*Thank you Kate, you’re a wonderful beta, and Diane for helping me out with tricky details yet again.
By Sea Spinner
“Chip, sit down,” said Lee as his XO Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton stepped into his cabin.
“What’s up, Lee?” asked Chip, curiosity written all over his face. “You didn’t say much when you asked me to come up here.”
“Have you noticed that Sparks seems to be…” Lee searched for the word, “distracted lately?”
Chip nodded slowly. “Now that you mention it, yes, I have. Yesterday he forgot to give me a new signal. It wasn’t anything urgent, but he’s always been so diligent. I don’t think I ever recall him forgetting something like that.”
Lee tapped his pen on the table. “I think I’ll have a talk with him. Ask him to come to my cabin, Chip.”
“Do you want me here as well?”
“No, I think just the two of us. If there’s something wrong he might not open up if both you and I are here.”
Chip stood up. “I’ll send him up.”
“How long before we get to Veracruz?”
“About six hours.”
Lee nodded. “Thanks, Chip. I’ll let you know if I find anything out.”
As Chip left his cabin, Lee thought back over the last few days. He was certain the change in Sparks’ demeanor had come after their stopover in Santiago where the Admiral had left Seaview to speak at a major environmental convention. How or why were questions that needed to be answered. Lee tried to be approachable and encouraged the crew, regardless of rank, to talk any problem over with him. It bothered him that Sparks hadn’t done that. He was a few years younger than Lee, twenty-eight to be precise, but was the most competent radio operator Lee had ever worked with – at least until now.
A few minutes later Lee heard a knock on his door. “Come in.”
Sparks walked in and stood at the desk. “You wanted to see me, Sir?”
“Take a seat.” Lee looked carefully at the young radio operator sitting across the table from him. He had dark rings under his bloodshot eyes, and the usual relaxed manner was gone. He sat ramrod straight in the chair, as if waiting for any opportunity to escape. “I just wondered if everything was alright?”
The young man frowned. “What do you mean, Sir?”
“I’ve noticed that you’ve been distracted lately.”
“Not overly, Sir. I’ve had a lot of work on.”
“Oh, are there some problems I’m not aware of?” As soon as he asked the question, Lee saw the muscles at the side of his jaw twitch.
“Not especially, Sir. What I mean to say is that something is wrong. My…my sister’s just had a baby and it’s not well. I’m worried about her.”
“Would you like some compassionate leave?”
“No! I mean, no thank you, Sir. I’ll be fine. I’d prefer to be busy onboard.”
Now Lee noticed small beads of perspiration forming on his brow. “Very well, I’ll inform Mister Morton and we’ll take that into consideration. Dismissed.”
He watched Sparks leave and sank back in his chair. He’d known the radio operator for two years now. In all that time Sparks had never changed. He was always relaxed and laid back, even in a crisis, sometimes picking things up that nobody else did or could. Lee knew he could rely on him even in the worst situation – so what was going on? He’d seen the signs and decided that there was no point in pressing Sparks at the moment. Whatever was bothering him was obviously very serious. If he dug deeper, it would have to be covertly – problem was, he knew Sparks was lying. If he was hiding something it could put Seaview and her crew at risk. Lee’s senses went into overdrive. He didn’t think he’d need to use ONI tactics onboard his beloved boat oron one of his own crew, but if need be, he would. He just hoped he didn’t have to resort to that. Maybe Sparks would come to him of his own free will, but he doubted it. Shaking his head, he put his nose back into the paperwork the Admiral’s absence had burdened him with and briefly set the problem aside.
A few hours later Seaview arrived in Veracruz. It was a brief stop for stores, so Lee was intrigued when Sparks approached him in the control room.
“Excuse me, Sir. Permission to go ashore to ring my sister?”
“Permission granted,” replied Lee, ignoring Chip’s surprised look. “Make sure you’re back by eighteen hundred hours.”
“Yes, Sir. Thank you.”
Lee ran a hand through his hair as he watched Sparks hasten to leave.
He drew Chip aside. “Can you handle things here for a couple of hours?” he asked quietly.
“Sure, what’s up?”
“I have to go ashore to speak with customs,” he lied reluctantly. “They wanted me to drop in when we arrived. I won’t be long.”
“Watch your back, Lee,” warned Chip.
“Don’t I always?”
Chip didn’t even grace Lee’s reply with an answer, but Lee heard a quiet snort as he turned on his heels and made a rapid exit.
Sparks looked over his shoulder for the fourth time. He was certain nobody was following him, but the message he got in Santiago told him to go to the San Juan de Ulúa Fortress alone. If he didn’t, their prisoner would pay for him not following their directions. Since the message had also told him who the prisoner was, he had no choice but to obey. He wiped his moist palms on the side of his pants and took a deep breath. Why did they want him? He was a nobody, a radio operator who only passed on messages – and he hadn’t even done a very good job of that lately, he thought morosely. His mind went back to the brief conversation he’d had with the Skipper. It had made him so nervous afterwards that he’d almost been physically sick. A man’s life depended on his ability to fool everyone onboard, but he didn’t think Captain Crane was the type to miss all the signs he’d been unable to hide.
The fortress loomed up above him, the sun blotted out by the enormous span of its walls. He didn’t know much about it, only that it was a miracle of architecture and was built in 1565. The instructions he’d been given were to bypass the main door and enter through a passage off to one side. Taking a last look behind him, Sparks walked quickly past the entrance and detoured into a small doorway about a hundred yards further on.
There was nobody to meet him, so he stopped and waited. He didn’t have to wait for very long. Two men appeared from a tunnel leading off to the left. One of them locked the door behind Sparks.
Sparks followed one of the men, the second man brought up the rear. They walked through the seemingly endless stone hallways until he was pushed into an ante-chamber.
“Hands against the wall and spread your legs.”
He did as he was told and was thoroughly searched from head to toe. Once they were finished he was taken further into the fortress until he was stopped in front of a wooden door.
One of the guards went into the room and closed the door behind him, leaving the other to watch him. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t leave, that much he knew.
The door opened. “Bring him in.”
Sparks walked through the door to find himself in a large room. Including his two guards, four other men were inside the room. It held another two guards, a man sitting at a desk and another whose face was hidden in shadow, his chin resting on his chest. His hands were tied behind him and he sat on a wooden chair.
“Admiral!” cried Sparks, anguish filling him.
He tried to go to Admiral Nelson’s side but was held back.
“Lieutenant Nick Peatty, I am pleased you could join us. Your Admiral will live for another day.”
“What have you done to him?” asked Sparks, still fearing that Nelson was dead or badly injured.
Ignoring the question, the man behind the desk stood up and walked slowly around to stand face to face with him. “You should be more worried about yourself, Lieutenant,” he said quietly, his dark eyes seemingly soulless.
Sparks swallowed and repeated his question, trying to stay in control. “I want to see how he is for myself. Let me go to him.”
The man stared at him, shrugged and motioned for the men restraining him to let him go. “He’s not injured. I had to take measures to ensure he would not cause a scene, just something to make him sleep.”
“Admiral,” said Sparks softly, kneeling beside Nelson.
When there was no response he hesitantly felt for a pulse.
Swallowing, Sparks looked back at the man. “What is it you want from me, and who are you?”
“I work for a private consortium that has interests in Catalanio. My name is irrelevant. You can call me Esteban if that makes you feel more comfortable,” he grinned. “Of course, it is not my real name.”
Sparks doubted anything would make him feel comfortable right now. “Why am I here?”
“In two days the Seaview will head south again, Panama to be exact. While you are in port, your vessel will be used by a spy to transmit details of Catalanio’s new missile program to the authorities in America.” Esteban paused to walk over to Admiral Nelson. “You will pass the messages onto me, not the authorities. The code he uses is already in the Captain’s safe. You will get it and pass it onto me in Panama.”
“I…I can’t do that,” said Sparks, his mouth dry.
“If you don’t, there will be consequences you will not enjoy,” threatened Esteban.
“I won’t help you,” Sparks replied stubbornly, his heart rate accelerating.
He wasn’t about to help this man to undermine his own country or the Seaview.
Esteban moved closer, forcing Sparks back against the cold, damp wall. “If you don’t do as I order you will suffer unbelievable torture.”
“If you torture me I won’t be able to help you anyway.”
“You don’t know what we’re capable of.”
Sparks gritted his teeth. “I don’t care. I’d rather die than betray my country.”
The Catalanion’s eyes took on a dangerous glint. “That is very possible, but the time it takes could be a lifetime.”
“Go ahead and see how far you get. I don’t care about my own life, but I care about my country.”
Esteban looked at him for a moment, then turned his attention to Nelson, nodding to the guards who suddenly held Sparks even tighter, pinning his arms behind him. Sparks watched as Esteban pulled out a serrated edged knife. Without any warning he drove it into Nelson’s left upper arm.
Despite his best efforts, Sparks couldn’t break free from the two men who restrained him.
Esteban walked away from Nelson and shoved the bloodied knife in front of Sparks’ face. “Do you still refuse to co-operate?”
Sparks held his breath, the room suddenly started to spin before his eyes. He let go and took a deep breath before answering. “I can’t. I can’t do that to the Admiral.”
His captor’s eyes glared into his own and Sparks knew that whatever he did would mean a lose-lose situation. Esteban strode back to Nelson, stopping behind his chair before deftly plunging the knife into his shoulder.
“No!” cried Sparks struggling angrily to no avail.
“I can keep this up for a long time. What is your answer? Will you do as I ask, or shall I continue to use your Admiral for entertainment?”
Sparks looked at the bloodied uniform. The Admiral would never have allowed himself to be used like this if he’d been conscious. He reluctantly shook his head, pain in his heart. “No, I can’t.”
Esteban placed the knife on the table, took out a pistol and placed it against the Admiral’s right knee. “Have you ever had a knee injury? It takes a long time to heal, sometimes it never does and the person is crippled for the rest of their life. Believe me when I say that this would be only the first of many injuries he will receive. Is this what you want for your Admiral?”
Sparks shook his head again, this time too afraid to open his mouth in case no words came out.
Esteban cocked the pistol. “I said, ‘is that what you want for your Admiral?’”
“No,” he croaked.
“You will do as I ask?”
Sparks hung his head, his shoulders slumping in defeat. “Yes, I will.”
He heard the hammer lightly return to its place and the shuffle of material as Esteban put it back into his trousers. It was too painful to look him in the eye, knowing he would now be considered a traitor. Even if it had been under duress, he still wasn’t supposed to cooperate. He knew that if Admiral Nelson had been awake he would have ordered him not to do it, but the Admiral’s life was now in his hands. It was too precious to have it whittled away by this man.
Esteban gripped his chin and forced his head up. “Yes, you are a spineless traitor, and you’d do well to remember in case you think of doing something heroic.”
Sparks hated that Esteban was so perceptive.
“Do not fail me or your death will be as long and drawn out as your admiral’s. Do you understand that?”
Esteban released his chin and slapped him hard across the face. “Do you!” he shouted.
Sparks glared at him as blood rushed to his head. He wanted to hit this man more than he’d ever wanted to hit anyone in his life. The list wasn’t long, but Esteban was at the top.
“Good. You will be provided with all the details and the radio frequency before you leave.”
“What about Admiral Nelson?”
“When I have the information, you can have your Admiral.”
“Get out, now, before I lose patience with you,” Esteban growled. “Take him.”
Sparks was pushed out of the room and back down the same corridor he’d entered through. Just before he was shown out the door, he was given a piece of paper with instructions.
“Memorize this then destroy it,” ordered the big guard. “Esteban doesn’t like incompetence.”
“If I find out you’ve hurt the Admiral…” He didn’t get any further as the wind was knocked out of his lungs from a punch to his side.
He fell to his knees, gasping to get his breath.
“Now, get up and get out.”
Sparks was dragged to his feet and pushed through the door. He leaned against the wall outside for a moment, catching his breath as the door was bolted behind him. What am I going to do? If I do as he asks the Admiral might still be killed. If I don’t, he’s already dead.
He limped down the wharf, oblivious to the attention given to him by a slim dark-haired figure masked in the shadows of some ruins. The pain in his side and the combination of guilt and shame were enough to make his head spin. Looking at his watch, he realized he only had twenty minutes left to make it back to Seaview but his legs wouldn’t support him anymore. He forced himself over to a bench that sat beneath a tree and put his head between his knees, sucking in deep breaths. How could this have happened? The message he got in Santiago gave him precise details on what he had to do to keep Admiral Nelson alive. Should he have told someone? Maybe the Skipper? He rubbed the back of his neck. He just didn’t know what to do. There was no choice but to carry it out and hope the Admiral was returned safely. He wasn’t naïve enough to believe that the consequences of his actions wouldn’t be serious. At the best, he would be court-martialed for treason and thrown out of NIMR and the Naval Reserve - at the worst, a sentence of life imprisonment in a military prison with hard labor thrown in. He was under no illusions about the treatment of traitors in prison. He shivered with the thought, but if it would save Nelson’s life it would be a small sacrifice.
He ran his hands through his hair. Nothing and nobody could get him out of this tangled mess. He was going to have to figure out what to do on his own. Pushing himself to his feet he began his journey back to Seaview. As Sparks walked past a burned out building he was abruptly pulled inside.
“Don’t move,” ordered a voice he knew too well.
“Skipper!” he gasped.
“I want to know what’s going on,” the harsh edge in Crane’s voice left no room for lying.
“I can’t tell you.”
“Sparks, it’s me, Lee!” The Skipper said, using his first name to emphasize the bonds they shared.
The fear in Sparks’ eyes made Lee’s spine shiver. “Please, tell me. I can help you.”
Sparks backed away until he hit a wall. “No, you can’t help me, nobody can.”
“You don’t give me enough credit,” said Lee dangerously.
“M...maybe not, Sir, but it’s something I need to do myself,” insisted Sparks.
“I don’t know what kind of trouble you’re in, but if it blows up in your face you could be kicked off Seaview,” said Lee, steel in his voice.
Sparks looked at the Captain whose face was hidden in the darkness and made what he hoped was the right choice. “Sir...I...I don’t really know what to do.”
Lee backed off. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I...the Admiral...I don’t know what to do,” he said, breaking down.
Lee looked at the radio operator and reined in his temper. “Sparks...Nick, I can help you. You just have to trust me.”
Sparks looked about done in. “I do trust you, Sir, it’s just, the Admiral....” he started.
“What about him?” coaxed Lee, realizing that he had to tread softly.
“He...he...” Sparks faltered.
Lee put a hand on Sparks’ shoulder. “If something’s happened to the Admiral, I need to know. You’ve worked for me long enough to realize I can help,” he said with meaning
When Sparks looked up at him Lee knew he’d broken through.
“I’m sorry, Sir, it’s just...I don’t want him to die.”
Lee struggled to keep his emotions in check. “How could he die? He’s in a conference in Santiago.”
“No, Sir, he’s not.”
Only the misery on Sparks’ face kept Lee’s temper from going nova. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean he’s not at the conference, Sir.”
“Then where is he?” asked Lee, his previous irritation forgotten.
Sparks took a deep breath. “He’s being held by an organization that’s interested in Catalanio.”
“So I can do their dirty work for them.”
Lee glanced around them. “Is the Admiral in the fortress?”
“He was, Sir.”
“Was he alright?”
Sparks swallowed, his mouth dry, and looked at the ground, wishing it would open up and this nightmare would be gone. “He was, until I refused to help them.”
“What happened?” asked Lee angrily.
“I...Esteban stabbed him twice, once in the upper arm and again in the shoulder. I tried to stop them but I was held back.” He knew how close the Captain and Admiral had become and felt that the anger was directed at him.
“Look at me, Lieutenant,” ordered the Captain.
He looked up, worried about what he might see on Crane’s face. When he did, there was only compassion and understanding.
“You did what you could under trying circumstances. At the least you bought the Admiral some time.”
“It doesn’t feel like it.”
“Let’s get back to the boat. We’re going to need help on this one.” Lee hesitated. “Do you think he has someone keeping an eye on you onboard Seaview?”
“I honestly don’t know, Sir. There was never any mention of that, but he did know that you had the codes in your safe for our next mission.”
“Hmm, with the new crew members I don’t want to take any chances. I had no idea we were earmarked for that mission when we left Santa Barbara. It was only after we sailed that the Admiral informed me of it.” He rubbed a hand over his neck. “I don’t want anyone else to know about this at the moment. If there’s someone watching you, we need to bring him out into the open.”
“What should we do, Sir?” asked Sparks, suddenly feeling a little better after sharing the burden.
Lee looked at him and shook his head. “I have a plan, but you won’t like it.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get the Admiral back. You just tell me what to do.”
The Captain slapped him on the back. “Don’t worry, we’ll get him back. Are you hurt? You looked pretty strung out when you left the fortress.”
”Not really, Sir. Nothing serious, anyway.”
The Captain stared at him for a minute, then began outlining the plan, making a mental note to have Jamie look him over. Then he watched as Sparks made for the Seaview. He still didn’t look great, and the color hadn’t come back to his face. Lee would attend to the ‘customs request’ before he went back onboard to make sure nobody saw them arrive together. After they cast off for Panama, he and Sparks would put their plan into action. Lee knew his idea had shocked Sparks to start off with, but he’d also seen how it would work. If there wasn’t a spy onboard, then nothing would be lost. If there was, then they would have uncovered a traitor. Lee stepped outside and headed off for the customs building, hoping he wouldn’t be too late to save Nelson’s life – or that of the intelligence agent.
The next hour was torturous for Sparks. He’d met with the Skipper one last time to ensure everything was in place for their plan. He lifted his hand, forcing it to stop shaking as he reached for the doorknob of the Captain’s cabin. Even though he knew the Captain’s plan was the right thing to do, it still made him uncomfortable. He opened the door without any trouble, closed it behind him and walked quickly towards the wall safe. He’d already memorized the combination and as soon as he’d dialed in the final number he pulled it open. As soon as he’d taken out the pale manila folder he heard the door open.
“What the...Sparks, what the hell are you doing in my safe?” snapped Lee, walking into his cabin along with the XO.
He tore the folder from Sparks’ grip and stared at the ‘Eyes Only’ markings. “This is a top secret file.”
“I’ll call the Master at Arms,” offered Chip, heading towards the intercom.
“No, I’ll do it. Keep an eye on the Lieutenant.” He walked over to his desk and pressed the intercom. “Master at Arms report to the Captain’s cabin immediately.” He put it down and stared long and hard at the radio operator. “I have no choice but to confine you to the brig until I get some answers, Lieutenant.”
He watched as Sparks stared at him with abject panic as soon as he’d mentioned the brig. Lee almost expected him to make a run for the cabin door. “Sit down, Lieutenant.”
Sparks sat down shakily in the chair, playing his part perfectly.
Lee stepped up to the desk, leaned over and deliberately took an aggressive posture. “What were you doing with these papers?” he growled.
“I can’t tell you, Sir.”
Lee strode angrily around to the other side of the deskwell aware that the cabin door was still wide open.
“You should think long and hard about giving us the right answers,” said Chip, his voice clipped and barely restrained.
“Answer me,” shouted Lee. “Why were you rifling through my safe?”
Before Lee had a chance to press Sparks any further, theMaster at Arms arrived at the door.
“Take Lieutenant Peatty to the brig, and keep a close eye on him,” Lee growled. “Have Doctor Jamieson give him a thorough examination,” he added, still mindful that Sparks had been injured. “I’ll interrogate him further once the Doctor’s finished.”
He needn’t have bothered telling the Master at Arms, because at that moment Jamie walked into the cabin.
“You don’t need to fill me in. I could hear you down the passage.” He looked at Sparks with more curiosity than anger. “He was in your safe?”
Lee paced over to the door to hide the guilt he felt for putting Sparks through this ordeal. It was the only way he could think of to bring the spy, if there was one, out into the open. “Master at Arms, take the prisoner to the brig. Jamie, you can see him there. Make sure it’s a thorough exam. I want all the bases covered, including blood work.”
“Aye, Sir,” said Jamie, casting a disappointed glance at Sparks.
As Jamie left the cabin Lee sat down in his chair, wearily rubbing a hand over his face.
Chip sat down slowly in the chair opposite. “I just don’t understand why he was in your safe. I’ve known Sparks from the beginning and he’s never shown any inclination towards treason.”
“That may be so,” Lee admitted testily. “But it’s obvious that he’s working for someone. There’s no other reason he would have been looking at those particular papers.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Let him sweat for a couple of hours,” said Lee, still hating himself for making Sparks look like a traitor.
“Do you want me to have a crack at him?”
As much as Lee wanted to take him into his confidence he couldn’t, not yet. He had no idea if anyone was listening or if there was a device in his cabin.
“No. Leave him there for a while. It’s obvious he’s not going to give us what we want right now. Maybe when he’s had a chance to look at the world through bars for a while he’ll change his attitude,” said Lee harshly.
Chip pushed himself to his feet. “What are those papers, anyway?”
“They’re to do with our new mission off Panama,” he said, not elaborating on their content.
The XO nodded. If he had been tempted to ask further, Lee’s ‘end of conversation’ tone had shut him down. Lee knew he would pay for his deception sometime later down the line, but it had to be done.
Chip sighed. “Well, it’s your decision, but if you want me to put him through a formal interrogation, let me know.”
“Don’t worry, I will,” said Lee as Chip headed out of his cabin.
If he knew the XO as well as he thought did, his act hadn’t fooled him. He would have to be very careful to maintain the charade until the spy made his move.
Nelson woke slowly, reaching for consciousness several times before finally making it through the twilight shroud. His upper left arm and shoulder ached like the devil and he wondered what they’d done to him. He gingerly shook his head to clear it and looked around, briefly wondering if something was wrong with his eyes before realizing it was the lighting. Muted yellows blended with the rusted interior of what appeared to be the hold of a well-aged container ship. A dizzy spell struck him and he closed his eyes again, riding out the wave until the deck stopped tilting like a rollercoaster
“You’re awake,” said Esteban’s voice. “I thought you would like to know your radio operator co-operated fully. It looks like you will remain intact for a few more days.”
Nelson frowned at the information. Sparks knew better than that. What could they possibly have done to force him to work with them?
“I thought you would be happy,” said Esteban, walking in front of him. “After all, your kneecap would be missing right now if he had refused, along with other necessary body parts.”
“You bastard,” hissed Nelson. “You’ll never get what you want.”
Esteban gave a soft laugh. “If he wants to keep you in one piece he has no choice. He’s already agreed to it.”
“I don’t believe it,” responded Nelson coldly. “I’ve known Sparks for a good many years, he’d never do what you’ve said.”
The Catalanion flicked a knife out and held the blade up for Nelson to see. It was still stained with dried blood.
“It’s amazing what happened when I began carving you up like your American Thanksgiving turkeys.”
“That’s what happened to my arm and shoulder,” growled Nelson.
“I am afraid it took two attempts, and the threat of blowing your kneecap off with my pistol before he gave in. I was impressed by his fortitude. Even when I told him in detail what I would do to him if he didn’t co-operate, he still refused. He only submitted after I threatened you.”
Nelson gave a wry grin. “There are lots more where he came from and I have no doubt before the next two days are over, you’ll have metmore of them.”
Esteban gave him an evil look. “If I do, you’ll die before they can rescue your hide.”
“Perhaps,” acknowledged Nelson, “but at least I’ll have the pleasure of knowing that you’ll be dealt with.”
His captor scowled and stalked off, leaving Nelson alone once more in the hold. He tried his restraints, but failing the miraculous appearance of a key, he was stuck. At least the pain in his shoulder and arm had subsided to a dull ache. For that much he was grateful. Nelson knew the situation was grim, but he had every confidence that Lee, Chip and Sparks would figure out a way to rescue him. In the meantime, he tried to make himself as comfortable as humanly possible.
Lee walked into the brig just as Jamie finished examining Sparks, who was sitting on the edge of the bunk. The radio operator hadn’t finished dressing and Lee could see dark bruising on his rib cage.
“What’s the verdict, Jamie?” asked Lee.
“I don’t know how he got these bruises, Captain. He’s clammed up and I can’t even get him to speak to me,” Jamie pointed to Sparks’ ribs. “They’re not broken, but he’s taken a nasty hit there from something or someone. He’s got some minor bruising on his left cheek, nothing too serious and his blood pressure’s a bit on the high side but I suppose that’s to be expected. I’d still take it easy with him, if it goes up much more I’ll have to think about medicating him.”
“Do you have anything to say, Lieutenant?” asked Lee, his voice cold. “Get on your feet and stand to attention when I speak to you!”
Sparks got to his feet as quickly as his sore ribs allowed, his shirt still open. “No, Sir. I have nothing to say, Sir.”
“Jamie, leave us alone.”
“I asked you to leave us alone,” ordered Lee tightly, ignoring the warning looks Jamie gave him.
The doctor shook his head, then stepped out of the brig and through the corridor hatch, closing it behind him.*
Lee made sure the hatch was completely secure before he spoke to Sparks. “Sit down, Nick. Are you alright?” asked Lee, taking his arm to help ease him onto the bunk.
“I’m fine, Sir. I’m just stiffening up a bit.”
“I’m sorry,” said Lee.
Sparks gave him a half-smile. “It’s alright, I know it had to be done, but I’m worried about you, Sir. What if...” he left the question hanging.
“I’ll be fine. At least if nothing happens we’ll know that we’ll be good to go.”
“I’ll get you out of here as soon as I can.” Lee knew what it was like to be imprisoned in a cell for something he hadn’t done.
It hadn’t been long after he’d joined Seaview and only Nelson and Chip knew about it. He thought about telling Sparks, but it was very personal. All it reminded him of was how helpless he’d been. Seeing Sparks in this position brought back all the memories and opened old wounds.
Instead, he took a deep breath. “I’ll get you out of here as soon as I can, Sparks.”
“I know you will. Be careful, Sir.”
Lee nodded, opened the corridor hatch and motioned for the Master at Arms to come back inside. “No visitors.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”
Lee decided to do a walk-through of the boat first. He figured if it was going to work, he had to be out in the open. He didn’t have long to wait. As he was walking past Admiral Nelson’s lab a gun was jabbed into his back.
“In here,” ordered his assailant, pushing the lab hatch open.
“What do you want?” asked Lee.
“Shut up. Close the hatch.”
No sooner had Lee closed the hatch than his arm was wrenched up behind his back and he was shoved against the bulkhead. He felt a tendon give at the same time. A sharp breath escaped his mouth as stabbing pain shot through his shoulder.
“This is just a warning. If you want Admiral Nelson kept alive, let Lieutenant Peatty out of the brig so he can do his job. You only get one chance.”
Lee started to say something when he was hit over the head and the world went black.
“Thanks, Ski. I appreciate it,” said Sparks, sighing with relief at leaving the confines of the brig. “How did you know about all of this?”
“The Skipper brought me in on it. He figured it’d be better for everyone if I tailed him around Seaview, just in case something happened to him and you were left in the brig, Sir.”
“Is Captain Crane alright?”
He watched as Ski shoved their newest crewman, David Aschell, into the brig as hard as he dared and clanged the door shut behind the spy.
“This goon gave him a good smack on the back of the head. He’s only just been taken to sick bay. It’s lucky I was keeping tabs on him”
“I’d better go see him,” said Sparks.
Ski’s lips lifted in a smile. “When he wakes up I think Mister Morton’s gonna give him a piece of his mind. A friendly face might be a good thing, Sir.”
Sparks left the brig and headed quickly towards sick bay. As he rounded the corner he heard Jamie’s raised voice and could only assume that the Skipper had come around.
“You have to be under observation for twenty-four hours,” said Jamie stubbornly.
“I’m fine,” mumbled Lee. “I need to make plans and question the prisoner you told me Ski put in the brig.”
“Humph, from what Ski told me you’re lucky to be alive.”
Lee smiled. “It was an operation that ran like clockwork.”
The doctor ignored him “How’s your shoulder? Ski told me Aschell had it up around your ear when he got to you.”
Lee moved it slowly but despite his best efforts not to provide Jamie with a reason to keep him in sick bay he grimaced with the pain. Kowalski must have come in just at the time he was hit on the head and, much to Lee’s disgust, had told Jamie about his arm.
“It’s a little sore.”
Jamie’s practiced fingers pressed in all the spots that made Lee flinch. “I think you’ve just sprained a tendon. I want you to wear a sling for a day or two until it’s had time to recover.”
The doctor smiled and shook his head. “Sling or twenty-four hours, take it or leave it. I don’t need to point out you also have a slight concussion.”
Lee shook his own head carefully and glared Jamie. “I guess I don’t have any choice, but once we get to Panama the sling’s off and I’m heading the team to rescue the Admiral.”
“Deal. Two days of you having your arm in a sling is better than none.”
“Sir, are you alright?” asked Sparks’ mild-mannered voice.
Lee turned around, pleased to see that Ski had released the radio operator. “I’m fine.”
Sparks looked worried when he saw Jamie fit the sling around Lee’s shoulder. “But…”
“It’s nothing,” said Lee irritably.
“Sprained shoulder muscle,” explained Jamie. “Seems the Skipper can’t stay out of trouble even on his own submarine.”
Although Lee was grumpy with Jamie, he was pleased to see a smile tug at Sparks’ lips. He had been very worried about him when he’d seen the state the Lieutenant was in after leaving the fortress. Although he didn’t think twice about shouldering that type of load during his ONI missions, for one of his own crew to be subjected to it was unthinkable.
“Ask Mister Morton to join us in my cabin in ten minutes, along with Kowalski and Patterson,” Lee said to Sparks.
“Yes, Sir,” the young man paused. “Captain, thank you.”
Lee cleared his throat, suddenly embarrassed. “It’s nothing, Sparks.”
“Not to me it isn’t,” he said quietly and left to find the XO.
Lee took the note Esteban had given Sparks. He read it once, then a second time. He knew why they were so interested in the information. It would narrow down who the spy was within the weapons plant – only someone who was closely linked with the program would be able to pass on the type of information ONI was hoping for.
“Chip, I’d like you and Kowalski to question the prisoner and find out what he knows,” said Lee, starting to shrug out of his sling. “In the meantime, Sparks, Patterson and I will come up with a plan to sidetrack Esteban and free the Admiral.”
“Uh, Skipper, Jamie told me to keep an eye on you, something about a deal,” Chip pointed out, his hand already reaching for the intercom.
Lee snatched the intercom out of his reach and grudgingly nodded. “I can see I’ve been outclassed and outmaneuvered. I hope you’re happy,” he said irritably carefully replacing his arm where it had been.
Chip grinned as he and Kowalski left the cabin. “You could say that.”
Sparks and Patterson remained in Lee’s cabin, looking solemn. Lee stared at them and knew without a doubt they would do everything in their power, even lay down their own lives to save the Admiral. Sparks had already almost sacrificed that, he thought grimly.
“We’re going to be in Panama in less than twenty-four hours. I’m going ashore under cover of darkness to find our contact before he’s located by Esteban’s organization. Sparks, you’ll come with me. Find some civilian clothes. We’ll leave through the moon pool so we’re not seen by anyone watching the boat. I know a back way into the town. We won’t be seen leaving the dock. Patterson, I have another small task for you onboard.”
“I’m not going to ask you how you got him to talk,” said Lee, knowing full well that any methods Chip might have used would have been well above board.
Chip smiled. “It’s my XO’s charm, nobody can resist it.”
Lee rolled his eyes, glad of a moment of lightness in a stressful day. “You and Ski did a good job getting that information. I just hope the Admiral’s going to be there, and he hasn’t been injured again...or worse,” he added.
“Me too,” said Chip, his expression suddenly serious. “What are you planning with Sparks when you go ashore?”
Lee motioned to the instructions on his desk. “Sparks has got until the intelligence agent comes aboard, which is in three hours, zero one hundred to be exact. We’re going to find the man and Sparks will bring him back here to the safety of Seaview. I’ll take his place and head onto Seaview when he was scheduled to come aboard. I don’t trust Esteban, or whoever he really is. Between now and then I’ll try to confirm the Admiral’s whereabouts. Sparks will transmit bogus information and with some luck, our men will already be in place around the Admiral’s location.”
“It sounds like a dangerous plan, Lee.”
Lee nodded. “It may well be, but I doubt Esteban will allow either the Admiral or Sparks to live after he’s got the information.”
“You’re right, Lee, but I still don’t like you putting yourself in danger.”
“Not only me, but Sparks. He’s not experienced in this type of work, but I’ve got every faith in him.” Lee looked at his watch. “I guess we’d better start getting ready. We’ll be docking shortly.”
“Take care, Lee.”
“Keep a sharp eye out, I don’t know who might be hanging about the dock.”
Chip grinned. “Already got it covered. Sharkey’s putting on extra details.”
Lee nodded. Chip had always thought of every detail before he even opened his mouth. He supposed that’s what made them such a good team.
“I’ll see you in the con before I leave.”
Chip got to his feet and nodded. “I’ll make preparations to dock, and remember, Jamie’s been kind of snitchy this trip. If I were you, I wouldn’t give him any extra work or he might just stick you with a few more needles than you normally get,” Chip said.
Lee smiled back at him. “I’ll take that into consideration.”
As the XO walked out the door, Lee readied himself for the risky mission. He acknowledged that it was a dangerous chance to take, but he would do the same for any of his men. Right now he knew that Sparks was blaming himself for what had happened. It wasn’t his fault, but by giving him an opportunity to right it, perhaps it would set things straight for the young radio operator.
The journey from Santiago to Panama had been uncomfortable for Nelson. Secured as he was and left to suffer in the darkened hold. The only thing between him and the deck was a few sacks of something akin to oats. He’d slept on worse, but right now he didn’t much feel like it, and the throbbing in his shoulder and arm didn’t help. A couple of hours back the motion and speed of the ship had changed and he’d heard the scraping sound as it docked. He could only guess that they’d arrived at Panama.
Nelson snapped his eyes closed for a moment as the bright overhead lights were switched on. He slowly opened them to find Esteban only feet away from him, holding a syringe.
“Time for another trip, Nelson.”
“Oh, where to this time?”
“Somewhere you, your radio operator and that spy will never come back from,” laughed Esteban as he quickly stuck the Admiral in the arm with the syringe.
With his hands and feet bound, Nelson was helpless to stop him. Before he had a chance to even think about anything else, he lapsed into a drug-induced sleep.
Esteban watched as the Admiral slumped back against the sacks. Yes, the time had come to get rid of the thorn in his side before he made to take over the country once and for all. Nelson and his radio operator were the only witnesses and he would make sure they were disposed of as soon as he had all the information.
He reached out and pulled a telephone from its cradle and dialed the bridge. “Stephano, Marcus, get down here. We’re taking our admiral on a tour of the harbor.”
Hanging up the phone he looked down at Nelson once more. “Don’t worry, Admiral, you won’t feel a thing when you die, you won’t even wake up.”
In the moon pool, Lee checked his scuba gear alongside Sparks who copied his actions. “We’re going to go under the dock. There are some walkways we can use to cover our arrival.”
“How…sorry, Sir. I shouldn’t ask. I guess you couldn’t tell me anyway,” said Sparks.
Lee pulled his tank on, hiding a smile. “It’s nothing like that. I went on a specialist scuba tour once and the instructor told me about the maze of walkways under the wharf. I convinced her to take me on a tour.”
“Oh,” replied Sparks, glad to know he hadn’t overstepped the line.
“Right, let’s go,” Lee turned to Chip. “You and Ski know what to do if there are any problems.”
Chip’s liquid blue eyes told Lee that he still wasn’t completely happy that his Skipper and friend would take on the majority of the risk. “Just take care.” He turned to Sparks. “You too, Lieutenant.”
“Uh, yes, Sir.”
Lee sat down on the side of the pool, finished putting his fins on and slid into the murky darkness below. It was night time so they’d taken their dive lights. He couldn’t help worrying about the Admiral. He looked at his watch – one and a half hours to go. The deadline was approaching fast and they only had Aschell’s information to go on. It didn’t take long for Lee to find the pylon with unique markings. The instructor had pointed it out as the beginning of the hidden network of walkways. Lee hauled himself onto the almost completely invisible dark platform, followed closely by Sparks, who shone his light over the extensive network.
“What is all of this, Sir?”
“It’s going to let us get to the city without being seen.”
Lee took his gear off and waited until Sparks had done the same before taking a roughly drawn map from his pocket. “I drew this from memory after I found out what had happened.”
Sparks watched over Lee’s shoulder as he placed the map the right way around. “How long will it take to get there, Sir?”
“About thirty minutes. I know we’ll be cutting things a bit fine, but we don’t have a choice. I’m sure they’ll be watching the boat to make sure nobody gets off.”
As soon as Lee got his bearings he picked up the pace, arriving at the upward-leading staircase in twenty minutes. “If we’re approached by anyone, just stay relaxed. In fact I’m expecting it.”
“Is that the task you left him with?”
Lee nodded. “I got him to send the request through ONI, and inform them of the danger.”
“How will we know, Skipper?”
Lee glanced at Sparks and almost smiled despite his fear for Nelson’s life. It was the first time the radio operator had called him Skipper since he’d dragged him into the ruined building in Santiago. He knew Sparks was still harboring a massive amount of guilt. Maybe this was the first sign that he was starting to forgive himself and settle back into his normal relaxed ways.
“It will be a pre-arranged contact signal.”
Sparks nodded, and Lee headed up the steps. At the top a metal grate barred their progress, but with a little bit of encouragement it yielded to let them through. Lee stepped cautiously into the darkness and heard Sparks do likewise.
“We’re in the factory area,” he explained, knowing that Sparks would have questions. “It’s not far from here to where the Admiral’s supposedly being kept. Once we’ve been contacted, we’ll find the intelligence agent and you’ll take him aboard. I’ll stay on to look for the Admiral, then follow you aboard.”
“But what if the Admiral’s...” Sparks’ voice stalled.
Lee laid a steadying hand on the radio operator’s shoulder. “He’ll be fine, Sparks. I’m sure they won’t harm him any further until you’ve done what they wanted.”
Dammit, now we’re back to Sir again! “Sparks, listen to me, and listen hard. Nobody onboard the boat would ever blame you for what happened. They could have been after anyone, picked anyone from the crew, even Chip or me. It’s likely we would have reacted the same way. If we hadn’t and Aschell had picked up on it, the Admiral would be dead by now. You did the right thing.”
Sparks shoulders slumped, but then he picked himself up again and nodded. “Yes, Sir.”
“Come on, we’re going this way.” Lee strode away from the grate. “Take note of where we are. You’ll have to make it back on your own with the agent.”
They moved quickly through the shadowy precinct, keeping close to the buildings unless they were challenged by anyone. Finally they arrived at a small cafe.
“We’ll order a drink and sit here.”
Lee glanced at his watch. It was getting close to twenty-three hundred hours. There wasn’t a lot of time left. He just hoped that Patterson had received a response from ONI and it was all set up. The waitress sauntered towards their table and both of them ordered drinks.
“This is the older part of the city. There’s not much of a night life. This cafe is one of two that stays open twenty-four hours a day for the dock workers.”
Lee had insisted on dark laborer’s clothes, so neither of them stood out too much. Since there was a multicultural patronage, they both looked completely at home. The waitress left the drinks and change on the table and walked away to serve another customer.
“Do you have any idea what he looks like, Sir?” asked Sparks quietly.
“No. We’ll just have to wing it.”
Lee looked at his watch again. It was almost twenty-three thirty hours. Where was the agent? He glanced up as the door opened and a young girl walked in. Her build was waif-like. The clothes that fell loosely from her body were torn and well-worn. Dirt streaked her tanned face and her hair was hidden almost completely by a black beanie. Sparks followed his gaze.
“Must be a street kid,” muttered Lee, wondering how she managed to survive in these types of surroundings.
No sooner had he said it, than the girl walked slowly up to their table. Now that she was closer, he could see that she was a little older than he’d first thought.
“A gold coin for my trouble,” she said so softly that he strained to hear the words.
Lee almost started. He hadn’t expected the agent to be this young woman who even now, looked like she was only in her late teens. He reached into his pocket and took out a coin, placing it head up in her palm.
“I can offer you more if this coin is to your liking?”
He saw relief filter through her eyes and nodded to the spare chair at the table. “This is Nick Peatty, my radio operator.”
She smiled shyly at Sparks and turned back to Lee. “I’m Armena. You must be Lee Crane.”
“Yes. We’ll have you on board and safe in no time. Shall we go?”
Armena nodded and stood, stumbling a little as she did, only to be steadied by Sparks’ hand.
“Are you sick?”
She smiled slightly. “I have not slept well lately. I am very tired.”
Lee glanced towards Sparks who looked back at him, his face mirroring Lee’s internal reactions of shock that this waif was the intelligence agent. Such a massive burden should never have fallen on such small shoulders.
“We’ll take it slow,” Sparks said reassuringly.
As they left the cafe, Lee glanced back several times to make sure they weren’t being followed. “Sparks, do you think you’ll make it back to the entrance to the walkways?”
“You are not coming with us?” asked Armena, frowning.
“I must look for my friend. He was caught by Esteban to force Nick to help him.”
Armena quickly distanced herself from Sparks, whose pained look was enough to stop her from going further. “He betrayed me?”
Lee shook his head. “He didn’t want to. The Admiral was tortured in front of him. Nick had no choice. Once I found out what had happened, we were able to help.”
She eyed Sparks suspiciously. “I do not think I trust him.”
Lee saw her face soften as Sparks looked down at the ground, shame on his face. “If you were to trust anyone, he is the one. I would trust him with my life.”
“As I will have to,” she shot back, but Lee could see that she regretted the words as Sparks flinched.
She stepped closer to the radio operator and put her hand up to his chin, lifting it until she was able to gaze into his eyes. Lee couldn’t make out what had passed between them, but when she took her hand away she smiled. “I will accept his offer of help and will go with him.”
“What made you change your mind?” asked Lee, curious.
“Once before I have seen pain like the pain he has in his eyes. It comes from the heart. I will trust him.”
Lee nodded. There was nothing else he could say. The girl was perceptive well-beyond her years. “Sparks, time’s running out. I have to go. I’ll see you back onboard.”
“Be careful, Sir.”
“I will,” he said before fading into one of the many shadowy alleyways.
“What will he do now?” asked Armena as Sparks led her back towards their escape route.
“He’ll find the Admiral, then come back onboard posing as you.”
She baulked. “He would risk his life for someone he does not even know?”
“That’s the Skipper,” he said simply.
“He is the Captain of your boat?”
“But...he should not endanger himself like this.”
“I’m afraid that’s what he does,” he said with proud resignation.
She stole a glance behind her. “I have never met men like you before. Perhaps there is hope left for peace.”
“Maybe,” replied Sparks non-commitally.
As they approached the manhole cover Sparks stopped her and went ahead, scouting to make sure nobody was lying in wait for them.
“Come on, Miss.”
“Please, call me Armena,” she insisted.
He lifted up the cover and handed her a small torch. “You go down, I’ll be right behind you.”
She looked at him again and there was some fear in her eyes.
He took her hand. “I will see you safe onboard Seaview,” he said with utter conviction.
Armena relaxed and nodded before stepping down into the blackness.
Lee pushed himself harder than he had in a long time to get to the warehouse. He hoped that Aschell’s information was correct – that the Admiral was still there. By the time he got there his breath was rasping through his clenched teeth and sweat poured down him, soaking his clothes. He quietly skirted around the perimeter looking for a way in. Finally on his second look he noticed a piece of metal sheeting that wasn’t completely bolted down. He pulled it back as silently as he could. There wasn’t much space and he had to slide through on his stomach to make it.
The warehouse was lit up like a carousel, but boxes of goods were stacked throughout, giving him ample places to hide. He crept forward, his pistol at the ready. All he needed was to confirm that Nelson was there, but now that he was so close he doubted his own self-discipline. If Nelson was there, how could Lee just walk away and leave him there? The sound of raised voices caught his ears. Edging forward he glanced around the corner of a pile of sacks. Three men were in a glassed-in office. One of them was Nelson, whose head drooped onto his chest. Lee saw the blood staining the shoulder and sleeve of his uniform, exactly as Sparks had described. He crouched down and moved closer to see if he could overhear the other two men.
“We should kill him, Esteban. He is not worth anything now,” growled the shorter man.
“No,” replied Esteban. “He might be useful if the radio operator from the Seaview suddenly changes his mind. I think one or two more injuries might convince him permanently.”
Lee watchedas Esteban took out a long slim knife and appeared ready to hurt Nelson. He hastily revised his plan and maneuvered forwards unseen until he was at the office door. Esteban was about to plunge the blade into the Admiral’s leg.
“Stop where you are!” he snapped, his weapon at the ready. “Put your knife slowly on the floor.”
Esteban turned around to face Lee, the knife still in his hand. “And who are you?”
“All you need to know is that I’m not afraid to use my gun,” said Lee steadily. “Now put it down.”
“Very well,” he replied, smiling as he lowered the knife slowly to the floor.
The other man stayed where he was but Lee didn’t take any chances. “You,” he motioned. “Empty your pockets, carefully. Both of you step away from Admiral Nelson.”
Lee watched as they both moved to the other side of the desk while he made his way to Nelson’s side. With his left hand he felt for a pulse in the unconscious man’s neck and allowed himself to relax a little when he found one.
“You have no chance of leaving this warehouse alive – either of you,” snarled Esteban.
Lee looked down at the desk and saw some thick cord. He picked it up and threw it Esteban. “Tie him up, and make sure you do a good job.”
Esteban swore, but did as he was told. Lee checked the bonds and pushed the man into the seat. “You, Esteban, untie the Admiral and pick him up. You’re going to carry him.”
Lee raised his pistol until it was level with Esteban’s head. “Yes...you will, Esteban,” said Lee, his voice filled with anger.
“My men will not let you leave Panama alive.”
“Pick him up now and start moving.”
Esteban put the Admiral over his shoulder and started walking towards the warehouse door. He waited while Lee pushed the bolt open and held the door ajar. “After you, Esteban.”
As Esteban walked past Lee looked at Nelson. He was still unconscious with no signs of waking up any time soon. Lee pushed the pistol into Esteban’s back. “This way.”
“Believe me when I tell you it will not be pleasant for you when I am rescued.”
“Be quiet,” hissed Lee, suddenly aware of someone in the distance. “In here.”
As he tried to get Esteban down a side alley, the man pushed Nelson from his shoulders so that Lee had no choice but to break his fall. Esteban threw himself at Lee as he was trying to recover his balance whilelowering the Admiral to the ground. He felt Esteban’s weight carry him against the wall, knocking the breath from his lungs. Then suddenly the attack had finished before it started. Lee saw Esteban fall to the ground next to him, unconscious.
“Skipper, are you alright?” asked Sparks’ voice.
Lee sucked in a gulp of air. “I’m fine, thanks to you.”
He watched as Sparks carefully picked Nelson up and grabbed Lee’s arm as he pushed himself unsteadily off the ground.
“I took her to the boat then high-tailed it back here because I was worried about you, Skipper.” He looked down at Esteban. “What are we going to do about him?”
“Once we get back onboard I’ll notify the authorities who can pick him up. I don’t think he’s going anywhere,” Lee grinned. “What did you hit him with?”
My weight belt, I didn’t get the time to grab anything else,” said Sparks, looking embarrassed.
“I’m glad you trusted your instincts, Sparks. I’d say that makes us even,” admitted Lee, glad of an opportunity to give the younger man some well-earned praise.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be completely even,” said Sparks quietly as they continued on their way back to the safety of the Seaview.
Lee stood beside Sparks and Armena as she transmitted the information to the authorities. She’d had a shower and change of clothes and no longer looked like a street urchin, rather a beautiful young woman. He’d been amused when she had shown more than a little passing interest in Sparks, who had blushed and suddenly lost the capacity to speak.
Armena made her final report and signed off. “End transmission.” She put the headset back on its cradle and looked at Lee and Sparks. “Thank you, both of you, for helping me to complete my mission. It was very important to my country.”
“You’re very welcome, Miss Guerrero,” replied Lee. “We have instructions to return you to the States with us for a debrief. I hope your cabin is to your liking.”
“After what I have lived with the last six months, it is like a castle,” she said quietly.
Since returning to Seaview, Lee had discovered that Armena was not only twenty-six years old, but a brilliant upcoming scientist. She had been quickly recruited from Harvard University after showing her support for democracy in her home country, Catalanio and trained as an agent. He looked at her appraisingly. If he hadn’t read it in the ONI report he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Well, I’m off to see the Admiral. Sparks, why don’t you show Miss Guerrero around the boat and get her some breakfast.”
“Aye, Skipper,” said Sparks, barely able to take his eyes off the young woman.
Lee walked back to where Chip was standing near the chart table. “Mister Morton, I think it’s high time we left this port,” he said with a smile.
“Aye, aye, Skipper,” Chip replied enthusiastically.
“You have the con. I’m going to sickbay to see the Admiral.”
As Lee walked towards sickbay he suddenly felt an all-consuming weariness overtake him. Yes, he agreed with his body, it was time for him to hit his rack, but not before he made sure the Admiral was resting easily.
“Jamie, how’s Admiral Nelson?” he asked entering sickbay, noting that Nelson was now sleeping in a bunk.
“He’s doing a lot better. Fortunately the knife wounds were quite shallow, just enough to cause him to bleed and convince Sparks he meant business.” The doctor finished taking Nelson’s blood pressure. “I did a blood analysis after Sparks told me the Admiral had been drugged. They used a mainstream drug that won’t cause any side-effects. All in all, I’ll probably release him to his cabin by this evening if he’s up to it.”
“That’s good news. I think I’ll just sit here for a while, then I’ll get some sleep too.”
“You and Sparks made a good team, Lee.”
Lee stared at Nelson for a while, before looking up at Jamie. “Yes, I suppose we did,” he said thoughtfully. “He turned up just at the right time this morning.”
“I told him that too.”
Lee raised an eyebrow. “Oh, what did he say?”
Jamie laughed. “That he’d be quite happy leaving the spy business to you anytime.”
“I’ll take that under advisement.”
“Don’t stay there too long or I’ll have to order you into a bunk as well, Captain,” warned Jamie, but there was warmth in his voice.
“Just making sure, Jamie.”
“I guess I could let you keep an eye on him while I get something to eat,” the doctor said.
“Thanks, Jamie,” said Lee gratefully.
Sparks finally fell into his bunk, tired but a little more satisfied than he had been twelve hours before. If nothing else, he’d come to accept that the Skipper had been right, perhaps he had repaid the debt he felt he owed. The gloom that had settled on him since Santiago had finally lifted and he felt a part of the crew again, and in his books, that was the most important thing in the world.
*For the purposes of this story, I am using the brig as seen in the Season 1 Episode ‘Cradle of the Deep’.