WHILE OTHERS WALK ALONE

 

By Pauline Owers

Foreword: For Sally and all Crane fans.

Orig. published 1999 in Silent Running

This version has not been editied by Seaview Stories

 

 

It was a warm spring day in May, as the mourners gathered in the church of St Francis, to pay their last respects to Michael Smyth. A formal and sombre occasion, with maybe thirty people at the most, seated in the pews. Smyth had kept himself to himself since the tragic death of his wife Catherine, in a fire that had destroyed part of Catherine's family home, Westwood Manor. In the front row, Admiral Harriman Nelson was glad to have the moral support of his sister Edith, and close friend, Captain Lee Crane, as he sat surrounded by strangers. He could imagine what they were thinking; he felt like an intruder that had no right to be here. Smyth was a cousin who Nelson had not seen since he had been posted to England during the war. It was then that Michael had met Catherine. After the war, the two had married and Smyth took up permanent residence in England. Being an only child, Catherine had inherited the family home on the death of her parents'. Then had come the fire. Michael had always suspected it had been arson, but had never been able to prove it.

 

Nelson's attention was returned to the service by the congregation kneeling to pray. Fortunately the prayer was one he was familiar with, and he did not need to search for the relevant page in the prayer book. As the service ended, Father Walsh stepped down from the pulpit to lead the procession from the church to the waiting cars, for the short journey to Smyths' final resting place, beside his beloved Catherine, in the family crypt in the grounds of Westwood Manor. Nelson and Edith moved to take their place behind the coffin, closely followed by Crane. Nelson felt no real grief, though he was not altogether unmoved by the occasion. He felt somewhat hypercritical. The only two people who had been really close to his cousin were the Coopers, the housekeeper and gardener. They should be the ones to be here, not him.

 

Nelson looked at Crane as they settled into the seat of the car. The two had hardly spoken since they had arrived at the church. He should not have dragged Lee along, it was not fair to put him through this, but Lee smiled reassuringly and didn't seem to mind. Crane turned to look out of the window as the cortege moved away, down the tree-lined avenue. England was lovely at this time of year and reminded him of home. A few of the trees were still in blossom, and everywhere was green. The car's speed increased slightly as they pulled out onto the main road. There was little of interest here, and Crane rested back into the upholstery. He was feeling decidedly jet lagged. His thoughts turned to Seaview and he wondered what Chip Morton was doing. It would be around 7am in Santa Barbara, so Chip would probably just be getting up; you never got to lay in at Chip's place; the cats saw to that.

 

The car finally turned into a narrow drive, marked by two white posts. It wound up through cedar and oak trees, to the house, with its Tudor frontage and handsome brick bays. Ivy and Wisteria rambled over the walls, the pale mauve ribes cascading down in a waterfall of colour. It had been a tiring afternoon, spent socializing and trying to be polite to complete strangers. Mrs Cooper had made them welcome, apologizing for not meeting them before the service, as she had been busy preparing their rooms, and producing the excellent buffet that they had all enjoyed. People had been naturally curious about them, and they had all had the usual questioning about what they did, and where in America did they come from? Nelson had been careful not to give too much away, as had Crane. Poor Edith had to contend with enquiries as to whether her and the young Captain were romantically involved, and did they plan to marry? Some chance, and it was not for the want of trying on her part, but being Nelson's sister made her off limits as far as Lee was concerned. Lee was one of the most desirable men she knew. With his classic good looks, he could have any girl he wanted. Unfortunately, Lee was always the perfect gentleman around her. There were times when being Nelson's sister was a definate disadvantage.

 

 

Weary from the endless round of polite conversation, making the correct response when spoken to, Crane had retreated to the quiet of the library. Closing the oak panelled doors behind him, he stood for a moment, resting back against them. His gaze explored the room, stopping at the painting of a young woman hanging between two mahogany book cases. He walked towards it for a closer look; she was beautiful.

 

The heavy oak doors opened and Nelson's voice broke into Crane's thoughts. "Oh, here you are, Lee."

 

Crane glanced over his shoulder towards Nelson, then turned back to the portrait.

 

"I see you've found Catherine," Nelson commented, walking towards Crane.

 

"Umm, she was beautiful," Lee answered absently, without turning. There was something almost hypnotic about the picture. Her green eyes seemed fixed on him, with a look of mischievous amusement, and there was an aura of benevolence emanating from the portrait.

 

Nelson watched Lee with concern. "Lee?"

 

With an effort, Lee pulled his gaze away and turned to Nelson. "She's very captivating." he commented.

 

"She was," Nelson nodded agreement. "She and Michael were devoted to each other."

 

"I can understand why," Lee replied thoughtfully, golden-brown eyes straying back to the painting.

Nelson touched his arm. "Are you all right?"

 

"Yes, why?" Lee answered with surprise, seemingly unaware of the distracted manner in which he had first reacted to Nelson.

 

"You just seem a little preoccupied,'' Nelson shrugged casually, knowing that Lee hated any-one fussing over him.

 

"Sorry - I was just daydreaming," Crane smiled.

 

Nelson raised a quizzical eyebrow, but did not pursue the subject. Instead he changed the subject. "Come on, we'd better go and rescue Edith."

 

oooOooo

 

The house was quiet now, everyone had retired for the night. Entering the bedroom, she drifted silently to the bed where the handsome stranger lay sleeping. In the pale light filtering through the curtained window, he looked so peaceful. He lay completely still, one arm folded behind his head, the other resting at his side.

His friends had called him Lee. She had been aware of his sensitivity from the moment he entered the house. Could she at last have found someone to help her? "Lee," she whispered softly, her mind tentatively reaching out to his subconscious. She smiled with satisfaction as he stirred, his arm slipping from under his head to fall onto the pillow. Carefully, she moved his arm back beneath the covers. These early spring nights could be cold and the heating had never been adequate for such a large house. She continued to watch over him - it was good to have people in the house again.

 

 

Crane woke to the delicate perfume of roses drifting on the air and the feeling that someone else was in the room. Sitting up, he turned on the bedside light and looked around the room, but there was no-one to be seen. Pushing aside the covers, he got out of bed and put on his robe before walking across to the door. Opening it, he looked up and down the passage - nothing stirred.

 

Leaving the room, he walked a little way down the passage. The house was silent except for the loud tick of the grandfather clock on the landing and the creaking of the old floor boards. Becoming aware of the cold, Crane returned to his room. It was just as he had left it, except for the perfume, which he could no-longer smell. So what did you expect to find? he laughed to himself. He was letting his imagination get the upper hand. Throwing his robe across the foot of the bed, he turned out the light and lay down, pulling the covers up around his shoulders against the cold.

 

oooOooo

 

The next time Crane opened his eyes it was daylight outside. He stretched lazily and looked at his watch - it was 0800. Aboard Seaview, he would have been in the control room by now. For a moment he allowed himself the luxury of just lying there, listening to the birds singing outside the window. The old four poster bed was surprisingly comfortable, and he was almost tempted to close his eyes and go back to sleep. His stomach, however, had other ideas, and the thought of breakfast provoked him into getting up. Putting on his robe, he crossed the room to the door concealing the bathroom. At least the old house had some modern features.

 

 

Catherine laughed to herself as the thought what his reaction would be if he knew that she was watching him. She imagined him to be somewhat sceptical about such things as ghosts. Stopping at the bathroom door, she resisted the temptation to follow any further. A lady must have some scruples--even if she is a ghost.

 

Nelson put down his paper and looked up as Crane entered the dining room. "Morning, Lee - sleep well?" he asked.

 

"Yes, thank you," Crane smiled. Moving to the table, he sat down and helped himself to coffee.

 

Mrs Cooper appeared at his side. "Morning Sir, are you hungry?" she asked pleasantly.

 

"Yes, ravenous," Lee replied enthusiastically.

 

Nelson smiled with amusement. This was a first, to say the least. It was unusual for Lee to eat more than a piece of toast for breakfast.

 

"What would you like?" Mrs Cooper was asking.

 

"Whatever is going. I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble."

 

"It's no trouble, sir," she replied, and removed Nelson's empty cup as she turned away.

 

Crane sipped his coffee thoughtfully while he waited for his food to arrive. The house felt different in daylight --- warm and welcoming.

 

"I have to go into town this morning," Nelson said, interrupting Lee's thoughts. "The solicitors are reading the will, and Edith and I have to attend," he continued. "Would you like to come along, Lee?"

 

"No thanks, Admiral, I'll stay here."

 

Nelson nodded and returned his attention to the newspaper while he waited for his sister. He was quite enjoying himself playing lord of the manor. He had been more than a little surprised when he'd been contacted by the solicitors; it was the last thing he had expected.

 

Mrs Cooper returned with Lee's breakfast. "Careful, the plate is hot," she cautioned as she put the plate down in front of him.

 

"Um, it smells wonderful. Thank you," Lee smiled.

 

Nelson could not help chuckling to himself behind his paper. Lee usually only ate of necessity, and often skipped meals completely when occupied by some crisis or other, much to the consternation of his friends, and Will Jamieson, Seaview's Doctor, who frequently resorted to threats in order to make Lee eat. Even Cookie had been known to prepare something special to tempt his Captain's appetite. Yet here was Lee, tucking into egg, sausage, tomato and toast. If only Chip Morton were here to witness this.

 

Crane was enjoying his breakfast, oblivious of Nelson's scrutiny. He felt completely relaxed, with nothing to worry about. There were no reports to write, no letters to sign, no log to write, in fact nothing needing his attention --- he was free to do whatever he wanted, and it was a good feeling.

 

oooOooo

 

The discovery that the house had a glass enclosed swimming pool was an unexpected pleasure that was too hard to resist. Crane loved the water and was completely at home in it, whether it be in a pool, or in the depths of the ocean. The sparkling water looked inviting. Kneeling at the edge of the pool, he touched a hand to the water to test the temperature. It was pleasantly warm. The sun, shining through the glass was quite powerful, and had added its heat to the water. He hadn't packed for this unforseen bonus, but he was alone in the house, and it was unlikely that he would be interrupted by any of the neighbours dropping in.

 

In the adjacent shower room, he found towels and a robe. Quickly he stripped off his clothes and folded them, and put on a robe before returning to the poolside. Laying the towel on one of the sunloungers, he slipped off the robe and plunged into the pool in a smooth, clean dive. The water was invigorating, and he swam effortlessly, gliding through the water with an easy over-arm stroke. Reaching the end of the pool, he made a graceful turn, and kicked off from the wall, propelling himself several feet through the crystal clear liquid, before starting to swim again. Slowly he became aware of a change in the atmosphere. His skin tingled and he had an irresistible impulse to look over his shoulder to see if anyone had entered the room. Stopping in the middle of the pool, he shook the water out of his eyes and looked around. There was no-one there and, his anxiety appeased, he continued to enjoy his swim.

 

oooOooo

 

Mr Attwood, of Harrison & Attwood, solicitors, rose from behind his desk and extended his hand to Nelson as his secretary introduced them. "Admiral Nelson, delighted to meet you."

 

"Thank you," Nelson accepted the outstretched hand, "And this is my sister, Edith."

 

"Delighted, and Mr and Mrs Cooper, of course." Attwood shook hands with them all in turn. "Please sit down." He waved in the direction of the chairs that had been placed ready for them.

 

As they settled into the chairs, the solicitor sat down and opened the folder that lay on his desk in front of him. "Mr Westwood-Smyth's will is quite straightforward," he told them. "I'll start with the bequests to you, Mr and Mrs Cooper. To Mrs Cooper, he has left his wife's jewellery, and the sum of 10,000, jointly with Mr Cooper. The remaining assets, being the house, its contents, and grounds, are left to you, Admiral Nelson and your sister. It was Mr Smyth's hope that you would retain the Coopers in their present positions." he concluded.

 

Nelson nodded. "Yes, of course, thank you." It had been over 25 years since he had seen Michael, and Nelson had not even given any thought as to what he was going to do with the estate.

 

"If there is anything I can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact me," Attwood offered.

 

Nelson thanked him again and stood, shaking hands with Attwood before turning to leave.

 

oooOooo

 

In a single move, Crane hauled himself up and out of the pool, on to the tiled edge. Retrieving the towel from the lounger, he dried himself off before securing the towel around himself and walking across to where he had left the robe, lying on the floor. As he bent to pick it up, he felt the towel slipping from around his waist, and grabbed for it, too late to stop it from falling to the floor. At the same moment he distinctly felt something brush softly against his bare skin. He straightened quickly, pulling on the robe to cover himself. "Who's there?" he asked to empty air.

 

Despite there being no-one there, he still felt uneasy, as if he were being watched. Dressed in only the robe, he was conscious of his nakedness, and it added to his sense of vulnerability. This made him angry with himself. He knew there was no-one else in the house; the Coopers had gone with Nelson and Edith... so why was he allowing himself to get so rattled. There was no reason to suspect that there was any danger here. Disgusted with himself, he scooped up the towel from where it had fallen and headed for the shower room.

*

 

Crane looked up from the book he was reading, to see that the door to the library was open. I could have sworn I'd closed that, he thought. Nevertheless it was open now. Laying the book down, he got up and walked over to the open door. Looking into the library, he asked, "Is anyone there?"

 

He was not surprised when he received no reply. Shaking his head, he closed the door and turned back to the study; all this peace and quiet was making him restless. Settling back into the leather armchair beside the fire, he picked up the book again. It was one he had found in the library, a history of the house and the Westwood family. As he read, he again had the feeling of being watched, yet he knew that there was no-one else in the room. Suddenly the memory of that terrible incident with Captain Krueger flashed into his mind and he felt a shiver run down his back. It was a memory that he had buried deep in the unreachable recesses of his mind, yet he could remember everything so clearly, as if it only happened yesterday. He could see the look of anguish on Nelson's face, feel the pain of the bullet and the preternatural chill of Krueger's touch. Crane closed his eyes. The bullet wound had long since healed, but the emotional scars were still there. Get a hold of yourself, he told himself. He was letting the atmosphere of the old house, and the tragic events that had happened here, influence his thoughts. He did not believe in ghosts. He could not allow himself to, for the sake of his sanity. He refused to acknowledge that Krueger had been the ghost of a long dead German sub Commander.

 

 

She felt his distress, shared his pain. She wanted so much to be able to reach out to him. To hold and comfort him. As she went deeper into his subconscious she came up against a barrier that she could not penetrate. She knew that somehow this was connected to the fragmented pictures that had briefly entered his mind. Who was Captain Krueger, and why had he wanted Lee Crane murdered? The sound of the doorknob turning broke the spell and she slipped away, back to her body's resting place. She would leave Crane to the physical world for now.

 

 

Lee came out of his daydreaming to realise that the book had slipped from his fingers and lay open in his lap. Then his attention was taken by the door opening, and the appearance of Nelson.

 

"Hello, Lee."

 

Crane smiled. "Admiral, how did it go?" he asked.

 

"Oh, fine," Nelson nodded. "It seems that I have inherited the estate."

 

Lee looked pleased, "Congratulations, what are you going to do with it?"

 

"I hadn't really thought about it, Lee, I suppose I could always open a British branch of the Institute."

 

"Oh," Lee commented, frowning at the thought of what Nelson might have in mind, and what it could mean for Seaview.

 

"You don't like the idea," Nelson observed.

 

Crane closed the book and stood up. "It's not that, I just wondered how it would affect Seaview."

 

"Why should it have any effect?" Nelson asked.

 

Lee shifted uncomfortably, "Well, wouldn't it mean you spending a lot of time here?"

 

"Oh, I'm sure that you could cope without me, Lee," Nelson said cheerfully.

 

"But what about Santa Barbara?" Lee objected.

 

Nelson pursed his lips in thought before replying. "Umm, I could always promote Chip to Captain. That would leave you free to run the Institute," Nelson told him.

 

"Oh, no!" Lee shook his head frantically. "Don't even think about it,"he warned.

 

Nelson smiled in amusement at Lee's indignant expression. "Relax, Lee. I wouldn't even dare suggest it. I would like to live a little longer," he said laughingly.

 

Lee scowled at him, then grinned. "Admiral, don't even..." Crane shook his head at the older man in mock exasperation.

 

Nelson put a hand on his shoulder. "I had you going there for a minute," he chuckled. "Found something interesting?" he asked, indicating the book Lee still held.

 

"I found it in the library," he said casually handing the book to Nelson. He wasn't ready to tell him about his feeling regarding the house.

 

Nelson flicked through the pages, then looked at him thoughtfully. "Any reason for you taking so much interest in the history of this place?" he asked.

 

"No," Lee shrugged and quickly changed the subject. "I found the swimming pool - I haven't been skinny dipping since I was a kid."

 

"I hope you're not going to make a habit of it?" Nelson joked. "I have a reputation to maintain."

 

"No, Admiral," Lee laughed.

 

"Come on. Mrs Cooper said something about putting the kettle on." Nelson said, steering him towards the door.

 

oooOooo

 

That evening, Mrs Cooper prepared a special celebratory meal in honour of the manor's new owners, Nelson and Edith. Mr Cooper produced a bottle of champagne from the cellar, and they all enjoyed a relaxing evening of good food and light conversation. The menu consisted of melon with ginger, followed by salmon steaks in hollandaise sauce, with a selection of vegetables. The sumptious meal was finished off with mallow apple pie. Everything was all excellently prepared. It was late by the time they finished coffee and retired to their rooms for the night.

 

 

Crane stirred in his sleep, dreaming. He was walking in the grounds, while above him clouds drifted, occasionally obscuring the moon and turning the night into an indistinct world, half concealed in darkness. Westwood Manor looked sinister and threatening. Long shadows fell across the lawn and he became conscious of an eerie stillness, like the quiet before a storm.

 

As he approached the house, he noticed that there was something strange, an unfamiliarity. Then he saw the flicker of light in the window, the orange red glow of fire, and he realised, to his horror, that the house was alight. "Admiral!" Crane cried out in desperation, running towards the house in an attempt to save his friends. The fire was spreading rapidly through the house. He could hear glass breaking in the heat of the fire and smoke poured from the windows. A woman's scream caused him to look up. A young woman was at the window and she reached out, screaming, pleading for someone to help her. Then she had disappeared, dragged back into the room by some unseen person behind her. Sparks were erupting from the roof now, and flames danced around the windows. The wall was starting to buckle and the sound of wood cracking reached Lee as the internal structure collapsed. He stood in frozen horror, as the mortar crumbled, and the walls began to disintegrate - slowly at first, but then masonry and other debris was falling, raining down around him. Then abruptly the roof caved in.

 

 

Crane woke suddenly, jolted out of his nightmare. He lay in the darkness. There had been something familiar about the woman in his dream; he could not remember, but nevertheless he felt disturbed by it. He was too sleepy to allow it to keep him awake, though. Rolling onto his side, he burrowed deeper under the blankets and was soon asleep again.

 

 

She hoped that when he awoke he would remember his dream, and know it was her he'd seen at the window. She had waited a long time for someone to come. Silently, she melted away into the darkness, leaving him to sleep in peace for the rest of the night.

 

 

In the half-light of dawn, Crane was woken by something nagging at the back of his mind, subconsciously reminding him of the dream he had had. He knew that the house had been this house, Westwood Manor. Something, or someone was trying to tell him something, something important. He also had a strong feeling of being watched by an observer, somehow connected to this house, like an echo of someone from the past. But this was ridiculous, he needed to get a firm hold of his imagination. Once again he was getting too close to the realms of ghosts, and he didn't believe in ghosts, he reminded himself. Yet he could not dispel the memory of the dream, it had seemed so real. Suddenly he remembered the woman at the window; it had been Catherine. Then he caught the scent of roses. The intoxicating fragrance brought a feeling of tranquillity, warm and comforting. Just as suddenly, it was gone. Crane shivered, throwing back the covers, as he reached for his robe and shrugged it on, climbing out of bed. He crossed to the window and opened the heavy tapestry curtains to look down on the garden. It was going to be another fine day. Crane glanced at his watch, maybe an early morning swim would clear away the cobwebs; there should'nt be anyone else awake at this hour.

 

oooOooo

 

A wolf whistle interrupted Crane in mid-stroke, and the realisation that someone had entered the pool room caused him to flounder in the water. Recovering, he looked up to find Edith, wearing a swimsuit, standing at the poolside smiling.

 

"What's the matter? Don't tell me you're shy," she teased with obvious delight.

 

"Edith... what?" Lee spluttered, the colour rising in his cheeks.

 

"I've come to join you for an early morning swim," she smiled broadly, her eyes sparkled mischievously.

 

"No! Don't you dare," Lee yelped sharply in panic, and, as he momentarily forgot his position, he lowered his hands to cover his embarrassment and immediately began to sink. Fortunately, the pool was not deep here, and he easily regained the surface.

 

"I'm not one of your crew, you can't order me around." she told him. , I don't know why you're making so much fuss, you look great from where I'm standing," she baited.

 

"Edith, for heaven's sake, will you stop fooling around, and hand me a towel." Lee replied impatiently. "And turn around."

 

Edith shook her head. "I don't think I want to, I'm quite enjoying the view," she tormented. Her gaze lingered on the shimmering water before returning to meet his.

 

"Stop looking at me like that," Lee chastised. He felt like a cornered animal, unable to escape. What if Nelson should walk in?

 

"What, playing hard to get?" she continued unashamed.

 

Lee ignored that remark as he turned and began to swim to the other end of the pool, angry and embarrassed.

 

"Spoilsport!" she called after him, laughingly.

 

Lee muttered under his breath, but made no verbal response to her teasing. He had known Edith nearly as long as held know her brother, and however fond of her he was, their relationship could never be more than friends. Nelson had treated Lee like a brother, and he would never do anything that might jeopardise that friendship.

As he reached the edge of the pool, a movement on the border of his vision caught his attention. "What the-?" He watched as the towel he'd left lying on the tiled edge floated across to his side of the pool and dropped to the floor within inches of his hand.

 

"Lee, what's going on?" Edith asked.

 

"I don't know," Lee found himself looking around for some explanation, but there was none. Then he noticed the smell of roses, as he had on that first night, and again he had the feeling of being watched.

 

"I don't think I want a swim after all," Edith said, already walking towards the door. "You can come out now - I promise not to look." She called back.

 

Crane didn't know what had happened, but he was grateful to whatever had come to his rescue.

 

 

She hadn't wanted to disturb him. As she'd watched him, she could not help her eyes straying to his male attributes as she realised that he was nude; it had been a long time since she'd known a man. Too many nights she had walked alone through this house, that had once been her home.

The moment was spoiled by the arrival of Edith, and Catherine resented her intrusion. She envied Edith's obvious closeness to Lee, and suddenly realised that her own interest in him was more than just as an instrument to aid her gain her freedom from this existence. As she watched, her anger and jealousy grew, until she could stand no more. She had to intervene, to save him further embarrassment from Edith's teasing. Using her powers of psychokinesis, she threw open the shower room door, while picking up the towel from where it lay on the floor, and deposited it within inches of his hand.

 

Seeing that Edith was already heading for the door, Catherine smiled in satisfaction. Now if she could convince Lee of her existence, and guide him to the truth about her death, maybe she would finally find peace. Unsure of how he would react to her, she decided to wait before letting him see her. She had waited a long time, so a few more days would not matter. Besides, being a ghost had its advantages; she hadn't had this much fun in years.

 

oooOooo

 

Discovering that Crane had not packed any swimwear, Edith insisted on taking him into town that morning, shopping; much to the amusement of her brother. They explored several of the small craft and specialist shops, looking for souvenirs, and gifts to take back for friends. Choosing something for Chip proved difficult, and in the end, Lee had settled for a brass ship's bell, stamped 'Titanic 1912'. He could just imagine Chip's expression.

 

Moving on to the arcade, they found it contained the usual high street chains, drugstore and supermarkets. In one of the alleyways leading off, Edith discovered the perfect place to shop for swimwear. A rather expensive department store, it was a family business which had been in the town for years, expanding over the years into the large store it was now.

 

Edith took Lee's arm and led him into the store. On their first cursory look around the menswear department, there did not appear to be anything in the line of swimwear. Crane would have been happy to leave it at that, but Edith had other ideas. Approached by a hovering salesman, she explained what they were looking for and asked if the store had any. The salesman directed them to a counter and began producing a selection from the drawers beneath, lying them on the counter for them to purview. There was a wide variety to choose from, everything from swimming trunks, shorts of various types, to something called magic shorts and even a pair of lycra cycle shorts. Lee chose a pair of plain cotton shorts, in jade, and Edith picked out a blue pair with printed side panels.

 

"Why don't you try them on?" she suggested.

 

Lee glared at her, horrified at the suggestion. "Are you serious?"

 

"They may not fit," she replied, trying to keep a straight face. "Unless you'd prefer these," she teased, holding up a skimpy pair of speedo briefs.

 

Crane's acute embarrassment was clear in his expression. "These will do fine," he said hastily, feeling the heat rising in his cheeks.

 

"Pity," Edith commented, dropping the briefs on to the counter.

 

Pointedly ignoring her, Lee handed the shorts to the salesman, "I'll take both pairs."

 

"Yes, sir, will there be anything else?" the delighted salesman enquired hopefully, looking at Edith, who he obviously assumed to be Crane's wife.

 

"No, thank you," Crane replied before Edith had a chance to think of something else he might need. There wasn't going to be enough room in his suitcase as it was.

 

Edith smiled sweetly, clearly for the benefit of the salesman, exploiting the situation for all it was worth.

 

Crane paid for his purchases and quickly steered her out of the store. Despite Edith's teasing, Lee had enjoyed their little excursion into town. He had forgotten about the dream that had disturbed his sleep, as his thoughts turned to more pleasant things. He had bought several postcards, including one for Chip, and was trying to think of something other than the usual remarks to write on it as they drove back to the house.

 

 

Helping Edith carry their purchases from the car, he entered the porch and walked through into the hall. Oak panelling on the walls, matching the heavy oak doors, and the panels of leaded glass of the windows gave it a warm glow. Family portraits lined the double staircase, also of oak, with graceful curving bannisters.

 

"I'll take these up to our rooms," he offered, escaping before Edith could say anything.

 

Putting his parcels down on the bed, Crane turned to the window. They had been fortunate with the weather so far. England could be both cold and wet at this time of year. As his vision dropped to the bedside table, he saw the book he had found in the library, lying on the table. He was sure that he'd left it on the desk in the study. As he picked up the book to examine it, a piece of paper fell from between the pages. Retrieving it from the floor, he unfolded it and read: 'I have waited so long for someone to come, please help to find my final resting place and set my spirit free, so that I might find eternal peace.'

 

Crane stared at the piece of paper for a long moment, was this someone's idea of a joke? Did they really expect him to believe this had been written by the ghost of Catherine? Who would want to do so, and why? It didn't make sense. There had to be some rational explanation - but what? All his training had taught him to believe what he saw. Was Catherine's spirit really present in the house? After a further moment of contemplation, he refolded the paper and returned it to the pages of the book, then put the book into the drawer. Turning back to the packages held left lying on the bed, he suddenly found himself face to face with Catherine. Taken by surprise, he took a step back and bumped into the table.

 

She stood silently watching him, the same look of mischievous amusement in her eyes, as if daring him to deny her existence. Slowly she moved closer and kissed him gently. Her touch was warm, and her perfume intoxicating. Crane found himself responding involuntarily, taking her into his arms. Then just as suddenly, she was gone, vanished into thin air. Crane looked around the room in bewilderment, but there was no sign of her. This was ridiculous, he told himself. He was not normally prone to hallucinations, but a ghost! He wondered what Seaview's doctor would say if he were here. Poor Jamieson. His skills were sorely tested by some of the things he was called to deal with in his capacity as ship's doctor. He'd probably put it down to a nervous disorder. That was Jamie's usual diagnosis for anything he could not explain. Well, Crane had his own remedy; a stiff drink, much better than some of Jamie's remedies.

 

 

When Catherine heard them returning, she decided that the time had come to test his reaction to her. Maybe being a ghost would not be so bad after all, if she had someone like him to share her eternal life. First, she needed to know if he would believe, and accept her existence. His first reaction to her appearance had been natural, but when she moved closed and kissed him, his response had been better than she had hoped. She hadn't expected him to react to her so readily. And he provoked feeling in her that she didn't think she could still feel. Could it really be possible that there was a chance they could be together? That she could once more have a relationship with a man? Too many long, empty hours, she'd wandered through the corridors and rooms of her ancestral home. Watching, but never able to communicate with her husband.

 

It was only after her death that she had discovered the secret of what was hidden behind the locked door in the cellar, and of Michael's secret double life. Those trips to London to attend medical lectures had been a cover. In reality, he was working for the American government as a micro-biologist : germ warfare. The installation hidden beneath the house had been bricked up during the restorations, and Michael continued his work at the base hospital. However, there was still the entrance concealed beneath the crypt, through a tunnel which ran to the house. Now it was time to put that all behind her. A new plan was taking shape in her mind. Tonight she would put it into action.

 

 

Nelson stubbed out his cigarette into the ashtray as his sister entered the drawing room. "Had a good time?" he inquired.

 

"Yes, thank you," Edith nodded, smiling, with a glint in her eyes.

 

From her happy disposition, Nelson guessed that the shopping expedition had been successful, although he wasn't sure if Lee would agree. "I hope you didn't embarrass poor Lee too much," he commented.

 

"Harry, as if I would," Edith replied innocently, as she dropped into an armchair and kicked off her shoes.

 

Nelson didn't believe that; he knew his little sister too well. She had often gotten him into trouble as a child and he had never figured out why their parents were so easily taken in by her. He chuckled to himself as he watched her relax into the plush dralon upholstery with a sigh of contentment.

He'd be only to pleased to see Edith marry someone like Lee Crane, but.... that was unlikely, Lee knew the dangers involved in commanding a submarine. Especially one that was called upon to undertake such dangerous missions as Seaview was. It was unlikely that Lee would ever marry since a wife could become a widow very quickly, and neither of them would want that to happen to Edith. Nelson and his sister both turned in the direction of the door as it opened and Lee walked in. Nelson's eyebrows rose questioningly as Lee wordlessly crossed the room to the cabinet and poured himself a large Scotch. It was early in the day for Lee to be drinking.

"Shopping that bad?" Nelson asked jokingly.

 

Lee took a swig of the whisky before answering. "This sounds crazy - but I think I've just seen a ghost," he laughed nervously.

 

"You think... you're not sure," Nelson asked.

 

"I turned around and there she was, as real as you are. Then the next minute she'd vanished," he explained.

 

"She?" Edith interrupted.

 

"Yes: Catherine," Lee replied, looking from Nelson to Edith.

 

Lee obviously believed he'd seen Catherine's ghost. Nelson's thoughts returned to their first evening in the house, when he'd found Lee in the library, standing in front of Catherine's portrait. Lee had appeared distracted, which Nelson had put down to jet lag at the time.

 

"You don't believe me, do you?" Lee asked.

 

"I didn't say that," Nelson replied carefully,, watching Lee finish his drink and put the glass down.

 

"But you don't?" Lee accused.

 

"All right, Lee - what do you want to do?" Nelson asked, careful not to say something that would upset the younger man.

 

"Aren't there people who investigate this sort of thing?"

 

"Now, Lee - don't you think that might be a little premature? Maybe we should wait and see if anything else happens." Nelson suggested, hoping that Lee would see reason and leave it at that for now.

 

Lee looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry, you're right... I..."

 

"Forget it, Lee. Come on, you're supposed to be on holiday. What about a game of chess?" Nelson suggested in the hope of distracting his young friend.

 

Lee's expression lightened into a smile. "All right, as long as you don't mind getting beaten."

 

"We'll see about that." Nelson laughed.

 

 

oooOooo

 

"Lee..."

 

The sound of someone calling his name brought Crane awake. Opening his eyes, he sat up. Simultaneously, he felt the unmistakable presence of someone outside the bedroom door. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw a mist that seemed to emanate from the door, forming in the air. As he watched, it slowly took shape, turning into the ghostly image of Catherine. He could see her clearly now. She appeared as solid and real as his own flesh. Her lips curved into a smile, and she raised her hands; palms up, reaching out to him, her eyes warm and inviting. Crane rubbed a hand across his eyes. It had to be an illusion, a trick of his mind, he told himself, but when he looked again, she was still there.

 

Slowly, she drifted towards the bed and she softly spoke his name again. He became aware of the scent of roses filling the air. Throwing back the covers, he got out of bed. "Who are you?" he asked.

 

"Catherine Westwood."

 

"That's impossible." Crane argued. "Catherine Westwood has been dead for years." he told her. But he could'nt deny what he was seeing with his own eyes, and her physical presence was very strong. He also sensed that there was no malicious intent by this..... visitation, for want of a better term.

 

"Come, don't be afraid," she beckoned, her voice soft and tranquil.

 

He was conscious of a serene calm creeping over him, and he felt drawn to her. Reluctantly, he took a step towards her. The room seemed to darken around her and Crane wanted to turn away, but he could not take his gaze from her. He felt compelled to reach out and take her outstretched hand in his. Despite himself, he moved closer and their hands met, fingers entwining. The room had vanished, and he felt as is he was floating, rather than walking. Then sudden glare of the lights coming on brought Crane back to awareness. Regaining his senses, he found himself in the study, seated in front of the rosewood desk with a worried Nelson standing beside him. "How did I get here?" Crane asked, looking around in confusion.

 

"You must have been sleep walking,," Nelson suggested, very obviously doing his best to hide his concern and failing miserably.

 

"But I've never done it before," Lee objected, looking up at Nelson.

 

A genuine smile touched the Admiral's face. "Just as well. It wouldn't do for you to start wandering around in your pyjamas aboard Seaview," Nelson joked.

 

A look of sheer horror flashed across Lee's face at the thought of such a thing happening to him aboard Seaview. Then he noticed the sheet of paper lying on the desk in front of him, with something written on it. Closer inspection revealed it to be his handwriting, but he did not remember writing it. He continued to stare at the paper, shaken by this latest psychic occurrence.

 

"What have you got there?" Nelson asked.

 

"Oh, nothing," Lee shrugged, hastily crumpling the paper in his hand. Pushing back the chair, he stood up, his gaze dropping to his bare feet.

 

"You'd better get back to bed before you catch cold. I don't want Dr Jamieson mad at me when we get back because you're sick," Nelson told

him, trying to play down the incident. He didn't want Lee to see that he was worried.

 

Lee nodded, then looked up at him. "What are you doing still up?"

 

Nelson smiled as suspicion dawned on Lee's face. "I came to find a book to read," he explained. It was no secret that he loved reading, and it always helped him relax.

 

Lee nodded. "Well, goodnight, Admiral." He wanted to get back to his bed and put this additional unsettling occurrence behind him as quickly as possible.

 

"Goodnight, Lee." Nelson followed Crane out of the study, turned off the lights and closed the door. As he watched Lee cross the hall, he could'nt help wondering if this was a prelude to something else. Their last mission had been tough and, as usual, most of the responsibility had fallen on Crane, despite the efforts of others to share the burden. Nelson had invited Lee along on the pretence of showing him the house, but more important, he thought that a break away from everything would do Lee good. He knew that behind that calm, self assured, and sometimes stubborn young officer, there was a caring, sensitive side, traits which made Lee vulnerable. He also knew, that if he left Lee in Santa Barbara, he would spend more time at the Institute than on shore leave. He considered whether to call Jamieson at the Institute and get his opinion. He decided against it after a moment. He was probably making too much of the incident.

 

oooOooo

 

A shaft of watery sunlight filtered through a crack in the curtains, falling across the bed where Lee lay sleeping. After his disrupted night, he'd had trouble getting to sleep again, tossing and turning until the early hours of the morning. He had finally drifted into an undisturbed sleep just as the incipient glow of dawn was creeping over the estate. The unaccustomed quiet of the bedroom finally roused Crane into wakefulness. At first he was unsure of his surroundings, then memory quickly returned. He slowly raised his hand to look at his watch. It was after ten, and after a second disbelieving look to check that he had actually slept that late, Lee quickly slipped out of bed, collecting his robe as his feet found his slippers, and headed for the en suite bathroom.

 

 

 

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee greeted him as he opened the kitchen door. The room was a mixture of old and modern. All the usual modern kitchen machines were discreetly concealed behind the units with a marble effect worktop finishing the look. The cupboards were fronted by natural oak veneer doors. An electric kettle, microwave and coffee percolator stood on the worktop. In contrast, on the other wall, was an old style range, set in a huge brick fireplace, above which hung a set of gleaming brass saucepans. Mrs Cooper emerged from the pantry carrying a basket of vegetables and she

smiled as she saw him.

 

"Good morning, would you like some coffee?"

 

"Please," Lee smiled back. "I'm afraid I've slept later than I had intended." Walking towards the table, he sat down and watched her pour the coffee.

 

"It's the country air, I expect," she told him as she returned with the tray. "You must be hungry."

 

Crane suppressed a smile. That last comment reminded him of Jamieson, Seaview's doctor, who was always trying to badger him into eating. It seemed that wherever he went, there was someone trying to fatten him up. Mrs Cooper had already produced a pot of homemade jam, and one of marmalade with butter and was setting them down on the table in anticipation of a positive response.

 

"Would you like me to cook you something?" she asked.

 

"No, thank you, toast will be fine," he assured her. If this continued, he'd be putting on too much weight. Mrs Cooper was an excellent cook.

 

"Nonsense, you need a proper breakfast," Mrs Cooper told him. " I know just the thing."

 

Crane shrugged. He didn't want to offend her by arguing. "Have you been housekeeper here long?" he inquired as he watched her gathering the ingredients for his mystery breakfast.

 

"Yes, Twenty five years, but I've lived here a lot longer. My mother was housekeeper to Lord and Lady Westwood," she told him.

 

"Don't you have anyone to help you?" Crane asked. This seemed a very large house for one person to look after, and he wondered if she ever got a day off.

 

"Maggie comes in twice a week to help with the laundry, but she leaves before it gets dark," she said, crossing to the range. "She claims the house is haunted," she continued.

 

"Oh," Crane commented, careful to keep his voice neutral. He wished that he was as good at hiding his feelings as Chip was. "You don't agree with her?"

 

"I've never seen or heard anything - but it keeps unwanted visitors away," she replied, placing a circle of dough she had made on to the griddle.

 

Not wanting to arouse the housekeepers suspicions by asking too many questions, Lee decided it would be better not to continue this particular line of conversation. He was more than a little sceptical himself, and he didn't want her to think he was crazy. "Something smells good." he commented. A pleasant smell was drifting across the kitchen, stimulating his appetite.

 

"I hope you like it: it was one of Mr Smyth's favourites," Mrs Cooper told him as she placed a plate of pancakes, dripping with butter and honey, on the table in front of him.

 

Crane looked at her in open astonishment, then smiled. "They're great. You're spoiling me, you know. I don't get time for such luxuries very often." He could just imagine Cookie's reaction if he should request such a menu for the wardroom. Something along the lines of 'get it yourself'.

 

"It's a pleasure to cook for someone who appreciates it," Mrs Cooper returned the smile. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to start preparing lunch," she continued, turning away.

 

"Of course," Crane nodded. He couldn't help wondering what delights she had planned for their midday meal.

 

oooOooo

 

The weather was holding, and it was another sunny, warm day outside. After finishing his breakfast, Lee decided to explore the garden and grounds. The sky was an almost cloudless blue, and he was dazzled by the brightness as he stepped out on to the lawn through the french doors of the drawing room. A magnificent cedar tree occupied the centre of the lawn, it's ancient branches reaching out in a wide circle of shade, the lower ones so close to the ground that is was impossible to walk beneath them.

 

Turning, he walked alongside the kitchen garden wall to the gravel path through the long arched pergola. Roses had been Katherine's favourite flower, and they covered the pergola. The first buds were just appearing; another month and it would be festooned with flowers. The thatched roofed summer house had fallen into disrepair, he noticed sadly, yet the lawns had been cut and their edges neatly trimmed.

 

An archway of laurel led to a secluded spot, hidden away behind hedges and tall fir trees. Dappled sunlight shone through the branches and pine needles littered the ground beneath his feet, making the earth feel soft and spongy as he walked. It was several degrees cooler, here in the shade, and it had a restful quality.

A movement in the lower branches of one of the conifers caught his eye, and he watched as a nervous grey squirrel darted head first down the trunk. It paused at the base, then hesitantly moved towards him, stopping at regular intervals as it surveyed the surroundings for any danger. Finally it stopped some three feet away, sat back on its hind legs and looked expectantly at him. Crane squatted down, smiling at the small rodent as it watched him through large brown eyes. "Sorry, I don't have anything for you," he found himself saying.

 

As if in response, the squirrel dropped back to all fours and scampered up to him. Again it raised itself up on its back legs and investigated his empty hand with tiny fingers. Its touch was so light he hardly felt it. After a few seconds, apparently satisfied that there was nothing edible to be had, the squirrel scampered off back to its tree.

 

Crane stood up, still smiling. He was beginning to feel chilled in the shade. It was time to return to the warm sunshine.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Nelson entered the kitchen in search of Lee, who he had not seen that morning. "Mrs Cooper, have you seen Crane?" he asked.

 

"No, sir, not since breakfast. Is something wrong?" she replied, looking up from unloading the dishwasher.

 

Nelson shook his head. "No, not at all, thank you." He was becoming paranoid about Lee's safety. What possible danger could there be here? Worrying about Lee had become a habit, born of countless hours spent waiting for the Captain's safe return from missions that seemed increasingly dangerous. Crane's occasional recklessness did'nt help. But they weren't aboard Seaview, now. Lee was probably off exploring the grounds. Nelson turned to leave. This place was so big, you could lose yourself for hours. The thought reminded him that he had yet to decide what to do with the estate. He could not see himself as Lord of The Manor on a permanent basis; he had far too much to do at the institute. Closing one door, he turned down the passageway. He really should have an inventory done of the contents of the house. So far, he'd not really paid much attention to them, but there was no doubt many of the items were antique and quite valuable. Tomorrow he would go into the city and make arrangements for an appraisal to be done. For now, it was time to take his own advice and relax. Instinctively he headed for the library. He loved reading, and there was a wealth of books here. Maybe he would take one into the garden and enjoy the good weather while it lasted.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

 

The family graveyard of Westwood Manor became visible through the trees. The iron gate opened at his touch, and he entered. The ancient stone mausoleum dominated the scene, moss clinging to its walls. For a moment he stood, his gaze examining the gargoyles that had been carved out of the stone, guarding the entrance. The sound of the clock above the stable block was striking the hour and its sound carried on the breeze, adding to the preternatural atmosphere. Hearing footsteps behind him, Crane turned to find Edith standing behind him.

 

"This is a bit morbid isn't it - wandering around in a cemetery?" Edith teased.

 

Lee's expression became hesitant. "There's something about this place," he told her. Not quite able to meet her gaze, he looked past her, his eyes fixed on some far-off point.

 

"What do you mean?" she asked with concern at the distant look in his eyes.

 

"I..." Lee started to explain, then stopped as his thoughts returned to the dreams he'd been having.

 

"Go on," she prompted. Lee had that lost look about him, and she touched his arm gently.

 

Her touch seemed to bring him back from wherever his thoughts had been. He took a deep breath and returned his attention to her. "Sorry," he smiled ruefully.

Edith knew Lee well enough to know when something was worrying him. She was also aware that his reluctance to bother others with his problems often drove her brother to the point of despair. "What did you mean?" she asked.

 

"I -- I've been having these dreams,,, he told her reluctantly.

 

"What sort of dreams?" she encouraged, realising that Lee was really troubled by whatever had happened in those dreams. She wanted to help, if she could.

 

"Ever since I first arrived here, I've felt that someone was watching me. The first night I woke to find the room filled with the scent of roses, and I'm sure there was someone else in the room, but when I switched on the light, there was no one there. I think that someone, or something, is trying to tell me something." Lee watched her, willing her to believe him. She probably thought he'd gone insane. "Does that sound crazy?"

 

Edith knew that Lee was not predisposed to fantasizing. He wouldn't be captain of Seaview if that were the case. "Have you told Harry?" she asked carefully.

 

Lee shook his head. "No, not yet."

 

"I think you should," she told him, trying to offer some re-assurance. Looking up into those golden-brown eyes, she sighed inwardly, suppressing the temptation to take the initiative.

 

Lee shifted uncomfortably. "Not until I know what's going on. I don't want him to think that I've completely lost it."

 

"Well I'm sure there's an explanation," she commented. "Now, can we go? This place is beginning to give me the creeps." Taking his arm, she steered him towards the gate.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

After lunch, Lee decided to walk the short distance to the village and post the cards he had bought; some time away from the house might help put things into perspective. Walking out between the two white posts that marked the entrance to Westwood Manor, he turned down the lane. There was no pavement, but hardly any traffic came this way, so there was little danger of encountering anything other than a tractor, or the occasional car. The temperature was warm, and he was grateful for the light breeze that stirred the branches of the trees and ruffled his dark hair. The surrounding landscape was undulatory, with a view across the fields, spread in a patchwork of yellow, green and brown. Back in Santa Barbara he hardly ever walked anywhere, so this was a pleasant change. Not just to enjoy the countryside, but to get some time alone. However well-meant his friends' concerns, their constant fussing was sometimes stifling.

 

As he walked down the narrow street with its historic overhanging buildings, towards the centre of the picturesque village of Lower Pennyhole, his view was dominated by the church which overlooked the village from its position atop a hill. The river Pant ran through the village, and a narrow humpback bridge traversed the river, on which a variety of water fowl had taken up residence. Lee stopped to watch a small black and white bird as it searched for food at the water's edge. The whole scene was one of peace and tranquillity, very different from many of the places he had been in during his career. On the other side of the river was the village green, around which were clustered several shops. Continuing on across the bridge, he came to the Mallard Restaurant and Coffee shop, with tables and chairs set outside. Next to the Mallard, was the Fox public house. The Fox was the heart of the village, and most of the locals gathered there in the evening. Lee smiled at the sly humour of having a mallard right next to a fox. Continuing his stroll around the green, he finally came to the small post office.

 

"Good afternoon, sir," the Postmistress smiled pleasantly.

 

"Good afternoon," Lee returned the smile and handed her the postcards. "I'd like to send these airmail, please."

 

"Certainly," she replied, taking the cards. "You must be from the Manor. I hope you're enjoying your stay," she continued as she checked the addresses and stuck airmail stickers on each one.

 

"Yes, thank you," he answered. Thinking about it, he realised just how contented and relaxed he felt. The pace of life here was much slower and less intense, and it was already having an affect on him. Despite the eerie events of the past few days, and the disturbed night, he did not feel in the least bit tired.

 

"That will be one pound, twenty eight, please."

 

Lee handed over the money and waited for his change, then thanked her again and left. It was such a pleasant afternoon, he decided to spend some time enjoying the peace and quiet of the village, before making his way back to the house. Returning the way he had come, he sat down on one of the wooden benches on the green.

Some children were feeding bread to the ducks, laughing excitedly as the birds squabbled over each morsel, while above, pigeons cooed in the trees. With a sigh of contentment, he rested back against the bench's support. He'd been half expecting an urgent phone call from Katie at the institute, summoning them back to Santa Barbara, or FS1 to appear on the front lawn. They hadn't discussed what Nelson intended to do with Westwood Manor, but the Admiral would not stay too long. He loved the sea as much as Lee, and it would soon be calling him back. Still, Lee would like to stay a little longer, at least long enough to find out what was going on.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

It was six-thirty before Lee returned to the House. He showered and changed before joining the others in the dining room for dinner, absolutely ravenous despite having stopped at the Mallard for afternoon tea. Their evening meal was everything he had come to expect of Mrs Cooper's culinary skills. Afterward, coffee was served in the lounge. Lee felt restless, the memory of the previous day's occurrences returning. Had it simply been a dream, during which he had sleepwalked, or was there some spiritual influence at work in the house? He turned his attention to the TV, which Nelson and Edith were watching, in the hope of occupying his thoughts with something else for a while, but nothing really grabbed his attention and he eventually made his excuses and left. Nelson seemed to sense that all was not well, since he also decided that he would call it a night and trailed upstairs after him.

 

Crane opened the door to his bedroom and switched on the light, standing there for a moment as he listened, while his eyes scanned the room.

 

"Is something wrong, Lee? Nelson asked from behind him.

 

Lee turned and smiled. "No, nothing... goodnight, Admiral."

 

"Goodnight, Lee." Nelson moved off down the passage towards his own room.

 

Crane entered the room and closed the door. He still had the feeling that he was being watched by unseen eyes. Walking across the room to the bathroom, he opened the door and pulled on the light. Despite himself, he couldn't resist pulling back the shower curtain to check. Suddenly he felt foolish. What the hell did you expect to find? he asked in self-reproach.

 

Finishing in the bathroom, he closed the door behind him and turned out the main light, undressing by the light of the bedside lamp, before quickly slipping beneath the blankets. Ten minutes later he was asleep.

 

Nothing occurred to mar his night's sleep. Lee woke feeling hungry, and was looking forward to breakfast. Something was certainly having an effect on his appetite, to Nelson's obvious amusement. Mrs Cooper had turned out to be an excellent cook and Lee hadn't eaten so much since he'd left home all those years ago to join the Navy. His mother still said he needed fattening up whenever he went home on leave and Chip was forever making disparaging comments about his commanding officer's finicky appetite.

 

He smiled to himself as he entered the bathroom. If he was here much longer, he wouldn't be able to get into his uniform when he returned to Seaview. He could just imagine the comments that would evoke from a certain Exec! It would please one person, though: Seaview's doctor. Jamie was always nagging Crane about his irregular eating habits and over-reliance on caffeine. Turning on the shower, he adjusted it to the right temperature before stepping under the powerful spray. The cascade of warm water was reviving, sweeping away the last vestige of sleep. He turned to let the spray massage his shoulders and back, revelling in the simple pleasure of all the hot water he could wish and the time to appreciate it.

 

The small bathroom was in 1930's Art Deco style, the white suite finished with chrome fittings that complimented the design, and white tiles continued the clean and unpretentious look. The Art Deco style was carried through to the black bath panels, and matching toilet seat. Walls and ceiling were dawn blush colourwashed, harmonising with the overall colour scheme, while the final touches were given by the white shower curtain and silver-grey bath mat. Crane approved of such a spare style, always feeling a little uncomfortable in the more cluttered Victorian style.

 

 

He was enjoying the warmth of the steamy shower. Her eyes followed every movement of his hands as he lathered the soap over his body. Her gaze ran down his long, slim body, following the spraying water as it caressed his naked body, forming rivulets that followed every curve. The steam swirled around him and he tilted his head back and closed his eyes against the spray.

 

Catherine smiled. He looked cute, when wet. Her gaze lingered momentarily on his buttocks, before continuing down the length of his slender legs. If only she were mortal, she sighed wistfully.

 

Crane turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around his middle, then took another to rub his hair dry. It was time to leave, but she lingered. Her conscience told her she shouldn't be here, it wasn't right to take advantage of his being unaware of her.

 

 

Lee finished towelling his hair and turned to the mirror to comb the untidy thick black curls into order. As he wiped the condensation from the mirror, he distinctly saw the face of Catherine reflected in it. He spun around, with a mixture of shock and embarrassment, only to find the room empty. Tentatively, he glanced back over his shoulder to the mirror; Catherine's image had disappeared. Lee sighed and forced himself to relax. The bathroom was quiet, almost unnaturally so. Despite himself, he felt disturbed by the event. Had he really seen her, or was it a legacy from the dreams? No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't dispel the feeling that something, or someone was watching him. He had been aware of it ever since the first evening, in the study. It was unsettling, even unnerving, and yet he had no proof that anything was actually happening, which made him feel even more tense.

 

Returning to the bedroom to dress, Lee noticed that a single blue rose had been left on the pillow. Approaching the bed, he eyed the flower warily for a moment before picking it up. Where could it have come from? There were many roses growing in the garden, but none were in bloom this early. Turning, he looked around, there was no sign of an intruder. Absently he sniffed the flower; it's soft, warm fragrance was the same as the perfume he'd smelt before. Why was this happening to him? he wondered, as he turned the rose in his fingers. It was a single flower, he noted, and almost thornless. He had little doubt now that the house was haunted by the spirit of Catherine Westwood, and that she was trying to tell him something. Even more unnverved by the thought that she was here watching him, he looked around, made uneasy about the possibility. For a moment he stood, listening to every sound, but there was no re-occurrence of any ghostly phenomenon. Returning to the bathroom, he placed the rose into a glass of water, stood it on the shelf below the mirror, and once more retraced his steps back to the bedroom.

 

Once he had dressed, Lee decided to go downstairs. Hearing footsteps echoing on the parquet flooring of the hall, Crane paused on his descent and looked over the bannisters, but the hall was empty. He shivered as a cold draught touched his face. Quickly he continued down the stairs, reaching the bottom just in time to see the cellar door closing. Crane remained were he was, surveying the hall. For a few seconds there had been a definite inherent psychic presence. Now it was gone, as if with the closing of the door. It was most likely just a draught, he told himself. Only to be expected in a big old house like this, he concluded. He didn't find the rationalisation the least bit convincing.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Banks of cumulus clouds were building from the north and there was a hint of rain in the freshening breeze. When the sun was concealed behind a cloud, there was a noticeable chill in the air, robbing the day of its warmth. In the shelter of the summer house, Lee sat watching the ever changing clouds as they drifted across the sky. The breeze rustled the leaves as it blew through the branches, causing shifting patterns of sunlight to play over the ground where the rays shone through the trees. A blackbird foraged amongst the litter, looking for worms, while blue tits and sparrows flittered between the branches, chirping noisily.

 

Nelson had gone to London on business regarding the house, and the opportunity to spend the day shopping in London had proved too much of a temptation for Edith. Lee, on the other hand, had decided that one shopping trip with Edith was enough. Besides, he wanted to take the opportunity to investigate the ghostly happenings that he had been experiencing, away from the worried gazes of his friends.

 

The summer house was supposed to have been Catherine's favourite spot in the garden, yet he felt nothing of her presence now. Did her spirit really haunt the house, or was there a more devious human involvement, using the illusion of a haunting to conceal more temporal mischief? Getting to his feet, Lee moved on towards the laurel archway that lead to the rear of the kitchen garden, and beyond, the cemetery. Despite his searching most of the house and grounds, Lee's investigations turned up nothing. There was no evidence that the house had been rigged. He found no microphones or hidden speakers., or anything else he might consider suspicious. When he heard Mr Cooper mention that he had to go into town to pick Nelson and Edith up from the station, Lee quickly volunteered to go. He felt he needed to get away from the house for a while.

 

Armed with directions, he set off, taking the road from the village. It was a pleasant drive. The sun shone through the car window, warm on his arms, and he wound the window down to enjoy it better. The road wound through rolling countryside, which spread out around him in a wide expanse of yellow. The pungent fragrance of oil seed Rape carried on the air. The road dipped through a belt of trees, their branches overhanging the road in a canopy of dappled shade, then climbed again, emerging back into sunlight. The view that opened up around him as he topped the hill was striking. He could see for miles. His route took him through several of the neighbouring villages, arriving at the station thirty minutes later, just as the train was pulling in.

 

"Lee, what are you doing here?" Nelson asked with surprise at finding him waiting for them.

 

"I didn't have anything else to do," Lee shrugged, walking around to open the car boot.

 

"Umm," Nelson commented, watching Lee helping Edith with yet more shopping. How she intended to get everything back to Santa Barbara he had no idea.

 

Lee closed the boot and opened the rear door for Edith, who smiled flirtatiously as she slid gracefully into the back seat. Nelson smiled with amusement at Lee's distinct embarrassment, then rapidly adjusted his expression as Lee glanced in his direction. Opening the door, Nelson got into the front passenger seat and waited for Lee to return to the driver's seat.

 

The return trip was much easier, since Lee was now familiar with the route and it was just a matter of following the road. Nelson sat beside Lee, his gaze fixed on the surrounding countryside. He was beginning to feel tired now, and hungry. He and Edith had had lunch at Liverpool Street station, but that seemed hours ago, and he was looking forward to their evening meal. Life at the Manor was beginning to spoil him. They had just turned into the driveway, when Lee slammed his foot on the break, sending gravel flying from beneath the wheels. Nelson was thrown forward before his seat belt locked, jerking him back into the seat.

 

"What the...?" Lee stared ahead through the windscreen at the figure of Catherine, standing a few yards ahead of the car.

 

"What is it?" Nelson asked, turning to look at Lee.

 

"Catherine," Lee breathed in almost a whisper, continuing to stare ahead through the windscreen.

 

"Where?" Edith asked, leaning forward between the seats.

 

Nelson surveyed the tree-lined driveway, looking for any sign of what Lee may have seen. The drive, however, was empty. "There's no-one there, Lee," Nelson said gently.

 

"But I saw her," Lee protested, turning to Nelson.

 

Nelson hesitated for a moment, frowning in concern. Lee looked visibly shaken, and he didn't dare suggest that Lee may have imagined it. Besides, after the experience with Krueger, how could he deny the existence of ghosts? However, neither he or Edith had seen anyone and Lee would know if he were to lie.

 

Lee had turned his attention back to the empty drive, his hands still gripping the steering wheel as his gaze searched the trees. Nelson put a hand on his shoulder, "Are you all right, Lee?"

 

For a brief moment Lee did not respond then he turned to look at Nelson. "I must be seeing things," he said uncertainly.

 

Nelson smiled sympathetically. Maybe he shouldn't have left Lee alone in the house. "Come on, lets go; unless you intend that we should walk from here?" he joked.

 

Lee grinned, and shook his head. "No, Admiral." Putting the car in gear, he released the clutch, and started the car moving slowly down the drive towards the house.

 

oooOooo

 

The evening had turned cold, and the ominous black clouds that had been building all day now threatened rain. The declining light cast long shadows across the lawn. Westwood Manor took on a creepiness that seemed to fill the empty rooms and corridors, making them cold and unfriendly. In the lounge, Nelson, Crane and Edith sat around the fire that Mr Cooper had lit in the large fireplace. The heavy drapes had been drawn across the windows, shutting out the hostile weather.

 

Nelson was engrossed in a book. He always enjoyed reading, and there were so many books contained in the library, he would never be able to read them all. Edith was curled up in an armchair, tired after walking miles around Oxford Street and Covent Garden, looking for bargains to take home. In the cosy glow of the firelight, Lee found himself dozing. It seemed as if the room had taken on a quiet, comforting atmosphere, wrapping him in a blanket of peaceful, warm contentment that seemed a world away from the cold greyness outside. This was due in part to the brandy they had consumed at the end of the evening meal. Over the last few days, life had taken on an altogether too leisurely pace, and even worse, he was beginning to enjoy it. Lee wondered how much weight he had gained, and he resolved to do something about it tomorrow. Maybe he would challenge Edith to a game of tennis. After all, they had a tennis court in the ground. Right now, he didn't have the slightest inclination to move from the armchair in which he was so comfortably settled. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift, savouring the restfulness of the situation, and the simple luxury of an open fire.

 

Something disturbed Crane, waking him from his repose. He opened his eyes to find that he was alone, The fire had died down, and when he looked at his watch, he found that it was almost midnight; Nelson and Edith must have turned in. Then he realised what had woken him. He could hear music, a piano to be precise. Raising himself out of the chair, he listened for a further minute... Yes, he could definitely hear it. He followed the sound down the corridor, wondering who the pianist could be. The partially open door of the drawing room caught his eye and he realised that was where the music was coming from. Soundlessly he pushed open the door and took a step into the room. The ghostly apparition of Catherine was seated at the ebony piano, seemingly oblivious of his entrance. The strains of Rachmaninov's piano concerto no.2 filled the room, flowing over him, bringing a tranquillity that was almost hypnotic, as her hands continued to dance over the keys.

 

He tried to raise a hand to the light switch, but he couldn't move, couldn't turn his gaze away from the ghostly figure, and he shivered. Was it his imagination, or had the room become colder? He knew that he should leave now, before it was too late, but he was powerless to resist as she rose from the piano and glided across the room towards him. Vaguely he wondered why no- one else had heard the piano playing, and come to investigate. Her fathomless green eyes drew him to her. No matter how hard he tried, he could not break free from the psychological hold she had over him. He was losing control, falling into a blackening void, his strength was being drained away like grains of sand in the wind....

 

 

 

Crane came to, to find himself standing before the crypt. Cold night air permeated his shirt, making him shiver. As he stood wondering how he got there, the heavy door of the mausoleum swung open on rusty hinges and a faint glow came from inside, offering warmth. He felt a strong compulsion to enter, as if drawn by some force within. Again he heard Catherine's voice softly calling his name. Almost unconsciously he moved towards the open door but as he stepped inside, the door closed behind him. Brought back to his senses by the heavy thud, he turned back to the door. It refused to move. Putting his shoulder against the door, he turned the knob and pushed, but it still wouldn't open. Turning back to the interior of the crypt, now in darkness, his eyes strained to see anything that might be concealed within. He stood for several seconds, listening to the silence. The only sound was that of his own breathing. So what now? No-one knew he was here, and he wouldn't be missed until the morning.

 

As he stood contemplating his next move, the figure of Catherine Westwood appeared, her eyes meeting his as she advanced toward him. "Who are you, what do you want?" he asked. He already knew her name, but he wanted to hear it from her, if only to make sure that he wasn't suffering from some kind of involved hallucination.

 

"You," she answered, holding out her hands to him as she moved towards him.

 

Crane shook his head, backing away from her. "No."

 

A smile curved her lips. He could see the hunger in her eyes as she came closer. "Some things cannot be denied." she told him, her hands moving to undo his shirt.

 

"Stop that!" he protested, seizing her wrists. "Who are you?"

 

"You know who I am," she smiled seductively, then tilted her head up and kissed him.

 

The delicate smell of her enveloped him as their lips touched. She felt soft and warm. He closed his eyes, caught up in the moment, before regaining his senses and pushing her away. "I don't believe this, I'm being propositioned by a..."

 

"A ghost?" she interrupted.

 

She stood watching him. He could feel her mentally undressing him. Could see her firm breasts beneath the flimsy gown that fell gracefully over her form. A haunting stillness seemed to descend over the crypt.

 

"I have waited so long," she breathed enticingly, her soft green eyes warm and inviting.

 

Crane was no longer aware of the cold that rose from the concrete beneath his feet. He felt drawn to her like a magnet. He fought against the hunger that he dare not give in to. But he could not stop his gaze dropping to her breasts, lingering there.

 

"You know you want it," she whispered, her breath was warm against his ear. Her hands opened his shirt and she pushed it down over his shoulders, letting it fall to the ground.

 

"No, I don't.... can't," he objected, but he could not move.

 

Her hands strayed to his belt, causing a shiver to run through his body, and he felt a familiar stirring. He wasn't sure how much longer he could resist her advances, but he knew that he could not give in. As he tried to fend her off, she was no longer solid. Slowly she reverted back to a grey/white mist that faded into the darkness. His surroundings became irresolute, dissolving and changing. Suddenly his legs would no longer support him and he was falling.....

 

Crane woke with a start, to find that he was back in lounge. Closer examination found that his clothing was intact. He wasn't sure whether the bizarre encounter at the crypt had really happened, or if he had been dreaming. Reaching across, he switched on the table lamp, and its comforting glow dispelled the darkness. Lee ran a hand through his tousled hair. Why was this happening to him? Still a little shaken, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, allowing some of the frustration and anxiety drain away. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was 2.00am. He should be asleep, only he wasn't sleepy.

 

Leaving his seat, Crane entered the kitchen and switched on the light. Taking the kettle from its place on the work surface, he crossed to the sink and filled it, then retraced his steps to plug it in and switch it on. While he waited for the kettle to boil, he found the coffee, sugar and a mug. A few minutes later steam began to emanate from the kettle and it turned off with a click. Unplugging it, he poured the water into the mug, and stirred it absently, as he walked over to the table and sat down.

 

Sipping the coffee, he began to feel better. Again he found his thoughts returning to Seaview. What analysis, he wondered, would Chip make of the events that had been happening since he'd arrived at the house? Chip, always the sensible one, would never believe that a ghost was responsible; he'd want a practical, down to earth explanation. Chip was very good at putting things into perspective, which was what made them such a good team. Lee couldn't think of anyone else he'd rather have as his Exec. He trusted Chip with his life. Indeed, he would not have survived this long, if it were not for the timely intervention of his Exec on several occasions.

Struck by a sudden thought, Lee smiled. What would Chip say if he could see him now; drinking coffee at 2am in the morning? He could just picture the look of disapproval. Finishing the coffee, he washed the mug and placed it in the drainer. Maybe now he would be able to catch a few hours sleep.

 

oooOooo

 

The weather had deteriorated, and the morning dawned cold and grey. Crane and Edith spent the day in King's Lynn. Nelson had been occupied with business concerning the house, so Crane had agreed to accompany Edith - on condition that she promised no more shopping. He needed something to take his mind off Catherine.

 

They had done the tour of the Old Gaol House, experiencing the sounds and smells of prison life in the 18th and 19th Century cells, hearing stories of highwaymen, murderers and robbers. Then on to visit Trues Yard Heritage Centre in North St. Two restored fisherman's cottages, containing research facilities, museum, gift shop and tea room. A little to his own surprise, Lee found himself just as absorbed with the displays as Edith had insisted he would. Under normal circumstances he had little chance to do the tourist bit whenever Seaview put into port somewhere.

 

After a lunch of fresh seafood at the Kings Head Hotel, they had just managed to fit in a visit to Caithness Crystal. Unfortunately, this also had a factory shop, and Lee had been forced to remind Edith of her promise. In the end they came to a compromise, and she reluctantly settled for just one souvenir. Seated on the train, speeding through the countryside on their way back, Lee stared absently out of the window. His thoughts drifted away as the rhythm of the train lulled him into a restful drowsiness, and he closed his eyes. With the gentle rocking of the carriage, he was reminded of the motion of the sea. In fact, if it were not for the sound of the wheels of the track, he could easily have imagined himself back aboard Seaview, floating on the surface of a calm ocean.

 

Edith sat across from Lee, watching him. She had hoped that Lee would relax his defences a little, but it was no use. He would not allow their friendship to develop into anything more. She was Nelson's sister, and in Crane's mind that meant any relationship between them was impossible. Lee would never allow anything to come between the friendship he and her brother shared. And now it seemed she had a rival for Lee's attention. Edith was beginning to believe that the house was indeed haunted by Catherine. She considered telling her brother about the incident in the pool, and her concerns regarding finding Lee in the cemetery and the conversation they'd had. But that would risk making Lee angry, and push him even further away. Of course, back in Santa Barbara there were always several females chasing after Seaview's Captain. However, despite his reputation amongst the female employees of the institute, Edith suspected that Lee was really quite shy, and didn't seem to have a regular girlfriend. Edith sighed to herself; such a waste. Lee's eyes opened, and she smiled, quickly turning her attention to the passing scenery.

 

 

 

It was late when they arrived back at the house. Nelson had gone out to dinner, and had given the Coopers the night off. Having missed dinner, both Crane and Edith were hungry. They had become accustomed to having a three course meal every evening.

 

"Maybe we should have stopped on the way back to eat," Lee commented, unlocking the door.

 

"I can make us some supper," Edith told him, stepping through the open door. The hall felt cold, and their footsteps echoed on the floor. She felt a sudden chill run down her spine, and moved closer to Lee. Even when he turned on the lights, there were still corners where shadows remained.

 

"So, what's for supper?" Lee asked, taking off his jacket.

 

Edith shrugged as she walked ahead of him towards the double doors that led to the rear of the house. "I'll have to see what's available." Mrs Cooper kept a well stocked larder, so she shouldn't have any difficulty in whipping something up. It would give her a chance to show Lee that she could cook as well as Mrs C.... or any other woman he might have allowed into his life. Smiling a little at her competativeness with an imaginary rival, she opened the pantry door and gazed in thoughtfully surveying the contents of the shelves.

 

"We could always send out for a pizza," Lee suggested, following after her.

 

"Why? Don't you trust my cooking?" Edith retaliated, as she closed the pantry door and turning her attention to the fridge, she opened the door and scanned the contents for a moment. There were tomatoes and mushrooms in the cool box. If she could find the necessary ingredients, she could make Spaghetti Bolognese; that was one of Lee's favourites.

 

"I didn't mean it that way," Lee replied apologetically.

 

Edith turned from the fridge. "Don't look so worried, I was only kidding," she smiled. "Here, you can peel and slice these mushrooms for me."

 

"Yes, Ma'am," Lee laughed. Taking the mushrooms from her, he walked across to the sink.

 

Edith put a pan of water on to boil, before disappearing into the pantry in search of the rest of the ingredients she needed. She found the spaghetti and some herbs & onions for the sauce. However, when she tried to open the door to return to the kitchen, it wouldn't open. Lee was getting her back for her teasing. "Lee, c'mon, quit fooling around and open the door," she called.

 

For a moment there was no response, then she heard Lee's voice from the other side of the door. "It's stuck. Hang on while I find something to lever it open."

 

Stuck huh! You wait Lee Crane. She wasn't going to let him get away with this. She'd think of something to get her own back. She heard footsteps on the vinyl flooring as he returned, and a moment later the door opened.

 

"Seems to be okay now," Lee smiled, holding the open for her, his face a picture of innocence. But that didn't fool her for a minute. At least, she hoped that Lee had been responsible; she didn't want to consider the other possibility, Returning to the kitchen, she checked the pan of water, before setting about preparing the other ingredients. A few minutes later Lee came across and put the mushrooms down on the work surface.

 

"Anything else I can do?"

 

"You could set the table," she told him, glancing up from the chopping board.

 

"Sure."

 

Edith smiled to herself. Lee wasn't as helpless as he let people believe. He always seemed to bring out the maternal instinct in women, especially when he turned on that lost look. Returning her attention to the food, she moved across to the range to start cooking. She enjoyed cooking, particularly when it was for someone special, like Lee. She was tempted to suggest that they have some wine with their meal. It was rumoured that Lee had been known to lose some of that self-restraint, when under the influence. She didn't like the idea of him going down the cellar, though, and it was likely he could probably drink her under the table. Finishing, she put the lid on the pan and turned to look to see how Lee was doing with the table. She found him seated at the table, with a cup of coffee, into which he was dunking one of Mrs Cooper's home made cookies. "Hey, cut that out!" she admonished, flicking the tea towel in his direction. "You'll spoil your appetite."

 

"I'm hungry," Lee protested in defence.

 

"Then you had better eat this when it's ready," she warned.

 

"You're worse than Chip," Lee grumbled.

 

Edith laughed. She knew how his friends fussing drove Lee crazy. "Yeah, but I'm a much more attractive supper companion." she retaliated in playful flirtation.

 

"Maybe, but at least I can yell at Chip," Lee argued.

 

"Well, I'm sure that Chip would want me to keep an eye on you in his absence," she teased.

 

"Have you two been plotting?" he asked, eyeing her suspiciously.

 

"That would be telling," Edith turned back to stir the sauce and put the spaghetti into the pan. Suddenly, she felt a shiver run down her spine, and she smoothed the gooseflesh on her arms, glancing nervously over her shoulder.

 

"What's wrong?" Lee asked.

 

"I don't know --- I suddenly felt cold." she shrugged.

 

"I suppose you're looking forward to going home to sunny Santa Barbara?"

 

"Oh, I don't know," she replied thoughtfully. "I kind of like the idea of having a place in England, and I'm sure we could think of some way to keep us warm." she provoked.

 

"Are you always so familiar with members of the male sex?" Lee countered.

 

"No, only with tall, dark, handsome ones. Especially if they're in uniform." she declared. Even out of uniform he was attractive, especially in that brown cord jacket he'd been wearing; it matched his golden/brown eyes.

 

"You're impossible." Lee admonished, shaking his head at her.

 

I know, for all the good it's doing me, she thought. She was getting nowhere with him.

 

Catherine stood watching them, a tide of jealousy rising inside her. Edith and Nelson would have to go, she decided. There was always one of them getting in the way. Once they had gone, he would be hers; she would no longer be alone. Ever since that first night, when her thoughts had touched his, she had become inexplicably linked to him. The initial lust had slowly developed into something more. She wanted him, and was not prepared to be apart from him any longer. She no longer sought freedom from her ghostly existence, now she had someone she believed she could share it with.

 

It was growing late, and Catherine was impatient to get him alone so that she could pick up from where she'd finished last night. After the response she'd been able to arouse in him, she knew that she could seduce him easily. Just the memory of his naked body made her heart quicken. Her hands trembled at the thought of touching him and she wanted to feel him close to her. It was like being alive again, she hadn't felt so vital and excited since her honeymoon, so long ago. Michael had been tender and loving, making her feel sensual and desirable. As her sexual awareness grew, so did her enjoyment. He'd taught her new and exciting ways of lovemaking, taking her to new heights. Now she wanted to arouse the same excitement and desire in Lee. Share the same sensuous enjoyment, making him want her over and over again.

 

 

"More coffee?" Edith asked, as Lee drained his cup and placed it back on its saucer.

 

"No, thanks," Lee shook his head, "That was great."

 

"Thank you." Edith smiled, "And thanks for a lovely day."

 

Lee smiled back "You're welcome."

 

Edith gazed across the table, it was the perfect end to an almost perfect day, with only one thing to mar it. They had been together all day, and he hadn't made one advance to her; not that she had expected him to. "Lee," she started.

 

"Yes?"

 

Edith hesitated, wondering if Lee was really that innocent when it came to women. Dammit, why did she have to be so attracted to him?

 

"Something wrong?" Lee asked, breaking into her wayward thoughts. She shook her head.

"Of course not, I was just thinking."

 

"I know, that's what worries me," Lee sighed.

 

Edith felt herself blushing. Aware that she had been studying him too closely. Lee knew exactly what she was thinking. "Can't blame a girl for trying."

 

Lee looked at his watch. "It's after midnight. Come on, I'll help you clear the dishes."

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Still half emeshed in sleep, Crane slowly became aware of the delicate smell of roses, then felt something brush lightly against his face. Opening his eyes, he found Catherine lying beside him on his bed. Her eyes met his, and for what seemed like endless seconds, her gaze locked with his. Her eyes had that same inviting warmth, then she deliberately leant close and kissed him.

 

He was conscious of a desire to draw her to him and return the kiss, only his strong sense of morality stopped him. "No," he turned his face away. Her soft lips brushed his temple, gently nuzzled his ear, before moving to his neck. "Stop that," he grasped her shoulders and pushed her away.

 

She rolled on to her side, and lay beside him on the bed. The green of her eyes intensified as she smiled seductively and he could see the longing in her eyes as they caressed him; the bedclothes which separated them might not have been there. He felt a shiver run down his spine as she touched his arm. Her fingers ran up to his shoulder, and he caught her wrist, stopping her from going any further.

 

She didn't speak, just gazed at him with those intense green eyes that held him in their hypnotic spell. Lee tried to turn away, but he could not break free. He was beginning to feel like a fly caught in a spider's web. The heady perfume of roses filled his nostrils. Before he realised it, she was pulling back the covers which covered him and then her hands were inside his pyjamas. Sensually exploring his body, evoking feeling in him that he could no longer prevent. Tender kisses touched his lips.

His mind cried out for him to stop, to push her away before this insanity went any further, but he could do nothing to resist. Her magnetism held him. A hoarse groan escaped him as he felt her fingers touch him intimately and he was swept away on a wave of ecstasy so overpowering that all reasoning was lost.

 

 

 

 

Concerned over Lee's sudden tendency to sleep walk, Nelson had decided to check on him before retiring after he had returned to the house, just in case there was a repeat of the unusual behaviour on Lee's part. Reaching the top of the stairs, Nelson looked at the grandfather clock on the landing, It was well after midnight; Lee should be asleep by now, but he would still feel safer if he checked.

 

Going to the door of Crane's room, Nelson opened it and waited while his eyes adjusted to the darkness within. Alarmed at seeing Lee writhing on the bed, he hurried across to the bedside. The bedclothes were in total disarray, and Lee's state of arousal was readily perceived. Nelson wondered who Lee was dreaming about. Lee never talked about his life outside of Seaview, and Nelson never pried. Gently he replaced the covers over Lee and decided to leave before the younger man realised he was being observed. To his dismay, however, Nelson's presence seemed enough to rouse Crane.

 

 

Crane woke in a convulsive spasm, wrenched from ecstasy with desire still burning inside him. His hands clenched the blankets as he struggled against the unsatisfied longing. Gradually his breathing slowed and he opened his eyes, giving a start of surprise when he saw Nelson standing over him.

 

Nelson smiled reassuringly. "It's okay, you were dreaming."

 

Lee nodded, feeling extremely uncomfortable and unsure of how to react. He wasn't sure whether Catherine's attempted seduction had been a dream, or if it had really happened. If it was the latter, how much had Nelson seen?

 

"Are you all right?" Nelson asked, turning on the bedside lamp.

 

By the way Nelson was looking at him, Lee suspected that he knew more than he was saying. "Yes, I'm fine." Lee forced a smile. This was embarrassing. After an awkward silence, Lee decided to broach the subject and ask Nelson outright. "You saw her, didn't you?"

 

"Saw who?" Nelson asked.

 

"Catherine".

 

"No, Lee. There was no-one here. You were dreaming." Nelson told him.

 

"That can't be." Lee objected. "It seemed so real." He could almost smell her perfume, while the memory of her touch was still intense.

 

Nelson sat on the edge of the bed. "Look Lee, it's perfectly natural. We all have needs. When was the last time you...?" He broke off, unable to choose the right words and knowing that he was heading into extremely uncertain waters.

 

Lee could only stare at him, taken aback by Nelson's frankness. He had known Nelson a long time, and he treated Lee like a younger brother, but despite their closeness, Nelson had never involved himself in Lee's private life.

 

Nelson chuckled. "What's the matter, lad? Shocked because I mentioned sex?"

 

"Yes," Lee admitted, feeling himself blush under Nelson's amused gaze. This was one conversation he never expected to have.

 

"Am I such an ogre?" Nelson joked.

 

"No, of course not," Lee laughed softly, feeling a little more relaxed now.

 

"That's better." Nelson told him, "Now, get some sleep."

 

"Yes, sir," Lee retorted, grinning.

 

Nelson turned off the light, and retraced his footsteps to the door. Pulling it closed behind him, he turned down the passage towards his own room. He could not help worrying about Lee. Maybe their last mission had affected Lee more than anyone had realised. He had accepted Jamieson's word that Lee was fit for duty, and hadn't given it another thought. Thinking about it now, maybe he should have read between the lines, gone back later to speak with Will in private. There was no telling what psychological effect Mallory's use of Lee as a guinea pig to experiment with his machine might have had. Throwing Lee into a topsy turvy world where space and time were in chaos. Transported from one absurd situation to another. Accused of shooting Nelson, and with the whole crew turned against him, Nelson could only imagine the nightmare Lee must have gone through. That, combined with working long hours during the trip back to Santa Barbara, had evidently taken its toll. Lee had hardly taken the time to rest or sleep, let alone allowed himself time to relax.

 

And then there had been the incident with the reactor running wild, exposing Lee to leaking radiation when he went in to shut it down. Mallory was probably responsible for that too. It was too much of a coincidence that he was aboard with his anti-radiation machine, there to offer help when all had seemed lost. Nelson didn't like where his thoughts were taking him. Lee was fine, he told himself. He just needed a release for all the pent up emotions he'd been suppressing. What Lee really needed was a woman, but there was nothing Nelson could do about that.

 

oooOooo

 

A restless nights sleep, filled with strange, erotic dreams, left Lee feeling frustrated and confused by the time morning came. He desperately needed an answer to the mysterious events that had plagued him since he'd been here. Throwing back the bedclothes, he got up and headed for the bathroom. Again he found himself hesitating outside the door, uneasy at the thought of being watched. The memory of Catherine's reflection in the mirror was still clear in his mind. With renewed determination, he seized the door knob and opened the door. The harsh fluorescent light dispelled his unease, as he pulled on the light. But then he saw the rose, still in the glass where he'd left it.

 

The warmth of the spraying water revived him, but his thoughts kept returning to the dream, if it had been a dream. He could almost smell her perfume, and it was difficult to keep his mind on anything else. He needed something to occupy him. He knew that, deep inside, a part of him wanted Catherine as much as she wanted him. Remembering the feel of her soft warmth... he shook his head, forcing the thought from his mind. What the hell was wrong with him? He'd let Catherine's spirit control his mind, taking him to a mindless void, making him want what she wanted.

 

He had become intrigued with her, but now he suddenly wanted to know more about her. Why did she haunt the house and what had happened on that terrible night? How had the fire started, and why had she been unable to escape? After breakfast he would try and find some answers, starting in the library. He'd expected some trouble with Nelson, but to his relief the older man hadn't come down to breakfast by the time Crane had finished and retreated into the library, and Edith had decided to spend the morning elsewhere. There were as many books as could be expected to be found in any well stocked library once he tracked it down, probably more, given the age of the house. The problem was where to start. Closer inspection revealed a shelf of books devoted to local history. As good a place as any to begin, decided.

 

Lee selected 'A History of Westwood Manor', and took it into the study; the room having become his favourite part of the house. Settling into the large leather armchair beside the fire, he opened the book and began to read. After a while he became totally absorbed, ignoring the passage of time as he felt himself being drawn into the world of the Westwood family.

 

There was certainly plenty of history to study. The Tudor manor had been the home of the Westwood family since 1765, set in its beautiful and landscaped grounds designed by Repton. Crane found that others before him had been favourably impressed by the harmonious proportions and welcoming appearance of the place. It was an historic house, in which structures of different ages amalgamated. The Plantagenet core was assimilated into the Tudor expansion, and later, this was developed by the addition of a Georgian wing. The bricks used in the extention were made of clay dug from the surroundings, to match teh existing structure. He passed swiftly through the passages about the Plantagenet, Tudor and Georgian periods, knowing from personal experience that you never knew what research was going to turn out to be essential until you had the benefit of hindsight, but also eager to get to the more recent years. Eventually his patience was rewarded when he flicked forward a few pages in search of anything relating to Catherine and her parents.

 

Catching sight of the name of Catherine's father, Lee started paying attention again. During the war years, Frederick's civic duties included liaising with the American bases in the area. It was on one of these visits that Catherine met her future husband, Captain Michael Smyth, M.D. serving with the U.S.A.F. At the end of the war, the two were married, and moved into one of the lodge houses on the edge of the estate. Upon the death of her father, the couple moved into the Manor to keep her mother company. When, a year later, Catherine's mother died, she inherited the estate. The two lodge houses were sold to help pay death duties.

 

There was a surprising amount of personal detail creeping into the narrative, Lee noted. Perhaps it was because the people being written about now had been less dry historical figures than real people which others had known and could talk about. It was certainly helping Lee to get a better idea of who Catherine had been while she had been alive.

 

She had loved flowers, it seemed, especially roses. She was responsible for the construction of the long arched pergola leading to the summer house, which, in summer, was embellished with cascading roses. There were further rose beds flanking the walls of the kitchen garden. She had also had a hand in replanting the kitchen garden, ensuring that there was plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables for the table. Then, on 6th June 1950, Catherine died tragically in a fire which had destroyed part of the house. The fire was thought to have started deep in the Plantagenet infrastructure, although the cause was never established. Michael survived the fire, but had been unable to reach Catherine, trapped upstairs in the master bedroom.

 

There was no mention of what had happened afterwards and shortly after that the narrative came to an end. Crane knew a little more now than he had before, but it still wasn't enough. Closing the book, he returned it to the shelf in the library. Maybe Nelson would have some answers, but Lee was wary of raising Nelson's suspicions, especially after what had happened last night. Lee wouldn't be able to explain what had aroused his curiosity about Catherine's death, or what made him suspect that there as anything suspicious about it, not without having to admit that he was apparently suffering from hallucinations. Given the fact that Nelson was already concerned, such an admission would be guaranteed to bring out the protective streak in the Admiral.

 

As he moved around the library restlessly, Lee's gaze once more fell on the portrait of Catherine, and he crossed the room to study it more closely. He wondered who the artist had been. There was no signature that he could see, but he was willing to bet that whoever it was had known Catherine while she was alive. They had captured her very essence in the portrait and her eyes seemed to rest on him in warm appreciation. Evidently, this part of the house had survived the fire undamaged. There were so many things which confused him. The house he'd seen in his dream appeared different to the house as it was today. Of course, a lot of rebuilding had taken place after the fire, but he still sometimes felt a kind of double vision sweeping over him as he found himself looking for something which was no longer there. He couldn't make up his mind if the sensation was simply disconcerting or frightening.

 

 

"Lee?" Nelson had somehow known that he would find Lee here when he had decided to go looking for him.

 

"Admiral!" Lee looked startled as he turned from Catherine's picture.

 

The look of guilty embarrassment told Nelson what Lee was doing here. Lee's morbid curiosity about Catherine was becoming an obsession which was worrying the hell out of Nelson.

"I have to go into the village," Nelson told him. "Do you want anything?"

 

Lee shook his head, "Nothing, thanks."

 

Nelson sighed inwardly. He didn't like the idea of leaving Lee alone again. "All right, but don't hide away in here all day," Nelson told him before turning to leave.

 

"Admiral?"

 

"Yes, Lee?" Nelson stopped and turned back to his young friend.

 

"Nothing, it doesn't matter," Lee shrugged.

 

Nelson nodded, reflecting that it was no good trying to make Lee Crane talk. You just had to bite your tongue and wait until he was ready. "I think it's about time we put in a public appearance, so tonight we are going for a drink at the Fox, and meet some of the locals," he warned the younger man. Nelson secretly hoped that a night out would take Lee's mind off Catherine.

 

"Is that an order?" Lee asked jokingly.

 

"Does it make a difference?" Nelson asked, fearing for a moment that Lee was going to refuse. He knew that there was no use bullying Lee, it would only make him even more determined, but to his relief Lee grinned.

 

"No. Admiral," Lee laughed.

 

Nelson smiled with relief. "I'll see you later, and mind what I told you," he called back over his shoulder, Suddenly realising that he sounded like a father, he smiled to himself ruefully and shrugged. Well, Lee was almost part of the family.

 

"Yes, sir," Lee replied, still with laughter in his voice.

 

With another glance at the portrait, Lee returned to the study. Maybe he could find some answers there.

 

A tranquil stillness had fallen over the study. Outside, the morning was bright, but blustery. Warm sunlight shone through the study window, adding to the benevolent atmosphere of the room. Lee looked up from reading an old newspaper he'd found, and rubbed a hand across his eyes. Resting back in the chair, he gazed out of the window, across to the stables, absently thinking that he hadn't ridden a horse for years. Suddenly he was feeling tired, the lack of sleep the previous night catching up with him. HIs eyelids felt heavy, and he closed his eyes. The only sound was the ticking of the large mantle clock above the fireplace, comforting and soothing.

 

The rattle of crockery and the smell of coffee broke into his dozing. He opened his eyes to see Mrs Cooper standing in front of him, holding a tray.

 

"I've brought you some refreshments," she smiled, placing the tray on the desk top.

 

"Thank you, you shouldn't have bothered," Lee returned the smile.

 

"It's no bother," she told him. "Can I get you anything else?"

"No, thank you, this will do fine," he assured her, turning his attention to the tray.

He spooned sugar into the coffee and stirred it. He was going to miss her cooking when they returned to Santa Barbara. Maybe Chip was right and he should get a regular housekeeper, but he valued his privacy, and liked to have the place to himself when he was on leave. It was something he got very little of aboard Seaview. Remembering Nelson's departing words, Lee glanced at his watch, and was dismayed to find that it was ten thirty already. Nelson would be back soon. It was a wonder that Edith hadn't come looking for him before now. Carefully refolding the newspaper, he finished his coffee. The thought of stretching out on one of the loungers in the pool room was suddenly appealing and at least it would stop the Admiral from nagging him if he found Lee at the pool instead of in the study where he had left him.

 

ooOoo

 

Edith was already settled on one of the loungers, enjoying the warmth of the sun through the glass. She opened her eyes as she heard Lee enter. He had removed his shirt, revealing his tanned chest and broad shoulders. She watched as he kicked of his shoes and sat down, inclining on the lounger. The longer Edith was around Lee, the stronger her feeling towards him grew. Swinging her legs gracefully over the side of the lounger, she got to her feet and walked over to stand beside him. "Sun block?" she offered, tempted to add that she would be happy to help him apply it. A hint of mischief in her smile betrayed her thoughts.

 

Sunlight reflected in his golden/brown eyes as he looked up at her. "Not now, Edith, I'm not in the mood for games," he frowned.

 

"You're touchy this morning," she commented.

 

"Sorry, I had a disturbed night," he apologised.

 

Edith hesitated, she wanted to give him a hug, but she was afraid that Lee might misinterpret it as flirtation. "Why don't you lie down for awhile. I'll call you when Harry gets back," she suggested.

 

Lee shook his head, "I'm fine right here."

 

Edith nodded. "Okay,, I'll be right here if you need me."

 

Lee smiled. "Edith, I'm all right, honestly."

 

"Okay, but you don't know what you're missing," she shrugged and turned away. He could be so infuriating! A few steps took her to the edge of the pool, and she sat down, dangling her legs over the side. The water felt cool and refreshing. Lowering herself into the pool, she began a leisurely swim.

 

Catherine watched them, listening to the exchange. It was clear to her that Lee wasn't interested, so why didn't Edith leave him alone? Maybe it was time to do something about this troublesome female. Moving to Lee's side, she stretched out her hand to lightly touch his face. "Lee?" she whispered. "You have to get rid of the girl, then we can be together," she promised. With prurient images, she continued, "She'll spoil everything, Lee, hurry, now, before someone comes", she urged.

 

"No... can't... not Edith." Lee mumbled, fighting against her suggestions.

 

"Yes, you can, Lee. You have to, she'll tell Nelson about us." Catherine continued, reaching deeper into the subconscious, "I can make you happy. We can have an endless lifetime together, but you have to do this for me first, for us."

 

This was taking too long, she became aware that Nelson was returning, and would, no doubt, come to check on his sister. Lee's will was strong, but he was susceptible to this kind of influence. She intensified her efforts, taking control of his mind, breaking down his defenses, possessing him completely.

 

Edith felt hands on her shoulders, pushing her beneath the water. Too surprised to do anything other than gulp in air, and hold her breath, she went down to the bottom. Her eyes stung with the chlorine as she looked around to see who her attacker was. Lee was following her down, his hands moving to her neck, his thumbs pressing against her windpipe. Fear incited her to act. Grabbing his wrists, she tried to pry his hands away, while kicking desperately with her legs, forcing them both back to the surface. As her head cleared the surface, she gulped in air. "Lee, what the hell are you doing!" she spluttered. "This isn't funny... you're hurting me!"

 

He didn't seem to hear. Again he forced her head under the water. Lee wasn't playing, he was trying to kill her, she realised. Edith lashed out, kicking at him, while her hand closed on a handful of his black, curly hair and she pulled as hard as she could. Lee gasped, releasing his hold on her as he sank in a flurry of bubbles. Kicking out for the side of the pool, her foot contacted with his torso, landing a heavy kick to his stomach that should give him something else to think about.

 

Edith had made it to the ladder when a hand closed on her ankle, dragging her back into the pool. Hanging onto the ladder, she kicked out with her other foot. More by luck than judgement, her foot caught Lee in the face. Once more she was free and with trembling arms she pulled herself out of the pool. Her legs felt weak with shock and the exertion. Somehow she found the strength to scramble to her feet, but her freedom was short lived. Attacked from behind, he grabbed her round the waist, lifting her off her feet. "No! Let me go!" she screamed. Her thoughts raced, she didn't stand a chance against his strength. Calm down, she told herself, trying to remember some of the moves she'd learnt in self-defense classes years ago. Hooking a foot around one knee, she made a sharp pull up and twisted. The joint gave, and as her feet touched the floor, she used her weight, pushing back against him. They both fell, she landing on top of him. Catching her breath, she rolled away and quickly gained her feet. She only had seconds before Lee would regain his senses. Still dripping, she ran for the door, hoping against hope that she could escape before Lee caught up with her.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Nelson paused as he crossed the entrance hall, glancing in the direction of the library. He smiled to himself as he remembered his departing words to Lee. Changing direction, he headed for the library. He was somewhat surprised to find it empty. He'd half expected to find Lee still here. "Lee?" Nelson called, crossing the room to the closed door of the study. That was empty too. Maybe Edith and Lee had gone for a walk in the grounds. He wouldn't put it past his little sister to have coerced Lee into a game of tennis, or something; she usually managed to get her own way.

 

The sound of a door closing diverted his attention to the adjoining shower room. He should have guessed, Lee loved the water. "Lee, is that you?" he called, walking towards the pool room. Getting no answer, he frowned, he couldn't help expecting the worst where Lee was concerned, and very often, his fears were justified; although Lee didn't always agree. Reaching the pool area, he found Lee, apparently unconscious on the floor. No wonder he'd gotten no response to his call. Quickly, he moved to Lee side and knelt beside him. Gently he shook one shoulder. "Lee, can you hear me?"

 

"Hmmm?" Lee responded, opening his eyes. "Admiral?"

 

"What happened?" Nelson asked.

 

"I... can't remember," Lee replied, trying to sit up.

 

Nelson put an arm around Lee's shoulder to support him. "Are you hurt?" If Lee couldn't tell him what had happened, it was difficult to speculate as to what injuries he might have.

 

"I don't..." Lee broke off, grimacing as he tried to get to his feet. "I think I must have twisted my kneel, he admitted, falling back against Nelson's support.

 

"We'd better get you into dry clothes," Nelson commented. And he had to get Lee up from where he lay on the cold, wet floor.

 

Lee suddenly smiled. "You sound like Jamie."

 

"I wish he was here." Nelson told him. But there was no Jamieson, or sickbay here. "Do you think you can make it over there?" Nelson nodded towards the nearest lounger.

 

"I'll try."

 

Nelson stood, taking Lee's arm to help him up. With Nelson's assistance, Lee managed to stand, and limp across to the lounger. "Okay?" Nelson asked as Lee settled back on the bed.

 

Lee nodded. "Yes, thanks, Admiral."

 

"Drop the Admiral," Nelson replied. "We're not aboard Seaview now." Silently, he wished that they were back in Santa Barbara, where Seaview's doctor would be just a phone call away.

 

"Where's Edith?" Lee asked, interrupting Nelson's thoughts.

 

"What?" Edith was here?" Nelson was suddenly afraid that something had happened to his sister, and that was how Lee had been injured.

 

"Yes, she was in the pool," Lee told him.

 

"Try to remember what happened, Lee." Nelson urged. He did a quick survey of the pool area, noting the towel at the poolside, and the bottle of sun lotion beside the other lounger.

 

Lee ran a hand through his dark hair. "It's no good, it's just a blank," he apologised.

 

"Was anyone else here?" Nelson asked, hoping to jog Lee's memory.

 

Lee frowned. "No, why?"

 

Nelson shook his head. "No reason, I guess I'm getting paranoid." They would probably find Edith safe and well. He had made sure that, during his time away, his little sister was quite able to look after herself. Insisting that she went to self-defense classes.

 

"Do you think that something has happened to Edith?" Lee asked, looking up at Nelson.

 

"I think that Edith is more than capable pf taking care of herself," Nelson told him. Right now, he had to concentrate on Lee. "How's the leg, do you think that you can walk?"

 

Lee cautiously flexed his leg. "It's better now, I think I can make it."

 

Nelson couldn't help smiling as he offered him his hand. How many times had he heard Lee tell Jamieson that he was okay, when they both knew that he wasn't? Lee accepted his hand, pulling himself up, he swung his legs over the side, wincing as he stood. "Take it slow," Nelson cautioned, unable to stop himself showing his concern. He watched as Lee shifted his weight and took a tentative step.

 

"It's all right, I can manage." Lee assured him, although he was still limping.

 

Nelson nodded. "Okay, let's go and find Edith."

 

 

Edith decided she needed a shower. Taking a bath towel, she hung it over the radiator to warm before slipping out of her swimsuit and putting it in the laundry basket. Checking that the bathroom door was bolted, she pulled back the shower curtain and stepped under the spray. The water felt good, warming her cold skin. Reaching for the shampoo bottle, she ducked her head under the water to wash the chlorine from her hair. Five minutes later, she emerged feeling fresh and clean. Grabbing the towel from the radiator, she wrapped it around her, then took another to wrap around her hair. She felt calmer now, and had finally stopped shaking.

 

Towelling off, she took her robe from its hook on the door and slipped it on. Trying not to think about what had happened, she turned to look into the steamy mirror to see if Lee's attack on her had left any telltale bruising. Written in the condensation was 'leave him alone, he's mine'. Edith stood for a moment, staring at the message. Her blood ran cold as she thought about Catherine being here, watching her. Well, she was damned if she was going to let some ghost have Lee without a fight. She was, after all, a Nelson, and, like her brother, didn't give up easily. Using a towel, she cleared away the condensation, obliterating the message.

 

Slipping her feet into a pair of mules, she unbolted the door and walked into the bedroom. Moving to the wardrobe, she opened it and surveyed the contents. She chose jeans and a long sleeved tunic jumper. Laying them on the bed, she was interrupted by a knock on the door, accompanied by the familiar voice of her brother.

 

"Edith?"

 

"Just a minute," she called out, walking across to unlock the door. "You're back quick." she smiled, trying to sound natural.

 

"And none too soon.'? Nelson replied, "What's been going on?" he demanded.

 

Edith tried to look surprised. "What do you mean?" she asked, wondering how her brother knew anything had happened.

 

"I found Lee unconscious beside the pool. He couldn't remember what had happened, but he said that you had been there," he told her.

 

"Lee was fine when I left," she lied, not daring to tell her brother what had happened, for fear of what he might do; he was very protective of his little sister.

"Is Lee okay?"

 

"He seems to be." Nelson followed her into the room. "You didn't see or hear anything?"

 

"No. I finished my swim. Lee was asleep and I didn't want to disturb him, so I came up here to shower and change." she explained. She didn't like lying to Harry, but she had to protect Lee. Whatever he'd done, it hadn't been his fault. Catherine had been behind Lee's attack on her; but what was her next move? "Maybe you're making too much of it. It could have been an accident." she suggested.

 

"Lee has had too many accidents lately," Harry grumbled.

 

A reference to Seaview's last mission, Edith guessed. Neither Lee nor Harry ever talked about their work, but she knew that it was sometimes dangerous, and that Harry worried about Lee's safety on such operations.

 

"Well, we'll just have to make sure that he doesn't have any more, won't we?"

 

Harry chuckled, "And how do you propose to do that?"

 

Edith shook her hair free from the towel before answering. "For a start, I think that you should go and check on him while I get dressed." she said.

 

"Lee's not going to like it," Nelson warned.

 

Edith smiled. She knew what he meant. Lee couldn't stand people fussing over him. "Don't worry, he'll be too busy to notice." She told him. Picking up her hair brush she turned to the dressing table.

 

"Edith," her brother cautioned.

 

"Don't worry," she told him, glancing back at him. Her mind was already busy planning way of keeping Lee occupied.

 

Harry shook his head at her. "Don't say I didn't warn you," he told her.

 

Edith didn't answer. Regarding her reflection in the mirror, she wondered if she should select something more attractive to wear.

 

oooOooo

 

A night out at the local pub had not been so bad as Lee had feared it might be. But he was glad to get away from the noise. The walk back to the house had been a bit of a novelty. Despite the cool night air, he had enjoyed it, the approach to the rambling old house in the dark had been spooky, he had half expected some ghostly apparition to appear from behind a tree. Now there was an idea; Nelson could open the place to the public, give nightly ghost tours, and it would give Catherine someone else to focus her attention on.

 

Pleasantly tired, he said goodnight to Edith and Nelson in the hall and went straight to his room. He undressed quickly, still uneasy with the idea that Catherine might be watching him. Climbing into the large four-poster, he sliding beneath the covers, and closed his eyes. Although physically tired, his mind remained alert. He was still troubled by the fact that he could not remember what had happened in the swimming pool that morning. Fortunately, he had not suffered any real injury. Edith's behaviour had been a little intense, but she had relaxed noticeably once they were away from the house, although she had remained close to him all evening.

 

Still unable to drift into sleep, he lay listening to the soft noises of the night. He felt restless and uneasy. Relax, he told himself, and turned over. It was funny how the house seemed to take on a different atmosphere at night; by day, it was simply an old house, but when the sun went down it seemed to take on an entirely new aura. Even this room, with its four poster-bed and the old dark wood furniture. Shadows seemed to lurk in the darkness and the fireplace looked sinister and malevolent. It would make a great setting for a ghost film, he thought. On the subject of ghosts, he wondered where Catherine was, and if she would put in an appearance tonight? He hoped not.

 

 

 

Edith was woken by a coldness that seemed to fill the room. Huddled beneath the bedclothes, she sat up. The sound of footsteps sounded in the passageway, coming closer, heavier and louder as they approached.

 

"Harry, is that you?" Edith called.

She was answered by a terrible pounding on the door, so intense that she was sure the door would give way. She wanted to scream, as the sound increased, but no sound would come. Where were Harry and Lee? Surely they could hear the pounding echoing down the hall. As she continued to stare at the door, the heavy thumps diminished and the knob began to turn. Slowly the door swung open to reveal a dark, empty passageway. Disentangling herself from the bedclothes, Edith reached for the light. She stared around as it came on but the room was undisturbed, and she was quite alone.

 

Shaken by the experience, she felt the need of company. As she climbed out of the large bed, she slipped into her robe and slippers before starting for the door. She froze as it slammed shut. Clinging to the bedpost, she hesitated, afraid to leave the room in case someone, or something, was waiting for her outside the door. Yet she had to do something. She couldn't go back to sleep without knowing. Slowly, she moved towards the door. Her instincts screamed for her not to do it, to stay where she was, in the relative safety of her room, but she knew that she couldn't do that. Her hand trembled as she reached for the door knob, and turned it. Quietly, she opened the door and took a step into the corridor. There was a terrible smell in the air that made her skin crawl. With her courage on the point of deserting her, she started towards her brother's room. She had no idea what she would say, but she was certain he would never believe her.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Just as Lee was drifting into sleep, a tapping sound from the window disturbed him. Reluctantly giving up on the idea of sleep for the moment, he dragged himself out of bed to investigate. Pulling back the curtains, he stood in front of the window, looking for whatever had caused the noise. A branch overhanging the window perhaps, or anything loose that could be blowing against the glass, but he could see nothing. He was about to return to bed, when something drew his gaze to the garden below. The figure of Catherine stood on the lawn. Stretching out a hand, she beckoned to him, and at the same moment, he heard her call his name.

 

Again the heady perfume of roses filled the air, assaulting his senses. Suddenly feeling dizzy, he closed his eyes while a strange compulsion guided him across the room to the door. Leaving the room, he turned down the passage towards the landing. Although aware of what he was doing, he had no control over his body. Leaving the house, he crossed the lawn, oblivious of the damp grass beneath his feet. As he approached the laurel archway, Catherine stood waiting for him. She took his hand, and again he heard her voice in his head, taking control. Provocative thoughts raced through his mind, till he could think of nothing else.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

"Harry?" Edith called as she threw open the door of her brother's room and hurried across to the bed. Turning on the bedside lamp, she shook Nelson. "Harry, wake up!"

 

"Edith?" Nelson asked in confusion at being woken.

 

"Harry, Catherine is real, she's here." Edith blurted almost hysterically.

 

Nelson propped himself up on one elbow, rubbing his eyes. "Calm down, Edith, and tell me what happened."

 

"I woke up; the room felt really cold. Then I heard footsteps coming down the corridor. At first I thought it was you, and I called out. Then there was this terrible hammering on the door." Edith fought back the tears; she was not going to break down in floods of tears, like some hysterical female. "The door knob began to turn, and the door opened on its own, there was no-one there! And there was a terrible smell, like something rotten," she continued.

 

Nelson had got up and put on his robe. "It's okay," he told her, putting a comforting arm around her shoulder. "Let's go take a look," he suggested, slipping his feet into his slippers.

 

As they made their way down the corridor to Edith's room, she told Nelson about the conversation she and Lee had in the cemetery, and about what happened in the pool room that morning.

 

Nelson was beginning to think that Lee was right; the house was haunted, since Edith had also encountered bizarre phenomena and Nelson had found nothing to indicate that the place had been rigged to give a false impression of supernatural activity. Besides, what could possibly be the motive for such an action? Less sceptical about the paranormal than some of his younger colleagues, Nelson had seen and experienced enough in his life for him to be open to what might appear foolish. His attempts to find reasonable explanations had stemmed more from wish-fulfillment than dogma, but he was willing to face up to facts when they forced themselves down his throat.

 

Upon entering Edith's room, everything appeared normal. His hand found the light switch, and he turned them on. Walking into the room, he noticed a faint mustiness in the air, but nothing like the smell Edith had described. Pausing, he let his gaze travel around the room.

 

"Well?" Edith asked from behind him.

 

Nelson shrugged, "There's no-one here now," he told her.

 

"I didn't imagine it," Edith said defensively.

 

"I didn't say you did." Nelson replied, moving to the bathroom. He opened the door, pulled on the light and entered. A quick check revealed nothing, and he returned to join Edith. He was about to suggest that Edith go back to bed, when something caused him to go to the window. He looked out in time to see Lee and Catherine, hand in hand, disappearing through the archway. "My god! We have to stop them," he exclaimed in alarm. "Get a blanket." He called back over his shoulder, as he headed for the door.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

She led him to the crypt. The door stood open and he followed her inside. She stood before him, watching him with those fathomless green eyes. Slowly and deliberately she opened her gown and let it fall around her feet. "Now it's your turn," she whispered.

 

"No... I can't do this," he protested, backing away a step. "You're not real."

 

She looked into his eyes and smiled. Her hand guided his to her breast, "You could last night."

 

The feel of her naked flesh aroused his sexual desires. The delicate smell of her assaulted his senses, captivating him. "I don't... want to," he shook his head, but he could not turn his head from her.

 

She moved closer, her hands went to his pyjamas jacket, unbuttoning it. "Take it off," she whispered.

 

Crane gritted his teeth. His pulse was racing and his hands shook. "Why are you doing this?" he asked.

 

"Because you want me to." Her hands stroked his chest, moving to his shoulders, pushing the pyjama jacket off. His mind whirled as he felt her soft warmth against him. "Do it slowly," she breathed, kissing his nipples, while her hands moved across his stomach, down to remove the final barrier.

Exciting sensations rippled through him as she explored his body. His arms encircled her and he shivered, letting out a jagged breath. He was loosing control, his senses spinning, as her caresses evoked a burning hunger in him that demanded fulfilment. He was beyond caring, only aware that he wanted her. His lips brushed hungrily against hers, while he pulled her closer.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

By the time Nelson reached the garden, Lee and Catherine had disappeared. Damn! He should have brought a torch, he realised. There wasn't time now to go back for one. Crossing the lawn, he followed the path they had taken through the archway. Moving cautiously in the darkness, he found his way between the trees. Emerging into a clearing, Nelson saw the graveyard, and within it, the crypt. Somehow he knew that this was where he would find Lee. Reaching the open door of the crypt, he hesitated, almost afraid of what he would find inside. A cold clamminess gripped him and fear turned his stomach. He fiercely fought against the feeling of dread that held him frozen to the spot, but he could not get his feet to move, his only thought to get away from this dreadful place.

 

"What's happening?" Edith asked, arriving on the scene. Getting no answer from her brother, she pushed past him to enter the crypt herself. She found Lee locked in the clutches of an emaciated, corpse like figure. "Leave him alone!" she ordered, advancing on them. Seizing Lee's arm, she pulled them apart. "Lee, snap out of it!"

 

Suddenly the crypt was in turmoil. Catherine's scream of outrage echoed around the interior. A whirlwind seemed to roar through the crypt, throwing up dust and debris. Raising a hand to shield her eyes, Edith felt Lee slipping from her grasp. When the storm subsided, and she was able to see again, she found Lee on his knees. His eyes were staring ahead of himself, terrifyingly vacant. Putting the blanket around his shoulders, she spoke softly. "Lee, come on, it's over."

 

Lee responded to her voice. Pulling the blanket around himself, he let her help him to his feet and be led back to the house.

 

 

 

Much later, dressed in fresh pyjamas and towelling robe, Lee emerged from the bathroom, his face partially concelled by the towel he was using to dry his hair. Avoiding meeting Nelson's gaze, he crossed the room to sit on the bed.

 

"Are you all right?" Nelson asked, seating himself beside Lee.

 

"I think so," Lee replied softly, still refusing to look at Nelson.

 

Nelson wished Chip were there. Somehow the Executive Officer of Seaview always knew what to do, knew the right things to say when it came to Crane.

 

"Has she gone?" Lee asked, interrupting Nelson's thoughts.

 

"For now," Nelson replied, sure that Catherine's ghost was still nearby.Well, he'd make sure that she didn't get another chance at Lee tonight.

 

Lee had stopped rubbing his hair, and hung the towel around his neck. "You think she'll be back?"

 

Nelson turned to look at Lee. "She won't give up that easily. I think we should all stay together tonight."

 

"We?"

 

Nelson nodded, indicating where Edith lay curled up asleep on the chaise longue.

 

"I'm sorry," Lee apologised. A flush of embarrassment colouring his features, he quickly turned away.

 

"I should apologise for bringing you here," Nelson told him. "And for not believing you," he finished in disgust. As if Lee hadn't been through enough.

 

Lee glanced at him. "You weren't to know."

 

"Maybe not, but I should have listened when you tried to tell me, instead of being so obstinate," Nelson argued. Anger flared in his voice, and on his face. Anger at himself, mostly. He of all people, should have believed Lee.

 

Lee bowed his head. "I feel so ashamed... I couldn't help myself. I wanted her so badly, more than I've ever wanted anything in my life." he said quietly.

 

Nelson put a hand on Lee's shoulder and smiled reassuringly. "It wasn't your fault. Sex is a very powerful emotion and Catherine seems to be a mistress at using it."

 

"I should have had more self control," Lee answered in self recrimination.

 

Nelson sighed to himself. This was turning into one of those conversations. No matter what he said, Lee would still blame himself. "You couldn't control what she was doing to you," Nelson told him.

 

"I knew what I was doing, but I still allowed her to seduce me," Lee replied bitterly.

 

"Dammit, Lee, don't be so hard on yourself. You couldn't have resisted, she was controlling you," Nelson snapped. However, this failed to have the effect he'd hoped.

 

"It wasn't supernatural possession, just mindless lust. I gave into mysexual desires, without a thought for the consequences," Lee agonized.

 

"Hey! Are you two going to argue all night?" Edith interrupted before either of them had time to say anything more.

 

They both turned in her direction. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you," Nelson apologised, then looked at Lee, "You heard the lady, time for bed. I hope you don't mind sharing?"

 

Lee smiled self-consciously. "I think the bed is big enough."

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Sunlight was streaming in through the window when Lee next woke. Nelson was seated beside the bed, watching him. "How do you feel?" he asked.

 

"Fine." Lee stretched lazily.

 

"Hungry? Edith's having breakfast". Nelson told him. "Mrs Cooper claims they didn't hear anything last night." he continued.

 

Lee nodded, "Do you believe her?" Lee asked, as he threw back the covers and reached for his robe.

 

"It's possible I suppose," Nelson said thoughtfully.

 

"You don't sound convinced," Lee commented, pulling one arm into a sleeve. He wasn't sure he believed it either.

 

"I don't know, but I find it hard to believe that the two of them have lived here all this time and never heard or seen anything unusual," Nelson pondered. "But that's not important now. We have to get you out of here, Lee. I've decided to sell the house, the solicitors can take care of the details. We can fly back..."

 

"Hold it," Lee interrupted. This was what he'd feared Nelson would do. "I'm not going anywhere." It wouldn't be right to walk away and let some unsuspecting person fall into Catherine's clutches.

 

"But, Lee..." Nelson protested.

 

"We can't turn our backs on the problem. We have to deal with this." Lee was determined to resolve the situation for which he felt somehow responsible. He must have unwittingly done something to cause Catherine's spirit to manifest itself to him. A suspicion he dare not express to Nelson.

 

Nelson shook his head at Lee. "It's too dangerous, you must stay away from her," he told him with equal determination.

 

"I want to know what the devil she's after, and I intend to get some answers." Lee told him, then turned and headed for the bathroom.

 

Nelson threw up his hands in surrender. "All right, have it your own way. You will, no matter what I say!"

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Nelson and Crane joined Edith in the kitchen for breakfast. Edith hadn't wanted to eat alone in the dining room and was obviously relieved to see them when they arrived. Mrs Cooper had been a little strained ever since Harry had questioned her and despite her need for company, Edith had been inwardly pleased when the older woman had made some excuse about a cleaning job and disappeared.

 

"So, what are you going to do now?" she asked as they seated themselves at the table.

 

"Better ask Lee," Nelson replied, casually pouring himself some coffee. The last thing he wanted was to get into another argument with Lee.

 

Edith switched her attention to Lee. "What does that mean?" she asked.

 

"There is only one thing we can do and that is find out what she wants." Lee answered.

 

"I think that much is obvious. She wants you," Edith told him after a moment of startled silence. Getting up to clear the dishes, she walked over to the sink.

 

Lee shook his head, "There's more to it than that. Why does Catherine's spirit haunt the house? What holds her here?"

 

Edith turned from the drainer. "I don't know; maybe we should call in a priest or something." she suggested.

 

Lee looked a little uncomfortable. "Do you think anyone would believe us?" he asked.

 

Lee had a point. They were strangers here, and with Mr and Mrs Cooper claiming to have heard and seen nothing, they had nothing to back up their story. "So what else can we do?" Edith asked as she resumed her seat at the table.

 

"Admiral, how did MIchael die?" Lee asked suddenly.

 

Surprised by the unexpected question, Nelson looked up, pausing in buttering a piece of toast. "I don't really know. Why?"

 

"I'm not sure. I think that something terrible happened here, and I don't think Catherine's death was an accident." Lee explained.

 

"Now, come on, Lee!" Nelson protested. "Surely you're not suggesting that Michael had anything to do with her death? They were devoted to each other," he pointed out.

 

"No, but I do think their deaths might be linked."

 

"I don't see how; their deaths were nearly twenty years apart." Nelson rationalized.

 

"Yes, but wasn't his death a bit premature? He must have been about your age, Admiral?" Lee argued.

 

"Well, there's one way to find out," Edith interrupted. "Let's ask the housekeeper."

 

"Do you mind if I finish my breakfast first?" Nelson realised that the only way he was going to pursuade Lee to leave was to solve this problem and lay the ghost of Catherine Westwood to rest. As soon as he'd had breakfast, he would telephone the base, and try to speak to the commanding officer. Maybe he could give him some answers.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Edith asked, watching Lee pull open the door of the crypt.

 

"No, but it's where she keeps bringing me. Maybe there's a connection," he told her.

 

Edith followed him inside. Their footsteps echoed on the stone floor. "So, what are we looking for?" The only light was from the open door, and the interior of the crypt was quite dark.

 

"I'm not sure," Lee replied. Looking around, he took a few steps further into the musty interior and switched on the torch, shining it around the coffin lined walls.

 

Edith shivered, and moved closer to Lee, her eyes followed the beam of light as it moved from one coffin to the next. Some were very old, and in various states of decay, covered in a layer of dust and cobwebs.

 

"There's nothing here, Let's get out of here, Lee." Edith suggested. "This place gives me the creeps."

 

"Just a minute." The light stopped on the newest addition, and Lee walked over to examine Michael's coffin. "This one must be Catherine." Lee brushed away some of the dust from the brass plate, now tarnished with age, from the coffin next to Michael's. "I'm here, what do you want me to do?"

 

Edith shook her head, about to make a comment about his strange behaviour, hoping that she could pursuade Lee to leave before Catherine appeared. She realised it was too late when one of the flagstones slid away to reveal an opening.

 

"What's down there?" she asked as they cautiously approached the opening.

 

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," Lee replied. Kneeling beside the opening, he shone the torch down into the darkness.

 

Edith's stomach tightened, and she grabbed his arm. "No, Lee, you can't go down there," she protested

 

"I've come this far, I'm not going back now," he told her, gently pulling his arm free. Perching on the edge, he lowered himself down, "You wait here." he told her.

 

"No way! I'm not letting you go down there alone. Suppose Catherine is waiting for you down there?" Edith protested. She had no intention of being left alone in this spooky place. Besides, she had promised Harry that she would keep an eye on Lee.

 

"It might not be safe, Lee told her.

 

"I'm a big girl now, I can look after myself," she answered resolutely, although inside, she was not so sure about her last statement. How did you protect yourself

from a ghost?

 

Lee frowned at her, and for a moment she saw a hesitancy about him. He was used to being in command and having people follow his orders without question. She was different, though, in that she was a woman, and he was too much of a gentleman to yell, or swear at her. Add to that the fact that she was also a civilian and the sister of his commanding officer, and Lee had no chance of being able to cope with her.

 

"All right, but stay close." Lee finally conceded.

 

"Don't worry, I intend to," she replied as she prepared to follow him down into the darkness.

 

The steps descended into a tunnel, which seemed to lead in the direction of the house, although it was difficult to tell down here. Moving off down the tunnel,

Lee shone the light ahead. The air was stale, but fresher air was entering via the opening.

 

"I wonder where it leads," Edith whispered.

 

"At a guess, I'd say the house." Lee answered. "A lot of these old houses had secret tunnels." As they went deeper into the tunnel, the darkness intensified, consuming the light from the torch. Crane wondered how far it extended, and what they would find at the end. The floor seemed flat and level, but there was no telling how old the tunnel was. There could have been a deterioration in its condition, even if it wasn't obvious to the untrained eye. He probably shouldn't have brought Edith down here, but he had learned long ago that she was an extremely determined lady, and very adept at getting her own way.

 

"I hope we can get back okay," Edith worried, following him deeper into the darkness.

 

Crane shone the light down at the floor. "It must go somewhere. Someone went to a lot of trouble making it." he commented, noting the textured flooring beneath their feet. The tunnel finally ended with a door. Lee turned the handle and pulled. To his surprise, it opened easily; he had expected it to be locked.

Opening the door wider, he shone the light around the interior.

 

"What's in there?" Edith asked impatiently.

 

"I don't know,', Lee answered absently, his hand searching for a light switch. A little to his suprise he found one and flipped it, but there was no power and the room remained dark. "Wait here, I'll take a look," he told her, walking through the door. He spun around as some unseen force slammed the door shut as soon as he had cleared it. For a few seconds he stood motionless, listening for any sound from within. He recovered at Edith's muffled call from the other side of the door.

 

"Lee, are you all right?"

 

"Edith, get out of there, now!" he shouted back.

 

 

 

Edith ran back down the tunnel. The stairs that would take her to safety seemed so far away and she was afraid that Catherine would seal her escape route before she reached it. The idea of being entombed down here didn't bear thinking about. Besides, she had to get out, to get help for Lee. Fear for Lee's safety spurred her on, the rush of adrenalin giving her muscles strength. Catherine had already demonstrated the hold she had over Lee. She wanted him, and that could

only mean one thing: Lee had to die. Edith hoped that she could return with help before that happened.

 

Without the flashlight, she couldn't see where she was running, but her eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness, which saved her from tripping over some of the debris and crashing to the ground. At last she could see a point of light ahead, the opening they had originally come down. She was forced to rest at the bottom of the steps to catch her breath. Leaning against the wall, she gasped in air to her straining lungs. Once she was free of this terrible place she would go and find Harry. Between them they would be able to come back and help Lee escape Catherine's clutches before it was too late.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Crane pulled at the door, but it wouldn't open.

 

"Alone at last," Catherine laughed.

 

He turned from the door as Catherine emerged from the darkness, totallynaked. "Go away, leave me alone," Lee backed away until he was against the door. He was determined that he wasn't going to be enticed by her this time. Last night he'd given into his desires, lost control of his emotions in a moment of mindless weakness.

 

"Come, join me, we can be together forever," she said seductively.

 

Crane shook his head. "No, not this time." He forced himself to break contact with those enticing green eyes. Slowly he inched alone the wall, searching for another way out.

 

"You can't escape me," she told him.

 

"What is this place?" he asked, as he continued to inch his way along the wall, searching for a door. There had to be a way out.

 

"It's my secret place. I used to come here to watch Michael working. He spent hours shut away down here," she answered with a note of sadness.

 

"What holds you here?" he asked, playing for time. Hoping to distract her long enough for Edith to get help.

 

"I don't want to talk about it."

 

"But I may be able to help," Crane coaxed. "Tell me what happened."

 

Catherine's momentary introspection vanished as swiftly as it had come. "I don't want to leave here. It's fun being a ghost, now that I have someone to share it with," she smiled.

 

"You really expect me to give up everything to spend eternity here with you?" Crane said the words with contempt, but inside he wondered if he could really escape her.

 

"Do you think you have a choice?" she laughed, moving closer.

 

His memory flashed back to Krueger, making him shudder. Nelson had dealt with Krueger by blowing up the island. Unfortunately this time it wasn't going to be that easy. Despite his situation, Lee could not help smiling as his thoughts turned to Chip Morton, Seaview's Exec. Chip's philosophy was shoot first, ask questions later. He claimed it saved time and there were times when Crane had to agree with him. If only such a simple solution was applicable here. The smile was only fleeting, he could feel Catherine's eyes on him. Feel her will encroaching into the edge of his consciousness. Erotic images invaded his thoughts. "No, leave me alone," he shook his head, trying to free himself from her.

 

"Why are you fighting it?" she murmured, her eyes ablaze with desire,her hand reaching out to gently touch his face.

 

"NO!" he croaked, closing his eyes, trying to block out the arousing images taking shape in his mind, clouding his brain.

 

"You're mine," she told him, as her tongue swept her lips in a slow, seductive gesture.

 

At that moment his hand closed on a door knob, and he turned it, stumbling through the door as it opened. Disorientated, he shone the flashlight around the interior of what appeared to be some sort of lab. He jumped as Catherine's hand touched his shoulder....

 

 

As she stood before him, she felt so alive, thrilled by the thought of his physique. Wrapping her arms around his neck, her mouth claimed his in a possessive kiss. Pulling his shirt out of his pants, her fingers worked quickly to undo the buttons. "Take me," she whispered, opening his shirt. She felt him shiver as her fingers explored his chest. God, she wanted him. She imagined him lying naked, while she enjoyed his body.

 

"No!" he turned his head away, struggling free from her, and he stumbled backwards to collide with the work bench.

 

Catherine advanced on him, pinning him against the bench, spilling equipment onto the floor. "Relax," she soothed. Slowly she ran her hand over his chest, then down over the taut muscles of his stomach. Lee moaned as her hand moved down to touch his arousal straining to escape its prison. Yet still he resisted, pulling her hand away, but his racing pulse betrayed him, and she knew that a part of him wanted her. Again she kissed him deeply, rubbing herself against him. "I know you want me," she breathed, while she unzipped his pants.

 

"Nooo!" he groaned, shaking his head in protest as her hand slid inside. Her slender fingers caressed him, while exciting images whirled through his mind. The ache in his loins was growing unbearable as she continued to touch him and he closed his eyes, no longer able to resist the erotic feeling. He raised his hands to the swell of her breasts, indulging in their voluptuous sensuality. His own flesh was straining for release, and he again moaned his frustration. He went willingly as she pulled him down onto the floor, lost in the physical pleasures she induced.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Edith heard a rumbling sound from behind her. Looking back down the tunnel, she saw a thick cloud of dust coming towards her and she realised in horror that the ceiling was caving in. Quickly she started up the steps, hauling herself over the edge of the opening where she paused to take a deep breath of fresh air to clear her head. The whole place was shaking, and she was afraid that the ancient walls of the crypt would come down around her. Pushing herself up from hands and knees, she ran for the door, only stopping once she was outside. But what about Lee? He was still down there, trapped, maybe dead. Tears streamed down her face as she stumbled through the graveyard. Pulling herself together, she wiped away the tears and began to run. She couldn't give up on Lee, he had to be alive, and she had to get help.

 

Edith ran through the house, checking each room, searching for her brother, but he wasn't there. "Harry?" she called out in desperation.She was close to

tears again, but she forced herself to suppress her feelings. If she was going to be of any help to Lee, she needed to stay calm. Oh, Lee, she sighed,

why hadn't she tried harder to stop him going near the crypt? If Lee came out of this alive, she wouldn't let him get away again. Harry must still be at the base,

but was there time for him to get here, or should she try to get help from somewhere closer. The problem was, who would believe her?

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Captain Steven Redman stood to greet Nelson as he was shown into his office. "Admiral Nelson," he shook hands across the desk. "Please, sit down. What can I do for you?" he asked, resuming his seat.

 

"Thank you." Nelson sat. "I'm hoping that you can help with a problem that has arisen at Westwood Manor," he told him.

 

"Er, yes, I heard that you are the new owner. Congratulations," Redman smiled.

 

"Thank you." Nelson returned Redman's compliment. He wondered how much information Redman would be willing to divulge.

 

"I don't see how I can help," Redman continued cautiously.

 

"What caused the fire that killed Catherine?" Nelson asked, coming straight to the point.

 

Redman shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't help you much. No-one knows for sure."

 

Nelson could see that Redman wasn't going to tell him any more than he had to, so if he wanted to get to the heart of the matter, he was going to have to pry the information out of the other man. "Has there been any reports of anything unusual at the manor?" he asked.

 

The captain regarded him thoughtfully across the desk. "Such as?"

 

"There seems to be some force at work in the house," Nelson replied, not prepared to go into details unless forced to.

 

"That sounds very mysterious, Admiral. I know that some of the local people believe the manor is haunted, and won't go near the place after dark," Redman said light heartedly.

 

"Have you ever visited the house, Captain?" Nelson asked, although he didn't expect Redman to admit to having experienced anything unusual while at the house. It wouldn't do for base commanders to admit to believing in ghosts.

 

"Yes, I've visited Westwood Manor many times, but I have never seen or heard anything unusual, if that's what you are trying to find out, Admiral?"

 

Nelson nodded. It was just the answer he had expected. "How did Michael Smythe die?" he asked, watching for Redman's reaction to the question.

 

"I was afraid you were going to ask me that," Redman replied in resignation.

 

"I hope you're not going to tell me that it's classified, Captain," Nelson warned. He was rapidly coming to think that Lee was right and that something had happened at Westwood Manor. Something which for some reason the airforce had covered it up.

 

"No, Admiral." Redman paused, then continued. "I'm sorry to have to tell you that Michael killed himself."

 

"Suicide! But why?" Nelson asked incredulously.

 

"I'm sorry, Admiral, but the circumstances surrounding his suicide are classified. I can't tell you any more." Redman apologised. At that moment they were interrupted by the telephone on the desk ringing. "Excuse me." Redman reached for the receiver. He listened for a moment, before handing it to Nelson. "It's for you, Admiral."

 

"Thank you." Nelson took the receiver. "This is Nelson." The voice at the other end informed him that they were the police, and that they were sorry to tell him that there had been an accident at the Manor. "Is anyone hurt?" Nelson asked, fearing the worst.

 

It turned out that the police didn't know all the details as yet, but Captain Crane was trapped by a cave-in at the end of a tunnel he and Edith Nelson had found under the Crypt. Despite the stab of worry he felt when he heard the news, Nelson retained enough control to thank the police for alerting him and said that he would be there as soon as he could. Handing the telephone back to Redman, Nelson gazed at the base commander grimly. "Michael's death wouldn't have anything to do with what's at the end of the tunnel under the crypt?" Nelson asked, deciding to try and persuade Redman that he knew more than he actually did. To his satisfaction, the other man immediately paid him more attention.

 

"Why, what's happened?" The captain sounded concerned.

 

"There's been an accident. A friend is trapped down there." Nelson informed him. "If you'll excuse me, Captain, I have to go."

 

"I'll come with you," Redman replied, getting to his feet, all pretence at mild disinterest falling away from him as he rose to his feet.

 

 

 

 

Nelson arrived at the house to find an ambulance, fire rescue vehicles and police car lined up in the drive. Edith ran towards him as he got out of the car.

 

"Harry, thank goodness you're here."

 

"Edith, what's going on?" he asked. They were going to have a hard time keeping this quiet, now that the police were involved.

 

"The fire rescue people are worried that if they start trying to dig their way in, the rest of the tunnel will come down." Edith explained as they walked towards the house.

 

"There's no need for that," Redman interrupted. "We can get in using the entrance in the cellar."

 

Nelson gave the base commander a hard stare and Redman had the grace to flush and look away. The Admiral couldn't really blame the other man; there had been enough times in his own past when he had had to keep secrets from friends and family in the name of security. At least Redman wasn't going to let an obsessive need for secrecy stand in the way of saving Lee's life.

 

He nodded, both in agreement and silent absolution. "We had better talk to however's in charge. Even with another entrance, the collapse of the tunnel might have weakened the structure, so we're going to need some help."

 

"But what's down there?" Edith asked.

 

"Never mind that now, I'll explain later,', he replied, hurrying towards the rescue services. Mainly after I've found out myself, he reflected ruefully.

 

Redman preceded them down into the cellar, and led them to the back wall. He moved along the wall, examining the brickwork, explaining that it had been some time since he had been here and the original door had been bricked over. Shifting some crates, he found what he was looking for, pointing out that the brickwork in this part of the wall was newer than the rest. "It's just here," he decided, pointing to the wall.

 

Two fireman stepped forward, and went to work demolishing the wall where Redman had indicated. Nelson stood back out of the way, watching as the men continued. Brick by brick, the doorway was revealed.

 

"I hope we're in time," Edith whispered from beside him.

 

"It won't be long now," Nelson told her. A pile of bricks and rubble was slowly growing as the firemen hammered at the mortar, levering free the bricks, and throwing them aside. Dust and grit covered the men's clothes, turning them grey and disconcertingly ghostlike.

 

"Almost there," one of them called as the other worked on the last few remaining bricks.

 

Redman stepped forward, and unlocked the door that the work had uncovered. "After you, Admiral," he said, stepping back to let Nelson go first.

 

"Get a paramedic down here." Nelson instructed Edith before hurrying to join Redman. When the door was opened, the air inside felt icy cold. Nelson went before Redman, searching ahead with a flashlight he had borrowed from one of the firemen. "Lee?" Nelson called.

 

"I'll see if I can get the power on." Redman told him, moving away.

 

"Fine," Nelson answered absently, his mind occupied by concern for Lee. He blinked as the lights suddenly came on, bright to eyes adjusted to torchlight but nowhere near the level he would have expected from a complex his surroundings indicated had been some kind of laboratory. Either they were emergency lights or long disuse had damaged the system. Whatever the problem, they were still a lot more use than a torch. Blinking to adjust his vision, Nelson shut off the torch and focused on finding Lee as quickly as possible.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Lee opened his eyes. Something was wrong, he couldn't breathe. He tried to sit up, but an invisible weight held him down. The darkness around him was absolutely complete, so he couldn't see who, or what, was suffocating him. He was so cold, he couldn't really feel the rest of his body and his hand searched frantically for the flashlight, desperate for the comfort light would give him.

 

"Catherine, no, stop this," an unfamiliar voice called out of the darkness.

 

"Michael?"

 

"Yes, Catherine, it's me."

 

Finally finding the torch, Lee was about to switch it on when the lights in the ceiling came on dimly. Lee levered himself up on one elbow to get a better view of his surroundings, then tensed when he saw two nebulous figures drifting towards one another. As he watched, the two figures embraced.

 

"Michael, I've been alone so long," Catherine cried. "Why did you leave me?"

 

"I didn't leave you, my love. I kept trying to reach you but you wouldn't let me find you. Now that I have, though, we'll be together now, forever,' Michael said gently.

 

"Lee, where are you?"

 

The sound of Nelson's voice in the distance came as a welcome surprise. "Admiral!" Lee called in answer, turning towards the door as his attention

was taken by the reminder of the living.

 

"Goodbye, Lee," Catherine said softly. When he turned back, the two had disappeared. "Goodbye, Catherine.' Lee replied quietly. Now they were together at last, maybe her spirit could rest. Despite what she had been planning, Lee couldn't find it in his heart to do anything other than pity her. He knew all about loneliness and what it could do to a person.

 

"Lee, are you all right?"

 

Nelson appeared in the doorway as the lights suddenly flickered and came on again at normal brightness. Lee nodded, squinting against the sudden increase in light, while Nelson bellowed back down the corridor that he had been found. Belatedly becaming conscious of his state of undress, Crane blushed, wondering how he was going to be able to explain himself with any dignity. Once again he had given in to Catherine's seduction, to the physical pleasures. Now he felt ashamed.

 

"It's all right, you're safe now," Nelson said, kneeling beside him.

 

They both looked up as the paramedic came in. Lee instinctively tensed. "I'm okay, I don't need medical attention,' he told him. Things were bad enough already, he couldn't face an examination, and possibly some embarrassing questions.

 

"Well, as I'm here, why don't I check you over anyway?" The paramedic smiled genially.

 

"No! I'm okay," Lee hastily assured him.

 

The paramedic opened his mouth to argue, then shut it again as Nelson shook his head in negation and frowned. "All right, if you're sure." Turning to go, the paramedic almost collided with Edith. "Sorry."

 

"That's okay," Edith smiled, then turned her attention to Lee and Nelson. Harry was helping Lee up from the floor. Edith almost ran to him and wrapped her arms around Lee's neck. "Lee, I was so worried."

 

"It's all right," he told her, putting an arm around her.

 

"Hold me," she whispered, hugging him tightly, still cold with the thought that she might have left him to his death. He felt warm and alive as she nestled against his chest, and she could smell his aftershave. Realising that he was clothed in only a shirt and socks made her pulse quicken. She glanced up into golden/brown eyes. "Oh, Lee."

 

Lee smiled and bent his head to kiss her gently. "Thanks for bringing the cavalry."

 

"You're welcome," Edith kissed him back. She had waited so long for this moment. Her body hungered for him. She wanted him to sweep her off her feet, and carry her off into the sunset. Only she knew she couldn't have him. With a sigh, she eased herself away. "You had better get some clothes on, before I'm tempted to do something we'll both regret," she told him.

 

Lee's gaze flashed to Nelson, and he again blushed in embarrassment. They had both forgotten that he was there. Lee looked suddenly out of his depth, unsure of what to do. He was no longer the resourceful, self-assured captain, but looked vulnerable and lost, but oh so cute. "Come on, Harry, I think Lee needs some privacy," she said, taking pity on him. Edith had the feeling that she had just let a once-in-a-lifetime chance slip away, but she had no regrets. If she couldn't have the man of her dreams honestly, well, she's just have to settle for the dreams, instead.

 

Standing under the harsh fluorescent lights, Lee felt totally exposed, in more ways than one. He shook his head in self disgust. Despite his good intentions, he had been unable to resist Catherine's advances. However much he'd told himself that he didn't want her, the outcome was inevitable. Adding to his shame, was the fact that he had enjoyed every minute. Even worse, Nelson and Edith had found him like this, when it didn't take much imagination to work out what he'd been doing. Lee groaned. What was this going to do to his reputation if anyone at the Institute got to hear? The fact that neither Edith nor Nelson would even think of gossiping about such a matter only served to make things worse. Hastily, he gathered his clothes that he had discarded so frantically about the floor. Hopefully, now that Catherine and Michael were re-united it was all over, and Westwood Manor would be a normal house again. Suddenly Lee wanted to return to Santa Barbara, and the privacy of his cabin aboard Seaview.

 

 

oooOooo

 

 

Several hours later, after seeing Edith safely to her room, Nelson went in search of Lee. He had tried to protect Crane from the inexorable questions from both the police and fire people, although he had been helped by the fact that the truth was so bizarre that no-one came close to guessing it. Nelson himself had been unable to tell them much, and he had steered most of their questions in Redman's direction, considering that a fairly minor revenge against the man. Then the reporter from the local paper had turned up!!

 

Finally, he had managed to corner Redman, and ask him a few questions of his own. The Captain owed them an explanation, and Nelson had made it clear that he wanted answers. In the end, Redman had no choice but to tell him the truth. Nelson had already managed to put some of the pieces together, and Redman had filled in the blanks. The lab had been protected by an Electromagnetic Sterilization system, and Michael had believed that the fire was caused by a fault in the system. He blamed himself for Catherine's death, and in the end, the guilt had become to much. After the fire, the entrance in the cellar had been bricked up, leaving the only access via the passage under the crypt, just in case some emergency arose which necessitated a swift entry. Redman had promised that the lab would be dismantled, and the entrance sealed. Until then, Nelson would have to postpone any decision about the house. He had a nasty feeling he didn't want to inquire too closely into what kind of experiments had been conducted in the lab. The secrecy certainly hinted at things better left unexplored. He found Lee in the library, standing in front of Catherine's portrait. "Are you sure you're all right, Lee?" he asked, walking into the room.

 

Lee turned and smiled, "Yes, Admiral, I'm fine." he assured him. "Have they all gone?"

 

"Yes," Nelson nodded. "Been quite a day, hasn't it?" he sympathised.

 

"What did you tell them?" Lee asked.

 

"Oh, I left most of the explaining to Redman." Nelson said. He still wasn't happy about not being told the installation was there in the first place. If anything had happened to Edith or Lee...

 

"I wish someone would explain it to me," Lee complained, interrupting Nelson's thoughts.

 

"I'm sorry, Lee, I shouldn't have brought you here." Nelson apologised. Damn Redman, and the USAF. This was supposed to be a holiday, a chance for Lee to relax, away from the pressures of command.

 

Lee shook his head. "No, Admiral - Catherine needed help. Her spirit had been trapped here, alone, for a long time." he told him, turning back to the portrait.

 

"What are you talking about?" Nelson couldn't keep the concern from showing in his voice. What had happened while Lee was trapped down there?

 

"She's gone, Admiral. They're together now."

 

"Gone?" Nelson echoed, moving closer. Not sure what to make of Lee's reply, he again found himself wishing that Jamieson was there.

 

"After we..." Lee started hesitantly, "I couldn't breathe, there was something over my face, smothering me. Then I heard another voice, it was Michael. After that, I heard you call and when I looked again, they had both disappeared." Lee looked at him apprehensively.

 

"I'm glad," Nelson said. "If this had continued much longer, you would have been exhausted. And I would hate to have to explain how that happened to Doc," he chuckled.

 

Lee's apprehension turned to embarrassment. "I'm sorry, I don't make a habit of..." Lee began quietly, bowing his head.

 

Nelson held up a hand. "No need to apologise, Lee." he interrupted. It was just a pity that Catherine wasn't a real live woman, Nelson thought. Lee needed a distraction, someone to give him some TLC at the end of a hard mission, and give him something other than Seaview to worry about. Maybe then, Lee would not be so reckless when it came to his own safety.

 

"But I still feel ashamed," Lee spoke softly. "God knows what Edith must think," he worried.

 

"Don't worry about Edith. The girl is crazy about you. I bet her only problem with all this is that she wishes it was her instead of Catherine." Nelson told him. He couldn't help chuckling at Lee's astonished expression, as he lifted his head and stared at him. "You know, maybe you should think about settling down," Nelson suggested.

 

"Admiral, are you suggesting...?" Lee asked, looking perplexed.

 

"Look, Lee, you know how I feel about Edith. She's the only family I have, and I wouldn't want her to get hurt, but she's an adult, and it's her life; she can do as she likes. As long as she's happy, I wouldn't try and stop her." Nelson told him. He was aware that he was interfering in something that was none of his business, and Lee would probably tell him so. But Lee needed someone to give him a push in the right direction occasionally.

 

"Thanks, Admiral, but I have no intention of getting married. I like my life the way it is," Lee smiled.

 

"Fine, now we've cleared that up, I think it's time to pack." Nelson half-turned, waiting for Lee to follow.

 

"Yes, sir," Lee laughed.

 

 

 

 

-oooOOooo-

 

[comments welcome to owerspauline@yahoo.com]