The Long Journey
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.
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.
“Do you have a first aide kit?” Lee asked,
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“I might need a bandage to help stop the flow of
“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
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
“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
“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.
“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
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
“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.
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
“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
“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
“Do you understand the instructions, sir?” she
“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
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
“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
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
“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.
“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.
“You look like hell, Commander,” Johnson
“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.”
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.”
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