Doubles

 

by LaJuan

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

Joe Sands pulled up and parked as he gazed at the gates of NIMR.  He took in the amount of guards and knew this would be a more difficult job.  He watched as traffic came and went through the gate.  It looked as if only the drivers were being checked.  He had the hatching of a plan as he watched.  The plan came to fruition; he started the engine, did a U-turn, and drove back down the winding drive to a wooded area on the West Side.  Hiding his car, he waited until he saw a single car coming up the drive.  Pulling out, he allowed the driver to hit his car.  Jumping out, he took his revolver and a blanket from his back seat and slid into the back seat of the other car.  Shoving the gun into the side of the woman, he issued his orders.

"This gun is going to be pointed your way.  You're going to get us through that gate.  I'll let you live once we get through.  Your life depends on your cooperation.  I've killed many other people, so it wouldn't bother me to shoot you too."  He got down in the floorboard and threw the blanket over him, being careful to keep the muzzle in her side.  She was a good actress and was able to get them through the gate.  He instructed her to drive to the back of the complex where he made her get out and open the trunk.  He forced her to get in. He closed the lid and ran to the side of the nearest building on his way to the medical center.  It was nice that the complex had identification on each of the buildings.  The medical center was across the street from him.  He sprinted across the street and found a side entrance to the building.  Spotting a janitor's closet off the main hallway, he hid in it.  With the door slightly ajar, he was waiting until the noon lunch crowd came through before he went hunting.  Two nurses were walking by and he caught a portion of their conversation.  "Can you believe it that the man up in 310 is not Captain Crane?"

"Yeah, it's amazing.  He looks and sounds like Captain Crane, but I think I like his personality better.  At least he's a better patient and still dreamy looking."

Joe grinned, as he now knew where to look.  He waited until the traffic died down and then eased out of the closet.  Going up the back staircase, he made his way to room 310.  Looking around he pulled his revolver out and pushed the door open, only to find Kowalski coming out of the restroom with a pitcher full of ice and water.  Spotting the gun, Ski instinctually threw what was in his hands and drenched Joe with ice water.  The shock caused Joe to yell and stepped backward right down onto a chunk of ice.  Pin wheeling his arms, Joe lost his balance and hit the floor hard.  Kowalski pounced on the hapless assailant and struggled with the gun.  Watching the activities, Les punched the nurse call button attached to his bed and brought the on-duty nurse running.  Closely following her were security guards.  They had just received word a security camera had taped Joe stuffing a woman in her trunk and sprinting toward the medical center.  With all involved, Joe Sands was quickly subdued and hauled to his feet.  Morton and Jamieson were called.  Les was a silent witness and as Joe was being escorted out, he called out, "Wait!  Bring him over here."

Being used to following Captain Crane's orders, the guards complied.  Les sat up and swung his legs off the bed. Looking closely at Joe, Les quizzed, "Why did you try to kill me?"

In anger Joe replied, "Nosy librarian."

"What?"

"You just couldn't keep your nose out of my life!  I told you what would happen if you finished that article on the Mob and witness protection.  Too bad I got the wrong one this morning.  You're twins aren't you?"

"What do you mean you got the wrong one?"

Joe suddenly realized that he had witnesses to his uncontrolled temper and he clamped his mouth shut.  He started struggling to escape and was dragged away by the security guards.

Looking up as Morton and Jamieson came into the room, with a wild look on his face, Les yelled, "What does he mean he got the wrong one?  He came to kill me and he got the wrong one?  Who did he kill?"

Morton glanced over at Jamieson who nodded his head and left the room.  Turning back to Les, Chip quietly broke the news, "Les. He shot your brother, Lee this morning at the same time as your collapse here.  Lee died instantly."

"No, no!"

Jamieson slipped back in with a syringe and, with the help of Morton and Kowalski, gave the shouting man a sedative.

The next morning, Kowalski took Les out to the flying sub for his flight back to Huntington Beach and Betty Hazard.  She had agreed to meet them at the beach and was going to keep Les at her home for the weekend before taking him back to his beach home.  At the same time, Lee's body was being transported to the beach to be loaded onto his beloved flying sub for his final trip back to Santa Barbara.

Admiral Nelson was already driving on his journey back home.  He was happy for Betty and had exchanged phone numbers and mailing addresses.  He just didn't want to see Les.  He knew seeing Lee's image and knowing it wasn't him would hurt too much.  Betty had asked to be notified of time and date of the funeral, as she wanted to be there for Harriman.

Three days later, a military graveside funeral was held for Lee Crane.  The Institute and the refitting of Seaview were halted for three hours so that any personnel, who cared to, could attend. They all did.

It was held in the NIMR private cemetery overlooking the cliffs by the ocean.  The open hearse carried the American flag draped coffin to its final resting-place. The mournful sound of bagpipes accompanied the march of personnel up the hill.

Standing off to one side on a rocky ledge overlooking the gravesite was a solitary figure in an overcoat and hat.  It was an overcast day with an unseasonable cold front blowing in from the ocean.  As the wind blew, the coat swirled around the legs of the tall, slim figure.  Looking up at him, Betty's heart went out to Les.  He had insisted on going to his brother's funeral, but was aware of the uneasy looks he would endure if he stood with the crowd.  He chose to stand apart and Admiral Nelson had agreed with his reasoning, as even Nelson had difficulties looking at Les.

The eulogies were said and the priest turned the services over to the Admiral to dismiss his men.  Nelson looked over to Chip Morton and nodded.

Chip looked at the Seaview staff and squared his shoulders. "Attention!"

The men stood up straight at attention and waited.

Again Chip gave the order, "Salute!"

As a unit, the men saluted the coffin.  Admiral Nelson was the first to lower his hand, followed by the rest of the Seaview crew and other visiting military personnel.  Admiral Nelson issued the last command, "Dismissed."

As the crowd slowly walked their way back down the hill, Chip Morton watched the solitary figure move from the ledge to stand in front of the coffin.  Les stood for a few minutes and dropped a single carnation on the metal lid, before moving over to the fenced boundary of the cemetery.  Staring out at the choppy ocean waves he felt the presence of Chip as he came to stand beside Les.  There was silence between the two.

"I look out over this ocean and I share the love he had for it, yet I didn't know him.  I lived my entire life feeling like something was missing, but I couldn't find it.  That something was my brother and now he's gone and the empty feeling is back.  Why am I grieving for him when I didn't know him?" asked Les without looking at Chip.

"He was your brother, family, and even though you weren't raised with him, you have every right to grieve."

"Thanks, Chip.  I know he was a close friend to you.  Thanks for allowing me that much."  There was silence again and a fierce gust of cold wind chose that moment to blow at the two.  "I think I'm ready to go home now."  With that statement, Les turned and started down the hill.

Betty and Nelson had left with the crowd, knowing that Les and Chip needed time alone.  "You know, bringing that poster from Les's house was a stroke of genius."

"Why?"

"I put it on the wall in the guest room where he has been staying.  Something must have clicked the other morning.  He told me that he had one just like it in his bedroom at home.  Everyday he has remembered something else."

"I'm glad for you."

"He's requested to go home and his physician said he could go back to work next week on light duty.  Harry, I'm so sorry about Lee.  I know how much you miss him."

Stopping and looking closely at her he replied, "Yes.  I think you do know exactly how I feel."

Seeing Les pass her on his way to her car, she turned to Harry.  "Goodbye. I'll keep in touch." She walked rapidly away to catch up to the long strides of her assistant.

Chip walked up to the Admiral and, together, they watched as the two got into the car and drove away.

 

*******************

 

Several days later, Chip walked into his office carrying his briefcase.  While walking around the desk the briefcase brushed against a stack of file folders on the edge of the desk, sending half of the stack tumbling to the floor.  Chip placed the briefcase down as he squatted and reached to retrieve the scattered contents of the folders.  Gathering the sheets of paper, he browsed through them to determine into which folder they needed to be filed.  Halfway through his chore, a paper caught his attention.  Stopping to read it carefully, his mind processed the relevance of the words.  A look of surprise crossed his face and he pulled out a folder from the stack on the floor and began to search its contents.  Stopping to compare the one to two sheets of paper, he uttered a yelp, stood up, and raced out his office door on his way to the Admiral's office.

At the same time, Admiral Nelson was pouring himself a cup of coffee as he contemplated the overnight package on his desk.  It was marked 1 of 2.  Deciding to open it, he took out his pocketknife and cut the packing tape that was sealing the ends.  Pulling open the flaps, he peered in to find a cowbell, complete with a leather necklace, nestled within the packing foam.  An envelope was tucked around the bell.  It was addressed to Admiral Nelson.  Opening it, he pulled out a single sheet of paper and read, "This is your first package.  The next one flies in at 0800 tomorrow at the airport on a naval transport plane.  Meet it with Morton and your chief medic.  I expect you to sign for your package and next time Harriman, BELL HIM! Yours, Admiral Starke."

Nelson's shout of "He's alive!" and Morton's shout of  ďIt wasn't him!" were simultaneously uttered.

Admiral Nelson barked out a command, "Mr. Morton, report!"

"Admiral, the footprints of John Doe I and II are of identical twins, Les Wayne and his brother.  Lee Crane was of a single birth and was adopted from a different orphanage.  He truly is a doppelganger and can't be Les's brother." He handed over the papers in his hands.

"And Lee is alive and has been found."

"What?"

"Read this."  The Admiral passed Starke's note over to Chip.  "That was delivered this morning in this package marked 1 of 2.  Here's what's in it."  He took out the cowbell and placed it in the middle of his desk.

"Where has he been? What happened?"

"I don't know, but let's find out."  Punching his intercom, he gave orders to his secretary to find Admiral Starke for him in Washington, D. C.  While Morton got a cup of coffee from the pot on the side table, Admiral Nelson sat back in his chair and stared at the cowbell.

Minutes later, his videophone came alive with Admiral Starke's image.  "So Nelson, I see you received my package."

"Yes, I'm calling about tomorrow's package.  Where did you find him and is he okay?"

"Yes Harriman, your boy is okay, with a broken wing and banged up some, but he'll live to give you more gray hairs.  As to where? Mexico."

"Mexico!  How did he get down there and how did you find him?"

"My, my.  You sure are full of questions, my friend."

"Jiggs!"

"Okay.  One of my operatives in Mexico caught wind that there was a gringo being held against his will.  Being the nosy bugger that he is, and lucky for your boy, he went hunting.  He and a few of his hired men found Lee drugged and trussed up tight.  Of course, he had to convince Lee's captors to relinquish their hold on him.  Seems my operative and Lee go way back on some of their missions and he felt he owed Lee for some past rescuing of his hide, so he was ready to move mountains to get Lee out."

"But how did he get down there and why was he taken?"

"As to how he got to Mexico, you'll have to ask him.  As to why he was taken, it's pure and simple - industrial espionage."

"What?"

"Yes, seems you and Crane have been working on a gyroscope controlled top."

"It was an offshoot of some other research.  It's not worth anything.  We were going to give them to the staff's kids at Christmas."

"Harriman, acquire yourself some children and you'll find out the toy industry is a booming business.  Some of the ones out there are very serious about it, serious enough to kidnap, drug and try to beat the information out of a person.

While you're acquiring children, acquire some means to track your boys when they leave NIMR, with or without their knowledge.  Those heads are too valuable to lose.  Of course, the new rumor is that you've gone into the cloning business.    Just whom did you bury last week?  See you."  Starke reached out and severed the connection to his videophone leaving Nelson gazing at a blank screen.

Turning toward Morton, the Admiral repeated the question, "Just whom did we bury?'

"Les's brother."

"Chip, can you find out who he was?"

"I'll get right on it, Admiral."

"Chip? Whatís a doppelganger?"

"Lee and I used to tease each other about it.  Somewhere in this world we all have an exact duplicate Ė a doppelganger."

"Ah.  Lesís brother?"

"Iím on my way, Sir." He got up, retrieved his papers and left while the Admiral was ringing the cowbell.

The next morning Admiral Nelson, Commander Morton and Doctor Jamieson waited as the Navy plane taxied and slowly came to a stop.  Two sailors came off of the transport and approached the group.

"Admiral Nelson?"

"Yes."

Producing a clipboard and pen, the sailor requested, "Sign here, sir.  Compliments of Admiral Starke."  

With his eyes on the transport, Nelson scrawled his signature.

Turning back to the plane, the sailor yelled, "Bring him out."

 

 

 

Chapter Eight
Chapter One
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
Main Page