By Pauline Owers
Dedication: To Chenery’s of Finchingfield. I think of you often and will always remember you with affection.
The car turned off the interstate onto the narrow two lane highway. The road climbed up into the High Sierras, where Admiral Nelson had a cabin hidden away in the mountains.
“The Admiral sure chose an out-of-the-way place for a winter cabin,” Chip Morton commented, glancing at Lee Crane who was seated beside him in the back of the car.
Lee smiled. “Yeah, away from everything and everybody,” he joked.
Chip wasn’t sure that was such a good thing. Lee had a talent for finding trouble. What kind of unpleasant events could befall them, isolated in a cabin for ten days did not bear thinking about. He was already having second thoughts. “I hope we don’t get snowed in up here,” he said, voicing his concerns.
“Don’t worry, Chip. The Admiral assured me that the cabin is well stocked. There is more than enough to last us,” Lee told him.
“Yeah, well just remember that you promised your mother that you’d be home for Christmas,” Chip reminded him.
“I owe doc for that,” Lee complained. He was watching over the driver’s shoulder as the chauffeur eased the four wheel drive vehicle around the winding road with practiced ease.
Chip smiled to himself, Lee liked to be in control, whatever the situation. “Relax Lee and let Simon drive.”
“Sit back and enjoy the scenery, Captain.” The driver told him.
Simon McNeil was one of the Nelson Institutes’ chauffeurs, trained to handle any situation. Blond, with blue eyes, he was similar to Morton in looks, but of a bigger build. Right now, his blue eyes were hidden behind sunglasses, due to the sinking sun shining through the fir trees, and reflecting off the snow. However, the conditions did nothing to inhibit his somewhat aggressive driving style. Nelson had insisted that they take the institute’s car and driver. Simon had been Nelson’s personal choice, not because he was necessarily more competent than any of the other regular drivers, but there was something about the guy that endeared people to him. Beneath a stern exterior, he was polite, cheerful and friendly, and clearly enjoyed his work.
“We should have brought along some female company,” Lee said, interrupting Chip’s thoughts.
“You could take the ski lift up to Mammoth Mountain. There will be plenty of unattached ladies there,” Simon put in. “I could drive you up there in the morning,” he offered.
“Sounds great, but what are you going to do?” Lee asked Chip, glancing at Chip arm, broken in an accident on their last mission.
“Oh, don’t worry about me, I’ll manage. A broken arm should be good for some sympathy, Chip reckoned. Not that he ever had any problems in that direction.
They were getting higher up, and Simon was forced to cut his speed. The road twisted and turned through Sequoia and Cedar trees that overhung the road, obscuring the icy landscape.
“How much further?” Lee asked, again looking over Simon’s shoulder at the road ahead.
“We’re almost there, about another ten minutes,” Simon estimated.
The cabin was like something straight out of a Christmas card, nestled amongst snow covered conifers. Simon got out and opened the door, offering Chip a hand. “Watch your step,” he cautioned, then came around to open the door for Lee. The thin mountain air was sharp with frost and they quickly moved inside. “I’ll get the generator started,” Simon said, before disappearing outside again.
The interior of the cabin was dominated by a large brick fireplace, around which the antique pine furniture was arranged. The floor was varnished wood, with deep pile rugs scattered around. Feeling chilly, Crane turned his attention to the fireplace. A stack of logs had been conveniently left beside the hearth.
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Chip commented as he watched Lee start building a fire.
“Why don’t you do something useful, like make some coffee,” Lee retaliated jokingly.
“Does this place have running water, or do I have to fetch it from someplace?”
Lee looked up and shrugged. “How should I know?”
“I would have thought that you’d had enough of snow,” Chip complained as he turned in search of the kitchen.
They were soon seated around the fire, drinking coffee. “That’s better,” Lee stretched lazily, relaxing into the cushions.
“So, what happened to your arm, commander?” Simon asked.
“It was his fault,” Chip said, nodding towards Lee.
“My fault!” Lee protested. “I was in sickbay,” he argued, “How could it be my fault?” He knew that Chip was didn’t really mean it. They had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A dredger had dragged its anchor in a storm, and they had gotten tangled with the pipe it was dragging.
“If you hadn’t nearly got yourself killed...”
“That’s not fair,” Lee interrupted. “You know that wasn’t my fault,” he said defensively.
“No, it wasn’t, but you could have said ‘no’,”
“Oh, sure, that would have made all the difference. You know that the Admiral would just have found someone else. Seaview might not have made it back at all. Besides, she’s my command,” Lee answered, pride creeping into his voice.
“And what about the time you decided to take your leave in the middle of an exercise? You didn’t seem worried about who was in command then,” Chip teased.
“That was different, I wasn’t myself,” Lee admitted, still a little embarrassed by the memory of that particular incident. Fortunately, everything had turned out okay in the end.
“You can say that again,” Chip shot back, smiling in amusement.
“Watch it, mister,” Lee retaliated by throwing a cushion at him.
Simon yawned and levered himself up from the armchair. “Is anyone hungry?” he intervened.
“Now that you mention it, yes, I’m starving,” Chip answered, retrieving the cushion from the floor.
“You’re always hungry. Beats me where you put it all,” Lee baited, grinning. Unlike Lee, Chip had a healthy appetite and enjoyed his food. Nothing seemed to make him lose his enjoyment of food.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Chip asked.
“That depends on who is doing the cooking,” Lee replied as he reluctantly pushed himself up from his comfortable repose.
“Then maybe you should cook,” Chip answered in mock indignation, before following Simon into the kitchen.
“Why do I get the feeling that I’ve just been shanghaied?” Lee grumbled, following after them.
Head nurse Lindsey Jamieson sat in her father’s office at the Nelson Institute Medical Centre. She had dropped off Lieutenant-commander Morton’s x-ray before leaving for the day. In the quiet of the office, she sat at her father’s desk, her mind drifting back to earlier that day. She had walked with Commander Morton to the car waiting for him. Her heart had skipped a beat when the driver came around to open the door, and she had seen that it was Simon. It had made her day, just seeing him. She felt like a love sick teenager. Not that there was anything between her and Simon, nor was there likely to be. But she could not help herself. There was something about him that attracted her to him.
“Still here?” The voice of her father interrupted her thoughts.
She looked up, seeing that look of disapproval that her father often used on his patients, she smiled. “I just stopped by to drop off Chip Morton’s x-ray.”
“Was everything okay?” he asked.
“Yes, fine,” she nodded. “We put a fresh cast on, and Simon picked him up.” She sighed inwardly as her thoughts again returned to Simon. She could still picture him standing there, smiling.
“Then its time you went home,” he told her.
“Yes, father,” Obediently, she picked up her bag and headed for the door. “Goodnight, Dad.”
“Goodnight, Lindsey, drive carefully.”
“I will.” She glanced at her watch as she closed the door behind her. Was there a chance that she might see Simon returning the car? Quickening her step, she headed down the corridor, hunting in her bag for her car keys as she went.
A couple of hours later, Lee and Chip made their way upstairs, leaving Simon watching a video. The cabin had two bedrooms, one double and a twin, plus a bathroom. They had decided that Chip would take the double, and Lee the twin. Quarters for the driver were above the double garage adjoining the cabin. Nelson always looked after his employees, but the cabin was his retreat, which he sometimes shared with his sister, Edith. When he was here, he wanted privacy. Nevertheless, tonight Simon would be sleeping downstairs. Chip suspected that Nelson had sent him along to keep an eye on them both.
“Need a hand unpacking?” Lee offered, pausing outside Chip’s room.
“Thanks, I guess I could use another hand,” Chip accepted gratefully. It was surprising how debilitating a broken arm could be, not to mention frustrating.
This was unmistakably Nelson’s room. Like his office at the Institute, there was a lot of panelling, in rich teak veneer. The floor was carpeted in a beige wool pile. And there was even a short wave radio in case Nelson needed to contact the Institute.
“We haven’t escaped completely,” Lee observed, nodding toward the radio.
“Let’s hope we don’t need it.”
“You worry too much.” Lee heaved Chip’s case onto the bed. “You should take your own advice and relax.” Lee told him.
“Huh, look who’s talking.” Opening the case, Chip started taking things out and transferring them to the chest of drawers, while Lee moved to the wardrobe to find some hangers.
How, Lee wondered, had he let Jamieson persuade them to come on this trip. “How did we get talked into this?” He asked.
Morton turned and shrugged. “I don’t know. I seem to remember that it was your idea.”
Lee paused in hanging Chip’s ski jacket, “I think a certain doctor is getting too clever by half. I’m going to have to think of a new tactic for dealing with him.”
“He’s finally gotten wise to you,” Chip laughed.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Lee hastily turned back to hanging the jacket in the wardrobe, not that Chip was going to be doing any skiing this trip. “How was Lindsey?” He inquired, changing the subject.
“Same as always. That woman is all business,” Chip complained.
Lee smiled. “You mean that you didn’t get anywhere with her?” he teased. They had both tried to date the newest member of the Institute medical staff, but she wasn’t interested.
“She’ll ruin my reputation,” Chip joked.
“I don’t think you need to worry on that score,” Lee assured him. Seaview’s exec had quite a reputation amongst the crew. Every time he went on leave, there seemed to be a different girl. “So, what are you doing for Christmas?”
“That depends on whether Maddy can get the time off.”
Lee closed the now empty case and lifted it off the bed. “You two have been seeing a lot of each other lately. Are things getting serious between you?”
“Give me a break,” Chip protested. “We’re just good friends,” he insisted.
“If you say so.”
“Yes, I do,” Chip said firmly. “What about Rachel? Is your mother still playing matchmaker?” he retaliated.
Lee cringed at the memory of his last encounter with Rachel. “No, I told her I was seeing some-one, and don’t you dare tell differently,” Lee warned. Rachel Burrows had gone to school with back in New England, they had grown up together. Then Lee had gone to Annapolis. Ever since, every time he went home, his mother would try and get them together. She seemed to think that he needed a wife to look after him.
“Would I do a thing like that?” Chip said innocently.
“Yes, you would, and take great delight in doing so. My Mom is bad enough, without you making it worse,” Lee complained fervently.
“You can’t blame her for worrying about you, Lee. Every time she sees you, you’ve got some injury.”
“You’re exaggerating,” Lee protested.
“Am I?” Chip sat on the edge of the bed to take off his shoes. “Think about it.”
Lee didn’t need to think about it, he knew that Chip was right. His mother never asked questions, or made any fuss. She knew better than to try and persuade him to change any part of his life, secretly, he knew that she was proud that her son was captain of Seaview.
“Are you okay? You’ve gone very quiet.”
“What, sorry – I was thinking,” Lee apologised.
“You’re not going to get moody on me, are you?”
“I am never moody,” Lee objected. He was well aware of his tendency to dwell on things, but he couldn’t help it. Fortunately, Chip was always on hand to snap him out of it, just like he was doing right now.
“Maybe moody was the wrong choice,” Chip conceded. “Anyhow, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a long day.”
“Okay, I can take a hint,” Lee laughed. Being examined by Lindsey was a hardship he wouldn’t mind enduring. “She you at breakfast.” He said as he opened the door to leave.
Chip was surprised to find that there was no sign of Lee when he came down for breakfast. Hearing someone in the kitchen, he headed in that direction to investigate what might be available to eat. Simon was cooking ham and eggs, and the smell of coffee from a pot brewing on the stove smelled wonderful. “Morning, Simon.”
Morton took a mug from the rack and poured himself some coffee. It seemed that not only was Simon an excellent chauffeur, but that he had other hidden talents to.
“Take a seat, Commander. Breakfast is almost ready,” Simon told him, glancing around from the stove.
“You don’t have to...” the blond started to say.
“It’s okay, Simon interrupted. “I was cooking for myself anyhow. I just did some extra, figured that you’d be hungry.”
“Thanks, and please call me Chip.” Pulling out a chair, he sat down at the table. The smell of cooking filled the small kitchen, making his mouth water. “Lee not up yet?” he enquired.
“Yeah, he went for a walk.”
“A walk? There’s at least a foot of snow out there,” Chip objected, incredulous that Lee would do such a crazy thing.
Simon brought two plates over and put one down in front of Chip, then sat down himself. “Yeah, but the scenery is pretty spectacular.”
“Thanks,” Chip picked up his folk and turned his attention to the plate of food. The scenery might be spectacular, but it still sounded like sheer stupidity to him. “How long has Lee been out?” he asked, trying not to sound worried.
“About thirty minutes.”
Chip shook his head in disapproval. Knowing Lee, he would probably end up lost, and they would have to send out a search party. Chip didn’t even want to think about what the Admiral would say. And if Lee turned up injured, Jamieson would blow his top. He could almost hear the doctor’s lecturing Lee on the futility of wasting Jamie’s time patching him up, only to have him go and get into more trouble.
Lindsey arrived at the medical centre at her usual time. She’d hoped to catch a glimpse of Simon. There had been no sign of him, or the car, last night. She had tried to figure out his schedule, but he didn’t seem to have one. At least he always seemed to drive the same car. She paused at the top of the steps to look across the parking lot. Maybe Simon had been late getting back last night, and had taken the car home.
“Hey, Lindsey, wait up.”
She smiled as she saw Becky, her father’s secretary, running up the steps. “Hi, what are you doing here on a Saturday?”
“I have some reports to type for your father. Apparently Seaview’s last cruise was an eventful one,” Becky told her.
Lindsey held the door open for her, then followed her in. “Yes, I know.”
“I heard Chip Morton was in yesterday,” Becky grinned.
Lindsey smiled. Becky wasn’t the only member of the female staff that was interested in Chip Morton. In the time that Lindsey had worked at NIMR, several of the nurses had tried to get a date with the Seaview’s exec, and at least half of the office staff was chasing after him. “Yes, he came to the fracture clinic,” she replied as the two reached the elevators.
He’s so irresistible,” Becky said as she pressed the call button for the elevator. “He has the most wonderful blue eyes, and when he smiles...” her voice trailed off as the elevator arrived and the doors opened.
“Ummm,” Lindsey commented thoughtfully as her mind momentarily flashed to Simon.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you later,” Becky smiled cheerfully as she stepped into the elevator.
“Yeah, bye,” Lindsey watched the doors close, leaving her alone with her thoughts. Smiling to herself, she continued on her way. Crane & Morton might have more than their share of female admirers, but that didn’t bother her. At least with Simon, she didn’t have any rivals, as far as she was aware. She really didn’t know much about him, but she liked a bit of mystery. It made life interesting. Sometimes it was even best, reality often turned out to be a disappointment.
Crane was enjoying the almost haunting quiet of the hollow in which Nelson’s cabin nestled. It was surrounded by trees, with a backdrop of snow covered peaks. Although it was cold, the air was dry and quite thin at this attitude. It had snowed overnight, and the snow was deep on the slopes. The captain followed the trail along the edge of the tree line. The snow was thinner here, and it was easier to walk. Being trained in survival techniques he knew about this type of terrain. The trail climbed up into the rocks and he wondered how the tall firs managed to get a foothold on the slopes. This was hardly his first experience with snow. There was plenty back in New England, where it fell from November to April. He could remember going on skiing trips with his parents and had especially fond memories of Sugerbush, Vermont. The scenery there was beautiful, and it retained a lot of the traditional New England charm. He had happy memories of sleigh rides, and evenings in front of an open fire, drinking hot chocolate and scoffing cookies.
Thinking of food made him realise that he was hungry. It was time to head back to the cabin for breakfast. There would be plenty of time to explore later. Besides which, if he was gone too long, Chip would be worried.
Lee paused just inside the kitchen door to take of his boots.
“Oh, you’re back?” Chip commented, turning from helping Simon with the dishes.
“Morning,” Lee smiled, ignoring the challenge in his friend’s remark.
“Do you want breakfast?” Simon interrupted them.
“That’s okay, thanks, I can get it.” Moving into the kitchen, Lee unzipped his jacket and shrugged out of it, hanging it over the back of a chair. “What are we going to do today?”
Chip shrugged. “We could visit Hot Creek, or Bodie Ghost Town. Or there is always skiing, snowmobile tours, sigh seeing and some great restaurants.”
Lee shook his head. “For someone who didn’t want to come on this trip, you sure went to a lot of trouble to find out about the place.”
“That’s my job,” Chip said smugly.
“Let me know when you’ve decided and I’ll bring the car around,” Simon said, turning to go.
“Thanks,” Lee said over his shoulder. Returning his thoughts to food, his early morning walk, combined with the smell of bacon made his hungry. Opening the refrigerator he found a carton of orange juice. “How’s the arm?” he asked while he continued preparing his breakfast.
“It’s okay, most of the time I don’t even feel it,” Chip assured him.
“Good.” Lee’s mind flashed back to that horrific moment in the control room when O’Brien told him that Chip was trapped in the lab. He’d felt a terrible sinking feeling in his stomach and an icy chill down his back. It had been the worst twenty -four hours of his life, waiting for that time lock to open; to find out if Chip was alive or dead. Stop it. He told himself sternly. It was over, and Chip was more or less okay. His broken arm would mend. Only Lee wasn’t sure how he would react the next time he had to leave Chip in command.
Lindsey shook the excess water from her hands and pulled a towel from the dispenser. Drying her hands, she tossed the paper towel into the waste bin and glanced at her watch – it was lunchtime. She’d been thinking about Simon all morning, unable to get him out of her mind. This was ridiculous, she told herself. She hardly knew the guy. But she couldn’t help herself; just a glimpse of him made her heart flutter. With a sigh, Lindsey picked up her bag and headed for the door.
She couldn’t face the cafeteria, deciding instead to walk down to Seaview’s berth, maybe have lunch with her father. She needed a distraction, something to take her mind off Simon.
The dock was quiet, the repair crews having stopped for lunch. There was no urgency with the repairs, with the captain and exec away on leave, Seaview wasn’t going anywhere. Lt Williams was on deck. “Permission to come aboard?” Lindsey asked as she approached the gangplank.
“Of course, come aboard,” the lieutenant smiled, walking over to meet her.
“Is my father aboard?”
“Yes, ma’am, would you like me to have someone escort you to the wardroom?” Williams offered.
Lindsey smiled. “No, that’s okay. I think I can find my way.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Williams nodded agreement and opened the sail hatch for her.
She smiled again, politely, and stepped inside. Most of the regular crew were on shore leave. The control room was manned by a skeleton crew, comprising mostly of shore based backup personal. However, Nick ‘Sparks’ Peatty was still aboard, supervising the repairs to the antenna.
“Lindsey, what brings you down here? Is something wrong?” He asked.
“No, nothing wrong. I just needed a change of scene. Thought I’d have lunch with my dad,” she told him.
“Excuse me?” Sparks looked at her with confusion.
Lindsey laughed with amusement. “Doc Jamieson,” she explained, surprised that no-one had put two & two together.
“Doc’s your father?” Sparks asked in surprise.
She couldn’t help smiling at the expression of Sparks’ face. “That’s right.”
“Does Captain Crane know the doc is your father?”
“No, let’s just keep that between us, shall we?” Lindsey wanted to see Crane’s face when he found out that he’d been trying to date Jamieson’s daughter.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Sparks smiled in understanding.
“Good,” she turned away, headed for the aft hatch.
“I think doc’s in the wardroom with Admiral Nelson,” Sparks called after her.
“Yes, thanks,” she called back over her shoulder.
Seated at a table in the cafe of the Mountain Bar and Restaurant, Carl Jennings sipped his coffee and gazed absently out of the window, watching the world go by. A dark blue 4x4 was pulling into up outside. There was something familiar about the driver. Jennings continued to watch as the occupants walked toward the lodge.
The three men entered the cafe and sat down at a table. The driver removed the dark glasses he’d been wearing, now Jennings could see his face clearly; he recognised McNeil. Even without the uniform, he would know that cop. He was the one who had been responsible for ending Jennings’ police career. He had to tell Harvey that McNeil was in town.
Looking around, he signalled a waitress and hastily paid his bill. Then he left in search of a pay phone. He knew that there was one in the lobby, but Jennings didn’t want to be overheard.
Leaving the cafe, he climbed into his pickup parked outside and headed out of town. There was a phone near the gas station, and he could call Harvey from there. Harvey had been Jennings’ partner when they worked for the L.A.P.D. They’d had a lucrative arrangement with Vinetti, a drug dealer on their turf. Jennings and his partner had turned a blind eye to the dealers’ activity for a share of the profits. That was until McNeil and his partner showed up one night in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Lindsey spent the afternoon preparing for Monday’s prenatal clinic. She’d been to records to collect the necessary files. It was surprising how many of the Institute staff and crew members wives were either pregnant or had just had new babies.
Lindsey enjoyed this side of her job. Although she had never really wanted children of her own. She was happy being single, ale to do what she wanted, when she wanted. She had never met anyone with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. That was, until she met Simon. She could imagine a life with him. Even though she didn’t really know him, she thought that he would make a lovely husband and father. Where was he now? She wondered.
Suddenly, she desperately needed to see him. On her way out, she would drive by the car pool and see if there was any sign of him or the car he drove. Forcing her mind back to her work, she turned her attention to the vaccination records; they should help keep her mind off the chauffeur for a while.
From the comfortable surroundings of the Mountain Inn Bar & Restaurant, Chip Morton had a good view over the ski slopes. He couldn’t help smiling as he caught sight of Lee showing off to a couple of brunettes. Lee seemed to have changed from the confident and resourceful captain of Seaview into an overgrown kid. He’d had a burger and fries for lunch, followed by doughnuts and coffee. That, in itself was unlike the captain, who never usually bothered too much about food, and sometimes had to be reminded that he couldn’t survive on coffee alone. Even while they had been at Annapolis together, Chip had never seen Lee like this. Despite his protests about taking time way from his command, Crane certainly appeared to be having a good time. Morton’s attention was taken from the view as he was joined by McNeil.
“The captain is enjoying himself,” Simon observed as he took at seat at the table.
Morton nodded. “Why don’t you join him? You don’t have to babysit me.”
McNeil smiled. “No thanks. Horses are more my scene.”
Simon nodded, taking a sip of his coffee. “I keep a bay out at a friend’s place. I spend as much time as I can there.”
“When you are not chauffeuring the brass around,” Chip joked.
“I don’t mind. The hours aren’t great, but Admiral Nelson is a good boss.”
Morton couldn’t argue with that, despite not always agreeing with Nelson’s strategy. There had been times when he could cheerfully have strangled the Admiral. But, on the whole, Seaview was a happy boat, and Chip was proud to be her exec. “It certainly beats working for the navy,” he agreed.
“Have you served aboard Seaview for long?”
“Ever since she was commissioned,” the OX answered thoughtfully. His mind flashing back to the early days of Lee Crane’s command; Poor Lee had really been thrown in at the deep end. His first mission had almost been his last. “What about you, what made you give up being a cop?”
“Too many changes, not enough coming back.” There was sadness in Simon’s voice, something in his expression as he stared momentarily into his coffee cup.
Chip nodded understanding. He knew what the other man meant. He had felt the same way after Captain Phillips had been killed. Then the Navy had loaned Lee to Nelson, for the purpose or captaining Seaview. He and Lee went back a long way, and that made the transition easier. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”
Mc’Neil shrugged. “It’s in the past, life goes on,” he returned the now empty cup to its saucer and picked up the newspaper lying on the table.
Morton returned his attention to the view outside, leaving Simon to read his paper.
Chip watched Lee fooling around with the sled dogs. The sled ride had been Lee’s idea, after which they were meeting up with Simon at the restaurant for dinner.
The lead dog, a black and white Husky named Sable was enjoying the attention Lee was lavishing on it. He was kneeling down, scratching its ears and talking to it. This was a side of his commanding officer that he’d never seen before. Lee never paid this much attention to any if Chip’s cats. It was a pity that Lee couldn’t have a dog of his own. It was good to have someone to greet you when you came home, even if it was an animal. It would be impossible of course, with Lee away at sea so much; there wouldn’t be anyone to look after a dog.
Chip smiled as the dog jumped up, butting Lee in the chest and knocking him backwards into the snow. Sable clearly thought this game was great fun, wagging his tail happily as he stood over Lee, licking his face.
Suddenly another memory flashed into Chip’s mind. Of Lee playing with another dog, but it was not such a happy occasion. They had spent days that time, anxiously waiting, not knowing if Lee where Lee was, or even if he was alive. Chip shook himself, forcing the thought from his mind.
The sled owner was pulling the dog off the captain and Chip decided it was time he dragged Crane away, otherwise they might never make it to the restaurant. Lee was picking himself up, smiling as he brushed the snow off his clothes. The exec could not remember ever seeing him so relaxed and happy. “Are you done? I’m starving,” he complained.
Lee grinned. “Then let’s go eat. Game’s over guys, got to go, thanks,” he said briefly turning back to the dogs and their master.
“You’re a mess,” Chip observed, casting a critical eye over his friend as they set off to find Simon.
“Then it’s lucky that I have another jacket in the car,” Lee said cheerfully.
The expression on his face told Chip just what Lee was thinking. Chip was usually the orderly, methodical one. He kept both Seaview and her captain on course. The holiday was obviously doing Lee good, taking his mind off of the events of their last mission. Chip was glad now that he had agreed to come along, he just wished that they had chosen somewhere warmer. It had started to snow again, but Lee didn’t seem to notice. Chip pulled the hood of his parka up as they walked in silence toward the Inn.
At home in his study, Dr Will Jamieson sat at his desk, checking through the report he had brought home to work on. The report was a timely reminder of how hazardous serving aboard a submarine could be. He worried about his daughter and what would happen to her if anything should happen to him. It would be a comfort to know that she would have someone to take care of her in the event of his death; to know that she would not be all alone.
Having lunch with Lindsey made him realize just how little he saw o her. He should free up more time for them to be together. He regretted that he let his work take him away so much. Since the death of his wife, he hadn’t been much of a father to Lindsey. He’d put all his time and energy into his work. Now that was going to change. He resolved to make up for all the time he’d wasted, before it was too late. Barring emergencies, Seaview would not sail again until after the Christmas break. He would speak to Lindsey and ask if she had any plans for the holidays. They had not seen any of his wife’s family since the funeral. Maybe he and Lindsey could go and visit. Spend some time getting to know each other again. There should not be any problems with him getting leave, he had enough accumulated. Feeling more optimistic than he had for a long time, he reached for the phone to call Nelson.
It was cold, and a fresh fall of snow had blanketed the car. Chip got into the back and waited while Lee helped Simon clear the snow from the windows. It took some time for the engine to warm up and there was sufficient heat blowing into the car to warm the interior. They were soon back on the winding road that led back up to the cabin. Feeling sleepy, Chip closed his eyes. The sound of the chains on the impacted snow was somehow soothing.
He noticed the change in the sound of the engine as Simon accelerated and he smiled to himself. Simon was in a hurry. Chip had no worries about Simon’s driving ability in these conditions; he was professional and had been with the Institute for several years. Opening his eyes, Chip turned his attention to the darkness outside. The sky was clearing to reveal the moon. It’s silvery light filtered through the trees, sparkling off the snow like hundreds of tiny diamonds.
Chip returned his attention to Simon as he heard the central locking activated. “Something wrong?”
“Maybe,” Simon replied as he glanced in the rear view mirror.
Both Chip and Lee turned to look out of the back window. Something was coming up fast on them fast, headlights blazing. It was the perfect place for an ambush, Chip thought. He got the impression of a pickup truck as the vehicle overtook them, cutting in front of them.
Simon was already braking, but they were running out of room. The pickup was braking heavily, and Simon turned the steering wheel in an attempt to avoid a collision. The car veered sideways as Simon took avoiding action. He released the brake, and was back on the throttle, getting the drive back to the wheels.
Chip and Lee were thrown around as the rear of the car swung round. Simon pulled the wheel back as the car did a one-eighty, ending up facing the way they had come. For a long moment the car slued drunkenly before the chains got a grip on the icy surface. Crane & Morton ducked as a bullet shattered the rear window. “Who are those guys?” Lee asked.
“I’ve no idea,” Chip told him.
Simon had the car moving again, accelerating away. But the driver of the pickup was as skilled a driver as Simon, and was on their tail. Simon zigzagged the car, attempting to stop the truck from overtaking them again. More shots rang out as their pursuers continued the chase. The pickup was closing on them, slamming into the rear of the car. The car lurched with the impact and Simon once again pulled the steering wheel round to keep the car on the road, while he accelerated, throwing the car around the winding road. “Here they come again,” Simon warned, glancing in his mirror. They were rammed again, and the back of the car slid sideways. Simon fought to straighten the car’s course and stop them from going over the edge. The pickup was speeding up to overtake them and another shot rang out, shattering the passenger window, just missing Simon, as the truck pulled alongside.
Simon swerved, ramming the pickup, forcing it back across the road. Morton and Crane could only hang on while the car continued to careen erratically along the road. With trees on one side, and a steep drop on the other, there was no-where to go. The two vehicles continued side by side while their drivers tried to force one another off the road. Suddenly headlights appeared from around the next bend, Chip felt the car braking, and they were thrown forward as the truck rammed them in a last effort to turn them off the road. After that, Chip was not sure what happened. The car seemed to be going backwards, before finally coming to rest, rocking gently on its springs.
“Chip, are you okay?” Lee asked.
“Yeah, you?” Chip answered, still a little dazed.
“Simon?” Lee asked, looking forward.
One of the masked attackers was leaning through the broken passenger window, pointing a gun at Simon. “Unlock the doors,” he ordered.
Simon flicked the switch and released the locks. Another man was pulling open the driver’s door. “Out of the car,” he hauled Simon out from behind the wheel.
Morton was trying his door. “It’s jammed,” he told Lee.
Even as Crane was reaching for the door handle, the first man was pulling open the door. “Out,” he ordered waiving the gun at him.
“Who are you? What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The captain demanded angrily as he got out of the car.
“Just do as you are told,” the man replied, shoving Crane away from the car. “Move it!” he said impatiently, as he turned his attention to Chip. When Chip did not react quickly enough, he reached in and grabbed his arm, pulling him out of the car.
“Leave him alone,” Lee protested, grabbing the man.
He lashed out at Lee, catching him on the jaw with his gun. Lee stumbled back, losing his footing on the ice; he fell back against the car and slid off, landing on his back in the snow.
“Lee! Are you okay?” Chip asked, moving to offer Lee a hand up.
“Yeah, fine,” Lee answered crossly. Taking Chip’s hand he got to his feet, rubbing his right hip. “Thanks.”
“Don’t be a hero. Our quarrel ain’t with you, the man told him. “Now move away from the car.”
Reluctantly, they did as instructed. Morton had no idea what this was about, and he was sure that Lee didn’t either; if only they had been armed.
At the front of the car, the man’s partner was cuffing Simon’s hands behind his back. Who the hell were these guys? Chip wondered. They couldn’t be cops, cops didn’t behave like this. The man shoved Simon toward the pickup, while his partner kept an eye on Chip and Lee. Chip looked at Lee, wondering if he was going to chance tackling the guy. Before either of them came to a decision, Simon took matters into his own hands. Seemingly unhindered by having his hands cuffed behind him, he knocked the man down.
The man guarding them glanced over his shoulder, and quickly turned back as Crane took a step forward. “Don’t even think about it,” he warned. “I don’t want to have to shoot you.”
Simon followed up his attack with his feet, but the man grabbed his ankle and flipped him backwards. “Next time I’ll put a bullet in your brain,” he growled, pulling Simon to his feet.
“You’re going to kill me anyway.”
“In the truck,” he shoved Simon towards the truck.
“You won’t get away with this Jennings,” Simon told him.
“Shut it,” he growled, giving him another shove, “And get a move on.”
“Start walking,” he man guarding Morton and Crane ordered.
“You’re not going to leave us out here?” Lee protested.
“Do you think that we’re stupid enough to let you drive back to town and raise the alarm?”
The first man had handcuffed Simon to the truck and was walking back to the car. He opened the door and leaned inside. Starting the engine, he released the brake. The compacted snow on the road surface made pushing the car difficult, but he got it moving, and steered it towards the edge.
Morton and Crane could only watch as the car disappeared over the side, crashing onto the road below and bursting into flames. Lee’s expression darkened and he turned back in the direction the pickup was headed. “Just wait until I catch up with those guys,” He started after the truck as it pulled away into the night.
“Come on, we’d better get back to town and get help,” Chip told him.
Lee shook his head. “I’m going after them. By the time we find help they’ll be long gone.”
“We’re on foot. It’s cold and getting colder. We could die of exposure out here,” Chip protested. “And just what are you planning to do if we catch up with them? They have guns remember? This isn’t an O.N.I mission. No one knows we are out here, and won’t find out until they find what is left of the car.”
Lee was kneeling to examine the tire tracks in the snow. “I’ll think of something,” he replied absently as he stood. “We can follow their tracks as long as it doesn’t snow again.”
“In the dark? We don’t even have a flashlight.”
“We can’t just let them go. What about Simon? There is no telling what those guys will do.”
Chip threw up his hands in resignation. “Okay, have it your way, but the Admiral won’t like it.” He knew that it was no use trying to reason with Lee once he’d made up his mind.
“I can handle the Admiral,” Lee told him.
How many times have I heard that? Chip thought silently. Reluctantly he followed after Lee as he started walking in the direction of the pickup. He didn’t dare leave Lee out here alone. If he turned up without him, his life wouldn’t be worth living. Besides, he’d never forgive himself if something happened to his friend.
The wind was picking up, whistling around the fir trees and whipping up the snow. “The temperature is dropping. We should find shelter,” Chip shouted over the sound of the wind.
Chip was right. It would be impossible to track the pickup in these conditions. The tire tracks would soon be obliterated by the driving snow. Added to which, Lee needed to rest his leg. He’d developed a limp that was getting worse with the effort of trudging through the snow. His leg ached quite badly now, although he would not admit it to Chip.
Pausing, he surveyed the snowy slopes for any place that might offer shelter from the weather. His breath condensed into icy crystals on the crisp air, and despite wearing gloves, his hands were cold. There was a real danger of frostbite i they didn’t find shelter for the night.
“We should have gone back to town. Now we’re lost,” Chip complained.
“We’re not lost,” Lee said firmly.
“Oh, so you know where we are?” Chip stamped his feet to keep warm.
“Not exactly,” Lee conceded. “But we only have to find the road and follow it.” Provided it’s not buried under a snow drift. Lee thought to himself.
“I knew it! We’re lost.”
“Don’t be so negative,” Lee reproached. “Let’s try those rocks, we might get lucky and find a cave or something.” He pointed to a ridge just visible through the developing blizzard.
Or a bear, Chip thought silently.
They were standing outside Hoylake Mine, long since abandoned by its owner. “Look’s like we got lucky,” Lee said cheerfully. He pulled experimentally at one of the boards covering the entrance and it came away easily. He removed a couple more until there was a big enough gap for them to get through. “After you,” Lee stood back to let Chip go first.
Chip didn’t think there was anything lucky about being stuck out in the middle of nowhere, half frozen. Fortunately they had eaten well. Giving Lee a discerning look, Chip entered the mine. The interior was dark after the reflective light off the snow outside. Moving further inside, Chip explored the interior. Several tunnels ran from the threshold, indicating that this must have been a thriving mine at one time, until the gold deposits ran out and it was abandoned.
“Don’t suppose there is any kerosene left in this,” Lee said, picking up a discarded lamp from the floor.
“I hope there isn’t anything living in here,” Chip commented thoughtfully. He wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of treading on a snake or such creature. He’d had his fill of creatures over his time with Seaview.
“Let’s find some wood and build a fire,” Lee proposed, kicking at some of the debris lying around the floor.
They managed to find enough dry wood for a fire, and had fuelled it with twigs and pine needles blown in through the gaps between the boards. Lee removed his boots to warm his feet with the heat from the fire.
“How long do you think it will be before they find the car?” Chip asked.
“Probably not before morning,” Lee shrugged.
“You realise that the Admiral will think we are dead?”
“Yeah, I know,” Lee replied quietly.
Chip could not see Lee’s face clearly, but he knew from his voice that Lee was worried about the Admiral. “He won’t give up until he has a body,” Chip encouraged, picking up on Lee’s introspective mood.
Lee nodded. “It’s my fault. You were right, we should have gone back.” Lee stared into the fire, watching the flames. His thoughts were doubtless occupied with concern for Nelson and with plans to rescue McNeil, if he was still alive. Lee would take this personally; he wouldn’t take kindly to being ordered around at gun point, added to which, he had been injured in the fall, if not seriously.
“How is your leg?”
Chip added more wood to the fire. The mine was drafty, and the heat from the fire did little to warm him. Getting to his feet, Chip paced around the hollow mine entrance in an attempt to get his circulation going. It was going to be a long night, and neither of them would be getting much sleep. Chip was used to waiting; he’d spent many hours waiting for Lee to return from missions. Only then he had his duties to distract him.
They emerged from the mine tired and hungry. Neither had slept more than a couple of hours.
“What now?” Chip asked, looking around the snow covered landscape.
“Find the road and follow it to the cabin. We can radio for help from there.”
The driven snow was knee-deep on the slopes, making progress down it slow. Their muscles were lethargic from the cold, but exercise would soon warm them. Lee took the lead, trudging through the deep snow. He was reminded of their last mission, and the orders from Jamieson that were the reason for them being here. This was supposed to be a holiday, meant to get them both away from the pressure of command, and give them time to relax and recover from their injuries, mentally as well as physically. Lee remembered the doc’s departing words. ‘I don’t want to see or her from either of you for another two weeks, minimum.’ It looked like they would be breaking that promise. Stopping for a moment, Lee turned to Chip. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s just my arm that’s broken; there is nothing wrong with the rest of me.”
The Captain smiled. Worrying about Chip seemed to be getting a habit recently. “Come on, we had better keep moving,” Lee commented as he again started down the slope. The sun might be shining, but they would soon get cold if they stood still for too long. The tables had been turned, and it was Lee doing the worrying. He was beginning to appreciate what is was like for Chip when he was left behind to wait and worry. Lee looked at his watch, it was still early, he doubted whether anyone was searching for them yet.
Lindsey padded downstairs to the kitchen and put some coffee on. She took a mug from the stand, found a spoon and put sugar into the mug. While she was waiting for the coffee, she sliced open a grapefruit, sprinkled it with sugar and put it under the grill.
When the grapefruit was done, she replaced it with bread. There was no clinic, today being Sunday, so she could have a leisurely breakfast. Again she found her thoughts going to Simon. What was he doing today? She remembered the last time she’d seen him. He had a lovely smile. With a sigh, she returned her mind to the toast. Taking a plate from the cabinet, she put the toast on it. Gathering the rest of her breakfast, she carried it to the breakfast bar.
While she ate, Lindsey thumbed through one of the many recipe books she kept and hardly ever used. She’d invited her father for lunch. He had asked her if she had any plans for the Christmas holiday – she hadn’t. She wondered what Simon was doing for Christmas. She would miss seeing him over the holidays and would have been happy to volunteer to work if she thought there was a chance of bumping into him. Again she realized just how little she knew about him. He could even be married. It never occurred to her to look for a ring.
Realising that her mind was once again straying, she closed the book, deciding to settle for steak and salad. It had been a long time since she had cooked for anyone. The last time she and her father had shared a meal together was when he had helped her mover in here. He’d roped in a couple of corpsmen to help as well. That evening, she had cooked them all a meal as a thank you. Her father had reservations about her living out here at the beach alone. But she had fallen in love with the place from the first time she’d seen it. It was a simple, unassuming house, with a kitchen/diner at the back and living room at the front. The kitchen led out onto a deck with steps leading down to the beach. Lindsey especially enjoyed lying in bed listening to the ocean.
Looking at her watch, she figured she had time for another cup of coffee before she needed to shower and dress. Her father would not be here until ten. That would allow her plenty of time to tidy up and give the living room the once-over. Just maybe that would take her mind off Simon for awhile.
It was several hours later that Crane and Morton came across Bear Canyon. The traditional style cabins, set at the foot of hillside carved out by a quartz mine appeared mostly empty. “Probably holiday homes,” Lee commented as he surveyed the canyon.
Chip nodded. “It would be a good place to hide out.”
“Only one way to find out,” Lee started walking towards the nearest cabin, where tire tracks leading up the drive indicated that someone was home.
The OX grabbed his arm. “Are you crazy? You can’t just go barging in there. You could get yourself killed.”
“No, I’m going to knock first,” Lee shrugged free of Chip’s hold, and ignoring the look he was getting from his friend, he walked up the drive to the front door. He was ready to knock as Chip reluctantly joined him.
The door was answered by a mature woman who greeted them with a friendly smile. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, ma’am. Our car went off the road some way back. We’ve been walking for hours. Do you have a phone we could use?” Lee asked.
“I’m afraid the lines are down,” the woman told them apologetically. “Won’t you come in – you must be frozen?” Taking a step back, she allowed them to enter.
“Thank you,” Lee accepted, stepping inside. The cabin felt warm and homelike.
“Are you hurt?” she asked, taking their coats and hanging them on the banister.
“No, ma’am, we’re fine. Just a little cold,” Lee replied as they followed her into the front room.
“I’ll make some coffee and fix you something to eat. Then I’m sure my husband won’t mind driving you boys up to the sheriff’s station,” she chattered happily.
“We wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble,” Lee said hastily. “By the way I’m Lee Crane and this is Chip Morton,” Lee introduced.
“Ma’am,” Chip nodded.
“Ellie-May Hawdale, pleased to help,” she smiled. Sit down, coffee won’t be long.”
“Thank you,” Lee turned his attention to the room as the woman disappeared. Two well upholstered chairs stood either side of a granite hearth, where a fire burnt brightly. “Nice lady,” Lee commented, taking a seat by the fire.
“Yeah, maybe a little too much so.”
“What do you mean?”
Chip shrugged. “I don’t know. She seemed a bit too willing to help two total strangers.”
“Maybe it’s my charming personality,” Lee joked.
Chip groaned. “Or maybe they have an ulterior motive for keeping us here.”
Lee shook his head. “How did you get to be so cynical?”
“Maybe it’s having you as my C.O.” Chip retaliated.
Lindsey looked up from her soup to find her father watching her. “What? She asked.
“Are you happy?”
She gave him a speculative look. “That’s a strange question. Of course I’m happy,” she smiled; Once again thinking of Simon. Yes, she was happy since he’d come along.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t been much of a father to you the past few years,” he apologised.
“Don’ t be silly. You’re entitled to your own life,” she said fondly.
Her father smiled. “So what have you been up to? Is there anyone special?”
Lindsey shook her head. “No.” If only. She thought wistfully as her thoughts again flashed to Simon.
“How is the job?”
“What is this?” Lindsey laughed. “Everything is fine, Dad, honestly. Now finish your soup before it gets cold.” She ordered.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he smiled.
Lindsey returned the smile, realizing how much like her father that last remark had sounded; she’d heard him use that tone with some of his patients. He was a fine doctor, and she was very proud of him. The institute and Seaview were lucky to have him, and she hoped that they appreciated that fact. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m just tired. Need a holiday I guess,” he told her with a shrug. “Crane and Morton certainly keep me on my toes,” he joked.
Lindsey got up, walked around to stand behind him, and put a hand on his shoulder. “You work too hard.”
“Part of the job,” he replied, turning to look up at her.
“Yeah, but you don’t have to be on duty twenty-four hours a day. The Medical Centre has other doctors.” It was typical of her father, married to his work.
“Now where have I heard that before?” he laughed.
“Then you should take your own advice.” They were very much alike, both confident professionals, and very independent.
After a bowl of stew served with homemade bread, Lee found himself dozing by the warm fire. The lack of sleep and the trudge through the snow were catching up with him. In hindsight, it hadn’t been a very sensible thing to do, but he’d been angry. Opening his eyes, he found Chip watching him, his blue eyes showing a trace of curiosity. It was very rare for Lee to catch his exec showing any sort of emotion. Chip Morton was extremely good at hiding his feelings. “What?” Lee asked.
“Oh, I was just wondering what you plan to do next.”
Lee wanted to stay right there by the fire, to close his eyes and sleep. Hell, he was tired. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a choice; they had to get to a telephone. Besides which, he could not turn his back on Simon any more than he could one of his crew. “Guess it’s time to get moving.” Reluctantly, he forced himself to his feet.
“You two boys are not going already? I’m sure my husband will be back soon,” Mrs Hawdale came in carrying a tray.
“I’m afraid we can’t wait. We have to find a telephone and let our friends know what has happened,” Lee told her.
“You won’t get far on foot,” she warned, moving to clear away the dishes. “And you won’t find a telephone between here and Mammoth Lake.”
They followed her into the hall where they had left their coats. “Thank you for your hospitality, Ma’am,” Lee said as he pulled on his parka.
“Are you sure you won’t wait?”
Lee shook his head. “We’ll be fine, ma’am,” he smiled.
Lindsey’s world had just been shattered by the news that the burnt out wreck of Simon’s car had been found by the highway patrol. A telephone call from the Institute had interrupted her afternoon with her father. Details were still sketchy, at the moment Crane, Morton and Simon were all missing. Her father was to accompany Admiral Nelson on a visit to the site. Somehow, she had kept control, told her father to be careful.
Now, alone with her thoughts, he stomach churned. “Please God, let Simon be okay,” she whispered. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, swallowing hard against the tightness in her throat. Tears ran down her face and she wiped them away, struggling to regain her composure. Walking through the living room into the kitchen, she found a tissue before opening the back door and stepping out onto the deck. Leaning against the railing, she looked out at the ocean, sparkling in the afternoon sunlight. She loved the ocean even thought it took her father away so much. She wished that she could share this with Simon, but deep inside she knew that it was too late, she’d lost him.
The sudden cry of a gull over head disturbed her thoughts. With a sigh, Lindsey turned to the steps and started down towards the beach. Her bare feet left footprints in the soft sand as she walked towards the shore line. The beach was quiet, and again her thoughts returned to Simon. Those pale blue eyes and beautiful smile that transformed his serious expression, lighting his whole face. She wondered what lay beneath that sober exterior. Now she would never get the chance to find out. She’d been content to adore him from a distance. Now she regretted never letting him know how she felt about him.
Lindsey’s mood was lightened briefly by a couple waling their dog. The animal was running in and out of the water, barking and wagging its tail. She smiled as the couple passed. Did Simon have a pet? She wondered. There was so little that she knew about him. Where did he come from? Where did he live? He was always immaculately groomed, was there a woman responsible for that?
Coming to some rocks, Lindsey climbed up and sat down, gazing out at the ocean. She listened to the waves breaking over the rocks, letting it carry her away to a happier place.
Admiral Nelson looked down on the snow clad trees and slopes below as he chopper flew north over the mountains and forests, following the highway to his cabin. It had been the first place he’d thought to look. The police said that no bodied were found in or near the wreck. That was small consolation. At this altitude, night-time temperatures fell below zero, and Nelson did not like the thought of his friends being out all night. Especially if any of them were injured. Fresh falls of snow would have covered any tracks that may have helped find them. He was anxious to reach the site and do some investigating of his own. At the moment they didn’t even know for sure that Crane and Morton had been in the car. Although the police and rescue teams were doing their best, it was a vast area to search, and the Admiral couldn’t just wait in Santa Barbara, he needed to be here in case he could be of any help.
Beside him, Will Jamieson sat silently watching out the window. Nelson was grateful for the moral support of Seaview’s doctor. Although he fervently hoped that the doctor’s medical skills would not be called upon. He wasn’t sure that he, or Seaview could survive the loss of both Crane and Morton.
The helicopter skimmed the trees as the pilot prepared to set her down beside the only open ground suitable to land on. The downdraft from the rotor blades shook the snow from branches and stirred up the show on the ground. Nelson quickly jumper out if the chopper, ducking to avoid the blades, he ran towards the cabin, although he knew that he would find it empty. If anyone had been there, they would have come out when they heard the helicopter. A quick check through the cabin confirmed that no one was there. Nelson couldn’t help feeling disappointed. He knew that finding the cabin empty almost certainly meant that Crane and Morton had been in the car.
“I’m sure they are both okay,” Jamieson’s reassurance broke into Nelson’s thoughts.
“I hope so, Will.”
Handcuffed to a cot in the corner of a ramshackle shack, Simon McNeil had spent an uncomfortable night. He was cold and hungry, and he knew that Jennings didn’t care whether he lived or died. He probably planned to kill him anyway. He watched Jennings pour a mug of coffee from the pot heating on the fire, and approach him with it. “What are you going to do with me?” he asked calmly s he accepted the mug; at least it would help warm him.
“I don’t know yet.”
“You can’t keep me here,” he told him, although he knew that he was in no position to make threats.
“What are you going to do about it?” Jennings challenged, before returning to the fire.
“I guess there isn’t much I can do for now. But kidnapping is a federal offense. You’ll go to jail when they find you.”
“Yeah, well they have to find us first.”
“Don’t kid yourself. They’ll find you.” McNeil had no doubt that once Crane and Morton raised the alarm; the area would w swarming with cops and F.B.I. Not to mention MP’s from the Institute.
Jennings walked over to look out of the window. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no one knows about this place.”
“You don’t know who you are dealing with.”
Jennings turned from the window. “Then why don’t you enlighten us?”
“And spoil the surprise,” McNeil shook his head. “You’ll find out.”
“Who is he talking about?” Harvey Burdett asked nervously.
“Ignore him. He’s just trying to intimidate you. There isn’t anyone coming after him,” Jennings assured his partner. “We could kill you right now, and they wouldn’t find your body until the snow thaws.” Returning to the fire, Jennings added another log before pouring himself a mug of coffee.
“What are we going to do?” Burdett asked, glancing uneasily from McNeil to Jennings.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“I don’t want any part of murder,” Burdett insisted, although it was clear that he was afraid of Jennings.
“Shut up, Harvey, you’re involved whether you like it or not,” Jennings snapped.
McNeil saw a chance to split the tow, get them arguing amongst themselves. “Don’t listen to him, Harvey. Kidnapping is one thing; murder is something else, especially with your record. Do you want to spend the rest of your life in prison?”
“He’s right, Carl. Maybe we should just leave him here; by the time anyone finds him we could be miles away.”
Jennings strode across the small space to McNeil and hit him hard. “Shut up or I’ll kill you right now,” he warned. Then turning back to his accomplice he said, “I’ve got an idea.”
Burdett still looked uneasy. “What are you talking about?”
“We’ll turn him over to Vinetti,” Jennings smiled as he turned to Simon. “They’ll find him overdosed in an alley some place.”
“That’s a good idea,” Burdett laughed nervously.
“Yeah, and we’ll be in the clear. They’ll never be able to prove that we were involved,” Jennings concluded with satisfaction.
“You’re forgetting there were witnesses.” McNeil had no illusion about what would happen to him if Vinetti got his hands on him. He just hoped that the police would get here first.
Nelson stood looking down at the blackened are where the car wreck had been found. “I don’t understand it, Will. McNeil was a professional, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said, shaking his head.
“We don’t know for sure that he was driving,” Jamieson pointed out.
“If he wasn’t, where is he? Why hasn’t he reported the car missing?” The Admiral reasoned, trying to make sense of what had happened. There were so many questions, and no one had any answers for him.
Jamieson put a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Harry, there’s nothing we can do here,” he said gently.
“It’s my fault. I suggested they come here.”
“And I’m the one who insisted that they take some leave. You can’t blame yourself, Admiral. Anyway, knowing those two, they’ll turn up none the worse and wonder what all the fuss is about,” he smiled.
“Do you really believe that?” Nelson asked, turning from searching the area for any sign of his missing men.
Jamieson nodded. “It’s part of being a doctor, I suppose. No matter how bad things seem, you can’t give up.”
“You’re a good doctor, Will.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Jamieson accepted gracefully. “Now let’s get back to the chopper, its cold out here.”
Nelson would like to have stayed longer. What he really wanted to do was bring in his own people to investigate.
Nelson shook himself. “Sorry, Doc, I was just thinking,” reluctantly he headed back to the helicopter once more. The car wreck had been towed for forensic examination, maybe there would be some news. Although no bodies had been found, that didn’t mean that no one had been in the car. The bodies could have been consumed by the fire. Nelson shuddered at the thought of anyone dying in such a terrible way.
As the Bell Jet Ranger lifted off, Nelson looked out of the window, still hoping for some sign of his friends. He and Crane made a good team. It was a relationship that he’d thought would continue for a long time. For the first time ever, Nelson had considered retiring. He hoped that Crane would eventually take over as director of the institute, if he could ever drag him away from Seaview. But now... Suddenly feeling a lot older than his years, Nelson rested back in his seat. There was nothing to see, the snow covered landscape gave no indication of life.
Nelson looked at his watch, there was only a few hours of daylight left. It would be impossible to search in the dark, and they would have to wait until morning to resume the search. If Crane and Morton were out another night, they could die of exposure before they were found.
“Harry, are you all right?” Jamieson asked.
Nelson nodded. “Just tired.” Again he returned his gaze to the landscape below. Lengthening shadows were already creeping across the slopes.
Lindsey retraced her steps along the now deserted beach. The breeze was blowing off the sea, driving the foaming waves onto the sand, and she could smell the salt in the air. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocks at the buff in the distance carried on the wind. A pale sun was sinking behind the clouds; soon the fog would roll in. The breeze already felt cool against her bare arms.
Pausing to take in the view over the sparkling ocean, she sighed. Everything had been perfect, her job, the house she had hoped to one day share with someone. She had come to love her life here. Now suddenly she felt so alone, her dreams shattered. She missed Simon so much it hurt. Of course she knew how dangerous the job could be, several of the Institute chauffeurs had been killed while driving the Admiral. But this was no secret mission; they were supposed to be on holiday! How could such a thing happen? She couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing Simon again. Even though she had only adored him from a distance. She wished that she had gone with her father. At least she would be doing something, instead of waiting and hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. Only that would have meant that she would have had to tell her father about her feelings for Simon. How could she explain that she was in love with a guy that she didn’t even know?
The chopper pilot was flying low, the instruments showed their altitude as 600 feet. They had received a report that two men matching Crane and Morton had been seen in Bear Canyon, and Nelson wanted to check it out as soon as possible. Both he and Jamieson scanned the ground below as the pilot guided the aircraft along the route of the highway. This was the first news they’d had, but if it had been Crane and Morton, then where was McNeil? Had he been in the car when it went off the road?
“Admiral, down there,” the pilot interrupted his thoughts.
“What? Where?” Nelson scanned the ground while the pilot made a turn and started to descend. Below two figures where waving. “Can we land?” Nelson asked.
The pilot nodded. “The road should be wide enough. I’ll have to keep the rotors going so we don’t get stuck.”
“Okay”, Nelson nodded agreement. He waited as patiently as he could while the pilot set the chopper down. The draft churned up the snow into a blizzard as the helicopter came closer to the ground, and Crane and Morton were temporarily lost from sight. As soon as they were down, Nelson ducked out of the chopper, closely followed by Jamieson.
“Where the devil have you been?” the Admiral demanded, his fears and relief coming out as anger. Just a few hours earlier he’d been facing the prospect of having to find replacements for Seaview’s Captain and Exec.
“Admiral, am I glad to see you, sir,” Lee smiled, seemingly unabashed by Nelson’s wrath.
Nelson looked Lee up and down, scrutinizing him for any visible injuries. “Well?” he prompted.
“We were ambushed. They rammed us, took McNeil and pushed the car over the side. We tried to follow them, but we were forced to take shelter,” Lee explained.
The Admiral looked from Crane to Morton, then back again. Neither of them seemed any the worse. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, Sir,” Lee answered cheerfully.
“Chip?” Nelson inquired, turning his attention to Morton.
Chip nodded. “Just tired, Sir.”
“Well it’s getting late and you two need a good night’s sleep. Let’s get you back to the institute so doc can check you over.” Nelson was already headed back to the chopper.
“But Admiral,” Lee protested. “What about McNeil? We can’t just leave him. Those guys meant business.”
“Lee, we don’t know which direct to search,” Chip reasoned.
“It’s late, it will be dark soon,” Nelson told him firmly. He didn’t like the thought of leaving McNeil either, but there was nothing they could do right now, or maybe there was. “Are you coming?” He asked, turning back to Crane.
Captain Delaney stood and offered a hand across the desk. “Admiral Nelson, a please to meet.”
“Thank you,” Nelson shook hands briefly. “This is Commander Crane, Lieutenant-Command Morton, and Doctor Jamieson.”
“Gentlemen.” Delaney nodded. “Please, sit down,” he invited as he resumed his own seat. “What can I do for you?”
“What can you tell us about an ex-cop named Simon McNeil? I believe that his partner was killed by another officer,” Nelson asked.
Delaney’s expression darkened. “Yes, nasty business. McNeil and his partner were out on patrol when they came across an empty patrol car. They went to investigate, thinking that the officers might be in trouble. What they found was Jennings and his partner accepting money from a drug dealer. Apparently it had been going on for some time. McNeil was lucky, his partner died from one of Jennings’ bullets.
“Jennings, that was what Simon called one of the kidnappers,” Lee interrupted, looking at Morton for confirmation.
Delaney glanced from Crane to Nelson. “What is this all about?”
“McNeil worked for me. He was driving Commanders Crane and Morton when they were forced off the road at gunpoint, McNeil was taken,” Nelson explained. “We were hoping you might have some idea as to their whereabouts.”
“Wait a minute,” Lee again interrupted. “If Jennings killed a cop, what is he doing running around on the loose? Why isn’t he in jail?”
Delaney shook his head. “I’m sorry to say that Jennings escaped from custody, and both he and his partner disappeared.
This was not good news. McNeil was running out of time, and they were still no closer to finding him. The highway patrol, local police and rangers were all doing what they could, but it was a big area to cover.
Delaney thought for a moment. “I suppose I could spare a couple of men to work with the local police. There is still an outstanding warrant for those two.”
“That’s very generous, thank you,” Nelson replied, grateful for any help.
Lindsey lay in bed staring up at the ceiling. Unable to sleep, all she could think about was Simon. The clock beside the bed said it was almost midnight. If she didn’t get some sleep soon, she would be of no use to anyone in the morning. She’d contemplated getting up and making a drink, maybe watching some TV, but sleep was what she really needed.
No matter how much she told herself that this was crazy, she had an adolescent crush on a man she hardly knew. It made no difference - nothing helped. She was close to tears, and had not felt so alone since her mother’s death. It was then that her father left the Navy and gone to work for Nelson as Seaview’s doctor. Lindsey had been a student then, just coming to the end of her training. She understood her father’s reasons for going, even though it had been hard for her at the time. As soon as she had qualified, she applied for and got a position at the St Francis Medical Centre in Santa Barbara, to be close to her father. Then just six months ago, she was offered her present position at the Nelson Institute Medical Centre, and she had been only too pleased to accept.
She wished that she had met Simon earlier, maybe there would have been a chance that they would have gotten together. Now she feared that he was gone. The sudden feeling of loss was over whelming; she buried her face in the pillow and cried.
Detective Scott Jordan was a little surprised when the gates to Vinetti’s estate swung open to allow Jordan and his partner to enter without argument. Detectives Jordan and Wheeler were on loan from the L.A.P.D. Although Captain Delaney impressed upon them that there was nothing to link Vinetti to the kidnapping, the two detectives thought it a good place to start.
The door of the mansion opened as their car approached, and a menacing man in a black suit met them as they exited the car.
“Gentlemen, please follow me.”
Jordan nodded agreement, and they followed him into the house. Jordan was slim, with an unruly head of light brown hair that made him look younger than his thirty-four years. His partner was darker, clean cut and older at forty.
“Mr Vinetti is out by the pool,” the man told them as he led the way through an elegant sitting room and out through the sliding glass doors. Vinetti was seated by an equally tasteful pool. Detectives Jordan and Wheeler,” their escort announced.
“Detectives, are you here on official police business?” Vinetti asked, turning his attention to the two men.
“Come on, Vinetti. You can drop the innocent act. Where is McNeil?” Jordan asked.
Vinetti shook his head. “I’m sorry, detective; I don’t know anyone by that name.”
“We are investigating the kidnapping of Simon McNeil. We have reason to believe that you know the suspects, Carl Jennings and Harvey Burdett,” Wheeler informed him.
Vinetti shook his head. “I’m sorry detectives; you’ve wasted your time. The police have never proved any connection, and neither will you.”
“Look Vinetti, I don’t know how you managed to escape prosecution for so long, but you’re involved in this, and I am going to prove it,” Jordan told him.
Vinetti shrugged. “I am a business man, why would I be involved in a kidnapping?”
“Because McNeil can give evidence against you and Jennings,” Jordan said.
Smiling, Vinetti signalled the man who escorted them in. “I can’t help you. Now if you will excuse me.”
The sun was just rising as the chopper carrying Nelson, Crane, Morton and Jamieson began its search. Jamieson wanted the captain and his exec to remain behind in Santa Barbara, but it was an argument that he knew he didn’t have a chance of winning. Apart from Morton’s broken arm and the few bruise Lee was sporting, there was nothing physically wrong with either of them.
The doctor was not enjoying the ride. The turbulence caused by air convection made the copter rise and fall like a roller coaster, despite the pilot’s efforts to hold it straight and level. It reminded him of Seaview, although the pitching and rolling never bothered him at sea. Probably because he was kept busy patching up injured crewmen. And as for the Captain...he shook his head. Lee was apparently oblivious of the doctor’s gaze. Like the others, he was watching for any sign of the kidnappers or their victim. Some holiday this had turned out to be. Will had hoped that for once he would send the Captain home in one piece with no injuries. Mrs Crane had to cope with her son’s mishaps on a regular basis. The poor woman must dread the phone’s ring in case it was bad news.
The doctor’s attention was distracted from his charges as the chopper cleared the ridge and descended into a valley. The mountains and lakes were still shrouded in mist, but the low clouds were beginning to lit as the sun came up. The landscape below was beautiful. With a backdrop of snow covered peaks, and fringed by forest, the valley had been carved by glaciers and earthquakes; a process that continued today. Much of the pristine wilderness over which they were flying was impassable in winter, and Jamieson could understand why the Admiral had chosen such an isolated spot for this retreat. Although it had not turned out to be such a safe refuge this time.
Jordan and Wheeler were parked across the road from the entrance to Vinetti’s estate. They had decided to stake out the place in the hope that the racketeer of one of his mean would lead them to Jennings or Burdett. “Do you think this is going to work?” Wheeler asked.
“I hope so, I don’t think there is much chance of the Admiral finding them up there in the mountains,” Jordan replied.
Wheeler nodded thoughtfully. They both knew that if Jennings and Burdett had kidnapped McNeil, it was for revenge, and that with McNeil out of the way, there would be no-one to give evidence against them.
They didn’t have long to wait. A black limousine pulled out of the gates and turned right, passing within feet of the detectives’ car, giving them a good view of the two men in the front seat. Jordan started the engine and set off after them, leaving a respectful distance, so as not to spook the driver; they didn’t want to lose them now.
“Should I call in?” Wheeler asked, fastening his seatbelt.
“No, let’s see where they’re headed.”
The limousine braked as it approached the intersection and Jordan slowed to maintain the distance between the two cars. “Looks like they’re headed out of town,” he commented.
“Yeah. One thing is for sure, they won’t get far in that.” A limousine was not designed to be driven in the sort of conditions they would encounter in the mountains.
“My guess is that they have a meeting arranged somewhere,” Jordan speculated.
“Then we better not lose them. This could be McNeil’s only change,” Wheeler reached for the radio mike on the dash. “Control, this is unit 9.”
“Go ahead, unit 9,” the dispatcher answered.
“Dispatch, please advise Admiral Nelson that we are following two of Vinetti’s men on highway 15 headed north.”
“Unit 9, all received, over and out.”
Lindsey closed and locked her car, dropping the keys into her purse before heading for the medical centre. It was the start of another week that she didn’t want to face. She’d woke with an aching head that still felt like it was full of cotton wool, and she felt like she hadn’t slept at all. Hoisting the strap of her bag onto her shoulder she entered the building and turned down the corridor without even thinking about where she was going. She didn’t really want to e here. She wanted to be with Simon, just to see him. Where are you, Simon? She asked silently. The memory of him standing holding the car door open was still clear in her mind. She’d even dreamt about him last night, or rather about the car. Only he hadn’t been driving it, it had been someone she didn’t even know – again she felt like crying.
Quickly she ducked into the ladies, hoping that on-one was in there. She couldn’t face anyone right now. She was in luck and the rest room was empty. For a long moment she stared at her reflection in the mirror. To her relief she looked better than she felt. She would be glade when the day was over and she could go home – but that was a long way off. With a sigh, she composed herself ready to face her colleagues and pulled open the door, just in time to meet Dr. Lucy Gallagher coming down the corridor.
“Morning, Lindsey, had a good weekend?” Lucy asked.
“Okay, It looks like you did,” Lindsey smiled, steering the conversation away from the subject of her disastrous weekend.
“Yes, Tom and I spent the weekend at a great little place near Moss Landing. You should try it some time,” Lucy suggested.
Lindsey nodded, preferring not to continue this conversation.
“You know, we really need to talk about Christmas, have you anything planned?” Lucy asked.
Lindsey shook her head. “I don’t know yet,” under normal circumstances Lindsey would have been happy to work if there was a chance of bumping into Simon, but now she did not want to commit herself to anything. In fact she didn’t even want to think about Christmas.
“I suppose you are waiting to see what your father is going to be doing?”
Lindsey nodded in reply, happy to let Lucy draw her own conclusions. Several people were already in reception and Lindsey collected their files from the desk. “I’ll see you later,” she smiled at Lucy before turning to the first patient. “Mrs Williams, would you like to follow me?”
Nelson studied the map open in front of him. Vinetti’s men would probably take one of the smaller roads from Barstow. There was no telling where Jennings and his partner were hiding, they had miles of wilderness in which to hideout. Nelson had the helicopter pilot change course in the hope of intercepting the limo and following it. Folding the map, he once more turned his gaze to the landscape below. Although four out of five days were sunny, the weather up here could change rapidly, and snow could materialise from nowhere and close everything down in a matter of minutes. The annual snowfall was around 30 foot and he hoped that they would be lucky and the weather would hold off until they found McNeil.
“There they are,” the pilot indicated down as he turned the chopper in a slow turn towards the limo, which stood out clearly on the highway below.
“Better increase altitude, we don’t want them to hear us,” Nelson instructed the pilot.
“There’s no sign of Jennings or Burdett,” Lee observed from behind Nelson.
“No, let’s hope that they lead us to them.”
“I hope we’re not too late.”
“So do I, Lee.” Crane’s concern mirrored his own. Of course he had known about McNeil’s background, but who could have foreseen this? What really concerned him was that since Jennings had already killed one police officer, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill McNeil. “How much fuel do we have?” he asked the pilot.
“Enough for 300 nautical miles, give or take,” the pilot told him.
That would give them about three and a half hours of flying time, Nelson calculated, based on their present speed.
As soon as the chopper touched down, Crane was out, sliding down the slope towards the small shack, with others close behind him. They should have the element of surprise on their side, although the odds were even between them. As he moved closer, Lee slowed, taking more care now. Glancing around, he located Nelson on his right. They moved forward together, using the trees as cover. Getting closer, Lee could see the glow of light from a window. Nodding to Nelson, Lee crept forward. They were approaching the tree line and would have to cross the open ground between here and the shack. Lee paused to signal to the others. The two detectives were waiting for them by the truck, having followed their quarry by car as far as they could.
Silently, they closed in on the shack, Crane and Nelson on one side, the two detectives on the other. Lee dropped to his knees below the window and cautiously looked in. He couldn’t see the whole interior, but it appeared to be a one room shack.
“See anything?” Nelson whispered as he crept up beside Lee.
“Not much,” Lee shook his head.
They both waited, watching as Jordan and Wheeler took up position on either side of the door, their guns drawn ready. Jordan kicked in the door. “Police, nobody move,” he yelled. Dropping to the ground as a hail of bullets responded to his yell. Jordan fired a couple of shots into the interior, with Wheeler covering him. At the same time, Lee smashed the window and threw a smoke grenade. As the grenade erupted, they stormed the shack, Jordan and Wheeler going in first. Inside the shack all hell broke loose. Vinetti’s two heavies were near the fire, Jennings was behind an upturned table, a rifle aimed at the door. From that distance he couldn’t miss. Jordan moved right, while Wheeler went left. Lee drove towards Jennings under his line of fire, and landed up against the table. The impact with the table knocked Jennings off balance, and he toppled backwards. The rifle fired as Jennings tightened on the trigger. Lee pushed up onto his knees, still focused on Jennings. Shoving the table aside, he came face to face with the barrel of the rifle.
“Back off, or I’ll shoot,” Jennings warned, his eyes full of menace.
Lee froze, glancing around for anything he could use as a weapon. He damn well wasn’t going to let Jennings get away this time.
Jennings was getting to his feet. “Over there,” He ordered, pointing towards where Simon was handcuffed to the cot.
Crane backed up slowly, calculating if he could grab the rifle before Jennings could fire, but before he had a chance to act, Wheeler came up behind Jennings and raised his gun to hit him on the back of the head.
Lee saw Jennings grip tighten, and realising the danger too late. As Lee tensed, someone pushed him out of the line of fire. The rifle spat, then fell to the floor as Jennings fell from the blow to his head.
“Are you okay?” Wheeler asked, offering Lee a hand up from where he had ended up against the wall.
“Yeah, fine thanks,” Lee looked around for whoever pushed him out of the way.
McNeil was sprawled on the cot; the rifle blast had hit him in the chest, leaving a bloody mess. Blood spattered the bedclothes and walls. “Simon!” Lee exclaimed in horror. He reached him as Jamieson arrived on the scene. “Doc?” Lee asked.
The doctor shook his head. “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
Anger flared inside of Crane; turning to the detective beside him he grabbed his gun and turned it on Jennings.
“Lee, don’t!” Nelson ordered sharply.
For a moment Lee stood over Jennings. The man did not deserve to live, but if he took the law into his own hands that would make him the same as Jennings. Letting his anger drain away, he handed the gun back to Wheeler.
The institute was embellished with festive decorations, and a large Christmas tree dominated the lobby. But Lindsey was not feeling at all in the Christmas spirit. She had nothing to celebrate. Although the tears had stopped, the empty ache remained. With Christmas just weeks away, she was not looking forward to the staff Christmas party, knowing that the one person she really wanted to share the holidays with would not be there.
As she stepped out of the elevator, Blue Christmas was playing, almost taking her to the brink of tears again. In her hand, she held Simon’s medical file, taking it to Nelson’s secretary. Composing herself, ready to face Angie, Lindsey hoped that Angie would not want to chat. Even as she walked down the corridor she was not sure that she could go through with this. The worst part was facing people, trying to pretend that everything was normal. Reaching the door of Angie’s office, she paused outside; closing her eyes she hugged the file to her chest. Her composure was slipping and she knew that there was no way she could go through that door. But it was too late, the door opened and she found herself face to face with Chip Morton.
“Hi, Lindsey,” he greeted cheerfully.
She forced a smile, afraid to speak.
“Are you all right?” Morton asked.
“Yes...No, not really,” she shook her head, fighting back the tears.
“Hey, what’s the matter?” Chip asked, putting an arm around her shoulder.
Her composure crumbled as she dissolved into his solid support. For several minutes she was unable to answer. The flood gates opened, and she sobbed uncontrollably. When she was able to regain some control, she eased away. “I’m sorry,” she apologised.
“No need to apologize. Come on, I’ll buy you coffee and you can tell me all about it.”
“I have to give this to Angie,” she protested.
Chip took the file from her. “I’ll take care of it. You go and wash your face and I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
“Please, don’t tell Angie.”
“Don’t worry,” Chip smiled. “Go on now.”
Reluctantly, Lindsey gave in, and retraced her steps down the corridor.
Lindsey glanced in her mirror to see Chip Morton following her. She had insisted on driving herself home, not happy with the idea of not having her car at home should she need it. Indicating right, she turned off the road leading to her beach house. The road ran parallel with the shoreline giving snapshots views of the ocean through the trees. The beach would be quiet at this time of day, with most of her neighbours being at work. Lindsey suddenly felt guilty; she should not have let Chip persuade her to go home. Continuing along the road to her home, she pulled into the drive and parked under the carport. As she got out of the car, Morton pulled in behind her. She waited for him to get out of his car. “You don’t have to worry, I’ll be fine now,” she told him.
“I’m not leaving until I’m sure you’re okay,” he replied, walking towards her.
With a shrug, Lindsey turned towards the house, her keys in her hand. She wasn’t used to having male visitors. The only man she usually entertained was her father. For a moment her mood brightened and she smiled; Morton was in for a big surprise when he found out that Will Jamieson was her father.
“So, this is home,” he smiled, looking around the living room.
“Yeah, make yourself at home while I put the coffee on,” Lindsey was already heading for the kitchen. She just couldn’t think of anything else to do.
“No, I’ll make the coffee, you sit,” he ordered.
Lindsey paused and turned around, feeling totally at a loss. She wanted the world to go away. It didn’t help that Chip reminded her of Simon, especially those blue eyes.
“Come on, sit down,” he steered her to an armchair. “Are you sure you don’t want me to call someone?”
Lindsey shook her head. She felt mentally and physically drained. Putting on a brave face, pretending to the world that everything was all right had been a strain, and she wasn’t ready to talk to anyone yet.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He offered, taking a seat on the couch. Chip Morton had a reputation for the ladies, but she was seeing another side of him that she suspected few people knew about.
“There’s nothing to talk about. It’s all so silly,” she replied.
“I take it that Simon didn’t know how you felt?”
“God, No!” Lindsey exclaimed.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just because you’re a nurse, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have feelings,” he told her.
“Thanks,” she managed a smile. She had a tendency to push herself too hard, just like her father.
“You’re welcome, now, why don’t I make that coffee.”
Somehow she had got through the next few days. The deep sense of loss was now replaced by cold emptiness. Still Lindsey hadn’t told anyone about her feeling for Simon. She didn’t want sympathy. She told herself that she should let go, and move on, but she wasn’t ready for that. Every time she thought she was getting better, she would see one of the cars, and she’d be right back where she started.
Now, looking down at Simon’s grave, still covered by flowers and wreaths, she felt an overwhelming sorrow. Her world had shattered, hopes and dreams lay in ruins. It wasn’t fair. Lindsey hadn’t attended the funeral, she hadn’t wanted to intrude on the family’s grief, and how could she explain to her father why she wanted to go. Her father, along with Nelson, Crane and Morton had all attended, along with several of Simon’s ex L.A.P.D colleagues. A part of his life that she’d known nothing about, there was so much she didn’t know. Tragically, it had been that past that caused his death. A cruel twist of fate that placed him in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kneeling, she added her own small tribute to those already there. “Goodbye Simon, I love you,” she whispered, wiping away a tear. Approaching footsteps disturbed her, and she got to her feet as Chip Morton stopped beside her. Silently, he put an arm around her and led her back to the car.