Wrong Place, Wrong Time


K. Corris-Seale


“Chip, I’m giving you a direct order!  I know how close you two are, but I swear I’ll have you thrown in the brig if you so much as make one joke or sly comment to him about this.  Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sir, and for the record, I had no intention of saying anything to him, at least not until he recovers. Despite the humorous aspects, I know how lucky he is to still be alive, and I know this isn’t the time to joke about it.  But you know Sir, Lee does have his own sense of humor. At some point he will find this ironic, if not funny.   

“I’m sure he will, at some point, but not now when he is hurting so bad, both physically and emotionally.  Let’s not add to it.”

Chip turned his head so the Admiral couldn’t see his small grin from the newspaper headline he envisioned in his mind, ‘Top ONI operative mugged at his neighborhood ATM’.   I guess in familiar surroundings Lee just let his guard down.

They were again back in the waiting room of St. Barbara General, waiting for Jamie or the attending physician to give them the all clear to go into Lee’s room.  The first time they were here it was too soon. They didn’t have to wait long this time before Jamie came out, looking exasperated.

“Ok, you two can go in, but I just gave him an injection for pain, he’s going to be a little out of it.  He’s going to be fine, eventually.  But I got to tell you, while most of his injuries weren’t life threatening in themselves, all together they were pretty devastating. He’s going to need a while to get back on his feet. I still can’t believe what they did to him.”

“Hmmm, understood.  Ok, let’s go Chip.”

Nelson strode into the room and then caught his breath.  Despite the warning, he still hadn’t expected Lee to look quite this bad.

Chip had the same reaction, but he was able to hide it better.  Lee had come back from screwed up ONI missions looking better than this.

With his swollen, bruised eyes closed, they weren’t sure if he was still awake.  Chip gently rested his hand on Lee’s arm, and his eyes slowly parted a bit.  He carefully turned his bandaged head looking from one to the other then closed his eyes again, for just a moment.  Then he opened them a little and a tried to smile, but his split lips were scabbed over and bloodied.   “Yeah, I know.  I’m not going to hear the end of this for a long time.”

“Yeah, we are definitely going to get some mileage out of this one, but not just yet.  Later on, when you can join us in the laughter. The important thing right now is that there’s no permanent damage.”  Chip could feel the Admiral glaring at him.  Nelson just didn’t understand that their brotherly relationship was based as much on humor, even sarcasm, as it was on affection.   How many tough situations had they supported each other through simply by laughing and joking while they struggled to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get through them?  But this, this time was one for the books.

Jamie came back into the room.  “Lee, the police have been waiting patiently to question you.  Are you up to it?”

“I, . . . I guess so. But I sure can’t tell them much.”

“That’s ok, you just have to answer their questions as best you can.  They know pretty much all of it already, it was all caught on the bank’s surveillance cameras.”

Lee suddenly came to life. “You mean there’s a recording of this?  A video?  I want it, I want it destroyed.  I . . .”

“Lee calm down, you’re getting yourself too upset.  Just answer their questions now, we’ll deal with the rest later”.   The Admiral knew what Lee was going through, not only was he embarrassed, but he was worried how this could affect his undercover ONI reputation.   Nelson knew all he had to do was call Admiral Johnson, Director of ONI, to get the video destroyed, but he was sure the last thing Lee wanted was for his other CO to find out about the incident.  And Nelson certainly couldn’t explain to the authorities here, most of whom only knew Lee as Seaview’s Captain, who Lee really was and what damage the video could do.  His gut feeling was to just leave the whole damn thing alone and let them believe Lee was just a naval officer who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Which was pretty much the truth anyway.

Lee answered the questions put to him as best he could, it was obvious he wasn’t much help.  The officers thanked him and left, shaking their heads, that poor guy. One of them turned back and asked if they could stay nearby for a few days while the investigation was going on.  Admiral Nelson told them their next mission wasn’t for a couple of weeks and they wouldn’t be going anywhere until their Captain was recovered.

“We also need to know if he intends to press charges.”

“I can speak for him about that.  Believe me, all he is going to want to do is get released and put this behind him.  He’s not going to want any ongoing ties to this situation.”  Chip knew his best friend well, personally and professionally.  Lee was going to be more concerned about protecting his undercover reputation than any kind of restitution for resulting personal problems.

Lee grunted an agreement, but obviously couldn’t keep his eyes open. So, they all said their goodbyes and told him they would be back later.  Out in the hallway Nelson thanked the police, then he and Chip headed back to the café they had been at earlier for coffee, this time for some lunch.  Chip was starving.  Jamie begged out, asking only that they bring him back a sandwich and black coffee.

“I don’t know Chip, I keep going back and forth between getting involved in this or just standing back and letting it play out.”   

“Well, Sir, he’s in good hands medically.   All we really have to worry about are any legal repercussions.  Maybe not drawing any further attention to it may be the best thing to do, Sir. “

“I agree, but I’m worried about how Lee is going to handle this in the long run.  Especially knowing there is a video of the attack that could somehow come back to haunt him, that could be played back in front of a jury.  I think we would all rest easier if it was destroyed.  I could get Admiral Johnson to handle it, but I’m sure he is the last person Lee would want to find out about this.  We may have to find and destroy it ourselves.”

“Well, it has to be down at the Police station, Sir.  Maybe we can ask them to just let us view it, and then go from there. “

“Not a bad idea Chip, but to tell you the truth, I really don’t want to see it.”


Lee slowly opened his eyes.  He still felt really out of it, but the first emotion to hit him was being mad as hell.  Before he could think things through, he realized someone in a Naval uniform was sitting next to his bed, someone he didn’t recognize. The officer stood up and saluted him.

“Hello, Sir.  I’m Lieutenant Walker, NCIS.  I have a few questions for you.”

NCIS?  Who the hell called them?  I just want this to go away!  First the Police and now them!  I guess Institute Security will be next! And then the news reporters and TV crews!

What I really want is to beat the crap out of someone, and at this point anyone will do. I held back fighting for so long, simply protecting myself by doing no more than putting my arms around my head and then dropping down to the ground and curling up in a ball.   Great ONI tactics.  I sure as hell hope Johnson doesn’t find out about this.   

“Why are you here?”

“Well, Sir, that should be fairly obvious.  You’re a Naval officer that has been badly beaten by civilians.   It’s our job to defend you, Sir.”

“I don’t need to be defended, I’ve done nothing wrong.  Can I ask how you found out about this?  Who called you?”

“The local authorities automatically notify us of any crime involving a member of the military, Sir.  Could you give me a statement, as best as you can remember what happened?  I do have to file a report, Sir.”

Great.  A report to be on file forever, and a copy put in my permanent naval personnel file.   This just keeps getting better and better. 

“What happens if I refuse?  I just want this to go away.  Thank you for coming, but you can leave now.”

“Sorry Sir, but it doesn’t work that way.  As long as there is an open police investigation going on, we have to be involved.  And it is to your benefit.  You won’t have to stick around waiting for the police to close the case, we’ll take it over now.  You can go back on duty, when you’re ready, Sir.”

“Here’s my one big question for you, Lieutenant Walker.  I want the bank’s surveillance video of the attack confiscated and destroyed, I assume the police have it. Can you get your hands on it and get rid of it?”

“Destroy evidence?  No, Sir, I could never do anything like that!  But I sure do want to see that video, now that I am aware of it, Sir.”

Should have kept my big mouth shut!  

“Can I take your statement now Sir, and then I’ll head down to the police station.”

Lee knew when he was up against a wall, and he just plain wasn’t up to arguing.  “Ok, this is what happened.”  He went into a quick description of the attack.

“Is that all you can tell me, Sir?”

“Look at me Lieutenant, do I look like there’s a whole lot more I’m not telling you?  I was down for the count almost immediately.”

“Ok, Sir, I’ll probably find out more from the video.  Let me view it and then I’ll be back to fill you in.”

“If there is any way you can arrange it Lieutenant, I would certainly like to see the video myself.”

“I’ll see what I can do, Sir.”  With that, the lieutenant smartly saluted Lee, turned and walked out.

Damn it!  I simply got mugged, it’s not an international terrorist attack! Don’t these NCIS people have anything more important to do?  This is getting blown up way out of proportion! It’s got nothing to do with my naval career, no classified information has been stolen, I even got my wallet and ATM card back!  Can’t I ever, just once, be treated like an ordinary private citizen?

But it was who had mugged him that would cause the uproar.


Earlier in the day:

Jamie and the attending physician were reviewing all of Lee’s recent tests and x-rays.  He’d been hit over and over again with what appeared to be baseball bats, had two stab wounds, fortunately both of the wounds missing vital organs, severe blood loss, a mild concussion, a broken nose, two fractured ribs, bruising and swelling all over his face, hands and arms.  But the worse were his legs.  Like they had started hitting him there first to bring him down and then kept battering him when he was down.  His immediate issue when brought in was blood loss and difficulty in breathing.  If an elderly passerby hadn’t called 911 immediately upon finding him, Lee probably would be down in the morgue right now.  

According to the notes on his chart from the emergency room doctor, it had taken longer than expected to get Lee stabilized.  Fortunately, they had Lee’s type of blood on hand and he was able to receive an immediate transfusion.    His breathing issue was due to the two broken ribs.   As badly bruised and swollen as he was, Jamie was surprised there weren’t more broken bones. 

The local law enforcement investigating the scene had found Lee’s wallet in the bushes several yards away.  There was still cash in it.  The officer checked the nearby machine, and surprisingly, Lee’s card was still in there.   It seemed like the muggers were more interested in violence than theft.   Since Lee wasn’t in uniform, it wasn’t until the police found his wallet that they realized who he was.

While the police were waiting for the ambulance, Lee’s phone went off.  By this time, he was way overdue back at the Institute.  He’d only run out on a break to go to the ATM.  Chip called him, and an officer answered Lee’s phone and described the horror scene.  Chip grabbed Jamie and of course the Admiral insisted on coming along as well.   It took a while for them to get to the hospital, so Lee had already been admitted by the time they got there.  Having medical privileges, Jamie was allowed to examine Lee again on his own and review his chart.  This attack seemed to be, for no other reason, simply to cause as much bodily harm as possible without killing the victim.  As bad as the attack was, it would take a while for Lee to recover, but he would recover.  There were no life-threatening injuries here, even the concussion was mild.  His face was another matter. Lee would have to have yet another broken nose fixed, but the rest of the swelling and bruising would heal on its own.  While they transferred Lee to a room, Jamie went out to speak to the Admiral and Chip.

After hearing the worse, Nelson just shook his head.  Knowing how skilled and vicious a fighter Lee was, Nelson questioned how he could have been overcome so easily. 

“The only thing I can think of is they brought him down immediately by going after his legs.   But Lee would know how to handle an attack like that.  I can’t help but feel that there is something else going on here.  He seemed to be more concerned about protecting himself than defending himself.  That’s not Lee.” 

“No, no it isn’t.  When Lee is being attacked, he doesn’t think, he reacts, according to his training.  I know we’re all worried about Lee, but I can’t help but wonder what the other guys look like.  Lee must have been able to inflict some bodily harm on them for them to just give up and run.”  Chip just couldn’t believe Lee would ever allow himself to take a beating without fighting back.

“Well, we’ll just have to wait until he regains consciousness to find out what really happened.  And that’s liable to take a while.  I’ll keep you two informed, and let you know when you can see him.  But it’s going to be a little while.”

As Jamie walked away, Chip suggested coffee at the café across the street, then they had come back and settled down in the tiny waiting room, waiting for Jamie and hoping Lee wouldn’t look to bad.  They were wrong.


Later that Day. . .

“You can turn it off now, I’ve seen enough.”  The Admiral turned and looked at Chip.  “Chip, was it my imagination, or was Lee mugged by a gang of little children wearing Halloween masks?”

“That’s exactly what it looked like to me too, Sir, and it would explain why he didn’t fight back.  Lee would never hurt children, even to protect himself.”

The officer came back into the room, shutting the video off.  Nelson asked him the same question.

That’s exactly what it looks like to us as well.  Other than the video, there is no other evidence.  There were no eye witnesses, and so far Captain Crane has not been that cooperative. “

Chip jumped to Lee’s defense. 

“He wasn’t in the best of shape when you questioned him, he could hardly talk or remember anything, he’d just regained consciousness.”  But knowing Lee, he probably wouldn’t blame small children even if he were aware of it.   Chip was confused.

The Admiral didn’t say one word.  But he was becoming more and more convinced there was something else going on here.   And he was becoming more and more determined to destroy that tape, before the wrong people got wind of it.  Despite what the tape showed, Lee Crane was no scared coward.   

Chip carefully but nonchalantly kept his eye on the laptop playing the video.  He realized he couldn’t just grab it and stash it under his jacket and walk out.  The only other option was to somehow ruin or erase the video.   Hopefully this was the only one.

Nelson had another idea. This certainly wasn’t Lee’s first run-in with the Santa Barbara PD.  His ONI credentials were in a classified ‘eyes only’ file there along with his military and Institute ID, and his license to carry.  Both he and Lee were on civil but not quite friendly terms with the SBPD Captain Flynn.   

Flynn had been ordered by the powers to be to keep Lee’s file confidential, his eyes only.   He assumed it was because he had some sort of ‘above-the-law’ military James Bond on his hands, and for some reason, that simply didn’t sit well with him.  He’d had to step in several times to halt Lee’s processing when he’d been picked up a couple of times for various small misdemeanors, usually involving either his gun or his speeding tickets from that little red go cart he careened around town in. He was also aware that Crane was a virtual bodyguard for the prestigious Admiral.

And there was the time the police had been called to a local bar near the Institute when some of the patrons got a little too rowdy and a fight broke out, and a couple of them were Seaview crewmen.  Just as they were about to put the cuffs on them, Lee marched in, grabbed his men, flashed a smile to the officers, and promised they would be dealt with internally and then waltzed right out with them.   And there was nothing they could do about it.             

But the worst time was when Crane was picked up for assault, along with a man he had apparently beaten.  The man was later identified as an international terrorist Lee had been on the trail of, under ONI orders.  Lee was convenient, ONI had gotten a tip that the man was hiding out in the Santa Barbara area.  Flynn had to let Lee go, he couldn’t be charged.  Then ONI swooped down and took custody of the impostor as well.  SBPD was left to cover up all traces of the incident.  The whole episode just left a bad taste in his mouth.   He didn’t like sweeping things under the carpet.  And he made sure Admiral Nelson heard about it. But apparently Nelson’s hands were tied as well. 

But right now, Harry thought he could talk to him, try to explain the repercussions if the evidence wasn’t destroyed.  He knew he could always threaten to get higher ups involved, hell, he could even call the President.  But he knew what hard feelings that would cause and their relationship with the SBPD was already strained.  Well, it was an option to think about.  But he was afraid if he didn’t do something soon, someone might get it in their head to make a copy of the video, if it hadn’t been done already.   

His phone went off, it was Lee.  “Yes, Lee, how are you feeling?  Well, we’re down at the Police station now, why?  Are you sure you had it with you?  All right, I’ll let them know. We’ll see you later, get some rest.”

In response to Chip’s questioning stare, he explained.  “Lee just realized his gun is missing.  He wants to know if the Police have it.”

“This just keeps getting better and better.”  Chip let out a deep sighed, as he watched the officer close the laptop and walk out with it.  There goes my chance to destroy the video. 


“We don’t have it.  It wasn’t recovered at the scene and he was taken directly to the hospital.  Could they have it? They’re supposed to notify us when an unconscious patient is brought in with a weapon.  We send an officer to take possession of it and it all gets sorted out later.  Let me make a call and find out.” 

A few minutes later. . .

“They don’t have it either.  It must have been taken by the thugs who beat him.  Can you give me a description of his service weapon?”

Nelson was about to tell the Lieutenant that wasn’t necessary, they already had a description of his service revolver on file, but he knew the file was classified and he wanted to bring as little attention to it as possible. 

“I’ll have to ask him.  I’ll get back to you.”

Outside in the Police Station hallway. . .

“Chip, do you have any idea which one he usually carries with him?”

“Which one?  Sir, Lee has a small arsenal hidden in his house, compliments of his ONI adventures.   And I’m tasked with safely disposing of it all should anything ever happen to him.  But since he wasn’t in uniform and they apparently didn’t find his shoulder holster on him at the hospital, it probably wasn’t his service revolver.  He has several small handguns he can choose from to carry when he’s off duty.  But I do know Lee is always armed.  We’ll have to ask him.”

This news surprised Nelson.  Every time he thought he knew his boys well, something like this came out and showed him he didn’t.  It made sense though, that Lee would have a stockpile of weapons hidden in his home.  Not only after everything he had been through for ONI, but so he could be prepared for any mission where he had to leave directly from home.   Agents weren’t required to return or report any unused ‘inventory’ issued to them. And it also made sense that Lee, as responsible as he was, would take precautions to make sure they were carefully disposed of if anything happened to him, and that he would ask his trusted best friend to see to it.   Now he was really glad he hadn’t told the officer it was on file.  If this was a different gun than the one they had on file, it could cause further problems for Lee.

On the way back to the hospital, Chip decided to take another look in the area where Lee had been attacked.  They didn’t find his gun, but then Nelson saw a glint of something in the bushes.  It was Lee’s watch, that the Admiral had given him for Christmas years ago.  As expensive as it was, he wondered why they had just thrown it away, surely they could get a pretty penny for it at any pawn shop.

He showed it to Chip, who just slowly shook his head.

“I wonder how the Police missed it?  Why would the thugs take his watch off of him just to throw it in the bushes?  None of this makes any sense!”

“Maybe they didn’t realize the value of the watch?  Chip, do you think this whole thing could just be kids having some violent fun or maybe acting on a dare? Or some kind of hazing incident?”

“I don’t know, Sir.  It couldn’t have been personal though, Lee made a spur of the moment decision to run down to the ATM.  They apparently were waiting for whoever came along next, and for no other reason than to inflict bodily harm on that person.”

“There’s only one thing I know for sure right now.   I’ve had that petition from my employees sitting on my desk for months now, it just wasn’t a priority.  Well, it is now.  They’ll get the best ATM, safe and secure on the NIMR campus, as soon as it can be arranged.  Hell, I’ll get several of them.”

Chip smiled to himself.  He and Lee had both signed that petition. 

Lee was sleeping when they walked into his room, but his color looked better, and some of the swelling had gone down, and he seemed to be breathing easier.  Thinking of the watch, an unpleasant thought had occurred to Chip on the way over, and he looked down on Lee’s left hand and confirmed it.  His cherished ring was gone as well.   

Lee seemed to be enjoying a good, sound, healing sleep.  So, after a while, they left his bedside and went their separate ways, Nelson to the Institute, and Chip made a beeline for Lee’s house.  Or more accurately, his garage. 

He remembered a time when a lady friend of Lee’s had lost a ring while they had frolicked in the sand on the beach behind Lee’s oceanside home.  While it wasn’t valuable, it had been her grandmother’s wedding ring and so had great sentimental value.   Unable to find it after scouring the area, Lee had gone out and bought a metal detector.  It took a while, but eventually he found it. 

Chip grabbed it off the wall and headed back down to where Lee had been mugged.  It was a long shot, but if Lee’s ring had been thrown away like the watch, he was going to do his best to find it.

The police experts were carefully studying the video.  They had just found out that it was the second time this ‘gang’ had attacked someone, although the first attack was not in Santa Barbara.  There had been no eye witness or video of the first attack, the LAPD had only the first victim’s description of his attackers, and they had found it difficult to believe.  But the man certainly had the same injuries to back up his story.  And now they had concrete proof. 

The officer who handled juvenile delinquents viewed the tape, and, acting on a hunch, asked his family pediatrician to stop in to view it.  The doctor viewed the tape over and over several times, and then made a bombshell statement.

“These aren’t children, I can tell by the way they move and act.  These are adult, mature men, I believe they are all probably midgets or dwarfs, so maybe they harbor resentment for tall men.  Those are the previous criminal records or histories you should be looking for.   Was the first victim tall?”  

“Yes, he was over six feet.  And his legs were badly battered as well, maybe to bring him down to their level.  This is really weird.  But thank you Doctor, your insights have changed the course of our investigation.  We have a better idea of who we are looking for now.”

“My pleasure detective, I certainly hope you catch them.  Good day.”

Lee was feeling much better the next day, though he was still in pain and pretty uncomfortable, he was more clear-headed and awake.  His body was telling him he was going to be taking it easy for a while, but his mind was working fine.  First, he called the SBPD, and spoke to the detective in charge of the investigation.  What was the latest on the case? Did they have any suspects? Did he need to file a report regarding his gun?  Could someone arrange for him to view the video in his hospital room, asap?  He hadn’t heard from NCIS yet, and he was getting impatient.

The lead detective brought Lee up to date and said he would bring the video over within the hour.  In the meantime, Lee wanted out of bed and into the shower.  No medical personnel were around, so he slowly and carefully eased his way up, he knew it was going to hurt.  He didn’t get far, forgetting he was still attached to one last monitor.  It must have shown up at the nurse’s desk, they rushed in there instantly.

‘Captain, you can’t get out of bed yet, doctor’s orders!   Dr. Jamieson warned up to either keep an eye on you or keep you sedated.  We thought he was joking!”

Lee knew the minute his feet hit the floor that this was a mistake and he was actually quite willing to lie back down.  For a while, anyway.  He’d try again later.  This monitor had to be coming off some time.

The SBPD detective set up a laptop on Lee’s tray.  Together they watched the video, Lee not saying a word.  When it was over, he asked Lee for any comments or insights he might have.

“Well, now I know why I am in so much pain.  Did you see, they took my watch, cell phone, and wallet and then just threw them aside?  Not at all interested in keeping them.  At the time, I thought they were children, and I couldn’t understand how they were so strong.  But these aren’t kids.  Too strong, too organized and too determined.  This almost looks rehearsed.  Almost like they were letting off steam or getting even with me for something. I wish now I had fought back.  And they all stopped at exactly the same time and all ran off in the same direction, it was too well planned and executed for little children to carry out.”

“Okay Captain, your statement verifies what we already know.  A doctor has examined this tape and studied the movements and actions of these ‘kids’, and determined they were probably adult male midgets.  Yours is the second attack, and the other victim was also a tall man.”

“You mean this has happened before?  I’m not the first one?  Where did it happen?”

“Not in Santa Barbara, which is why we weren’t aware of it immediately.  But everything else is the same.  We have to wait a few days until you are up and around, and in the mean time we will be rounding up suspects.  When you are up to it, we will bring in the other victim and do a lineup.  I know they had masks on, but just see if anything about them seems familiar.”

“This sounds like ‘The Lollipop Gang’ from the Wizard of Oz.”

“Hey, I like that!  We’ve got a name for them now!”  The officer laughed as he packed up the laptop.  He turned at the door, and saluted Lee, told him he would keep him informed.

Lee signed as he leaned back into the pillows.  Beat up by munchkins.  He had to stop thinking that this couldn’t get any more humiliating.   

As he started to doze off, he realized that in the video he hadn’t seen anyone take his gun, but not all angles of the attack were clearly visible.  Where could it be?

A few days later, Lee was well enough to be discharged, but he had to take it easy.   Finally back at home, Lee was able to really relax and rest. He still needed a while to recuperate, but was assured by Jamie that if he took it easy, he would be able to be on light duty by the time Seaview left port the next week.

The lineup was scheduled for two days later. Chip drove him to the Police Station.

While the suspects were being brought in, Lee met the other victim, a man about the same height as Lee.  They compared notes, neither one expected much from the lineup.  The other man hadn’t been robbed either, just badly assaulted, pretty much in the same way Lee was.


Well, that was a waste of time, for both of them.  The police thanked them for coming in, and promised to keep them informed.   

With Lee still not being able to walk far, Chip went to get the car and bring it around to the side door where Lee sat waiting for him.   While he was walking, Chip saw one of the suspects walking to his car, and watched as he pulled something shiny from his pocket and slide it onto his finger.  Chip quickly got right behind him and looked down at his hand.  He could swear that was Lee’s ring!  Chip had an idea.

“Excuse me, could you give me directions to the Main Street diner?  I’m supposed to meet someone there.”  As the man waved his hands around showing Chip what way to go, Chip got a good look at the ring.  He was sure it was Lee’s.  What to do?  There weren’t any police officers around, even though this was the Police parking lot.    He could easily knock the guy down and take the ring right off of him, but there would be repercussions to that.  If he just let him go and then went back into the Police Station to report it, he would get away and Lee would never see his ring again.  Not to mention the fact that this had to be one of the guys who beat Lee up.

 Chip raced to his car, and pulled it up right behind the guy’s car, blocking him in.   He pulled out his cell phone and called the Police Station, told them there was a problem right there in their parking lot, could an officer please come out.    

Lee got tired of waiting, and he had a feeling something was wrong.  He slowly walked back to the lot, and saw Chip engaged in a shouting match with one of the suspects in the lineup, the guy demanding Chip move his car and let him out.  Why would Chip do that, block the guy in?  He saw a police officer walking over, they both got there at the same time.   Chip explained what he saw, and the officer asked the man to show him the ring.  Lee saw it as well, and quite loudly yelled “That’s my ring!  I can tell you what’s engraved on the inside!” 

“Ok pal, off with the ring.”  Then the other officer radioed inside and asked for backup in the parking lot.  A split second later the guy took off, and so did Chip, his longer legs catching up with the guy in no time.  He picked him up and threw him over his shoulder, and walked back, handing him over to the waiting policemen who cuffed him immediately. They took the ring off of him, and saw it was inscribed with Lee’s initials.  Not thinking, the officer gave the ring back to Lee.  Back to the Police station. 

Well, he was interrogated and admitted he was part of the gang, but wouldn’t give up anyone else.  The Police wanted Lee to give them back his ring to be held as evidence, but he absolutely refused.  They finally settled with pictures of it.  Chip and Lee gave their statements and left.  As they were walking to the car, Chip realized Lee was being awfully quiet.  He turned to look at him and saw Lee looked really pale.  “I gotta get you home Lee, I don’t think you were up to this much excitement just yet.”

“That’s probably part of it, but it was hearing that guy’s voice yelling at you.  It all came flooding back to me at once, that was the same voice threatening and swearing at me as he hit and kicked me over and over, and I’m reasonably sure he is the one who stabbed me.  His was the last voice I heard before I passed out. I should have realized at the time that these weren’t children.”

Chip was well aware of the severity of some of the things Lee had suffered through while on ONI missions. He could only guess the difference here in how Lee was handling this was because it was personal, not professional, and the fact that Lee was totally unprepared for it, unlike a well-planned out mission.  His injuries weren’t even as severe.  At least, not his physical ones. 

Chip got Lee home and settled, and made them both tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  They sat out on Lee’s back deck for a while, until Chip was sure he was looking better.

“I’m all right now, Chip, thanks for everything, especially for getting my ring back.  You know how much it means to me.  Now if I could only find my gun!”

“Ok, if you need anything, I’m just a phone call away.  And I’m sure your gun will turn up somehow somewhere, just be patient.  Right now, you need to lie down on the couch and get some rest.”

“Will do, Dr. Morton, it was going to be my next stop anyway, right after I hit the head.”

Chip thought about it on his way home. Guess I better check in with Jamie, bring him up to date with what just happened.


“Doesn’t surprise me a bit.  I expected some psychological after effects from this.  But I know from my past experiences with him and his ONI missions that if I ask him if he wants to talk to a professional about it, he will refuse.  Usually, I don’t push him because there’s classified information involved that he’s sworn to protect.  But this, this is personal.   I’ll go over and check on him tomorrow, I won’t say you called me.  I’ll let you know how it goes.”

They said their goodbyes, both worrying about their friend. 

Jamie left Lee’s house, shaking his head.  His examination verified that physically, Lee was recovering pretty much as expected.  But he wasn’t the usual Lee.  The smile and his laugh weren’t there, and he knew it had little to do with his injuries.  He looked tired, and when Jamie asked him if he was sleeping well, he just shrugged, as if that didn’t matter.   When asked if he wanted something to help him sleep, Lee surprisingly answered yes, maybe just a little something.  This was a first, and it was also a sign that there may be something more going on.  Jamie didn’t press him, just counted out several little white pills and told Lee to take one every night, about a half hour before bed.  He had it on the tip of his tongue to ask Lee if he needed someone to talk to, but decided to wait a few days, see if the pills helped first.  Maybe all he really needed to be able to handle it better was a few good nights of sleep.   But with Seaview due to ship out soon, Lee had to be doing better than this if he wanted to be on her as Captain.  Jamie was well aware of the pressures and responsibilities on Lee’s shoulders when they were at sea.   He needed to be in top form physically and clear headed mentally, and in his professional judgment right now, Seaview’s Captain was neither. 

Jamie got back to the Institute, and headed up to Nelson’s office suite.  He lucked out, Nelson was there and was free to meet with him, and Chip was also available join them.   He discussed his concerns with both of them. 

“Will, I’m not worried.  This was a simple mugging, and you said yourself he was recovering well from his injuries.  I know there is another aspect to the whole thing, but I know Lee.  The best thing in the world for him is to be back on duty, at sea on Seaview.  He’ll forget everything else in a few days, or at lease put it in the proper place.  In fact, I want and expect him to be here for the mission briefing on Friday, and to carry out all his responsibilities to get Seaview and the crew ready to sail.  With Chip’s help, of course.”  With this final comment, he nodded his head to the Exec.  Most of what had to be done fell to Chip anyway, and the ever-efficient XO had most of the preparation’s squared away already.

“I hope you’re right Harry, but he still has to pass a final physical before we sail for me to release him for even light duty.  The final decision is mine.” 

With that, Jamie, got up and walked out.  He knew these men were tough military men, and that at times duty called for them to put their personal troubles aside.  But they weren’t on the front lines overseas, and this was a civilian outfit.  Absolutely no reason they couldn’t afford to be a little bit more careful with things as important as their health.   And he was really ticked off at the Admiral’s lack of support or understanding, though he realized that was more likely due to his focusing on the upcoming mission.  And as far as his knowing Lee, the Admiral only knew the Lee that Lee chose to show him, a dedicated, respectful officer.  Oh, of course he knew there were warmer, more personal feelings involved than just that.   But because of a little thing called patient-doctor confidence, Jamie was aware of several ‘problems’ Lee would never share with his commanding officer, even if he was also a close friend.  Oh well, just have to wait and see what the next few days bring.

As he walked back to the MedBay, he sensed someone coming up behind him.  Turning, he wasn’t surprised to see it was Chip.

‘Jamie, I just wanted to tell you that you aren’t the only one worried about Lee.  This whole incident simply wasn’t much of an ordeal compared to other things he’s been through.   Yet he’s just not handling it as well, even though he doesn’t have the life-threatening injuries or ONI repercussions to deal with.  I keep thinking something else has to be going on with him, but I can’t imagine what.”

“And given Lee’s reticence when it comes to personal matters, we may never know what is really bothering him, Chip.  We just have to trust that he will work it out himself, just as he’s done so many times in the past.  And to a certain extent, I do agree with the Admiral that Lee will put it all behind him quicker if he’s Captaining Seaview.   We’ll just have to keep an eye on him and I’m counting on you to do that, since you have closer dealings with him while we are at sea.”

“No problem, Jamie.  I usually do that anyway, I think it’s in my job description.”  They both laughed and went their separate ways.


Although he was doing much better, Lee’s legs were still sore and stiff, still badly bruised and swollen.  It took a while for him to get up and answer his doorbell.  It was Lt. Walker.  Not having heard from him in a few days, Lee had hoped NCIS was done with him.

“How are you feeling, Sir?  I’ve checked in with SBPD, you’ve seen the video and gotten your ring back, but your gun is still missing, and you weren’t able to identify anyone in the lineup, but the alleged suspect who had your ring admitted to being one of the men who assaulted you, but wouldn’t name anyone else.  Is all that accurate, Sir?  Is there anything more from the attack that you now remember?”

“No, that’s pretty much how everything stands right now, there’s nothing else to add.  Are you aware there was another victim, a civilian?  He was at the lineup but couldn’t positively identify anyone either.”

“Yes, Sir, I read that in the investigation report.”

 “Listen, I know you have a job to do.  But when does all this end?  Even if they find and arrest everyone involved, I’ll probably be at sea by the time they do.”

“No problem, Sir.  JAG will press charges for you, they are already aware of it and are following things closely.  Sir, these people have to be prosecuted.  You wouldn’t want them doing this to another person, would you?  They have to be stopped.” 

“I know you’re right Lieutenant, but I just want this whole thing to go away, I really don’t want it on my mind while I’m at sea.”

“Understood Sir, but that is exactly what we are for.  You are free to go about doing your duty, we will handle everything while you do.  Just check in with us when you return.  Sound good, Sir?”

Lee let out a deep sigh.  “Yes, sounds good.   I really don’t mean to be giving you a hard time Lieutenant, I know you are just doing your duty.  I just want this over and done with, as quickly as possible.”

“Of course, Sir, and we realize you must also be concerned about any impact this might have on your ONI affiliation.”

“Wait a minute, you know about that?  How do you know about that?”

“Because we’re NCIS Sir, we know everything.  Don’t worry, this is all extremely confidential, and there is no reason for any of this to get back to ONI.”

Lee just sat there, stunned. And there apparently wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.  He suddenly wished he could call Admiral Johnson about this, but he still was the last person Lee wanted to find out.

“If there’s going to be a report with all of this in it, where will it be filed?”

“There will be filed reports at NCIS and JAG, but there is no need to forward anything over to ONI. What Admiral Nelson does is up to him.”

“Do you really believe ONI isn’t going to find out about this?  No disrespect meant Lieutenant, but you can’t possibly be that naïve.  Do I have any rights here at all, can I say I don’t want NCIS or JAG to take this any further, just drop it?  What if I say I won’t press charges anyway?”

“As I said before, JAG will press them for you.  I hate to put it this way Sir, but this is out of your hands now.  Just report for duty and contact us when you return to port.”  With that, the Lieutenant got up and walked out, stopping at the door only to turn and salute Lee.

 Lee returned the salute, took a deep breath, and then ambled out to his deck and sat down in his favorite chair, looking out to his beloved ocean.   This was the place he did his best thinking, meditating, and just plain relaxing.  It was where he ate most of his meals, had beers with Chip, and occasionally put his head back and took short cat naps.

Something about this whole thing was really, really bothering him and he just couldn’t put his finger on it.  He knew part of it was worrying about his gun, and he certainly didn’t like all the fanfare surrounding it, he was a private man.  And he didn’t like his friends worrying about him. But there was something else.  It wasn’t his injuries, he was recovering nicely, he had his ring back, and there obviously was nothing personal about the attack, he was just a victim of circumstance. No need to keep looking back over his shoulder or worrying that someone was out to get him.  There were no problems with Jamie, Chip or the Admiral about this, and it wasn’t affecting his duty to Seaview, he’d make the upcoming mission. 

Then, the shadow of a suspicion slowly began creeping up on him, suddenly hitting him like a ton of bricks.  And he must have already had it in the back of his mind when he talked to the Lieutenant, telling him that he was being naïve if he believed ONI wasn’t going to find out about this.  Of course they would, and he wasn’t sure how Admiral Johnson was going to take it.  A negative reflection of his abilities or his training?   Was he getting old, or too lackadaisical, not keeping his guard up?  All of these things had passed through his own mind right after the attack, but the one conscious memory he had was holding back because he thought they were children.  The more he thought about it, the more he believed that if this had been a gang of taller attackers, or if they had not had masks on, he probably would have fought them all off easily.  It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time it had been him against the world in an attack.  

Yep, that was it, he knew it as soon as he realized it.  Worrying about Johnson finding out was weighing on his mind more that he realized.   He knew immediately what he had to do, and pulled out his cell phone to do it.  He’d tell him exactly what happened, and let the pieces fall where they may.  He had to get it off his chest, had to stop worrying about it.   ONI was important to him.  But no matter what happened with ONI, he would still and always be Seaview’s Captain.  And that is more important to me.

“Yes, I’ll hold, thank you.”  Two minutes later and Johnson was on the phone.     

“Yes Commander, how are you feeling, still a bit sore I’d imagine.”

“You mean, you already know?  I . . . I was reporting in, Sir, I . . . didn’t know you were already aware of it.”  Damn, damn, damn!     

“Lee, your gun was registered to ONI, someone tried to use it to hold up a liquor store in LA.  LAPD contacted us, and we have record that it was issued to you, but we hadn’t heard anything from you reporting losing it.  So I tried to call you, but the hospital nurse taking care of you answered your cell phone before it could wake you, and explained what had happened.  We have copies of both Police Reports, SBPD and the one from LAPD.   And they have the gun and are holding it as evidence.” 

“Sir, what I really need to know is where I stand with you now.  This whole thing, well Sir, it makes me look, well, incompetent.”

“Lee, you may be an extraordinary agent, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t human, too.  These things happen in private civilian life.  I actually admire your will power in not fighting back because you thought they were children.  Another man with your training could easily have killed one or more of them.  Believe me, this has absolutely no impact on your ONI career.  Your reputation with us is fine, relax.  But I won’t be calling you for a while, give you a chance to heal.  Don’t worry any more about it.  Goodbye Lee.”

Lee could physically feel the weight lifting from his shoulders.  He took a deep breath and let out a long sigh.  Ok, it’s over and done with, NCIS and JAG can handle the rest.  I don’t even care about that damn video anymore.    

Lee looked at the clock.  He had to start getting ready for the mission briefing tomorrow morning.  There were a million things to go over before Seaview embarked on the upcoming mission. 

The End

Please let me know what you think!


 P.S.  I hope any readers out there that are ’vertically challenged’ also have a sense of humor!  No offense intended.