Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Crane stepped off the plane and walked the long concourse to the baggage area.  Small shops along the way sold sweatshirts and ski caps, while others tried to entice with Indian made souvenirs, including some very expensive jewelry.  Jeff Morris wouldn’t have blinked twice at some of the prices, but Lee Crane did.  As he rode the escalator down he noticed numerous people with signs, most of them for returning missionaries, duplicating some he had seen at the gates.  He perused them casually and then did a double take.  He had missed the sign with his cover’s name on it the first time.  Luckily he was still on the escalator and his faux paux wasn’t noticed.   When he reached the bottom, he strode toward the short, rather large-waisted man.  

“You Jeffrey Morris?” the man asked.

“Yes,” Lee responded.  “And you are….”

“Michael Jensen,” came the response.  “I have a car waiting as soon as you pick up your baggage.”  He glanced at Lee’s briefcase.  “The papers?”

Lee raised an eyebrow.  “Of course, Mr. Jensen.  Finished and ready to be sent to your development department.”

Jensen almost beamed.  “Terrific!”  

The ride up the canyon was probably the most picturesque Lee had ever seen.  The sun rose in front of them as they passed through Emigration Canyon, painting the snow-covered mountaintops in bright gold.  As the sun rose, the bright glare from the snow became almost blinding.  Jensen chuckled as Lee gaped at the steep, white mountains that seemed to press in on them.   “Impressive, aren’t they?” 

“Yes,” Lee had to admit. 

After he had checked into his hotel room, he pulled on his warmest jacket and headed out the door.  Jensen’s boss, Martin Crenshaw, wouldn’t be contacting him until just before dinner, and Lee wanted to get the most out of his stay here.  He supposed, considering what he was here for, he should be more careful and not wander, but somehow, he didn’t think anyone would try to make a move on him until they thought he had something they needed.  It was an ugly thought, one that kept warring with the assurances that the intelligence agency had everything under control, as they had asserted in his briefing papers.  If it was information as important as the admiral had alluded to, the ONI, FBI and every other intelligence acronym would be falling all over themselves trying to keep the security foolproof.  But still….

Enjoy, he told himself.  So he did just that.  He did take a little time to work out in the hotel gym and then read the background notes on the company he was delivering Morris’s specifications to.  Hopefully, Crenshaw wouldn’t ask anything too technical.  

Crenshaw didn’t.  Most of the evening was spent listening to the man’s glowing praise of the plans and what they would do for his company’s business.  Lee was most happy to retire for the night.  It had been a long day, pleasant for the most part, but he had not slept well the night before.  As he was unlocking his door, a young college-aged boy in hotel uniform strode up to him and handed him a packet.  “This came for you while you were at dinner, sir,” he said. 

Lee thanked him with a five-dollar bill and went into the room, shutting the door quietly.  He inspected the room, just to be on the safe side and then slipped out of his shoes and collapsed on the bed.  The packet contained information on his next stop.  Fly out the next afternoon to Indianapolis and take a day to prepare for a 5 K race to be run the day after.  Great, he thought.  They didn’t start easy, did they?  With that, Lee undressed and crawled into bed.   He spent part of the next morning running the length of Park City, puffing like a steam engine after only a mile.  He could have sworn that he saw several people shake their heads. 

Lee found it easier to run in the park near his hotel in Indianapolis and then realized that the altitude had to have had some part to play in his quick loss of stamina in Utah.   The only bad thing was the increase in humidity, but all in all, he didn’t do that badly in the race.  He wasn’t first, but certainly wasn’t last.  

The next nine days were endless rounds of flying and racing.  Amsterdam, Salzburg, Tokyo, New Delhi.  Lee never came in less than tenth, although he gained stamina as well as strength.  He had to; otherwise, he’d be dead.  Finally, after his twelfth place finish in the Delhi 10 K, he spent a day just resting in his hotel room wondering where the next race was.  He should have word by now.  His thoughts suddenly jolted.  Race?  When was this mysterious informant going to give him the information that was so vitally needed?  If nothing else, he thought caustically, he was sick to death of high-energy drinks.  His musings were disturbed by a knock at his door. 

Warily, he got up.  There was a tingling on the back of his neck that he hadn’t experienced before and Lee felt this was the contact he had been waiting these two long weeks for.  The knock came again.  “Who is it?” he asked. 

“Mister Morris, I am Sankar Ajaamil,” came the answer.  “Please let me in.  I have information that will help you in your quest to win races.”

Lee thought a moment, then realized that friend or foe, he had to let the Indian in.   He opened the door a crack, gazed at the slender, dark-eyed man bowing slightly toward him and then motioned him in.  He shut the door and bolted it behind him.  Ajaamil walked toward the balcony, closed the narrow doors.  Then he checked the rest of the room.  Finally, he pulled out a device that Lee recognized as a scrambler.  It would scramble signals into any kind of bug that might have been planted in his room.   Ajaamil sat on the narrow bed and looked up at Lee.  Without saying a word, the captain pulled up a wicker chair and sat facing the Indian.  “So what is this information?” he asked bluntly. 

Also without saying anything, Ajaamil pulled out a small envelope.  In it were several business cards and an identification card with Ajaamil’s picture on it.  The ID was in Sanskrit and Lee supposed it to be the equivalent of a driver’s license.  Several of the business cards were as well, but one made him do a double take.  Not because of what it advertised, but because of the name and signature on the back.  NIMR and the admiral’s signature.  “Captain Crane, I have been sent to give you your next contact information.”

“Where did you get this?” Lee asked, holding the business card up.  He ignored the man’s reference to his real name.  It had been hard to keep from doing a double take, he had so gotten used to being called Morris. 

Ajaamil chuckled.  “From a very nice lady at your admiral’s institute, a secretary named Linda.”  At Lee’s non-response, he went on.  “Very pretty, in a Western sort of way, a blonde, blue-eyed woman, about in her mid-twenties.  She said that you two had been on several dates, but she had decided that the Seaview was too hard a lady to compete with.”

Lee felt his cheeks growing warm.  He remembered the conversation very well.  Half of their dates had been curtailed by calls to return to the sub; some secret mission or something similar, to the point that Linda had said they could be friends, but that was it.  He sighed, gazed meaningfully at Ajaamil and considered.  Before his mind could conjure up some unpleasant alternatives to the fact that this man had the correct information from the correct source, the Indian continued.

“I realize that all of this could have come from other sources, but perhaps, this might help.”  Ajaamil leaned closer.  “Admiral Nelson asked me to remind you that Farrell’s death was not your fault.  He said to also remember that in the future as well.”

Lee stifled a gasp.  The reference to an incident where a crewmember had been shot by a firing squad because Lee had refused to make a propaganda statement had eaten at him for months.  But he had never told a soul about his feelings until he had confided in the admiral.  But what did he mean in the last statement?  Lee wasn’t going to even go there.  The last statement as well as the first was something Admiral Nelson would say.   He leaned back.  “Okay, your credibility just shot up a hundred fold, Mr. Ajaamil.  What do I need to do now?”

“Take this and then gather your things and follow me,” came the terse comment as the Indian handed him a small packet.    Inside was a ticket to Katmandu and small piece of paper with an old-fashioned wax seal.   The symbol looked a bit familiar, but he couldn’t place it right away.  “That is your means of getting into a place that the tourists usually have no access to.  You and a few others have been awarded a great honor,” Ajaamil explained quietly.  “I will accompany you at least part of the way.”  Lee nodded, continuing to study the wax embossed card.  “Come, we do not have much time.”

Crane quickly got up, threw the few things not already in the suitcase on top of his other clothes.  He gathered up his personal items, tossed them in and shut the lid.  Not bothering to change, he just slid on and tied the running shoes that were definitely showing signs of wear.  He could change to suit the different climate later.   He picked up the suitcase and looked at Ajaamil.  “Ready.”

The Indian smiled.  “I was told that you waste no time.  Good.  Let us keep our appointment with your spiritual advisor.”

Lee started to say something, but stopped.  Spiritual advisor?  Well, it would fit.  Katmandu, Nepal, the exiled Dalai Lama.  Interesting.

 

                             ==========================

 

“Coded message, Admiral,” Linda said as she handed Nelson a small piece of paper. 

With a nod, he took it and scanned the contents.  It was short and to the point.  Lee was on his way to his next contact.  There were several symbols at the bottom as there had been on all the other messages, but these were in slightly different order.  This time the contact was Mendez.  About time, he thought.  Now he might be able to get this information and compare notes.  At the same time, he could put to rest the anxiety that threatened to give him ulcers.  Lee would be safely back on the Seaview.    He glanced out of the window of his office at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research and saw the bay where the submarine was currently at rest. 

“Is everything all right, Admiral?” Linda asked.  She was a petite blonde, very capable secretary, who was quickly developing a talent for some of the covert activities that his personal secretary, Angie, had been doing for several years. 

Nelson started.  “Oh, uh, yes.  Everything seems to be going just as planned.” 

“Good,” she said with a slight sigh of relief.   She hesitated.  “I’m sorry.  I know I shouldn’t be so nosy, but I have been worried about the captain.”

“We all have, Linda.  Everything will be all right.  I’m sure of it.”    She smiled softly.  Her eyes seemed overly bright, and the admiral knew that she had feelings slightly more than co-worker’s concerns.   He also knew that she was supposed to be much more in the dark about all this than he was, but she had the secretary’s innate understanding of things going on around her, so Nelson wasn’t the least bit surprised that she showed more knowledge than she should have.  “I will let you know of any new developments,” he added.   “At least those I can tell you.”

Thank you, sir,” she said and then started toward her office.  

“Linda,” Nelson called after her.

“Yes, Admiral?”

“Put out a discreet call to the crew to return to the Seaview,” he said.

“Yes, Admiral.”

Nelson sat pondering for a few minutes and then got up, filling his briefcase with the papers he would need on the voyage.   Taking his hat from the corner of his desk, he put it on and stepped out of his office.  Soon he was walking through the concourse that led directly to the Seaview.  A sailor saluted and he cursorily returned it.  Chief Sharkey was pacing the control room.  “Don’t you ever take leave?” Harriman asked.

Sharkey smiled.  “Yes, sir, I do, but this time I came back early.  Don’t know why, just seemed the time to return.”

“Well, your intuition was correct.  There is a discreet call going out to the crew.  We’ll be heading to sea as soon as everyone is on board,” Nelson said amiably.  

“As soon as a few of the men are back, we’ll run checks, Admiral.”

“Good.  That will save time.”   With no further comment, Nelson headed for his cabin, where he went over, probably for the thousandth time, his notes, formulae and diagrams of his latest project.   Finally, he headed toward the galley, where he quickly heated an individual sized casserole and sat and ate it, washing it down with a cup of instant coffee. 

Within a day and a half, the crew had returned.  Within two days, the Seaview was headed west, slicing through the Pacific with all the grace of a dolphin. 

 

                     ===================================

 

As the turbo-prop shuttle plane droned north toward Nepal, Crane tried to nap, but was too keyed up to do more than doze.  He knew that this was the final contact and he also knew that this was where the real danger began.  For all of the subterfuge, contacts, cover stories, Lee wondered again if it was going to be enough.  Then Lee remembered the admiral asking that he trust him.  So he would.  At the very least, he would meet this contact and ask him about safeguards.  Then, if he wasn’t satisfied, Lee would refuse to take the information.  As ludicrous as that sounded after these past two weeks, he would rather go home empty-handed than to hand over important specifications to an enemy power. 

“The advisor will help you with your ambitions,” Ajaamil told him enigmatically.   There were a few others onboard and even if there hadn’t been, the need for discretion always existed. 

“Hope so,” Lee countered.  “I’m ready to win this one and head back home.”

Ajaamil smiled.  “The girl, Linda.  She seemed very nice.  Why did you stop . . . uh, what is the word?”

“Dating?”

“Yes, that is the word.”

“Work.”  Lee snorted, remembering Linda’s love/hate relationship with what he did for the ONI.

“My work has increased tensions among my relatives,” Ajaamil commented. 

“Some work does that.  I’m just not ready to settle down yet,” Lee replied.   With that, he looked out the window toward the steadily rising mountains.  They made the mountains of the Wasatch Front look like foothills.  They were magnificent.  He could well understand why many of those who lived in their shadow felt they were holy.  As the plane gained altitude, Lee felt a bit of cold seeping into the cabin.  Finally a voice, speaking one of the local languages, began giving information. 

“They are telling us that it will be only twenty minutes before we land.  It is suggested that we put on our coats if we have not done so,” Ajaamil translated for Lee.  The captain was only too happy to oblige.  There was beginning to be a biting edge to the encroaching cold.  It didn’t help that this was not summertime; it was the end of winter. 

The droning changed note and they heard the sound of the landing gear lowering.  Lee looked out the window again and saw a mountaintop partially wreathed in clouds. He was surprised to see a fairly good-sized airport, near an equally good-sized city. 

“This is Katmandu, Mr. Morris.” 

“Very impressive….”

“After we disembark, we will be taking a taxi into Bhaktapur, which is a short distance to the east from Katmandu, a little further into the mountains,” Ajaamil explained.  “Your advisor is in Bhaktapur.”

“Oh,” was all Lee could think of to say.    Within minutes the plane had landed and as he stepped out onto the tarmac, Lee pulled the hood of his parka down over his face as much as he could against the biting wind blowing down from the mountain peaks above him. 

 

 

Chapter Three
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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