Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter 25

 

 

They only had to wait a moment before the agent contacted them again.  “The stewardess said that . . . what did you say his name was?”

“Na’alu,” Lee said.

“Yeah, anyway, he agreed to let the leader come on board--alone.”

“Negative,” Lee immediately shot back.  “He knows me.  I’m coming, too.”

“Now wait a minute!” the admiral and Doc said at the same time.

“Lee, please have the person you are talking to tell Na’alu that the leader must be escorted,” La’ani said.

“Escorted?” Crane asked, but he began talking to the tower again.  “His leader says to convey to Na’alu that there must be an escort of at least one person.  That is the only way the leader will come aboard.”

“Captain, don’t you think you need to get some input on this decision?” Nelson asked him caustically. 

“Sorry, Admiral,” Lee said, but he was listening more intently to the voice from the tower. 

“He said that would be agreeable,” the agent told them.  “Only no weapons.”

“Don’t have to worry about that,” Lee muttered under his breath, turning off his mike.  He heard the admiral doing the same.

“Lee, I am not in favor of this.  I feel that I should be the one to escort La’ani,” Nelson said. 

“That isn’t possible, Admiral Nelson,” La’ani pointed out.  “The only thing Na’alu knows about you is what Mendon and the leader Bomar have told him.”

The admiral groaned softly.  “Just don’t take any chances.”  Then he paused and sighed in exasperation.  “Well, just a bit too late for that,” he muttered.  “All I ask is if the situation gets dicey, get the hell out of there,” he finally said. 

Sharkey, who had been totally silent throughout the exchange, got up and undogged the hatch.  Lee unbuckled his seat belt and stood up.  He slowly walked to and then stepped through the hatch.  La’ani followed and then took his arm in hers.

“Good luck, Skipper; Miss La’ani,” Sharkey said from the doorway. 

“Lee,” the admiral said, laying his hand on the captain’s shoulder.  Crane turned toward him.  “I still don’t like this.  I mean….”

Lee smiled softly.  “Admiral, I appreciate your concern, but it has to be me.  Na’alu knows me and I think Mendon has used him.  I don’t think he’s really a devious person, or a truly evil person, unlike his bosses.”  Now Lee paused, remembering his dream.  “And if this prevents just one person dying….”

The admiral took a deep breath.  “I know.  Good luck and be careful.”

La’ani’s arm was holding Lee’s now as though he was escorting her to the prom.  Nodding appreciatively, the captain turned back toward the jet and they began their journey.

“There is something else you need to know about Na’alu,” La’ani said softly, as they walked toward the stairs leading up into the jetliner.  It was apparent by her proximity that she was in her native dress, the long sarong-like lava-lava.

“Besides the fact that he is technically a terrorist?” Lee interjected.

“Yes.  He doesn’t think the way we do.  He’s….”

“Slow?” Lee ventured.  His thoughts had come a long way since the days of his captivity and pain.  He had come to this conclusion when he had been able to think straight on the Seaview.   “As in mildly retarded?” 

“You knew?”

“Guessed.  I was too angry and sick to think of it while I was on Hikeru, but was able to see it later.”

“Yes, he is.  He was totally devoted to my aunt, who was devoted to her husband, Bomar,” La’ani explained. 

“And Na’alu continued his over-faithful service after the queen died,” Lee finished. 

“Yes.”

“But why would he take orders from Mendon?” Lee asked. 

“If Mendon told him the leader wanted it, he would most likely believe him,” La’ani pointed out. 

“Yeah, exactly,” Lee said.  “Someone mentioned that on the beach, didn’t they?”  His mind felt mired in sand.  No morning coffee, jet lag.  Get a grip, Crane! he admonished himself.  His thinking had to focus. 

“Stairs, Lee,” La’ani warned him.

This was it, he thought as his toe touched the first step.  The climb seemed interminable and by the time they were halfway up, he was already breathing heavily.   Whether from exhaustion or fear, he didn’t know, but Lee realized that he had to put all of that out of his mind.  He needed to focus only on the task ahead.  They finally reached the top of the stairs.  La’ani entered the aft hatch first, Lee right behind her. 

“You are the negotiating team we were promised?” a woman’s voice asked with a sarcastic snort. 

“You are the stewardess?” Lee returned, his voice low.  He chose to ignore the sarcasm in her voice.

“Yes. Vickie Bordeaux,” she said.  “I hope you two weren’t planning on playing on his sympathies, or just playing around, period.  There are over a hundred and fifty people on this plane and if that man is carrying what we’ve been told he’s carrying, then….”

“I am Captain Lee Crane.  This is La’ani Rana’oanui, the new queen of Hikeru, the same place the hijacker is from.  And believe me, we aren’t playing games,” Lee told her tersely.  “Now we need to go forward and see if we can resolve this situation.”

They had not gone more than a few feet when Na’alu began shouting in his own language.

“Let me speak to him and try to calm him, Lee,” La’ani said over her shoulder. 

He had no argument.  They moved slowly forward, his hand on her shoulder even as she spoke to Na’alu in the Polynesian language that had developed on the island of their birth.  Lee heard the mutterings and murmurs of fear and annoyance even as he tried to understand the tenor of Na’alu’s voice.  The Polynesian continued to sound angry and disbelieving.   La’ani stopped walking and so did Lee.  Suddenly there was silence.  Lee wasn’t sure what was going on, but the lack of dialogue made him apprehensive.  “Na’alu, whether you believe Queen La’ani or not, I would like you to listen to what I have to say, weigh my words in your mind and then decide what you want to do,” he began.   La’ani stayed quiet, only moving so that she was behind him in the narrow aisle, her hand on his arm. 

“The leader said you came to kill him,” Na’alu growled ominously. 

“Think about it, Na’alu.  If I came to your island on my own, where was my boat?  Where was my plane?”  There was silence and Lee continued.  “I was brought to Hikeru because your leader wanted something from me.  And he used Mendon to try and force it from me.”  Crane felt the encouragement of La’ani’s hand squeezing lightly on his forearm so he continued.  “Na’alu, it doesn’t matter if you trust me or like me.  What really matters is that you saw my suffering.  You saw what Mendon did to me.  You saw how sick I was.  Is that what you want to happen to these people?”  He paused.  The murmuring grew louder, the fear more palpable.  His voice softened, growing huskier with emotion.  “I heard babies when I boarded.  I hear children and women in these seats. Do you truly want them as sick as I was?”  Again he paused.

“You got better.”

“I had the antidote,” Lee said tersely.  “And how much better do I look for it,” he added, still trying to catch his breath from the climb.  Now was the time that he hoped he looked as bad as Doc and the others kept telling him he still was.

La’ani began speaking to Na’alu in her own language again.  The Hikeruan responded.  They continued for a few minutes.  Lee waited, heartened by the fact that Na’alu didn’t sound as angry as he had earlier. 

“La’ani said you almost died,” he said to Lee.

“I still don’t feel all that great, but yeah, I did.  Don’t do this to these people.  You now have a leader who cares a great deal for you.  She came all the way here to save you.”  He felt La’ani move in front of him again.  “Mendon planned on letting you die with everyone else if you opened the case.”

“No, gave me medicine to keep sickness away,” Na’alu protested.

Lee laughed bitterly.  “He didn’t have time to do more than make the contagion worse.  He didn’t have time for an antidote, unless he did one just for himself.  I can promise you this, Na’alu.  He tricked you.  He doesn’t give a damn about you, any more than he did about me or La’ani or anyone else.”  There was a brief silence and then more conversation between Na’alu and La’ani.  Suddenly, Lee felt a hard boxy-shaped object against his chest. 

“It’s the briefcase, Lee.  Take it,” La’ani told him.

With her help, he did just that, cradling it beneath his good arm.  “Where’s Ms. Bordeaux?” he asked. 

“Here, Captain,” came the voice from aft.  Gone was the sarcastic disbelief. 

“Tell the tower that the situation is under control and we are coming out.  Ask that Admiral Nelson and Commander Jamieson meet us.”

“Lee, you go first and let me lead Na’alu out,” La’ani said quietly, then she added.  “What will they do to him?”

“Let’s get out first and then we’ll negotiate that one,” Lee murmured over his shoulder.  The soft muttering of passengers’ fear changed to expressions of happiness and as the stewardess directed him to the stairs, Lee heard cheers erupt behind them.  He shut them out in his efforts to make it out of the plane with his deadly package intact.

“My apologies for doubting,” Bordeaux said from just in front of him.  “And good luck, Captain.”

“Thanks,” Crane said, feeling totally drained. 

“You are right in front of the aft hatch, sir,” she added.

He nodded and then stopped at the top of the stairs.  He wouldn’t be able to do it--descend; not hanging on to the case with his only good arm. Unable to see.  “Admiral?”

“Right here, Lee.”

“Here’s the contagion.  Take it, please,” Crane said.  He felt the case taken from under his arm. 

“Jamie, get this to the Institute.  I’ll be there in a little while to examine it,” the admiral instructed the CMO, who was apparently just behind him. 

Lee continued to stand at the top of the stairs.  It was over.  His knees felt shaky; he still couldn’t begin the descent.  He suddenly felt a hand grip his left wrist.  “Lee, let me help you down,” the admiral said, his voice low and gentle. 

This time there was no argument.  With the admiral to steady him, Crane descended to the tarmac. “The case may have been rigged to release when it was opened.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Lee.”

Crane heard men rushing toward the plane.   “The Hikeruan can be questioned at NIMR,” Nelson declared.   There was some argument.  Lee assumed from FBI or similar agents.   “The rest of us will be there shortly,” the admiral continued.

Cars pulled up and then most of them left.  “Let’s go, Lee.”  The hand at his elbow was insistent, but Crane resisted. 

“It was too easy.”

“What?”  But Nelson stopped, too.   A car engine purred next to them. 

“It was too damned easy!” Lee declared.  “Mendon had to know Na’alu’s disposition.  He had to know he’d cave to the slightest pressure.  Na’alu was a diversion!  Mendon came in on another flight from Honolulu.  He’s in the terminal.”

“The FBI is on the look-out for Mendon.  We’ve done all we can do here.  It’s time to go to the Institute.”

“The terminal, Admiral,” Lee said quietly.  It was like a chain dragging him there.  Or maybe that was too harsh a term.  It was something compelling him to complete this ‘mission.’  “I want to go to the terminal,” he insisted. 

“This time I have to refuse,” Nelson said.  “The terminal is being evacuated anyway.”

“Admiral, he’s in there somewhere.”  And he knew that what he was saying was fact, not supposition or wishful thinking.  It was FACT.  “The devil’s in there,” he said more softly, but no less insistent.  “Please.  The terminal.”  He felt horror creeping over him.  Cold, freezing, unremitting horror.  He had to go to the terminal, with or without help.  Lee turned and knew he was facing his destination.  He was facing death and felt like someone sleep walking toward it.

“Lee,” the admiral hissed near his ear.  “Let the authorities take care of it.” 

Crane shook off Nelson’s hand and walked around the waiting car.  Another car screeched to a halt nearby.  He ignored it and continued walking.

Footsteps sounded behind him.  “Dammit, Lee, no more.  You’ve done enough,” Nelson said, his voice tight with anxiety. 

Lee kept walking, his steps were as though he could see clearly.  The admiral walked beside him.  “Doc will have my hide,” he growled, but he stayed by Lee’s side and didn’t try to stop him. By the sounds around them, Lee knew they were approaching the building.  The admiral had again taken his elbow.  They walked through a door and up a short flight of stairs. 

The noises of an almost empty terminal confused him.  There were still people, but not the bustling, pushing masses that usually passed through the airport.  A message crackled over the loud speaker, directing people out of the building.  He wondered why that hadn’t already happened, but whatever, his mind dismissed.  What am I looking for?  How did he expect to find a literal needle in a haystack—especially when he couldn’t see that needle?   Lee stopped, his mind suddenly blank.  He stepped from one foot to the other, angry and exasperated.  Mendon was here!  Lee knew he had been led here for a purpose.  Why leave him dangling now? 

Someone bumped into him.  “Oh, sorry,” a masculine voice said.  “Just trying to follow the map to the car rental and wasn’t paying attention.”

Car rental? Lee thought.  Then like a blow, it hit him.  Mendon would drive to Santa Barbara, then release the contagion.  He saw it clearly as though in a film on a screen.  Mendon’s case contained death and he would hand deliver it to the Institute and anyone else nearby.  And it would continue to spread death.  

 

 

Chapter 26
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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