In the squalid, humid hut, the prisoner struggled weakly with the tight, abrasive rope that held his wrists and elbows tightly behind his back. There was no way he could free himself. It was impossible for him to move, in any fashion. He had been imprisoned here for at least four days by his count. The efforts of his captors to extract information from him were taking their toll. He was sick. Very sick How long could he resist? He hoped that rescue or death would come soon. He didn’t know how much longer he could last. He shook with fever and pain and remembered when he'd been he'd been bound and blindfolded, tossed into the back of a truck and imprisoned here....
The two American Officers in Formal Dress White uniforms came to archway of the Stadium in Cristalina Agua. Captain Lee Crane and Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton of the SSRN Seaview walked down the steps of the Stadium, where Miguel Acevedo had just been inaugurated as the first President of the newly formed nation of Nuevo Rios.
"Not bad for an Inauguration, huh, Lee?"
Crane grinned at his friend, "Well, to my mind, when you’ve been to one, you’ve been to one too many. And you and I, my friend, have been to way too many!"
Chip grinned back, "Yeah, but there were a few of ‘em that we didn’t do too badly at!"
Crane laughed, "Well, I may have a reputation, but you, my friend, and the ladies, well… they say the strong, silent types have all the good luck…" his voice trailed off, as his attention was drawn to the sound of helicopters coming toward the stadium complex.
"I see! And over there…" Morton pointed to the archway of the Mall area where a convoy of trucks, tanks, and heavily armed men were rapidly filling the Mall. The men were dispersing and deploying about the area. As if on a pre-arranged signal, gunfire erupted. The entire area was covered with gunfire from above, and ground level. The security team around the new President grabbed the man, and hustled him out of the area. The many dignitaries screamed and ran, many falling to the flying bullets.
Neither he, nor Chip were armed, so Lee grabbed at Morton’s arm, and tried to make cover at a nearby set of columns. It wasn’t to be, for a spray of bullets brought Chip down
Lee dragged his friend to the cover of a nearby stone stairwell and quickly examined him. He had taken two bullets, one high in the shoulder, and the other in his side.
Chip was rapidly losing consciousness. He grabbed at Crane’s hand, "Get out, Lee! You’ve got to get out of here!"
"Not on your life, buddy! We came here together, we leave together!"
Chip tried to push Lee away, but the effort cost him consciousness, and his body went slack. Completing his quick examination of his friend, Lee couldn’t find any exit wounds and quickly tried to help Chip, making makeshift bandages from his own dress white jacket and sheltering him from the bullets and shrapnel that flew around them. There was little else he could do until the fighting stopped and he could get Chip medical aid. He knew that he needed help and soon, but there was no way at the moment he could get it. So he hunkered down, waiting and praying for it to be over soon.
And it seemed that just as quickly as it started, it was over. Lee could see many of the dignitaries that had attended the Inauguration being shoved into several transport trucks.
The armed men were sweeping the compound and Lee knew that it wouldn’t be long before they were taken. He could only hope that they would get Chip the help he needed. The blond exec was pale and getting paler, the red stain on his shoulder and side spreading slowly in spite of the makeshift bandages. Lee knew it wasn’t good. Taking the ‘tiger by the tail’ he stood slowly, hands raised, and waited to be seen by the troops in the mall. It took them but seconds and they were swarming over the two men. Chip groaned in his unconscious state as he was poked and prodded by rifle butts. Lee was roughly pulled aside and his hands quickly pulled behind him and secured.
"Por favor!" he said loudly. The men turned to look at him. Clearly, an American Naval Officer speaking fluent Spanish was a surprise. "Mi amigo es seriamente herido. Él necesita médica ayuda!"
The leader of the group, wearing an indistinguishable collar and shoulder rank, came forward to Lee. "Señor, you speak Spanish… A Gringo…" he paused and looked at Lee and Chip, seeing Crane’s torn tunic on the ground, and the rank insignia on the shoulder boards of both men, "that speaks our language is unusual. Very unusual." He walked to Crane and reached for the dog tags he wore. With artificial care, he lifted them, and read, "Crane, Lee B., Commander, USNR, " He looked at Lee, quirking an eyebrow, "The Captain of the famous Seaview! Come for the Inauguration of the traitor Acevedo! Well, well!!!! Your government will be very surprised at what has taken place here…" He walked around the prisoner, gesturing to the man on the ground. "Your fellow officer, a friend?"
Lee weighed the question carefully and, realizing he would be giving nothing to this new enemy, simply said, "My Exec."
"AAHHH, so the United States sent the Captain and Executive officer of the illustrious ship to represent them. The President of the United States must think highly of the traitor!" He tapped his chin as if in thought and then began to issue orders in Spanish.
Looking at Lee, he told him, "Since you speak our language I do not need to translate. However, I will tell you that your friend will be taken to the hospital with the rest of the hostages. I am sure that your government will be more than happy to ‘redeem’ him from our charge, and we will see he gets appropriate treatment."
He walked around Lee. "However, Commander, I do believe that the Captain of the Seaview is about to die He nodded to several men who moved to Chip Morton and carried him to one of the transport trucks. Lee watched and saw many hands from within reach to carefully lift the injured man into the truck. The part of his mind, concerned for his friend, sighed in relief.
His captor bent down and picked at the remains of Lee’s dress tunic. He stomped on it several times and ground it into the ground with his heel. Satisfied with his work, he reached for Crane’s dogtags and pulled them off. Lee felt his ring being pulled from his finger and his watch torn from his wrist. One of the soldiers ran up to the officer with two dirty but recognizable Navy covers.
The officer took the caps, tunic and jewelry and went to the driver of the truck that Morton was in. He had a few words with the driver, and then the trucks left the mall area and rumbled down a side street and out of sight.
Lee’s captor moved close to him, "My name, Commander, is Enrique Saldivar. I am a Lieutenant in the People’s Army of Nuevo Rios. I was educated in your country, in Los Angeles. The schools there are very good." He laughed loudly, without mirth. "Lleve al preso al carro." ‘Put him in the truck.’ He jerked his head to the two men holding Lee and they pulled him towards a small truck. He was gagged, blindfolded, and his arms bound together even more tightly. Then he was lifted and thrown into the back of the truck, striking his head hard on the floor of the bed, the blow momentarily stunning him. The motor revved up, several men got in, and the truck began to move.
Lee was shoved into a small space near the cab, his long body bent into an uncomfortable ball. Between the gag, the blindfold, and the oppressive heat, he found it hard to breathe in that position. He heard the soft talk of the men in the truck but paid little attention to it. His mind was on Chip Morton, and his concern for his friend. Lee knew enough about bullet wounds to know Chip was in a bad way, and he could only hope and pray that the Medical help Saldivar promised would be good enough to save his life. He tried to focus on his boat, his men… but focusing was hard. His head hurt and he found himself drifting off, the pain in his head making him aware of nothing but the steady hum of the truck’s motor.
Harriman Nelson paced the ‘front porch ‘ of the SSRN Seaview, staring, but not seeing out the great boat’s transparent ports. Sparks had given him a message a short twenty minutes ago from the State Department. It was terse, and terrible.
COUP IN NUEVO RIOS AT ACEVEDO INAUGURATION… COUNTRY IN TURMOIL… CRANE BELIEVED DEAD … MORTON SERIOUSLY WOUNDED … PLACED IN A CAPITOL HOSPITAL …REBELS REQUIRE ‘REDEMPTION FEE’ TO RELEASE ALL HOSTAGES … MORTON IS THE LAST ONE TO BE ‘REDEEMED’ GET THERE… COURIER WILL CONTACT YOU BEFORE YOU REACH THEIR WATERS…
Nelson paced and ran his hand through his hair. ‘Lee! Chip! God what kind of mess have we gotten the two of you into now!? Just because the State Department wanted to show off, once again, it’s at high cost to the both of you, and all of us here.’
Nelson crumpled the paper in anger and frustration, and barked orders at Bob O’Brien, Seaview’s acting Captain. The young officer, having been in this position before, responded rapidly, and he knew that Nelson’s barking was a sign of frustration and concern. Bobby had learned over the time of his service on the boat, that if you did your job as you were supposed to, Nelson’s bark was worse than his bite. So he quietly and efficiently went about his duties and waited for the older man to give whatever further orders he chose.
He turned to look at the Control Room crew. Each man was more than studiously doing his job. Doing it well, almost too well. The tension in the room was heavy. Word had spread that the exec was wounded and the skipper was "missing" Finally, Bob O’Brien moved over to Kowalski and the boat’s most senior rating quietly asked, "Mr. O’Brien, sir. Could I get a couple of minutes of relief? I need to do something, uh, well, kinda important, sir?"
In an equally quiet voice, O’Brien acceded to his request and replied, "Consider yourself relieved, ‘Ski." As the rating rose from his chair, O’Brien laid an arm on his shoulder and Kowalski looked in askance at him. Almost gently the officer said, "Take it easy on the Old Old Man, ‘Ski. He can’t take too much more!"
"Yes, sir. Uh… I uh mean, no sir…. I mean, don’t worry Mr. O’Brien. The men and I just want to let him know that we’ll do anything for him. Anything at all… we wouldn’t, no, we couldn’t do any less for the Skipper or Mr. Morton either. We gotta find ‘em and get ‘em back, sir."
Bobby patted the rating on the shoulder once again. "We will, Ski', we will."
"Aye, sir. I’ll just be a minute or two… Thank you sir." Kowalski turned and went forward to the nose. He stood next to the foot of the spiral gangway, waiting for the Admiral to turn around.
The older man, sensing someone looking at him, turned around. Slightly annoyed, he asked testily, "Yes, Kowalski? What do you want?"
"Well, sir," he started slowly, uncomfortable in the presence of the older man’s ire. "The men, sir, well, we’ve all been talking and well, sir, we just want you to know that whatever you need to do to get the Skipper and Mr. Morton back, just tell us, and we’ll get it done faster than you can give the order, Sir."
Nelson’s frown quickly turned to a small smile and he laughed a bit, " Thank you, Kowalski, thank you very much. His face saddened. "The captain may be dead for all we know, but we'll do all we can to find him while we pay Morton's ransom."The Chief will let you all know what we are going to do, and he’ll call for volunteers."
"Yessir, but if you could, I want to be at the tope of that
Nelson chuckled, "I’m sure it’s already there, son. But thank you, thank you all, again." He clapped the rating on the shoulder, and Ski turned and went back to his station.
Nelson moved to the Plot Table and called Bob O’Brien to join him. As the young officer came to the table Nelson again spoke softly.
"Bob, let’s get the boat to flank and head for the waters off of Nuevo Rios. State is negotiating to ‘redeem’ the American hostages. I want to be there to get our men out as soon as we can."
"The Skipper, sir? Do you think he’s dead?"
"I don't want to. There's no body...State hasn't verified it....there's still hope."
Nelson shook his head ruefully. "I just worry that one day his luck is going to run out, and then, what would we all do?"
There was no answer that the young man could give him. He just shook his head, and Nelson went slowly up the gangway to Officers’ Country.
Lee became more aware as the truck came to a sudden halt, and hands roughly pulled him out of the truck and to his feet. He swayed with the suddenness of being pulled erect. The gag was removed and he licked at his now dry lips. He listened, and heard footsteps approach. The blindfold was ripped from his eyes and he squinted in the sunlight of a small compound. Saldivar stood in front of him.
"Welcome to your new home, Commander. It is small but it serves us well. My men will ‘escort’ you to your ‘quarters’. I will see you shortly."
He turned to the two men guarding Crane, and with a nod of his head and a gesture, they dragged him to a hut in the center of the compound.
Crane was pulled into the dark interior and pushed to his knees in the center of the hut. His back was pushed against the center pole and his legs pulled behind him, around the pole. His ankles were bound together and fastened to the pole. Then his knees were bound together in front of it, and also bound to the pole. His wrists were briefly released, to be bound again behind him one above the other to the pole, and then his elbows were pulled toward one another and bound behind the pole as well. He found that he was unable to move much, and any movement pulled at his arms and shoulders painfully.
Saldivar entered the hut, bending to enter thru the low doorway. He walked around the small area once and then stood, blocking the little light in the tiny fetid room.
"Commander, you have a great deal of knowledge that my superiors want." He stepped forward, and was met by silence and burning dislike in Amber-hazel eyes, alight with anger and more.
He took his gun, a .357 Magnum, and pointed the barrel at the center of Lee’s forehead, stepping forward so that the tip of the barrel rested against Lee ‘s skin, and he waited for the Captain of the Seaview to flinch or waiver.
Lee did not. Instead, Crane met the man’s gaze squarely.
Saldivar kept the gun at Lee’s forehead for an interminable period of time, then he slowly dropped the gun, and smiled evilly at his prisoner. "I did not think that you would give in easily, Captain. I have heard of your valor, and your feats on behalf of your country. But what I have in mind for you, I don’t think that you or anyone would have anticipated. I would venture to say that no one would even have thought of them… You will tell me all I want to know after I am finished with you…I am sure of that. Very sure."
Lee replied, with quiet surety, "I wouldn’t count on it, Saldivar. I wouldn’t count on it at all…"
"You are very certain, aren’t you? Well let me show you something…" and he turned to one of his men. "Sanchez, me trae el cubo! Bien."
The soldier stepped outside the hut and moments later returned, carrying a large metal container. Slight thunking sounds came from the pail as it swung slightly with the carrying motion.
" Dígame comandante, qué usted piensa en esto, esto es un leech." He spoke in Spanish so that the men would understand what he was saying to Crane. He turned again to his men, "Hernandez, quite su vestimento!"
Rough hands tore off Lee’s undershirt. Saldivar ran a hand over the captive’s chest. "You are a very strong man, Commander. My pets will enjoy you. They are hungry and anxious to feed. I have used them before, and they tend to persuade my ‘guests’ to cooperate with me."
He pulled on a glove and reached into the bucket, pulling out a long undulating slug-like creature. The length of it was somewhere around 18 inches. He held it on his arm and smiled at Lee as the Captain involuntarily stared.
"I see you recognize this little pet of mine. I have many of them. They are native to this land of ours. I believe their proper name is Haementeria ghilianii. They are also called Giant Leeches." He moved closer to his prisoner. "Do you know that they can take up to five times their body weight in blood? Five times…they will do a bit of damage…" he came closer still to Lee. "They also have a six inch long proboscis, to burrow into the flesh with, if they cannot get a good enough hold with their three hundred raspers. Oh, and did I mention that, unlike their cousins, they do not inject an anesthetic when they bite and begin to slowly suck. They use mammal blood for their nourishment. Once they are satiated they just drop off their host. They leave a rather nasty wound that will continue to bleed for about ten hours. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant. And an open wound, well it will continue to collect all the lovely bacteria in the air…It can make for some lovely sores… and wonderful pain in the victim, not to mention blood loss if one or more of these lovelies are applied to the victim. Fever, infection, blood loss, open wounds…do you want to begin to tell me all that you can about the Seaview, let’s say beginning with her armaments?"
Lee swallowed, his dry mouth becoming drier as Saldivar explained what he was planning. Slowly, carefully, Lee replied. His voice was low and raspy, his words judiciously chosen, but perfectly clear. "Go to hell, Saldivar, and take your men and your government with you…"
"One cannot say that you are lacking in courage, Captain, but we will see in a few hours or so, after my pets have feasted on you… and then we will see how brave you are…"
"You will get nothing from me, you bastard!"
Saldivar backhanded Lee, his hand connecting with Crane’s jaw and sending his head hard into the pole, stunning him and sending the hut spinning around him. Lee drew several deep breaths and attempted to still his stomach that had been roiling as Saldivar continued his diatribe.
Leeches!! Lee shuddered inside, not wanting to let his captor know of his uneasiness and, yes, fear. He had been trained by ONI to expect the unexpected in cases of torture. He had heard tales of this type out in the field but never expected to be subjected to it himself. He tried to prepare… to set his mind to ignore what was coming. He began by turning his thoughts inward, to his ‘lady’, and focusing on is boat, his men, and places other than where he was right now…A sharp voice and another blow to his face pulled him back to the hut…
"Commander, give me your attention, if you please!" Saldivar hit him again. "I am asking you to tell me the armament capacity of your boat! Now, or I will introduce you to my pets!"
The thought of the leeches made Lee’s stomach roll again, but he merely shook his head slowly "NO!"
"Tsk, tsk… then I must do what I must. I know you will not enjoy the experience, but perhaps it will loosen your tongue in terms of sharing the information. As I said, we will see in time. I have not yet met a man that I cannot get necessary information from, once my pets have begun their attempts at persuasion I will leave you alone with them…" He turned to the two men who had been at the door of the hut and began to issue orders in Spanish, but loud enough for his prisoner to hear and clearly understand.
"Tome sus cuchillos, y haga muchos cortes todo concluído su cuerpo, el suyo detrás, su pecho y brazos. Sea seguro hacerlo bastante de corrimiento así que los leeches lo olerán y comenzarán a alimentar en él. Lo convencerán (Take your knives and make many cuts all over his body, his back, his chest and arms. Be sure to make him bleed enough so the leeches will smell it and begin to feed on him. They'll convince him.)
The two men moved toward Lee with their knives drawn, and slowly began to nick and slice at his arms and torso, one of them taking particular delight in making several cuts across his scalp, allowing blood to seep thru his hair and down the side of his face. The other one made several cuts on his cheek and neck. By the time they were done, his body and head were a mass of bleeding cuts. Thru it all he had remained silent, wincing with the cuts but not making a sound.
The two men laughed and spoke to one another in guttural tones. He watched and listened, his amber hazel eyes following each move, his mind steeling itself for the horror to come. He began again to use the methods he had been taught to move his mind away from his body, so that he would not feel some of what was coming. As he watched, the two men lifted several long, slug-like bodies from the buckets. Both of them were holding several in each hand, and as they approached him the scent of blood caused the creature’s long proboscis’ to extend. Lee tried to pull away but he was unable to move anything but his head, tied as he was to the pole. He could only try to fight the nausea that sought to control him
They held one to his head and the extended nose probed, found a cut on his head, and dug its raspers deep into his skin. They laughed as he shuddered with the creature’s penetration and laughing laid several others on his head, holding one close to a cut on his throat. He couldn’t hold back the moan of pain as the creature settled its raspers into his neck and began to slowly draw blood. Enjoying their victim’s obvious pain, they then began to lay the creatures all over his body. Laughing, one took a knife and slashed his legs several times, cutting thru the soiled fabric of the white trousers, and setting several of the leeches there as well. Low moans, and soon cries of pain, came from Crane as one after another of the creatures bit and attached itself to him. When they had finished, there were few parts of their victim’s skin that remained exposed. They left him, laughing about the ‘Gringo’ and how their Lieutenant was a smart man who would get the prisoner to tell him all they wanted to know.
Lee Crane’s struggles quickly ceased. The pain and horror of what was happening to him was somewhere beyond even his comprehension, and he allowed the darkness of unconsciousness to engulf him.
In the Capital City of Nuevo Rios, Cristalina Agua, the small and understaffed hospital was overwhelmed with patients. Many that were brought in never even made it to the triage area. However, the American Naval Officer did. Surprised Medical personnel quickly began to treat him, stripping his bloodied garments and seeking the wounds. They set an IV, and prepared several medications to administer. One of the nurses took his dogtags, and found with them the medal that indicated Penicillin allergy. The nurse showed the physician working on Chip and he shook his head sadly. The only available antibiotics were Penicillin derivatives, which were cheap and plentiful. They could give him no help there, and looking at the bullet wounds made the doctor very concerned.
Quietly he spoke to the nurse. "Prepárelo para la cirugía, como mejor es posible. Debemos quitar los puntos negros y hacer todos que poder. No importa quién está en control de nuestro gobierno, debemos hacer nuestro mejor."(‘Prepare him for surgery, as best as is possible. We must remove the bullets and do all that we can. No matter who is in control of our government, we must do our best.’)
The nurse ran a gentle hand over Morton’s face, wiping some of the dirt from it. He moaned, and slowly became aware.
He heard hospital sounds, and voices, in a foreign language. His shoulder flamed and the pain in his side traveled throughout his body in wave upon wave of intense agony. He moaned again, and a gentle face came into view, a soft voice coming from her lips.
"Comandante, haremos lo que nosotros lata para ayudarle. Le han tirado y usted está en hospital del Ste. Martin’s en Nuevo Ríos. El silencio, no intenta moverse."
With difficulty, he turned his head slightly. "I’m… sorry… I… I …don’t understand…I … I don’t understand you…"
She realized she had been speaking in Spanish. She smiled slightly and began slowly. "Commander … This is the hospital in Cristalina Agua. You were shot and wounded in the coup’ d’ tat. You are very badly hurt." He nodded and reached for her hand, pulling her face close to his mouth.
"My friend?" he whispered.
"I am sorry but no one was brought in with you, Commander. Now you must try to rest. You are going to surgery. We are giving you a pain-killer, it will help you sleep."
"No! Lee! Gotta know… where is Lee?"
His grip tightened on her hand, and she ran her other over his forehead again, "Please, do not try to move, sir. You are badly injured."
"You…don’t understand! My… friend… My Captain… he… he was with me!"
"There was no American with you when they brought you in." Her soft hand lay on his forehead, cool to the warmth beneath it. "Please, let us do what we can for you. We will try to find your friend, but you must rest."
He nodded slightly and, still holding his hand, she turned to the doctor. They spoke in hushed tones and he could understand very little… but he did hear one word that tightened ice tendrils around his heart, "… es muerte!"
‘Dead! They were saying that Lee’s dead! NO!!!’ "NO!" he murmured aloud as the slender fingers of the drugs worked their way into his consciousness to drag him deep into oblivion.
The doctor watched as Chip’s breathing became even and regular. He looked at the nurse, shaking his head sadly. "Consigámoslo al cuarto de funcionamiento. No sé lo que encontraremos, o para esa materia si él incluso sobrevive. Pero otra vez, no importa qué el gobierno nosotros servimos, un oficial naval americano muerto no está en nuestros mejores intereses. Vayamos!(Let’s get him to the OR. I don’t know what we’ll find, or for that matter if he will even survive. But again, no matter what government we serve, a dead American Naval Officer is not in our best interests. Let’s Go!’)
The nurse nodded and packed the IV bag on the gurney, walking next to Chip as they wheeled him into the Operating Room.
"Admiral Nelson, we’re at the landing co-ordinates!" Bobby O’Brien’s voice came over the speaker in his cabin. Nelson had been on the phone making plans for rescue as soon as the word about Chip and Lee came to him. He was bone tired, and disheartened. But he would not accept that Lee was dead. He would go and rescue both men, wherever they were. He had a plan, he had State’s approval, and he had 125 volunteers. He would find them!
He hit the button on the speaker on his desk. "Okay, Bobby. Take her down and set for silent running. We don’t know what the political situation is. Have Sharkey, Kowalski, Rodriquez, and Riley meet me in the missile room in," he paused and looked at his watch, "uh, in 20 minutes, 1550. Have them armed. I want fatigues, assault rifles, grenades, and the rest of the materials I had Sharkey get together.. He’s coming with us." He paused, thoughtfully, " and thanks, Bob. You’re doing a great job."
"Aye, sir. Thank you sir!" the second said, pleased with the commendation from his CO.
He reached for the mike, "Sick Bay, this is Nelson. Jamie, are you ready?’
"Yes, sir. I’ll meet you in the Missile Room. I have a few more things to prepare."
"Okay, Will. In ten."
He clicked off the mike, and listened as the all call sent the men to the Missile Room with the required equipment. He smiled. Lee and Chip had the crew in top order. Even with their absence, Seaview ran like a clock, and he also knew that a large part of the reason for it was the way that his Senior Officers treated the men. Give them respect and they give it right back. He rose, and slammed the desk as he stood. He had to find them… he just had to!
In the compound, Saldivar hit one man, and then the other.
"ESTÚPIDO!! Le dije utilizar algunos de mis leeches, no todos!! Lo necesito hablar! Él ahora no puede!"(FOOLS! I told you to use some of the leeches, not all!! I need him to talk! He can’t now!)
"Pero, teniente, seguimos solamente órdenes... que el preso es muy débil ahora!! él no podrá oponerse a su interrogación!" (But, lieutenant, we only followed orders... the prisoner is now very weak!! He will not be able to resist your interrogation!)
"No cuido! Idiotas! Vaya! Salga de mi vista!!!"( I do not care! Idiots! Go! Get out of my sight!!!) The men scurried away from the raging officer. Saldivar walked over to the hut that held his prisoner, and stepped inside. After his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he walked toward his prisoner. His men had taken all the now satiated leeches out of the hut, but the smell of blood was still overwhelming. Saldivar shivered inadvertently. Crane's slowly bleeding bite wounds were a most unpleasant sight. It made the Lieutenant smile sadistically. His methods always brought success to his plans, and extraordinary suffering to his victims.
Lee stirred and slowly looked up. His amber-hazel eyes reflected his pain, but also his defiance. He fought the pain to look at his captor in the eye.
"Not feeling very well, are you, Commander?" Saldivar asked arrogantly.
"What’s it to you, Saldivar?" and he licked at dry lips but was unable to moisten them. "I’m a dead man anyway."
Saldivar paced in front of Lee, "That is true, Commander. Your belongings were given to your Embassy. I believe my government has told them you are dead. There was a lot of death that day in the Mall. Your body has simply gone missing." He laughed. "And you are right. You are a dead man. But there are degrees of death. Many degrees. And you and I are going to explore them. All of them. Little by little. You have so much information that you can give me now, or you will give me later. You are going to die a little bit at a time. Or, if you do cooperate, quickly and swiftly. You cannot escape, I have seen to that, in the way that you are bound to the pole. You are weak. You have lost a considerable amount of blood. You have fed my pets very well." He reached over and touched the wound at Lee’s neck. Then he reached in his pocket and pulled a handkerchief to wipe his hand of the blood. He snickered. "Yes, you are a considerably weakened man. And I am sure you are very, very thirsty."
He clapped his hands together and one of the soldiers came into the hut. "Venga me agua!"
The man scurried out and then back in, handing the Lieutenant a large bottle of water.
"Gracias, Jorge." He locked eyes with Lee and, licking his lips, took a long slow drink from the bottle, letting some spill on his lips and run down his chin and neck. He never looked away from Lee and Lee did not look away either. Saldivar smiled as he wiped his lips and neck.
"That was good. Very good. Cool and refreshing." He waved his hand in the air in front of his face. " Tsk. It is so warm in here, is it not? You would like some of this wouldn’t you, Commander?" He held the top of the bottle close to Lee’s lips. Close enough so he could almost touch the edge of the bottle, the few drops that still lingered there slowly flowing down the side.
Lee licked his lips again, their dryness more than obvious in the near presence of the water. Saldivar held the bottle slightly closer. Lee moved his head forward, trying to meet the lip of the bottle, trying to get some of the water that his captor was holding so close… so tantalizingly close. He pulled forward, as slight as he could, and Saldivar took a step back. The bottle wavered. Saldivar’s wrist shook slightly and the bottle moved again, the tip coming close to Lee’s lips yet again. Then slowly, very slowly, Saldivar tipped the bottle bit by bit, until the water began to flow out and onto the dirt floor.
Frustration and anger filled Crane’s face. Saldivar smiled again. "If you want some water, Commander, all you have to do is to give me the information about the armaments of your boat. Simple really."
"No!" His tone belied how badly his body craved the water.
"Well, then, Commander. We will talk in a few hours. I will allow you to think about what I want from you, and what you feel like. I will see you in four hours then."
He turned on his heels and went out of the hut without a glance back. Lee took a breath. His body shuddered. Weakness overwhelmed him. Black velvet arms reached out to pull at him and he followed their trail, slowly going deeper and deeper into the black.
Twenty minutes later Nelson barreled into the Missile Room, dressed in fatigues like the rest of the men. The entire landing party was ready to go. O’Brien and Sharkey had his equipment ready and Patterson, who was not part of the landing party, had the maps the Admiral had requested of the City of Cristalina Agua. The group of men huddled over the maps as the Admiral began to go over the details of their mission. Officially, it was to ransom Morton. They still had to find out where Crane was, dead or alive. The State Department courier had rendezvoused with the Flying Sub the day before, and Nelson now had the ‘Redemption’ in his hands
He adjusted the pack at his side as he pointed to the map with his other hand. " Here’s the beach that we have permission to land on. We’ll leave the zodiacs there and proceed the three miles inland to the Capital. Once there we will follow this street, here to the Hospital of St. Martin. We are to be armed and at the ready, but we are not going to engage unless we are challenged. We have the permission of the temporary government to be here, in the open. Once we get Mr. Morton out of there, and get him on the boat, we go back for the Captain. Intelligence tells us that if he's alive it has to be somewhere in the jungle. That’s all they know…"
The men all nodded solemnly. Nelson looked at Jamison. "Ready, Will? This isn’t necessarily where I want you, but we need you. More important, Chip needs you."
"I know, Harry." He offered a weak smile. "Not part of my job description but I have to be with you. For Chip if no other reason."
Nelson merely nodded, and then asked Sharkey, "Ready, Chief?"
"Aye, sir. All’s ready and waiting for the word, sir."
"The word is ‘GO’ Chief. Let’s get moving." The men moved out of the missile room and back to the control room where they reached the ladder for the sail, and moved up one at a time to the deck of the boat. Waiting deckside was the equipment they would need. The two zodiacs contained backpacks, a collapsible stretcher, and a large pack of Medical supplies. Three men went in each of the crafts, and rapidly made it to the shore. They beached the zodiacs, secured them, and made their way through the small amount of jungle to a gravel road that led to the Capital City. Remaining on alert, they formed a small column and began to move quickly to the city.
They reached the outskirts of Cristalina Agua and, finding the main street, made for the hospital. They were all amazed at the calm, and absence of people and fighting in the city. All had imagined they would be moving into a war zone. Instead, the entire city was quiet, with few people on the streets. The only evidence of the Junta was the damage in the center of the city, outside of the main government buildings. It was as if the city was deciding what would take place next, before coming to life again. As they approached the Hospital, the first sign of a military presence appeared, with several tanks and a company of armed men surrounding the Hospital complex. Sharkey turned to Nelson,
"It’s alright, Chief, we expected this. Just stay calm. I have the right ID’s to get us through." He fingered the pack he was wearing at his waist, well aware that Chip’s life as well as the men’s and his own hinged on how he handled the situation. He wanted to charge in and take Morton out without giving anything over. But that wasn’t what his orders were, at least here and now. His own actions would come later. For now, they had to follow directions to the letter.
He signaled the others back, and met with the guard at the main gate. All the soldiers had their guns drawn and ready to fire, so he made sure that his movements were slow and deliberate. Carefully showing both hands free, he walked to the sentry.
"Colonel Aguilera, por favor."
The guard nodded and turned on his heel. Nelson stood in the sun, waiting. After almost a half hour, the sentry came out of the hospital building, followed by a large man in what had to be this country’s interpretation of a Colonel’s uniform. His men bristled at the deliberate insult that had been made to the man, and the country he represented. The man wearing it was large in all aspects, about 6’2" and very obese. He had a long mustache, and longer, greasy black hair that stuck out of his cover. He had rather large, round eyes that seemed incongruous in his face, and thin, pale lips. He was wiping at his face with a grey rag, and his uniform, brown in color, sported large splotches in several places. He wore his tunic belt well below his belly, his pants falling into knee-high boots that were well worn and filthy looking. He looked slovenly and dirty, and in general the antithesis of the man that he had kept waiting. That made Seaview’s men even angrier at the entire situation.
The big man extended a hand to the Admiral in greeting. "Admiral Nelson, my superiors told me to expect you. You do our small country honor, sir." The slick words fell from the Colonel’s mouth like so much oil on water. Nelson bristled at the hand rather than a salute, and at the man’s overt attempt at familiarity.
Admiral Harriman Nelson cleared his throat, and ignored the hand. The colonel looked and realized his faux paux. He saluted, and then stepped back.
"My apologies, Admiral. I was so… overwhelmed with your presence in our small country…" he attempted to bow from the waist, and failing, continued. "My superiors have given me the honor of ‘helping’ you get your commander home. I was chosen because of my familiarity with English." He broke into a slicky smile. "Well, sir. If you and your men will follow me, I will take you to your Commander." He waved a hand and the sentry stepped aside. Nelson turned to signal his men to follow, which they quickly did, closing ranks around him, and allowing Jamison to fall in next to him. They moved quickly through the corridors of the hospital to a room at the far end of the third floor, where two armed soldiers stood guarding the door. Aguilera spoke quickly and the guards stepped aside. He nodded to Nelson, and the two of them, along with Will Jamison, moved to the doorway of the room.
"Here, Admiral. Here is your man. You can see that he is being well taken care of."
"Will you allow Dr. Jamison to examine him?"
The Colonel nodded, "Of course, Admiral…Please, go ahead, Doctor. And then tell your superior what good care we have taken of him."
Nelson looked about the room as Jamison moved to Morton’s side. The Seaview’s Exec lay on an old-fashioned iron hospital bed. A sheet covered him to the waist revealing two large white bandages, one on his left abdomen, the other on his left shoulder. Two bottles hung at the side of the bed attached to IV lines, leading to his hand. His color was extremely pale, and there was a nurse nearby who was watching the unconscious man. Jamison went to the foot of the bed and picked up the chart. He quickly flipped the pages and then turned to the nurse.
"Do you speak English?"
She nodded, "Si. I speak English, Doctor."
"Could you please translate this chart for me and tell me what’s been done for Mr. Morton?"
"Of course." She took the chart from his hand and, as he did his own exam of the injured man, told him everything that the chart said. She then went over the care given to Chip since the surgery. It had been two days since the Junta and in that time, while the wounds themselves had begun to heal, without the necessary antibiotic therapy he had begun to develop signs of infection in the abdominal wound. The nurse had explained how they found his medal with the penicillin warning, and since there was only that antibiotic available they had given Chip nothing to stem infection.
Jamison quickly examined Chip, and then moved to Nelson and the Colonel. "Admiral, I need the supplies that I have in the med-pack. I’ve got to get an antibiotic into Chip right away." He stepped toward the door, but the Colonel reached out to stop him. Surprised and concerned, he remembered where and why they were here, and stopped.
"Colonel? I need to get my medical pack."
"I know, Doctor. But the Admiral and I have not yet concluded our business, and until we do, I cannot let you do anything for your man."
Jamison looked at Nelson, "Admiral, Chip needs those antibiotics, as soon as we can start them."
Nelson nodded, "I understand that, Will." He turned to the Colonel. "Well, what do you want to do, Aguilera? I have what you want, and all my government wants from you is to release my man."
"Yes, yes… I know, but this is a, how do you say… a delicate matter… the redemption that you have brought with you, is, shall we say… somewhat, lacking…. There are many who have helped this man, who have not been ….um, properly thanked."
"Admiral! Please! … The longer we wait, the harder it will be to get
the infection under control, and the greater the risks for Chip."
Nelson laid a hand on Jamison’s arm. "I know, Will… I know." He turned back to Aguilera. "Colonel, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I take it that you want more than I have been instructed to turn over to you?"
The Colonel laughed mirthlessly. "Admiral, you have to understand… there are expenses that my government, because of these political problems, cannot shoulder, we do not have …umm…enough supplies to properly care for our own, much less foreigners…so we need to, well, look for, I believe you would call it ‘financial support’ from outside sources." he shook his head, "You do understand, don’t you?"
Nelson was ready to explode, but he kept his famous temper under control as he spoke to the Colonel. "Colonel, the American Department of State has negotiated with your government regarding this ‘circumstance’. The ‘redemption’ has been agreed upon. I have it here and am willing to turn it over to you… if you allow my doctor to begin treating Mr. Morton, then perhaps you and I can find a place to discuss this other ‘matter’ of your ‘concern’."
Adopting again the air of familiarity that Nelson disliked, the Colonel put an arm around his shoulder and began to talk closely to him. " Ah, so you do understand my position, Admiral. I have an office of sorts, down this hall." He turned to the nurse. "Ayude al doctor todo usted a desear, pero no lo deje salir de este sitio, con o sin el preso. Y cerciórese de que usted guarde todas las fuentes que él no utiliza. Podemos utilizar mucha de las medicinas del americano en nuestra propia gente. Y recuerde, si él se va, su propia vida es confiscado!" (Help the doctor all you want, but do not let him leave this room, with or without the prisoner. And make sure that you keep all of the supplies that he does not use. We can use much of the American's medicines on our own people. And remember, if he leaves, your own life is forfeit!)
The woman looked nervously at the Colonel and nodded. Jamison went to the door, took his bag from Kowalski, and moved back to Morton’s side. Will looked at the tiny woman, dc and saw the terror in her eyes. Quietly, he asked, "Nurse, your name?"
He nodded. "The Colonel threatened you, didn’t he?"
"I…I cannot say…." Her hand shook as she handed him a gauze pad that he had pointed to. She looked down, willing her hands to stop shaking. Finally she spoke in a small voice, "Yes, he did. And I will have to obey him. I have a family, children, my husband is sick, and I need this job and the medicines that I get here. I cannot let you leave this room, with or without your friend." She moved to the bedside, opposite Jamison.
"Has he been conscious at all?"
"Yes, several times. He has been in much pain. He has been looking for the Admiral, and his friend, Lee."
"Well, at least the Admiral is here. He’ll talk to Chip when he’s done with your Colonel."
Gloria looked up sharply. "Doctor Jamison, he is not MY Colonel. He represents the government that is in power now. In this country, governments come and go. But the hospital has been sacrosanct until this junta. These men came in and terrorized the patients and the staff, and then brought in all these foreigners for us to treat. They took a lot of our patients out. We do not know where." She looked infinitely sad. "They took the women and the new babies, and the old ones… I am afraid to even think of where they took them or what has happened to them…" Jamison reached over and touched her hand gently.
"I’m sorry…" he murmured. "Very sorry."
She shrugged. "Please do not be. There is nothing that can be done. It is over and we move on." She looked into Jamison’s eyes, saw the empathy there, and smiled sadly. "Thank you, Doctor. Thank you very much." She looked at Chip, and then back at Jamison. "I think that you care very much for your friend. He is most fortunate."
Jamison looked at the nurse. "We work and live together. We look out for one another. We’re a family… big, caring family. The Admiral is the head, the rest of us, brothers…that’s the way it should be. I guess, in our way, we love one another as a family. That’s just the way it is."
"All of you and your men are very lucky to have that. As is the Commander here." He held Chip’s limp hand in hers, marveling at the strength of spirit of these men that she met.
In the small office, Harriman Nelson fought to control the anger and revulsion he was feeling for this man, and the government that the Colonel represented. Nelson had been told that the Military was in control, and was also rather, ONI had put it, freelance. In other words, the agreement with the government only went so far. The rest of the ‘negotiation’ for Chip’s freedom would have to be with this man, who Nelson already detested.
The Colonel sat behind his desk and reached into a drawer, taking out a bottle of whiskey, and two rather soiled glasses. He placed them on the desk and filled one, liberally while looking at Nelson. As he sat in the only other chair in the room, Nelson waved the bottle away from the glass.
"No, no thank you, Colonel… I try not to indulge when I am on duty."
The colonel quirked a dark eyebrow, "I think you hold yourself to too high a standard, Admiral. A small amount, with a friend, will not impair your abilities."
Nelson smiled tightly. "My men… my doctor…"
The Colonel chuckled. "You are too moral a man, Nelson. You would never be able to compete in our military. Never."
Nelson’s reply was quick, and quite clear. "I wouldn’t want to. Now, to the business at hand, Colonel… because I want to take my man and leave your country as soon as I possibly can. The ‘redemption’ that my government has agreed to give to you is here. What else are you going to tell me that you ‘need’?"
"Why, Admiral, you wound me. I do not need anything. I am just, how would you Americans say, ‘protecting my interests’. As I am sure you can see, there is not much of a long career in this country if you do not go with those in power. I am getting too old, and I enjoy life too much, to do this balancing game much longer. I need to ‘cushion’ my reserves, so to speak. And your need to get your man out of my country provides me with the perfect opportunity. You are a wealthy man, Nelson. You can afford it, and furthermore, so can your government." He leaned forward and wrote on a small piece of paper, then handed it to the Admiral.
Nelson took the paper, looked at it and laughed in disbelief. Running a hand through his hair, he snorted, and said, "You can’t possibly believe that I would have access to that, here and now?"
Aguilera reached calmly for his drawer. He reached in and removed a cigar, and offered it to Nelson. He refused and the Colonel calmly took it, removed the tip with a silver clipper, inhaled the entire cigar, and then slowly lit it. He leaned back in his chair and let the smoke slowly drift upward. Calmly he spoke to Nelson.
"I know you do not have access to anything like that at this time. However, I am a reasonable man, and I do believe that I have something that you desperately want. If we can come to an agreement, then, well, you will get what you seek, and I will get what I want… Let us discuss it, shall we…?"
"I want to know where Captain Crane is, whether or not he is alive. That is what is most valuable to me."
"And that can be had for a price, Admiral. As I have indicated. I do have, shall we say, access to certain facts that your State Department does not."
"And I can offer you something more than what you have asked for…If you are interested…"
Chip Morton fought his way out of the murky darkness. He didn’t remember where he was or how he had gotten here. He did remember the pain however, the overwhelming pain in his side and shoulder that flamed with the slightest movement when he was aware. And he knew that it wasn’t often. He lay, listening, as rising fingers of awareness slowly slid into his conscious mind. He heard a voice, a male voice, one that he thought he recognized, and he decided he should try to open his eyes and see if he was correct in his recognition. That would be a huge victory for him. He took a deep breath, and was rewarded with the sweet taste of oxygen flowing into his nose and lungs. He licked at lips dry from days of unuse, and found ice chips being placed there. He moved his head and found a soft pillow; moved his hand and found crisp sheets. Ever so slowly he opened his eyes, and as blurred vision cleared, he saw a metal frame above his head, metal bulkheads at his side. He heaved a sigh of relief, realizing that he was home, and the voices belonged to Jamison, Frank Lerner, and John Warner. He moved his head a bit more and realized that he was in a bunk in the Sick Bay, on the boat.
Crashing concern overwhelmed his momentary relief. "Lee!" he cried out hoarsely, attempting to rise, only to find strong hands held him in place.
"No, Mr. Morton. No way in hell Doc is gonna let you up and out… no way… now, just lay quiet and he’ll be right here."
"Frank?" he gasped, "How? How did I get here, the last thing… the last thing I remember was a hospital… and nurses…When?"
Frank Lerner smiled at the Seaview’s Exec. "Doc’ll fill you in on all the details, sir. Just lie back and relax."
"Frank, what about the Skipper… he was with me, and then I was shot and in the hospital. They told me he wasn’t there…"
"I don’t know what the story is, sir. The Skipper didn’t come aboard with you, that’s all I know. I’m sorry, sir. I’d tell you more if I knew."
Will Jamison came up behind the corpsman and laid a hand on Lerner’s shoulder. "I’ll take over now, Frank."
Lerner nodded and rose. "I’ll see you later, Mr. Morton." Will Jamison slid onto the chair and leaned over Chip taking his stethoscope listening to the Exec’s heart and chest sounds.
Quietly, Chip asked, "Still beating?"
Jamison smiled, "Yep, and at a pretty good pace too! How are you feeling? I know what your condition is, but I’d like to know how you feel."
"Like shit. Like someone chewed me up and spit me out and stomped on me…"
"Pretty graphic but then again, I guess pretty accurate you gave me a bit of a run."
Morton took a breath, glad for the strength he drew from the oxygen he was breathing. "Where’s Lee?"
"Not on board."
"I’ve figured that much out, Will. Where is he?"
"The Admiral and some of the men have gone after him. They were told where he was being held. The Admiral made a few calls, and they left. I’m waiting to hear that they’re on their way back."
"What are you talking about?"
"My fault that Lee is wherever he is… if I hadn’t caught a couple of slugs he’d be okay."
"That’s not the case and you know it!"
"Dammit! It is! IF he hadn’t had to watch out for me he’d be here and okay!"
"Okay, just wait a minute… tell me what happened, will you… all I know is that you were hit twice and taken to the hospital. If you’re feeling up to it, that is."
Chip shifted on the rack and a low hiss escaped his lips. Jamison said nothing, allowing him the private moment of collecting himself. He moved about a bit more, trying to make himself more comfortable. Realizing that he couldn’t, he sighed and began.
"We should’ve been carrying arms, but State told us that the country was secure and that we didn’t need them. We were put up in one of the smaller houses, with several of the other delegates to the Inauguration. Both of us were, well, just plain uncomfortable. There was a feeling that everything wasn’t as easy going as they were trying to make it out to be. Lee contacted State and told them, but they told him he was being ridiculous. That there was nothing wrong, and nothing was going to go wrong… So we kept alert, but again, we weren’t armed, so how much could we do…" he paused and closed his eyes, watching in his mind the Inauguration of the new President. The cheers of the people had seemed genuine enough.
"We were taken in a limo to the stadium, and sat behind the new President, about three rows back… Everything was going fine until we were leaving to go to the Inaugural Dinner. Then about three companies of armed men, tanks, several other smaller armed vehicles, all came into the mall area in front of the stadium. Armed helicopters started to fire from above… The whole place was being blasted, people were going down everywhere. The President’s security guard hustled him away, I turned to run with Lee, and I got hit…don’t know from where, or how, but man, I was down and out. I don’t remember much after that except the pain. I know Lee tried to stop the bleeding, and I know he tore up his tunic to make bandages for me. I remember him talking, but I couldn’t tell you what about. Everything is a blur, nothing is clear. I remember trying to remain conscious. After that, nothing much. I remember coming to in the hospital, and the nurse talking to me in Spanish, and then English. She told me Lee wasn’t there." He stopped, and took a deep breath. Blue eyes bored into the brown ones. "I heard them talking. I know that they said he was dead. That much Spanish I do know." He got quiet, digesting again what had happened, then demanded, "Now, tell me everything you know about Lee…everything. I need to know."
Jamison laid his hand on Chip’s arm. "I don’t know that much. I know that the word from the government here to State was that Lee was dead and you were in the hospital here, close to dying." He smiled at Morton. "I think that I may have a hand in helping you along a bit… and according to your nurse, that medallion with the Penicillin notice in one sense saved your life. That’s the only antibiotic that they have there. So you didn’t get any, and man, you had a lulu of an infection brewing in your guts… but I think we have that under control now. Made your recovery time longer, but you are on your way to recovery. "
"Will, you’re putting me off… what about Lee?"
Jamison shook his head. "The Admiral made a deal for information. The Colonel at the hospital claimed Lee had been taken prisoner by members of the Military. There is a base of operations about a days march from here. It’s in the jungle, and Aguilera claims that the last he heard, they were trying to get information from him and he was being ‘resistant’ to their methods. The man in charge, a Lieutenant Saldivar, promised the new government that he would have all the information about the Seaview before the week was up. According to him, that was three days ago."
"How long have I been here?"
"We brought you aboard this afternoon. It’s been four days since the coup. The Admiral and the men left shortly after he promised Aguilera and his family immunity, and a way to the States. He promised to help him get settled."
"You and I both know that if he can save Lee’s life, he’d do almost anything… and this seemed to please both men."
And where are we now? The boat I mean?"
"Just outside the 3 mile limit off the coast of Nuevo Rios. We’re to wait to hear from them. They figure they should reach the site by daylight. And the Admiral believes they won’t be expecting an attack. That they can get Lee out."
" … Just what does he think the chances are that Lee is still alive?"
"If he didn’t think that the chances were good ones, he wouldn’t have put himself and the others at risk… you and I both know that." He looked at his patient, who was struggling to remain awake. "Chip, I think its time you tried to rest. You’re going to be needing a lot of sleep if you hope to get out of here any time soon."
"Mmm…maybe you’re right… am tired. Talk more…later… Let me…let me know…Lee…" Jamison waited until Chip’s breathing became regular and steady, and then he pulled the sheet up to Chip’s chest, checked the IV lines and bandages, and went to his office to update Chip’s chart.
Frank Lerner came into the office. "How’s the Exec, Doc?"
"He’s okay, Frank… Vitals are good. Incisions are still weeping a bit but they look clean. His temp is 101 but its no longer rising. He’ll have a prolonged recovery but I think he’ll be okay."
"He’ll get better faster if we can find out about the Skipper. We’ll all be feeling better once we hear from the Admiral, and we’ve got the Skipper back."
"That’s a given, Frank. And I hope that we hear soon… It’s been four days. Four long days, and I hope against hope that Lee Crane is alright…"
Lieutenant Saldivar walked into the hut. He had a grudging admiration for his prisoner… Some men would have broken at the very sight of the leeches. Others at the first touch. But this man, this Captain of the Seaview, he had not broken yet! Crane was in shock from blood loss, feverish from the many festering open wounds left by the bites of the creatures, and had been starved. A man could live a long time without food, but not water. And they'd given him none. It had been four days, about the maximum time before dehydration would lead to death. Either he would, finally, tell them all they wanted to know, or he would die. One or the other would have to happen soon.
He walked over to his prisoner, and reached down, grabbing a handful of hair. He pulled Crane’s face up, to look at it, and to force him to look back, if he was conscious enough to do so. Crane’s face was bathed in sweat, fever running rampant. His lips were dry and cracked, he had a growth of beard, and his color, for all the darkness in the hut, looked pale to his captor. Saldivar slammed his prisoner’s head into the pole he had remained tied to. "Wake up! Wake up, gringo!!"
The jarring impact to his head dragged Lee Crane from the whirling delirium he had been swimming in. There had been so many images… some frightening, some warm and welcoming. But always, there was the reality of his imprisonment whenever he was drawn back into the squalid hut. He tried to open his eyes and focus on his captor, but Saldivar’s face kept getting larger, then smaller, and then larger again. He couldn’t help the croak that escaped from his throat, sounding oddly like a laugh. For that sound the lieutenant hit him hard across the jaw, and the entire hut tilted sickeningly. He wretched with the nausea that followed, dry heaves from a stomach long empty of any contents.
Saldivar let his head go and stood back until the heaving of Crane’s body ceased, then he stepped forward again and grabbed at Lee’s chin. Bending down to meet his prisoner eye to eye, he asked, "Have you changed your mind, Captain Crane? You and I both know that there is not much time before you die. You know you can't take much more." I can make it easy for you. Make you feel better. You would like some water wouldn’t you?"
"Not… on … your… terms…" Lee croaked weakly, barely audible, his eyes defiant. And at that moment Saldivar knew he could not break this man. He could either let him die, or take him deeper into the jungle with them and see what good he would be as a bargaining chip if the Junta should fail. He would have to contact his superiors for direction. He would rather kill the man and be done with it but, if he was nothing else, Joaquin Saldivar was first and foremost a soldier. And he knew he had to follow chain of command. Of course, if his prisoner were to die in the meantime….
He hit Lee again, swearing an oath in Spanish and then said, " I will return shortly, Captain. When I do, we will see just what your fate is going to be…"
Lee watched him leave, and then allowed himself to give in to the slowly beckoning darkness. It hurt to breathe, he couldn’t move, and he was, literally dying of thirst. Perhaps he could do Saldivar a favor and die before he returned…. But no, that would give him a victory, however small, and Lee Crane was not about to give any enemy a victory if he could help it. He slid slowly into the darkness, and was grateful that at least there, there was a respite from the pain…
The small group of armed men crept through the thick plant growth. Staying close to the ground, they inched their way to the edge of the compound. In the early morning it was easy for them to move and remain unseen. The men moved closer and closer to the group of huts, many eyes searching for a sign of the Captain of the boat. Silently they split apart to form a circular perimeter, weapons ready, waiting for the signal from the Admiral for to move.
Nelson carefully searched the compound. He had seen many like this before, in his long career and all his experiences with ONI. Funny how unimaginative the ‘other side’ often was when it came to leaders, beliefs, and physical deployment. No wonder people like them were defeated by the movers and shakers in democratic beliefs. And no wonder they resorted to horrific treatment of the men and women they thought would hold the key to the information that they would give them the power they all so desperately sought.
If these thugs were anything like the others of their kind, then the pattern would hold that Lee would be there in the center hut. Nelson shook his head, fearful for the life of his friend, in the hands of animals like these for four days now. ‘Four Days!! Dear God! The things that they could do to a man in four days!!’ He shook his head, not wanting to pull up images that were floating at the edge of his consciousness. He’d seen too much, been through too much to even begin to imagine what Lee could be going through. He shook his head, and pulled his mind and focus back to the compound.
It was a poor excuse for a base of operations. There was a circle of huts on the perimeter, with one larger one on the south side and one in the center. They were wood and mud, with leafy branches for the roof. There were no windows in the center hut, and only one doorway. The others had several windows and doorways. The center hut was of heavy mud that looked several inches thick. There was no way that anyone held there could dig their way out. That would be a perfect prison. Deciding that Lee must be in that hut, Nelson then formulated his plan of action. Several signals were sent to the men, and they encircled the entire compound. They had come armed with light artillery weapons, grenades, M-16’s, and heavy-duty side arms. Kowalski carried a small missile launcher, Sharkey and Nelson Uzi’s. At Nelson’s signal they began to bombard the area with all possible armaments. Loud explosions broke the air. Amid the shouts of the men and the cries of the native animals, some of whom had been wakened from their night’s rest so unceremoniously. Men ran about the compound, dodging bullets, and shells. The Seaview men moved in, closing the circle. Many of the defenders fell to wounds, and some died. Others fled into the surrounding jungle. One man ran to the center hut and disappeared within. Nelson ran after him.
"Too bad, Commander," Saldivar taunted Crane hurriedly, "Too bad. I had other things planned for you. But now, well, now you are a liability. I am going to have to kill you. I didn’t want to make this easy for you, Crane. I wanted you to pay long and hard for your lack of cooperation. Although I also must admit I have not met anyone who has resisted me this long. You are well trained. A pity that training is going to go to waste… a real pity," he cocked the gun and aimed it at Crane's head.
"Don’t," Nelson interrupted, at the door, slightly out of breath.
Saldivar turned with surprise, keeping the barrel of the gun squarely at Lee’s temple. "So, a rescue attempt, is that what this is all about?"
"You could say that… Step away from him."
"I do not think so. I believe we have what you would call a standoff. Neither one of us is going to give an inch. And I do have the upper hand. Even if you shoot me now I could still squeeze the trigger kill him."
Nelson looked at Lee and saw that his eyes were closed. He was either unconscious or waiting. His quick glance told Nelson that there was nothing Lee could do to help him end the stalemate. So he continued to stand, gun pointing at Saldivar. And Saldivar continued to keep his gun at Lee’s temple. In the background, the noise in the compound continued to indicate the ongoing battle for control of the outpost. For the next few seconds time felt as hours as neither man waivered, holding fast.
Suddenly an explosion, near the rear of the hut set the building to rock, the rear wall to crack. The roof also shook and the ground rocked. Both men staggered. Saldivar was thrown off his feet and the gun went flying out of his grip. Nelson was thrown to his knees but he managed to keep a grip on his weapon. Saldivar was crawling to get to his gun. Nelson steadied his own.
"Stop! Right where you are! Don’t move another inch or you’re a dead man!" The Admiral's voice was terse, tight and commanding and for a brief second Saldivar hesitated. Then he grabbed the gun. Nelson fired, once, twice. Saldivar fell. Nelson rose and quickly felt for a pulse. Satisfied, he reached for Crane and felt for a pulse.
"Calvary's arrived," Lee barely managed to speak as he opened his eyes.
To say that the Captain of the Seaview had been savagely treated would have been an understatement. Nelson shook his head sadly, and said "I’ll have you free in a few minutes. Just hold on." He took the knife he had on his belt and began to cut away at Crane’s bonds. The sounds outside had stopped and a shadow covered the doorway. Rodriquez and Kowalski entered.
"Admiral, compound’s secured." Kowalski announced. Seeing Crane, he stopped, and swore, "Holy shit! Oh, Skipper!"
"Merde!" Rod exclaimed. Both men moved immediately to help Nelson free the Captain.
First they freed his ankles and knees, and then gently released his elbows and wrists. He fell into the waiting arms of Nelson and his men, crying out with the pain of his release. As soon as Nelson had him, ‘Ski handed his canteen to the Admiral. Gently Nelson held the lip of the canteen to the Captain’s lips, pouring a small amount into his mouth.
Lee let the water lie there for a second, as it soothed his dried mouth and tongue. Then he swallowed it, letting it slide slowly down his throat. "More." He rasped.
Nelson gave him some, and waited as he swallowed. The heat that was radiating from Crane’s body made him suddenly aware of how ill and hurt Lee was. He nodded to Rodriguez and the rating went out of the hut. Nelson and Kowalski began to try and make Crane more comfortable before they had to move him, to get him back to the boat. Rod returned to the hut carrying a stretcher and a pack. Kowalski took the pack as Rod set the stretcher up. ‘Ski took one of Crane’s arms and looked for a spot to start an IV line. His training in field emergencies by Jamison had stood him and his Captain in good stead on many occasions, and this was another one where it would be put to good use yet again.
Feeling pain from the contact, Lee pulled his arm from Kowalski’s touch. Seeing the open wounds on Crane’s arms and body, now crusted with blood and dirt, made Ski’s stomach toss, and his anger rise.
"Easy, Skipper. I just need to find a spot for an IV."
"Sorry, … just hurts…all over."
"I know, Lee" Nelson responded. "But let Kowalski do what he can so we can get you out of here."
"Be… glad… to leave."
Nelson laughed sharply at the Captain’s black humor.
"Saldivar?" Lee asked, his voice emotionless.
"Dead… and no great loss, that I can see."
"He… he liked what he was doing…wanted armament and information on Seaview." Crane took a bit more water, swallowed, and began to choke. He shook with the cough and Nelson held the Captain tightly until the spasm passed, perhaps hoping to pass some of his strength into the suddenly frail and very damaged body.
Softly angry, Nelson added, "All the more reason to be glad that animal is dead. At last…"
Quietly, "At least… he can’t hurt… anyone…else."
"Mmmm, at the least, Lee. And I sincerely hope that when he met his maker, that Worthy One sent him where he truly belonged."
"Yes." Lee agreed.
Kowalski found a vein, and as gently as possible inserted a needle to start an IV in Crane’s arm. He taped it in place and then connected a bag of IV saline to it. "This should help you a bit, Skipper. Doc gave me a couple of meds I can add. I’ve already started an antibiotic, for the fever and all."
Lee looked at Kowalski and nodded ever so slightly.
"Skipper, we’re going to get you on the stretcher." Over Crane’s head he caught the Admiral’s eye, communicating the unspoken message that the Captain would soon be unconsciousness. With his cursory exam, ‘Ski could see that Crane was at the end of his endurance.
Now groggy, and allowing himself to give over to the horror he had been through, Crane shuddered several times. Forcing himself to focus on Nelson’s face, he asked, "Chip?"
"Safely ensconced in Sickbay waiting, I’m sure, to hear about you."
"Good… the men?… the boat? … you?"
"Everyone, everything is fine, Lee. And now we’ve got you and we’re heading back to the boat… Now, everything is fine…"
Nelson watched as Crane’s eyelids slowly closed. Kowalski watched until Crane’s breathing became a little less labored and his body relaxed, then he spoke. "I think we can move the Skipper now, Sir. It won’t hurt him as much."
With extraordinary gentleness, Kowalski and Rodriguez lifted their Captain and placed him on the stretcher. Both men cringed, seeing first hand the multiple bite wounds all over his body. Crusted, dirty, and oozing pus in places, they saw them on his legs, arms, and torso. Carefully, ‘Ski laid the IV bag at the head of Crane’s stretcher. He laid a light cover over him, and with uncharacteristic care tucked the sheet into the sides of the stretcher.
Offering his superior officer a hand, he helped Nelson to his feet and packed and closed the med bag. Swinging it over his shoulder, he bent to pick up the head of the stretcher as Rod took the foot.
They moved out of the hut into the compound, Nelson following the stretcher and seeing the complete destruction that his men had succeeded in achieving. The only building still standing was the hut they had exited. The rest of the buildings had been totally destroyed and there were no prisoners to be seen.
COB Francis Sharkey moved to Nelson’s side and stopped, looking at his Captain on the stretcher. Laying a hand on the injured man’s shoulder, he shook his head. His large eyes were glistening as he spoke to Nelson. Close up lines "The Skipper, sir? Is he…?"
"We’ll know more when we get him back to Seaview, Francis." He paused, looking around at the total destruction. "Any prisoners?"
"Not a one, sir." Nelson detected a note of pride in the CPO’s voice. "Nothing left for them to hurt anyone else with. Begging your pardon, Sir, but we’re about to blow the hut. Once it’s gone, the compound will be leveled. No one will be able to use it for a while. You all had better get out of the way." More quietly," What about the body inside, Sir?"
"Let it go with the hut, Chief." Nelson replied gruffly. Sharkey nodded and raised a hand, thumb up. There was brief movement and then a muffled ‘whump’, and the hut collapsed in a heap. Taking a final look around the remains of the men and the compound, the Admiral looked at his men, then at Crane, and said "Let’s get the Captain home." All the heads nodded as one and moved out of the ruins, everyone protecting and carefully taking turns carrying the stretcher…
Hours later, the party reached the waiting zodiacs at the deserted beach. To Nelson’s pleasure Will Jamison stood waiting, his lean frame looking somewhat awkward in fatigues.
The Admiral smiled wearily at his CMO. "Good to see you, Will."
"Would I be anywhere else if Lee is needing my services?"
Nelson shook his head and said quietly, "He’s in pretty gruesome shape. We found a bucket of leeches, the giant ones. They were dead but they had fed. Fed well," he swallowed, "on Lee, Will. He’s covered in bites. He’s shocky, dehydrated, and looks like he hasn’t had a thing to eat or drink since they took him. Kowalski can tell you more. I know he’s got an IV started and he gave him something for the infection. He didn’t want to start a pain med, not knowing…."
Jamison nodded at Nelson, a ‘we’ll talk later’ look on his face, and moved to the stretcher. Riley and Paterson had been the last ones to carry it and they carefully set it down on the sand, hustling to the zodiacs to get them ready to go back to the boat. In quick order the boats were readied, men and equipment aboard, and on their way to Seaview. At a predetermined spot the boat was contacted and she surfaced, ready to pick up the landing party.
Experience made quick work of getting the men back aboard, and the zodiacs secured. Within fifteen minutes Seaview slid below the surface, setting her course toward Santa Barbara.
The Captain of the boat was quickly carried to the Sick Bay. Jamison shed his fatigues, and with his scrubs beneath them was quickly able to begin to work on Crane as they laid him on the gurney in the center of the bay. With Frank Lerner, John Warner, and Kowalski to help, he began to quickly and thoroughly examine Crane, and begin to treat him. Rapidly they set two bags on an IV holder, one of blood and the other saline with several antibiotics. He quickly stripped Lee of the remains of his his clothes. Against the clean white sheets, the damage to his body was clear. His arms and chest, as well as his back and legs, were covered with bites from the leeches. Many of them were crusted over, dirty and weeping pus. His entire body was covered with a layer of dirt. Since they had the IV lines running, Jamison decided to first clean him and then continue treatment.
‘Ski, John and Frank took steel bowls and soft cloths and began to gently wash down the Captain’s body. They made several changes of water and heavy antiseptic before they were satisfied that his wounds and the rest of his body were clean. Then they began the difficult task of bandaging the wounds. They soon found that the only way to cover and treat them was to wrap the gauze around his body, holding the many pads in place. When they were finished with their task, Jamison once again stepped to the gurney. The wounds on Lee’s head were cleaned and dressed, and Jamison thanked the men and sent them to the mess for coffee and a break. He then took over again and continued to evaluate Crane’s condition.
Finally he turned to Nelson, who had been standing in the doorway the entire time, and gestured him to the opposite side of the gurney. Nelson looked at his Captain and friend, and swore. Lee’s color was almost as white as the bandages that he was wrapped in. The dark circles beneath his eyes were darker than usual; his face, with its four day growth of beard, thinner. Nelson fished in his pocket and pulled out Lee’s ring, tags and St. Christopher medal. Looking at Jamison, he asked, "Okay if I return these to their rightful place?"
Jamison nodded, and Nelson took Crane’s hand and slid the ring on his finger as Jamison gently eased the tags and medal over his head, letting them lie on his bandaged chest.
"Well, what Harry? Will he live? Yes, he will. Will he be here for a while? Yes, a long while. He and Chip will be residing here until we reach Santa Barbara, and then they go to the Med Bay. They will be there for a while. So you have the boat and the crew for a cruise without them. Several cruises, if I have my way."
"What’s his condition? How bad off is he?"
"Harry, he never comes in here with something simple. These ‘events’ are never, ever easy on him. How bad is he? Well, shock and dehydration for starters. His blood volume is down to about two thirds. Fluid levels are about the same. His body is badly damaged, at least 30 bites on his chest and back, and about an equal number on his thighs and arms. Two on his head. Two on his neck. There are deep abrasions on his wrists and elbows, and his shoulders show signs of severe muscle strain. His lower legs are having some problems with blood flow. You said he was on his knees for most of his captivity. That could explain it. Some aspirin therapy should help. All that said, I don’t have any idea where his head is… this had to be a horrific experience for him. Once I do a blood screen, and determine that he hasn't been drugged, I can place him on pain medications. There’s no way he’s going to be able to get comfortable. I’m monitoring heart and brain activity because of the blood problem, and yes, we’ve got ALL the tubes in that he hates, except for the respirator. Thankfully we don’t need that. If he should wake at all, we’ll try some water and liquids. But he is strong, and more than that, stubborn. He’ll recover, faster if he lets us help him."
Nelson smiled at the doctor. "Operative question… If he lets you…"
Jamison nodded. "We’ll see."
"And Chip? What about him?"
"Let’s just say that he and Lee will be roommates for a while. Neither wound was life threatening. The shoulder had some muscle damage and it nicked the collarbone pretty badly. He’s going to be in hellacious discomfort when he gets off the pain meds. The wound in his side, well, it tore up some tissue, grooved the liver, and left him with a fairly bad infection, but we’ve got that under control now. He’ll probably be feeling better in a week. That DOESN’T mean he’ll be out of my clutches in that time. He was awake a while and asking after Lee. We told him we were going for him, and Chip seemed to rest better after that news."
"Staying here… I know." He looked at Nelson, seeing how much these last four days had taken out of him. "Look, Admiral. Why don’t you go to your cabin, take shower, and change. By then we’ll have Lee settled in a rack next to Chip and your chair will be there."
Nelson smiled at his CMO. "You know me too well, Will. Much to well."
Jamison smiled back. "Perhaps, Harry. Perhaps. Not a bad thing, I think. At least I know you and your ‘boys’ well. So go on, now…get out of here, let me do what I have to for Lee. Neither one of them is going anywhere for a while."
Nelson returned to Sick Bay roughly 20 minutes later. He found that Jamison had put Lee into a rack that was at a right angle to Morton’s. Either man could see the other if he woke. Jamison had placed a fairly comfortable chair in the center of the racks for the Admiral.
Frank Lerner saw Nelson come in and came over to him with a mug of coffee. "Admiral, sir… coffee with the Doctor’s compliments."
Distracted, Nelson took the mug and thanked the corpsman. Frank moved to the racks, holding the senior officers and checked their vital signs, making notes on the charts that hung on the side of each rack. He turned back to the OOM, and smiled. "They’re resting well, sir. Doc’s pleased considering their conditions, and he said he thinks they’ll make a good recovery."
‘Thank you, Frank…" He sank into the chair and sat back, his eyes moving from one man to the other. Gradually, his eyes grew heavy and he slipped into a sound sleep, aided by one of Jamison’s potions.
Lee awoke slowly. He was cautious about where he was, and just how he was. He found that he was afraid to move; fearful of what tube or wire he would pop. He knew he was in Sick Bay, he could hear the familiar ping and peep of the various machines. Amazement washed over him when he realized that he was breathing on his own, the ‘instrument of torture’ nowhere to be seen. With trepidation he moved an arm, and moaned slightly as pain radiated down the entire limb. He felt like his shoulders were on fire and his arm had been used for some sort of a target. He moved the arm again, and realized it was swathed in gauze. Shifting slightly, he let out another muffled groan as protesting muscles and tissue told him his body did not want him to move it.
The groan brought Nelson to his side and he looked into the amber hazel eyes, filled with pain, and also recognition of Nelson.
"Admiral? How long…?"
"A few hours, son. How do you feel?"
"That’s something that I’d rather not be doing…feeling… you don’t really want to know."
Nelson snorted. "I’m sure."
Jamison’s head appeared in Lee’s line of vision.
"Hello, Skipper. How are you doing?"
"Can I have some water?"
Jamison nodded and moved away, coming back with a cup of water with a straw. He bent over and held it to Crane’s lips. "Have to go at it slowly, only sips at first, Lee."
Crane nodded slightly, and took only a few sips. When he was finished
Jamison took the cup away and held a gauze pad he had soaked in water to
Lee let the cold water soothe his dry lips, and then when Jamison took the pad away, he thanked the doctor. "Thanks, Jamie. That feels better… "
"That’s good, Lee. Look, I’ll be in my office if you or the Admiral need me. I’ll send you some coffee, Harry. "
He nodded to Nelson and the Admiral looked at him with some degree of skepticism. "Hold the coffee, Will. I think I’ve had enough of your special blend tonight."
Jamison grinned, "Caught me! Well at least you slept for a while. You needed the rest as much as these two." He looked at Crane. "And don’t get too complacent, Captain. You are due for a cocktail of your own shortly. I’ll send Frank with it."
Nelson moved and sat on the edge of the rack, after letting the side bar down. He looked carefully at his Captain and friend. "Well son?"
"Don’t worry about me, Admiral. I’ll be okay. I … I didn’t tell him anything."
"I wasn’t worried that you did, Lee. I know you. And in spite of what you’ve gone through, I know that you wouldn’t tell them anything."
Lee looked hard at his CO, and shivered, his voice dropping to a whisper. "I can’t tell you what it felt like… all those…things…on me… biting… sucking… I…"
"Easy, son." Nelson laid a hand on Crane’s shoulder. Crane let a small cry escape with the touch and Nelson pulled away as if he had been struck. The Captain was immediately repentant.
"No, sir… just hurts… all over… can’t get comfortable…" he moved slightly and cried out again.
Nelson stood, and called, "Jamie, Lee needs that pain-killer now!"
Frank came over to the rack with a needle and put it into the IV line. "Skipper, that’ll kick in in a minute or two…Take it easy, sir. It’ll help"
Lee nodded slightly. " Thanks Frank." He murmured. "Admiral?" he asked, addressing Nelson, "How’s Chip? Will he be alright?"
Nelson nodded. "Yes, Lee. A bit the worse for wear, but your quick thinking probably saved his life."
"Mmmm… good… glad he’s okay…." His eyes began to get heavy and his speech slurred a bit, as the pain-killer began to work. "Tired, sir….jush… tired…. Shleep… now…."
"Yes, Lee. You sleep now… we’ll talk when you’re feeling better."
"Mmm yes… later…" He slipped into sleep, Nelson waited until his breathing was deep and regular, before he got up from the rack. He saw the blue eyes watching him from the opposite rack and he moved to Chip’s bunk.
Sitting on the side of his bunk, he looked at the XO.
"Is he going to be alright, Admiral?"
"Doc seems to think so, Chip."
Morton swallowed hard, "What… what did they do to him? All I can see from here are bandages."
"I’ll let Lee tell you when he’s feeling up to it. Just know that he’s going to be okay. Just like you. Although Jamie tells me that the both of you will be enjoying his hospitality for a while."
"Well, sir. Right now, I’m not going to argue the point or the prescription. Give me a few days and I may might, but not right now."
Nelson laughed and rose. "Why don’t you try and get some sleep. I think we can all use some."
Chip nodded. "Sounds like a good idea, sir." He gave Nelson a half grin, "Have to build up my strength so I can harass Jamie for a while…"
Nelson nodded again, this time in agreement with his XO. "Yes, and you and Lee do that so very well."
Two weeks later, Med Bay, Nelson Institute of Marine Research…
Lee Crane sat in a soft chair in the sunroom on the second floor of the Institute’s small hospital. It was a bright sunny California day. Unfortunately, his mood did not reflect the day. He had just been told by Will Jamison that despite his progress healing, he was not going home anytime soon.
He and Will had had a loud and long fight, with the CMO winning the battle – for now! He would find a way to get out of here. His shoulders were better, the bites were healing, and he had talked to the doctors that Will had recommended about his experience. He was ready to go home. To his house, his bed, his kitchen, and his idea of meals. He was ready. He rose and flexed his shoulders. They were starting to feel better. Now if the bites would just stop itching….
Chip Morton walked slowly into the sunroom. His steps were slow and steady, but unaided. Jamie wanted him to use a cane but he had adamantly refused. The pain in his side from the wound was making walking slow, but he didn’t need a cane. He saw Crane and his smile brightened. He looked at the Captain. Crane was wearing his NAVY sweat shorts and slippers. The rest of his body was covered in bandages.
Crane looked at Morton. His usually fastidious Exec was wearing a robe, unbelted, pajama bottoms, and slippers. Two large white patches of bandage were visible under the robe and his left arm was in a sling to decrease the strain on the healing shoulder.
Both men shook their heads and Crane said, "Boy oh boy, are we a sorry looking pair! Me, I look like son of the mummy and you, well, you look like an old man, hobbling in here like that!"
"Well, at least between the two of us, we have one set of working parts! Did the Admiral tell you what he wanted?"
Crane lowered himself back into the chair. "Nope… just said to meet him here at 1200"
Chip levered himself into a chair facing Crane. "That’s what he told me… wonder what he’s up to?"
"Hopefully he’s not going to replace us!!"
Both officers laughed, and turned as Harriman Nelson barreled into the sunroom. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette, lit it and inhaled deeply. He leaned back against the wall and looked at his senior officers.
"It’s all arranged."
"What’s that, Admiral?" Lee asked
"I’m breaking the two of you out of here. With Will’s
"Sir? Will said that we were here for at least another week to ten days. No going home!"
"Well, you’re not going home, exactly. You are both coming home with me. Maria has been asking what she can do for you both. She and I and Will and your secretaries have gotten this plan together and you are both getting out of here and coming home with me. Jamie will come by once a day, and Frank Lerner is going to be staying at the house as well. I’ve plenty of space, you each will have your own rooms, and you won’t be here in the hospital. You’ll be almost home. "
Chip stuttered, "Admiral… I don’t …"
Lee added, "Sir, I…."
"Enough! The car will be here in an hour. Will is going over everything you’ll need with Frank, and Sharkey is bringing over clothes for the two of you. Maria will have lunch when we get there and the rooms are ready and waiting."
The two officers were speechless for the moment, then both thanked the older man, as they rose to follow orders to get ready to leave the Med Bay. They were surprised and delighted, and began to tell Nelson as the three of them left the sunroom.
As the sun was setting, the group on the deck at Nelson’s house, were enjoying the quiet moment and the brilliant sunset. Chip and Lee had settled into their rooms, and Frank had immediately forged a surprising alliance with Maria. Jamison was happy because he still could supervise the two men, but they were not in a position to harass him. And he also knew that Maria and Frank would handle them well. He looked at Nelson, who was looking exceedingly pleased with himself. "Good idea, Harry. Very good idea."
Nelson smiled. "I thought so, Will… a good idea indeed!"
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”® and its characters, indicia and designs are trademarks of Irwin Allen Properties, LLC. © Irwin Allen Properties, LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.