The Long Journey
believe so, Lee,” came the admiral’s subdued voice.
it all. Please.”
He reached forward and turned off the vidphone.
He didn’t really want the two men scrutinizing him as he listened
to what he felt would not just be a call for his downfall but a death
knell for others. There was
tape resumed. Crane listened
as the confirmation of his suspicions seemed to be played out.
‘What are you talking about-by any means?
This is America, not some repressive dictatorship!’
derision and sarcasm even more pronounced.
Lee knew this was Marcum’s death sentence. ‘Indeed, it is where one has more freedom to complete
one’s agenda. You are so naïve,
Doctor. Don’t you think the
agendas of free countries are the same as those of any other?’
was a gasp from Marcum. ‘But
why would Crane be dangerous to our country?
His has been exemplary service.
I wished I had dug that out before this damned physical.’
snorted as he listened. But
still the horror gripped his heart and squeezed.
Ice flowed through his veins.
Okay, where was the proof that Hartsfield was an enemy agent, not
that he doubted it for an instant. ‘….by
‘I didn’t say to whom he and his associates are dangerous….’
another gasp: ‘This is
inconceivable. You didn’t
arrange for Crane’s mother’s accident?’
a short derisive laugh.
‘Who do you work for?’
could hear the doctor’s understanding of what he had done and how
dangerous it was for him creeping into Marcum’s voice.
‘You are getting that fat bonus to keep quiet, Doctor.
I suggest you do so. Crane
is dangerous and has been neutralized.
And don’t forget this . . .’
The voice was almost an oily purr.
‘I can make anything look accidental.
Good day, Doctor.’
click of a phone line and a soft groan signaled the end of the tape this
time. Lee sat rigid, his eyes
tightly closed, the words echoing around and around in his head.
He felt hot tears like lava, but he couldn’t let them go.
He would not. He
locked them in the icy glacier that was forming around his heart.
All the while, he vowed he would find and take down Hartsfield.
felt a hand on his arm and another grip his shoulder. Still he kept his eyes closed.
are you all right?” Chip finally asked.
didn’t trust himself to say anything.
He simply nodded. La’ani’s
hand gripped his shoulder and he heard her stifled sob. He couldn’t look at her, he wouldn’t, or he would feel
that urge to cry with her. Finally,
Lee opened his eyes. Feeling
the slickness of a single tear, he swiped it away fiercely with his hand
and gazed at Chip. “I’m
all right,” he assured his friend.
Leaning forward, he flipped the vidphone switch and saw a very
worried admiral and doctor. “I’m all right,” he repeated.
“Commander Jonathon Hartsfield, one of Admiral Johnson’s
administrative officer’s. I
thought he was a weasel when he began handing out assignments.”
Crane smiled coldly. “Apparently
I was off the mark. He’s a
snake. I’m coming back with
Nelson glanced over Lee’s shoulder where La’ani was still
standing. “We’ll be
awaiting your arrival, Lee.” He
leaned forward and switched off the vidphone on his end. Lee did the same.
standing up and facing La’ani, he said nothing for a while. Tears
streaked down her cheeks, but Lee steeled himself from their influence.
Instead he thought of Hartsfield and what he had done.
And Crane thought of what he planned on doing.
It closed off sorrow and tears just as surely as the collision
doors sealed off the control room from the sea.
“I have to go, La’ani. I
have to take care of this.” He
reached over and wiped away a tear with a gentle finger.
“You know that.”
I knew that even before you found this out.
I knew you would leave, Lee, but I hope that when you leave you
will still have a part of my heart in yours.”
She reached up and touched the ring that hung from her neck and
rested just above the hollow between her breasts.
reached up and covered her hand with his.
“Oh, La’ani, you most sincerely have.”
be careful. And come back to
he didn’t trust himself to say anything again.
He could only nod, and then he leaned over and kissed her long and
hard, pulling her close to him until he could feel the beating of her
heart. Finally he backed
away. “You are truly a
queen, La’ani,” he whispered.
threw her arms around him, her face tight against his chest.
After a few moments, she released him, turned and fled from the
sighed and closed the hatch. He
stood for several minutes with his head against the cold metal and then he
turned and sat down in the co-pilot’s chair.
gazed at him, wanting to console his friend but not knowing just what to
say. Somehow he felt as
though Lee had lost not one person, but two.
"You sure you don't want to pilot her?"
later, Chip." Lee's
voice was subdued. It was a
voice filled with infinite sadness, a gut-wrenching sorrow; and Chip knew
it had more than one source. He
also suspected that it was held in check by anger.
Chip did the pre-flight checks. He paused a moment to look through the bow windows into the darkness before he continued. With a flip of a switch the reactor engines powered up and Chip pulled the Flying Sub’s throttle into reverse. With skill and deftness, he maneuvered the saucer into a deep enough channel and there began the takeoff. Soon they were in the air, the skipping of the little craft minimal and the ascent sharp but smooth.
didn't really answered La'ani's question, Lee," Chip finally said
it really wasn't a question, but when she told you to come back, it was as
though you couldn’t answer her request.
took a deep breath. "I
commit, can’t answer, or can't come back?" Chip asked softly as
they soared into the darkness.
come back, Chip." Lee's
breath caught in his throat. "If
my enemies can kill an innocent like my mother.... Chip, he killed my mother because of me!
I can't let anyone else die . . . because of me."
we'll catch Hartsfield. We'll
find out who his boss is..."
then I'll have a rollicking long distance relationship with a woman who
thinks, with Polynesian pragmatism, that I'll always come back."
often do you think any of the married men see their wives?" Chip
on, Chip, you're grabbing."
set the autopilot and turned to his companion.
"Lee, do you really love her as much as I think you do?"
care for her enough to keep her safe," Lee replied.
are not answering my question. Do
you love her?"
said nothing for several moments. "I
have spent the past week asking myself the same question."
what answer have you come up with?"
There was only silence. "Lee,
I could see something in your eyes that I have not seen before."
shook his head. "When I
got that damned letter, I didn’t know what to do.
The Chief asked me where I was going.
I really didn’t know. I
packed a few things, went to the airport and stood there in the terminal
wondering where the hell I was going to go.
I found myself in a line, buying a ticket.”
cash, apparently,” Chip interjected.
it? I guess I did.
I remember vaguely that I didn’t want to use my credit card.”
nodded in understanding. “Can’t
say as I blame you, buddy. I
think I’d want to be left alone for awhile, too.”
gave him a look of gratitude. “Anyway,
I found myself on American Samoa and then the decision to go to Hikeru
just hit me. I didn't even
wonder why. I just did and
when I got here—there, it seemed right.
There’s so much I don’t remember after I left the Seaview;
like I was in some kind of stupor or daze.
When I got to Hikeru--when La'ani greeted me, it was as though I
woke up. As though she woke
me up.” He gazed into
Chip's eyes. “Does that
sense, Lee.” He thought of
some of his past relationships and of regrets in not following through on
one in particular.
wanted me to go back to Santa Barbara and fight what happened.
She didn't try to convince me to stay on Hikeru."
do you feel about her, Lee?” Chip
thought he already knew the answer, even if Lee couldn’t verbalize it.
out the bow window, Lee said so softly that Chip had to listen closely,
"Like she holds a part of my soul back on that island.
And to answer your question—yes, I do love her."
He rubbed a hand across his eyes.
"But I have to think of Meeka, too.
I haven't given her what she needs and wants."
don’t think you have enough love for both of them?” Chip ventured.
laughed. “Not love, Chip.
Time! You don’t
develop a relationship by spending a week or two out of the year with
paused and then his features became hard.
"And then there's Hartsfield."
we're going back to take care of that."
nodded. "I think I'm
ready to take the controls, Chip."
just smiled and flipped a couple of switches that would give control of
the small craft to the skipper. "Happy
flew in silence for a while, then Lee checked the course, making changes
that while subtle, were indicative that he was not planning to return
directly to Seaview.
are you taking us, Skipper?" Chip asked, concerned.
Crane stared straight ahead at the instrument panel.
startled Chip, but it wasn’t something unexpected. He figured Lee would head east rather quickly, just not this
are we going to do when we get there?"
Lee asked, finally looking into his exec's face. "I am going to find Hartsfield and kill him."
not sure that Admiral Johnson would quite approve of you marching into the
main offices and gunning one of his men down."
Chip was not happy with this line of talk. He didn't blame Lee one bit, but he knew what the result
would be of such a simple solution.
laughed derisively. "Don't
have a gun. Don't think I
to hide one in a lava-lava anyway," Chip observed, trying to lighten
the deathly somber mood of his commander.
glanced down in chagrin. He
had totally forgotten his state of dress.
couldn't help it; he began to laugh.
looked annoyed, but said nothing. His
mouth twitched but didn't allow any smile.
"Okay, Commander, what do you suggest? Because I have no plans...." He paused to check the rate
of fuel consumption. "....of
making any detours to the Institute."
continued to chuckle. "Well,
we knew you hadn't brought any uniforms with you...."
You cased my apartment?"
as charged, Lee. We were
worried about you. You hadn't
left any kind of word as to where you were going and well...."
have mattered much anyway, since I didn't bring my luggage with me,"
there's a uniform in the locker you can change into."
looked into his exec's smiling face and then he half-smiled.
He shook his head. "Thanks, Chip."
I knew you would most likely want to go back to the mainland in
Lee continued flying, not saying any more.
fell silent as well for a while. He
wondered just exactly what Lee would do when he got to the ONI
headquarters outside of DC. Somehow,
he felt that Lee meant what he said and Chip had to make sure that he
didn't follow through.
know I'm a bit worried."
what?" Lee asked.
made a vow with myself," the exec said seriously.
kind of vow?" Lee asked hesitantly.
Chip was using his beat around the bush concern tactic.
He wasn't about to be deterred from his goal--get Hartsfield.
took a deep breath. "I
vowed to get to get you back on the Gray Lady."
said nothing, knowing that little needed to be said. Yes, he did want to be back on board. "But.... You
know I have to do this."
just don't want to have to testify in your behalf at a murder trial,
a sigh, Lee shook his head. "I
know what I said earlier, Chip and there is nothing more I would love to
do than to put my hands around Hartsfield's neck and just squeeze the life
out of him, but I know the repercussions as well as you do."
He looked deeply into his friend's intense blue eyes.
He saw only concern in them. "I
will try my best to avoid anything that would land me in a Suitland jail,
Chip, but I have to confront Hartsfield.
You know that."
|Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents|