A Matter of Time
Lee stood at the edge of the beach, wishing he
could simply go out and enjoy the waves.
The walking cast chafed and even though he could easily get around
almost anywhere now, including conducting inspections on the Seaview,
he couldn’t negotiate sand and wasn’t going to begin to incur Doc’s
wrath. Besides, he was more
than eager to follow directions so that he could get back to work.
Despite the fact they had arrived back home slightly earlier
than they had left due to the anomalies of the strange timepiece, it had
been almost eight months for him since he had fully captained his ship.
He let the wind ruffle his hair and tug at his
uniform. It was freshening,
building, becoming more insistent. There
might be a squall passing through this afternoon.
After his time in the past, he wasn’t going to even begin to
outguess the weather anymore. As
though reading his mind, Chip spoke from behind him, “Clouds are
building, Lee. I think maybe
we’d better head back to the Institute.”
“Yeah, I know.”
He watched the clouds galloping like dark stallions and was
reminded of Zorro and Tornado. So long ago, and yet just like yesterday. When he had awakened after his friend had left, the
admiral had already seen Diego safely back on shore, been able to get some
readings, recover a few artifacts that Seaview
had detected and had transferred the sub back to the present day.
At the time, Lee had been rather put out, but it all passed in his
quest to regain the health needed to do what he loved most.
Occasionally, though, he wondered how Diego had fared, how long he
had continued in his role and what had become of their land.
He had done a bit of genealogical research into
Church and civic records right after Doc had worked on his leg and
discovered that Diego had finally married and had a couple of children—a
boy and a girl. The girl had
married and inherited the land, a vast holding as he had suspected.
A lack of information on the boy told Lee that he had most likely
not lived to adulthood. That
was as far as he had gone. Perhaps
he should do some more research. He
would have time, since Seaview
was going on a shakedown run day after tomorrow and Doc most likely would
veto his presence on board. Or
probably it would be easier to just hire a genealogist to do the job. There were excellent ones in the area, people who knew what they
were looking for and wouldn’t be spinning their wheels like he might.
Mentally shrugging, he limped back to Chip’s car
and got in. That was
something else he missed—driving himself.
He couldn’t wait. Lee
watched the roadside scenery in wonder, just as he had for the last two
months that he had been back. Something
about being stranded in a more desolate, wilderness time zone did that, he
"Only another week or so, eh, Lee?" Chip
asked, misinterpreting his gaze.
"I hope so."
He paused. "I was
just thinking how wonderful all of this is—and how good it is to be back
Lee had given him complete details of his six-month ordeal and Chip
got the intense impression that most of his friend's emotions dealt with
the fact that he had felt keenly the despair of being stranded.
Chip could not get over the fact they had found him by virtue
of a chance drop of a pen. Their
stop at the beach hadn’t been far from the Institute and the two men
were soon riding the elevator in the administration building to their
adjacent offices. Tish was
waiting for them with a strange look on her face.
"What's up, Tish?" Lee asked.
"A lawyer is in the admiral's office waiting
for you, Lee," she replied.
And she wouldn't say what it was for either, just that she would
only speak with you."
"Well," Lee began, picking up on Tish's
'she'. "I guess we
shouldn't keep her waiting."
The three of them walked into the admiral's
spacious office where a beautiful, dark-eyed, auburn-haired young lady was
chatting with Admiral Nelson. Both
stood up when the trio arrived.
"Lee, I would like to introduce you to
Marguerita Herrera," Nelson said.
"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Herrera," Lee
said politely, extending his hand. His
curiosity was overwhelming, but he wasn't going to say anything until she
gave some clue as to her reason for being here. His mind tried to go back to anything in his past that might
have angered someone enough to want to sue him.
"Ms. Herrera is the daughter of Tomás
Herrera," the admiral continued.
"He was the owner of various businesses and no small amount of
Still didn't ring a bell.
"What can I do for you, ma'am?" Lee asked.
"Captain Crane, my father died
recently," she began.
"My condolences," Lee responded
immediately, but sincerely.
"Thank you, Captain.
One of the things that he left in his will was a request that I
deliver a special document and a box to you.
It was a dated request. Ironically,
his death corresponded to the date within a few months."
"Maybe we should sit down, Ms. Herrera,"
Lee suggested, his curiosity building like a prairie storm.
"Yes,” she said, studying him intently.
She was very carefully schooling her emotions, so Lee couldn't tell
if she was curious, irritated or . . . something else.
She sat down on the couch; Lee sat down across from her, slightly
frustrated at how awkwardly he was doing it.
Chip and Tish found seats nearby.
"Please, just call me Lee," he said,
studying her as well. She
held herself with an almost instinctive or natural grace. There was something familiar about it, and intriguing.
He pulled himself back to the matter at hand.
“Why would your father leave anything to me?”
"I really don’t know, Captain.
I’m afraid that I’m not aware of the purpose of the document,
either, so I am as puzzled as you are.
My father told me a few months ago, when he knew he was dying, that
it had been passed down for five generations in our family," she said
with the barest hint of a smile, ignoring his request.
“I had heard rumors of it, but had never seen it.
Really, I think no one but my father and mother had since my
generations? Lee started to do some quick math, but didn’t
finish. Everyone was gazing at him in abject curiosity.
Only the admiral appeared unruffled.
He had figured out something—put two and two together and
discovered the answer to another of the universe’s little problems as he
often did. "I
would be lying if I said I wasn't curious," Lee simply admitted.
"Why a dated request? I
am not aware of anything special about today."
"It was a general date, Captain Crane,"
she said. "Basically it
was a 'do not open until after a certain month and year' type of thing.
Perhaps I should give you the document and that might explain a
great many things to both of us.” She
reached into her attaché case and pulled out a manila envelope.
She handed it to Lee and he opened it up.
Inside was an over-large envelope that was yellowed with age.
It had a wax seal and had his name and rank written in flowing
handwriting on the front, along with the words, ‘Submarine Seaview,
Santa Barbara.’ The ink was
a bit faded as well, and he realized in shock that it was probably the
same age as the envelope. There
was only one person…. He
simply stared at the envelope for a moment.
“Do you understand what this is about,
Captain?” Marguerita asked him, breaking his reverie.
“I think I might,” Lee said, his voice low and
distant, his memories carried back more than a hundred and fifty years
ago. He opened it and saw the
flowing, although somewhat shaky script of his friend, Diego, reaching out
to him from across days and decades.
It had only been two months, and yet . . . and yet, it was several
lifetimes. He looked
back up and gazed at the admiral, who simply nodded.
He turned his gaze to the woman still studying him.
“You are about to enter a strange and fantastic history, Ms.
Herrera. I will try to
explain as best as I can, but let me read the document first.”
“Marguerita, please, Cap . . . uh, Lee,” she
said and then nodded for him to continue.
Lee turned back to the document and began reading.
He noticed the date. Diego
had had a long life, he noted. That pleased him greatly as he had been worried that his friend’s
clandestine activities might cut his life way too soon. “April 25th, 1855.
My dear friend, Lee. As
you warned, there did come a time when hardship would ride on our
shoulders. It came with your
own people. With your warning
and the treasure that you left with us came the solution.
The right people were bribed, the land grants changed to allow us
to keep our precious land. My
daughter and her husband now continue the job of working the land that my
father began. My
grandchildren will continue after them. The rancho prospers and has even increased in size.
You cannot imagine my gratitude.
The land is the lifeblood of my family just as the sea is ever
yours. Please accept my
thanks in words as well as in the box that has been set aside for the time
I have instructed my children and their children’s children to give it
to you. Know that my
good wishes for your continued service to your magnificent Seaview
follows you through the years. Your devoted servant and friend, Diego.”
He looked up and saw Marguerita studying him
intently a variety of emotions crossing her face, including shock.
He leaned toward Tish and gave her whispered instructions.
The secretary left. “Marguerita,
I told you it was a strange story, but I knew your ancestor, Diego de la
Vega. I was a guest in his house for about six months in 1825.
That’s where I got this,” he explained, pointing to the cast.
“And you do know that this is in confidence.”
She still looked shocked but she nodded slightly for him to
continue. “Such a device
like the one that sent me back to old California would be dangerous in the
hands of an enemy.” He
smiled softly. “In fact it was an enemy that sent me back to that time and
place. It took Admiral Nelson
a great deal of hard work to find me.
I owe Diego and the admiral a great deal for saving my life.”
Her eyes looked as though she had a million
questions, but she simply asked, “This seems totally unbelievable, but
this treasure my great, great, great grandfather mentioned?”
“The treasure was what I found when I was free
diving around Santa Rosa Island—it was something I did because it was
the only thing I could do then.”
“Which treasure, Lee?” she asked, her voice
“You have no idea what’s in that box Diego spoke of?” he asked. She shook her head. “The treasure of the Orbe de Oro.”
She gasped. “The
instructions over the years were that the strong box was to be kept safe,
locked and never opened until it was handed over to the person whose name
was on the document.” She
then indicated a non-descript, portable file-sized box that was sitting on
a wheeled luggage carrier.
“And being honorable like Diego, you followed
the instructions to the letter,” Lee stated.
even had we known exactly what was in it—and believe me, my parents and
I knew it was something valuable—we wouldn’t have done anything
Lee believed her.
That Diego would have some of the treasure left over astonished
him. He didn’t think it had
been that much. Then he
thought of the value of something that had been missing that long and he
sucked in his breath.
She smiled. “Would
you care to open it?” she asked, handing him an old-fashioned key.
“Yes, although I know what is in it.”
He moved to a chair next to the box and stuck the key in the lock.
It had been oiled and opened easily.
Inside was most of the treasure he had pulled from the ocean with
Diego’s help. He reached in
and took out the largest necklace, the one he, Diego and Alejandro had
determined was the most beautiful and probably destined for the
governor’s wife in Monterey. When
had he pulled it from the ocean floor?
Only two months ago? The
dive came back in exquisite vividness.
“If the rest is like that, Lee, you could buy
the Seaview with that treasure,” Nelson murmured.
“That was quite a find.”
Lee shook his head.
“No, not buy Seaview, but fund her.” He carefully laid the necklace back down on top of the small
pile of jewelry, gold and silver coins, and ingots.
He turned to his mentor. “You
risked everything to find me and I know you are still dancing with the
bigwigs over the ‘lost missions’ of the past few months.” He turned back to Marguerita.
“Would you be able to draw up something bestowing this to the
Institute?” he added, gesturing to the box.
She nodded. “Yes,
with the dividends of any sale of the artifacts going into an account for
you, Lee.” When he began to
protest, she added. “You
really should have something from this, and dividends would be enough to
take care of anything you might need in the future.”
“What I need is to get back to work,” Lee
The admiral and Chip were staring at him in shock.
Nelson shook his head. “No,
Lee, please do not feel obligated to give this away….”
“Obligated?” Lee countered, deadly serious. “Admiral, there is no obligation.
This is what I want to do. I
don’t need this, or the attendant headaches that would come of owning
this much wealth. I have what I want, need and desire. I want the Institute to have the revenues.
I want you to be able to do some of the private research you have
wanted to do for years, but haven’t been able to because of obligations
to the government, think tanks and private organizations.
I want this to be under your direct auspices.”
He sat back and folded his arms over his chest, his look defying
the admiral to come up with any more argument.
The admiral said nothing for several moments, only studied his captain intently. “If you’re sure, Lee….”
“It will be put to good use.”
Lee suddenly laughed.
“I know it will be. I’ll
be there to share the results, thanks to you.”
Tish returned with a sheathed sword and handed it
to him. Lee turned to the
lawyer. “This was Diego’s
sword. He left it with me
when Seaview found me back in the past.”
Marguerita took it and gazed at it in rapture,
pulling the sword out part way. “We
have one at home identical to this.”
She looked back up at him. “This
is incredible. I will be
happy to make all the arrangements for the transfer of the . . . funds.”
Lee picked up the cup of coffee that had sat
neglected when Tish had given it to him after he and Chip had arrived.
He held it up. “To Seaview and to all who serve her.”
Everyone raised his or her cups.
“And to Diego de la Vega. Vaya
con Dios, mi amigo.” Again
a heartfelt salute. “Thank
you, Diego,” he added mentally.
I should have known that Zorro could make anything happen, even
more than a century and a half later.
Let me know what you thought. Comments, corrections....
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