Loloa Fononga:
The Long Journey

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

 

 

As he examined the young woman, Lee knew it was a bad wound.  He unbuttoned her jacket to get a better appraisal of just where it was.  There was blood everywhere.    She had an upper abdominal wound and appeared to already be in shock.  Hartsfield sped out of the parking a garage as Lee pulled aside her uniform jacket and applied pressure to her wound.  She moaned but didn’t awaken. 

“Captain?”  It was Carr.  

“Where the hell were you during all this?  Call an ambulance!” Lee snapped without turning.

“An ambulance is already on its way,” Carr said, a mixture of worry and testiness in his voice.  “Sorry, Commander.  But I was calling for help, and trying to make my way here without getting killed for my efforts.  That last shoot-out was only a couple, maybe three minutes long.”  Carr was now next to him.

A mere few minutes?  It had seemed an hour.   “Sorry.”  With his free hand, Lee handed the guard his gun.  “Hartsfield’s is somewhere nearby.”

“Have it, sir.  What can I do?”

For a few seconds Lee didn’t know what to say.  He had just let his mother’s, possibly his best friend’s killer loose and there had been nothing else he could do.  Lee felt equal measures of guilt and anger flow through him and then flare out.  Now he only felt empty.  “Just direct the EMT’s here, Carr,” he said woodenly. 

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you have a first aide kit?” Lee asked, reconsidering.

“Yes, sir, I do.”

“I might need a bandage to help stop the flow of blood.”

“I’ll get it right away, Captain.”  Carr dashed away even as Lee began hearing sirens in the distance.  Before the guard could make it back with the kit, a paramedic squad car drove into the parking garage.  An ambulance moaned nearby. 

Crane heard Carr directing the EMT’s to his position.  He glanced over his shoulder and called to the paramedics.  “She’s bleeding badly; abdominal wound!”

One of the men knelt by his side.  He saw what Lee was doing and brought his equipment case closer.  His intense blue eyes met Lee’s.   The man was about his age, sandy haired.  Lee was reminded slightly of Riley.   “Can you maintain pressure for a moment until we get communications set up?” the paramedic asked.

“Yes, of course,” Lee replied.  In less than a minute, though, they took over, motioning him aside.  The ambulance drivers joined the EMT’s and Lee backed away, his leg sending him renewed messages of discomfort.  He looked down and saw a bloodstain down the inside of his left leg. 

One of the ambulance drivers must have seen the same thing as he approached.   “Sir, are you hurt?” 

“No, just grazed me,” Lee replied.  He remembered Chip.  “I’m okay.  I need to go inside and check on my friend.”

“If you were shot, even a minor wound can be dangerous, sir.”

“No, I’m fine.  I’ll let my doctor check me out.”  He turned to leave.

“Sir, we have to report and examine anything like that,” the driver told him, gently laying a hand on his arm to stop his exit. 

“Were there injuries inside?” Lee asked, knowing he wasn’t going to win this argument.  The police were more than likely only a minute or two away. 

“Yes, sir,” the driver told him.

“Who?”

“We’re not at liberty to say, even if we knew.  Another ambulance and squad responded to that incident.”  He motioned toward the back of the ambulance.  If you can, sit down here and I’ll check you out.” 

As he followed the young driver’s instructions, Lee noticed just how much blood he had on him.  Most of it was the woman’s.  By this time, sirens were echoing everywhere.  He sighed and leaned against the back of the ambulance.   When a second flashing light danced on the walls and ceiling of the garage, Lee realized that the police had arrived.  A policeman approached him and began asking questions.  He was still hearing sirens in the background.  “Officer, my friend—my executive officer was backing me up inside.  I think he was hurt.  I need to find out how he is.”

The cop, his nameplate said Blackwell, nodded indulgently, examining the insignia on his collar.  “Commander, you’ll find out at the hospital because if he’s been injured, you’ll both be in the same emergency room. While these guys work on you, can you give me some information?”

Lee nodded and proceeded to answer questions about who he was, who had shot him, background information.  He only gave the bare minimum.  ONI would get the entirety of his information.  Lee noticed another policeman questioning Carr.  Finally the ambulance driver who had been working on him declared him ready for transport.  Lee started to get up. 

“Sir, we don’t want you on that leg until a doctor can treat you.”

Lee looked at him in disbelief.  It hurt, but it wasn’t that bad.  He could see that when he wasn’t answering the policeman’s questions.  However, he realized that the quickest way to the hospital to find out about Chip was to cooperate.  The ensign was loaded first and then they helped him on a gurney even as he thought how ironic it was that he had slogged through jungles and over mountains with much worse.

When they had arrived and the injured woman had been carried in, Lee began his inquiries.  He was brushed off.  When they put him in an examination room, he asked again.  Again he was brushed off.  His impatience grew and he began to get up when an intern arrived to look him over.  “I want to know if a Commander Charles Morton was brought in here from the federal building shooting. 

“Sir, you know I can’t tell you that.”

Lee had had enough.  “Commander Morton is not just a friend.  I am his commanding officer,” he said, his voice becoming cold in his anger.  “He’s the XO of my sub.  What do you mean you can’t tell me?”

The intern blinked in surprise and then nodded.  “Captain, I’ll inquire and let you know if the doctor on call says I can give you the information you want,” he said, his voice understanding.  He was a tall, light brown-haired young man, with intense gray-green eyes.   “I promise.”

Lee felt his anger fade somewhat into a slight sense of guilt at having snapped at someone who was only following orders.

The intern worked quickly and efficiently.  “Only a flesh wound, Captain.  I’ll put a new bandage on it, then a nurse will give you an antibiotic and instructions for your care.”  

“Thanks,” Lee said, gratefully. 

“You were very lucky.  In and out, no large arteries, no bone,” the young man said as he finished dressing Lee’s wound. 

“Yeah,” Lee said caustically.  “You should have seen the guy that got away.”  He felt a slight satisfaction that Hartsfield was going to be recovering from his injury a lot longer than he was from his.  It had appeared, at quick glance, that the enemy agent’s wrist had taken a direct hit.  Maybe there would have been enough blood loss that his body would be found somewhere. 

“He was badly hurt?” the young man asked. 

Crane couldn’t help it; he smirked.  “Let’s put it this way, if he’s left-handed, he’s in big trouble.”

“You tell the police that?”

Lee nodded.  The doctor finished bandaging him and started to leave.  “My exec,” Lee reminded him. 

The young man paused and half-turned back.  “I haven’t forgotten Commander Morton, sir.  I’ll get word back to you as soon as I can.  Your little shoot-out at the ONI corral has put us over the top.”

Lee was alone for only a moment before a petite, dark-skinned nurse came in, a needle in one hand, paperwork in the other.   She administered the shot and then went through the discharge instructions.  He only half listened. 

“Do you understand the instructions, sir?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. 

“Do you have someone to drive you home?”

“My partner’s probably in one of your other exam rooms and my home’s in Santa Barbara, California,” he replied, feeling frustrated again. 

She smiled patiently.  “Yes, sir.  I was told you were inquiring about Commander Morton.”

Anger was replaced by anxiety.  “And?” he asked, trying to ease off the exam table.  Her hand, though small, was very firm. 

“Uh, uh, sailor.  The only way you’re getting off here is with crutches.”

Lee didn’t argue.  He knew it would be useless.  “Chip, er, Commander Morton?” he prompted. 

“He has a chest wound.”  At Lee’s alarmed look, she quickly continued.  “High, missed the lungs and heart.  They are working on him in OR right now.  He’ll be staying here for at least a few days.”

“Thanks for telling me.  Could you get me a pair of crutches, please?”

“That’s better, Captain.  You wait here and I’ll get you a pair.  By the way, where are you staying?”

“Here, until I know Mr. Morton is out of the woods,” Lee answered quickly.

She smiled and shook her head, then left the small room.  When she came back, she had a look on her face that told Crane that there was something else she knew that he didn’t.  “You won’t be alone in that waiting room, Captain.”  She handed him the crutches.  “I think I got the adjustment right but check and see.”

She held them steady while he eased down to the floor.  He looked up and nodded.  “Perfect, ma’am.”  He took several steps to show his capability and then looked up to see her standing by the curtain, her arms folded over her chest.  Her eyes held a touch of humor in them and he wondered if the doctors had contacted Doc about him.  He was grateful that she hadn’t given him too much of a hard time.  With everything that had happened recently, he didn’t need anyone harping on him about his health. 

“Captain Crane,” she said softly, as though sensing his change of mood.  “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to the surgical waiting room.”  He nodded.  “Does your friend have any family nearby?”

Lee shook his head.  “No, most of them are in Midwest.  I’ll give his folks a call and let them know what’s going on.”

“Okay.  That would be better than one of us calling them.” 

Lee followed her down a corridor with as much easy grace as the crutches would allow, but still was conscious of everyone’s stares.  Then he realized what a mess he was.  His shirt was stained with the young ensign’s blood and his pants were bloodied with his.  The left leg had also been cut along the seam when the paramedics worked on him.  All in all, he was definitely out of uniform.   That reminded him.  “The ensign who came in with me.  How is she?”

“Still in surgery.  Critical.  But I was told what you did and can safely say that if she lives it will be because of your action,” the nurse told him. 

By then they were in the waiting room where he was shocked to see Admiral Johnson sitting there.  “Admiral?”

“Sit down, Lee,” he said motioning to the chair next to him.

Lee turned to thank the nurse, but she had already left.  He sat gingerly next to the ONI head, mindful of the pull of the bandage on his thigh.  He was also mindful of the man next to him; the one he had virtually told to go to hell.  It was only now, in hindsight, that he realized just how easily he had gotten away with that.  Crane glanced over and noticed that Johnson was bloodstained as well.  He had been hurt, too.  But he saw no bandages and quickly assumed that it was someone else’s blood.  Chip’s?

“You look like hell, Commander,” Johnson finally said. 

“It’s not as bad as it looks, sir,” Lee responded politely.  “Most of this is from that ensign Hartsfield shot.”

“He got away, didn’t he?”

“Yes, sir,” Crane said simply.  There was little else he could say.  He had allowed his mother’s murderer to get away.

“Give me a report, Captain, if you feel up to it,” Johnson said softly. 

For the moment they were alone in the room.  “Do you feel up to it?  You don’t look that great either, Admiral.”

Johnson frowned, looked ready with a sharp retort and then he suddenly burst out laughing.  “We make quite a pair, don’t we, Lee.”

“Yes, sir.”  Lee kept to the safe response, since he still wasn’t sure what kind of ground he was standing on, even though the admiral seemed to be in a good enough mood.

“Don’t be so blasted formal, Crane.  I’m not going to bite even if you did tell my office to go to hell.”

 

 

 

Chapter 12
Chapter 1
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
Main Page