its a hopeless task
There are several notes that I have to make here. First and foremost, I have to thank Jane Daffron, author, friend and much, much more. Jane created the wonderful Davis women, Karen and Caitlin, and of course, she really is the mother of Sean Pearce Nelson! Jane has graciously allowed me to use Caitlin in my stories, as Lee Crane’s new love, and wife. She has allowed me to breathe my version of life into Sean Nelson, in this story, as well as my "kiddie" stories, that have been previously posted on this page. She has also loaned me Karen, and in fact, has spoken for her here. She has given Karen and Harry such a wonderful relationship, and such a wonderful son, and I am forever grateful for her kindness, and for her friendship. Thanks Jane!
To those of you unfamiliar with The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., there are several references that I make in the story to places at the Academy, and they need some explanation.
"Mother B" is Bancroft Hall, the residence and so much more to the Middies. "The Yard" is the Academy campus in front of Mother B. "Santee Basin" the basin at the end of Dewey Field. If you have any further questions, I’ll be happy to answer them, just email us at the addies on tis page. Enjoy the story.)
As he came to consciousness, slowly, he was battered by an immediate feeling of hopelessness. He was aware of movement. He couldn’t see, couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. As his senses became keener, and less muzzy, he began to evaluate his situation. The biting harshness of the rope that tightly bound his wrists and ankles, cut deeply into his flesh. As he twisted his wrists, hoping for some play, some leeway in the bindings, he felt the warm, stickiness of his own blood oozing into his hands. Movement in his wrists was causing the rope to wear away tender flesh. The bindings were extremely tight! And very thorough! There was no getting out of them. He was further bound around the chest and elbows, and the legs as well. He was unable to move his body because of all the bindings. He became aware that his blindness was caused by a blindfold of some kind, his inability to speak by a gag. The movement beneath him puzzled him. It wasn’t his boat. ‘His boat!’ It was a different type of movement. Like a car or a truck. What had happened? How had he come to be here, wherever here was? His mind was not allowing recognition of the facts, it was all still trapped in a hazy, blurred remembrance of light and shadow and nothing else.
He stopped fighting, stopped trying to remember, and allowed himself to relax, as much as possible, hoping that memory would return. His boat! What was happening with his boat? He had a vision of a silver form, long and sleek. As rolling movement occurred, something rolled into him, knocking the breath out of him. Another body? There was someone else here! The vehicle came to a halt, the movement stopped and he felt, rather than heard, movement of people. What was wrong with his hearing? He was lifted and carried and put down in another place. The other body (?) person was put down next to him. He had no way of knowing who this was. He was trying hard to remember if someone had been with him before he lost consciousness. He still could not remember!
They were moving again! But this time, it was on water. He felt the familiar sway and wash of a boat on water. The body leaning against him, moved. Fingers straining to touch his, to make contact. The craft shifted…contact was made…just a touch…but just enough! But who? His mind is still not functioning well enough to identify the other person. Who was it? Where were they? What was going on? The movement of the craft slowed, and then stopped. There was a great deal of activity, and he was being moved once again. More movement and activity, and he was moved one more time, and dropped down. He struck the floor or deck with a jarring thump that stunned him, and pushed him to the edge of unconsciousness. He fought to maintain his awareness, but lost the battle as the edges of darkness rushed over him, and enfolded him in its clinging grasp…
It was terribly hot! There was a constant sway beneath him. He was on water, in a boat? But it was so hot. His face was burning! Sun? He rolled on his side. The heat stopped. It had to be the sun! But he still did not now where he was or what was happening to him. Was the other person with him? He rolled with the sway of the boat in the other direction and landed on the other person. There was no movement in response.
Was he/she dead?
Was this what death was like?
Was this a nightmare?
What was going on?.
He began to struggle again with the bonds. There was still no give in the ropes. If he was going to find out what was going on, he had to get free!! He had to! If he was patient, maybe he could work the ropes loose…
The craft shifted.
The other body moved. Fingers touched his hands. They were familiar to the touch! They knew him! Rather the owner of the hands knew him! Who was it? Recognition still flirted on the edge of his memory ...What was wrong with him?
The body shifted closer to him. The fingers began to worry the rope on his wrists, slowly, arduously, trying to loosen the bonds. The fingers became wet and slippery with blood and sweat. They paused frequently.
Both parties drifted in and out of consciousness, the heat, and the swaying, drifting of the craft creating a false sense of peace, its very action lulling the occupants into a soft cocoon of warmth and sleep. There was no defying the pull of the dark warmth when it called, there was little else to be done. Both sensed the hopelessness of the situation if one of them did not soon get free, yet neither was able to strongly repel the nether world’s pull…
He was cold!
The warmth was gone, replaced by the cold. Was it dark? He had no way to tell, save the absence of the warmth. The blindfold that kept out the light, kept him in forever dark!
He felt the fingers still working at his wrists…It seemed so futile!
If much more time passed without progress, then the both of them would die. That seemed to be the objective of whoever had put them here. That they would die.
He didn’t want to die…He had too much more to do with his life. There were too many people that depended on him. He had to get out of this!
He was starting to shiver with the cold.
His mouth was so dry, the gag in it sticking to his tongue and the inside of his cheeks. It was enough to make him retch.
He realized that he hadn’t eaten in a long time. How long had it been… ‘Hours?… Days?…!’
He shook his head The blindfold did not move!
He could hear nothing, but his own heartbeat, his own breathing.
But the fingers working at the ropes continued their painfully slow odyssey. They seemed determined to succeed. He continued to twist the ropes as the fingers paused, and he would stop as they started again. The tips of the fingers were raw, and to their owner, it must have been excruciatingly painful. But their owner kept working the ropes!
Suddenly, he felt the ropes give slightly.
His wrists were looser!
He touched the hands that were helping him, and held them off for a while. Now he twisted and turned his wrists so that he could loosen the ropes further. The pain in his wrists was beyond description, but he continued to move them and twist them, further exacerbating their condition.
But now, the ropes were looser and he felt that there was hope! He extended his hands to touch the others that had helped him and felt the stickiness of the blood on the tips and pads of the fingers. He tried to make the hands know that they had helped. He sighed heavily, for he knew there was a long battle ahead, to get free
After what seemed to be an eternity later, the ropes loosened somewhat, and his hands were unfettered!
This was only the first step and he did not know if he could be successful with the rest.
His elbows were bound together as well and there was a heavy rope around his chest, holding his arms tightly to his body. He had to free his elbows, and then his arms, and he had strong doubts to the possibility of his success. The other person in this boat(?) that they were in would probably be unable to aid him this time! He had felt the fingers, felt the raw, torn skin, and knew that the other one could do no more for him.
This was up to him and him alone.
He shivered with the cold he still felt, made worse by the perspiration lying on his skin from his struggles with the ropes on his wrist.
He realized that if he could somehow get the rope from his elbows, he might have hope of escape. He began to shift his arms and his body, in an attempt to shrug the rope downward on his arms, away from his elbows. It was a slow, tedious exhausting effort, draining whatever energy remained since the beginning of this ordeal. And he seemed to be making very little, if any progress. There was movement again from the other side of the boat, and the ravaged hands touched his. They moved, slowly, to him, painfully slowly up his arms. He felt the other body shift upward, and the hands were grasping the rope at his elbows. They were holding on to the rope, and trying to pull it down his arms. He started to shrug his arms, and tried to pull them even closer together, to get more give in the rope, so that the hands could pull it down toward his lower arms. Slowly, ever so slowly, millimeter by millimeter, they worked the rope downward, until, after what felt like days, but in reality was more like hours, the rope finally slid down his arms to where it was loose enough to let it fall from his arms.
His arms were free!.
He lay still for minutes, letting circulation return.
Then he reached upward and released the rope at his chest. He reached higher and pulled the gag from his dry mouth. Reaching higher, he pulled at the piece that covered his eyes, and his ears.
Darkness was still surrounding him, a moonless night, with a cloud cover, and no stars…True natural darkness! As his eyes focused, he saw that they were indeed on the ocean, in a small boat.
He turned to the person with him, and reached for the blue uniformed body, bound as he had been, hands, fingers, torn and bloody. He reached, with shaking hands for the gag, the blindfold…
The face! That dear face!
As quickly as he could, Lee Crane unbound his son, and pulled him into his lap, cradling the unconscious form.
With maddening slowness, memory began to return, with a sharp clarity that he simply accepted, with the flow of images that hammered and jolted his consciousness…
Friday afternoon at the Nelson Institute was usually a slow one. The end of the work week in Santa Barbara was usually slow, unless the Boat was on a mission. Lee Crane, now an Admiral in the Reserves still spent the bulk of his time on the Seaview. Admiral Nelson, still active, now spent the bulk of his time at the Institute. There was still a great deal for the older man to do, and he had slowly weaned himself from the Seaview, as his son Sean had grown older and he had desired to spend more time with him. Sean was four years younger than Lee’s son Robert, and was planning on going to Annapolis when he graduated High School.
The irony…Robert, who was still Sean’s best friend, would be leaving the Academy, as Sean would be entering as a Plebe.
Lee had decided on the spur of the moment to fly to Maryland and surprise his son with a weekend visit. The two of them could certainly find plenty to do.
And Robert, as a ‘Firstie’, and as the Brigade Commander, did have a certain amount of freedom. The fact that he was entitled to this weekend’s leave also was a plus. He made a fast call to ‘Mother B’ and left a message that he would be there to pick him up for dinner at the Yard at 1630 and he was looking forward to seeing him. He also said for Robert to tell Alex Morton to plan to meet them for Brunch on Sunday morning, and that they would meet her at 1130 hours in the Yard. He wouldn’t go all the way to Maryland, and not spend some time with his Godchild and best friend’s daughter, when she was literally so close!
He recognized the symptoms of dehydration.
He was loosing his grip on the harsh reality that he and Robert were trapped in. Sounds, impossible to hear where they were, were playing in his mind. Voices, that he had not heard in years were talking to him.
He was unable to focus for a very long time on any one thing, and the memories, came…memories of faces, and people…Cathy…his love, his heart…Robert’s mother…Cathy! Her face blended into others…Caitlin…his wife…his companion…his new love…Harriman Nelson…Karen…Chip…the children…all grown now!!!
Bloodied, torn fingers ran across his face, and he looked at his son. In a dry, and cracked voice, "Dad…?"
He shifted his position, and placed an arm under Robert’s shoulder to steady him and help him to sit. In a voice equally dry and rasping,
"I don’t know what happened…I thought that the Ram’s Head Tavern was ok, we’ve been there often enough… I don’t remember…the dinner.."
"I can’t remember much either. Obviously someone slipped something to us… I can’t even remember the dinner…Only the coffee…I think I said…"
"That it tasted funny…Like the pot had been burned… metallic…"
"Yes! I remember!"
"Dad … But who?… and why…?"
Lee shook his head slowly. "I don’t know …I rented the cottage I always do when I come in to see you…Cote’ Jardin…I stopped there, dropped my bag, and came for you in the Yard…
An envelope arrived at Harriman Nelson’s home with a courier. Karen Nelson answered the door and signed for the envelope, carrying it into her husband’s office. Her daughter, Caitlin Crane, was sitting and discussing a new computer system for the Seaview’s latest upgrade with her stepfather. Karen handed the envelope to the Admiral and looked at it quizzically. He opened it and took a single sheet of paper from it. As he read the page, his face went from surprise to anger to white-faced fear…
"Harriman, what’s wrong?"
"HN?" Caitlin asked as she saw the expression on his face.
He picked up the phone. Punching in a series of numbers, he spoke calmly but forcefully into the phone.
"Angie, get me the FBI, and ONI. Get Chip Morton and Bob O’Brien to my office. I know that you’re at home, but will you please meet me at my office at the Institute in 15 minutes. I also need you to get me the Super at the Academy and the chief of police at Annapolis and here in Santa Barbara." He replaced the handset in the cradle.
Karen had taken a seat opposite Nelson, and both she and Caitlin had become more and more concerned with the tone of the Admiral’s voice.
"Harriman…?" she asked with growing fear.
He rose and came around the desk to Caitlin. He handed her the note. Her face drained of color and became blank with fright. The note fell to the floor. Karen picked it up and read it. It was a series of letters, cut from newspapers with a horrifying message:
We have Crane and his son. You will not be able to find them. NO ONE WILL IF you dont get us what we want by 2400 MONDAY there will be no way for anyone, even me to find them. Go ahead and call anyone you want. It is a hopeless task for you to try and find them. I will call you with terms in two hours. That will give you enough time to prove that I am right
There was absolute silence in the room... It was as if time had frozen, and then Admiral Harriman Nelson moved into action. He took the paper and the envelope and placed them in his briefcase. He turned to Karen. "I don’t have to ask you to take care of Caitlin. I promise the both of you, I’ll get to the bottom of this. I’ll get them!" He bent down to Caitlin. "I won’t tell you not to worry…but you know I’ll do whatever I have to…I’ll move heaven and earth to find them!"
Caitlin Davis Crane looked hard at Harriman Nelson. In a soft, almost childlike voice, she answered her stepfather. "If anyone can, I know that you will, HN. It’s just that I always knew that Lee was at risk for anything to happen to, and I’ve always had that fear, I’ve lived with it, but Robert! He’s still just a boy! He hasn’t even graduated yet! He … he…" She began crying softly, on Nelson’s chest; he held her until the tears abated. She then looked up at him, her eyes glistening but steadfast.
"Don’t you give them anything, HN. Not one damn thing! Lee wouldn’t want you to…and neither would Robert!"
"I’ll handle it, Caitlin…Trust me?"
"I always have, HN…always have."
He looked at Karen, and at one time, he was both younger than his years, and older. He reached out and held her as she stood. "Tell Sean where I’ve gone, and why. I didn’t want to miss this meet, but I have no choice."
Karen kissed him, lightly. "He’ll understand, you know that. Just help them, Harry. Find them and help them."
He grabbed his briefcase, and moved to the front door, when there was a knock. A jumpsuit clad sailor stood at the door. "Peterson?"
"Yessir. Your secretary called the motor pool for a car for you. I’m it!"
He gave the young sailor a slight smile. "Good, very good…well. Let’s go! Karen, Caitlin, I’ll call you!’
He strode into his office with a strength that belied his age. This was a situation he had found himself in too many times to count. Lee in desperate danger. But it was different as well. Robert Crane was also in danger.
They all lived with the danger for their own lives, but now it had been passed to their children as well!! This meant that his son could also be at risk! Sean! No! He would not allow it! Not Robert! Not Sean! Not Lee!
He’d take care of it all…
As he opened the office door, he saw a concerned Chip Morton and Bob O’Brien seated and waiting for him. Angie stood by the window. Without a word, he handed Chip the letter and waited. Angie handed him a page, and said quietly "Santa Barbara is on one, Annapolis on two. ONI on three, FBI on four, and there’s a gentleman on five…he said that you might want to talk to him…he said the FIRM is aware of your ‘problem’."
Nelson’s head snapped up sharply and he looked straight at her, "Name?"
"He said you’d know it!"
He reached for the phone, "Briggs?"
"How did you know?"
"I may be 'retired' but I still have my sources." Harry could almost hear the smug smile on Michael Briggs’ face. "Can I do anything to help? You know that I have a special interest in the Davis family. Do you have any information?"
Harriman hated to have to deal with him, but now, ironically, he was almost relieved that he had called. "None but the note. I'll fax you a copy."
"Give me some of the particulars. Where were they? When did this happen?"
"Michael, I actually have very little information. Lee left here about 1400 Friday, in the FS1. He was scheduled to meet Robert at 1630 in the Yard.. They were going to spend the weekend in Maryland. He rented the same cottage he's been renting since Robert went to the Academy. They met at the Yard, and then they went to dinner. That's the last that I know of their activities… Until I got the note this morning."
"Karen and Caitlin?" was the next inevitable question.
"They were with me when the note arrived."
"How did it get to you?"
"Courier. I have the envelope with me. Chin, my security man, is checking it out as we speak. Fingerprints, too. Michael," he begrudgingly said, "I'll take all the help that I can get on this one."
"Crane is a good man, Nelson. He's a good operative, too. His son…?"
"Brigade Commander. Top of his Class. Just like his father. Taller than Lee. Same build. Green eyes, same coloring."
"All right, I'll see what we can find out here and I'll get back to you. The note…"
"My secretary is faxing it as we speak. They said if they don't get what they want by 2400 Monday , then no one will be able to find them!" Nelson had let a note of desperation creep into his voice. " I have no idea who these people are or what they want. Michael, any help that you can give me . . .!"
"You have it," he replied with a hardened conviction, then his tone softened as he continued, "Admiral, your wife and her daughter have always meant a great deal to me. I don't want to see them hurt in any way. I'll get back to you as soon as I have anything!"
"Good…And thank you!"
He turned to Chip Morton. Morton’s face was a blend of anger and concern. "What can we do and where do we go from here, sir?"
Chip had handed the note to Bob O’Brien and the younger man had read it and handed it back to Nelson.
"Chip, I want you to go to the Academy with Bob. I want the two of you to connect with the Super and with the police at Annapolis. If they were kidnapped when they were off the Academy grounds, then it’s a police matter for them there as well! You’ll be taking one of the Institute jets, and it will get you there, ASAP… Once you are there, you’ll have the Flying Sub at your disposal. Lee berthed her at the Santee Basin at the Academy. Gil Foley has the Whisper jet waiting for the two of you at the landing strip. Go now, and contact me when you land. There’ll be a car waiting for you at the Baltimore Airport. The cottage that Lee rented…"
"Cote’ Jardin…Matty and I have stayed there as well, Admiral. I know it fairly well. It’s enough for us right now. We’ll use it as a base of operations. It’s about a ten minute walk from the Academy. I’ll fill Matty in on the way to the landing strip, and contact Alex in flight. Maybe she can come up with something at that end."
"I’ll talk to the Superintendent from here and get leave for her to meet you at the Yard and help you until this is solved. She may have some information that we’re missing."
"Aye, sir." Both men rose and turned to leave.
"Chip, we’re going to find them!"
In a small office, a man sat and carefully cut letters from the daily paper. He had a gleeful, evil grin on his face.
That bitch Davis! It’s taken me 19 years to get even....now I’m starting!! She will pay!! Oh, she will pay a very high price!
He remembered the day he came back to the compound... He had never seen so much blood!! All over!! And the fires, and the blown out buildings... And his father... His father's body...The Bitch had almost cut him in half!! He couldn't even recognize his face...it was gone! He vowed then and there he would get her and her family! And now he was. Her pup could wait. Nelson's boat, and his Captain and his kid...that was a good start!!
Slowly, he'd take it all from them very, very slowly!!
There was no way that Crane and his son would be found. He put them to sea in the ocean, and let them drift before he even contacted Nelson. There was no way that anyone would find them...a tiny, little boat, far from the shipping lanes, far from the flight paths, no one would even begin to know where to look… they didn’t even know which ocean… He laughed in absolute delight at that thought …adrift in the great big ocean...a needle in a haystack, and a flimsy needle at that! And they were tied up so nicely too. They wouldn’t be able to free themselves. Even if they did, they had nothing in the boat! No flares, no water, no food… nothing.
And he'd made sure that there would be no way that they could contact anyone. He even took their watches...no secret transmitters for those two.... and it wouldn't be a pleasant was to die!
A line from a piece of prose came into mind, "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!" He laughed again, enjoying the image of the two men dying of thirst, in the middle of the ocean!
At least he'd given the father and son the chance to die together...more than he'd had with his father!
Once he had the boat, then he'd deal with killing Nelson and his son, and then her daughter, and then, he'd kill her! That Bitch!
As the night lengthened, both men in the boat drifted in and out of reality. The symptoms of dehydration were beginning to take their toll on them and they both knew that their situation was bleak. Without fresh water, they would have three to five days to live, and they had no idea of how long it had been since they were taken.
Lee surmised that it had to be at least 36 hours since they had been in the restaurant. Their watches had been taken when they had been seized. Their captors had been quite thorough in the planning of the capture. And if they were successful in their plan, there would be no way to find the two of them. Lee knew that. He surmised that Robert did too, but he had a father’s desire to protect his child, even if that child was an adult, and most likely knew the truth. Verbalizing the reality would not make it any better!
Robert was in a light sleep, and Lee reached over and held his son… ‘His son…Cathy had been so sure that their child would be a boy, and she had been so delighted when she heard the doctor announce that they had a son…A son!… And then…, Cathy was gone… and he and Robert were alone… without her…To remember her still hurt… even after all these years… and even after his new love had been found… Caitlin,…his new love…she was so good for him, and Robert…’
He remembered when Caitlin had said those special words to him… It had hardly been a romantic moment! He had been recovering from the shooting by Gamma, so long ago … Robert was how old then… Nine? ...Robert had been nine years old…thirteen years ago, she had said the words that had changed him… Unthinking, Lee stroked his son’s head, as he had done so often when Robert was younger… Lee remembered what a bastard he’d been to everyone, when he thought that his hands would be useless for the rest of his life…Karen Nelson had yelled at him and so had Caitlin. That was when Caitlin had told him that she loved him…
"And do you know what else? I don’t care! At this moment…Even I don’t care!! I love you, you stupid foolish man, and even I don’t care!!!"
It was shortly after that that he had decided to stop fighting the people that were trying to help him, and start living again, no matter what the circumstances of his life might be…Caitlin had helped him make that change, and Caitlin had given herself to him, completely and without any qualifications. He hadn’t thought that he would be able to love again, but she had shown him how!
He looked closely at his son…
Robert had grown into quite a man. Self assured, so very smart…Top of his class, Brigade Commander…the best son he and Cathy could have hoped and dreamed of.
Caitlin had had a lot to do with that, even long before Lee realized how she felt about him. He realized now, that he had been a most fortunate man, to have loved, and been loved by two strong passionate women!
One had given him a son, the other had nurtured and loved that son as her own. He, and Robert had been most fortunate. It couldn’t end for them this way!! But what was the way out of it? What…?
He looked at his father and saw the fatigue and pain in Lee’s face. He felt Lee’s hands hold him lightly and then release him. He couldn’t begin to imagine what his father was thinking. He felt guilty for falling asleep, but he was so tired…and so thirsty! He’d never in his young life experienced anything like this… if only he could remember how it happened… and what to do? He shifted and Lee looked over at him… He tried to sit up, and found not only the weakness, but also the pain in his hands making it difficult to use them and balance.
Lee reached out to steady him, wincing with the pain in own his wrists, and Robert had a flash of insight into his father’s life.
With the pain in his fingers, as raw and damaged as they were, as bad as they felt to him, his father had been through worse, so much worse, when he had been shot by Gamma, and his hands had been so badly damaged. If they got out of this, Robert knew it would be a brief time before his hands healed. He knew it was painful, but not that serious. But what his father must have gone through!
His admiration and appreciation of the man that Lee Crane was, grew by enormous proportions at that moment. He leaned against the side of the boat, and looked at his father, outlined against the soft brightening of the sky. As far as he could see, Lee Crane hadn’t changed all that much in the last four years, since he’d been at the Academy. Maybe a bit more gray and instead of eagles, there were stars on his collar, but Robert knew that at 56, his father was still a formidable man.
"Dad?" his throat was so dry speaking hurt, and it forced his voice to sound dry and cracked.
"Yes…?" Lee’s voice sounded as bad as his own.
"What do we do now?"
"I wish I knew, Robert." He took his son’s hands in his and looked at the fingers in the reddened, brightening light. "These fingers look like they could use a little first aid. How do they feel?"
"I rather not talk about it. They’ll get better."
"I’m sure Jamie would like to get his hands on you right now!"
Robert laughed, "And you too. Those wrists are pretty badly torn!"
"I’m not as worried about the wrists, or your hands, as I am about the lack of water, and the possibility of a real problem with the sun, and the heat, if the day turns out to be a clear one. Sunstroke and heat prostration are going to be real problems, in addition to the water."
"What can we do, Dad?"
Lee licked at his dry lips, and chose the next words with care. "Several things, at least about the heat. I’m in a little better shape than you right now, just because of the uniform. These old khakis reflect the sun, at least a little. Those blues are a real problem. So dark … they absorb the sun’s heat."
"So, they come off?"
"No. That would make you prey to sunburn in addition to the heat. No…I think its’ over the side, when the sun comes up. And we stay in the water until the sun goes down. Then we’ll have to deal with the cold, but that’s easier than the heat, I think. It seems to me that we don’t have much of a choice. Unless the weather turns on us. The sky is a red one and you know the old rhyme, ‘Red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in the morning, sailor take warning!’ Looking at the sky, I’d say we’ve been warned. If it comes about, then, we get back in the boat! Of course, rain could help the drinking water situation."
"Not a lot of choices, huh?"
"Nope. But we can only do our best to survive until the Admiral finds us…He will, I know he will!"
Harriman Nelson paced his office. ‘Two hours…the note said two hours. It’s been three and a half!’
"Damn!" he slammed a closed fist into his desktop, leaving the wood cracked, and sending several small splinters flying. Several seconds later, Angie opened the door and stood in his doorway.
"Admiral, is everything alright?" The concern on her face was quite clear, and the tone of her voice just as concerned.
"Oh, Yes, Angie! I’m sorry if I frightened you! Just a frustrated old man, who still hates waiting!" He smiled at her. "Put the any calls through right away, will you?"
"Of course, sir. Is there anything else I can get you?"
"No, thank you, Angie." He lit another cigarette, and moved to the picture window, to look down on the Seaview as she still lay at her berth. He stood gazing at the silver enchantress that he had designed and loved. He still was drawn to her, even tho he spent little time on her these days.
His life was a full one, brimming with friends, employees, and most of all, family.
His family…Karen and Sean… ‘My son! God, what a joy! What a gift his wife had given him! At eighteen, tall, with red hair and flashing blue eyes, keenly aware of all that was going on around him. In a few months, he would be leaving for Annapolis…following footsteps set in the sand many decades ago…his own, and those of others in his son’s life…Chip, Lee, Robert…Lee and Robert…His other ‘son’ and his son…Where were they? Were they even still alive!’
He refused to go there; he wouldn’t accept the concept that they may be dead already and that this was a fool’s errand that he had been set upon. That would be too cruel! But he had enemies that would try to do just that! Yet, something told him that the two of them were still alive. ‘He would know if Lee were dead. He would know!’
A hand laid itself gently on his shoulder, and he started, so deep in his own thoughts that he did hear anyone come into the office. He turned, and found himself looking into clear blue eyes, familiar, and as yet untouched by the harsh realities of life. He realized that the innocence was about to change, but, in spite of the serious thoughts in his mind, and the dread in his heart, his face broke into a grin,
"Dad!" Sean Nelson hugged his father warmly. He was a carbon copy of Harriman Nelson, except in height. At six foot, he towered over his father.
"How was the meet?"
"We took the county title. I finished first in the 800 and the 1600." Sean stated the information simply, without arrogance. His father clapped him on the shoulder.
"Great, son!! Just great!"
Sean sat easily in the chair next to the desk, and frowned when he saw the overflowing ashtray.
"Mom sent me over. What’s up, Dad? You haven’t smoked at all in a long time." He leaned forward in the chair, clasping his hands together in a gesture so like his father’s. "She said that it’s serious."
Nelson took the seat behind the desk and placed his hands on the desk, clasped together. He looked at his son, the blue eyes, so like his own, heedful of what his father had to say.
"Sean, there is no easy way to tell you this. Lee and Robert have been kidnapped... I have been contacted by the kidnappers once. I’m waiting for further contact. I’ve been in touch with everyone that can possibly help. Even a man who has contacts that I don’t particularly like or like to talk about."
"Can he help?" the younger Nelson inquired. Sean’s face became an image of his father’s, angry and fearful at one time.
"I don’t know, Sean. He seems to think he can. There is another problem here, and you have to know all of the parameters. They may already be…" he paused, "dead. The note said if the kidnappers didn’t get what they want by Monday, at 2400, that no one would be able to find them."
Harriman Nelson let his words sink in. Sean sat, immovable.
"Dead? R.C and Uncle Lee? No, Dad…that can’t be! They can’t be dead!"
"We don’t know, Sean. Chip is on his way to the Academy with Bob O’Brien, even as we speak. He’ll see what he can find out there. I’ve arranged for Alex to get an emergency leave to be with them, and see what they can determine at that end. This man that I know, Michael Briggs, is trying to see what he can find out… and I’ve got every enforcement agency from the East to West Coast searching for them and for any information we can get…Other than that, we sit and wait for the next contact to be made!"
"Nothing else that we can do, Dad?"
"No, Sean…nothing else. Except what I don’t do well, wait!" He rose and walked over to his son. He looked at Sean and thought back to the day that R.C. Crane had left for Annapolis. A face so young and full of the promise of the future. So excited about what lay ahead, as well as full of a great deal of apprehension. R.C. had decided he would be taking the Oceanography Major, and that he would be taking the path that his father had taken and seek the nuclear division and Submarines. Such a promise of things to come. And now…
Nelson shrugged his shoulders then placed his hand gently on his son’s arm, "Tell me about the meet, Sean…"
Chip Morton took the stairs from the Whisper jet two at a time. Gil Foley had caught a tailwind and gotten them to Baltimore in record time. When he reached bottom, he looked about the private area of the landing strip for the promised car. As he scanned the area, a dark blue sedan pulled up several feet away, bearing the markings of the U.S.N. The driver was a blonde, dressed in Khaki, and Chip grinned in instant recognition of her. He yanked open the front passenger door, and Bob O’Brien, fast behind him, took the rear seat.
"Alex!" Chip greeted his daughter.
"Admiral Nelson promised a car and driver, but he didn’t tell me it would be you!"
"On special leave, Dad. The ‘Supe’ sent me and the car. Anything that the Admiral needs… Afternoon, Commander O’Brien."
O’Brien grinned at the pretty midshipman. "Afternoon, Alex.
She turned and smiled at the officer, then turned to her father. "What are we going to do, Dad?…"
As Chip settled into the passenger seat, Alex pulled the car out of the airport, and into the heavy traffic. As she maneuvered through the traffic, Chip filled her in on what little they knew. When he finished, Alex looked quickly at him, and then back at the road.
"There isn’t much more that I can add to that. Uncle Lee, um, I mean Admiral Crane, called Mother B and left a message for me to meet him and R.C. in the Yard at 1130," she glanced at her watch, and looked a little surprised, "this morning. We were going to have an early brunch, and then the Admiral was going to go back to Santa Barbara."
"Do you have any idea where they were going to have dinner?"
"Probably the Ram’s Head. They go there a lot, when the Admiral is in town. He always stays at the cottage. The two of them are certainly creatures of habit." She laughed lightly, and then became more serious. "Dad, do we have a plan?"
Chip had been carefully listening to what Alex had been telling him. "That’s what made it so easy for someone to get to them!! They are creatures of habit…Lee stays at the same place, they eat at the same places…of course! Honey, that’s great insight. A starting point at least!" She smiled weakly at her father and turned her concentration to the drive.
About an hour later, the car pulled up at the front of the Cottage, Cote’ Jardin. Alex turned off the motor, and the three of them got out of the car. Chip walked up to the door, and put a key into the lock. He stepped inside, and stepped onto a large manila envelope. Puzzled, he bent down and picked it up. In blocky, black crayon, the front of the envelope read
Chip picked up the envelope, and began to open it as Alex and O’Brien came into the living room of the cottage. Both of them grew quiet as Chip opened the envelope, and read the contents. As he finished, he went directly to the phone and punched in a series of numbers.
Tersely he spoke into the phone, "Angie, the Admiral…now!"
"Admiral, they’ve made contact. I have a letter here…It was left under the door of the cottage… I have no idea how long, sir….we just arrived… its similar to the first one… the demands?…I’ll fax it to you, the machine is here… Lee’s things are here…yes, sir, as soon as I hang up…Yes, Alex picked us up…Anything you want or need… At our disposal…yes sir… right away!"
Chip hung up the phone and went to the fax machine that stood on another table. He took the paper that he held in his hand and slid it into the machine, and dialed up a number. He stood impatiently as the note went through the machine. When it had finished feeding through, he took it and stared at it. "Damn! Damn! Damn!"
Alex placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. "Dad…What does it say?"
"They want the boat, all the files for the last 20 years of government work, and four and a half million dollars. They want it by tonight. They want the files and the money on the boat, and they want the boat delivered to a berth off the Alaskan coast, as soon as she can take on a crew and officers."
O’Brien looked at Morton. "Is that all?" His voice was tinged with sarcasm.
Chip nodded. "No, there’s more. They want the Senior command crew on the boat. They promise that they’ll return Lee and Robert after they get the boat and take her out to sea."
"Do you think that Nelson will go along with it?"
Morton huffed at the question. "What do you think, Bob? He’s never given into terrorists before… I don’t think that he’ll start now!"
"Yes, sir…But this time is different, sir… The children are involved."
Alex’s face flamed at being referred to as a child. She’d like to show Bob O’Brien who was a child! Maybe at another time!
Morton held the note out to O’Brien for his scrutiny.
The demands ARE SIMple! YouR BOAT, YOUR files, and a small amount of money…4.5 MILLION Dollars will do.
Put the files and the money on the boat with the crew and the Senior COMMAND Staff. Send them 'NORTH, to ALASKA'. Do you like my humor, Nelson? To a position 41degrees N by 130 degrees E and once they are in the right area we will make contact.. Time is running out for your Captain and the boy! You’ll get them back if you obey… There will be no further contact!
O’Brien shook his head. "I don’t know, Captain. They seem to have all the bases covered."
"They also don’t know the Nelson and this crew. We have until 2400 tomorrow to find them, and by God, we will!"
Harriman Nelson slammed a fist so hard on the desk, that the wood cracked.
"Goddamned sons of bitches!!!!!! ANGIE!!!!!!!!!"
She came running through the door. "Yes sir?!"
"Angie, get me Chin…and see if you can get Michael Briggs! Now!"
He punched his phone’s keypad to direct connect him with Morton.
"Chip… obviously, we have a security problem big time! I’ll be in touch with you within the hour…stay at the cottage. I have to get a tight and secure com link!"
He slammed the phone line down, lit a cigarette and paced the office until Thomas Chin arrived, followed by his assistant Yeung. "Admiral Nelson, sir?!" They both came to full attention.
Nelson was angry, but the last thing he needed was for his security chief to go all stiff on him. "Relax, men, relax." He paced back and forth again. "This is difficult for me to say to you both, because I know how difficult a job you have and how good you both are at it. But we have a security problem…a very big one, and I believe that this situation with Admiral Crane and his son is the result of it. Some one, somehow, has breached our security to the point that they knew that Captain Morton and Commander O’Brien were going to Annapolis and would be staying at the cottage in the town that the Admiral had rented. That matter was not discussed with anyone save myself, Captain Morton, Commander O’Brien, and Midshipman Morton. In addition, Gil Foley, our pilot knew and the Superintendent at the Academy, who was anticipating the arrival of Chip and O’Brien. No one else knew!! Either we have a tap and a leak, or these people, who have kidnapped Lee and R.C. include one of the men or women that I just mentioned. Since I know all of them except the Superintendent of the Academy personally, and I doubt that he would be suspicious individual, I have to assume that there is a phone tap on a massive scale, and that there are ‘bugs’ in these and all the offices. I want them found! I want them found now! And I want to know how they managed to do this!! I want it done yesterday!"
Both men snapped a sharp salute, and gave a brisk "Yes, Sir!" as a response. Cdr. Chin paused, "I will find out, sir! I will find out who has the Skipper and his son!"
Nelson’s anger softened slightly, "I know you will, Thomas… I have every confidence in you!"
The phone in the tiny cottage rang, and Chip Morton pounced on it. "Yes!"
"Chip?" Nelson’s voice was tinny on the other end.
"Yes, sir…Any word?"
"Nothing new, save that we have a major security issue here. I’m speaking to you on a cell phone from the cliffs. I believe that we have a number of bugs in the offices, and taps on the phones as well. I’ll give you the cell phone number, and that is how I’ll get to you as well. Keep your phone on at all times. Other than that, there is nothing I can tell you and nothing else that we can do. See what you can find out there, and if there is a break, let me know, and I’ll do the same. Nelson out.!"
The line went dead and Chip turned the phone to receive. He looked at Alex and O’Brien, and explained, "The O.O.M. thinks the offices have been bugged, and the phones tapped. That’s the only way that anyone could have known Lee’s plans. We are to keep the phone read y to receive, and do all the possible footwork. I’ve spoken to the police here, and they’re meeting us at 1230 at the Ram’s Head Inn. The wait staff from Friday night is going to be there for a little meeting with the police and ourselves…"
The reddish-pink of the dawn gave way to an ever brightening, ever warming day. With the rising of the sun, what ever small hope that the men in the little boat may have had of being near land, disappeared. All around them was absolutely nothing but water…from horizon line to horizon line…nothing! To compound it, it was water that they could not drink and they were, literally dying of thirst. The irony of the situation did not escape Lee, nor did the thought that whomever had planned this knew exactly what they were doing… What greater torture could there be, than to need water to drink, and to be surrounded by undrinkable water?
Lee also realized that where ever they were stranded was far from shipping lanes and flight paths. This tiny craft was drifting in the body of water that was the ocean, in an unknown place. He truly believed that they would never be found, that their captors had done their work well… it had been almost two days since they had been abandoned and there was no telling where at all they were. But he couldn’t let Robert know what he believed, he had to continue to at least put on the façade of hope that they would be found.
He looked at his son, sleeping lightly at the side of the boat, and his heart broke in pain. Robert had such potential! He could be a better officer and Captain of a boat then he, Lee, had ever been! That it could end, here, the two of them, alone, in the ocean…Lee didn’t often say or feel, or even use this word, but it wasn’t fair…not to Robert!
Robert stirred, and slowly woke. The lack of water for two days was making alertness a more difficult task. His mouth was dry beyond description, he was lightheaded, and having difficulty fixing his thoughts on any one thing. His fingers were burning, and he felt some cramping in his abdomen. "What was it that his father had said… the uniform had to go? It was too dark!" He knew that his father was right, he’d been in too many situations and survived them, to be questioned about what he wanted them to do.
"Looks to be about 0900 present time, wherever that is. Time to go overboard, Robert. Both of us. We’ll take the rope that was used to tie us up, and tie it to the boat, and to each other, just in case…"
Lee reached for the ropes that had held them prisoner, and expertly tied one end to the seat in the boat, and the other to his waist. Then he tied another length from his waist to Robert’s. Satisfied that the ropes were secure, he slowly went over the side of the boat, and gently pulled Robert along with him.
Surprisingly, the water was not as cold as either man had expected, and a little finger of recognition began to tug at Lee Crane’s mind… ‘The North Atlantic should be a lot colder at this time of year…’ He was puzzled, but the lack of water for more than two days was causing his thinking to be foggy… He knew that he should know the answer to the question in his mind, but he was unable to pin it down… ‘maybe later…I should be able to remember…remember…’
They were hot, and they were cold at the same time, both of them fighting the lethargy brought on by the heat, the lack of drinkable water, and the slow, steady rocking of the boat on the gentle swells of the ocean. It both lulled and calmed them, making them more inclined to slip into the nether world, tho’ they continued fighting the pull. Time was passing very slowly…
Chip Morton and Bob O’Brien were pacing the front of the Ram’s Head Tavern waiting for the arrival of the police, and the ONI officers. Chip was not happy with the involvement of the ONI with the interrogation of the restaurant crew. Their agents were sometimes arrogant and sometimes difficult to reason with. When a black sedan pulled up followed by a Police car, the Senior officers of the Seaview, and the ‘Middie’ with them moved toward the door of the Restaurant. A voice called out sharply, "Captain Morton, Commander O’Brien! Gentlemen, please!"
They turned to see two dark-suited men with briefcases approaching with two Police officers. Chip stopped in mid-stride. "Yes..?" Alex stood discretely behind the two men.
"Andrews and Pickering, ONI." They each offered a hand in greeting, and the Seaview’s officers reluctantly took them. "Seems that we’ll be working together…Nelson’s been raising the roof at the Office!"
"Can you blame him? Admiral Crane and his son are kidnapped and you expect Harriman Nelson to be quiet about it?! Really!"
"Well, it’s not as if it Crane was working for us at the time!" one of the agents remarked off-handedly.
"No, it’s not, is it? Look, the Seaview crew takes care of its own. If you all can’t help, and only want to complain about trying to, then get lost now, and I’ll tell the Admiral and the Office that we’ll handle it. A little help from some friends, and we’ll find them ourselves. We don’t need you guys, or your damn office!"
"Now, Captain, don’t be hasty! I wasn’t complaining! Besides, we owe Nelson and Crane some help here!"
"Seems to me that you owe them more than some … Lee Crane saved your necks more times than I can count! Harriman Nelson too!!"
"Yes, well, let’s go inside and see what the restaurant people have to say! We should get some kind of lead from here!
Twenty minutes later, they had one tidbit of new information, but nothing else. Still, it was something!!
Lee and Robert had arrived at the Ram’s Head at 1700. They were among several early diners and had ordered right away, and been served with fairly rapid speed. The Admiral and his son were frequent guests at the Inn and the servers were always glad to see them. The Admiral always took good care of the wait servers. They usually ordered the same thing, Porterhouse steaks and salads…Steaks medium well done. And dessert was always coffee and Cherry Pie. The Admiral had a weakness for Cherry Pie! They sat at the same table they always did, and had the same dinner they always did, and the dessert!
But after the coffee, the both men seemed to grow tired, and suddenly two sailors showed up and helped them out. The bill had been paid, and the sailors, they said that they were the Admiral’s driver and escort, told them that the Admiral was a bit under the weather, and his son had caught the same bug! Since the sailors seemed in control of the situation, the manager had thought nothing else of it. When asked to describe the two sailors, a very generic description was given.. "Average height, average coloring, average looks, no distinguishing marks…" And no one had seen the car, since the sailors said that they were the driver and escort.
At least they now knew that Lee and Robert had been taken together from the Restaurant! Now the next question was where….Time was running out!"
At the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, her founder did what he had to do to placate the kidnappers in order to try and save lives. He prepared the boat for immediate departure. The files were seemingly loaded onto the boat, and the money as well, and Harriman Nelson made ready to sail...
Through eyes weary and strained from sun, heat, and exhaustion, Lee Crane watched the changes in the sky. A veteran sailor, he knew the signs of the change in weather too well. He watched the ominous collection of clouds on the horizon line, as they began to approach the small boat. With ebbing strength, and waning ability to think clearly, he began to make difficult choices.
They would have to get back into the boat. They would also have to tie themselves to the boat if they had any hope of surviving the storm, because if the look of the storm held true, they would be in for a very rough ride! He clapped Robert on the shoulder, and said, "I think we’d better get back into the boat, Robert…"
"Storm coming, eh, Dad?" He gave Lee a slight grin, and for a moment, Lee saw the ten year old boy that he had taken sailing, as often as he had been able, since he was little more than a toddler. "Better tie everything in the boat down!" he said in an attempt to be lighthearted. He was trying hard to be optimistic about their situation. Looking at the sky, as he followed his father back into the boat, he continued, "At least, maybe we can get some water out of it!"
Lee nodded solemnly. He knew that the little bit of water that they would be able to get from the storm would help them slightly, but not much. Most of what would come to them would be contaminated by the seawater. And he also knew that their situation would be even more precarious in the storm. The small boat was in no condition to take a strong battering, and most likely would break up, if the storm were powerful enough. And if it were that powerful, the likelihood that the two of them would survive it was very slim, especially, if the boat did not survive. However, he would not give up on their lives until he had breathed his last breath! Nodding at Robert as he settled himself into the boat, he started to help him secure it.
"Looks like we’re in for a blow, huh, Dad? That is if what you taught me about the signs of a storm hold true!"
He reached out to his son, and held him for a moment. Then he grimly acknowledged Robert’s statement.
"Yes, I think so! The positive end of this is that at least it’s not a storm
at night. Before we lost the sun, I’d’ve said it was about.."
"1500 local time, from the sun position."
"Yes, so even if it lasts a while, we’ll have some light…"
Chip Morton was uneasy with the little bit of information that they had gleaned from the staff of the Tavern. It was too simple for these people to have taken Lee and Robert from the restaurant. There had to be someone on the inside of the restaurant that was in on it. How else could they have been drugged? After the ONI and Police left, he sent Alex and O’Brien back to the car, and went back inside the Ram’s Head, and went directly to the manager. She was a pleasant enough woman, tiny and dark, with lively eyes, and a sparkly demeanor. Her name was Patty, and Chip smiled his most disarming smile at her! She seemed to melt a little under the scrutiny of his clear blue eyes, and then returned his smile with one of her own.
"Captain, may I help you? I thought that we answered all of your questions."
"Well, I wanted to ask you one or two more questions of my own. Do you have any new employees? Let’s say in the last month or six weeks?"
"New, no I don’t believe so. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have a fairly steady staff…but now that you mention it, we did hire two new sous chefs about two months ago. The kitchen staff was very overworked, and we tried to make things easier and more efficient, for our customers. They both came highly recommended."
"I see, were they both on duty the night that Admiral Crane and his son disappeared."
She smiled nervously at him. "I can tell you that in a minute, Captain Morton."
She pulled a binder from the back of the podium at the door, and flipped through the pages. She looked up at Morton, and said, somewhat apologetically, "Yes, Captain, one of them was working that night. Pete, Pete Crocker. He came to us from your part of the country, California, one of the Inns in the Napa Valley. Excellent recommendations."
"May I have a copy of them, and his current address, Patty? It may help in the investigation. We really have a serious situation here, you know. And I will make sure that if this helps us, that you get properly thanked!" And he smiled at her again.
A little reluctantly, she hastily copied down an address, and gave Chip several sheets of paper. "I really shouldn’t be doing this…"
He grinned at her, tipped his cap, and leaned forward, "It’ll be our little secret! I’ll never tell…unless it gives me what I need to find my friends! Thank you, Patty!" He gave her a little kiss on the cheek, and turned and left, running down the steps of the car…
"1010 Calvert Street, Bob. I think we have a lead!"
Caitlin Davis Crane sat in the kitchen of her home.
‘Almost three days!!’
She looked around the kitchen. She had so many memories here, of Lee and Robert, from the days when R.C. was a small child, after his mother had died, and Lee and Helen had asked her to help with the little boy, when Lee had been away and Helen had been home alone. She had been happy to help the older woman. Like any teenager with a crush on an older man, she took advantage of any opportunity to be around Lee Crane and his family. And R.C. had been such a sweet and serious baby, and then a little boy! How she had come to love him! As if he was her own! And when she had realized the depth of her feelings for Lee, and was so worried about R.C’s acceptance, he had actually encouraged them, as she had done for her own mother and HN. And he’d grown into such a fine young man!!
‘NO! this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be! Lee and R.C. should be having a restful weekend together! Their lives shouldn’t be in jeopardy!…Lee, where are you!? My love!! For so many years!!! You never knew, for the longest time, what a hold you had on me! After Cathy died, I was so afraid to accept how I felt! And when I did, and all the times I tried to tell you…Don’t leave me now, Lee…not like this…Not you and R.C. too!! Please my love! Please!!!…’ She bowed her head just a little and whispered ‘Dear God, if you are there at all, please, bring them home to me...Please!’ Tears fell from her tired eyes. She hadn’t really been able to sleep the past few nights and her nerves were raw. How she sometimes wished she had the steely disposition that her mother possessed
She started as the doorbell rang, and she went to answer it. Each step she took in the house, their home, she was surrounded by the memories of her husband, and son.
She answered the door to find her mother, Karen Davis Nelson standing and waiting.
"Mom, come on in, you know you don’t have to stand and wait for an invite!"
"Thought you’d might like a bit of company. Harriman is getting the boat ready to sail. Sean’s haunting the dock, trying not to get in the way, but wanting to be close. So here I am!" She managed a weak smile, and gently touched her daughter’s arm. Looking at her firstborn, she saw the remnants of tears on her cheeks. "How’re you doing?"
"Not good! I often wish I had your strength," she tried to smile, but the strain was showing. "HN isn’t going to give in to these people, is he?"
"No, not at all. Just going to give the impression of giving in." She placed her arm around Caitlin’s shoulder and held her. "And you do have strength, Caitlin. More than you’ll ever know. You’re MY daughter, aren’t you? It took a lot of courage and strength for you to tell Harriman NOT to give in. He took what you said to heart, and he knows you’re right. He knows how much you love them and how much you want them back. He also knows what Lee …and R.C. would expect… what we all expect. He’s not about to change after all these years!"
They sat in the great room, and looked out at the deck. They could see a storm moving in toward the land. "Looks like it could be a stormy afternoon…"
"Yes. I hope that my little brother has the sense to come in out of it…"
Sean Nelson had indeed come out of the rain. He stood in the Observation Nose of the SSRN Seaview staring out her windows at the coming storm. The Control Room behind him buzzed with activity. Each time he came aboard her, he had the same feeling of kinship with the silver lady that owned the heart of those who sailed her. Perhaps the fact that he had been born here, on the boat, had something to do with it! She called to him. At eighteen, he didn’t completely understand it, but he knew it existed, and he wasn’t quite unhappy with it. His mother had always told him that she knew that he belonged on the boat, just as his father did. He simply accepted it. He was as much a part of her, as she was of him. He watched the storm, and wondered where Lee Crane and R.C. were right now… He only wished he knew.
Chip Morton and Bob O’Brien approached the apartment at 1010 Calvert Street with considered caution. They hoped to get to the man inside before he realized that he was being sought..
They were careful as they approached the first floor apartment. It was a simple, non-descript door to a seemingly simple non-descript set of rooms. They knocked at the door. When there was no response, they knocked again. When there was still no response, they discreetly picked at the lock and opened the door.
The apartment showed the evidence of a hasty departure, with food containers left all around, and clothes and other items scattered about. Chip and Bob began a thorough search, both of them surprised that neither the police nor ONI had taken this tack to the investigation. As methodically as they were able they searched all of the apartment. The search would have yielded nothing, if Bob O’Brien had not knocked over the trash basket next to the desk At first glance, the papers had little significance, but as they went through them, one paper, carefully folded caught their eye, and Chip took it and opened it. As he scanned the paper, he reached into his jacket pocket for the cell phone. Here was something concrete!
As he scanned the note, Chip was taken by something on the paper… in two places, a time, the same time was written carefully, followed by a number, and the initials BWIA.
BWIA –‘Baltimore-Washington International Airport!’ "The airport!!!" he grabbed at O’Brien. "Let’s go! We’re heading back to the airport! I’ll call the Admiral on the way!"
When they reached the car, Alex offered a suggestion that, if Chip Morton had been thinking more clearly, he would have thought of himself. Alex suggested that before they head for the airport, they should go to the Basin and get the Flying Sub. They could then go to the airport, and where ever else they may have to go, if the clues gave them a destination. If not, they could go back to Santee and move out from there. Chip was grateful that Alex was with them. The suggestion was a good one, and he took it. He called Nelson on the car phone, and Angie told him that he was on the boat, and she would connect him to Sparks.
On the Seaview, Sparks announced on the intercom, "Admiral Nelson, there is an incoming message, sir. Captain Morton."
"I’m in the Nose, Sparks, pipe it through here."
Sean looked at his father as he picked up a mike, "Chip?"
"Admiral, we have a lead…"
"A recently hired chef?"
There was silence on the other end of the speaker, then "Briggs?"
"Yes, just got off the phone with him. Crocker is the man’s name."
Nelson heard Chip smile, "Been to his apartment. We have a paper with some numbers, and BWIA on it. We’re heading for the FS1 and then the airport. We’ll let you know what we find… Any other word on your end?"
"Briggs said he went on staff at the Ram’s Head two months ago. He has some obscure connections to several groups, any one of which could be involved with the kidnapping. He’s digging further. He’s getting back to me!"
"Well we’re going to head for the airport in the FS1. I’ll let you know what I find out."
"Very well. We’re sailing within the next twenty minutes."
"Aye, sir. I’ll be in touch! Morton out!"
Nelson turned to his son. Sean rose to his full six foot height. In his most serious manner, and his most controlled voice, he quietly said to his father, "I want to go with you! Uncle Lee and R.C. are family. I want to be with you, one way or the other. Mom and you yourself have said that I belong here, on this boat, just like you do. I want to be with you, with her, right now!… Sir!" he nodded his head slightly to his father.
"Very well, we’ll inform your mother together." Harriman couldn’t help but smile to himself as he regarded his son with pride. The family . . .Yes, they all were family.
Once in his cabin, Harriman Nelson sat at the desk, and Sean had sat down in the chair at the side of the desk. Nelson picked up the phone, and clicked Sparks.
"Sparks, get me Mrs. Nelson, and put it through here to my cabin. Do it on a secure line."
He looked at his son and smiled, "Easier to call and inform her, don’t you think? Better than to have to ‘duck and cover’!"
"Yes, sir!" His son laughed, knowing full well what his father meant.
The phone beeped and Sparks spoke…"Admiral, Mrs. Nelson on the line."
Harry put his hand over the bottom of the handset. "Here we go!" He whispered to his son with a half grin.. He removed his hand. "Karen?"
"Karen, Sean and I have something that we want to let you know…
"Karen, Sean is coming with me on the boat. We’re going to sail in about 15 minutes, and the boy wants to be here."
"The ‘boy’ is 18 years old and can speak for himself, thank you very much!"
Harriman Nelson shrugged, and simply handed the phone to Sean. "She wants to talk to you."
When Sean looked at his father, he couldn’t quite tell if there was a slight smile playing on his lips or not. He resolutely took the phone. "Mom?"
"I’m going with Dad. I belong here on the boat. The both of you have told me that, over and over. And I’m going to help find Uncle Lee and R.C. …" He paused took a long breath and continued, "Mom, I know that you’re not happy with the thought, but they are my family, as much as you and Dad and Caitlin are. R.C. is my big brother, not by blood, but in every other way. I need to be a part of this! I need to be here on this boat! Dad has given me permission to be aboard. I’m as safe here as I could be anywhere else and I need to be a part of this! Dad understands…I hope that you do too!"
Karen was quiet for a while, and then she replied, simply, "I do. Just stay close to your father, Sean…and be careful…I love you."
"I love you too, Mom." He handed the phone back to his father, and Nelson put the phone to his ear. He was waiting for the explosion that didn’t come.
Very softly, almost in a whisper, Karen said to him, "I love the two of you, Harriman. Please, take care!"
Gruffly, to hide the emotions that he was feeling, "Of course!" he cleared his throat, and in a softer tone, "I love you, Karen. I’ll be in touch. Give Caitlin my love and tell her not to give up! I certainly haven’t!" He hung up the phone and smiled at his son. "I think that went rather well."
"Sure, Dad. Rather is the operative word here!"
Karen Nelson was not very happy. Sean and Harriman had presented her a united front, not with a request, but with a decision that they had made, excluding her input. Not unlike Harriman, and not unlike their son, but still, slightly different phrasing would have soothed her feelings, somewhat. She wasn’t uneasy about Sean being on the boat, he’d been there often enough before, but she was uneasy about the reason he was on the boat.
She knew how upset Sean was with what had happened to Lee and R.C. She also realized that at this time, the best place for Sean most likely was with his father. The best for the both of them.
Sean’s life had been like that of an only child, with twenty-two years between him and his sister. R.C. Crane was the closest he had to a brother, and R.C. had taken the role of older brother to Sean to heart. The four years between them had enabled the older boy to help and nurture the younger one in ways that a parent was unable to. Sean idolized R.C. when he was a little boy, and it had become more of a hero worship as the boys had grown. Sean wanted to do everything that R.C. did and he wanted to do it as well as Robert did it, and the same way that R.C. did. He had been most successful, in the area of both academics and athletics. For him to have to face the reality that R.C. may well be dead was a devastating blow. Being onboard Seaview, being part of a rescue attempt, and being with his father were the most positive things that he could do. She wouldn’t argue with Harriman about this. She just wished that they had handled it a bit differently… Now all she could do was hope and pray that things turned out for the best…for Caitlin, for Sean, and for Harriman…
The tiny boat was buffeted roughly during the storm. The two men, although they had tied themselves to the interior of the craft, clung tightly to her sides, desperately trying not to get thrown out and find themselves floundering in the roaring sea. The storm raged for several hours and once it began to abate, allowed the two of them respite from their struggles. They were able to take small amounts of water, cupped in their hands to alleviate, at least, the feeling of desperate thirst, although the condition was not helped much. Both men came thru the ordeal of the storm with a variety of bumps and bruises, but not much else. As the sky began to clear, and the night began to fall, in spite of the situation, Lee could not help but be moved by the startling beauty of the sunset, and he leaned toward Robert as they untied the ropes.
"Look…" and he pointed toward the west.
Robert nodded. "Yes. Awesome sight isn’t it?
Lee returned the nod, "Yes. Every time I see a sunset like that, it reminds me of my place in the sun."
"Me, too! And a very little place it is, isn’t it?"
"Yes, it is, Robert, yes it is." Lee looked at his son, and the pain in his heart deepened. His life shouldn’t end like this, but what were the chances that they would be found? What were the chances?
"Maybe if the night stays clear, we can get an idea of where we are. I know I’m in a boat with one of the best navigators in or out of service. Or so Uncle Chip’s told me, time and time again. He says that you have a sixth sense about the stars."
"I don’t know about the sixth sense part, but we sure can give it a try, once we have a clear sky."
Robert nodded and they waited for the sun to set, and night sky to open.
A short time later, when the stars were risen and the sky was full, Lee observed, and looked around, and then observed again. Robert also studied the sky. What the two men saw was a one time, puzzling and totally disheartening. Finally Lee spoke to his son.
"From the looks of the sky, I’d say that we’re in the Pacific Ocean. I thought that it was the Atlantic, but the sky tells me differently!"
"Well, at least it’s more familiar waters."
"I can’t get a fix without a sextant, but my guess would be somewhere North of Santa Barbara, at least 200 miles out. Not in any shipping lanes…"
Robert nodded slowly in agreement. Neither wanted to put into words what both were thinking… Cold and wet, far from shipping lanes, no water, no food, nothing …what else could either one of them think…? they allowed themselves to give over to sleep. It would be easier that way. Lee reached over to Robert, to grab his arm, and Robert reached out and took his father’s hand.
"Dad… I love you. Thanks, for all that you’ve given me…I hope I’ve …
Lee Crane reached over and held his son. "You’ve been the best son I could have dreamed of, and more! I’ve always been proud of you! Your mother would have been. Caitlin is!"
"She’s been good to me, Dad. I love her, too. If we don’t get out of this, I hope that she…"
"I do too." Lee held Robert a little closer, and then, as he began to fall asleep, loosened his grip, and drifted off…
Chip Morton fixed the radio at his throat, as O’Brien and Alex settled into the seats of the Flying Sub. He finally had something to be pleased about. The Airport manager had been most helpful when he was confronted by Chip, O’Brien and Alex for information.
There had been a private jet that left the airport on Friday night at about 2000 EST. The flight numbers and gate numbers matched the numbers on the paper that Morton and O’Brien had found in Crocker’s apartment. The flight plan had the plane landing in Sacramento at roughly 2030 PST the same night. The plane was registered to a William A. Judd, of Davis, California. The flight records indicated that the plane had indeed landed in California at 2048 PST that night. There was no further information available, but they at least had a name, and they were on the West Coast! After Chip cleared the FS1 for take off, and did indeed take off, he got on the radio, with the boat.
"Flying Sub to Seaview…Come in Seaview."
"This is the Seaview. Go ahead, Captain Morton."
"Sparks, patch me through to the Admiral."
"Aye, sir." There was a momentary pause.
"Nelson here, what have you got, Chip?"
"A lead, sir! Maybe you r source can help us track this down. 2000 EST hours on Friday night, a private jet left the airport. Headed for Sacramento. Flight and gate numbers are identical to ones that we found on a paper in Crocker’s apartment. The flight landed in Sacramento at 2048 PST, Friday night. Plane is owned by a William A. Judd, Davis, California…Do you know the name, sir?""
"No, I don’t recognize it! But I may yet! Good work! I’ll get things started here. We’re underway, come right to the boat. We’re on a northerly heading, and when you get close we’ll relay the exact coordinates."
"Aye, sir. Permission to bring a visitor aboard?"
"Alex?…Of course, permission granted. We’ll see you …"
"As quickly as we can arrive. I’m going to push her to her limits, sir. Morton out!"
Nelson clicked on the intercom, "Sparks, get me that number that I gave you earlier. Tell the person who answers that I need Michael Briggs now."
Harriman tapped the edge of the desk with his pencil. Several times it went flying through the air. Tired of that, he reached for and lit a cigarette. When he looked down at his desk, he made a mental note to get the Yeoman into the cabin, to clean up the ashtray and desktop. There was a light tapping on the door, and his reverie broken, he called, "Come!"
Sean peered around the door. "Mind if I come in?"
The Admiral smiled at his son. "No! ....No, of course not!"
Sean looked at the cigarette that his father held. "Dad, you know Uncle Lee is going to be pretty angry if he finds out you've started smoking again, because of him! And you know it's not good for your heart, and..."
He stubbed out the cigarette, in a strong motion, and looked at his son.
"It's out! It's a bad habit. I thought I'd broken it, but in times of stress...well, let's just say that your mother, bless her, will be chewing my..."
The intercom buzzed. "Yes?"
"Your call, sir!"
"Very well, Sparks. Put it through! ... Briggs?"
"Nelson, any news?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, Morton got some information. I need your help to track the name. Judd, William A. Judd."
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. Finally, Briggs cleared his throat. "Nelson, when your people run into the bad ones, you do it well!"
"William A. Judd, age 50. Industrialist who has made and lost a fortune several times over. He is so far to the right, that the far right doesn't even want anything to do with him. He has a small group that is determined to revise the present government, and make them do it his way! He's looking for some strength to back him up..."
"And if he can get his hands on the Seaview, he gets his hand on the most powerful weapon in the world."
"And he can hold the world off and get his own way!... " Michael continued, then went silent. He was debating within himself as to reveal the rest. Finally, "Nelson, there's more...there's a connection here."
"Connection? What kind of connection?"
"Once I confirm it, I'll inform you. That's all I can tell you for now. Besides, you have to remember I'm 'retired' and don't have the complete, immediate access I once had."
"Damn it, Michael, you're holding something back! Tell me!"
Ignoring the plea, he simply stated, "I'll call you back in an hour or less. I'll have all the information I need by then!" The phone went dead on the other end.
"Damn him!" Nelson spat out.
"Michael Briggs knows something about Lee and Robert, and he's holding back on me!"
The phone rang in the Nelson home and Karen Nelson answered. "Nelson residence, Karen speaking."
"Karen, Michael here."
"Michael? I thought you and Harriman were in contact."
"We are. I just got off the phone with him. He's a bit ticked off with me. In a way, I guess he's got reason to be. Karen, I wanted to talk to you first before. . ."
"Yes?" she felt a lump in her stomach, and all of a sudden the day, though warm and sunny, turned extremely cold. "What is it, Michael? What have you found out?"
"We know who kidnapped Crane and his son. Morton got the name. William Ashcroft Judd. Only this is William Ashcroft Judd, junior."
Her heart stopped. She nearly dropped the receiver. A name she hadn't heard in years…not since Michael had told her shortly after the incident. He had told her who the man really was…breached security rules for her…because of what she had done. Very softly, and full of dread, "The General's son?"
"I didn't know ...I didn't know he had a ...Oh, dear God, Michael, you don't think he's…"
"I should’ve had him taken care of when I had the chance. I knew the General had a son who was involved with the Militia, so I kept an eye on him for years after the incident. He's about as far right wing as his father was, maybe even further now. I had my section track his movements ...his connections ...I didn't want him to ...I'm sorry, Karen. This could be considered my fault!"
"No, Michael. This isn't anyone's fault. It's happened and the only thing that we have to do now is to get Lee and Robert back to us safely. I don't want my daughter's heart broken because she's lost her husband …and her son!"
"She's been happy with Crane?"
"Yes, Michael. She'd been in love with Lee for years." Karen smiled to herself, remembering several times that Caitlin had tried to get Lee Crane's attention. "She's helped raise Robert since he was a baby, since shortly after his mother died. She was his baby sitter since she was 17. She loves him like he's her own son ...in many ways he is." Her eyes clouded and she struggled to keep her composure. The steeliness in her voice returned. "Their lives together can't end like this. Tell Harriman, Michael. Tell him now. He deserves to know exactly who he's up against. I won't let him know that we've spoken. He's on the boat now...with Sean."
"Your son’s a handsome young man, Karen. Is he very much like his father?" Briggs' voice betrayed the tinge of regret he felt over events of long ago.
"Too much sometimes. Some day, I'll tell you how much... Michael ...please ...do what you can? For Caitlin."
"For Caitlin, and for you...Karen. I'll be in touch."
Karen hung up the phone and then stood silent and absolutely still. "William Judd." A ghost from the past that she thought was long buried. "Oh God! Help us! This man must be as insane as his father was!" She sat down in the Queen Anne chair that stood next to the telephone table in the hall. She wanted to call Harriman, but knew that she had to wait for him to call her. She couldn't even let Caitlin know until after Harriman called. A feeling of guilt suddenly washed over her, enveloping her. Tears began to slowly fall. 'My fault. . .all my fault. If I hadn't gone back...Oh, God . . .please, no!' Then anger and reason replaced the guilt. "No! By God, No! I won't let this bastard win. No! Not then...and certainly not now!"
"That was a fast turn around time, Michael."
"All I had to do was confirm my suspicions. Here it is, straight out... Judd’s the son of the 'General'."
Harriman Nelson's face turned white as a sheet, and Sean, who was seated next to the desk, became alarmed. He reached out to his father, and Nelson gently pushed the hand away, and color came slowly back into his face.
"The General. So that's what this is all about. Revenge...against Karen...and me." He reached and touched his son's hand. "Where's he located, Michael? And how can we get to him, and get to Lee and Robert?"
"Give me some time, Nelson. And before you do anything on that end, let me know. I don’t want to get in your way, or have you get in mine. We will find them."
"Yes, Michael, We will find them! I’ll be in touch. We’ll be working on it from this end. If he’s here in California, I’ll find them and find him!"
Michael Briggs waited for what amounted to several seconds. "Very well, Admiral. I’ll see what else I can find out, but we’ll stay out of your way! Call me if you need me. I’ll be in touch with the information…"
"Thank you… for all your help."
"Anything for the Davis ladies." And the phone went dead.
Nelson put the handset in the cradle, and punched the intercom. "Sparks, get me Morton on the FS1. After I finish talking to Chip, get me my wife, and then Chin at the Institute."
Sean looked at his father. "Michael Briggs is the man with the connections you don’t like?"
Gruffly, much more gruffly than he intended, "Yes, he is. I don’t like the man, and I don’t like who he works for…However, your mother and Michael have known each other for a number of years, and he has been a ‘help’ in a few situations."
"Guess I’ll have to ask Mom…" he shrugged as he tried to press for more information.
Harriman Nelson eyed his son and chose his next words carefully. "Yes, you go ahead and ask her, Sean. I don’t think that she will give you much more information than I will. But let’s not discuss that now, eh? When all is said and done here, ok?"
Sean looked at his father and saw in the blue eyes a shut down for further information. It was one of the areas that he and his father came to loggerheads. If Harriman Nelson didn’t want Sean to know something, he simply shut down, and refused to answer. Sean was as stubborn as his father, and he would continue to pursue information, either until he got it, or he hit a complete brick wall. More often than not, he would get the information. He had a way of wearing down his mother… But somehow, he knew that this was not going to be easy information to obtain.
"Okay, Dad. Uncle Lee and R.C. are more important…"
"Admiral Nelson… Captain Morton as you requested, sir."
"Morton here, Admiral. Our ETA Santa Barbara, an hour twenty…"
"I want you to make a change in your flight plan.. I want you to head for the Davis area. I’ll radio you with a definite destination after I do some further checking. Nelson out."
"Admiral, Mrs. Nelson."
Harriman’s voice softened considerably as he spoke to his wife, "Karen?"
"Right here, Harriman! Have you found anything out?"
"Well, yes…" He paused unaware that Karen already knew the news he was about to relay to her. "We know who kidnapped Lee and Robert…William Judd."
"Who is William Judd, Harriman, and why would he do such a thing to Lee and R.C.?"
"William Judd is the General's son, Karen," Harry softly but forcefully told her. He knew the effect it would have on her, having to relive those events again. At the same time, he eyed his son, knowing that he didn't want him to know the entire story. He waited to hear any sort of reaction on the other end.
"Oh, my God, Harriman...No!" she whispered into the phone. Even though she already knew, it was still hard for her to believe.
"Yes… I wish I could be with you right now… this is difficult enough without this additional factor."
"It’s ok, Harry. Just, don’t tell Sean… let me do it when the time is right."
He smiled at his wife’s words, "I’ve already told him that." He looked over at Sean, "He doesn’t like it!"
"No, Mom, I don’t!" Sean called out across the cabin.
Karen smiled at her son’s words…his attitude was so like his father’s! "Tell him, it’s our way or no way!"
‘I did. He still doesn’t like it." He looked over at Sean, and he smiled at his son, who returned the smile, if somewhat reluctantly. He would find out what his father was talking about. No matter how long it took!
"Karen, I’ll be back in touch with any further information. How is Caitlin?"
"As well as could be expected."
"She’s your daughter, Karen, she’s made of steel, like her mother."
"Even steel has its limitations, Harriman," she reminded him.
"Yes, well…Take care of her. I’ll be in touch when I have more news…" His tone softened even more. "I love you, Mrs. Nelson."
He heard the smile on her face, that was there in spite of the stress. "And I love you, Harriman," she said softly.
Nelson put the phone slowly in the cradle, and waited for the third call to be placed. In a few seconds, Sparks called him once again. Admiral, Commander Chin."
"Yes, Thomas. Captain Morton has gotten some information regarding the kidnapping and I want you to get me all of the possible information on this man that you can…His name is Judd, William A. Judd. Michael Briggs tells me he’s based in Davis."
Thomas Chin let out a low whistle. "Yes, sir. He is. Admiral, this guy is bad news sir. Lots of money and lots of crazy ideas. Wants to revise the government. Wants to do it badly. He has a group of followers. Small. Militia trained. His father was a similar kind of nut, but he was taken out twenty years ago. Don’t know how."
Nelson shivered in the warmth of his cabin at his remembrance of the time in the ‘General’s’ hands. Sean watched his father carefully as he talked to the Security Chief. There seemed to be a great deal that his parents hadn’t told him, and that he wanted to know. Perhaps if he could catch his father off guard…
"Alright, Thomas, see what else you can find out. Call me with any information. I’ll be calling you back in an hour."
"Nelson out!" he turned to Sean. He saw the unspoken questions on the face of his son. "I know that you’ve got a lot of questions, Sean. Right now, I’m not ready to give you the answers. You’ll have them, but you’ll have to wait…" he chuckled…"Which is something that the Nelson men do not do well." He stood and clapped him on the shoulder. "C’mon. Since I can’t have a smoke," he grinned at the teen, "I do need a cup of coffee. We’re going to the Galley! Maybe Cookie can help us!"
Lee Crane woke and looked at the sky and the sea. With the passing of yet another night, he held that their time was running short. By his reckoning it must be Monday. That would make it the third day since they’d been taken from the restaurant. He didn’t presume that they could survive the day. This time he saw a clear morning sky. There was no storm in the offing. The little water that they had gotten from the storm had only given them a brief reprieve. The storm itself had saved them from any further sun, but only for the day. The sun would get them today…Robert would feel it faster and worse than he would. The Middie blues, dark blue wool. At this point, removing them would serve not purpose. Sadly, Lee believed that by the end of the day, they would most likely be dead. He wasn’t giving up, but rather he had become resigned to the inevitable. He had no strength, or energy left…all he had was the desire to sleep, to slide deep into the darkness.
"Well, Cats, looks like you’ll be getting to know your son sooner than we both expected…I’m sorry for him, Cats…He has so much potential…He’s a wonderful man…You’ll like him… It’ll be good to see you again, Cats…" he thought of Caitlin, and was sad… "I’m sorry to leave you like this, Caitlin… If there was any other way…Marry again, my love…You taught me to love again… allow it for yourself!"
He reached over to Robert, and pulled him closer, to hold him as long as he was able. It was already hot, and the sun was beating mercilessly down on them.
"No," Lee thought, "There isn’t much time…" The sea had always been his passion, his love, she had called to him from his youth…She had been a part of his life as long as he could remember… "dying here, surrounded by the ocean he loved…some how, if it had to be… Robert was here… they weren’t alone…somehow…" He held Robert closer, and drifted off.
A gentle breeze brushed over the small boat, and gently caressed the occupants. A soft voice, unheard by the two men, seemed to say,
"Not yet, my loves…the time is not yet!"
"Michael Briggs, sir."
"Put him through. I’ll take it here."
"Admiral, I’ve got some more information about Judd."
"He’s got a boat, the True American Patriot, berthed about 120 miles from Davis. A little place, called Bodega Bay. Small and remote. Some of my contacts have reported after his plane landed Friday night, a limousine and a small van left the private gate of the airport on Route 113. They went to Davis, Judd’s compound, and from there to Bodega Bay. It’s about a 2 hour trip to the town. The Patriot’s berthed at a private dock, off the end of Bay Flat Road. The entire area is private property, owned by The First American Electronics Corporation, one of Judd’s companies. The boat is a converted PT boat, Elco class, with all of her armaments. Comes with at crew of 10 and two officers."
"Private property, eh?"
"Yes, the van and the car went into the property towards the dock. They loaded something on the boat, and when it left the dock, it was towing an old dinghy. It returned sometime about 0600. The dinghy was gone."
"You don’t think…"
Michael answered with a measured tone, ‘No, Admiral. I don’t think. I know. If the man’s profile holds true, to get even with the two of you, I know that he took Crane and his son and abandoned them in a dinghy in the middle of the ocean."
Harriman Nelson was exceedingly quiet. "We are almost at the coordinates they gave us to turn over the boat…A modified PT boat, eh? That’s no problem to handle. But…"
"It’s a needle in a haystack, Admiral, a very big haystack…I’m sorry!"
"It’s not over yet, Michael. Thank you again, for the information. Nelson out"
Nelson had been in the Observation Nose with Sean, and he rose and moved to the Plot Table in the Control Room. Sean watched and saw his father in his element…using the charts and the calibrators …barking out orders and changing course.
Kowalski called from the Sonar, "Admiral! Surface contact! Off starboard bow, bearing 050 relative. 2 miles off."
"Can you make out the kind of craft."
"She’s small, sir… She’s making good time, 35 knots. Kinda like the old PT boats."
Nelson hurrumphed and nodded. "Watch her, Kowalski. When she comes right above, let me know." He turned to Sharkey, "Francis, I want an armed party ready and waiting, here in the Control Room, and another in the Missile room. To move on my signal!"
"On an intercept course, sir."
Nelson turned to his son, "Sean, this is an order, not a request. Lay down to your cabin, and stay there until you are sent for. Lock the door. And do not leave it for any circumstances, unless you hear from Sharkey or me."
Sean hesitated briefly, and then responded with a strong, "Yes, sir." A nod to his father, who smiled back at him, as he headed up the spiral stairs.
"Mr. Burke prepare to surface the boat on my order." He picked up the microphone, "Attention all hands, this is the Admiral. There is a PT Boat approaching. She intends to board, and take the Seaview. That is not going to happen. But we may be in for some heavy action. Therefore, I want the entire crew at battle stations, and prepared to do combat if necessary! Nelson out."
He double clicked the mike. "Master at Arms."
"Report to me in the Control Room immediately!"
Moments later, the MAA reported to Nelson, "CWO Daniels reporting as ordered, sir."
"Daniels, I want a guard posted at my son’s cabin for the duration of the action, here. I do not want my son allowed out of the cabin! Is that understood?"
Daniels left the Control Room , Kowalski called out, "Boat overhead, sir!"
"Very well! All hands prepare for an encounter!" To Burke and Andrews, "Surface the boat! Move her off the boat above 100 feet. Let’s show them the Seaview at her best!"
"Admiral Nelson, A radio message for you, sir"
"Put it through here, Sparks…This is Nelson, go ahead!"
"Nelson, this is Captain Bartlett, of the True American Patriot. According to my orders, you are to prepare to be boarded, sir. Mr. Judd sends his respects."
"Captain Bartlett, I regret to inform you that it you don’t get your little wooden boat out of my way, my boat is going to, quite simply obliterate you. I know you have armaments, I know that you are a refitted PT, Elco ’80 class. I’ve had some experience with them. Pretty little boats…deadly too, it you don’t know their weaknesses. I do. You can tell Mr. Judd to go to hell, and you and your crew can go with him, if you so desire. I will be happy to accommodate you, as of right now!"
At that moment the Seaview broached the surface 100 feet from the PT boat. Seaview was at lease five times the size of the PT boat, and the crew of the boat realized they were well outgunned, and out-manned, and wisely for them, backed off several hundred feet more.
On Seaview, Kowalski called out, "Admiral, the boat is moving off! She’s laying off about 300 feet, starboard."
"Sparks, contact the Patriot….Captain Bartlett?
"Nelson, Judd said to deliver a message to you…. He said to tell you Nelson, it’s a hopeless task! You’ll never find them…too much time, and too much water… They’re probably dead by now, anyway, and all you’d find would be a couple of corpses He said ‘Good Luck’ and to tell the lady she’ll be hearing from him again."
Nelson’s blood chilled at the words. He was the only one that knew what Judd was referring to and he was not about to share it with anyone.
"Very well. Captain Bartlett, relay this message to Mr. Judd. And tell him that the lady in question is well prepared. That is all. Now get the hell out of here before I blow you to kingdom come!"
There was silence on the other end, and Kowalski called out, "Admiral, the boat is leaving the area. They’re making top speed. 45 knots!"
"Very good Kowalski…Sparks, get me Morton in the Flying Sub." He clicked the mike,
"All hands, stand down from battle stations." Clicking it again, "Master at Arms?"
"Master at arms, Aye!"
"Daniels, stay the guard at my cabin.
"Admiral, Captain Morton.."
"Yes, sir. Any news?"
"Some. Judd is familiar with us. His father, Chip, was the man who engineered the events of about twenty years ago…involving a certain lady pilot"
There was a few seconds of silence as Chip digested the news…Then he said, quietly, "The General’s son?"
"Yes, Chip. That’s how it all starts to make sense. He wants to get to Karen…and me… We’ll deal with that, and him after we find Lee and Robert. We know that they were put adrift in a small boat. While they could be anywhere, Judd’s boat was out no longer than six hours into Saturday morning. It’s my guess that they left them somewhere in an area three hours out from the harbor. No more than that. What’s your ETA to the coast?"
"About 20 minutes. What’s the plan, sir?"
"You have the coordinates where we met their craft. It’s also roughly three hours out from the bay. Triangulate the position from Bodega Bay and plot an approximate three hour trip, from the harbor at Bodega, at about 45 knots. Then establish your search plan and let’s see if we can find them. It’s a long shot, but it’s the only one we have…We’ll start a similar pattern from here…"
For three long hours, the Flying Sub flew in an ever-widening circular pattern, low to the water. Chip kept her close to the water’s surface, his thought being that if he was too far above, he wouldn’t see a small boat. He was becoming increasingly despairing of finding Lee and Robert. It was a hell of a big ocean, and a hell of a small boat. The occupants of the sub were picking up on his despair. It seemed a hopeless task…worse than a needle in haystack. He took the sub up to 20,000 feet, and set the auto-pilot. Then he stretched in the seat, massaged his neck, and rubbed his eyes. He didn’t like the feeling he had, that this was a fool’s errand. He was deeply afraid that they wouldn’t find Lee or Robert that they were lost to them, forever. He didn’t know what he would do if Lee Crane were no longer a part of his life…And Robert… How would they all come to grips with the loss of the young man.
‘Stop it, Morton! It’s not over! Lee wouldn’t give up on you, don’t you dare give up on him!’ A hand on his shoulder broke his musings. He looked at Alex, who had unstrapped from the passenger seat.
"Dad," she asked him, concerned, "Are you ok?"
He smiled tiredly at her, "Sure, Honey. I just haven’t done much flying in this bird, recently. And I can’t believe this whole… business…And to think that…well…"
"I know, Dad. R.C. has always been such a good friend. Always treated me like and equal…Not just another girl! He made those first days at the Academy so much easier. Even though I was just a Plebe, and he was a Second Classman. It really made a difference… He…He’s not dead…He can’t be!"
Chip took her hand and patted it, "If there’s a chance that they’re alive…we’ll find them, Alex. We’ll find them.!" She laid her head affectionately on his shoulder for only a moment, and then kissed him on the cheek.. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you, Alex!" He squeezed her hand and then she sat again in the passenger seat, and strapped herself back in.
Bob O’Brien had watched the interplay with the Captain and his daughter. He and Chip had become closer friends, in recent years. Chip had taken O’Brien under his wing, and the younger man had grown in confidence and ability. He would make a good XO for someone, but he refused, like so many others, to leave Seaview and the Institute. This was his home and his family. When one of them hurt, they all hurt. He understood how the Captain, Admiral Nelson, everyone felt about the Skipper and his son. They had to find them… his ‘family’ would be irreparably harmed if they didn’t. Bob didn’t want to think about it…
"Bob, let’s set a wider pattern. They have to be down there…it’s just a question of where!"
Another two hours of searching, and the people in the tiny aircraft were about ready to give up. There was nothing on the surface of the ocean, nothing to be seen. They had been in contact with the Seaview and the boat was 20 minutes from their present location. Chip had decided to do one final pass, and then head for the boat. They would regroup, and search again until dark. In the back of his mind, he knew that another day, and they wouldn’t find living friends. He sighed heavily, his mind not wanting to accept what by now, he thought of as inevitable. He pushed the throttle forward, and began a final pass at the area. He decided to run the sub at ten feet above the water, hoping that in prior passes he had been too high.
O’Brien and Alex were also carefully scanning the area with binoculars. He held her low to the water, and slowed her speed. ‘Nothing!! There is nothing!!! Damn it, Lee!!!"
"Sir!" O’Brien called out sharply. "There! 30 degrees to port! There’s something!" Chip threw the throttle to the direction of O’Brien’s call, and increased the speed of the aircraft to maximum, to reach the site. He raised the ship to 40 feet to reach the site quickly. In two minutes, they were over the position.
"There!! It’s a dinghy!" As the FS1 flew over the site, Morton radioed the Seaview with the coordinates. "Bob, can you see any thing?"
O’Brien threw several switches as the sub made circular passes over the dinghy. On the camera, they saw two bodies, lying in the small wooden craft. The khaki clad figure held the other, blue clad one in an embrace. There was no movement.
Alex caught her breath.. ‘What if we really are too late?! Oh, please don’t let that be!! R.C.! Uncle Lee! Please be ok!!"
Chip broke the silence in the cabin… "Seaview will be here in ten minutes. We’ll continue to circle until then!"
O’Brien and Alex nodded mutely, and watched below as they waited for the arrival of the boat. They didn’t have to wait long. Once Lee Crane’s silver lady broached the surface, Chip took the FS1 to a higher altitude, and prepared her for submersion and docking.
There were cheers on the boat when the news was heard. Sean Nelson called to his father on the intercom. "Permission to leave quarters and report to the Control Room, Admiral?"
Harriman Nelson smiled at his son’s request. He would make a fine officer when the time came. He was already a good sailor. "Permission, granted, Sean… We’ll be bringing them aboard in a few minutes."
The tall redhead strode into the Control Room. As the boat came to the surface, there was a smooth transition, and the engines brought the boat to a full stop.
Sean Nelson stood at the base of the ladder to the sail, anxiously waiting for the crew to call a ‘Deck clear!’ so he could go topside.
Harriman Nelson stood in the Radio Shack with Sparks. He was sending a message to the Institute and to those who were waiting onshore. Not knowing all of the condition of the two men in the small boat, he sent a simple, one word message…
He hoped that he would have better news to follow.
"Send a copy of that to Michael Briggs at this number… and add to his, ‘Thank you, Nelson.’
"Deck clear!" came that word from above, and before anyone else could move, Sean scrambled up the ladder, and bolted out onto the deck, through the embarkation hatch. Roughly 200 meters off the port side, a small dinghy lay rocking on the swells of the ocean. There was no movement in the craft.
As the deck crew readied two inflatables, Sean could wait no longer, and he dove into the water. He was a strong and proficient swimmer, and reached the small boat quickly. Bracing himself against the side of the boat he pulled himself up and looked in. Lee and Robert Crane lay in the boat, unconscious, and unmoving. Only the slight rise and fall of their chests gave an indication of any life. Both men were sunburned, their uniforms wrinkled and soiled, Lee Crane’s wrists were bloodied and torn, Robert’s hands and fingers in a similar state.
Sean slid back into the water, grabbing the bow of the skiff, and doing a one handed stroke, pulled it toward the inflatables that were approaching. He handed it off to the men, and made for the sub. The men on deck offered hands to help him back aboard, and he stood, and then crouched down, to reach out for the little boat.
He sprung into the small boat and with great care, lifted Lee Crane and passed him up to the waiting hands. Then he bent down, and with unexpected tenderness, picked up the limp form of Robert Crane. Hands reached to help him, but he refused them. He accepted the help to get out of the dinghy, but he insisted on carrying R.C. himself. He carried his friend into the sail, down the ladder and down the corridors to the Sick Bay.
Even in the safe confines of the Sick Bay, he was reluctant to put R.C. down. Frank Lerner finally persuaded him to lay R.C. on an exam table. Frank was now an MD, and in full charge of the Seaview’s Sick Bay. Will Jamison had restricted himself to the Institute’s Med Facility, after a particularly bad fall several years earlier.
Sean stood there, watching until a firm hand placed itself on his shoulder. The owner of the hand guided him away from the exam area, and to one of the treatment areas. Sean looked into the steel blue eyes that matched his own, and saw in them the same emotions that he was feeling.
Harriman Nelson ached for his son, and for the emotional pain he was now going through. Silently he handed Sean a towel and a Sick Bay issue robe. "Frank says change out of the wet clothes, Sean. He can’t have you getting sick, too! I’ll wait for you out here." Sean quickly stripped off the wet clothes and laid them in a small pile. Then he stepped out into the examination area. Alex Morton, and Chip Morton came into the room at that moment, and Alex moved to Sean and hugged him tightly. He returned the hug and then turned to shake hands with her father.
"Captain…" he grinned and said softly so only Morton could hear him, "Uncle Chip!"
Chip clasped his hand warmly. "Sean, I’m not surprised to find you here. What did Karen say when she found you were coming on the boat?"
"There wasn’t much she could say. I was already here, and the boat had already set sail…" he grinned, "Dad had seen to that!"
"I see. So, in other words, she lost the argument before it even began! I would bet that Karen Nelson didn’t like that very much."
Sean nodded, and turned to his father, "What does the Doc say, Dad?"
"The both of them are in pretty poor shape. Severe dehydration, symptoms of sunstroke, severe sunburn on their faces. Lee’s wrists are pretty torn up, and there is some infection there. Robert’s fingers and hands are pretty torn up. Both are suffering from exposure and running fevers. Frank has them on a massive rehydration program and antibiotics for the fever and infections. We’ll just have to wait and see how they do, and how long it takes for them to come around. Frank said that the longer it takes, well …"
"I’m staying here with R.C." Sean stated simply enough, although the tone of his voice indicated that he would brook no interference in his decision.
"I’d like to stay as well, sir." Alex requested.
Nelson nodded, and as the corpsmen settled Lee and Robert Crane, and their various IV s and tubes, into racks on the opposite sides of the Sick Bay, Nelson had chairs set by the bunks. As soon as Lee was settled, Harry took one of the chairs next to the bunk, and wordlessly, Chip slid into the other one. On the other side of the room, Sean sat in a chair, and Alex next to him, at the side of R.C’s bunk. A short time later, Dr. Frank Lerner stood in the doorway of his little office and looked out at the scene. Nelson and Morton sitting with Crane. One group older, and one, very much younger…but a vigil, none the less.
"The vigils begin for a new generation…"
He came to consciousness slowly. He was surrounded by a feeling of soft and warm. He was aware of movement beneath him, slow, steady and rhythmic. He tried to open his eyes, but they felt gummy and they stuck closed. He tried to speak, but his mouth, his throat was dry and felt as if he had been swallowing great gulps of sand. As his senses began to clear, he felt wrappings on his wrists. One arm was free, but it felt so heavy! The other seemed to be tied down in some way. He moved, and voices penetrated his conscious mind. He moved again, and the freedom of the movement was accentuated by the soft cocoon that he lay in. He stayed there, momentarily savoring the softness. Then an image slammed into his mind and he cried out, "Robert!"
Hands reached out and held him, as he struggled to rise and find his son! He cried out again "Robert!"
Soft, familiar voices spoke to him, murmuring gently. Strong hands held him down. "Skipper…Lee…It’s alright…Robert’s alright… You’re on the boat, Lee. You’re on Seaview, Skipper. It’s okay…it’s okay."
He relaxed with the soothing voices, the ones that he knew, had known for years. Nelson. Chip Morton. He recognized their voices, their touch. He struggled to open his eyes, and finally the crust released, and he was able to open them. His vision was blurry. He couldn’t see clearly, but he recognized the Sick Bay, and the feel of his boat. ‘His boat’ His lady. She had come through for him again! He turned his head toward Nelson’s voice, "Admiral, Robert…the boat…the crew…? "
"All’s well, Lee. Robert is going to be ok. So are you." Nelson’s hand rested on his shoulder.
"I want to see…Robert!"
"Easy, Lee. Frank doesn’t want you to get up yet!"
He grabbed Nelson’s hand with his free hand. "Admiral!" They exchanged a look, and it was enough. Nelson and Chip helped him to sit up. The room spun, and he grabbed at the two men to steady himself. He swung his legs over the side of the rack, and waited again. Then slowly he stood. Leaning heavily on Nelson and Morton, he made his way across the Sick Bay.
Frank Lerner stood in the doorway to his office, and he caught the look from Harriman Nelson, and said nothing. He’s been onboard Seaview, and around her Senior officers, too long for him to question, and as long as his patient was not in danger, he didn’t say anything to the men.
Sean and Alex became aware of activity on the other side of the room, and they looked over to see Lee being helped slowly across the Sick Bay. Sean Nelson stood and moved away from his chair to make way so that Lee would have a clear pathway to Robert. He looked up to see Karen Davis Nelson, and Caitlin Davis Crane frozen in the doorway. As they watched, Lee sank into the chair next to his son, and reached out with his free hand and stroked Robert’s forehead. The young man did not stir, and Lee allowed the tears that he had been holding back since the ordeal had begun to course down his face. Galvanized by the sight, Caitlin Crane moved to her husband. He looked up at her as she stood in front of him.
"Caitlin!" he said in a soft, hoarse voice. "Oh, Caitlin!"
She knelt in front of him and wrapped her arms around him, and cried with him. The possibility of the loss that could have been overwhelmed them.
Karen moved quietly to her husband and son. Harriman Nelson simply opened his arms to her and she moved into them, molding herself to his body, and they held one another for a few brief moments. She then reached out and drew Sean into the embrace.
When Nelson released his wife, he looked her in the eye and asked "How?"
She gave him a small grin, "Being the Admiral’s wife does have a few extra perks! I simply called Gil Foley and told him that I needed a ride to the boat. He pulled one of the Helios, and here we are. Hey, I even offered to fly it myself, but he declined the offer! Said only he or his people fly for the Institute. Remind me to show him my pilot’s license the next time, will you?"
Nelson chuckled softly, "Mrs. Nelson, you never cease to amaze me!"
Karen kissed him softly, and mischievously smiled, "Hmmmm, I’d better not, Admiral Nelson, or then I’ll know that I’ve lost my touch!"
Sean slid his arm around her shoulders, looked upward in mock exasperation , and commented, "Really, Mom!"
She shot a ‘who me?’ grin at her son, who was standing in the Sick Bay bathrobe, but otherwise looking his usually healthy self, and when he saw her appraising but concerned look, he grinned. "I went for the boat, Mom. I only got wet! I didn’t want to leave R.C., like Dad didn’t want to leave Uncle Lee!"
Her hand pushed a strand of slightly wet hair off his brow and then, softly, touched his face.
Nelson said to Karen, and any one else that was listening…"Old habits die hard!"
And under her breath, Karen murmured. "And set the tone for new ones!"
Robert Crane fought his way to consciousness. He was aware of clean sheets and soft pillows, and the antiseptic smell of a sick room. He opened his eyes, and the room shifted, and then steadied. His father, IVs attached to one arm, sat in a chair next to the rack that he was lying in. His step mother, Caitlin, had her arms securely placed around his father’s shoulders. Sean Nelson sat at the foot of the cot. He heard other voices, and saw the rest of the Nelson family, and Chip and Alex Morton standing nearby. Lee’s hand was firmly on his shoulder. His mouth felt cottony, his hands were bandaged. He turned his head slowly toward his father. "Dad?"
A smile spread over Lee Crane’s face and Caitlin held her husband a little tighter.
Sean leaned forward, ""Welcome back, R.C."
He nodded at his friend. "Alex?"
She smiled at him. "Glad that you’ve decided to rejoin us, R.C."
He gave them all a half grin, very much like his father’s, and said, in a hoarse voice, "With all the noise in this room, who can sleep?"
Frank Lerner used that to begin to urge everyone to leave his patients, so that they all could rest. Chip Morton was the first to leave, followed by Alex, after she gave both Lee and R.C. a gentle kiss and several soft words. Harriman and Karen Nelson also left quietly. Sean leaned over the rack.
"R.C…" He placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. Robert laid a bandaged hand on Sean’s arm.
"Thanks for being here, Sean. I can’t tell you…"
"Don’t try…I’m just glad that I was… I’ll be back in a few hours, before we dock."
R.C. nodded, and Sean straightened. His eyes were glistening, with unshed tears, as he looked to Lee Crane and his sister, Caitlin. Wordlessly, Caitlin hugged him, holding him tight, and murmured a few words of thanks to him. Lee held his hand tightly, and nodded. No other words needed to be said, and Sean left the Sick Bay.
Frank Lerner then approached the Cranes. "Skipper, it’s time for you to get back into the rack. You won’t get better if you don’t rest…and no, sir, you can’t bamboozle me in any way. This is my Sick Bay, not Doc Jamison’s and I know you, too well, sir! Mrs. Crane, will you help me please with the Admiral.?"
Caitlin smiled at the young doctor, and took his arm as she softly replied, "In a minute, Frank. In a minute. Why don’t you come over here with me for a moment." Frank looked down at her and shrugged, allowing himself to be guided away from the father and son.
Lee held Robert’s arm tightly, and leaned toward him. Robert saw new lines on his father’s face, and he was distressed to think that he may have been a cause of some of them, feeling that he had caused so many of them already.
"Dad…I…What I said out there…I …"
"I know, Robert. I meant every word that I said. I couldn’t be prouder of you… And as I saw Sean and Alex, here, today, I couldn’t be any prouder of them, either. Admiral Nelson said that the kidnappers wanted to get their hands on the boat, and his files, and some money. They wanted to set up a new government, a new order of things and thought that kidnapping you and me would help them get what they wanted. But they hadn’t counted on the ‘family’ pulling together and taking care of their own. He said that he and Chip were working with each other across the country. These people had managed to have his offices bugged, mine, and Chip’s as well. He called in a few favors, and had some other help. But Chip, Alex and Bob broke it open, and their clues helped them to find us. That and a few other good breaks…"
He gripped his son’s arm more tightly, and continued, " Robert, you and I have had many talks through these last years. You know that I didn’t know my father very well. And you also know that my job has prevented me from spending as much time with you as I should have! I’m sorry for all of that…and I’m sorry for your mother too. At the time she died, I blamed myself and the job and the Seaview. I came to realize that it just wasn’t that way, but I am so sorry that you didn’t have her in your life…"
Robert stopped his father from going any further. "Mom’s been with us, more often than you even know. And we’ve had Caitlin. Either we found her, or she found us…either way, I believe that somehow Mom had a hand in it…maybe she had a hand in the Admiral finding us, too." Lee remembered a moment in the boat, before he had lost consciousness for the last time, and he remembered a voice… He thought he’d been hallucinating or that it had been the wind. It hadn’t been more than a whisper, or even softer. Just a few, very soft words. "Not yet, my loves…the time is not yet." Could it have been?
A soft hand laid itself on Lee’s shoulder, and he looked up at its owner. Caitlin softly smiled at her husband, and said gently, "Lee, I think that Frank feels that you and R.C. need to rest. It’s been a difficult time for all of us. And the two of you got the worse end of the deal. Now, it’s back to bed for you, Admiral!"
"That’s right, Little Girl, treat me like the Old Man that I am!"
She ran a gentle hand lovingly down the side of his face, and then bent over and kissed him. "Not at all, Admiral Crane. Not at all!" Slowly he rose from the chair, resting his hand on his son’s shoulder once more. Caitlin slid her arm around his waist, and gave him support to the rack on the other side of the Bay. She helped him into the bunk, and stood aside as the corpsman helped him settle in. Then she pulled a chair, and sat. Frank gave both of his patients a mild sedative to help them sleep. As Robert slipped off, Sean Nelson quietly slid into the room, to sit at his friends’ side. Lee saw this, and as he drifted off to sleep, Harriman and Karen Nelson’s words came into his mind…
"Old Habits die hard… And set the tone for New Ones!!"
(The Judd stories will continue…)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea tm ©, 20th Century Fox, and the Irwin Allen Foundation and its related companies, all rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication, or distribution in any form is expressly prohibited. This web site, its operators and any content contained on this site relating to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea tm © are not authorized by Fox.
Michael Coldsmith Briggs, III appears courtesy of Belisarius Productions and Universal Studios.