A Quiet Ride Into Work
By Michelle Pichette and Holly Cushing
"Ď...And since I donít trust my mother to get on the correct airplane, I simply had to wait until her flight, that was delayed several times, finally boarded. And thatís why I was late, sir.í Oh, yes. I can see that going over just wonderfully," Fiona Crane complained. Her arms were crossed over her chest, she was tapping her foot quickly, and she looked utterly furious. Lee remained where he was seated and was struggling desperately not to laugh at his motherís display. "I can see that smirk, young man! This isnít funny!"
"Mom..." Lee started, fighting down a chuckle.
Before he could finish the thought, a voice rang out over the nearest speakers, "Delta Passengers, Delta Flight number thirteen twenty two is now boarding. Will all passengers who need assistance boarding or are traveling with small children please proceed to the gate for immediate boarding."
Leeís mother gave him a narrow look, saying, "So, should I toddle over to the gate and ask for a wheelchair?"
"Donít be like that, Mom. Iím going and Iím not going to be late reporting in, so enjoy your trip. Iíll call as soon as I can, all right?" She didnít answer right away and Lee gave her a pleading look. "Mom..."
Fortunately, she relented, the angry look fading from her face. "Oh, I canít stay mad at you. Take care of yourself on whatever terrible mission they have planned for you this time," she said, giving him a hug.
"I told you, Mom, weíre just hauling some crates this time. Nothing dangerous," Lee assured her.
"Thatís what you always say, then I have to visit you in the hospital," Fiona said with another little frown. She moved to give him a hug, which Lee happily received. As she squeezed him tight, she said, "I love you. Call me soon," she said as she gave him another firm squeeze.
"I will. Love you too," Lee said, gave his mother a final hug, then started off to the parking lot to get his car. He let out the chuckle that heíd been repressing for the last couple of hours. His mother worried about the silliest things, he thought as he walked leisurely along. As if hauling cargo could somehow be dangerous, he mused with another good natured laugh.
Before long, heíd reached his car and, just a few moments later, was out on the highway and headed for the Institute. Something poked him in the hip as he drove along and he stretched up a little to fish whatever it was out. As soon as he touched it, he knew what it was. It was his grandfatherís lighter, Leeís lucky charm, complete with a faded shamrock on either side. He carried it everywhere, though he knew it confused some people that he even had it. He chuckled again, rubbing his thumb over the four leaf clover, wondering why no one ever asked about the lighter, especially the people he could plainly see were burning with curiosity over it. He tucked the lighter into a more comfortable spot, then turned up the volume on the radio as the news came on.
Lee barely noticed the time pass and in no time he had reached the shore road in Santa Barbara. He was munching on some sunflower seeds that his mother had given him for the drive, humming along with the song on the radio, relaxed, and looking forward to the upcoming cruise. He glanced at his watch and knew heíd been cutting it close to his check in time, but he was almost positive he wouldnít be late. Another silly worry his mother had been nursing on his behalf. She worried too much, Lee thought, knowing that was also why he had the sunflower seeds. She was worried he wasnít eating enough. Lee sighed. His mom he could forgive, but everyone was always trying to feed him. He knew how to feed himself. Why did everyone seem intent on trying to feed him?
Lee didnít have a chance to dwell on the thought, because when he glanced out into the bay, he saw things floating there. Lots of things were floating there, human shaped things and Lee swiftly pulled his car off the road. There must have been a plane crash or something equally horrible, because there were more people than Lee could count. Heíd seen lots of terrible things happen, both on and off the Seaview, but it seemed to make him more focused rather than panicked when he was confronted with them. This, however, did look very bad, for there were dozens of forms there in the water before him. He forced himself to keep thinking in the terms people and not bodies as he swiftly dashed from his car to the shore. He dove in without any further thought on the matter and swam for the nearest bobbing shape.
Lee was a very strong swimmer and he reached the person heíd been swimming toward quite quickly. As he grabbed for the nearest limb, he almost recoiled at the cold, slippery feel of it. This was not a living person, Lee knew, but he forced himself to hang on and swim back for shore. Maybe the body had answers as to what had happened. That was reason enough to get it to shore. He could call the police then and report this tragedy. He was thinking that right up until he pulled the body onto the bank and looked, a bit hesitantly, into the personís face. What he saw made him squint then look more closely. The face that looked up at him was that of Marilyn Monroe.
"What the..." Lee started to question aloud, then realized that the thing lying before him was a mannequin of some kind. He stood up, and looked out at the other bobbing figures, now totally at a loss. Was this some sort of sick joke? Were these all dummies or were real bodies mixed in? Then his watch beeped at him.
"Damn!" Lee swore, realizing that he should be aboard the Seaview now, not standing looking at a bunch of mannequins that someone had dumped in the bay. He looked down it his drenched clothing and was glad he had typically left a uniform in his car. "What an afternoon," Lee thought as he climbed back up the bank to his car.
He grabbed his car phone and called the Institute, telling Tish he was nearly there and wouldnít be much longer. Then, as he popped open his truck and pulled out the bagged dress uniform there in, he called the Santa Barbara Police and told them that someone had dumped some mannequins in the bay. The bored voice on the other end of the line informed him that someone would be sent out when they were available. Lee doubted that would be anytime soon and he was grateful that the operator thanked him and then hung up without asking him to wait at the scene.
As Lee swiftly changed his clothes, he thought about what he was going to tell the Admiral about being late. He was never late. In fact, he tended to be one of the first men aboard. That wasnít going to help him now. Admiral Nelson didnít take tardiness well, not even on a first offense. Lee doubted that rescuing Marilyn Monroe from a watery grave was going to hold much weight with him.
"Oh well, I can only tell him the truth and hope for the best," Lee said to himself as he got behind the wheel of his car. Then he smiled, shaking his head. At least the day wasnít going to get any stranger. He laughed to himself as he started his car and finished driving to the base.