By JSRobertson


It was six weeks before Christmas and Seaview was on a mission in the Pacific testing out some new equipment for the Navy on monitoring the tides but would be back in plenty of time before the holiday season started.  Angie, Wanda and Janet had already planned the annual NIMR Christmas party for the employees and their families for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Now they weren’t as good as Edith Nelson at planning events but in past years everyone has had a good time.  They would again use the cafeteria and turn it into a winter wonderland.  Every year one of the officers would put on the Santa suit stuffing it with plenty of pillows.  It was Lee’s turn to play him this year.


The three of them designed an invitation sent it via e-mail to all personnel. If you didn’t have an e-mail address, they would make sure you had one delivered to you.   Angie and Wanda would take care of finding out how many adults and children would be attending from the institute while Janet took care of the personnel on Seaview.  Janet posted the invitation on the bulletin board in the officer’s and crew’s quarters as well as the crew’s mess and wardroom.  


They wanted to make sure no one was left out so you could e-mail, stop by the institute offices or fill out the form Janet had on Seaview to let them know how many adults and children, boy or girl, would be attending so they had enough gifts and food. The ladies would take a day off from work and buy the gifts.  So far the response was overwhelming.


Cookie was in charge of the food.  There would be hot dogs, hamburgers or chicken nuggets for the children while the adults dined on roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and Cookie’s special green bean casserole.  There was also lasagna, salad and desserts.  Cookie and the mess specialists would outdo themselves making all kinds of Christmas cookies, cakes, pies and tortes.  The admiral wanted to make sure everyone got home safely so there was no alcohol served but Cookie always made delicious punches for everyone to enjoy along with sodas, coffee and tea.


Since Lee was playing Santa this year, Lee and Janet would also host the Seaview party at their house.  All crew members were invited along with their wives or girlfriends to the party.  The party was always held the Saturday two weeks before Christmas provided Seaview was in port.  Since she would be back before then, they would have the party as scheduled.  Janet made the invitations and passed them out to the crew as they boarded Seaview before they left on the mission.  This would be the first time Janet was hosting the party as Lee’s wife.  She was very nervous and wanted to make sure everything was perfect.


Janet was thankful Cookie offered to help her with the food which was always appetizers.  They had already decided on which appetizers would be served.  Carol from the diner would bring her bite size hamburgers as one of them. They decided to serve Christmas cookies, brownies and cheesecake bites for dessert.  There would be drinks at this party but no one has ever overindulged.   Janet hoped the weather would co-operate and not rain.  Even if it was cool outside, they would have outdoor patio heaters around to take away the night chill.




It was 1900 hours on Seaview and Lee and Chip were in the control room just finishing up their shift and would be replaced by Bob O’Brien.  Chip noted the change of duty in the log book while he filled him on what had occurred during their watch and what was expected on the next watch.


 “I’ll meet you and Janet for dinner,” Chip told Lee before he walked out the aft hatch on his way to the wardroom.


As he headed for the spiral staircase and up to officer’s country, “Okay, I’ll pick up Janet and meet you there,” Lee replied.


Lee looked in their cabin to see if she was there but found it empty so he went to her office.  He found her there and moved some papers out of the way so he could sit on the corner of her desk which got him a dirty look.  She took the papers he moved and put them on the other side of the desk where she would have to re-sort them again.


“What are you doing?” he asked looking at all the papers and little colored slips lying all over her desk.


“Marking off whose coming to the NIMR party and our party,” she replied as she checked off another name on one list and then the other list. 


Furrowing his eyebrows he asked, “How do you keep it all straight?” as he watched her go through the slips.


“You have to be very organized,” she told him checking off a couple of more names and marking the slip to show she put it on the tally sheet.


Picking up one of the slips he said, “How can the men answer you when they just received the invitation? Don’t they need to check with their wives or girlfriends?”


“Honey, the wives and girlfriends of the men know when these parties are scheduled.  It’s posted online in the NIMR newsletter.  Maybe you should try reading it sometime,” she joked gently slapping him on the knee. 


“When are you going to be done?  I’m hungry and I told Chip we’d meet him for dinner.”


“Just a couple more minutes, I want to finish these up so I don’t mix up the new ones and old ones.”


He watched her finish up the tallying and then shut down her computer.  He took her hand as they left for the wardroom for dinner. He was off duty for the night, so when they finished dinner, he would take his walk around the boat. They got to the wardroom where the admiral, Chip and Jamie had just started eating.  Lee took a tray and handed one to Janet.  The mess specialist put meatloaf, mashed potatoes and spinach on their plates.  Lee wasn’t too fond of spinach and frowned which didn’t get by Cookie who was watching them from the galley.


Cookie walked over to the serving station.  “Sir, it’s good for you.  I’m trying to serve more healthy foods.  Doc says we’re eating too many fattening foods so you better get use to it,” Cookie told him with a smile.


Lee smiled back, looked at Jamie and shook his head wondering how long this would last.


“Does this mean no more brownies or cookies too?” Lee asked after dawned on him that his favorite foods were unhealthy.


“Well I wouldn’t go that far just yet.  Maybe just cut down on how many times I make it on a cruise,” Cookie said to pacify him.


Janet snickered as she went to the table, put her tray down and got a cup of coffee for Lee and tea for her. 


“Anybody else care for some coffee,” Janet asked before sitting down next to Jamie. 


The three of them handed her their cups with grins on their faces.  Lee sat down across from her, next to Chip and looked at the spinach.


Barely containing a laugh Chip said, “It’s not going to bite you.  Just mix it with the potatoes and you won’t taste it.  Remember Popeye ate it and he grew up big and strong.”


The admiral, Jamie, and Janet burst out laughing as Lee mixed it with the mashed potatoes and ate it.  He too had a smile on his face but not for the same reason.


“Mr. Morton, I will get you for that remark and you won’t know when or where or maybe I will just have to assign you bilge cleaning duty when we return to port,” Lee stated calmly putting a piece of meatloaf in his mouth.


All but the admiral ducked their heads and returned to eating their meal hiding their grins.  The admiral just sat there looking at Lee still smiling.  When they finished eating, they cleaned up their dishes.  Chip, Jamie and the admiral were heading to their cabins to catch up on some work. 


 Lee and Janet also got up to leave but Lee stopped outside the wardroom door and asked, “Where are you going?”


“I’m checking the crew’s mess for more slips.  Sharkey and Scott Taper will check the crew’s and officer’s quarters for me.  I’ve got a few more items to jot down on my list of what’s needed for our party.  Then I’m going to get ready for bed and read my book.”


Squeezing her hand he said, “I’ll be back soon.” 


He turned and walked down the passageway with his first stop in sick bay. She went to the stairway and up to her office.  When she got there she pulled out her list and jotted down the items she needed for their party.  Sharkey and Scott had put some more slips on her desk so she put those on her tally sheets.  She would enter all the information on the computer tomorrow.  She turned off the light in her office and went to their cabin.  She got ready for bed, turned the soft light on over the bunk and took out her book.  She had been reading for about two hours when Lee returned from his walk around.


Looking up from her book she asked, “Is she all tucked in for the night?”


Smiling as he removed his tie, took his shirt out of his pants and unbutton it he answered, “Yes she’s all tucked in.”


“Good how about tucking me in,” she said seductively as she put her book on the shelf above the bunk, turned off the light, scooted under the covers, took off her pajama top and dropped it on the floor. 


Lee quickly finished getting ready for bed and tucked his wife in for the night too.




Seaview was at sea a few more days recording the data the Navy needed before heading for home.  Chip and Lee were standing at the plotting table.  Chip had checked the navigation computer to make sure they were on course and was recording it on the map.  Lee finished making some notations in the log book and was tapping his pencil on the table.


“This mission has gone very smoothly,” he commented to Chip who looked up at him.


“Yes, all the data has been recorded and saved so when we get back the admiral just has to bring them the disks.  Sometimes computers are helpful.”


“And sometimes they’re not,” Lee smirked.


“We should be in Santa Barbara in two days.  I’m sure the crew will appreciate the extra time they will have to spend with their families since Thanksgiving is just around the corner,” Chip remarked.


“I’m really glad we have no missions scheduled until after the first of the year.  I don’t like keeping the men from their families at this time of year,” Lee replied still tapping his pencil.


Everyone was looking forward to the time off even the officers. They would still have to report to the work at the institute but at least they were home.




The admiral and Lee were sitting at the table in his ‘front porch’ discussing when he would bring the disks to Washington when Sparks radioed the observation nose.


Closest to the mic Lee picked it up, “Yes Sparks, what is it?”


“Skipper, I have a call for the admiral from the Secretary of the Navy.  He says it’s important.”


The admiral taking the mic from Lee answered, “Sparks, pipe it to my cabin.”


“Aye aye sir,” Sparks replied telling the Secretary he would ring the admiral’s cabin.


The admiral got up from his chair and ascended the spiral staircase heels clicking on the metal rungs.  Lee returned to the plotting table where Chip was standing with a perplexed look on his face after hearing the SecNav was on the phone.


“I wonder what that’s about,” Lee told Chip picking up a pencil from the plotting table rolling it between his hands.


“Maybe he wants the data on the tides before we get to port,” Chip answered with a look of concern.


“We’ll see,” Lee said returning to his work at the plotting table while Chip checked out the stations in the control room.




Entering his cabin, sitting down at his desk, he picked up the receiver and pushed the flashing button his phone, “Hello, Mr. Secretary,” the admiral said.  “What can I do for you?”


“Admiral, I have a problem.  The captain of the USS Chicago, Bill Woolf, has taken ill and can no longer command the boat.  We have no qualified personnel available in this area to take over for him until he recovers.   Therefore, I’m going to need to remove Commander Crane from his reserve status to active duty and place him on that boat.  He will remain in command until Captain Woolf can return and from what I’m told he could be on the Chicago for quite a while.”


“Yes sir.  How soon will he need to leave?” the admiral asked running his hand through his hair.  He knew the Chicago’s captain and was sorry to hear he was ill.


“There will be a helicopter there in two hours to pick him up.  The XO has limited experience on that type of boat so that is why we need someone with Commander Crane’s expertise.  Admiral, the Chicago is one of three submarines patrolling the international shipping lanes due to attacks on vessels by the People’s Republic.”


“I understand, sir.  Would you like to talk to him or have me relay the order?  I can have him report here immediately.”


“Have him report to your cabin,” the secretary responded without hesitation wanting to talk to him directly.


“Yes sir.  Just a moment please,” the admiral replied pushing the hold button on the phone and pressing the intercom button connecting him to the control room.


“Lee, please report to my cabin immediately.”


Grabbing the mic on the plotting table Lee answered, “Yes sir.”  He replaced the mic in the holder and ran to the spiral staircase just as Janet entered the control room through the aft hatch with the duty rosters for Chip to sign before she would post them.


Seeing Lee run up the staircase, “where’s Lee going in such a hurry,” she asked as she handed the duty rosters to Chip.


“The admiral’s cabin, the SecNav is on the phone,” Chip told her as he looked over the rosters and signed them.


“Why would the SecNav be calling him?” Janet asked with a worried look on her face as she took the rosters from him.


Sighing deeply Chip replied, “I’m not sure but it can’t be good.”


Lee knocked on the admiral’s door waiting for him to answer before he went in as it gave him time to catch his breath.


“Come in, Lee,” the admiral said with a grim look on his face.  “The SecNav needs to talk to you.”


Taking the call off hold Lee answered, “Hello Mr. Secretary.”


“Hello Commander,” the SecNav said and explained to Lee what he just told the admiral.


“Yes sir.  I will be ready to leave by then.  Good bye sir,” Lee replied placing the phone in the cradle.


“Damn,” he said unhappily.  “Sorry Admiral.”


“You just said what I was thinking,” the admiral responded with a sigh.


Rubbing his hand on his forehead he realized he would have to tell Janet that he had to leave and wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving and more than likely Christmas.


“Lee,” the admiral said with concern knowing what he was thinking.


“Yes sir,” Lee looked at the admiral, “I know I better tell her right now.”


“You want help?” the admiral asked knowing Janet would be upset.


“No I’ll tell her,” he sighed as he walked to the door, “but thanks for the offer.”


“No problem son,” the admiral said getting up, put his hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.




Lee left the admiral’s office and went down the passageway stopping at their cabin to see if Janet was there.  It was empty so he walked across the passageway to her office.  She wasn’t there either. He headed back to the front of the boat and down the spiral staircase to the control room.  Chip looked up from the plotting table when he heard foot steps on the stairs and knew they were Lee’s.  He could tell by the look on his face there was a problem as he walked over to the plotting table.


“Lee what’s wrong?” Chip asked looking at his best friend and ‘brother’.


 “Chip let’s go to the observation nose,” Lee said, “Mr. Taper you have the conn.”


“Aye sir,” Taper answered.


Chip followed Lee to the observation nose.  Lee sat down at the table as Chip sat down across from him.


Running his hands through his hair he told Chip what had taken place in the Admiral’s cabin and that he would take over as Captain of Seaview until he returned.  Chip would have no problem taking over and bringing her into port.


“Have you told Janet about his?” Chip asked softly.


“I haven’t told her yet because I can’t find her.  She wasn’t in our cabin or her office,” Lee replied sighing.


“She came into the control room just as you went to the admiral’s cabin so she knows the SecNav wanted to talk to you.”


“I better find her.  I’m leaving in two hours,” Lee told him as they both stood up and walked back to the control room. 


Chip took over the conn as Lee went out the aft hatch to find Janet.  He checked in sick bay and Jamie hadn’t seen her all day.  He also checked the wardroom and she wasn’t there.  He went back up the stairs to officer’s country.  He checked her office again and found her in there typing on the computer.  He walked in and closed the door.  She looked up at him and knew something was wrong.


“Lee, what did the SecNav want to talk to you about,” she asked as he walked over to her desk.


Taking her hand, he led her over to the bunk, “Please sit down,” he told her as he took her chair, sat in front of her and took her hands in his.


Taking a deep breath he began, “I’ve been reactivated back into the Navy.  I’m going to command the USS Chicago, a fast attack submarine.”


“Lee can they do that?” she asked innocently as she knew nothing about how the Navy worked.


“Sweetie, yes they can,” giving her a wry smile, “I can be permanently returned to active duty if they needed me.”


“Why do they need you?”


“Her captain is seriously ill and had to be removed from the boat.  They have no qualified personnel that can assume command.”


“Can’t the XO take over like Chip does when you leave...can’t they just go back to port and wait for him to get well?”


“No, not this time,” he told her as he rubbed the tops of her hands, “The boat is patrolling the shipping lanes in international waters in the Pacific because the People’s Republic has been attacking ships.”


“How long will you be gone?” she whispered staring at her hands.


Putting his hand under her chin and gently lifting her face up, he replied, “Quite awhile, I’m afraid.”


“So you won’t be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas?”


“No sweetheart, I’m sorry,” he answered kissing her forehead as she put her head on his shoulder, “but at least you’ll know where I am,” he smiled as he stroked her hair.


Sitting back and giving him a small grin she said, “I guess that will have to do.  When are you leaving...can I contact you?”


Looking at his watch he replied, “There will be a helicopter here in about ninety minutes and no I will have to contact you but don’t worry if you don’t hear from me, we could be on radio silence.  I will call you when I can,” he reassured her.  “Come with me while I pack.”


They both got up, Lee opened the door and they went to their cabin.  Lee took his duffle bag out of the closet and was packing his gear and a map of the area. 


“I guess it’s a good thing I had the laundry wash your uniforms,” Janet told him as she went to the closet and took them out laying them on the bunk.  Normally they take them home and send them to the cleaners but since Seaview would be in port for awhile, Janet had them washed so they could leave them here and not worry about getting them back aboard.


“I knew there was a reason I married you,” he laughed as he carefully folded them and put them in the duffle bag as Janet hung the empty hangers in the closet.  They weren’t Navy regulation uniforms but they would have to do to.  The only good thing Janet could think of is that his backpack would stay in the closet.  He would use that for every ONI mission. 


He needed to change into his dress blues so he took off his khaki uniform but before re-dressing he grabbed Janet by the waist and kissed her passionately.  He pulled back the covers on the bunk, helped her get undressed and they climbed into the bunk where they lost themselves in each other for the next half hour.  Lee got up and took a quick shower.  While he was dressing, Janet took one too.  He finished packing his shaving gear and other essentials he would need.  They walked down the passageway taking the stairs to the observation nose. 


As they stood in the observation nose looking out the windows Janet said urgently, “Lee, you were supposed to be Santa at the party...who’s going to do it now...what about our party...I have to cancel it.”


“Sweetie, calm down.  One question at a time,” he chuckled knowing she would rattle on when she was nervous.


The admiral was coming down the stairs, heard her questions and he walked over to them.


“Don’t worry about the party.  I have a perfect replacement for Lee,” the admiral told her smiling as both he and Lee looked at Chip at the plotting table in the control room.


“Who’s going to tell Chip he has to play Santa.  Didn’t he do it last year?” Janet asked while she looked at Chip too.


“I’ll take care of telling Chip,” the admiral assured her.


“Please don’t cancel our party as I know the men are looking forward to it.  I’m sure Chip and some of the crew will help you.  Do you think you can do it?” Lee asked hopefully.


“Yes, of course.  I just thought maybe you would want to be there,” she replied softly.


“Sweetie, I’ll be there in spirit,” he told her giving her a hug.


The three of them walked in the control room where the crew noticed their captain in his dress blues and knew something was up.  Going over to the periscope island, Lee took the mic out of the holder and pressed the button once keying the mic so the whole boat would hear him.


“Attention all hands, this is the captain,” Lee said, “I’ve been recalled back to the Navy to command the USS Chicago.  Since I’ll be gone for the holidays, I just want to wish all of you happy holidays.  Hopefully I will return for Seaview’s mission scheduled for next year.”   As Lee returned the mic to the holder, Kowalski on radar spotted an object on the screen.


“Skipper, there’s a helicopter 2000 yards off the port bow,” Kowalski alerted him.


“Thanks Ski,” Lee said, “Mr. Morton surface the boat.”


“Aye sir,” Chip replied as he picked up the mic, “Surface, surface.”


Seaview responded and was on the surface in no time.


“Crack the hatch,” Chip told Sharkey at his station in the control room.


“Aye sir,” he replied shaking Lee’s hand and went up the ladder.


The admiral and Chip shook Lee’s hand.  He went over to Janet, pulled her close and kissed her while the crew looked on. 


“Love you,” he whispered in her ear.  “Don’t worry...I’ll call when I can.”


Kissing him back she whispered back, “Love you too.  I know you will.”


He climbed the ladder to the sail hatch while the admiral, Chip and Janet went up to the conning tower.  Kowalski handed up Lee’s duffle bag to Sharkey who passed it to one of the crewmen on the deck detail.   The helicopter was just getting into place landing lightly on Seaview.  Lee took the duffle bag from the crewman, opened the door of the helicopter and put it in.  He looked back up to the conning tower and waved good bye.  He jumped in the helicopter and shut the door just as the copter took off from the deck.  They watched the helicopter fly away until they could no longer see it in the sky.  Chip, the admiral and Janet went back down the ladder into the control room where Chip told them to dive the boat and continue on the present heading for home.


Janet stood in the observation nose arms wrapped around her waist watching the waves go over the bow before going to the control room and over to Chip and the admiral as they stood at the plotting table.


“I’ll be in my office,” she told them heading for the spiral staircase. 


“She’s not very happy,” Chip said as he and the admiral watched her go up the stairs. 


“Can’t say I blame her," the admiral remarked, “at least the party will occupy some of her time but we do have one problem,” the admiral said to Chip in a serious tone.


“What’s that sir,” Chip answered with a concerned and baffled look on his face trying to think what the problem could be.

Seeing Chip had no clue as to what he was getting at, the admiral broke out in a grin, “You’re going to have play Santa for the NIMR party this year.”


Smiling too, Chip responded happily, “No problem at all.  I don’t mind doing it.  The kids are always fun to be around.” Chip had plenty of experience with children as he had quite a few nieces and nephews.


“Thanks Chip.  That’s one less problem Janet has to worry about,” he told Chip patting him on the shoulder.


They both were standing at the plotting table when Sparks called to the admiral.


“Admiral, I have Admiral Starke on the phone for you.”


“Pipe it up to my cabin,” the admiral told Sparks.


“Yes, sir.”


“Wonder what he wants,” the admiral said to Chip as he left the plotting table for his cabin leaving Chip to attend to the duties of captain.


Reaching his cabin he went in, sat down at his desk and picked up the phone. “Yes, Jiggs, what can I do for you?”


“Just checking to make sure Commander Crane is on his way to the Chicago.” 


“Yes, he left about fifteen minutes ago.  I was wondering who gave the SecNav his name.”


“Sorry Harry, I didn’t want to do it but I had no choice.  He was the only one with experience on that type of sub in this area.  It would have taken too long to get someone else.  That sub is the lead one of the three on this mission.”


“I understand Jiggs.  Thanks for the call,” the admiral told him as he hung up the phone.  “Damn,” the admiral said out loud.




Lee boarded the helicopter and the pilot motioned for him to put on the headphones so he could talk to him.


“Welcome aboard commander,” the pilot told Lee.


“Hal is that you?” Lee asked with a grin recognizing the voice.


“Yes sir,” Hal replied.  He was the helicopter pilot that had picked Lee up off on Seaview several times for ONI missions.


“I should have known it was you when you landed on Seaview.  You’re the only pilot that doesn’t scratch her paint landing and taking off.”


“Thank you sir.”


While they were talking the co-pilot was staring at Seaview and couldn’t believe how large she was. He watched her slowly sink in the water.  He had heard a lot of talk about this submarine and her captain and was glad he finally got to see her and meet him.  He knew that Lee was the youngest submarine captain in the Navy. 


“Commander, your co-pilot for this journey is Petey Hobbs,” Hal told Lee, “he’s learning how to land and pick up personnel off submarines.”


“Nice to meet you Commander,” Petey said, “That’s one nice boat you have.”


“Yes she is a very nice boat,” Lee replied proudly as he watched his ‘gray lady’ sink slowly under the water.


“Sit back and enjoy the ride,” Hal told Lee as he buckled his seat belt for the two hour ride.


“Thanks, Hal.  Still don’t serve any food,” Lee joked.


“No budget cuts took away our snacks,” Hal laughed back and cut the feed to the radio.


Lee sat back and looked out the window at the ocean below.  He was just a little nervous about taking over the command of another man’s boat not that he hadn’t done it before but never under these circumstances. 




(Aboard the USS Chicago)


The executive officer, Tyler Banks, had just received word from the SecNav that Lee would be replacing Captain Woolf until he could return.  He had heard of Lee and the fantastic Seaview. He would be honored to serve under him and knew the crew of the Chicago would feel that way too.


“Attention all hands, this is the exec,” Banks said over the mic.  “Our new captain, Commander Crane, should be arriving in two hours.  In case some of you don’t know him, he is the captain of the submarine Seaview.  I know I can count on you to welcome him aboard.”  Banks replaced the mic and watched as his crew reacted to the news.  The crew members in the control room were looking at each other.  Some of them knew of Seaview and were nervous about serving under Lee.  He had a reputation of being no nonsense but fair and hands on captain that would take a few chances. 




Janet went back to her office to finish entering the log book entries and reports Lee gave her before he left.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she typed.  She couldn’t wait to get home and off the confines of Seaview.  There would be a lot more to do once they docked. She along with Angie and Wanda still had to buy the gifts for the children attending the NIMR party.  She would have put up the Christmas decorations for the party at their house. After marrying Lee she hoped she would never have to spend another holiday alone but she would this year.  She finished up her work, shut down the computer and was getting ready to leave her office when Chip came to the door. 


“I’ve come to take you out to dinner,” he chuckled.


“Out to dinner?”  Not really hungry she asked, “I suppose you won’t take no for an answer.”


“That’s not an option.  Let’s go our table is waiting,” he replied taking her arm.


They walked down to the wardroom where the admiral and Jamie were already there.  Janet took a tray and Cookie put some lasagna on it.  She looked at him and sighed.  Lasagna was Lee’s favorite meal on board. At least he didn’t make brownies.  He was cutting back on the desserts at Jamie’s request that they all eat healthier.  Even the lasagna was made with wheat noodles.


“I’m sorry, Mrs. C.” Cookie told her.  “I didn’t know the skipper was gone and it was too late to make something different.”


“It’s okay,” she replied softly.


Cookie gave Chip two pieces along with some salad.  He sat down next to Jamie while Janet sat down next to the admiral.


“Janet, I asked Chip about being Santa again and he going to do it so you don’t have to worry about that.”


“Thanks, Chip,” Janet replied taking a couple of bites of food before she pushed the rest of it around her plate.  “If you’ll excuse me, I’m a little tired.  I’ll see all of you tomorrow,” she said as she took her plate, cleaned it off and handed it to a mess specialist.  She really didn’t feel well.  She went to her cabin and got ready for bed where she climbed in the bunk and fell asleep.


Surprised that she left without finishing dinner the admiral said to Jamie, “She doesn’t look good. “Maybe you better check her out.”


Jamie answered, “I agree she didn’t look well.  I’ll see her tomorrow.”


They finished dinner and cleaned up.  The admiral and Jamie would go to their cabins while Chip would take a walk around the boat tonight.  If they didn’t have any problems, they would be docking late tomorrow afternoon.




The helicopter with Lee aboard was approaching the position of the Chicago.  Lee looked out the window and could see the submarine breaching the surface and the deck crew coming out of the sail hatch. 


“Thanks Hal, Petey for the safe journey.  Be careful going back,” Lee told them over the headset.


“No problem sir.  Please let the men know we got their captain to Pearl and they will let them know how he is doing,” Hal asked Lee.


“Will do,” Lee replied removing the headsets and unbuckling his seat belt.


Hal hovered a few feet over the rounded deck of the submarine while Lee opened the door tossed his duffle out before jumping onto the deck and ducking down to clear the blades of the helicopter.  When he was clear he gave thumbs up to Hal who slowly lifted the chopper away from the submarine and flew away.


Once on deck Lee picked up his duffle bag and handed it to a crewman who walked over to him and took it to the sail hatch.  He was also met by another man.


“Welcome aboard sir,” the man said, “I’m Tyler Banks, the executive officer.”


“Lee Crane,” Lee replied as he shook Tyler’s hand.  “Let’s go below it’s a little windy up here,” Lee said as the wind swirled around the two men on deck.


“Yes sir.”


The two of them went to the sail hatch and down the ladder into control room where all the men were standing at attention.


Smiling Lee said, “at ease and return to your stations.”


The men sat back down at their stations and resumed their duties as the crewman took Lee’s duffle to the captain’s quarters.


Standing by the periscope island watching the men, “Dive the boat, Mr. Banks,” Lee told the XO.


Picking up the mic Banks said, “Secure the deck detail.  Dive, all dive.”  Replacing the mic he waited for the men to report.


“Deck detail secure,” the chief petty officer replied.


“All green across the board,” a crewman reported.


“Take her down to ninety feet,” Banks called to maneuvering.

“Aye, aye sir,” they replied and smoothly took her down to ninety feet.


“Very well done, Mr. Banks.  Now bring me up to speed as to what our orders are and exactly where we are.”  Lee said as they went over to the charting table.  “I’ll address the crew as soon as we’re done.”


“Yes sir.” Banks replied as he showed Lee where they were on the map.  “Right now we’re just watching the shipping lanes and offering assistance to any of the ships that are escorting freighters across this part of the ocean.  So far we haven’t had to use any of our weapons or even surface as the PR ships are usually chased away by the escort ships.  But we have gotten word that they are deploying submarines to take out the escorts and the freighters.”


“Thank you Mr. Banks,” Lee told him as he checked around the control room.  It was lot smaller than the one on Seaview but still efficient just as he remembered.  Picking up the mic on the charting table Lee addressed the crew, “Attention all hands, I’m Commander Lee Crane and I’ve been ordered to take over command of this boat.  Your captain has safely arrived at Pearl Harbor and I will find out shortly how he is doing.  I’m very familiar with this type of sub and I will be conducting a few drills so I can see how you react under attack if that should happen,” Lee put the mic back in the holder.


“Mr. Banks, please tell me the names of the men on radar, sonar and the radio.”


“The men on this watch are Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Gray on sonar, Petty Office 2nd Class Tom Allen on radar and Information Systems Technician Josh Lewis mans the radio.”


“Have you been ordered to maintain radio silence?”


“No sir not so far.”


Lee walked over to the radio shack, “Hello Mr. Lewis.  Will you please place a call to Pearl Harbor and get the hospital on line.  I wish to talk to the doctor taking care of Captain Woolf.”


“Aye sir.”  Lewis replied as he pressed the switches that would connect him to Pearl.  Lee heard him ask for the hospital and gave Lee the phone when they were connected.  Lee identified himself asked about the captain’s condition.  The doctor reported he was still in critical but stable condition.  They were still trying to find out why he was so ill.  Lee thanked him for the information and reported it to the crew.


Lee looked at his watch it was 1700 hours, “When are you off duty Mr. Banks,” Lee asked as he stood at the charting table.


“At 1800 hours, sir,” he replied promptly.


“I’ll be in my quarters until then; will you please meet me in the crew’s mess for dinner?”


“The mess?” Banks asked as the captain usually ate in the wardroom.”


“Yes, I would prefer to eat in the crew’s mess,” Lee replied wanting to dispense with the formality of the wardroom so he could get to know the crew.


“Yes sir,” Banks answered.


Lee found his way to his quarters and unpacked his uniforms and hung them in the closet not wanting to disturb Captain’s Woolf’s gear.  He splashed water on his face and looked around the small cabin.  Barely enough room for one person so no way would two people fit in here he smiled thinking of Janet.  He pulled out the maps he brought with him and for the next hour studied the maps of the area they were patrolling.   


He made his way to the mess where he met the cook, Chief Petty Officer Jimmy Gale who welcomed him aboard.  He served him meat loaf, mashed potatoes and corn.  Before he sat down, he went to the coffee urn and poured a cup of the brew.  He went back to the table and sat down just as Banks came in and was served dinner.  They were the only two men in the mess.


“Thanks for joining me,” Lee said as he took a drink of the coffee and knew it definitely was not strong enough but would have to do.


“No problem sir.” Banks said hesitantly not sure what Lee wanted.


“Just a few questions,” Lee said noticing his hesitation.  “How long have you been at sea? And when was the last time you took on provisions?”


“We’ve been deployed for five months.  We’re due back in port at the beginning of next year.  We were stationed in Guam but are to report to Pearl when this tour is up and we took on provisions when we were deployed,” Banks told Lee as they ate dinner. 


“Is everything okay?” Banks inquired looking over the edge of his coffee cup before he took a drink.


“Please relax, Mr. Banks,” Lee told him.  “I always want to know the details on every mission. I’d like see the reports that have been made regarding the attacks on the escort boats and freighters after dinner.”


“Yes sir I will see that you get them as soon as we’re finished.”


“Mr. Banks, how long have you been stationed on the Chicago?” Lee asked finishing up his meatloaf.  It was good but not as good as Cookie’s.


“Just over a year.  I was on a destroyer before and decided I would like to be on a submarine.  Passed all the tests and was sent here.”


“Which do you like better,” Lee asked with a gleam in his eye. 


“Submarines of course,” he replied back quickly.


“Good answer,” Lee said smiling as he got up, patted the XO on the shoulder.  He left the mess and returned to his quarters. A short time later there was a knock on the door.


“Come in,” Lee said as he walked out of the head with a towel in his hand.


Banks was standing at the door, “Here are the reports you requested, Captain,” he said to Lee as he handed them off.


“Thank you Mr. Banks.  Tomorrow morning, I will be conducting a torpedo drill and in the afternoon an emergency battle stations drill and various other drills during the day.”


“Yes sir.  I’m sure you’ll find the crew very well prepared.  Good night.”


“Good night Mr. Banks, thanks for your help today.”


Banks left Lee’s quarters and returned to his.  He liked Lee’s approach and felt they would work well together.  The Chief of the Boat, Henry Grimm, while so far has not had any contact with Lee watched him handle himself in the control room when he first arrived.  He was an old friend of Chief Sharkey who had mentioned to him more than once what a great skipper Crane was so he felt he and the crew would have no problems following his orders.


Before Lee got ready for bed he studied the reports Banks gave him.  When the People’s Republic first started attacking the freighters they had no problem getting what they wanted off the ships.  But when the government started sending escorts with the freighters they backed off when a ship approached them.  Lee looked closely at the latest reports and found that the PR was getting bolder and taking shots at the escorts.  He knew the PR well enough to know they were ramping up their attacks.  He finished the last report and looked at his watch; it had been a long day so he lay on the bunk and fell asleep.




Lee was up early the next morning and went for breakfast where he met the COB.  Lee ate breakfast in the crew’s mess with him and some of the crew who introduced themselves to Lee. 


“Chief Grimm, I told Mr. Banks yesterday that I will be conducting a torpedo drill this morning and an emergency battle station drill this afternoon and other various drills.  He assures me your crew is up to the task,” Lee said taking a sip of coffee.

”Captain, Mr. Banks is correct.  We will be ready for anything the People’s Republic gives us.”


“Very well,” Lee said finishing up his coffee and made his way to the control room where Mr. Banks and the rest of the men were waiting and ready to conduct the first drill.


“All right Mr. Banks lets see how well your crew handles the torpedo drill,” Lee told him holding his clip board.  Picking up the mic Lee ordered, “Fire torpedoes one and two.”  He waited for the missile room to report the torpedoes on their way. 


He looked at his watch counting the seconds when the missile room reported, “Two away, sir.”


“Excellent time,” Lee said making a note of the time on his sheet. 


He ran the crew through the rest of the morning and afternoon drills. Not quite as good as Seaview but better than some of the other boats he’s been on.


Picking up the mic Lee announced, “Attention all hands, this is the captain. Great job all of you.  Captain Woolf has done a good job of preparing you for battle.  Let’s hope we don’t have to use any of these skills.” He replaced the mic and turned around and saw the XO and COB standing there.


“Mr. Banks and Chief Grimm, you weren’t kidding when you said the crew was prepared.  I’m very impressed,” Lee told them smiling.


“Thank you sir,” they both replied.  Chief Grimm went out the aft hatch back to the missile room while Mr. Banks stood at the charting table checking to make sure they were on course.  Lee walked around the men in the control room watching what they were doing.




Janet woke up later than normal because her built in alarm clock wasn’t there as Lee was always up at 0500.  She showered, dressed and went down to the wardroom for breakfast.  She wasn’t too hungry but knew she better eat or Jamie would be on her case.  Cookie was serving breakfast when she got there.  He took a tray for her and put some scrambled eggs and toast on her plate.  The only thing looked appealing was the toast.  Jamie was the only one in the wardroom so she sat down across from him.  She took a bite of the eggs and managed to get them down.  Jamie sat watching her stare at the eggs and noticed she had a hard time eating them.


Looking over the top of his coffee mug he asked, “Not feeling well this morning?”


“No just not hungry,” she replied as she took a bite of the toast.


“You weren’t hungry yesterday at dinner,” he continued.  “Come to sick bay after breakfast so I can check you out.  You’re not looking too good.”


“Jamie,” she said exasperated, “I’m fine.  Just worried about Lee and you know how I get when he’s gone.”


“Please just humor me,” he told her as he got up from the table.  “I’ll see you in fifteen minutes and I want you to eat all your breakfast.  I’ll have Cookie report to me if you don’t.”


“Yes sir,” she acquiesced. 


He left the wardroom while she finished up her breakfast.  Cookie looked at her and smiled. Smiling back she got up from her seat, showed him her empty plate and left for sick bay.  Jamie was sitting in his office when she got there.  Getting up from his desk, he walked her to the examination room and made her sit on the gurney where he took her blood pressure, temperature and listened to her heart. 


“Okay everything looks normal,” he told her removing the stethoscope from around his neck, “but I’m going to do some blood tests just to make sure.  I’ll take it back to Med Bay and have it tested.”


“Thanks Jamie,” Janet replied as she rolled up the sleeve on her shirt but didn’t watch while he took the blood.


“All done,” he told her putting a gauze pad with a bandage on her arm. 


She rolled down her sleeve.  She knew why Jamie wanted to test her blood but wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. She left Med Bay, stopping at the crew’s mess before going to her office for some more slips for the parties and found quite a few.  She went back to her office to record those along with the ones O’Brien and Sharkey had put there earlier.  She put the data on the computer and backed it up to her flash drive so she could take it with her.  She finished up the reports from Lee, printed out two copies, one to keep on Seaview and one for her records at the institute.  She worked through lunch as she wasn’t hungry and wanted to get the reports Chip gave her and the letters from the admiral completed before they docked.  Since Seaview would be docking later she took all her papers, flash drive and put them in Lee’s briefcase.  She went to their cabin to pack up her clothes and take what Lee had left there back home. 


She went to the observation nose and watched as Chip brought Seaview into the channel and then into the dock. She smiled when he docked her without scratching the paint.  It was a standing joke between Lee and Chip that if one of them scratched her paint, he would have to pay for dinner.  Chip and the admiral stood at the bottom of the ladder wishing the crew happy holidays as they left the boat even though some of them would be at the NIMR party.  After the crew left she went back to their cabin and brought down the duffle bag and Lee’s briefcase to the control room. 


After he came back downstairs with his gear Chip asked Janet, “Are you ready to go?”


“Yes, I’ve got everything,” she replied as Kowalski took the duffle bag from her and took it up the ladder but she kept Lee’s briefcase with her. 


Once topside, Janet gave her car keys to Kowalski so he could put Chip’s and her duffle bag in the car since Lee drove to the dock for this mission.   Patterson took the admiral’s gear and brought it to his car before leaving.


“Thank you, Ski,” Janet said as he handed her keys to the car.  “I’ll let you know when I need help with the Christmas decorations,” she told him as he offered to help her bring them in the house since Lee wasn’t around.


“Admiral, are you going to the office?” Chip asked once they arrived at the parking lot and stood next to his car.  He and Janet wouldn’t have to go to the offices until tomorrow morning.


“Yes but I’m not going to stay long. Just want to check in see how everything is.  I’ll see you tomorrow,” the admiral told them as he took his keys out of his pocket and opened the trunk of his car and Chip put his gear in.


“Good night admiral,” Janet said to him as she stood by her car. 


“See you both tomorrow,” the admiral replied.  “Janet, if you need anything please call.”


“Yes sir,” Janet answered with a small smile.


The admiral unlocked the door of his car, got in and drove away towards the institute office.  Chip unlocked the door to Janet’s SUV and held the door open while she got in. 


Chip went around to the passenger side of the car, “How about getting some dinner,” Chip asked as his stomach growled.


“I’m not that hungry so I hope you don’t mind if we just go home,” Janet told him.


“No problem, I’ll find something to eat,” he replied concerned that she wasn’t hungry again.


Janet pulled the car in Chip’s driveway.  He went to the back, took out his gear and went to her side of the car, “I’ll pick you up tomorrow for work,” he told her.


“Thanks Chip. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”


He watched her back out of the driveway and drive up to her house.  He was worried about her and would talk to Jamie tomorrow when he got to work.  Janet pulled in the garage, took her gear and Lee’s briefcase into the house.  She put the briefcase in Lee’s office and put the duffle bag in the laundry room.  She went in the kitchen and found a can of soup and ate it for dinner.  She was tired so she went up to bed and fell asleep even though it was still early.




The admiral arrived at the institute, unlocked the door, and took the elevator upstairs.  Turning on the lights in the office he walked over to Angie’s office and flipped the switch turning on the lights in his office.  There was a pile of mail on his desk so he sat down at his desk and started to look through the pile when the phone rang.




Lee looked at his watch and knew Seaview would have docked by now.  He wanted to talk to the admiral and Janet but when Lewis tried to get through to Janet on her cell and home phone the call wouldn’t go through. 


“Mr. Lewis since I can’t get through to my wife’s phone, please try calling the Nelson Institute and pipe to my quarters.”


“Aye aye, sir,” he responded making the connection as Lee walked the short distance from the control room to his quarters.


Loosening his tie and undoing the top button of his shirt, Lee sat down at the desk and waited for Lewis to put his call through.


“Sir I have your call to the Nelson institute.”


“Thanks Mr. Lewis,” Lee said as he picked up the phone.  “Hello Admiral.”


“Lee good to hear your voice.  Everything okay?”


“Yes sir.  Everything is fine. Seaview get into port alright...Chip didn’t scratch the paint did he?  I tried calling Janet but the call wouldn’t go through is there a problem.”


Chuckling the admiral replied, “Everything is fine and no he didn’t scratch the paint.”  Before he could ask the admiral remarked, “Janet is fine too and I don’t know why the call wouldn’t go through.”


Smiling at how well the admiral knew him he answered, “Thanks.  She’s not there is she?” he asked hoping maybe she was working.


“No, sorry Lee.  She went home right after we docked.”


“How’s Captain Woolf’s crew?” the admiral asked tapping his pen on he desk.


Lee answered, “The crew here is well prepared.  Captain Woolf has done a good job with them.  So far we haven’t had any problems but after reading some of the reports I’m afraid that might change.  I noticed all these reports are being sent to Admiral Starke.  Did he have a hand in sending me here?”


Nelson sighed, “Yes Lee.  He didn’t have any choice as you were the only one available to handle that type of sub.  No one else was near enough to bring in.”


“I understand.  Will you Janet tell that I will call her Thanksgiving night about 2000 hours your time.”


“Yes Lee, I will do that. Take care,” the admiral said before saying good bye.


“You too admiral,” Lee replied hanging up the phone.


Lee hung up the phone disappointed that he couldn’t talk to Janet.  He went to the crew’s mess and got dinner.  He was hungry as he didn’t have time for lunch because of the drills.  It was empty except for the cook.


“What provisions do you have for Thanksgiving?” Lee asked Chief Gale as he ate his dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread.


“Sir I have all the makings for a feast.  I made sure that the crew will have turkey and all the trimmings since we won’t be home for Thanksgiving.  I’ve also got Christmas covered too,” he assured Lee.


“Good.  I want to make sure they can at least have a good dinner since they can’t be with their families,” Lee told him.


“Do you have a family sir?”


“Yes, I have a wife, Janet.  This will be her first Thanksgiving alone since we got married,” he answered.  “How about you?”


“No, confirmed bachelor,” he said as he got up when some crew members came in for dinner. 


After they were served dinner, Lee waved them over to sit with him at his table.  They joined him and were surprised when he answered their questions regarding Seaview. 




Janet was up early on Tuesday morning.  She would be busy today as she along with Angie and Wanda were going to buy the presents for the children attending the NIMR party on Saturday.  They were a little late in getting them this year because Wanda and Angie waited for her to get back from the mission.  She saw Chip pull in the driveway, put on her coat, locked the door and got in the car.


“Good morning, Chip,” Janet said cheerfully.


“Morning,” he replied relieved to see she was in a better mood today.


“Are you and the admiral ready to man the phones when we go out for the gifts today?”


“I totally forgot about that,” he said worriedly, “hopefully since it’s the week of Thanksgiving, there won’t be too many calls.  I really don’t like answering the phones. I’m afraid I’ll lose a call.”


“Chip,” she snickered, “it’s only a phone.  Most of the calls are for you, the admiral or Lee anyway so I think you can handle it.”


They got to the office just as Wanda and Angie were getting out of their cars and walked over to Chip and Janet.


“Where’s Lee,” Angie asked anxiously when she didn’t see him with them.  “He’s not on an ONI mission is he?”


“No, he’s on another sub for the Navy,” Janet explained. “The captain got sick and he’s replacing him temporarily.”


“Will he be home soon?” Angie wondered as she knew Janet didn’t like to be alone.


Sighing deeply Janet told them, “No he won’t be home for the holidays.  Maybe he’ll be home after the first of the year depending on how soon the captain recovers.”


“I’m sorry to hear that,” Wanda responded.  “We’re still going shopping today for the presents aren’t we?”


“Yes.” Angie and Janet replied as they walked in the door to the institute and were greeted by Howard who signed them in.


They took the elevators upstairs and went to their offices. Janet stopped in her office before going to Lee’s.  They weren’t gone that long so she couldn’t believe all the mail that had piled up on her desk.  Hanging up her coat, she went to Lee’s office and saw his desk piled with more mail than she had.  Oh well, she thought, it’s been sitting there for a few days so one more day wouldn’t hurt. Knowing she wouldn’t get it done today since they were going shopping.


The admiral walked in a few minutes after the rest of them and stopped at Janet’s door before going to his office.  He didn’t see her until she came out of Lee’s office her arms full of mail.


“Good morning, Admiral,” Janet said as she set the mail down.  She would sort it out and give most of it to Chip to look over before she left.


“Good morning, Janet.  I heard from Lee last night.  He tried to call you but the call didn’t go through.  He asked me to tell you he will call you on Thanksgiving at 2000 hours.”


“Damn,” she muttered, “I turned off my phone when I got home.  I didn’t think he would be calling.  Thank you for telling me,” she told the admiral upset she missed his call.  She was pissed at herself for turning off the phone.


The admiral went to Angie’s office where she reminded him they were leaving for the morning and wouldn’t be back until after lunch.  They always went out for lunch after buying the gifts.


“Oh I forgot.  We’ll be fine,” he assured her as she handed him two huge files filled with letters, reports to look over and proposals.  “Chip can handle the phones while I tackle all this work,” he chuckled.


The ladies stayed in the office for another hour before grabbing their coats.  Before Janet left she gave Chip the mail from Lee’s desk after she sorted through it.  There were some things she couldn’t take care of.  She let him know they were leaving and wished him good luck with running the office while they were gone.  They got in Angie’s car and drove to the toy store where they purchased all the gifts and candy canes they would need for the children.  The store promised they would have all of it delivered on Wednesday morning.  The ladies stopped at the diner for lunch and decided to splurge and have a cheeseburger and fries rather than their normal salad.   


“We’re still meeting on Friday to set up for the party,” Angie said as she put a fry in her mouth.


“Okay with me,” Janet answered and Wanda shook her head in agreement.


Before they left, Janet talked to Carol about the appetizers for her party.  She would let her know in a week how many she would need to make.  When they got back, Chip was sitting at Wanda’s desk relieved to see them.


“Please,” he begged, “don’t ever leave me again to answer the phones.  I don’t know how you do it.  They never stopped ringing,” he complained.


All three women had huge grins on their faces.  Now he knew what they had to deal with every day.


“Okay Chip,” Wanda told him grinning, “we won’t leave you alone for at least a year.”


“Very funny,” he snorted.  “Janet, could I see you in my office?”


“Sure, just let me hang up my coat,” she replied as he left for his office.  She went in her office, put her coat in the closet and walked to Chip’s.


“Yes Chip,” Janet said as she sat down in the chair in front of his desk looking at all the files he had sitting there.


“Two things,” he said.  “First, I did manage to get some work done.  I looked at Lee’s mail and here is what needs to be taken care of.  Also, I went through my mail,” he continued as he handed her another pile.  Second, Jamie called and wants to see you when you got back.  You okay?” he asked hesitantly.


“Yes as far as I know. He did some blood work because I’m not hungry and always tired.  Thanks for letting me know.  Is it okay if I walk over to Med Bay now?”


Getting up from his desk he went to the closet and gave her the keys from his coat pocket, “Take my car,” he told her, “Do you want me to go with you?”


“No if that’s okay.  Thanks for letting me use your car,” she replied taking his keys.  “I’ll be back shortly.”


Janet waited for the elevator to come up.  She already knew the answer to one of Jamie’s tests.  She left the office, walked to Chip’s car and drove to Med Bay.  She walked in the front door and down the hall to Jamie’s office.  She knocked on the door as he was sitting at his desk reading a file and didn’t want to startle him.


“Hi Janet,” he said getting up from the desk shutting the door behind her as she sat down in front of his desk.


Sitting back down at his desk, “I got the results of your blood work.  You’re fine,” he told her, “nothing out of the ordinary.”


“I know,” she replied sadly. “Thanks Jamie,” she said getting up from the chair and headed for the door.  “See you on Thursday at the Admiral’s for Thanksgiving,”


Getting up, “I’ll be there,” he said patting her shoulder as she walked out the door of his office.


She drove back to the office very disappointed.  Damn, she thought, she was hoping to give Lee some good news on Thanksgiving.  She locked Chip’s car and went in the building walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. 

She stopped at Chip’s office but he wasn’t there so she put the keys on his desk and went back to her office to tackle the piles of work on her desk.


Chip had gone to lunch and saw she was back so he stopped at her office door, “Everything okay?” he asked softly.


“Everything’s fine.”


“I still have quite a bit of work to finish so I’ll be here awhile.  If you want to go home, maybe Angie or Wanda can take you.”


“No, I’ll stay.  I have plenty to do too,” she replied as she looked at all the work.


They finally left at 1900 hours.  Chip took Janet home as he had a few errands to run.  She went in the house and sat on the couch.  Oh well, she thought.  She made a salad for dinner and put on the television while she ate dinner. 




Lee had been on the boat for a week and no ships had been attacked even though the shipping lanes had been pretty busy.  He had an uneasy feeling that things were going to change.  It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when sonar spotted an unidentified vessel.


“Skipper, I have a boat 2,000 yards away but I can’t make out what type,” the sonar operator reported.


Lee walked over to the sonar station and took the headphones from Petty Officer Allen.  He knew it was a small sub more than likely from the People’s Republic.


Returning the headphones to sonar operator, Lee went to the radio shack, “Mr. Lewis send a message asking the sub to identify itself,” Lee said urgently. 


“Aye sir,” Lewis replied as he tried to raise the sub on the radio but there was no response.


“Mr. Banks, battle stations.” Lee said tensely.


Pressing the button the alarm sounded through the sub as men came running from everywhere and reported to their stations in record time.


“Torpedoes bearing 1-9-0 range 1500 yards,” Petty Officer Allen said hurriedly.


“Hard right rudder,” Lee ordered as the helmsmen carried out the orders. As the sub turned they heard the propellers on the torpedoes go past the starboard side of the boat. 


Quickly picking up the mic on the periscope island Lee said, “Missile room prepare to fire torpedoes one and two.


“Aye, aye sir.”


Lee waited impatiently for the missile room to respond that the torpedoes were ready to be fired.  After what seemed to be an eternity the missile room replied, “Torpedoes one and two ready for firing.”


“Fire one,” Lee commanded feeling the boat shudder as the torpedoes left the tubes.


“One fired,” the missile room replied.


Lee looked at his watch counting down the seconds until he wanted to fire the next one.


“Fire two,” Lee told them.


The missile room replied promptly, “Two fired.”


Lee went back to the sonar screen and watched as the torpedoes headed for their target.  He could tell that one hit its mark but the other missed.


“Damn,” he muttered to himself not understanding how the second one missed.


“Mr. Banks, take her up to ninety feet,” Lee asked as he waited by the periscope island, “all stop.”


“Aye aye sir,” Banks responded relaying the order maneuvering, “Engine room all stop.”


“Engine room aye,” they answered.


Lee stood on the periscope island and waited for the sub to stop at ninety feet.  Once it reached that level Lee pressed the button on the attack periscope and looked around until he saw the other submarine surface about 1000 yards off the Chicago’s port bow.  He could see she was heavily damaged but was moving away from the Chicago.


“Down scope,” Lee said as Mr. Banks pressed the button and the scope retracted.  Lee left the island and went over to the sonar station.  “Petty Officer Allen, is that sub still sailing away from us?”


“Yes sir.  She’s about 1500 yards of the port.”


Picking up the mic, “Damage control report,” Mr. Banks asked.


“No damage to report, sir.”


“Good job men,” Lee told the men in the control room.  “Take her down to two hundred feet, Mr. Banks.”


Mr. Banks passed on the order and the sub slowly went to two hundred feet.


“That was close,” Lee stated to Mr. Banks as he stood at the charting table wiping the sweat from his brow.  “We’re going to have step up our alertness from now on.”  Lee left the control room and went to his quarters to report the attack to Admiral Starke.




Wednesday passed without trouble.   It was Thanksgiving and the crew was in a good mood.  You could smell the turkeys cooking all over the boat.  Lee decided to surface the boat so the men could get some fresh air.  Lee had Mr. Banks make a schedule so the crew would be able to call home and talk to their families which would be easier if they were on the surface. Lookouts were posted on the bridge keeping watch not only for the PR’s ships but any ships that were crossing the ocean.  So far there was nothing to be found for miles around. Lee took the evening watch on the bridge so the men on beta watch could get some fresh air, eat dinner and phone home.  After Lee finished his watch, he went down the ladder back to the control room jumping off the third rung of the ladder.


“Mr. Banks,” Lee called as he stood by the periscope island resting his arm on the rail.


Walking over to Lee he answered promptly, “Yes sir.”


“Has everyone been topside, eaten dinner and made their calls home?”


“No sir,” he replied as Lee glared at him after hearing his reply.


“Who hasn’t?” Lee barked as he wanted to dive the boat and get underway.


“Sir, you haven’t eaten or made your phone call home.  I’ve made my call home but haven’t eaten,” Banks said quietly.


Easing his look Lee patted him on the shoulder, “Let’s go eat now and then I will make my phone call home.”


“Lt. Evans, take over the conn,” Banks said.


“Yes sir,” he replied and made the note in the log book.


Lee and Banks made their way to the crew’s mess where Chief Gale was waiting for them.  They were the last of the crew to eat dinner and he wanted to clean up as it had been a long day.  He put a generous portion of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey on both their plates along with green beans, and cranberries. 


“Thank you,” Lee told him.  “You did a nice job of making sure the crew had Thanksgiving dinner.  Why don’t you join us before you clean up?”


“You’re welcome sir,” he replied as he sat down next to Mr. Banks with a cup of coffee.


The three men talked about life on a submarine and how it compared to a surface boat.  Lee and Mr. Banks ate everything that was put on their plates.  Neither one of them had lunch so they were hungry.  Gale took their dishes when they were finished and added them to the pile that needed to be washed.   Mr. Banks was off duty and went to his quarters.  Lee looked at his watch, he still had an hour before he would try and call Janet.  He knew she would have gone to the admiral’s for dinner.  It was a tradition the admiral started a few years ago if they were all in town.  Sally, his cook, would spend the day making a fabulous turkey dinner.   


Before calling her he would take a walk around the boat.  After stopping at all the vital areas of the boat, he wasn’t surprised to find everything in order.   He made his way to the radio shack before going to his quarters.


“Mr. Lewis could you please place a call to this number and put through to my quarters,” Lee asked giving him his home number.  Since they were still on the surface, he would be able to use a satellite to make the connection.


“Yes, sir,” he replied as he rang the number. 


Lee went to his quarters and waited for Mr. Lewis to connect him.  He couldn’t wait to talk to Janet.


“Sir, I have your connection,” Mr. Lewis told him as the phone was ringing.




It was early on Thanksgiving morning when Janet got up.  She had a lot of baking to do before she went to the admiral’s for dinner.  She along with Angie and Wanda would bring desserts to the admiral’s house while Chip would bring the wine and Jamie the appetizers.  No one knew that Jamie was a fantastic cook.  Janet was making a pumpkin bar dessert and of course brownies.


She finished baking her desserts and got ready to go.  Chip was picking her up at 1400 hours.  The admiral told him when they were manning the office that Lee was calling her at 2000 hours tonight so he would make sure she was home before he called.  He knocked on the door which she opened with her arms full of desserts.  He took one of the plates from her and put it in the backseat of the car.  She put the other plate on the backseat too.  She locked the door and got in the car for the short drive to the admiral’s house.  Chip could see she was a little unhappy.


“You okay,” Chip asked with concern and knew that something else was bothering her but didn’t want to ask.


“Yes, just miss your ‘brother’,” she responded sighing as she buckled her seat belt.   “Let’s go.  I’m hungry.  I didn’t eat anything at all today, leaving room for turkey,” she said with a small grin as she looked out the window.


He put the car in drive, pulled out of her driveway and went to the admiral’s. The weather was exceptionally warm so they made their way out to the deck where they devoured Jamie’s appetizers and had a glass of wine before dinner.  Sally, the admiral’s cook, called them into dinner an hour later.  Everyone was stuffed from eating Sally’s fantastic dinner so they decided to wait awhile before eating dessert.


Going back outside to enjoy the fresh air, “Is everything set for the party on Saturday,” the admiral asked as he sipped his Glenlivet.


Standing on the deck with a glass of wine Angie replied, “Yes sir.  The toys were delivered yesterday and we’re going to set up the cafeteria tomorrow and Saturday.”


“If you need help, please let me know,” Chip volunteered.  “I’m not doing anything important tomorrow.”


“Thanks Chip,” Wanda said thankful for the help.  “We will need your help.”


“I’ll be there,” he answered taking a drink of wine looking at Janet who was staring at the ocean.


After an hour of talking, the rest of the group went into the house to get dessert and coffee while Janet stayed outside.  The admiral walked over to her as she stood at the railing of his deck looking out at the ocean. You alright? You’ve been very quiet today,” he asked.


“Yes, I’m fine...Just miss him...Sorry I didn’t mean to spoil the party,” she sighed turning to face him.


“Honey, you didn’t spoil the party,” he reassured her.  “We all miss him.  For some reason it’s just not the same without him,” he told her as he grabbed her hand gave it a squeeze.  “Chip did a good job of carving the turkey but Lee makes it look a lot harder.”


“Yes I’ll admit that Lee can be a little dramatic when it comes to carving it,” she grinned. “Let’s get some dessert,” she said as she grabbed his arm and headed inside.


They walked into the house just as Sally was pouring coffee for everyone and putting the desserts out.  They managed to finish a pot of coffee so Sally made more while they ate the desserts.  By the time they were finished everyone could hardly move because they ate too much.   The ladies helped Sally clean up before leaving.  Before they left, it was decided they would meet tomorrow at 1000 at the cafeteria.  It was 1900 hours when Chip drove Janet home.


Before she got out of the car Chip told her, “I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning.  Also, please tell Lee I said hello.”


“Thanks Chip and I will tell him.  Thanks for the ride,” Janet replied as she got out of the car. 


Chip waited until she was in the house before he left.  Janet turned on the lights and looked at her watch.  She had an hour before Lee would call.  She went upstairs and got ready for bed before she went back downstairs.  She put on the television and turned on the football game.  At precisely 2000 hours the phone rang.


Janet brought the phone over to the couch, “Hi Lee,” she said as she picked up the phone before it had finished ringing.


Laughing, “How did you know it was me?” he wondered.


“It’s exactly 2000 hours, who else would be calling me a this time and besides that you’re never late.”


“You’re right. I miss was Thanksgiving?”


“I miss you too and Thanksgiving was very nice as usual.  Everyone misses you and they all say hi.  Chip managed to carve the turkey without cutting himself and we all ate too much.  I’ll have to walk about five miles for the next week to wear off what I ate. ”


“Anything new,” he asked hesitantly.


“No sorry,” she responded sadly.


“Don’t worry, sweetie, it’ll happen,” he said with disappointment in his voice and could tell she was disappointed too.


“I know.  How are things on the boat?  Did you have Thanksgiving dinner?”


“Things are fine.  The crew is very prepared and yes, the cook made a nice dinner for the crew.  Not as good as Cookie’s but still nice.”


“Have you run into any trouble?” she asked worriedly.


“None so far but I’ve got a feeling that’s going to change soon,” he told her as he ran his hand through his hair.


“Your feelings are always right on, so please be careful.”


“I will.  Have fun at the party on Saturday and at our party.  Sweetheart, I’m sorry I can’t be there and I won’t be able to call again until sometime during the week of Christmas because we’ll be on radio silence.  The boat’s due in port some time after the first of the year so I should be home shortly after that provided there are no problems.  We’ll be docking in Pearl Harbor so if Seaview isn’t on a mission maybe you could fly out here and meet the sub.”


“So far no missions have come up so I’m sure the admiral wouldn’t might if I met you in Pearl,” Janet replied eagerly.


“Sweetie, I’ve got to go.  We’ve been on the surface most of the day so the men could call their families.  I need to dive her before we’re discovered.  Love you.”


“Love you too,” she said lovingly, “and Lee, Merry Christmas.”


He knew her well enough to know she had tears in her eyes when she told him that.  Replying, “Merry Christmas too sweetheart.” 


He disconnected the call and sat at the desk for a few minutes.  Damn, he thought before he got up to go to the control room. Once in the control room he went over to Lt. Evans who was at the charting table and told him to dive the boat.  Sitting on the charting table was Mr. Banks’ clipboard with his checklist of who had been topside, eaten and made their phone calls. He saw his name and it didn’t have a check mark by the phone call.  Smiling he put one by his name.  Even though Tyler Banks had only been on this boat a short time, his was a good XO.  He reminded Lee a little of Chip.  A perfectionist down to the detail only he didn’t have Chip’s glare, yet.


He checked out all the stations after the boat submerged and went back to his quarters.  He got ready for bed and lay down on the bunk wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.




Janet hung up the phone.  She turned off the television and lay down on the couch.  She hated sleeping alone in their bed so she pulled the throw off the back of the couch, wrapped it around her and fell asleep with tears in her eyes.


She woke up the next morning with a crick in her neck after sleeping all night on the couch.  She took a quick look at the clock in the kitchen and knew if she didn’t hurry she was going to be late.  She hurried upstairs, turned on the shower and pulled a pair of jeans out of the drawer and got a shirt out of her closet.  She took a quick shower, brushed her hair and put on some makeup.  She made it downstairs just as the door bell rang.  She opened the door for Chip. 


“Sorry, I’m just running a little late this morning,” she told Chip as she ran back upstairs to get her coat.  He walked in, saw the throw on the couch and knew she had slept there.


“Everything okay with Lee,” he asked as he put the throw on the back of the couch.


“Yes he’s doing fine,” she replied smiling as she saw what he had done when she came back downstairs.  “So far there have been no problems but he’s got a feeling that’s going to change.” 


“If he’s got a feeling, you know trouble can’t be far behind,” Chip replied grimly.


“Ready?” Janet said as she put on her coat, went out the door and locked it.  She hopped in Chip’s car.  “I hope Cookie has some coffee there.  I need a cup badly.”


When they arrived at the cafeteria, Wanda, Angie, Kowalski and Patterson were already there.  Chip and Janet went in and saw a big pot of coffee.  Janet went over to it and poured a mug for herself and Chip.  Kowalski and Patterson had just brought in the boxes full decorations from the warehouse.  They went back to the warehouse to get all the trees, wreaths, and Santa’s special chair.  Janet pulled the snowflakes out of one of the boxes as Chip went to get a ladder so they could hang them from the ceiling.  When they brought in the Christmas trees, Angie plugged them in hoping they would light so they wouldn’t have to restring them.  Luckily for them, the lights worked on all the trees and she had Patterson help her place them around the room.  Wanda was putting the ornaments on the trees while Janet hung up the wreaths on the windows.  Angie with the help of Kowalski put the Santa chair in the corner between a couple of the trees.  So it would be easier for Chip to pass out the gifts, they put the boys on one side and the girls on the other.  After the children sat on Santa’s lap they would each get a candy cane.  Janet looked at the chair and sighed because she knew Lee was looking forward to playing Santa this year. They brought in the box with the Santa suit in it.  Chip took it out of the box and looked over the suit.  He was excited to play Santa again this year. When they were finished decorating, they all stood back looking around the room, it looked like a winter wonderland but without the snow.  That was the only thing Janet missed about living in California, no snow.


By the time they were finished it was 1500 hours. Since the party started at 1400 hours tomorrow, they would meet at 0800 so they could set up the tables, help Cookie with the food and desserts.  Janet noticed sitting in the back room of the cafeteria was the gingerbread house.  Cookie and the mess specialist always made one but this year’s look exceptionally beautiful.  They were getting ready to leave when Chip came over to Janet with her coat.


Helping her on with her coat he asked, “How about we get some dinner? I’m starving.”


Smiling “I’m surprised you lasted this long.  You didn’t have lunch, have you ever missed a meal?” she teased.


“Yes, I have but we’ve been so busy I forgot about eating lunch,” he laughed as he put on his jacket.


Angie and Wanda had plans for the evening but Kowalski and Patterson didn’t so they were going out with Janet and Chip.  They decided to go to the diner and since it was Friday, Carol’s special was pot roast.  They drove the short distance to the diner and found the place was packed.  There was one table left for them so Carol showed them to the table and knew the only one who would need a menu would be Janet as the rest of them would order the pot roast.  Janet decided on turkey.  They were surprised since she had turkey yesterday.  They enjoyed their meal, paid the bill and were getting ready to leave.


Patterson opened the door for Janet and Chip and told them, “We’ll there tomorrow to help.”


“Thanks, Pat, Ski,” Janet said sincerely.  “We could use it.”


Since it was still early Kowalski and Patterson were going to meet some friends at a bar.  Chip would take Janet home and then go back out to get some last minute Christmas gifts for his family.  Janet had finished most of her Christmas shopping before they left on the last mission.  She only had Lee’s present to buy and didn’t know what to get him.


When she got home she looked around the house and knew she better start decorating.  She needed to get her decorations out of the garage but some of the boxes were too heavy for her to bring in the house. Since Ski offered to help her, she would ask him to stop by on Sunday and bring in the heavy boxes.  She went out and brought in what she could and started putting up the decorations but it just wasn’t the same without Lee’s help.  She had put up a few decorations before getting ready for bed.  Even though she hated sleeping alone, the couch was just too uncomfortable so she made sure the door was locked, turned off the lights, and went upstairs to bed.


Lee was up early the next morning and went to the mess hall for breakfast and coffee.  Mr. Banks was already in the control room making sure they were on course and schedule.

“Good morning, Captain,” he said to Lee as he walked by him holding his clipboard in his hand.

Smiling, “Good morning, Mr. Banks,” Lee replied.  “Everything in order?”

“Yes sir,” he answered promptly as Lee continued on to the crew’s mess. After Lee had breakfast and made his way back to the control room Mr. Lewis, called him over.  “Sir, I have a call from Admiral Starke.”

Trying not to sigh or roll his eyes Lee took the mic from him, “Yes Admiral what can I do for you?”


“Commander, how are things going?” he said sharply.


“Just fine sir.   How is Captain Woolf doing?” Lee replied calmly.


“Good to hear, I’ll let Captain Woolf know and he is doing a lot better.  I’ll be in touch,” Starke said disconnecting the call before Lee could answer.


Looking at Lee, Lewis asked, “Is he always that..?”


“Terse,” Lee answered him with a wry grin, “yes he is.”


Lee keyed the mic by the periscope island, “Attention all hands.  I just got a report that Captain Woolf is doing a lot better and I will let you know more information when I get it.”  When he was done he replaced the mic and went over to the charting table and checked their course and speed.  Mr. Banks had everything under control and the Chicago continued on its present course.




It was 0800 on Saturday morning and everyone was at the cafeteria.  The men were moving the tables around the room while Janet, Angie and Wanda were setting them with red, green and white tablecloths, napkins, plates and silverware.  Each table had a poinsettia for a centerpiece.  When they finished the room looked very festive.  As they were working the admiral stopped by to check out their work and was amazed at how different the cafeteria looked all decorated. 


Walking over to Janet, “Did you talk to Lee on Thanksgiving?” he asked as she folded the last napkin at the table she was setting and put the silverware on it.


“Yes, sir,” she replied as she explained to him what Lee had told her.


“He does have an uncanny sense of predicting trouble,” the admiral said furrowing his brows.  “Don’t worry he knows how to handle a sub like that.  He’s been on them before,” he reassured her.


“I know, he had a good teacher,” she answered back giving the admiral a smile which he returned along with a pat on her arm.


They finally had all the tables set and Cookie had started cooking the food.  The place smelled heavenly.  Cookie and the mess specialists brought out the gingerbread house to many oohs and aahs as they put it on the dessert table.  The ladies helped them bring out all the cookies, brownies and pies. The tortes would be put out later.  They also set up the table with small cups for the punches and soft drinks.  By this time it was 1200 hours so everyone left to get ready except Cookie and the mess specialists.  They would stay, watch the food and change before the guests arrived. 


Chip took Janet home and before she got out of the car he said, “I’ll pick up you about 1300 so I can get dressed as soon as we get there.” 


Smiling at him she replied, “I’ll be ready.  Do you need any pillows for the suit?”


“No the pillows are still there from last year.”


Chip dropped her off at home and she went inside, put her purse on the table and went into the kitchen where she made a bowl of soup.  As she ate her soup she thought about Lee and what was she going to buy him for Christmas.  He didn’t need a new watch as she bought him one for their anniversary. He had enough clothes. She couldn’t buy anything for his boat as she didn’t know what he needed.  She was stumped on what to buy him.  Finished with lunch, she cleaned up and went upstairs.  She took a shower, did her hair and make up and put on the long dark green skirt with the white sparkly top the ladies had decided to wear.  She went downstairs and turned on a few lights so the house wouldn’t be dark when she got home.  Chip pulled in the driveway just as she was locking the door. 


After she got in the car she grinned at him, “Ready to go Santa?”


“Yes, the sleigh is ready to depart,” he replied smiling as he backed out of the driveway.


By the time they got there Angie, Wanda, Patterson, Kowalski, Chief Sharkey, Riley and Jamie were there doing some last minute details.  So no one would see Chip getting ready, he went into the kitchen and with Jamie’s help would get dressed as Santa.


Janet walked over the where Patterson and Kowalski were standing and asked, “Ski, could I impose on you to help me bring in some of the Christmas decorations from the garage sometime tomorrow.  It should only take a few minutes.  The boxes are too heavy for me to carry.”


“Sure Mrs. C.,” Kowalski answered.  “Just let me know what time.  If you want I can help you decorate too.”


“Thanks Ski. How about 1100 and maybe just help me put the tree together.  I always put the lights on it anyway.  The skipper doesn’t have the patience to put them on but don’t let him know I told you that,” she said chuckling.


Hearing their conversation, Patterson and Riley also volunteered to help.  


“I think Ski will be enough help for tomorrow but could I ask your help in a couple of weeks for the party at the house.  I’ll need help setting up the tables and lighting the heaters.  Maybe you could buy the liquor if I give you list?”


“We’ll all be there to help you with that party,” Riley replied as Patterson and Ski nodded in agreement.


“Thanks guys.  I know the skipper would appreciate it.”


They finished talking just as Chip came out of the kitchen dressed like Santa.  He really did look good and having light hair was easier to hide.  Lee with his dark hair and olive complexion always made an interesting looking Santa.  Chip would take off his beard and eat in the kitchen until everyone was finished with dinner.  He would go out the back door and come in the front door with the bag of candy canes.




It was 1400 hours and the employees and their families were arriving for the party.  The children were dressed up in their holiday clothes and looking around the room at the decorations. Even though they all worked at the institute, some employees never got to see each other so they were talking about their families and plans for the holidays as they enjoyed Cookie’s punch and soft drinks.


After an hour of socializing Cookie went over to Janet, “Dinner is ready to be served,” he whispered to her. 


“Thanks, Cookie.  I’ll let the admiral know,” she replied patting him on the shoulder.  “Everything smells divine,” she told him.


Janet walked over to the admiral who was standing by the door looking over the room and his employees.  He never dreamed the institute would have grown to this size when he first built it.  “Dinner is ready sir,” Janet said cheerily.


Patting her hand, the admiral went over to Santa’s chair and stood in front of it with a glass of punch in his hand, “Good afternoon.  It’s so nice to have all of you here at our annual Christmas party.  I want to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication to the institute.  We make a great team and have accomplished a lot this year.  I would have never been able to do it without you.  I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  He took a drink of the punch while everyone clapped, cheered and joined him drinking a toast.  “Dinner will be served shortly,” he told them as he made his way to a table near the front of the room where Janet, Jamie, Bob O’Brien and his wife would join him.


Everybody found a seat and sat down as the mess specialists were putting the food on the tables.  The children could barely contain their excitement because they knew as soon as dinner was over Santa would be arriving.  The mess specialists and Cookie had out done themselves as the food was fantastic.  Once everyone was finished with dinner and dessert and the tables were cleared, Cookie went in the back to let Chip know he could make his entrance shortly.  The children were sitting in front of Santa’s chair where the admiral would read The Night Before Christmas*.  Once he finished the book, Santa would jingle his bells before he walked in the front door.


Janet was standing off to the side listening to the admiral read the book when Jamie walked up along side of her.  She loved to hear him read out loud.


“Was he disappointed?” he asked her quietly.


“Yes, I could hear it in his voice,” she replied softly.


Squeezing her hand he said, “Don’t worry, it’ll happen.”


She let out a small chuckle, “That’s what he said too.”


They stood there listening to the admiral finish the book and heard the jingling bells as Chip walked in the door.  All the children turned around and saw Santa. Most of them were cheering and clapping but some of the younger ones were a little frightened.  The admiral got out of the chair so Santa could sit down. The children lined up to see Santa.  Angie and Wanda helped the children sit on Santa’s lap. Chip would ask them what they wanted for Christmas.  He had such patience with all of them.  Even the ones that were afraid calmed down when he talked to them.  After Chip gave them their gift, Janet handed them a candy cane as they left Santa’s lap.  After all the children received their gifts, Riley brought out his guitar and everyone joined in singing Christmas carols.  Everybody was having a good time but before long people started to leave as the children were getting tired.  The admiral and Santa stood by the door shaking everyone’s hand as they left. 


Once all the people were gone, Chip took off the Santa suit.  He put it back in the box along with the pillows.  Janet was helping him put it away.


“Next year Lee will wear the suit,” Chip told her as she closed the box.


“I sure hope so,” Janet answered with a smile. 


The group helped Cookie and the mess specialists clean up.  Cookie would take the extra food to the food pantry. He had made arrangements with them to drop it off on his way home.  Before long the cafeteria was back to normal.  They would leave the decorations up until after the holidays as the cafeteria would be open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  There was still security on duty not only for the institute but also for Seaview.  When they were finished, everyone headed home after enjoying a wonderful party. 

Chip dropped Janet off, “I’ll see you on Monday.  I’ve got a ton of errands to run tomorrow.  Do you need any help getting your decorations from the garage?”


“No.  Ski is coming over tomorrow.  I should be fine, but thanks for offering.  See you Monday,” Janet replied as she got out of the car.  “Chip, you made a great Santa.”


Grinning, “Thanks.  I really enjoyed it.  It’s practice for when I go home as I get to do it again.”


Janet shut the car door and went into the house flashing the light signaling Chip that everything was okay.  She put on her pajamas and got into bed.  She read her book for awhile before turning in for the night.




Lee was in the mess eating lunch knowing the party at the institute was just starting.  He really missed being there and especially being Santa and didn’t notice when Mr. Banks sat down next to him.


“Everything alright, Captain,” he asked as he saw the far away look in Lee’s eyes. 


“Yes,” Lee replied and told him about the party at NIMR. 


“Sorry you can’t be there,” Banks told Lee.


“Don’t worry about it.  There’s always next year.”


As Lee sat there finishing up his coffee, Mr. Lewis called him over the intercom.  Admiral Starke wanted to talk to him.


Sighing Lee got up from the table, walked to the control room and over to the radio shack.  “Good afternoon Admiral,” Lee said.


“Commander I need to change your position.  There’s been an attack on a freighter.  You’re going to be closer to where they’ve been attacking the boats.”  Admiral Starke told Lee giving him his new course.


“Yes, sir.  We should be at these coordinates in two hours, Admiral.”


“Very good, commander,” Starke replied and disconnected the call.


Mr. Banks had left the mess hall when he heard that Admiral Starke was calling and went into the control room.  Lee gave him the new coordinates and he issued the order to change course.  The Chicago would now be closer to the action just as Lee predicted.


Two weeks had gone by since the Chicago was ordered to her new position closer to where the ships and freighters were being attacked.   Lee knew it was the day of Seaview’s party and he wondered how Janet was doing.  Gosh I really miss her, he thought. 

Lee noticed Mr. Banks tapping his pencil on the charting table as he walked around the control room.  “Problem, Mr. Banks,” Lee inquired.


Banks turned to look at Lee, “No sir.  Just a feeling that something is going to happen.”


“You too?  I’ve had that feeling for the last couple of days.  So let’s stay alert,” Lee responded seriously.


“Aye, aye sir,” he answered cautiously.




It was the day of the Seaview party at Lee and Janet’s house.  Cookie and Janet had been making appetizers and desserts for the last week. Carol had dropped off her bite size hamburgers earlier in the week.  The weather was going to cooperate and not rain so Janet had the patio heaters delivered and set up since it would be a little cool out.  So everyone could enjoy themselves, Janet hired a couple of servers to make sure there was always appetizers in the serving dishes and they would also help serve and clean up.  She also had a bartender so no one would have to worry about making drinks.  Patterson, Kowalski, Riley, Chip and Chief Sharkey had spent most of the day helping her set up tables inside and outside.  Chief was setting out the plates, napkins and silverware on the table Janet set up by the appetizers.  She had the dining room table set up with the desserts and coffee.  Kowalski had helped her put up the tree which she put the lights on and ornaments.  Finally everything was set up and ready to go so everyone left to get ready including Janet.  She took a shower and changed into the outfit Lee helped her pick out for before the last mission; a long black skirt with a shimmery silver top.  She went downstairs and put the appetizers that needed to be baked in the oven.  It was 1830 when Chip knocked on the patio door.


Janet opened the door and let him in but left the door open.  “You sure look nice,” he told her noticing her outfit.


“Thanks Chip,” she said taking a deep breath, “I wish Lee were here.”


“Me too but he’ll be back soon,” he told her patting her hand.  “What can I do?” he asked as the doorbell rang.


She went into the kitchen checking on the appetizers, “How about answering the door?”


Chip opened the door and the two servers and bartender were there.  He showed them were Janet was and she explained to them what she would like them to do.  Before Chip could close the door, Patterson, Kowalski, Riley and Chief Sharkey showed up. 


“Hi Mrs. C,” they said, “What can we do?”


“Pat, Ski, could you make sure the heaters are turned on.  I’m not sure how they work.”


“No problem,” they replied as they went out to the patio and turned on the heaters.


“Riley, could you turn on the fireplace?”


“Sure thing Mrs. C,” he said going over to it, opening the damper and lit the gas starter.


The servers were helping Janet put the appetizers in the serving dishes. Chip showed the bartender where the bar was and got himself a beer when the admiral showed up a few minutes later.  He looked around the house and was impressed at how beautiful it looked.  He went over to Janet who was standing by the fireplace and gave her a kiss on the cheek, “The house looks beautiful.  Thank you for having the party.”


“Admiral, Lee wanted me to have it.  The crew earned this and it’s his way of showing his appreciation for their hard work.”


Chip walked over to them with a beer in hand, gave Janet a glass of wine and a Glenlivet to the admiral.  Jamie arrived and gave Janet a kiss along with a huge bouquet of flowers.


“Thank you, Jamie,” Janet said returning his kiss before going to the kitchen to get a vase.  She put the flowers on the dining room table with the desserts.  By this time the house was full of crew members.  There were some new crew members Janet hadn’t met so Chip introduced her to them.  Everyone was having a good time even Cookie who didn’t have to lift a finger. There was plenty of food and drinks and it was 2400 hours before the last crew member left.  The only people still there were Chip, the admiral and Jamie.   They were sitting outside on the patio while the servers cleaned up.  Any food that was leftover Janet would bring to the food pantry tomorrow.  They were all trying to convince her to come with them for the holidays.


Chip sitting on the lounge chair said to Janet, “Please come to Chicago with me.  You know Mom and Dad would love to have you and my sisters would like to see you again.”


Sitting on the other lounge chair, “You can come with me to Boston too,” the admiral told her.  “Edith loves to have guests over the holidays.  I’m taking FS-1 to Washington for a meeting with the Secretary of the Navy but you could look around Washington while I meet with him.  You’ll see that Washington is very beautiful at Christmas.”


Sitting on the patio wall Jamie piped up, “I’m going to visit an old friend near San Francisco who owns a bed and breakfast and he would love to meet the wife of my favorite patient.”


Overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness Janet told them, “I’m really grateful that you are all willing to take me home with you but Lee is going to call sometime that week and I don’t want to miss his call.  He can only call during that week and I can’t let him know where I am because they’re on radio silence.  But I thank each of you for thinking of me.  I know it’s hard to be alone at this time of year but I’ve done it before.  It makes me appreciate everything I have even more.”


“Well if you change your mind...” the admiral said, “please let any one of us know.”  He got up and walked into the house with the rest of them following him in.  He gave his glass to the server before walking to the door.


“Rest up tomorrow.  You did a fantastic job.  Lee would be proud of you,” the admiral told her, kissing her good bye as he opened the door, took his car keys out of his pocket and left for home.


Jamie gave her a kiss on the cheek and said, “You did do a great job.  Thank you.” 


“You’re welcome Jamie.  Be careful going home.” Jamie had his keys in his hand and walked to his car parked on the street.


Chip also gave her a kiss, “I’ll go with you tomorrow to the food pantry.  Just give me a call when you’re ready.”


“Thanks Chip.  There’s a lot left over so I’m sure they’ll be glad to get it. Thank you for all your help tonight.”


“No problem,” he replied as he left out the patio door, closed it and walked down to his house.


 Patterson and Kowalski had turned off the heaters before they left, so Janet made sure the patio door was locked after Chip left.  Taking off her shoes, she turned off all the lights except the Christmas tree and fireplace and sat down on the couch with her legs tucked under her.  She and Lee would cuddle on the couch watching the fire and looking at the tree almost every night.  Damn, she thought missing her husband and wondering how she would get through the next two weeks.




It was the Wednesday before Christmas and the Chicago was watching the shipping lanes from the depth of two hundred feet.   From the corner of his eye Lee saw the sonar operator suddenly sat up a little straighter in his seat and adjust his headphones as did the man on radar.  Proceeding rapidly to the radar station manned by Petty Officer Gray, it showed there was a small freighter about 1500 yards off the starboard bow. 


“Skipper,” sonar called.  “Listen to this,” he said as Lee made his way over to the sonar station and took the headphones from him.  He recognized the sound and didn’t like what he heard. It profiled like a submarine and not a US one.  The submarine was an old diesel powered one the PR probably purchased as surplus from one of her allies and it was much larger than the last one they dealt with.   Handing the headphones back to the sonar operator, Lee went over to Banks and before he could tell him he wanted the crew at battle stations, Banks pressed the button sounding the klaxon. Crewmen were at their stations in no time.


“Skipper,” Petty Officer Gray yelled frantically, “it’s gone.”


Lee ran back to the radar station and looked at the screen. The freighter had disappeared off the screen.  Moving to the sonar station the only vessel on that screen was the sub.


“Shit,” Lee mumbled so only the sonar operator heard.


He knew the submarine had torpedoed the freighter and blew it out of the water.  He also knew they would have to bring the boat to periscope depth and look for survivors from the freighter but he also wondered what had happened to the escort boat as radar showed only one ship on the surface.


“Mr. Banks, take her up to ninety feet.  All stop.”


“Aye aye sir,” he replied giving the order and the Chicago responded immediately.


The men in the control room watched as the captain pressed the button on the attack periscope.  After it was in position he pulled the handles down and slowly looked around stopping abruptly when he saw two men clinging to pieces of debris floating in the ocean.  He could also see that the weather was bad, rainy and windy. By surfacing the boat it would put the Chicago in a precarious position but he would have to take that chance to rescue the two men.


“Mr. Banks, surface the boat,” Lee ordered.  “Get a deck detail ready to bring two men aboard.”


“Yes sir.  Blow all ballast tanks and surface,” Banks told maneuvering.  “Deck detail, prepare to crack the hatch.”


“Sonar, where’s that submarine,” Lee asked as he waited for the boat to surface.


“She’s about 5000 yards off our port bow.  I don’t think she knows were here...she’s made no move toward us...yet.”


Lee also knew the submarine might not have up-to-date sonar or radar but he couldn’t take that chance so they needed to get those men aboard quickly which would be tricky due to the weather. Once the deck hatch was cracked, he quickly went up the ladder to the deck and put on the blue life jacket he grabbed along with a helmet.  Once on deck he noticed he had the XO’s helmet put didn’t have time to get his so he stood on deck wearing it. There were two men on deck with him who were also looking intently out at the sea trying to find more survivors.  With rain running down his face, Lee looked sadly at the debris from the freighter as it floated in the ocean pissed that he couldn’t help save more of the men on that ship.  More members of the deck detail launched a small raft so they could pull the two survivors out of the sea which was made trickier as she rocked in the rough seas.  They gently brought the two survivors on the deck of the Chicago.  Both of them were alive but in bad shape.


“Secure the detail,” Lee told the men as he went down the ladder into the control room jumping off before he hit the bottom rung.  Lee moved quickly out of the way so they could bring the two injured men down the ladder and to sick bay.  The rest of the detail closed the hatch and made their way down the ladder.  Lee removed his helmet and life jacket putting it on the table out of the way.


“Dive the boat,” he ordered.  “Full down elevation on all planes.”


“Dive all dive,” Mr. Banks relayed the order as Petty Officer Allen called Lee over. 


“All green,” Banks heard as the boat slid into the dark water.


“Sir that submarine must have spotted us.  She’s now at 3000 yards and closing fast.


“Take her down to two hundred feet,” Lee said wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt.  He was soaked just like the rest of the deck detail but he couldn’t change until they were out of danger.


“Torpedoes approaching bearing 1-0-5, range 2500 yards,” sonar told Lee.


“Hard right rudder,” Lee yelled to the helmsmen. 


“Aye sir,” the helm replied.


Lee ran over to sonar as they heard the torpedoes go under the sub.


“More torpedoes bearing l-8-0, range 2000 yards.


Lee told the helm, “Hard left rudder,” hearing the propellers of the torpedoes run along the starboard side of the sub.


Lee knew that the PR submarine wouldn’t give up so he would have to take drastic action. 


“Mr. Banks, take her down to nine hundred feet.  Once at depth, come about to a heading of 2-7-0.


“Sir, nine hundred feet is just above our crush depth.”


“I know that,” Lee said tersely, “I want to take her into deeper colder water where they won’t be able find us and they can’t go that deep so I’m going to sneak up on her.”


Mr. Banks gave the order and the boat headed to nine hundred feet.  Lee took the mic from the holder near the charting table.


“Missile room prepare to fire torpedoes one, two, three and four in salvo.”


“Aye sir,” the missile room reported.


The Chicago came about and was almost broadside of the PR submarine. 


“Sonar, position of submarine?”


“She’s at two hundred feet, 2000 yards away,” Petty Officer Allen replied.


“Position,” Lee called to the helmsmen.


1-3-5,” he replied quickly.

“As soon as we’re in position, sing out,” Lee ordered.


“Mr. Banks, bring her up to two hundred feet once we’re in position.”


“Aye sir,” Banks replied holding the mic by the charting table waiting for the helm to report their position.


Wasting no time, Lee grabbed the mic from the holder by the sonar station, “Missile room.”


“Missile room, aye.”


“Fire on my orders,” he said rapidly but calmly.


“Aye sir,” they responded.


“Skipper we’re in position,” the helmsmen called out.


“Maneuvering, bring her up to two hundred feet,” Banks said quickly.


Lee and Banks were watching the gauges as the Chicago came up to two hundred feet. 


“Missile room fire one, two, three and four,” Lee said fearlessly.


“Four fired sir,” the missile room responded the boat shuddering when the torpedoes left the tubes.


Still holding the mic in his hand, “Prepare for concussion,” Lee warned the crew as the four torpedoes hit the PR sub broadside.


The Chicago rolled side to side as the PR sub exploded a little more than a mile away.


“Skipper,” sonar called. “She’s gone. A direct hit on all four torpedoes.”


“Damage control report,” Banks asked as soon as the boat stopped rocking.


“No damage sir.  Tight and dry,” DC reported.


“Mr. Banks, maneuver to her last position and make a 360 degree sweep of the area in case there are survivors.”  Lee didn’t think there would be survivors but he didn’t want to take that chance.


“Aye sir,” Banks replied as he gave the helm the coordinates of the submarine’s last position.


Lee left the control room and made his way to sick bay to check on the two survivors they picked up from the freighter.


“How are they?” Lee asked the corpsman on duty as he went over to the bunks where the men were laying resting his hand on the upper bunk railings.


“They’re not doing to good, Captain,” the corpsman replied as he stood next the bunk with Lee.  “Neither one of them has regained consciousness and they both have severe burns.  They really need to be in a hospital.”


“Thanks,” Lee told him patting him on the shoulder.  He left sick back and made his way to the control room.  Damn, he thought to himself,   I wish Jamie was here.


After searching for an hour, Lee called off the search and went to his quarters to report to Admiral Starke what had taken place.  He didn’t like the fact that he had to sink the submarine but he had no other choice.  Sitting at the desk, he picked up the phone.


“Mr. Lewis, patch me through to Admiral Starke,” Lee asked as he ran his hand through his hair.


“Aye sir.”


Lee didn’t have to wait long before Admiral Starke was on the line. 


“Yes Commander,” Starke barked.  “This better be important.  I’m in the middle of a meeting.”


“Sorry sir,” Lee said apologetically, “but I thought you would like to know what has taken place in the last couple of hours.”


“Proceed,” Starke replied.


Lee explained to him how the PR submarine sunk the freighter and that he had two severely injured me on board.  He also told him that the Chicago torpedoed the submarine and sunk it.


“Good job, commander,” Starke told Lee, “We’ve been trying to sink her for the last two months.  How much longer is the Chicago’s deployment?”


“Another three weeks, sir.  But the two injured men won’t last that long,” Lee stressed.


“Alright commander, bring her into Pearl and consider the Chicago’s deployment complete.  There’s no sense sending her out again for two weeks.  I’ll have the Key West cover your position.”


“Thank you, sir.  I know the men will appreciate the shortened deployment.  How is Captain Woolf doing?” Lee asked, “I know the men are still concerned.”


“He’s doing a lot better and should return to take over command of the Chicago on her next deployment.”


“I’ll let the men know,” Lee replied with a smile knowing that his stint as captain would soon be over he hoped.  He was afraid Admiral Starke wouldn’t let him go back to his reserve status and back on Seaview.


“Crane, I’ll let Admiral Nelson know what has taken place so when he hears the news he’ll know you’re okay,” Starke told him softening his tone.


“I’d appreciate that sir,” Lee answered knowing that the admiral would let Janet know.


“Once you’re at Pearl, please come to my office and bring Mr. Banks with you.  I don’t care what day or time it is.” Starke told Lee before he cut the connection with the boat.

“Yes sir.” Lee replied to the dead line.   


Lee left his quarters to give the good news to Banks and the crew and have him set a new course for Pearl Harbor.  He knew they would more than likely make Pearl Harbor early Christmas morning.


“Mr. Banks,” Lee said as he approached the charting table where he was standing watching the sonar and radar men.


“Yes sir,” he replied.


“Please set this course and at full speed,” Lee told him as he wrote it down on the paper pad they kept on the table.  Banks picked up the paper, read it and had a big smile on his face.  He knew they were heading for Pearl Harbor.


“After setting the new course, I would like to see you in my quarters,” Lee said to him.


“Aye aye sir,” Banks replied enthusiastically as Lee turned around and headed to his quarters grinning.


Banks went over to the helmsmen and gave them the course.  They too had smiles on their faces as they knew they were heading home.  He also ordered the engine room to full speed.


Banks made sure the course was set, went to Lee’s quarters and knocked on the door.

”Come in,” Lee said as he sat at the desk.


“You wanted to see me,” Banks said quietly.  “I’m sorry; I know I got a little too excited in the control room when you gave me the new course.”


“That’s not why I asked to see you,” Lee replied smiling.  “First of all, I just wanted to let you know that Admiral Starke was pleased that we sunk that submarine.  Second, the Chicago’s deployment will be shortened by two weeks.  Once we get to Pearl the men will be dismissed.  Also, Captain Woolf is doing a lot better and will be in command on your next deployment and Admiral Starke wants to see us when we get into port.”


“Thanks for letting me know,” Mr. Banks replied breathing a sigh of relief.  “Admiral Starke wants to see me?” he questioned raising his eyebrows.


“Yes, but don’t worry I’m sure you aren’t in trouble with him.  Also I will be making those announcements to the crew once we get closer to Pearl but I felt you should know first.”


Lee stood up, “Good work by you and your crew Mr. Banks,” he said shaking his hand.


“Thank you sir,” Banks answered with a smile as both men left Lee’s quarters for the control room.




Janet called Chip early on Sunday morning so they could take the leftovers to the food pantry.  They were very happy to receive the food as it would be a special treat for the needy families.  They went out to breakfast on the way home.  Chip needed to pick up some last minutes items for his trip so Janet went with him and hoped she could find a Christmas present for Lee.  Janet looked around the store while Chip did his shopping and still couldn’t find anything for him.


He dropped her off when they were done shopping. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow,” Chip told her as she got out of the car.


“Lee’s going to have to drive every day for the next two months when he gets home to make up for the driving you’ve done,” Janet teased.  “Thanks Chip you know I appreciate it.”


“Yeah, I know and don’t worry I will make him drive,” he replied as he backed out of the driveway after making sure Janet was in the house.  She noticed that the rental company had already been there to pick up the patio heaters.


She didn’t like seeing an unlit tree so the first thing she did when she got in the house was turn on the Christmas tree even though it was still morning.  There were a few things she still had to put away from the party so she did those chores before tackling her gift wrapping.  She didn’t have a lot of gifts to wrap so she took extra care wrapping them and putting on fancy bows.  She put them by the door so she wouldn’t forget to take them on Friday when she went to work as the institute offices would be closed the weeks before and after Christmas.


After she finished wrapping the presents, she made some lunch, did laundry and went for a walk on the beach.  As she walked she thought about Lee and hoped he was alright.  She figured if there was a problem the admiral would have let her know.  She walked back to the house turned on the television and found an old submarine movie to watch. She fell asleep watching the movie.  She got up, grabbed a sandwich for dinner and watched a Chicago Bears football game which they finally won in overtime.  After getting ready for bed she laid there for awhile wondering what Lee was doing before falling asleep.




Janet was up early Monday morning. She dressed, ate breakfast and was waiting outside for Chip when he pulled up.


Looking surprised that she was waiting for him he said teasingly from his car window, “You okay?  You’re never ready before I get here so I guess I don’t get my cup of coffee while I wait for you?”


Taking a travel mug from behind her back, “I would never deny you your first cup of coffee,” she teased back handing him the mug.


She got in the car and they drove to the institute knowing it was going to be a very hectic week as they would all want to get their work done before the offices were closed. 


For some reason, there were more telephone calls, mail and other issues that came up during week that kept all of them busy for the whole week.  It was finally Friday and everyone was looking forward to lunch at Giovanni’s.  He was waiting when they arrived and had prepared a special dinner for them at the admiral’s request.  He made his special lasagna in Lee’s honor.  Even though he wasn’t there, they would enjoy his favorite meal.  Janet was touched by the admiral’s thoughtfulness. Giovanni had brownies for them too. They sat there drinking their coffee and eating the brownies before going back to the institute where they would exchange gifts.  When they got back to the office, they went into the admiral’s office and sat on the couches while the admiral brought out the eggnog mixed with brandy.  He poured everyone a drink and stood up raising his glass.


“Here’s to a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” he toasted looking at Janet.  Even though Lee wasn’t there to enjoy the celebration with them, Janet had a big smile on her face and was very happy to be with her ‘family’.  They all raised their glasses too.


While Chip poured each of them some more eggnog, Janet handed Angie and Wanda their gifts which they opened very quickly. She had purchased a bracelet online and they both loved it so she bought each of them a bracelet. Earlier in the month, the Admiral and Chip had asked Janet what they could by Angie and Wanda for Christmas.  Janet suggested a necklace and another bracelet to go with the one she had already bought. She took care of ordering the items for them. Both of them were thrilled with the jewelry.  Jamie was next and opened the gift from the admiral and Chip which was a new diving watch.  Jamie very rarely went diving but he needed a new one so they bought him one.  He was surprised to get cook books from Janet and Lee and promised to make all of them a dinner from the new books.  Jamie and the admiral bought Chip a new fish finder for his boat. Lee and Janet had gone to resale shop in Santa Barbara and found a picture of an old map.  They had it cleaned up and reframed for the admiral.  Lee had told Chip about the resale shop so he and Jamie went to the shop and found some pictures of old sailing ships so the bought them and had them framed. The admiral was very excited to get the map and pictures and would make sure they were hung up immediately in his office.  Angie and Wanda pooled their money and bought a bigger coffee maker for the office. They bought Jamie a small one for his office too. 


The admiral reached under his desk and handed Janet a small nicely wrapped gift box.  She opened it very slowly.  Inside was a gift card for a four day weekend at the bed and breakfast of Jamie’s friend.  It was a gift from all of them.


Janet sat there holding the card, “Thank you,” she said tearfully.  “I know Lee will love it.  But admiral you’re going to let us go alone?  Isn’t this like a vacation?”


“Yes but Jamie has made arrangements with his friend to ‘Crane sit’ while you’re there,” the admiral chuckled.


Smiling Janet replied, “I promise we’ll be good, careful and pay attention to what we’re doing.”


They all got up and gave her hug knowing the next week would be hard for her.  Even after they all begged her again to go with one of them, she still insisted she would stay home alone.  After they finished another round of eggnog, they shut down their computers, locked their offices and left for the week.  The admiral had a small gift in his hand to give to Howard when they signed out.  They all chipped in and bought him a gift card to Starbucks.  He loved their coffee and was seen sitting at the desk with a cup almost every day.


Chip took Janet home but she sat there for awhile before she got out of the car.  She almost told Chip she would go with him but changed her mind. 


“Chip, could you wait a minute.  I have something for you to give to your parents for Christmas,” Janet said as she got out of the car and unlocked the door to the house.


He shouted from the car, “You didn’t have to do that.”


“I know,” she shouted back from the door as she came back to the car and handed him a medium size wrapped box.  “I hope you have room in your suitcase,” she said, “and be careful with it, it’s breakable.”


“Okay,” he told her.  “What is it?”


“A picture of the three of us, your mother mentioned that she didn’t have a recent picture of us so I took one from our Bahamas vacation and had it enlarged and framed.”


“I know she’ll love it,” he said as he got out of the car, “are you sure you don’t want to give it to her yourself?”


“No Chip.  I want to talk to Lee.  I’ll be fine,” she stated. “Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the airport? I’m not doing anything tomorrow.”


“No.  Lee left me explicit instructions not to let you drive me.  He let you drive there once as a test and you got lost but thanks for offering,” he told her snickering.   “If you need anything, you know where I am and don’t hesitate to call.”


“Don’t worry I will if I need too.  Just enjoy being with your family.  Chip, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” she said giving him a kiss and a hug.


“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too.  Please tell Lee that when you talk to him,” he answered returning her kiss and hug.


“I will,” she replied. 


Chip got back in the car and waved goodbye.  He wouldn’t see her until after the first of the year as he wasn’t coming back until the Monday after New Year’s.


Janet went back into the house and locked the door.  She wasn’t hungry after their big lunch so she turned on the tree and fireplace and sat on the couch holding the box with the gift card in it.  She hoped Lee would get home soon so they could use it.




The weekend went by fast even though Janet was alone for most of it.  Jamie wasn’t leaving until Tuesday so he took her out to dinner on Sunday.  They went to a restaurant in Santa Barbara so when they were done eating they could walk around the downtown area and admire the Christmas decorations.  The admiral was leaving first thing Monday morning on FS-1.  He would stay in Boston until after Christmas and then return to Santa Barbara the following Monday.  Janet went down to the dock on Monday morning.


The admiral had just pulled into the parking lot when he saw Janet standing by her car.  He got out of the car, opened the trunk and took out his luggage.  Janet walked over to him and closed the trunk for him.


“Have you changed your mind about coming to Washington and then Boston with me?” he asked hopefully as they walked to the dock.


“No sir,” she replied smiling.  “I just wanted to see you off and wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I also have a gift I would like you to take to Edith,” she said handing him a present wrapped with bright silver paper and a red ribbon.


“What is it,” he asked curiously.  “I promise I won’t tell her.”


“It’s a picture of you with Chip and Lee I took when we were in the Bahamas.   Last time she called I told her about our vacation to the Bahamas and she asked me if I had a new picture so I had this one made for her.”


“Thank you, honey,” the admiral replied smiling.  “And a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.  I know you miss Lee but he’ll be home before you know it,” he said giving her a kiss and hug which she gladly returned. 


The admiral walked down the gangway to the deck of Seaview and went in the sail hatch.  A few minutes later she saw FS-1 take off from the channel.  She walked back to her car and drove home. When she got home she made some more Christmas cookies and listened to carols as they were baking.  She went out on the patio, plopped down on a lounge chair and took out her book.  If nothing else she would catch up on her reading.  The timer went off so she went in and took the cookies out of the oven, sampled one and left the rest of them to cool so she could freeze them so when Lee came home he would have some cookies.  She spent the rest of the day puttering around before calling it a day.




It was early Tuesday morning when Janet’s cell phone rang.  She recognized the admiral’s number and panicked.


“Hello,” she said nervously.  “Is everything alright?”


“Hi Janet,” the admiral replied calmly, “Nothing is wrong.  I just wanted to let you know that Admiral Starke called me and let me know that Lee is on his way back to Pearl.”


“Did he know when he would be home,” she asked excitedly hoping she would be able to meet him in Pearl Harbor.


“No, I’m sorry he didn’t say anything about that,” the admiral answered.  “He was on his way to a meeting and in a hurry.  I barely got that information out of him.  He called to wish me Happy Holidays,” the admiral chuckled.


“Thanks for letting me know,” she said as she hung up the phone.  At least he’s okay, she thought.




The next three days were rainy and cool not very California like at all.  Janet was worried that Lee hadn’t called yet.  Tomorrow was Christmas and she wondered if he would call her then.  She had hoped he would call earlier in the week so she could’ve flown to Pearl Harbor to meet him.  She went out on the patio, looked at the ocean and noticed it was rougher than normal.  She went back into house and up to their bedroom window where she could see Seaview in her pen.  She could see she was securely tied down and not bobbing too much.  Going back down stairs she turned on the television and found a Christmas movie to watch.  She fell asleep about half way through.  Not wanting to get up she pulled the throw over her and fell back to sleep.




It was Christmas Eve and the boat smelled fantastic.  Chief Gale decided to have the Christmas Day dinner on Christmas Eve since they would be docking around 0600 on Christmas Day.  He made turkey on Thanksgiving so he had ham for Christmas along with mashed potatoes, carrots and Christmas cookies.  He and his mess specialists had been making cookies for the last three days.  He kept them hidden so the crew wouldn’t eat them before Christmas.  Lee went into the crew’s mess for breakfast where the mess specialist served him scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.  He went over to the table and sat down with Mr. Banks who was just finishing his breakfast and would be on duty in the control room.


“Good morning, captain,” Banks said to Lee after taking a drink of his coffee.


“Good morning, Mr. Banks.  Everything okay?” Lee asked putting a forkful of eggs in his mouth.


“Just fine sir.”


“Good. As soon as I’m done eating I’m going to make an announcement to the crew.”


“Yes sir.” Banks replied getting up as he had finished his meal and wanted to get to the control room.


Banks cleared his dishes and walked to the control room checking on all the stations before stopping at the charting table.  Lee came in a few minutes later.  He went over to the mic on the periscope island and clicked it once.


“Attention all hands, this is the captain.  I have a few announcements.” Lee said, “First, Admiral Starke at COMSUBPAC gives you his ‘Bravo Zulu’ on the sinking of the People’s Republic submarine.  They had been trying to get her for the last two months.  Second, I also checked with him on the condition of Captain Woolf and he is doing much better and will be in command on your next deployment.  Third, when we dock in Pearl Harbor, he has also decided that the Chicago’s deployment will be over.”  Before Lee could continue you could hear a loud cheer throughout the whole boat.  It brought a huge smile to Lee’s face.  He was glad he could give them the good news.  “Attention men I have one more announcement,” Lee was finally able to continue, “It has been an honor to serve as your captain these last few weeks.  Captain Woolf would be proud of all of you.  Lastly I wish you and your families Happy Holidays.  That’s all.”  Lee put the mic back in the holder and walked over to the charting table.


“I guess they’re a little happy,” Lee said to Mr. Banks with a wry grin.


“Yes, they are Captain,” Banks replied.  “Sir, it has been an honor for the crew of the Chicago to serve under you.  We would be proud to serve with you again.  Now if you’re looking for any help on Seaview I know a few men who would gladly join the reserves to serve on her.”


“I’ll keep that in mind when I’m looking for some new men,” Lee said grinning as he patted Banks on the shoulder. 


Lee went around to every man in the control room and shook their hands.  He would get the rest of the crew when they left the boat.  The morning went by fast and before long Chief Gale came into the control room looking for Lee.


“Sir, we have a tradition on the Chicago that if we’re at sea over Christmas the captain gets the honor of cutting the first slice of ham.  Even though it’s not exactly Christmas we’re going to hold to that tradition anyway,” Chief Gale explained to Lee.


Lee and Chief Gale made their way to the mess where he handed Lee a large carving knife, “Thank you for the honor,” Lee replied as he took the knife and cut the first slice of ham.  He decided he would continue to serve the ham to the rest of the men who were there to eat.  After the first shift of men had eaten, Lee turned the knife over to Chief Gale who would take care of the next group.  Lee took a tray and ate with the next group of men.  Lee finished his meal and went to his quarters. It would be close but if he didn’t have any problems, he could possibly be home by Christmas night and surprise Janet.  All he could do was hope.




It was bright and sunny when Janet woke up on Christmas morning.  She put the throw back on the couch, went to the kitchen and made some coffee.  As the coffee brewed, she looked outside and saw that the ocean wasn’t nearly as rough as it was last night.  When the coffee was finished brewing she poured a cup and went out to the patio.  It was colder than she thought so she went back in the house and grabbed one of Lee’s sweatshirts out of the closet.  As she put it on, she smelled it and it still smelled like him so she pulled it tighter against her body. 


Going back out to the patio, she sat down on the lounge chair and drank her coffee looking at Chip’s empty house.  She hoped he was having a good time in Chicago.  Finishing up her coffee, she went back in the house and decided she would go to the homeless shelter even if Lee wasn’t here and help them serve the turkey dinners they had on Christmas.  She and Lee would do this before they had everyone over to their house.  She jumped in the shower, got dressed and left the house for the shelter.


When she got to the shelter, the director was happy to see her but wondered why she was alone.  She explained to him that Lee was at sea.  She served the stuffing and mashed potatoes to many homeless people and quite a few families.  It made her realize how lucky she was.  She left after spending about three hours there serving the food and talking to the people.  The weather was getting colder and it looked like it was going to rain again. When she got home the first thing she did was turn on the tree and light the fireplace. She checked the answering machine hoping Lee hadn’t called remembering that she would have gone to the shelter.  No messages.  Even though it was late in the afternoon she wasn’t hungry after serving the food at the shelter.  She sat down on the couch and turned on the television but it was only on for noise as she wasn’t really paying attention to what she had on.  The house was too quiet when he was gone.  She straightened up the house and noticed it was 1900 and Lee still hadn’t called. It was late evening when she was finally hungry she decided to call their favorite Chinese restaurant, Mr. Wong’s, as she knew they would be open.  She ordered egg foo young, beef with string beans and onions and an egg roll.  Mr. Wong told her it would be there in thirty to forty minutes.




The Chicago docked at 0600 hours at Pearl Harbor and the dock crew quickly put out the gangway so they could get the injured men off the boat as soon as possible.  Lee went up to the sail and noticed there were two ambulances waiting to take the injured men to the hospital in Honolulu.  After making sure they were safe inside the ambulance, Lee went back down to the control room and released the crew.  Dressed in his dress blues, he went up the ladder to the quarterdeck where he shook the hand of every crewman as they left the boat. Since most of the men’s families were here in Hawaii there were quite of few of them waiting for them when they docked.  He watched as they ran down the gangway and were greeted with hugs and kisses. He wished he could’ve let Janet know when they were arriving so she could have met him.  The last two men off the boat besides Mr. Banks were Petty Officer Allen and Petty Officer Gray.  They were just coming up the ladder as Lee was going to go down to find them.


Both men vigorously shook Lee’s hand as Petty Officer Allen said, “It was an honor serve under you Commander.  Maybe our paths will cross again.”


Lee replied with a grin, “Maybe they will but I hope under different circumstances.”


Both men saluted the captain before they walked down the gangway.  Lee went back down the ladder to the control room to get his duffle bag and cover.  He took one last look around the control room.  He liked being back on this type of submarine, but his heart belonged to his ‘gray lady’ and couldn’t wait to see her after his wife.  Mr. Banks stood there watching Lee with his cover in his hand and duffle bag on his shoulder waiting for him to leave.  Mr. Banks went up the ladder and Lee handed him the duffle bags.  They went down the gangway with their duffle bags on their shoulders, stopped to salute the colors and put their covers on as a car pulled up to take them to Admiral Starke’s office.


The driver saluted them and opened the back car door for the captain.  He slid into the back seat as Mr. Banks went around to the other side of the car where the door had been opened for him.


“Ready,” Lee asked sensing that Banks was a bit nervous as they sat in the car.


“Yes sir,” Banks responded twisting his cover in his hand.


They made the short ride to Admiral Starke’s office.  They got out of the car and walked into Admiral’s office.

Lee saw Banks take a deep breath before the aide sitting at the desk buzzed Starke’s office to let him know they were there.


“Come in, Commander, Lt. Commander,” Starke bellowed.


Banks held the door for Lee as they both walked into the admiral’s office removed their covers and saluted him as he stood behind his desk.


“Sit down,” Starke told them giving them a quick salute as he sat down and pulled his chair close to his desk.  They sat down as soon as he did holding the covers in their hands.


“Mr. Banks, I’ve talked to Captain Woolf and he’s very proud of you and his crew.  He would like you to stop and see him before you take your shore leave and Mr. Banks, good job.”


“Yes sir,” Banks replied softly having a hard time speaking as his throat was very dry. “Thank you sir.”


“You are dismissed,” Starke told him.   Banks stood up saluted the admiral again and left the office.  He would wait outside for the skipper to come out as he wanted to say good bye to him before he left for the mainland.


“Commander Crane,” Starke said to Lee, “fine job.”


“Thank you sir,” Lee responded quietly.


“As much as I would like to keep you on active status, I know Nelson would fight me every step of the way so I’m changing your status back to the reserves,” Starke said with resignation.


“Thank you sir,” Lee replied with a small grin.


“You’re dismissed,” Starke said as he stood up, “and Commander, Merry Christmas.”


“Merry Christmas,” Lee answered as he stood up, saluted him and left his office. 


Banks was waiting outside pacing in front the building when Lee came out.  Surprised Lee asked, “Tyler what are you still doing here?”


“I was waiting for you to leave,” he replied “Commander, it was an honor and a pleasure to serve with you.  I hope you make it home for Christmas.”


Smiling Lee said, “Same here.”  Looking at his watch it was already 1330 hours and replied, “I hope so too.”


There was a car waiting to take Banks to the hospital to visit Captain Woolf.  “Sir, please take this car.  I can wait and get another one.  Maybe you can still catch a flight home,” Banks said as he opened the door for Lee who hopped in.


“Thanks, Tyler,” Lee answered as shutting the door.  Honolulu airport,” Lee told the driver as soon as he was in the car.




There wasn’t much traffic on the road so they made the short ride to the airport in record time.  The driver let Lee out right in front of the departure terminal.   Lee thanked the driver and ran into the terminal.  He looked at the departure board and saw there was a flight leaving in thirty minutes for Los Angeles.  He ran up to the counter attendant.


“Can I get a seat on the flight leaving for LA,” Lee asked out of breath.


“I’m sorry sir, there are no seats left.  Everyone has checked in but one passenger.”


“Can I fly stand by,” Lee asked surprised that the plane would be full on Christmas Day.


“There are already two people ahead of you for stand by.  I’m very sorry sir,” she told him looking him over wishing she could help him.  “The next flight out is tomorrow morning at 6:00,” the attendant volunteered.


“Damn,” Lee said a little too loudly not noticing a woman had come in behind him and heard him.  “Put me on that flight please,” he said sadly.


“Is there a problem,” the woman asked hearing the conversation between Lee and the counter attendant and sensed that he was in a hurry to get home.


“Sorry ma’am,” Lee apologized, “I was hoping to get to LA so I could make it home to surprise my wife for Christmas. I was at sea for Thanksgiving and now Christmas,” Lee explained to her not caring he was telling a complete stranger his problem.


She looked at him and recognized his rank, “Well Commander, you will be able too,” she told him.


Looking at her confused and surprised that she knew his rank, “There are no seats available,” he told her.


“You can have my seat.  I can go back to the mainland tomorrow.  I’m just going to visit some friends anyway.”


“Thank you ma’am but I can’t take your seat, your friends will be waiting for you,” Lee said.


“I insist,” she pressed, “a long time ago my husband was a commander on a boat and wanted to get home to me and our son.  A man gave up his seat so he could be home for Christmas.  I know what your wife is going through, so please take my seat,”


“Thank you ma’am,” Lee replied, “I will take your seat as I know my wife would do the same thing too.”


“Sir if you want to make that flight you have to hurry,” the counter attendant interjected, “they want to close the door at the gate.  I need your name and ID.”


“Lee Crane,” he told her as he went to his inside pocket and took out his driver’s license out of his wallet and handed it to her.


“Are you Harriman Nelson’s Lee Crane,” the woman inquired.


“Yes ma’am I am and how do you know Admiral Nelson,” Lee asked suspiciously.


With a big grin on her face she replied, “I’m Virginia Starke, Jiggs Starke’s wife and I’ve heard a lot about you, Commander.”


“Mrs. Starke, it’s my pleasure to meet you but I’ve got to go.  Thank you again for giving up your seat,” Lee said giving her a quick kiss on the cheek as he ran for the gate.  Have to remember to send her a dozen roses, Lee thought as he ran down the concourse.


The attendant called down to the gate told them not shut the door until a very good looking officer made it aboard.  For once Lee got lucky and didn’t have to run to the last gate.  He arrived at the gate and the ticket attendant took his ticket as he ran down the passageway to the airplane.  When he got to end of the passageway a flight attendant was waiting for him.


Realizing he had his duffle with him, “I’m sorry.  Is there room for this somewhere?” he asked flashing his special smile.


“Don’t worry sir, we’ll find a place for it,” she told Lee as she took the duffle from him and put it in the galley.  He handed her his ticket and she showed him to a bulkhead first class seat.


“Are you sure this is the correct seat,” Lee said surprised at where the seat was.


“Yes sir. I’m sure,” she smiled.


They shut the airplane door and prepared for take off.  They took off a couple of minutes late because they waited for Lee to board. He knew it would be a five and half hour flight to LAX.  If his luck continued, a cab ride of two hours would bring him to his door between 1930 and 2000 hours.  Lee sat back in the seat and looked out the window as they took off.  He hoped Mrs. Starke wouldn’t get into trouble with her husband when she told him who she gave her seat too.  He laid back and fell asleep. 


Feeling someone tapping him gently on the arm he woke up startled, “Sorry sir,” the flight attendant said, “we’re preparing to land.”


“Thank you,” Lee replied shocked that he slept through the whole flight.


The plane landed and taxied to the gate when they opened the doors, the flight attendant handed him his duffle so he could be the first one off the plane.


“Thank you for taking care of it,” he smiled as he quickly walked down the passageway, through the concourse and out of the terminal where there was a taxi waiting right in front of him.


“Will you take me to Santa Barbara?” he asked before he got in the taxi. 


“Not normally but it’s been a slow night, so hop in,” the taxi driver told him as he took his duffle and put it in the trunk.


Lee hopped in the taxi and noticed that traffic was pretty light leaving the airport.  He hoped it would be that way all the way home. 


“What brings you out this late on Christmas,” the cabbie asked as he maneuvered through the traffic on the freeway.


“Returning from a deployment at sea,” Lee replied holding on as the taxi driver switched lanes quickly.  He wanted to get home but preferably in one piece.


Once they got to the outskirts of Santa Barbara, Lee told him how to get to the institute.  They stopped at the gate where Del was there waiting to check him in.  The single men always took the Christmas Day watch so the men with families could have the day off.


“Welcome back Commander,” Del said as he waved Lee in.


“You work here,” the taxi driver asked as they entered the complex.


“Yes I work and live here,” Lee replied as he directed him to his house.




It was 1930 hours and Janet knew her food would be arriving shortly so she went into the kitchen to put on the water so she could have a cup of tea with her Chinese food.  Lee still hadn’t called and she was getting worried.  Maybe he was in a place where they couldn’t surface, she thought as she filled a mug with hot water from the boiling kettle and put a tea bag in the mug.




When the taxi driver pulled up to his house he noticed another car in the driveway.  He got out of the taxi, got his duffle bag out of the trunk, paid the fare and gave the driver a very generous tip and thanked him for the ride.  He went up to the other car and recognized the driver was Mr. Wong from the Chinese restaurant.


“Mr. Wong, I see my wife ordered Chinese for dinner,” he said with a smile.


“Yes sir.  She’s my last delivery for the night,” he replied smiling back.


“I’ll take it,” Lee said as he paid him giving him a generous tip also and took the shopping bag full of food. She must be very hungry, he thought.


Knocking on the door, Lee waited for his wife to open the door. 


“Just a minute,” he heard her say as she opened the door.


Janet opened the door and was shocked to see her husband standing there with the Chinese food.  He put the food down along with his duffle and grabbed his wife by the waist and gave her a very long passionate kiss.  After he kissed her, they went into the house bringing in the food and his bag.


“Lee,” she stammered as tears formed in her eyes, “I didn’t know you were coming home.” 


“Sweetheart, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it so I’m sorry I didn’t call,” he told her kissing her again and hugging her tightly.  She returned his kiss and hug tears running down her cheeks. 


Using his thumb he gently wiped away the tears on her cheeks as she pressed her face into his chest.  He drew her close and rubbed her back.  They stood there in each other’s arms for several minutes before breaking apart. 


Looking around the house he said, “You did a beautiful job of decorating.”


“Thank you,” she said softly her arms still around his waist not wanting to let him go.


“Why don’t we put the food in the refrigerator and eat it later,” Lee suggested.  “I have something better we can do right now,” he told her tenderly.  He left the Christmas tree on but turned off the fireplace and followed her into the kitchen while she put the food way.   He eagerly kissed her again when she turned around after closing the refrigerator door.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and excitedly returned his kiss.  He reached for her hand and they went upstairs their arms wrapped around each other’s waists.


As they went up the stairs, Janet whispered, “Merry Christmas, honey.”


At the top of the stairs whispering back, “Merry Christmas, sweetie,” he replied as he took her into the bedroom and led her to their bed.


The End.



Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.



*The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore



Author’s note: For the Navy aficionados, I know I didn’t follow proper Navy protocol when assigning Lee command and relieving him of the command of the USS Chicago which is a Los Angles Class fast attack submarine based out of Guam as is the USS Key West.  While I did research to try and find out how the change in command would be handled I couldn’t find any information or I just didn’t know where to look. So please forgive me for this and any other errors I may have committed by not following Navy protocol.  I hope you enjoyed the story written as fan fiction.


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