Sequel to Consequences
By Darla M. Poulos
Port Gallin, Colombia
"No! Please don’t kill me! I have information. It’s worth a million dollars!" screamed the hapless man in chains.
The big man who was nicknamed the Commander just laughed. He wanted to make this man squirm and pay for the destruction he had caused. "What information would I be interested in?" he teased. He held an assault rifle aimed at the Ex-Army Lieutenant’s head. They were in a fishing warehouse at a private wharf. The Commander had orders to execute the man from his boss, Jeffrey Baxter, for betraying Baxter and bringing false information on a roll of microfilm.
"I know who the Lynx is, her real name and where she is hidden," cried the terrified man.
"Oh?" said the big man. He already knew what the traitor was going to say. The Commander was an ONI operative deep undercover. This piece of slime was responsible for two agent’s deaths and the blown cover of his partner. It had taken him three weeks to get her out of the pit and to safety. He cocked the gun.
"Say your prayers, Maclin," he ordered.
"Please, I beg you! Her name is Heather Crane. She’s Admiral Nelson’s daughter and Capt. Lee Crane’s wife. She spends most of her time aboard Seaview or at the Nelson Institute. Jeffrey Baxter is willing to pay the reward he posted a year ago. I’ll forfeit my share if you’ll just let me go," he desperately pleaded.
The Commander just laughed. How ironic, he thought, that Maclin would die by one of his own army rifles that he had sold to Baxter, a drug kingpin of Colombia and supplier of arms to the revolutionaries. He fixed his sight between Maclin’s eyes. He couldn’t resist one last taunt. "The Lynx was my partner. You almost killed her along with the DEA operative."
A nagging memory came to life and Maclin realized to late, who this man was.
The Commander just grinned and stated, "This one’s for the Lynx," and Jaguar pulled the trigger.
A door to the warehouse closed soundlessly.
In a cozy cabin, far off the beaten path, north of the city by the bay, San Francisco, Lt. Commander Chip Morton and Melonie Starke were in a deep kiss when one of their cell phones went off, startling them both. Each checked their phones. Much to Melonie’s dismay it turned out to be hers. An email had been forwarded to her phone: Jaguar caught / send Sea…
"Oh no!" she moaned.
Chip seeing her distress anxiously asked, "What’s wrong?"
"It’s Jaguar! He’s been caught! I don’t understand it. What is he doing back in Colombia? His undercover assignment with Jeffrey Baxter’s organization was over when the microfilm came out."
Chip could see her mind furiously thinking. She was chewing her lip, a habit she did quite frequently when she was deep in thought.
"Are you sure he ever made it out of Colombia?" asked Chip putting his hands on her trembling shoulders and holding her close.
"Ah yes, it was me he gave the film to in Bermuda and I in turn delivered it to my father. You know the story."
Chip remembered it very well. It had happened a few weeks ago. Adm. Jiggs Stark, Melonie’s father and Adm. Harriman Nelson, had used Heather Crane as a decoy to deliver the film to an ONI agent and trap a CIA traitor much to the dismay of his Captain, Lee Crane. The end had been almost a disaster. He shuddered at the memory.
"Melonie, what else did the message say?" he queried his arms still wrapped around her.
They broke apart and she looked at the phone message again and read it out loud, "Jaguar caught / send Sea..."
"Send sea what? You think he meant Seaview or Sea Cub or something else?"
"It’s got to be Seaview. After all Heather is very connected with that particular boat," she grinned. "He would trust her before anyone else."
"I’m not so sure about that, he did send you the message," countered Chip.
"Hmm yes, but in more ways than one, I too, am connected to the Seaview." She snapped her fingers. "I’ve got to call Dad."
And I’ve got to call Adm. Nelson, thought Chip.
Admiral Harriman Nelson was shuffling a stack of paperwork into a neat pile when his Captain, Lee Crane strode through his office door. He motioned for him to take a seat while he continued a phone conversation with his Annapolis classmate, Adm. Jiggs Starke on the speakerphone.
"Yes Jiggs, I know Jaguar’s life is at stake, Crane is here now. He just came back from Seaview. I haven’t even given him the details yet. Preparations are underway though."
"Is that the best he can do?"
Lee could hear the booming voice of Adm. Starke from where he sat. He grinned as Nelson rolled his eyes.
"As you know Jiggs, we’ve only been home a couple of weeks, many of the men are still on leave, even so, the call up has been completed and the relief crew is almost finished with Seaview’s refit."
"What’s being repaired?"
"We are adding new equipment to various parts of the boat. The main generator needed work and the starboard engine needed overhauling. We’re also installing a homing device board into the flying sub," and sound proofing a cabin…he silently added, as he puffed on a cigarette.
"Will they be done in time?"
"They’ll have to be done for we sail in the morning," smiled Nelson as he snubbed his cigarette out in an ashtray.
"Very well, Harriman, Melonie should be arriving from San Francisco by 16:00 hours. Ah Harriman, can I talk to you father to father?"
"Sure Jiggs," replied Nelson curious now leaning closer to the speakerphone.
Very quietly, "Ah, I think my daughter has a man with her up there."
"Oh, really?" exclaimed Nelson chuckling.
With each word Starke’s voice intensified, "I think it’s one of your men Harriman. One that either Crane or Heather fixed her up with, and if it is, so help me I’ll…"
"Whoa Jiggs, remember Melonie is a grown woman," pacified Nelson leaning back in his chair.
"I know that Harriman, but she is still my little girl and if any man touches her, so help me I’ll break his neck!"
Lee Crane got up from the couch trying hard to sustain from laughing. He went and looked out the sliding glass door window. Oh Chip, you’ve bitten off more than you can chew this time. He heard Nelson finish up with, "I have work to do before we get underway in the morning. I’ll give Melonie your love."
Nelson hung up the phone and looked over at his Captain’s shaking shoulders. "I take it Chip and Melonie are an item?"
Crane turned around still trying hard not to laugh, "They’ve been on a few double dates with Heather and I. They are ah, sweet on each other."
"Mmm, I figured as much," said Nelson walking up to the door and opening it to let the fresh sea air in. "Well Lee, it looks like we have another life saving mission to complete."
"Yes Sir, I gathered as much when I heard you mention Jaguar. He’s in trouble?"
"More than that, he’s disappeared. Melonie Starke got a message earlier today that he was caught and to send Sea…something or other. The word was cut off, we can only assume he meant Seaview," responded Nelson worried.
"Does ONI know anything about the situation?"
"They think he was taken to a rebel camp in the mountains where Baxter has been holed up in since his operation was exposed. The Colombian government is all over his holdings, but Baxter covered his tracks well. The microfilm is the CIA’s and ONI’s only proof that he was selling guns to the rebels."
"How do you think Baxter found out about Jaguar? Or for that matter, do you think he’s still alive?" asked a somber Crane. He didn’t know Jaguar personally, but he had been his wife’s partner in an undercover assignment for two years, because of that relationship he felt an obligation towards him.
Nelson sighed, "You know from past history, just what Baxter is capable of. He likes to torture his victims and watch them die slowly, so my guess is Jaguar is still very much alive."
Crane didn’t need to be reminded of that. His wife had suffered enough from Baxter’s hands. She’s still suffering from those damn nightmares. He turned and absently looked out the window down at the beach. He was about to turn back when he noticed Heather walking by herself along the water’s edge. Where is her guard? Blast it woman, you’re up to your old tricks again!
Nelson noticed his Captain’s scowl and followed his line of vision. "Where’s Chief Sharkey? He’s supposed to be with her," he asked perturbed. Both men knew Baxter still had a one million dollar reward posted for Heather’s kidnapping.
Grinding his teeth Lee said, "Sharkey? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out! I bet she gave him the slip again. She knows better than to be out there, alone without protection! I’ll be right back with your wayward daughter." He opened the screen door, stepped out onto the balcony and went down the steps towards the beach.
Nelson just shook his head as he watched his angry Captain go after his wife.
Heather Nelson Crane was deep in thought as she walked the quiet beach. She was relishing her solitude. It wasn’t often she had the chance to be alone. She had been with her secretary, Myra O’Farrell, inspecting the newest house in a subdivision that was being built at NIMR. Myra had stepped into a pothole and badly injured her ankle. Chief Sharkey, who had been their guard, immediately picked Myra up in his big arms and placed her gently in the jeep for the ride to medical.
It had been then that Heather had noticed Sharkey’s tender expression of concern. Heather couldn’t help, but knowingly smile. 'The old Seadog finally lost his heart.’
Myra O’Farrell was a perfect match for her godfather. She was a hot-tempered Irish woman with a heart of gold, warm chocolate brown eyes and hair the same color. Myra had fallen on hard times when Heather and Sharkey had found her wandering the streets lost and alone in Santa Barbara.
A splash of water brought her out of her daydream. Heather looked over to the ocean and noticed two dolphins at play.
"Flip and Flop!" she yelled smiling.
As if in answer, they rose up on their tails and did a little dance.
Heather kicked off her sandals and imitated their style with a dance of her own while wading into the water and giggling like a small child. She was grateful for the shorts she had on as she walked into the deeper ocean waves. The dolphins came up to her and put their bottlenose snouts in her hands.
"Well, Flip and Flop, what have you been up to these past weeks?" she asked as she simultaneously rubbed a hand up and down their slick sides and bellies. The dolphins swam around her, each taking turns nudging her wanting to play. She started to swim laughing with abandonment. She dove deep into the water keeping her eyes closed as she touched the sandy bottom. A dolphin swam beside her and she latched onto its fin for a ride to the surface. Once on the surface, she flipped onto her back and floated while she wiped the saltwater out of her eyes. The dolphins would swim beneath her and gently nudge her to begin the routine again.
Lee Crane lost a good part of his anger as he watched his wife frolic with the dolphins. He loved hearing her laugh. So far, she was still unaware of him. She did another dive under the water and didn’t come up. He waited. He counted 30 seconds.
She’s playing a game.
Another 30 seconds slipped by.
Did she or did she not see me?
Another 30 seconds went by.
Heather if this is a game, it’s no longer funny.
Another 30 seconds passes.
Blast and damn you Heather!
He dove into the water, clearly remembering the other dive he’d made into the ocean to save her life. He frantically searched all around, his lungs burning with the need for air. Where is she? It’s not that deep here. Did she get caught in an undertow? Did the dolphins carry her out further than she planned? Wouldn’t they bring her to the surface? Did someone, God forbid, grab her? Finally, he had no choice. He had to come up for air. He did so; gasping great lungs full, his eyes stinging.
"Gotcha," a beloved voice from shore. The dolphins were to the left of him, chattering.
He swam for shore, angry and embarrassed from the trick she pulled on him. Once there…
The race was on. Long legs took off after shorter ones running for all they’re worth heading towards the Admiral’s office. Lee won with a flying tackle bringing Heather down just short of the steps to the balcony. Out of breath from the dive and the short run, he literally straddled his wife’s back and sat on her while holding her struggling form in place by the shoulders. He collapsed onto her neck his breath winded and hot against her ear.
"When…when I catch…my breath…your ass is …toast," he gasped.
"You wouldn’t dare!" she shrieked.
"Just…try…me," he growled as he slid to her side still holding her in place with a long leg. A hand came to rest on a rounded buttock. He is tempted ,so very tempted. "One of these days… I’m really going to do it!"
She giggled in relief. It’s a game both have played since they first met even though Heather always thought there was a little bit of underlying truth to his words. He let her turn over and was promptly rewarded when she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down to her mouth. They shared a kiss.
"Ahem," came from above.
Lee and Heather broke apart and looked up into the stern face of Adm. Nelson.
"Well now, I hope you two are done playing, for we need to get down to some real business. Would you please come into my office so we can get started?" he asked a bit short-tempered, but with a glint in his eye.
"Yes Sir," replied Lee and Heather as they stood up and climbed the stairs.
Nelson went into his private bathroom and brought out a couple of towels handing one each to his daughter and captain. Then, not beating around the bush asked Heather in a no nonsense voice, "And just where is Chief Sharkey?"
Heather stopped drying herself off and looked at her father’s grim face and her husband’s now stern one. She didn’t want to get her godfather in trouble and reluctantly said, "Ah, Myra injured her ankle at the new housing site and Sharkey and I took her to Medical," she hedged. "I think it’s broken…"
"Go on," said her husband his jaw tightening.
She swallowed knowing what was coming. "Did you know Sharkey is sweet on her?" she asked trying to change the subject.
"No," replied both Crane and Nelson.
Her father put his hands in both pockets and her husband threw his towel down on the couch and crossed his arms. Very softly he said, "We’re waiting."
"Doc Jaminson came in and ordered us out. Myra was in pain and needed Sharkey’s support. I told him to stay with her and left the examining room before he could do anything," she hung her head and finished with, "I ah, snuck out the back door," Heather closed her eyes and winced waiting for the storm…
"BLAST IT HEATHER!" shouted Lee, "How many times do we have to go through this? You know it’s not safe. Baxter is just waiting for an opportunity to grab you!" He was pacing the floor in front of her, his hand fisted and smacking into a palm. His eyes glittered with rage. "He’ll be even more persistent…now that he has Jaguar."
"Wh…What did you say?" asked a shaken Heather. Her legs grew weak and she groped for the nearest chair barely finding it before sitting heavily upon it.
Lee seeing her stricken face immediately let go of his anger. He hadn’t meant to tell her this way. He went and stood beside her and pulled her into his arms. Her head leaned against him while her eyes sought his silently questioning.
"Melonie and Chip got a message a little while ago. Jaguar’s been taken."
Heather moaned in anguish.
Lee hurried on, "Preparations are being made now to get underway as soon as possible. Melonie and Chip are due back sometime this afternoon along with the rest of the crew."
In a soft voice Heather murmured, "Baxter’s wanted Jaguar for a long time. He knew about the leak in his organization before he caught me." She closed her eyes, a lone tear sliding down her face. "He’ll hurt him badly and take great pleasure doing so," she shuddered.
Lee exchanged concerned glances with Nelson. He remembered the condition his wife had been in when Jaguar had gotten her out and left her at the 'safe' house. She had been severely beaten, starved and psychologically tortured. The flashbacks and nightmares…
Heather felt the quiver that went through her husband’s body. She opened her eyes and studied his tense face. He’s remembering my rescue…enough of this pity-party. She stood up and looked each man squarely in the face and asked, "What’s the plan?"
Lee unconsciously thought. She did it to me again. She changed moods in mid-stride. She will forever be a surprise to me. One moment down and the next up, no adversity is too great for her. It’s one of the reasons I love her so.
Nelson joined the conversation. "We’re going in. We have orders to meet an ONI contact at the old safe house in Martinique. We’ll see what he has to say and develop a plan from there." He went and sat down at his desk lighting another cigarette.
"The old safe house? But, there’s nothing left of it, remember? It was destroyed when we picked up Heather," said a surprised Crane.
"Yes, I know," replied Nelson. "That’s why it’ll make a perfect cover to start our operations from. They won’t expect anyone to use it. Actually, we’re just going to use the hidden cove."
"Are we going to get any help from the Colombian government? After all, didn’t they shut Baxter’s organization down?"
"Actually, they were only able to shut down some of his operation, the part that pertained exclusively to Jeffrey Baxter. Unfortunately, there is more to it. Melonie Starke has all the answers. When she gets here this afternoon I’ll have her explain the details." Nelson took a final puff of his cigarette and snuffed it out in the ashtray.
"Now, before you both catch your death, I suggest you go to the penthouse and get out of those wet clothes. Lee, I’ll see you back here in one hour. Heather, I want you to get some rest."
Heather started to protest the nap, but her husband put his arm around her shoulders and ushered her out the door.
The Cranes got into Lee’s red sports car and took off for the penthouse. NIMR was much like a Navy base, a small community existing independently in its own imminence. NIMR boasted of a research facility, commissary, credit union, medical, housing, security and various other important offices and best of all, Heather grinned to herself, a privately owned submarine. What base can beat that? The majority of the single men, ratings, officers, scientists alike lived in the apartments on base. The married men, especially ones with families bought or rented the houses in the subdivision on the east side of the base. The penthouse was on top of the largest apartment building. It was actually two condos on opposite ends of the building with a shared open balcony facing the ocean. The Cranes lived on one side and Admiral Nelson lived on the other.
Lee pulled into a parking space next to the front door. They got out of the car, entered the secured building and went directly to the elevator where Lee punched in his private code to take them to the top. The elevator opened up inside a small private lobby between the two apartments. They turned right and once again, Lee entered his code into a keypad adjacent to their front door.
By this time, both were chilled to the bone from their wet clothes. Heather was worried about Lee, for he had just gotten over a nasty chest cold. Lee was worried about Heather, for she was still recovering emotionally from a thwarted kidnapping, beating and near drowning only a few weeks ago. Doc had ordered her to get extra rest but she was always busting his orders. It usually took a direct order from her husband or father to get her to sleep at all.
Lee went into the bathroom and turned on the shower letting the steam warm the air. Heather had followed him in, undressing as she did so. She stopped in front of her husband and started undoing the buttons of his shirt. Suddenly. Lee knew how he was going to get her to sleep. A wolfish grin crossed his face.
Adm. Nelson sat quietly at his desk listening to a conversation between his Captain and Chief, who had just reported back from the infirmary.
"Sharkey, you of all people should know better," berated his Captain. Lee was pacing back and forth before his Chief. "I know they were extenuating circumstances, but that’s when things could have happen. Anyone could have grabbed her as she rounded the base by herself. Heather doesn’t always think, she just reacts, usually on a whim. I know she doesn’t mean to cause trouble, but unfortunately it follows her around. We were lucky this time. We have to be more vigilant!"
"Yes Sir," sighed Sharkey. He felt bad that he had let his Skipper down. Heather was the most important person in his life. He didn’t want to think what he would have done if something had happened to her. I love her too, Skipper.
Lee, seeing his Chief’s regret kindly asked, "How is Myra anyways?"
"Doc Jamison said it was a clean break and that she’d be fine after a few days rest. I had to leave her at Medical, Sir," replied Sharkey perking up.
"Well, that’s good to hear. Heather was worried about her. She felt bad for leaving her like she did. After her nap she’s going to visit her."
They were interrupted by Chip and Melonie’s entrance. Chip had heard the end of the conversation and asked, "Is everything all right with Heather?"
"Chip! Melonie! How was your trip?" asked Lee as he went over and clapped his friend on the back. He gave Melonie a quick hug.
Chip, replied, "We made good time, the traffic wasn’t too bad for a change."
Nelson also got up from his desk and gave Melonie a hug as he greeted Chip with a nod. Sharkey stood smiling. He too, had a soft spot for Melonie. She was Heather’s best friend from boarding school and he had gotten to know her during his frequent visits with his goddaughter.
Melonie Starke was tall and slender with dark hair and aqua blue eyes. A rare beauty that was quiet and reserved and so very different from her very vocal father, Adm. Jiggs Starke.
Shyly she asked, "About Heather…you were saying?"
Lee quickly explained, "Heather received the news about Jaguar. It took a lot out of her emotionally, even though she’d be the last to admit it. I ah, tricked her into taking a nap."
"Tricked Captain?" asked Melonie with a knowing smile.
Lee flushed, "I had to take her mind off our problems, so I kept her busy for awhile and wore her out." Don’t these female agents miss anything?
Everyone laughed with light joking and ribbing. They all knew what Crane had meant and how difficult it was to get Heather off her feet.
Sharkey felt it was time for him to get down to Seaview. He had received his orders prior to his dressing down. He quietly asked for permission to leave, which was granted by his Captain.
The Admiral gestured for everyone to have a seat.
Nelson serious now, "We need to get down to business about this mission. Melonie, what can you tell us about Jaguar?"
"He went undercover about three and a half years ago. Heather, as you know, was his contact until last year. After she was caught, I became his contact. I only met him the one time when he passed the microfilm on to me about six weeks ago in Bermuda.
She had the men’s full attention and realized they wanted the whole scoop.
Melonie chewed on her lip, "This is a bit complicated, let me start at the beginning…you see, his alias is Michael Lopez. He hired on as a Skipper to Baxter’s fishing boat the Revelation."
"Fishing boat?" interrupted Chip.
"Yes, Baxter actually runs a legitimate fishing business. He own ten boats. The smaller boats go out for two maybe three days. The big ones like the Revelation are called tuna clippers and they go out for a week or two. They haul in the big fish, swordfish, tuna, mackerel, salmon, haddock and various other varieties. They also carry a variety of nets for trolling the smaller fish. He uses this boat for his drug runs. Even on the drug runs they haul in fish on their way to the U.S. He delivers the drugs. Then, sells the fish and picks up the weapons, mostly assault rifles. Again, he brings them back into port with a load of fish. He then unloads his cargo into a warehouse and processing plant. He has an actual schedule for these drug runs."
"What about port authorities, security, customs and stuff like that?" asked Crane.
"Baxter supports a chunk of the economy. He has many legitimate businesses in the western part of the country. He employs hundreds of people. He owns drug farms that produce pharmaceutical as well as illegal drugs or drug substances. They bring in a lot of money. Colombia is really a poor nation; over 50% of its people are farmers. So, port officials usually look the other way. The boats come in loaded with fish. The port authorities don’t dig to deep."
"Because they’re bribed or afraid of Baxter?" questioned Nelson.
"Both, you see, the boat and businesses are actually owned by Baxter’s twin brother, James Baxter."
Nelson asked, "Where exactly is Baxter’s main headquarters?"
Melonie replied, "Port Gallin. Baxter likes to be by the ocean. Besides, if he ever had to make an escape it’s easier.
The Colombian government did confiscate his home and other businesses that were in his name, but even they don’t want to get mixed up with his brother’s uh, organization."
"So, Baxter took cover in the foothills or mountains with the revolutionaries taking Jaguar with him," stated Nelson. "Why didn’t he just take off in a fishing boat?"
"We don’t have an answer to that, maybe our contact will once you get to Martinique. It’s possible, Baxter has loose ends to pull together or he could be laying low until the heat is off. Heather has said that Baxter was forever unpredictable."
"What bothers me," pondered Nelson, "is how serious is the Colombian government taking the microfilm?"
Melonie sighed, "We don’t have an answer to that either. The microfilm was the only hard evidence the CIA and ONI have that Baxter is dealing with the revolutionaries. Also, the latest to come out reveals the revolutionaries are tied to the People’s Republic."
"The People’s Republic?" questioned Lee as terrible memories washed over him.
"ONI thinks the Baxter brothers use their organization and the revolutionaries as another front to hide their true dealings with the People’s Republic."
There was a pause in conversation while each person thought over all that had been said. Each man thought the same thing, this is getting more complicated by the moment.
"Now, let me get this straight," said Lee. "Jaguar hired on as Baxter’s Captain of his fishing boat the Revelation. Obviously he didn’t do drug runs right away, so he must have built up Baxter’s trust first."
"Jaguar had to establish himself as a rough, no nonsense type man. In other words, a man who could get the job done. He did anything and everything Baxter asked him to do, from fishing to murdering the competition. Baxter liked what he saw. He gave him more responsibilities and gradually Jaguar became the Commander, his second in command."
"How did Heather fit into all of this when she was the Lynx?" asked Crane.
"Heather was Jaguar’s original contact. She was in charge of organizational effectiveness, Jaguar had to submit all his reports and requisitions to her pertaining to the boat. They had an encrypted code set up between them that came out of his reports. She passed the information on to ONI and the CIA. Heather never knew who he was, their paths never crossed until he rescued her from the pit."
"How could she have not met him when she got reports from him?" asked Chip.
"Jaguar was careful in this, the reports were dropped off with the warehouse manager and he brought them up," informed Melonie.
"I still don’t think she knows who he is. She said she wasn’t very lucid when he got her out," recalled Lee. "Melonie, didn’t you meet him when he passed the film to you?"
"Yes, for about thirty seconds. He passed me a ribbon shaped pin, as you know it went to my father, then to Heather, who wore it and passed the back tack on to Tony Masters, Captain of the Sea Cub and an ONI agent."
That’s a night I’d like to forget, I was never so worried, thought Lee. "What does he look like anyways?"
"He reminded me of you Lee. He was tall, with dark long hair and a bushy beard. He looked just like a pirate," laughed Melonie. "Oh, and he has the most beautiful blue eyes. A girl just wants to melt under them."
Chip leaned over Melonie and pointedly looked right into her face. "Will my baby blue’s do?" he asked seriously.
For an answer Melonie gently kissed him on the cheek causing his ears to turn red. Chip wasn’t used to open displays of affection done in front of his Commanding Officers.
Nelson and Crane exchanged an amused knowing glance. Lee couldn’t help but tease, "You know Chip, Adm. Starke is on to you."
That stopped Chip cold, his head popped up like a jack-in-a box, "What do you mean?" he asked worried.
"It means," snickered Lee, "that he eats Junior Officers for lunch."
Chip turned quite pale. Melonie giggled and said, "Don’t worry Chip, I can take care of Daddy."
Chip wasn’t so sure.
"Lee, I don’t want to talk to Dr. Pinnell. I’m fine," argued Heather. They were standing outside the psychotherapist’s door. This was their last stop of the night before they boarded Seaview. Lee wanted her to get one more visit in before they left. Dr. Pinnell had agreed to the late visit, how be it grudgingly.
"Look, you don’t have a choice, you know what Doc Jamison said. We need to get to the bottom of these nightmares," advised an exasperated Lee.
"The nightmares went away before," she pouted.
"Only after Dr. Rivers treated you," he countered.
"I liked Dr. Rivers, I could tell him anything. I don’t like Dr. Pinnell. She makes me feel…" the door opened startling both of them. A woman in her late forties with premature gray hair and brown eyes greeted them.
"Good evening Capt. Crane, Heather. I’ve been waiting," she coolly informed them as if she was doing them a great favor.
She reminded Heather of a rodent waiting for its prey. I hate rats. Lee pushed her into the office with the flat of his hand on her back. "I’ll be right here," he reassured his hesitant wife and pointed to a chair in the waiting room. She resolutely nodded her head with trust in her eyes as she went and sat down on the therapist’s couch.
Lee sat down for the thirty-minute wait grabbing a magazine. He read it for a few minutes, but couldn’t concentrate. He missed Dr. Matthew Rivers, Nelson’s old colleague from the Naval Academy. The older man had a knack for establishing a mutual physician-patient relationship and Heather had taken to him like a kitten does to milk. Unfortunately, the good doctor had died of a heart attack and personnel had quickly hired a new psychotherapist to replace him. Normally, Nelson screened all key personal himself, but Seaview had just left for a long cruise and it had been impossible for Nelson to do so, though he’d been assured that all standard procedures for hiring had been adhered to and that her credentials were outstanding.
Well, sighed Lee, there’s nothing we can do about that now. Heather’s nightmares are on the increase, no doubt about that. He remembered only to well a recent nightmare when he had found her incoherent inside a closet. He had literally felt her fear as he’d made the mad dash down to sickbay with her in his arms. It was a nightmare like no other one and he wondered if it had been triggered by the intensity of the events that had surrounded it. Once he’d declared his love her insecurity became nonexistent and the nightmares had dropped off. Until they had arrived back in port…
Heather listened in silence to her therapist. She wasn’t willing to give any of her thoughts or feelings to this woman. Why can’t I open up to this woman?
"Mrs. Crane, you must cooperate or I can’t help you," the therapist said putting her glasses down on her desk, rising. "You do want to get a better grip on things don’t you? You do want to go back to work for the CIA?"
Heather didn’t really know if she ever wanted to go back to work. She enjoyed being part of the family she never had before. She had found unexpected love, not only with her father and godfather, but with a man who was now her husband as well. She was content. So, why is this woman making me feel guilty and ruining my one chance at happiness? That’s not part of her job is it? She’s making me feel insecure. Father told me I’d never have to leave, no check that, he said I could stay until I was well. Why does she have to keep pushing? Dr. Rivers always made me feel important as if I was a part of the team.
Heather glanced at her watch, ten more minutes to go. She felt trapped and defiant. She scratched her head and ran her fingers down the length of her red hair capturing a few strands and meticulously pealed apart the split ends.
"Heather! I’m talking to you," the therapist nearly shouted making Heather jump.
"That’s Mrs. Crane to you!" Heather retorted. She could tell she was getting under her skin. Not very professional now are you? She bit at a hangnail looking blankly at the therapist. "I refuse to answer your questions." You quack. "You’re not going to break me down and put me on a guilt trip." I really need to talk to Lee about you.
Dr. Pinnell pulled up a straight-back chair within inches of Heather. "My dear, everyone knows you’re unstable. I’ve already suggested medication to help control your flashbacks and nightmares to your husband and father. For their sake, you should try them."
"When pigs fly, will I take any of your drugs," heatedly countered Heather standing up and backing away from the rat, for in her mind the doctor had turned into a rat. I hate rats. Fear seized her much like when Maclin had been leaning over her helpless body on the bed. She had to get out of here and reach her husband. I’m only safe in his arms. He’s my light at the end of the tunnel.
Heather knew the room was soundproofed in order to preserve patient confidentiality and screaming would be useless, so that left only making it to the door. She edged slowly behind the couch keeping it between the doctor and herself.
Dr. Pinnell stood up and folded her arms in front of her. "Your father and husband agree with me, but would rather you make the decision to help yourself, though they may have to force you."
"No," moaned Heather shaking her head. They wouldn’t betray me. Would they? She was startled at the thought. I have to stop this. The woman is creating doubts. Why...?Why is she trying to destroy my life? I have to get to Lee.
She made a dash for the door only to be stopped by the doctor in front of it. The rat smiled, "Heather, it’s for your own good. You have to believe that."
"Never," replied Heather breathless the word barely coming out and not liking the way it sounded. "Stop using my given name! I didn’t give you permission to do so," she desperately ordered.
The rat calmly went on. "Your family already thinks you’re half crazy from what Baxter did to you; how much more convincing will it take? How many more nightmares and flashbacks will you have before they have you committed? Your behavior is totally inappropriate. Your fears are groundless. I have a sterling and solid reputation. I can help you. They know I can. They want me to. Let me. Before they…well…have to."
A dozen thoughts went through Heather’s head. Can she be right? Am I crazy? No! She’s making me feel insecure and unwanted. I’m not crazy! I need Lee! Oh please, Lee help me!
The Doctor saw the confused look on Heather’s face. Very quietly she said, "I want you to sit back down on the couch. We need to get a few things accomplished." To her surprise, Heather walked back towards the couch but refused to sit down. All right be stubborn, your time is almost up anyway.
"Mrs. Crane, I’d like to be on a first name basis with you…" Heather vehemently shook her head no. " All right, I won’t argue the point, now, I want you to think about what all we have talked about tonight and the sessions before this. You need to think about your future. You know, once Baxter is caught you will be free. Free to do as you please, to make your own decisions and not rely on your family for every little thing. You need to go back to work and create a new life. This one here is only temporary. You do know that, don’t you?" Dr. Pinnell asked as she went to sit back down at her desk.
Heather shook her head as if in a bad dream. What is she talking about? This is my life now. Why, do I need to create a new one? A premonition washed over her. Alone… I’m going to be alone… again! I’m going to be trapped in the black void.
Terror seized her and this time she made it to the door before the rat therapist. She wrenched it open and ran straight for her husband’s arms.
Lee heard the door open and barely made it to his feet before a whirl of red hair slammed into his chest and arms wrapped tightly around him. She buried her face into his shirt and murmured, "Lets get the hell out of here." He could feel her violent trembles and was more than troubled by it. He dropped the magazine and buried a hand in her hair at the base of her neck. With the other hand, he causally rubbed her back in a soothing motion. "Easy Love, easy."
A stormy expression on his countenance, Lee silently questioned Dr. Pinnell who stood in the doorway taking in the scene. She calmly smiled and said, "I’ll give you a full report on the satellite link in the morning before you sail." She turned and closed the door.
Captain Lee Crane was sitting on the table with his feet resting on top of a chair in the observation nose deep in thought. He absently toyed with a pencil by flipping it through his fingers. He was more than troubled with the events of the afternoon and evening. Nelson seeing him thus came and stood beside him.
"Something wrong Lee? You’re a million miles away from here," asked Nelson as he went to the sideboard and poured himself a cup of coffee. He silently motioned to Lee if he wanted one.
"Mmm," Lee yawned and stretched. " Yes, maybe I’d better," he put the pencil behind his ear and took the cup from Nelson. "Admiral? What do you really know about Dr. Pinnell?"
"Let’s see," replied Nelson putting his hand to his chin and rubbing it, "she has an Ivy League doctorate and is pretty well established in the field. Why do you ask?"
"Heather hates her," Crane replied flatly. At Nelson’s look of inquiry he went on. "Actually, I think she fears her."
"For goodness sake why?" mused Nelson as he sipped his coffee.
"I’m not sure, but something upset her big time during tonight’s session. She came running out the door like the very devil was after her. I hadn’t seen her that upset since I hosed her down in the bilge tank. It took everything I had to calm her down. I literally had to promise her I wouldn’t believe anything Dr. Pinnell had to tell me. Only then was I able to get her to the car. Once in the car, she became quiet, deadly quiet."
"Where is she now?" asked Nelson looking for Heather knowing she was usually under foot more than she wasn’t.
Lee ran his hand through his hair, "I left her with Doc while I attended my duties. He wasn’t happy with the state she was in."
"Have you checked with him lately?" asked Nelson worried now.
"Not in the last half hour, before that he said he gave her a mild sedative. He thinks we should leave her here under Dr. Pinnell’s care, which brings me back to the question, how well does Doc know this shrink?"
"No better than the rest of us. You know as well as I do she was hired while we were at sea. Though…"
"Though, she was hired on without your stamp of approval, despite all of our protocols?"
Nelson a little bit embarrassed now shook his head affirmative. Everyone connected with NIMR knew the Admiral was a fanatic in regards to qualifications. He only hired the best.
"Admiral, my instincts tell me to take Heather with us. At least, that way we can keep an eye on her. I’m not so happy with Pinnell myself. Seems like a cold fish…truth to tell, she gives me the creeps."
"I know you are a bit over protective of Heather, but I’d like Heather with us too."
"How is she really Doc?" asked Nelson as he and Doc watched Lee bend over his sleeping wife and give her a kiss on her temple. It was a scene both men had witnessed many times before.
"She’s resting comfortably. The sedative put her to sleep."
"Do you think she was having another flashback?" asked Nelson staring at his daughter’s peaceful face.
"I don’t really know, she was very agitated when she first got down here." Doc hesitated, "Dr. Pinnell thinks she’s suffering from situational psychosis, as for myself I believe it to be post-traumatic stress syndrome. That would account for the flashbacks, feelings of insecurity and social withdrawal."
"You mean her fear of new situations and people?" asked Lee sitting down on the edge of the bunk watching his wife as she slept. " I told you how nervous she was when we were in port at St. Martin and at the Sea Sprite Bar. There was fear in her eyes for a long time, but with Sharkey and the men’s help she finally relaxed enough to enjoy herself."
"Yes, I remember," said Doc, "that’s one of the reasons why I don’t exactly agree with Dr. Pinnell’s diagnosis."
"Situational psychosis," Nelson repeated as he put his hands in both pockets, "excessive stress in an unbearable environmental situation. I have to agree with you Doc. Heather is not delusional. She’s one of the sanest people I know considering what’s she been put through in her short life."
"Well something trigged tonight’s episode, she was a basket case when she came flying out of Pinnell’s office. If it wasn’t a flashback what was it?"
"That remains a mystery. She was somewhat in shock. Lee, did Heather say anything to you at all?" queried Doc rubbing his chin.
"Only something about ‘getting the hell out of there.’ You know she was trying to tell me something just before she went into the office, but the doctor opened the door and interrupted us."
"Hmm, I’d like to hear what Pinnell has to say," suggested Doc. "It might clear up a few things."
"All right when she calls in the morning, I’ll take it here in sickbay with you. Now, can I take Heather back to my cabin with me?"
"Yes Skipper, I see no reason to keep her here. Follow through with your usual procedures and I believe she’ll be fine in the morning," reassured Doc. "Before you go I need to do another set of vitals." He quickly went through the routine and stepped back saying, "Fit as a fiddle. You may pick her up."
Lee bent over his wife and effortlessly picked her up and cradled her in his arms. Nelson opened the door and walked with them back to their cabin. The men in the corridor grinned and nodded to the senior staff as they went quietly about their duties. It was a common sight to see their Skipper carrying his wife.
Once in their cabin, Lee settled down into a recliner that the Admiral had pulled up next to the bunk. Nelson grabbed the afghan that was always on the bunk and covered them both with it.
"Good night Lee," Nelson bade his Captain as he quit the cabin.
Lee followed the usual routine he had inadvertently established over a year ago after her first nightmare. He would hold and rock her until she calmed and slept peacefully. Afterwards, he would pull up the footrest and recline the chair, then tuck her head under his chin and both would sleep until morning.
Heather woke up with a start. She glanced around and realized she was in their cabin aboard Seaview. She relaxed. I’m safe. She was in their bunk and dressed in her usual sleeping attire, an old shirt of Lee’s. How did I get here? Lee must have changed my clothes and put me to bed. Did I have another flashback? I can’t remember, again, how embarrassing. She tried hard to remember. Let’s see, we were at that quack’s doctor’s office. She’s trying to get me to leave the institute and my home. She bolted upright in bed only to have an arm encircle her waist and pull her back down. She looked up into her husband’s concerned eyes.
"Lee," she wanted to drown in his beautiful hazel eyes.
"You okay honey?" he carefully asked coming up on an elbow and peering down at his tousled wife. He had moved her to the bunk only a little while ago after needing to use the head.
"I’m fine," seeing his look of doubt she added, "I ah, am a bit thirsty," her mouth felt like a wad of cotton was stuck in it.
He got up and grabbed the water pitcher sitting on his desk. He filled a glass and handed it to her. "It’s probably from the sedative Doc gave you last night," he replied as he silently watched her drink the water. She drained the glass and handed it back to him. He put it on the desk and crawled back into bed lying down beside her. "Heather, do you remember anything from last night?"
There was confusion in her eyes followed by trembling, she licked her dry lips, "Lee," it was a plea. I need to talk to you about Dr. Pinnell. She scares me to death. How do I tell him she’s going to lie about me? Will he believe me? I’m not crazy, I’m not… She tried again as she leaned her head on his shoulder. "Lee, I…" she was so close to his face, she could smell his scent, touch his mouth, she couldn’t resist. She kissed him hesitantly at first then hungrily. Oh, how I need you, she silently pleaded.
Lee instantly responded. He kissed her deep and with feeling. "Mmm, is this what you want?" He kissed her again, moving over her neck and ear.
Fires burned within her. "Please," she whimpered.
"Please what," he whispered, his hands slowly caressing her body.
"I need you. Oh, Lee, I really need you!" she cried lost now.
He heard the urgency in her voice and felt it in his heart. She skimmed his back with her fingertips, kneaded his shoulders with strong fingers, slid her thumbs up his neck and gently brushed his face. He watched her facial expressions as she touched him. He could see the love in her eyes, the smoldering fire and something else…sadness…insecurity…despair?
She seemed driven to him. "Easy Heather, slow down. We’re not going to a fire." He felt her stiffen. He could tell by the varying expressions on her face she was fighting for control of her emotions. "Heather, what’s wrong?" To his surprise she lost the tight rein she’d been holding and started crying. Can’t I do anything right? she thought.
Embarrassed now, but not caring, she begged, "Please, just love me… love me and never let me go… Promise me…you’ll never send me away... Please…"
He took her in his arms and held her tight. The trembling refused to stop. She was desperate now using her hands and mouth to achieve what she wanted. Again she begged, "Please love me… don’t ever let me go."
The plea reminded him of a wounded child seeking reassurance. "Heather, it’s okay. You’re not going anywhere. You do trust me, don’t you?" he patiently asked as he brought her chin up and looked into her troubled eyes. What the hell is going on? What did that damn therapist do to you? I can’t wait to get her report this morning. I’ve never seen you so insecure.
She nodded her head saying, "With my life." It wasn’t often she cried in front of him. She hated tears. What is wrong with me? She sadly looked away seeing the pity in his eyes. Is this what I’ve come to? Begging? Am I so desperate to keep his love that I’ll do anything? She was horrified to find the answer was yes. She made a low keening sound at the loss of her pride.
Lee was baffled at her mood changes. He could feel her fear. What is she afraid of? Oh love, we need to have a long talk, but first things first. I can at least put one fear to rest. He tenderly cradled her in his arms and slowly ever so slowly proceeded to show her exactly how much he loved her.
Seaview was underway at 08:00 hours. Capt. Crane was standing on the periscope island waiting for his Exec, Chip Morton, to announce when they were past the breakwater. Chip was standing behind the helmsmen by the inertial navigator following the course.
"Over the breakwater, Skipper," announced Chip.
Lee immediately gave orders. "Prepare to dive."
The Exec picked up the mike and ordered, "Prepare to dive. Clear the bridge. Lookouts below. Secure all hatches." He then pushed the klaxon alarm, which sounded throughout the boat.
Chief Sharkey standing watch by the ballast tanks status board yelled, "All green, Sir," as he kept an eye on the Christmas tree panel.
"Very well," answered the Captain. "Dive! All dive. Periscope up."
The Exec ordered into the mike, "Dive, dive, all dive!" as he pushed the switch to bring the scope up.
As the scope came up out of it’s base the diving officer opened the vents atop each ballast tank to allow a measured amount of water into the tanks enough to make the boat slightly heavier than the surrounding water creating negative buoyancy.
The Captain effortlessly reached for the handles of the periscope bringing them down into position and leaned into the sight as he walked around the island. "10 degrees down angle on the bow," he ordered.
"Aye Sir," replied the planesmen expertly maneuvering the bow and stern diving planes.
"Stern’s awash. Bow’s awash." He carefully looked around again in a complete circle until they were under the surface. He then secured the handles and ordered the scope down.
"Level off at ninety feet Mr. Morton. All ahead full."
"Aye Sir, ninety feet" repeated the Exec through the intercom. "Engine room, all ahead full."
"Chief Sharkey pump water in and out of the trim tanks until we reach neutral buoyancy. Mr. Morton check all compartments for watertight integrity and then prepare to run through some angles and dangles exercises. Lets see if we have everything properly stowed."
"Aye Sir," came the reply from both men. Mr. Morton put the Seaview through her paces and the Captain was pleased with the results.
The Skipper stepped down from the island and headed to the plot table just as Adm. Nelson came down the spiral stairs.
Crane greeted the Admiral, "Good morning Sir."
The Admiral smiled and returned the greeting. "Everything satisfactory Lee?"
"Yes Sir. All systems are go. Ceiling is calm. We’re heading to Martinique as ordered at full speed. We should be there in plenty of time for our rendezvous with our ONI contact. "
"Very well, Captain. I’ll be in the lab." He started to turn away, then stopped. "Lee, have you heard from Dr. Pinnell yet?"
"No Sir, she was supposed to contact me prior to our sailing."
"Hmm," Nelson looked around the control room noticing an interest from the crew. "Lee, have Sparks put the call through. Then meet me down in sickbay. I’ll be there in a few minutes."
Aye Sir," responded Crane, "Chip you have the conn." Both men headed in their respective directions.
Three men stood behind Doc Jamison’s desk staring at the satellite link monitor as the stern face of Dr. Pinnell came on.
"Doctor, you’d better have a good reason to have kept us waiting," stated Nelson in a no nonsense tone of voice his arms folded before him.
"Admiral, I didn’t realize you were all so worried. I do have other patients you know and I had an emergency," she coolly responded.
"Humph, my apologies, now what the blazes happened last night with Heather?"
Her face took on a professional look of blankness. "There really isn’t much I can say due to patient confidentiality. As none of you have actual guardianship over Heath…excuse me, Mrs. Crane- she prefers I use her formal name- I refuse to infringe on her rights."
Lee angrily slammed his hand down on the desk, "What do you mean you can’t give us any information? Surely, you can tell us?"
Dr. Pinnell gave a half smile, "Not without her permission. I can’t tell you anything except that she is coming along fine."
"Along fine?" shouted Crane, "She was scared half to death last night! What did you do to her?"
"I did nothing to her. I only forced her to face some facts about her life. She needs time to adjust to what she learned, that’s all," she said defensively.
Doc understood, but he didn’t like it. "What facts?"
"That’s between her and myself. You are free, of course, to question her yourself. But, I am her therapist. I warn you to be careful not to undo what we have accomplished."
Lee was not happy with the situation at all. He leaned on the desk and scowled. "Look, can’t you tell us at least why she reacted the way she did last night."
"Your wife is not very realistic right now. She lives partly in a dream world protected by all of you. In other words, she needs a reality check so to speak. You have got to stop being so overprotective of her. She is her own person and needs to make her own decisions. Do you understand?" asked the therapist.
"My daughter is not psychotic," defended Nelson." She is not having hallucinations or exhibiting any symptoms of mental illness. All she has are flashbacks and nightmares. That as you know is a post stress disorder," he slapped the desk for emphasis.
"Admiral, she was also locked in a dark pit for days and horribly mistreated. It would be a miracle if she came out of it unscathed," argued Dr. Pinnell. "I am only trying to get her to see life as it is and not through a rose colored lens. She needs to face reality. You all need to back off and let her breathe. She is not a child as you two seem to think, but an adult capable of making her own decisions."
"You make it sound as if we run her life," retorted Lee. "I’m her husband. It is my responsibility to protect her!"
"Your responsibility is to keep her safe, not smother her," explained Dr. Pinnell.
"Smother her?" yelled an incensed Crane. "She’s too independent to smother. She needs someone to keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble. She’s too headstrong for her own good. When I think of the trouble she gets into…"
"Enough," interrupted Doc directing his attention to Dr. Pinnell. "I see your point. You think Heather should be independent and Lee feels he has to protect her. Have either of you thought what Heather wants?"
Lee nodded his head. "She wants to feel safe, loved and a part of us. You," he pointed to the screen, "aren’t going to tell me otherwise. Her greatest fear is that we’ll stop loving her and send her away." He then heard a small noise that was out of place. He looked around trying to locate its source. He grinned to himself when he saw movement in the air vent. He almost missed the next statement.
"That might be true Captain, but she is on sick leave from the CIA. Sooner or later she has to make a decision about her job. It is my job to get her ready. Have any of you thought about that yet? She does have responsibilities to the CIA. She can’t hide on your ship forever."
"Seaview is a boat not a ship, and Heather can stay here until hell freezes over, for all I care," replied Lee sarcastically folding his arms and silently daring her to object.
"Well," sighed the therapist, "that will be up to her. For now, I suggest you all think over what has been said. Sooner or later she will have to become her own person. Now, I have other patients that are waiting. If you need me, please feel free to contact me," she signed off with, "until then, have a safe trip."
"Do you believe the nerve of that woman?" growled Lee.
The Admiral in a somber mood, "That’s irrelevant, but she has made a few valid points we need to consider."
"You can’t be serious?" asked Lee not liking what he just heard. He started twisting his ring.
"Hmm, it bears thinking about from all of us," flatly stated Nelson. "Are we running her life? And what about the CIA?"
"Well she’s not going back to it and that’s final!" retorted Lee with a wave of his hand. He started pacing the sickbay office. I refuse to let her go. She is simply not going back, ever!
Nelson just shook his head at his sullen Captain and scratched the back of his neck. "We might not have a choice in this. Has Heather even mentioned any of this to you Lee?"
"No, actually it’s never come up. I suppose she has thought about it. I always thought she was content with the ways things were."
"Well, you know, we might be putting the cart before the horse. Until Baxter is out of the picture, nothing is going to change," appeased Nelson seeing the disturbed expression on his Captain’s face.
Lee agreed and looked at Doc. "What do you think?"
Doc sighed not liking the ball in his court. "Something deep down is really bothering her. Maybe all she needs is a little reassurance and TLC." I think it’s more than that, but I can’t put my finger on it, unless what Dr. Pinnell said was true…I need to reevaluate the situation and that will take time.
"Tender loving care," repeated Crane. "Well, she gets enough of that aboard this boat, what with all the uncles and big brothers she has."
Nelson smiled for the first time, "Mmm, yes she does. Well, time will only tell with Heather for now we have a mission to get back to. I’ll be in the lab if you need me."
Doc clapped his Skipper on the back, "Don’t worry Lee, things will work out. I’ll just observe Heather and see how she does this cruise. My personnel opinion is that she’ll be just fine."
Lee left sickbay and hurried to his cabin. Once there he went straight to the air vent and waited…
Heather slowly and quietly as possible made her way back through the ventilations shafts. Lee is going to kill me if he catches me in here. It was only a few weeks ago that he laid the law down about me climbing into dirty dark places. A sneeze caught her off guard. Blast this dust. Don’t they ever clean in here? She stopped dead in her tracks when she heard the men in the corridor…
"What was that?" asked Riley as he mopped the deck.
"I didn’t hear anything," replied Patterson cocking his ear. "You must be hearing things."
"No, I tell you I heard someone sneeze."
"Well, I don’t see anyone," shrugged Pat as he went back to work cleaning the bulkhead.
"You don’t think its one of the Admiral’s ghosts he keeps seeing?"
"Riley, get a grip, we haven’t had a ghost aboard for some time now," grinned Pat. "Besides, ghosts don’t sneeze."
"Hmm, I guess you’re right," murmured Riley as he looked over his shoulder.
Whew, made it. Heather pushed the grate open and turned around to back out of the vent. It was high and she was having trouble finding the footstep that was under each vent. She just barely touched it with her toe when she felt strong arms encircle her waist.
"Gotcha!" she heard the Captain say. His arms tighten as she struggled to get free. She flailed her legs to no avail for she was barefoot and did little damage to his shinbones. She had left her shoes off to keep the noise at a minimum when she had crawled through the vents. A lot of good that does me now! She tried reaching up to pull his hair only to be told, "So help me Heather, you do and I’ll put you over my knee." She then tried the elbow in the rib trick only to have him tighten his hold on her waist; which in turn protected his ribs for she couldn’t quite reach around his arms. In defeat she gave up until he let go of her and she felt her feet hit the deck.
She whirled around red faced at being caught and ready to fight until she looked into his stormy face. Oops, I really did it this time.
Lee Crane was exasperated with his wife. She knows better than to be in those vents. Didn’t we just go through this? The woman has more spunk and grit than anyone I know. He secretly smiled at that thought. He was glad to see the sass back in her countenance. He wouldn’t change her for the world.
As if talking to a small child he asked in a stern tone, "Heather, what were you doing in the air vents?" The question was no sooner out when a thought struck him, Maybe Dr. Pinnell is right? I am treating her like a child.
Heather totally oblivious to his thoughts replied, "I was inspecting the vents. You know they really need cleaning. A person could choke to death in there."
"Choke to death?"
"Mmm, yes," she looked down at her clothes, there were dust bunnies hanging on them. "See what I mean?" she asked picking a particular big one out of her braid.
Lee started to pace to keep from laughing at his wife. "I see, and I suppose you just happened to be inspecting the vents down by sickbay while we were holding a conference with Dr. Pinnell?" He carefully watched his wife’s face for a reaction.
Heather adverted her eyes nervous now. She hadn’t come to terms yet with what she had overheard. "I ah, I might have overheard a little bit of it," she hedged.
She turned around and stared at their picture on his desk. "I don’t want to go back to work but I don’t want to be a burden on you and Father." I don’t ever want to be alone again.
She felt close to panic not quite willing to open herself up to him totally. She was still learning to trust and communicate. It was this problem that she and Dr. Rivers had been working on before he had so suddenly died. It was difficult for she’d grown up almost completely alone with only herself to rely on.
Lee knew she wasn’t telling him everything. Dr. Rivers had counseled him on Heather’s communication problems. "This is a new game for her," he had said, "learning to trust will be difficult. You need to have patience and it will happen."
Dr. Rivers was a wise man. Lee had decided long ago to take his advice to heart.
Lee gently turned his wife around and held her by her shoulders. He looked deep into her eyes so much like his own and said, "Heather, you will never be a burden to me or your Father. No matter what happens, remember I love you with my whole heart and soul." He tenderly kissed her and held her against him.
Lee had calmed her fears once again. I’m safe. I’m in his arms where I belong and I’m safe. The safe part lasted until he said, "Now about the air vents…"
"Well Lee, what do you think?" asked Nelson giving him the periscope handles.
"All I see is an empty beach," replied the Captain as he studied the hidden cove at the safe house in Martinique. "I thought ONI said we were to meet another boat here."
"Maybe it hasn’t arrived yet due to some unforeseen problem," suggested Chip as he looked up to the periscope island. He leaned against the rail waiting for the down scope order.
Capt. Crane circled the island again then stopped half way around on his second turn. He had just noticed a speck on the horizon when Kowalski, who was at the sonar console, sang out with, "Surface craft ten thousand yards and closing."
"Thank you Kowalski. I have it in my sight." The craft came within two thousand yards then changed course to the hidden cove. "It’s the Revelation. What’s Baxter’s boat doing here?"
"Baxter’s boat? You’re sure?" asked Chip hand still on the scope switch.
"Unless there’s another boat with the same name on the stern…I’ll be damned," said Lee following the boat into the cove with the periscope. The boat came about and stopped. He adjusted the site lens to get a better look. Nelson and Morton waited in silence while he studied the scene before him.
"Sharkey," the Skipper called, "Come over here and have a look."
Chief Sharkey left his post behind the sonar consoles and climbed the island steps. He looked through the scope puzzled at what the Skipper had ordered him to do. He too, adjusted the scope and then astonished said, "That’s the Sea Cub Chief at the helm."
"You’re sure?" asked an anxious Crane.
"Yes Sir, that’s Chief Edward Davis. You met him at the Sea Sprite Bar in St. Martin. Remember Sir?"
"Yes, I just wanted you to verify that it was him." Lee took over the scope and murmured, "What is he doing on Baxter’s boat?"
"Only one way to find out," said Nelson "let’s go meet him. After all, his Captain is Tony Masters of the Sea Cub and he’s ONI just like you Lee. Maybe he’s our contact."
"Tony Masters", mused Lee. "My old friend and rival, what are you doing here?" The last time I saw him was at the bar in St Martin after the war games. I wonder what he did with Peaches? Why did Heather punch him that day at the White Pelican? She sure bruised his face a good one and fractured her wrist doing it. She refused to tell me why though. I know she was protecting me from something he did to her and when I find out…
Lee pulled back from the periscope lens and ordered, "Down scope."
Chip immediately tripped the switch and it slid down into the base of the island. "What’s the game plan Lee?" he asked.
"Prepare the flying sub for immediate launch. Sharkey get our flight jackets. Include yourself and two men. Don’t forget the side arms. Chip, keep Seaview at ninety feet."
"Aye, Sir," replied both men.
Nelson noticing his Captain’s frown asked, "You still have a grudge against Masters don’t you?"
Lee taken aback at the insight of his Admiral defensively replied, "Yes and it goes much deeper now since the Pelican incident."
"Don’t let it eat you up Lee, it’s not worth it," advised Nelson.
The Admiral knew most of the story behind the falling out the two Captains had shared. It stemmed from an old girlfriend in high school and cemented with differences of opinions with ONI tactics. The men were very much alike and very competitive. Both turned out to be in the Navy Reserves and submarine Captains. The Sea Cub submarine was privately owned by a corporation based out of the West Indies, their sole mission to stop global warfare. The only problem that Nelson could see was their tactics were aggressive and unethical at the best of times. So unlike Seaview and her mission in life, pondered Nelson.
Heather, who had been standing silently at the plot table caught the last statement made by her husband. She knew Tony’s actions that day were intended to only hurt her husband and she refused to be a pawn in his plans.
Lee saw the pain in her eyes and wished he could erase it. He wondered if she was thinking of Tony or was it Jaguar? He knew she felt obligated to him, his being her partner and all. She’s been on edge ever since she found out about his capture. She’s going to want to go with me. What am I going to tell her?
As if she read his mind Heather asked, "Lee, I want to go with you." She gave him a look that dared him to deny her.
Surprising her and himself, he reluctantly gave permission. "All right, but you must abide by my orders, understand?"
She nodded her head affirmative and went to find Sharkey and get a flight jacket.
Adm. Nelson expertly maneuvered the Flying Sub into the hidden cove by the safe house. He was able to come within a quarter of a mile submerged then surfaced only a few feet from the shoreline. He beached the FS1 next to the Revelation, which had its bow anchored near the coastline. The tuna clipper was a sleek boat boasting of a long stern with duel diesel engines. The crews cabin was flush and forward on the main deck. Two ladders bilaterally climbed from the main deck to the wheelhouse, which was directly on top of the crews cabin.
The crew of the FS1 disembarked shaking hands and exchanging greetings with the crew from the Revelation who turned out to be part of the crew from the Sea Cub submarine. They had gathered around the FS1 when it had beached. Sharkey made the introductions for he knew the men standing on the shore.
"Adm. Nelson, this is Chief Davis and his men Owens and Hertz. Guys, I believe you know Capt. Crane, Kowalski, Patterson and Heather."
Nelson turned to Chief Davis and asked, "Are these all the men with you? This is a pretty good size fishing boat for only three men."
The Chief chuckled and pointed up the hill. "There are three men serving as lookouts. Another is in the wheelhouse manning the radio."
"Very well," replied Nelson. "Where is Capt. Masters?"
The Sea Cub men looked astonished at this question. "Ah, Sir, begging your pardon, but you mean you don’t know?" inquired Davis.
"Know what?" asked Crane seeing their stunned faces.
"You do know about Jaguar, don’t you Sir?" asked a bewildered Davis.
"Yes, we all know he was captured and is being held in a revolutionary camp," answered Crane putting his arm around his wife’s shoulders. She was standing perfectly still, her face pale. He noticed her studying the destroyed house on the hill. It had burned to the ground. What is she thinking? I shouldn’t have brought her. The strain is going to be too much. He finished with, "What does Jaguar have to do with Tony Masters?"
Heather was lost in thought as she stared at what little bit remained of her one time home. Baxter had destroyed it by burning it to the ground out of revenge. It had been deeded in her alias name and had been a place of comfort and relaxation when she’d been undercover. Jaguar had brought her here after he had rescued her from the pit. The house had only been partly destroyed then. She had only been there a few hours when Nelson and Crane had rescued her. It had been close for the house had been fired bombed again with Lee and Heather practically sitting on the back porch. Lee had made his promise here to protect me. If he hadn’t been persistent in leaving we would be dead now. His instincts had saved us that fateful day. She shuddered at how close it had been. She returned her attention to the conversation at hand.
Davis went on as he scratched his chest. "Ah Sirs, I don’t think you get it. I’m not sure how to tell you this."
"Just spit it out Davis," expostulated Sharkey. He was more than curious. He knew they all were.
"Well, ya see, Jaguar is Tony Masters, our Captain."
Shock registered in varying degrees on the Seaview crew’s faces. Nelson scratched his neck; Crane tightened his grip on Heather as she swayed and the rest gasped as Sharkey exclaimed, "You’ve got to be kidding!"
In the crew’s quarters as the men prepared for their mission, Patterson relayed to Riley Chief Davis’s story, "You wouldn’t have believed it. Absolute silenced reigned on the beach."
"Yeah," gasped Riley as he checked his gun clip. He slammed it in with the palm of his hand when he saw it was full of bullets. "What did the Skip do?"
"He couldn’t believe it. He just kept repeating, ’impossible' and that Heather would have recognized him.
"And Heather? What was her reaction?"
"That was the odd part, she just stood there silent as a tomb and white as a ghost. I had the feeling she knew before Chief Davis told us," sighed Pat. "I don’t know, maybe she had a premonition or something. Anyway, it was creepy."
As he tied his boots Riley asked, "What happened next?"
Pat buckled on his gun belt "I think the Skipper thought she was going to faint."
"Faint? Heather has never fainted in her life. She’s always said, "if you’re going to faint, do it later when there’s time," quoted Riley.
"But then," went on Pat, " she surprised all of us by laughing."
"Laughing?" asked Ski as he walked in the door dressed in camouflage like the other two. "Who’s laughing?"
"You know, Heather on the beach," continued Pat. "I think the Skipper and the Admiral thought she had lost her mind."
"Naw, not Heather," defended Ski. "It was just her way of relieving stress. How many times have you heard her say, "I might as well laugh as cry?"
"Yeah, I guess you’re right Ski," agreed Pat.
"So, how did Jaguar or Capt. Masters pull it off?" asked Riley totally engrossed in the story.
Sharkey came in at he end of Riley’s question and took over the story from there.
"Well ya see, he dressed as a fisherman and looked like a damn pirate to hear Davis tell it. He was good at his cover."
"Okay, I get that part. Why is the Sea Cub crew on Baxter’s boat the Revelation?"
Ski picked up the story. "Well after Jaguar established himself with Baxter he was able to pick his own crew for the fishing boat. Baxter didn’t care who he hired for he paid in cash and had no interest in the peasants that worked for him. So, Capt Masters er Jaguar who was AKA Michael Lopez, nicknamed the Commander was able to use his own men from the Sea Cub. He often rotated the crew, except for Chief Davis so the warehouse people wouldn’t catch on to them. For the last two years they’ve fished, ran drugs and brought back guns at Baxter’s bidding."
Riley thought this information over then asked, "So why doesn’t Baxter suspect them? After all, Jaguar worked with them the most?"
Sharkey went on with, "If I got this straight, Chief Davis said they were always acting like local fishermen. They’d take the boat out for a few days at a time then come back with a full hold. Jaguar wasn’t always on the boat during the last year, being he was doing other stuff for Baxter. So consequently, Baxter doesn’t suspect the crew. Since Jaguar was captured the guys have kept to the same routine. That’s how they have been gleaning their information."
"So, why didn’t he just bring the microfilm out by himself? After all in the end it was Tony Masters that brought it to Washington," questioned Riley puzzled.
"I guess he wanted to throw them off track. Remember, he said he was being watched. So, he had to come out as Jaguar and turn into Tony Masters. He used Melonie and Heather to throw the spy or informer off his person at the same time creating a decoy for the film and a trap for the traitor," smiled the Chief shaking his head.
"You mean to confuse the spy as I’m confused?" queried Riley.
"Yeah, something like that bonehead. Now, we got a mission to perform so quit jawin and lets get serious. The Skipper wants us in the FS1 in 15 minutes," ordered the Chief.
The men were gathered around the bunk in the FS1 with Nelson’s plan spread out before them. It was 22:00 hours. They were beneath the surface in the Caribbean Sea a mile northwest of the coastline in Colombia.
"Here is Port Gallin," Adm. Nelson pointed to the northern port on the map of Colombia. He ran his finger down the map to a mountain range separate from the Andres. "Here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, deep in a valley on the other side is where Baxter and his revolutionary friends are holed up according to Chief Davis’s contacts. We will enter off the coast here. A truck and a man named Monolito will meet us and drive us in as far as the road or revolutionaries allow. From there it’s on foot until we reach their camp. Then, Lee goes in alone, finds Jaguar and comes out. It will be less noticeable and less risky with only one man penetrating the camp. The rest of us will provide what cover we can and moral support."
"Lee, You’ve checked your ring to make sure it shows up on the homing device board both on FS1 and the portable I’ll be carrying?"
"Yes Sir, twice," he replied smiling.
"Very well, if the portable gives out Sharkey and Heather, who are manning communications will be able to keep track of you from here and Seaview too, when she gets within range. She should arrive in position from Martinique before we get to the valley."
"Admiral, I thought we had to be within 25 miles to register this device on the board?" asked Lee. He exchanged glances with a worried Heather.
"That was true in the test stages, but I’ve refined it now. It works much like a cell phone with greater receiver strength. Once Seaview is here we’ll have our antenna."
Heather had a bad feeling about this mission, what’s worse she couldn’t shake it. She noticed her husband didn’t seem overly worried and was a little bit more relieved.
"Now, the shore party will be on radio silence once we land unless there’s a dire emergency. Sharkey will only be able to monitor our progress from Lee’s ring and my watch. The Chief will drop us off and take FS1 back out to sea staying within visual range of the shore until daylight. If, we’re not back by then he will submerge," reminded Nelson. "Any questions?" he asked looking around the subdued group.
There were none, each man was quietly reviewing the parts they would play. Seeing this, Nelson tried to encourage each one, "Very well, with luck we can be back here before dawn. Now, lets get the lead out. Sharkey, surface the FS1 and bring her into shore."
"Aye Sir," immediately replied Sharkey as he took the controls and brought the small craft to the surface. He brought her in smoothly to the beach and turned around with the hatch facing the shoreline.
They opened the hatch and Riley, Kowalski, Patterson and Adm. Nelson got out. Lee Crane remained behind for a moment taking his cold and too quiet wife into his arms.
"It’ll be all right. I promise," he ran his thumb down the side of her white worried face. He could sense her fear even though she was trying desperately hard to be brave. It was the first time Lee had gone on a serious mission since they’d met. "Remember your promise, you’re not to get off the FS1 for any reason."
She shook her head, but he knew deep down inside if worse came to worse she’d break it to help him or the men. He looked at Sharkey and silently extracted his word that he’d protect her. The Chief nodded ever so slightly that he would. He then turned and Heather slipped into his arms. They shared a long deep heartfelt kiss while holding each other tightly with both trying to prolong the moment as long as possible. Alas, it ended too soon and with a gentle touch to her cheek he was gone.
As prearranged, a man with a truck met the men on the beach. The men climbed into a very old flatbed pickup truck with the Admiral pulling rank and sitting in the front. The road was flat and somewhat smooth at first, but as they progressed into the mountains it became bumpy and narrow.
The shocks on the truck were nonexistent Lee thought. He felt every pothole in the road. He was leaning with his back against the cab. The moon was their only light. If he made the mistake and looked over the side he swore he’d lose his stomach for it was a straight drop down to nowhere. The temperature was steadily dropping as they climbed higher into the mountains and he could see snow glistening off the highest peaks. He knew the highest peak; Cristobal Colon was totally snow-covered which was to the south of them. Their camouflage clothes kept them warm for the most part, but the wind hitting them from the south was bone-chilling. He put his hands deep into his pockets to keep the numbness at bay.
Riley who was sitting next to him asked, "Skipper, if the Sea Cub is Capt. Masters’s submarine why isn’t she here making this rescue?"
"Good question Riley, Chief Davis told me after the war games in St. Martin, the Sea Cub was ordered to the northeastern seaboard by the Hudson Bay. Since time is critical, it turns out we were closer and could get here quicker."
"So, why aren’t Davis and the other crewmembers on the Sea Cub?"
"It appears Jaguar had some lose ends to tie up. He had the Sea Cub drop him and his men off at their home port in the West Indies where they keep the Revelation when she’s on a drug run."
"Home port? I thought the Revelation was based at Port Gallin?"
"It is, but when they are on a drug / gun run a few men would take the fishing boat out to sea and do some actual deep sea fishing for rest and relaxation," Crane chuckled at that. "That was part of the reason Capt. Masters rotated the crew of the Revelation."
"I’m sorry Skipper but you lost me," grimaced Riley as the truck hit a deep rut throwing the men from side to side. "Good grief," he complained.
Crane held onto the rusty side of the truck trying to keep himself in one place as he went on with the story. "Evidently, after a couple of years, Jaguar had established a new buyer for the drugs being the DEA. He’d take the Revelation back to his homeport and transfer the drugs to the Sea Cub. Some of his men would then take the Revelation out to fill her hold with fish. Meanwhile the Sea Cub would take the drugs and drop them off at the pier in the U.S. The DEA would pay Masters for both the drugs and the fish the Revelation was catching. You have to remember, before the DEA got involved the Revelation used to bring in a load of fish with the drugs. They had to keep up the pretense so they’d fudge the Revelation’s log and manifest with a fake catch and paid money."
Another bump in the road stopped all conversation as the driver took a narrow curve. The men held their breath in the fear that he wasn’t going to make it. When the danger was over Crane went on. " Jaguar would collect the money and a couple of guys would go to Fort Hood where Lt. Maclin sold them the guns. They’d load them into a truck and bring them back to the Sea Cub. The Sea Cub would go back to their home port and the Revelation would meet up with them and reload the guns into its hold and head into port at Port Gallin with its load of fish."
"Isn’t that a lot of work? I mean why didn’t Jaguar just keep sailing the Revelation to drop off the drugs and pick up the guns?"
"Well knowing Tony as I do and being a Captain myself, he would want to keep his hands on the Sea Cub. Being gone three or more years would seem like a lifetime not to be at her helm. After Jaguar had earned Baxter’s trust it was a simple matter to use the Sea Cub in place of the Revelation for the drug / gun runs. It also was a lot safer crossing the Atlantic in a submarine versus a fishing boat. I also imagine, he took her out for short missions for his organization when the Revelation was out fishing for a few days."
They were at the top of the mountains now and leveling off. The air was thinner making it harder to breathe. The sight was spectacular with the moon glowing over the sparkling mountains. The men were in awe of the rugged beauty.
Too bad this couldn’t be a pleasure trip. Heather would have loved it, thought Lee. He was interrupted in his solace by a moan from Riley.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah sure, it just my behind feels like a pin cushion. I don’t know if it’s from the cold or from being banged around so much. When we get back to Seaview I don’t think I’ll be able to sit for a week," he whined.
Laughter and ribbing came from his crewmates who truth to tell were much in the same boat.
"Seaview to FS1"
"FS1 here. Over," replied Chief Sharkey.
Mr. Morton keyed the mike, "I read you loud and clear. We are at the required position. The Homing Device board is registering your position as well as the Captain’s and Admiral’s. Looks like they’re in about 50 miles. Do you copy? Over."
"Yes Sir, we show the same data. Over."
"Very well, out." Chip hung up the mike and turned to his next in command, Mr. O’Brien. "It looks like it is going to be a long night Bob."
Lt. O’Brien could only concur.
Heather was restless. She’d tried reading a book she’d brought with her to pass the time, but she couldn’t concentrate. Her mind kept wandering back to her husband. Her stomach was acting up and she’d developed a headache. Is this what Lee went through when we were overdue getting back from the White Pelican? He’s not even close to being due back and I’m as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. No wonder he was so angry with us when he finally found us that night.
Sharkey seeing her anxiety tried to reassure her everything would be all right. "The Skipper’s been on dozens of missions, a lot of them more dangerous than this," he said lightly while trying to hide his own nervousness. Of course, he always came back by way of sickbay. I guess telling her any old stories is out. I can’t think of one when he didn’t get hurt. Even when he rescued Heather from the safe house he’d gotten injured from the fall down the hill. Doc had to tape his ribs and put a couple of stitches in his head. She never knew it being unconscious at the time. None of us did, he had kept it a secret until Doc spied the blood on the back of his collar. He’d forgotten to change his shirt in his worry over Heather. Boy, these two make a good pair. Trouble follows them around like a magnet.
Sharkey made a few adjustments on the monitor and the radio. He noticed Heather staring off into space with a lost expression on her face. What does Doc do when he needs to kill time? Oh yeah…
"Heather, why don’t you lie down on the bunk and get some rest. That way, you’ll be fresh as a daisy when the men get back," suggested Sharkey not knowing what else to say to comfort her. He was surprised when she took him up on his suggestion.
The Seaview men were half way down the other side of the mountain when the road came to an end because of a washout. The Admiral and driver got out of the truck followed by the men and checked out the road. I’ve been down cattle trails smoother than this, thought Lee. There wasn’t a bone in his body that didn’t ache. To think we have to go back this way, yuck. He noticed the Admiral was busy arguing with their guide and chauffer. The discussion was becoming heated. Finally, the guide got back in the truck, turned it around and headed back up the mountain.
"I’m afraid to ask, what was that all about?" questioned Lee as he worked the kinks out of his sore body.
Nelson full of sarcasm replied, "Our wonderful driver said this was as far as he goes. He thinks we’re all crazy Americans. He will wait for us only until dawn a mile up the mountain."
"Wonderful," retorted Crane an ominous feeling coming over him. "Did he even point us in the right direction?"
"Well, if he’s to be trusted at all, he said the camp is about five miles downhill in the upper foothills." Nelson picked up his survival gear and swung it on his back. "Are you ready Lee?"
The Captain nodded his head reluctantly and called out, "Fall in." as they started down the mountain.
The going was treacherous as they crept down what was left of the road. The hard packed earth created slippery spots with deep crevices and hidden lose shale. All the men at one time or another had trouble staying on their feet. The humidity was on the increase as they went deeper into the lowlands where rain was more prevalent resulting in insect bites to any exposed skin.
"This climate is nuts," mumbled Kowalski smacking at a mosquito for the tenth time in as many minutes.
"Yeah, I know," grumbled Riley, "First you roast, then you freeze and now you sweat to death or get eaten by a swarm of insects."
"I think, I’d rather be fighting a lobster man or something," complained Pat as he slipped on another rock.
"All right, stowe the bellyaching," demanded the Captain as he caught his foot in a large crack causing him to trip and cut his left hand on a sharp outcropping of rock. "Damn!" he snapped looking at his hand. The cut was long and deep.
The Admiral grabbed his hand and tried to staunch the flow of blood with his handkerchief by applying pressure.
"Easy Lee, here sit down. Ski get the first aid kit out and find me a pressure bandage." Nelson kept his grip on Lee’s hand much to the Captain’s annoyance.
"I’m fine. I can do this myself, just let go." He loosened his hand only to have the blood pour out. The Admiral tightened his grip again and gave Lee a chagrined look.
"Will you be still, your wiggling is making it worse." The laceration continued to bleed. "Hurry up with that bandage," impatiently ordered Nelson still applying pressure to the cut. The blood was seeping through the handkerchief when Ski finally located the bandage the Admiral wanted.
"Ski open the package but don’t touch the bandage. I want it kept sterile. Now, I’m going to release the pressure, if it’s just a cut, even a deep one the bleeding should have slowed or stopped with the applied pressure, if it squirts it means you nicked an artery."
Nelson released the pressure. The laceration bled, but didn’t squirt. "Well I guess that’s a good sign. Can you feel and move all of your fingers Lee?"
Very carefully Lee flexed his fingers, breathing a sigh of relief when he did so. The laceration started bleeding more actively. Nelson flushed the cut with water and followed it with the alcohol found in the first aid kit. That got a rise out of the Captain who in turn did a lot of swearing.
"Are you quite done cussing now that you woke the dead?" asked a somewhat vexed Nelson as he applied the bandage and wrapped surgical tape around it.
A sheepish Crane answered a weak "Yes Sir."
"Humph," grunted the Admiral. "It appears to be a clean cut. I don’t think you did any tendon damage since you can move your fingers. Do you feel any tingling?"
"No Sir. It just smarts."
Nelson chuckling, "I bet it does," then in a sharper tone, "Now, lets get out of here. Time is slipping by."
They made their way down a couple more miles with no further mishaps. The Admiral called a halt and consulted his map. "Hmm, a little bit farther down and we should come out on top of them. Okay men; remember we are just Lee’s backups in case he needs help after getting Jaguar out. Until then, the rebel camp must not know we are here. Now, no more talking and be as quiet as possible from here on in."
They scrambled down a little ways further and stopped on a ridge overlooking the camp. It was laid out MASH style with dozens of tents scattered helter-skelter around the clearing. A steep mountain cliff was to one side of it. It reminded Nelson of a boxed in canyon.
"I see two no three lookouts," whispered Crane as he looked through infrared binoculars. "One below us, one straight across and one to the north. There must be close to a hundred men here. Our source sure was wrong on the head count."
"Mmm," sighed Nelson. "Leave it to Baxter to hide in numbers. Where do you think they’re keeping Jaguar?"
Crane swept the camp a couple times stopping and observing a couple different tents. "There’s a guard posted at the one farthest back by the mountain wall. My guess is that’s it. No way out the back and only one way in."
"Could be, or it could be Baxter’s with a guard posted for his protection."
"Well, there’s only one way to find out," grinned Crane as he took off his survival pack and laid it next to Patterson. He checked his gun at his waist and the knife in his boot. "I guess I’m ready."
Nelson gave him a small smile. "Lee, you know you’re on your own if you get caught. ONI specifically stated the U. S. was not to be officially involved in any way, shape or form. We can’t let them know we’re here."
"I know, Sir. Besides, with all the rebels in camp you’d be out manned and out gunned in no time. Then where would Tony and I be?"
The Admiral didn’t want to think about that part of it, but he knew there was no choice. If they were all caught or killed the whole mission would be for naught. If they went undetected, they could fall back and formulate another plan of rescue.
Nelson gave his Captain a pat on the shoulder. Crane quietly crept back around his men and slipped behind the closest guard who was a few feet down the hill. He knocked him out cold with the butt of his gun. Meanwhile, Nelson had the men spread out to keep him covered even if they couldn’t shoot to protect him.
Lee carefully made his way down the steep hillside. It was rough going being dark and rocky. The slightest noise could give him away. He carefully made his way around the outskirts of the camp keeping in the shadows. He silenced another guard to the north of the camp. He noticed a line of vehicles hidden behind an outcropping. There were several trucks and a few jeeps. One truck had a pickup camper on its back, probably Baxter’s; it’d be just like him to sleep in comfort while his men slept on the ground. At last he made it to the tent in question creeping in from the opposite side towards the back of the shelter. He took out his knife and was going to slit the back of the canvas when he heard a noise from above. The one remaining guard from the east side was talking in low tones to another man. It looked like they’d changed positions and the relieved guard was coming down from the hill walking straight towards the tent. Lee held his position wishing he could fade into the tent. Just when Lee thought he’d have to take the guard out the man stopped at the front of the tent and started talking to the guard there. Crane was only able to catch bits and pieces of the conversation for his Spanish wasn’t that good.
"Our fearless leader is sleeping like a baby."
"You mean Baxter or our Captain?"
"The prisoner isn’t looking so well these days."
" Too bad."
"He is tough to break."
"He is a mean son of a bitch."
"Baxter will win, he always does."
Both men nodded their heads in agreement. The relieved guard said, "I’ll check on him. Goodnight Juan."
Whew, that was close. Lee watched the guard walk over to where Jaguar was being kept prisoner. The guard was standing at the side of a small deep gully that Crane hadn’t seen and kicked lose gravel down the side. He taunted his prisoner, but Lee was unable to hear what is being said. After a few minutes the guard became bored at his game and left for his tent.
Lee crept over to the washed out gully and peered down it. He was barely able to see the person sprawled on the ground. In the darkness he wasn’t even sure if this was Tony Masters. As quietly as humanly possible Lee slid down the ravine next to the still form. The form moved and moaned ever so softly. Lee briefly wondered why he wasn’t tied up then realized to his horror that it wasn’t necessary. Tony Masters was more dead than alive. He had been horribly beaten. His face was swollen and covered with bruises. His nose had been broken with the blood drying grotesquely on his face and neck. His clothes were in remnants and were covered with dry clay. By the looks of the torn clothing it appeared he had tried to climb the steep walls of his prison. Lee was unsure where to touch him for he was in obvious pain and was having trouble breathing. He could actually hear the gurgles in his chest. Lee figured he had cracked ribs and upon a quick visual examination even in the dark he could see the broken leg, which remained unset.
"Tony, can you her me?" whispered Lee.
Tony moaned and slowly opened his eyes. He was in a feverish state and not sure he could trust his vision. His eyes widened in surprise upon recognition.
Lee smiled and said "I’ve come to get you out of here. You know, I always pay my debts," referring to Jaguar’s rescue of Heather.
Jaguar in a weak voiced gasped, "No…no you can’t…get…out of…here now!"
Lee was totally baffled. "Tony, I don’t understand nor do we have time to debate the issue. Now, I’m going to pick you up and I know it’s going to hurt." He started to lift him when Tony pushed him away.
"Listen," he frantically said, "it’s a trap…Baxter wants to trap…trap you or Nelson so he can get…can get the Lynx…Heather…he has it in for her…won’t let go…like a dog…with a bone…" he collapsed back onto the ground. A spasm of coughing overtook him.
Lee waited for Tony to catch his breath then said, "Heather is safe aboard the FS1. Baxter can’t…"a noise from behind him drew his attention. He turned around only to see a giant of a man swinging a club at him. He moved quickly but not fast enough to avoid a blow to his left shoulder. Pain shot through his shoulder into his neck and exploded in his head. He fell to the ground, taking dirt into his mouth as he rolled. He came up seeing stars while spitting dirt only to have pain crash into his jaw and then he saw nothing at all.
"LEE!" Heather bolted upright on the bunk trembling from head to toe. She couldn’t catch her breath. She looked helplessly at Sharkey who had his feet on the console and had been dozing. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Tears made tracks down her face and for the first time in her life she lost complete control.
Sharkey in turn seeing her collapse stumbled over to the bunk. "Heather, wh…what’s the matter?" she only continued to sob, great tremors wracking her body. Again, he tried more forcefully this time, "Heather, what’s wrong?" he shook her gently. When that didn’t work, he pulled her into a sitting position and shook her harder. "Damn it Heather! Answer me!"
"Lee," she cried in acute distress, "he’s in trouble. Baxter has him!"
Worried now, Sharkey sat down beside her and took her in his big arms. Gently as if talking to a baby he said, "Heather, it was a dream, a very bad dream. The Skipper is all right." He said a silent prayer that it would be so.
"NO…" barely above a whisper she flatly states, "No, no he isn’t. Don’t ask me how I know, but he’s in trouble." Tears took over again and nothing Sharkey said could convince her otherwise.
Adm. Nelson had been following his Captain with the infrared binoculars. He’d watched him run around the perimeter of the camp stopping at the tent. He’d observed Lee take the knife and almost cut open the tent only to change his mind. He’d held his breath as he watched the guards exchange positions and as the relieved guard had come down from the hill and head for the tent.
Realizing the other two guards would also be relieved he ordered Patterson and Kowalski to take them out also. He drew a relieved sigh when the deed had silently been accomplished.
He’d then followed Lee over to the gully and watched him disappear over the edge. A few minutes later, a giant of a man carrying a stick that he continuously palmed in his hand descended into the gully with two other men. He thought about rushing in to assist Crane when men materialized seemingly out of thin air and took strategic places around the camp. The Admiral’s stomach tightened and he could only imagine what was taking place in the gully.
"Admiral," whispered a frantic Kowalski, "The Skipper?"
"I know, I know, there’s nothing we can do at this point in time. It’d be foolhardy to go rushing down there. Baxter would kill him immediately upon seeing us. "
Ski took one look at the Admiral’s worried face and felt his pain. They all knew he loved the Captain as the son he never had. He also knew the Admiral was right. They’d only get caught, then where would that leave the Skipper? He returned to his post and quietly passed the word there was nothing they could do at this time except wait.
Lee Crane was in pain. He had come around with a whopping headache and a throbbing shoulder. He tried to pull his arm to his chest only to fine he couldn’t. When his senses cleared he found himself staked spread-eagle to the ground next to an unconscious Tony Masters. They were still in the gully. Lined along its edge were dozens of rebels watching…
"Well, well, it’s about time you came around. We don’t have all night," said a silky smooth voice standing by his head.
Lee looked around and up into the coldest blue eyes he had ever seen. He knew from Heather’s description of the man that this had to be none other than Jeffrey Baxter. Unbidden fear crawled up his spine. In a flash, he knew everything she had ever said about him was true.
Baxter had been watching his prisoner’s face carefully. He smiled with malice. "I heard the great Jaguar here," he kicked him hard with his toe eliciting a moan from the unmoving form, "warning you about my intentions toward the Lynx."
Lee unconsciously sucked in his breath as he watched Baxter’s cruelty.
Hearing the intake of his breath, Baxter laughed. "I put him out of his misery for a while and as for your wife, how is the dear sweet lady, Captain?" he asked sarcastically.
Lee refused to answer. Chills once again ran up his spine. That, laugh. Oh, Heather you were so right about him. He’s a monster with cold eyes and a black heart.
Baxter sighed dramatically, "I see you are going to be stubborn like the others. What makes you agents so tough?" he asked stepping on Lee’s injured hand. He ground the heel of his boot into the palm flattening it into the hard packed earth.
Lee screamed. He couldn’t help himself. The pain shot up into his arm and into his throbbing shoulder. Bright colored blood seeped out of the now filthy bandage.
Baxter laughed once again. "I do so love to hear grown men scream. It gives me great pleasure. It’s almost as good as taking a woman. Now, I asked you a question."
Lee remained silent, vowing he’d never let Heather fall into his hands. He was rewarded with a kick to his ribs. More pain followed to his head, left cheek and shoulder as Baxter repeatedly kicked him. He saw stars once again, his senses reeled and his stomach churned. Baxter grabbed Lee’s hair as he leaned over him, his breath hot on his face.
"I’m running out of patience with you," he declared in that same silky voice Lee was beginning to hate." I know she’s on that infernal sub of yours. I will have her. I have plans for her," he snickered.
"NEVER!" shouted a defiant Crane. He was given another round of laughter with another kick to his lower ribs.
"My friend, this can go on a long time. Do you think that pretty wife of yours will want you when I’m through? Tell me, what length do you think she will go to save you?"
Lee remained stubbornly quiet. That damn laughter again! It’s wearing on my nerves. Oh Heather, how did you get through this? No wonder you begged the Admiral to keep your secret. I’m not giving him any more ammunition to hurt her with. He tried hard to think of something to get his mind off of the pain he knew would be coming. Friend, he’d called me friend, if you’re my friend who needs enemies? He looked over at Tony’s still form barely able to make out the rise and fall of his chest. You were right Tony; your tactics weren’t so bad when dealing with scum like this. Pain followed that thought as he felt his face being backhanded. His ears rang and he tasted blood. Baxter was fast losing his temper. He reached down and grabbed Lee’s shirt near the neck roughly pulling him up and as far as the bonds would allow.
"I’m going to win," he sneered. "I know her only to well, she was too soft hearted to be a good agent. She will come to me if only to save your miserable life."
"Hell will freeze over," he gasped.
Baxter’s rage increased. His face grew red and his lip curled as he tightened his hold on Lee’s shirt effectively cutting off his air. In a tight low voice he murmured, "When I get her, I’m going to break her and then I’m going to give her with great pleasure to a Sheik that particularly likes redheads." He then dropped Crane to the ground.
"The hell you will!"
"You think not?" he roared. He backhanded Crane again. Baxter stood up and stepped on his neck using enough pressure for Lee to see black spots and feel pain. He then leaned over his captive once again and bragged, "She will come for you Captain, and for your worthless comrade here. She’ll come because it’s the right thing to do. Her conscience will let her do no less. You people have a hang up on doing the right thing. It will be her undoing."
Lee defiant to the end for blackness was beckoning. "I gave orders…she’ll never get off the boat…" Please, Admiral keep her safe!
Baxter leaned down and grabbed his hair. "You’re wrong Captain. She’ll find a way even if she has to swim," he laughed deep at his own joke, "of course, it won’t accomplish anything for you and Jaguar will die anyway, but your wife is going to pay and pay and pay..." he kicked the Captain three times to emphasize his point, "knowing she failed to save you." He then yanked his hair yet again to make sure he was still conscious. "Now, listen to this…"
Baxter climbed up the gully and ordered a megaphone. When it was brought to him he commanded the attention of everyone in the camp and on the hillside.
"Bug out! We are breaking camp." He put the phone down long enough to address the rebel leader, who had been watching from the sidelines, " Commander Perez take your troops south. My men and I are taking the prisoners back to the warehouse." Once again he yelled into the phone, " Nelson, I know you are out there. If you want to see your Captain, alive, along with Jaguar give the Lynx my ultimatum, "he turned and grinned down at his prisoners, " tell her to be at the warehouse on the wharf, tomorrow night, 7:00 sharp or her husband will become food for the rats." Demonic laughter echoed up the mountains. "Oh, and Nelson don’t try to rescue your men. My giant friend here would be more than happy to end Jaguar’s life. He has a gun pointed at his black heart and is just itching to pull the trigger."
Nelson on his belly continued to observe the scene below. The men were crowded around him. They watched as the camp broke up. The rebels took their tents down and loaded the trucks. The rebels surrounded the lone pickup truck with the camper on its bed waiting for Baxter and his men to finish loading. When they were done the giant climbed up the ravine with a trussed up Lee Crane slung over his shoulder. He roughly dropped him in the back of the camper on the floor. The second man did the same with Tony Masters. The giant and two men climbed in after them and three men, including Baxter climbed in the front. They made a large u-turn and headed north while the rebels loaded up and headed south.
"Nelson to FS1"
"FS1 reads you loud and clear," replied Sharkey never so glad to hear the Admiral’s voice. He glanced back at the bunk and noticed Heather listening intently. He saw hope in her eyes and was glad some of the old optimism was back.
"Sharkey bring the flying sub up to the mountain top. There’s a large plateau you can land on half way over. You can’t miss it. We’ll meet you there."
"Aye Sir," replied Sharkey. He was about to ask about the Skipper when the Admiral cut in with…"and Sharkey, step on it!"
"Yes Sir!" the radio went dead. He strapped on the safety belt and started flipping switches. There was a thump from behind him and Heather joined him by sitting in the copilot’s seat. Sharkey turned the power on and in a few moments they had lifted off and were headed for the mountains.
Heather was quiet too quiet in Sharkey’s estimation. He had very little experience dealing with women and their many moods. He hadn’t had a steady girlfriend in years until he’d met Myra. Ah Myra, she’s like a breath of fresh air in my old life. Not that I mind being with Heather, she’s the joy of my life. What ever will she do if something happened to the Skipper? Sharkey shuddered and forced himself to stop thinking about it.
The flying sub made it to the top of the mountains long before the men. Sharkey circled around the beautiful snow capped peaks to find the flat spot the Admiral had indicated. The moon being the only light made it a bit difficult with the shadows hanging over the cliffs and hollows. He made a flyby where the men were coming up the side of the mountain in the old beat up truck. He continued around until he located the flat plateau then landed the craft easily. Must be the Admiral didn’t know about this or we would have landed here in the beginning.
They still had a little time to kill before the men reached them. Sharkey fiddled with the knobs on the radio and absently glanced at the homing device board noticing immediately that only one color, the Admiral’s blue dot was visible. He did a quick peek at Heather who was gazing out the window lost in thought. He stood up and nonchalantly maneuvered himself between her and the panel. He then adjusted the device to the wide screen readout where all the colors were present including his orange one and Heather’s red one. He also noticed Chip Morton’s yellow dot was located back at Seaview’s position. Finally, after another adjustment he found the Skipper’s green flashing light heading north. He tracked it for a short time while watching the miniature monitor with his Skipper’s erratic pulse rate. When did this all come about? It must have happened when we were dozing. Way to go Sharkey, sleeping on duty. That’s a court martial offense if I ever heard one. Dereliction of duty, yup, that’s what it amounts too. Worse than that had Heather noticed? Is that why she’s been so quiet?
Unknown to Sharkey, Heather was reliving her nightmares from the past two months. The recent dreams had been different from all the previous ones when she’d first come aboard. She was able to remember these dreams. With the other dreams, she used to wakeup unable to recall any part of the nightmare, but with the help of Dr. Rivers using his method of psychoanalysis, she was finally able to deal with them. After he died a different dream took shape with an ending she refused to think about…until now. It always started in the pit where Baxter had kept and tortured her. She was hungry and cold. The pit was pitch dark. She could hear the rats scurrying and munching. A light would suddenly appear and the dead DEA agent would be across from her. Her screams would always follow. Normally she’d wake up at this point in Lee’s arms either in the recliner or bunk. His beautiful eyes would always be full of concern, she would reassure him she was all right and then they would end up making love.
A tear made its way down Heather’s face. She looked up at the night stars. Please, I’ll do anything they want just don’t let anything happen to him. I’ll even cooperate with that quack Dr. Pinnell if you’ll just let him be all right. Oh God, please don’t let the nightmare come true. Please don’t let Lee die in that pit. She closed her eyes and remembered the end of the dream. Lee was in the pit and she was cast adrift in a black void all alone.
Sharkey and Heather heard the truck pull up. Heather went flying through the hatch with Sharkey hot on her heels. The men got out of the truck on the narrow road. They had to climb a small arroyo to reach the flat plateau that the FS1 had landed on. Dawn was just breaking across the sky making it easier to see. Heather and Sharkey waited as each man made it over the top. The Admiral was the last over. He slowly approached the flying sub. His body was tired and for the first time in a long time he felt his age.
Heather walked the short distance and greeted him with a warm hug. She looked over his shoulder searching for a glimpse of her tall husband. He must be having words with the driver. He’ll be here any minute. Her father’s arms tightened around her. Fear clutched at her heart. She broke away and went to the edge not wanting to hear what the Admiral was going to tell her. She’d seen the pity in the men’s eyes and knew deep down that he wasn’t with them She refused to believe it.
The men including Sharkey gathered around the hatch of the FS1.Their hearts were heavy and each man felt Heather’s pain. They waited for the scene to play itself out…
Adm. Nelson approached his daughter and put his arm around her shoulders. They were trembling. He could actually smell her fear and feel her panic. His stomach turned over and his heart twisted for what he had to tell her. He watched as the hope began to die in her eyes as she searched the arroyo.
She began to shake her head and finally turned to her father and looked into his eyes, "No, please tell me he’s down by the truck. That he’s just delayed because Tony is holding him up…PLEASE…tell me it isn’t so…" she pleaded.
"I’d give anything to tell you different but Baxter has him…He’s…"
"NOO!" she screamed and would have taken off down the arroyo but Nelson grabbed her around the waist. She started to fight not realizing with each blow that she was tearing her father’s heart apart. She squirmed, jabbed, kicked, clawed and hit with all the strength she possessed. She was totally out of control. She wanted her freedom. She wanted to find Lee. She wanted to run…
Nelson was barely able to keep his hold on her. He kept his arms locked around her waist hoping she’d wear herself out. She wasn’t going to give in easily. Finally, in desperation he yelled, "Sharkey! Do something!"
Sharkey and the men gathered around the pair. Heather was now totally lost to reason. Her only thought was to find Lee. They each tried to grab her kicking feet but only landed up with bruises for their efforts. She screamed and cursed at every man there. Their interference only increased her anger. She renewed her efforts to get free trying every trick she ever learned in the CIA.
Finally, in desperation Sharkey barked, "Ski, Riley! Grab her feet at the same time. Admiral, I’m going to have to pop her." Nelson immediately understood what Sharkey meant and he firmly nodded his head okay.
"Okay, on the count of three," called out Sharkey not wanting to hurt her, "One, two, three." Both men dove for her feet holding them down while Sharkey lightly tapped his fist against her jaw. She fell into blessed oblivion.
It was a discouraged group of men that climbed up the hatch from the berthed flying sub. Adm. Nelson had been first aboard Seaview and reached down to take his unconscious daughter from Sharkey. He cradled her in his arms as he walked aft. It reminded Chip Morton of another time when Lee Crane had first brought her aboard the Seaview. They had just rescued her from the safe house and Baxter’s clutches. . I wonder what happened now? The Admiral looks upset. Why is Heather unconscious and where’d she get that bruise? Sharkey looks like he lost his best friend. The men seem tired and defeated and where is Lee and Capt. Masters? Something is drastically wrong.
Nelson shifted Heather into a more comfortable position within his arms. Chip followed him.
"Chip, have Sparks contact the Revelation. The Sea Cub crew is fishing near the safe house. Make a rendezvous point somewhere north of Port Gallin. I don’t care where just make sure its not in the open. I’m taking Heather to sickbay. Meet me there when you’re done." He looked at the other men from the shore party. "The rest of you men hit the sack. Sharkey follow me."
"Aye Sir," replied Sharkey falling in behind the Admiral along with the men.
"Aye Sir," replied Chip heading for the radio shack a million questions on his mind.
Lee Crane was vastly relieved when the truck came to a halt. The ride down from the mountains had been bone jarring. He ached in every part of his body. He could only imagine how much worse it had been on Tony who was lying next to him. His moans had become constant with each lurch of the truck. Tied up as he was, there had been no way to prevent Tony or himself from bumping against the truck’s ribbed bottom. They were wedged on the bed of the truck while their guards reclined on comfortable bunks on either side of them. Their captors had taken great delight in tormenting them with jeers and poorly aimed kicks.
The door to the camper opened and out jumped the guards. They roughly pulled Tony out and one of them slung him over his shoulder. Lee felt himself yanked out by his legs. When he got to the edge of the truck the Giant hauled him to his feet. His legs felt weak and he was barely able to stand. The Giant slammed him back against the truck and squatted down to cut the ropes at his ankles. Lee wanted to kick him, but was instantly dissuaded when the Giant waved the knife menacingly in front of him. He’s daring me to try something. I can read it in his eyes.
Baxter stopped the fun with a bellow. "Time for that later, drag him in here!"
Lee took in his surroundings. They were on the wharf in front of a huge warehouse. He figured it was the homeport for the Revelation. He glanced at the sun and judged it to be around 10:00. His wife’s face flitted in and out of his mind. I wonder how she took the news? The giant roughly yanked his arm and hurried him inside. The place was dark and reeked of fish. He was lead to a dimly lit back room with no windows. It reminded him of a storeroom with various hooks, knives, chains, and fishing equipment on the shelves and walls. A trapdoor stood open and he was in time to watch them drop Jaguar down it. He hit bottom with a sickening thud.
"Well, Captain welcome to your new home," Baxter snidely said, "I hope you like it as well as your wife did." Lee felt the ropes loosened at his wrists and then he was falling through space only to land with a resounding thump on the cold ground narrowly missing Tony. Pain shot through his entire body. He rolled over and looked up. The trap door was about ten feet off the ground. He did a quick glance around noticing bare stonewalls and a skeleton in the corner before the trap door was slammed shut engulfing them in complete darkness. The last thing he heard was the deadbolt being shoved into place.
Doc took another set of vitals as he re-examined his patient. He checked her eyes and sighed. "I believe she’s just sleeping now. From what both of you have told me she’s had quite a shock." He dropped his stethoscope onto his chest and took it out of each ear. He then pulled the covers up over her shoulders.
Nelson and Sharkey were standing beside him watching apprehensively. Nelson brought his arm up and rubbed his aching neck. Doc noticed the scratches on his hands. "What about her emotional state?" asked Nelson.
"Well, that will be another wait and see. I need to clean those scratches Admiral," said Doc as he reached into the medicine cabinet and brought out some povidone-iodine cleansing solution.
Nelson held out his hand too tired to argue knowing the Doctor would win in the end. He watched as Doc washed the scratches with the yellow liquid, which stained his skin. He thought of Lee when he had openly poured the alcohol into his deep laceration. No wonder he cursed so loud. Oh Lee, hang in there, son, we’re going to get you out.
Doc brought him back to the present with "She’s quite a fighter isn’t she Sir?" he asked trying to make light of the situation. Both men looked over at the examination table. Heather moaned in her sleep.
Sharkey who had been standing silently by moaned himself. "She’s not going to have a nightmare now? The Skipper’s the only one who can take care of her when that happens," he looked helplessly at the other two men and started to panic. It’s my fault she’s in this condition, but there’d been no other way. She was wild with grief… Heather, please just wake up… I’m sorry I hit you…Boy, do we ever need the Skipper. What will we do if he doesn’t come back?
"Easy Sharkey," placated Doc. "I think the best thing to do is take her to Lee’s cabin where everything is familiar."
"Good idea Doc," agreed Nelson. He finished air-drying his hands by swinging them back and forth. "Let’s get her moved." He carefully bent over and picked his daughter up and headed for the door just as Chip was walking in.
"Chip we’re heading for Lee’s cabin. Any word from the Revelation?"
"Yes Sir," answered Chip as he fell in behind the Admiral. Doc and Sharkey were at his heels. "She’ll intercept us in two hours. We found an out of the way island, north of Colombia."
They walked in silence until they made the Captain’s cabin. Chip held the door as Admiral Nelson went in. Sharkey pulled the covers back on the bunk and Nelson laid her gently on the bed. She briefly opened her eyes and stared at the men. Nelson leaned over and kissed her forehead and murmured, "We’ll be right here honey. Just rest." She closed her eyes and was fast asleep.
Sharkey still feeling bad and worried offered to sit with her. He solemnly looked up at Doc as he sat in the Captain’s recliner feeling very out of place. "Doc, I …I didn’t hit her to hard, did I?"
"No Sharkey, you did your best under the circumstances. I think she’ll be fine once we get the Skipper back aboard."
Sharkey felt a little more relieved.
Chip on the other hand was dying to know what had all transpired since they left the boat. The men had told him some of it, but he really wanted to hear it from the Admiral. He was trying to find a tactful way to ask when the Admiral said, "Chip, I need to fill you in on what’s going on…"
Heather woke up with a headache and a throbbing jaw. Her hand touched the side of her cheek. It was swollen and tender, Oh no, not another bruise. What the devil happened? How’d I get from the flying sub to my own bunk? What did I do? She rubbed both tempos willing the memory to come back. Mmm…something’s wrong…we were waiting for the men…Lee…? LEE! It was then she heard the hum of voices surrounding her husband’s desk. She silently listened as her eyes grew bigger and bigger.
Adm. Nelson studied the rough drawing of Baxter’s fishing wharf. He looked up and asked Chief Davis, "Is there anything else you can remember?"
"No Sir, there are a few raised hills behind the warehouse. The place is pretty secluded. Baxter owns the land around the wharf. He owns a half a dozen fishing boats the newest and fastest being the Revelation. The clipper boats come and go at all hours. The smaller boats spend a day or two and usually come back into port in the evening."
"Then you unload the fish and head to the local bar. I take it you live in one of their rooms or the boat until you go out again. Are you sure there is no varying your routines?"
"No Sir, it’s all cut and dry. We usually rotated the men at the bar. That way, it looked like the local fishermen had gone home," relied the Sea Cub Chief. He nervously looked at Sharkey and Mr. Morton. It had been awhile since he had to answer to anyone but his Captain.
"Surprise will be the key," pondered Nelson out loud. He absently lit a cigarette and looked for an ashtray forgetting Lee didn’t smoke. Doc, who was standing in the background offered an empty glass that had been sitting on the desk. Nelson gave a half smile of thanks then went back to studying the plan.
Chip asked Chief Davis, "How many men does Baxter usually have at the warehouse?"
"The crew unload their own boats, so that’s usually seven men. The warehouse has a manager and two employees. The processing plant also has two employees. When a catch comes in they then use the locals to help process the fish, usually the next day."
"Where inside the warehouse would Baxter keep Lee and Tony?" inquired Nelson tapping a pencil on the drawing.
"My guess Sir is, they’re probably in the pit."
Davis instantly had five pairs of eyes on him. Seeing this he looked extremely discomforted. "Ah Admiral, did I say something wrong?"
Nelson threw his pencil down and stood up. He rubbed his neck. "Is this the same place Jaguar rescued Heather?"
"Heather Sir? I don’t understand."
"Look Ed," cut in Sharkey. "Heather is the Lynx. Don’t you recognize her?"
In shock, Chief Davis turned and stared at the sleeping woman on the bed somewhat confused. "You’ve got to be kidding," said the befuddled Chief. "This can’t be the sickly waif we took aboard over a year ago and brought to the safe house? The CIA agent Capt. Masters rescued…? This…I mean I know she’s Crane’s wife and all …but the Lynx?"
"One and the same," chuckled Nelson.
"Why I’ll be damned, beggin your pardon Sir. This woman sure does have guts!"
"Yes, she does. Now, answer the question," inquired Nelson again. "Is this the same place?"
"Yes Sir, the pit is in a storeroom in the back of the warehouse. It used to be a storage room for storing salt, but Baxter converted it over to a jail to torment and keep his enemies or should I say victims in."
"Is there a door or window reasonably close to the pit?"
"About half way down the backside of the building. There’s a door that automatically locks from the inside."
"Hmm," sighed Nelson. "So, we either have to blow the door, which will make a lot of unnecessary noise and alert Baxter’s men or we have to get someone from inside to open the door."
"Does he suspect any of your men?" asked Mr. Morton.
"I don’t know Sir. A man like him, well if he did, he wouldn’t let on until he sprung the trap," explained Chief Davis.
"What we need is a diversion," suggested Chip. "We could have the Revelation come into port and start unloading her catch. Then one of the Sea Cub’s men could open the door."
"That might work except for one problem and I really hate to say this, but I’m reasonable sure that Baxter’s camp was expecting us the entire time."
"A trap Sir?" asked an astounded Sharkey. "But, how did they know?"
"I’m not sure. It’s just a suspicion. The camp was too conveniently quiet, too well organized. I had the feeling he wanted to trap Crane so he could have Heather. When he gave us that ultimatum to have Heather at the wharf tonight, it confirmed my suspicions.
"So, what do we do?" asked Chip.
Nelson turned to Chief Davis, "How well do you know the men you’re working with?"
"Ya’ mean on the Revelation?"
Nelson nodded his head.
"Well, we usually use our own men from the Sea Cub. Owen and Hertz and myself are the regulars. The others we rotate. Oh, ya, once in awhile we use some real local fisherman to make it look good, but only on the fishing end. We never take them on a drug run. Baxter never cared who was on the boat as long as we got the job done."
"Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll put Kowalski, Patterson and Riley on the Revelation with you and take three of your crew on the landing party with us. The Revelation will come into port and we’ll use Chip’s plan. The trick will be keeping Baxter’s men distracted while we rescue Lee and Tony from the pit," expounded Nelson.
Chip took the plan one step further, "What if we come into port right behind another fishing boat? That way there would be even more confusion with the unloading and so forth."
"Ya mean, the more the merrier Mr. Morton, Sir?" grinned the Sea Cub Chief.
"I still think we need a back up plan with some kind of distraction," grumbled Sharkey. All the men looked at him questioningly. "I mean, if they expected us once and you know they’re expecting us by 19:00 hours tonight with Heather. Don’t you think they’ll be on to any diversion?"
"In all probability they will be," agreed Nelson.
"Then how are we going to pull this off?" asked Sharkey confused.
"By giving them what they want, obviously," replied Heather suddenly standing by the bunk, "Me."
Five men looked at her in astonished silence. Doc, who had been silently listening recovered first ordered, "Get back in that bed. You’re not going anywhere."
Nelson responded with "Doc’s right. You’re staying right here on board Seaview. Besides, Lee would never forgive me nor would I forgive myself if something happened to you."
Sharkey added, "Over my dead body are you getting off this boat. The Skipper would have me for breakfast, lunch and dinner!"
Chip chimed in with, "You’re out of luck. We all promised Lee we’d look after you."
"I don’t care what you promised him! Do you honestly think I’m just going to sit back and do nothing?" retorted Heather.
"After today’s fiasco, you’ll be lucky if I don’t lock you up," bluffed Nelson crossing his arms.
Heather refused to back down, she put her hands on her hips and advanced on the men with fury in her eyes, "Just try and keep me here! Mark my words, I’ll get off this boat one way or another, so help me I will, and I don’t care if I have to swim to do it! It’s me Baxter wants. I won’t sit here safe and sound while the man I love dies in that pit! For if he…" she gulped, "if he dies, you might and well kiss me goodbye, cause’ I will too!"
"What the hell is that suppose to mean?" shouted Nelson balling his fists.
"It means I’m going! If he dies it won’t matter what happens to me. Can’t you understand that?"
Nelson knew what she meant. If Lee died Heather would have no reason to carry on. It would be his life all over again. He’d lost Heather’s Mother when she gave birth to his daughter. He blamed his infant daughter and had rejected her. The pain and loneliness had almost killed him. His career and work were all that had saved him.
He observed his daughter standing there, defiantly, bravely. I can see the fear in her eyes, not for herself, but for the man she loves. Yes, she would die. Love hasn’t come easy for her. She’s still learning to trust and because of my rejection of her, she’s found it difficult to believe anyone could love her in return. He sighed; Lee’s the only one who loved her unconditionally even with all her emotional problems and insecurities. He’d seen the real beauty of her person and spirit. What am I going to do?
When the trap door had closed plunging the pit into darkness Lee Crane felt true despair. This is what Heather went through. No wonder she had nightmares. It’s like a silent tomb in here. I can’t see my hand in front of my face. He groped around until he found Tony. Carefully, he pulled him up next to him and leaned against a wall. He jumped a mile when Tony spoke.
"Place hasn’t changed… at all," he quipped. "even the DEA agent… is still here."
Lee would have laughed at the irony of it, but Tony went into another coughing jag. He could hear the congestion in his lungs. The man was feverish and he could feel the tremors that ran through his body.
"Easy Tony, the Admiral hasn’t abandoned us. He’ll get us out," he tried to reassure his friend. Lee had decided in the truck if they ever got out of this mess he would mend their friendship.
"Hmm…I hope so. Time…is…running out," labored Tony.
"Tony, try not to talk."
"Sorry, but…I need to get…some things said. You know, the old dying …last confession," joked Tony.
"Always, the clown huh Tony? No wonder Betsy liked you better. I was always too serious," laminated Lee. "To think I held that against you all these years. Stupid…" he shook his head in the dark forgetting Tony couldn’t see him.
"Betsy turned out to be…a fraud. She took…off with Jake the wrestler…after we graduated. I…never told you…wanted you think I won." Another round of coughing followed this statement.
Lee was worried. "Tony, quit talking. Save your strength until the Admiral gets here."
"No…need to finish. You have a real prize in…Heather. You know I wanted her?"
Lee surprised, "When she was the Lynx or now?"
The green monster and old rivalries reared their ugly head, "She’s mine! You can’t have her!" barked Lee, then in a lower voice and embarrassed at his outburst he added, "She belongs to me. I’ll never give her up."
Tony chuckled. "That’s the spirit! I…figured as much. Couldn’t…touch her when she was the…Lynx and I was Jaguar…would of blown our cover…wanted to kill Baxter after…I rescued her. She was hurt and so sick…puked all over me…doubt if she remembers. When I saw her at the…the Pelican she seemed so vulnerable and lost…like she didn’t want to be there. After I exchanged the film…I ah…"
"You what?" asked Lee sharply. I’m finally going to find out why Heather had injured her wrist. I knew it had something to do with Masters. He held his breath and when Tony didn’t answer he bit out, "Go on!"
Another chuckle from Tony who realized he still didn’t know. "She never…told you? Huh?"
Lee was becoming exasperated, "I thought you were going to clear the air?"
A coughing jag from Tony and Lee felt guilty for pushing. "Never mind, rest Tony, you need your strength," he put his arm around his shoulders and pulled Tony against him. He could feel the heat radiating from him.
Silence descended and each man was lost in his own thoughts. Lee felt the Jaguar relax into sleep or unconsciousness. He couldn’t help but admire the man. Damn, my hand hurts. It feels hot and swollen. I can hear Doc complaining all ready. Hmm, I wish I could really hear him. He smiled to himself. Truth to tell my whole body hurts, how has Tony stood it this long? He should be dead. That leg of his has got to be infected. I just hope it’s not gangrene…and his lungs? Pneumonia? They probably left him in that gully the whole time he’d been there. The weather is so changeable here and the rain… He adjusted his sitting position to get more comfortable. Tony’s head came down on his shoulder. He risked so much to get rid of Baxter. Why did he come back here? Melonie Starke said his undercover assignment had ended when he’d delivered the microfilm.
Time crawled by. Lee had no way of telling how much time had past. Tony was restless in his sleep.
"I wanted…to taste her…"
"What?" jumped a startled Lee, Tony had caught him off guard again. Being blind definitely has its drawbacks.
"Heather, I wanted to …taste her to see…what she was like…mouth tasted sweet…I used to fantasize about her…when I was on the fishing boat…"
"You drooled over my wife?" Lee flatly asked.
"Yup, saw through her cover…remember I had the advantage…I knew who she was, but…she didn’t know me…she just…thought I was a fisherman…I wondered if Baxter…saw through her cover?"
"I don’t know. She dressed and looked pretty spinsterish. Heather knew someone had blown her cover. As you know it turned out to be Maclin."
"Yes, he’s the reason…I came back. Had to nail his ass for hurting…Heather…He was going to hurt…her further. He died a …weasel."
"That’s why you came back? Too get Maclin?"
Tony tried to lift his head off Lee’s shoulder, but couldn’t. "He was going to tell…Baxter…who she was. Got word while we were in port…at St Martin…about his whereabouts…after he almost kidnapped and…practically drowned her…had Sea Cub drop us off at homeport… to get the Revelation…one last time…to finish job."
"Too get rid of Maclin?"
"Yes, didn’t…get there in time before…he spilled beans…don’t know what all he told him…Baxter had fake film, was enraged…ordered me to execute Maclin."
Lee sat there quietly trying to absorb all that he had just learned.
"Heather…punched me…told you she had a mean…right hook…she was going to rake…my face with her claws…I actually felt her fingers curl."
Lee started laughing. He could just see his feisty little wife punching the big bad pirate that Melonie had called him. Jaguar had fooled everyone including him.
"She didn’t tell you…because she wanted…to protect…you from being hurt…by my actions…at the time…I only wanted to rub in…that I kissed her…make you see red…"
Lee remembered only to well that night. "I was frantic with worry when Sharkey, the men, and Heather hadn’t reported back on time. When Chip told me they were in the brig I was livid. Secretly, I was more than relieved," he smiled to himself. "I gave them the riot act and ordered them to give Seaview a spit and polish shine," he grinned. His smile turned into a frown. It had also been one of the worse times of our marriage. The trust between us had been broken. "She’d refused to tell me anything as to why they had been at the bar or how she’d injured her wrist...Of course, I later learned they’d been under a gag order by Adm. Starke."
Lee deeply sighed. Yes, Heather has protected me more than once throughout our relationship. She’d even made me sign that ridiculous marriage contract that is now in shreds. Giving me an out if I ever fell in love. What utter nonsense. She’ll never know she had me hooked from the beginning when I first met her on the back porch of the safe house. She’d looked so alone with bruises all over her face and smelling of fish arguing with her father, Adm. Nelson. What a shock that had been…
A moan from Tony brought him out of his thoughts. He’d lapsed into unconsciousness again. His own body was calling for sleep. His last thoughts were as he drifted off, Admiral, don’t let her off the boat. I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to her… Protect me? Who’s going to protect her?
It was nearing 16:30 hours when the Revelation followed one of Baxter’s other fishing boats, the Fisher King into the harbor. When they reached the pier, Kowalski backed it in and the men moored the boat.
"Easy as pie," quipped Ski to a surprised Chief Davis.
"Well, I’ll be," was all the old salt said.
Two men from the Sea Cub, Owens and Hertz, with Patterson and Riley slowly began preparations to unload the catch. The men from the Seaview had spent the day learning the working aspects of the fishing boat they were on. The plan was to act as natural as possible when they came into port.
Chief Davis was in the wheelhouse bringing the log up to date. At the same time he was getting weather information from the marine weather channel on the short wave radio. He then talked to a buddy from another fishing boat that was just coming in to the Caribbean off the Atlantic Ocean.
"I tell you Ed, this storm brewing to the northeast of us is going to be a whopper. Stay clear of it."
"Read you loud and clear Fishbait, we’ll take it under advisement," chuckled Chief Davis. "Revelation out."
"Well, Ski I suspect Baxter eavesdropped on that conversation with the short wave radio in the office. By all rights, we should be in a hurry to unload for the fish have been packed on ice for days. I’d better play my part," he grinned.
He opened the window of the wheelhouse that over looked the stern and yelled in his best Chief voice, "Get the fish carts, times a wastin and start shoveling. Hop to it ya knuckleheads and get the lead out!"
It wasn’t long before the huge fish carts were on hand and the men started shoveling the smaller fish into them. Each man pretended to be busy, but was secretly observing the wharf, counting Baxter’s guards and checking out the warehouse.
Meanwhile, Nelson and Sharkey with the three Sea Cub men were hiding in the tall grass of the foothills behind the warehouse. Nelson noticed two guards were stationed in back nonchalantly leaning against the wall on either side of the back door. "We’re going to have to take these guys out when the time comes," said Nelson in a low voice. He spoke into a small handset "Blue Gill to Big Tuna can you read me over?"
Riley who had on a headset with an old fashioned cassette player sticking half out of his shirt pocket was dancing around the boat as he went about his duties. He opened the hold hatch to the freezers and got a whiff of tuna fish that made his senses reel. "Big Tuna ready to sail," he spoke into his hidden microphone on the headset while singing along with the tape.
Kowalski still in the wheelhouse counted the men on the dock. "There’s three men by the entrance and I can see a few shadows inside. Looks like about eight more on the Fisher King."
"Very well," grunted Davis. "I’d better get down to the office with the manifest. They’ll need it and the total pounds of the fish we caught after they’re done getting weighed. Be prepared for anything, ya hear me?"
"Hey Skipper," yelled Riley as Davis climbed down the portside ladder, "Ya know where the can is? Sanchez is in ours and I gotta go now!"
Chief Davis frowned in exasperation while shaking his head "All right, hold on to your breeches and come with me. The rest of you goldbricks get the fish unloaded!"
The office was located just inside the warehouse to the left. A big picture window was in the front overlooking the pier. Chief Davis relayed Ski’s information to Riley on the head count as they walked towards the office. Once there, he stopped in the doorway and pointed Riley in the right direction, "The can is straight to the back and to the right. You’ll see it plain as day."
Riley still listening to his tape, bee-bopped his way to the back and located the bathroom observing two guards by the storage room a little further down. He went in and used the can.
"Blue Gill," Riley softly spoke into his earphone, "we’ve found a whole school of fish. At least two swordfish behind the stern, a couple catfish at the bow and I believe, three dolphins swimming beside the boat. Oh yeah, on portside there’s about a dozen tunas just waiting for someplace to go. Our holds will be full tonight unless they sneak past our stern. We’ll just have to block their exit with a net."
"Are you sure?" replied the Admiral through the headphones.
"Yes Sir, the freezers will be overflowing when we get to port."
"All right Big Tuna, go for it," replied Nelson.
Chief Sharkey who had been listening said, "You mind translating all that jargon Admiral?"
Nelson chuckled, "It means there are two men guarding the prisoners, two men in the office, three men beside the front entrance and a dozen men either on the Fisher King or inside the processing plant in the warehouse."
Sharkey confused, "You got all that info from Riley’s mumbo jumbo?"
"Yes, oh I almost forgot, he said the backdoor is unguarded but can be easily seen from inside."
Sharkey just shook his head.
Riley came out of the bathroom with the music cranked up. He did a couple of disco dance steps and tripped crashing into the backdoor. He carefully pushed the door open a crack and inserted a small paper-thin piece of plastic to keep the door from latching. He then straightened while turning red and walked away from the door heading towards the shipyard.
Chief Davis met him at the front door and asked, "Everything come out okay?"
Riley shrugged, "No problem."
The crew from the Fisher King and Revelation worked side by side. The forklift trucks were brought in to carry the larger fish into the warehouse. The men had to hook each of the big fish and drag them topside. The heavier fish were lifted over the side using a hoist where they were individually weighed and recorded. Following that, the fish were iced down with pails of chipped ice and salt then loaded on the forklift trucks. It was a busy time with both Skippers giving orders. The crews exchanged remarks and bragged about their prowess at catching the most fish.
It wasn’t long and the ribald jesting took a turn for the worst. Soon, insults and jeers were traded while tempers flew. The wind had picked up adding to the tempest that was brewing. Patterson flung a fish at the head of a particular mouthy man on the Fisher King. The man immediately took exception striding over to the Revelation.
"What the hell ya do that for?" stormed the seaman waving his balled fists at Pat.
"Cause, I think you’re lying, ya stinkin seadog!" roared Patterson.
"Lying?!" yelled another man.
"Stinkin seadog?" echoed a second man
"Yeah, you guys are nothing but damned lying braggarts," added Kowalski.
"Now, whose calling the kettle black ya mangy cur?" bellowed the mate of the first sailor.
Owens added, "I am! Ya stupid bozos! Ya can’t back up anything ya said!"
"I can back up my fist!" retorted a Fisher King sailor.
"Let’s see you do it," threatened Riley jumping over the side and coming up swinging.
The Fisher King sailor gladly took a swing and missed. Riley taunted him further. "See, you can’t fight either."
That statement started the brawl. It moved from the dock to the wharf and spilled out into the warehouse encompassing everyone in its path.
So far so good, the Admiral’s plan is working. Baxter’s men are all spilling out onto the wharf to watch the fight, thought Heather as she intently watched from the wheelhouse. She had been ordered to stay below in the crew’s cabin out of sight. She had climbed up the ladder from inside the cabin into the wheelhouse. The Captain often used the escape hatch to talk to his men below. Blast, so here I am busting orders again, but I have to see what’s happening, the suspense is killing me. She was to be Nelson’s ace to draw attention away from the back door and storage room. Riley was to give her the signal if the Admiral was having trouble getting in. She noticed he’d snuck back aboard the boat during the melee and was now standing guard by the portside ladder under the wheelhouse deck waiting for the Admiral to contact him through the headphones. Under no circumstances was she to leave the boat. Her father had threatened her with dire consequences if she disobeyed him.
"You will do as I say or else I’ll order Capt. Crane to carry out that spanking he keeps threatening to warm your backside with when this is over!"
If it came to pass, she was to draw their attention with the gun she held in her hand. He’d left the particulars up to her on how she would hold their attention. Boy, they’d all have a fit if they knew what my plan was. I just hope I don’t have to pull it off. Lee would be furious if he knew I was even on this boat let alone if he knew about our plan for me to act as a decoy. All I need to do is bluff for just a little while to give the Admiral time…After I put my plan into action, the men would then come back aboard and grab the various hidden weapons on board. Good plan, I just hope it works. Under, no circumstances were they to allow Baxter’s men to broach the boat. If worse came to worse they were to put out to sea.
An odd sounding clunk from below averted her attention from the fight outside. She looked down to find Riley sprawled on the deck near the ladder. Riley? The wheelhouse door opened from the bow, Heather turned in time to find Baxter holding a gun on her!
Baxter was patting himself on the back. His plan had worked perfectly. He knew the Lynx would never stay safe aboard Seaview while the men she loved were in danger. The diversion Nelson had created was entertaining. It had provided his cover to sneak aboard dressed like a common sailor. I knew Nelson would never let his precious daughter step foot on shore. This boat was the only logical place to keep her hidden. He laughed to himself. The Revelation had been under suspicion since Jaguar was caught. The fools. What do they take me for? Of course, I had a little help…
So much for the Admiral’s plan, Heather thought hysterically. No, he could still pull it off. I need to stall. She swallowed hard, but held her ground. She wasn’t going to cower in front of him again even if her legs did feel weak and shaky.
"Well, my dear, we meet again," he said in that silky voice she hated. "Drop the gun, sweetheart."
"No," she replied trying to muster her courage.
"Don’t be a fool. Your men are out numbered. All I have to do is give an order and they’re history. Do you want their deaths on your hands?" he asked coldly.
All her training from the CIA came into play. Never give up your gun. "No," she repeated.
"So, you’re going to prove difficult like the Captains?" he didn’t give her time to answer. "You know you can’t win, I’m on to your Admiral’s plan, " he laughed.
"No," was all she could seem to say. If Lee and Tony can be difficult so can I. Baxter doesn’t know what stubbornness is yet.
"Heather…that is your real name is it not?" he drawled.
She refused to answer. It infuriated him. "I can make this either easy or hard on you. I can have that damn husband of yours hauled out here and shot or I can hurt him even more…" he hinted softly.
She snapped out of her shock and put her fear aside, protectiveness coming to the fore. "If I put the gun down you still will carry out your threats," she bit out refusing to give in to his intimidation.
He laughed. "So, you’re going to be stubborn? All the more fun I’ll have breaking that spirit of yours before I give you to the Sheik." Lightening fast he moved his gun from his right hand to his left. A coiled whip appeared from inside his coat. He flicked it down on the deck creating a snapping noise. Shivers ran down Heather’s spine. Her face drained of all color.
"I see you remember." he sneered.
Heather’s blood ran cold. She pulled the trigger three times. Baxter absorbed the impact and then smiled. Heather drew back in shock realizing he had on a bulletproof vest. Oh no! I’m getting rusty at this business. How could I have forgotten? She brought her gun up to fire again, but the whip snaked across her wrist effectively causing her to drop the weapon.
"Time has run out for you, Lynx!" he grabbed her and before she could react hit her hard in the jaw. Her world went black.
Baxter held the unconscious woman against him and went to the pilot’s house rear window. The noise from the gunshots had effectively stopped the fight. The Revelation crew started for the boat as the other men looked around in confusion. Suddenly, a small band of rebels and Baxter’s men surrounded both crews. With a gun aimed at Heather’s head, Baxter’s voice rang out, "Don’t try anything or she gets it." The men became attentive. Baxter ordered his next in command, "Separate the crews and put the Fisher Kings’ in the processing plant and guard the door. Take the Revelation’s crew and sit them in the stern of their boat. They’re going to be part of the entertainment."
Lee Crane felt an elbow poke his sore ribs.
"Move over Heather," he mumbled bringing chuckles from a male voice.
He bolted up into a sitting position confused to where he was. He moaned, his body protesting the quick movement.
"You okay…Lee? You…don’t sound…so good," inquired Tony nearly out of breath.
"I’m fine," snapped an irritable Lee instantly contrite. "Tony I’m…"
"Forget it…how…are you…really?" He’s not telling me the truth. I can hear pain in his voice.
Lee reluctant to complain, "My head feels like I tied one on last night," it hurts to breathe and swallow, my hand is on fire, I’m hungry and thirsty. "Other than that I’m fine." If I feel like this after one day I hate to think what you feel like after a week. "Tony, how long has it been since you were given something to eat or drink?"
"Mmm, don’t… know exactly…food … two possibly three days…last water…when it rained…yesterday"
Lee groped around until he found his friend’s shoulder. He feels hotter now then he did a little while ago. The tremors are much worse. I wish I knew how much time has past. He pulled Tony closer to him for warmth stating, "It’s really cold down here and so damn quiet, dead quiet. No wonder Baxter uses this hellhole for a torture chamber. I’m surprised Heather didn’t lose her mind after spending three weeks down here. She still fears the dark. We have to sleep with a nightlight …" he stopped talking when Tony started another coughing spasm. He’s coughing more and more. His lungs are filling up. He sounds like he’s drowning.
"Tony, you ok?"
No response, only a body struggling to breathe. Lee leaned over him and took a pulse, seems fast to me, he’s so hot, I’m no doctor, but I know time is running out. Admiral, please hurry!
Moments earlier Admiral Nelson had had his own problems. They had been ready to take out the two guards when suddenly the men went inside effectively closing the backdoor. Nelson contacted Riley through the headphones.
"Big Tuna, can you read me?" radioed Nelson.
"Blue Gill this is Big Tuna. I read you loud and clear."
"Man, oh man, you should see these fish fight. We’re getting them into the nets."
"What about the sharks?" inquired Nelson.
"Ah, they seem pretty intent on …"
"Big Tuna? We were cut off. Say again."
"Big Tuna, are you there?" repeated a perturbed Nelson. He can hear fighting in the background through the receiver. "Something’s gone wrong." He slid the receiver into his pocket and looked around.
"You think they’re on to us Sir?" asked Sharkey.
"Humph, I know they are. It was a long shot at best considering the deadline they gave us. Baxter knew we’d appear one way or another."
"I just hope Heather doesn’t try anything foolish," worried Sharkey. "How was she going to draw their attention anyway?"
Nelson shook his head and scratched his neck, "I don’t honestly know. I left it up to her."
Years of friendship and affection gave Sharkey the freedom to speak his mind. "What? Are you nuts? That means it could be almost anything."
Nelson agreed and secretly wished he’d left her on board Seaview. Damn! I shouldn’t have let her talk me into this. I understood her reasoning at the time. Now, it’s very possible I could lose them both. If we ever manage to get out of this Lee’s going to be spitting mad. Sharkey’s right. I must have taken leave of my senses. He sighed miserably.
"Sharkey, lets sneak a peek from the side of the building." He turned to the Sea Cub men. "You men stay here."
They started for the building when Nelson pulled Sharkey back in the grass and motioned for him to be quiet. He then pointed towards a hill a little to the right of the building.
Sharkey stared uncomprehending for a few moments then caught a glint of something shiny and moving. He silently questioned Nelson.
"Guns," whispered Nelson. They both watched as a small group of rebels made their way to the building and went around to the front.
"What do we do now?" asked an anxious Sharkey. The men, Heather…
"Wait a few more minutes then try for the side of the warehouse. We’ve got to find out what’s going on." It was then they heard three gunshots.
"What the hell?" asked Sharkey his heart pumping double-time.
Nelson grimaced, "I believe that’s Heather’s gun."
Damn, thought Sharkey. "Are you sure, Sir?"
"Sounded like a forty-five. That’s the gun I left her."
Sharkey rolled his eyes.
We’ll, wait a few more minutes then we’ll have a look," Nelson said glancing at his watch.
A light came on temporarily blinding Lee. He heard the latch being drawn back and the trap door opened. He blinked trying to see and hoped it was Adm. Nelson. His thoughts were soon dismayed.
Baxter coldly stared down at the disheveled men. He mockingly shook his head. "My, my, gentlemen, you two look a little worse for wear. Aren’t you enjoying my hospitality?" he asked amused.
Lee gave him his most notorious Captain’s glare.
Baxter’s amusement increased while Lee’s anger spilled over. He stood up hoarsely yelling, "How long before we get some water?"
"Did you say water Captain? That can be arranged." He left and a minute later he brought the end of a hose to the entrance of the trap door. Lee remembered to late, what Heather said he had done to her. He covered Tony the best he could as Baxter turned on the water full blast. Baxter sprayed both men roaring with laughter. "Does that satisfy you Captain?" he jeered.
"You bastard!" yelled Lee indignant now.
"Temper, temper, that is no way to show appreciation," teased Baxter throwing something shiny in the air and catching it.
Lee stood up and shook his fist shouting, "Let me out of here and I’ll show you appreciation!" Lee was beyond reason and continued on with "This man needs a doctor, he’s dying!"
"That’s the idea Captain, a slow painful death for spying on me, for earning my trust and betraying me. I am truly not sorry Captain," commiserated Baxter in that silky voice again. "I will have to make it up to you." He squatted down by the trap door and in a conspiring tone of voice said, "I have something for you Captain. It is of great value to you."
Lee refused to rise to the bait again and stood silently fuming. He waited with eyes of hatred boring into Baxter’s equally cold ones. A contest of wills broke out. Who is stronger? Finally, Baxter sighed and held up the shiny gold object.
Lee’s eyes automatically shifted to it wondering what game he was playing now. Baxter dropped the object and Lee naturally caught it. He sucked in his breath as if he’d been punched in the stomach. He closed his eyes and he silently sat back down his legs no longer able to support him.
Baxter guffawed and said, "I’ll be back in a few minutes to collect you Captain. We’re going on a cruise." Lee never heard him slam the trap door.
Lee’s memories tumbled one over another. Thoughts of soft red hair, brilliant hazel eyes, easy smiles, laughter, stubbornness and grit, along with a fiery temper, love and a song…
Every time our eyes meet. This feeling inside me is almost more than I can take.
Baby, when you touch me I can feel how much you love me and it just blows me away. I’ve never been this close to anyone or anything. I can hear your thoughts. I can see your dreams.
It was the last slow song they had danced to in St Martin at the Sea Sprite bar. He’d held her close and tenderly kissed her.
The smell of your skin, the taste of your kiss, the way you whisper in the dark. Your hair all around me, baby you surround me, you touch every place in my heart.
The memories came together, crashed and scattered like the wind. He couldn’t separate his feelings of anger, hate, fear, sorrow and despair. The song in his mind played on…
I don’t know how you do what you do. I’m so in love with you. It just keeps getting better. I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side forever and ever. Every little thing that you do, Baby, I’m amazed by you…
A moan broke from his lips that had nothing to do with physical pain.
Tony looked up into Lee’s devastated face for Baxter had left the light on. He then studied the ring Lee was holding on the tip of his index finger as he absently turned it with his thumb, a ring identical to the one on his bandaged left hand. After a few moments Lee grasped it tight as if he’d made a decision. He leaned back against the wall looking dejected and put the ring in his shirt pocket. Tony put his hand on his friend’s forearm and gently squeezed.
Sharkey looked at his watch. A minute went by and he looked again. Thus, for ten long minutes the men waited. Finally, Nelson got up and said, "Come on."
They made their way to the side of the building and peeked around the corner. What they saw made their hearts stand still.
A giant of a man was roughly escorting a bound Lee Crane to the Revelation. Crane had made himself a promise that what ever happened he would not crack. He decided he wouldn’t give Baxter, the bastard the satisfaction of beating him. With the promise he’d made to himself a cold anger had taken root deep inside him. I won’t show him any more emotion. I will not lose control again. I must remain strong. I am Seaview’s Captain. He wasn’t prepared for the sight he was about to witness.
When they approached the boat much to his surprise he saw his bound men sitting in the stern with their eyes riveted to a body tied to the starboard ladder. What the hell? The men, where did they come from? Were they captured the same night I was? What about the Admiral? Why is the Revelation here? Why didn’t Baxter taunt me with the crew? Unless…it just happened. Hope flared for a brief moment. His heart sunk when he realized who the bound figure was. Remember your vow. He steeled himself for what was to come.
Baxter preened like a peacock. He was in the height of his glory. He finally had the Lynx and Jaguar was as good as dead. No one betrays me and gets away with it. He might not have Nelson, but he had his Captain and his daughter. They might have cost him his holdings in Colombia, but in the end they would suffer. He would make them suffer. He looked over his group of captives and smiled.
"Welcome aboard Captain Crane," he warmly greeted. "That is the correct phrase is it not?"
Lee refused to acknowledge him. Instead he stared at his wife’s back. Her shirt had been ripped down the back exposing her skin. The hot sun was all ready turning it red. A man stood with a whip nearby. Remember your vow!
Seeing where Crane’s eyes had strayed to, Baxter with pleasure informed the Captain, "Ah yes, your fair wife, I’m going to teach her a lesson in obedience. The Sheik she is being sold to will demand that she be submissive. Just imagine my shock when I found out my girlfriend’s dowdy little secretary wasn’t a Plain Jane, but a beautiful woman," he taunted.
Crane’s only reaction was the cold glint in his eyes and the tightening of his jaw.
Baxter was disappointed with the silent Captain, so he tried a new tactic. "Maybe I should give you a demonstration."
He nodded to his man. The rebel took his place a couple feet behind Heather and raised his arm bringing the whip down with a crack to her exposed back leaving a long red welt.
Heather stiffened at the pain and moaned. She gritted her teeth until she thought they’d crack. A long shudder went through her body. I won’t scream. I won’t disgrace my husband by screaming like a banshee. They’re all watching, Father, Lee, Sharkey the men. I have to protect them. Damn!
Lee wanted to kill Baxter. He hated him like no other. He glanced at his crew and read the same emotions in their eyes. For their sake, he forced himself to remain still.
The men of the Seaview and Sea Cub had been helpless to assist her. Ski thought about the guns that had been stashed in strategic places. If only he could’ve gotten one. Unfortunately, when they’d been brought aboard Baxter had ordered his men to search the boat. In a very short time all the guns had been located. The men had been ordered to sit with their legs crossed and hands on their heads. Each man’s hands were bound behind their backs. Riley had been brought around with a pail of water and soon after joined the group of held men. The men had been forced to witness Baxter’s devious entertainment, glad the Skipper had been oblivious to it……….
Baxter, whistling an offbeat tune had dragged an unconscious Heather to the back of the wheelhouse deck and tossed her down to the lower deck. She’d hit with a sickening thud. The Revelation men each felt that thud and anger radiated from their eyes. The gleam of pleasure in Baxter’s eyes as he came down the starboard ladder made more than one man want to puke. Baxter had reached down and viciously yanked off her wedding ring pocketing it. He then ordered two of his men to tie her hands over her head and to the starboard ladder. They then doused her with a couple pails of water.
Heather came around. Her head swam, her jaw throbbed and her whole body hurt. She shook her head, which had been a mistake for her stomach rolled. When her vision cleared she found herself facing the crew’s cabin underneath the wheelhouse and Baxter’s sneering face. She would have spit in his face except she didn’t have any moisture in her mouth. She swallowed trying to create some as she pulled helplessly at her bound wrists. Horror of horrors, I’m trussed up like a turkey. I can’t even put my feet flat on the deck. She looked away from Baxter’s face and noticed out of the corner of her eye the men sitting silently on the deck behind her by the stern. Well, the decoy part is working, though not the way we planned. We have the attention of Baxter and his men. I wonder if the Admiral succeeded in getting Lee and Tony out of the pit? I refuse to think how we’re going to get out. The Admiral will come through… somehow.
Baxter viciously grabbed her chin and squeezed. "Pay attention when I’m talking to you!" he yelled.
Heather was shocked. She hadn’t even heard him say anything. "GO TO HELL!" she bit out.
She was awarded with a backhand across the face. Baxter then grabbed her braid and twisted it in his hand. "Stubborn to the end, Lynx. I will break you this time," he ground out.
He let go of her hair and pulled her wedding ring from his pocket. He laughed as her eyes widened. She looked up to her hand to verify it was hers. Of course it’s mine. They were custom made, two finely braided ropes intertwined into one and set in between two gold bands.
"Don’t worry, I’m giving this to your husband. He is going to be the guest of honor at this party. He’s going to have the enjoyment of watching me break you," smiled Baxter. He nodded to one of the rebel men and handed him the whip. "This man is very good at his craft. He can cause much pain leaving no permanent marks. The Sheik wants you submissive, but not scarred." He ordered his man, "Prepare her."
Heather felt her shirt being cut under the collar. The knife felt cold against her skin. Then fingers dug into the shirt and it was ripped down her back to her waist. Her camisole received the same treatment. Unbidden memories from a year ago came to haunt her. Her stomach rebelled and she could taste the bile in her throat. Her whole body shook with fear.
Baxter wasn’t done taunting her yet. "I decided not to leave your husband as food for the rats. I am leaving that useless partner of yours behind. Jaguar is probably dead by now anyway."
Heather turned deathly pale and Baxter added his punch line. "There is a general," he looked at his nails and buffed them on his sleeve, "from the People’s Republic that is willing to take the good Captain Crane...for a small fee."
The blending of Heather’s wail of anguish and Baxter ominous laugher echoed eerily across the wharf sending chills down the men’s backs.…….
Kowalski was brought back to the present when Baxter once again taunted his Skipper.
"No reaction Captain? Maybe we should try it again." Once more he nodded to the rebel.
Again the whip sang. Heather sucked in her breath and clenched her teeth. She cried out this time, mortified. The stroke had had more bite to it. She panted with small breaths to control the pain. I can do this. I can do this. For Lee, I can do this.
Lee Crane felt his stomach cramp. He knew there was nothing in his stomach to lose, but the nausea was intense. He wanted to beat the living daylights out of Baxter, pound him into oblivion. He stayed silent his eyes as cold and hard as steel.
The crew watched their Skipper and his wife. They’d been horrified when he had first been brought out to them. His face was haggard, swollen and bruised. They could see black and blue marks on his neck and could only imagine other places. His clothes were filthy and bloody along with the bandage that covered his swollen injured hand. He stood still as a statue, his face unreadable with only his eyes giving away any emotion. They knew their Captain well and the ice-cold stare was a cover for pain.
Heather glanced over at her battered husband and read him like a book also. Lee’s hurting and it’s my fault. I failed him and Tony. What went wrong? Baxter must have caught onto our plan somehow, but how?
Another crack of the whip and she cried out again unable to help herself. My back is on fire! Tears made tracks down her face. She was losing control.
Every crack of the whip tore Lee’s heart in two. He glanced at his crew. He saw the white stoic expressions on their faces, their bodies taunt with anxiety, the fury and pain in their eyes. Be strong Lee, for them as well as Heather…Heather, I’ve failed her so miserably. He looked back at his wife. I promised to protect you. How will you ever forgive me? His eyes shifted to Baxter. He’s in his glory. There’s a place for people like him. Forgetting his vow of silence he yelled, "I hope you burn in hell, you bastard!"
Baxter felt the anger radiating from the Captain. He decided to add to his misery. He gestured to one of his men guarding the bound men. "Bring Sanchez over to me." The guard reached down and pulled Sanchez to his feet. He walked up to Baxter and waited. Baxter himself untied his hands. "You may go and join your Commander, you did well son." The man nodded and walked off the boat giving the men a wide berth.
The three Sea Cub men were in shock. Chief Davis could only shake his head. They had hired Sanchez early in their operation. He had presented himself as a peasant proclaiming to hate the rebels for what they had done to his family. He had helped them on many a run and was well paid too, thought Davis. No wonder the Admiral’s plan backfired.
The Commander of the rebels came aboard the boat. "Jeffrey old friend, I hate to break up the party but word has come the Colombian government troops are on their way here. We must leave and I need my man."
Baxter released the soldier with the whip to his Commander and shook hands with the rebel leader. The men climbed aboard a jeep and the small ragtag group took off heading for the mountains.
Baxter turned back towards Crane. "We’ll continue this little party later. Put him with his men." Lee was shoved unceremoniously into the group on the deck. Baxter then looked over the seamen and singled out Chief Davis. "Bring me him," he pointed.
Chief Davis was roughly hauled to his feet and brought forward. "You are the Skipper of this boat are you not?"
Davis shook his head no. "There is only one Skipper on board and that is Captain Crane."
"I don’t care about him as a Captain, only as my hostage. You brought the boat in. I saw you. Now, take us out to sea," ordered Baxter.
"Beggin your pardon Sir, but there is a storm a brewin, a first class squall. We can’t…"
"So what!" screamed Baxter. "Take her out now!"
Davis looked at Captain Crane for guidance. Crane slightly nodded his head.
"Yes Sir," Davis mockingly said to Baxter, but his eyes were on Crane letting him know he would follow his orders.
"Where do you wish to go?"
Baxter ordered him untied and asked him his name.
"Davis, Chief Davis."
"Chief, no tricks or the lady will pay!" shouted Baxter. He then assigned a guard to him. "I want you to head northeast towards Europe."
"Aye, Sir," ground out Davis, "I’ll need some help with the lines."
Baxter once again ordered a couple men to help. He picked Patterson and Hertz. Each was untied and a guard was assigned to him. "No tricks or I’ll use the whip on her myself," he remembered the Sheik, "or maybe I’ll string up your Captain and give him a taste of the lash," he laughed coldly.
North, thought Crane, If Davis is smart he’ll take us due north and pass by to the south of the Dominican Republic where we’d come out in the West Indies then head northeast. Lee Crane looked up into the sky. The clouds are building. We’re north of the doldrums. The winds are shifting counter clockwise. This could be the beginning of a hurricane. They usually come out of the Western Caribbean and join with a storm from the Atlantic where the actual hurricane is born. It’s possible we could head right into it path. He looked at his crew. They were watching the sky also. He then looked at Baxter. The fool. Go ahead, head out to sea. The Seaview is out there somewhere. She’ll be tracking us. We’ll just see what you’ll do when she catches up to us.
Capt. Crane looked over the vacant wharf as the Revelation deployed from the pier. He thought he saw movement of two men in camouflage moving into the now empty warehouse. Tony, help is here. Just hang in there awhile longer. He turned back and looked at his wife’s bound form. Her head was leaning against her extended arms. The ropes are so tight she can’t even put her feet flat down on the deck. Heather…Heather… I don’t know why you’re on this boat, but so help me when I get you home I’m going to…what? Love you to death after I warm your backside, he decided.
Adm. Nelson and Chief Sharkey couldn’t believe their luck when everyone pulled out. Nelson ordered two of the Sea Cub men to spread out and keep watch. The third went into the warehouse with Nelson and Sharkey. They did a quick search to verify everyone was gone and located the pit. Sharkey opened the trapdoor and they peered inside.
"Tony, can you hear me. It’s Admiral Nelson."
Tony feebly thrashed around.
"Here Admiral," said Sharkey handing him a long ladder, which they easily put in place. Nelson climbed down it in a flash and bent over the unconscious man. He took a quick pulse.
"How is he?" asked a worried Sharkey.
"Not good, his breathing is ragged. We need Doc now."
"You want me to radio FS1?"
"Not yet, let’s get him out of here first just in case we have to move out in a hurry."
"You think they’ll come back?" asked Sharkey scared now.
Nelson carefully lifted Tony over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and started up the ladder. When he got close enough to the top Sharkey and the Sea Cub man helped guide him through the entrance and tenderly lifted him off the Admiral’s shoulder. Tony moaned and went through a coughing jag.
"Admiral, do you want to move him again… like somewhere outside just in case?"
Nelson grinned at Sharkey’s nervousness. "Yes, but I’m radioing Chip first." The flying sub was a mile down the coast with Chip Morton and Doc Jamison aboard.
"Nelson to FS1 come in over."
"FS1 here. Admiral? Is everything all right? Did you find Lee?"
"Yes and no. We found Tony Masters. He’s in a bad way. We need Doc ASAP."
"Aye Sir, we’re on our way," replied Chip strapping into the pilot’s seat and flicking switches. "Do you want us to come right into port?"
"Yes Chip, but be careful. Radio Seaview and have Sparks get a fix on Lee’s and Heather’s homing device rings. Also, order radar to get a fix on the Revelation. Chief Davis once told me they have a homing device on board if he only remembers to engage it. Have Seaview follow at a discreet distance so that the Revelation’s sonar doesn’t pick up on them. They have eight of our men including Lee and Heather aboard. And, one more thing, have O’Brien get me a current weather report, it looks like we’re in for a storm."
"Aye Sir, FS1over and out."
Nelson turned his attention back to Tony. "Sharkey, see if you can find a blanket and something we can move him with. I don’t want to move him again without something solid under him. I don’t like the sound of his breathing."
"Aye Sir." Sharkey went to do his bidding. He walked back towards the processing plant. He opened the door and was instantly assaulted by a strong fish smell. Whew, how do people work in these places? Let’s see, where would I find a blanket? A door would work for a backboard. Any hard surface will work for moving an injured person as long as he is immobilized. It helps keep his injuries at a minimum risk while being moved. I remember that from first aid class.
Sharkey was just heading into the processing plant when he heard pounding on the freezer door.
"What the…?" He pulled out his handgun and carefully opened the door. Out piled eight shivering fishermen.
"Thanks mate," said one smelly man. "I thought we’d bought the big tuna in the sky."
"Ah, I don’t mean to sound stupid, but who are you guys and how’d you get locked in the freezer?" asked a bewildered Sharkey.
"We are from the Fisher King! Who the hell are you?"
Ah, Chief Sharkey from submarine Seaview."
"Sharkey is it? A good seafarer name, Cotter’s my name. Capt. Cotter, CC for short. Now as to how we got locked in the blimey freezer… Well, I’ll tell ya how, that no good double-lying weasel, Baxter locked us in here. When I think of all the years I worked for him, the little creep," railed the good Captain.
Hmm, that about sums it up, thought Sharkey. "Do any of you know where a blanket is?"
Lee Crane leaned back against the stern’s bulkhead letting the sun beat down on his upturned face. It felt marvelous after being in the cold dark pit. He then felt guilty. Heather was in there almost three weeks and I’m gripping about one day. How did she ever do it? He found a new respect for his wife. He looked over again to where she was tied to the ladder. Her back was sunburned, the welts had lessoned leaving dark bruises and there was dried blood on her arms. I haven’t heard her complain once. Her wrists and arms must be killing her by now. I remember only to well what it feels like. He violently shuddered. I’ve got to get her down from there and I’ve got to get the men off this boat.
They were now in the open Caribbean Sea. The wind had picked up and the seas were choppy, the swells at five feet. The fishing boat was taking the waves with no problems. Chief Davis is doing a good job at maneuvering the boat. It looks like he’s heading into the storm. I’ve got to get a message to him. Lee turned and looked out over the waves. Nothing, yet.
Kowalski leaned back next to his Skipper. He waited for what he knew not. He figured the Skipper had a plan. It was only a matter of time before he revealed it.
"Ski, are you and the men okay?" asked Crane testing the waters to see how attentive Baxter’s men were.
"We’re fine Skipper, Riley was knocked out for awhile, but he seems ok now. What about you?"
"I look worse than I feel," he smirked. He watched Baxter walk over to his wife and pull her hair. He became instantly tense then forced himself to relax.
Ski had noticed the subtle change in his Captain. Without changing positions he followed his Skipper’s stare. "I hate that man," he said low under his breath.
To his astonishment the Captain grinned until he saw Baxter slap his wife. "I’m going to kill him," he said flatly.
Ski had no doubt he would.
A few more hours went by and it was late evening. Baxter’s men had helped themselves to the boat’s stores cooking up a meal. The smell of pasta made the men’s mouths water especially the captain’s. He figured he hadn’t eaten in well over twenty-four hours. His throat was dry and parched. He looked at the sky again where the stars were just starting to come out and the sun was making its final appearance in the west. We must be in the West Indies by now. The clouds to the east are heavy and we’re heading right into them. It’s only a matter of time now.
The evening turned into darkness and the floodlights were turned on. The giant brought out a big bottle of water and gave some to Heather. Lee noticed she drank greedily and he felt a bit relieved. She’s still hanging in there. He heard her mumbled something about the men. The giant brought the bottle over with the guards looking on and gave each man a drink. The men only took a couple of sips leaving half for their Skipper. Lee encouraged them to drink more but the men refused. When it was his turn he tried to only swallow a couple of sips, but Kowalski urged him on telling him he needed to replenish his body. He felt guilty, but it tasted so good and he was so thirsty. He drank the remainder of the bottle.
Heather wondered how long she was going to be kept tied up. She had no feeling in her hands or arms. Her shoulders and back were on fire. I’m not going to whine. I can do this. I don’t hear any of the men complaining. Lee is never going to forgive me for this as it is. I utterly failed. I was supposed to be a decoy not a hindrance. Some CIA agent I am.
The night wore on. Baxter didn’t make another appearance. Lee figured he was sound asleep in one of the bunks. The giant came out of the crews cabin and went over to Heather. He loosened the ropes and said something to her Lee couldn’t hear. He noticed she was now able to put her feet flat on the deck and lean more comfortably against the ladder. Baxter must not know of his man’s actions, he’d have a fit for sure.
Sharkey was still on the Fisher King boat getting the much-needed backboard and blanket that Capt. Cotter willingly gave him when Chip Morton landed the FS1 in the harbor. He hurriedly met the men and showed them where Capt. Masters was. Doc did a quick exam establishing a basic IV, put on a C-collar and applied a temporary splint to his broken leg. Then very carefully, they rolled him to his side and slid the backboard under him letting him down gently. They quickly said their goodbyes to the Fisher King crew and thanked them for their unwitting help during the fight.
The flying sub made it back to Seaview in very little time. They carefully brought Tony up through the hatch and took him to sickbay with Doc following close behind all ready giving orders to his corpsman who had met them in the observation nose.
Nelson went immediately to the plot table and asked Lt. O’Brien where the Revelation’s position was.
"About ten thousand yards Sir. You can see the men through the periscope. Chief Davis is at her helm."
"Hmm, with Davis as her pilot we can come in closer. Anyone else with him in the wheelhouse?"
"Yes Sir. A guard is positioned by the door and one is on the wheelhouse deck."
"Perfect, Davis can read us on sonar, Baxter probably wouldn’t know what the extra equipment is for anyways. Bring her within two thousand yards and keep her at periscope depth," ordered Nelson looking through the scope. "What course has she set?"
"North, northeast, Sir."
Nelson studied the map on the plot table. He picked up a pencil as Chip and O’Brien looked on. He then looked over the weather report that had been waiting for him on the table and worried the pencil between his fingers. "Ah ha, he’s heading into the storm. Good call Chief Davis. That will be their ticket off the boat."
"When will the storm hit?" asked Chip.
"I calculated first thing in the morning," responded O’Brien.
"Well, then we best keep hidden until morning," stated Nelson throwing the pencil down.
It was dawn and a crack of thunder was heard vibrating through the sky. The seamen all looked up into the sky. The storm was nearly upon them. Lee looked behind the stern into the far distance. A small object was barely above the water. Time to put the plan into action. He’d noticed the guard in the wheelhouse had come down for breakfast and none had replaced him.
"Ski," Crane said softly, "Don’t look back now, but Seaview is about two thousand yards back. I want you to quietly spread the word. I also need to get a message to Chief Davis. He’s all ready made a course correction to the northeast. He must be reading my mind. I think there’s a hurricane heading this way. I want him to stay on that course no matter what. It’s imperative I get into the wheelhouse. I have a good idea what the Admiral’s plan is, but he’s waiting on me to call the shots."
Ski nodded and noticed Baxter had come out on deck. He carefully passed the word to Riley who passed it onto Owens of the Sea Cub and so on. The next step was reaching the Chief.
"How’s it look Admiral?" asked Chip.
"Mmm, I can see Lee in the stern. There are two men under the wheelhouse and it looks like Riley is…I don’t know what he’s doing for sure. He seems to be acting sick. I think he just hurled on the deck in front of Baxter."
Chip started chuckling.
Nelson kept a straight face and went on with, "That has got to be Baxter. He fits the description Heather gave us of him to a T, speaking of Heather, her back’s a mass of bruises." Nelson’s stomach turned over at that. Damn, I wish I’d never let her off the boat. That was the worst thing I ever witnessed seeing her whipped like that. It took all Sharkey had to hold me back. How did Lee ever stand it? "Chip, don’t ever let her talk me into anything again, you hear me?"
Chip could only nod. He knew the Admiral was hurting for Lee, Heather and the men even though he was doing a good job of hiding it. He glanced around the control room and noticed the men seemed unusually quiet. They were all deeply worried too.
."So, what’s the plan Admiral?"
"We’re going to stay on their tail and hound them. The weather is getting worse by the minute. I’m sure Lee will make a move to get into the wheelhouse. When that happens, Seaview will pay them a visit. I wonder if Baxter will get seasick?"
Riley didn’t have to fake getting sick. He was sick from a probable concussion. From the time he’d awakened he’d had stomach cramps and nausea. His head spun and the waves were making things worse. He had overheard his Skipper talking to Ski and had asked if he could be the diversion.
He staggered over to Hertz and Patterson who had just been allowed to use the head. They had been untied and were stretching their cramped legs. It was now Ski’s and Riley’s turn. He couldn’t help himself; he vomited on Baxter’s shoes and on the deck. Baxter went ballistic and started hitting him with his fists. Hertz and Ski came to his rescue and started a fight with the other guards. The guard on the wheelhouse deck jumped down to help. Patterson meanwhile climbed up the port side ladder and quickly ran over to the rear window and delivered the message to Chief Davis. He just made it back down before his guard grabbed him and threw him to the deck with his now subdued crewmembers.
"Lock them up in the hold! Leave Crane!"
Owens who had been left beside the Captain was yanked to his feet and joined the others. The men were then herded to the main hatch in the middle of the deck where the fish were stowed on ice. Each was forced into the cold freezer. Baxter wiped furiously at his shoes with a rag. He became enraged further when he discovered oil on the rag and looked at his now soiled white canvas shoes. He glanced at Crane.
One of the hardest things Lee ever did was keep a straight face. It still didn’t appease Baxter. Just knowing what Crane had seen added fuel to the fire. Baxter threw down the rag and picked up the whip. He had the satisfaction of seeing Crane tense. It made him feel powerful and in control.
"I warned you Captain!" he shouted. He turned with joy towards his intended victim and cracked the whip on the deck…once, twice, three times making Heather jump each time. His laughter filled the air at his own joke.
He turned back to Crane and Lee could see the insanity in his eyes. He turned back towards his victim.
"Paybacks are a bitch!"
He laid one on Heather’s back with all his strength. She screamed loud and long. It felt like a hot razor blade tearing down her back, her body convulsed and writhed in pain. Baxter brought his arm back to repeat the motion when the boat jerked roughly to starboard making him stumble.
"What’s going on up there?" shouted Baxter. For an answer the boat jerked again knocking him off his feet. He bellowed to his nearest man, "Get up there and see what’s going on!"
The man double-timed it up the ladder. A moment later and after another jolt the man came to the rear window white faced, "Mr. Baxter, the Chief’s out cold!"
"What!" roared Baxter dropping the whip and climbing up the ladder narrowly missing Heather’s hand.
Lee calmly turned around and looked over the waves. He saw Seaview’s periscope wink at him. He slowly nodded his head. He brought his feet up underneath him and used the bulkhead of the stern to stand up. He was stiff and sore. His hands were numb from the ropes and his shoulder was dully throbbing from being in the same position so long. He glanced over to his wife. Blood was seeping through the lash mark running down her sunburned back. His head spun and his stomach cramped.
He maneuvered drunkenly across the boat for the waves had picked up to ten-foot swells and the wind had become sharper causing the boat to pitch. The clouds were noticeably dark now and as far as the eye could see. The giant latched onto his arm, there was fear in his eyes.
"Captain, what’s happening?"
"Hurricane," he simply answered. He watched the man’s face turn white as the information registered.
"Are we going to die out here?"
"Maybe," said Crane as if it were an everyday occurrence. The pressure on his arm increased as the giant grew more frightened.
"But, you’re a Captain, you know about boats and weather."
"Yes, I do." He let that sink in then slyly suggested, "I can help if you untie me."
"Why should I trust you?" asked the giant suddenly leery.
"For starters my wife and men are on board this boat and I really don’t want to meet Davy Jones just yet," reasoned Crane. He watched the giant’s eyes. He was getting through.
Baxter came flying down the ladder when he saw Crane untied. "Who gave you permission to untie him?" he bellowed.
"I did!" roared the giant.
To Lee’s surprise Baxter backed down. Interesting.
The giant went on "The Captain says we have a hurricane coming."
"He would say anything to scare you," countered Baxter shooting an angry glare at Crane who was flexing his numb fingers.
Lee steamed on the inside placidly explained, "Look Baxter it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out we got a storm coming. Look at the clouds. See how low they are? Watch the clouds in the wind. See the rotation? We’re in for it and soon."
Baxter studied the weather. Then reluctantly said "All right. What’s in it for you?"
The giant cut in with "He wants to live like the rest of us."
The boat jerked to port this time as a gust of wind hit it. Lee faking anxiety, "What’s going on in the wheelhouse? The Chief ok? If he’s not careful we’re going to capsize."
"Capsize?" questioned the giant his eyes even bigger now. His fear was transferring itself to some of the other men who had been listening. They were beginning to talk. Some of them even looked seasick.
A bolt of lightening arced across the sky followed by a boom of thunder. It started to rain. Lee silently waited.
In a matter of moments the wind changed and picked up in force. The boat dipped into a valley then crested on a wave knocking the men all around. Lee held his ground by bracing himself against the port ladder and holding onto a rung. A rogue wave hit the inside of the boat knocking men off their feet. He noticed Heather received the full force of the wave but the rope around her wrists held her secure. He started to grin.
Crane yelled, "If you’re not careful you can easily get swept overboard. The waves will be coming over the sides at a faster pace now. We need to secure the hatches and any loose equipment."
Another wave crashed over the deck sending fear into the men. The men were turning green and some were retching over the side.
"Enough Captain, get up to the wheelhouse and take over!" screamed Baxter.
Baxter pulled out his gun. "I’ll shoot you," he threatened and realized how stupid that sounded. "Correction I’ll shoot your precious wife if you don’t get up into that wheelhouse."
"No," stated Crane his face hard and his eyes unreadable.
Baxter cocked the gun and pointed it at Heather.
In a cold voice the Captain promised, "You shoot her and I’ll never steer this boat. It won’t matter to me if we all drown."
Waves were now crashing across the boat in a regular pattern. The boat was being tossed from side to side. The men were wet, cold and scared. Heather’s body was limp; her head rolled loosely back and forth like a rag doll. The giant stepped in "Give him whatever he wants but give it to him." Baxter hesitated and the giant grabbed him by the shirt. "Do it, or we’ll all die!"
"All right. What do you want Crane?" asked Baxter bitterly.
"I want an inflatable raft put over the side for my crew and wife."
Baxter thought he was crazy. "An inflatable? In this weather?" Crane continued to stare at him revealing nothing. Then much to Baxter’s chagrin fear crept into his voice. "Why, is the boat going to sink?"
"No, but I want them off this boat. If we make it through the storm, I want them as far away from you as possible."
Lightening and thunder crashed across the sky again. Waves continued to wash over the boat. The giant was growing impatient. He made a threatening gesture towards Baxter to hurry up.
"You can have the raft and your men can go free, but the woman stays here, that’s my only offer."
Lee didn’t trust Baxter. He had to get the men off the boat now. Hypothermia would be setting in if they were forced to remain in the freezing hold. Also, if he waited until later Baxter would just kill them out of spite. Even with Seaview at their stern, there would be very little Nelson could do in time to prevent a blood bath. He would have to find another way to get Heather and himself off the boat.
"All right, the men go free now, but I want my wife up in the wheelhouse with me."
It was Baxter’s turn to say "No." Another bolt of lightening shot over the horizon.
The giant bellowed. "Let him have her, now get the men in the boat!"
Baxter was seething angry, "I’ll get you for this Crane. You might have won a battle, but I’ll win the war!"
It took only minutes to get the raft in the water and all the men loaded into it. Chief Davis, who had been faking unconsciousness was roughly hauled down from the wheelhouse and put in the raft with the men. The men hadn’t wanted to leave without their Skipper, but a direct order from him changed their mind. They were well trained and followed his orders without question. Captain Crane was proud of his men and it showed. One problem solved, now to keep Heather and myself alive.
Lee went over and untied his wife. She collapsed in his arms. He picked her up and carefully put her over his shoulder, then started up the ladder.
"I didn’t give you permission to take her down," raged Baxter.
Lee gave a questioning look over his shoulder to the giant who growled menacingly at Baxter. He once again backed down.
A much bigger rogue wave crashed over the deck washing three men overboard. Mass pandemonium broke out. Some of the men made it into the crew’s cabin under the wheelhouse. Others grabbed on to whatever was available. Lee had just made it to the top of the ladder leading to the wheelhouse. He crouched down with Heather between his arms and held onto the deck rail with all his strength. But, the events of the last couple of days had sapped his strength. He felt his grip slipping and feared being swept away when a strong arm grabbed him and held him in place. The giant had saved their lives.
The boat was pitching like mad now and he had to get to the wheelhouse. With the last of his strength he picked up Heather and made his way forward to the bow where the door to pilot’s house was located. It was warm inside. He vaguely thought Davis must have turned the heaters on. He put Heather down on the deck near the heater. Her shivering form immediately curled into a tight ball. He found an old jacket sitting on the Captain’s chair and covered her. He was shivering himself but there was no time to lose. He then relieved the frighten man at the wheel and ordered him below. When the man had opened the trapdoor that lead to the crew’s quarters he heard Baxter cursing the fates.
The giant had accompanied them into the wheelhouse. Lee suspected it was to keep an eye on them. He mentally reassessed all their options. He could keep heading into the hurricane and hope they could find a way off the boat or he could turn around and try to out run the storm. The only problem, once they were out of the storm’s path Baxter would continue with his devious plans. He’d rather take his chances with the hurricane. He flipped on the radio listening to the marine weather channel to get the whole picture. He checked the weather monitor that printed out the storm’s pattern in the immediate area. It was worse than he had previously thought. A squall line was preceding the hurricane. They would have to go through the squall first, then after a brief lull they’d be entering the hurricane’s circular bands. He had the giant get the map from the plot table. Chief Davis had marked their last position. As he steered the boat, he did a quick set of calculations in his mind. Yes, we’re in Atlantic waters now and headed directly into its path.
The boat crested another wave and Lee expertly guided her down. On the way over the top of the next wave, he looked out the rear window and noticed Seaview had partly broached the surface and was taking the men aboard. At least, they made it. He glanced down at Heather who was watching him. They’re eyes met, a message passed between them, I love you. It gave him hope and strength to face the ordeal ahead.
Seaview was at ninety feet and feeling the effects of the storm raging on the surface. The boat rolled with the waves and the planesmen had to constantly keep adjusting trim to keep her even. Nelson and Morton constantly manned the periscope for it was their only link to keep watch on the happenings aboard the Revelation.
They had broached the surface only enough to keep the conning tower above the waves. It had been tricky for the pitching of the waves made the submarine roll heavily from side to side. Water cascaded down the hatch in spite of their best attempts to keep it out. Sharkey and five other crewmen had gone topside to the bridge dressed in full fowl weather gear and life vests. The inflatable had fought its way back to Seaview with a great deal of paddling from the men due to the high waves. In the end, they’d had to abandon the raft and swim for the rescue net that Sharkey and the other crewmen threw over the side of the conning tower. The men grabbed the net then had to climb upwards to reach the sill as the Chief and his men pulled it in. They were all exhausted when the ordeal was over.
"Six down and two to go," said Nelson sipping a cup of coffee by the sideboard. He was staring out the window with a hand propped on the bulkhead. Sharkey had just joined him in the observation nose. He turned and poured another cup of coffee for his Chief who gratefully accepted. They then sat down in the recliners in front of the window.
"The men seem okay except for Riley. He’s a bit bruised and looking a bit peaked. I sent them down to sickbay for a quick check up," reported Sharkey. He lit up cigarette and put the burned out match in the ashtray noticing it was full of butts from the Admiral’s chain smoking. "I’m glad to see I’m not the only nervous one," he teased, but it lacked humor.
Nelson started pacing again. He’d stop and occasionally looked out the window into the sea. "Even the fish are staying well below the surface," he absently announced. A deep sigh followed. "Blast, I wish there was something more we could do!"
Sharkey tried to encourage him. "We got the men back in one piece. We found and rescued Jaguar. By the way Admiral, how is Captain Masters doing?"
"Doc said so far he’s holding his own. He has double pneumonia from being left out in the elements for a week. A long with that, he has various cracked ribs, which only compounds the problems with his lungs and of course you know about the broken leg. Doc said it was a clean break of the tibia and fibula. He was surprised to find no infection had set in. He’s sedated and on a vent to make breathing easier for him while the oxygen dries out his lungs. Once the antibiotics kick in and bring his fever down then he’ll have a fighting chance."
Sharkey mournfully replied, "I hope so Sir, especially, for Heather’s and the Skipper’s sake. I know they felt they owed him one for getting the Lynx out of that hellhole. I wonder if the Skipper and Capt. Masters patched up their differences?"
"I imagine they did, Sharkey." Then impatiently, he picked up the mike. "Chip, how’s it going topside?"
Chip reported in a deadpan voice from the periscope island, "Same as before Admiral, the waves are up to twenty to thirty foot swells and growing. The storm has turned into a full size gale. The Revelation is hanging in there even though it could capsize anytime. If Lee and Heather make it off the boat, we wouldn’t be able to rescue them."
"Mmm, that’s what worries me. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t."
Lee Crane had been fighting with the elements for what seemed like hours. He was exhausted. His hand was on fire and throbbing along with his shoulder. He tried to work the kinks out of his shoulders by flexing them without much success.
Heather had taken her place beside her husband shortly after she had sufficiently warmed up and regained the feeling in her hands. Lee had her take over the gear shifter while he handled the big wheel. As the severity of the storm increased it took both his hands to control the wheel.
"Wait…wait…" the boat was coming down a swell. "Okay, shift to full throttle," ordered Lee.
Heather did as directed as they reached the valley and started back up the next swell. When they reached the peak she pulled back on the throttle and Lee guided the boat down the swell as it coasted until they came to the valley. The waves would splash over the boat and at times submerge it. So far, each time the boat popped back to the surface and they’d ride another wave.
The floor hatch to the galley opened letting in the stench of vomit from below. Out climbed Baxter. His face was actually green in color and he was holding his stomach. Heather spared him a quick glance. She quietly giggled. Lee feeling her mirth silently laughed with her.
"Crane!" Baxter bellowed. "When are we going to get out of this storm?"
Not taking his eyes off the sea Crane yelled back, "We’re not. We’re in a squall, which is feeding off the winds of the hurricane. We’re surrounded by bad weather. Mother Nature is not letting us out." He hoped Baxter would believe his lie that the storm was worse than it really was.
"I don’t understand. Can’t you just turn around and go the other way?" complained Baxter.
"It’s not that easy," explained an irritated Lee. "To turn around, we’d probably capsize. Our only choice is to ride it out." Until we reach the lull between the two storms, then we’re abandoning ship.
The boat crested another wave and made a sharp descent as Heather pulled back on the throttle once again. The water covered the boat at the bottom and she shifted to full throttle. Baxter looked like he was going to faint. He looked at the giant who stood braced in the corner where the door was silently watching.
"How can you stand this?" he impatiently asked as he staggered to keep his balance.
"Do we have a choice?" replied the giant.
Baxter shook his head and wished he wouldn’t have. He glanced over to Heather who was calmly shifting gears. He hated her. I see I still haven’t broken her spirit. But, when this is over I will. I’ll drop the good Captain off first to the People’s Republic and then I have a nice dark box to keep her in. A few days in there and she’ll beg to be let out. The box is in the hold filled with chemicals bound for the Peoples Republic. It’s air and watertight. Once we reach our destination, I’ll force Crane to watch me put her in there. It’ll be his last memory of his wife. Of course, he’ll never know about the oxygen tank I’ll put in there with her…
Heather felt Baxter’s eyes on her. She glanced over to him with total indifference and felt a wave of fear that had nothing to do with the weather. He’s up to something. He’ll never let Lee and me go. Somehow we’ve got to get off this boat before the storm ends, but how?
Lee’s thoughts were running parallel with his wife’s. He didn’t like the way Baxter was looking at Heather. If we jumped ship now, how long could we survive? The water’s cold. Seaview wouldn’t dare surface in this weather. The waves would roll her right over. That means we’ll only have moments to jump overboard when we reach the end of the squall. We’ll have to get off before Baxter realizes we’re between storms. On top of that, we’re exhausted, how are we ever going to make the swim?
Baxter held a short quiet conversation with the giant who stood solemnly braced in the corner. The Revelation started climbing a steeper wave and Baxter’s stomach turned once again.
"I’ve had enough of this roller coaster ride. I’m going below." He lifted the hatch door and descended down the ladder.
Lee’s left hand was still seeping blood, the bandage was totally sodden causing the wheel to become slippery over and over. He had wiped it off each time with his shirtsleeve, but had become disgusted with the habit. "I need something to wrap around this hand and to clean the wheel off. Heather, see what you can find…"
Heather started looking for a rag or towel. To their surprise the giant said, "I saw a first aid kit down below. I’ll go get it." The giant opened the hatch and started down.
Lee whispered in his wife’s ear, "When he brings the kit up here and you rewrap my hand, steal the scissors. When we get close enough to the end of the squall we’re going overboard from the stern, but first I want to grab a fishing buoy so we have something to stay afloat with. The swim will be exhausting and if Seaview can’t broach the surface right away we’re going to need it..."
Another steep wave drew his attention and that was all he was able to say before the giant came back up. He handed the kit to Heather and told the Captain he would take over for a while. Lee hid his surprise and showed him what to do.
Over by the plot table Heather opened the first aid kit and was surprised to find it complete with everything she needed including medicine. Heather carefully cut the sodden bandage off his hand. She noticed it was swollen and red.
"It’s infected," she frowned. "I need to clean this," she grabbed a povidone-iodine swab opened the package and spread it on liberally. She gently squeezed the cut working in the brown solution. She reapplied the povidone-iodine with a new swab and added the alcohol much to Lee’s annoyance. At least this time, I didn’t swear, out loud. She applied a new pressure bandage then wrapped it tightly with a roll of gauze around his hand. When she thought it was sufficient she snipped the end of the roll and pocketed the scissors while splitting the ends and tying them into a knot. "How long has it been since you had a tetanus shot?" she asked seeing the bottle.
"Ah, Doc gave me one when I rescued you a year ago. He’s good at keeping us up to date on those things."
"Probably, because you’re always in sickbay for one reason or another," she quipped. She prepared a needle.
"What…but…I told you I all ready had one," he stated nervously.
"This, my dear is penicillin. Baxter has a full drug box, which is odd considering we’re on a fishing boat."
Lee replied, "Well Baxter is a drug dealer and a pharmaceutical one to boot. He can stock anything he wishes…"
Lucky for you, now do you want it in your hip or arm?"
"How do you know how much to give?" he asked suddenly warm and rolling up his sleeve.
"I don’t…I’m guessing. So, here goes." She took an alcohol wipe and cleaned a spot on the arm then injected the needle. He barely felt it. He looked into her tired eyes and saw a trace of tears and hugged her to him. He ran a hand down her bareback absently and felt her stiffen. It quickly reminded him of all that had taken place.
"Prepare another syringe and turn around," he ordered. At her perplexed look he went on, "Your back needs tending. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander… " She stuck her tongue out at him.
The giant was doing well at controlling the boat noticed Lee as he glanced over his shoulder. Of course, it helps to have two good hands, one to steer the other to shift gears with.
Lee kept his back to him as he tended his wife. He quickly washed the laceration with another povidone-iodine swab and followed the steps Heather had previously used. Before Lee closed the kit he soundlessly took out two more syringes and filled them with valium. He capped the needles and gave one to Heather. She carefully put it in her pocket. Lee then pulled the latest weather graph off the monitor, studied it and took back over the wheel.
The giant asked if he could control the gears. Lee was surprised again, but didn’t let on. Why, the sudden interest in this boat? They’re planning something. I can feel it. He looked back at his wife who was just joining him at the wheel. We’re going to have to make our move soon. The squall is lessening. He leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Lifejackets."
Heather looked around the tiny cabin trying not to be obvious. They have to be around here somewhere. She glanced under the plot table and found a box marked, 'life vests'. Bingo!
Sometime later the rhythm of the waves ceased their pounding. The swells were still high, but not violent. For a brief moment a ray of sunshine shown through the break in the clouds. It gave them hope for what was to come. Then as suddenly as it appeared the sun went behind a cloud.
It’s now or never, thought Lee. He turned towards his wife and said, "We need some fresh air."
"I think not," said the giant pulling a gun.
"Look, we’re between storms. The hurricane will be upon us soon. This lull is only temporary. I need some rest for the next storm will be rougher," pleaded Lee. "I only want to sit on the stern and get some fresh air."
"You’re lying Captain. Baxter thinks you’ll try to escape…"
"Escape? Where…? The ocean?" interrupted Lee thinking furiously. I’ve got to get us out of here. The swells have lessened and this is as calm as it’s going to get. Seaview can surface now.
"I’m here to stop you. Now, turn around and let me tie your hands. I don’t necessarily want to hurt you, but I will," persisted the giant. "You know I can steer this boat it wasn’t that hard before."
"All right," said Lee as he pretended to cooperate. He turned around and put his hands behind his back. He waited until he felt the giant tuck the gun inside his belt then turned quickly and jabbed him in the jaw. It was like hitting a brick wall. The man didn’t budge. He only grinned that smile that said I got you. Lee tried again only to be brought up short by the giant grabbing him around the ribs and squeezing. Lee tried a karate chop to the neck and to his disgust it didn’t faze him. The giant squeezed harder and Lee loudly moaned sure his ribs were going to cave in from the pressure and pain. He tried putting his hands around his thick neck when he noticed a blur of red hair standing on the plot table.
Come on Lee maneuver him a little closer. Heather was on top of the table holding the valium filled syringe like a dagger. The giant’s back was facing her.
Lee used the last of his strength and put his thumbs in the giant’s eyes and at the same time pushed him toward Heather. Heather wrapped a slender arm around the giant’s neck and rammed the needle into his neck just below his jaw hoping she’d hit the jugular vein.
The giant bellowed and dropped Lee. Heather’s arm was still around his neck as he swung around knocking her off the table and onto the deck. The giant leaned down reaching for Heather as he pulled out his gun from his belt. Lee jumped on him piggyback style as Heather tried to scramble out of the way. The giant tried bucking him off, but Lee held tight until the giant stumbled and crumbled to the deck from the effects of the valium.
"Whew," gasped Lee trying to catch his breath. "Are you okay?"
Not realizing she’d been holding her breath she replied, "Yeah, I think so."
The boat did a dip and Lee grabbed the wheel and turned it into the wind. He then locked the wheel in place and set the automatic navigator.
He grabbed her hand and picked up the gun from the giant. "Come on, let’s get out of here."
"Wait!" yelled Heather breaking hand contact. She lifted the plot table and opened the box holding the life vests. She quickly grabbed two and handed one to Lee. They each hastily donned them.
The wind had picked up and the swells were increasing in strength. The weather was again changing at a faster pace than Lee would have liked. Time was running out. The edge of the hurricane was fast approaching. They were on the bow on the starboard side.
"It’s to risky here. The waves are too unpredictable. There’s a good chance we won’t jump clear enough to keep the boat from coming down on top of us. We’re going to have to jump from the stern, after all."
Heather nodded her head that she understood. She was scared. She had no memory of her prior drowning, but Lee had told her how close he had come to losing her. A quick glimpse of his face told her he was recalling the memory also.
"We’ve got to hurry, if Baxter realizes we’re through the squall he’ll be on us at any moment." He tightened the grip on the gun and started around the wheelhouse. They made it down the starboard ladder. Carefully they crossed the deck to the stern.
Seaview was still at ninety feet. Sharkey was on periscope duty when he noticed the Skipper and Heather on the starboard bow. He notified the Admiral and he instantly took over the periscope.
"Chip bring Seaview within one thousand yards and broach the surface," he ordered. Nelson continued to watch his captain and daughter as they came down the ladder and crossed to the stern. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Baxter open the cabin door. He watched as Baxter and his men stepped through the door. "Lee, look around! Your back son, your back!"
Heather took the scissors out and snipped the fishing line to the buoy Lee indicated. Lee handed the gun to Heather and started to lift the buoy when a silky voice said, "Going somewhere Captain?"
Lee immediately dropped the buoy and forced Heather behind him. He turned to find Baxter with four men holding guns on them. He felt doomed.
"Belay, the broach," ordered Nelson still watching through the periscope.
Chip quickly repeated the order. Sharkey cast a questioning look at his Admiral. "Something wrong Admiral?"
"Baxter just caught them on the stern."
"Oh no," groaned Sharkey hitting the rail with his fist. "They were so close."
Nelson continued to watch as he spoke. "Sharkey, have the missile room load a magnetic homing torpedo with no firing cap in tube two. Range 020 relative at one thousand yards."
"A dud Sir?"
"No time to explain, just do it!"
"Aye Sir," Sharkey gave the orders to the missile room. Kowalski and Patterson who were on radar just looked at each other.
"Chip, bring Seaview ten degrees to port and down angle the bow two degrees. Keep the same missile coordinates, we’re going to aim for the keel of the Revelation."
Both men did as bid.
When they were in position, Nelson ordered, "When we broach the surface, fire!"
"But, that will sink her Admiral," protested Sharkey. "The Skipper…?"
"Exactly, the keel will be ripped out and she’ll capsize without an explosion. I only hope it buys Lee and Heather enough time to get off the boat. Now Chip, bring her up slowly."
Nelson continued to watch through the scope. Suddenly, his body stiffened and he murmured, "I don’t believe what I’m seeing..."
The weather was quickly changing. It had started to rain in earnest. The waves were climbing higher, but not yet sweeping over the boat. Lee knew it was only a matter of time before they’d begin their relentless pounding. He also knew Seaview was only a few yards out…waiting…
Baxter holding onto the starboard rail carefully approached the middle of the rocking boat. Two of his men stumbled behind him while the other two took positions on the port side of the boat. He motioned for Crane to come forward with his gun.
Lee held his position enraging Baxter.
"I order you to come here or I swear I will shoot you!" His men aimed their guns directly at him.
"Then who will steer your boat?" yelled Lee over the wind.
"The giant can do it. You taught him well enough," bellowed Baxter with a sneer.
"Think again. The giant’s taking an enforced nap," shouted Crane increasing Baxter’s rage.
Baxter ordered one of his men up to the wheelhouse to check it out. He let go of the rail and started toward the Cranes.
"You know Baxter without that gun and those men you really aren’t so tough," Lee taunted. "Why I bet, I could beat the crap out of you."
Baxter’s laughter echoed over the sound of the waves, "You want to take me on Crane?" he boasted. "Now? Before the hurricane hits?"
"Why not? It’d give me great pleasure to kick your sorry ass."
Baxter yelled, "Come and get me Captain!"
Lee started to advance. Heather grabbed his camouflage shirt. "Lee, you can’t be serious? It’s what he wants. He won’t fight fair."
He gave her a patronizing look and in a low voice said, "Be ready to jump," then in a louder voice stated, "I’m going to make him regret he ever heard of us."
The boat was rolling with the waves. The men struggled to the middle of the deck. Baxter threw the first punch with a right hook. Lee easily ducked and came back with a left jab to Baxter’s jaw forgetting about his injured hand. Pain exploded all the way up his arm. He felt instantly the blood soaking the bandage.
Baxter took advantage of the pain and kicked Lee hard in the ribs. Lee went down onto the deck and rolled with the pitch of the boat. A wave slammed across the deck knocking Baxter off his feet. Mother Nature was making herself known again.
"I’m going to carve you up Captain and feed you to the fish," growled Baxter as he brandished a fishing knife and lunged on top of Crane. "Then, I’m going to start on that pretty wife of yours."
Lee grabbed for the knife as they rolled back and forth on the slippery deck. First one man was on top pressing the advantage then the other. Another wave crashed over the wheelhouse knocking Baxter’s henchmen off their feet forcing them to grab onto whatever was handy. Crane and Baxter were swept down the length of the deck into the bulkhead of the stern by the fishing buoys and spools of line.
Heather was still on the stern by the big spools of fishing line. She still had the gun and it had followed Baxter’s every move. So help me, if he kills Lee I will shoot him even if it’s the last thing I ever do. I’ve got to stop this insanity. Another wave covered the deck. She held on to one of the spools turning her face away from the water and noticed behind her there was no protective railing. It was an open space in the bulkhead where the men hauled in the big fish from the sea.
The water receded and Baxter was on top of Lee with the knife at his throat. They were only inches from her. Lee was weakening for his injuries had taken a toll on his strength. The knife was nicking his throat.
Heather knew she had to do something and fast, but, what? If I shoot Baxter his men will only return fire. We’d never get off the boat in time before they killed us. She gave them a quick glance to confirm her suspicions. They were crawling aft with pistols still in hand. Think, Heather, think...you got a gun…use your plan for the decoy!
Heather kept her grasp on the fishing spool with one hand and fired two shots in the air, which effectively stopped the fight. She quickly put the gun to her head and tried to maintain her position in front of the open bulkhead blocking Baxter’s view.
"I’ve had it. I can’t take anymore!" she screamed. "You still want me Baxter? Am I really worth over a million dollars? Tell me, how much is that damn sheik willing to pay you for me?"
Baxter looked up at Heather and Crane gave him a quick upper cut to the jaw effectively knocking Baxter off of him. Lee immediately rolled with the boat and climbed to his feet yelling at the same time, "Heather, put the gun down!" She did so as Seaview broached the surface.
Nelson looking through the periscope yelled, "Fire!"
Chip repeated with "Fire two."
"Two’s away," was heard over the intercom.
Nelson watched through the scope and was soon rewarded when he saw the Revelation shudder and heave sharply to port. The deck cracked in two and immediately began taking on water. Two of Baxter’s men were thrown into the water while a third fell through the main hatch. A huge wave crashed upon the deck swallowing everything in its path on the way to the stern. Nelson forgot to breathe as he watched his Captain frantically grab his wife before the wave covered them washing them both into the sea.
Lee Crane was furious. Furious that she’d taken such a chance, furious that he didn’t get to beat the crap out of Baxter and furious that they were still fighting for their lives with Mother Nature.
They had hit the water going deep. Lee still holding onto Heather, inflated her lifejacket with a pull of a cord. He then did the same with his own bringing them to the surface. He looked back at the Revelation surprised to find Baxter was still on the stern clinging to a rail and aiming a gun at them from the boat. Where’d he get that gun? Must be Heather’s. He felt the bullets skimming by and yelled, "SWIM!" and they swam fast and hard for their lives depended on it.
A wave crashed over the boat effectively knocking Baxter overboard. The man was panic-stricken, he couldn’t get his heavy bulletproof vest off and it was weighing him down. He called for help and received none. He saw the Cranes swimming towards Seaview and his last thought was as he went under, my brother will get you…
Heather was tiring quickly. She swam as hard as she could but wasn’t getting anywhere fast. The waves kept knocking her back. She saw Seaview in the distance and wondered if she’d ever step foot on her again. The water was freezing and she felt her body going numb. She was dimly aware of Lee grabbing her.
Damn, she’s exhausted, thought Lee, who’s kidding who, so am I…500 more yards to Seaview…it might as well be ten miles.
"Swim…! So help me God, we’re going to make it… and when we do… I am going to beat that ass of yours… You won’t be sitting down for a week… I swear it…! Is this how you obey my orders…? You’ll be lucky if I ever… let you on this boat again…! Don’t you dare give up on me…! Keep swimming…! Show me what you’re made of… Where’s the Nelson spunk…? The Irish grit? Damn it woman! Swim!"
Seaview was having her own troubles, holding trim was next to impossible. The waves drowned her and tossed her from side to side. Every time she rolled water came down the conning tower hatch and headed for the control room. Nelson finally ordered the control room hatch shut. He along with Chiefs Sharkey and Davis were on the bridge in foul weather gear. They had the net secured over the side and could do nothing but wait. Three more men were inside the conning tower waiting to give assistance when the swimmers got close enough.
"Can’t we get any closer Admiral?" anxiously asked Sharkey.
"I’m afraid not. With the pitching of the boat we’d be taking a big risk in hitting them. It’s safer if we stay in position and they come to us."
Inside Seaview, it was a beehive of activity. The planesman and helmsman had to continuously make corrections to keep in position and reasonably maintain trim. The Exec, Chip Morton was tirelessly on the mike issuing orders and receiving reports from all areas.
Doc Jamison was also issuing orders and preparing sickbay for two or more hypothermia patients. He had the saline IV’s warming, with extra blankets in the heated alcove and the warmed humidified oxygen standing by along with the dreaded NG tube if needed.
Doc had other worries also. With the constant tossing of the waves the men inside were getting seasick. Normally, they never had a problem, for they rarely felt the motion of a submarine when it was submerged. Luckily, I had anticipated the motion sickness and dispensed pills to those who thought they might need them. But, there are always a few.
He checked on Capt. Masters and was surprised to find him awake. By the look in his eyes he knew he had to tell him something.
"Tony, as if you couldn’t tell by the pitch of the boat, we’re on the surface and a rescue of Lee and Heather is in progress. Your men are all safe along with Seaview’s. It’s a long story and I’ll tell you about it at a later date. Tony nodded and pointed to the tube in his throat.
"Your lungs are drying up at a good rate. With luck I can remove the tube in 24 hours. Now, get some rest. Tony glared at him. Now, where have I seen that look before? He’s probably going to be just like the senior staff on this boat. Doc gave a heavy sigh.
Riley was still confined to sickbay with the concussion he’d received from Baxter.
"Man, oh man," he moaned. "I don’t think my stomach or head is ever going to be the same again."
"Easy Riley," sympathized Doc. "As soon as the Skipper’s aboard we’ll submerge and this will be nothing but a bad memory."
"I hope so, Doc. How long can they be out in that water?"
"About 45 minutes max, longer than that we’ll be in trouble."
"How long has it been since we fired that torpedo?"
"About 15 minutes, there’s still time," replied a worried Doc glancing at his watch.
Kowalski, Patterson and Owens from the Sea Cub waited in the conning tower between the bridge and the control room.
"How long have they been out there Ski?" asked Owens hanging on to the ladder as Seaview did another dip.
"I’m not sure, about 20 minutes I guess."
"The Skipper and Heather didn’t look so good when we left them. Do you think they’ll make it?" queried Pat twisting the cords on his life vest.
"The Skipper will make it. He’s been in tighter places than this before," defended Ski his voice lacked the usual confidence.
"But Ski, he’s got Heather with him this time. I know he’s physically fit, but she’s going to slow him down," complained Pat.
Ski sarcastically, "What do you want him to do? Leave her?"
"No, of course not. He’d die without her."
On the bridge, Nelson looked at his watch. "25 minutes they’ve been in the water. Damn I feel helpless!"
Sharkey shouted, "They’re about ten yards away now. Do you see any other survivors from the boat?"
Nelson brought up the binoculars again to his eyes and looked around. The Revelation was sinking fast. "No, only Lee and Heather," he trained the glass directly on them trying to read their faces. He smiled, "Lee is still yelling at Heather and she’s gritting her teeth. They’re going to make it or my name isn’t Harriman Nelson."
"Come on Heather…it’s only a little further…I can see their faces…" Lee swam harder dragging her with him. I’ve never been so tired in my life…only a little more ways to go. We can do this!
Finally, he felt the sail fins of Seaview under his feet. He was panting as he pulled Heather up beside him and grabbed the net. She was ashen with a tinge of blue and dead weight. Her eyes were open and she wondered how she was ever going to climb the net. Faces appeared over the sill, beloved faces, she giggled. Lee thought she was losing her mind then realized it was only stress. He held her against him and felt giddy himself with relief. A rouge wave crashed down upon them almost making him lose his grip. Seaview rolled to port and came up again.
"Heather, grab the net. We’re almost home," encouraged Lee. He could see she had no strength left, but he couldn’t hold her. His own strength was gone. Digging deep inside himself he yelled, "Heather grab the damn net!"
His voice was coming from far away. She felt like she was in a deep well looking up into his face and the faces of her father and godfather. She tried to grasp what Lee was saying. Another wave came over the top of them. She felt herself being pulled away. Her mind screamed! The void, the black void! Fight it! Come on fight it!
Nelson called the men from the conning tower and each man secured his line to a hook outside as he came through the hatch. All the men could plainly see that the Skipper and his wife weren’t going to make it any further.
"Just hang on Lee, we’ll pull you up!" shouted Nelson as another wave crashed upon them making Seaview roll again.
Hurry Admiral! I can’t hold on much longer. " Heather! Grab on! Now!" to his surprise she made a feeble attempt. It was enough for him to reposition her between him and the net. He locked his feet in the netting underneath her and let go of Heather and grabbed the net with his free hand surrounding her. Whew! Just in time. Another wave crashed over them smashing them into the side of the submarine.
Nelson and the men pulled with all their strength to bring the net up. Inch by inch it came until they were finally able to grab the exhausted Cranes. They quickly hauled them over the sill as another wave crashed upon them. When the water had cleared, the men quickly grabbed their Skipper and his wife and lifted them down through the hatch.
The rest of the men quickly headed below securing the netting along the way. Nelson was the last to leave the bridge and looked over to where the once proud Revelation had been. Her stern was just going under. He carefully scanned the ocean for any survivors and found none.
24 hours later
Lee Crane slowly surfaced from a warm cocoon of sleep. He hazily remembered being surrounded in warm blankets, inhaling a warm mist and a sharp prick to his arm then, warm fluids flowed into his veins. He remembered Doc’s gentle commands of open your eyes, squeeze my hand, make a fist and touch your nose. He had tiredly done as asked. A short time later he felt a painful prick to his lacerated hand and felt Doc packing it with something. Then to his dismay, Doc wanted him to carry on a conversation with him. Thank God it had been short, for all he wanted to do was sleep. He fuzzily remembered Doc saying, "He passed the neurological assessment with a score of 15 and he has a body temperature of 33.8C." The very last thing he heard was Heather wasn’t so lucky. She was close to being intubated.
Now he was waking up. He was safe on Seaview. He felt the steady vibration of her movements, heard the familiar noises of her operations and sensed all was well aboard her. So, what in the back of my mind is nagging at me? Why do I sense danger not on board but somewhere else? At least Heather is safe. To reassure himself, he lifted his head to look into the next bunk, it brought instant pain to his left shoulder and ribs. He groaned and rolled to his right side and tried again. He leaned on his elbow and peeked over. The bunk was made and she wasn’t there!
Some what panicked now, he yelled, "Heather?" She couldn’t have been that bad off. Doc said something about intubating, no she can’t be…I got to find her! He started to get out of bed when Doc rushed over to him.
"Easy Skipper, you’re not strong enough to be on your feet yet. Now, stay in bed," he calmly ordered holding Lee back with his hands on his shoulders
"Heather, I’ve got to find her." He made another attempt at getting up, but Doc gently held him down.
"Skipper, she’s not here. Remember? Dr. Pinnell ordered her home as soon as she was stable enough to travel. Frank went with her in the flying sub."
"Dr. Pinnell?" Warning bells went off in his mind.
"Yes," reassured Doc. "She asked your permission, but you weren’t very awake when you gave it. I was afraid that you wouldn’t remember." Doc put his hand on his wrist and took a pulse and respiration. His heart rate is up a bit.
"Then why did you let her go?" asked Lee agitated and confused. He tried to sit up again but was met with a digital thermometer.
"Because she said it would be important to get Heather back into therapy after all that had just happened to her. She said time was of the essence." He didn’t want to tell him the rest of it.
Lee knew there was more, there’s always more. "How is she really?" mumbled Crane the thermometer still in his mouth.
"We heard she came through the hypothermia just fine as you have." She just needed a little more care. Doc took the thermometer out of his mouth and silently read it. Two degrees above normal, what’s up with that? He avoided his Skipper’s eyes.
"You didn’t have to intubate her?"
"No," prattled Doc, "she passed the Glasgow Coma test with a 10. The old adage is less than 8 we intubate, kind of a play on words medically speaking. Anyway, she’s fine with only some nasty bruises on her face, back and various other places. The laceration on her back is healing nicely and I don’t think she’ll have a scar from it even though it was pretty deep. Her wrists have rope burns like yours and should heal fine with a little bit of care."
Lee studied the Doctor. He’s nervous. What isn’t he telling me? His instincts were kicking in again. I don’t like this, something is wrong. I can feel it. He wanted a straight answer and he wanted it now. "Out with it Doc. Why isn’t she here in sickbay and why the rush for therapy?"
Doc sighed, "There are two reasons why she’s not here. Her total score on the neurological assessment chart was a 11."
Lee cut in with, "I thought that was good."
"It is as far as not intubating is concerned. There are two scores, one for the Glasgow Coma scale and one for the trauma score. You convert the points from the Glasgow test over to a scale in Heather’s case a 10 equals 3 points. You take the 3 points and add them to her trauma score that was 8 for a total score of 11. Any score less than 12, indicates a need for a level 1 trauma center for which Heather qualified. So, we transferred her back to Santa Barbara where they are more specialized in emergency care." Lee tried to sit up again and Doc held him back. "Lee, she’s fine. The NG tube came out today and she’ll be going home."
Lee thought over everything Doc told him, but still couldn’t shake the feeling of impending danger. "Dr. Pinnell, where does she fit into all of this?"
"Dr. Pinnell convinced Adm. Nelson the sooner she started therapy the better in view of all that had happened to her. She seems to have her best interests at heart."
"Seems? What is that suppose to mean?" asked Crane still apprehensive. "I don’t like this. She needs to be here on Seaview. She needs the security of feeling safe…" and loved.
"Look Skipper, I don’t know. It’s just a feeling. Remember how upset she was when you first came aboard back in Santa Barbara?" Doc put the oxygen monitor on the tip of his finger and waited for it to beep.
Lee scowled at the memory, "You said she was in shock. You were going to observe her for the cruise. Did you?" The monitor beeped and Lee took it off his finger.
Doc took the reading and stated "97 % good oxygen count," then answered Lee’s question. "Yes and she seemed fine. She’s had no flashbacks correct?"
Lee nodded his head, "As far as I know, none, but her nightmares were back. They were different from the others though. I couldn’t get her to tell me about them. I don’t think it was because she couldn’t remember them either, she didn’t want me to know what was in them."
"Mmm, " puzzled Doc. "Maybe it’s just as well she does get back into therapy. You know Baxter is dead now. She can have her freedom back so to speak. It will be an adjustment for her to get used to again."
Lee mulled this angle over. He hadn’t even thought what Baxter’s death would mean or how it would affect all their lives now. Doc put the blood pressure cuff on his arm and put the stethoscope in his ears and took his blood pressure.
Lee waited until he was done then said, "We’ve talked about this before. I still don’t like the idea of her being all alone."
"She’s not all alone. Adm. Nelson and Sharkey accompanied her back to NIMR. The Admiral said he had some unfinished business to catch up on. He sent Kowalski back with the flying sub and said he’d see us in a few weeks," reported Doc.
"A few weeks? What’s going on? I thought we were returning to Santa Barbara right away?" Doc gave him a pensive look and ordered him to be quiet while he listened to his heart. Lee waited impatiently and when Doc took the stethoscope out of his ears he added, "Well?"
"Your heart is fine."
"I’m not talking about that," stated Crane his temper flaring. "Are you going to answer my questions?"
"Ah, Mr. Morton has new orders. He’ll be down to talk to you about them as soon as I give him the word that you’re awake," pacified Doc.
Lee started to get out of bed. Doc once again restrained him. "That didn’t mean Skipper that you were discharged from sickbay yet. So, just stay put, you hear me?"
"Doc, I feel fine. I need to contact the Admiral that’s all."
"Skipper, you have a few cracked ribs, a bruised shoulder a long with cellulitis in your left hand and a slight temp. Now, I can’t stitch the wound closed with an infection present so I have to do what is called healing by secondary intention."
"What the hell is that?" asked a perplexed Lee. The last thing he wanted to do was be stuck in sickbay.
"You have a nasty infection caused by an unknown pathogen, possibly brought on by your swim in the ocean or your captivity."
"I wasn’t there long enough to pick up any germs," growled Lee. Damn, it probably happened when Baxter stepped on my hand, or when I was in the pit. Then again, the fishing boat could have contributed to it or even when I hit Baxter or the giant.
"It doesn’t matter, the fact is you have. I’ve packed it with sterile gauze soaked in iodine. It will have to be changed once a day until your hand has healed." He let that sink into his mind then added, "You’re also exhausted and dehydrated. You need IV fluids and antibiotics for a few days. Now, I want you to get some extra rest. Chip is taking care of Seaview and the Admiral is taking care of Heather. Maybe it’s a good thing Heather is at NIMR. You won’t have to keep a constant eye on her. Let her Father have the privilege for a while." Doc paused not wanting to tell him the last for he knew he was going to explode.
"Lee, there is one more thing."
Lee resigned to his fate muttered, "What’s that?"
"Ah, you are to have no contact with Heather. None of us are." Doc mentally counted to three.
Lee immediately sat up in bed groaning as he did so. He ignored the pain. "What do you mean I can’t talk to my wife?" He looked wildly around sickbay and belatedly noticed he’d woken the other two patients up. Tony was smiling at him with a lopsided grin and Riley was leaning over the bunk above him.
Doc carefully pushed him back down and pulled out a hypo from his med-jacket as a silent warning. "It was Dr. Pinnell’s orders. She wants no interference from anyone until she contacts us. Even the Admiral was given orders to watch what he said in front of her."
Pinnell again. Lee was really apprehensive now, "Doc, why?"
Doc sighed again. "This is the part I don’t agree with. The Admiral doesn’t either. He’s going to keep a close eye on the situation. You’ll just have to trust his instincts this time. Look Skipper, I know you’re worried, but she is the psychotherapist. If it helps Heather, so be it. Now, I want you to get some sleep."
Lee stayed in his bunk, but he didn’t sleep. He couldn’t shut his mind off. Heather needs me, I’m sure of it. Hell, whom am I kidding? I need her just as bad. What right does Pinnell have to deny me access to my own wife? He rested for a while then rolled over on his sore shoulder cursing the pain and the IV. Unbidden the memories of the Revelation went through his mind. I failed to protect her…we all failed her…it was all to close… She never should have been on that boat…what was Nelson thinking? Damn, if I hadn’t gotten caught to begin with none of this would have happened. It’s really my fault…Maybe, it’s just as well she gets back into counseling. Maybe, Dr. Pinnell is right…I need to talk to Nelson as soon as I can sneak out of here.
10 days later
Adm. Nelson threw his pencil down on his desk exasperated. He got up from his chair and walked to the balcony windows and peered out for the third time in ten minutes. A long sigh followed.
"Humph," he groaned, "Heather’s on the beach again."
"Waiting for Seaview and the Skipper no doubt," added Sharkey relaxing on the couch with the evening paper spread out before him. "She’s been there every night. She seems so lost."
"Mmm, unfortunately, she has no way of knowing they’re on a new assignment salvaging the Revelation. That’s part of the reason I agreed to take her off Seaview. Doc and I didn’t think she needed the added stress."
"So, why the big secret? Why can’t she contact Seaview? As if she hasn’t tried. The Admiral had to out right forbid her to contact them and change the access code. Admiral, I just don’t get it. She needs the Skipper."
"Dr. Pinnell doesn’t want any interference. She stated Heather has to learn to deal with all that has happened to her and now that Baxter is dead, she needs to adjust to her freedom and make her own decisions. The good doctor thinks Lee’s to controlling and over protective."
"Sounds like a lot of hogwash to me," grumbled Sharkey. "After all he is her husband. I swear Heather has tried everything she can to drive us nuts." He flipped a page of the paper.
Nelson grinned at that. "She has put us through our paces. Let’s see she’s been into town numerous times, once to Lookout Point where she stayed all night, she’s taken long drives all around the Santa Barbara area, one into the mountains and has walked numerous times on the beach around this base all without a guard. Technically, she’s broken every rule we’ve laid down before her."
"The Skipper would be having a fit if he knew all that," grimaced Sharkey. "I can hear him now. ‘Heather Nelson Crane! I’m going to warm your backside’ I wonder if he’ll ever carry that threat out?"
Nelson actually guffawed, "More than likely she’ll push him to far one day and he’ll retaliate." He turned away from the window. "Fortunately, we’ve had security or ourselves keeping tabs on her. The homing device board has come in handy."
"As long as she doesn’t take the dolphin ring off," reminded Sharkey puffing on a cigarette.
"She won’t, for I ordered her to keep it on until I said differently," replied Nelson. He left the window and sat back down at his desk. He ran both hands through his hair and rubbed his temples.
"Beggin your pardon Sir, but what does the state department want with the Revelation anyways?"
"Hmm, evidently Baxter brought aboard a box filled with some kind of top secret chemicals from one of his pharmaceutical labs. According to Heather he was on his way to the People’s Republic. Lets just say George Peoples, Heather’s old CIA boss is more than interested, as you know he debriefed her as soon as we got back."
"That must have put a knot in Dr. Pinnell’s tail. After all Heather is on sick leave from the CIA."
"Actually, I think it went rather well with her plans," stated Nelson as he glanced at Sharkey who was half reading an article on fishing. "People’s wants Heather to come back to work. Dr. Pinnell has cancelled her medical leave. She’s free to go anytime."
Sharkey threw the paper down on the coffee table and sat up straight. "What? Why that’s crazy…she’s…she’s still in therapy," exclaimed Sharkey astounded.
"Dr. Pinnell states she’s ready."
"No way, look at the way she’s behaving. Something is really eating at her. Why, she won’t even talk to me," complained Sharkey. He stood up and started to pace a hurt expression on his face. "As you know, Heather always confided in me, but since we brought her back home she’s shut me out. I think she’s angry we took her off Seaview."
"Sharkey I think you have that a little bit backwards. We’re the ones who have been ordered to keep our distance. Heather has tried more than once to talk to us. She only became angry when we made ourselves scarce. It all has to do with that Irish temper and pride of hers."
"Personally Sir, I think she thinks we abandoned her and is working double-time to hide the hurt."
"Yes, I agree. Once she got out of Medical she’s been a workaholic. I’ve seen her at her desk night and day. She states she’s catching up on the work. Myra hasn’t been able to do all the duties that go with the job on account of that broken ankle of hers. Everything is neat as a pin on her desk and in their apartment.
Nelson got up again from his desk and lit a cigarette blowing the smoke in the air. He went back to the window and observed his daughter on the beach again. "You know, I’m really worried. She looks awful. I know she’s not sleeping much. She’s almost caught me a few times when I checked on her in the middle of the night. I don’t think she’s eating properly either. Lee is going to go ballistic when he sees her no doubt about it."
"Ah, Admiral, maybe you should contact the Skipper and tell him what’s going on. Maybe he can get through to her to eat and slow down."
Nelson sighed, " I promised Pinnell two weeks with no interference. It’s only been ten days. If I don’t like what I see by then, well I’ll take matters into my own hands."
"But, the Skipper he has a right to know," countered Sharkey.
"Lee Crane has his own hands full dealing with the state department, the CIA, ONI and the DEA a long with the salvage of the Revelation. Don’t forget Tony Masters is still aboard Seaview albeit he just got out of sickbay. All three organizations are debriefing him. There’s a lot of material to cover for he’s been on assignment for three and a half years."
"Sorry, Sir, I’ve forgotten all about that."
"Forget the apology, you’ve had your hands full keeping track of Heather and I see your point. I would love to tell Lee about everything that’s gone on here. But, Chip tells me he’s like a bear with a sore paw and I don’t mean his lacerated hand either. He doesn’t need the added burden. Doc also tells me he’s having problems sleeping and dealing with his guilt about not being able to protect his wife from all that has happened to her. I should have known his honor would get in the way. He takes everything far to seriously when it comes to Seaview and Heather. "
"Well Sir, that’s the way he is. That’s what makes him a good Captain and you know he is the best."
"Yes, I know, that’s why I’m so very proud of him."
Heather sat forlornly on the beach with her feet buried in the wet sand. The sea rolled in and occasionally soaked her khaki pants. It doesn’t matter, nothing matters, my whole world is falling apart. She felt for her wedding ring seeking the comfort it always gave only to remember it wasn’t there. Baxter had taken it. I don’t even have that to remember him by. How I miss it. The black void I dreamed about is here. I’m cast adrift and all alone lost in the dark.
She fell back on the beach covering her eyes with her arm inadvertently getting sand in them. She sat up and angrily brushed at the tears secretly relieved she could finally cry.
Please don’t let it be true! Please tell me they need and want me! Oh Lee, where are you? I didn’t mean to let you down. I didn’t mean to fail. Please don’t send me away! But, he had.
She thought back to that moment when she woke up on Seaview. Doc had seemed happy to see her. She was still cold and the warm blankets had felt so nice. She vaguely remembered him adding something to her IV and she was suddenly sleepy again. Her Father had come and picked her up blankets and all. Her memory went fuzzy after that. She remembered waking once in the FS1 wondering why she was there, but she was so tired. The next clear memory she had was waking in Medical and Dr. Pinnell standing over her...
"You’re in my care now. You failed them. You let them all down. They no longer care what happens to you. They’re obligation towards you has ended. They’ve satisfied their guilt. You are on your own. Baxter is dead. You are free. You hear me. Free."
"No… they love me. You’re wrong," she had feebly responded looking desperately around for her husband. "Lee? Where’s Lee?"
"He’s on Seaview. He immediately ordered you off when he found out Baxter was dead. Women don’t belong on submarines. They are too much of a distraction. You were an albatross around his neck always under foot and in the way."
"But, we’re married…"
"What difference does that make Heather, wake up and smell the coffee. All the other men’s wives and families are left on shore. What makes you so special? Face it. His commitment to you is over. He kept his end of the bargain to protect you."
"You’re wrong! He loves me. We have a marriage. Go away, you’re lying!" she had turned over in bed bringing the covers over her head.
"Hide all you want Heather, but you will see. I’ll have you released from here soon. You’re to see me every day from here on out and your Father is going to make sure you keep your appointments. We have a lot of ground to cover…"
Dr. Pinnell had been right on that aspect thought Heather as she lay there on the beach remembering. She had been discharged and her Father had escorted her back to the penthouse. He’d politely asked how she was feeling then barely said two words to her except that George Peoples needed to talk to her as soon as possible. She had told her boss everything she knew about Baxter and all that had pertained to him via satellite link on the computer monitor. After that she had pleaded a headache for indeed she did have one. She wanted to sort out all that Dr. Pinnell had told her. Nelson had kissed her and went over to his apartment by way of the connecting balcony.
Thus, began the daily routine of getting back into the swing of things. She got up early and went into the office and dove into the paperwork on her desk. She caught up every detail of her job...If I do a good enough job maybe they’ll need me and not send me away… She visited all the families, went over plans and details on every building project that pertained to housing, visited every site, reviewed and acted on all current repairs to the base apartments and houses. There wasn’t a detail she didn’t miss. She never stopped working except when a guard appeared to take her to Pinnell’s office. Then afterwards, she’d drop into bed and cry herself to sleep. In the morning the routine would start all over.
One evening she started to balk as she was escorted out the door into the evening air. She looked up at the stars and remembered the vow she’d made with the Powers above if they’d bring Lee back safe that she’d adhere to the quack Dr. Pinnell.
Consequently, she was trapped by her own vow. She tried hard not to let Dr. Pinnell influence her but the repetitive sessions weighed heavily on her mind. They were slowly breaking her down. She needed to contact Lee, but she’d been forbidden to use the radio. She wanted to talk to her father but he and Sharkey seemed to be avoiding her. Finally, she decided to test the Doctor’s words.
You can go anywhere you want. You no longer have to ask for permission.
She got into Lee’s car and took off. No one at the gate stopped her. She went into town for the first time by herself. At first she enjoyed her solitude. She browsed through stores and went for a long walk down the main thoroughfare. No one interfered. It felt creepy. She felt like someone was following her. She stopped often and looked over her shoulder, up and down the street and around corners and shadowy places; her eyes always searched the crowds. I don’t need to worry, Baxter is dead the reward is null and void… But, do the bounty hunters know Baxter is dead? How could they? It just happened…
She carefully looked around again as her fear increased… nothing. This is freedom? Watching my own back? I’m a nervous wreck…I should be used to this… I’m still an agent. She got back in the car and headed for home carefully checking for a tail. I felt safer when the million-dollar bounty was in effect. I was part of a family then…yes, on Seaview I was safe and secure…why did he make me leave? Are they really washing their hands of me? If I disappeared would they even miss me? I can’t believe I actually miss having a guard…and someone to worry for me.
The questions hounded her day and night. Do they love me? Do they want me to leave? Am I part of the team or just a hindrance? Am I just an obligation to ease their guilt? Why can’t I talk to my husband? Why have the Admiral and Sharkey shut me out?
When she came back from her last excursion she decided to confront her father. She needed answers and soon.
"Angie, I need to see my Father," requested Heather of the Admiral’s secretary.
She got the standard, "I’m sorry, he doesn’t want to be disturbed."
"Doesn’t want to be disturbed or is it just me?" asked Heather out of sorts. She instantly regretted her outburst. Angie had always been nice to her. "I’m sorry. I’ll just go to my office. I’ll catch him later at home." Fat chance that will happen, he’s never there.
She started past her Father’s office, then on impulse knocked and opened the door before he could answer.
Nelson was at his desk reading over a report. He looked up surprised to see her.
"Heather, what can I do for you?" he asked curious.
"I know you are a very busy man, but I need some questions answered," she nervously stated as she sat down before him in one of the desk chairs.
Nelson cautious now and remembering his word to Dr. Pinnell about interfering replied, "Go on."
Heather testing, "Will I ever be allowed on Seaview again?"
"Maybe…it will depend on a few things," he felt discomforted. Dr. Pinnell had told him that Seaview was the source of all her nightmares for it was Seaview they’d begun on. Strange, I always thought Seaview was her safety net.
"Like what?" she asked fear building in her heart. She started worrying the split ends of her long hair. She hadn’t bothered to braid it this morning.
"Well, women usually aren’t allowed on submarines for any length of time. You were only aboard because we felt it was safer for you there considering the circumstances," he hedged rubbing his forehead.
Feeling hurt and rejected she sharply said "Oh, so now that Baxter is dead I’m instantly off the boat." She snapped her fingers, "Just like that?"
Nelson frowned he didn’t like where this was leading. "Heather it was not just like that. Dr. Pinnell…"
Heather cut him off with, "Who’s doing my job?"
Ignoring her display of temper he evenly said, "Heather, any man aboard can do the job you were doing. I created it to give you something to do and it just happened to turn out to benefit us with Senator Warren and the Mean’s Committee." He shuffled the papers of his report trying to figure out what was bothering her.
"I see," she said hiding her disappointment. It’s not because I made a difference. It was to keep me occupied and out of the way. "And my job here at NIMR? Was that created also?"
Nelson somewhat flustered for he didn’t know how Dr. Pinnell wanted him to answers these questions. She should know the answers to these questions. Didn’t we go over them before? Odd, I can’t seem to recall. He decided to be straight with her. "It was originally part of Angie’s duties. She needed help for the task had grown leaps and bounds." He pretended to read another line of his report as he studied her. She’s really got a bee in her bonnet. What is she so upset about?
Heather turned away from the desk and stared out the window. Fear and anxiety were taking root in her stomach. Carefully she asked, "In another words anyone could do this job?"
"Mmm, yes Myra has done an excellent job in your place when you’ve been at sea. She’s very capable. Myra turned out to be a real gem. I’m glad you recommended her," replied Nelson hoping she’d take it as a compliment.
Very quietly, "I see." They really don’t need me. She’s right. My time has run out.
Nelson noticed her change of mood. How does Lee deal with these mood swings? Now, somewhat perturbed he bluntly asked, "Heather what are you getting at?"
Stubborn now, embarrassed and unwilling to tell him her fears, she answered flippantly, "I just needed to know where I stood with you and NIMR."
Nelson not realizing how desperate she was missed the underlying meaning of her words. "Heather, you have a job here as long as you want it."
Not a home, just a job, an obligation to pay me back for all the time you left me alone, all the years away. She took a deep breath and added "Or until I’m able to go back to the CIA?" Her heart was racing. It all depended on this question. Please Father, slam your fist down, get mad, explode at me. Tell me you want me to stay! Tell me this is where I belong!
Nelson glanced down at his report again and sighed, "Yes Heather," he replied noncommittally. What is she thinking? The CIA? Wait until Lee hears this…over both our dead bodies will she ever join the CIA again…this is one decision she’s never going to make, the hell with you Dr. Pinnell. He looked up at his daughter’s face, which was devoid of all color now. "Are you all right?"
Softly now she whispered, "Fine Admiral, I’m just fine. I ah, I won’t bother you anymore." She got up from her chair and quietly walked out the door.
Nelson shook his head sure that he missed something important. Why, do I feel like I just let her down?
Lee Crane’s instincts were screaming trouble. The feeling hadn’t gone away during the seven days in sickbay or the three days since. He hit the enter key on his computer for the third time with no results.
"What’s wrong with this computer?" he asked irritably looking at his Exec who was sitting in front of his desk.
"Nothing," replied Chip cautiously. I think the jig is up. I’m surprised we got away with it as long as we did, thanks to our visitors keeping him busy.
"It won’t take my password," growled Crane trying again only to have it say, password not valid. He roughly pushed it away. "Blast! All I want to do is send an Email. Why, doesn’t this surprise me a long with everything else that’s happened on board lately?"
He gave Chip is most sullen look and Chip gave him his best poker faced expression. Neither was fooling the other. Chip knew Lee would win in the end even if he wasn’t back on full duty yet. Finally, Lee said in a no nonsense tone of voice while folding his arms, "Out with it Chip."
"Ah, Lee, I’m just following orders as acting Captain of this boat," he inwardly winced at the flash of fire that shot from his Skipper’s eyes. He went on, "I was ordered to invalidate your password to ah, keep you off the computer." Chip braced himself for the explosion.
"WHAT? I’m Captain of this boat and I have every right to that computer system!"
"I beg to differ with you Lee, you’re still on light duty and until Doc changes that your password will remain invalid." He saw Lee take a big breath and Chip held up his hand, "Now before you bite my head off I want you to know I had nothing to do with it."
Lee stood up and slammed his good hand down on the desk. "Why?"
"Because the Admiral ordered it," firmly replied Chip a stern expression on is face.
Chip seeing the underlying hurt and anxiety in his Skippers eyes relented. "Lee," he said in a lowered voice, "it’s for Heather’s own good. The Admiral promised Dr. Pinnell two weeks with no interruptions and that included Email coming from you. I know Doc explained all this to you."
Chip held his breath as he watched Lee stare moodily at the couple’s picture on the corner of his desk. He then heard a growl as he saw Lee’s eyes change from calm to stormy at the mention of the Doctor’s name. Oh boy, here it comes.
"Pinnell? Who the hell does Dr. Beverly Pinnell think she is anyways? Heather is my wife! She is my business! I know she needs me! Not you, or Pinnell or Doc or even the Admiral can tell me different! I can feel it. I’ve felt it since waking up in sickbay. She needs me!" he emphasized the last point with a fist to the desktop.
"But, Lee the Admiral in his last radio communication said everything was going … well he used the word coping. They were all coping fine," reassured Chip.
"Cope? You know what that word means?" he asked his Exec.
Chip just shook his head and said, "Not in exact words, but I know it means they’re working on problems…"
"Ah ha!" Lee cut in making Chip jump. "Problems, troubles, the Admiral was very crafty at the way he worded that last communiqué. Cope means to deal with problems or troubles and where ever there is trouble, you can bet your last dollar it has to do with Heather. She’s in trouble. I just know it!" He headed for the door and opened it. " Now, I’m going to have a talk with Doc and get my restrictions lifted." He then walked out the door slamming it behind him.
Heather threw another rock into the ocean. If only I could talk to Lee. I know everything would be all right. She closed her eyes and conjured up his beloved face in her mind. How I need you love. Why can’t I use the radio? Why haven’t you answered any of my emails? You must be getting them. She was a bit embarrassed at all she’d written in the emails. One night she had poured her entire heart out sure he’d answer her then. Alas, nothing came back. She was totally in the dark now. Ten long days in the dark, how do these wives and families put up with this? I can’t stand it. I never realized how privileged I was to be a part of Seaview.
She glanced at her watch and realized it was almost time for another meeting with the rat doctor. She still reminds me of a rat. Why can’t she leave me alone? I can’t leave here... Not yet, not until I talk to my husband. Surely, he still wants me… Oh please Lee, tell me I wasn’t just a noose around your neck. I would never want to be a burden to you… I hope you understand why I gave Dr. Pinnell permission to change my sick leave status at the CIA. She’s sent my papers in for reinstatement. It’s just a matter of time before I hear back… I won’t go until I talk to you. I can always change my mind about the CIA.
Heather went into the office building through the back door and headed for the washroom. She needed to wash the sand off her feet before she put her shoes back on. She knew the guard would be waiting by her office door to take her to her appointment with Pinnell. She had told her Father that the guard was unnecessary for she had promised to make all the appointments, but every night he still showed up. She had just started to open the washroom door when in the lobby where Angie’s desk was she heard a beloved voice.
Heather quickly made her way to the lobby only to find out he was on the satellite link. The Admiral, Sharkey and Angie were gathered around the monitor. From the background she took in his handsome face immediately noticing everything about him. He was in the control room standing behind sonar. He’s lost weight, his eyes have dark circles under them and he looks tired. What is going on? Dr. Pinnell told me he was fine. She must have made some kind of noise for three pairs of eyes turned towards her. They all seemed nervous to her. Why?
Then she forgot to breathe for Lee had turned his attention in her direction as she slowly approached the screen. He had been smiling at some jest Sharkey had said, but as he watched her come forward his eyes became cold, dark and stormy. Heather swallowed hard. What did I do to warrant that look?
Before she could ask a disturbance in the background of the control room caught her husband’s attention. He looked over toward the spiral steps. A moment later a beautiful blonde haired woman dressed all in peach came up to him and kissed him square on the mouth.
Peaches? No it couldn’t be? What is she doing there?
Everything became clear to Heather in an instant. It’s all true! Everything Dr. Pinnell said was true. I’ve been such a fool. I’ve been living a lie. She slowly backed away from the screen, from her Father, and Sharkey. Somehow she was able to speak.
"I, ah, I’m late for my appointment," she choked out. Her voice sounded odd to her ears. "I have to go," her voice broke and she took off making her way into the hall, then running full speed down the steps, through the main lobby and out the front door of the institute office.
"What the hell was that all about?" demanded Lee visibly upset. "Where’d she take off to?" Peaches had a disgruntled look on her face as he pushed her away from his person. She headed aft out of camera range.
"Now Lee, just calm down," mollified Nelson. "We’ll get to the bottom of this." Even as he was saying this Nelson saw Sharkey take off after Heather. "Sharkey will catch her. Things haven’t been going too well here. We haven’t wanted to worry you about them," he rationally explained and before Lee could ask what things he countered with, "but I would like to know why Debra Woodgate is aboard Seaview?"
It was Lee’s turn to sigh exasperated," Debra Woodgate is here to meet Tony, you do know they are an item now?"
"Ah, no Lee I didn’t."
"Well, they are. As you know, we’re in the West Indies at the Sea Cub’s homeport. Tony and his men are disembarking here. Debra now works for the same organization he does. She lost her job with the CIA when Maclin was exposed. "
"So Peaches hasn’t changed at all?" kidded Nelson referring to the kiss.
Lee more angry than embarrassed replied, "I’m afraid not. I doubt if she’ll ever change."
Before Adm. Nelson could say more his cell phone rang. "Just a minute Lee," he brought his phone up to his ear, "Nelson here."
"Admiral, Sharkey, we got big trouble." It was loud enough Lee could hear him through the monitor.
"Oh?" stated Nelson as if he didn’t all ready know.
"Heather took off in the Captain’s car. She’s headed for the gate at breakneck speed. I’m getting a car out of the garage."
"Come and get me, I’ll be right out front!" He disconnected the cell phone.
Lee angrily frowned into the monitor, "My car? What’s going on and where is she going?"
Nelson hastily replied, "No time to talk, I’ll get back to you. Hang tight!" Nelson then ran into the hallway and headed for the front door.
Heather raced through the main gate doing forty. The guard barely had time to put the gate up. It was just coming back down when Sharkey and Adm. Nelson came tearing through it in a jeep. The gate splintered and went in all directions. The guard just shook his head as the two vehicles went roaring down the road.
Heather was oblivious to everything. She was driving by instinct alone. She headed north up the highway until she came to the old shore road. She turned onto it and shifted gears. Faster she went swerving around the ruts and curves. She came across a desert road and took the hairpin turn at fifty. Her rear end spun but she easily controlled it by letting her foot off the gas and turning into the brief spin. It’s a straight shot out to the desert. She opened the throttle and flew down the dirt road.
It’s a lie. My whole life has been nothing but a lie. Oh, Mom why can’t anyone love me? What is there about me that no one can love me? She thought about boarding school, the lonely holidays, the assignments for the CIA. She’d taken the most dangerous ones in hopes her Father would notice and be proud of her. The Seaview men were all she had left in this world and they didn’t want her. I am crazy she thought as the speedometer hit ninety-five. Debra Woodgate AKA Peaches’ face taunted her. Lee’s old girlfriend, I thought we had seen the last of her in St. Martin. She had been with Tony…Tony…? Tony’s on Seaview in sickbay, I remember seeing a glimpse of him when I came aboard from the ocean.
Lee’s face popped into her mind. She remembered all the times he yelled at her, protected her, his touch and all the nights he held her during those damn nightmares.
"Trust me," he’d said.
She took her foot off the gas and coasted. I do trust you! Oh, please forgive me for letting you down. I tried to swim. I tried to be brave when he whipped me. I didn’t mean to cry out. I didn’t mean to get caught and cause you pain…
She was crying now. Tears ran down her face in torrents. Please Lee, give me one more chance. I’ll do anything you want. I’ll learn to be content waiting for you to come home from the sea. I’ll do whatever it takes. Just don’t send me away. Don’t stop loving me.
"I do love you."
"Lee?" she said out loud. She looked around, but he wasn’t there. No one was there. She slowed the car down to seventy. Two wild dogs ran out in front of her. She hit the brakes and swerved the car. Around and around it spun coming to rest in a soft spot of sand.
She sat there frozen to the wheel, shivering.
Chief Sharkey was hard pressed to keep up with his goddaughter at the speeds she was making. Never the less, he managed to keep her in visual contact. Her Father swore every time she’d taken a curve or corner. "Remind me to take those keys away from her. Hell, remind me to have Lee sell that damn car. She’s going to kill herself in it at this speed."
Both men hoped that statement wouldn’t come true. When they’d reached the desert road they saw her literally fly down the road. Great puffs of dirt followed in her wake. Sharkey floored it and Nelson hung on for dear life. Surprisingly they started gaining on her and the Admiral yelled, "If she survives this, I’m personally going to break her neck." Sharkey could only grin for he’d heard his Skipper express that same opinion more than once.
They were a half-mile behind her when Heather spun out of control. Sharkey slammed on the brakes and both men watched helplessly as the little red sports car spun round and round.
When it stopped, Nelson jumped out of the jeep and charged over to his daughter. Sharkey was glued to the steering wheel trying to get his heart rate down. He found slow deep breaths helped tremendously.
Nelson on the other hand was more irate then he could ever remember being. He opened the car door and literally snatched his daughter out. He couldn’t make up his mind if he wanted to shake her or hug her. So, he did both yelling at her the whole time.
"What the hell were you trying to prove? Are you crazy? Are you trying to make me gray before my time? Give me a heart attack? What?"
Heather was totally silent.
"Damn it! Woman! Answer me!"
Heather looked up into her Father’s angry eyes and realized the enormity she had done. She found herself tongue tied, ashamed and repentant all at the same time. I’m doomed. He’s never going to want me now. In a last desperate plea she balled her hands and weakly pounded his chest with tears streaming down her cheeks and softly begged, "Please don’t send me away."
Nelson was taken aback. He didn’t understand the turmoil she seemed to find herself in. He exploded. "Send you away?"
Heather cringed at her Father’s tone of voice. "Dr. Pinnell said…she said…I’m a…" she stopped in mid-sentence. Her Irish pride came to the fore. She would not beg again. If he doesn’t love me now he never will. So be it.
"Dr. Pinnell said what?" asked Nelson his hands still wrapped around her arms as he watched the varied expressions cross his daughter’s face and not understanding any of them.
Almost cold now Heather said, "She said I’m not welcome here any longer and that I need to get on with my life. I’m going back to work at the CIA."
"Oh, she said that, did she?" Nelson replied deceptively low his grip tightening. "Well, I got news for both of you!" He gave her one last shake then yelled, " Get in the car!"
"Wh…what?" asked Heather completely baffled by her Father’s burst of anger and actions.
"I said get in the car now! On the passenger side!"
Heather quickly complied as her Father got in behind the wheel. He started the car and shifted into first. He was at second before he got out of the soft sand and third by the time they hit the road throwing gravel back at the jeep behind them.
Sharkey just rolled his eyes. "And he thought her driving was bad? How am I ever going to explain this to the Skipper?"
Nelson peeled into NIMR as fast as his daughter had peeled out. He stopped in front of the penthouse and ordered Heather up stairs. "You’d better be there when I get back! Sharkey get in this car!"
The frazzled Chief who had pulled up next to the Captain’s car in hopes that the race was over immediately got in taking Heather’s place. The Admiral peeled out once again making tire tracks half way across the parking lot.
"Ah Admiral, you mind telling me where the fire is?"
Nelson looked at his Chief and smiled that secret smile of his. He then took pity on his man and said, "Dr. Pinnell’s office. I planted a hidden camera in her office when we first got back from Seaview. Heather’s appointments were always at the same time so I set a timer that would turn the camera on and off."
"A camera? Why?"
"Because Heather’s dislike of her was so intense. Even Lee had his doubts about her. I’ve done some digging into her background. It’s not all it should be. We’re going to review every session Heather has had with her for the last ten days."
Hours later in the Admiral’s office Nelson ran a hand through his hair, scratched his neck and finished his coffee. They had the TV on and had just finished watching the videotape of Heather’s sessions. "Well Francis, there it is all in black and white. You know I had an autopsy done on Dr. Rivers. According the toxicology report he had overdosed on his blood pressure medicine causing a heart attack in the end."
"Overdose? Dr. Rivers? I don’t believe it."
"Yeah, well I didn’t either. The coroner thinks he was slipped the drug in his food. You see, once the medicine is broken down and enters the blood stream there is no way to reverse the effects of this particular drug. It just effectively shuts down your body."
"Just like that?"
"Well, it takes a little time, but there isn’t a drug that can counteract it. Blood pressure medicine lowers your heart rate and other things. You take too much of it and you just wake up dead so to speak. "
"Scary thought Admiral. What does this have to do with Dr. Pinnell?"
Nelson found the remote and shut the TV off. "Everything, she was the last one to see him alive. She’d had dinner with him the night before. She even cooked it."
Sharkey gave a long whistle. So what does all this got to do with Heather? Why does Dr. Pinnell want her to leave NIMR?"
"So, she can collect the million dollar reward."
"The reward? But, Baxter is dead."
"The answer is in the videotape. Here look at this," He turned the TV back on and rewound the tape to the place he wanted. He pushed play. "Look here," Nelson directed, "See... she went straight to the phone. After each of Heather’s office visits she phoned someone."
Nelson hit stop on the remote and went to his desk. Sharkey followed and watched over his shoulder. Nelson logged on to his computer. After going through several screens the Admiral smiled, "Here it is Francis." Nelson hit the print button and they could hear the hum of the laser printer.
"Admiral, these look like phone calls."
"Yes, overseas calls made collect, now get this, to Baxter’s twin brother James. I’ve done some discreet inquires since we got back and found out he didn’t take his brother’s death at sea too well."
"But, Admiral, Dr. Pinnell has been here for a about three months now. I don’t get it. Jeffrey Baxter just died a couple of weeks ago."
"Think Sharkey. Heather’s nightmares and flashbacks were almost totally gone before Dr. Rivers died. She just started having them again before we went on that mission to find the CIA traitor. Dr. Pinnell had two theories. One was to get us to think Heather was psycho. She wanted to put her on drugs and move her to a sanitarium. Once there she’d have complete control. It would’ve been only a matter of time before they would’ve both disappeared.
He waited for Sharkey to absorb this while lighting up a cigarette and offered one to Sharkey who accepted. " When we didn’t buy into that game she changed tactics."
"A Sir, I still don’t get it."
"It’s all in the tapes. The second plan was to get Heather to go back to work for the CIA. It would be a simple matter to kidnap her while she was on assignment. The CIA would declare her missing and Pinnell would collect the million dollar reward."
Sharkey finished with, " and we would never know what happened to Heather."
"Pretty ingenious Sir. What are we going to do now?"
"Have her arrested. I’ll notify the Santa Barbara police. I think Dr. River’s death alone will convict her."
A couple hours later a homicide detective took Adm. Nelson’s statement and gathered all the evidence. He told both men he would launch an investigation and let himself out the door. Nelson handed a tired Sharkey a Scotch and Soda. "Well Sharkey, it’s been a long day."
"Yes Sir, at least we know why Heather has been acting the way she has. How are you going to explain all this to the Skipper? He must be chomping at the bit by now."
"Humph," groaned Nelson, "You know Sharkey I never knew how hard it was to keep track of one temperamental female. My hat really goes off to the Captain. My nerves are shot. I’m exhausted. I’ll be glad to get back on board Seaview tomorrow just to get some rest."
Both men chuckle at this as they sipped their whiskey. Nelson sighed again. "I still need to explain all this to Heather yet. You know if Pinnell was in contact with Baxter’s brother that probably means the reward is still posted."
Sharkey didn’t like the sound of that. "Same precautions Sir?"
"Yes, we don’t have a choice until we know for sure."
Sharkey finished his drink and stood up from the couch they’d both been sitting on. "Well Sir, if you don’t mind it’s been a long day and Myra has been expecting me for a couple of hours now."
"No problem Sharkey, " smiled Nelson. I can take care of the rest. See you in the morning."
"Good night Sir."
Adm. Nelson flexed his tired shoulders as he got off the elevator between the penthouses. A large yawn over took him as he entered his code into the keypad of his apartment. I’d give anything to be able to have another drink and climb into bed. What a day. How does Crane keep up with that feisty daughter of mine? Speaking of Lee, I still have to fill him in on all the happenings… boy is that going to take some time. I wonder how much sleep he’s had? He didn’t look to good to me…probably worried about his other half…well I tried to keep him informed...shoot I candy coated most of it…I don’t think it fooled him though.
Another sigh escaped him as he mixed his drink then opened the sliding glass balcony door. The sea sure is beautiful at night. I could never tire of looking at her. The waves all colorful and reflective from the lights and the moon’s glow…He continued to stand by the door. The sound of glass shattering next door drew his attention…
Nelson followed the balcony to the penthouse next door. When he reached the privacy wall and peered around it his heart nearly stopped beating. He closed and opened his eyes twice hoping he was seeing things. No such luck.
Heather was on top of the stone railing walking barefoot back and forth with a shot of whiskey in each hand. He watched as she threw her head back and swallowed a shot nearly falling in the process. She then threw the glass on the cement floor where a half a dozen other glasses met their end.
Still holding his own drink, Nelson made his appearance known by walking up within a foot of his very drunk daughter.
Heather walking the opposite way stopped her pacing and turned around. She smiled a very little girl smile that made him ache for what he’d missed when she was small.
"Admiral, welcome to the loser’s party," she said clear as a bell then stumbled causing her father’s heart to stop again. She righted herself before he could grab her. "Ops, I’d better be more careful…wouldn’t want to end up down there," she snickered looking over the side.
"Heather, why don’t you come down from there and tell me what this is all about," cajoled Nelson. "I even have my own drink." He held up his glass to show her.
Heather laughed and swallowed the drink in her hand. The glass met the same fate as the previous ones. "You know Father, I’m on top of the world. I don’t need them or anyone. I’m used to being alone. I can find some…something else to do…"she burped loudly…"Whoa, where’d that come from?" She started pacing the railing again.
Nelson tried again in a sterner tone of voice, "Heather, come down from that railing now! It’s only a foot wide. You’re going to break your neck! I’m going to break your neck…He advanced on her as inconspicuously as possible.
Heather stopped pacing and turned her back on her father as she looked out to sea. Her countenance is sad and her shoulders are slumped. In a little girl voice she said, "They don’t want me either."
Moving behind her Nelson asked in a low soothing voice, "Who doesn’t want you Heather?"
She sighed and rubbed her cheek, "The CIA. They’ve turned down my services and I’ve been terminated from their organization. The notice came certified a little while ago, it’s on the table."
Nelson looked over to the table where the paper was and noticed the almost empty bottle of whiskey. He sat his glass down on the stone railing.
She hiccoughed. "Dr. Pinnell signed my sick leave papers certifying me to go back to work." Laugher followed that statement. She looked down at her hands looking for her wedding ring that wasn’t there. "I was waiting for Lee…but I don’t think he wants me either…I haven’t heard from him since we came back here. The last time he yelled at me we were in the ocean. He should have let me drown…I failed everyone so miserably…" She looked out to sea again. "No wonder he kicked me off the boat."
"Kicked you off the boat?" repeated Nelson surprised. "Is that what you think happened?"
Heather turned quickly around and her head swam from the motion. Nelson seeing her unsteady stance reached up and yanked her down. He gave her a quick shake, "Heather answer me." He wanted to know what was going on in her mind. Heather looked up into her Father’s blurry face and tried to figure out what he was getting at. She shook her head again, rubbed an unsteady hand through her hair and finally managed to somewhat focus. Looking into her Father’s concerned eyes she decided to reach out one last time.
"Dr. Pinnell, she said…she said you and Lee didn’t…didn’t want me anymore. I was only an obligation…to be meant so that it would ease your guilt... She said Lee kept his promise to protect me, but our marriage was over and …and I was no longer wanted… or needed here…and no one…no one ever loved me…" the last was said in the barest of whispers. She took a deep breath and rubbed her eyes with the palms of both hands. "Over and over she drilled it into me…I didn’t…I tried not to believe her…but I couldn’t contact Lee and I couldn’t…couldn’t find you most of the time…I was so alone," she cried.
Nelson took his daughter into his arms and held her tight. He could feel the tremors that ran through her body. He closed his eyes trying to absorb all that his daughter was feeling, emptiness…despair…loneliness…betrayal…he couldn’t comprehend it all.
"Dr. Pinnell played us all against each other. I just reviewed the tapes from a hidden camera I planted in her office. I was shocked at the length she went to achieve her objective. I’ll tell you the whole story later when you’re…when you’re more yourself in the morning. Honey, I had no idea. I am so sorry." He felt her begin to relax. "There is one thing Heather you can always count on." He held her away from him and looked into her dilated eyes. " We are your family and you are very much loved and needed! Don’t you ever forget that, you hear me?" He increased his grip on her shoulders for emphasis and gave her a slight shake.
Through an intoxicated haze Heather heard his words and let them sink into her fogged mind. She desperately wished she hadn’t drunk so much whiskey. She wanted to believe with her whole heart what she just heard. She nodded her head and the dizziness came again. She hugged her Father and let hope invade her senses. She looked up and studied his face for the longest time. His eyes were shiny and she didn’t think it was because she was drunk. "Oh Father, I’ve been such a fool. Can you ever forgive me?"
"Honey, we all make mistakes. Your insecurities made you vulnerable and Dr. Pinnell used them against all of us. Communication is the key along with trust. If we had communicated better maybe none of this would have happened. I want your promise if anything ever bothers you again, I don’t care how small or trivial you might think it is you can come to me. Is that understood?"
Again she nodded her head. The burden was lifted and she felt light as a feather. She smiled shyly at her Father as she stepped back from his arms. A grimace suddenly marred her face.
"Ah Father, I don’t feel so well."
Nelson was at a loss for a moment then remembered all the whiskey she drank. He knowingly grinned until Heather’s legs gave out. He caught her just before she hit the floor. He picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. Carefully he laid her in the bed and covered her up. She immediately turned on her side and he watched as she groped for something under Lee’s pillow. He smiled when he realized it was a dirty shirt of her husband’s. She tucked it under her cheek and was instantly fast a sleep. He leaned over and kissed her on the brow and his last thought was, Oh child you’re going to have a first class hangover in the morning.
Nelson then went back out to the patio and retrieved his watered down scotch and added what was left from the bottle to it. He picked up the CIA termination notice, read it over and crumbled it up. People’s came through, I saved his job after the traitor was exposed and he saved Heather’s life. We’re even now. He smiled and looked out over the sea. It was time to contact Seaview.
She was in the void again. Darkness, fear, longing, waiting for the light, she ran along it’s edge, horror of horrors no way out. The darkness eased and she could see the tunnel, but there was no light. She clutched Lee’s shirt to her breast for hands were reaching out to take it, pulling at it. No, it’s all I have left of him, of Lee! A soft kiss grazed her brow then strong arms picked her up and brought her to a warm hard chest. She inhaled the sea and a familiar scent, the essence of her husband. She looked down the tunnel; the light was beckoning.
Heather opened her eyes to the light and wished she hadn’t. PAIN, pounding pain vibrated through her head. She groaned loud and in agony. Then heaven forbid a drum was beating in her temples and her stomach started to rebel. She cracked her eyes again but couldn’t seem to get them to open any further. Why’d I ever drink all that whisky? I’ve never been able to hold it. She heard a page flip to the right of her. Father must be reading one of his books. She slowly became aware of a steady vibration with her bed. Hell it’s not a vibration my bed is swaying. She reached out and clutched at the covers realizing she still had Lee’s shirt in her hand. Finally, her eyes cooperated and she opened them only to have her stomach do a roll. I’m going to be sick… She quickly sat up and the whole room spun. Vaguely, she realized she was on Seaview and that Lee was sitting at his desk. There was no time to think only run. She made it to the head… barely.
Lee Crane was sitting at his desk getting angrier by the minute. Admiral Nelson had just finished filling him in on all of her antics and had left for the lab. Let her suffer. She deserves it. I hope she pukes until she’s blue in the face. He got his wish but the color wasn’t blue it was green.
Lee could hardly comprehend it all after he’d heard the entire story. Which danger had been worse? Going into town…? Staying at Point Lookout all night…? Rejoining the CIA…? Spinning out in my car…? Being drunk on a narrow balcony ledge ten stories off the ground…? And before that when we were on the Revelation, she’d put a loaded gun to her head…a loaded gun! No wonder the Admiral looked relieved when I had come for them in the flying sub! How could one woman get into so much trouble in such a short time? Hell, she needed a babysitter not a guard.
There was silence for a moment from the head. Peeking into the head from where he was sitting he saw his wife on the deck weakly hugging the toilet. Her head rolled with the sway of the boat. He grinned at that. Seaview is still on the surface and the waves are a bit choppy. The fact was they were still in the Sea Cub’s homeport. He and Chip had decided to lay over for a day and take in some fresh supplies. Besides, Tony Masters was feeling much better and he had wanted to show off his organization where he worked when not on assignment for ONI.
The Captain stiffly got up from his desk. His ribs were still sore and it hurt to breathe in deeply. At least my hand doesn’t hurt anymore. Who would have believed an infection could keep you in sickbay for so long? It had taken every argument he knew to get Doc to release him back to full duty. What a row that had been, especially when Doc found out he was taking the Flying Sub back to Santa Barbara. Surprisingly, he had won the round. In retrospect, he figured it was because Doc was feeling guilty about Heather for it had been he that had originally contacted Dr. Pinnell after they’d been rescued. Doc also had been included in the initial conversation when Nelson had called last night explaining the latest happenings with Dr. Pinnell.
Lee stood by the head door and watched as another spasm of vomiting claimed his wife. He’d been shocked and angry when he saw her appearance through the monitor. The woman looked pathetic. It had reminded him of the first time he had met her on the back porch of the safe house. She had been paper thin with sunken eyes and reeking of fish. Now, she reeks of stale whiskey. Whew! Her hair is a mess of snarls, tendrils are stuck to her face and she’s white as a sheet. At least, this time there are no bruises.
Heather was totally mortified that her husband was seeing her in this state. This was not the idea she had in mind for a reunion. Once before he had sat with her through a hangover. It had happened after she’d been debriefed. She hadn’t been able to deal with the death of a DEA agent Baxter had murdered in front of her in the pit.
"Go away," she weakly cried. She tried to turn her back on him in the cramped quarters but another spasm of vomiting received precedence. When it had passed she couldn’t lift her head off her arm that was permanently attached to the rim of the toilet. Her body was drenched in cold sweat and her stomach wouldn’t stop cramping. Utterly defeated now the tears came unbidden.
Unknown to Heather, her tears had been Lee’s undoing. He punched the intercom button down and called Doc to his quarters. He then went into the head and dampened a washcloth. He kneeled down next his wife and gently wiped the sweat and tears from her face. It hadn’t been an easy task since she refused to turn her head towards him. He then got a glass of water and handed it to her. She weakly took the glass and rinsed her mouth out spitting it into the toilet all without lifting her head. She set the glass back on the deck with a shaky hand.
"Heather," he coaxed, "let me help. It’s all right. I’m here love." Her tears increased much to his distress. He pulled her back into his arms as her head rolled listlessly against his shoulder.
"Please, just let me die in peace," she begged. She felt herself being picked up and taken to the bunk. Lee sat down with her there holding her on his lap while leaning against the headboard. He covered her with the afghan to help stop her shivering. "I’m going…to be sick…again. You’re going…to be sorry," she moaned taking shallow breaths and drawing her knees up.
"There’s nothing left in your stomach to puke up. When was the last time you ate?"
"I…I don’t know," she mumbled still taking shallow breaths. If I puke on him, I’ll die. I’ll just die.
There was a quick knock on the door.
The door opened and Doc came in with his medical bag. He all ready knew what was ailing Heather for he’d done a quick examination when she’d first boarded. He’d left orders for the Captain to contact him when she woke up.
As he was preparing a syringe he asked, "She just wake up?"
Lee looking a bit guilty for he’d delayed calling Doc on purpose answered, "A few minutes ago."
Doc frowned. "Paybacks Captain?"
"Paybacks?" questioned Lee confused.
"Yes," said Doc "for all the trouble she caused the Admiral and the headache he just passed on to you."
A slight gasp was heard from the patient, "Not fair." She would have said more but another round of stomach cramps and nausea assailed her. She moaned and covered her mouth with a hand as she rubbed her forehead against her husband’s shoulder.
Doc wiped her arm with an alcohol wipe and injected the needle. "You’ll be feeling better in a few minutes. This drug will relieve the nausea. I added a painkiller that will help with the headache. Now, I want you to get some more sleep. You don’t have to beg me twice. She closed her eyes.
Doc looked over at his silent Skipper who had watched the whole procedure. He saw the stress and concern on his face. The last two weeks had taken a toll on him even though the Captain would be the last to admit it. "You know Skipper, It might not hurt if you took a nap with your wife…"
"Is that an order Doc?"
Doc bent over and took a quick set of vitals from his patient. He straightened back up and picked up his medical bag. "No Skipper, just a suggestion," he smiled and let himself out of the cabin.
Lee carefully watched his wife as she fell asleep. He smiled. She certainly does look like a disaster, her hair’s a mess, her clothes are rumpled and she smells like a beer hall, but I have never loved her more. This feisty, temperamental ball of energy has changed my life forever. One thing is for sure between Seaview and her I’ll never be bored. Who has time?
He carefully moved her beside him and pulled up the bedcovers. She immediately turned on her right side snuggling against him; her left hand came to rest at his waist. He smiled again as he pulled the failsafe chain over his head. He unhooked it and took off the ring that perfectly matched his own. He reattached the necklace and put it back over his head. Then, very carefully without waking her, he slipped the wedding band back on her left ring finger. My love and my life, for now and forever I will always love you.
2 days later…
In the missile room, Patterson came up to Kowalski who was busy putting a fresh coat of red paint on the missile silos.
"Ski, you owe me twenty bucks."
Surprised he said, "Twenty bucks? For what?"
"You lost the bet."
Ski protested, "I did not, the Skipper didn’t do it." He dipped the brush into the paint. "I know he threatens her all the time, but he would never do it."
"The Seaview grapevine said he did."
"No way Pat, you’re mistaken," defended Ski slapping on the paint with more intensity.
"Ski, I tell you he did. She’s walking slow and when she sits, it’s very carefully like she’s in pain."
"Look man, I know him and he’d never do it!"
"Then why is she so sore?"
"Scuttlebutt has it the Skipper ordered her to perform extra duties as her punishment for giving the Admiral and Sharkey such a hard time."
"What all did she have to do?"
"Well for starters the Skipper ordered her to clean all the air vents and after that he made her clean all the officers’ cabins. Then, I believe he ordered her to help out in the galley. You know how she hates cooking." He dipped the paintbrush again in the can then continued, "Yeah, that’s it. She’s just sore from all the extra duties."
"I don’t know Ski, I think he did it."
Before more could be said Riley came into the missile room. "Hey Ski, you owe me twenty bucks."
Ski turned around and yelled, "He didn’t do it!"
"All right you Bozos," yelled Chief Sharkey, "quit gossiping like little old ladies and get back to work!"
End of Part 2
Amazed by Lone Star from their Lonely Grill CD/Tape
By: Marv Green/Aimee Mayo/Chris Lindsey (BMI)