If there be demons......

 

by

Linda Delaney

 

 

 

 

“Sparks!” the voice on the headset called sharply.  “Sparks, get me Dr. Jamison on my private line.”

 

“Aye, Skipper.” After a pause, “Captain, are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine, Sparks.  Just fine.  I just want to talk to Jamie…privately.”

 

A relieved sigh escaped the radioman…  “Aye, aye, Skipper.”  There was a pause, and then, “Dr. Jamison is on your line, sir.”

 

“Thank you, Sparks.” Lee Crane picked up the phone, and Will Jamison’s voice came on, tinged with alarm.

 

“Lee?  What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing, Jamie.”  Patiently, he continued, “Can you come down to my cabin?”

 

“Nothing’s wrong, but you want me to come to you?  Skipper, I’m on my way!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riley and Kowalski were in the corridor, just of outside of Sick Bay when Will Jamison tore out of the door, black bag in hand. 

 

“Doc?!” Ski called out.

 

“Later, Kowalski!  The Skipper called me.”

 

“The Skipper called you?!  What’s wrong, Doc?” he asked alarmed.

 

“I don’t know.  I’ll find out when I get there…  Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me…”

 

The two crewmen exchanged anxious looks, and followed the doctor down the corridors to Officer’s Country.  Once there, the doctor knocked once, and hearing the Captain call “Come!” he entered and closed the door behind him…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short time later, Jamison opened the door to the corridor, and looking back, said to the occupant of the cabin, “Skipper, I’ll be back in a few hours.  And I fully expect to find you here and nowhere else, is that clearly understood?”

 

A muffled ‘yes’ was heard and the crewmen, who were still in the corridor, made themselves look busy.  No need for Doc to know that they had been outside the Captain’s Cabin the whole time!

 

Jamison, on the other hand, cast them a baleful look, “What are the two of you doing up here in Officer’s Country?”

 

Us? Uh…uh,  nothing, Doc. We, uh… we were wondering if the Skipper was, well, you know…I mean…. Well, is he….is he okay, sir?”

 

Distractedly, “Why, yes, Kowalski, the Captain’s fine.  He just wanted to see me…in confidence.”  Looking at the two crewmen with growing apprehension, he warned them.  “Now don’t you go and start any ridiculous rumors, you two. Go on, get outta here before I put both of you on report for being where you don’t belong!!”

 

Amid mutterings of ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no problem, sir,’ the ratings pushed and shoved at one another to get out of the area of the boat, and away from the boat’s CMO.  They could put up with the O.O.M.’s mercurial moods, the Skipper’s infrequent, but intense anger, and a dressing down from the Exec.  The only person on the boat whose ire they did not care to engage was the doctor’s. He had too many ways to get them down and keep them down!!!

 

As they approached the crew’s Mess, their heads were bent toward one another, and they did not see COB Sharkey walking towards them.  The three nearly collided.  Sharkey looked at the two men with a great deal of annoyance.

 

“Didn’t you two see me comin’?” he growled.

 

“Uh, no Chief…we were talking about the Skipper.  We think there’s something wrong with him that the Doc isn’t telling us!”

 

“Something wrong with the Skipper?  What in God’s name would make you knotheads think of that.  Besides, if there was, believe me I’d know!!! The Admiral would’ve said something!”

 

Kowalski shook his head.  “Not if the Doc didn’t tell him, Chief.  Not if the Skipper didn’t want anyone to know!”

 

“Now, you knuckleheads just wait one minute!!! If it was bad enough for the Doc to be called in, he’d let the Admiral know!  You can bet on it!!”

 

“Maybe not, Chief…maybe if the Skipper didn’t want him to know he wouldn’t!”

 

“Well, you guys stow the bilge and go wherever you’re supposed to be right now.  I’m gonna get to the bottom of it, you’ll see.  But you don’t say a word to anyone, you hear me?!”

 

“Sure, Chief, sure…not a word at all,” the two men agreed.  They went into the Mess, and the COB headed to Officer’s Country to ‘get to the bottom of it!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Sharkey rounded the corner to the Admiral’s quarters, he saw Jamison leaving Nelson’s cabin.  He overheard the doctor say, “Why, of course, Admiral… I’ll keep you posted on the Skipper’s condition.  Right now, all he needs is rest and quiet, and perhaps as little ‘rolling around’ as you can possibly order!”

 

The voice from the cabin added, with a light voice, “I’ll see what I can arrange… you just take care of Lee!”

 

“Aye, Sir!”  Jamison shut the door, and walked towards the Captain’s Cabin.  He knocked lightly, looked in, and quietly closed it, then proceeded in the direction of Sick Bay. 

 

Sharkey was appalled… Somethng was wrong with the skipper!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The COB walked reluctantly into the Control Room.  This was the Alpha Watch. Beta watch was the ‘Skipper’s Watch’, and if the Skipper didn’t show for it, then the rumors would surely fly.  Shrugging, he approached the Exec.   He cleared his throat.

 

“Mr. Morton?  Excuse me, sir…?”

 

Slightly annoyed at being approached by the Chief, after his call from the Admiral, Chip looked at the man with a baleful eye, “Is there a problem, Chief?”

 

Uncomfortable with having approached the Exec when he was obviously preoccupied, he replied, “Well, Mr. Morton, I was wondering, is the Captain okay, sir?”

 

“What are you talking about, Chief?  Of course the Skipper’s okay!” Chip’s response was irritated and he was struggling to keep his voice, and anger, under control.  “He just is taking a bit of down time.  The last mission was tough on all of us, and since all the Admiral has us doing on this cruise is another whale count, well, Doc recommended that the Skipper take some extra sack time.  That’s all, Chief.”  Then, his blue eyes narrowed a bit, “And if I hear any rumors to the contrary, I’ll keelhaul you and anyone else that has any part of it!! Is that understood?!!!”

 

“Yes, sir, Mr. Morton!!! I just thought…”

 

In a flat, no-nonsense tone, “Do me a favor, and don’t think, Chief…just don’t think at all!!! “

“Aye, sir!!”  Sharkey walked away, more puzzled by the brusqueness of the Exec, and even more concerned about his CO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kowalski sat at his station on the ‘Skipper’s Watch’ and looked around the Control Room.  He and the rest of the men were uneasy.  Captain Crane was not at his usual post today.  Instead, Mr. Morton and Mr. O’Brien were sharing the watch.  The Skipper was up in his cabin with a ‘DND’ posted.  And no one had a reason why. The rumor mill had the Skipper sick or dying, and the Chief was not being helpful at all.  Usually, Sharkey was a wealth of information about the Senior Staff. But this time, he had nothing and was saying less….

 

The Exec was on edge and unusually short with the crew.  Pulling a double half-watch was not an unusual event, but he was perturbed about Nelson’s reluctance to tell him what was really wrong with Lee.  All that the Admiral had been willing to share was that they were going to make some course adjustments in order to return to Santa Barbara, but complete the count at the same time.  He also had been warned by the Admiral that the Captain and his quarters were off limits to all personnel, himself included.

 

That was what disturbed Chip more than anything else.  What in the hell is wrong with Lee?

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

When the Seaview berthed two days later, there was a great deal of scurrying and activity in Officer’s Country.  Will Jamison had been omnipresent for the return trip at the Captain’s cabin, and no amount of persuasion could get him to tell anyone what was wrong with the Skipper.  None of the crew had heard or seen him since his call to Sparks, and the rumor mill had him all but dead and buried.  Then, more fuel was added to the rumor mill when the order was given by the Exec that as soon as the boat was settled, the entire crew was to take a two week leave, and they were to evacuate the boat ASAP. 

 

Morton and Nelson did a final sweep of the boat after everyone had left her and then Nelson also waited until Chip had taken his leave.   Just as he saw the Med Bay ambulance pull up to the dock, and certain that the only ones left on the boat were himself, Jamison, and Crane, he made his way up to the Captain’s cabin.  He entered Crane’s quarters to find the Captain of his boat sitting in a chair at the desk, looking something like the Invisible Man! Lee was wearing a trench coat, glasses, gloves, and hat, with his face covered with bandages.  As Lee stood, the Admiral saw he was wearing pajamas under the coat and that he was wearing heavy socks under his slippers.

 

Nelson looked at Crane, “You ready, Lee?”

 

Crane didn’t speak, he simply nodded ‘yes’ and shuffled to the door.  Both men were at his side quickly, each taking an arm.

 

“Hard to see with these damn glasses!” the muffled voice protested.

 

“Well, it’s better that than being blind!” was Jamison’s retort. “Once we get you to the Med Bay, and we can control the light, you can take them off.  But not until then.”

 

In a reassuring tone, Nelson agreed.  “Don’t worry, Lee, we’ll be at the Med Bay in short time.  It will be easier to take care of you there.”

 

Jamison and Nelson thought for sure they heard a muffled curse escape the wrappings, but they weren’t certain, but neither man chose to comment.  Instead, they chose to busy themselves with helping Crane to the gangway to the hatch. Once on deck, the corpsmen from the ambulance came forward and took Crane in hand, helping him onto a stretcher, and then carried it to the waiting vehicle.  Nelson and Jamison followed - the doctor climbing into the ambulance, Nelson going to his waiting Mercedes at that was parked dockside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short time later, Jamison and Nelson moved quickly to get Crane settled in a room in the Med Center.  A large Quarantine sign was stuck to the outside of the door and the nursing staff was giving their very strict orders regarding the situation.

 

Finally, Jamison and Nelson met in the corridor.

 

Wearily, Nelson asked, “How’s he taking this, Will?  Is he going to be okay?”

 

The Institute’s Chief Medical Officer drew in a sharp breath and then nodded.  “Yeah, after he gets over this unreasonable need for absolute privacy.”

 

There was a puzzled look on the Admiral’s tired face.  “But how did this happen?  What in God’s name brought it on?”
 

The two men started to slowly walk down the hall.  “Hard to say, Harry.  Very hard to say.  Wherever he was, he was exposed to it at least a week before it happened.  That’s the standard incubation period.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t for the life of me remember where he was a week to ten days ago!”

 

“Where we all were, Will.  On the boat, doing the whale count, and…   My God!  That’s it!  We stopped to give a tow to that stranded boat, the one with the two families on it. Lee went over to them to help them set the lines, and we pulled them into the nearest port.  He was the only one that went over there.”

 

“Then that has to be where he got it.  If I remember right, there were young children aboard.  I wonder….”

 

He turned on a heel and pushed open the door to the room, with Nelson close behind.  At the side of the door was a box with green gowns, surgical gloves, and masks.  Both men donned the appropriate protective wear, and went into the room proper, coming to a halt at the bedside of the sleeping man.  There were several IV lines running to the Captain’s arm and an oxygen cannula lay on his face.  He moved slightly and turned toward them in his sleep. Even in the dim light, they could see how swollen his face was, and both also saw the swellings on his chest and waist.  He had been so uncomfortable that Jamie had tried to eliminate as much clothing from Crane as possible, and there was only a light sheet covering him.

 

Any sense of decency or modesty had been ‘thrown to the wind’ by the overwhelming discomfort of the man in the bed. For that reason, the only nursing staff he saw were Frank Lerner and John Warner, Jamison knowing what an innately modest man Crane was, and how uncomfortable he would be with someone other than members of the medical staff that he didn’t know.

 

Jamison had ordered oatmeal baths and Calamine Lotion washes to ease the discomfort, and along with the Benedryl and several other anti-inflammatory meds, enabled the Captain of the Boat to finally sleep.

 

Nelson watched Jamison as he checked the IV’s, and the other parameters of his patient’s condition.  When the doctor finished his exam, he pulled the sheet up to cover his patient’s chest, then placed a gloved hand on the younger man’s shoulder.  He turned to Nelson, seeing that the older man wanted to remain at the Captain’s side, he nodded.

 

“Look, I’ll meet you in my office in ten minutes. I’ll have a complete update on the Skipper for you then.”

 

Nelson nodded, Jamison moved off, and he moved to the side of the rack. Smiling under his mask, he shook his head, and looked down at the younger man.

 

“Well, Lee, looks like you’ve done it again!  If anyone had told me that my Captain would get taken down by the measles, I’ve laughed my ass off.  But here you are and here I am, and you’ve got the measles.  Makes me damn glad that Will saw to it that the entire crew had the regimen of shots a few years ago that included that measles vaccine.  You didn’t get the shots - you were off on an ONI mission. And you managed to escape from the clutches of the doctor when you returned.  So, due to another one of your vanishing acts after the fact, looks like you put yourself in more difficulty than you imagined back then.”  He quietly chuckled to himself, remembering a lifetime ago when he himself had contracted the illness.  Only his had been a childhood experience.

 

As he left the quarantine area, he saw a slender blond figure moving down the hall. Chip Morton on his way to ‘rackside duty’.  Even though Chip knew that Lee was going to be fine, he would still keep his ‘vigil’ until Crane was on the road to recovery.

 

Nelson tossed the greens into the waiting hamper and marched down the corridor to Jamison’s office. He tapped lightly on the door, and walked in.  Jamison was sitting at his desk making notes in a very, very thick folder.

 

He grinned at Nelson as the Admiral sat down and lit a cigarette.

 

“Harry, you know….”

 

“Yes, I do, and it’s only my third one today…”
 

“Umm, and it’s only ten o’clock.  You have to cut down more than that!”

 

“Right. When pigs fly and cows come home to roost! Will, you know….”

 

“Yes, and so do you…   One of these days, something’s going to make you give them up.  I just hope it’s not something that's fatal.”  He cleared his throat.  “You know,“ he continued, changing the subject from the usual discussion of the Admiral’s smoking habits, “You know that if our Captain hadn’t managed to slide away from my program, as I might add he has frequently done before, he wouldn’t be lying in that rack right now. Measles!!!  The damn measles, for God’s sake.  A kid’s illness and not bad for kids… but adults… well, we both know that s another story altogether!”

 

“Yep… and you are monitoring him for everything, right?”

 

He gave Nelson a crooked smile. “Now, what do you think, Harry? Look at that file of his. He never had them as a child, like most of the rest of us and he didn’t get the immunization when the others did.  I swear to God, I think he’s the only patient that I have ever had that continues to throw curveballs at me when I think he’s over one hump or another. You, Chip, some of the others are all, shall we say at the risk of my losing my ‘leaves’, difficult patients, but Lee…Lee isn’t only difficult, he likes to throw me unexpected events. Like the reactions to certain meds and a hell of a list of other things!! Anyway, this time, well, at least he was concerned enough to call right away. By giving me the heads up, he probably prevented any complications from occurring. For a change… for a big change.”

 

“What made him call you anyway?”

 

“He was itchy and didn’t want to come on duty scratching,” Jamison grinned at Nelson and the two of them got a similar visual.  “He didn’t think it would be proper Naval behavior for the Captain of the Boat to be standing watch scratching like a dog with fleas! So he called me to give him something.  Good call on his part, even if the reason for it was self-aggrandizing.  And also a good thing we got him back here when we did.  The fact that he was showing worse symptoms after the initial onset wasn’t a good thing, although with Lee, that’s not uncommon. A rocky few days, but he seems to be on the mend now.  We’ll finish the course of treatment in another five days, and then, one week’s medical leave, and he can go back on duty. Not bad for Lee. Not bad at all.”

 

Nelson smiled as he inhaled deeply of his cigarette. “Now the only question will be, how will we explain to the crew that all the Captain had was the measles?!!”

 

 

 

Finis

 

 

 

 

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