Linda A. Delaney
Matty Weaver Morton walked down the hallway at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. She'd been 'onboard' at NIMR for eight months now, and each day still had surprises in it. The biggest surprise had happened two months ago, when the SSRN Seaview's Executive officer, Chip Morton, had proposed to her and she had accepted. They had been married the same day, in a Wedding that still had a dreamlike quality to her. In a matter of hours, Chip, and Admiral Harriman Nelson, Morton's CO and Lee Crane, his best friend and Captain, had put together a fairy tale wedding! It had been so beautiful! She looked down at the wedding ring and hugged herself. At her age, the news that she was about to share with her still new husband was doubly exciting. She couldn't wait to tell Chip! He would be surprised, tho' he shouldn't be. They'd been very busy, trying to accomplish it, although they didn’t plan it!!
She was so involved in her thoughts that she didn't see Lee Crane coming around the corner and she walked right into him!
He staggered backward, and she fell down, hard, bouncing into the wall! For a moment, both were too stunned to speak, then Lee leaned forward to help her to her feet...
"Matty, are you ok?! What happened?"
She smiled at him as he helped her up. "Sorry, Lee. I was a…preoccupied...thinking about something! "
"Must have been mighty important!" he grinned.
"You could say that!" she said slyly, and as an idea occurred to her she said, "Lee I was wondering if..."
Commander Matty Weaver Morton stood at the door of her husband's office. She lovingly brushed her fingers over the nameplate- 'Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton, Executive Officer, S.S.R.N. Seaview’. She couldn't believe how much she loved him! And how lucky she was to find someone like him!
She walked into the office and saw Chip’s secretary, Dorothy, working hard at transcribing Morton’s scrawl into something legible, and able to be read! She smiled at the older woman . "Is he in?"
"Yes, ma’am. He’s on the phone with the Admiral right now. And the Captain is holding on line two. If you want to go in…?"
Matty nodded, smiled and went thru the door. Chip was sitting at his desk, writing furiously and talking at the same time. He looked up, saw her come in, and a broad smile split his face. He held his hand up in a stop motion and spoke into the phone. "Something’s come up here, Admiral. Can I get back to you?…..Yes, sir… Yes…I’ll have Angie take care of it…yes sir." He hung up the phone, and bolted up from the desk, to her.
She smiled at the pet name that he called her in private…He gave her a very warm kiss and hugged her. "How’s it going, sweetheart?…Hang on a minute, will you? He leaned over the desk to the intercom…Dorothy, will you tell the Captain that I’m busy and I’ll be in touch later…smooth his feathers a bit, will you?"
Chip smiled at his wife, who raised an eyebrow at his directive to his secretary.
"Smooth feathers? What are the two of you ‘discussing’ now?"
"Nothing important at all, Mrs. Morton. Nothing!" He kissed her again. "Now, what brings you here, at this hour of the day?"
"Well, If I remember, you have no plans for the weekend, and the next mission isn’t scheduled until the middle of next week, and you are not the duty officer this weekend. Do I have that correct, sir?"
"Yep! Do you have something planned in that wonderfully nefarious mind of yours?"
"Who, me?" she asked him playfully. "I would have a plan?"
He held her tightly around the waist. "Yes, you!" he laughed.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I do! I seem to remember a cabin…"
His eyes lit up, "You found out how to get the cabin! What did you do? Who did you have..?"
"I simply talked to your superior officer, Cdr. Morton! Seems he’s had a key all along! "
"I’m going to have to talk to him about that…" He laughed.
"My work on the project is done until Tuesday. Can you clear your calendar until then?"
"Consider it done!" he leaned over the desk again. "Dorothy…" he called into the intercom, "Clear my calendar until Tuesday…Tell Lee and the Admiral that I’m taking my wife out of town! Captain Crane knows where I’ll be, and he has the cell phone number. Cdr. Weaver and I are leaving now."
Matty slapped playfully at Chip’s arm, and then she linked her arm into his. They walked out to the office door, laughing. Dorothy simply sat at the desk and shook her head…
An hour later a red jeep pulled out of the driveway at their house, and they headed out of the Institute and toward the mountain cabin.
As they drove towards the retreat, Matty snuggled against Chip’s shoulder. "Chip, I have something to tell you."
"Yes? Good news or bad?"
"Good news, actually the kind of news we couldn’t help but expect."
"Expect what news?"
"Expect…we can expect!!!"
"Expect news…what are you talking about?"
She sat up sharply, and looked at him with a mixture of disgust and tolerance. She sighed heavily, shook her head and said, "Chip Morton, we are expecting."
"Expecting what …?
"Chip, you are going to be a father! We are going to have a baby!"
He turned the car onto the shoulder, slammed on the brakes, and grabbed Matty by the shoulders. He had a look of incredulity on his face…
"What did you say?"
She was both laughing and crying at the same time. "I said you are going to be a father, Chip Morton! An honest to goodness , bona fide father!"
"A father? What are you talking about?"
"Chip Morton…sometimes I think you’re more dense than a block of wood! I am pregnant!!! You are going to be a father…a daddy!!!!"
He sat back in the seat, stunned! "You mean, I…We… that…we’re going to …that we did….but…how…?"
She slapped him, playfully..."If you don’t know how, by now, Chip Morton, then we have a very serious problem here!!"
"Matty…You’re serious. We’re going to be parents?!!"
Softly, and full emotion she said, "Yes, my dearest Love, we are going to be parents. Thank You!" She kissed him fully on the lips…"I never I all my wildest dreams thought that this would ever be possible for me…And here we are!! I love you so much, Chip!!!"
He pulled her to him and kissed her. "I love you too, Angel!…A father!! When, Matty…?"
"Will tells me in about seven months… I think that this baby was conceived that night on the beach!!!" She smiled at her husband. "That beautiful night!" she kissed him again, and said, "We’d better get back on the road, my love. We have to stop at that Country Store to get some supplies if we plan to eat at all this weekend. Lee said that the caretaker would have the cabin ready by the time that we got there. He’s a local, and looks after the place."
Chip kissed her again, and released her, gently. She settled back in the seat, he put the jeep into drive, and pulled it out into the traffic flow.
‘A father! I’m going to be a father! God! Lee was right! What a high!'
He looked over at Matty. She was dozing in the seat.
What an incredibly lucky man I am! A fantastic wife and partner! And now we’re were going to be parents!!! Unbelievable!! '
Chip was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he didn’t notice that small, black compact car that was following them, and had been following them since they left the Institute.
The driver of the compact knew where they were going. He had heard their plans to go to the cabin. He’d been waiting a long time to get the two of them alone, and away from the Institute. He had a score to settle with her! A very big score!! And Morton, well, he had to finish the job he had started months ago! And he had plans… He’d see that he got his own justice, in his own way. It was a long time coming, too!!
Almost two hours later, Chip and Matty pulled the Jeep up to the front of the cabin. Chip turned off the motor and looked at the back of the car and laughed. "I know that expectant mothers eat a lot, but really Matty!!!" she laughed back… " And most of them aren’t married to Naval commanders who like to eat and eat and eat when they are on holiday!!" She climbed out and went around to the back of the Jeep.
Chip met her, kissed her, and opened the door. She grabbed at a bag of groceries, and went to the cabin. She had the key in her hand, and unlocked the door. "Chip, I’ll put this down and be right there to help you."
She pushed open the door with her hip and the bag, and took several steps into the cabin, when a hand was clapped over her mouth and familiar voice snarled into her ear.
"Drop the bag…don’t turn around and don’t do anything!"
She felt the barrel of a gun in her side. She didn’t argue and let the bag fall. It hit the area rug, and barely made a sound. She could hear Chip still unloading the jeep. The voice in her ear continued. "That’s good, very good. Now put your hands behind your back…slowly… one at a time… And don’t try anything.. I won’t hesitate to use this… on you or him, Commander."
She did as she was told, and put one hand behind her, her heart sinking as she felt the cold steel of a handcuff snap about her wrists, first one and then the other.
“Very good." A piece of cloth was stuffed into her mouth, effectively preventing her from making a sound. Her captor spun her around and shoved her onto the bed. "Don’t move! Don’t make a sound or he’s dead!"
She recognized the man! Gamma’s sergeant! He’d been shot on the boat! They hadn’t found his body! They thought it had been pulled out to sea! A thin trickle of fear ran up her spin, but she subdued it.
"There was too much to lose here. Keep a cool head and don’t panic!"
She heard Chip’s footsteps on the porch. "Chip, please God…don’t come in!!" her mind screamed at him. She heard his footsteps hesitate momentarily…then he called…
"Matty! Angel, where did you disappear to?" He stepped thru the doorway, caught a glimpse of her lying on the bed, before a blow struck him hard on the head, and the world went black!!
The Sergeant laughed! He looked at her and laughed again… ‘So easy! They were his prisoners, and it was so easy!!’’ He cuffed Chip’s wrists behind his back and took a piece duct tape and put it over his mouth, and then dragged him to the bed and dumped him on it, next to Matty.
He pulled the rag from her mouth, and she coughed out, "What do you want? What are you going to do us?"
"What I want, Commander, is my revenge… against you and Morton there. You, I owe some serious punishment to…for what you put me through. With your husband there, I want to finish what I started eight months ago!" He grabbed her by the arm and yanked her to her feet… "And your punishment begins now!"
He forced her to her knees, at the foot of the brass bed, positioning her at the bed post. He pulled her arms back, upward and over the post. Red hot arrows of pain shot through her shoulders and she gasped aloud. Then he knelt down and tied her knees to the post, and her ankles together leaving her in a kneeling position, with her arms pulled upward behind her. He slapped a piece of duct tape over her mouth and stood back, looking quite satisfied with the position he put her in. He grabbed her hair and pulled her head back… "You and I have huge score to settle, and I intend to enjoy every minute of the retribution!! And part of it will be watching you while I kill your husband! You thought that you could frighten me on that boat…for a while, you did. But I pretended to be shot when the sentry shot at me, and I found a place to hide at your precious Institute. Then I was able to do some planning. I was able to get a job at your Institute…they don’t check out maintenance men very carefully…I was able to move around and follow you and Morton. That he survived what I did to him, he’s got guts, I’ll give him that! Then again, maybe I wasn’t as thorough as I thought I was!"
He released her hair. "I’ve got some work to do here – I had no idea how long you’d be…so now that the two of you have arrived, I have to prepare the entertainment for the first step." He gave her a backhanded slap that snapped her head into the ball of the bedpost, and left her dazed. "…and I wouldn’t count on any help from your friend. Crane is the only one who knows where you two are and I’ve taken care to remove him so that there will be no help coming this time!"
Matty’s heart lurched. For the first time in her life she felt completely helpless…the three of them…Oh God,…the baby! Not Chip….Not the baby!!! And no!!! not Lee, too...My God!! Robert…Helen!!! It couldn’t happen…. ‘Chip…I love you !!’
At the NIMR, Lee Crane was finishing up the last details for Nelson’s current project involving the boat. Seaview was set to sail at 0930 Thursday, with a group of Institute scientists They were being dropped at an NIMR research station in the Spice Islands. Not a charting mission, but a mission to study the patterns of a species of bottlenose whales know to inhabit the area.
Lee was anxious to get out of his office and to the boat. After that he was heading home to a weekend with his son. Like Chip and Matty, he also had the weekend off. He had gotten the O.O.M. to take the duty watch this weekend. Lee piled the rest of his papers into his briefcase, and then realizing he wouldn’t get to it before Monday, left it perched on his desk. He grabbed his hat, and strode out the door.
"Jenny," he told his secretary, "I’m on my way to the boat, and then home. If I’m needed, he knows where to find me!"
His secretary smiled at him, "Yes, Captain…have a good weekend!"
He walked down the slope to the Seaview’s dock. It was a mild and pretty California day. He was glad he was in his shirt sleeves as the breeze plucked at them. He stood for a moment and stared with pride at the silver Lady that owned his heart! He was proud to Captain that boat! He approached the gangplank, and Sharkey saw him. He saluted sharply as Lee made his way down the gangplank, the bos’un’s whistle shrilled and Sharkey called as Lee saluted the colors.
"Captain on deck!"
"All’s well, Chief?"
"Aye sir. She’s ship shape and ready to ship out when ordered, Skipper!"
"Good job, Chief! Let’s do a tour of her, and then we’ll give the girl a rest for the weekend."
Forty-five minutes later, Sharkey and Crane emerged from the hatch on the Sail. Lee patted the comming as he left, "She’s in good shape, Chief! Thank you, I appreciate the care you give her. I know that she does, too!"
"Yes, sir! Have a good weekend, Skipper! Enjoy Robert’s company, sir!"
He clapped the Chief on the shoulder. "I will, Sharkey….I will."
He saluted the colors, and left the boat. He was happy with her condition… She was ready to sail at a moment’s notice. He could really relax and enjoy his time with his son. He walked up the hill to the lot where his car was parked, next to Harriman Nelson’s. His red sports car was his pride and joy, but today he had opted to take the older compact that he owned since the sports car needed a tune up, and he knew he’d be with Robert all weekend! The sports car could wait. He tossed the keys in the air once, opened the door and got into the car. He turned it over and drove out of the lot. Home was only five minutes from the office, on Officer’s Row at the head of the hill. The car turned the bend, and there was a loud explosion, and a gray cloud of smoke rose from behind it…
Chip Morton came to consciousness slowly. Bright red and green needles of pain danced inside his eyelids. He tried to reach up and touch them, but he found his arms wouldn’t move. He gradually became more aware and he realized that his hands were being held behind him…More awareness brought the realization of handcuffs biting into his wrists. He tried to speak out, and found his lips sealed closed, it felt like tape. He tried to move further and found he was lying on his stomach on a bed.
"Matty!!! What was going on? Where was Matty? What happened?" His head was still spinning when he tried to lift it and look around. "The Cabin! This is the cabin! …But what…Where…”
A hand grabbed his collar and pulled him to his feet. The room was a blur of images, and he fought the nausea that threatened to cause another problem. His vision steadied, he saw Matty, chained to the bedpost on her knees.
"Matty! The baby!!!"
Their eyes met, he saw her pain and fear, and she saw his questions and resolve. He calmed her with just a look. He tried to move toward her, and a hand held him back. A voice spoke that sent shivers through his entire being…It was the Sergeant’s voice.
"Hello, Commander. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see you again! You’re looking much better than when we last met!" he laughed. Chip tried to break loose from his hold, but the grip held tight. "Oh, no, Commander…you and your wife here have lessons to learn from me. Several lessons. And I intend to enjoy giving them! For now, I want you here!"
He shoved Chip to the floor and with a few swift moves, had him securely bound to the bedpost at the other end of the bed. He made sure that the way that they were bound that they couldn’t see one another, or even turn their heads to look at each other, and he was already enjoying their frustration and fears. This was going to give him a great deal of pleasure!
He busied himself in the kitchen, and Chip and Matty both smelled the strong odor of gasoline. Chip was struggling to get free, although he realized the total futility of the attempt.. In the position he was in, with handcuffs, all he could do was tire himself and nothing else. His struggles stopped, and he slumped forward. The Sergeant came towards them, and smiling evilly bent and cut the ropes at Chip’s knees and ankles and dragged him to his feet once more. He pushed him toward the center of the room. There was a rope hanging over the center beam, and he threaded it thru the handcuffs and then around Chip’s waist and chest. Then he pulled it hard and tied it to a hook on the wall.
"You aren’t going anywhere, are you, Commander? And your wife, well, she’s coming with me when I leave here… But then again, you’ll not notice, ‘cause you’ll be dead!!" he laughed, and walked over to Matty and pulled her head up by her hair, again. "You’ll like that, won’t you, Commander…You’ll come with me!! We’ll take a walk in the woods, …you’ll like that, won’t you, Commander!!"
She glared at him. The pain in her shoulders was constant, the pain and fear in her heart even greater… ’her husband…her baby…just when she thought she was happy, really happy this madman had to come back into their lives…They had to get out of this…the three of them…but how…how?’
Chip tried to steady himself as he stood there tied, by the rope to the beam in the center of the room… ‘He had to get out of this, had to get the three of them out of this and away from this madman…but how….?’
The smell of gasoline became stronger. The Sergeant walked behind Chip. "How do you like fire, Commander? I know it’s deadly on a submarine, so I don’t suppose you like it very much, do you?"
When Chip failed to acknowledge him, the Sergeant became angry, and suddenly there was a knife at his throat. "I asked you a question, Commander. Are you going to answer me or should I cut your throat here and now and let you wife watch you quickly die!!" He ran the tip of the knife along Chip’s neck and tiny drops of blood ran along a thin line. "Commander, " he said looking toward Matty, "…do you like the picture? Should I make it more colorful for you." He pressed the knife a little harder, and this time he cut deeper and opened a small wound along the line. It now bled more. "Well, Commander, do you like fire?"
Chip nodded in the negative and the Sergeant let the knife down. "That’s better! I like my ‘students’ to learn their lessons well, Commander. I hoped that you remember you ‘lessons’. I didn’t think that you could forget!" He moved over to Matty. Her face was covered with tears…He grabbed her again, this time taking her chin and forcing her face upwards to him.
"Tears, Commander?" he mocked… "I thought that you had no fears… that’s what you told me in that cell on the Seaview . But I guess it’s a bit different when you’re the one in control, isn’t it? I would imagine that you’re very afraid right now, aren’t you?" When she didn’t answer quickly enough, he pushed down on her shoulder very hard, "Aren’t you?" he asked again.
In the position that her arms were in, the pain became almost unbearable. She heard a snap, and felt a searing pain in her upper left arm, the world winked out, and she collapsed.
Chip tried to move, tried to get free, but it was useless…"Matty!" he screamed in his mind…"Matty!…"
Harriman Nelson was sitting at his desk, mulling over his endless paperwork. There was always more to go over and work with, and never a break in it! Even on his beloved boat, he had to bring cases full of paperwork. He shook his head.
Oh, well, if you wanted the work, you had to do some to get it!
He looked out his large window toward the dock where Seaview was docked. She was beautiful even docked. He glanced at his watch…Lee should be on his way home now He sighed, and then smiled to himself.
One weekend as the duty officer wouldn’t hurt! He’d not pulled that assignment for a long time, but Lee and Chip both needed the time with their respective families! Why shouldn’t the two of them have the same weekend off? I’ve nowhere to get to, no one to see save Edith… He chuckled to himself. Well, I’ve got plenty of paperwork to do…and now I have the uninterrupted time to do it!!
He reached for his intercom, "Angie, before you leave for the weekend, would you put the folders for the new Grant programs on your desk, I’ll pick them up sometime before I head for the commissary!"
"Sir, are you sure you don’t just want me to bring them in…I…"
At that moment, the building rocked with an explosion Nelson jumped up, "What the hell was that?"
"I don’t know, sir…" Angie was obviously shaken. "I’ll try to find out!"
His intercom went dead, and saw that she was dialing out on the phone line. He hit his vidphone pad. The face of his Security Chief showed up on the screen.
"Yeung, what the hell happened?"
The Chief’s face was pale and clearly upset… "A car blew up on the road to Officer’s Row, sir"
"A car? Whose?" Nelson’s stomach heaved with the thought in his mind. He was willing it to remain unspoken.
"I regret to inform you that it is Captain Crane’s car, sir"
"And…" Nelson barked.
"I don’t know anything else, sir. Rescue and Fire companies are on the way… So am I , sir…if you will excuse me!!" The screen went dark.
Nelson ran out of the office, and almost collided with Angie, and Sharkey, who had come into the Office.
"Admiral! The Skipper! His car…!!"
"I know, Chief! Come with me! … Angie…"
"Already working on it, sir! Lee…?"
"I have no idea!! We’ll let you know as soon as we find out!!"
The Admiral and the Chief ran out of the office and down the Institute steps. Stu Riley was waiting at the foot of the stairs, with a car with the doors flung open. "Admiral!! Here, sir!!!"
The two men just about dove into the car and Riley had the car away from the building, before the doors of the car were shut, on the road to Officers Row!
Harriman Nelson was sickened with the sight of devastation on the road. The car was a smoking hulk. There was noting left of it. There was a crater in the road at least ten feet wide and ten feet deep. Lee couldn’t have survived that kind of explosion!! He just couldn’t have! "My God, who and why would someone want to do this to Lee?"
Sharkey jumped out of the car even before it stopped. He pulled open the Admiral’s door with such force that Nelson though it would come off the hinge! The two men ran towards the Institute Security Chief, who had obviously gotten there well before them.
"Yeung!" Nelson called sharply. "Crane…?"
The Security man pointed over toward the Ambulance. Nelson saw the familiar frame of Will Jamison at the ambulance. He mentally commended his staff. Once again, their finely tuned training came to the fore and they were where they had to be when they had to be there! He could only allow the hope that it would not be too late for Lee!. Nelson was out of breath when he reached Jamison’s side. He touched the doctor on he shoulder.
Will turned toward him. Harriman Nelson feared for what the doctor would say.
"Lee’ll be ok, Harry."
Nelson released the breath he didn’t know that he had been holding.
"Seems he got a flat coming around the bend, pulled over and got out of the car. He was walking toward the rear of the car when it exploded. It blew him across the road and down the hill. He has quite a few lacerations and bruises, two cracked ribs, and a jim-dandy concussion. But after a short stay in my Sick Bay, I think he’ll be ok."
"Is he conscious?"
"Barely…he’s in a great deal of discomfort, and I’ve given him something for the pain and a mild sedative as well." He put a restraining hand on Nelson’s arm… "Only a minute, Harry…he needs to rest."
Nelson nodded curtly and stepped into the ambulance. Lee Crane lay on a stretcher, IV lines running, his body and face a mass of bruises and oozing cuts. His stomach and chest were wrapped in an Ace bandage. His eyes were closed. There was very little left of his uniform. The power of the explosion that had almost killed Crane impacted Nelson at that moment. He laid a hand on Crane’s shoulder
Crane struggled to open his eyes. When he did the sight of Nelson’s worried face floated into view. It was not quite clear, but it was definitely quite a worried face. Softly, "Admiral…?"
"How are you feeling, son?"
He smiled slightly… "I don’t think you want to know, sir. Robert, Admiral…my mother…"
"I’ll take care of it, Lee. Don’t worry…Just rest until Will gets you back to the Sick Bay."
"…think I better do that, shir." His words were beginning to slur in response to the medications he had been given, "…jusht…jusht an allover headache." He sighed softly, and closed his eyes…Nelson clambered out of the ambulance, to be accosted by the Chief of the Boat. In the background, Nelson saw a number of the crewmen coming round the bend…
"Admiral… The Skipper…?"
"… is going to be fine, Chief. We’ll talk back at the boat. Reassure the men, and send them back to the boat, okay?"
Sharkey grinned, "Aye, aye sir!! That’s great news, sir!…I’ll take care of it sir…" He raised his arm to the men as they approached…
"Get back to the boat, you knotheads!!! The Skippers’ going to be ok!!!"
Nelson turned to Will Jamison, "Are you sure that he’s going to be ok, Will?"
"Yes, Admiral. Aside from a few simple tests I want to run, I really believe he will be fine. He’ll just need some time to recuperate."
"Alright, then. I want him taken to the boat. I don’t know who did this, but I don’t want to take any chances with Lee’s life. The boat is the safest place for him."
"I’m going to his house, now to tell Helen, and I’ll have her come to the boat and bring Robert with her. I’ll see you at the boat!"
Matty Morton’s world was covered in a red haze, with pounding pain in her arm and head. She fought down the rising nausea that accompanied her increasing awareness…She tried to focus on what was going on around her, but her grasp of the reality of the nightmare she was a participant in kept escaping her consciousness… "Concussion! " she thought "Damn!…Chip, where was Chip?" She tried to raise her head…He had been tied to the ceiling beam in the center of the room…when she finally was able to look up, "He’s gone!!!" She felt panic rise in her mind, and she fought it down…Slowly, she tried to look around the room… ‘Where was he?…Chip, my dearest love!!! Chip!!" she sagged against the bedpost. Malicious laughter, and a voice, speaking in a soft, evil tone penetrated her consciousness.
"Looking for you husband, Commander? Don’t worry, he’s here…He’s just tied up at the moment…" the Sergeant giggled. "That’s quite a play on words, wouldn’t you say, Commander? He’s tied up!!." He bent down and stared into her face… "He’s going to die, soon. You and I are leaving here. Do you want to know what’s going to happen? I’m burning the cabin. Slowly… Maybe the smoke will get him first… maybe it won’t…maybe he’ll be aware of the burning, how it feels to be burned, alive…But then we won’t be able to ask him, we’re leaving…Now!" He brutally reached down and in a movement, released the ropes that bound her knees and ankles ,and wrenched her to her feet.
Her shoulders were on fire, her left arm throbbing and burning…but all of it was unimportant…she had had worse physical pain. Her heart was breaking!! Chip!!! …The baby!!!
The Sergeant pulled her towards him, and spun her around at the same time. The room shifted at right angles, and then steadied. He had Chip tied on the floor. His hands were still cuffed together, but they were extended above his head wrapped in rope and tied to the far bedpost. His body was stretched tightly, with his ankles tightly bound together and fastened to the wall by a large hook that was ordinarily used to secure the woodbin of the fireplace. He was tied along the length of the bed, to the bed supports, basically preventing any movement at all. She couldn’t tell if he was conscious or not…She hoped he wasn’t!
"Don’t give up, my dearest love!! Don’t give up!! I’ll protect our baby, my love…I’ll protect it to my dying breath if I must…I love you, Chip...I love you!!" her mind screamed as the Sergeant dragged her from the cabin. Her heart cried out in pain as she saw the smoke begin to rise from the back of the cabin!
Harriman Nelson stormed into his office. Angie was sitting at her desk, telephone in hand. She looked up as he came in . "Lee…?"
"He’s going to be ok…where’s Chip? I need him now!"
"I don’t know, sir…"
Nelson skidded to a halt. "What?!"
"I don’t know…He didn’t tell me. Dorothy should know, though. I’ll get her…" She pushed a series of buttons…"Dorothy, I need to get Chip, and I need him now…where is he?" she held the phone, listened and then said, "All right, Dorothy… Yes….Lee’s going to be fine…Yes… yes… I will!!"
Angie hung up the phone. Very slowly, she looked at the Admiral and said, " She doesn’t know, sir…She said that the only one who knows is Lee, and he’s the one with the cell phone number as well!"
She looked at the Admiral and saw a wide range of emotions pass over his face. "It fits!" he remarked. "Someone’s after Chip, and they knew that Lee was the only one who could tell us where Chip and Matty went!”
So they tried to take Lee out of the picture!…Angie, get Jenny and see if Lee left the cell phone number with her…call the boat and have O’Brien get Sharkey to ready the Flying Sub for launch…and get me Jamison!"
He charged into his office.
"Admiral, Dr. Jamison on line three, sir." Nelson picked up the phone and punched the button. "Will…?"
"I need to talk to Lee, in say, 15 minutes."
"Admiral, I’ve gotten him on some pain meds, and I’ve given him some
sedation…He won’t be waking up for a while. "
"Will, it’s a matter of life and death…Chip’s and maybe Matty’s as well!!"
There was dead silence on the other end of the line.
"There are a few other considerations then, too, Harry. We need to talk…I’ll see about bringing Lee around!"
"Good! I’ll be there in 15 !!" He moved around the office, picking up a few articles, and removing a gun and holster from his safe, strapping it on as he walked into the outer office.
"Angie, I’m going to the boat. Any luck with Jenny?"
"No, sir. She said that Lee made a phone call to a number that he dialed himself before Chip left this afternoon. She’s going to try and get it. But she doesn’t know what to whom he made it, or what it was about. The cell phone number is one that only Lee knows!! She has no idea!!"
"Hell and Damnation!!!! All right! I’m going to the boat and then I’m taking the Flying Sub and hopefully getting Chip and Matty back here!! Right now, with the mission coming up on Thursday, and Lee out of commission, I need Chip here, now!"
Will Jamison shook his head and wondered why he hadn’t retired to being a simple country doctor years ago. Even simple things became complicated here on the Seaview! He had promised Matty to keep her secret, but it looked like he’s have to break the promise. ‘Nope, nothing was ever easy!!’ He bent over his patient, lying in the rack. Lee was likely to be in a great deal of discomfort when he brought him to, and he really didn’t want to subject the Captain to any more pain than necessary. But he had information that they needed right now, to help Chip and Matty. He injected the meds into the IV tube, and pulled up a chair and waited. Lee was very lucky to come out of this alive. If he’d been in that car, well… He didn’t want to go there… Crane stirred and Jamison rose from the chair and hovered over him.
Lee threw his arm over his forehead and winced as bruised flesh contacted bruised flesh, and stiffening and sore muscles screamed in protest at the movement. He dropped his arm to his side and slowly opened his eyes. The view was blurry, but he recognized the Sick Bay and the familiar shadow hovering nearby. ‘God, this is uncomfortable!’ he thought. Slowly the event of the last few hours fell into place. "Will?"
"What’s going on? I feel like hell!"
"And well you should, Lee. To be truthful, you are very lucky to be here!! If you had been in that car…"
"I get the idea, Will. Believe me, I get the idea!…what’s the diagnosis?"
"Concussion, two cracked ribs, multiple contusions and lacerations."
Jamison snorted, "Three to five days, if you behave yourself!"
"Will, we leave here in five days! I can’t be laid up that long! There’s too much to do!"
"And someone else will have to do it!! You won’t be!"
"Yes, Captain?" he asked him innocently.
"I need to get out of here as soon as possible!"
"Not in the near future!"
"Will!" He tried in his best command voice, as he attempted to sit up. Burning pain ripped across his chest, and he fell backward onto the pillows. Jamison smiled smugly at him. "See, Skipper?"
"Um, for now," was his belligerent reply. At that moment, Nelson came into the sick Bay…followed by the ever-present Sharkey!
"Lee, you’re awake!"
"Aye, sir. What brings you to the Boat? "
"I need some information from you. Where are Chip and Matty this weekend?"
"Why, at the Cabin, Admiral. Matty asked me for the key and I gave it to her and called the caretaker… Why?"
"And you’re the only one who knew where they were going?"
"As far as I know. Why?"
"The preliminary report from Yeung is that a high powered explosive was wired to your ignition system. It then set a small timer in motion and five minutes after the car was started, it would blow. Someone wanted you out of the way, so no one would know where Chip and Matty were."
"Maybe it’s my head, but why?"
"I wish I knew, Lee. I wish I knew. Who did you call?"
"The caretaker, Al Gillette. He’s a local , runs the bar, and does some odd jobs. When I bought the cabin four ears ago, his services were contracted to care for the place. I think he’s been doing a good job. He seems pretty reliable."
"His number, Lee?"
"In the Rolodex, on my desk, here and in the office. Under ‘CABIN’. But Admiral, if Chip and Matty are in danger, I want to go with you."
"Not on your life, Captain… You’re staying right here! Until further notice! Will is the one who decides when and if you leave!"
"No, Lee. Will’s word is the law! We came very close to losing you. We’re not taking any chances!"
Crane knew that he was beaten and let the discussion rest, at least for the time being. In fact, if the truth be told, perhaps a little more rest would allow him to be of a greater help to Nelson. He sunk into the pillows, and was quickly asleep. Jamison looked at Nelson and nodded, the needle of the hypo in his hand. Nelson followed the ship’s doctor into his office, and Nelson demanded of him…
"Well, Will, what is the other news that you have to tell me?"
"Matty Morton is pregnant," he said quietly.
Nelson looked at the ship’s doctor. "Pregnant?"
"Yes, sir. About two months. She came to me a few days ago. We ran the
tests and confirmed it all this morning."
"I’ll get that number and get to the caretaker. Maybe he can get a hold of them, and let them know I’ll be arriving in about 25 minutes. Lee…"
"…will sleep for quite a while. Thanks to my little black bag. Helen and Robert will be here shortly and they can sit with him, but he’ll be sleeping. I’ll take care of things here. You go get Chip and Matty!"
Nelson turned on his heel and made his way to Lee’s cabin. He sat at the desk and looked at the Rolodex…the number for caretaker was there. He quickly dialed it up and heard the click of an answering machine at the other end. He muttered and oath and cleared his voices as the message component came on line…."Mr. Gillette, this is Admiral Harriman Nelson of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. I have an URGENT message for Commanders Morton and Waver who are supposed to be staying at Captain Crane’s cabin. I need for you to tell them…."
The phone clicked and a voice interrupted… "Admiral Nelson? …. This is Al Gillette. What’s wrong, sir?"
"I need you to get to Morton and Weaver tell them I’ll be there in 25 minutes. Tell them that Captain Crane has been hurt and I need them now. Tell them to be careful, and tell them that I have reason to believe that someone is after them. I’ll meet you and them there!"
"Sure, Admiral. I’ll go over there right away. I’ll tell them."
"Thank you Mr. Gillette. I’ll see you in a half hour or so. I’m flying in."
"Yes, Admiral. In a half hour!"
Nelson hung up the phone, and went out into the corridor, and toward the Control Room.
Nelson finished the pre-flight checks on the FS1 and started her engines. He released the docking claps, opened the doors and took her out into the water. Several minutes later, she broached the surface and sped toward the co-ordinates of the cabin.
Chip Morton couldn’t breathe!! The smoke was becoming thicker and thicker, the heat more intense as the flames crept inexorably toward him! Bound the way he was, he couldn’t move even an inch. His captor had known exactly what he was doing. A small part of his mind accepted the idea that he would soon die. He regretted many things. But he ached for Matty…his Angel… His bride….the mother of his child…his child… he cried then, at the thought that he would not hold that child… Please God that Matty could get away from this madman!! The smoke was choking him. He couldn’t cough, couldn’t try to clear his throat to get a breath…it was so hot…he tried to twist to move and simply couldn’t…this time there was no escape, no help…his consciousness was rapidly fading, breathing was harder and harder…Matty…Matty, I love you..!! the flames were licking at his legs and his side…the heat was incredible and the burning pain that was searing his leg… Matty…!!!! And his grip on reality perished!
Al Gillette drove his black Blazer towards the cabin on the hill. He'd seen the couple that was staying there at the general store several hours earlier. They had seemed like a real nice couple when they'd stayed at the Captain's cabin for their honeymoon a few months back. Down to earth folks, not the standard Military types...but then the Captain was that way too! Nice people, all of them... He began the ascent of the hill and was surprised at the dark smoke drifting downward... .looked like a fire somewhere! He rolled down the window of the truck, and was struck by the smell of burning wood. He reached for his cell phone, and quickly punched up the local fire station.
"Ted, this is Al Gillette. There's a fire in the area of the cabin, on Golden Hill. I'll let you know the location of it when I..." The truck rounded the bend in the road, and he saw the cabin, billowing smoke and shooting flames. The air was heavy with the smoke, the smell of burning resin and gasoline..."Holy shit, Ted!! the Cabin's on fire...there's a couple of people staying here!! Send the trucks, the medics, the ambulance!! Send them now!!!" He tossed the phone to the floor, roared to the front of the cabin and was out of the door before the truck had completely stopped!
He ran to the door and tried to open it. "Locked!" He looked around for a car or sign of anyone in the cabin. Two people, car’s gone…but maybe one stayed behind...got to check!!
He kicked in the door, and was met by a wall of heat, flame and smoke. He threw his arm in front of his face, dropped to the floor, and tried to search the room. The fire seemed to be the strongest and be coming from the kitchen area. Something pushed him to try and search the room. He groped around the floor, near the bed, trying to see if someone was there. He was about to turn an leave, when his hands came into contact with a rope at the base of the bed. His eyes were burning with the smoke and heat and he wanted to run , the flames were on the rug, right next to this…body!!… a Man!! Tied to the bed!! He dug in his pocket for his pocket knife, pulled it out, opened it and started sawing away. The smoke was nearly overwhelming now, he couldn’t tell if the man was alive or dead…flames were licking at the man’s legs and side… his pants and shirt were smoking from the touch of the flames… Gillette cut thru the ropes at his ankles and tried to pull him free, but he couldn’t move him and he realized that the man had to be tied down in a number of places. Cursing, choking and coughing, he moved along the body cutting savagely where he came in contact with rope. Somewhere he heard sirens and then, voices, and heavy footsteps, and saw through the smoke, yellow coats, and there were hands on him and other hands on the man tied to the bed…and then he was out of the cabin and taking in great gulping breaths of oxygen, and fresh air. There were men with hoses and others with a stretcher, and he saw them carrying the man from the cabin, and wondered what had happened. His attention was drawn to the sky by the shrill whining of an engine. A yellow, flying object passed overhead, circled and dove over the trees behind the smoking cabin. Gillette focused his attention on the medical personnel working over the man from the cabin. Gillette reached out and stopped one of the firemen as they passed him by. He pulled the oxygen mask from his face, and rasped " How is that guy…?" The fireman shrugged. "Dunno, Al, They’re working on him!" He nodded in appreciation…"Thanks."
He sat at the open doors of the ambulance, holding the oxygen mask to his face…Watching the medics working on the man in the cabin….What was his name? Morton…Commander Morton. He waved to one of the Medics that looked up…he spoke to another man, and then he trotted over to Gillette.
"How is he?"
"Not very good, Al. Some burns, mostly on his right leg and side. That we can take care of, but I’m worried about his lungs. He was nearly gone when we pulled him out. Lungs are full of smoke, and really dried out. Don’t know what effect the Carbon Monoxide could have had. That’s the concern right now."
"Listen, I think that his name is Morton. I came up here because his boss called me. Said something about someone out to get him and his wife."
"Well they may just have gotten him! They are pretty concerned…You said wife. There wasn’t anyone else in the cabin! And he was pretty well tied up! That’s about all that may have saved him. He was down on the floor. But we’ll have to see. They won’t know much more until they can get him to the hospital." At that moment, three figures in Khaki came over the rise behind the cabin. One of them broke away from the trio, and went to the group that was huddled around the injured man. The shortest of the trio, with the reddish hair went to the leader of the firemen, and began to earnestly talk to them. A short time later, the same man walked over to Gillette, and extended a hand to him.
"Mr. Gillette, I’m Admiral Nelson. I wanted to say thank you for saving Chip Morton’s life."
"Didn’t think much about it, Admiral…it was just something that needed to be done. But, you’re welcome. Is he going to be ok?"
"I don’t know that yet. Our doctor is with him now. You didn’t see anything of his wife, did you?"
"No sir… He was the only one in the cabin as I could see and the fire chief confirmed that there was no one else there."!
Gillette looked up at him, "Sir…?"
"We know that they were here together, and she’s nowhere around. Whoever did this must have Matty with him."
"Do you know who did this?"
"Not yet. But Chip must know!"
"That’s if he can let you know, sir… What does your doctor say?"
"I don’t know. I’m going back to him now. I just wanted to thank you for all your efforts."
"I’m glad to have helped, Admiral. Sorry I wasn’t able to help more!"
"You helped a great deal! Thank you again!"
Nelson turned and walked back towards the cluster of men gathered around the stretcher. Acrid smoke hung in the air, although the fire had been extinguished. He could see the creases of worry in Will Jamison’s forehead. Sharkey was standing near as well, with a similar look on his face. Jamison saw Nelson approach, said a few words to the attending corpsman, and moved toward the Admiral.
"Harry, we have to talk…" Nelson looked at the doctor with real concern. "It’s his lungs, Harry. They’ve been badly compromised by the smoke and the heat. And his right leg is burned as well as his right side. I’m going to have to ventilate him, but he wants to talk to you before I do. You have to be quick about it."
There was an urgency to Jamison’s voice that moved Nelson to rapid action. He knelt next to the stretcher. There was a large wet, bandage covering his leg, and another on his side and arm. His face was red, looking almost sunburned. There was an oxygen mask on his face, and he was still having difficulty breathing. Nelson grabbed for his hand and Chip held it tightly. Jamison bent over him on the other side.
"Admiral…" Chip rasped. His voice was very low, and was twisted with agony… Nelson didn’t know if it was physical agony or an agony of the heart. "Matty…He has Matty… the baby…Help…please…" Tears rolled down his face. Nelson held his hand tighter.
"I will Chip… I will…but…who is it?"
He spit out the words, in grief, anger, and frustration… "The Sergeant! "
Harriman Nelson felt like he’d been struck! The Sergeant! The man who, on Gamma’s orders, had put him and Chip through a living hell. He had done this!!! He had Matty!!
"Please…Admiral…Matty…find…her…" Chip’s tenuous grasp on conscious was fading. "Please…!!"
"I will, Chip." He reassured his XO and friend, "I will…We owe him…I’ll see that it’s taken care of, son. We’ll get Matty…don’t worry. Don’t worry." He clapped the injured man on the shoulder.
Will Jamison grabbed Nelson’s arm…"Harry, that’s all." He was watching the rise and fall of Morton’s chest. "We’re going to have to put him on a ventilator. Then we’ll transport to the local Hospital. I’ll be going with them." He bent over Morton, "Chip, we’re going to be intubating you. Let the Admiral find Matty… he will"
Chip nodded numbly…He didn’t know what to feel or how to feel…He didn’t even know if he was feeling…Matty…Matty… darkness closed around him wrapping him in its soft warmth… Matty!
A figure lurked in the woods at the corner of the clearing… Damn… He was angry… Morton was still alive!! The man had more lives than a cat! But maybe not for long… they were working hard on him… Nelson was there, at the stretcher… Did he have an idea of who he was dealing with? He’d soon find out….Nelson would come after Weaver…she was one of his people… he could get the old man too!! This was turning out better than he thought it would. And he had gotten such pleasure out of handling Weaver the way he did…
He had dragged her out of the cabin, as the fire was beginning to burn… It would take a while to engulf the cabin…the resin coated wood would take a long time, but what a hot, lovely blaze it would make…and so smoky… It should kill Morton one way or another…and now he could handle Weaver. He shoved her into the red Jeep. He was taking her into the woods… he had a place prepared…He grabbed her hair, and pulled her face to face him…she looked lost and in such pain… He knew that he had broken her left arm... he had meant to do that…and he had gotten such pleasure from the act… It had given him a real thrill to see her hurt and passed out like that.
"How does it feel now, Commander…I’ve killed your husband. I’m sure he’s dead. Very dead….between the smoke and the heat and the flames!!! He’s dead.. You know he couldn’t escape. I made sure of that!" He ran a hand around her face, "You’re not a bad looking woman, Commander. I could have gotten to know you better under different circumstances."
Her turquoise eyes were dull with the pain in her soul. "Chip … O God… Chip!!! Don’t die!! Please!!!"
The Sergeant tore the tape from her lips, and pulled her face toward his and kissed her hard , ravaging her lips and her mouth, taking from her all he could. He slid a hand to her breast and squeezed it hard, meaning to hurt, causing her to moan in pain. She cried as he continued to force himself on her. He was breathing hard when he finished kissing her. He licked his lips. He laughed.
"I could get to like you a great deal, Commander…a great deal…but that wouldn’t achieve what I want… I can’t give myself that kind of satisfaction!…"
He forced a second plundering kiss on her, more vicious than the previous one, his hand even more hurtful than before. When he finished, this time, he took a piece of cloth and shoved into her mouth as a gag.
"We are leaving here now, Commander. Do you want one last look at your husband’s funeral pyre? Look!" He grabbed her head and forced her to look as the flames began to shoot from the back of the cabin. She shuddered and he laughed. "He’s going to be dead, soon, if he isn’t already. Take a good look!" He then shoved her onto the floor in the rear of the Jeep. He started to remove her boots and was talking softly, almost gently. as he went about his malicious business. "I want to make sure that you don’t run away from me, Commander. And I don’t want you to get the idea that any escape is possible… there is no chance for you."
He tossed her boots onto the porch of the cabin. Then he took some rope and bound her ankles tightly together, and ran a rope from the handcuffs to the rope on her ankles forcing her to bend into a ball. He slid a noose around her neck, and tied the front of it to the ankle rope in the front. He patted her condescendingly on her buttocks, and then he shoved her forward, and threw several blankets over her. Before he covered her, he whispered in her ear, "I don’t want anyone to see you Commander, before I can get you to where I’ve planned… to keep you for a while" and then he laughed, and folded the blankets around her. He went to the front of the Jeep, put the car into the ignition and drove off.
Matty felt crushed, defeated and alone. Never in all of her experience with the ONI had she been in such a situation… and there was so much more to think about beside herself!! ‘Chip, Oh God!!!! Let someone , some how, help him!!!! Please don’t let him be dead!!! ……. Baby, stay with me…stay…I’ll keep you safe…You’re part of my dearest love… stay with me, Little One…stay…!!’ she took several deep breaths, and tested her bonds. There was no way that she could free herself from them. She would have to wait and see. She was dizzy and nauseous, and her arm was numb…She would try to rest and recover some of her strength She didn’t know how long she would have until he would stop the Jeep and it would all begin again!
Time had no meaning for her. The jeep finally stopped, and she heard him moving around outside the jeep. The blankets were torn off and he pulled her toward him. The rope around her neck tightened and she started to choke. He quickly released it from the ankle ropes and the pressure on her throat lessened.
"I can’t have you die yet, Commander. I’ve too much planned."
He set her on her feet after undoing the ropes that tied her ankles. He worked the ropes and then tied a hobble about both ankles, laughing again… "Your husband knows," he laughed maliciously, "… no, I mean knew, how these work so well." The he tied the length of rope from the neck to the hobble and tied another to the hobble. He gave it a hard pull and she landed on her knees.
"That’s better! Now come, Commander. We have walk to take into the woods!" He pulled the hobble and they started to walk. He walked quickly, obviously knowing where he was going, pulling her along. She was having a hard time keeping up with him, she had no shoes, and her socks were quickly torn and shredded by the terrain . Her feet became cut and bruised and painful, and the hobble prevented her from taking any decent pace. He occasionally yanked on the rope that he had in his hand causing her to fall to her knees, leaving her knees torn and bleeding. She was becoming exhausted, she was in great deal of pain, and her resolve was weakening…she wanted to give in and not fight, but then she would think of Chip, and the baby and her resolve would harden again, and she would go on…
An hour or two later, the Sergeant finally stopped. "Here we are, Commander. This is where we have been heading for." Matty looked around. It was a clearing, perhaps 30ft in circumference. A large tree sat in the middle of it and he pushed her toward it. He shoved her to the ground, against the tree.
"This is where I’m going to leave you while I go back and make sure that the cabin burned and your husband’s dead. It’ll be dark by then , and I’ll not be seen… Have you ever been alone in the woods at night, Commander? This is a godforsaken spot. No one ever comes here. But the animals do…the scavengers…looking for weak and helpless prey!!"
Her whole body was on fire, her feet and knees bleeding and torn, her left arm, numb, her shoulders burning. And her heart… her heart was broken! But the baby was still with her and that gave her a sliver of hope to hold on to.
He knelt down and took two spikes and a hammer from a knapsack that he carried…and drove them into the ground near her ankles. Then he cut the hobble and took the rope and pulled her legs apart and tied each ankle tightly to a spike. He took out a coil of rope and tied her around the waist and criss-cross over her chest to the trunk of the tree, leaving the noose around her neck, and tying it around the tree as well. Whenever she moved her head too far in one direction or the other, it tightened, cutting off her breath. Then he went to the back of the tree and she felt and heard hammering. He released the handcuffs, and took her right arm and wrapped the wrist with rope several times. He then pulled it up and backward around the tree…she felt him pull it and yank it several times tightening the rope. She moaned in pain, and he laughed at her again. Then he did the same with her left arm, and when he pulled it up, she felt the blazing pain and she lost consciousness.
When she came to, he was on the other side of the clearing, setting several things about the perimeter. He looked over at her and came towards her. He crouched down, as she slowly raised her head. He took the gag from her mouth, and forced another ravaging kiss on her.
She raised her eyes to him when he had finished, and softly, hoarsely said, "You goddamn bastard!"
He slapped her hard and her head hit the tree, and her mouth began to bleed, "You bitch! When I get back, I’ll take care of you.. It’ll be dark soon, Commander. Enjoy being alone here in the woods…alone… in the dark…I probably won’t be back until daylight…You can make as much noise as you like. No one will hear you. Your husband is dead. You will be soon. There are a number of nighttime animals in the woods, Commander. Bears, big cats…Predators. Many scavengers…. They tear apart helpless prey… May be you’ll be alive when I return…maybe not … but remember that there is no one now to help you, no one at all!!! Goodbye, Commander. Have a good night!!"
He stood and walked slowly out of the clearing. She watched the small beam of light that was his flashlight move away from the clearing. In the growing darkness she heard the sounds of the woods as the night creatures began to awaken. She tried to move, to test her bonds, but she found that bound to the tree as she was, she was unable to move at all. She tried to see as the darkness crept into the woods. The rustling of leaves, and the movements of wood creatures preyed on all of her fears, and she screamed, a primal scream of fear and hopelessness that blended in with the night sounds of the forest.
Harriman Nelson strapped a gun on and handed one to Sharkey. Looking around the cabin, he searched for any indications of where the Sergeant may have taken Matty. He went over to the head of the investigating group, "Sheriff, the Morton’s had a red Jeep. Has anyone seen it? "
"No, sir.. last time it was seen was at the General Store earlier today."
"I see. Well, my Chief and I are going to search for Commander Weaver. If you find anything out, you will let me know..?’
"Yes, sir." Nelson handed him a card with several numbers on it. You all are starting your own search aren’t you?" Yes, sir. But if they went into the woods, with night coming and all it’s going t be difficult."
"Difficult, but not impossible! Get to it man! I want Commander Weaver found!!"
"We’ll do our best!"
Nelson walked away from the group, shaking his head. The ambulance doors were being closed and he put out a hand to stop it.
"He’s unconscious Harry. We’ve intubated him, and we’ll have to see what the picture is when we get him to the Hospital. If I have to, I’ll have him helicoptered to the Institute."
"Whatever it takes, Will. Whatever it takes….Let him know… We’ll bring Matty back… I promise that!"
The figure in the woods watched the activity a little longer, and then he moved away. He’d leave the Jeep on the rise where’d he just driven it to and take his car to the woods. That’d throw them off. They didn’t know what his car looked like. This would give him more time with Weaver! He had a few new ideas of what he could do to the woman… The bitch had actually rejected him… well, he could get even rougher if he had to…there were things that he had learned could be done… she’d pay and pay dearly…first, however, he had to get Nelson… that would be supreme pleasure!
He quietly moved toward where he ‘d left his car hidden. The black compact was barely visible in the encroaching dark, and just as well if he drove with no lights on, they wouldn’t see him …there was still too much activity on the hill to notice any sounds of cars starting up.
Matty was drifting in a hazy world of cold, dark and pain that was both physical and emotional. Her focus to survive centered on the baby she carried …She blocked all else out … ‘Baby, you are still here… If your Daddy’s gone from me, then I alone have to protect you. You’re a part of my dearest love…and I won’t lose him and you, too. I’ll fight for you, my Little One… I love you, Little One…I will fight for you!!!
She became aware of shuffling movement around her feet. Something wet and soft was brushing against the sole of her left foot. She wanted to pull away from its explorations. Something was licking her foot. She felt the warm , rough, wet, and stifled a scream! She couldn’t see what it was, it was so dark! But she could see the eyes…the glowing eyes! There was a pulling and a tugging at the remnants of her sock, and she felt the touch of cold… ‘God! No! Claws!’ the movement continued, then it stopped and began again on the other foot! Then she felt movement up her leg, a pulling and scratching on the fabric of the jeans, with a time spent for pause, and exploration on her torn and bloodied knee. Whatever it was continued on up her leg, pausing at her waist, and now she was aware of a large furry body, pushing and prodding her, exploring her! She felt the gorge rise in her throat, and the furry body continued its examination of her. She was barely breathing; afraid that any movement could make what ever it was attack her. It leaned against her and brought its snout almost even with her face. A raccoon! He was right! Scavengers!! Claws brushed her face, and a wet snout sniffed her face as well.. The smell of the creature was rank! She felt she would get sick at any minute. It climbed up to inspect her arms, putting its 35- 40 pound weight full on her shoulders. She couldn’t smother the moan that escaped her lips. The animal stopped, and looked down at her. When she made no further sounds it looked back to its inspection. When it was done, it climbed down, once again sniffing her face and hair. It moved down her body and settled at her left foot, and began to gnaw and tug at the remains of the sock until after some prolonged worrying, it came free. The creature shuffled over to the other foot and after the same activity, freed the other sock as well. After a closer inspection of its’ prize, it shuffled off into the velvet dark.
She threw up, the heaving of her body against the bonds causing only further pain in her arms, and around her throat. When there was nothing else to lose, her body stopped its heaving, and the tears streaming from her eyes slowly ceased. She was shuddering with fear and disgust. And she knew that it could only get worse!
Harriman Nelson flew the FS1 in an ever-widening circular search pattern. Sharkey was using the Infra-red beam to see what ever they could in the woods below.
"Chief, sing out if you see anything!"
"Aye, sir…Anything at all!"
The two men were silent as they continually increased the width of the search pattern… After about 30 minutes, Sharkey said quietly, "Admiral, I think I have something!"
"There’s a clearing…about 30 feet in diameter. It looks like a body, tied to a tree. If it’s the commander, she’s alive sir. The readings are of a warm body, sir!"
"Thank God!! Now we have to find a place to set the FS1 down."
"One other thing, sir.."
"We have a reading of a car. About 2 ½ miles from the clearing… the motor is still hot. And I can see that the driver is heading in the direction of the clearing."
"The Sergeant! " Nelson said in a soft, totally cold whisper. "Call the locals, give them the coordinates off the clearing and warn them that the Sergeant is heading toward the clearing. We’ll find a place to set down and get to Matty!"
"Aye, aye, sir!!" And for the first time since early that day, the chief allowed himself a small smile.
The ambulance sped toward the small regional hospital. Inside, Jamison worriedly monitored Chip’s vitals. His breathing remained labored, in spite of the ventilator. He seemed to Doc to be agitated in spite of the sedatives that he had administered. There was very little that Will could do for him, until they got to the hospital…
Chip was in a twilight world of unreality.
He was floating in a very rough boat. In his dream world, he stood in the boat…Just beyond was Matty…she was holding a baby…their baby…He reached for them, but each time he got close , they pulled away. Matty was smiling at him…and smiling down at the baby. The baby was wrapped in a pink blanket…a little girl!! Their baby was a little girl… but they were moving so far a way! He was trying to reach them….trying to hold them…. "Matty!! Matty! I love you!!! … Come to me…please!" But she shook her head sadly. "Not now, my dearest love, not now! I have to take care of the baby…Our daughter, Chip! Your daughter! I’ll be back, my dearest love…but later…later… rest, my love….rest" In his dream, her voice became the softest whisper, and then blended with the wind. And she and the baby moved further and further away until he could see them no longer. And he stood in the boat until the whole sea began to fade to black, and all he heard was insane laughter… The Sergeant’s face loomed three times larger than life, and Chip staggered backward in his boat. He fell to the bottom, and the Sergeant continued laughing…. ‘I have her now, Commander… Your wife is mine, Commander…just as you were once… I’m going to kill her, Commander…slowly and painfully. Kill her…and your baby!! Kill them!!! Kill them!!!…" The voice faded into wild manic laughter, and suddenly the boat broke apart, and Chip found himself under water, and something was pressing him down, and he couldn’t breathe! The breath was being squeezed out of him !! He was drowning, and he fought , but he couldn’t get a breath…He couldn’t breathe…!!
Jamison watched the monitors as Chip continued to move about restlessly. Then, suddenly, his breathing became even more labored and the monitor began to beep loudly. As Jamison began to increase the oxygen flow to the ventilator tube, Chip’s body stiffened, and then went slack. The heart monitor flatlined.
"Damn!!" He turned to the EMT "Paddles!" In one swift movement, the tech handed him the heart paddles. He put them on Morton’s chest, with a loud "Clear!" and then "Now!"
Chip’s body arched in response to the shock and then fell flat. Will held his breath for seconds until the heart rhythm became steady and strong again. He exhaled in relief. And as he began to check vitals, he talked to his patient. "Don’t you dare go and die on me now, Chip Morton! I’ve got too much time and energy invested in you after all these years! Harry and Lee would never forgive me if I couldn’t pull you through this. But you’ve got to help me!! The Admiral went for Matty, Chip… He’ll find her and bring her back safely if anyone can!! You know that! C’mon Chip…You’re going to be a father! Stay with me! Stay steady, Morton!… C’mon!!" he turned to the EMT who was listening to the one-sided conversation with a great deal of interest.
"Sounds like you’ve known him for a long time."
"Yes," Jamison said, running a hand through his thinning hair. " A very long time. And I’m not about to give up on him this time!"
The tech quirked an eyebrow. "This time?"
Jamison shook his head, "Young man, you don’t want to know…You really don’t want to know…"
Harriman Nelson and Francis Sharkey moved as rapidly as the darkness would allow progress in the woods. Both men were equipped with a number of devices to help them find Matty Weaver Morton. They knew her location from the coordinates, but they still had to make headway through the woods. And since they had landed the FS1 a good four miles from the coordinates they had a good long hike to make to her. It would take them several hours through the unfamiliar terrain. Neither man was saying much to each other, conserving energy for the trek. Both carried infrared goggles, large flashlights, and a variety of safety and medical materials. Sharkey also carried and was using several hand-held scanners that Nelson had developed. They wore backpacks and hiking boots, and side arms, as well as carried rifles on their shoulders. Nelson wanted them to be prepared for anything. He felt confident that they were. They knew where Matty was. They knew that the Sergeant was out there somewhere, and Nelson didn’t fool himself that the man didn’t know that he was here. They became very aware of the sounds of the night as well as the other sounds… the occasional car on the road or plane in the sky…He promised Chip that he’d bring Matty home… He’d do it or die trying! And he was sure that the Sergeant would try to see to the latter.
After about 2 hours, Sharkey touched his CO on the arm. "Admiral, I think we’re close to the coordinates. The scanner is picking up readings, sir." Nelson stopped and looked at the Chief’s readout.
"Mmnn, looks like you could be right . There seem to be increasing levels of heat being given off about a half mile in that direction."
Sharkey pointed off towards the northeast. Using his flashlight, map and checking the star positions and time, he agreed with the Chief.
"Looks like we are in the right area, Francis. Any other signs of body heat scan?"
"No, sir. Only the one. Oh, there’s a few smaller ones in the area, but none read like a human."
"Are there any near Matty?"
Sharkey knew what the Admiral was really asking, and tho’ he was loath to tell him, decided that truth was the only way!
"Yes, sir, there are several smaller bodies near or around where the Commander is. Quite close actually!"
"Damn the man to hell!" Nelson exploded. "C’mon, Francis…Let’s get to her!"
Forty-five minutes later they reached the clearing. Sharkey again touched Nelson’s arm. "She’s here, sir. 30 feet or so from here."
"Ok… But what other surprises does the Sergeant have in store? He wouldn’t
have left her here if he hadn’t done some kind of defensive perimeter. Something
we can’t see, but would cause the most damage if activated."
"My thought exactly, Chief! Hand me the other scanner in the knapsack, will you?"
He handed the Admiral a small electronic device that fit into his hand that read any electronic and metallic signals. Nelson made a few adjustments, and slowly scanned the area. He held the scanner to Sharkey, to see. "Look, Francis. Roughly in a circular pattern…about ten of them…"
Sharkey looked at the glowing grid. "Yes, sir," he said softly. "Do we have a plan, sir?"
"Yes we do…listen carefully…"
A solitary figure in khaki crept toward the clearing where Matty was imprisoned. He moved carefully once around the perimeter, and then decided on a point of entry. He gingerly made his way in and then slowly moved toward the tree that Matty was tied to. His approach made several small creatures that had been crawling around, and on her, go scurrying into the depths of the forest. He was checking the woods around him as he moved toward her, as if expecting someone. He had reached her side and was about to speak to her as a voice shouted from the woods, "Touch her and she’s dead, Nelson!"
Matty slowly lifted her head - the agony and fear of her ordeal was winning the battle. She was in extreme pain, exhausted, and nearly defeated…only the tiny life that she carried within, gave her the small bit of strength to continue - She raised her head slowly and looked into a familiar face, one that was at once caring and reassuring. Her eyes widened in recognition! She nodded at him, acknowledging his presence. The Sergeant’s voice continued from behind the khaki clad rescuer.
"Raise your hands…high…over your head, Nelson!’’ He raised his hands and the Sergeant continued, "She does make sweet bait, doesn’t she, Nelson? Very sweet!! Once you are out of the way, then I’ll try her …before I kill her…" He then spoke directly to Matty. "You see, Commander, I’ve planned it very well… First, your husband… now Nelson…and then you…after you and I have some time alone here in the woods. I’ll be able to allow myself the enjoyment then!!" He laughed and approached the man in khaki…"Well, Nelson…don’t you think that I planned well?"
The man in khaki turned to face his captor.
"I think," said the Chief of the Seaview, "That you underestimated your opponent, buddy!"
In the soft brightening of the false dawn, Sharkey could see the surprise on the face of the Sergeant…and the even greater surprise when the man felt the barrel of a gun shoved into the small of his back. A resonant voice said slowly and with deadly earnest, "I think that you made a mistake…Mr. Morton is very much alive! And, unless I am very much mistaken, you are now my prisoner!" Harriman Nelson paused, and then directed his next statement to Sharkey, "Chief, relieve the Sergeant of his weapons, will you …and use these," he tossed Sharkey a pair of handcuffs, "to hold him until the sheriff arrives." Just then, there was a loud shrieking and thudding on the opposite side of the clearing, several animals in a territorial battle… It provided the distraction that the Sergeant needed, as Sharkey turned and Nelson looked off for several seconds. The Sergeant dropped to a crouch, and then began to run to the safety of the woods. Nelson shouted… "Stop"
The Sergeant didn’t pause or stop, but kept moving toward the woods. Nelson lifted his arm and took aim in the growing light of the dawn. He fired once, twice, three times. The Sergeant fell to the ground, and lay still. Both men ran towards him. They stopped several feet from the Sergeant, and did a careful visual check… there were spreading dark patches on his back. Sharkey dropped to his knees. Nelson placed a restraining hand on his shoulder. "
"Aye, sir!" He tentatively reached for the man’s neck, holding two fingers on the carotid. There was no pulse. Sharkey rolled him over and saw two spreading stains on his chest. "He’s dead, Admiral."
Nelson felt no pleasure, no triumph in the man’s death, or that he had been the instrument. His feeling was simply that the ordeal was finally over. And that the man that had caused them all so much pain, was no longer able to hurt or threaten anyone else. They moved quickly back to Matty and began to release her and try to ease her pain. Nelson knelt at her side, and carefully removed the noose, as Sharkey began to untie the ropes that held her arms bound to the tree.
She looked at him with pain glazed eyes. Her throat was raw and dry. She rasped a single word, "Chip?"
Softly, with a tenderness rarely seen, "He’s alive Matty. Will’s with him. He’s taking him to the local hospital, and then on to the Institute."
She gasped as Sharkey released her right arm, and it fell to her side. She nodded slightly at the older man seeing, in the growing light, the care and concern in his eyes. "Admiral…"she whispered… "…left arm… broken…" Nelson rose and reached for her arm as Sharkey released it. She cried out at his touch and slumped against the bonds that still held her to the tree. Gently, Nelson took her arm and drew it down…, laying it across her lap. He quickly reached into the First Aid kit, and took a pre-made sling from it. As Sharkey released the ropes that held her to he tree, the Admiral fastened the sling around her neck, and gently placed her arm in it. He took an ammonia vial from the kit and held it beneath her nose in an attempt to revive her. Her head jerked back at the pungent odor, and she opened her eyes to his clear blue ones. He offered her some water from a bottle and she drank from it thirstily, if not greedily.
"Thank you, Admiral, " she said softly. Sharkey had released her ankles from the spikes, and had begun some first aid on her feet and knees. "Chip…?" she asked again.
"He has some second degree burns on his left leg, side and arm, but Will isn’t worried about them… It’s his lungs, Matty. Will feels they were compromised by the heat and smoke."
She nodded slightly, and settled back against the tree. "Where? "
"First to the local Hospital, then back to the Med facility at the Institute. How about you? Are you ok?"
She nodded again, and then slowly moved her hand to her stomach. She smiled softly and briefly . "My Little One is still with me! Stubborn, I think like the parents."
"Well, our next project is to get you to a medical facility. You’re going to need that arm set among other things."
She nodded again. "I’m sorry I can’t walk out of here!"
Nelson patted her gently on her shoulder. "You let Sharkey and me worry about that, young lady…" He smiled at her… "It’s over, now, Matty. He’s dead. He’ll never terrorize or hurt anyone ever again."
"I know, sir…Thank you!"
As the dawn began to truly lighten the clearing, Nelson got a good look at Matty Weaver Morton, and became even more concerned for her. Her face carried several large bruises, evidently where her captor had struck her several times. There was dried blood on her lip and chin. Her clothes were stained with vomit. Her eyes were still filled with pain and fear, although he could see that the fear was beginning to recede. Her feet and knees were bandaged with white gauze, her arm in a sling. Lines of exhaustion covered her face. Nelson was saddened by the pain and hurt he saw in her eyes, and hoped that in the near future he could see the turquoise eyes alight with joy again. If Chip recovered, no… when Chip recovered, …and the baby came…
"Let’s see what we can do to get Cdr. Weaver out of here!"
He reached into the knapsack and withdrew a series of metal rods, and what looked like a roll of fine webbing. I a few minutes, Sharkey had a stretcher assembled. He looked at Matty , "I’m sorry, ma’am, that this isn’t more presentable, but Doc assured us that if we needed it, it would do the trick."
In her still soft voice, she replied, "It’s fine, chief…just fine."
Nelson became gruff with concern. "Matty, we’ll be as gentle as we can be. You’ll have to forgive a couple of ‘old sailors’ "
He gathered her gently into his arms, and carefully laid her on the stretcher. As he had carried her the short distance to it, she had asked him quietly, "Don’t you get tired of rescuing Damsels in distress?"
He quirked his eyebrow at her.
He looked saddened at the mention of the name.
"Don’t worry, Admiral." She laid her good hand on his chest, "She loves you, sir. She’ll be back…she’ll be back…" She laid her head against his shoulder and began for the first time since her ordeal had started, to relax.
Several hours later, Nelson sat in the pilot’s seat of the Flying Sub, preparing it for take-off. They had settled Matty into bunk and she had finally fallen into a light and healing sleep. As soon as he was sure that she was asleep, he took the mike and softly called… "FS1 to Seaview. FS1 to Seaview… Come in please!"
"Seaview here, Admiral. Doc Jamison left a message for you."
"Go ahead, Sparks…"
"He said to tell you that the Exec is holding his own, and that he’s here at the Med facility. That’s the message, sir. Is Cdr. Weaver with you?"
"Yes, Sparks. We have the Commander. Patch me through to the Med Facility, please… Get me Jamison if that’s possible."
"Aye, sir. Hold please…"
"Jamison here, Admiral. You have Matty?"
"Yes…she’s been through a great deal, Will…A great deal."
"She says the baby is ok. Our ETA is 25 minutes, about 0745. Have a gurney ready."
"…is she alright, Harry?"
"She has a broken arm, some damage to her feet, and knees and some bruising on the face, neck, and arms. Probably some symptoms of exposure as well. "
"All right, Harry. We’ll be ready and waiting for you at the landing pad."
"FS1 over and out!" he turned to Sharkey, "Francis, lets get back to the Institute!"…
The nurses and doctors scurried to FS1 as Nelson shut down the tiny sub. Sharkey would bring her to her berth in the boat after Matty was settled in the facility. Will Jamison waited until Matty had been put on the stretcher to approach her. She was awake, and talking to the nurse, when Jamison arrived at her side.
"Matty…" He took her hand.
"Will, how’s Chip?"
"Stable. How are you?"
She smiled wanly. "We’re ok, Will. Just worried about Chip… Can I see him, please…?" Tears began to roll down her face. She grabbed his hand more tightly … "I need to see him, Will. I really need to!"
Jamison nodded his head, "Ok, Matty… we’ll take you to him now, but then you have to let us take care of you! The two of you!"
She nodded, and reached out for Nelson’s hand. He walked on one side of her, Jamison on the other as they wheeled the stretcher down a maze of corridors to the ICU part of the Med Facility. They stopped in front of a door, and allowed the corpsmen and nurse to open it and push her through, on the stretcher.
Chip was lying on a bed, a light shining down on it. He was connected to a ventilator, and his chest was rising and falling in response to the pattern of the machine. His left arm, side, and leg were covered in wet dressings. His face still looked like he had a bad sunburn!.
They wheeled Matty’s stretcher next to the bed, so that her right side was at his left. She looked to Nelson and Jamison for help to rise and sit up…
Jamison supported her as she reached for Chip’s hand, and squeezed it tightly.
"Chip," she whispered "I’m here, my dearest love! We’re here! We’re going to be ok…and so will you…so will you!!"
He stirred slightly, moving his head to her voice. He seemed to be trying to open his eyes…but the effort was too much for him…yet he seemed to know she was there, holding his hand… Somewhere in his mind he knew she was safe, he knew she was here, and he allowed himself to relax and at last to sleep.
"I want to stay near him, Will. I… we need to be near to him… Please, can you arrange it?"
"I’ll make a deal, Matty. Let me check you out, and treat you. After we’ve gotten you taken care of, well, then we’ll try to accommodate you!…Sound fair?"
She smiled gratefully… "yes, Will, thanks." She held Chip’s hand for a few moments longer, then kissed it and said quietly, "We’ll be back, my dearest love…we’ll be back!!" She lay back on the stretcher, and they took her to the treatment area.
Several days later…
Matty Weaver sat in the wheelchair, at Chip’s bedside. Her left arm was in a cast to her shoulder, and rested in a sling. Her feet, and knees were swathed in bandages, and an IV bag hung at the top of the chair, attached to her right arm. She held tightly to his hand. Her head often rested at his side. She was, quite simply, waiting for him to come to. Will Jamison had done an ultrasound of the baby and pronounced that all appeared fine. He allowed her to spend long hours at Chip’s side, realizing that keeping them apart would hinder, not help their recovery.
She was often in the company of Nelson, Sharkey, and in the last 24 hours, Lee Crane had joined her vigil. He had established himself firmly on the couch in the sickroom, and adamantly refused to leave Matty by herself!
Lee himself was still on medical leave because of his injuries in the explosion of his car. He carried his left arm in a sling in order not to put a strain on his cracked ribs. And as the myriad of cuts and bruise from the explosion began to disappear, his stubborn streak returned, and with it the determination not to leave Matty Morton alone. He had been amazed at her resilience and determination to see the situation thru to the end in spite of her own injuries. But he shouldn’t have been surprised! After all this was his best friend’s wife, and Chip could never have fallen in love with anyone that wasn’t his equal in that department.
He looked at Matty. She was sleeping, her head resting on the bed, her hand, fingers entwined with Chip’s. He took another long look at his friend. He was concerned for the both of them…no, make that the three of them! Chip was going to be a father! Talk about great news!! He went to Matty’s side and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. She stirred, and her grip on Chip’s hand became stronger. She sat up and looked up at Crane.
"He’ll be ok…"
"I know, Lee… he has to be! We won’t settle for anything less, this Little One and I."
"I haven’t offered you congratulations!"
"Wait until Chip is awake, and then you tell him!"
"I remember how I felt when I found out that Cathy was pregnant! And you should have seen Chip! I think I still have a spot on my back that will never be the same…He kept pounding me!!!" Lee laughed at the memory and Matty smiled. He grew serious, as other memories came crashing forward, and some were not as happy. Matty looked at his face, and then back at Chip. She dearly wished that life had been kinder to the Seaview’s Captain. The times that she had seen him with his son, she knew he was a good and loving father. Chip would be a good father, too!
‘My dearest love, please wake up…please…There are so many things we have yet to do! Please…!!"
Lee’s hand left her shoulder. "Can I get you anything, Matty. Jamie said that you have to take care of yourself. If not, he’ll clap you back into bed faster that you can blink an eye!"
She laughed, "As a matter of fact, Captain…I am a bit hungry…would it be possible to get a sandwich and some juice?"
He gave her a courtly bow, and said with mock seriousness, "Your wish is my command, Ma’am" he winked at her as he left the room, "I’ll be right back, Matty." She continued to smile as she turned her attention to Chip. Speaking softly, she squeezed his hand again. The only sound in the room was the rhythmic click and whisper of the ventilator. She stared hard at his face. He looked peaceful, but she longed for him to open his clear blue eyes and tease her and laugh with her. She wanted his humor and she needed his love!
"Please, Chip….wake up…please…!"
Chip felt like he was swimming in a thick, viscous substance. Each time he tried to breathe, he was forced to swallow and breathe against his normal pattern… Something was making him breathe it's way! He often heard voices in the background, people talking, and there was a soft, gentle hand holding his… His chest hurt! He wanted to get to the surface! Matty was there…she was waiting for him…And the baby… his daughter! He was going to open his eyes, he would force it …he had to see Matty! He had to !
Matty watched carefully. There was a different feel to Chip’s hand. He was holding hers tightly…’He was holding it!’
"Chip!…Chip…!" Lee came into the room, hearing her talking to Morton.
"Wake up, Chip…Please!"
He was moving his head, trying to face the sound of the voice. "Matty!"
He knew it was Matty! He slowly opened his eyes. They were crusty and sore, his vision wasn’t very clear. He could see a face at his side! He wanted to reach out and touch, but he couldn’t move his hand. He tried to say her name, but there was something in his mouth, his throat! He tried to breathe on his own, but something was forcing him to breathe…His eyes focused better…It was Matty!
Matty saw Chip open his eyes. She smiled radiantly at him, "Oh…Chip!"
Lee put the food he had brought in with him on the table, and moved to the bedside. He reached for the buzzer at the side of the bed, and pushed hard. The disembodied voice said "Yes?"
"Send Doc Jamison in here now!"
A few moments later, Will Jamison came into the room. He moved immediately to the bedside.
"Chip…Don’t try to talk…don’t fight the ventilator! Let it do its job!" He took a needle and injected it into the IV line. He looked at Matty…"Just a very mild sedative. To calm him, not make him sleep." To the man in the bed… "Take it easy, Chip. You’re going to be hooked up to that for a while yet. Your lungs are clearing, but slowly… This just helps keep the pattern regulated. I’m not about to take any chances. Matty’s here…and Lee...the Admiral’s been here as much as possible, too. Let me tell you you’ve given us almost as hard a time ads your friend here usually does!" He looked over at Lee…and he came to stand behind Matty.
"Hey, Chip! I understand congratulations are in order! Trying to keep this kind of news from your best friend!"
Chip tried to smile, but stopped. It hurt! So did his leg and side! Realization was becoming painful! He grasped Matty’s hand tighter, and looked at her closely, seeing her face clearly for the first time. She smiled at him again, and said…"I’m ok, Chip. Will says that the both of us are ok. I’m staying right here, I…no, …we won’t be going anywhere!"
He squeezed her hand again, and closed his eyes. Will Looked across the bed. "I believe that we’re over the worst of it, Matty. Now it will just take time…"
Several weeks later, a small group left the Med facility. Harriman Nelson was in jovial mood. Matty and Chip Morton were being released, and going home. Although Matty still was unable to walk much, Will Jamison had released her to her home. Helen Crane, Lee’s mother had offered to be with her daily until she didn’t need help any longer. She would bring Robert, Lee’s son with her, and she had told Matty that it would be good practice for motherhood. Chip’s burns had healed well, and his breathing was improving with each day. He was still taking therapy for his lungs and would continue to do so, for at least another two weeks. Will had promised light duty if he continued to improve! The Seaview’s Captain was cleared for duty and he couldn’t have been happier. He was going back to the boat!… A charting mission was on the boards, and he couldn’t wait to get to sea! He would miss his XO, but he would be glad to leave land, and Bob O’Brien would be an acceptable substitute for Morton, on a temporary basis.
Oh! And you want to know about the baby?
Well, Alexandra Victoria Morton made her appearance seven months and ten days after Matty was released from the Med Center… and that, my friends, is another story!
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