d been doing and approached Lee cautiously.
“You look like you need a coffee. Come on, I’ll buy you breakfast. How on earth did you find me here?”
He gave Jamie a grin. “It’s amazing how the police never bother to check with lowly maids. One of them remembered seeing you walk from your room into the service elevator. She thought it was strange, because she knew you were a guest attending the convention. She gave me a good description of the men and I might have, er… borrowed ONI resources to track them down..”
“Figures. Anyway, I’m glad you’re here. I was worried about the mission you went on. It’s nice to see you came back without any injuries.”
Lee ducked his head so Jamie couldn’t see the expression on his face, then followed as Jamie led him into another room, all the while being watched closely by one of the guards.
“Where are we?”
Jamie poured him a cup of coffee from a steaming kettle which he replaced on an antiquated pot-bellied stove.
“We’re on the outskirts of a small town called Masty. This town used to house an insane asylum.” He paused. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I don’t know what happened.” He gently lifted Lee’s right fist and frowned at the damage. “Why don’t you tell me about it?”
Jamie motioned for Katerina to hand him a first aid kit, and silently tended Lee’s hand and wrist. He knew something bad must have happened for Lee to turn up as he did, harboring so much anger. It wasn’t the Captain he knew from Seaview.
“Anything else I need to know about?”
Lee hesitated then lifted his trouser leg with his left hand, revealing the cut on his knee. He was relieved when Jamie stayed silent.
“I…I’m sorry for the way I behaved earlier,” he admitted. “The last mission was bad. I regret to say that I unfairly put some blame on you, and the Admiral as well.” He winced as Jamie finished bandaging his wrist. “I guess I was a little confused when you woke me up, too. It was a shock seeing you like that.”
“It wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to greet you, either. I don’t think it’s broken – this time. Go on…” he prompted before turning his attention to his Captain’s knee.
“Do you remember an agent by the name of Peter Kellogg?” Even now saying Peter’s name hurt.
Jamie’s brows knitted together in a frown as he thought. “Yes, I think you went on a camping trip with him and his wife last July.”
Lee swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “He didn’t make it. I wasn’t there early enough to save him. I got him back to the boat but the relief doctor… the doctor wasn’t even in sick bay when he was needed. He died on Seaview, an hour after I got him onboard.”
Jamie watched as Lee buried his head in his hands. He tentatively put a hand out in support and patted him on the shoulder. “What was it?”
“Pneumonia, malnutrition, he was so weak when I found him,” Lee’s voice broke.
And no doubt you took it upon yourself to tell his family in person, didn’t you, Jamie thought silently as he cleaned and dressed Lee’s leg.
“I’m very sorry I wasn’t there for you, Lee,” he said softly.
Lee looked away from him briefly. When he turned back Jamie could see he’d composed himself again.
“What happened? Why did they take you?” He waved his hands at the ward behind them. “I know it’s for a medical reason, I’m just not sure what all this is.”
“Why were you brought here? There are doctors all over the world who could treat these kids,” reasoned Lee.
Jamie poured himself a coffee and leaned back in the wooden chair. “I’ve been working on a cure for thyroid cancer. It seems that most of the cancers affecting the children are the same type. I’ve been working on a vaccine for the better part of two years. I was almost at trial stage when I went to the conference. Yaroslav provided me with a laboratory second to none, even the Nelson Institute. With his help I’ve been able to almost perfect it. I’m only days away from a trial on three of the worst cases. This type of thyroid cancer is highly aggressive. It will kill most people within the first year of diagnosis.”
Lee pushed his trouser leg down after Jamie bandaged it. He stood up and walked to the open doorway. He stared long and hard at the happy youngsters playing as if nothing was wrong with them. “Where are the worst cases?”
more advanced patients are kept in a separate ward where they can be
monitored. It’s a twenty-four
hour job, and they only have a skeleton staff. Six nurses split between here and the
high care ward. And myself,”
he added. “The last doctor
was killed trying to cross back into
“Why aren’t the Russian authorities involved?”
Jamie shook his head. Lee saw a deep sadness in his eyes.
“They’ve swept it under the carpet. If they admit liability then they’ll be up for all the medical costs associated with all the victims – or survivors, depending on how you look at it.”
Lee stared around the room. “Who pays for all this, and the lab equipment you’ve got?”
“It turns out Yaroslav is heavily involved in the black market.” Jamie stood up. “Don’t judge him too harshly, Lee.”
He eyed the two guards that remained at the door. “Am I a prisoner?”
“No. He just kept you in the cell until he thought you’d calmed down enough not to yell at me,” he grinned. “They’re just a precautionary measure until he knows he can trust you.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s gone out for a while. I expect he’s selling some goods.”
Lee frowned. “What type of goods?”
“I’ve never asked, and I don’t mean to either. Look at these kids Lee. Do you think they care where the money comes from? All they know is that Yaroslav’s providing them with a home and medical care. Hell, until I got here, their life expectancy was about six months. Some, even less.”
“Sorry Jamie, I didn’t mean it like that,” said Lee, feeling somewhat put in his place.
Jamie took a deep breath. “I haven’t slept much since I’ve been here. I guess I’m a bit irritable.”
“We need to see what we can do about getting these kids some better facilities.”
“How? If their own government ignores them, what hope do we have of highlighting their struggle?”
Lee finally gave Jamie a smile. “If the Admiral knew about this, he’d move heaven and earth to figure out a solution.”
Jamieson frowned. “It’s too dangerous, Lee. I don’t want him or Seaview involved. The political implications would be significant if anyone found out.”
“Do you really think the Admiral, or Chip for that matter, would allow both their Doctor and Captain to disappear without launching an investigation?”
Jamie looked at him sheepishly. “When can we expect them?”
I heard from my contact they’d booked a flight to
Jamie suddenly looked crestfallen. “Do you think he’ll understand?”
“That you stayed after they gave you a chance to leave?”
Lee put his hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “Of course he will.” Then he grinned. “He might take a day or two to calm down, but then he’ll understand.”
Jamie rewarded him with a grateful smile. “Thanks, Lee. I’ll take you for a tour.”
“After all, I’ll be in the firing line as well. Officially the Admiral wanted me to leave your disappearance to the authorities, but I had a suspicion that he’d be happy just to find his CMO.” Lee looked out of the window. “Who’s that?”
A young boy who looked to be about seven was bouncing a ball outside on what was left of an old concrete pad. His complexion was not dissimilar to Lee’s, except his dark hair had grown to his shoulders and was a mass of tangled knots and curls.
“Ah, yes, that’s Alexei. He’s been here for about four months. He doesn’t remember much of what happened. I don’t think he wants to. He pretty much keeps to himself.” Jamieson became melancholy. “I’m afraid I haven’t been able to get him to open up, it doesn’t help that he doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Russian.”
The boy stopped bouncing the ball and stared back at Lee. The world-weary look on his face tugged at Lee’s heart.
“I think I’ll take that tour later, Jamie. I’m going to play some ball,” and with that he opened the door and walked over to the boy.
The guards made to follow him, but Jamie waved them off. “I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”
Lee eased back against the wall for a while, just looking at the child. He couldn’t help wondering why he was playing outside alone in the cold. Eventually he managed to figure out that he was playing a form of solo basketball without the hoop. Without saying anything Lee walked over to a pile of old junk, picked out some items and went back inside.
He looked at Jamie, then the guards. “Do you have any tools here?” he asked in Russian.
The two men gave each other a puzzled look. “There are some, why?”
“I want to make him,” he indicated the boy, “a basketball hoop.”
“Oh,” said the taller guard, still looking none the wiser. “Follow me.”
The guard took Lee to a workshop and this time left him to his own devices. Lee quickly found what he was looking for, adding some more parts to his supply and returned to the yard. He bent down on one knee and began to make the hoop. It wasn’t long before his actions tweaked the curiosity of the boy and Lee found he had an audience.
“Would you like to help?” he asked.
The boy nodded slowly.
He gave him the end of a long metal pipe and showed him how to tightly wedge it against a lump of concrete. From there Lee attached a roughly made hoop. He tied rope around the middle of the pole and anchored it to the ground with rope before stabilizing the base with concrete debris.
The boy looked up at him, then at the hoop and gave Lee a small smile. He bounced the ball towards the hoop and threw it, getting it in the first time. Lee clapped his hands and gave Alexei a thumbs-up. He was surprised when he threw the ball towards Lee.
“You throw, too.”
Lee stepped back, ignoring the ache in his wrist and took a long throw, missing the goal on purpose. He held his hands up helpless as the boy gave him a suspicious look before chasing after the ball.
From inside, Jamie watched Lee’s progress with interest. It was the first time Alexei had shown any interest in another human being. He wondered if Lee somehow knew that. His Skipper was a very intuitive man.
“They look good together, don’t they, Doctor,” Katerina remarked, standing beside him.
“Yes, they do. Perhaps this is good therapy for both of them.”
“Hmm, I noticed he was different this time, more…how do you say it…isolated from me.”
“Introspective, I think is the word you’re thinking of,” he replied. “Did he tell you what happened?”
“Only that his last mission ended with his friend’s death.”
“That’s right. He still hasn’t told me everything. Maybe in time…”
Katerina gave him a brief hug. “You are both good friends. I knew that from the last time I went on a mission with Lee. He will forgive whatever he thinks you did wrong, or he will apologize for the way he blamed you.”
“He already has. That’s what makes him such a good leader and friend.”
Jamie returned his attention to what was happening outside. By now the two were engaged in what Jamie could only call a battle of wills. Lee had shrugged his coat off and Alexei had pushed up his sleeves. He could see a sheen of perspiration on both of their faces as Alexei dribbled the ball towards the goalpost.
“Should Alexei be playing so hard?”
Jamie gave her a smile. “It’s probably the best medicine in the world,” he replied as Alexei laughed heartily when Lee ended up on the ground. “It’s Lee I’m worried about. It’d be just my luck for him to fall on his knee again.”
“Ha! He is big and ugly enough to look out for himself, Doctor.”
“I’m afraid I have to concede on that point.”
“Have you known him for a long time?”
“Yes, Katerina. Long enough to know that nobody ever gets to see the real Lee Crane.”
“Why do you say that?”
Jamie suddenly realized he’d said too much. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have spoken about him like that. He’s a very private person.”
One corner of her perfect lips lifted in a smirk. “You forget, Doctor, I also know him well enough to understand it takes time to earn his friendship.”
He looked at his watch. It was time to do his rounds. “I have to see to the children.”
“Thank you, for all of us,” her voice was unexpectedly thick with emotion. “These children have no parents, they have nothing but you.”
“I…” Jamie was at a loss for words. He felt warmth rise to his cheeks and quickly made his excuses.
“Phew, Alexei, I think it’s time we had a rest,” puffed Lee.
The young boy had played hard, and Lee had found himself having to work back more times that he could count. His knee and wrist had already begun to ache and he knew Jamie would be upset if he had to give him more attention.
Alexei took his hand and tugged on it, wanting Lee to go somewhere with him.
“Where are we going?”
Alexei just smiled and Lee found himself tagging after the waif. They soon left the buildings behind. Just as Lee was beginning to worry that Jamie might miss him, Alexei veered off down a path into a deep quarry. The quarry hadn’t been worked in some time by the looks of it and old machinery scattered the moon-like desolate landscape.
“In here,” said Alexei.
Lee stopped to look at the entrance to a tunnel. It was hard to tell whether it was man-made or a cave that had opened up at the side of the quarry. He held Alexei back as the boy continued to tug Lee’s hand, urging Lee to follow into the cave.
“This could be dangerous,” Lee warned.
Alexei frowned and shook his head vigorously. “Show you. Secret”
Lee looked back towards the top of the quarry. Nobody knew where they were if something should happen, and there was no telling how stable the ground was.
He knelt down so he was at eye level with Alexei. “Not today, Alexei, it’s getting late. I have to go back to see the Doctor, and you do too.”
He screwed his face up. “No, want to play.”
“Do you think we could teach some of the others how to play basketball?” asked Lee, hoping to distract him.
A glimmer of interest reached his eyes. “You teach?”
Lee stood up. “We teach,” he said with a grin.
Alexei forgot the tunnel and set a grueling pace back up the quarry road. When they were almost at the buildings, Lee found himself in trouble with Yaroslav’s guards.
“We have been looking for you. Where did you go?”
He noticed both Katerina and Jamie had walked over to where he stood. “Alexei, go and play. Show the others the game.”
Alexei looked at the guards and shook his head. “No, you are in trouble. I help.”
“Not this time,” he replied gently as he gave the boy a gentle push towards the hospital building.
It wasn’t until Alexei had stepped through the door that Lee faced the guards. “I did nothing wrong.”
“Yaroslav is angry. You leave without telling us.”
Lee looked towards Jamie and Katerina for support, but surprisingly saw none coming from Katerina. Jamie looked bewildered. “I don’t understand why you’re all so upset.”
“Where did you go, Commander?”
Lee hadn’t heard Yaroslav walk up behind him. He turned to face him. “For a walk.”
“Lee, why don’t you tell them?” urged Jamie.
“If you were so worried that I’d leave, then why didn’t your guards follow me, Yaroslav?”
Yaroslav brandished his weapon at Lee. “Is it possible that you used a transmitter?”
“What? This is ridiculous. Why would I do that?”
Lee saw an abrupt change from the kind-hearted, affable black marketeer to the cold Russian General. “Answer my question or you will be sorry.”
“No, I did not.”
“Then where were you?”
“With Alexei,” he replied evasively, not wanting to damage the relationship he’d formed with the boy.
“Take him to the room,” added the Russian. “I don’t want the children to see.”
Lee stared at Katerina as two guards grabbed his arms and pulled out a length of cord to tie his wrists together.
“Yaroslav, what are you doing?” Jamieson asked, apparently as puzzled as Lee. “Lee, what’s going on?”
Katerina captured his arm. “Do not involve yourself, Doctor,” she replied in English.
“We went to my secret place,” said a small voice.
Lee looked down at Alexei, surprised that the child had understood that Lee was in trouble and wanted to rescue him. He shook himself free and bent down to scoop Alexei into his arms. “Alexei, I told you to play with the other children,” he reverted to Russian so the child would understand him.
Alexei pouted. “No, you in trouble. I help,” he insisted again.
He wormed his way out of Lee’s arms and ran to Yaroslav. “Come, I show you. Is a secret. Only you, nobody else.”
“Hold him here,” Yaroslav ordered.
Once again, Lee found himself standing before the Russian AK 47’s.
“Jamie, what the hell happened while I was gone?” said Lee, suddenly ticked at the mess the two Seaview men found themselves in.
Jamie glanced at the Russians. “I’m not sure, Lee. I thought they were worried about you doing a disappearing act. Now I think it’s something more serious, but they didn’t tell me what it was.”
Katerina scuffed her boot in the snow, not meeting his eyes. “He thinks you have used a transmitter to call the military.”
“That’s ridiculous!” snapped Lee. “Why would I do that?”
He saw Yaroslav and Alexei appear from around the corner of a building. Alexei ran up to Lee and threw his hands around his waist. “No trouble any more, Lee.”
“I am sorry, Commander. I am too suspicious of outsiders. Alexei told me where he took you and gave me the grand tour,” he admitted. “I hope you understand.”
Lee nodded slowly. “If I had something as precious to protect as these kids, I’d be just as cautious.”
The incident had served as a timely reminder of how precarious his situation was in Belarus. Whilst Jamie was irreplaceable, he was expendable.
“I must contact my friends in the local military to alleviate their concerns.” He winked at Katerina. “I think three bottles of Vodka for each officer should be enough. Commander, walk with me for a moment.”
Lee gently unhooked Alexei from his waist and ruffled his hair. “Thanks, Alexei. You were very brave.”
Alexei’s face lit up like a Christmas tree and he ran back into the building, yelling for the other children to play basketball. Lee strode out to catch up with Yaroslav.
“What is it?” asked Lee once they were out of earshot.
“Somebody told the military we were here. I had a radio message from one of the officers in Masty, warning me that I might have visitors. Fortunately, he was able to deter them from investigating what was obviously a, how you say, prank call. I am lucky that I still have many friends who serve their country. If it was not you, then I have a problem.”
Lee could see now why he’d had an unfriendly reception from Yaroslav. “Do you have any idea who it might be?”
“Not yet, but I will find out and when I do the traitor will wish they had never spoken. You will come with me.”
“There is someone I would like you to see.”
“If the military knew who Jamie and I were…”
Yaroslav slapped Lee so hard on the back he almost felt winded. “Your identity will not be discovered. Besides, you speak Russian almost better than most Russians I know,” he laughed motioning one of the guards closer. “I think you will find this interesting. Yuri, give him your coat, he will need it. ”
Lee didn’t look back at Jamie, he knew the doctor would worry about him, but it couldn’t be helped. He wondered where the Admiral and Chip were. But, more importantly he wondered how long it would take Jamie to perfect his cure so they could leave this place.
Nelson sat with Chip at a small restaurant near the plaza. They didn’t speak until the waiter had taken their order and disappeared. It was still early in the day, so the regular lunchtime crowd hadn’t yet arrived.
“This was the last place we know for certain he was sighted,” said Nelson.
Chip could see he was becoming frustrated. They had been in the small town of
“Admiral!” hissed Chip. “Look, over there, it’s Lee. He’s with that big Russian and an Army officer.”
Nelson slowly turned in his chair, giving any casual observers the impression that he was just taking in the view.
By the time Nelson saw the three men, only their backs were visible. It was definitely his Captain. Even with the trench coat on, he would know Lee’s loping stride anywhere. The three men stepped into a building marked Army Headquarters.
“Now what?” asked Chip.
Nelson shrugged. “Now we order another coffee.”
The Admiral watched as Chip fidgeted in his chair. He knew the XO wasn’t good at the waiting game, especially if it involved Lee.
“Let’s just hope we don’t have to break him out of there,” Chip mumbled.
“Hmm, what I’d like to know is if he found Jamie,” said Nelson, lighting up a Russian cigarette.
Nelson and Chip waited until the café became busier, then found another down the street where they could continue to observe the building without becoming conspicuous. Finally to Nelson’s relief, Lee and the big Russian left the building and walked down the street towards them. He gave Chip a look as he tugged his hat on, pleased when the XO followed suit and turned away from Lee. Neither of them wanted to blow Lee’s cover if he was using a pseudonym.
“Come on, we’ll follow them at a distance.”
As Lee and Yaroslav approached the hospital, Katerina ran out of the door. “Lee, you must go to the Doctor. I’ve never seen him like this before.” She grabbed his arm and dragged him after her.
“Katerina, what happened?”
“I don’t know. I just saw him in the laboratory, he was very upset. Nobody could calm him down.”
Katerina took him to the laboratory and stood at the closed door. “I think it is best if you go in alone.”
Lee nodded. “Just let everyone know not to disturb us.”
He listened at the door for a moment. When he heard the sound of glass smashing he slowly pushed it open.
“I’m so close, what am I missing. I must find the cure,” Jamie snapped, obviously frustrated.
Lee stepped inside and silently closed the door. He was dismayed to see Jamie push a beaker of liquid off the workbench and onto the floor.
“Jamie,” he said softly.
Jamie swung around, his eyes wild until he realized it was Lee. “I’ve hit a brick wall. I don’t know what to try next,” he said, pushing his hair back from his face with shaking hands. “I can’t let these children die.”
Lee opened his mouth to speak, then quickly shut it. He’d never seen Jamie this agitated. If one wrong word came out of his mouth, he could lose him.
He decided on a diversionary tactic. “When was the last time you ate?”
Jamie sank down onto a stool. “I…I don’t know.”
“I’m going to get us both some coffee and something to eat. At least you’ll be able to tell that I’m eating for a change,” he said with a twinkle in his amber eyes.
Lee was pleased to see Jamie’s lips lift in a small smile. “That sounds great.”
“I’ll be back in a minute,” he promised the Doctor.
He turned to walk away when he saw something through the windows. “Uh-oh.”
“What is it?” asked Jamie, turning to see what Lee was looking at.
Two men were being walked into the yard, one was much shorter than the other. Both had their hands tied and both wore bags over their heads as Lee had done when he’d first been brought to the hospital.
Jamie met Lee’s eyes. “Do you think…?”
Lee pursed his lips together. “Yes, it’s got to be Chip and the Admiral.”
“Oh.” Jamie’s expression was downcast.
Lee squeezed his arm. “It’ll be fine. I’ll smooth things over after I’ve asked Katerina to get some coffee and food into you. In the meantime, take a break and try to rest. I know you can figure it out, Jamie. You’re a damned good doctor. Despite how I feel about sick bay, it’s never had anything to do with you personally.”
Lee left Jamie and found Katerina speaking to Yaroslav. There was no sign of either the Admiral or Chip.
Yaroslav looked up as Lee approached the table. “Commander, I did not think you would be too far away. You know who has just arrived?”
He nodded. “The Admiral and Lieutenant Commander Morton if I’m not mistaken. Are they alright?”
“They are fine, Lee,” replied Katerina. “Would you like to see them?”
“Yes. But first, would you mind getting Doctor Jamieson some coffee and something to eat, Katerina?”
“Is he much better?” Her pretty eyes reflected concern.
“He just needs to get some rest.”
Yaroslav stood up. “Come, I will take you to your Admiral and friend.”
He followed Yaroslav through the maze of small passages until he stopped at the cell door where Lee had been imprisoned initially. He knew neither of the two men inside would be very happy about their situation.
“Would you like to go inside? Or would you rather I left them there for a while?” asked Yaroslav, his mouth twitching with amusement at Lee’s discomfort.
Lee sighed. “I think that would only make matters worse.”
Yaroslav opened the door and Lee walked through to find the Admiral and Chip sitting unhappily on the solitary bunk bed in the room.
Chip jumped up when he saw Lee. “Lee! What’s going on?”
“Admiral, Chip, are you both okay?”
“Yes, but what the devil is going on, Lee?” snapped Nelson.
Lee looked towards Yaroslav who nodded in silent understanding. “You’re free men, but there’s something you need to see before you decide what course of action to take.”
Both Nelson and Chip looked confused. He could understand how they felt, just five days ago he’d felt the same.
“Let me introduce Yaroslav Chuchin. He’s ex-Russian military, but now runs a black market operation in…let’s just say for things that are in demand.”
“I am pleased to meet you both.” Yaroslav extended his hand towards Nelson first.
After a moment’s hesitation the Admiral took his hand and shook it. Yaroslav did the same with Chip, who was a little more reticent but eventually took the peace offering for what it was.
“Perhaps it would be best if you showed them around the hospital, Yaroslav.”
Yaroslav nodded then led the other men from the cell. Lee watched and listened to both Nelson
and Chip’s reactions as Yaroslav explained what he was doing in
Nelson took him by the arm and steered him away from the other two. “I knew Jamie was working on a cure. Has he found it yet?”
“Yes, he’s very close but he’s getting frustrated. He hasn’t been sleeping, and I doubt he’s eaten much since he’s been here either. It’s tearing him apart. He feels like he’s failing them by not figuring it out.” Lee took a chance. “I told him you’d help once you got here.”
Nelson paused to look around him. “Lee…”
“Please, Sir, just talk to him, see what you can do. If I had even a small bit of medical knowledge I’d give it all I’ve got.”
Nelson shook his head. “This is not a normal situation. If this was a western country, perhaps, but it’s not. We’re in a hostile land where détente is just a fancy French word. If we’re found…”
“I know that, Admiral,” snapped Lee. Nelson glared at him and he looked down at his feet. “Sorry, Sir, that was out of line. I know you would do something if you could.”
The Admiral glanced around the facility once again. “I’ll speak with Jamieson, but I’m not making any promises. There may be someone who can help us.”
“Lee, Lee. Are these the friends you have told me about?” cried an excited voice.
“Alexei.” Lee bent down to hoist the small boy onto his shoulder. “I’d like you to meet Admiral Nelson and Chip.”
Nelson looked on, shocked while he watched Lee pick up the young orphan as if it was the most natural thing in the world. What had happened to the tortured soul who’d disappeared to look for their CMO? Lee looked happy and contented. It hadn’t escaped his attention that Lee was also favoring his right hand. He would have noticed even without the white bandage that was barely covered by his coat sleeve.
“What happened to your hand?”
Lee gave him a sheepish look. “When I first got here I was still a bit angry about everything. I, uh, took it out on the cell door.”
“Any permanent damage?”
“No, Sir.” Lee returned his attention to Alexei. “Why don’t you show the Admiral how well you can play basketball with the others?”
The boy’s small dark eyes stared up at Lee as the Captain returned him to the ground. “Will you play, Lee?”
The pleading note in his voice left Nelson with the distinct impression that an unlikely bond had been formed between two human beings.
Lee in turn looked towards Nelson.
“Go ahead, I’ll be interested to see who wins. After that perhaps we can get on with the business of seeing Jamie,” he growled half-heartedly.
Nelson followed the two outside where he was joined by Chip and Yaroslav. Chip hadn’t said much and Nelson knew he was as stunned as he was at this turn of events.
“How long has Lee been here, Yaroslav?” asked Chip.
“Five days. Why?”
Chip gazed at Lee and Alexei playing basketball together like old friends. Nelson knew what he was thinking. “What Chip is interested in is how quickly Lee and Alexei became friends.”
“Almost straight away, I think they are good for each other. Alexei had not spoken a word to anyone until the Commander arrived.”
“But when we leave here, what will happen then?” asked Chip.
Nelson stepped in. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Chip.” He looked at the two playing on the makeshift court as Alexei gave a triumphant cry.
Lee held his hands up in defeat. “I think I need a rest.” He knelt down on his good knee in front of Alexei. “I need to take my other friends to see Doctor Jamieson for a while.”
The boy smiled. “I will help Nurse Linda while you are gone.”
Lee watched him head back to the hospital building and returned to the audience at the sidelines. “Yaroslav, can I take them to see Jamie now?”
“Certainly, Commander. I will leave you, but perhaps you could tell me where you are going before you leave the compound again?” he reminded Lee with a smile.
Lee acquiesced. “Yes, I will. This way, Admiral, Chip.”
“What was all that about, Lee?” asked Chip.
“It seems he has a traitor in his ranks. He thought it was me after I left the area with Alexei. Things got a bit sticky for a minute.”
“That’s another complication we don’t need,” the Admiral pointed out. “I take it whoever it is wants to put a stop to Yaroslav’s activities.”
Lee ran his hand through his dark crop of hair. “I’m not sure which part of his activities they want to stop. Katerina might have a better idea than me.”
He stopped in front of a doorway. “Jamie’s through there. Please, go easy on him, Admiral. It’s been pretty rough on him.”
Nelson nodded. “I won’t make any promises, Lee. I need my CMO back, and I won’t accept second best again.”
A flicker of pain lanced through his Captain’s eyes then was gone as quickly as it appeared. “Admiral, about what I said back on Seaview, before I left…”
“Forget it, lad. You’d just lost a friend. I would have felt the same way.”
Lee never failed to marvel at Nelson’s ability to forgive and forget when he really needed it so much. There were times when the Admiral could be downright unmanageable and unreasonable, but he made up for those tenfold by saying what he had just said.
The two men made eye contact briefly, something passed between them and Lee gave him a tenuous smile.
“I guess we’d better go in and see Jamie.”
He pushed the door open and was pleased to see that Katerina was helping to clean up the shards of shattered glass from the floor. An empty plate and half a crust sat on the workbench to Jamie’s left, along with a still steaming cup of coffee. Lee saw the look on the Admiral’s face from the corner of his eye. Jamie still hadn’t shaved and wore the same haunted look he had when Lee had first seen him here.
Uh-oh, thought Lee, he’s using that tone of voice. Hadn’t he heard a thing he’d said?
Jamie abruptly stopped cleaning up the glass and stood to attention. “Yes, Sir.”
Nelson’s expression softened when he saw the depth of Jamie’s torment. “When did you last get some sleep?”
Lee watched as Jamie tried to figure out what should have been an easy question to answer.
“Go and get some sleep, that’s an order. I’m sure we can clean up what’s left of this mess. Where’s your research? Lee’s filled me in on most things.”
Jamie pulled together a stack of papers and shoved it uncharacteristically into a file which he then handed to the Admiral. “All my notes are in here.”
Nelson sighed and took them. “Lee, can you make sure he gets to bed?”
“Yes, Admiral.” Lee took Jamie’s elbow and gently steered him out the door. “I told you he’d help, Jamie.”
“I know, Lee, I just…I didn’t contact you or come back when I had the chance. I won’t blame him if he’s upset with me.”
Lee shook his head as his eyes met Jamie’s. “How long have you known the Admiral, Jamie?”
“About ten years, why?”
He smiled. “Don’t you know him by now?” Lee was pleased to see Jamie finally relax a little.
They arrived at Jamie’s room and Lee opened the door, standing back to let him pass.
“Is there anything you need, Jamie?”
Jamie gave him a grin. “Once again I feel like our roles have been reversed and you’re the doctor.”
“Get some sleep, that’s an order.”
He laughed as Jamie gave him a mock salute and fell onto his cot. “Aye, aye, Skipper.”
Lee returned to the lab and perched on a stool next to Nelson and Chip. “What do you think, Sir?”
“I think Jamie’s right, but something just
doesn’t add up about the formula.
I need to email the information to a friend of mine in
Nelson gave them a sneaky look. “My favor tally doesn’t only
Lee raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
“I also need to speak with General Chuchin – alone.”
Both Chip and Lee knew better than to argue with the Admiral when he used that tone of voice.
“I’ll go and find him, Admiral,” said Lee. “Want to come, Chip?”
They left the Admiral as he began re-examining Jamie’s notes. As they rounded the corridor, Lee found himself up against the wall with Chip’s finger poking him in the chest.
“Okay, Lee. What the hell did you think you were doing going off alone like that?” he asked angrily.
Lee was taken off guard by the unexpected verbal attack. “I needed some space.”
“Oh, you…needed… some… space,” his friend repeated and poked him in the chest again. “What about me? For all I knew you could have been lying in a hospital bed somewhere – or worse.”
“I’m sorry, Chip, I didn’t think…”
Chip’s face started going red. “No, you didn’t, and Captain or not, I’m going to tell you some home truths. The Admiral was half out of his mind with worry over both of you. It was bad enough for Jamie to disappear like that, but when you went missing too it was almost too much for him.”
“Chip, I’m sorry. What else can I say? I acted on instinct.”
The XO grunted an angry reply, then stalked off towards the lab.
“He’s angry with you, Lee.”
Lee spun around, unaware that Katerina had been following he and Chip.
“No kidding, Katerina.” He took a deep breath. “I guess he’s got a right to be angry. I did my usual lone wolf disappearing act and didn’t think about how it would affect Chip or the Admiral.”
She hooked her arm through his. “Come on, let’s see what Alexei is up to.”
“First, I need to find Yaroslav.”
“The Admiral needs to speak with him.”
Lee turned to her, suddenly suspicious. “Something to do with Jamie’s formula, I think. It’s nothing too serious.”
Katerina took her arm away. “He’s in the office. I have to go back to town for a while.”
He waited until she’d rounded the corner and followed at a discreet distance as she left the building. The layout of the old sanitarium was wide and sprawling. Yaroslav had only turned the main part into the hospital, preferring to keep everything central, where he could protect it better. Considering Katerina had made a beeline for one of the outlying buildings, Lee had a feeling that his hunch had been correct. Luckily for him, there were ample places for cover but he knew Katerina almost had a sixth sense for trouble. He would have to take extra precautions approaching the derelict structure.
As soon as she disappeared inside the building he made his way around to the other side. All the windows were intact but one. It was below this one that he crouched down, patiently waiting for what he knew would be a radio call.
“Snow Leopard to base, Snow Leopard to base.”
Lee tried to brush off the disappointment he felt. He tried to reason with himself that she was a KGB agent, and could never be trusted under any circumstances.
“Base here, go ahead Snow Leopard.”
Lee moved quickly. He couldn’t allow her to inform anyone that the Admiral was here. The danger to everyone involved would be extreme. He shoved the door aside and threw himself at Katerina. It briefly knocked the breath out of her and bought him time to pull the microphone from the transmitter. As soon as he turned around she was upon him, punching and kicking. He had deflected the first few blows when one slipped through. Lee fell against the wall, dazed, but Katerina didn’t back off. He managed to move his head to one side before her hand punched a hole in the plasterboard where it had been a millisecond before. Hitting a woman was something he’d never done, but Katerina was making it difficult for him to stop her deadly onslaught any other way. After she landed a painful karate chop against his ribs he finally backhanded her.
She drew back and touched her lip where his ring had cut it. “That wasn’t very nice, Lee. I didn’t take you for the type of man who would hit a woman.”
Lee put a hand to his ribs, grateful for the respite however brief. “Just defending myself, Katerina. Out of curiosity, why are you doing this?”
They began circling one another, both were breathing hard. Lee saw the sweat on her forehead and felt his own begin to trickle down into his eyes. He quickly wiped it away. Katerina was dangerous and he didn’t need anything distracting him or blurring his vision when she made her next move.
“Why do you think?” she asked, her lips curving into a seductive smile.
“Honestly, Katerina, I have no idea. I guess I never really knew you at all.”
“You’re so gullible,” she yelled suddenly. “Do you really believe I care about anyone except myself?”
Lee looked her up and down, his eyes stopping to look into the depths of hers. “Yes, I do, and I think it scares the hell out of you.”
Katerina lunged wildly at him, but Lee was ready for her and stepped out of the way of her deadly blow. He grabbed one of her arms and pulled it up behind her back, pressing her against the wall. Her heavily booted foot came backwards and found his injured knee. Lee gasped and loosened his hold for a split second. It was enough for Katerina to twist from his grasp and push him towards the centre of the room. He tripped backwards over an old broken ladder. She was on top of him before he could roll away, her knees held his arms down while she raised her hand for a final blow. Katerina hesitated long enough for him to make his move. Lee drew his legs upwards and threw her over his shoulders, turning the tables on her until his wrists encircled hers. He straddled her struggling body, barely able to hold her down. Suddenly the fight left her and tears began to flow down her dirt-stained cheeks.
Lee cautiously removed his hold on her and slid to one side where he knelt next to her. He cursed softly as his freshly split knee touched the concrete floor.
“I asked you why before. Now tell me, you owe me that.”
She tucked her knees into her chest and lay where she had fallen, still crying softly. “Please, Lee, no.”
He eased his bruised body into a sitting position beside her. “Katerina, do you remember the last mission we went on?”
“Yes,” she replied, still refusing to look at him.
“I could have left you to die out on the steppes. Why do you think I didn’t?”
Her hand moved to the side of her stomach where he’d seen her shot. “You helped me because you cared.”
“That’s right. You saw what Peter’s death had done to me when I first arrived here.” Lee brushed a damp strand of hair from her face. “Do you really think I could have let that happen to you when you’d been injured?”
“No,” a small sob came out. She wiped her face clean and sat up. “Yaroslav will kill me.”
“Please, Katerina, I want to understand,” he coaxed.
“My mother, she’s ill. I was told that if I went on this last mission, she would be given all the medical treatment free that was needed for her to get better. If she doesn’t get it, she’ll die.”
Lee nodded and got to his feet, still careful to keep his distance. “Come back with me now. We’ll find some way to help your mother.”
Without having to be asked, she stood up and handed her gun to him. “I’m sorry I hurt you, my Lee.”
He touched her lip softly. “We hurt each other.”
“Lee, where are you? Lee?” The XO’s voice could be heard outside the hut.
“That’s Chip, we’d better go out there.” He waited as Katerina left the building first.
He trusted her, but not her motives. Hell, he would do anything he could if one of his family or friends was sick and dying. She’d had the opportunity to kill him but she had hesitated, it gave him hope.
“Over here, Chip.”
Chip hurried over the barren land towards them. “Lee, what the…” He looked both of them over. “What happened?”
It suddenly struck Lee that the pair of them must have looked a sight. “It’s a long story, but I think we need to get back to Yaroslav and the Admiral.”
“That’s what I’ve come to tell you, while
you were…” Chip
struggled for words. “Doing
whatever you were doing, the Admiral left for
“He’s gone? Katerina, we need to see Yaroslav now.”
“Yes, we do.”
Chip fell in beside Lee as they walked back to the main hospital. “What was that all about, Lee?”
“It’s not what you think, Chip.”
“Then what is it? The Admiral tried to find you before he left and he wasn’t happy that you’d gone AWOL.”
Lee ignored him and signaled to a guard. “Where’s Yaroslav? We need to speak with him immediately.”
“He has left for Masty.”
Lee rubbed his face with his hand. “Katerina, do you have any idea what you’ve…” He stopped when he saw the downcast look on her face. “Yes, of course you do. Who’s your contact?”
He works in the communications centre at the base in Masty. Any information I send him is passed
directly on to the KGB in
“Lee, what is going on?” growled Chip.
He explained to his XO briefly what had passed between him and Katerina after their fight. Chip threw her a disgusted look. “Hmpf, that’s why she’s got a cut lip and you’re hobbling around like an old man.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you honestly think I wouldn’t know something was up?”
“Should have known better than that,” muttered Lee. Not much escaped his observant XO. “That’s why I need to see Yaroslav.” He turned to Katerina. “What will Bobrov do if you don’t finish your transmission?”
“He will send in the special forces,”
Lee grabbed her arm. “Come on, let’s finish what you started. Chip, stay here and try to get one of the guards to go after Yaroslav. Tell them it’s urgent.”
“But Lee…” Lee was already halfway back to the disused building and didn’t hear him. “I don’t speak Russian,” he mumbled to nobody in particular. “I hope one of them speaks English.”
Lee and Katerina flew into the building. The radio had already crackled into life.
“…Snow Leopard. Base calling Snow Leopard. Phase two has been initiated. I repeat, phase two has been initiated. Base calling…”
“What’s phase two?”
Katerina’s face paled. “Paratroopers! They will be dropped on the outskirts of the hospital.”
Lee swore. “How long?”
“Within twenty-four hours.”
“I hope the Admiral makes it to his friends before that, or we’re all in trouble. We need to let Jamie know. Come on.”
“Yes,” she agreed meekly.
They hurried back to the hospital.
“Why did it take you so long to tell them about the hospital?”
“I…I did not want to hurt the children,” Katerina finally admitted.
He herded her through the door and went to find Jamie, who was doing his rounds through the wards.
“Lee, Katerina,” his smile quickly turned into a frown when he saw the state they were in. “Care to tell me what happened?”
“Jamie, there’s no time. Can we move the children, now?”
“No, the advanced cases need constant monitoring and medication. Many of them are on IV lines. Why?”
Lee glanced at Katerina. “The special forces have found out the hospital’s here, along with all of us.”
He cleared his throat. “That’s not important now, but we need to make some preparations.” Lee stopped as he felt a small tug at the sleeve of his jumper.
He looked down to find Alexei staring up at him. The raw fear on the boy’s face made him take notice straight away.
“You said the soldiers are coming. Are they?”
Lee put a hand on his shoulder, but it was shrugged off. “Everything will be fine, Alexei, trust me.”
Alexei started to back away from them, his face twisted in with fear. “No, it will not be alright, I trusted before, now I will never trust again.”
He spun on his heels and ran through the doors. Lee couldn’t let him run off now, it was too dangerous and night was falling. Without a thought, he ran after him. Alexei knew the territory better than he did and had a small head start, but it didn’t take Lee long to figure out where he was headed. As he reached the top of the quarry he caught a glimpse of Alexei entering the old shaft. The thought of something happening to the child made his heart pound painfully in his chest. Lee took off down the track, narrowly avoiding slipping over the side in his haste. He stepped into the shaft. It was so low he had to duck his head not to hit it. There was no sign of Alexei, but the diminishing natural light didn’t extend far enough into the tunnel to tell. He rummaged around in his pocket and found the small penlight he always carried.
“Alexei, where are you?”
“Leave me alone,” the small sob followed the faint reply.
“Why are you angry with me?” asked Lee, moving further into the shaft.
“I thought I could trust you. You told the soldiers about us.”
“No, I didn’t, it was someone else.” He tried to follow the sound of Alexei’s voice.
Hopefully there were no passages branching off. That would make finding him difficult.
“I don’t believe you.”
Lee thought he heard some doubt in the small voice now. “Alexei, I…you mean a lot to me. I would never hurt you.”
“What about the others?”
“I wouldn’t do anything to hurt them either.” This time Lee didn’t hear a reply so he tried to move more quickly.
He still had to place his feet carefully, the further he got into the shaft the more rubble littered the ground.
“Alexei, where are you?”
Lee swung the penlight around. He couldn’t see Alexei so he kept walking forward. “Alexei, keep talking until I find you. Can you see the light?”
He guessed that Alexei was around a bend in the tunnel. His hunch turned out to be correct as the tunnel began to turn. Fortunately there was a bit more head room around the corner and he could stand upright.
“I can see your light now, Lee, please hurry.”
Finally Lee caught sight of the child. “I’m almost there,” he reassured him in a low voice.
A few more yards and he stood beside Alexei. Straight away Lee discovered Alexei had managed to wedge his foot between two large rocks. He put his hand on Alexei’s shoulder. “Stay still. I’m going to see if I can find something to lever this rock off.”
He searched for what seemed to be an eternity. Just when he thought he’d have to go for help, Lee found the handle of an old pick axe. He tested it, and was relieved when it appeared to be sturdy enough for the task. Lee hastened back to Alexei.
“I’ll have you free in a moment.” Lee managed to wedge the handle far enough under the rock to get good leverage. “Alexei, I’m going to put some pressure on the stick. Pull your foot out when I tell you.”
Lee pushed down hard on the handle. He felt a little give from the rock and put everything he had into it. The rock rolled away, freeing Alexei’s foot.
He knelt beside Alexei and carefully took his foot in his hands. “Does your ankle hurt anywhere?”
“No, Lee. I’m alright.”
“Then I suggest we leave, I don’t like the looks of this mine, it’s pretty old.”
As he said the last words a rumbling sound came from above. Lee quickly shone the penlight up. “Damn, we’re under a stope hole. Alexei, quickly, this way.”
Lee pulled Alexei to his feet and tried to make a dash forwards as rocks and debris began to rain down on top of them.
“Lee!” cried Alexei, obviously terrified.
They had only managed to move a few feet forward when Lee threw Alexei in between him and the wall, shielding the child from the deadly rocks with his body. He heard him crying beneath him, but daren’t reach out for fear of losing his grip on the wall and letting a rock through that could hurt Alexei.
Dirt and debris of all sizes fell onto them from above. Lee cursed his bad luck that they had been directly under the stope hole when the cave-in had come.
“It won’t be long, Alexei,” he stopped to cough as dust went into his mouth. “It’ll be over soon.”
A few moments later the rock-fall stopped. “Are you alright?”
He twisted around to see if he could locate his penlight but gasped when he felt a sharp pain in the top of his left leg.
“What is wrong?” asked Alexei, a tremor in his voice.
Lee gritted his teeth, waiting for the pain to reach a bearable level. “It’s nothing, I probably pulled a muscle,” he lied. In reality he knew his leg had been broken. The snap of the bone had felt like a hot knife being stabbed into his leg. “Do you think you could feel around for my torch?”
As Alexei moved around, Lee could hear his hands searching for the torch on the ground around them. Suddenly he heard a triumphant cry.
“I found it!”
The light clicked on, illuminating the full extent of their predicament. Lee gently took the light from Alexei. He shone it at every crevice and rock face. On first pass, it looked like they were stuck for the duration. He could only hope that Yaroslav would figure out where they had gone before they ran out of air. Lee carefully sat down beside Alexei, trying not to aggravate his leg any more.
The small shaky voice cut through Lee’s defenses. He put an arm around the child’s small shoulders and drew him closer, noting how cold he felt.
“It’s alright to be scared, Alexei, but Yaroslav knows about this place so we’ll be out of here before long.” He took his sweater off and helped Alexei to put it on. In his hurry to go after him, he’d made a critical error by not taking the time to pull on a coat.
Alexei snuggled into Lee’s chest. “I am sorry, Lee.”
“Why did you run away?”
“One of the children told me that if the soldiers came they would take me away from you.”
Lee frowned. “Alexei, what happened to you when your parents…after your parents were no longer able to look after you?” He felt the trembling return to Alexei’s small frame and hugged him a little tighter. “It’s alright if you don’t want to tell me.”
“I was left alone, I had nobody. Yaroslav found me and brought me here.” He paused. “I was scared all the time and hungry. I miss my Mother and Father.”
“I know you do, Alexei, I know you do,” he soothed.
“I ran away because I knew I would be alone again. I didn’t want them to find me because I would lose you too.”
Lee leaned his head against the rocky wall and sighed. What could he do? Seaview and ONI took him away on missions all the time – frequently dangerous and possibly deadly. Alexei deserved better than that, even if he could take him back to the States and adopt him. He’d felt a bond with Alexei the moment he’d laid eyes on the boy, and now he knew that the bond was reciprocated more deeply than he had thought.
“Alexei, what do you want from me?”
“I want you to be my father,” he replied without hesitation, clasping Lee’s arm with his small hands.
Lee didn’t say anything. He just sat there holding Alexei in his arms, trying to figure out what he could do.
Night fell quickly. Chip had already searched for Lee but found no trace of either him or Alexei. He heard a truck pull up. Both Nelson and Yaroslav got out.
“Admiral, am I glad to see you. Lee’s missing, and the paratroopers will be here soon.”
Instead of seeing alarm on the Admiral’s face he was surprised when Nelson put a hand on his shoulder. “Calm down, Chip. Where is Lee? What happened?”
“He ran off after Alexei, in that direction.” Chip pointed towards the quarry. “Lee followed him. We’ve searched for them but haven’t had any luck. The wind’s blown away any footprints and it’ll be dark soon.”
Yaroslav’s eyes narrowed and he nodded towards where Chip had pointed. “That direction, you say?”
The Russian yelled some orders to his men. He turned to Nelson and Chip. “Follow me. I believe I know where they have gone.”
“But Admiral, what about the paratroopers?”
Nelson shook his head. “They won’t be coming now. I’ve managed to…let me say persuade, one of my friends to help us. The army will be coming, but to help Yaroslav, not to arrest him.”
They followed the big Russian as he ran towards the quarry. Once at the top he carefully walked down the steep road until he came to a pile of fresh rubble. “No!” he uttered softly.
Nelson stepped forward. “What is it?”
“They have to be in there. It is the old mine shaft Alexei showed me before. Where he took Lee.”
“Do your men have any equipment we can use to dig them out?”
“Some, but when the military arrive they will have shovels.”
Once again Yaroslav calmly gave orders to his men. Nelson couldn’t help but admire the man. “Yaroslav, we might need Doctor Jamieson.”
Yaroslav nodded. “I have already asked one of my men to bring him when we are close to digging through. I do not want to take him away from the children unnecessarily.”
“Yes, you’re right of course,” agreed Nelson.
It didn’t take long for the men to come back. Chip grabbed a shovel off one, refusing to stand by while his friend was in trouble. The digging took time, but eventually they broke through. Nelson insisted the mine be shored up before anyone went any further.
“Lee, Alexei, can you hear us?” Nelson strained his ears but couldn’t hear any sounds. “Perhaps there’s another cave-in further down.”
They carefully made their way into the shaft. Chip went first, but it was slow going. Neither Yaroslav nor the Admiral wanted to take any chances that an unstable section would collapse.
“Admiral! You were right. This section near the bend has caved in as well.”
“Lee! Lee, can you hear me?” shouted Nelson.
Chip had his ear close to the rubble. He thought he heard a voice, then there were two voices. “Admiral, I can hear them.”
“Right, let’s start digging.”
Lee could hear the scraping sounds getting louder. “It won’t be long now, Alexei, and they’ll break through.”
Lee could almost see the boy’s spirit leave him and instinctively knew what he had to do. “Alexei, I won’t let them take you away.”
“What do you mean, Lee?”
He took a deep breath.
Alexei wasn’t going to let him off the hook easily. “I want to take you back to
Alexei’s head moved to look at him. “To be your son?”
Lee wiped some perspiration from his brow. Phew, this was harder than he’d thought. “Yes, but before you get too excited, you will have to stay with a friend of mine when I’m on missions.” He hoped his ‘friend’ would agree to the suggestion. A shiver ran through his body. It was just as well they’d been found. Even though they weren’t exposed, the early morning would have been very cold.
Alexei twisted and threw his arms around Lee’s neck. “Oh, thank you, Lee. Thank you,” he cried happily.
A warm glow filled Lee. It amazed him that after all Alexei had been through, he was still capable of happiness and love. He was a brave child with no expectation other than to be cared for.
“Lee, we’re through, we just have to put supports in for the roof. Are you and Alexei alright? Jamie’s on his way.”
“We’re both alright, Admiral. I think I hurt a muscle in my leg.” Jamie’d find out sooner or later that it was broken, but he didn’t want to upset Alexei.
“Don’t worry, lad, we’ll have you both out soon.”
“Yes, Sir.” At that moment the penlight batteries finally gave out. “It’s alright, Alexei, we’ll be safe once they fix the tunnel.”
“I am not worried, Father.”
Lee felt moisture pool in his eyes, and quickly blinked it away. Now he knew what it would be like to have a son. The pride he felt when Alexei had called him Father was beyond compare to any emotion he’d ever experienced.
The rubble from the rock-fall slowly started to disappear and light began to filter through the growing hole. Jamie and Chip were the first to reach their side.
“Alexei, let’s get you out of here and then I’ll look after Lee,” said Jamie in stilted Russian, taking Alexei’s hand.
Alexei pulled his hand away from Jamie, his panicked eyes looking up at Lee. “No, I stay with Lee.”
“Alexei, everything will be alright now. Go with Chip,” Lee gave the child an encouraging smile. “He’ll promise not to let you out of his sight, won’t you, Chip?” he finished in Russian and English.
Chip took Lee’s cue and nodded. “Tell Alexei I’ll take him back to the hospital and get him something to eat and a warm drink.”
After Lee had translated for Alexei, although the boy still looked wary, he allowed Chip to help him to his feet.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” promised Lee.
Alexei gave him a long sad look then dropped his chin and nodded. “Alright, Father.”
Lee ignored the shock on Jamie and Lee’s faces and watched him for as long as he could.
“I’m not going to ask what that was all about yet. Where are you hurt?”
“Left leg, I think it’s broken at the top.”
“Had to be broken,” mumbled Jamie. “Couldn’t be a simple sprain. How did it happen?”
“I was shielding Alexei, a big rock hit me. I felt it snap.”
“I’ve put some local into your leg, but this might still hurt. Yaroslav!”
“Could you help me with Lee’s leg?”
“Of course, what do I need to do?”
“Elevate it while I slide an inflatable cast over it.”
Lee gritted his teeth but the pain wasn’t as bad as he’d thought. He started to tremble as the cast settled his leg into place.
Jamie touched his hand. “Lee, you’re freezing.”
“Not enough time to put on a jacket, Jamie. I had to find Alexei and stop him from running away again.”
Jamie dropped his voice. “He called you Father.”
Lee cleared his throat. Perhaps he would be able to feign unconsciousness before he had to answer Jamie’s question.
“Jamie, what did you say?” asked the Admiral.
“Admiral, ah, I didn’t realize you were standing there.”
Lee grimaced when he saw the set of Nelson’s features. “I, uh…well, I thought that maybe I could take Alexei back to the States with us when we left.”
“Oh, you did, did you?” He rubbed a hand over his hair. “Lee, these children are sick, Jamie may or may not have found a cure. Apart from that, they’re Russian nationals, the red tape involved in adopting one, would be extraordinary. What would you do with him when you were away at sea, or on missions?”
“Admiral, please, he’s got a broken leg. I need to keep him quiet.”
“I…oh, very well. Get him settled back at the hospital and then we’ll talk.” He walked off irritably.
“That went well,” grumbled Lee.
“Well, you have to admit it was a bit of a shock – for all of us. Alright, this isn’t going to be too pleasant because we don’t have a stretcher. A hospital, but no stretcher, go figure.” He indicated for one of the Russians to help Lee to his feet but Yaroslav ordered him away.
“I will take the Commander, Doctor.”
Lee felt the vague grinding of bone on bone, then they were out of the shaft. He felt the stab of a needle in his arm, then nothing more.
“How do you feel, Lee?”
Lee slowly opened his eyes. He felt no pain except for a dull ache where the break had been. “I feel good, Jamie. Where’s Alexei?”
Jamie gave him a broad smile. “He’s out playing basketball with the soldiers and the other children. Don’t worry, Chip’s looking after him.”
Lee relaxed back against the bed. “Thanks. How long have I been out?”
“Only twenty-four hours.” Jamie continued before Lee could protest. “I have some good news for you. With the Admiral’s help, I’ve perfected the cure. We’ve trialed it on the sickest children and there was an almost immediate improvement.”
“That’s great, Jamie. What about the rest?”
Jamie finished taking his vitals and sat beside the bed. “If I have a positive result by the end of the week I’ll begin inoculating all of the children – including Alexei.”
“Jamie, I think I owe you an explanation.”
The doctor slowly shook his head. “For what?”
Lee focused his attention on the window. “I told you that it wasn’t you that I fought against whenever I was in sickbay. That part was true. The reason I don’t like doctors is…is because I watched my brother die after he was given the wrong medicine. My mother and father were too busy grieving for him to remember that I was still in the room. I saw and heard everything,” he bit out the last few words. “Over the time I’ve known you, you’ve given me hope that not all doctors are like him. You really care about the people you treat, I just wanted you to know that.”
Jamie looked at him, speechless for a moment. “It’s taken you three years to tell me that?”
Lee grinned. “Sorry. I trusted you a long time before this, but seeing what you’ve done for the children, for Alexei…” he struggled to finish.
He felt Jamie’s arm on his. “I understand, Lee. There’s someone who wants to see you.”
Another hand fell onto Lee’s arm. “Father, are you better?” came the solemn question.
Lee turned to look into the child’s dark brown eyes, then his hand covered Alexei’s. “Much better thank you. Doctor Jamieson tells me you’ve been showing the soldiers how to play basketball?”
“Yes, they are not like the soldiers who came to our town. They are kind.”
“Lee, the Admiral wants to see you too.”
Lee nodded then ruffled Alexei’s hair. “I’ll see you in a little while. I have to speak with Admiral Nelson.”
“Do I have to leave?” he pouted.
Lee grinned. “Just for a little while. Now, off you go.”
Jamie disappeared behind Alexei and a few seconds later Chip and Admiral Nelson walked into the room.
“Lee, how are you feeling?” asked Chip, immediately sitting on the bed and shoving Lee’s injured leg over.
“Watch it, that’s the broken one,” he yelped.
Nelson cleared his throat. “Now, Lee, this business about Alexei…”
“Admiral, I can explain-“
Nelson waved him quiet and sat in the chair that Jamie had vacated. “It’s all organized. My friend from Moscow has assured me that the Army will transport the children into Masty once they’re all well enough. Then efforts will be made to either find their families or find them new ones who will care for them.”
“If you would like to adopt Alexei, the Russian authorities will not stand in the way. I’m sure once we’re back home I can move things along quickly.”
“Admiral, I don’t know what to say.”
“Just make sure he doesn’t interfere with your duties,” Nelson said gruffly as he stood up. “Chip, he’s all yours. I’m going to see if I can help Jamie.”
“Yes, Admiral.” He looked at Lee with concern. “Lee, are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“Alexei…he’s special. The last few days have been some of the best of my life. I can’t imagine it without him. I don’t want to leave him here, he’s been hurt enough.” Lee shifted restlessly in the uncomfortable bed. “Believe me, Chip, he means a lot to me.”
“But what about the times you’re away?”
“I’ve got that covered.”
Lee’s eyes twinkled. “Never you mind.”
“What are you up to, Lee?”
“I’ll tell you later.” He yawned. “Right now I think I need some sleep.”
“Don’t think you’re going to get away with it that easily.”
“Sorry, Chip,” mumbled Lee as he drifted off to sleep.
Lee sat on the end of the bed and slowly put some weight onto the leg that still had the cast. It felt a little bit strange, but he didn’t feel any pain.
He was almost knocked back across the bed as the little figure launched at him from across the room. “Whoa, Alexei. What’s up?”
“Yaroslav told me we will be going home tomorrow.” The excited look on his face made Lee’s heart swell.
“When we get back home, there’s someone I want you to meet. Someone who I hope will take care of you when I’m at sea.”
Before he could answer, Admiral Nelson walked into the room. “Lee, I need to see you.”
“Can it wait?”
He sighed. “Alexei, I need to talk to the Admiral. I’ll see you outside in a little while.”
Alexei nodded and cast Nelson a cautious glance.
“What is it, Sir?”
“It’s Katerina, Yaroslav’s had her thrown her into a cell.”
“What!” He struggled off the bed and grabbed a walking stick. “Take me to her.”
“Didn’t she tell him why she betrayed him?”
Nelson shook his head. “No lad, I’m sorry. In this part of the world betrayals are dealt with harshly.”
“I have to see her, with or without your help, Sir.”
“Oh, very well. Follow me.”
Nelson led Lee to a building separated from the main one. They rounded a corner only to be met by Yaroslav. “Admiral, Commander, what are you doing here?”
“I want to see Katerina,” demanded Lee.
Yaroslav’s eyes narrowed. “Why? She is a traitor.”
Lee gritted his teeth and prayed for patience. “No, she’s not. Didn’t she tell you about her mother?”
“What does that matter?”
“Lee, remember, life means very little in this country,” Nelson said.
Yaroslav closed the gap between himself and Nelson. “I do not think I like your tone, Admiral.”
Lee put his hand out towards Yaroslav. “He didn’t mean anything by that. The Admiral was reminding me that life here can be harsh. What will happen to Katerina?”
Yaroslav shrugged. “She will be dealt with.”
“What is your interest, Commander?”
“She didn’t betray you because she wanted to or was ordered to,” Lee insisted, trying to ignore the throbbing that had started in his leg. “Her mother’s sick. If she went on this last mission, all her medical expenses would be paid for.”
“I don’t believe that,” said Yaroslav. “She is a traitor.”
“Look, can’t your contacts find out if she’s telling the truth?”
“I suppose,” the Russian replied begrudgingly. “It could take time.”
“Then do it,” snapped Lee, the pain making him impatient. “I’m sorry, Yaroslav. I’ve known her a long time and I believe her. I know what she did was wrong, but I probably would have done the same thing in her place.”
“I will see what I can find out, Commander.”
Lee leaned against the wall, relief flooding over him. “Thank you, now, can I see her.”
He indicated to a doorway and gave Lee a key. “I will make no promises.”
“Admiral, if you don’t mind, I’d rather do this alone.”
Nelson nodded his understanding and stepped away from Lee as he opened the lock.
“Katerina?” The cell was dark, the light hadn’t been switched on but he could see her slim figure sitting on the bunk, head in her hands. He stood against the door frame for a moment, then stepped inside without bothering to lock the door. “Are you alright?”
When she didn’t answer, he sat down beside her, almost mimicking her actions when he’d been incarcerated in the room.
“Why are you here, Commander?”
Her formality bothered him. “I came to make sure you were alright, and to tell you that I’m going to do everything I can to help you.”
“Leave me alone, I do not need your sympathy,” she snapped.
“Do you really think that I would give you sympathy?” he asked quietly.
She gave him a look of disdain but her eyes betrayed her. “Yes. You westerners are soft.”
Lee struggled to find a way to reach her. “You said before that you didn’t want the children to be hurt?”
A myriad of emotions crossed her face. “Why?”
“Because I know that you feel something for the children.”
He stared at her and saw the conflict she was experiencing. “Katerina, please, tell Yaroslav the truth. He deserves that.”
Tears sprang to her eyes. “Please, Lee, don’t make me do this.”
“Why not? What are you afraid of?”
“Yaroslav, he…he’s my father,” she whispered before hiding her head in her hands.
“He’s what?” Lee said, shocked.
“I am so ashamed,” she replied so softly he had trouble hearing her.
“Is that why he’s being so hard on you?” He reached out to touch her hair, smoothing it back away from her face.
“Yes,” she replied with a sob.
“I don’t understand. If your mother is sick, doesn’t that make her Yaroslav’s wife?”
Her tearful eyes met his. “I…she left Yaroslav when I was a little girl. He refuses to recognize her.”
“Katerina, please, surely he would understand how you feel?”
“Don’t you understand, Lee. He doesn’t know she is sick.”
Lee stared at her, open-mouthed. “He doesn’t…. How could he not know about something like this?”
She looked at him in defeat. “I didn’t want him to know. What I did was wrong. I did not want to use my mother’s name as an excuse.” Katerina turned away from him.
“I’m afraid it’s a little late for that now,” said Yaroslav, walking into the open doorway.
“How…” She looked at Lee, her face angry. “You told him,” she said accusingly.
”I’m sorry, Katerina, I didn’t have any option. I wasn’t going to stand by while you allowed yourself to walk in front of a firing squad,” he replied firmly.
“That was my choice, not yours!” she yelled.
Lee stood up and made his way stiffly to the door. “Regardless, you two have to work things out.” He looked pointedly at Yaroslav.
“No Commander, she will be punished for her actions.”
As much as Yaroslav meant what he said, Lee could tell there was pain hidden deep inside him. “Well, I’ll leave you two to discuss things,” he said as he quickly shut the door from the outside and locked it. “I’ll be back in an hour.”
“Lee!” shrieked Katerina. “You come back here. Lee!”
Nelson stood a few feet from the doorway, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Lee?”
Lee laughed. “No, but it was the only thing I could think of on short notice. Where’s Jamie?”
“He’s in the high care ward. I’ll come with you.” Nelson looked at the door and grunted. “I think it would be preferable to hearing those two arguing with each other.”
“That’s for sure,” agreed Lee, limping down the hall on his cane, still able to hear yelling in the room behind them.
Jamie watched as Lee said his goodbyes to some of the other children. It had been a gift from heaven that Lee had followed him here after the events of the past mission, despite gaining a broken leg from the experience. Alexei clung tightly to his arm as he and Lee followed the Admiral to the FS1 with Katerina. The pair of them were kindred spirits.
Yaroslav slapped him hard on the back. “Well, Doctor, I can never repay you enough for what you have done for these children. If ever you are in need of anything, all you have to do is contact me and I will be there for you.”
Jamie winced as his shoulders protested from Yaroslav’s farewell. “Just make sure the rest of these children are given a chance in life and a family. Promise me that.”
Yaroslav’s bearded face broke into a broad smile. “On that you have my life. I do not want them to be fatherless just as my Katerina was for so many years.”
“That’s a good enough payment for me, Yaroslav. It’s been an honor knowing you.” Jamie held out his hand but found himself smothered in a massive hug. “Uh, I guess I’d better go now.”
He struggled out of Yaroslav’s bear-like grip and fell in beside him. They were silent until they reached the flying sub, Jamie because he was reluctant to leave the children whose care he had been responsible for over the last month. He knew the feeling of loss would pass, but at least Alexei was going with them.
“Lee, goodbye, and take good care of Alexei,” said the big Russian, giving him a similar farewell to the one Jamie had been subjected to.
Lee ruffled Alexei’s hair. “You have my word on that. Who knows, maybe I can bring him back here one day to visit you.”
Alexei gave both Yaroslav and Katerina a hug then jumped into the FS1.
Lee took Katerina’s hand and walked a little way from the others. “Promise me you’ll make him visit your mother.”
She beamed at him. “He has already agreed to see her. Thank you – for everything you have ever done for me, Lee.”
He gave her a shy smile as he limped back to the FS1, stepped inside and dogged the hatch behind him.
The moment he was onboard, Alexei flew into his arms. “Are we really going to fly, Father?”
Lee hugged him. “Yes, so you’d better get into your seat.” Once Alexei had calmed down and sat in a seat, Lee helped him to clasp the seatbelt in place.
Before long they had been cleared to leave Russian airspace
and had made good headway towards where the Seaview
waited for them off the coast of
“Are you okay, Jamie?” He’d noticed the doctor had been uncharacteristically quiet.
He gave Lee a weary smile. “I guess so. It’s a bit of an anti-climax. The last month has been pretty intense.”
Lee felt a twinge in his leg and gave it a rub.
Jamie pointed to it. “I want you to stay off that for another week. I don’t care if it’s crutches or the cane.”
“No buts, don’t make me pull rank,” he said sternly.
In spite of himself, Lee smiled. “It’s good to have you back, Jamie.”
The medical officer ran a hand through his thinning hair. “It’s good to be back, Lee.”
Claire Kellogg waited impatiently at the window. It had been four weeks since she’d last seen Lee and she was anxious to apologize for her behavior. She realized that it had been a knee jerk reaction to the terrible news of her husband’s death. A tear formed in the corner of her eyes, but she quickly wiped it away. There had already been enough tears for a lifetime.
“Mary, are you sure he said they’d be here at two o’clock?” she asked her sister impatiently.
“Yes, Claire. Lee definitely said two o’clock.” She looked at Claire. “Would you like me to make you a cup of tea or coffee?”
Claire shook her head then turned back to stare out the window. “They’re here!” she said excitedly.
Without waiting for Mary, she opened the door and ran from the house to meet them in the driveway. Lee got out of the car a little awkwardly and she saw that he was wearing a cast on one leg. From the other side a young boy got out, she could tell that he was a little shy and uncertain.
“Lee, it’s so good to see you,” she said, giving him a warm hug. “And you must be Alexei?”
Alexei nodded, but seemed to be reluctant to leave Lee’s side. So she bent down beside him and put her arms gently around him. “I really hope we can become good friends, Alexei. Lee has told me so much about you, especially about how well you play basketball.”
Lee interpreted, and she watched as Alexei’s eyes lit up as soon as he said the word ‘basketball’.
“He’s gorgeous, Lee. Come inside. Mary’s in there and we’ve made some lunch for everyone.”
Lee took Alexei’s hand and they followed Claire up the steps and into the house. Once inside she was stunned to see Alexei’s reaction. He spoke excitedly to Lee and motioned around the house.
“Lee, what did he say?”
Lee smiled. “He said that your house is like a palace. He lived for so long on the street, with no parents or possessions that I’m worried that he might be a little overwhelmed by everything.”
Before she could reply, Mary came around the corner carrying a tray of drinks.
“Hello, Lee. How are you?” She handed a fruit juice to Alexei. “Hello, Alexei, I’m Mary.”
Alexei looked up at Lee. “Mary?”
“Yes, Alexei, Mary.” He took a drink from Mary. “He’ll be coming back to my place for another month, so by the time he comes to stay with you I’m hoping he’ll have some English. Although I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do about schooling between Santa Barbara and Washington.”
Claire looked at Mary, who nodded. “Well, I don’t have much
keeping me here now, except Mary, and she said that she wouldn’t mind if
I moved out to
“Are you sure, Claire? What about your job?”
“With Peter’s insurance policy I can afford to
pay off the mortgage and buy in
“Claire, we have a few openings at the Institute. That’s if you don’t mind working with crusty submariners and eccentric scientists,” offered Lee as he sat next to Alexei on the couch.
Claire looked to Mary who nodded. “It would be a wonderful opportunity, Claire.”
“I don’t know,” she said hesitantly and looked at Alexei. “Oh, why not, at least I would have a link to the Institute for Alexei when you’re not in port.”
Lee turned to Alexei and told him what was going on. Alexei’s eyes began to water and he gave Lee a tight hug before jumping up to do the same to Claire and Mary.
“Then it’s settled,” said Lee, satisfied that both Claire and Alexei would be happy.
“Let’s have lunch and we can talk about it,” suggested Mary.
Claire reached out for Alexei’s hand and the two of them walked into the kitchen.
Mary turned to Lee. “Thank you, Lee. If you’d seen how she changed after you phoned about Alexei…It gave her hope to keep going, to trust again that things would work out.”
Lee nodded and headed for the kitchen with Mary. “I’m glad. Perhaps for both of them it’s a time for trust again.”