Visions of the Night
She made the whuffing bark that Chip had associated with laughter and he figured that the grimace was the closest she could come to a smile. Although she could understand spoken English, Chip wasnít sure how much of what he was going to suggest she would be able to comprehend. In the end, he just decided to tell her and try to sign or draw anything she didnít understand. "I have two friends I can call on my communicator who would be sure to help you get your mate back to you. Maybe they might also be able to find a safe place for you two to live." She made no move; only studied him for a while. Chip couldnít tell is she was trying to understand what he had said, or deciding if his idea was too far-fetched. After a couple of minutes, he made ready to explain again, this time with pictures.
Before he could do so, she turned and grabbed his backpack in her huge hand, pulling it over to him.
"No, it was in the woods somewhere," he said, trying to motion the same thing with his hands. "I lost it or I would have called for help earlier." Chip was gratified that his wrist wasnít hurting anymore.
She barked imperiously, silencing him as if the admiral had ordered him to be quiet. In a growl that sounded amazingly like the word Ďlookí she pointed at the pack and Chip looked inside. To his amazement he found the small transmitter. He looked up at her, grinning his thanks. She grinned back.
Chip checked the communicator out. There was nothing to indicate any damage but he wouldnít know for sure until he had tried it. Chip turned it on and heard only static. Laying the transmitter down, he carefully eased himself out of the sleeping bag. He felt only minimal reminders from his ribs and bruises. His leg was still immobilized, but aching fiercely. "Iím going to try nearer to the entrance," he pointed out.
She offered him a beefy hand, which he took when he was in a position where her strength would give him the best advantage. With her help he was soon standing, his weight on his good leg. Still it was painful and he was panting by the time he had reached the short distance to the entrance. He also found himself leaning heavily on her shaggy body, but instead of feeling repelled, Chip felt strangely comforted.
He shivered in the cool morning air, despite still having on his heavy down jacket. Carefully he sat back down, just outside the entrance, pulled the antenna out, checked the setting for the NIMR access band and then clicked the transmitter on. "XO to home base," he called. There was some crackling and then it cleared slightly. He repeated the call.
"Home base. Chip?" It was Linda.
"Yes. Is the Skipper or Admiral available?
"Oh, yes, they were worried when you didnít call in yesterday," she told him. "Your timing is very good. I just got here."
Chip almost snorted. Fourteen hours past due and they were bent out of joint? "I need to talk to them. Kind of urgent, Linda."
"You okay, Chip?" she asked.
He was tempted to play on her sympathies, but he resisted. Now was not the time to flirt with the office staff. And besides, he wasnít sure he really wanted them to know just what he had gotten himself into by his carelessness. "Yeah, just need to talk to either Lee or the admiral."
The tone of his voice must have put off any more questions, because she simply said okay and let him wait. Chip noticed that the Bigfootóand he realized he was going to have to see if she had some kind of nameówas sitting next to him. Her body was keeping him warm, like a heavy blanket, he thought wryly.
"Chip?" It was Lee.
"Are you all right?"
"Iím safe and Iím in one piece, if thatís what you mean."
"What arenít you telling me?" Leeís voice was the no nonsense one that had most subordinates jumping within a half second. It usually didnít work with him, but again, this was not the time for playing games. The Bigfoot was counting on him.
"Little mishap on the trail. I met someone who helped me, so Iím okay."
"Thank him for me," Crane replied. "Are you in Lewiston?"
"No. However, you need to know that my friend is a she and sheís in need of help. Big time"
"She?" There was a great deal packed into that one word question.
"Yeah, she. I need you and the admiral to come in on the Flying Sub. Thereís a lake in Washington. Lower Granite Lake. We can arrange a rendezvous when you land. You need to come in at night, too."
"At night?" That was the admiral.
"Yes, sir. This needs to be as covert as possible. We donít need to draw attention to my friend or her plight."
"This new friend of yours must really be something, Chip," Lee interjected, humor coloring his voice. "To have you jumping to help like this. You always have been a sucker for ladies in distress."
Chip felt the heat rise in his cheeks and glanced at his hairy companion. Yeah, she was a lady, all right. She was something else. But was Lee going to be surprised when he saw this lady in distress! The Bigfoot gazed at him in slight confusion, but then she whuffed in what sounded strangely like amusement. Could she know what Iím thinking? "Um, yeah. Thatís a pretty apt description, Lee."
"Weíll get ready now, Chip," Nelson said. "How badly are you hurt?"
"Broken leg, bruised ribs. Thatís about it."
"Weíll bring Doc."
"No, Admiral!" Chip said quickly as he felt the Bigfoot tense. "No, my friend is a very good nurse. Itís nothing life threatening and . . . just the two of you. You have to trust me on this."
There was a long pause. "All right, Chip. But I expect a full explanation when we get there." The admiral sounded curious as well as slightly irritated.
"Youíll get one, sir. I guarantee it." Oh, yes, there would be a definite explanation when they took one look at his companionÖ. Then he switched off the transmitter and studied the Bigfoot. Did she have a name and ultimately would she consent to meet with Lee and Admiral Nelson? "Do you have some kind of name? Something I can call you?" he asked.
She let out a soft growl-bark-rumble that sounded something like Rrarkgrrr.
"Rrarkgrrr?" he tried to repeat. She nodded with a toothy grin, but placating, as though he had done a poor imitation. Apparently it would do, though. In the dust, she drew an outline of a Bigfoot and made rumbling growl noises that roughly sounded like Margrarr.
She nodded as though pleased with his intelligence. "Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane will arrive tonight at Lower Granite Lake." He augmented his comments with signs and pictures in the dirt to help Rrarkgrrr understand what the Flying Sub was. He finished by saying, "The admiral and Lee Crane are friends and will do nothing to hurt you. Together, weíll figure out how to free your mate."
She nodded and then sighed. Pointing to his leg, she indicated the length of time it would take to walk to the lake. Then she pantomimed carrying him there.
Chip sighed. Lower Granite Lake had been the closest place he could think of where the Flying Sub could land and submerge, staying incognito. He had wondered how they would get there by evening, but had not known what other suggestion to give the two men. He seriously hated to put her out like that, even if she did look like she could break a telephone pole in half with her bare hands. "Thatís quite a distance," he pointed out. "And Iím not that small."
She barked-laughed and signed that she was more than strong enough to do the job.
Chip didnít doubt it and he knew there wasnít any other alternative. "At sunset?" he asked, making sure he understood her. Rrarkgrrr nodded and then pointed to his sleeping bag. "Yeah, a nap would be good, if I was sleepy. You certainly need one, though." Soon they were lying side by side in the dark interior of the cave, she facing the narrow entrance, asleep but watchful even as any hunted creature might watch.
Despite his claim to the contrary, Chip apparently did fall asleep, because he awoke to more pain messages. He reached for his pack and took a couple more aspirins. The light seemed to indicate late afternoon but it was hard to tell in the cave. Rrarkgrr was still lying close by, but Chip was sure she hadnít slept the whole time. He was chagrined to think that he had. Finally getting into a comfortable position, he thought about the craziness of this trip. He had often accused Lee of being a trouble magnet, but here he was, broken leg, sharing a cave with a Bigfoot. He sighed and felt Rrarkgrrr stir beside him.
She rolled over, sat up and gazed at him. Then she grunted and growled and pantomimed something. She wanted him to take something? Rrarkgrrr moved to the side of the cave where he could hear the dripping water. She came back with what appeared to be a large piece of bark. On it were stringy things, roots or shredded plant material like stems or bark, he couldnít quite tell in the dimness. She motioned for him to chew on them. Chip studied the material, wondering if this was what Bigfoots ate. Then she pointed to his leg, touching the wrappings gently with one finger. She did the same with his chest, unerringly touching the sorest part. Chip suddenly realized that she was making it clear that this was medicinal, not food.
His next question to himself was if something that might be good for a Bigfoot would also be good for a human. They were similar, insofar as biology was concerned. He took one last look at what she was holding out to him and decided to trust her instincts. She had only helped him thus far and had been unerringly sure in all that he had needed. He took the bark plate, gingerly picked up a small piece of the plant matter. It was slightly oily, making him believe it was some kind of inner bark from a bush or small tree. What, he hadnít a clue. He put it in his mouth, watching Rrarkgrrr to make sure he was doing this right. She nodded and grinned, motioning for him to chew it well. He did, although it wasnít easy. The stuff was nasty! Reminded him of the occasional dose of paregoric his mother had given him as a child. He made a face, even as he chewed, and was slightly annoyed at Rrarkgrrrís soft barking laugh.
"Do I swallow this stuff, or just chew it?" he asked after the piece in his mouth was pulp.
She motioned for him to spit it out, which he gladly did. Then she barked out an injunction to chew another one. With a grimace, Chip did so, while the Bigfoot took the remainder and put it in an open pocket of his backpack. After he had chewed the second piece for a while and was noticing the lessening of his pain, she made motions that indicated that she was ready to leave. Then Chip could have sworn that she was asking if he was ready to go. He nodded. She picked up the backpack and threw it over one muscular shoulder.
The light dimmed further and Rrarkgrrr carefully helped him to his feet. "Iím sorry to put you through this," he said, wincing at the slight pain. She grunted something unintelligible.
As gently as she could, she bent down and picked him up. Chip felt a slight surge of pain, mostly from his leg this time, but this, too was tolerable. Surprised at how quickly this woodland remedy seemed to be working, Chip determined to let the admiral examine one of those pieces and try to make out what it was. He checked to make sure the transmitter was secure in his parka pocket before he settled against her shaggy chest. Evidently he fell asleep, because he didnít remember much of the trip. He woke to a hard surface underneath him and the buzzing of the transmitter nearby. It was still dark, only this time he was also cold. The sleeping bag had been left behind. "Rrarkgrrr?" he whispered. A slight echo told him he was in another caveóone that was larger than the previous cave. There was no answer. Morton could only assume that she was reconnoitering. The transmitter continued to buzz.
Carefully, he reached into his pack, which had been partly under his head, and pulled it out. "XO here," he answered softly.
"Chip, are you near the lake?" It was the admiral.
"Close enough, but in a hiding place," he replied, assuming that it was so. The transmission was clearer. He was able to pick up inside the cave.
"We are located just off shore at the southern end. I will be ashore in a short time. Set your transmitter to homing so I can pick up on it and find you. That will be much better especially with your injuries."
"Admiral, if you can safely secure the Flying Sub, I think you both should come."
"Are you that badly injured?" Nelson asked point blank.
"No, sir, itís not that. I think it would be much better if both of you were involved in the initial meeting."
"Very well, Chip. Hopefully, it wonít take long to secure and find your position."
"Thank you, sir." Chip turned the transmitter on to its homing signal and looked up to see something large and dark blocking the dimly lit opening. He hadnít even heard her come in. "Both of my friends are coming," he told her. She grunted and sat down next to him. Morton relished her body warmth. "I thought it better that we all meet together." She just grunted again. "And it will also be better at first if you stayed as quiet as possible and let me explain. I can almost be positive that as soon as the admiral gets over his initial shock, he will be very eager to help. Lee will also be willing to help, but is a bit more practical about such things and will want to know more about the situation." Morton still didnít know just how much Rrarkgrrr understood of his longer ramblings, but she didnít interrupt and he kept talking. "Leeís also a top notch covert agent, too, so his help in getting your mate back to you will be invaluable."
They both sat quietly for a while and Chip thought he might have dozed. He felt her touch on his arm and he jerked into full awareness. At a glance, Chip realized that the admiral and Lee were quite close. The light on the transmitter was no longer blinking. Rrarkgrrr had her massive hand on his arm and he could feel the tension emanating from her. She didnít need the transmitter; she just knew.
"Itís okay, Rrarkgrrr. Theyíll understand. They trust me." Then he saw the narrow beam of a small flashlight. "Admiral? Lee?" he hissed into the silence.
"You there alone?" Nelson asked.
"No sir, but keep the beam low. Even a little light is blinding."
They complied and as Rrarkgrrr continued to tense, the admiral and Lee slowly entered the cave.
"Are you all right, Chip?" Lee asked.
"Yeah, thanks to Rrarkgrrr," Chip said by way of introduction. True to instructions, Lee kept the light beam low but still they could tell what was by his side.
"I believe only you or Lee could get into trouble in the woods and be rescued by a Sasquatch," Nelson said dryly. Chip could only grin at the typical comment from his superior. He felt Rrarkgrrr relax a bit by his side.