Darla M. Poulos
"Admiral!" Sparks called over the intercom, "The message youíve been waiting for is here in your own personal code."
Admiral Harriman Nelson, owner and creator of the Submarine Seaview jumped up from a chair in the observation nose. He had been in a conversation with her Captain, Lee Crane. He quickly walked to the radio shack followed by Crane and Chip Morton, the Executive Officer.
Ears strained, faces grew relieved. One could almost see the crew thinking. This is it, finally! The long wait is over. Where are we going and how soon do we get there? Action yes, better than this water testing stuff any day of the year. They had been waiting further orders in regards to a top priority message Nelson had received three weeks ago. Nelson had ordered them to the West Indies and during the wait the Admiral had ordered tests on the currents, salinity and temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean.
Nelson had Sparks run the message through the decoder at the communications station. It was a very relieved Sparks that handed the missive to the admiral.
It simply read: THE LYNX HAS LANDED / HURRY
Lee Crane, being an operative with ONI had heard of the Lynx and knew it was a code name for a CIA agent. He racked his brain trying to rememberÖthen recalling snapped his fingers. Heís linked with an ONI agent named Jaguar. They went undercover some time ago. They still canít be on that same assignment can they? Agents that go deep undercover for a long period of time usually come out half crazy.
"Lee, bring Seaview within ten miles of Martinique," order Nelson." Sharkey get our flight jackets. Weíll take the flying sub all the way in, probably submerged the last mile or so then weíll surface. Itíll be less noticeable that way. The Lynxís life depends on our secrecy. Have Doc standing by."
Mr. Morton went over the weather report. "Admiral. It doesnít look good up there. Weather radar shows a squall moving in topside. Wind gusts of 35mph. Seas are high and choppy."
"Nothing is going to deter me from launching. The storm will provide good cover. Now letís get this show on the road! Where the devil is Sharkey?"
There was a horrendous crash followed by a lot of swearing.
"That sounded like it came from ĎCí deck, " said Kowalski at the sonar console.
Nelson and Crane rushed from the control room to the steps leading to ĎCí deck suddenly coming to a halt. At the bottom of the stairs, lay Chief Sharkey holding his head rolling on the floor, cussing up a blue streak about knot heads and bozos leaving pails of water where a person canít see them.
Riley was beside himself trying to explain he was only doing what the Chief had ordered him to do. Doc Jamison was all ready there having heard the commotion. He did a quick exam of the Chief and ordered him carried to sickbay.
"Well Doc how is he?" asked a sober Nelson watching Doc. wrap a bandage around his patientís ankle.
"He has a nasty bump on the head and a minor ankle sprain."
"Humph! A sprained ankle you say?"
"Yes Sir. Heíll have to stay off it for a few days."
"And the bump on the head?"
"So far, he has no symptoms of a concussion other than a headache. Iím going to put ice on the bump and observe him for a while. If nothing shows up Iíll release him," reported Doc.
"Now see here Doc," whined Sharkey, "I have to go with the Admiral. Weíve been waiting weeks for this message."
"Sorry, Sharkey but youíre not going and that is final!" snapped the good doctor. He had a lot of practice dealing with obstinate Senior Staff patients who tried anything and everything to worm their way out of sickbay. Doc now considered himself a pro at dealing with unruly patients. "So be quiet and get some rest."
Disappointed now, Sharkey sat back in his bunk muttering about pigheaded sub doctors. By the look on his face, Doc thought he was really going to start crying. Too bad, I cut my teeth on these officers, he glanced at Nelson and Crane, and Iím not backing down now. Besides that ankle is really swollen.
Admiral Nelson crossed his arms in front of him and leaned over the bunk. "Francis, you know this is for the best."
"But Sir what if Heath, I mean the Lynx needs me?"
"Weíll try to get by without you. Besides, weíll be back on board in just a few hours if we ever get out of here. Now try and get some rest. Thatís an order Sharkey."
"Aye Sir," replied the Chief in a meek voice. "Ah Sir, who you gonna' take with you now?"
The Admiral turned around and grinned, "Why Captain Crane of course. Now good night and donít forget to do what Doc tells you. After all thatís what we pay him for."
On the way back to the control room Nelson asked Crane, "Well Lee, are you game for a night flight?"
"Admiral, I thought youíd never ask."
Aboard the flying sub, a crack of thunder brought Lee out of his daydream. Heíd been thinking about the secret that Nelson and Sharkey shared. It had something to do with the Lynx. Nelson had not confided in him this time around and quite frankly he felt slighted, left out. To make matters worse his Chief had been included in all of Nelsonís dealings with this particular matter.
"Welcome back. For a while there you were deep in thought," Nelson calmly stated.
"I was lost in thought? Youíve been in another world this entire flight." He had noticed the Admiral seemed unusually tense, worried and lost in his own thoughts.
"Really, I hadnít noticed," teased the Admiral.
Lee gave him a wry look and smirked. Heíd missed the camaraderie and gentle humor of the Admiral these past weeks.
The flying sub hit a big pocket of air causing it to drop a few feet. "Weatherís getting rougher," observed Lee.
"Yes, get out the infrared binoculars. The coastline is about one mile away. Iím going to turn north after you see it. Weíll submerge then surface at the point. Thereís a hidden cove a little ways from the safe house. We can leave the FS1 on the beach. I doubt if anyone will be out in this storm."
Lee scanned for the coastline. Lightening flashed all over the horizon and the thunder crescendo in the sky. "I see the coastline, about a quarter of a mile away."
Nelson turned into the storm. "This is some squall. Not fit for man or beast. Iím having a little trouble holding her steady." As if to emphasize that the flying sub hit an air pocket bouncing them all around. "Itís time we submerge." The Admiral expertly maneuvered the FS1 into the water. "Itís not much farther."
"Youíve been here before." It wasnít a question but a statement from Crane.
Time to pay the piper "Yes, many times. Sharkey and I have spent a few vacations here."
"I thought you said this was a safe house?" asked Lee.
"It is. Undercover agents get vacations too you know. " Break him in easy Nelson," The house is deeded with the Lynxís alias."
Dawning realization hit Crane, "Then you and Sharkey know the Lynx really well donít you?"
"Yes, you could say that," quipped Nelson. You donít know the half of it.
"His name is Heath. I heard Sharkey screw up when he was talking to you in sickbay," smiled the Captain.
Youíre proud of yourself, thought Nelson, You think youíve got it all figured out. Boy is he in for a surprise. He started to laugh quietly then immediately sobered. I should have told him long ago. Secrets upon secrets least they find you out. Consequences when they do.
Nelson found the hidden cove, surfaced and beached the flying sub. "Lee, grab the infrared flashlights, night vision gear and the side arms. Iím not sure what weíll be faced with." He proceeded to the rear hatch and swung it open. They were met with natureís full fury.
Two thoroughly soaked men made their way up a steep hill. The footing was treacherous for the rain had made the grass and dirt slippery. The house loomed before them a charred hulk. What once had been a quaint two-story beach house was now marred with soot and burnt timber. The walls and roof were partially intact. Broken windowpanes littered the ground.
"Looks like the fire gutted the main part of the house. The upper stairway is still intact. I canít see beyond the dining room," shouted Lee, peering through the shattered window with his flashlight. The wind had picked up in strength and was making it hard to hear. Nelson nodded that he had heard. He reached out and tried the door. To his surprise it opened easily. He pushed it in only to have it stop part way. "Something is blocking the door. Give me a hand."
Both men pushed harder on the door wedging their way in. Once inside, Lee shined his flashlight on the object that had been blocking the door. To their horror it was a body of a man. Nelson bent down and checked for a pulse. "Dead. Heís been cold for sometime. Looks like he was shot."
"Thatís not the Lynx is it?" Lee asked holding his breath. Everything from the last three weeks, all the worry and anxiety, flashed through his mind.
"Whew! I was worried for a moment," a very relieved Crane replied.
"Hmm," sighed the Admiral. He flashed his light around the room walking toward the upper stairway. "Iíll go upstairs and have a look around. You head towards the back of the house."
"Aye Sir, but be careful. The floor might be weak from the fire."
Lee watched Nelson head up the creaky stairs. He was worried about the Admiral. The past weeks hadnít been easy on him. Heíd not been eating or sleeping properly. Iíll be glad when this is over and things get back to normal. Lee turned and headed for the back of the house.
Dawn started to break and the light made seeing easier. It was still raining outside but the severity of the storm had lessened. Lee walked slowly through the dining room. The fire had destroyed most of the interior and furnishings. Strange, how fire works, mused Crane, it burns some things and leaves others. He bent and picked up a book perfectly intact, titled Submarine he grinned. The Lynx has good taste. He laid it on a burnt table.
The kitchen was totally trashed. The fire must have started in here. Odd, the window looks like it was blown inward. Firebomb? The Admiral said the Lynxís cover had been blown. Enemies? He looked around the room, still no sign of the Lynx. Leeís curiosity was peaked. He began sifting, poking and moving stuff. Strange, thought Lee, thereís nothing here of a personal nature. The house is totally sparse. Anyone couldíve lived here. He could hear the Admiral walking around upstairs. The ceiling was protesting. I hope he doesnít come through it. They must of known about this house. Wonder why the whole house didnít burn? Whatís the motive behind the fire? Revenge? A noise on the back porch brought him out of his musing.
Lee carefully opened the back screen door and peeked out onto the porch. He was astounded to find a woman in the far corner of the porch. She stood with her back to him in the shadows leaning against the corner post an arm loosely wrapped around it. The woman was short and slight of frame. Her clothes were no better than filthy, tattered rags that hung on her body. Her hair was dark red, long and pulled back in a scraggily ponytail around the base of her neck. It was oily and full of snarls. His inspection of the waif took only a quick moment. He decided she must be an island native. Lee stepped outside and was immediately assaulted with the smell of fish.
The woman waited until she heard the heavy footfall on the porch. She went rigid using the last of her strength to pull herself together, every sense alert and tense. If this isnít one of Seaviewís men Iím toast. My legs are so shaky I can barely stand. Get a grip, its do or die time. She kept her back to the man gazing out over the lawn. Captain Crane cleared his throat and started to walk up behind her. When he got within a couple of feet she slowly turned around.
"Thatís far enough. Hands in the air where I can see them," she demanded in a no nonsense voice, her aim steady.
Lee was taken aback. The waif had turned the tables on him. Looking at her closer he could see hazel eyes that were to big for her dirty face. She was paper-thin with sharp cheekbones protruding from a heart shaped face. She looks like she could use a good meal. "Iím not going to hurt you, just put down the gun," urged Lee.
"Who are you?" she asked in a tight voice. A memory niggled at the back of her mind.
"Captain Lee Crane with the SSRN Seaview, from Santa Barbara California."
As tired as she was memory held. Years ago a younger Lee Crane had come to the beach house to pick up his Captain and take him back to the Nautilus. Tall, dark and handsome he still looked the same only more mature, experienced, and self assured. She swallowed hard.
The rain stopped and dawnís light became more evident making it easier for Lee to assess his foe. He noticed the trembling of her hand holding the gun. He reached out to take the pistol.
"I think not Captain," she tightened her grip on the gun and lifted it a notch. She leaned back against the post hoping he wouldnít realize it was holding her up. "Where are Admiral Nelson and Chief Sharkey?"
Surprised at the mention of his Chief and Admiral, Crane was caught off guard. Who is this woman? Surely not the Lynx, Admiral Nelson didnít say it was a woman. "The Chief had a minor accident," he tried to make light of it.
Her eyes got bigger and her face paled under the grime. Lee noticed her distress and became concerned. He went on to reassure her. "He slipped on a wet deck and bumped his head. Doc made him stay in sick bay." He studied her face. An unbidden memory cameÖ a girl about sixteen on a beach wearing a sailorís cap. She was playing a game called Monkey in the Middle with two men. She jumped up and missed the ball knocking the cap off her head. Glorious red gold hair spilled down her back. Upon seeing him, his Captain had run up to him with the sailor on leave. His Captain had introduced him to none other than Francis Sharkey and the girl... Realization hit him like a ton of bricks, the girlís name wasÖ Heather not Heath, the Lynx is a woman!!!
"Where is Admiral Nelson?" she calmly asked oblivious to his shock.
"What?" gasped a shaken Lee Crane.
Louder, she repeated, "Where is the Admiral?"
"Right here," a sonorous voice answered. He stepped into the light and took his place beside his Captain. "Now, would you be so kind as to lower your gun before you do great damage to my Captain." It was a command.
She did so immediately, checking the safety as she lowered the gun. It slipped out of nerveless fingers and dropped to the floor. She slid down the post her legs no longer able to support her. Pain and longing evident on her face she uttered one word. "Father."
Nelson knelt down by Heather and gave her a quick hug. He was totally discomforted. "Youíre safe now. Everything is going to be all right." He glanced over at Lee, who was rooted to the spot, his face impassive. He felt guilty. He looked down at this daughter and sighed. He had a lot of explaining to do.
Father. She had called him Father. Lee was in shock. He stared at the waif , his interest piqued. She doesnít resemble him in anyway except her coloring. Itís hard to tell with all that dirt on her face. Whatís up with that fish smell? Whew. What had been her cover? Fisherman?
The sun made its appearance bathing the porch in bright light. A breeze blew in from the southeast quickly drying up the moisture.
Unaware of the emotions surrounding her, Heather softly moaned. The hug her father gave her felt wonderfully good, but the pain it created reminded her of the sorry condition her body was in. She shivered violently in the warm sun. Her strength was dwindling fast. She had to take one more step to insure her safety.
"Admiral," she gasped. "Please donít tell anyone you found me. Promise me."
Nelson released her and she leaned back against the post. "Heather, I have to notify your boss."
"NO!" she cut him off. "No one is to know."
His voice sharp, "I have to. Itís procedure. Youíll need to be debriefed." He stood up, turning his back on her. " Theyíve been waiting, worried." He looked across the yard, his face stern, unbending. A hand went through his hair.
"But, you donít understand, those procedures are going to get me killed. Only three people knew my assignment, knew where I was and one of them betrayed me," she cried distressed.
She was scared. Lee understood that emotion. He knew from his own experiences the feel of fear and betrayal. She gave Lee a stricken look. She was silently pleading with him to help her. The sun shone squarely on her face. He sucked in his breath. The layer of dirt was a thin cover for a variety of bruises. There were dark circles under sunken eyes. A fine glimmer of moisture beaded her forehead. She looked exhausted. Sheís been through hell. He knew what that felt like too. The urge to protect her started to grow within him.
Nelson was angry. He couldnít begin to explain it. Memories long buried were coming back, emotions he hadnít felt in thirty years. Emotions he didnít want to feel again. The closest relationship since Ďthe incidentí was Lee, the son he never had. What to do? He needed time to think.
Heather struggled to her feet. Once there she grabbed the post to steady herself. Her legs refused to support her. She would have fallen except a strong arm grabbed her around the waist and held her upright. Heather tilted her head up and looked into eyes like her own. She saw there a kindred spirit.
"Easy there. Iíve got you," Lee assured her.
She smiled warming his heart. Her smiled turned into a grimace when she thought how pathetic she looked and smelled. "Stay down wind or I might bowl you over," she jested. The truth was she was extremely embarrassed. A red tinge covered her face in spite of the pallor and dirt.
"Donít worry. There have been times when my men have smelled worse," he kidded.
Lee was worried. Her skin was hot and she had the chills. He could feel the continuous tremors racking her body. Her breathing wasnít regular either. He held her tighter wringing a stifled gasp from her. Just as I thought, sheís sick and injured. Sheís doing a great job of hiding it. Admiral, did you pick up on this?
Admiral Nelson was preoccupied, his thoughts a million miles away. Memories, painful memories, better off forgotten. He took out a cigarette and lit it, inhaled deeply letting the smoke sooth him.
"Admiral? We need to get going. Itís getting lighter every minute. We can decide what to do about this once weíre on Seaview."
"No it has to be decided now." Heather broke away from Lee forcing herself to stand unaided. She reached for her father and took hold of his arm. "Admiral, I have to know are you going to notify the CIA? Because if you are Iím not going back with you."
Nelson threw down his cigarette and exploded, "The heck youíre not! Do you think we came all this way on a lark? Your coming with us and that is final!"
Heatherís own Irish temper came to life, "Will you listen? I only need a few days to lay low than Iíll track down the person who blew my cover. "
Nelson laughed sarcastically, "Youíll track him down? You are in no condition to do anything of the sort. Youíre doing good to remain on your feet. Why, youíre pitiful."
"Pitiful?" she was really angry now. Adrenaline surged giving her needed strength. "Iíll show you pitiful. If you were anyone else besides my father youíd be on the ground now. Thank you very much for your help! I only wanted to be safe forÖ" her voice caught, " a little while, but you canít bend the rules an inch. You leave me no choice I have to go!" she yelled. She started down the steps only to be brought up short by his hand gripping her arm.
"Blast it woman! Youíre just like your Mother!" roared the Admiral. "Stubborn, head strong andÖ beautiful." Steel bands gripped her arms. He emphasized each word with a shake.
Heatherís world swirled. Her anger abruptly stopped. "Why thank you Admiral thatís the nicest thing youíve ever said to me." She wrenched her arms free of his grip almost falling. Beaten now, she hung her head and said in the softest of whispers, so soft both men had to strain to hear her. "In fact, thatís the first time youíve ever linked Mother and me in the same sentence, what alone a conversation. You still blame me for her death donít you?" She didnít expect a reply and sat down heavily on the steps her legs giving out once again.
"Humph!" countered Nelson, "Weíll talk about that in private. Leeís right. Itís getting late. Weíre leaving." He put his hands in his pockets, walked down the steps towards the cove where the flying sub was hidden, without once looking back. He needed time alone to pull himself and his thoughts together.
Lee sat down by a totally dejected Heather. Her head was bent and she was running a hand absently through her dirty hair. He felt sorry for her. He had learned a lot this morning about the admiral. After all these years, I thought I knew the Admiral well. It goes to show you that you never really know a person. What a surprise! What had Heather meant by that statement, being blamed for her motherís death? Had there been an accident? Had one of her missions gotten in the way involving her mother? Above all, who was her mother? All these questions followed by more questions ran through his mind. "Time will tell." he said out loud.
"What?" said a startled Heather. She too had been lost in thought.
"Ah, itís time to go." Crane gently grabbed her wrist and heard her sharp intake of breath. "They hurt you pretty bad didnít they?" he asked while putting her wrist on his leg and unfastening the cuff. Dark purple bruises met his eyes. Her wrist was swollen and hot.
She pulled it back against her. "Iím all right," she muttered embarrassed at the attention. "Lee, I canít go back with you. If he tells the CIA where I am then heíll find me again. I wonít survive another captivity. I came close to breaking this time, but next time, he might win," she shivered uncontrollably.
Leeís own operative instincts perked up. "Who is he?"
She looked up at him not sure if she should answer. He read the question in her eyes.
"Itís ok. Iím an ONI operative and I promise not to betray you." He held up his hand, "Scouts honor."
Heather giggled then became serious. "His name is Jeffery Baxter, a drug king pin out of Columbia. The meanest man I ever met.
"Heís American isnít he?"
"Yes, I was a secretary for his girlfriend who was his personal secretary. My specialty was donít laugh, Organizational Effectiveness."
"Interesting, Iíve heard of Jeffery Baxter. He has a reputation for being ruthless and a ladies man. How did you escape his notice?" asked Lee intrigued.
"That was easy. I looked plain and dowdy. My hair was always in a bun and I wore thick glasses. My clothes were downright ugly. It went well with being an OE manager. He bought it for almost two years."
"Until someone blew your cover?"
"You have no idea whom?"
"Like I said only three people besides Jaguar knew who I was." She was becoming quiet.
"When you were undercover did you know who Jaguar was?"
He was a true agent she realized, versed in how operations worked. "No, Jaguar went in six months ahead of me. He knew me but I didnít know him. It was safer for him that way. I only met him when he got me out. He told me it took him three weeks to do it. I barely remember him. I wasnít very lucid at the time. Baxter already sent someone after me," she nodded towards the house. "I had to kill him, he left me no choice," she said mournfully.
Lee understood." So, Baxter suspects there is a leak in his organization and youíre his only lead. Jaguar is still undercover. Youíre afraid Baxter will force you to tell who he is if you fall into his hands again."
A sense of urgency claimed Lee. "Come on weíre going now." He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her to her feet. She started to protest. "Look Heather, if I promise to protect you will that be enough?" he asked anxiety in his voice. He pulled her with him as they talked. Warning bells were going off in his mind that he couldnít explain. Instinct was telling him to get out of here.
She picked up on his anxiety. His sense of urgency communicated to her survival instincts. Exhaustion was put aside. She followed his lead. "OK, I trust you and Iíll hold you to that promise."
They just reached the hill when the house exploded! The concussion knocked both of them off there feet and down the hill. Mud, grass, sticks and rocks tore into their faces and bodies as they tumbled.
Admiral Nelson had just reached the flying sub when he heard the explosion. He turned and quickly looked up the hill in time to see Lee and Heather tumble down it. His heart was in his throat as he ran towards them.
Lee recovered first. He looked around frantically for Heather, finding her a few feet away from him and not moving. He wasnít surprised. No doubt with her other hidden injuries combined with the concussion of the blast; the fall down the hill had done her in. Damn, his body hurt and he had no previous injuries. He picked her up and cradled her in his arms as Nelson ran up to him.
"You all right?" shouted Nelson worry evident on his face. His eyes narrowed as he looked at Heather lying in his Captainís arms.
"Iím find but Heather isnít. I think sheís in a bad way."
"No time to do anything now. Letís get aboard the flying sub and get out of here."
Both men made a wild dash for the sub making it in record time. While Nelson took the controls Lee laid his burden down on the bunk covering her with his flight jacket. She was as white as a sheet. Her only color the hideous bruises surrounded by dirty red hair. He quickly assessed her condition as best as he could. When he was through; he found his knees weak and his hands shaking.
The Admiral maneuvered the flying sub out into deeper water and submerged as soon as depth allowed. He hoped no one on shore had seen them. When he was far enough out he launched the sub into the air. Taking only a moment he turned toward the house, scanning it with the nose camera. The house was burning at a frantic rate. Two men had gotten into a truck and were leaving the scene of destruction. Satisfied, Nelson banked left and headed for Seaview.
1 YEAR LATER
The Seaview was on a cruise headed for Pearl Harbor. The flying sub had just docked inside her hull under the observation nose or nicknamed by those in the know ĎThe Admiralís front porch.í Admiral Harriman Nelson and Admiral Jiggs Starke, Nelsonís Annapolis classmate climbed up the hatch into the control room, the nerve center of the boat.
"Whereís Captain Crane?" boomed Starke. He was well known for his loud voice and brusque manners.
Chip Morton, the boatís Executive Officer had the conn and the pleasure of welcoming the two admirals aboard. "He had to go aft."
"No problems I hope?" questioned Adm. Nelson.
"None he canít handle Sir," replied Chip smoothly.
"Very well. Weíll be in my cabin." The two Admirals headed up the spiral stairs to the upper deck.
Captain Crane double-timed it to the bilge pump room after receiving a frantic page from Chief Sharkey. A couple of men were gathered around the hatch watching the scene unfold. He took in the situation immediately as he peered down into the tank. Sharkey and Riley were at one end of the tank and Heather was at the other. She had a look of fear on her face as she sprayed a corner. What is she seeing? He quickly climbed down the ladder, his footsteps echoing around the tank as he joined his men.
Heather hearing the noise turned the hose in the direction of the men.
"Cut the pressure!" shouted the Captain up the hatch. A few moments later the hose that was aimed at he and two of his crewmembers slowed to a trickle. "Drop the hose and thatís an order!" he yelled.
Startled, Heather came to her senses and looked down at her hands. She was holding a fire hose which she had quite effectively doused three men. She instantly dropped the hose. They were all in the bilge tank, doing one of the worst jobs on the boat. The tank was small, dark and smelled worse than a sewer on a hot day.
Horrified, she looked where the order had come from. There huddled in a corner she was suppose to be scrubbing, were three angry men, Riley, Sharkey and oh no not him, Capt. Crane. She looked around frantically and realized she was in the bilge tank not the pit and these were men not rats. She and Riley were dressed in an old shirt, cut off shorts and deck shoes. Their job had been to scrub down the bilges and main ballast tank. Oh no, please, itís been so long. I thought I was over the flashbacks!
The angry Captain looked like he was going to throttle her. She was always in trouble, most the time with him. No matter what she did, it was always the wrong thing. She tried smiling at him. It earned her a deeper scowl. She tried to apologize. That earned her a vicious growl.
"Lee, be reasonable. I didnít mean it," she pleaded. That earned her a few cuss words.
She backed up against the slimy tank wall. It was cold and wet. A memory flitted in and out of her mind.
Lee picked up the hose and nodded to a man at the top of the hatch. "Heather Iím going to give you a taste of your own medicine." He turned on the nozzle and sprayed her down. "I hope that improves your perfume," he snickered.
Blind panic seized her. She groped for the ladder to the hatch finding it only by the trouble light that was hooked to it. In a flash she was up and through the hatch running for her life.
"Iím telling you Harriman, it will work," expostulated Jiggs Starke.
"Humph. If Crane finds out about this heíll have a bloody fit."
"Possessive of her is he?" asked a grinning Starke.
"Yes and over protective too. No one dares hurt her including yours truly."
"I might of known. Treats her like Seaview does he?"
A curt nod from Nelson and Starke gave a loud guffaw.
"Look Jiggs, Iím not crazy about using her as bait," snapped Nelson annoyed.
"We have no choice. George Peoples, Heatherís boss is sure the leak is coming out of his office. Three agents have had their cover blown, and two of them are dead. Heather was lucky."
"Lucky? Ever since Baxter put that one million dollar contract out on Heather to have her kidnapped, her freedom has been forfeit. Her only sanctuary is Seaview. She canít leave the boat without an armed escort. When weíre in port, weíre constantly watching her back. Lee has done everything possible to protect her."
"Thatís why the plan has to work. We have to find the traitor who keeps tipping off Baxter. Jaguar has done his part by sending the microfilm. Now, we have to make sure it gets safely passed on."
"By using Heather to draw him out?" growled Nelson.
"Sheís the key. Donít worry she wonít be alone," argued Starke, "The best part is she wonít even know she is the bait."
"Hmm, thatís why Senator Warren is coming aboard, to keep her busy and out of mischief," speculated Nelson "She took a real shine to Heather during last years inspection. So, youíre going to spring a surprise inspection?"
"Exactly Harriman, then the other players can do their part. The seeds have been planted. Everyone knows the roles they are playing. All we have to do is sit back and watch the play."
"The key actors being my men and Heather?"
"I still donít like not telling Crane everything, after all he is the Captain of this boat."
"If you tell Crane about the microfilm, itíll blow the whole thing. You said it yourself heís overly protective of Heather. Heíll interfere too much. We only need to tell him about the CIA traitor. George Peoples is sure itís one of six people coming aboard at Pearl. Besides, we need him in a role that he was born to play."
"And what pray tell is that?"
"Why Captain of the Seaview of course," snickered Starke.
Captain Crane and the Chief of the Boat climbed out of the bilge tank hatch. They were dirty and drenched from head to toe. Crane spied Jackson and ordered him to help Riley finish the scrub in the tank.
"Chief," an irritated Crane asked, "what happened down there?"
Sharkey knew he was in for a dressing down. The Skipperís hands were balled and his face was unreadable but his eyes were shooting sparks.
"Well ah, you see, ah Heather wanted toÖ"
"Heather what?" asked Crane instantly alert.
The Chief swallowed hard. "Remember, she needed to learn what everyoneís job is about so she can better understand what we need? You know, the OE job the Admiral gave her?" Crane nodded. Sharkey continued, "Besides, she ahÖ" he dreaded telling this last part, the Skipper was going to blow a casket.
"Besides what? Go on," bit out Crane, anger building.
"She lost a bet with Kowalski, actually it was a dare," he whispered.
"WHAT?" roared Crane, "You mean to tell me she went down there in that stinking bilge tank on a dare? After what sheís been through, you allowed it?" He turned toward the bulkhead wanting to smack it but instead punched his hand. Heather when I get a hold of you, your ass is grass.
"Ah, yes Sir. Well you see Sir, sheís pretty convincing when she wants to be," Sharkey felt bad. He knew all about the pit and dark places in Heatherís nightmares.
"Thatís true Chief, but its no excuse not to use sound judgment," Craneís anger lessened. "I donít ever want you or any member of this crew to offer her a dare again. Do you understand me?"
"Yes Sir. But Sir, you know sheís just trying to fit in," explained Sharkey.
"Blast it man, sometimes she doesnít have the good sense she was born with. She thinks she has to prove herself all the time, but she doesnít, not aboard my boat!"
The memories going through his mind were not pretty. How could she go down there and not expect it to backfire? Itís to soon to be testing the waters. "Sharkey, for the second time, what happened down there?"
"Oh, ah, a couple of mice, they ah, ran across her foot. She banged into Riley who was spraying down the tank, and he ah, then saw the mice and squirted them."
Confused now, Crane asked impatiently, "How did Heather get the hose?"
"Well ya see Sir, Heather was frightened and Riley accidentally sprayed her while trying to get one of the mice that was bothering her. She went ballistic and grabbed the hose. Thatís when I called you aft SirÖ She had a flashback didnít she?"
The Skipperís face turned pale. His expression ominous, "Yes and she brought it on herself by being down in that tank," very quietly Crane continued, "Sharkey go and get changed. Then come back here and finish up this detail. I want this done in a hour so we can get off the surface."
The Captain walked at a furious pace back to the control room. The men he passed gave him a wide berth. He could well imagine from their curious expressions what they thought seeing their Captainís soaked and angry face. Itís all her fault, if only she would behave. She inherited her Fatherís stubbornness, Irish temper and grit. Damn! Why did she go down there? Now, tonight sheíll probably have those horrid nightmares again!
When he reached the control room he saw Chip with Adm. Nelson and Adm. Starke at the plot table. Heíd forgotten they had even come aboard. Cursed woman, sheís distracting me. This has got to stop. I have a boat to run. "Admirals, did you have a good flight?" he asked coming up to the plot table.
"Fine Lee." Seeing his Captain all wet Nelson asked lightly, "What happened to you?"
Lee sighed, annoyed, "A certain headstrong daughter of yours. Itís a long story."
"Woman problems Captain?" bellowed Starke.
The whole control room crew heard him and snickered. They had seen Heather run through the control room all wet.
Lee looked around at the crew angrily returning his attention back to the Admirals. "None I canít handle," he snapped. "Where is she? I know she came forward."
"You mean you donít know, Captain?" needled Starke.
Leeís temper was just below the boiling point. He was angry and worried. He hadnít liked the way Heather reacted to the spray job heíd given her. It boded ill and he had a feeling he was in for a long night. He needed to find her and make sure she was all right. He also needed to shake some sense into that lovely head of hers about pushing herself into situations she wasnít prepared to face. Doc said it would take time and sheís not giving herself enough!
"If I knew where she was I wouldnít be asking," gritted the Captain.
"You canít keep track of one little slip of a woman?" boomed Starke. After all, youíre the Captain of this boat."
Chip, his XO, came to his rescue, "Ah Lee, she went topside."
"Topside? Who gave her permission to go to the bridge?"
"I did," all three men at the plot table said in unison.
"I smell a rat here. Youíre all covering for her." His temper coming to the fore again, "This has got to stop!" he turned and headed for the ladder to the bridge. Reaching it, he nimbly climbed it to the top. Just before the hatch slammed shut, the whole control room crew heard him shout, "HEATHER NELSON CRANE!"
"Wow, all three names," Kowalski murmured to his friend Patterson. Both men were at the sonar console. Pat reciprocated, "Yup, sheís in deep trouble."
The whole crew knew the formidable temper of their no-nonsense captain. When it pertained to the Admiralís daughter who also was the Captainís wife there were multiple levels. Riley had devised a rating system. One name (Heather) meant a storm was brewing. Two names (Heather Crane) meant a squall, and all three names meant a full size gale topside. It had become the running joke of the boat and almost always in use for Heather was in trouble more than she wasnít. Sharkey had summed it up best, "The Skipperís overprotective and with her free spirit, things are bound to happen."
Lee climbed out of the hatch and saw his wife staring out to sea. She seemed a million miles away. She had stiffened when heíd shouted her name and slammed the hatch.
"Heather, what the hell were you doing in the bilge tank?" He knew the lookouts were going to get an ear-full and no doubt this little scene would be over the entire boat within the hour.
At first Heather ignored him. She was trying to get her emotions under control. She hadnít liked the way she panicked with the hose. She was about to turn around when she felt her arm grasped. Lee whirled her around to face him.
"When I ask you a question I expect an answer!" he roared. Heíd had a belly-full of her disobedience. It was going to end now.
She wrenched her arm free rubbing it. "You donít need to yell at me. Iím right here!" she shouted. "I was down in the bilge tank doing my job."
"That is not your job."
"Itís my job to learn about all the jobs on this boat. How else can I be a good OE manager?" she retorted feeling defensive.
"You donít have to go to that extreme. Youíre not ready for that kind of a challenge." He saw her jaw set. "Damn it woman, look what just happened with the hose. It was a flashback wasnít it? What made you run like that?" he asked bewildered his temper lessened with worry.
Heather turned around and looked back out to sea, her hands clenched in front of her. She hated it when he pointed out her shortcomings, when she was trying so hard to fit in. She wanted to put the last two years behind her, but the flashbacks and nightmares wouldnít let her. He wanted an answer. What to tell him?
Without turning around she simply said, "Baxter used to hose me down in the pit when the smell got too bad." She didnít see his reaction only felt it when he yanked her around to face him again.
"You mean to tell me, you went into the bilge tank knowing itís very much like the pit Baxter kept you in?" he asked in a deadly quiet voice.
Heather nodded yes not understanding his anger.
"How could you? How could you behave so irresponsibly? You knew youíd have a flashback if not right away, then later or in your nightmares." He knew he was being unreasonable, but his worry had gotten the better of him. "I should beat some sense into that brain of yours!"
Hands on hips. "You just try it Lee Crane!" she dared and stamped her foot to make her point. "So help me if you doÖ." She never got any further. In a fit of fury Lee picked up his wife and threw her over his shoulder and ordered one of his lookouts to open the hatch.
Starke was grinning, "Harriman, I think Crane has met his match with your daughter. Sheís giving him a run for his money," he paused in thought, "I had hoped heíd notice my Melonie but Iím glad for Heather."
Chip, listening in on the conversation had a soft spot for Melonie. He had often double dated with her and the Cranes. He grinned to himself, Adm. Starke as yet, had no clue. Melonie was the total opposite of her father, tall and lanky with dark black hair and aqua blue eyes. Above all, she was quiet and reserved. She was Heatherís roommate from boarding school and an ONI agent. How ironic thought Chip, that Heather is a CIA agent and that both women turned out to be best friends like their fathers.
"Yes Jiggs, Heatherís done all right," Nelson said. "I couldnít ask for a better son-in-law. You know Iíve always thought of Lee as the son I never had. And heís strong enough to control my willful daughter most of the time."
"Itís quite a challenge isnít? Trouble seems to follow them around."
As if to confirm his words, the top hatch opened and shouts filtered down. "Damn it Lee! Put me down!" screamed Heather.
"Not on your life!" shouted Lee. He climbed down the control room ladder with Heather still in a firemanís carry. She was pounding on his back and cussing like a sailor the whole time. When he reached the bottom of the steps, he turned and walked nonchalantly through the control room, past his men. He nodded to the Admirals with a smirk.
"Chip, I have some business I need to take care of in my cabin."
Heatherís face was red with embarrassment. "Iím never going to forgive you for this!" she growled at her husbandís back. She also put a few whacks in for emphasis. She could well imagine the stories that will filter through the Seaview grapevine. "Blast it. Let me go!" She was silenced by a hard whack on her derriere. Iím never going to be able to look these men in the eyes again. Is that Sharkey? He looks like a fish standing there with his mouth wide open. She turned and saw the Admirals. Oh boy, Father has a scowl on his face and Starke is, heís laughing? "Iím going to get you for this Lee if itís the last thing I do," she swore. She struggled in vain again to get free only to be subdued by another whack on her behind. The last thing the men saw was her braid swinging wildly as their Skipper climbed the spiral steps.
Lee Crane looked down at his sleeping wife. Boy, he mused, sheíd been spitting mad when he first brought her up to their cabin. He could see why sheíd picked Lynx, for a code name with the CIA. She was as wild as the cat she was named after. He had the claw marks to prove it. His back would never be the same.
Such is life he thought. So much had changed since he brought her aboard a year ago. His men had been shocked when he walked through the control room with an unconscious woman in his arms. Physically she had healed pretty well thanks to Doc and the powers above. It had been touch and go due to her deteriorated condition and the concussion she received from the fall down the hill. Docís only complaint has been she wanted out of sickbay to soon and threatened to bust his orders. He then asked the Senior Staff if that sounded familiar. They all knew then she was going to make it.
While cooped up in sickbay she had grown restless and bored. Sheíd asked Doc if she could help him with his paperwork since she was stuck there. He gladly let her Ďhave a go at ití. Being an OE expert, sheís cleaned up his paperwork in no time and reorganized his files. Doc was pleased with her work and took her to the pharmacy where she did the same thing. Heíd told the worried Captain that the work was not strenuous and kept her under his eagle eye. The next step had been the shipís library whereíd she gone to get a book. She found a trilogy by Beach and read the first one Run Silent Run Deep.
It had been decided between Nelson and Crane the less the crew knew about Heather the better off she would be. Only a few key people, Chip, Doc and Sharkey knew who she really was. A story was concocted that she was a shirttail relative of Nelsonís. After the destruction of the safe house the Admiral had decided to keep Heatherís secret that he had found her. He had only told her boss, George Peoples that she was safe and heíd get back to him.
Sharkey had been overjoyed when Heather had been brought aboard. He immediately appointed himself her guardian after Nelson and Crane. When he got his first look at her on the sickbay gurney he nearly faintedÖ
"Admiral, whatíd those creeps do to her? She looks, she looks dead," he cried forlornly.
Crane, seeing his stricken Chief, put his arm around him and tried to reassure him and himself that she was going to be all right. After all, she was made from strong stuff. Doc then banished everyone to his office so he could examine his patient.
Leeís curiosity was piqued.
Finally, he asked, "How does the Chief fit into all this? Itís obvious you two share a secret, care to let me in on it?"
Nelson laughed, "I guess its time to pay the piper."
"Never mind. Chief, you do the honors. Tell him how you know Heather."
The Chief cleared his throat and Lee received his third shock of the day. "Sheís my goddaughter."
"Yes, you see," Nelson started to pace putting his hand on his neck; "I was married for a brief time to Sharkeyís older cousin, Megan. I had met her outside the sub base in New London. Her car had broken down and I offered assistance. Well, we had a whirlwind romance and got married. Heather was born nine months later and Megan died," he faltered.
"Admiral, I had no idea, Iím so sorry."
"Oh, it was a long time ago. She just started hemorrhaging after the baby was born. The doctors tried, but they couldnít do anything in time to save her," Nelson sadly reflected.
"Why the secrecy?" asked Lee. He felt guilty prying into the Admiralís personal affairs, but he couldnít help himself.
"Sharkeyís Aunt and Uncle, who were her Grandparents, took the baby home with them. They lived by New London. I was in the Navy ready to ship out. What was I to do? At the time it was easier to let them raise her. My parents were dead and my sister, Edith was still in boarding school. Iíve never told her about Heather," he lamented.
"But, Admiral, I donít understand why not?"
"I was building my career, Lee. I had no time for a child. Truth was, my heart was broken, and frankly I couldnít forgive the child for taking Meganís life. I know itís unreasonable, but if it hadnít been for her Megan would still be here."
"You donít know that, only time would tell that story," rebuked Lee. He was hurting, for Heather, for both of them.
"Yes I know," Nelson accepted the reprimand. "Her Grandparents raised her. It was for the best. Anyway, about the Chief, Francis had been devoted to Megan. He was twelve then and followed us constantly around. So, we bribed him, that he could be godfather to our first child if heíd leave us alone. I never dreamed it would be the only one." He paused to collect his thoughts.
Sharkey sat quietly in Docís office chair with his injured ankle propped on the desk recalling those by gone days while Lee sat on the edge of the desk fidgeting with his ring.
"Go on," Lee said.
"Everything went fine until her Grandparents were killed in a car accident when she was ten. My career had flourished and I had made some mighty enemies, Dr. Gamma for one. I decided to keep her a secret for her own safety. So I put her in a boarding school. He roommate turned out to be Melonie Starke, Jiggsís daughter. Time went on and she was content. So I left her there. Then came college. After that she had the nerve to join the CIA. The rest is historyÖ"
A moan from the bunk brought Lee out of his reverie. Leeís eyes went to Heather. She was tossing and twisting in the bunk. Red ringlets of hair stuck to her face from the cold sweat.
Lee had been through this many times since she came aboard. Her nightmares had started soon after she was released from sickbay. It had been decided by Nelson that sheíd get the VIP cabin next to the Captains in Officerís Country. Lee had hit the sack at his usual time just after midnight when he heard low moans through the bulkhead. He realized the bunk on the other side of the wall was next to his. When her moans had become screams he got up and went next door. He opened the door and peeked in. She was sitting up wide-eyed but not seeing. Her knees were to her chest and she was rocking back and forth.
Lee walked over to her bunk and tried talking to her in a low voice. That didnít work. So he shook her gently. That increased her wails. She trembled violently. He felt her forehead to find it cold and clammy. He was about to go get Doc, when he remembered what his Mom used to do for his own nightmares as a child. An old recliner had been put in the cabin for the visitorís comfort. He pulled it up to the bunk and reaching over the bed carefully picked up Heather and cradled her in his arms. He sat down in the chair and grabbed a blanket off the bunk wrapping it around her. Thus began an almost nightly ritual for the next few days. He would rock her gently and talk soothingly to her. Her cries would calm and then she would sleep. She never woke up until morning and had no recollection of him having been there. After while her nightmares got more violent.
"No! Please noÖIím so hungryÖwho are youÖfriend ofÖ. No go awayÖ. Canít tellÖwaterÖwaterÖ. coldÖdonít spray meÖperfume stinksÖdonít touch meÖplease leave me aloneÖ. I hear imÖnot him he didnít do anything wrong. Ö No please donít kill him! NOOOOOO. Light so brightÖ. canít open my eyes Iíll seeÖhimÖyes darkness againÖsmells badÖNoiseÖscurryingÖmunchingÖmunchingÖMUNCHING!"
Heather screamed and screamed waking the whole boat. There wasnít a man aboard that didnít feel her fear in his heart. Lee had all he could do to hold her in his lap. She was fighting for all she was worth. Doc followed by the entire Senior and Junior staff came rushing into the cabin. They laid her on the bed. Doc had a hard time examining her because of her constant thrashing. Lee sat at the head of the bunk with her head in his lap and held her wrists above her. Chip anchored her legs. Still she squirmed, thrashed and screamed.
"The LIGHTÖ PLEAASE TURN ON THE LIGHT!!!!ÖNOOOO Ö
"Doc do something!" yelled Crane.
"Iím trying to. Sheís in a pure nightmare, maybe even hallucinating. Got to snap her out of it. Sharkey get my medical bag on the double!"
Sharkey was gone and back in two shakes of a squirrelís tail.
Doc opened his medical bag and pulled out a syringe and some morphine. He injected it quickly into her. There were immediate results, silence.
"I put her into a deeper sleep. Letís just hope she wakes up peaceful."
"Whew!" said a relieved Crane, wiping his forehead sweat running into his eyes.
"What brought that on?"
"Memories, insecurity, strange place etc. I donít know."
"All right Doc, tell me the rest of it," inquired Nelson. Lee gave him an odd look motioning for all the men to leave except Sharkey.
"Well, and Iím only speculating, but itís possible sheís had an emotional break down."
"When will you know?" asked a worried Lee.
"Not for awhile, itís a wait and see game. Observation is the key. This could be a normal reaction from the horrors sheís been through. Itís possible this Baxter fellow used psychological tortures along with the physical to break her.
"So, what can we do?" asked Sharkey.
"Give her security, emotional support and a little TLC wouldnít help."
"TLC?" asked Sharkey.
"Why yes, tender loving care," smiled Doc. "I would prefer to leave her hereÖ"
"Iíll stay with her," volunteered Lee. He got up off the bunk after putting her head on the pillow and covering her up. He then sat down in the recliner and made himself comfortable. "Goodnight."
In the corridor, Nelson inquired, "Doc, as you know weíve only had her on board two weeks and sheís barely out of sickbay. Do you think a debriefing will help?"
"Yes I do."
"Then, Iíll contact George Peoples right away. Good night Doc."
Nelson brought Heather down to the control room to meet some of the crew. OíBrien, Sparks, Sharkey, Kowalski, Patterson and Riley were on duty. He also had Doc come forward to stand by. A side from Crane and Morton, these were the men he trusted most.
She found herself tongue tied, for the first time in life. Odd? I can usually talk myself into the white house if needed. Why am I so nervous? Itís because I want to make a good impression on these men, to make my Father proud of me.
Another new emotion she hadnít planned on dealing with was fear, unreasonable fear of strangers and new situations. She looked at Doc who met her gaze. Heís studying me, why? Oh, theyíre trying to be cool about it. But I see much concern in their faces. I need to have a talk with Doc when I get out of here.
Sharkey came over and took her under his wing. He had decided he wouldnít keep it a secret that she was his goddaughter. Heather had deferred to his wishes. It was a big help; soon he had a running conversation going with the crew. She notably relaxed much to the relief of the Senior Staff.
To everyoneís surprise she showed a great interest and asked many questions of the crewmen her eyes sparkling with happiness. Iím finally learning what Father and Sharkey have done all these years. She was excited and Sharkey asked permission to show her the rest of the boat.
"Are there any restrictions Admiral?" asked the COB.
"None, her clearance is higher than most of the crew. Have her back here in a half an hour."
Off they went. When they got down to ĎC" deck Sharkey let her in on a secret. "Heather, the Admiral especially wanted you to meet these men."
"Because these men you can trust. If there is ever a problem and the Admiral, Captain or myself are not around you can go to these men for help. Understand?"
"Yes, thatís very comforting to know. Iíll have to tell him thanks," she said with a sense of well-being.
The flying sub had berthed.
"Damn it," grumbled Nelson "This debriefing is going to take a lot out of her. I only hope it helps. Sheís been through enough."
Sharkey and Heather returned from their tour. Heather walked up to the Admiral and with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh Father, Iím so proud of you."
The Admiral actually blushed. "What brought that on?"
"I just wanted you to know thatís all. Seaview is quite a boat. I can see why you love her so much." She was trying to tell him she forgave him for all the years away. "Is there a job I can do to help out?" she asked eager to please him.
"Ah, Iíll have to think about it." He rubbed his neck, casting the question to Lee.
Chip leaned over and whispered in Craneís ear, "Thereís always the OE job. You heard what Doc said about the work he had her do."
Lee started to say, "There is somethingÖ" but was interrupted with the FS1 hatch opening up.
Out climbed George Peoples. Heatherís face lost a bit of color. She swayed on her feet. Lee took a step closer and grabbed her elbow to steady her. She looked up at him with terror in her eyes. She started to turn away and run when a new face caught her eye.
Adm. Jiggs Starke and a young woman came into view. The men heard a sharp intake of breath, then, witnessed a blur of red hair running into the out stretched arms of Starke.
"My girl, your looking positively peaked, havenít these men been taking care of you?" he boomed.
To the utter amazement of the whole control room crew, she laughed whole and hearty. "You old Seadog! You havenít changed a bit," she barked back. "Melonie, so glad to see you!" cried Heather. She was in her arms in a flash. Both women started gabbing like magpies.
Adm. Starke approached the plot table. "Women, they can talk faster than the speed of sound." He looked at the gapping faces of the Senior Staff and guffawed. "Whatís the matter? Cat got your tongue?" he bellowed.
Nelson was the first to recover. "Jiggs, I didnít know you were coming."
"Of course not Harriman, itís suppose to be a secret," grinned Starke. "My daughter, Melonie, sheís ONI and you can wipe that look of distrust off your face Captain."
But Jiggs, Peoples only found out last night and was sworn to secrecy," Nelson said perplexed.
"Youíre forgetting about Jaguar, Melonie is his contact. He told her that she was delivered safely to the Seaview men by way of the underground. We were in Washington DC and conned Peoples into letting us tag along when he heard from you."
A chorus of "Oh," punctuated by nods followed.
George Peoples stood by taking in the whole scenario. He was a short man with brown hair and cold brown eyes. He walked over to Heather when she had paused in conversation with Melonie.
He simply said. "Heather good to see you again."
"You could of heard a pin drop." Riley was later heard telling Clarke. "I mean man, she was real cool about it. Everyone knew who he was. The Skipper walked over to her and put his arm around her and she looked real grateful. After that they shut the crash doors. Theyíve been in there ever since."
"Thatís not all," said Patterson, "Have you noticed how smitten the Skipper seems with her?"
"Naw," said Clarke, "Not the Skipper, heís just protecting her. Heís married to the boat."
Laughter followed that statement.
"According to the Chief heís serious. He watches every move she makes. Theyíve been spending a lot of time together," added Riley.
"All right you Bozos quit gossiping like old ladies and get to work," yelled Chief Sharkey.
The official debriefing took hours. Heather sat at the table in the nose with all concerned parties. Which to Peoples consternation those gathered included two Admirals, the Captain, who had not been cleared until Nelson demanded it, a doctor, well, that was understandable and an ONI agent. All were quiet and listened intently. Peoples asked most of the questions. Lee sat beside Heather and held her hand under the table. Peoples sat at the end on Heatherís left. Heather from memory recited and filled in the gaps of information that had be given to account for the last two years. When it came to the day her cover was blown she stopped.
"What happened on that day? Do you have any idea how they got the information?" asked Peoples.
"No, Baxter himself came into the office. I figured he was there to see Linda," she shuddered. In a small voice looking down at the table she said, "He came for me. He called me a bunch of names in Spanish and English. He slapped me repeatedly and hauled me to his car. He mocked me and told me what all he was going to do to me. I can still hear his laughter.
"And then?" asked Peoples without feeling. Lee looked up at his face. That tone of voice, whyís he so cold? Youíd think she was the traitor. I wonder if heíll want to take her back to Washington with him? No way, sheís not going anywhere with him. Heather hesitated and Peoples took the hand that was on the table and squeezed. "Come on Agent Nelson we need to know."
Heatherís face was pure white now. She yanked her hand out of Peoples grasp and put it under the table. She tightened her grip on Leeís hand.
"He took me to a warehouse on the docks. There were men there, four of them."
She swallowed hard and stared at the table. "They stripped me and hung me from the rafters, chained my feet to the floor. ThenÖ. they ridiculed me. After awhile they left, leaving me in total darkness, I donít know how many days actually went by. I figured two days. Most people canít survive with out water more than three days."
"Go on," prodded Peoples.
She drank from a glass of water, her hand shaking. "Admiral, you have anything stronger than this?"
Nelson, who was sitting across from her, went to the credenza and brought back a bottle of Irish whiskey. He poured a healthy dose into a glass and handed it to her. She drank it straight down and handed the glass out for more, which he obliged. Peoples grabbed the glass and stated in a no nonsense tone, "That will be enough."
Nelson took exception to that, slamming down the bottle. "She can have all she wants. This is no picnic you know!" he barked.
"I donít want her drunk, not until she tells me the whole story!" yelled Peoples.
Lee got into the fray. "Just why is the CIA and ONI involved in this anyway? Baxter is a drug lord. Why isnít the DEA investigating this creep?"
"Because itís a cover for more serious stuff that I canít tell you about. But it has to do with our Countryís security and thatís all Iím going to say on the subject. Now, let my agent get back to the story."
In an act of defiance, Heather took the bottle of whiskey and poured some into the glass of water. Before she put the bottle down she took a good swig. Her grip tightened on the bottle and she silently dared Peoples to take it from her.
Leeís admiration for her went up a full notch.
"They came back all five of them. One of them fed me some bread and water. After that the questions started from Baxter. I refused to answer even one. The beatings began. Then he pulled out a riding crop and whipped me with it. I still refused to say anything except Go to Hell. That, infuriated him and I expected the worse, but instead heÖ touched meÖ slowly and methodicallyÖ My arms, my back, my face, my hairÖother places...I felt my skin crawlÖI couldnít stand his hands on me. He made me feel vulnerable, alone and helplessÖI was scaredÖso scared heíd finish what he startedÖ" she shuddered and took a big swig of whiskey and followed it down with the glass of water mixed with whiskey.
The men in the group lost a good deal of color. Heather didnít notice. She was getting a buzz off the whiskey. She hoped in time she would pass out. She did not want to finish the end of the nightmare.
Peoples became relentless. "Please finish."
"The pattern repeated itself over and over except he didnít touch me again, he didnít have to. His cruel eyes were enough to keep me cowed. Finally, I quit eating. Baxter thought I had willed myself to die. So he took me down and threw me into a pit beneath the floor. It was like being blind." She took another swig of whiskey. Her stomach felt warm. Her head became fuzzy. Yes itís working, Father forgive me for taking the cowardís way out. "Once a day a man threw down some bread and a bottle of water. I had to fight the rats from eating the bread. Every so often I got a piece of fruit."
"Baxter taunted me. He told me I was worthless as a woman and as an agent. He came down often and beat me himself for the fun of it. I was terrified heíd touch me again... He was winningÖ I was weakening. He asked me about Jaguar. I refused to tell him anything. HeÖ." A big yawn came out of her mouth. Peoples snatched the bottle away when she would of taken another drink. "He murderedÖ. murÖ" she fell onto Leeís shoulder.
Peoples shook her arm in a not so tender grip, "Murdered whom? Come on wake up. I need the rest of it."
Lee took Peopleís hand off Heatherís arm. "Thatís enough!" he shouted. "Iím taking her back to her cabin."
"Oh, no youíre not!" shouted Peoples in return. "Sheís my employee and sheís coming with me soused and all."
"Sheís under my protection and sheís my responsibility!" shouted the Captain, now holding a passed out Heather in his arms.
"Enough! Enough!" yelled Nelson. He shook his head and his hand went to the bridge of his nose. "Now," in a deadly soft voice, "She is my daughter and she is under our protection. She is staying here aboard Seaview until I see otherwise. Do I make myself clear?" He waved to Crane," Take care of her."
Peoples started to protest. He was met with a glare from everyone present. "Weíll just see about that when I get back to Washington."
Doc decided to make his medical opinion heard. "Mr. Peoples, this woman is my patient and she is not well enough to go anywhere. Nor is she well emotionally. I believe a leave of absence is in order for some time to come. I will file a medical report with who ever I need to, to get this accomplished."
"There you have it Peoples," boomed Starke. "Youíre finished here. I suggest you get back in the flying sub while you still have some skin left."
Peoples furious now. "This debriefing is not finished. I need all the facts. I needÖ"
Nelson angrily cut him off, "And youíll have them! Iíll have Heather submit a written report to you at a later date." He turned away from the irate man and seeing his Exec, ordered, "Mr. Morton, escort Mr. Peoples to the flying sub."
Melonie went up to Captain Crane and gently rubbed her friendís sleeping face. "I brought some clothes and other personal things of hers." She started to turn then said, "Oh, I almost forgot. This is her most prized possession." She pulled out a lap top computer from her handbag and put it on the table, "Itís how we keep in touch." She gave Heather one last fond glance then went and stood by her father.
"Well Harriman, itís been interesting." The two Admirals shook hands and bade each other goodbye.
All of that had happened a little more than a year ago reflected Lee. He was sitting in a new recliner in their cabin holding his precious burden. The nightmare had passed. It had been worse than the previous ones of late, but not severe enough to alert Doc.
He glanced at his watch. It was 21:00 hundred hours. Heather had been asleep two hours. She was exhausted from the emotional strain of the bilge tank incident. When he had carried her to their cabin from the bridge a no-holds-barred spat had broken out. Heíd let her rant and rave at him until she was blue in the face. Then heíd simply laid the law down to her.
"Iím Captain of this boat and you will do as I say! I have one hundred and twenty-five men and one woman to protect. This means discipline. You canít do just anything when and where you please. This is not a pleasure boat." he paused for effect. "When I give an order I expect you to obey it. There are rules to follow on this boat. They keep the men on board safe and that my dear includes you! There are no exceptions. Do you hear me?" he saw that she did, her eyes stared daggers at him.
"In the future you will not be proving yourself to the crew for every little thing. They accept you as you are. Seaview takes care of her own, youíre part of that group now. There isnít a man on board that would not protect you especially me." She yawned and gave a shiver. He forgot they were both in wet clothes. He wanted to finish.
"Furthermore, you will not take part in any more dares. Do you understand me?" She nodded her head affirmative. "And one last thing, no wife of mine is to ever get in the bilge tank or the ballast tank or any other slimy, stinky, dirty, dark place again. I donít care who asks you to do it. I have men to take care of those places. Have I made myself clear?" Again she tiredly nodded yes. "Very well," he said complacently.
Concern evident on his face, Lee pulled his wife into his arms. The fight had left her. She was cold to the touch and he felt her trembles. He suspected they werenít entirely from the wet clothes they still had on. He kissed her gently on the temple his thumb brushing her cheek. "Come on, lets get out of these clothes and into a hot shower. Then youíre going to take a nap." He worried when she didnít protest the nap.
Seaview made it to Pearl Harbor on schedule. Capt. Crane and Mr. Morton were on the bridge watching the horizon. They had just passed the sea buoy and were headed for the red and black entrance buoys less than a mile ahead. All was calm; no other ships were in the channel. The hairs on the back of Craneís neck stood up. His sixth sense telling him something was wrong. He grabbed the binoculars and searched the waters.
Observing his Captainís consternation, the XO also became worried. "Whatís the matter Lee? What do you see?"
"I donít know, but I have this feeling somethingís not right." He looked astern, swept back to starboard then quickly back to stern. He stopped and stared. "Thatís it! Chip look at the horizon. What do you see?"
Chip held up his binoculars, "I donít see anyÖwait a minute the horizon looks odd."
"Thatís not the horizon Chip, itís the top of a wave!" shouted Crane. "Itíll be breaking over us in a few minutes. Thatís why there are no ships in the channel. Pearl didnít warn us. Itís got to be kona weather."
"Kona weather," fear suddenly clutched Chipís heart. Like a tsunami wave, it comes in from the sea and swamps everything in its path.
Capt. Crane grabbed the mike just as Sparks gave a warning from Pearl. "Clear the bridge! Lookouts below! Secure all hatches on the double! Now hear this, weíre about to get pooped by a tidal wave. Rig for collision!" men scrambled to obey hearing the distress in their Captainís voice.
"Can we dive?" shouted Chip halfway through the hatch moving with energy he didnít know he possessed.
"To shallow! We have to make it into the channel," he yelled with urgency. He took a quick peek towards the stern on his way down the hatch. What he saw made his heart stop. The crest of a large wave was bearing down on them, all ready drawing water from the area ahead of it!
As soon as the Skipper dropped down from the hatch in the control room, he ran to the helmsman. "We have to make the entrance buoys. Itís mandatory we pass between them, for on either side thereís a dredged and blasted passage into the harbor."
The wave crested into a huge breaker moving towards shore at a greater speed than the submarine. It lifted Seaviewís stern, her bow depressed, until water was within a foot or two of flowing over the main deck. The wave raised much to quickly for the stern to follow, and the huge breaker began to submerge the submarineís after parts.
Inside the sub men and lose objects were thrown around like toys. The bow came up knocking everything and everyone aft. Men and chairs slid, sparks irrupted from panels, circuits blew and pipe valves spewed water. Finally, the wave passed over leveling the boat for a moment then bringing down the bow.
It was over as quickly as it began. Men picked themselves off the floor and started putting the boat to rights. The XO got on the intercom, "Damage control report." The Skipper ordered up the periscope for a quick look around the outside of the boat. "Nothing, itís like it never happened." He ordered the scope down and looked over to Sparks in the radio shack.
"Sparks, radio Pearl communications and tell them weíre still afloat and thank them for the warning. Tell them it was a little late and we almost met Davy Jones."
By this time the XO had the damage report, both Admirals were down in the control room. "Minor damage Skipper mostly from circuit breakers and a couple busted pipes. Hull has watertight integrity. Doc reports no casualties. I guess we were lucky," smiled a relieved Chip.
"Amen to that," said Lee. He ordered the hatches cracked once more and went topside followed by Starke and Nelson.
"What the devil happened?" boomed Starke, "I thought we bought the farm."
"Pearl forgot to radio us about the weather," replied the Captain. "If we hadnít been paying attention, weíd be on the bottom now with all hatches open."
"Good work Lee," praised Nelson patting him on the back. "I want a formal complaint filed once when we get into port."
"Aye Sir," You wonít have to beg me twice, thought Lee, grateful his instincts had been tuned correctly.
Two more sets of red and black buoys passed by, a couple of bends in the channel, one of them on the starboard side was Hospital Point. Patients sat in their wheel chairs or lawn benches and watched ships come and go. They rounded the point passing the Arizona Memorial and Battleship Row. As the submarine base came into view Adm. Nelson pointed out the submarine Sea Cub and Whitefish were in port.
"Lee youíd better make sure the men stay clear of the White Pelican, thatís the Sea Cubís crew favorite hang out."
Lee didnít need to be reminded. The last time in port, when both crews were together, there had been a huge brawl at the White Pelican. The rivalry between the crews ran deep and the animosity between captains even deeper. Anthony Masters, Captain of the Sea Cub was also an ONI operative like Lee himself, except his tactics were questionable and unethical.
"Attention all hands this is the Captain. Liberty officially ends at 06:00 hundred hours tomorrow morning. We sail at 08:00 hundred hours sharp. Also the Sea Cub is in port. You are hereby ordered to avoid the establishment of the White Pelican and the crew of same boat. We have VIPs to board Seaview in the morning. All areas must be shipshape before liberty commences."
The Captain handed the mike over to his Lt. Commander. "This is the Exec. You heard the Captainís orders. When your area is policed up and passes inspection by the Chief you may begin liberty. Duty watches are posted for the deck watch. And donít forget, if you get thrown in the brig youíll have to answer to me. Stay away from the Pelican and Sea Cub crew. Liberty commences now," announced Chip.
"Just where do you think youíre going?" teased a half serious Lee. He was in the control room at the plot table going over some charts. Chip was helping plot the course for the next dayís cruise to Norfolk Virginia. There were clipboards stacked with papers of the manifest and duty roster along with the logbook to finish lying on the table.
Heather was dressed in her usual attire, a short -sleeved khaki shirt, pants and deck shoes. Her hair pulled back in a long braid. Melonie Starke had bought the original khaki uniforms, thinking theyíd be perfect for on board ship. Her opinion proved correct. Even though Heather wasnít an officer, she was the Captainís wife and Admiralís daughter. "Besides," as Melonie had emailed her, "theyíre comfortable and durable."
Heather was with Sharkey and three men heading toward the spiral stairs. She gave her brightest smile and softly said, "Iím going shopping with Sharkey."
Lee was immediately worried, "Shopping? Why donít you send Sharkey with a list. I donít like you taking unnecessary risks." That creep Baxter is still out there.
"I have some errands to run for Cookie. He wants some fresh Hawaiian fruit for tomorrowís dinner. Sharkey and the men are going with me," she said lightly.
"So, why doesnít Cookie go? Itís what he gets paid for. After all heís the cook."
Blast it Lee, Iím under orders, I have to go. "Lee, I need to get off this boat for a while. I want to shop. Sharkey wonít let anything happen to me, will ya Sharkey?" she giggled.
"No, of course not. You are my number one goddaughter," quipped Sharkey.
"Your only goddaughter," she teased back.
Lee could see he wasnít going to win this one. "Are all these men going with you?" he was trying logic first then guilt. "Itís their liberty and I doubt they want to spend it shopping with you. Maybe I should go with you." I want you protected. Why canít you just stay on the boat?
Chip cut in, "You canít Lee. You have that meeting with both Admirals in about twenty minutes." He waved his hand over the plot table. "Besides, we have all this paperwork and then some to get caught up on."
"Skipper, weíll take good care of her. Wonít we men?" Sharkey beckoned at the men to join in.
Kowalski, Patterson and Riley reassuringly replied, "Of course we will, nothingís going to happen while weíre around, donít worry Skipper."
Lee gave a deep sigh, "All right, but I want her back here no later than Ö letís see itís 19:00 hundred hours now, I want her back here by 23:00 hundred hours."
"Lee," Heather protested, "Iím not a child and thatís not enough time. I want to take in the sights too."
"I said 23:00 hundred hours and not a minute longer or your staying here," He hated to do it, but added, "and thatís an order."
Five, "Aye Sirs" was the response.
"Well, what are we gonna do if we run out of time?" asked a worried Kowalski.
"Pitch hit," replied Heather "Iíll think of something to tell him."
They were standing in front of the White Pelican Bar, which was located just outside the base, Pearl Harbor. They had gone to the market and ordered the fruit that Cookie had requested and had it delivered to Seaview. It was their cover for shopping. That way, they could say they hadnít lied to the Skipper.
"Man, do we really have to go in there?" whined Riley. "Ya know the Skip is going to kill us if he finds out. Iíll be cleaning the bilges for a month," he moaned.
Sharkey ground his teeth, "Look you blockheads we got our orders straight from both Admirals Nelson and Starke. We donít have a choice."
"Why did Starke put a gag order on it?" asked Patterson. "Why canít we tell the Skipper if he finds out weíve been here?"
"Look Pat, thatís the key if the Skipper catches us here. Maybe we can pull this off early and have Heather back in time. Besides, if the Skipper knew we were here, heíd of stopped us or never let us off the boat."
"But, you still havenít answered my question. Why, the gag order afterwards?"
"Look bonehead, I donít debate orders I follow them. Thatís what the Admiral ordered. We do what he said," preached Sharkey. He glanced over at Heather. She wasnít happy about this either he could see.
Heather was scared. She hadnít done any CIA work lately. Why did they pick us to do this? Lee will be furious when he finds out. Whatís worse is I canít even tell why we were here if he does find out. Not until Starke lifts the gag order. She fingered the pink crossed ribbon pinned to her lapel. After tonight, Iím not to take this off either until told to do so. Oh well, at least it stands for a good cause. She turned her attention to the men. "Ready to go?"
Riley mulled over a question, "I wonder who yells louder, the Skipper or Admiral Starke?"
"I donít know and I hope we donít have to find out," muttered Kowalski.
"Whatís the reason we all volunteered Sharkey?" asked Riley.
"Protection, you know what the game plan is. Heather has to meet a contact and weíre to say nothing about it, to anyone," grumbled Sharkey. "Ok, you pea brains, letís get this over with."
"There you have it Lee," said Adm. Nelson. "One of these six people coming aboard is a traitor."
Lee, perched on the corner of Nelsonís desk, looked over the list naming them out loud. "General Charles Woodgate, his aide Lt. Steven Maclin, Adm. John Perkins, his aide Lt. Pete Schrems, Senator Stella WarrenÖWhatís old ĎSourpussí coming on board for? You canít possible think sheís the traitor?"
Lee knew she was the Senator ahead of the Appropriation Committee where NIMR received a good portion of itís funding. She usually disagrees with everything we need and use. The paper work involved. Yuck! Iíd rather wrestle with an octopus.
"Of course not Captain," retorted Adm. Starke. "Sheís here to distract Heather, keep her busy and out of the way of the investigation."
"Thatís why the surprise inspection?" It was more a statement than a question. "Good idea. I donít want her involved in any of this. Sheís not ready to get back into the spy game. She had another nightmare the other evening," answered Lee worried again. He shook his head of the memory.
"I thought the nightmares were lessening," said Nelson concerned now. He exchanged a worried look with Starke.
"They were, but the incident in the bilge tank triggered one, a serious one. You know Doc said flashbacks would happen occasionally," reminded Lee.
"Thereís nothing we can do about that now," replied a brusque Starke. "Now, back to business, George Peoples thinks the leak is his secretary Debra Woodgate."
"Debra Woodgate!" said a startled Lee.
"Yes. You know her Captain?" asked Starke knowing full well that he did.
"Ah yes. We were once engaged. Sheís Gen. Woodgateís daughter you know," Lee stated lost in thought. He stood up and began to pace." I canít believe sheís the leak. It goes against the grain."
"Sheís our number one suspect. Peoples swears, no one else besides his director knew about the Lynx or the other two agents. Of course, she doesnít know the identity of the agents. There is no paper trail linking identities with operative code names. But she did have access to their mission," Nelson bluntly stated.
"Thatís where you come in Captain. You know her better than anyone else. Youíre an ONI operative; use your instincts. We want you to break her down. They were all invited on Seaview as guests on the pretense of a war game planning session. Miss Woodgate happened to be with her father here in Pearl on vacation. For her, itíll be a leisurely cruise home to Norfolk," Starke explained. Then, staying true to form snapped, "You got all that Captain?"
"Yes Sir. Weíre heading to the war games in St Martin stopping at Norfolk to drop off passengers and attend the Officerís Ball. While in route I am to find out which visitor aboard is a traitor. That means I will have to spend an enormous amount of time with Miss Woodgate," Lee frowned not happy with the idea at all.
"Donít look so sad Lee. Heather will be kept busy with Senator Warren," sympathized Nelson. He wouldnít want to be in Leeís shoes either. Heather was still emotionally healing, their marriage new, and now an old love. This is going to be an interesting cruise.
The White Pelican Bar was an old building. Inside, it was square and plain with a few nautical and Navy items plastered to the walls. The long bar was on port side. Three pool tables and various video games were located forward. On starboard, there were chairs and tables scattered around an old jukebox that played a variety of music.
There were men and a few women from the various ships in port. The Sea Cubís crew dominated the bar. Kowalski and Patterson were playing pool. Riley worked out on a video game. Sharkey and Heather were sitting at a table, drinks had been ordered.
Sharkey lit a cigarette and blew the smoke away from the table. "What do we do now?" he asked nervously.
"We act natural, like weíre having a good time and wait. Heíll find a way to us," responded Heather. She was nervous also. Pull yourself together girl, you can do this. How many dozens of times have you done it before? "Iím going to put some money in the jukebox." She went over to the jukebox and leaned on it reading the selections.
Pat and Ski were playing pool with a couple of guys from the Whitefish submarine. "You guys heading out or coming in?" asked Pat sinking a solid orange ball.
"Coming in. Weíre resting a couple of days then heading for the war games in St Martin. You?"
"Doing pretty much the same. Just left Santa Barbara heading for Norfolk. The brass are attending the Officerís Ball or some such thing, then on to the war games." Pat lined up a green ball with a yellow ball for a combination shot. "Left corner pocket."
Meanwhile Riley and íMiz PacManí were becoming quite the couple. A crewman from the Sea Cub kept urging him on for better scores. "Come on get the ghost. Watch it, itís comin for ya," he slurred quite drunk.
Chip and Lee were at the long conference table in the observation nose doing paperwork. They were facing the control room, which was devoid of personnel.
A sailor came down the ladder in the control room and went aft. Slowly the crew was trickling back to the boat. Lee looked at his watch. "23:45, itís almost midnight. Where the devil are they?" He threw his pencil down on the pile of papers. "I specifically ordered Sharkey to have her back here by eleven oíclock."
"Stop worrying," Chip grinned. "Youíre being over protective. They probably couldnít get a cab or something." He went back to his paperwork.
"Itís the something that has me worried. You donít think something happened to them?" Lee turned and looked out the bow windows trying to see the dock.
"Lee, will you relax? Better yet, why donít you go join the Admirals at the Officerís Club? They donít seem unduly worried about them."
Lee thought about it a moment. "Naw, Iíve got to get this paper work done." He picked up the logbook and made an entry and looked up again as another man came down the ladder. "Wilkens, have you seen Sharkey?" he shouted across the control room.
"Very well," he waved the sailor off. Lee picked up the duty roster, read it over three times not remembering anything he just read. He slammed it down on top of the logbook, making Chip jump. "Sorry about that." He then got up and went over to the sideboard and picked up the coffee pot. "Great! Weíre out of coffee."
"As if you need more coffee," retorted Chip. "Lee, Iím sure everythingís ok. We got the fresh fruit and other goods Cookie wanted. Iím sure theyíre just delayed. Hawaii is a big island." The look on his Skipperís face made Chip realize he said the wrong thing. Hastily he said, "No, I donít think they went sightseeing or any place very far. Sharkey would of told you. Theyíre around Pearl somewhere." He hoped he sounded convincing.
Lee came back over to the table after refilling the coffee pot. "I hope youíre right," he picked up the duty roster and read it over for the forth time.
There was much noise and laughter coming from the surrounding tables. The Sea Cub crew had put several tables together for partying. They played cards, told dirty stories and jokes. They drank and danced until their hearts were content with the few women that were there. Heather was asked by a few rowdy men to dance a few times. She took it in stride and complied. After all she was waiting for a person to contact her. One of these drunks could be him playacting. Itís a standard cover. One particular man was tall, dark and handsome. He reminded her of Lee. He was weaving between tables carousing with everyone he seen.
"Itís getting late," said Sharkey looking at his watch. "Well, weíve busted orders. The Skipperís going to have us for breakfast." He took another swig of his beer.
Riley came over to the table and sat down with his beer. "Man, I canít play anymore Pacman, my eyes are going to cross." He made a face with his eyes crossed. "This spy stuff isnít what itís cracked up to be. How does the Skipper do it all the time?"
"For your information, he hasnít been doing it much lately. He promised the Admiral heíd take it easy for a while." He glanced at Heather and turned red. They all knew it was because of her. "Heather I didnít mean that the way it sounded. You know, heís married now and has other responsibilities to take care of. I mean he likes taking care of you and he doesnít want to be far away from you or Seaview. He told me it was time for the younger guys to do it anywayÖ."
Heather chuckled. "Itís ok Sharkey, no offense taken. To be honest with you I like having Lee around too." I wish I were back on Seaview right now safe in his arms. She had a really bad feeling about all this. Her stomach was doing flips again. "I need to use the little girls room again." She got up and headed for the restroom.
Kowalski made a wild shot on the pool table and a black eight ball flew off the table landing in the middle of Sea Cubís crew. "Hey, what ya trying to do? Kill me!" roared a big fat man. He had a rank of chief on his sleeve. He got up and approached the pool table.
"Sorry Chief," said Ski.
"Sorry donít cut it. Hey. Youíre from that sorry sub Seaview ainít ya?" he asked balling up his fist.
"Yeah. You want to make something of it? And Seaview makes your boat look like a piece of crap!" heckled Ski.
"Iím going to break your neckÖ."
"Just you try it. Come on," he urged, "Give me your best shot," dared an angry Ski. "No one gets away with calling Seaview names."
POW! The fight was on. Chief Sharkey saw the Sea Cub chief hit Kowalski and was over there in a split second taking him on himself. Riley dove for another man who was going to hit Sharkey from behind with a bottle. Patterson and two crewmen of the Whitefish banded together and went after five guys from the Sea Cub. Tables over turned, bottles broke and chairs went flying.
Heather heard the ruckus from the ladies room. She opened the door and took a few steps out peering around the room. She saw Ski in a choke hold with a Sea Cub guy and Pat coming to his rescue with a chair. Sharkey was battling the Sea Cub Chief on top of the pool table. She winced when he got sucker punched. Riley was by the bar trying to down a beer. A guy slid by and he picked up his mug just in time and hit him over the head with it. "Another beer please," he grinned. The bartender thought he was nuts.
Heather took a couple more steps into the room and was tackled to the floor. They landed under an upright table. She was on her stomach and had lost her breath. A man was on top of her back his long leg pinning hers down. She jabbed him with an elbow and must have hit a vital part for he bellowed in her ear, but didnít release his grip. Instead, he sat up and turned her over, his legs straddling her. Heather looked up into the blue eyes of the tall dark handsome drunk. Only now he wasnít drunk. He was strong and virile. "Let go of me this instant!" she demanded.
"Only after I exchange some jewelry with you," he said watching her hazel eyes grow big.
"You like my ribbon?" she exclaimed.
"Yes, now give me the back of the pin." He took the back off a round shaped pin he was wearing and exchanged it with hers. When it was reattached she noticed it to be a shipís wheel on his blue denim collar. The exchange took less than thirty seconds. Then, he leaned down and kissed her full and hard on the mouth. Heather was just reaching up to claw him a good one on his handsome face when he lifted his head and said very snidely "Tell Crane, weíre even now." Incensed now, Heather punched him in the jaw has hard as she could hearing a crack as she did so. Unfortunately, it was her fingers that hurt. He climbed off her and smiled. "Touché madam." Then he was gone.
Heather climbed out from under the table only to have something slam into the left side of her face. She saw gray, then blackness, then, nothing at all.
No one noticed the lone person who had been casually drinking a beer in the corner; then quietly slip out the front door.
Sharkey was in a quandary. The SPís arrived and broke up the fight. The crews had been separated and were each huddled in the corners of the bar. Heatherís crumpled form lay unmoving on the floor surrounded by broken glass and furniture. An SP was pouring an intact unused pitcher of beer over her face.
Sharkey started towards her only to be brought up short by another SP. In his most authoritative voice he growled. "Look Ensign, sheís with us and sheís hurt. I just want toÖ"
The SP cut him off with a "Stowe it Chief. The lieutenant is taking care of her." He smirked and pushed Sharkey back with his nightstick. More determined than ever to reach Heatherís side he tried to go through the guard. That earned him a punch in the stomach. "Why, I ought toÖ."
"Easy Sharkey, youíll be no help to her if youíre lying on the floor beside her, "said Ski in a low voice. He grabbed the Chief by the arms and held him back from attacking the guard.
"I have to get to her Ski, she needs me, sheís hurt, and I promised the Skipper." He struggled some more to get lose from Skiís iron grip.
Ski held on, "We all promised the Skipper," he gently reminded him. Sharkey paused and finally nodded in compliance. The SP stepped back, but kept his guard up.
The men watched in trepidation as their Skipperís wife woke up. She came to with a start. Fear shown in her expressive hazel eyes. The lieutenant reached down and roughly yanked Heather to her feet. He then dragged her over to the Seaview men and shoved her into them. She collapsed against Sharkey.
By this time, the SPs had the attention of every man in the bar. The men drunk or not had enjoyed the ladyís company in dance and song. They knew her not, but suspected her to be the Captainís wife of the Seaview and if this was Craneís wife, woe to any man who dared mistreat her.
The SPs felt the change in atmosphere and called in a couple of paddy wagons. The Sea Cub crew was loaded in the first one and the crews of Seaview and Whitefish were loaded in the second. All headed for the brig.
Lt. OíBrien, the Officer of the Deck, and third in command to the Captain, had never seen his Skipper so angry. He was pacing the deck from bow to stern. Each time he walked past him and headed toward the stern, he heard a new set of cuss words. When he turned and came back towards the bow, he heard many variations of what the Skipper was going to do to each of the four men and one woman. None of them would be to his liking.
The Skipper looked at his watch again. "01:24," he said out loud. He looked out to sea, then down the dock and a long the quay, finally staring off into space. OíBrien briefly wondered how many times the Skipper had done that tonight. He glanced at his watch yet again. OíBrien cringed inwardly waiting for the bellow.
"ONE THIRTY! Where the hell are they?"
Mr. Morton had spent some time on deck arguing with his hot- tempered friend trying to assuage his worry. A few men had come back early and got the third degree for not knowing where their Chief was.
The Skipper made another pass mumbling about needing a homing device on his wife. He stopped in front of his OOD.
"That homing device theory isnít a bad idea. Nelson has brought it up before. We could plant one in a ring and make her wear it all the time; that way weíd always know where she was." He continued to think about it for a while then, looked at his watch again.
At precisely 02:10 hundred hours, Chip came out of the side conning tower hatch. He carried a message with him that he was reluctant to give. He stood before his Captain and friend bracing himself and simply said, "I know where they are, but youíre not going to like it."
Each of the three crews was locked in a holding cell. They had been informed that their Captains knew they were here. It was only a manner of time before the Executive Officers would bail them out.
"Why the XO and not the Skipper?" asked Heather.
"Itís his job to oversee the men. Weíll get a dressing down by Mr. Morton and then when we get back to the boat, the Skipper will keel haul us," said Sharkey.
"With our luck, both Admirals will throw in a few words to make it look good," added Patterson.
They were all sitting on one long bench looking a little worse for wear. The lacerations, contusions, bumps and scrapes were making themselves known a few at a time.
"Man, oh man, oh man," moaned Riley. "I didnít know I could hurt so bad."
"You havenít seen nothing yet, wait till the Skipper gets a hold of you," joked Kowalski.
"You wonít be laughing long, Ski. I think this time weíre in serious trouble. Donít forget the gag order.We canít say why we were there,"reminded Sharkey"Heather, everything went ok didnít it? I mean except for the lucky punch." Her face is not a pretty sight. The Skipper is going to draw and quarter me.
"Fine, it all went fine." She didnít feel like elaborating. My head hurts; my cheek is on fire, I smell like a beer keg and look like a train wreck. My stomach is doing flip-flops again and my hand is throbbing. All in all I guess it went fine. How long till Chip gets here? How much trouble are we in?
As if reading Heatherís mind. Riley asked Sharkey, "Youíve been in scrapes before. What do you think the Skipper will do to us? I mean, are we going to the brig?"
"Weíre in the brig you knot-head. Did I hit you too hard?" yelled the Chief from the Sea Cub in another cell. There was laughter.
"Not as hard as Iím going to hit you next time," retorted Chief Sharkey.
"It was a good fight," this from someone with the Whitefish.
Before long everyone was talking at once. The SPs came by and told everyone to pipe down or thereíd be more trouble. No one listened to them. After all, how much more trouble can they get into?
Riley still worried asked again, "Sharkey what will the Skipper do to us?"
"Probably feed us to the sharks."
"Naw," said Ski, "Heíll hang us from the periscope since we donít have a yardarm."
The Whitefishís XO showed up and they were cut loose. They all watched them get chewed out and then they were gone.
After much thought Pat said, "I donít think heíll do anything to us because the Skipper will just plain kill us instead." He made a chopping motion with his hand.
"Amen to that brother," replied Ski and gave him a high-five.
The Sea Cub Captain and XO came for their crew. They didnít get yelled at.
"I wonder what Lee will do to me?" asked Heather in a small voice. "You know, I let him down completely. As far as heís concerned I broke his trust," she said sadly drawing her knees up to her chin.
Once the Skipper learns the whole story heíll forgive you and us," explained the Chief. He put his arm around Heather trying to comfort her and noticed she was shivering. "Cold? Here lean on me," after a short pause he said softly, "It will be ok, youíll see."
"Heíll probably divorce me," she said half kidding.
"Not in a million years," stated Patterson.
"Make that two million," added Kowalski.
"Heather, you got to know he loves you," encouraged Sharkey. "Thatís why, heís so mad at you all the time."
"Yeah," put in Riley. "Itís written all over his face when he looks at you."
Heatherís face turned three shades of red. This was hitting to close to home. Lee had never told her he loved her. Their marriage had been hasty. She had fought against it. She knew he didnít love her. He had married her strictly to protect her, Lee and his honor. Thatís why she had given him an out in writing.
To pass the time the men told old bar stories and laughed at their antics until they looked up to see who had come to bail them out. It wasnít the XO.
It could be said that the fearless men of Seaview had faced monsters of the deep, aliens from outer space, ghosts, and various other conflicts and phenomenon, but none scared them as much as the wrath of their Skipper who was standing outside the cell door.
"OUT," the Skipper commanded as he opened the door.
Each man filed out nodding his head sheepishly to the Captain. When Heather filed passed she felt a steel vise attach itself to the back of her neck. Anyone observing them would think her husband was comforting her, only she could feel the grip of his fingers digging into her skin. He forced her to stop and look up at him while he examined her face. He made no comment only his jaw tightened as if he were gritting his teeth. The look he cast the men said it all.
They walked silently out of the brig. They walked past the Sea Cub crew who were assembled in the parking lot. Heather noticed their Captain and would have stopped dead in her tracks except for the hand still attached to her neck kept her moving. The tall, dark and handsome drunk / contact, no it couldnít be, she thought. She absently fingered the ribbon pin.
Lee Crane followed his wifeís vision and his grip tightened on her neck. His eyes met those of the Sea Cub Captain. He noted a dark bruise on his jaw. In a cold voice he acknowledged him, "Tony."
"Lee," replied the Sea Cub Captain in the same cold voice.
The men got a thumbs up sign from the Chief of the Sea Cub.
Captain Crane led the quiet party to the jeep heíd been assigned for officerís use. "Which one of you is most fit to drive?" he asked in a flat tone. There was no expression on his face and each man knew it boded ill.
"I guess I am," stated the Chief. He got in the drivers side. The three seamen sat in the back. The Captain took the passenger seat. That left Heather without one.
"I guess Iíll walk," she flatly said and turned to go.
"The hell you will!" he barked. He reached over grabbed her arms, pulled and lifted her crossways onto his lap in one quick motion.
Strong arms came around her and held her in place against his chest. She had no choice but to sit still. Her nose was pressed against his neck and she breathed in the scent of him. She felt safe for the first time all night.
They made the dock where Seaview was anchored in no time. The men filed out and crossed the gangway. Another jeep pulled up with Adm. Nelson and Starke in it. Heather looked over and nodded to Starke. He ever so slightly acknowledged the nod.
Crane caught the exchange. Whatís going on here? Or am I imagining things because Iím so tired? "Men. Meet me in the observation nose." He looked at his wife. "That includes you."
Crane turned and greeted the admirals as they came aboard.
"Trouble Captain?" bullied Starke.
"None I canít handle, Sir," Crane replied reluctantly. The last thing he wanted to do was explain that heíd just came back from the brig. "Did you enjoy yourself at the Officerís Club?" he countered.
"Yes Lee," replied Nelson. "Adm. Perkins and Gen. Woodgate are most anxious to board Seaview in the morning. Speaking of which, why havenít you hit the sack yet? We have a hard run to make later."
"I have some unfinished business to see to first." He then bade them a good night and went below.
"Attention!" Crane ordered. The men stood up. The Captain took pleasure in not adding the Ďat easeí.
It was a subdued sorry group he found in the observation nose. He assessed each person for injuries. They donít look that worse for wear. With the exception of Heather, theyíve all been in fights before and none seem to be complaining of severe injures besides, Doc is still on liberty, but there is a corpsman on board. Heather! Her face! The whole left side is black and blue. How am I going to explain that to all these visitors weíre going to have in the morning "My wife likes to brawl in bars late at night." I can just hear it. Nelson must not of seen her face yet either. Iím probably in for a dressing down myself.
The Captain started pacing, twisting his ring as he went. It was not a good sign.
"All right men, since you have an abundance of energy Iím going to put it to work after youíve cleared sickbay. Docís not back yet, but Frank is." His voice was deceptively soft. The men had to strain to hear. "I want this boat to shine more than she does now. Every deck is to be stripped and waxed. I want to see my face on the deck come morning. I want every piece of chrome polished. Every piece of glass to sparkle, in other words a spit and polish shine. This is to be done by 06:00 hundred hours. Then youíre to report for your regular watch. From here on out you are not to fraternize with other members of this crew or each other. You are confined to quarters between watches. You are all on report until further notice."
He studied each face. They were completely expressionless. "Donít think youíre getting off easy with a little bit of extra duty. I will get to the bottom of this escapade. But, time is wasting. These orders will stand until I personally change them. I would suggest you tow the line for I will not accept the slightest infraction. I hope Iíve made myself clear. Dismissed."
The men scurried aft to do their Skipperís bidding. Crane watched them leave then turned his attention to his wife. She opened her mouth to say something but he cut her off. "I donít want to hear about it and thatís final." She was sitting in the window seat. He leaned over her with both hands on either side of her.
Now that the crisis was over Crane was irate. He could not remember ever being this livid. He wanted to strangle her, take her over his knee and give her the spanking of her life. But of course, he couldnít do that. He looked at her face, one side pure white, the other, a mixture of black and blue. Her eyes were huge and scared. Good, I hope Iím getting through to you. He gave her his fiercest Captainís glare. It always intimidated his men.
To his complete surprise she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. He responded for a moment. Iíd love to take you to our bunk and slam into you. Iím so relieved youíre alive and in somewhat one piece. That thought brought him to his senses. He stepped back out of her arms.
"Heather, you may be my wife, but you are also a part of this crew. Therefore youíre not exempt from punishment. These kisses arenít going to get you out of it," he said coldly.
She forgot her timidity and let anger take over. "You think Iíd resort to that stupid tactic?" she yelled indignant now.
"Women have been known to use it."
"When are you going to get it through your thick head, Iím not like other women?" she screamed.
Thatís true. Iíve never met anyone like you. He hated to do it but it was time to remind her he was Captain of this boat. He knew they could be heard arguing clear to the stern. The Seaview grapevine will run wild again.
"Damn it woman! Enough! We had an agreement you would respect my position as Captain of this boat. That means you follow orders, all orders I give without question. Didnít we just go through this a few days ago?" he ran his hand through his hair agitated.
"Oh when you laid the law down?" she replied in a huff. She turned her back on him and leaned her head against the herculite windows. Her shoulders slumped, "Lee, I canít tell you what happened."
"Canít or wonít?" he bit out.
She realized she had hurt him by willfully disobeying his orders. He was angry because he was worried. Isnít that what Sharkey said? Why he yells at me all the time. What am I going to tell him? Blast that gag order. I canít bust his orders.
"Youíre going to have to trust me. Itíll all come out in the wash eventually."
"Trust you?" he said cuttingly, "Iíd rather trust a snake."
That hurt. She raised her head and stood up, hands on hips. "Fine Lee, if thatís the way you want it. Give me my punishment. I might as well get to it." The fight had gone out of her.
She never ceased to amaze him with her mood swings. "All right. The control room is your responsibility. The orders I gave to the men apply to you also. Any questions?" the last tacked on.
"No" she said quietly.
"Very well, Iíll see you at 06:00 hundred hours." He simply stated, turned and went up the spiral stairs.
Lee Crane couldnít sleep. No matter how hard he tried he could not sleep. At first he was to wound up from the nightís events. Hot chocolate hadnít helped. Counting seals didnít do it. Recalling by rote the morse code caused his mind to drift. Damn! I want my wife.
Discipline. Must have discipline Boat can be lost without it. Whatís good for the goose is good for the gander.
Questions, so many unanswered questions. I hate unanswered questions. Why did the men disobey two direct orders? Itís not like themÖ What canít Heather tell me? Iím Captain of this boat. I should know everything that goes on aboard herÖ What was the deal with Starke? Now that I think about it why didnít the Admirals come down to the nose and see what was going on? Itís not like either of them toÖunless they all ready knew what was going on. But howÖ And Tony Masters, Sea Cub Captain, Heather had recognized him, Iíd bet my last dollar on that observationÖ Why, do I have a feeling heís involved somehow? That was a surprise seeing him down at the brig. He sure did have a nasty bruise on his jaw, wonder how that came about? He obviously wasnít involved with the brawl at the Pelican or heíd be in lock up with his men.
Lee tossed and turned. Finally, giving up on sleep, he propped himself up in the bunk, turned on the light and grabbed one of Heatherís books. He was pleased to see it was the second in a trilogy by Beach, Dust on the Sea.
Heather was in the water, limp, unmoving, sinking. A womanís voice laughing, "Whatís she good for now Lee?" Then a sneering voice, "She got what she deserved. The fish can have her. To bad, Baxter would pay me big money to have her." The womanís voice laughed and faded. Heather slid under the water.
"NOO!" shouted Lee waking up. He lifted a shaky hand to his forehead wiping off the sweat. That was some nightmare, wonder what brought that on? He laid back down still trembling. His hand brushed the book heíd been reading. He tossed it a side and looked at his watch. 04:17 a.m.
Am I ever going to sleep tonight? I wonder how Heather and the men are faring? Theyíd better have that work done. Little will they know I havenít gotten anymore sleep than they have. Bags under the eyes will probably give it away... His thoughts wandered, he moaned, the top brass will be here soon. Who is the traitor I have to findÖ? Debra WoodgateÖ? Now thereís a dish. One of the most beautiful women I ever dated. A viper yes, but a traitor? No, I canít believe it. Itís been years since I last saw her. Peaches, come to mind. I wonderÖ
At 06:00 hundred hours Capt. Crane was up and making an inspection tour of the boat. The men were all back on board and most were in the mess eating breakfast. Sharkey and the men had done as ordered. Everything shined. He could see his face on the deck. He was secretly pleased, but he gave the men the Captainís scowl when he passed them by.
He made his way down the spiral steps into the control room. The smell of fresh wax was still in the air. Everything glistened. Riley picked up the blower and carried it aft. Riley? He looked around for Heather spying her by the radio shack buffing the deck with a soft clothed mop.
He strode over to her and angrily demanded, "What is Riley doing here helping you?"
At the sound of his footsteps Heatherís pulse had quickened. She started to give him a blinding smile, only to have it turn into a grimace. She looked up into cold angry eyes. Her heart turned over. "He wasnít. He just carried the blower back to storage for me. I couldnít lift it."
"Oh come on. Theyíre not that heavy. Heís been down here helping you. Donít lie your way out of it."
Confused and hurt, she turned back to the mop and swiped the deck a few more times. She wasnít willing to tell him her hands were full of bloody blisters or that her right hand and wrist was swollen and bruised. She didnít want his pity.
Instead, she simply said, "Think what you want."
"Donít pull this meek and mild stuff with me Heather Crane, Iím not going to buy it. Youíre not getting any sympathy from me and if I find out Riley has helped you in any way, youíll regret it."
For once she didnít rise to the bait. Warning signals went off in Craneís mind. She seemed defeated or was it a trick? He examined her closer. Sheís a mess. She smells like sweat and a beer hall. Her hair is straggly, limp and hanging loose from a braid covering a bruised cheek. Her clothes dirty and bloody. Bloody? Red lines traveled down the sides of her pants as if she had wiped her hands several times. He looked at her hands as she mopped the deck in rhythm. She had dirty rags wrapped around them. His temper climbed another notch.
He grabbed her arm and yanked her towards him causing her to drop the mop. "Let me see those hands."
Heather quickly put them behind her back. "They are fine. I just need to clean them up." She refused to meet his eyes. She was near tears and she wanted to be held in the worse way.
"Heather Nelson Crane! I donít have time for games," with that announcement he grabbed her left hand and gently unwrapped it. He sucked in his breath. The palm was bloody with broken blisters all around the circumference, mute testimony to how hard she had worked.
She snatched her hand back and bent down and picked up the mop. "I need to finish buffing the communication shack then Iíll be done."
"Youíre done now! He grabbed both arms and gave her a quick shake. Get up to our cabin and make yourself presentable. You are disgusting. Make sure you put some makeup on that face of yours. I donít want our visitors to think I beat you even though right now they would probably say Iíd be more than justified to carry it out."
Her face registered shock and hurt. He felt bad, but was too angry to give in. He needed to vent from last nightís capers and the pressures he would be facing today. She was his sounding board. It was her fault. Everything was her fault. He knew he was being childish but at the moment he didnít care. All sorts of emotions besieged him at once, anger, despair, guilt, hurt, helplessness, love and failure, failure to protect the most important person in his life.
He shook his head and looked down into her devastated face. He regretted instantly his outburst. He could feel her trembling and dropped her arms. She swayed as if hit. He watched the pain of his rejection slash through her eyes. He wanted nothing better than to take her in his arms and comfort her. He toughened his heart. "Get cleaned up and have Doc take a look at those hands." He turned his back on her and walked aft.
Heather stood rooted to the spot, still holding the mop. It hadnít slipped out of her hands this time when Lee had grabbed her. The handle had hit her on her bruised cheek adding insult to pain. A hopeless feeling invaded her heart. Youíre never going to forgive me for this, are you love? She put the mop in the porterís closet just aft of the control room, turned and came back to the spiral stairs. She climbed halfway up the circular stairs stopped and looked around. Blindly, she turned and ran the rest of the way up barely missing Chip, who was on his way down.
Admirals Nelson and Starke were in the Officerís Wardroom having breakfast. They had been quietly eating while listening to their three Junior Officers talk.
"I tell you Mr. Morton, Iíve never seen the Skipper act this way before. Weíre probably going to have to replace some planks on the upper deck from his pacing last night, said a concerned OíBrien.
Chip smiled remembering. "I wouldnít go quite that far Bob. He was pretty strung out though, wasnít he?"
"You can say that again. I thought he was going to stroke out there for a minute when you gave him the news about the brig," shuddered OíBrien.
"What happened next?" asked Sparks enjoying the story.
Barely containing their mirth, the two Admirals ears strained to hear.
"Well," said Chip stuffing the last of his toast in his mouth and swallowing, "He turned four shades of red, layer by layer. First time I ever saw something like that."
"Yeah, he must have been thinking about what all he was going to do to them. Every trip up and down the deck, he muttered a different version," put in OíBrien. "That was before he heard about the Pelican and brig."
"Wow," was all Sparks could come up with. He stood up with the other two officers and picked up his plate and returned it to Cookie in the galley.
"Well Harriman, things are all going according to plan. I would have loved to have seen Craneís face when he found out his wife was in the caboose," guffawed Starke.
"Hmm, itís really not that funny. I could hear them fighting last night clear in my cabin. I need to talk to Heather. Iím worried about both of them. Not only that, the men have to be confused by all that has gone on," Nelson somberly replied. He finished his coffee and lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply.
"We expected this to be the hard part, Harriman."
"If only we could tell Lee the real reason she was there!" Nelson slammed his hand down on the table." It would alleviate a lot of problems."
"Weíve been through this Harriman, Heather is still the bait. If Crane knew, he would do everything to protect her and get in the way. The spy must believe she has the film. He has to come after her. At least it will be in a controlled environment."
"Yes, but we are blowing a good portion of Heatherís cover. Baxter as far as we know, doesnít have a clue sheís on this boat. Lee even went as far as to marry her to keep her safe. We put her name on the shipís log as an alias ĎHeath Nielsoní. When the sailing list went ashore we always used it until she married Lee. Now, without either of them knowing it, weíre taking away her comfort zone." He stubbed out his cigarette, got up and poured more coffee in his cup.
Lee Crane came into the wardroom and headed straight for the coffee. Nelson seeing him poured a cup and handed it to him. "Looks like you could use this, didnít sleep well did you?" he asked noticing the dark bags under his eyes.
"No sir, I didnít," he sat down at the table nursing his coffee.
"Not eating Captain?" asked Starke in a monotone voice trying not to show concern. After all it wasnít his style and he didnít want to blow it now. But, he was worried the Captain didnít look good.
Lee was moodily staring at nothing. Nelson caught Starkeís eye and nodded for him to leave. He did so without saying anything taking his coffee with him.
"All right Lee out with it," Nelson calmly sat down across from him and waited.
"Have you seen Heather yet this morning?"
"No I havenít. In fact I was just going to go and find her. I have a report I want to give her."
Lee quietly groaned.
"Something wrong Lee?" he asked concerned now.
"Ah, well, you see SirÖ" He was having trouble getting his thoughts together. He glanced at Nelson who was frowning. He tried again. "Sheís going to look a little bit different."
"Different? How so?" Nelson tried not to grin. Heíd all ready had a talk with Sharkey and heard the story of last night from him. He had tried to reassure his Chief that everything was going to be all right, but it would take time. The important thing was they had followed orders and it was a job well done.
Lee swallowed hard. How do you tell a father his daughter got beat up in a bar no less? "Heather and the men including Sharkey went to a bar last night and got into a fight. Heather has a nasty bruise on her left cheek." He paused waiting for the explosion. When none came but a blank stare, he continued. " She also has a hand injury from cleaning the deck. Bloody blisters on both hands, I ah, made her do extra duty with the men," this last said straight forward. Almost, daring the Admiral to find fault with him.
"Mmm, I see," said Nelson nodding his head. "You only did what you had to do as Captain of this boat." He took a sip of coffee. "Why the punishment if it was a harmless fight?" he asked knowing the answer.
Lee was getting warmed up, his anger coming to a boil all over again. "They were at the White Pelican which I had strictly ordered them to stay away from. To top it off I had ordered Sharkey to have Heather back on board by 23:00 hundred hours. It was well after two in the morning when I got the message they were in the brig!" he almost shouted. He ran his hand through his hair putting it in disarray.
"Brig? My daughter was in the brig?" asked Nelson in a lower voice. He actually saw his Captain squirm. This is going better than I thought. He let out a long-suffering sigh. "I take it you carried out the necessary procedures?" he asked firmly and quietly.
Crane nodded his assent.
"Very well, then Iíll be in my cabin. Inform me when our visitors are here." Nelson got up and exited the room. Lee sighed in relief, but he could have sworn he heard the Admiralís laugh from down the corridor.
Heather was in the shower crying. Something she rarely ever did. She hated tears. She tried to convince herself it was from the pain in her hands and other various parts of her body. She knew in her heart it wasnít. He said I look disgusting. Disgusting. She looked at her hands and imagined what her face looked like by the feel of it. She had tried hard to please him knowing all a long it was fruitless. She had cleaned the deck in the control room on her hands and knees. She had shined every window and polished every piece of chrome she could find, all to no avail. Well what did you expect? An ĎOh, I forgive you honey?í Be real, you got what you deserved. You lost his trust and love. No, he never loved me. I only lost his respect. So why does it hurt so badly?
She got out of the shower and dressed in another plain khaki uniform. She reached down and pulled off the pink ribbon pin from the dirty shirt. ĎWear this pin until other wised orderedí said Nelson. She examined it closely front and back. There could be some film in the back, but thatís what I passed on wasnít it? She shrugged and attached it to her collar.
She looked in the mirror and grimaced "I do look disgusting," she said out loud. She didnít have much makeup on board, preferring the natural look. She looked over her meager supply. Mmm, eye shadow, liner, mascara, face powder and lipstick. This is not going to work. Heíll be mad all over again. She put on what she had, ran a brush through her hair and braided it in a long neat rope. She examined herself in the mirror again absently touching the charm of a captainís wheel on a 14k gold chain, given to her from the crew on her birthday. She never took it off.
Heather was as ready as sheíd ever be. She passed by the bunk giving it a long look, wishing she could climb into it. She was exhausted. Looking at the clock, it read 07:45 a.m. No time for breakfast. My stomach couldnít handle it anyways. She went to the door and opened it. There stood Admiral Nelson ready to knock.
"Father? Come in," she bade him.
Nelson came in and shut the door. He closely examined his daughter lifting a hand to her chin. "Thatís quite a shiner you have there. Sharkey told me how you got it." He pulled her into his arms and gave her a much-needed hug.
It was 08:00 hundred hours. The deck crew was waiting orders to lift the gangplank and cast off the holding lines. The lookouts were above with the Officer of the Deck. The VIPs were greeted by the Chief of the Boat and guided to the control room.
The control room was a hive of activity. The full shipís company was standing at attention waiting for the brass to filter down the stairs. Admirals Nelson and Starke stood at he bottom of the circular stairs introducing each visitor as they came down. The Captain and Exec stood next in line with the Junior Officers lined up beside them according to rank. Heather stood by the plot table unsure where she belonged in the line up. Normally, she avoided visitors on Seaview unless ordered to be present. The men of the control room were at their stations also waiting orders.
First down the steps was Senator Stella Warren. She was a retired Marine Sergeant nurse who had seen action during the war. She was a small petite woman in her late fifties or early sixties. Her reputation preceded her as a tough, no nonsense type woman. She had been given a warm welcome aboard by the brass. The Seaview held no surprises for her, in fact it was old hat, she had been on many cruises before doing the yearly inspections for the Means Committee. Her only surprise had been Adm. Nelson asking her to do an inspection early this year. Her stern features looked over the compliment of men looking for one particular individual, spying her over by the plot table. Her whole demeanor changed from ĎOld Sourpussí, the men had nicknamed her, to motherly concern. She made a beeline to the lone woman.
Mrs. Warren had taken an immediate liking to Heather during last yearís inspection. The young woman had only been aboard a few weeks when they first met. She had looked like a lost waif and the older lady had taken her under her wing.
"Heather, so good to see you my dear," she warmly gushed, hugging her. Heather returned the warm greeting. Wow, two hugs in one day. "Nice to see you too Mrs. Warren."
"Oh my dear, I thought we were on a first name basis? You are to call me Stella." She took in the young womanís bruised face, splinted right wrist and wrapped hands in a flash. Nothing escaped her eagle eye. She turned her head and gave a hard glare to the Captain and Admirals lifting a single brow in question.
The men swallowed hard and knew they were in for it later. Next to come down the stairs was Adm. Perkins and his aide Lt. Pete Schrems. Adm. Perkins was a robust man with a sense of humor. He found something to laugh about in any given situation. His aide, Lt. Schrems was a tall gangly lad on his first tour of duty. He was known for his common sense and was often the butt of Adm. Perkins jokes. Both men had been on board Seaview before. They each had ties to ONI and various other operations. The Admirals clapped each other on the back reminiscing about old times.
General Woodgate and his aide Lt. Steven Maclin followed the Navy men down. They were more reserved being Army men and having never been on a submarine before. General Woodgate was secretly delighted. It had been a desire of his to ride the mighty Seaview. When the invitation had come, heíd jumped at the chance.
"General Woodgate, welcome aboard. Itís been a long time since I last seen you," expressed Crane shaking his almost father in lawís hand. He was extremely uncomfortable.
Gen. Woodgate cut right to the heart. "So, this is the ship that broke my daughterís heart?"
"Yes Sir, Iím afraid it is," he glanced over to Heather to see if she was listening to their conversation. One look told him she was all ears.
Admiral Nelson knowing the whole story came to Leeís rescue. "General Woodgate, I hope you enjoy your voyage aboard Seaview."
"Admiral, this is going to be a pleasure. I couldnít believe my good fortune to get an invitation to visit your ship. Iíve been looking forward to this cruise." He turned and looked at Crane. "I only hope this man is better at sailing than he is with women. By the way call me Chuck."
"Captain Crane is the best Captain in the whole Navy fleet. Iíd stake my life on it. In fact I have several times over," he patted Lee on the back to emphasize the point.
The scent of peaches filled the air. The most beautiful woman Heather had ever seen descended the stairs. She was tall, slender, blonde and blue eyed. This had to be none other than Debra Woodgate. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs taking in everything. She headed straight for Captain Crane.
Debra Woodgate glided up to the Captain and slid her arms around his neck saying only in a low husky voice. "Lee darling Iíve missed you so!" she kissed him fully on the mouth.
The men forgot to breathe.
Heather saw red.
After what seemed like forever the kiss ended. Lee was flabbergasted, totally one hundred percent speechless. Peaches, she still tastes like peaches. He cleared his throat, "Debra, welcome aboard."
"Thank you darling," she purred wiping off her lipstick from his mouth, a totally intimate gesture.
The men started breathing again.
Lee made the round of introductions starting with Adm. Nelson.
Much to Heatherís disgust each man blushed and stammered his way through. The peach confection was making quite an impression. The two women at the plot table were last to be introduced. To everyoneís surprise Senator Warren knew Debra Woodgate. It was with great distain she acknowledged the younger woman. Heather almost felt sorry for her until it was her turn.
While introductions were being made Sharkey came and stood beside Heather at the plot table. He casually rested his arm on the table behind her back. Even though he couldnít put his arm around her Heather felt his moral support. He could feel her tense when Debra stepped in front of her.
"Debra. This is my wife, Heather," Lee introduced them but didnít meet his wifeís seeking eyes. He was embarrassed by the kiss and was afraid of what heíd see in her eyes. He held his breath unaware the entire control room crew was also holding theirs again.
Heather looked into the coldest blue eyes she had ever seen. She even put Baxterís eyes to shame. Pure hatred stared back at her. She glanced over to Lee, but he refused to look at her. She remembered then what she looked like. She wished the deck would swallow her up. Heís ashamed of me. Pride came to her rescue. After all I am a Nelson, noble Irish blood runs through my veins. She stiffened holding out a bandaged hand daring her not to take it. "Pleased to make your acquaintance," she dripped with honey.
Debra ignored the hand. His wife. This pitiful person is his wife. Oh my poor Lee. What kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into this time? She started to giggle. "Oh this is rich," she murmured unkindly. She turned and looked into the Captainís eyes. "Lee love, how did you land up with Ö"she left the sentence unfinished giving Heather a look of distaste.
The entire control room crew felt the implied insult. An under current of anger was starting to fester. Heather felt the slight clear down to her toes. She felt Sharkey go rigid beside her his fingers now digging unconsciously into her waist.
General Woodgate realized his daughter was treading on thin ice. "Adm. Nelson, the Captainís wife, she is a civilian is she not?"
Nelson nodded affirmative.
"Then Iím puzzled. How is it sheís on board? Family members usually arenít allowed to sail with their men."
"You see General, we are all in the Navy reserves and this is a civilian ship. Even if this ship was to become active Heather still qualifies. Sheís a federal employee on sick leave from the CIA."
"The CIA?" Debra cut in. "I work for the CIA and Iíve never seen her there. Why, Iím an executive secretary for the Assistant Director, George Peoples," she boasted.
Lee and Heather Crane were both astounded. Lee was more angry than surprised because Adm. Nelson gave away Heatherís protective cover. Heather on the other hand was shocked to discover Peaches (the nickname sheíd mentally given her rival) worked for her boss. They both came to the same conclusion. Was this woman the traitor?
Nelson smiled that secret smile of his, "Secretarial staff usually doesnít have access to her higher status," he baited.
Debra snottily replied. "Sheís an agent. This poor thing is an agent? The CIA must be dragging in the bottom of the barrel now."
"Heather is my daughter and a fine agent. General, your daughter seems to be lacking in manners. I will not tolerate her insults in my presence or on my boat. "Sharkey, show our guests to their quarters. Heather, youíre in charge of the ladies."
Two "Yes Sirís," responded in unison.
"Lee. Letís get underway." He turned back to the group at large. "I have some business to attend to in my cabin." He gestured to the top brass. "After youíre settled in yours, come meet me in mine and Iíll go over the plans for this cruise." He turned and climbed the stairs to his cabin.
"Well, I never," exclaimed a haughty Debra. She turned and looked up to Lee batting her long eyelashes, a pout turned down the corners of her mouth. "Are you going to let him insult me like that?" she whimpered.
This time it was Senator Warren who stepped in. "Cut the crap Woodgate. Youíre not fooling anyone with that act. You got what you deserved." A few snickers could be heard around the control room as the men got down to business. "Heather lead us on to our cabins, I need a change of scenery," Stella simply requested.
Heather started to lead the women out as Sharkey led the men, when Debra ran back to Lee still standing at the plot table. She reached up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and purred in a silky voice. "Until later love."
Heather saw red again and Stella turned her around and pushed her through the aft hatch. It was Stella who also made sure ĎPeachesí was following behind them.
Lee was seeing red himself. He glared at each man in the control room, especially Chip, daring him to say something. He gave the orders to get underway silently fuming as he did so. He didnít like the position he was in. He didnít like Debra coming on to him, nor the way she treated his wife or the way the Nelson had glared at him. He should have done something. But what? He was supposed to win Debraís confidence so sheíd spill the beans. Iím off to a great start. "Women!" he finally bellowed earning him a few censored looks.
The cabin assignments had been decided ahead of time. The extra VIP cabin in officerís country Starke all ready occupied. It was located next to Nelsonís. The cabin was his by unspoken agreement each time he was on board. The other cabin Heather used before her marriage had been turned into an office for Chip and his computers and a desk for Heather and her paper work.
The other cabins were smaller and located on B deck. The General and Admiral were each assigned one. The two aides shared a cabin. The women had one each with a connecting head between them. It suited everyone fine except Debra. "I want a bigger cabin with my own bathroom," she complained.
Stella snapped back. "There are no other cabins and the bathroom is called a head. Now deal with it!" she slammed the connecting door in her face. "That woman is going to drive me nuts," she bluntly stated.
Heather smiled for the first time since the VIPs came aboard.
Riley sat his lunch tray down beside his comrades. "I donít know about you guys, but Iím beat. I canít wait to hit the sack. I think Iíll sleep until next watch in eleven hours and fifty minutes. How many hours have we been up?"
Sharkey tried to figure it out, "Letís see we just came off a 06:00 to 12:00 watch, before that we were off watch 12 hours, during which time we spent the night at the bar and in the brig and cleaning the deck. Before that, we were on watch from 12:00 to 18:00, and got up at 06:00 yesterday, I guess weíve been up about 30 hours."
The group at the table tiredly grinned. They all were feeling the effects from last nightís fight.
"Is this a closed table or can anyone sit here?" asked Stella.
"Senator Warren," stuttered Sharkey, "Ah sure, move over you goldbricks." Kowalski and Patterson slid over.
"What brings you down to our mess?" asked Ski. He looked around for Heather, knowing they were together earlier inspecting the missile room.
Stella smiled putting the men at ease. "The stuffed shirts are all busy with the war games and I couldnít stomach listening to Peaches rattle on about her accomplishments so, I came down here. Heather will be here in a minute. She wanted to drop off her pile of notebooks." She took a bite of meatloaf. "Not bad chow."
"Peaches?" asked Sharkey.
"Heatherís nickname for Woodgate"
Understanding lit four faces. "She did smell like peaches," said Riley. "She even looked like a peach in those skin tight clothes."
"Oh, really I hadnít noticed," kidded Ski "I mean those lips of hers and the Skipper, like." he felt a kick to his shinbone. It reminded him who was at the table. "I mean I was I Ö"
"Itís ok, Ski. She did make quite an entrance. Iíve seen it before. Sheís all fluff and no stuff not like our Heather here, good solid stock," Stella commented. Heather had joined them at the table, getting a smile from each person present. "Now," she paused for effect looking at each of their bruised faces, "before I die of curiosity, what great battle were you all in?"
The men all chuckled and took turns telling about their part in the fight at the White Pelican.
While Admirals Stark and Perkins had coffee on Nelsonís front porch, Adm. Nelson took Gen. Woodgate and his aide, Lt. Maclin on a tour of the boat. The General was full of questions from how the ballast pumps worked to the range of the missiles Seaview carried. He was totally fascinated. Lt. Maclin was just the opposite. He was petrified of the closed in effect the sub had on him. Unfortunately, no one knew about this phobia including him, his fears had gradually rose as the tour went on. By the end when they had returned to the observation nose, he was a basket case of nerves.
General Woodgate was angry. He didnít like weak snotty nosed men in his outfit. He made certain the whole control room crew knew it also. "Why didnít you tell me you were afraid of small closed in places? How, did you ever get into the Army?" he raged.
"General, calm down, itís no big deal. No one knows how theyíre going to react in a submarine until they are on one," pacified Nelson.
Lt. Maclinís face was pale, his eyes were dilated and tremors controlled his body. He looked sick and hung his head in shame at being found out.
Capt. Crane seeing his distress ordered him to sickbay. "Maybe Doc can give you something to calm your nerves," he suggested.
"Good idea Lee," agreed Nelson. "Heíll be ok General."
Crane called over a crewman and had Lt. Maclin escorted to sickbay.
Debra Woodgate signed on to her laptop. She carried it everywhere with her. It was the one vital link she had to the CIA. Her job as executive secretary to the Assistant Deputy Director made it a necessary requirement. She quickly entered the password in all the appropriate screens finally reaching the one she wanted.
PERSONAL FILE: HEATHER CRANE
File not found
Not found, but Adm. Nelson said she worked for the CIA. Mmm, Iíll try this.
PERSONAL FILE: HEATHER NELSON
Classified: enter password
Iíll have to use Georgeís. Heís such a moron; he doesnít even know I have it. Thatís what he gets for leaving valuable information laying on his desk. The things Iíve found out. This is so easy.
She tried again. Bingo! The computer opened up the file. She quickly keyed in the information she wanted. The computer brought it up in seconds. Address: Nelson Institute, Santa Barbara, CA Next of kin: Harriman Nelson. Code name: LynxÖLYNX?ÖHeather is the Lynx! But, the Lynx is dead. This canít be right. She dug furtherÖ. Status: deceased. Deceased? Seaview must be her cover. This is rich. Oh, wouldnít Baxter have a field day if he knew.
She digested all the information she had learned. Maybe thereís a way to get rid of the little twit. Then, I can have Lee all to myself. "They donít call me a she devil for nothing," she wickedly laughed out loud.
Lee Crane was looking for his wife. He checked the Officerís Wardroom. Not there. Thereís only one place left he thought, he didnít think a Senator would want to eat with the ratings. He walked up to the door of the Crewís Mess and heard voices within. He peeked around the door and found what he was looking for.
There in a far corner sat the enlisted core crew with Heather and Mrs. Warren. At first he was angry for they were disobeying another direct order not to fraternize with each other and they were suppose to be confined to quarters after watch. He belatedly realized the men had to eat. As far as talking, they were all in the same quarters and it would be almost impossible not to communicate. Crane was about to make his presence known when the conversation took an interesting turn.
"We canít tell you why we were at the Pelican. But, we can tell you about the fight," said Sharkey.
The men each in different turns told about the fight. "You should of seen Riley, he orders a beer from the bar only to have to smash the mug over a guyís head sliding down the length of the bar. Then he reorders another."
"The barkeep," more laughter, "his face, the expression."
Crane left the mess without ever going in. Sounds like they had a pretty good time of it. I just wonder why they were there? I really need to talk to Heather about that episode and Debra. I should have told her about Debra a long time ago. I saw the hurt and disquiet in her eyes. "Women!" again he said it out loud to no one in particular.
The rest of the day went by without incident. The ratings all took to their bunks immediately after lunch. Mrs. Warren and Heather continued on with their paperwork. The top brass was in the observation nose going over charts. They had started their strategies for the war games in St. Martin. Gen. Woodgateís aide was resting comfortably in his cabin. Lt. Schrems, Adm. Perkinsí aide played gopher for all the brass.
It was 18:00 hundred hours and Lee Crane went up to his cabin to collect his wife for dinner. What he found when he opened the door surprised him. His wife was sound asleep in their bunk. She had changed into one of his old shirts she used for sleeping. She was on her right side facing him. Her bruised face and bandaged hands made her look vulnerable. Her thick red hair was unbraided and the curly masses were fanned across the pillow.
He stared down at the sleeping form, his expression reverent. He gave into temptation and ran his fingers through the locks. He leaned over and gently kissed her on the temple. "Sleep well my love," he whispered in her ear and quietly left the cabin.
Dinner was a fiasco as far as Lee was concerned. He had eaten with the top brass along with Mrs. Warren and Debra Woodgate. The latter had managed to worm a spot beside him at the table. He knew he was suppose to be extra nice to her and lead her on in the hope she would give something away. Somehow, he had to find out if she was involved in the two CIA agents deaths and Heatherís blown cover. Otherwise, he would have written her off after she came on board. But he was stuck with her unwanted advances and innuendos about his wife and his life aboard Seaview. He knew she was out for blood, whether it was for selfish reasons or revenge for his having dumped her years ago.
The only saving grace, he reflected had been Old Sourpuss coming to his rescue more than once during dinner and the hours after. He was rapidly changing his opinion about Mrs. Stella Warren.
He was totally exhausted when he finally hit the sack. Not counting the short nap heíd taken when the nightmare had come, he figured he been up forty-two hours. He barely managed to pull Heather into his arms before he fell asleep.
"Captain Crane" his name came over the intercom.
"Lee, I need you in the computer office. Chip too if possible," requested Heather her voice full of tension.
"Be right there," he quickly responded. "Sparks, you have the conn."
"What do you suppose is up?" asked Chip on his way up the curving stairs.
"I donít know but she sounded anxious," replied Lee directly behind him.
They arrived at the office located next to the Captainís cabin. The door was open and inside laid a disaster. Papers, files, reports, computer discs and printouts were strewn all over the room. Draws were flung open, some yanked out of their tracks, others had papers peeking out as if searched and hastily shut again. Nothing was left undisturbed.
A low whistle from Chip, "Wow, what a mess."
"You can say that again. I wonder what he was after? Thereís nothing here that should warrant this kind of a mess," added Heather who was knee deep in computer printouts, trying to straighten them out from the heap theyíd been thrown into.
Bending down to help her Lee said, "Youíre right. This was a thorough search. Obviously, someone wants something quite badly."
Chip started putting the computer discs back in order. He then logged onto the computer system and did an access check. "Someone tried to hack into the system. The Admiralís built in security checks made it impossible."
"Ouch!" Lee brought up a bloody digit from under a pile of papers. Heather immediately examined the laceration. She grabbed a tissue from a box still on the desk and dabbed the cut. "Here, apply pressure. It looks like a small incision, not to deep. What did you cut it on?" she asked digging carefully through the pile where Leeís hand had been.
"Something sharp, felt like glass," he smiled watching her hunt for the offending object trying not to cut her self.
"Ah ha." She pulled out a picture frame of the two of them that had been on her desk. "Itís totally mutilated!" she cried. Someone had taken the picture and rammed it on something sharp. It was torn clear through, the glass shattered.
All three people stared at it for a long moment. Stella Warren entered the office. "Oh dear, what happened?" she gasped wide-eyed looking around and seeing the destruction.
Grimly, Lee took the picture from Heatherís shaky hands. "I donít know but when I find out who did this, theyíre going to be sorry." He looked down at his wife, who hadnít uttered a sound since she found the picture. Her face was totally dismayed. "Cheer up, weíll get to the bottom of this, donít worry. I need to talk to Adm. Nelson." He gave her a quick hug trying to reassure her. "Iíll send some men down to help you clean up." She nodded her head against his chest. Feeling a bit more relieved now that she responded, Crane quit the cabin to look for Nelson.
Heather knew who was responsible. The woman had left her signature by destroying the picture. She didnít want to sound like a whining jealous wife. She decided to keep quiet.
Lee Crane walked the short distance to Nelsonís office, stopped and knocked on the door.
He walked in noticing Nelson was alone and felt lucky to have his undivided attention. He went over to his usual perch on the corner of Nelsonís desk and sat.
Nelson was going over the shipís status reports that Chip had given him earlier. Noticing the broken picture frame and the bloody tissue Lee was holding pressed to his finger he inquisitively asked, "What happened? Heather blow up at you again?" He smiled knowing his daughterís temper. He saw the fuse light yesterday and wondered how long before the explosion. Odd, he didnít hear any commotion that usually indicated a fight.
"No, for once sheís behaving herself. The computer office has been totally ransacked. Itís in shambles." He held out the picture for an example.
"Humph." Nelson took the picture and examined it. A smaller picture of a different pose sat on the corner of his desk. "Any ideas?"
"We think the intruder was looking for something. It was a through search. Chip thinks he tried to get into the computer, but was unsuccessful. What he was looking for I have no idea. Weíre not carrying anything on board that I should be aware of are we?" asked Lee carefully watching Nelsonís face.
"Nothing Lee of importance, just the usual crew, a few visitors and cargo."
He was too smug for Leeís comfort zone. "Are you sure?" testing his reaction.
Nelson gave a hint of a smile. "Yes, Iím sure. Maybe the office being trashed was just plain vindictiveness from a certain woman aboard Seaview?" he speculated handing back the picture to Lee. "She is quite a shrew is she not?"
"You got that right. I can hardly stand her and to think I almost married her at one time," Lee shuddered for effect.
Both men laughed. A knock on the door broke off their conversation.
"Enter," responded Nelson.
"Keep at it Lee, I donít have to tell you how important all this is."
The door opened and in walked Adm. Jiggs Starke. "Iím not interrupting anything am I?" he said in an overloud voice.
"No Jiggs, Lee was just leaving."
Lee, knowing he was dismissed, took his leave of the Officers.
"Trouble Harriman? I saw the office. Planís working, the baitís been taken," he grinned.
Lee retrieved Heather after heíd left Nelsonís office and they went down to sickbay.
Doc. Jamison carefully cleaned and stitched Leeís finger going on the whole time about how some people just attract trouble. "You canít go one cruise without stopping in here for something can you Skipper?" he teased.
Lee teased back. "I have to keep an eye on my favorite doctor donít I?"
"Your only doctor," Doc gently reminded. "There, all done. Keep it clean and dry. Iíll take the stitches out in a few days. Now, Heather itís your turn." He waved her over to the examining table. "I want a look at those hands, which I assume is the reason Lee brought you down here.
He effortlessly unwrapped each hand and examined them. "Looks good. Theyíre healing nicely. I think we can leave the heavy bandages off now. Iíll just put more salve on them with a light dressing." After that was accomplished he examined her face. "Bruises are still dark. Face still hurt?" he asked.
"Not to bad Doc," she said shyly. She didnít like all this fussing.
"Donít let her fool you Doc," countered Lee. "I heard her moaning in her sleep last night.
"In my sleep? You slept like the dead, how could youíve heard anything?" she grinned, and then winced.
"My point Doc."
"Point taken, Skipper." Doc gently ran his fingers over the cheekbone. "Swellingís down at least." Doc turned and went to the medicine cabinet taking out a bottle of pills. He dumped two in a cup and handed it to Heather. "Take these for the pain, hereís some extra for later."
"What are they?"
"Ibuprofen. Theyíll help your body aches too."
She took the pills and started to get off the cart.
"Not so fast young lady," admonished Doc. "I want a look at that wrist yet."
A long deep sigh was heard.
Chip and Stella had picked up most of the office by the time Heather got back there. It was then decided to go on with the inventory and inspection. Both women headed down to pharmacy stores. With the help of Doc, they found everything to be in good standing.
"Other than the extra antibiotics and pain medís, I find pharmacy and sickbay meet OE criteria. Along with the inventory, all paper work and medical records are in order. Congratulations Doc, you are doing a great job," beamed Senator Warren.
"Thatís high praise indeed," smiled Doc, "We keep an extra supply of medís aboard because the Senior Staff is always getting into one scrape or another." He nodded his head toward Heather, "And this one here is not far behind them."
Heather turned two shades of color. "Aw Doc, donít give away all my secrets."
"Well Doc, I guess itís on to the lab," said Stella, "Care to join us?"
"The lab is the Admiralís baby. I do have a small part in it from a medical standpoint though." They headed towards the door; Doc turned waiting for Heather, "You coming Heather?"
"Iíll be a long in a minute. I want to finish up with this log book first," she murmured as she made an entry. Blast, this air cast makes writing hard. Iím taking it off for a while.
They nodded and left. Heather made sure Doc was out of sight before taking the cast off. She made a few more entries when she heard a commotion in the corridor.
Sharkey yelled "Whereís the fire Guisinger? You íbout knocked me down!"
"Sorry Chief, I was in a hurry. I need to see the Doc. The Skipperís going to need him soon."
Heatherís heart skipped a beat. She threw the pencil down and started for the door.
"Whatís wrong with the Skipper, he didnít get hurt again did he?" asked a now worried Chief.
"Naw, not yet."
Sharkey, confused now, gestured with his hands wide. "Then why the big rush and why will he need Doc?" he asked exasperated.
"When Heather gets a hold of him. Sheís going to clean his clock and I donít blame her a bit either," agreed the crewman.
Heather stopped dead in her tracks. This is getting good.
"Ah look Sing, I missed something, what are you talking about anyway?" asked Sharkey dumbfounded.
"Well ya see Chief, I ah, I saw that Peaches dame kissing the Skipper. He seemed to be enjoying it too. Damn if he wasnít."
Sharkey cut him off. "You are crazy. The Skipper would never do that!"
"I know, I mean, thatís what I thought, but I seen it with my own two eyes, thatís why I gotta tell the Doc! Sheís gonna kill him!" cried Guisinger.
"All right. All right," said the Chief putting his hand to his mouth, tapping his lips slowly, and thinking. "Look not a word. Do you hear me? As far as youíre concerned you didnít see anything. Got that?"
"But, the Doc. I Ö"
"I said Iíd take care of it. Now, not a word! Ya, got it?" bellowed Sharkey.
"I got it Chief, you donít have to yell," he stalked off.
"Man, oh man, what am I going to do?" Sharkey said anguished. He turned and walked down the corridor.
No one saw Heather in sickbay run for the head.
Lee Craneís own stomach was churning. Heíd gotten trapped kissing her again. How could Iíve ever thought of marrying this woman before? She is so vain. When is she going to slip up? Iíll give her this much, sheís one cool cucumber or a great actress. He had just walked Debra back to her cabin when sheíd forced herself on him again. Heíd heard a gasp and had looked up in time to see one of his men beat a hasty retreat. He gave give it less than five minutes before itís through the grapevine.
He was walking back to the control room when Heather joined him. He noticed she looked distressed. "Anything wrong?" he asked.
Heather looked up at the tall man she loved with all her heart. She took in his puzzled face, concerned eyes and mouth. Peach colored lipstick was on a corner of his mouth. My mouth. The green monster reared its ugly head and she snapped, "Enjoy your little tete-a-tete?"
He couldnít quite meet her eyes.
"Thereís lipstick on your face and I know it didnít come from Senator Warren."
He absently tongued the spot and mused, Peaches, it tastes like peaches.
CRACK! Heather slapped him across the face with all the strength she possessed. Pain shot up her wrist to her shoulder. Too late sheíd forgotten about the hairline fracture in her wrist. The lightweight cast was sitting on the desk where sheíd left it. Doc is going to be furious, was her last conscious thought.
Lee was seeing stars also and had a bloody lip to go with them. He shook his head to clear it. Before he could demand an explanation she was crumbling to the floor. He caught her in the nick of time.
Sharkey had been on the landing above the stairs and had witnessed the whole exchange. He had been pondering what his crewman had told him and was just deciding what to do when all heck broke loose. He came running down the stairs.
Deciding to play it by ear the Chief frantically cried "Skipper, what happened?" Following his Captain into sickbay, he watched as his Commanding Officer gently laid her on the cart.
"Get Doc!" was his only reply from the Captain.
"Doc, we need you in sickbay!" Sharkey spoke into the mike then hurried to Craneís side. "How is she?" he asked worried. She couldnít of heard about the kissing stuff all ready. The grapevine isnít that fast is it?
"I, I donít know," replied Crane. He ran his hand through his hair and touched his lip. "One thing for sure, she packs quite a wallop." He couldnít help himself from laughing.
Sharkey thought his Captain was losing his mind. First with the peaches dame and now this, he was relieved when Doc Jamison came in.
Doc took a quick glance at his laughing Captain then at his bruised patient lying on the exam table. "Iíve never known you to hit a woman so what happened?" he asked dreading the answer.
That sobered the Captain. "I donít know. She looked sick to me. I asked her what was wrong and she, ah, saw the lipstick on my face. She just flipped." He rubbed his forehead.
"Flipped out? How? Or do you mean she fainted? Iíve never seen her do that before," concern laced his voice and he took a pulse.
"No, she slapped me." Lee turned his face toward Doc and showed him the red imprint.
"Ouch," was all Doc said. He then picked up her wrist, which showed signs of swelling again. "Where is the cast that is suppose to be on this wrist?" he asked looking around for it.
Sharkey found it on the desk. "Here Doc, it was by the paperwork." Realizing in that moment Heather must of overheard his conversation with Guisinger and that it wasnít just by accident sheíd noticed the lipstick on his Skipper, he groaned.
"Something wrong Chief?" asked Crane.
"Ah no Sir," he replied mournfully.
Crane knew better, but decided to drop it for now. "How is she Doc?" even as he asked Heather was waking up. Her eyes slowly opened and she was confused to where she was. She looked at the three men bent over her studying each face. Sharkey looks worried. Doc is angry. Lee is apprehensive. Whatís going on here? Pain again, this time more controlled. Doc was feeling her wrist.
"Hurts does it?" he asked. Before she could answer he went on. "No little wonder, you took off the cast. Why?"
"I could write easier without it."
"Mmm, I see. Well now, you are going to have to leave it on longer. I think itís more than a hairline fracture now. Iíll have to get an x-ray to confirm it." He could tell she didnít like that news. "Why did you slap the Skipper?" his voice was devoid of all emotion.
She looked at all three men again. Sharkey knows I know, but how? Doc is still angry. Lee isÖ
The Captain first, my husband second, I hit the Captain of this boat. Thatís a major offense. Heíll probably throw me in the brig this time. All because I couldnít control the little green monster, my Irish temper got me in trouble again.
"Thatís between my husband and me." Heather turned her head away from the men not wanting them to see how raw her heart was.
Dinner was served in the observation nose and Lee Crane thought dinner was a disaster, again. He had forced Heather to eat with the brass for her punishment. She was seated at the left side of her father, Adm. Nelson who was at the head of the table. Except for the color of the bruises on her face there was no color. She ate very little if anything.
Lee was playing a part and was playing it well. He centered most of his attention on Debra. He sat on the right side of Nelson and Debra Woodgate sat on his right. Next to her was her father, Gen. Woodgate, on the end sat Adm. Starke, on his right Stella Warren and Adm. Perkins.
The conversation centered on the Navy, old war stories and battle strategies. The brass was having a great time. The women mostly listened except Stella. She had a few of her own Marine stories to tell.
Debra looking sweet as pie asked, "So Heather, now that youíve blown it as an agent what is your job aboard this ship?"
"Iím Seaviewís OE manager. I keep track of shipís stores. I log what we use, how we use it and why we use it. Then when Senator Warren makes her annual inspection for the Means Committee, everything is here in black and white."
"You get to rub elbows with all the men. How exciting. How do you keep your mind on the job?" she asked suggestively.
"That, is not a problem Debra. The men are all very respectful to their Captain," Heather said smiling shyly at her husband.
Lee returned the smile and compliment ever so slightly, secretly proud of his wife.
Debra seeing the look was quietly enraged. "Iím not talking about the men. Surely, before you married Lee, you had your share of men," she baited. "After all, there are plenty to chose from on this ship." She licked her lips hungrily like a cat.
"No Debra. I only had eyes for one," again, she glanced at her husband.
"Yes, he is special," purred Debra looking at Lee with soft blue eyes. She reached up and trailed her fingers down his arm to his leg.
Lee shifted positions in his chair uncomfortable with the turn in conversation. He lifted his glass and took a sip of wine.
Heather wanted to snatch her rival bald headed. Instead she kicked her husbandís shin causing him to choke on his wine.
Debra immediately began patting Lee on the back with the rest of the table looking on. When she was done she massaged his neck asking. "Are you okay Love?"
Lee wanted to choke his wife. He gave Heather a look that said as much. He turned to Debra and took her hand in his bringing it under the table saying, "Iím all right."
Debra now the center of attention rubbed her shoulder against his arm while leaning slightly over him. Faking concern she looked up at him in a provocative way. " I was worried."
Heatherís stomach turned over. She would have kicked her husband again but the Admiral prevented her from doing so by blocking her legs with one of his own.
Very softly he warned, "Heather."
Embarrassed now, that she had been caught, Heather bent over her plate and ignored the couple across from her.
Mercifully dinner ended. After the dishes were cleared away, the men started a poker game. The women went over and sat in the recliners. Heather decided that since she was the Admiralís daughter and the Captainsí wife she should act as hostess a position she was uncomfortable with. She sat on the window seat while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing on top of the credenza listening to the small talk between Senator Warren and Miss Woodgate.
Heather studied Debra Woodgate. She is beautiful no getting around that. Her hair, nails and peach colored dress are immaculate. The dress is sexy and form fitting just what men like. I wonder how sheís getting a long without a maid, hairdresser and manicurist? She looked down at her own khakis and nails. I canít remember the last time Iíve been to a manicurist. Heather was disgusted with her self. Her only outstanding feature was her hair. It was long, thick and curly. She had left it down tonight at Leeís request.
The coffee was done and Heather poured it into mugs and served the men first, after all they were the brass she explained to the ladies. This in turn meant she had to brew another pot of coffee. While waiting for it to refill she went back to the menís table to kill some time. She stood behind Lee with a hand resting lightly on his shoulder watching the poker game. He turned and gave her a wink. It was a small gesture but it made her feel better.
The coffee finished brewing a second time and Heather poured it into a cup with a saucer instead of the heavy mugs.
Debra Woodgate was in a vicious mood. She had seen the way Lee looked at his wife with soft glances when he thought she wasnít looking. There was no doubt in Debraís mind that Lee Crane loved his wife. Debra was furious and jealous. He should have been mine. If it hadnít been for Nelson and this damn boat he would have been mine. I still can make him mine. I just have to show him who the better woman is, if you can call Heather that. She looks like a tomboy play-acting at being a woman. I bet he only married her because sheís Nelsonís brat.
Heather gave one cup to Stella and then handed the other one to Debra who gave it a slight shove, making it spill and smash to the deck.
"You clumsy oaf! You tried to burn me!" she screeched.
"Iím sorry, I must not have been paying attention," Heather apologized bending to pick up the pieces, ignoring the burns to her wrist and hand from the hot liquid.
"I hate to think that youíd be in charge of anything aboard!"
Stella got up and tried to calm her down by patting her on the back, while secretly wishing she could slap her silly. Oh, youíre playing this for all you can get arenít you Peaches. "Itís all right, she didnít mean it. General, help me calm her down," she implored.
"Daddy, it was not an accident. Sheís jealous of Lee spending so much time with me. We are only friends and sheís making so much more out it. She ought to be punished, I tell you it was on purpose!"
It became dead quiet in the control room.
The General looked at Nelson and Nelson looked at an ashen Lee Crane. Lee had no choice but to save the situation. "Heather, weíll discuss this later, for now consider yourself confined to quarters until further notice."
Heather was shocked. For one split second she was going to argue then realized it would be useless. They were all blaming her. She could do one thing and one thing only. Retreat gracefully. She stood up and held her head high. She looked neither left nor right, only straight ahead. She walked with poise through the nose and up the curved stairs. When she got to the top and was out of sight, no one saw the devastation that tore her apart.
Adm. Nelson had never been prouder of his daughter. Proud and angry. Why does it always have to be this way? I couldnít hold her after she was first born because I lost the only woman I ever truly loved and unconsciously blamed her. And now I canít go to her and comfort her because it will blow the mission. Whatís worse neither can Lee. He wanted to go after her, but that wouldnít do just now. Perhaps he could send Sharkey. Yes SharkeyÖ He almost reached for the mike then realized her pride would never allow it. Lee will have to deal with it later.
Debra looked up to Lee with wet blue eyes and said, "How do you put up with that foolish, ignorant, and clumsy child?" She saw his eyes grow cold and realized her mistake immediately. "What I mean, Lee darling, is, how do you put up with it all? Iím told sheís always in trouble, never looking before she leaps."
To Debraís consternation Lee started laughing. "Yeah she does have a perchance to get in trouble. Sheís wild and natural and I wish, free." Free of Baxterís grip.
"What do you mean by that? Free?"
"Why donít we go for a walk and Iíll explain it to you." An opening at last. Maybe I can get her to talk. They walked through the control room down to the Officerís Wardroom. "Coffee Debra?" he asked solicitously helping her into a chair.
The brass decided to resume their poker game. Now, they were one player short. "Who are we going to get to fill in Craneís spot?" asked Adm. Perkins.
Nelson turned toward the control room. Every man looked suddenly very busy. He grinned. "So none of you want to play with the big boys?"
Stella had just finished cleaning up the china and was reaching for her cold cup of coffee. "Well now, if you donít mind losing Iíll take you on," she laughed.
"Thatís a deal," said Nelson.
They sat down and began another round. "By the way Chuck, howís your aide coming along?" asked Starke.
"Fine, the worthless whimp. To bad too, he was a good aide. Why the hell did he have to be claustrophobic?"
Heather had run back to the cabin grateful no one saw her. Once there and inside sheíd leaned up against the door. She was breathless and trembling all over. "I refuse to cry!" she screamed blindly. "Itís my fault, everything is my fault. I canít do anything right. Iím such a failure."
She tore off her clothes and threw them on the deck. She put on an old shirt of Leeís. Her Father and Lee had been the only sane thing left in her life. Oh Mother, Iím so alone. All I ever wanted in this life was someone to love me. I let both Lee and Father down. I embarrassed them in front of their peers. I know nothing about being a real woman. Iím so inadequate. Baxter was right. I was a lousy agent. I deserved his jeering and beatings. Iím so worthless. I belong in the pit with the rats. Itís my punishment for failure. The darkness surrounded her and she began to sob.
"All right Lee, tell me about this free thing. Does she want out of your marriage or do you want her out?" asked a very interested Debra in the deserted Wardroom. Maybe there is hope yet or maybe I can help it along. She felt giddy.
"The truth is I want her free from Baxter. He has a one million dollar contract out on her. He found out she was an agent when she was on assignment. Sheíd gotten a bit to close to the mark, apparently. I made a commitment to protect her until Baxter has been dealt with. I canít leave her until the job is finished. Youíre CIA and George Peoples secretary. You must know something about Baxter and the way he operates. What about the Lynx and the mission in Columbia? What can you tell me about it?"
"Not much. From what I hear, this Baxter fellow loves torturing people. He enjoys breaking them down psychologically. The Lynx was lucky to get away from him." Too bad he didnít finish her off.
Lee cautious now, "How do you think Lynx was found out?"
"Oh who knows, she probably tipped him off herself." She took a dainty sip of coffee. She allowed her eyes to look innocent and perplexed. "I just bet its true." She was stupid Lee, thatís how she got caught.
Leeís patience was growing thin. He tried a new tactic. "Look Debra, I want my freedom back. You must know something;" he softly pleaded. Come on give me something.
"Thatís all classified. I canít tell," she chided coyly. She ran her fingers up his arm and back down again creating goose bumps as she went. I want you.
"Debra, you must have some idea how Baxter found out about Lynx. After all only a few people knew about the undercover agents," begged Lee lifting her hand and holding it close to his lips.
"Then ask your wife. Youíre just using me for information. Just like my old boyfriend," she pouted pulling back her hand angrily.
"Who was your old boyfriend?" he inquired slyly taking her hand and kissing each of her fingers in hopes of getting somewhere. Give him up.
"Thatís for me to know and you to find out." She contrived a delicate yawn. "Iím going to bedÖcare to join me?" she asked in a low sexy voice with a come-hither look. "I can make you forget that wife of yours."
Lee looked at her a long time as if weighing a decision. She unbuttoned her dress a little ways down to show off more cleavage and lifted her hem high up on her thighs. He grabbed her out of the chair before she went any further and took her back to her cabin.
Later moans and groans could be heard from her cabin.
"Man is she getting it," a crewman smirked from the corridor.
"Bet, you wish you were the lucky stiff, huh?" his bucket brigade companion replied.
"Nah, sheís to classy for me. I rather have someone down to earth like Heather."
"Yeah, the Captainís one lucky guy."
Both men laughed with ribald joking while finishing up their work detail.
Admiral Nelson looked at his watch and yawned. "Mmm, itís 01:00 hundred hours. Time for me to turn in. We got a lot of planning to do tomorrow."
"Good game Harriman, next time tell me when to quit before I run out of money;" moaned Starke.
Gen. Woodgate asked "Are you going to show us any of those experiments with the new homing device you invented?"
"Why yes, if youíre interested," Nelson replied pleased.
"Then itís a deal. Good night for now," said Woodgate, then glanced back "Weíre going to continue this game tomorrow night arenít we? I need to win some money back from Mrs. Warren here."
"Yes Chuck, weíll have a game. Stella where did you learn to play poker so well?" Nelson asked the beaming woman cleaning up her winnings from the table. "Oh, let me guess. Those Marine men?" he grinned.
"Harriman," she giggled. " Iíll never tell, but it began with spin the bottle. Good night Sir."
"Good night Stella."
Starke and Nelson were the only ones left. They each lit up a smoke. "Well Harriman, asked Starke, "How are we doing?"
"You know about as much as me," he chuckled, then sighed. "I hope Heather is all right. "
"Sheís made of good Irish stock like her father. Sheíll be fine. I must admit she did you proud tonight." Starke took a puff of his cigar.
"I donít know how Lee keeps from throwing that Woodgate woman overboard."
"Speaking of Crane he looks a little worse for wear," guffawed Starke, as Crane came forward. "Hey Captain, did you fix the boo-boo?"
Lee looked disheveled. His tie was gone and his shirt was half unbuttoned.
"Get any information?" asked Nelson puffing on a cigarette, then before Crane could answer. "Lipstick at 3:00 oíclock. Lee." Nelson handed him a handkerchief.
"Nothing concrete. She did mention something about an old boyfriend using her to get information." He accepted the hankie, wiped off the lipstick and ran a comb through his hair.
"Iíll have to work on her some more. To tell you the truth Iím still not convinced itís her."
"But, it has to be her Captain, sheís the only logical one," demanded Starke. "Iíd bet my poker winnings on it."
"Jiggs, you lost," Nelson replied demurely.
"Oh yeah I did didnít I? That congresswoman plays a mean game of cards."
"What about you guys, anything at all from the others?" asked a tired Crane. He wearily sat down putting his feet up on the table.
"No nothing. You know there are still the aides, you think itís possible one of them could be our spy?" Nelson ground out his cigarette and reached for his whiskey. "Care for a drink Lee, you look like you could use one."
"Donít mind if I do. I know Iím going to be facing a tornado when I get up to my cabin. A little fortitude never hurts," he grinned.
Nelson poured him a stiff one and handed it to him. "What are you going to do about Heather? You know she didnít deserve what happened tonight."
"Yeah, I know. It took everything I had to dismiss her like that." He downs his drink.
"Easy on the whiskey or you wonít even make it to your cabin," joked Starke.
"I might as well get this over with. I hope we donít wake the whole boat," he grinned and waved good night.
The grapevine was all ready at work.
"Are you sure thatís who you saw coming out of her cabin?" one of the crewmen whispered from his bunk.
"Sure as Iím standing here. It was him."
"The Skipper?" another voice expressed doubt.
"Thereís only one, right? Unless he has a twin aboard we donít know about, it was him, giving her the old one-two.
Lee hesitated outside his cabin door. Maybe Iíll be lucky and sheíll be asleep. Fat chance. Iíd better duck most likely sheíll have a missile aimed at my head.
Carefully he opened the door. It was dark inside the cabin. Strange, she always has a nightlight on to keep her demons at bay. He didnít want to wake her if she was in bed so he stumbled over to the nightlight. He found the switch and pushed it on. The room was bathed in soft light. He noticed her clothes on the deck. This isnít like her. He picked them up and laid them on the bunk. The bunk is torn up. What the hell? He looked around the cabin. Drawers were open, papers were on the floor, her dresser behind his desk looked ransacked. Something is wrong! No matter how angry she gets she would never behave like this. Fear now invaded his heart. He flipped on the light. Scared and nervous he called out. "Heather?"
There was no answer.
Again, there was no response, just an eerie silence.
Was that a whimper? From the closet? He flung it open.
She was in the corner staring with sightless eyes, a washcloth stuck in her mouth, her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms wrapped around them. Her fingers were digging into her hair as she silently screamed and clenched her teeth onto the washcloth. Convulsions were wracking her body from head to toe, while perspiration dripped from her terrified face.
Terror clawing at his innards he sank to his knees and pulled her into his arms. He unconsciously started to rock as he held her. He tried to take the washcloth out of her mouth. She wouldnít relinquish it. "Heather can you hear me?" his voice cracked. He vaguely realized she didnít see him nor recognize his voice.
She never had a nightmare like this before! Those others were tame compared to this. Why the closet? And the washcloth? Doc, I have to get Doc. He had trouble getting to his feet; his legs felt weak and were trembling. He leaned up against the closet wall while he gathered his strength holding his precious burden. Then with his heart racing, he made it to the cabin door bracing against it for support while he turned the knob and pulled it open. He ran down the corridor.
"Doc!" Lee yelled as he barged into sickbay. "Doc! Help!"
The medical officer helped Crane place her on the gurney then took her pulse and respiration noticing the burn on her hand. "Here, help me get this out of her mouth."
"I tried, but she wonít let go!" Lee said.
Doc tried, but her teeth were still clenched.
"How long has she been like this?"
"I donít know. I just found her like this in my closet a few minutes ago. Our cabin was ransacked like the office was."
"I have to get her to relax." Doc reached into the medical cabinet and brought out a bottle of diazepam and a syringe. He prepared the needle but before he could administer it Heather became combative.
"I canít hold her. Give me a hand, but be careful of that injured wrist."
Lee gently as possible held her down by the shoulders while Doc administered the sedative. As she lapsed into a deeper sleep Doc pulled out the washcloth from her mouth.
"Whew, this was a real beauty. How many of these nightmares has she had recently?" asked Doc.
"Ah, her last one was when she was in the bilge tank a few days ago. It was more serious than the others but I didnít think important enough to notify you," replied Lee aghast.
"I see." Those two words spoke volumes. "And the burn on her hand?"
Lee rubbed his head. "Hot coffee was spilled on it earlier tonight."
Doc took off the air cast and examined her hand and wrist. "Sheís lucky, only a first degree burn. Iíll clean it up and put some salve on it." As he worked on his patient he asked. "Lee, was Heather in the cabin when it was ransacked?"
Lee moody and deep in thought didnít answer right away. "I donít know. I wasÖbusy elsewhere all nightÖ"he said furtively.
Doc cast him an uncertain look as he spread an antibiotic ointment over the burn. He then covered it with a light dressing and slipped the air cast back on Heatherís wrist. "That should do it," he said looking up at his worried Captain.
"What do we do now?" asked Lee.
Doc took another set of vitals. "Follow through with your usual procedure. Any variance might be trouble. We need to get to the bottom of these nightmares. I had thought when she had the debriefing it would help, and it did for a while. But, there is something else, deeper than what weíre reaching."
Lee started to pick her up when Doc stopped him. "Lee wait. Your cabin must be a mess. Donít you thinkÖ?"
The Captain hesitated. He wanted nothing better than to put this night behind them. He was tired. He stared at his wifeís face.
Doc studied his patient a second and then her husband. He realized his Captain was exhausted. He might very well have two patients before the end of the night.
"Skipper, sheíll sleep awhile now. Why donít you go back to your cabin? Iíll be right here with her."
"Captain please, Iíll call you if there is a change."
"Okay, butÖ"he looked at her biting his lip.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes, Iím fineÖI have to talk to the Admiral. If you need meÖ"
Nelson had just retired to his cabin, when a shaken Crane had knocked on his door and told him what happened.
"Jiggs," Nelson used him mike, "the eveningís not over yet. Meet me in Craneís cabin will you?"
Within minutes the three men were examining the mess.
"I canít tell if anything is missing or not," Lee said. " The destruction isnít as great as it was in the computer office. None of our personal stuff looks touched."
Nelson picked up a picture sitting on the corner of Leeís desk. He smiled. The pose was different from the others, this one taken from the island. He set it back down where he found it.
"Maybe he was interrupted," theorized Starke. "Maybe Heather came in while he was in here or maybe Crane himself interrupted him"
"That would mean he was ransacking it while Heather was in the closet. I donít like that thought," frowned Nelson. He picked up the mattress and put it back on the frame. He grabbed the sheets and blankets and made up the bunk.
Starke finished gathering up the papers and stacked them on the desk. "Captain youíll have to put these in order yourself. I have no idea what is what."
Crane finished stuffing clothes back in the drawers and ran across Heatherís music box, he had given her for her birthday. He lifted it out and opened the lid. Soft music floated in the air. "Well at least this survived. Itís Heatherís most prized possession, it took the place of her laptop." He closed the lid and put it back in the drawer.
A thought struck Nelson. "Has anyone seen Heatherís laptop? Itís never far from her sight."
They all looked for it but could not find it. "It could be in the office I think Iíll go have a look," said Nelson walking to the door. The missing laptop really nagged at him. Heather would never misplace it. Maybe the traitor has it. If so heís in for a disappointment. She only uses it for communication then she wipes the memory clean each time. He went into the office and all was shipshape, but no laptop was to be found.
The Captainís cabin was put to rights in very little time. The last touch had been to pull the recliner next to the bunk and Lee left Heatherís afghan beside it on the bunk. "That will do it. Letís go get Heather released from sickbay."
When the men reached sickbay, they didnít have much difficulty convincing Doc that Heather would do better in her own cabin. After all, they were just following usual procedures after one of her nightmares.
Nelson started to lift Heather up, but Crane stopped him. "No, sheís mine. No one touches whatís mine."
Nelson was taken aback "Lee, Iím her father. I wonít hurt her."
"I know," replied Crane, chagrined. "I only meantÖI need to hold her thatís all."
Nelson understood. She was Leeís prized possession more than that his love. The full impact of this mission came down heavily on his shoulders. Consequences. By not giving them all the facts he had created distrust and insecurity. Maybe it was time to lay it all on the line and hope they wonít give the game away. He needed to think about this.
Crane picked Heather up and carried her to their cabin with Starke and Nelson following. The few crewmen who saw them were hushed by a glare from Nelson. When they reached the cabin, Lee gave a nod of thanks and Nelson quietly shut the door.
Lee was in the head shaving. The door was open at the perfect angle and he could see every move his wife made in the mirror. She was looking for something. He saw her look under the desk, pull up the mattress, check in and around the chair and look in the head. He nicked himself when she opened the closet door. He stopped in mid-stroke when she went into the closet. He waited, for what he knew not.
She brought out the laundry bag and dumped it out on the deck. He watched closer as she sorted the khaki shirts and looked at each one critically. Finally she found what she had been looking for, the pink ribbon pin. A sigh of relief came from her as she unpinned it from the dirty shirt and put it on her clean one.
"Whew, for a minute there I thought I busted his orders," she said thinking out loud.
He started shaving again only to nick himself again. Busted whose orders?
"Heather, whatís with the pin?" he asked cautiously. "Iíve noticed youíve worn it this entire cruise."
"Oh nothing really, it stands for a good cause." Awkwardly because of the cast she bunched up the dirty clothes in small piles and started putting them back in the bag. Lee spotted the soiled handkerchief with the lipstick on it. He held his breath when she scooped it up with a couple of shirts and deposited it with the rest of the laundry. She then put the bag back in the closet.
"Then whose orders are you busting?" he continued to watch for her reaction.
"Did I say that? Silly me. I must be losing my mind," she tried to make a joke of it. She busied herself making up the bunk. Careful Heather, you almost blew it. Why hasnít he gone forward yet? Deciding, to find out she asked. "Why havenít you gone to the control room yet?"
"You trying to get rid of me?" he asked teasing. He finished shaving and wiped off his face. He looked in the mirror. She was sitting in the recliner critically looking at her fingernails.
"No, of course not. I just wondered itís your usual routine." She fidgeted in the chair picking at her blisters.
Putting a hand on each armrest he leaned forward and bluntly asked. "Heather, how much do you remember from last night?"
She wasnít ready for the question even though she knew she should be. She remembered all about Peaches and her screaming fit. She knew she had been dismissed and was confined to quarters. She knew he was angry, disappointed and ashamed of her. She didnít know why she woke up in his arms again in this very chair or why he had made love to her so long this morning. Maybe I really am losing my mind? I must have had the nightmare again. Why canít I ever remember them? She found her self suddenly afraid not of him but of her own insecurity.
She decided to take the bull by the horns. "Ah yes, I spilled coffee all over the deck. I tried to explain to Debra, but she wouldnít listen. You dismissed me and confined me to quarters. I came up here and Ö andÖ" she was at a loss. She tried to look somewhere beside his face that was only a couple of inches from hers. Then in a small shaky voice asked. "I disgraced you last night, didnít I?" she hung her head down and squeezed her eyes shut. Her hands were in tight fists with nails cutting into tenders palms and half healed blisters. Desperately she tried to hold on to her dignity and not let him see her cry. She waited for his condemnation.
Lee didnít quite know how to respond. Heíd been more than proud of her last night. Heíd been horrified when he found her in the closet. She doesnít even remember the nightmare. What is she blocking out? This mission is costing us so much. I need to tell her itís all a game with Debra. I am only trying to break her down and find out if she is the traitor. I need Heatherís natural reactions to pull it off. Damn the gag order. I understand it but its not easy hurting Heather either. What about the flip side? Why were she and the men at the White Pelican against my orders? Whatís so special about this pin and whose orders did she almost bust? Is she under a gag order too? The questions swirled around in his head giving him a fierce headache.
More sharply than he intended "Heather." Her head snapped up and he saw the agony in her eyes. He bit his tongue. He reached for her and drew her to him wrapping his arms around her and pulling her out of the chair. Gently this time he said. "Heather, you never shamed me. In fact I was quite proud of you." He heard her gasp in surprise. He buried his hands in her hair and tilted up her face. There were tears streaming down her face. "Oh love, donít cry. Itís all going to be all right. I promise." Now, she really started crying. This was not like his Heather. Heíd never seen her cry before. He felt totally helpless. "Sh, sh, itís ok love." She buried her face in his shoulder like a small child. He let her cry until she was completely spent, then he sat down in the rocker and pulled her onto his lap. They rocked in silence for a while. He felt her stiffen.
Heather pulled back embarrassed not sure at all how to go about these new emotions she was feeling. "Is this what itís like to be a woman?" she asked seriously.
Lee was dumbfounded. "You are more woman than I can ever handle," he gave her a squeeze.
"Lee, I never had a mother to tell me these things. I hate tears. Iím sorry," she tried to duck her head but he wouldnít let her.
"Thereís nothing to be ashamed of in crying Heather. As long as you donít use the tears to get your way," he teased.
She rose to the bait instantly. "Iíd never do that!" she tried to get off his lap but he held her fast.
"Oh no you donít. We need to talk," she stopped squirming.
"Heather, I canít tell you whatís going on aboard this boat but I want you to trust me. Do you think you can do that?" he asked earnestly.
"Only if youíll trust me," she countered nicely. "I have quite a story to tell you someday."
She nodded, "Deal."
"Oh and Heather?" he queried, "Have I ever told you I love you?"
She started crying again.
"Take that back! Itís a lie!" yelled Kowalski.
"Iím telling you, itís the truth," replied his shipmate.
"I donít care what you think you saw! He would never ever cheat on Heather!" roared an irate Ski. Everyone on board knew he was the Captainís man.
"But, Ski I did see him come out of her cabin!" whined the sailor.
The two men were standing nose to nose ready to come to blows in the mess hall. Scuttlebutt was running rampant through the ship. For the last few nights moans and groans had come from Peachesí cabin. Once, the Skipper had been seen leaving.
"Then, thatís his business and not yours! Now quit spreading lies."
"You going to make me Ski?" the sailor needled. "Besides itís the truth."
"Thatís it." Ski pulled his arm back ready to punch his lights out when a hand grabbed his wrist.
"Enough! Weíre all ready in the doghouse from the bar fight. We donít need anymore trouble," raged Chief Sharkey.
"You heard what he said about the Skipper. I canít let him get away with that." Again he tried to smack the other crewman.
Sharkey grabbed Ski and pushed him into Pattersonís arms. "Thatís enough and thatís an order!" he shouted in his face. The Chief turned on the sailor. "And you, ya dim whit, can quit baiting him!" Sharkey looked ready to kill.
"Now, all of you jokers listen up. I donít want to hear any of you spreading anymore scuttlebutt. We have enough problems on board this boat without adding to them. Youíre making a mountain out of a molehill. What goes on with the brass is their business. Got it?" he raged.
The men muttered and nodded breaking up into small groups to finish eating. They no sooner sat down to eat when Mr. Morton came in.
"Attention!" yelled the Chief. The men all stood up.
"As you were," said the Exec. They all sat back down. Mr. Morton gave them his best command steely eyed stare. "I heard shouting in here. Is anything wrong?"
"Ah, no Sir, just a misunderstanding, thatís all," reported the Chief of the boat.
"Is it resolved?" Morton asked in a deadpan voice.
"Very well. Carry on."
"I tell you Lee, that woman Peaches has the whole crew stirred up. There almost was a fight down in the crewís mess a few minutes ago."
Chip was upset. Heíd heard most of the conversation in the mess before he stepped in. He didnít like having his friend and commander dragged through the mud. Heíd heard the scuttlebutt too. He felt as Ski did, that his Captain would never betray his wife. So, what is going on?
Lee looked up from the chart on the plot table. They would make the Panama Canal in another day. A few more days of this and itís over. "Whatís happened now Chip?" he asked in a bored voice. He was sick to death of Peaches. A smile crossed his face, Heatherís nickname of her rival had been picked up by everyone aboard.
"It seems some of the men have heard strange sounds coming from her cabin. One even saw you leave it." That got his attention, if looks could kill. Chip pretended to study a gage on the inertial navigator.
Lee dropped his pencil and looked up guiltily at his friend. A groan burst from his mouth. "Youíre not going to believe this. I escorted her back to her cabin and she invited me in, actually, she yanked me in. She ah, she asked me to give her a back rub with the promise she wouldnít touch me. I complied. She moans very well," his face turned stormy at the memory. "She also broke her word and made a pass at me. It was all I could do to get out of there with my dignity intact." He picked up the ruler and smacked it down on the table, looked at Chip again and said "End of story, nothing happened." He then went back to work his face made of stone.
The traitor was crawling through the air vents deep in thought.
This is a great way to listen in on conversations and easy access from my cabin to anywhere I choose to go. Time is running out. I have to find the microfilm. Letís see, Iíve all ready searched two cabins the poor thing lives out of. What a surprise that turned out to be. Baxter would be impressed if he knew she had memories of him. To bad she got away from him. The sheik would have been well pleased. He would of enjoyed forcing her to expose Jaguar. Mmm, if I grabbed her with the film I could collect a million dollar bonus. Baxter would be pleased and generous. First though, I have to find the film! My life depends on it. Things are getting hot. The Captain is asking to many questions. Her laptop proved worthless, what a let down that was. Now if I was that stupid redhead where would I hide that film?
Heather confined to quarters put her time to good use by finishing the third book of Beachís trilogy, Cold is the Sea. She reflected sadly on the ending when one of her favorite characters had been knocked off. I practically live on a nuclear submarine could that happen to us?
Stella paid her a visit in the afternoon bringing with her the OE books. "I canít make heads or tails out of these books without your help," she winked conspiringly. "I really need some company."
A little while later another knock was heard on the door. She yelled, "Enter" and Chief Sharkey made his presence known bearing a fresh plate of chocolate chip cookies.
"These are from Cookie. He wanted me to let you know he was thinking about you and thinks you got a bum deal from the Sea Witch," recited Sharkey handing her the plate.
"You know, Peaches." He paused, then went on, " Cookie said Peaches was to sweet of a name to call the biÖI mean witch." He gave her a bit grin with a shrug. "I gotta get going. Iím off watch and am suppose to be confined to quarters like you." He turned to leave when Heather caught his arm
"Tell Cookie heís getting sentimental in his old age. Remind me to give him a hug when I next see him." She reached up and hugged the Chief. Before he could say anything she added, "That was for Cookie and this is for my Godfather." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. The Chiefís eyes welled up and he blubbered, "You are a good woman Heather Crane."
Before he could leave another knock was heard on the door. "This is getting to be like, Grand Central Station," Heather joked. She opened the door to see her father standing there with a deck of cards and a bottle of Irish whiskey. "I thought you might be lonely." He looked around the cabin and smiled. "Humph, I guess they had the same idea."
"Admiral, do come in and join the party," smiled Heather.
He came in, nodded to Stella and Sharkey and made himself at home sitting in Leeís desk chair.
Before she could shut the door Doc joined them with a fresh pot of coffee and mugs. "How nice we can have Irish Coffee," chuckled Heather. What the devil is going on? They canít all be here to cheer me up. What happened last night and what scuttlebutt is going around the boat now? She was suspicious and knew once Lee got wind of what theyíre doing the jig would be up.
Speaking of jig, she thought. Adm. Starke turned out to be the next visitor bearing a fresh baked blueberry coffee cake.
"From Cookie?" she asked trying to keep a straight face.
"No. Me," he grinned, "I ordered him to bake it though. You know I have a soft spot in my heart for you Heather, youíre my daughterís best friend." Heather gave another hug and kiss.
Sharkey decided he had better get back to his cabin. He was busting his Skipperís orders and he was nervous. Starke stood between him and the door. "Excuse me Sir, but I gotta go." Starke moved into the crowded room.
Heather shut the door and stood in front of it. She glanced around the room taking in all their faces. Stella sitting in the recliner, Doc perched in the edge of the bunk, Nelson behind Leeís desk with Starke standing beside him and Sharkey beside her trying to get out.
Heather cleared her throat. Imitating the Senior Staff she gave them her best command stare.
"Hold it right there. No one is leaving until you explain all this," she gestured with a wide sweep of her hand. She stood there quietly waiting leaning against the door.
First there was dead silence. Then, "Explain what? We wanted to see how youíre doing thatís all," defended Nelson shuffling the deck of cards.
A single eyebrow went up in a big question mark. "I donít buy it. You are all hiding something. What is Peaches up to now?"
All started talking at the same time. She caught phrases such as," Itís a lie, he would never do it, he loves you, the moans are something else, Peaches doesnít hold a candle to you, heís just using her, sheís just using him, he was in her cabin for a good reason." That last statement got her attention.
"What? When?" she demanded. Fists clenched at her side she no longer leaned against the door. Her womanís instinct was at a peak.
"You could have heard a feather drop."
"Go on Chief, donít leave us hanging," egged on Kowalski. "What the Admiral do? What did he tell her?"
"You know the brass arenít one to gossip, but theyíre trying to protect Heather."
"Okay, Chief, but what did the Admiral do?" persisted Kowalski.
A long-suffering sigh, "He ordered us all out. Thatís what he did," stated the Chief, his voice gruff with worry.
Admiral Nelson got up from Leeís desk and started pacing. Heather was now quiet and sitting in the recliner. Sheís too quiet. What to tell her? He ran his hand through his hair a couple of times and rubbed his neck.
"Heather, Iíve been your father your whole life and yet I havenít been your father at all," he began. "You were right when you said I blamed you for your motherís death. For years I blamed you. Itís the only time I took the easy way out. I didnít want to come to terms with the heart ache, it was easier to blame someone else even a tiny baby."
Heather sat there and listened not moving an inch. Itís the first time heíd ever opened up to her.
"Iíve regretted it more times than I can count, but my career and enemies got in the way. You see, at first I down right neglected you then as time went on, it eventually protected you, for I have some strong enemies that would like nothing better to crush me by using you. So, you see, by keeping you hidden and out of my life, I was keeping you safe."
Nelson paused, collecting his thoughts looking at his daughter. She gave him an encouraging half smile.
"Well, what Iím trying to tell you is your life has come full circle. You have your own enemies now, mainly Jeffrey Baxter. We are trying to find out which of our wonderful visitors tipped him off about your cover." He heard an inhaled gasp. He went on, "We know the person is responsible for two more agents deaths."
Heather turned pale under the bruises. Nelson seeing her loss of color quickly realized why. "As far as I know the Jaguar is ok. Heís the one who sent the microfilm." She relaxed but still clung to the chair armrest.
"Heather." Nelson finished pacing and sat down on the bunk beside her chair and took her hand. "Heather, what Iím trying to say and doing very badly at it is, I am very proud of you and I love you. Your mother met everything to me, she was the love of my life and you are so much like her that sometimes it hurts, at times, it hurts more than I can bear. Do you understand?" he asked uneasy.
"Yes, I think so. Itís a start Father." tears, for the third time that day made their way down Heatherís face. "Iím turning into a weeping willow," she grinned. She then drew her Father down and gave him a hug and kiss.
"Now that we both feel better. What does this all got to do with Lee?"
Nelson was instantly nervous again. He jumped up and started pacing. "Everything. I want you to trust him." He turned and looked directly at her. "His love for you is like mine was for your mother. Understand?"
Heather mulled everything over for a long time. She finally looked up to her nervous father and said. "Ok, no matter what I see and hear, Iím to trust him. He had asked me the same question this morning." Her father looked extremely relieved. "So, when this mission is over and we reach Norfolk, can I punch her lights out?"
Lee Crane was boned tired. It had been a hard cruise today. The main generator was acting up and the starboard propeller shaft threw a bearing. His best men had worked on it most of the day.
Chip Morton handed his Captain the latest weather report. "A gale is developing topside."
Crane glanced at the report and asked, "When does it reach us?"
"According to my calculations, weíll be almost to the Panama Canal in the morning."
"Great! In order to cross in the canal we have to be on the surface," grumbled Crane.
"We could stay submerged in the Pacific Ocean until the storm passes then enter the canal," suggested Chip.
"That would put us behind schedule. The Officerís Ball is in the evening of the day weíre due to arrive in port. A lot of men and a few women will be very disappointed."
"Well then Lee, I guess we have no choice," surmised Chip.
The Captain nodded. He wasnít looking forward to the morning.
Lee Crane was standing at the mission status board located behind the communications shack. Debra Woodgate walked up to him and put her arms around him purring like a cat.
"Darling, Iíve missed you today." She rubbed her body up and down him with wanton familiarity. The whole control room crew forgot to breathe again. Their eyes bulged and their ears strained.
Lee closed his eyes for a moment trying to get a lid on his temper. Iím going to strangle her. Even my wife would never make a pass like this in front of my men; she respects my position as Captain. He mentally counted to ten then to twenty. It didnít work. How long do I have to put up with this? How long do I have to fake liking this? Until the mission is over and the traitor is exposed; do whatever it takes lives depend on it. He looked down at her upturned calculating face and took her hand leading her up the circular stairs without saying a word. Once they made the top and were out of sight of the men she wrapped her arms around his neck and soundly kissed him. He responded best he could.
"Oh Lee," she gushed. "Why did you have to run off and get married?"
Playing her game he simply said, "Because, it was the right thing to do at the time."
Debra played with the buttons on his shirt. "You sound like you could get out of it if you wanted."
"I could, if I wanted to. It would have to be worth my while to do so. I have it made here," he baited. He forced himself to put his hands on her shoulders and look into her cold eyes.
"I have money and influence. I could get you any boat or position you wanted. A lot of important men owe me big time."
"Mmm, it would have to be really big. Iíd want to be in an organization that I could do even better in and make more money, lots of money. Iím tired of scrimping by on what the Admiral pays me."
Debra positively glowed; Iím winning at last. Iím going to beat you Heather. "I can arrange it darling, all you have to do is tell me what you want." She reached up and kissed him again full on the mouth pushing her body tight against his.
When they had come up for air she breathlessly asked, "What about the little woman? What are you going to do with her?"
"Dump her," came the reply followed by another kiss.
Neither noticed the lone figure watching them from down the corridor.
In the crews quarters Kowalski, Patterson and Riley were busy policing up the place after getting chewed out by the Chief.
"Gezz old Pete, what got him so hot under the collar this time?" griped Riley.
"You must have looked at him cross eyed, "said Ski making a stab at humor and failing.
Pat picked up a deck of cards and started shuffling them absent mindedly, "You know itís getting worse and worse around here, you canít be caught dead in the same room with the Chief or the Skipper." He dealt out three hands.
"Yeah, I know. Peaches has thrown a real monkey wrench into things. The Chief is sure worried about Heather," replied Riley. He picked up a card and discarded a ten of diamonds.
"Every time I ask him how things are going I get my head bit off," grumbled Pat. He picked up the ten of diamonds and discarded a five of spades.
Riley stared at his cards. "Poor Heather, she looks like a lost lamb. Sheís avoiding the Skipper."
Ski picked up two cards from the discard pile and left a king of hearts. "Sheís giving the Skipper room to work," he defended. "The Skipper is only doing what he has to do."
Riley drew a card from he deck. "The Skipper is caught between a rock and a hard spot. Iím glad Iím not in his shoes." He laid down all his cards on the table with one to the discard pile and stated, "Gin."
"Gin?" both men looked questioningly at his cards then threw theirs down.
Lee Crane was sick. He had been for two days now but was not about to tell anyone. He knew it came from being topside when they had crossed the Panama Canal during the storm. He had no choice but to be on the bridge with the canal pilot. It was a fifty-mile journey across Panama. The going had been tedious and arduous.
He later explained the whole process to Gen. Woodgate, " First the boat enters the canal, passes under the Thatcher Ferry Bridge and travels the canal to the Miraflores Locks, it raises you to the level of the Pedro Miguel Locks and these locks raise you to the level of Gaillard Cut, the man made passageway. Itís five hundred feet wide, forty-two feet deep and eight miles long. Then you sail through Gatum Lake to the Gatun Locks. They lower you about eighty-five feet to sea level, then there is a seven mile channel that takes you out to the Atlantic Ocean."
Things were not going well he reflected. He had spent two days now romancing Debra behind Heatherís back, barely managing to stay out of her bed. He still had not gleamed any information about the traitor. She had a one track mind, him. He was depressed.
To top it off, Heather had been more than distant from him. He imagined she had heard the scuttlebutt about all the happenings aboard. He had asked her to trust him. He hoped she was. Maybe that is why she is being distant, to give me space to operate, stay out of my hair so to speak. Sheíd been taking her meals with the Junior Officers or the Ratings. One night she had even played poker with the men until the wee hours of the morning. He had no idea what was going on in her mind. He didnít ask her any questions and she didnít ask him. No one was talking to him!
Stella was concerned. The inspection was over and the rest of the cruise was just rest and relaxation for her. She reported to Nelson everything was shipshape and in good standing. Heatherís books had helped tremendously on explaining the hows and whys of ship procurements.
"This OE job is perfect for her. She gets free roam of the boat, learns each job and gets to know the men on a personal level. Then, in port, sheís head of housing and she knows the menís families as well, I bet."
Nelson smiling leaned back in his desk chair with his hands behind his head. "Yes, it was a good call for her and sheís welcome to the job for as long as it takes to get her well."
"Emotionally, you mean?" asked Stella putting down her coffee cup on the Admiralís desk.
Nelson straightened up and became serious. "Yes, you know the story from when you came aboard the first time."
"Those awful nightmares?"
"We thought she was over them, but it turns out they are increasing again. She had a nasty one the other night."
"Because of the that snot Debra and the coffee?"
"Before that, Doc thinks sheís having flashbacks. Sometimes the smallest thing triggers them, like the veterans from the wars, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. "
"Oh dear, then what Iím about to tell you is not going to make you feel any better."
"Go on. Do I need a drink?"
"Iíve been watching the two of them, Heather and Lee. Something is mighty wrong. I know Lee is trying to find out information, that much Iíve picked up, but thereís a problem. Neither one of them look well." she tried to gather her thoughts only to have Nelson cut in for her.
"Let me guess, they arenít eating or sleeping, theyíve lost weight and Heatherís bruises are healing but she looks pale and Lee has dark circles under his eyes and looks flushed."
"Well, that about sums it up. You know your people well Admiral."
I should, they are my family, along with one hundred twenty-three other people aboard this boat."
Stella wasnít the only one to notice things werenít right. The men were bickering among themselves. Moans continued to come from Peaches cabin, sometimes during the day.
"What is it with that chick?" asked Clarke as another report of her moaning was spread around.
"Who knows, no oneís actually seen the guy sheís with," replied Kowalski in a bored tone.
"Maybe sheís faking it," put in Jackson.
"Yeah," said Clarke "to make the Skipper jealous if itís him that is."
"Well you two shut up!" yelled Kowalski. "Itís not the Skipper.
"How do you know itís not the Skipper? Lately heís with her all the time," asked Jackson.
"I just know! Youíll have to take my word for it," snapped Kowalski.
"Well, Ski, you donít have to be so protective of him. He is only a man," replied Clarke.
Lee wanted his wife. She hadnít returned to their cabin after dinner. As usual for the last few days she had eaten with Sharkey and the Ratings. Even Stella was eating with them. He wished he could be eating with them.
It was late now. Dinner had been the usual dismal affair. He had hardly touched his food. He had walked Debra back to her cabin and curtly said good night leaving her fuming at the door. He came straight back to his cabin hoping Heather was there. She wasnít. He decided to look for her. When is the Admiral going to get that homing device done? I know theyíre all working on it. Theyíve been in the lab for two days now. Nelson even came and got my signet ring this afternoon.
He looked in the computer office, then Nelsonís cabin, made his way down to the Officerís Wardroom, the Enlisted Menís mess and the galley. Nothing. Where the devil is she? He took a tour of the boat surprising the men. They were all edgy and jumpy. What do they know that I donít know? Finally, he landed up in the observation nose. The brass was in their usual poker game. Starke was winning for once, he barely noticed.
Lt. OíBrien was OOD and had the conn. He came over and asked the Skipper if everything was all right. He reassured his Lt. that everything was fine and he was just restless and decided to check over the charts on the plot table and look over the mission status board.
Feeling tired and dejected Crane headed back to his cabin hoping Heather had returned. He could have called her on the intercom but he didnít want the whole boat to know heíd lost his wife. When he got back to the cabin he found her there, asleep on the couch. He didnít know if he should be happy or sad. She had never slept on the couch since they were married. Sheís not starting now! he silently raged. He picked her up roughly, carried her to the bunk and dropped her on it.
Rudely awakened, she took one look at his stormy countenance and knew something was wrong. "Have a fight with your girlfriend?" she asked snidely.
He ignored the comment and shouted, "Where the hell have you been?"
"In the Crewís Quarters watching a movie," she fairly shouted back.
Lee had taken off his tie and was unbuttoning his shirt. "The Crewís Quarters are off limits to you, you know that!" he threw his shirt to the deck. He stomped over to the bunk, kicked off his shoes and pulled off his socks as he sat on the edge of the bunk.
"So what!" she hotly contested. "At least I donít have to worry about them making passes at me," she cried in a snit. She crawled up to the headboard and climbed under the covers still sitting up her arms folded in front of her.
"Just what the hell is that supposed to mean?" he yelled defensive now, his own arms crossed.
"It means you donít have to worry about them touching me, kissing me and having them tell lies about me. They are your men and theyíre loyal to you and this boat," she firmly and quietly said checking her fingernails. She bit a hangnail in two.
He digested that information for a minute then said, "I asked you to trust me. You said you would," he accused watching her closely.
She looked up with fire and something else in her eyes. "I do trust you, but do you know how hard it is to see thatÖ thatÖ SEA WITCH PEACHES kissing my husband! To hear the entire crew talking about nothing else?" she raged all over again.
Lee jumped up, hit the bunk and started to pace around the desk.
Heather went on letting it all out. "And further more, sheís very good at rubbing it in my face! I want to deck her, I want to pound her into oblivion for touching what is mine, I want her keel hauled and fed to the sharks! Knowing her, sheíd probably survive and the sharks would get indigestion."
"My, what a blood thirsty little wife I have," he laughed. " Remind me never to get you that mad at me," he said dropping his trousers and shorts, which joined his shirt on the deck.
"It wasnít meant to be funny," she pouted trying to ignore her husbandís masculine body.
Lee saw her eyes soften and become hungry. He was secretly pleased. He climbed into bed beside her and drew her into his arms. "Love, I need you," he whispered as he nuzzled her neck. He slowly unbuttoned his old worn shirt and took it off her. It joined his clothes on the deck. A long deep kiss followed and together they sank down into the mattress. This time, it was Heatherís moans that filled the corridors of Seaview.
The traitor was getting desperate now. Two more days tops and weíll be docking. I have to find that microfilm. One more place to look.
"NO" Lee woke up with a start. Heíd had that dream again where Heather had drowned. He looked over to where she lay. She was watching him with concern in her beautiful hazel eyes.
"It was a bad dream thatís all. Go back to sleep." He lay back down under the covers. For some reason he couldnít get warm enough and his head hurt.
Heather reached over and smoothed back his dark curly hair. She ran her hand through his hair again then stopped on his forehead. She bent down and kissed his brow and leaned her cheek against his forehead. "You have a fever," she announced.
"Iím all right," he mumbled. A shiver ran the length of his body.
"Youíre going to see Doc in the morning," she said still leaning against his forehead.
He pulled her down next to him for warmth. "I said Iím ok. Itís just the dream," he snapped.
"Donít take that tone of voice with me Mister, you are seeing Doc. Got it?"
"Aye, Aye, Oh Capitaine," he replied with a mock salute.
"Lee, I mean it," she cupped his warm face. "I know how stubborn you can be. You will see Doc or Iíll call him right now and that is not a threat."
He gave her a doubtful look.
"Blast it Lee, I love you and Iím not going to lose you over a cold or worse!"
"Ok, Iíll see Doc in the morning," he pulled her close and kissed her brow.
Admiral Nelson was up early. Heíd been down in the lab finishing the last touches to his homing device board. Starke, Woodgate and Perkins had immensely enjoyed themselves helping him put this device together. He had collected various rings and watches from voluntary personnel, and then he slipped a microchip into them for testing. Now, all he had to do was install the board in the control room and give back the jewelry. Then, heíd be ready for a demonstration.
A knock on the cabin door woke the occupants inside. Lee did not want to get up. He was drowsy and comfortable and oh so warm. The warmth left him when his wife got up and put on her robe, yelling "Enter." A faint light glowed where she turned on the light from his desk. He buried his head under the pillow. It must be Doc.
Nelson stood just inside the door taking in the domestic scene. His daughterís hair was loose and tousled from sleep. She had a radiance about her that glowed. It had been a long time since he had seen her look that way. The Captain lay in the bunk, his back turned against him and his head partly under the pillow.
"My, my," Nelson said, "something sure agrees with you this morning. It wouldnít have anything to do with that big lug there in the bunk?"
A bigger brighter smile encompassed her face followed by a slight blush.
He smiled at that. Good thing you donít know the whole boat heard you both last night. Youíd be mortified. I have got to sound proof this cabin. "I have a ring for you to wear. I want you to leave it on until I tell you otherwise. Understand me?" he held out the ring.
Heather took the ring and looked at it. "A dolphin with red eyes, how quaint," she put it on her right pinkie finger. The eyes glowed. "Is this suppose to be Flip or Flop?" she asked referring to her two pet dolphins back at NIMR.
"Which ever meets your fancy? Now, Lee your turn." Nelson walked over to the bunk and nudged his captain. Lee had fallen back to sleep. He took one look at the sleeping man, seeing the exhaustion on his face and decided to leave well enough alone. "Wore him out did you?" he quipped with a smile.
Instead of the smile he expected, he received a frown. "To tell you the truth, I think heís sick. Heís suppose to see Doc when he gets up this morning." She reached out and laid a hand on Leeís forehead. "He feels warmer now than he did last night." She lovingly brushed his hair back with her hand.
"Humph." Nelson put his arm around her shoulder. "Make sure Doc sees him soon." He then reached into his pocket and pulled out Leeís signet ring. "Here put this back on his finger. Both rings contain a homing device in the test stages. Iím doing a demonstration at ten from the control room." He gave her a quick peck on the cheek and after a quick glance at his Captain left the cabin.
Nelson ran into Starke and Perkins in the corridor. They decided to go and have breakfast in the Officerís Wardroom.
Whew! That had been close. I donít dare get caught in here. Back to the safe, I almost had it cracked until I heard Nelsoní voice. The film has to be in here. Come on one more number. Click. Got it. Letís see, defense papers, code books, birth certificateÖHeatherís of courseÖMmm, this is rich .A marriage contract with a clause. Sheís giving him an out if he finds someone he truly loves. What kind of a contract is this? A marriage of convenience?
A door being slammed startled the spy into inadvertently knocking over a floor lamp that crashed to the floor. The person in the corridor heard the crash and knocked on the cabin door. "Admiral? You ok?"
Concerned that the older man could be hurt or unconscious he opened the door to his cabin.
"Admiral?" he fumbled for the light switch, found it and flipped it on. The first thing he noticed was the broken lamp and then, the opened safe. He heard a noise from behind, felt pain to the back of his head and then only blackness.
Admiral Nelson was in the control room growing impatient. Starke, Perkins and Woodgate were there along with him waiting to see how their handy work turned out. A few Junior Officers including Chip Morton were also in attendance, for they would most likely be the ones to use it the most.
"Where the devil is he? Leeís the one that wanted this device finished with the fastest speed possible," fumed Nelson looking at his watch for the third time in the last five minutes. I wonder if heís still in sickbay? He picked up the mike.
"Sickbay, this is Nelson."
"Sickbay here, Admiral."
"Is the good Captain still down there?"
"Down here? No Sir, I havenít seen him this morning."
"But he was to report to you first thing this morning."
"Sorry Sir, I havenít seen him. Why was he supposed to report?" asked Doc, concerned.
"Heather said he had a fever. Iíll get back with you." Nelson clicked the mike again.
"Captain Crane, report."
The silence stretched out.
Louder and more inpatient this time, "This is Nelson, Captain Crane report." He waited a couple of seconds, "Lee, can you hear me?"
Still nothing. Nelson hung up the mike. "I guess this will be a true test," he said beginning to worry. Or perhaps it was just Leeís own test of the device. It was located next to the plot table on the starboard side just left of sonar.
"Youíll notice the different blinking colors. As you know, microchips were inserted into various pieces of jewelry we all wear. Green is for Lee, orange for Sharkey, yellow for Chip, blue for me and red, as Lee put it, for trouble, which went to Heatherís dolphin ring." A few chuckles followed the orientation. "Not only will this device keep track of each individual, but it can also monitor the heart and respiration rate."
He paused letting the information sink in. "There are three grids that can be pulled up on the computer. One a map of where we are, in a twenty-five mile radius, another for the grounds at the institute and one for here, onboard Seaview. He demonstrated with each board saving the last one for of Seaview.
When he flipped to the Seaview board all eyes automatically went to the green blinking light. The detailed layout of the boat was clearly defined. "Well, there you have it," he said proudly. "Sharkeyís in the engine room, Chip and I are here in the control room, Heatherís in the computer office and Lee is in my cabin." The last took a moment to sink in.
"My cabin? What the heck?" a myriad of thoughts ran through his mind.
Someone said excitedly, "Look at the Skipperís pulse rate!"
All eyes turned to the blinking green light and the miniature monitor beside it.
"Iím no doctor, but his pulse rate is way to fast," Chip said, "Leeís in trouble!"
Nelson keyed the mike to sickbay.
"Doc, get up to my cabin on the double!" yelled Nelson. He hung up the mike and took the stairs two at a time.
Heather thought it strange when Lee didnít answer his page by Nelson. She had let him sleep in until the last possible moment before getting him up to go down to sickbay. He had kept on insisting he was all right and he didnít need a doctor. Sheíd known better after taking one look at his fevered bright eyes.
It had taken a direct order from her, "Youíre going and thatís final!" sheíd insisted to get him on his way. Sheíd watched the door slam with a resounding bang.
So, where is he?
Heather got up from the desk and went back to their cabin and peeked inside just in case he had doubled back and she hadnít heard himÖnothing. She went back to the computer office confused. Maybe he stopped for coffee, thatís got to be it. Then, why didnít he respond to the intercom? She started out into the corridor when Nelson and half a dozen men ran by. Chip brought up the rear and yelled, "Its Lee! Come on!"
They arrived like a herd of cattle at Nelsonís cabin door. The Admiral carefully opened the door and groped for the light switch, locating it and flicking it on. There amid scattered papers and a broken lamp lay Lee Crane sprawled on the deck. He was unconscious and deathly white. He lay on his stomach with one hand over his head and the other trapped underneath him. Doc. arrived just as Nelson and Heather fell to their knees beside him.
"Let me through," ordered Doc. as he came in and dropped down beside the Captain moving Heather to the patientís head. "Easy now," he murmured to no one particular. He did a quick vital check to find his pupils unequal and a rapid pulse rate. He ran his hands up and down the patientís extremities checking for broken bones. He couldnít find any that were obvious. "Ok, letís turn him over." Very carefully, Doc and Nelson turned him over eliciting a groan from the patient. Heather supported his head on her lap only to discover something warm and sticky on her fingers. She pulled out her hand from under Leeís head and gasped. Blood.
Doc carefully probed Leeís head finding a nasty lump and a small gash in his scalp while Morton alerted Docís corpsmen to bring a stretcher over the PA.
"Skipper, can you hear me?" questioned Doc, when he heard his patient groan again.
Doc leaned back on his heels. "I think he has a concussion. The laceration looks superficial." Lee rolled halfway over, drew up his knees and vomited. Heather held his head until he was finished. He then collapsed back on her lap looking up at Doc somewhat dazed.
"Lee, can you hear me?" asked Doc again. This time he was awarded with a brief shake of his head, which brought instant discomfort to the patient. He grimaced with evident pain.
"Easy Lee, weíre taking you to sickbay now," said Doc.
Chip and Nelson loaded him onto a stretcher and watched the men leave with their Captain.
Doc put an arm around Heather and told her, "Try not to worry, heís got a thick skull."
Admirals Nelson and Starke had started putting Nelsonís cabin to rights.
"Anything missing Harriman?" asked Starke picking up another pile of papers and handing them to his friend.
"Nothing that I can see," returned Nelson shuffling and sorting them back into a neat pile. "Looks like our plan has worked beautifully. Our spy must be frantic about now. "
Starke guffawed loudly. "Wait until the traitor finds out the truth. You think theyíll come after Heather?"
"No doubt. Three offices have been ransacked. The perpetrator must know by now that Heather has the film. Baxter needs it or his operation will be blown and his government will be knocking at his back door. That was the sole purpose of Jaguarís mission, to expose Baxter. When we get to port, Heather and a skeletal crew will remain on boardÖ."
"Making Heather the perfect target," finished Starke soberly. "Crane doesnít know about her being the bait yet, does he?"
Nelson scratched his head, "Ah no, not yet, Iíve saved that until last. He doesnítí know sheís not going to the dance yet either. I have another surprise for him, one heís not going to like."
Starke rolled his eyes, "I want to be on the other end of the boat when you tell him and here you think I bellow loud."
Nelson nodded his head in agreement and started putting his safe back in order.
"Has Crane gotten anything important out of Peaches yet?" asked Starke handing him a stack of papers.
"No, nothing that will try and convict her of treason. He still feels sheís innocent."
"Innocent? You canít be serious; sheís as guilty as sin. He just has to prove it. Why, look how she treated Heather," defended Starke. "The last couple of days, sheís done nothing but put her down, make out with her husband and tried to steel him away from her, you and this boat!"
Nelson chuckles, "Jiggs, that doesnít make her a hard bitten spy, only a vain, selfish woman."
"Well then, if she isnít the spy, who is then?" he argued. "Who else had information about the Lynxís mission and not only hers, but the other two agents as well? George Peoples was fairly certain it was her."
"Thatís the million dollar question. If the spy doesnít make a move on Heather now, aboard Seaview, then he or she must make it while we are all at the dance," explained Nelson going over another stack of papers. He had a frown on his face. "Mmm"
"Something wrong?" asked Starke seeing his friend frown.
"Iím not sure, I think Iím missing some personal papers, a contract." He carefully went through all the loose papers again saying at the same time. "Anyway back to the dance, I think if the perpetrator doesnít find the microfilm before we dock then, heíll double back while we are all off the boat."
"You mean heíll confront Heather, because sheíll be alone. Correct?" asked Starke catching on to Nelsonís plan. "Iím not sure I like that plan. Crane will have a fit for sure."
"It will work, isnít that what you said at the beginning?" razzed Nelson who in turn got a dirty look from Starke. "Jiggs, she wonít be alone, sheíll only appear to be alone. Iíll have to remind Lee that the men and Heather are still confined to the boat as part of their punishment. The men will have their orders before we leave."
"So, we set a trap. Use Heather as bait. Watch for the joker to double back and we nab him or her. Good plan, except how are we going to keep an eye on the traitor? We donít know who it is yet?" asked a perplexed Starke.
"Well now, there is more than one officer on this boat going to the dance." replied Nelson with a twinkle in his eye.
The crew who were in the fight at the White Pelican found it much easier to follow their true orders with their Skipper in sickbay. The confined to quarters order temporarily forgotten, they were able to go about their business without fear of being reprimanded for disobeying orders.
"I donít think this is what the Admiral had in mind when he gave us the original orders," said Patterson from a sickbay bed.
"Look, one of us has to be in here like it or lump it. You got the short straw," whispered Sharkey in a low voice.
"But, if the Skipper or Doc finds out Iím fakingÖ" begged Pat.
"Pat," Sharkey now frantic, "Whose orders do you want to disobey, the Admirals or the Skippers?"
"I donít know, they both yell pretty loud," mumbled Pat.
"Look," Sharkey replied sharply, "the Admiral said to keep an eye on her, and weíre keeping an eye on her. If anything happens to her, how ya going to explain it to the Admiral or for that manner to the Skipper? Now, the Skipper is in sickbay and that is where she is. Got it?"
"Well Chief, if you put it that way," Pat answers still uneasy.
"That-a-boy!" says Sharkey louder than he intended. Both Doc and Heather looked his way. He waves them off with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Ok, Pat, here, take this." Sharkey handed him a bottle.
"What is it?"
"Castor oil, itíll make it like the real thing."
"How much do I need to drink?"
"All of it, you dolt," said the Chief. "You want it to be good? Right?"
"Here, put this under your pillow." Sharkey handed him a small yellow square of cloth with plastic on the inside.
"What is this?" asked Patterson puzzled.
"A battery operated heating pad my Mother sent me. You need to have a fever so donít let Doc see it."
"Now donít forget to keep one eye open. We donít know who the bad guy is. The Admiral wants us to protect her at all costs and so do I, after all she is my goddaughter."
"The Captain has a cerebral concussion a long with a URI," explained Doc to Heather.
"A cerebral concussion and a URI?" Heather repeated. " Whatís a URI?" asked Heather scared now. It had been bad enough seeing her husband lying on the deck unconscious. When he started vomiting, it had put more than fear into her heart.
Doc seeing her distress put his arm around her shoulders. "Relax Heather, a URI is nothing but an upper respiratory infection. That accounts for the low temp and I suspect body aches, general malaise, headache and chills. It could also be influenza but the high temp isnít there. They were standing beside Leeís bunk. He was asleep. An IV line had been established in his left arm. Sodium chloride ran into his depleted body.
"Why, the IV?" Heather extended a shaky hand running it through her husbandís curly hair. He didnít feel it but it comforted her. His brow felt warm to her.
"The sodium chloride is mixed with a normal saline solution to help maintain his electrolyte balance, heís been vomiting," he noticed a trace of fear run through her eyes, he tried to reassure her, by making light of it, "the IV replaces any lost fluids and it also makes it easier to administer the inapsine or any other drug I wish to use. That way, he wonít get poked again.
"Whatís the inapsine do?" she asked curious.
"Inapsine, is a drug for nausea. Iíd like to give him something for the headache, but I donít dare with a concussion. I will have to wake him every hour for a while to do neuro checks on him. I canít tell if the headache is related to the concussion or the URI or both. So, until more time passes, itís safest to wait. Meanwhile, he doesnít seem to be in any distress."
He pulled up a chair to the bunk. "Here sit down before you fall down. I donít need another patient right now. The Skipper and Patterson are enough." He looked over at Pat and noticed him watching them. Musing out loud, "Strange how Pat got abdominal pains all of a sudden."
"Heather, took a quick peak at Pat and winked at him as she sat down. "You know how quickly things can happen. One minute youíre ok and the next youíre not," she placated. She looked back at Lee and she sobered considerably and adjusted the blanket that covered him.
"Mmm, I suppose," said Doc. He bent over and listened to Leeís heart rate again, checked his respiration and pupils. He took his temp with a digital thermometer, waited for it to register and announced it at 37.8C. "Not bad, its doesnít seem to be going up. I bet heís out of here in less than twenty-four hours." He grinned and went to check on Patterson after hearing a moan from his bunk.
Heather nodded. She leaned against the rail of the bunk on her elbows, resting her head against her hands. She fought back the fear that threatened to come. She thought back to when Lee had first wanted to marry her.
Heíd just come out of her cabin when he overheard a few snide remarks taking place between two of his newer crewmen.
."Man, Iíd love a piece of that. She may look like a Plain Jane but I bet sheís all hot under those clothes."
"Shut up Hoffman. Sheís the Captainís woman and the Admiralís daughter."
"So, I want her. Sheíd make a nice notch on my bedpost."
"She wouldnít give you the time of day."
"Oh, I see, sheís good enough for him but not for the rest of us. What makes him so special?"
"Youíre asking for trouble. I hear heís very protective of her. Only a few of his men can get near her. And that watch dog of a Chief, he says heís her godfather."
"I bet the old COB is banging her himself. I wonder if heíd consider sharing? I donít mind using damaged goods."
"Hoffman, Iím only going to warn you once, keep your hands off the woman."
"All right Iíve been warned. If the Captain wants her bad enough he ought to marry her and make her respectable. You know what theyíre saying in the Navy ports donít you?"
"Sheís a loose woman, spreads her favors all around when the old manís not looking, sleeps with anyÖ" he was cut off by the irate face of his Captain...
Heather shuddered at what Lee had almost done to the man. If Chip hadnít come around the corner when he did, she let the thought drop. Suffice it to say, the men were put off the boat immediately.
That incident and a reward posted by Jeffrey Baxter sealed her fate. Lee, out of honor and a promise to protect her demanded to marry her, she had said no, absolutely not. She had heard the scuttlebutt both on ship and at the various ports. Her laptop had been a great link to the gossip and her friend Melonie Starke, a Navy brat herself, kept her informed with the inner circles.
Consequently, she felt sullied. She wasnít good enough for a man like Lee Crane. He deserved the best and she wasnít it. She didnít know how to be a polite society woman, like her Aunt Edith. She knew nothing about the inter workings of society and what it entailed. No, she was a tomboy, plain and homely and she didnít want to disgrace him.
She didnít know what love was until she met Lee. In truth at the beginning she thought it was infatuation. Except for her early years living with her grandparents, she had been entirely alone. In boarding school, she had made friends but it wasnít like having a family. She occasionally went home with the Starkes and when they could, Sharkey and her Father would visit her, but for the most part she had been alone. She knew nothing of love. So consequently, she didnít think anyone could love her in return especially a man like Lee Crane. They had a friendship but love? No. She wasnít worth it.
She was brought out of her reverie when Lee moaned and turned in his sleep towards her. Without opening his eyes he seemed to be looking for something with his hand. Heather reached down from the rail and put her hand in his. He grasped it pulling it up against his cheek. He rubbed his face into it refusing to let go then tucked it under his cheek with his own hand. He stilled.
Her thoughts drifted back again. Boy, had he been mad when she refused to marry him. First he tried every argument in the book, it was his duty, his honor to protect her and take care of her, he had promised. He always kept his word. It was the right thing to do.
She wanted more than duty and honor. She wanted love and she wanted what was best for him. She told him over and over someday heíd find the Ďrightí woman to love and marry. She didnít want to stand in his way.
Then, he tried a new tactic. He quit talking to her and had withdrawn his friendship. She was still allowed on Seaview; after all she was under his and the Admiralís protection. She had free run of the boat but he ignored her. No matter what she did; no matter how much trouble she got into, he refused to acknowledge her in any way, shape or form.
Her heart had truly been crushed. She finally had a male friend, one, who she thought had at least cared for her. Then, he turned his back on her because she had refused to marry him! She tried to explain everyway she could that she wasnít good enough for him, that heíd regret it sooner or later if he married her.
Her nightmares had been horrible during that week. She had learned the trick of stuffing a washcloth into her mouth at night to keep her screams silent. When she woke up the next morning alone, she knew she had succeeded. She never remembered the dreams only that they had come.
The crew had given both of them a wide berth. Each of them had turned surly and hostile. They didnít eat, they didnít sleep, and each one prowled the boat at opposite ends refusing to talk about anything to do with the other.
Finally, it came to a head when Seaview had come into port in Mayport, FL. Heather snuck off the boat. She was throwing in the towel, not caring if Baxter caught her or not. She couldnít live this way. Her only male friend had deserted her. She had been thinking with her heart and not her head.
Lee had been totally infuriated when he found her missing. He and the crew had searched the base. Riley had found her exiting the main gate. She had been walking up the street when Lee had caught up with her. If she lived to be a hundred she would never forget that night. Lee had hopped out of a jeep some sailor had voluntarily loaned him. He grabbed her and threw her in the back seat of the jeep climbing in beside her. Ski drove back to the base and boat with Lee glowering at her with hidden promises of great bodily harm to her posterior the whole time. She could actually see his hand twitching with the need to discipline.
He hadnít said a word until they reached his cabin, then she got a dressing down that literally burned her ears. When he was done the Admiral had his say, then the Chief. She gave as good as she got, but in the end she lost. Her only consolation was the marriage contract giving him an outÖ
Debra made her appearance in sickbay dressed all in peach. She saw her rival with her head resting on one arm against the rail of Leeís bunk. Lee was holding her hand under his cheek.
She walked over to Heather with a look that reminded Patterson of a cat that ate-the-canary.
"My, my, isnít this rich?" Debra said with sweet malice. She positively reeked of trouble.
Heather, lulled by sleep, opened her eyes and looked up into ice blue ones. Her heart sunk. Peaches AKA Sea Witch had her claws out and she was her next victim. Trying not to let her see how rankled she was, Heather glanced over at the sleeping Captain, asking at the same time. "What do you want?"
"Why, Iíve come to see how my lover is." She virtually purred. Debra moved up beside the bunk and watched Lee holding Heatherís hand. "How quaint. He must think that is my hand. Heís still unconscious is he not?" she asked pouting.
She reached to touch his hair and Heather intercepted the wayward hand with her free hand clamping down on Debraís wrist. "Donít wake him up." Her face spoke volumes and her tone of voice was hard as steel.
Debra took exception to Heatherís command and said sneering. "Fine, heíll be all mine soon enough and then, Iíll give the orders, sweet cakes."
Heather bolted up from the chair. Sheíd had enough of this womanís tomfoolery, she slowly advanced on the Sea Witch, for in her mind Peaches ceased to exist and had become the Sea Witch with a capital B, and in a voice low with ill concealed anger she said, "Over my dead body will he ever be yours!"
Debra retreated a few steps. She hadnít anticipated her nemesis to become hostile. She always seemed so docile, like a child. Then with false courage said. "But dah-ling, he all ready is. Surely youíve known? As for your little threat, well, Iím sure Baxter would love to have you back to finish what he started."
"It was you! Youíre the traitor who tipped off Baxter about the Lynx." She came closer to Debra. "Do you know you caused an agentís death? Do you know how he died?" Heather was beyond reason, in the back of her mind she saw that agent die again as she had multiple times in her nightmares unaware that she was remembering. She lifted her hands wanting to strangle Debra Woodgate.
Debra was scared witless. Heatherís face was something to behold, she had murder in her eyes. She faltered, "I swear I didnít have anything to do with Baxter. I didnít even know you were the Lynx until I boarded this ship"
"This sub is not a ship, itís a boat!" shouted Heather unreasonable now. She didnít know why she wanted that fact known, but she did. Then she jumped back on the bandwagon. "I donít believe you. If you knew nothing about the Lynx why are you threatening me with Baxter?" her teeth were clenched and she found her self, holding her breath.
Debra had been totally caught off guard by Heatherís mercurial mood changes. Sheís crazy, no wonder Lee wants out of his marriage. She found herself groveling, a trait she detested. "I work for your boss, George Peoples, Iím his secretary, it was my job to know about the Lynx, but I didnít know who the Lynx was. I swear it." She paused giving credence to her words. "Iíll admit using Baxter was a low blow."
Heather didnít trust her. This all could be true or one big lie. Sheís good, Iíll give her that much. I almost believe her. But, then, who ransacked three cabins and hit Lee over the head? I know Lee thinks she is innocent, but the admirals are convinced she is the one who is responsible for two agents deaths. But, how do we prove it. Leeís been trying to break her down the entire cruise, using every means he can. I hope I didnít just blow it for him by voicing my suspicions; Well she did bring up Baxter herself. What was I suppose to do? Ignore it? Heather decided to be magnanimous, then, abruptly changed her mind. "Why, do you really think Lee will be yours?"
Debra, again caught off guard, "Why, the contract of course." She drove home her point. "You know about it, for it was you, who made him sign it," her voice dripped with sarcasm. She laughed mocking Heather. "You specifically stated if he ever fell in love with someone you wouldnít stand in his way. That heíd be free to get an annulment. Did you or did you not put that in writing?"
The wind went out of Heatherís sail. She went and sat down heavily in her chair. Defeated now "I wanted what was best for him. I wanted to do the right thing by him as he would me. I still want whatís best for him," she said so softly that Debra had to bend down to hear her, "and if that includes you, so be it." She bent her head, so Debra couldnít see her face and stared at the almost healed blisters on her hands.
Debra was astounded; "You would give him up that easily? Just like that?"
Heather nodded her head refusing to look at Debra; instead she stared at Leeís peaceful face. He as no idea of the turmoil in my heart, last night had been wonderful, he even said he loved me again. Iím supposed to trust him, but does he love her also? Sheís from his past; at one time they were going to be married. Heís never said what he really feels about her. Oh Lee, wake up I desperately need to talk to you.
"I would, I made him a promise, if he wanted out of our marriage, I would not stand in his way." Inside I would die but it wouldnít matter, heíd be happy. I can live with that, I couldnít live with guilt knowing he loved another and was stuck with me.
Patterson and Doc had watched from the sidelines as the two women had gone at it. Pat had completely forgotten about his irritable bowel syndrome, which had become a reality. Doc thought Debra to be the most conceited Sea Witch heíd ever had the misfortune to meet. It was time to end this little game of hers.
He walked over to the women and addressed Miss Woodgate, "I want you to leave now. My patients need their rest."
She protested immediately, for she was having fun baiting Heather. "But, I havenít talked to Lee yet. This woman," she looked at Heather with total disregard, " his soon to be ex-wife, wouldnít let me! I need to see how heís really doing. No one will tell me anything," she whined in a tone of voice that rubbed Docís nerves raw.
Doc grabbed her arm none to gently and helped her to the door. She stopped at the threshold asking waspishly, "Why does she get to stay?"
Doc having lost all patience with the woman snapped, "Because sheís the Captainís wife and I say so." He then slammed the door in her startled face. Doc tilted his head listening for something, after a few moments and a pleased expression on his face said, "Silence." Then he went about his duties.
Lee had fallen asleep with a pounding headache. Doc had said he would be all right. He had sensed his wifeís presence and had been comforted by it. His dreams had been pleasant. Heíd been dreaming about the island he and Heather had spent time on during their honeymoon. Suddenly, Heather was screaming about a ship being a boat. He woke up. What is the little firebrand up to now? He looked around sickbay to see Doc and Patís shocked expressions as they listened in on the womenís conversation. He decided to do the same once his eyes focused on the antagonists.
His ears picked up at the mention of the names Lynx and Baxter in the same sentence. Theyíre arguing over Debraís involvement with Baxter. He no sooner absorbed the meaning of that conflict, when, he heard his own name mentioned in connection with that worthless marriage contract. Where had Debra gotten wind about that contract? Only Adm. Nelson, Heather and he himself, knew about it. He wracked his aching brain trying to figure it out. Slowly it came to him. The safe, it had been open when heíd come into Nelsonís cabin. She must be the intruder who ransacked the offices! That would explain the destroyed picture in the computer office. Probably a fit of jealousy, it would be like her.
He picked up on another part of the conversation. It disturbed him deeply. What is she talking about, standing in my way if I found a woman to love? I all ready have a woman to love and sheís standing only a few feet from me. Best thing for me? Belong to Peaches? Never! Whereís the trust I asked you to keep? Annulment? Over my dead body! I made you mine Heather Nelson Crane. You belong to me and Iíll never let you go. Thatís right Doc, throw the Sea Witch out. Ah, silence.
Lee watched his dejected wife for some time before he made his wakefulness known. Looks like I still have some work to do on her insecurities. I wish this headache would go away. My body aches so much and I feel cold. I need Heatherís warmth next to me.
"HeatherÖHeather, that was utter hogwash what she told you. Iím never leaving you," Lee gasped in a throaty whisper. It was the best he could do, he needed a drink.
Heather snapped back to the present. She looked at her husband. He was awake.
I must be hearing things. Had he meant it? Did I even hear him say it? She went to the sink and filled a glass of water yelling, "Doc!" at the same time.
Doc came out of his office and reached his patient just as he downed a half a glass of water. "Easy Lee, donít push yourself," he cautioned. He critically examined his patient. His coloring has improved and he looks rested. Good thing, he didnít hear the women fighting.
Debra Woodgate came flying into the Officerís Wardroom in a rage after being forced out of sickbay. Iím going to get even with them. I want Lee Crane and Iím going to crush his wife. She immediately spied Lt. Steven Maclin. Debra and Maclin were good friends. He had worked under her father for more years than she cared to count. He was sitting alone in a corner apart from the other Junior Officers. She casually eyed the other men and went and sat down beside Maclin.
"Mac, youíre still looking a bit peaked. The sub still bothering you?"
"You know it is, I hate enclosed dark places, except when Iím with you," he leered. Maclin knew she had an insatiable appetite for men and sex.
She got excited. He is quite the lover and the only thing on this boat that keeps me from dying of boredom. "Maybe I can do something about that if youíll do something for me," she said seductively rubbing the calf of his leg with a bare foot.
The man got back a good deal of his color." Mmm, let me guess. It has to do with Craneís wife?"
"I know you have connectionsÖ"she said with eyes cold as ice.
"You scratch my back and Iíll scratch yours, ah Debbie?"
"You know Iíll make it worth your time," she replied in a husky whisper.
"You do that Debbie," he replied with eyes as cold as hers. He got up and walked out the door.
Seaview made port right on schedule. The whole ship was encompassed with a lighthearted spirit. The men would soon go on liberty for forty-eight hours. The officers and their guests including the Woodgates and Stella Warren were preparing for the Officerís Ball held in the evening. The Captain had gotten out of sickbay that morning and was feeling much more himself. His wife was happy and Debra Woodgate was purring.
The Woodgates had decided to move into a hotel to prepare for the party. They would return to the boat at eighteen hundred hours. The men received their liberty and most had left the boat with a few whoops and hollers. Senator Stella Warren always prepared had brought everything she needed when sheíd boarded at Pearl Harbor. Heather was in her cabin getting fussed over by the older woman.
"Wait until the Captain gets a look at you," exclaimed Stella. "Youíre positively beautiful!"
Heather embarrassed and red from head to toes looked in the full-length mirror on the head door. She was totally shocked. This could not be her. She looked even closer; there was a trace of her. Stella had out done herself. She had laboriously piled Heatherís hair on top of her head in a very becoming coiffure with tiny ringlets in front of her ears. She helped apply her makeup covering the faded bruises and gave her a manicure fit for a queen.
She would never be able to repay her for her help. Sheíd never been to a dance before what alone a ball. Stella had even taught her how to waltz. Floating on air she walked back to her cabin.
Something must be up with the men she thought. Each time she passed one, heíd run into a bulkhead or another man. She could of sworn Riley ran into a door and Ski and Pat, who was still looking pale from sickbay, almost tumbled down the steps. Sharkey had been her biggest surprise. He had taken a swig of coffee and started to choke. She thought sheíd have to summon Doc for help before he quit coughing. "Swallowed wrong?" she innocently asked pounding him on the back. He could only nod.
She couldnít wait to show Lee that his Plain Jane had turned into Cinderella. As she neared Officerís Country, there was evidence of a loud conversation-taking place, she could hear the voices shouting at each other but the words were muffled from the bulkhead. Adm. Starke intercepted her looking quite anxious.
"Heather?" he asked dumfounded.
For the first time ever, Heather saw he was speechless. Enjoying the strange emotions she was feeling, she lightly replied. "Yes?"
"Ah, you look marvelous. WouldÖ would you care to accompany me down to the nose for a cup of coffee?" he finally barked out. It sounded weak to his ears.
A particular loud phrase that made her ears burn came through the bulkhead. The argument was in Nelsonís cabin. She recognized the voices of her father and husband. She rolled her eyes; they were going at it again. It didnít happen to often, but when it did, it was always an all out row.
She accepted Adm. Starkeís offer of a cup of coffee. When they made the control room, the same thing happened again. Chip, Sparks and OíBrien seemed to have a vision problem for all three blinked and rubbed their eyes a couple of times after running into each other. Chip had promptly spilled his coffee down OíBrienís back. Starke laughed declaring, "Great entertainment."
Heather also laughed at the menís antics. She enjoyed a quick cup of coffee with Adm. Starke then headed back to her cabin anxious for the evening to begin.
Lee Crane was angrier than he had ever been in his whole life. Even the fight with General Esteban DíAlvarez, who had his crewman Farrell executed, paled in comparison. Bait! They used her as bait, still are using her as bait and I had no idea! The pin sheís been wearing has film in it, fake film; the real stuff was passed at the Pelican. Theyíd put her life in danger at the Pelican. What would they have done if something had happened to her? Now they want me toÖhe couldnít finish the thought.
He walked angrily back to his cabin and opened the door. There stood Heather, at least he thought it was Heather. Her hair was done up, makeup on and she was holding a dark emerald dress against her body swaying to a waltz from the music box he had given her. He noticed her hazel eyes were bright with excitement. She flashed him a brilliant smile when she became aware of him standing inside the door.
He was going to be sick. He was angry. He had his orders. It was going to be awful.
Heather was happier than she could ever remember being. She was going to a ball with the man she loved with her whole heart. Soon, she would be able to put the ugly rumors to rest about their relationship. Sheíd be introduced as his wife, Captain and Mrs. Lee Crane, and would no longer be just a loose woman aboard Seaview. She wanted so much for Lee and her father, Adm. Nelson to be proud of her. The ball would be a wonderful place to start her debut into Naval society.
Lee took in the beauty of the woman he loved, the sparkling eyes banked with a hidden fire for later, a promise of what was to come after the ball.
He swallowed and roughly said "Heather, youíre not going to the ball." He watched her face fall. His stomach turned over. He hurried on. "The men and you are still confined to the boat for disobeying a direct order."
He watched the fire in her eyes grow dim as she turned and shut the music box lid and carefully put it back in the drawer. She then slowly, as if in a daze walked to the closet door.
He had moved toward the head as she did so. He delivered the fatal blow. "Iím escorting Miss Woodgate in your place." He watched, as she stiffened and opened the closet door and hung up her dress. He couldnít bear to watch further and turned his head in time to catch her reflection in the head mirror as she came out of the closet. The spark that had been left in her eyes had gone completely out.
He finished with "Report to Chief Sharkey, he has your orders." She nodded not looking at him and silently walked out of the cabin door. Lee went into the head and vomited.
The time had come to gather for the party. The officers were all in their dress whites. Stella was in a long dark blue gown. She was accompanying both Admirals Nelson and Starke. The Woodgates made their appearance known. They each came down the circular stairs, Debra last, as before, when she had first come aboard.
She was dressed in a slinky body fitted peach gown with a daring décolleté showing off her ample breasts. The men all ogled her appreciating the view.
Sharkey stood with Kowalski by the sonar consoles waiting for the brass to clear out of the control room and nose. They were waiting to take their respective places as guard and officer of the deck. It was their job to relieve the ones on present duty topside.
A tiny gasp was heard when Debra had taken the Captainís lifted elbow. Peaches had given the Skipper a long kiss on the side of his mouth.
Sharkey looked over where heíd heard the barely uttered gasp. There stood Heather, to the left of the control room ladder, a white knuckled hand clinging to a rung for support. She had combed out her hair putting it in a tight braid and removed the makeup, her bruises showing once again. She was as still as a statue watching the proceedings.
Sharkey nudged Ski and said in a low murmured voice, "Thereís a real life Cinderella," nodding towards Heather.
Ski followed his Chiefís gaze and saw the sadness in her countenance. "Too bad we canít be her fairy godfathers," he replied his heart aching for her.
The ball was in full swing by the time the Seaview party arrived. It was decorated in the traditional colors of red, white and blue to commemorate Flag Day. The women dressed in an array of colors the men in their whites except for a few visiting dignitaries. As the guests went through the receiving line their names were each announced as they entered the ballroom.
"Admiral Harriman Nelson, SSRN Seaview "
"Admiral Jiggs Starke, Commander Subcompac"
"Senator Stella Warren"
"Captain Lee Crane, SSRN Seaview"
"Miss Debra Woodgate"
"General Charles Woodgate, Fort Hood"
Lee could have sworn he got a few raised eyebrows when his name was announced along with Debra Woodgatesí. He could almost read their minds by the expressions on their faces. He wasnít wrong.
" I thought he was married?"
"Whereís his wife?"
"Whatís he doing with an old flame, are they an item again?"
Peaches clung to his arm looking up at him with adorning eyes. He briefly wondered where the nearest restroom was.
Their mission was to keep an eye on each of the guests they had aboard ship, the idea being one of them would double back during the course of the evening. Lee had the obvious choice of Debra; Nelson, General Woodgate; Starke, Admiral Perkins; Morton, Lt. Maclin; and OíBrien, Lt. Schrems. The other various officers such as Doc and Sparks were to keep an overview of all of them.
The evening wore on. Lee wondered how Heather was doing. Sheíll never speak to me again. How I hurt her, all in the name of justice. He danced as few dances as he could get away with wishing with his whole heart that a certain redhead were in his arms. He would have enjoyed taking Heather to her first dance.
Debra was the belle of the ball. She danced with anyone who would ask her. A tall, dark handsome man came in late to the ballroom. She could see by his insignia that he was a Captain of a submarine like Lee. She instantly checked him out, no marriage ring. Mmm, this is rich. Heís still single, a real ladies man no doubt. She sashayed up to him and introduced herself. The man was smitten with her after one dance.
Lee recognized his rival as none other than Tony Masters, Captain of the Sea Cub. Secretly relieved that Debra had made a beeline for the Ďnewí Captain, Lee was able to relax. He watched them waltz a few dances then she excused herself to the ladies room. Tony came up to Lee and shook his hand in greeting.
"Thatís some dame there Lee, " he laughed. "I hope you donít mind me stealing her away?"
"Sheís all yours. Be careful though the Seawi Öshe has claws."
Tony grinned and rubbed his bruised jaw. "I hope she doesnít hit as hard as your wife does. That was quite a punch she gave me, a real mean right hook. Speaking of which, where is the little lady?"
Lee was at a loss for words. He stared at Tonyís faded bruise on his face. "Heather gave you that?" he asked perplexed and proud at the same time.
"She didnít tell you?" Tony asked a big mischievous smile on his face, his eyes twinkling.
Lee getting a little bit miffed, "No, sheís under a gag order and the Admiral hasnít lifted it yet. He did tell me about the Pelican caper though."
"I see." Tony couldnít help but pull Craneís chain. He could tell the man was dying of curiosity. Tony made a sweep around he room with his eyes landing on Lt. Maclin. A frown crossed his face. "She was my contact I got the microfilm from. Jaguar would only trust her with it after it reached Melonie Starksís hands. Melonie in turn handed it to her Father who in turn handed it to the Lynx. I was being watched so Starke and Nelson turned the tables on the informer. They had George Peoples plant the bait on Debraís desk to make it look like Heather was receiving the film but in actuality she was passing it on to me. I brought it in on Sea Cub and dropped it off in Washington a little while ago."
"So, all this time Heather was a decoy to keep the spyís attention?" Lee complained. "We donít even have the informer yet. He hasnít made his move. Weíre hoping heíll go after her sometime during the dance."
Tony was surprised. "You donít know who he is?" he made a quick check around the room not seeing who he was looking for. Apprehensively he asked, "Didnít Heather put it together when she was in the Pelican? The informer was in the bar watching us."
It was Leeís turn to be surprised. "No, she was knocked unconscious after she gave you the film. She must not of realized he was there." Tonyís uneasiness was rubbing off on him. "Who are you looking for?"
"Maclin?" asked Lee anxious now. "Why him?"
"He has been Debra Woodgatesís lover for over a year now. ONI suspected him of betraying three of the CIAís agents including Heather. Havenít you been informed of any of this?"
"No, we were lead to believe it was Debra Woodgate that tipped off Baxter. Lee truly worried now began searching the crowd for Maclin also.
Debra Woodgate came back from the ladies room and sidled up to Tony. She batted her eyes at him and made cooing noises. Lee took hold of her arm in a vise like grip and asked, "Whereís your lover?" his voice was cold as the sea.
Taken aback she gasped, "What are you talking about?" She tried to wrench her arm free, but his grip only tightened. Both men were looking daggers at her and she was actually afraid.
Lee gave her a small shake. "I said where is your lover, Maclin? Donít deny it. You were with somebody often enough aboard Seaview. It was him wasnít it?" His eyes shot fire and his jaw was clenched.
"She stumbled over her words, "I donít know where he is!" She was becoming angry now. "Unhand me this instant," she ordered. She looked around for help spying her Father. She would have called out to him but Tony stood in her way. Both men escorted her out of the ballroom.
"Tony, do you see Chip anywhere? Heís supposed to be in charge of watching Maclin." Both men looked around desperately. Nothing. Lee pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number, "Time to gather the troops." He quickly called each member of the dance party.
Chip was having a few problems of his own. He had kept an eye on Maclin all night. Nothing out of the ordinary took place, but Chip had a bad feeling. He couldnít shake it. His instincts were all kicking in even though he couldnít put his finger on it. To him, Maclin seemed nervous, to polished and cool. Heíd danced with several women, played cards with the men and gone out for a smoke.
Chip snapped his fingers excited; Maclin didnít smoke. Not once on board Seaview had he seen him light up a cigarette. He remembered Adm. Nelson offering him one once and he had turned it down. He followed Maclin outside. His quarry rounded a corner of the dance hall and Chip followed. When he had rounded the same corner he was met with a fist to the jaw. He saw stars then only darkness.
Lee had franticly dialed each officerís number to their cell phones; bringing them all together at the designated meeting place outside the front door. All answered the call except Chip. Now, all parties were not only worried but a note of urgency ran through the men. Nelson had an idea. He quickly called Seaview on his cell phone.
"Sharkey here," he sounded sleepy to Nelsonís ears.
"Sharkey. Nelson. No time to waste. Bring up the homing device board."
The chief climbed down the ladder from the bridge and brought the board on line. "Up and running Sir."
"Good, now look for Chipís ID, it should be yellow."
Sharkey did as he was bid easily locating him on the base grounds. "Heís out in front, starboard side of the dance hall Sir."
The men all rushed over to the corner where they found Chip just picking himself off the ground. Doc was by his side ordering him to sit still. Nelson asked him what happened. "I was following Lt Maclin" Chip rubbed his jaw where heíd been hit moving it around to ensure it wasnít broken. "Something didnít seem right about him, so I followed him around the outside of the dance hall. When I came around the corner he hit me." Everything became crystal clear in an instant but Chip said it best. "Heís jumped ship, it must be him who betrayed the Lynx."
"Sharkey. You still there?" asked an outwardly calm Nelson inside anxiety was eating away.
"Yes Sir, did you find Mr. Morton?"
"We did, now listen its Maclin. Keep your eyes peeled. Remember do not apprehend him just keep your eyes on him. Donít move in unless Heather is in immediate danger. Got it?"
"Yes Sir. Surveillance only. Keep our distance. Aye Sir."
"Very well. Weíll be there in a few minutes."
Heather refused to think beyond the report she was entering into the word processor. She hadnít quite followed Leeís orders because at the time she couldnít face anyone. She didnít want anyoneís pity. So instead, she went to the computer office and washed her face and combed out her hair. She then waited until it was time for the men to leave for the ball. Not being able to resist the temptation of one last look she had gone down to the control room and watched their exit. Then she went to the porterís closet intent on getting out a bucket and mop. She had assumed the control room would be hers to clean again. Sharkey had caught her lifting the bucket out and berated her for not following orders. She was mildly surprised when Sharkey had given her the Admiralís orders. Transcribe strategy notes for war games, in triplicate. The notes were dozens of pages long. The work helped for a while, then her mind would drift.
She wondered how the ball was going. How many times did Peaches kiss her husband? What were people saying? Did it matter? She looked at her watch for the umpteenth time cursing her self as she did so.
"Oh, Father, is this what it felt like when Mother died?" she asked out loud. She now understood why he chose not to love again. It simply hurt too much. Burying yourself in oneís work has it advantages. She also understood how he blamed an innocent child. It had been a survival trick to stay alive.
She worked for another hour. After typing in the same line for the third time she stopped angry with herself for messing up. Her thoughts automatically traveled to her tall dark husband. Heíd seemed so cold when he had told her she wasnít going to the dance. She tried to capture the look on his face and now in retrospect realized he had been hurting too.
Why? He had positively looked green. Why? She felt the ribbon pin on her collar. Why do I have to wear this all the time? Weíre in port now. Why couldnít I tell Lee the truth about the Pelican? Would it have changed anything? Why was I really left behind? Suddenly she knew he had been following orders. I trust you Lee, I donít know why Iím here and youíre there but I trust you with my life if it comes down to that. She felt better. An old saying came to her mind. There is a reason for everything even though itís not for us to reason why.
Riley and Patterson were busy mopping the deck outside the computer room in officerís country. They had cleaned the bulkheads up and down the corridor. Everything was shining.
"How many more times do we have to do this?" grumbled Riley. "Iím bushed."
"As many times as it takes. You heard Sharkeyís orders. Weíre to be wherever she is," replied Pat yawning. "I need some coffee. Want some?"
"Yeah," Riley returned stifling a yawn of his own. He put his mop in the bucket and knocked on the computer room door.
"Heather, you in need of some coffee?" he asked hoping he wasnít bothering her unnecessarily. He knew she had to be hurting after seeing the Skipper escort Peaches to the dance instead of her. I would have never believed it if I hadnít seen it with my own two eyes.
"That sounds wonderful Riley. I need a break, mind if I walk with you down to mess?" she shyly asked.
"Not at all."
The three of them walked in friendly companionship to the galley. A fresh pot of coffee sat brewed on the burner. "Hey, Cookie must of known weíd need this," said a grateful Patterson. "I wonder if Sharkey and Ski would like some?" he asked pouring three cups. Two of them drank it black while Heather preferred cream and sugar.
"Iíll give them a shout," said Riley going to the mike and paging the bridge. "Two more cups. Iíll take them up."
"Why donít we all go?" suggested Heather. "I think we could use some fresh air."
The three of them joined the other two on the upper deck by the gangway. "Coffee hits the spot, thatís for sure," exclaimed Sharkey. He had been worried about his goddaughter, he was glad to see her talking again to the men. For a while he thought he had blown it when he had berated her for not following the Skipperís orders. She had been completely silent when heíd caught her with the pail and mop. He couldnít imagine what the Skipper would say if heíd have come back to find her hands blistered and bloodied again.
The night was warm. The stars were bright. Romance was in the air. The ball drifted through her mind again. Heather felt totally alone. It was getting late and she needed to finish the Admiralís report. "I got to get back to work," she said tired. She stifled a yawn.
"That means we do too," said Riley following her down to the lower deck. Pat fell in step behind them. All three made there way back to their appointed duty stations.
Just before Heather shut the door to her office she turned and gave the men a smile. "Thanks guys. I really needed friends tonight." All three grinned at each other and went back to work.
As the night went on Heather was finding it hard to stay awake. She chalked it up to the fact she had stayed in sickbay with Lee and had gotten precious little sleep. Sleeping on a chair with her head propped on the bed rail had been uncomfortable until her husband had pulled her into the bunk with him. Then theyíd both slept like babies for a couple of hours.
After continually making mistakes and practically falling a sleep on the keyboard, she got up, stretched and went out into the corridor. Both men were hard at work down by the Admiralís cabin. She went into the Captainís cabin and decided to lie down for a catnap. It would be hours yet before the brass came back on board.
Lt. Maclin walked up the gangplank of Seaview. He knew there would be no interference. Brewing a fresh pot of coffee laced with a sleeping drug had been a snap. Now, all he had to do was collect the microfilm and Heather. The reward money was going to be nice. He envisioned all the plans he had made for it. His life would be secure with Baxter and if he was lucky he might even figure out who Jaguar was. That would really put a feather in my cap. Iíd be able to do anything I wanted in his organization. He crossed the main deck and went around the conning tower nearly tripping over a passed out Sharkey leaning up against the hatch door. It looked as if he had slid down the door. He glanced up at the bridge and could barely make out Kowalski leaning against the sill.
He started whistling as he went through the hatch and down the steps. He came across Riley and Patterson each passed out on the deck by Admiral Nelsonís cabin. He knew Heather had to be nearby. He tried the Captainís cabin first. Bingo! Out like a light just waiting for me. He stared down at her sleeping features. Youíre quite a looker when youíre all dolled up. I would never have believed it. I can see why Baxter wanted to give you to the Arab.
He reached down and roughly shook her. She moaned but didnít wake up. He slapped her hard across the face hitting the faded bruised cheek. That brought a response.
Heatherís face was on fire. Her limbs felt like lead weights. She tried with all her might to open her heavy eyes only succeeding for a split second. Enough time to realize Lt Maclin was leaning over her. She felt pain on the other cheek and tried to cooperate. Unreasonable fear snaked down her spine. She vaguely realized this was not the claustrophobic man from earlier. This man was cruel. She tried to lift her arms to fend him off and discovered she couldnít. The Coffee? It had been overly sweet, must have been drugged, too late now. She then felt him grab her hair and yank her head up. More pain.
"Where is it?" he shouted.
She mumbled "Whereís what?" that earned her another crack across the face. Her ears rang, her stomach started rebelling and she tasted blood. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her like a dog. Her neck unable to support itself flopped back and forth. He let go. She fell back on the bed.
"The microfilm, where is it?" Maclin brusquely growled grabbing and shaking her by the hair again.
She looked at him for a second then her eyes closed. Blood was running freely from her split lips down her neck and over her collar where the ribbon pin was displayed. It looked out of place. She looked grotesque.
He was about to hit her again when his eye caught the ribbon pin. He suddenly remembered she had it on the day they were all at the White Pelican. Of course, you fool. Right in plain sight for all to see, when you want to hide something leave it in plain sight. He yanked the pin off her collar and examined closely the front and back tack. He shrugged and put the pin together depositing it in his khaki shirt pocket.
He menacingly leaned over Heather and grabbed her hair again eliciting a cry from her. He said low next to her ear. "Iím taking you to Baxter!" he was rewarded with her limply trying to get away. Cruel laughter was heard in the room. He picked her up like a rag doll and threw her over his shoulder.
He took his time walking through the corridors of Seaview. He hated submarines. He hated closed in spaces. That part of his cover had been true. It had taken every ounce of courage to crawl through the air ducks to reach his objectives. The first time through he had almost run into Debra Woodgate smashing a picture of the Captain and his wife. Sheíd been in a rage as usual. He had liked it when she was in those snits the sex was always more fun. He climbed up the steps and came out onto the main deck. The Chief was still where heíd last seen him. He rounded the conning tower and came to a halt.
The Seaviewís officers were on the gangplank. In the lead was her Captain a fierce look on his face. He was followed by; two Admirals, the Exec, a doctor, a few Junior Officers and the Captain of the Sea Cub, who was dragging Debra Woodgate with him. They all came to a stop when they saw Maclin with Heather tossed over his shoulder.
Maclin backed up around the conning tower and stooped down and grabbed the Chiefís gun from its holster. He came back around to find the men closer to their quarry. He shifted Heather down on her feet but kept her pressed against him with his left arm. He put the gun to her head.
"Iíll waste her! Stay back!" he threatened. He himself backed up to the edge of the deck.
It was Debra who recovered first. "Mac please, put the gun down. Theyíll kill you if you donít," she pleaded.
"Debbie you astound me. When did you start caring about my welfare?" he mocked her and looked at the men. Fools! Theyíre unarmed. I can still pull this off. Debra started crying. "Tears my dear? Not for me surely and no doubt not for Heather either." He was starting to enjoy the game.
Lee was blindly incensed. He started to slowly stalk Maclin. He got within a few feet of him when he heard the click of the trigger being pulled back. "Her death will be at your hands. Is that what you want?" Lee backed off but held the ground he had covered.
They were at a standoff for the moment. Each man made his own assessment and came to the same conclusion. Heather was unconscious or very near it. She sagged against Maclinís body, his arm all that was holding her in place. No help would come from her. Maclin was armed. They werenít. Something had happened to the skeleton crew, but there hadnít been enough time for him to disarm them, get Heather and make his escape before they got there.
The crew must be all right reasoned Nelson. Probably drugged or gassed he guessed. He looked up to the conning tower and thought he saw movement. Buy time. "Lt. Maclin whatís in this for you?" he asked.
"Money!" came the answer. "Baxterís into buying guns from the army. General Woodgate and his sweet daughter here were my unwitting suppliers. I was in charge of weapons. It was easy to record and change the requisitions. The CIA and ONI knew there was a link but didnít know who." He went on bragging; "I was able to monitor their activities from their own offices. Iíd be in Debbieís office waiting for her, sheíd have to leave to answer her boss summons or xerox something or other. It was easy getting any information I needed. She often left critical papers lying on her desk. I even had access to her computer for she would forget to log off when she left," he laughed.
Debra screamed. "I trusted you! You were my friend...my lover! Weíve known each other for years."
"Thereís no such thing as friends or lovers in the real world. Not in the business we are in."
"What are you going to do now that your coverís blown?" asked Crane his eyes not leaving his wifeís face. He fidgeted with his wedding ring twisting it around and around.
Maclin couldnít help himself. He felt powerful now. "Iíll work for Baxter. He supplies weapons for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia. This microfilm will insure me a high place in his organization. I might even make commander," he laughed.
Nelson, Crane and Capt Masters came to the same conclusion at the same time. This man is a fool. He spilled Baxterís whole operation.
Once we get word to the CIA or ONI combined with the evidence on the microfilm Baxter is done, thought Nelson. If this man makes it back to Baxter, heíll be dead probably by Baxterís own hand.
Lee still staring at Heatherís battered face asked in a dangerous low tone. "What are you going to do with my wife?"
The Seaview men knew this was it. The Skipper had an ace up his sleeve and he was about to play it. They held their breath again and waited.
Surprised Crane hadnít figured that out Maclin proudly informed him. "Iím taking her with me. Sheís worth a million dollars to me and Baxter will be more than happy to hand her over to the sheik."
He waited for Crane to say something. He wanted him to squirm. He wanted him to beg. The Captain refused to give him the satisfaction. Undaunted, he gloriously went on not catching the angry stances of the Seaview men. "You know, Baxter is a ruthless man." He took personal delight in sharing this tidbit of information. "One of his men turned out to be a DEA agent. The very one who had been feeding Heather. He forced him down into the pit where he kept her. He chained him up so he couldnít move and killed him with a knife. He left him there for days. The ratsÖ" demonic laughter followed as he witnessed the horror on the menís faces.
Lee wanted to kill him. Everyman on deck wanted to kill him. The only thing stopping them was Maclin tightened his hand on the gun. The muzzle was pressed against Heatherís temple. One slip with the hair trigger and she would be gone.
"Enough explanations! I want you to clear the way."
He was brought up short from a command from above. "Hold it right there, Maclin!" shouted a dazed Kowalski. "Throw down your gun."
Maclin looked up, as did everyone except Crane. He kept his eyes on the hapless lieutenant.
Kowalski had a rifle trained on Maclin.
"Better do as he said lieutenant. Heís a crack shot," suggested Crane.
Maclin looked into the cold eyes of the Captain and every man on deck. Heíd come so close. He dropped the gun on the deck much to the relief of the men. Crane raced towards him, but Maclin gave a shout of defiance and jumped overboard with Heather still in his grip.
"NOOOO" screamed Lee on his way over the side. His nightmare came to haunt him. I canít let her drown I canít. He dove deep into the water where heíd last seen his wife. Down he went. Down further his ears popped. He couldnít come up without her. If she sinks to the bottomÖ His lungs felt like they were going to burst. Finally, he banged into her. He grabbed her wrist and made his way up as fast as he could. He broke the surface gasping for breath.
Sparks and OíBrien were in the water waiting for him. They quickly relieved him of his burden and pulled her to the side of the boat. A lifeline was waiting for them. Sparks quickly tied it under her arms and the Admirals hauled her aboard and laid her on the deck.
Doc took over from there. "I have to clear the airway before we can resuscitate other wise itís useless." He performed the Heimlich maneuver, putting pressure on the lungs and causing water to expel from her lungs. She started coughing, her reflexes kicking in. By this time Chip had the portable resuscitator ready; which Doc quickly applied. Doc did a quick assessment of her respirations and pulse. Her pulse was strong and steady but respirations were rapid. She was still unconscious and showed no signs of coming around. He didnít know if it was from the near drowning or the beating she had sustained. He was worried about shock setting in. He called for a blanket.
Chip one step ahead of him brought up several to the deck. He handed one to Doc, then Lee who had just been helped out of the water. OíBrien and Sparks were right behind him. They all collapsed on the deck trying to catch their breaths.
"Iím okay." Lee reassured everyone and made his way shakily over to his wife. "How is she Doc?" He squatted down next to her and reached for her hand. His hand was trembling and he felt cold clear to his bones.
"Looks like the damage is mostly to her face, again. The inside of her mouth is split in several places and her eyes are starting to swell. Her lungs for the most part sound clear. I can hear some crackles though. All in all she was lucky. No matter how you cut it sheís earned a trip to the base hospital."
Maclin had gotten clean away. In all the confusion, heíd made good his escape.
"Wake up Heather, come on love wake up." She felt herself being gently shaken. A plea from far away, "Heather, sweetheart youíve been asleep long enough. I have plans for you tonight. Now wake up!" she was in a warm cocoon. She didnít want to come out. It was safe in here. She felt kisses on her forehead, both cheeks and beside her ear. She breathed in the unique essence that was only Lee. The smell of the sea mixed with his body fragrance. She opened her eyes and was rewarded with a deep hungry kiss. After a few moments of bliss, Lee lifted his head and sat up on the bunk. He had changed into a satin robe. The lights in the cabin were dim and she could smell food.
She stretched and her stomach decided to growl at that moment. "What time is it and where is the food?" Lee got up from the bunk, stated the time of 23:00 hundred hours and brought a tray over to the bed. "Cookie made us something special to snack on." He said lifting the lids off the dishes. There was warm French onion soup with melted cheese followed by chicken potpie, two of Heatherís favorites. A bottle of California white zinfandel accompanied the meal. They both ate ravenously.
Spying the last dish Heather asked. "Whatís in there?" Lee took the lid off to discover peach cobbler. A groan came from Heather, "Well two out of three is good, she laughed. Lee joined her.
It was good to hear her laugh again. It had been two weeks since her near drowning. The Seaview had stayed in port a couple extra days lending assistance in finding Maclin. It had been to no avail. During that time Heather had been to the emergency room on base and admitted for observation. The next morning she was released to Docís custody.
Doc made her stay in sickbay for three days. She protested of course stating she never felt better. Doc was adamant and explained that, "Delayed death due to hypoxia could occur 15 minutes to 3 days after immersion. It was imperative that resuscitated patients be kept for observation until that possibility could be excluded."
Lee found himself again a patient, as well. His unexpected dive in the ocean had added insult to a persistent headache. Doc was still concerned about the concussion. His upper respiratory infection had turned into a chest cold due to a prolonged stay in wet clothes. But for once, he didnít protest his stay, as long as he could be by his wife...
During the next two weeks Seaview participated in the war games at St Martin. They took turns with the Sea Cub and Whitefish being prey and acting aggressor. They used all the Admiralís strategies and others. They tested new equipment including a multifunction display mounted in the Captainís cabin next to the TV monitor. This device, which is tied into Seaviewís missile system, was a red gas-plasma display showing data on position, course, speed, heading and depth. The design model also showed the current tactical situation around the boat.
Lee especially liked it because he could see it in the middle of the night and check the boatís status without having to turn on a light. After a brief discussion with Nelson, it was decided to have a few of them installed in various key places around the boat including the control room.
After the games, Seaview was on her way home. They had just crossed through the Panama Canal, which had gone smoothly. The Skipper paid a visit to the galley and had asked Cookie to fix he and his wife something to eat.
Lee had forced Heather to take a nap and would wake her later stating only that they had some unfinished business to take care of. She had reluctantly complied but soon fell asleep. She looked beautiful to him in her dishabille. Her long thick hair was unbraided and intertwined with her body. He loved it when she wore one of his old shirts to bed. It reminded him of whom she belonged to.
They had finished dessert in spite of the fact peaches were no longer eitherís favorite and drank the bottle of wine. Lee felt quite content and only had one thing to do before he got down to business.
He got up from the bunk they had used for a table and put the dishes aside. Then going over to his desk he picked up a piece of paper. "Heather, this paper magically appeared under Adm. Nelsonís door after we docked two weeks ago. We figured Maclin gave it Debra. Do you recognize it?" he discreetly asked and handed her the paper.
She instantly did for it was their marriage contract that Peaches had taunted her with. Concern marred the features on her face. She looked up with wide luminous eyes silently questioning his motives.
He carefully took the contract from her numb fingers and began to tear it into strips until there virtually was nothing left to tear. He then threw it in the trash basket. He sat down beside her on the bunk and took her in his arms. "Heather, I love you and that farce of a contract will stand between us no more." He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes seeing a reflection of his own. "You are mine, now and forever."
In Pt Gallinas, Columbia, ex Lt. Steven Maclin waited for his employer, Jeffrey Baxter to finish viewing the microfilm he had brought him. With him waited Baxterís second in command, a man named Michael Lopez, nick-named, The Commander. He looked meaner than a junkyard dog.
Baxter came out of the house and had a brief conversation with his Commander on the porch. The Commander nodded and returned to the patio where Maclin was seated. He escorted the ex Lt. to a warehouse on the docks. Maclin thought his boss was pleased with his work and was going to reward him. He soon found himself alone with the Commander and hanging in chains with one of his own army rifles aimed at his head. He begged, pleaded and bartered to no avail.
The Commander just smiled and said. "This oneís for the Lynx" and Jaguar pulled the trigger.
END OF PART ONE
Books by Edward L. Beach:
Run Silent Run Deep
Dust on the Sea
Cold is the Sea
Tom Clancy and John Gresham:
Submarine, A Guided Tour Inside a Nuclear Warship