Authors note: For my Dear Friend ‘Jiminy’. As a thank you for all her encouragement and support, she never say’s, NO!
Accidents can Happen.
By Lillian H.
“So you know what to do?” the voice insisted. “It has to look like an accident.”
“Yeah, yeah, you said all that. Just make sure you transfer the money… until I get it, I won’t do anything,” was the reply.
“It’s already transfered! Check and see. It has to be before they sail tomorrow! He can’t be allowed to return.”
“Okay… I’ll do it tonight if I can or tomorrow. It’ll be just another unfortunate accident. Don’t worry...you’ve paid for the best.”
“Just do it right!” Then there was the constant hum of a disconnected phone line.
The four officers walked out into the cool night from the small, exclusive, side street restaurant, relaxed and laughing with each other.
“How you managed to eat two desserts Mr. Morton is a miracle to me.” Lee Crane slapped his friend jokingly on the shoulder.
“I still can’t decide which one was best.” Chip Morton said with a smile. “Besides, you only eat to please Jamie, I eat because I enjoy good food!”
“And lots of it,” said a smiling Doctor Jamison.
“Be fair Will, it takes a lot of calories scaring wayward crewmen with the ‘formidable XO glare,” chuckled a very contented Admiral.
All four friends laughed together as they started to cross the street.
To their left was the sound of screeching tyres as a heavy truck careered towards them. Startled, all four men stood without moving for a moment, then scattered out of its path, as the truck thundered past and kept going.
“That stupid fool… he could have killed us. Is everyone okay?” Nelson asked as he scrambled to his feet.
“A little shaken and dirty”, Jamie replied as he started to dust himself down,” But I’m all right,” He turned around, “Oh my God, Chip, Lee!”
Nelson, alarmed by Jamie’s exclamation, followed his gaze.
On the ground, lying partly on the sidewalk and partly on the road, were two still figures. As Jamie ran to them, both men stirred a little. “Easy, take it slowly,” he ordered as they tried to sit up. “Are you hurt?”
“I don’t think so… just scrapes and a few bruises. What the hell was that driver doing?” Lee Crane exclaimed as he rubbed an elbow.
“Anyone see his licence plate. He doesn’t deserve to be on the road,” Chip grumbled, holding a knee.
Several passers by had witnessed the incident and a uniformed officer hurried towards them. He asked. “Zijn u kwets? Doe u hebt nodig een dokter?”
“No, no there’s no need for a Doctor, we’re not hurt,” Nelson assured the young Dutch policeman.
The officer was not content and what followed were two hours of solicitous concern at the Dutch embassy.
The visit to
“Please Admiral Nelson, I can only offer again my apologies that your visit to our country has been so marred,” the Dutch Ambassador repeated.
“Ambassador, you have been more than accommodating. None of us suffered any injury; so let’s forget the whole thing. If you could just arrange transport back to our boat, that would be most appreciated. We are due to depart tomorrow and should all get some rest.”
“Yes, yes of course. I will make my limousine available at once.”
Walking into the wardroom early the next morning, Jamie surveyed the three senior staff members as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “How is everyone this morning? No ill affects from last nights little adventure?”
“I’m fine, just a little sore, I must be getting old,” Harry said stretching himself.
“Just the scraped elbow but it’s fine,” Lee answered.
“Sorry Doctor, you have no customers this morning,” Chip laughed.
“I don’t mind that… whenever one, two or all three of you end up in sickbay, it only complicates my life. Now see if you can keep that up for the rest of the trip home and you’ll make me very happy.”
Crane and Morton smiled at each other and started to tease “ We thought you enjoyed our company Jamie… after all we keep your life so interesting.” Both men stood and grinned at Jamison and started to laugh as they turned and left.
“Oh Harry. I wonder if you realised what you were doing when you brought those two under the same command,” Jamison shook his head ruefully.
Harry looked at him with a smile that lit his eyes and face. “They are quite remarkable aren’t they Will? Two of the best-damned officers I have ever known. I count myself very lucky to have their friendship and loyalty.”
On the dockside the Captain and Exec studied the manifests and watched as the dockside crane loaded the last of their supplies.
“I really miss Sharkey this cruise. I can usually rely on him to speed up the civilian loaders, although I don’t know that his Dutch is any better than mine. Trust him to break a leg playing basketball with his nephew,” Chip snorted.
“You don’t need another language, Mr. Morton. A mere look from you says it all.” Crane grinned teasing his friend.
Morton raised an eyebrow and with an amused smile, replied. “Why thank you Captain….”
Suddenly Kowalski’s frantic shout interrupted their conversation, “LOOK OUT!”
Both men looked up to where he pointed and saw the cargo netting above them, breaking loose from the crane. As it descended Crane pushed Morton aside and jumped away himself. When it hit the ground, boxes scattered everywhere.
“Skipper, Mr. Morton, are you okay, sirs?” Kowalski asked urgently as he clambered over the strewn debris toward the two men, his attention going first to his captain.
“You’re bleeding sir,”
Crane rubbed a hand across his brow and saw the blood that stained it. “It’s only a cut.” Turning he saw that Morton hadn’t moved. He was laying face down and still. “Chip!” Lee called as went to his friend.
Kowalski shouted to Riley, standing on deck, to call for the doctor.
“Jamie I’m fine. I was only stunned… who wouldn’t be when the entire supply of tinned grapefruit lands on him?” Chip Morton said crossly.
“You were out cold for several minutes. I would like you to remain here, under observation, for a few hours at least.”
“No need Doctor. I don’t have a headache, I don’t have any pain and I don’t even have a wound! Unlike someone else.” Morton looked directly at the white dressing that now adorned his Captain’s forehead.
“God give me strength!” Jamison muttered. “All right, you win…. back to your cabin and get a good night’s rest. Now that our departure has been delayed, while they investigate, I suppose it can’t do any harm. I’ll check in on you later, so don’t even think about doing anything!”
“Guess you won that one buddy,” Lee said with amusement.
“What I said to him applies to you as well Captain. Your cabin and rest, no walking the corridors and no duty shifts until at least tomorrow morning. I’ll see you then to check that cut.”
As both men turned to leave, Jamie caught the wink that passed between them. “ You two are incorrigible. Go on, get out of here,” He listened to their shared laughter as they headed up the corridor.
“You fool… you failed twice! He hasn’t left the ship since and we will sail today.”
“I did as you asked but accidents aren’t that easy to arrange! He would be dead, if you had let me take him out with a bullet.”
“I told you I don’t want the focus turned to the boat! Never mind I will have to do something on board and hope I can deflect the blame. You and I had better not meet again… ever… you have cost me and it won’t be forgotten by those who matter!”
“Captain, all hands have reported, all stations are manned and we are ready to get underway.”
“Very well Mr. Morton. Engage engines, all ahead slow,” The Captain replied.
Slowly the giant submarine left port and when she reached open waters, slipped gracefully into the depths.
“ Mr. Morton sir?” A blue uniformed rating asked firmly as he approached the plot table.
“Yes Cartwright, what is it?”
“I’ve checked out the problem with the electrical power supply on B deck sir. During the last refit, one of the contractors must have stripped the wiring too far in the control panel and left a bare connection. That was causing the intermittent fault, sir. I’ve removed the damaged cable and re-wired it, works fine now.”
“I see, perhaps you should check out the other re-fit modifications, just in case.”
“Already done sir. That was the only fault I found. Do you or the Captain want to check it, sir?”
Morton looked at Crane. The Captain turned to the seaman, “Are you sure you found the problem?”
“Oh yes, sir. The wiring’s sound now,” the man replied confidently.
“Well done Cartwright. Just see that you complete the maintenance report for Mr. Morton and I’ll check it over later.”
“Yes sir, thank you sir.” Cartwright turned and left.
Both men smiled at the eagerness of the young sailor.
Lee looked confidently around the control room. He was always proud of the way his crew responded to his command. They were the best men he had ever worked with and understood that their loyalty was a personal compliment to him.
“What are you grinning about?” Chip asked quietly as he observed his Captain, the small band-aid on his brow; the only evidence of yesterday’s accident.
Lee looked at his friend. “Was I? Guess it’s the just the feeling of starting a fresh cruise.”
“Know what you mean, especially when the cruise is taking us home.”
“What’s so funny?” Nelson asked joining
them, “You two are grinning like
Resisting the temptation to laugh aloud Crane answered, “Just happy to be back at sea Admiral, and even happier to be going home.”
Nelson looked at them and nodded his head, “I know what you mean. Having someone waiting for you to get back is a good feeling.” Catching the glance between his officers he realised that he too was grinning, “Now you’ve got me doing it!”
Two days into the cruise and one man was
getting agitated. He hadn’t seen any chance to get to his target. He knew that
he had to act soon… before he remembered. At the time, the arrival of
the courtesy car had been distraction enough but as soon as he saw the
reports, he was bound to remember the strangeness of the incident. That
couldn’t be allowed… he had to die before they reached
The Admiral descended the spiral staircase and came to stand by his officers. “Captain Crane, Mr. Morton join me in the nose please.” He turned and made his way forward.
“Mr. O’ Brien, you have the conn,” Crane said firmly as both officers followed him.
Harry stood gazing out of the giant Herculite windows, turning he indicated that they should both sit down. “Gentlemen, I have just gotten off the phone with Admiral Walker at the Pentagon. He wants us to do a little job for him.” Nelson opened some charts on the table.
“The Navy has… lost… one of its newest guided missiles.” He looked at the confusion on his officer’s faces.
“Yes, incredible isn’t it? Millions of dollars on research, years spent perfecting the thing and the first time they launch one … they lose it!” The Admiral was obviously astounded. “I even understand that one of the guidance controls has gone missing!”
“When you say… lost... sir… exactly how lost is it?” Crane asked.
“Oh they know where they launched it…they know where it should have landed but some where in between they…LOST it!”
“And Admiral Walker would like us to find it, sir?” Mr. Morton asked cautiously.
“He expects us to find it and pull his reputation out of the fire.” He turned to the charts. Both men joined him and he explained. “We are here...yes?” Morton nodded. “They launched an unarmed PX42 from over here… sixty miles to the south. It should have landed in this area and activated the homing signal but it didn’t. We are going to cross its flight path and the Admiral requests we do a detailed search of the ocean and hopefully find his missing hardware.”
“That’s about a hundred and twenty square miles of ocean sir. It’ll take a while.” Morton declared.
“They need us to recover the missile so they can analyse the flight recorder, it will tell them what went wrong. For all his military bravado, Tom Walker is a decent officer and a friend. I’d like to help him out if I can,” Nelson replied.
“I don’t think it will take that long, a few days only. We can use a grid pattern and still remain relatively on course,” Crane said continuing to assess the charts.
Nelson smiled, “Thank you Lee, I won’t let him forget this. The Institute will expect some generous consideration in the next round of contract funding!”
“Sir, I have a sonar contact, “Riley called out from his station, “… bearing 020… a thousand yards of our port bow.”
Two days of patient searching had hopefully paid off.
Crane came and stood by the young sonar man, accepting the earphones Riley removed and offered him. Listening carefully, he nodded and returned them. “Mr Morton, stop all engines and come to standby.”
“Aye sir.” Mr. Morton repeated his Captain’s orders and went forward as Crane had done.
Crane picked up a microphone, “Admiral, this is Crane, please come to the bridge.”
The two men peered out of the Herculite windows as they heard the footsteps on the stairs behind them, “ Have you found it?” Nelson asked as he joined them.
“We think so sir, about a thousand yards off the port bow. Unfortunately the overhead storm has churned up the ocean a bit. The visibility is bad. We’ll have to go out and manually retrieve it.”
“Is that going to be a problem Lee?”
“No sir.” He turned to face him with a broad smile, “Just a challenge.”
Kowalski and Patterson were suited up and ready in the Missile Room, as they gave their diving equipment one last check. Both men turned to the hatch as Chief Rankin entered carrying diving equipment. “The Captain not here yet?” he asked surprised.
“No Chief, not yet,” Kowalski said. “Perhaps we ought to check with Mr. Morton. The Skipper never keeps us waiting usually,” he continued hesitantly.
The CPO nodded, “Okay Kowalski.”
They watched as Chief Rankin moved to the microphone. He was okay, Kowalski thought. He was definitely more ‘ Navy’ than Sharkey and he didn’t have his connection with the men but he did seem to be good at the job.
“Mr. Morton, this is the missile room.”
“Morton here. What’s the hold up, Chief?”
“Well sir, we’re waiting on the Captain.”
“What? The captain left here 10 minutes ago.” There were a few brief seconds of silence. “This is the Exec, will the Captain please report.”
“I repeat, will the Captain please report.”
Again they waited, then a voice echoed over the PA.
“Mr. Morton, this is Daniels, corridor A. The Skipper’s out cold, bottom of the stairwell, looks like he fell.”
“Stay with him.” Morton’s voice rang out.
“Don’t move him. I’m on my way,” Jamie’s voice advised from sickbay.
“Well?” Nelson asked anxiously as he and Chip Morton stood waiting for Doc’s verdict.
“He has a nasty lump on the forehead and a twisted left ankle. Otherwise he’s intact.” Jamie said as he replaced the chart.
“When can I get out of here?” Crane demanded as he started to rise. “We still have to retrieve that missile.”
Quickly Jamison held him down. “You’re not going anywhere yet,” Jamie struggled with him, “And you’re certainly not going to be diving for at least a week.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lee replied angrily to the Doctor, “I’ll be fine in a few hours.”
“There is nothing ridiculous about a head injury that leaves you unconscious for nearly twenty minutes! You’re medically unfit for this dive and that’s official!”
Both men glared at each other and the Admiral thought it prudent to intervene, “Lee, Jamie’s right. Best not to take any chances after an accident like this….”
“It wasn’t an accident!” Crane snapped.
“What? Captain what are you saying?” Nelson demanded.
“It wasn’t an accident. I felt a hand on my ankle as I fell.”
“Are you sure Lee? I mean it must have happened so fast,” Chip said gently.
“Don’t humour me Mr. Morton, I know a hand when I feel it… it was a deliberate act. I was tripped,” the Captain said firmly. “And there is only one reason I can think of. To stop us finding the missile… one of our crew… is trying to kill me.
“Okay Mr. Morton, you’re all set,” Chief Rankin stated as he finished strapping the Exec’s air tanks.
They were in the missile room again with Kowalski and Patterson, only this time Chip was leading the dive. It had been decided not to wait, if there was the possibility of sabotage, they needed to make the retrieval quickly.
“Just tag it and prepare the missile for pickup. We’ll do the rest,” Nelson instructed. “And Chip?” Nelson caught Morton’s arm as he turned to go. “Take care.”
“I will, sir. Don’t want to mess up, our Captain would never let me forget it,” he joked as he joined the men inside the escape hatch.
The dive was going well, everything was ready to start raising the missile.
“ Kowalski to Seaview… come in Seaview.”
“This is Nelson.”
“Admiral, we got a problem sir… Mr. Morton’s regulator isn’t working properly and he’s not getting any air. Pat’s already in…” the sound of the air lock behind him confirmed this. “…and we’re buddy breathing but I’m nearly out Admiral. Mr. Morton’s insisting I leave him sir.”
“How far away are you?”
“Eight minutes sir.”
“Hold on Kowalski, we’ll send fresh tanks,” Nelson spun around to find an exhausted diver, already collecting fresh tanks and preparing to go out once more.
“Sir, I can’t allow this man to go out again. He’s already exceeded his dive time!” Chief Rankin stated.
“I’m going sir” Patterson said firmly.
“I’m the Dive Officer here, not you and…”
“Go ahead Patterson,” Nelson said as the man left the boat, “As for you Rankin, I suggest you don’t interfere.”
“I’m only doing my job, sir, unless you’re relieving me?”
Angrily Nelson replied, “This is on my responsibility Chief!”
“Then you are relieving me?” Rankin demanded harshly.
“Damn it man, YES, if I have to!”
“Very well, but I a will be lodging an official protest!”
“Later man, later,” Nelson dismissed him vaguely as he returned to the air lock to wait anxiously.
“What’s the verdict Jamie?”
“Admiral, they’ve been very lucky. Patterson and Kowalski are suffering from exhaustion and need to get some rest. Mr. Morton is a little worse off but nothing that can’t be fixed with oxygen treatment and a couple of days light duty.”
Nelson looked at the four racks and the sleeping men who occupied them. Patterson had managed to reach the stranded men in time and all three had made it back on board. Morton had been in a little breathing distress and Jamie had whisked him away immediately to sickbay. Kowalski and Patterson had followed as ‘walking wounded’ with Riley’s help.
Now, along with the Captain, Jamie had his hands full.
Jamie saw the slight grin that the Admiral couldn’t hide, “Well, they said they always made my life interesting. I just wish they wouldn’t try so hard!”
“Come” Nelson ordered as he answered the knock on his cabin door.
Chief Rankin entered and stood at attention in front of the Admiral’s desk.
“ I have your complaint,” Nelson flicked the official grievance form. The Admiral observed the man closely. He had come highly recommended as a suitable replacement but right now Nelson was not feeling enamoured of the man. “I new you were ‘regular’ Navy when I took you on, but I thought you understood the slight differences in procedure on Seaview.” Rankin didn’t flinch. “Well say something man!” Nelson growled.
“Permission to speak frankly sir,” he paused, waiting for Nelson’s nod of consent, “I acted in accordance with the regulations. In my opinion you acted with reckless disregard of standard operating proce…”
Nelson slapped his hand down on his desk in frustration. “I know the regulations, Rankin, I practically wrote most of them! Don’t you understand? Sometimes we have to interpret the rules, as we go along!”
“Patterson was exhausted,” Rankin insisted, “You put him at further risk and…”
“I think I know these men and their capabilities better than you. There was no time for a new detail… I wasn’t about to risk two lives because of some damned rule. I made my decision according to the circumstances. Any CPO who serves on this boat should understand that. Sharkey certainly would have!”
“What happens the next time you choose to ignore them, sir? What if a man dies, due to your rash decisions?”
“Your grievance is noted, and will be filed as per procedures,” Nelson replied with icy composure, “ We will be notified of the hearing. Dismissed.”
As Rankin turned to leave, Nelson demanded, “Did you check out Mr. Morton’s equipment?”
“Yes sir, it was a defective valve. I’m having all the diving equipment checked thoroughly for any other defects… but it wasn’t Mr. Morton’s equipment, it was Captain Crane’s. It was all ready, and the Commander took it, rather than endure another delay.”
“So you see Lee, it was not Chip’s equipment but yours that failed,” Nelson explained later as he sat in a chair in the nose opposite his two officers. The Doctor, on the firm insistence of light duties only, had released both men only an hour earlier.
“I don’t understand, sir, why would someone be targeting me?” Crane questioned.
“You’re Seaview’s Captain, Lee,” Morton mused. “Maybe it’s the boat they are targeting.”
“A saboteur?” Crane scoffed.
“The ‘accidents’ have all been pretty specific, Lee. The truck, the cargo net, the stairs and now the regulator.”
“But why trip me up and then sabotage equipment I was unlikely to use?” Crane asked in bewilderment.
“Maybe our assailant wants to be sure he’s covering all the bases,” Chip replied.
“Tell me about our new crew?” Nelson ordered.
“Cartwright, Electricians mate, Stevens as cooks assistant and Chief Rankin. Both Cartwright and Stevens came aboard together, three months ago and the Chief, only three weeks.”
“Ah yes, Rankin. Well, I maybe a bit biased against the man,” Nelson said, “ What’s your opinion of him?”
Crane deferred to his Exec.
“He’s experienced, respected by the men, even if he is a little too ‘Navy’ for them sometimes. I’ve found he performs his duties efficiently. He doesn’t talk a lot but he’s friendly enough,” Chip answered.
“Lee?” Nelson asked the Captain.
“Well, I’ve had no problem with his work, he’s certainly efficient. I do find him a little terse but he’s only temporary, until Sharkey gets back.”
“So that leaves us… where exactly?” Morton questioned.
“Nowhere unfortunately,” Nelson sighed.
“Until we know who wants to harm you and why, Lee, we’ll just have to be on our guard,” Nelson replied.
“I can’t think of any logical reason for all these accidents. There has to be a motive at the bottom of all this, somewhere….” Crane murmured.
Damn, damn, damn. The man had the lives of a cat! What would it take to kill him? Time was running out, he would just have to be more direct and risk the possible consequences.
There was aloud knock on his cabin door, “Come,” Captain Crane looked up from the paperwork he was completing, “Yes Stevens what is it?”
“Cookie sent you a drink sir… hot chocolate…. he’s been trying out a new recipe.” Art Stevens, Cookie’s new assistant, came towards the desk carrying a tray with three steaming mugs on it.
“Thank you Stevens. I take it I’m not the only one privileged,” Lee said smiling as he reached for one of the drinks.
“Oh no sir, not that one. It has extra sugar in for Mr. Morton…. he has a real sweet tooth and the Admiral’s has extra cream” He put another mug on the table.
“Cookie thinks of everything. Thank him for me,” Crane smiled as he took a sip of the rich, enticing liquid.
“I will, sir… good night, sir, sleep well.” He said as he left the cabin.
The hour was late and all was quiet at this time on the night watch. A figure slipped quietly into the softly lit cabin. A body was slumped over the desk.
“Sir, are you awake?”
The semi-conscious officer murmured something but it was not clear enough to understand.
“That’s okay sir, we’re just going for a little walk,” The figure helped the man to stand and as if sleepwalking guided him out of the cabin and slowly towards the missile room.
Once there he laid him down on the deck near the diving equipment racks. He crossed to the hatch and pulled it shut, turning the wheel to secure it. Returning to the racks, he placed his hands on the heavy framework and pushed. He had to rock the tall structure until finally it toppled over the body lying prone on the floor.
The loud crashes as the tanks hit the deck echoed around the room. He looked down and saw the man had been half buried under the framework, with several heavy bottles on top of him. He reached for a wrist and felt for his pulse… but the noise of the hatch wheel startled him and he quickly darted behind the missile silos as another man entered. As the seaman ran across the room to the fallen officer, he slipped unseen out of the hatchway.
Jamison tucked the blanket around his sleeping patient and turned to the anxiously waiting officers.
“He has two cracked ribs, his right shoulder was dislocated but I’ve reset it. A broken right wrist, concussion, three broken fingers, bruised kidney’s, a collection of cuts and bruises and too much sedative in him at the moment for me to risk any more. He’s not going to be doing any thing for at least a week, and then some. After that we’ll see.”
“Our assailant seems very determined….” The Admiral stood with hands in his pockets and studied the injured man.
“I don’t understand… why attack Chip?” Crane questioned.
All three men turned to look at the bruised face of the Seaview’s Exec.
“Maybe, we were wrong… and it wasn’t you they were targeting. If you think about it, Chip was present for all the…. accidents…that befell you.”
“Not the stairwell.”
“No but that one meant he took out the diving detail and nearly died because of a faulty regulator. It seems that our assailant has been trying to deflect the suspicion elsewhere,” the Admiral mused.
“Skipper, is there something I can do for you?” Cookie asked as Crane limped into the galley.
“I just stopped by to thank you for the hot chocolate you sent last night, it was delicious.”
“That’s okay Skipper,” Cookie beamed, “I know how you like to try all my new recipes.”
“Well that one’s a definite keeper. Did all the crew get to try some…. who was around when you made it up?” Lee asked casually.
“Oh yes sir. Everyone had some…. Chief Rankin, Ski, Pat, Cartwright, Riley…. everyone Skipper. Why was there a problem?”
“No, none at all, just making sure everyone’s happy. Thanks for sending Stevens with it, I hope there was enough for you and him as well.”
“You know me Skipper, always make enough to go round.”
“Well thanks again Cookie… what’s for lunch?” Captain Crane listened to the menu and then left with another smile and headed for the Admiral’s cabin.
“So it could have been any of them who laced it with the sedative. What about their movements after that? Anything unusual?” Nelson asked.
“No sir. Cartwright went off duty and was in crew’s quarters for a while, then went to ‘stretch’ his legs, walking the lower deck. Stevens helped Cookie clear away then checked the stores in locker no. 2. Chief Rankin was in his quarters then did snap inspections around the boat.”
“So none of them has a witness to their whereabouts the whole time?”
“No sir.” Crane sighed. “It could be anyone on the crew…. new or existing members.”
Lee Crane sat beside the lower rack in sickbay and smiled at his friend. “You look as though you went ten rounds with a angry porpoise and lost!”
“Gee thanks, cheer me up why don’t you,” Morton uttered through swollen lips and a sore jaw, “Any progress?”
Lee shook his head, “ Not so far.”
“Mr. Morton, time for your meds,” Jamie said cheerfully as he approached them, “I know we joked about your making my life interesting but I really had wished you hadn’t bothered. It’s a good thing the trip out was trouble free…”
“What’s it, Lee?” Jamison asked, surprised at the interruption.
“Don’t you see? Every accident happened after
we arrived at
“How does that help us?” Chip whispered hoarsely, “I still can’t think of anything unusual that’s happened to make me a target. … wait, something…something about a bag. I remember thinking….” They watched as he struggled with his memory. “No, it’s gone…. I can’t think straight at the moment… damn it Jamie, how long before this headache goes,” Morton spoke with difficulty.
“Patience, Commander. You did have a rack of diving equipment fall on you…. you’re lucky not to be more injured than you are. Here take these,” Jamie handed him his medications and a cup of water.
“Chip, you keep thinking. I’m going to chat something over with the Admiral,” Lee smiled as he stood, “Jamie….” he said with a little emphasis.
Jamison met his gaze and nodded, “Don’t worry, I’m working in my office all the afternoon.”
Kowalski was in the crew’s mess talking to Cookie. “Mr. Morton’s looking real good considering. How it happened we still can’t figure out. Hopefully he’ll be able to tell us soon though.”
“Is he recovering then?” Stevens asked with interest.
“Doc says so. Keeps worrying about his memory though… says there’s something important he can’t quite remember.”
“About last night you think?” asked Cartwright.
“I dunno… maybe. We all know Mr. Morton, even unconscious, he’s always thinking.” Ski laughed.
“All right you men… time you were back on duty,” Chief Rankin’s voice ordered firmly, from his position in the doorway.
He carefully edged along the corridor to sickbay. Ever since he had heard that Morton was recovering, except for a memory that was eluding him…. he could think of nothing else but silencing him. As he approached the slightly open door, he could hear only quiet from inside. He knew Frank was having a break and that John and the Doc had been called to deal with an accident in the reactor room. Slowly he edged forward and looked in. There was a huddled figure beneath blankets on the bottom rack and no one else in sight. He came closer to the bed and lifted the syringe he was carrying. He crept forward and as he touched the edge of the blanket a voice sounded behind him.
“Drop it, Cartwright and don’t move.”
He spun around to see Nelson and two-armed seaman, Kowalski and Patterson. Both men had their side arms pointed at him.
“It was a trick!” he declared bitterly.
“Not exactly. We supposed that whoever it was would make another attempt… we just made it a little easier.”
“Not that it would do you any good,” The voice from the lower rack answered. Cartwright looked to see Crane rising from the blankets, “Mr. Morton is safely under guard in his quarters. We took him there this afternoon while the crew were running practise drills.”
Defeated, Cartwright dropped the syringe and fell heavily to his knees.
“You mean all this was about what I might remember back home?” Chip Morton asked incredulously, from his bed back in sickbay.
“Cartwright said you had noticed the Red
Sox kit bag he carried, even commented on his being a Red Sox fan, when he
reported for duty. But you didn’t know that it held the secondary
guidance control for the PX42, which had been stolen from the
“But why all the accidents? Why not just shoot me or something?”
“He didn’t want police attention to be drawn to the boat… he was anxious to preserve his cover if possible,” Crane answered, “and might have succeeded if he hadn’t been so desperate to cover his tracks.”
“Did you suspect him, Admiral?” Chip asked.
Nelson smiled ruefully and stroking his chin said, “No… I must admit … Chief Rankin was my preferred suspect,” The Admiral laughed as he saw the look that passed between his officers, “Yes alright, the complaint did rankle. The man was only doing his job I know but later I did wonder at his insistence about holding Patterson back. He’s withdrawn his complaint by the way, came to see me last night. He decided that the situation did warrant bending the rules a little. Maybe we can use him again after all.”
“That’s quite enough for now gentlemen, my patient needs rest,” Doctor Jamison approached the three officers, “You can visit with him again in the morning.”
“Whatever you say Jamie. Get some rest Chip, can’t return you to Grayling all beaten up again,” Lee laughed.
“What about you? You’ll have some explaining to do with that limp.”
“Nah, it’ll all healed by then.”
“Only if you don’t fall down any more stairwells,” Morton said innocently.
As the two men started to match injuries and the causes, Harry and Will looked on indulgently.
“Do you think they’ll ever stop trying to outdo each other, Admiral?
“In this regard…. I shouldn’t think so, Will, not for one moment!”