Loloa Fononga:
The Long Journey

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

Although Teva had asked him to help him with the fishing nets, the Polynesian hadn’t said two words since they began.  Indeed, it had seemed that Teva had been distant for the past day and a half.  Ever since the evening he and La’ani had opened up in the canoe.  Finally the nets were folded so they would be ready for the next fishing excursion in the morning and Lee stood up, rubbing his sore back. 

“It is common knowledge that the queen loves you,” Teva finally said.  “And that she would like to marry you.  Your ring is on a necklace around her neck.”

The tone was neutral.  Lee couldn’t tell if Teva was angry or not.  But he had spoken in English, which was indicative that all was not as usual.  “Yes, giving a ring to a woman is customary where I come from.  It shows the intent of the man.”   Lee waited for Teva to elaborate, all the while feeling the place where his ring used to sit comfortably on his finger. 

“So it is your intent to marry her?” 

“Eventually.  There are a few things I have to take care of on the mainland.”

“The last queen married an American.”  Teva was emotionless. 

The anger of insult flashed hot.  “You would put me in the same league with Bomar?” he snapped, drawing up to his full height, which was a couple of inches taller than Teva.

“I don’t, but the people cannot help but make the comparison, even if only based on your nationality.  They have not minded you as a friend.  They understand that you helped rid them of Bomar and the Evil one, but….”

“But what?” Lee prompted, still angry but forcing himself to calm down.

“But it is too soon.  They fear deep relationships with white mainlanders,” Teva said solemnly.  “They will feel pain from the past.”

“So it really doesn’t matter how La’ani feels or how I feel,” Crane said softly.

Teva nodded.  “La’ani has to consider those she is responsible for as much or more than she considers the feelings of her heart.”

The turmoil that Lee thought he had resolved returned in full force.  He had accepted her argument that they could have a long distance relationship, at least for the near future, and make it work and now he was asked to simply walk away?  “Have you talked to La’ani?” he asked.

“No.”

So it was being left up to him. 

“And who is to say where the feelings of her heart are really coming from?” Teva added.

That startled Lee for a moment.  He had pondered his own motives, but never questioned hers.  Somehow, though, he thought that Teva’s last question was simply rhetoric thrown into his otherwise thoughtful reasoning. “I know where the feelings of La’ani’s heart come from, just as I know my feelings, Teva.”  He paused even as he continued to gaze into the Polynesian’s eyes.  “I made the mistake of thinking her a child, don’t insult her by doing the same thing.”

“You are correct, that was a foolish statement.  The queen has cared for you from the first.  But Lee Crane, what happens when you go back to your submarine?  What happens when you fight against others like Mendon?   How often will you come and make La’ani happy as she is now?”

Teva didn’t know about his situation, but like his previous words, these also startled him.  Unfortunately, the Polynesian man was asking viable questions.  There were a lot of what if’s to consider.  “I’ll think seriously on your words,” Lee said woodenly.

“Thank you, my friend.”

 

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“Admiral.”  A voice on the intercom interrupted his reverie. 

Nelson picked up the mike.  “Yes, Sparks.”

“I have a message from the Institute, sir,” the radioman informed him. 

“Is it coded?”

“No, sir.”

“Then go ahead and read it to me.

“Yes, sir.”  Sparks’ voice seemed excited.  “The note is being passed along from Captain Crane and it reads, ‘Admiral, I just wanted to let you know that I am on Hikeru. (You can thank Meeka and La’ani for the prod.)  My apologies for not contacting you sooner.  I had to have some time to think.  Please pass along my congratulations to the new captain and give my warmest regards to the crew.’”

There was silence for several minutes.   “Admiral, what reply do you wish me to make to the Institute?”

“Tell Angie thank you and I will contact her a little later.”

“Aye, sir.” 

Jamieson was just shaking his head.  “Who’d have thought?”

“Thank God for women,” Chip murmured softly. 

“Amen,” the admiral agreed.

“Sir, can I pass along the word?” Sharkey asked cheerfully. 

Nelson nodded and smiled.  “That way the person who said the captain was on Hikeru will get his winnings before we before we arrive in Santa Barbara.”

“Admiral, I don’t know how long ago this letter was written, but it doesn’t seem to indicate that he had received yours.  I think I should go out in the Flying Sub and let him know what’s going on.  See how he feels now,” Morton said with a grin. 

Harriman nodded.  “Yes, I think that’s a very good idea, Chip.  He can come back with you.”  That is if he wants to, Nelson added to himself.  “After a couple of weeks on Hikeru, he should be in great shape.” 

“I’ll get ready now, sir.” 

“Before you leave, see me.  I’m going to check with Angie and get more details on this,” Harriman added.   Morton left quickly. 

“Shouldn’t I go out with Mr. Morton?” Doc asked. 

Nelson shook his head.  “No.  I don’t think that’s a good idea.  I think Chip will be able to approach this situation as a friend.  Not that you aren’t,” he added hastily.  “But you are also his CMO, and I think that Chip is more what Lee would want now rather than you or I converging on him right now.” 

“You’re probably right, but the medical review board’s getting impatient.  They want to know why Captain Crane hasn’t contacted them in the two weeks since they concluded their review and threw out that last physical.  The idea that Lee just up and took off like he did wouldn’t really look good on his psych profile either. Whoever wanted him deep-sixed would have a field day with this.”  Doc sighed and took a sip of coffee.  “They’re ready to put a time limit on this.  I can feel it.”

“Let me talk to them next time they push,” suggested the admiral.

“No, they would simply brush you off, Admiral.  No offense, but you are not a doctor and you’re not a neutral party.”  Doc smiled softly and finished his coffee.  “This is where a CMO is the right ticket.”

“Do the best you can.  I want Lee back, but I’m not going to pressure him into it.”

 

 

When the Seaview returned back to Santa Barbara a few hours later, after the almost two week long mission, there was a thick, padded envelope of materials waiting for Doc.  He looked at it in surprise, as the postmark was from DC.  There was no name on the return, indeed, nothing to tell him who had sent it.  A postal box number was it.  Then he saw the tiny initials in the upper corner, FM and he wondered. 

It had been screened, so it wasn’t some kind of booby trap.  Doc shrugged and quickly opened it.  A note fell out and he read it: 

Doctor, I thought about our conversation, especially when you said I had been used.  I made inquiries and now see that I have indeed been used.  As you seemed to intimate, your captain has been targeted and so, I believe, has Admiral Nelson and your submarine.  I also believe that whoever ordered that physical has some kind of link to an enemy foreign power.  I am enclosing everything that I have as I fear this person may be suspicious of me.  In my naďve ignorance, I have asked too many questions and heard way too much.  I am going to try and come out to California to talk personally, but if I can’t, maybe these things will help.

Francis Marcum.

Doc glanced through the memos, notes of phone calls, their dates, times.  There was a micro-cassette in its case and Doc pulled out his medical recorder to play it.  As he listened, he became more and more agitated.  The agitation was augmented with shock and anger as he listened to what had obviously been a road map of the cold-blooded murder of an innocent.  Why, he kept asking himself?   Jamieson thought Marcum might easily be understating things.  Pulling out the untraceable mobile phone, he called Marcum’s office.  A click and then a male voice answered.  “Who is this?”

Doc used his ploy again.  “This is the Pentagon.  Who is this?  I need to speak to Dr. Marcum immediately.”

“Doctor Marcum is no longer here.”

“How do I reach him?  I need to discuss one of his patients with him.”

“I don’t know.”

“I will try back later.”  Doc hung up.  It was time to see the admiral.  He gathered up all the materials Marcum had sent him and left, heading back to Seaview where he knew Nelson would still be on duty.  With the captain and the XO away, the admiral would be working with Lt. O’Brien to get all the paperwork done before leaving the boat.

He was right.  Both men were in the control room.  O’Brien greeted him with only mild curiosity, but Nelson noticed the packet under his arm immediately.  He scrutinized Doc’s face and straight away ordered him to follow him, presumably to his cabin.  When they got there, Nelson motioned Jamieson to a chair. 

“Admiral, I had a most interesting package waiting for me when I got to my office,” he began without preamble.   It generates many questions, but it answers even more.  Maybe you can figure out what I couldn’t—or verify what my paranoid little mind is thinking right now.”

“About Lee?”

“Yes.  It’s from the doctor in charge of the captain’s physical.  He had a fit of conscience and did some checking.  I suspect his curiosity may have cost him his life.”

Nelson’s eyes widened.  “That’s pretty serious.  Order us some coffee while I look this over.” 

Doc did as directed and then sat quietly as the admiral read the contents of the package.  After a short while, Nelson frowned and then growled softly.  He ignored the knock on the cabin door and Doc took the tray with a carafe of coffee and two mugs from the galley mate.   Jamieson poured some coffee for each of them and then sat and sipped his while the admiral continued to study the information.  Finally Nelson played the tape.  His expression darkened.

Finally, “So the People’s Republic still has enough clout to slip someone in ONI.”

“ONI?”

“You read his notes, Jamie,” Nelson said contemplatively.  “I don’t know which possibility bothers me the most.  Someone in ONI irritated enough to seek revenge or some double agent with enough clout to pull these kinds of strings.” 

“But why, Admiral?  What gain would it be to get a submarine captain relieved of command?”

Nelson snorted.  “Come on, Doc.  Think about it.  We’re not just talking about a sub captain.  We’re talking about Seaview. Look what happened to John.   I’m not bragging, but several times there have been attempts to capture the boat.  And more than several times Lee has, undercover or not, dealt some pretty good knocks to our enemies.  That alone would be enough for revenge.” 

“So this is about taking down Lee?” Doc asked.  “And my previous summations about his mother?  I had hoped….”

The admiral nodded.  “Don’t say anything about that to Lee.”

“I won’t.”  Doc shuddered.  “Do you think….?”

Again Nelson nodded.  “Damn them, yes.”  He reached for a cigarette but there were none.  He shuddered, thinking of the tenor of hatred that would destroy an innocent life to get at someone else.  And he wondered how much of that plan was to get at him?  He shuddered again and pushed away the stab of guilt that tapped at his conscience.  “I think we need to contact Jiggs again.  See if my nasty suspicions have any merit.”

“When?”

“Now, the sooner the better.  If the mole is still there we need to get him before he slips away.”  Harriman said tersely.   He leaned forward and flipped the switch for the radioman.  “Ultra secure line to the Institute.”  Soon he was talking to Angie.   “Get me Jiggs Starke.  High priority, scrambled.”

She nodded and turned partly away.  Nelson put the materials in easily accessible order.  The cassette was fed into the player of his latest vidphone.   Starke should be able to hear it on his computer link up.

“He’s on the line, sir.”

Harriman opened the connection. 

“Harry, you hear the latest?” Starke asked without preamble.

“What latest?”  Nelson felt irritation to be getting so much of his information second hand.

“The doctor who examined Lee was found dead this afternoon.  Looked like suicide, but I have my suspicions.”

“And suspicious you should be, Jiggs.  Listen to this.”  Harriman played the cassette. 

When it was over there was silence.  “Who was that?” Starke finally asked. 

“One is Francis Marcum.  I was hoping you might recognize the other speaker.”

“Sounds familiar,” Starke said.  “Blast it!  That we have a mole that high up.”  There was a pause.  “I think I know who might recognize the voice more quickly than we would.”

Harriman came to the same conclusion, but letting Lee know this?  He mentally groaned. 

“Have you contacted Lee yet?” Starke asked. 

“Commander Morton should be there by now.  But you realize what this will do to him, don’t you?” Nelson pointed out. 

“Yes, I know, but I don’t know how else to find out who this is without tipping him. The agent may already know he’s being investigated as it is,” Starke replied. 

Nelson could only nod. 

 

 

 

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