Author’s note: The Bogey Man is the first in a series of stories called Monsters concerning the Crew’s individual pasts
By Mindy Shuman
We are shaped by our experiences, the good and the bad. They make us who we are, help dictate how we react to the world around us. In life, we pass saints and angels and are haunted by ghosts and monsters. The angels give us hope, but it is the monsters we remember.
The Bogey Man
The Seaview never sleeps, not while at sea. There is always life and movement and sound. Machines, people, water, and her Captain moving through her corridors personally making sure every rivet and weld was secure, every wire connected, every man doing their job to keep her alive, because her life was also theirs.
The Admiral created her, but the Captain lived for her. And there was no place in the world he felt safer.
The boy crawled up onto his knees and leaned his forehead against the door. It was so dark in here and he was cold. He was not sure what he had done wrong this time, but maybe if he promised to be very good he could come out. He called to the man outside.
“I’m sorry, Bobby. Can I come out, please? I’ll be good this time. Please.”
There was no answer, but a shadow passed slowly beneath the door.
“Please, Bobby. I- I don’t feel very good.”
A fist slammed into the closet door causing the boy to jump back and huddle against the wall.
“I swear kid,” growled a voice on the other side. “You throw up in there and I’ll make you eat it.”
The boy pressed himself into the corner of the tiny closet. He hurt so bad and was so scared, but he wasn’t gonna cry. He wasn’t.
Lee Crane woke with a start, panicking as his hand hit a wall beside him and another behind his head, then he tumbled out of his bunk, landing on his hands and knees, shaking.
Another damn dream. He should have requested a leave of absence for this trip, but he had not wanted to let the Admiral down. Not that he was actually needed. A straight delivery and pick up mission. Only one passenger, but this one was more than enough.
He stood up shakily, gasping at the catch in his ribs. Remembering the dream again, he suddenly wanted no more of the dark. Flipping on the light, he thought about asking Doc for a sedative, but that would only bring a dozen or more questions and an assumption of sickness. Right now, the last thing he wanted was confinement in sickbay. Absently rubbing his sore ribs, he sat at his desk. Could do paper work; there was always reams of it.
No, he was restless. Maybe a walk through his favorite girl was what he needed to clear his mind. He got dressed and fled the sudden claustrophobic feel of his quarters.
Patterson was wiped. He had pulled a few extra hours of duty working on a power flow problem in engineering, wanting to have it fixed before the Skipper noticed. Crane always worried so much about those things and Patterson had noticed that he already had his hands full enough with their passenger.
That Eddings guy was a real jerk, along with a few other choice descriptions that passed through Pat’s mind. He did not like the way the man treated the Skipper, something about the way he acted, arrogant and devious. And the Skipper always looked so tense when Eddings was around, a strange expression on his face when the guy stood too close. It was familiar to Pat somehow, but he was not sure why. Almost a fearful look. Not something you saw much with the Skipper.
So Pat had fixed the problem in engineering himself so the Captain would not have one more thing on his mind.
At least that had been the plan. He saw the Skipper turn a corner and walk towards him. Crane smiled but his eyes narrowed.
“Don’t you have a watch in a couple of hours?” he asked the seaman.
“Yes, sir,” said Patterson, not mentioning that the Skipper usually arrived in the Conrol Room at the same time. “I was working on a glitch in engineering and it took awhile.”
Crane’s eyes widened. “Glitch? Is there a problem?”
“Not now, sir. It wasn’t anything that Tomkins and I couldn’t handle. Just some wires that needed work.”
“So everything is fine now.”
“Five by five, sir.”
“Good. Now go get some sleep.”
“Yes, sir.” Patterson paused in turning. “Uh, sir. Is everything all right? You look tired.”
“Just can’t sleep,” said Crane with an easy smile. “Don’t you worry about it, that’s Doc’s job.”
“Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir”
Pat watched Crane walk away, probably to double check the repair job in engineering, but he was content the Skipper would not find anything wrong.
Crane checked engineering and was pleased with the job the men had done. He would have liked to work on it himself, but that was not because he thought he would have done a better job, he needed to do something and it would have been a nice distraction.
He took the long way to the Observation Nose, arriving by descending the spiral stairs instead of walking through the control room. He did not want a report; he knew there was not a need for one. He just wanted to be in the Nose and alone. He felt wrong, but then this entire assignment had felt wrong.
Four days earlier, the Admiral had announced their
mission to Lee and Chip in his Institute office. A weeklong trip out to a scientific post
located on a small island in the Pacific.
This island was much like the
Then the Admiral talked excitedly about some of the amazing animals and their possible evolutionary links. Lee listened intently, mostly because he enjoyed seeing Nelson so excited about something, especially a something that was not looking to kill him.
He smiled as the admiral showed him pictures of
plants and some of the amazing properties that the scientists had
discovered. To Lee, they just looked
like any other
He remembered to ask as he and Chip stood to leave. “Who is the botanist we are delivering?”
“What? Oh, Eddings. Robert Eddings.”
Lee felt the color drain from his face, but the Admiral was too occupied to notice and Chip was halfway out the reception area.
I should have requested a leave, he thought miserably. However, he was the Skipper, it was his job to make sure things went smoothly; no matter whom his passengers were.
And so far, that is what he had done. At least for everyone else. For Lee, the trip had been hell. However, it would be over tomorrow morning, then he would be rid of Robert Eddings and life could go back to normal.
Doctor Robert Eddings knew from the beginning; he saw it in Crane’s face the moment he stepped on board, and he took advantage. Crane dutifully greeted Eddings, not wanting to mention they already knew each other, but not Eddings, he wanted to see what he could get away with.
“How are you doing, Lee?” Eddings asked boisterously, assessing Crane with an intense look. Eddings had not changed much over the years. Still tall and broad shouldered with large meaty hands and thick arms. His tanned faced had a square jaw and dark blue eyes. The only real difference was his black hair had faded to a dark steel gray.
“Fine,” Crane answered flatly. “You?”
“Like always, my boy. Just like always.” Lee’s stomach clenched at the sound of the voice, but did not let it show.
Nelson was surprised. “You know each other?”
“Sure do,” said Eddings with a broad toothy grin. “Didn’t Lee tell you?”
Shark teeth, thought Lee. His teeth had always reminded him of a shark’s, smiling as he prepared to bite.
“No, he didn’t mention it.”
“I wasn’t sure it was the same Robert Eddings. He wasn’t a botanist the last time we met,” answered Lee carefully.
“No, no. I’m the same man you always knew.” All smiles, but he seemed to look at Lee with almost predatory intensity, like he was daring him to run, eager to start the chase.
Lee kept his expression neutral and did not answer.
The Admiral placed a hand on Eddings arm; there seemed a strangeness between Crane and the Doctor. He decided it was just his imagination, but there were things to do before they left port.
“Come Doctor, I’ll show you to your quarters. Lee have someone bring Dr. Eddings belongings on board.”
Chip watched as Lee’s eyes followed Eddings and the Admiral. And for a second he thought he saw his Captain shudder. The Lee stiffly turned away and walked to the plot table. Chip followed, concerned. He had never seen Lee physically react to someone before.
“Lee,” he said softly. “Who is that?”
“Just someone I knew once.”
“Doesn’t sound like it was a pleasant acquaintance.”
Lee did not meet his gaze. “It wasn’t.”
Suddenly he stood very straight, laid down the pencil he had picked up just a moment before and started towards the stairs. “You have the con, Chip, I’ll be in my quarters.”
Concerned, Chip watched him leave. They had not even left dock yet. What was wrong with him?
There was a quick rap at Crane’s door. Sounds like Chip, he thought. He should not be surprised; his behavior must have seemed odd. It was odd, but he needed to be alone. So, he had been filling out his log for the morning, sitting at his desk.
“Come,” he said, not looking up from his work.
The door opened, firmly shut, the lock turned.
Lee’s head snapped up. Eddings stood in front of the door.
“Can I help you, Doctor?”
Eddings just stared. Hard steel blue eyes made Lee’s skin crawl. Lee met his gaze with as much calm as he could muster.
“Doctor, we will be leaving port soon, it is advisable you check and make sure your supplies are properly stowed.”
Crane knew it would not work before he said it, but now he realized it was completely the wrong tact. Not that there would have been a right one.
“You always did think you were so high and mighty,” Eddings growled. He stalked towards the desk, placed his palms on its surface, leaning forward. Lee held his ground, refusing to flinch. After a moment, Eddings slammed one hand on the desk.
The sound drove Lee to his feet. “I think it’s time you left, Doctor.”
Lee started towards the door, but Eddings came around the desk, grabbed Lee by the throat with one hand, shoving him against the wall. Lee felt himself go numb; he couldn’t move or breathe, and he felt so small all of the sudden.
“Let’s get a few things straight, Lee,” he spoke close to Lee’s ear. His breath still smelled of stale cigarettes and mints. “You haven’t changed at all. Neither have I. You are still a little piece of shit and if you cross me, even once, I’ll make you wish I’d killed you before. I did a lot of time because of you, and I am going to make you pay for it.”
Lee needed to breathe; he needed not to give in. He could not speak, but he forced his eyes to meet Eddings’.
The Doctor dropped him to the floor, kicking him hard in the gut. Lee was not sure what made him gasp more, the strangling or the kick.
“Pathetic.” Eddings spit in his face. Then he walked away without another word, closing the door behind him.
Lee remained on the floor, curled around his sore ribs, gasping weakly, trying to regain control of his body. It was a full ten minutes before the Captain of the Seaview pulled himself up off the floor. Stumbling into the bathroom, he cleaned the spittle from his face and changed his shirt, since the other one had a black shoe mark on it now.
Once presentable, albeit sore, he left his quarters and headed to the control room to get the mission started and over with as quickly as possible.
As he sat in the Nose, staring into the black ocean, he was still amazed at his own behavior. Eddings always had that effect on him. No one had ever been able to paralyze Lee Crane with fear. No one but Robert Eddings.
He should have reported it to Nelson, or answered Chip’s questioning looks whenever he gasped painfully, but he had gone on as though nothing had happened. Just like always. Just like before.
Crane managed to avoid Eddings the rest of the day, retreating again to his quarters that night, this time locking the door behind him. One restless hour after he had gone to bed, he heard the doorknob shake and then a familiar chuckle before footsteps headed away.
The next morning as Lee approached the wardroom, he could hear Nelson and Eddings speaking excitedly about island plants so he skipped breakfast and went straight to the Control Room.
Chip was already there, bent over the charts. Lee approached quietly to stand beside him, but only looked out the windows, seeking solace in his beloved ocean. Chip immediately noticed his Captain and the distant look in his eyes.
“Lee,” he started to once again ask what was wrong.
Crane turned and looked at him. “What is our ETA, Chip?”
“Estimated 62 hours.”
A disappointed look flashed across Lee’s face. “That long,” he murmured.
“Lee, tell me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing’s wrong, Chip. I’m fine.” It sounded mechanical even to him and Chip was not satisfied, but Lee turned away, picking up the logbook.
Chip was still watching him, trying to think of some way of reaching his friend, when Nelson and Eddings entered the control room. Lee’s entire body tensed and his breathing quickened.
He looks ready to run, thought Chip.
“Lee,” said Nelson happily. “Dr. Eddings says he has copies of all reports from the island. He wants to show us some of it.”
“I just got here, sir. I have a lot to do.”
“Oh, Mr. Morton can handle that, can’t he Admiral?” Said Eddings, grinning widely.
“Of course. Of course. Come on, Lee.”
Chip caught the broad triumphant smile that Eddings threw at Lee. The Captain closed his eyes as the doctor followed Nelson up the stairs, before turning and meekly following as well. “You have the con, Mr. Morton.”
Something was definitely wrong.
The meeting had been the worst two hours of the trip, worse than the attack in his quarters. Lee had never been more uncomfortable at any time in his life as Eddings brought out slides and paper reports. He’d made a point of passing closely behind Lee as often as possible, once even laying a hand on his shoulder. The doctor had enjoyed to discomfort he caused, tormenting Lee in front the admiral, knowing full well he would not say anything. Afterwards, Lee went to his quarters and threw up. God, he could not wait until they reached the island.
It was nearly the end of the day watch when the Admiral came into the Control Room.
“Where’s Lee?” he asked Chip.
“I believe he’s gone to his quarters.”
“Good. Tell him I’d like him to join Dr. Eddings and myself in the Wardroom for dinner.”
“Sir?” Chip’s voice was quiet.
Nelson turned, frowning. “What is it, Chip?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why? They know each other, they may want to catch up.”
Chip glanced over at the crew, then moved into the Nose, out of their hearing.
“Chip?” Nelson was growing concerned at the Exec’s out-of-character behavior.
“Sir, haven’t you noticed how Lee reacts when Doctor Eddings is around, how he has reacted since this mission started? I think the last thing the Captain wants is to spend any time at all around the Doctor.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve never seen Lee act this way. He’s hardly said a dozen words to anyone since the Doctor came arrived. He tenses up every time Eddings is near. And he locked his door last night, I was behind him as he went into his quarters and I heard the lock turn. He even jiggled the handle, as if he wanted to make sure it was locked. I hate the thought of it, but it looks to me like Lee is afraid of Dr. Eddings.”
“Lee?” Nelson was incredulous. “Afraid?”
“And what’s worse,” continued Chip. “I think Eddings knows it.”
“No. No, how could Lee possibly be afraid?”
“I don’t know, sir, but if out of everything Lee’s gone up against, he’s afraid now, what kind of a man does that make Eddings?”
Chip arrived early to the Control Room and was surprised to see Lee already there, speaking with O’Brian, going over the navigation reports. Lee looked exhausted, and for a moment as he picked up a report, Chip could have sworn his hand shook.
“All right, Mr. O’Brian, you’re excused.”
O’Brian paused before moving. Then he saw the Exec and headed to him.
“Sir,” he said softly, his eyes on Crane. “The Skipper’s been here almost all night. He doesn’t look well.”
Chip tried a small smile. “You know the Captain, always working himself into exhaustion. Don’t worry.”
“Yes, sir,” he answered, but he left looking unconvinced.
Chip started towards the plot table when he realized Patterson was watching the Skipper from near the Radio Shack, his normally gentle face drawn with concern. Morton walked over to him.
“A problem, Patterson?”
The blue eyes met his own. “Is the Skipper okay, sir?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Have you seen the way he reacts every time Dr. Eddings walks by him? The look on his face, I’ve seen that look before.”
“When I was a kid, I had this friend. His Dad used to smack him around. Whenever his Dad was near, he’d tense up, like he expected to be hit at any time. Weird as it sounds, sir, but it’s the same look I’ve seen on the Skipper’s face lately. Like he’s afraid.” He had turned his attention back to Crane’s hunched form, but suddenly remembered to whom he was speaking and looked back at Morton. “I’m sorry, sir. I shouldn’t be talking about things I know nothing about.”
“All right, Patterson. Get back to your post. Eddings will be out of here tomorrow and we won’t have to worry about it anymore.”
“Aye, sir,” said the crewman still looking concerned.
Morton glanced over at his Captain, his friend, wishing Lee would confide in him, wishing he could help lighten whatever was weighing so heavily upon the other man.
Dr. Eddings had decided to spend the afternoon in the nose, and Chip could see it was torture for Crane who tried to find as much reason as possible to stay back near the radio shack. Another thing that Chip noticed was the admiral observing the behavior of both men. While Lee never looked at the doctor, Eddings seemed to be watching and enjoying the captain’s discomfort. Chip found himself trying to place himself in the way of Eddings view without being too obvious.
Nelson tried to ease the situation. “Perhaps we should go and make sure the supplies are ready for unloading. We reach the island in the morning.”
“No, no Admiral. We can do that later. I like the view, it’s fantastic,” he said waving his hand towards the windows he wasn’t looking at.
Lee made his way back to the plot table, weather and navigation reports in hand, coming around the side so his back was to Eddings. He began working calculations, but Eddings had started wandering to the Control Room. Chip looked at Lee, the Skipper was not looking at the table anymore, his eyes had followed Eddings without actually seeing him. Lee clutched the pencil so hard his knuckles were white.
My God, thought Chip. He’s terrified.
Eddings was standing behind sonar and Chip could see Kowalski did not like the man standing so close, only inches away, leaning forward to look at the screen. It was the Captain’s place to say something, but Chip wondered if he should instead. Suddenly Lee took a deep, but shaky breath, straightened up and faced Eddings.
“Doctor Eddings, you will have to return to the nose. Your presence is a distraction to our sonar tech and his job it too important. I don’t want him distracted.”
Chip felt a chill as Eddings slowly looked up at Crane, murder in his eyes. He felt Lee stiffen.
“What did you say to me?” Edding’s voice was low, deadly. A hush fell over the Control Room. Everyone had noticed the tension.
Lee took another breath. This was his boat, it was about time he started acting like its Skipper again. “You are not allowed to wander around the Control Room. You will have to return to the Nose or I will have you escorted to your quarters for the remainder of the trip.”
For a moment, Eddings did not move, then slowly he started back to the Nose. Lee turned away, back to his calculations. Any relief was shattered as Eddings passed by the Captain. He suddenly reached out, grabbed Lee by the hair and tossed him with unnatural strength towards the Nose. Lee caught himself near the Flying Sub Hatch, but Eddings hurled himself at him. Chip caught the wide-eyed look on Lee’s face as Eddings grabbed him around the neck. The Exec ran around the table but was too far away when he heard the sickening thud of Lee’s head against the window as Eddings slammed him against it.
Nelson, Chip and Kowalksi all tried prying the crazed man’s hands from around Lee who hung limply in the grip, unconscious as Eddings screamed at him,“You worthless piece of shit. I warned you. Never! Never!”
Several more crewmen reached them. It took six men to subdue the shrieking scientist and separate him from their Skipper. Nelson caught Crane as he fell, gently lowering him to the deck. Nelson could hear the short gasping breaths and found a fast but strong pulse.
“Get some corpsmen up here now,” Chip shouted as he too kneeled. “How is he?”
Chip followed Nelson’s gaze back up to the window. Lee’s blood was smeared bright red against the dark blue gray of the ocean.
Seaview sat silent and still in the water. Everyone was very quiet as the Skipper was placed on a litter and lifted. Even Eddings, shackled and under guard, had stopped raving. Now he stood, chin raised, looking very pleased with his work. The only evidence of his outburst was his dark gray hair which stood out wildly from his head. Tension was high and Nelson could see the murderous glances being aimed at the botanist by the crew. He was not sure their anger could be contained, he was not even sure his own could. They were used to violence, even violence against Crane, but this seemed so personal, with a level of hate even their worst enemies had not expressed. Eddings had ceased even to look human in his rage. What could Lee have possibly done to be so hated by this man? A respected scientist at that. What could inspire such a shocking attack? So many questions and Nelson wanted answers from Eddings. But as Lee was carried past Eddings, he spat on him. “Garbage,” he growled.
That did it. With a cry of rage, Kowalski’s fist shot forward, connecting with Eddings’ chin and sending the man tumbling back into the guards. Chip saw the seaman tense to attack again.
Kowalski froze, shaking with anger.
“Return to sonar.”
For a moment Chip was not sure Kowalski would do it. Eddings lay in a heap on the floor, and the seaman, gasping with anger, his fists still clenched, stared down. Patterson stepped into his friend’s line of sight.
“Sit down, Ski,” he said softly, placing a hand on his arm.
Kowalski looked at Patterson, nodded stiffly, and returned to sonar. Even as he sat, eyes on the screen, jaws tight and fists pressed into the console.
Nelson had watched all of this silently, relieved when Kowalski relented, and he realized, satisfied with the sight of the mad man crumpled on the floor.
“Get him down to the brig,” Nelson said finally. Then he looked at Sparks who like most of the crew stood nearby. “Sparks, contact Doctor Marcus. Inform him what has happened and that we will still deliver the supplies and pick up his man in the morning, but that he will have to find another botanist. Doctor Eddings is returning with us to face charges. Then get Security at the Institute. I want to know if this could have been predicted.”
Chip stepped towards the knot of agitated men. “All right men, back to your stations, we still have a sub to run. Mr. Edwards, you have the con, the Admiral and I will be in sickbay.”
The two men left the control room and Patterson quietly cleaned his Captain’s blood from the window. He should have said more, done something. He thought he knew why this had happened, or at least how. There really never was an adequate why.
Chip and the Admiral entered Sickbay, staying close to the door and out of the way. Nelson wanted to demand a report, but the sight Lee’s pale form held him at bay. He would wait until Doc was ready.
When Doc was finished, he signaled the two men forward. Lee looked like death, still and gray, but he breathed.
“He has severe concussion, possibly a hairline fracture, we’re preparing to do some x-rays.”
“Brain damage?” Asked Nelson.
“I don’t know yet. Admiral, what happened?”
“Eddings went crazy and slammed Lee into the windows. I don’t know why.”
“How many times has he attacked the Captain?”
Nelson looked up at Doc sharply. “What?”
Doc pulled back the blanket and opened the unbuttoned shirt, revealing a large dark bruise. “Unless I am mistaken, that is the outline of the toe of a boot,” his finger traced the dark outline within the bruise.
Nelson stared. “I didn’t know...”
“Chip?” Doc asked seeing the Exec’s face.
“I heard him gasp a few times, but I- he didn’t say anything.
The doctor frowned. “We’ll have to x-ray that as well, hopefully he hasn’t been walking around with a broken rib.”
Doc dismissed the two men as his orderly arrived announcing the x-ray equipment was ready.
Chip and Nelson watched Lee taken out of the room before they left.
“Nobody seems to know anything,” Nelson was nearly shouting. His pencil lay on the floor, already tossed aside in anger. “Dr. Marcus only knew Eddings was a respected botanist and our own Security seems to have somehow overlooked a missing block of time in Eddings’ past. They can’t explain how.”
Chip watched the tirade, but he had read the reports as he brought them to Nelson. He waited for the Admiral to stop yelling.
“He’s obviously out of Lee’s past, sir.”
“But Lee can’t tell us right now. Doc doesn’t know when he’ll wake up.”
“No, sir. He said Eddings wasn’t a doctor the last time they met. If he met Eddings a long time ago, maybe even before he joined the Navy, maybe Mrs. Crane knows.” Chip’s mind kept going back to his conversation with Patterson.
Nelson stopped, stared at Chip a moment before picking up his phone. “Sparks, get Captain Crane’s mother on the line.”
“Harri,” said a woman’s voice nervously. “What’s wrong? Has something happened to Lee?”
“Calm down, Amy,” he said. He did not want to distract her with Lee’s condition, before she could tell them about Eddings. If she could tell them. “I just called to ask you a question.”
“Me? What about?”
“Someone we think is from Lee’s past. It’s very important I find out. Do you know a Doctor Robert Eddings?”
The silence on the line lasted so long that Nelson thought they had lost the connection.
“Amy? Are you still there?”
“Yes, Harri,” she answered softly. “And yes, I know him.”
Finally, answers. “Who is he?”
“Step-brother?” He had not expected that.
“Ex Step-brother, I should say. Our parents divorced when Lee was a little boy.”
“What is between he and Lee?”
“Oh, Harri,” her voice got thick. “Bobby nearly killed him.”
“After Lee’s father died, I thought he still needed a male figure in his life. Bobby wouldn’t have been my first choice, but he was the closest I had to a male relative, I thought he would do. Bobby asked if Lee could come stay on his ranch for the summer, said the experience would do him good-“ her voice broke off. When she regained control, she continued. “Lee said he wanted to go. He was only ten and I’d never spent so much time without him, but I decided not to be clingy and let him go.
“Everything seemed fine at first. We talked on the phone every night. He told me about riding the horses and fishing in the lake. He was enjoying himself. But after a couple of weeks, he stopped telling me stories. He’d just say that he was having fun or that everything was fine.” She half laughed, half sobbed, ”Fine.”
“Then he wasn’t available to talk much, by the fourth week Lee was never around to talk to me. Bobby always said he was sleeping or out with the horses. But I knew inside something was wrong. Lee wasn’t tied to my apron strings, but he wouldn’t miss my phone calls, not all of them.
“Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I flew out to the ranch. Bobby wasn’t around when I got there, but I went in anyway. I knew it was possible I was just being overprotective, but I had to make sure. I called out for Lee, but no one answered, so I just started opening doors. In the back room was a locked utility closet. I opened it and there he was, huddled in the back. He hid his face from the light and didn’t seem to know I was there.”
This time a sob escaped and it was a moment before she could continue.
“The bastard had beaten and locked him there for days. He was a mass of bruises and when I picked him up, he just kept mumbling that ‘he’d be good, he’d be good’.
“Two of his ribs were broken, his left eye was swollen shut, his left cheek bruised to the bone. He hadn’t eaten or had any water in days and was so dehydrated. You know how thin he is now, at ten he was so skinny, after that he was skin and bones, so weak he couldn’t have walked out if Bobby let him.
“If the police hadn’t picked up Bobby I would have hunted him down and killed him. Lee woke up after two days and was in the hospital for two weeks. He stopped speaking. No one could tell if he remembered what had happened. After a month, he started talking again, but never about the ranch, almost as if it didn’t happen.
“He changed after that. He became so serious and withdrawn, like he was cutting himself off from getting hurt. It was months before he would let me hug him again, before he would tell me anything personal. I- I think he blamed me for letting him go. I know I blamed myself. I was supposed to protect him.”
“What happened to Eddings?” Asked Nelson quietly.
“He went to prison, but they don’t give people who beat on children much time.”
A silence extended. Chip and Nelson lost in their own horrific images of a small boy beaten and locked up. Suddenly Nelson found himself wishing Kowalski’s punch had broken Eddings’ neck instead of only cracking his jaw.
“Harri,” said Amy urgently. “Why are you asking me about Bobby? What’s happened to Lee?”
“I’m sorry, Amy. I didn’t know, Lee didn’t tell me.”
“Eddings is here, on the Seaview. We were transporting him. He attacked Lee.”
“Is he all right?” Her voice was small with fear.
“He has a concussion and is still unconscious, but it only happened late this morning.”
“Don’t panic, Amy. Doc says it doesn’t look too bad, no bleeding or swelling of his brain, a hairline fracture and a cracked rib. Doc says he’s going to be okay.”
“Keep that monster away from my boy, Harri.”
“Don’t worry, Eddings is locked in the brig. He just tried to commit murder; he isn’t going to be able to hurt Lee again. I’ll make sure of it.”
“Let me know as soon as he wakes up. I want to know anything, even if it’s bad.”
For a time neither man spoke after the connection was broken. Suddenly Chip jumped to his feet pacing.
“Why didn’t he tell us,” he said, filled with anger and frustration. “After all this time, doesn’t he trust us?”
“I don’t think it is a matter of trust, Chip. It sounds as though Lee pushed the whole thing back as a child and probably just assumed he could handle it on his own. Just like he always does.” Nelson leaned back drained. “I’m more upset about my own behavior. I should have seen something was wrong. You did. I call my self his friend, but I completely missed it all. I was so excited about visiting the island, he probably kept it to himself so I wouldn’t be disappointed. Damn.”
Something was wrong. Crane thought he should open his eyes, but the effort hurt.
“Can you hear me, Captain?”
A familiar voice seemed to cut through the endless ringing in his head. He should open his eyes. He did, a little. Light hurt. Less painful in the dark.
“Come on Skipper, show me you’re still here.”
Still here? Of course he was here. Wherever here was. Answering was too hard. Stay in the dark a little longer. Until the pounding stopped.
“Captain Crane, open your eyes,” the voice said firmly. An order. He was supposed to obey orders. So he forced his eyes open, but it was fuzzy and too bright.
“Hurts,” he croaked. “Light.”
Someone shaded the light, a face staring into his. “Do you know who I am, Skipper? Do you recognize my voice?”
Yeah. Familiar. Someone he knew. Jameson. Yeah, Doc Jameson. He nodded slowly.
“Tell me,” the voice insisted.
“Doc”, he answered with barely a whisper. Wait, if this was Doc, then he was in sickbay. “On Seaview,” he asked the fuzzy face. For a moment he thought he could make out Doc’s angular features before they blurred again.
“That’s right, Skipper. You’re on the Seaview.”
“When did I get on Seaview?” Talking was getting easier. This time when Doc’s face cleared it stayed that way- mostly at least. “What happened?”
Doc frowned a bit. “You had an accident.”
“Accident? Is Seaview okay?” He started to struggle up, but his head was so heavy, Doc did not really have to place the hand on Lee’s shoulder to hold him down.
“Seaview is fine. The accident only hurt you.”
“I don’t remember,” he was getting tired. “I don’t remember getting on Seaview.”
“It’s all right, Skipper. It’s probably just some temporary amnesia, that’s all.”
“Kay,” he whispered. Could not keep his eyes open anymore.
“Go ahead and sleep.”
Yes. Sleep. On his ship. That was good.
“Is it temporary?” Asked Admiral Nelson. Doc Jameson had come straight to his quarters to report.
“I don’t know. It could be caused by the blow to the head, but it could be his own mind, protecting him from things he’s too hurt to handle.” Doc leaned back in his chair wearily. “If it is temporary, his memory will probably come back in a few days. Until it does however, I don’t want any mention of Robert Eddings made to or near him. He’ll heal better if he’s at peace, not dealing with traumatic emotions. I’ve already shut off the main comm to sickbay.”
“If he remembers, do you think Lee can deal with it?” asked Chip, who had been standing a little off to the side.
“He was severely traumatized as a child. I’ve gone over the reports that Mrs. Crane e-mailed to us. Because he could never speak about what happened, the psychologists could not help him deal with it. That may explain his behavior, why he never fought back. He was only able to deal with Eddings as the ten year old boy he was.” Doc sighed. He had long ago accepted he couldn’t fix everything. Men died or were permanently damaged, physically or mentally. However, every untreatable case cut at his soul, especially when it was a member of this crew. “It may help, when he does remember, that Eddings is locked up. On the other hand, having it all brought out into the open may make it all that much more difficult.”
“In other words, you don’t know.” Chip was angry; his words had an edge to them.
“No, Commander, I don’t know. No man, not even Lee Crane, is indestructible, so there are no guarantees.”
“What can we do?” Nelson asked, breaking the tension.
“For now, nothing. If or when he does remember, just be there. Understand that though this was shocking to you, it’s devastating to him. Children who face violence from people they are supposed to trust tend to blame themselves for what happened, thinking they must have done something to deserve it. He may be able to face it with our help, but I think we should arrange for a psychologist for him to speak to. What ever we do, he must not push it aside again. He has to deal with all of it, or it will simply blindside him again someday.”
Doc stood to leave. Nelson stopped him asking to be informed when Lee woke up again. Doc agreed and left. Nelson watched Chip pace. The blond man was lost in thought, his carefully cultivated mask in full force.
“So,” started the Admiral, leaning back. “Who are you angrier at? Eddings for being a monster, or Lee for not telling you about him.”
Chip’s eyes widened as met the Admiral’s gaze. “I’m not angry at Lee.”
“Oh? After all this time, doesn’t he trust us?”
“I was just upset about what I’d heard.” Chip sighed, resuming his pacing. “It’s just that every time I think I know him, he changes.”
“He doesn’t change, just your perceptions. Lee Crane was already shaped by what we’ve learned long before Amy told us.”
“I know. So why do I feel- angry isn’t the word, and neither is betrayed, but I am upset with him.” The Chip seemed defeated, sitting heavily into the chair. “How can I be, after what I’ve learned?”
“You’re upset for the same reason I am. You would have liked to help him, keep him from being hurt again. But nobody can fight our monsters for us. They are ours alone to conquer.”
Chip met his gaze. “I want to kill Eddings.”
“You and every man aboard this boat, myself included.”
The next two days passed quietly. Doctor Simon Ferris, the botanist returning on the Seaview, sensed the animosity aboard the boat, and while it was never directed at him, he decided to quietly spend his journey within his quarters. The word was passed around the ship that Eddings was not to be mentioned anywhere near sickbay until after the Captain’s memory returned. The crew was subdued, but the tension was thick. Nearly every crewmember found reason to pass by the brig at least once, casting hard, threatening looks at the unrepentant prisoner, but they held themselves in check. During this time, Patterson had grown increasingly withdrawn. Chief Sharkey was getting worried, Patterson seemed to be distracted and it was showing. He mentioned it to Commander Morton who, remembering his brief talk with Patterson before the attack, ordered the seaman report to his quarters. Patterson dutifully arrived, but he looked drawn and worn out, there was grief in his eyes. Chip recognized it; he had seen it in the mirror more than once in the past few days.
“It’s not your fault,” said Chip gently as Patterson took the offered chair.
“No ifs. We all saw something was wrong, but Captain Crane can’t be forced to reveal his problems.”
“My guess was right, wasn’t it sir?” It was barely a whisper.
“Yes. The Captain’s mother told us.” He would not give details; they were not his to give.
“No,” said Chip forcefully. Standing, he walked over to the seaman. Pat was a good man and no one else should suffer because of Eddings’ inhumanity. “There is only one person who is to blame for what’s happened and he is already in the brig. Pat, I need you to pull yourself together. Your cool head can keep your crewmates from losing theirs until we dock and rid ourselves of him. Do that for the Skipper.”
Pat took a deep breath and nodded.
“Go get some sleep and stop trying to take on responsibilities that aren’t yours to take.”
“Yes, sir,” and the crewman left, looking only a little bit less despairing.
Nelson had sat many times in the past few days by Crane’s bunk, watching him sleep, waiting for him to wake. When he did, Lee seemed like his old self, concerned about the ship and asking when he could leave sickbay, but still oblivious to what had happened. Nelson had a feeling that was about to change.
Lee groaned again, mumbling incoherently in the throes of a nightmare. Nelson placed a hand on Lee’s arm and felt it jerk reflexively away.
“I’ll be good,” Lee spoke breathlessly.
Nelson had a flash of the little boy in the dark, pleading and his stomach churned. He had barely been able to eat or sleep for the haunting of those images. He hated for the man to suffer, but it was so much worse to know the child had. Almost as though I should have been there, thought Nelson sadly. Not that I was this time.
He touched the other man’s shoulder. “Wake up, Lee.” Crane began to thrash harder. “Lee, its okay now. Wake up.”
And he did, eyes wide, gasping, confused. He pulled away from the hand.
“You’re safe.” He said as the other man curled up painfully on one side, still caught up in the fear of the nightmare. He waited until Lee looked up at him.
“I’m going to guess you remember now.”
Lee nodded. “Where is he?”
“Locked up in the brig, where he belongs.”
“I’m sorry, Admiral.”
“I-“ but he broke off confused.
“It’s not your fault, Lee. We know about him, about what he did to you when you were ten.”
Lee looked away, ashamed.
“I just don’t understand why you didn’t tell me, why you let him get away with attacking you even once.”
Not looking up, Lee shrugged.
Nelson leaned closer. “I could have stopped it before it even started, I could have saved you more pain.”
“No one could before,” his voice was barely a whisper, tinged with sadness and bitterness.
“If you had told me anything I would have refused the request and told him to get there another way.”
“You wanted to go.”
“Good God, Lee. I own a submarine, Hell, I own a flying mini sub, I could have gone any time.”
“I thought about excusing myself, but you would have wanted a reason.” Lee still did not meet his eyes. “I thought I could handle it, I didn’t think he would do anything much with so many people around.”
“How many times did he attack you before the one in the control room.”
“When he cracked your rib. Where did it happen?”
“Cracked my rib? That’s why it hurt so much.” Lee paused, sighing. He really did not want to talk about it anymore.
“Tell me, Lee.”
“In my quarters, just before we left port.”
“We hadn’t even left Santa Barbara yet?”
The gall of Eddings, so sure of his dominance he had not even waited an hour. But then, Lee had not said anything.
“I never understood,” started Lee sadly. “I never knew what I did wrong, why he hated me so much. I tried. I tried to do everything just like he wanted, but the more I tried, the angrier he got. I don’t know what I did wrong.”
He sounded so lost. Nelson remembered the nightmare mumblings and Amy’s description of finding him saying ‘I’ll be good’.
He bent down, bringing himself into Lee’s sight. The other man tried to look away, but Nelson caught his face gently with one hand.
“It’s not your fault, it never was. Eddings is just some pathetic bastard who thought beating you up made him better than you. It made him feel superior. That’s what he did again; as soon as he realized he still had power over you. But you have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I couldn’t fight him. I felt so small again and I couldn’t fight him.”
“Lee, Doc wants to get someone for you to talk to about this.”
Lee shook his head and pulled away. “No. No, I don’t want to. I just want to forget.”
“If you don’t do it Lee,” he paused. He had not wanted to do this, but the decision had to be made. “I’ll have to relieve you of command indefinitely.”
Lee looked as though Nelson had struck him, betrayed and shocked. “No. I can do my job. I always have before.”
“Doc says if you don’t get help, this could sneak up on you again. Next time it could be more than your life at stake. Dammit, I don’t want to do it, but there are other lives to consider here. Right now, it’s all Chip and I can do to keep the crew from forming a lynch mob. Kowalski may have to face charges and morale...”
“What about Kowalski?”
“He struck Eddings as you were being taken to sickbay,” he decided not to mention the particular act that had inspired that outburst. “He cracked Eddings’ jaw and laid him flat. Chip almost couldn’t stop him from doing more.”
“He shouldn’t have done that,” Lee said mostly to himself.
Nelson repositioned himself into Lee’s line of sight again. “After what we saw Eddings do to you, he’s lucky he hasn’t had some accident. There are over one hundred men on board willing to arrange it, myself included.”
Lee looked up surprised. It had never occurred to him that anyone else would suffer because of this. He had known he would. But then, hadn’t his mother suffered? He had seen her tears and pain when she tried so hard to hide them from him. She never pressed him about it, being happy that her son was alive and he took advantage of that, pushing it all away to the back recesses of his mind, not forgotten, but never speaking about it again to anyone. However, avoiding the memories had backfired. Look at him now, not just injured, but in danger of losing what he loved most, his command, and his place on Seaview.
He sighed in resignation. “I’ll try, sir.”
“Thank you, Lee.”
Suddenly he felt exhausted, he could hardly keep his eyes open now.
“It’s all right,” Nelson said, pulling the blanket up to his friend’s shoulders. “Go back to sleep. We’ll work out the details later.”
Then Lee was asleep.
Chip had not actually seen Lee since the Captain regained full memory of the trip. Now, Doc had released him to his quarters with strict rules and orders that meant one slip up meant being packed off to Sickbay again. The Skipper had sworn to obey, then promptly called to Chip. The Exec was nervous. He still felt strange though. It was not something he wanted Lee to know about, he had been through enough.
His knock was promptly answered and Chip put on his best XO face and entered. Lee smiled at him. Still a little pale, he was sitting up in bed, some papers in hand and a forgotten sandwich on a plate in his lap.
“You’re not supposed to be working,” Chip warned.
“I’m not,” said Lee quietly. “I’m reading the report on the attack.”
Chip frowned. “Lee, you don’t need to be going through those right now-“ He reached for the papers.
Lee only smiled at his XO’s protests. “I survived the attack, Chip. I think I can handle descriptions of it. Although I think it looked more frightening than the actual experience was.”
Chip’s hand remained outstretched and Lee sighed, handing the papers over.
“Shouldn’t you be eating? Doc comes in here and sees that sandwich still there and he’ll show up with an IV.” He set the report on the desk and faced his CO who was looking at him oddly.
“Are you mad at me, Chip?”
Had he let anything slip? Or had Lee simply seen through the pretense.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” Lee said looking down at the sandwich. He put it aside with a frown. “It wasn’t that I don’t trust you. I’ve never told anyone what happened, never mentioned that there was a Robert Eddings or what he was to me. I couldn’t.
“Going to have to now, though. Admiral Nelson says he’ll take the Seaview away from me if I don’t get help. Doc’s arranging it all.”
“Lee, I’m not angry at you. You don’t have to...”
“Might as well get used to it. I’m not ready for gory details yet, hopefully by the time we’re ready to sail again. The Admiral’s arranging a month’s shore leave for the crew, time for them to cool down and time for me to face a few demons. One in particular.
“I-uh looked up to my Uncle Bobby when I was a kid, he always seemed nice to me the few times a year I saw him. He was the only male relative I had left and I guess I was wanting someone to take the space my father left when he died. He was okay at first; it wasn’t until I went to stay with him that things got weird. After a week, he started criticizing every thing I did, but he didn’t hit me until I talked back.
“He was complaining about how I was cleaning out one of the horse stalls so I told him to do it himself then. He hit me so hard that I hit the wall before the ground.” Lee stared down at his hands. “He said he was sorry and asked me not to tell my mom. After all, it was just an accident, he said. Then the accidents started happening a lot.”
“Why didn’t you tell your mom, Lee?” Chip stepped closer to his friend. “You could have gone home.”
“When he got really violent I told him I was going to. He said he would hurt her if I told. I just wanted to protect her.”
Chip walked over and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know you trust me, Lee, I just couldn’t help thinking that I should have been able to do something. It’s my job to make sure you’re able to do yours. I hate that he was able to do that to you right under my nose and I couldn’t help. I wasn’t angry at you, I was mad at myself. I knew something was wrong, I could see something was wrong and didn’t do anything.”
Lee sighed. Everyone he thought he was protecting had been hurt. “I saw a note in the report about Patterson. What was it about?”
“More guilt. He told me your expression around Eddings reminded him of one a friend would have whenever his abusive father walked into a room. Pat thought he should have done something, too.
“Damn. Is he all right now?”
“Good.” Lee rubbed his face. “I need to speak to Kowalski.”
“You should rest.”
“I will, after Ski. We dock tomorrow and I want to speak to him now, while he’s off duty.”
“Yes, sir.” Chip turned to leave.
“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” said Lee with a faint smile. “Maybe talking to the shrink won’t be either.”
“I hope not, Lee. Good night.”
Kowalski fidgeted nervously, straightening his uniform. He knew why the Skipper wanted to speak to him, he no doubt had heard about Ski decking Eddings. He still didn’t think he had done anything wrong, even though the command crew kept criticizing him. He had heard the stories, how that madman had hurt the Skipper as a child, one of the corpsman had seen part of the file Doc had about it, now the Skipper was going to have to go to a head shrink. Hell, Kowalski wanted to do it again. The Captain deserved better.
He would do whatever punishment Captain Crane decided on, but he was not going to feel bad, Eddings had it coming and more.
He knocked and entered at the Skipper’s reply. He was in bed wearing his pajamas and a robe, probably Doc’s orders. He looked Kowalski over with a frown.
“I am going to assume, Kowalski, that you know why I called you here.”
“Yes, sir. It’s because I decked Doctor Eddings.”
“That’s right. Would you care to explain your actions?”
“He deserved it.”
“I understand he was already subdued.”
“So why did you hit him?”
Kowalski hesitated. Hadn’t anyone told him? “Well, he spit on you, sir.”
“Wouldn’t have been the first time,” muttered Captain Crane mostly to himself. Then he raised his voice. “I thought you had better self control than that.”
“No sir. After what I had just seen, he’s lucky I only cracked his jaw, I was trying to do worse.”
Crane smiled briefly at the seaman’s candor. “In the future Kowalski, you are not to strike prisoners no matter how much he may or may not deserve it. I do not need to lose one of my best men to charges of assault. I’d hate to lose you, especially to- a man like Eddings.”
Kowalski heard the hesitation and his jaw tightened. The Skipper noticed.
“What is it?”
“I apologize for hitting him, sir.”
“I’d do it again.”
Crane sighed heavily. He appreciated the loyalty of his crew, but this was going to far. “You had better not. And I want you to let it pass to the rest of the crew to leave Eddings to the authorities. No ‘accidents’.”
The seaman colored slightly. There had been musings, no real plans, but he was sort of ashamed the Skipper had heard about them.
“Yes, sir.” He waited to be dismissed, but the Skipper was not looking at him, almost seemed to have forgotten the other man was there. He wondered if he should wait or just leave when Crane began to speak.
“Off the record, Ski, and don’t you tell anyone.”
“I know the crew has heard about my history with Eddings.”
“We didn’t mean to pry, sir, we were just worried...”
“I know.” The Captain was not looking at Kowalski still, but he lifted his head as he spoke. “Thank you, for doing what I couldn’t.”
Kowalski smiled, wanting to lighten the Captain’s mood. “No problem, sir. I could do it again if you want.”
“Yes, sir.” He snapped to attention.
The seaman rushed out, but still heard the faint chuckle before he closed the door.
Lee had one more thing to do before he went to sleep. It was late where his mother was, but this could not wait any longer. He carefully got out of bed, his head swam a little, but he made it to his desk and sat down. Picking up the phone, he asked the current radio operator, Thomas, to put a call through to his mother. It did not take long for her to pick, he was relieved he had not woke her up.
“Lee!” She said happily. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”
“I will soon.
I was wondering what you’re doing this week, cause if you’re free I
thought you could come to
His mother laughed lightly. “Well, I can’t have that can I. I could probably catch a plane tomorrow morning.”
“Great, we get to port tomorrow night. I’ll have the Admiral arrange a security pass at the gate. You can drive me home.”
“Good. I’ve always wanted to drive that little red monstrosity of yours.”
“Don’t call my baby a monstrosity,” he said with mock horror. She laughed again.
“Mom.” His voice was softer this time.
“What’s wrong, Lee?” She was alarmed at the sudden change.
“I never blamed you for what happened. I didn’t tell you what he was doing because he said he’d hurt you.”
“I just wanted you to know. I knew it wasn’t your fault. I-I thought it was mine.”
For a moment, she did not say anything and he was afraid he had upset her. Finally she spoke.
“We’ll talk about it later, son. I love you.”
“I love you too. See you tomorrow.”
He hung up and for the first time since this cruise began, felt relief. Then he hurried back to his bunk, not wanting to risk the CMO seeing him up.
Lee had insisted and no one was happy. Chip just wanted to get Eddings off the boat and away from the Skipper as quickly as possible, but Lee wanted to be there. He wanted to see Eddings, and he swore he would get up on deck one way or another to do it. So they had relented, not sure if it was the right decision. Nelson, Chip and Jameson clustered around Lee who, dressed in uniform, stood tall but a little tense waiting. He smiled a bit at his friends’ protectiveness, but this was something he had to do. He had to see Bobby now that he had finally begun to deal with the past. He had to face him as a man instead of the frightened child.
Eddings was brought up by the guards, stopping at the knot of officers, staring at Crane with those cold blue eyes, their promised threat too familiar. Lee met the stare with a feeling far different from the terror of the past. His stomach still clenched, but not as intensely. He felt Nelson shift slightly behind him, preparing to speak, but Lee raised his chin and felt some of the tension drain away.
“Get Doctor Eddings off of my boat.” Lee spoke firmly.
The guards acknowledged and escorted the angry man towards the gangplank. A woman standing at the dock had watched the encounter as well, and now, her eyes narrowed and her own chin held high she watched him led away, hate and satisfaction vying for dominance in her stance.
Lee’s shoulders relaxed and Nelson could hear him sigh.
The Captain was still watching the man being led away. “He seemed different this time. Much smaller than I remember.”
No one answered, but they exchanged brief smiles.
Crane turned to his Exec. “Go ahead and release the crew for shore leave, Mr. Morton. Tell them I’ll see them in a month.
Chip smiled. “Yes, sir.”
“Oh,” Lee said suddenly, looking to all three men. “Mom expects you three to come to dinner tomorrow night. I told her my apartment is small, but she insists on cooking. She was quite adamant you all come,” he smiled broadly. “And she outranks even you, Admiral.”
“Tell her we’ll be there at seven then.”
Lee walked off the gangplank onto the dock where the tall woman, with dark graying hair, waited. Amy Crane wrapped her arms around her son, carefully, but tightly, and Lee sank into her warm embrace. His friends watched him walk away, seeming very much his old self, the last bits of tension erased by her presence.
Tell me what you think. E-mail Mindy Shuman at email@example.com