Visions of the Night
"Admiral Harriman Nelson," Johnson introduced. "Commander Crane, the captain of the admiralís submarine and Commander Morton, his executive officer." Johnson pointed to each of them in turn.
The county sheriff gazed meaningfully at all three, as did the other man, a Fed, Chip decided. It was the latter who spoke first. "Kind of far a field, arenít you, Admiral?"
"Kind of," Nelson said in his most even voice, one that Morton knew could also be his most dangerous. "May I ask who you are?"
"Thomas Malcolm, FBI," the man answered pulling out his identification and showing it to the admiral. "And this is Sheriff Wainwright."
"We normally find ourselves in the middle of seagoing fiascos, Agent Malcolm," Nelson said calmly. "What the hell happened next door?" Not a flicker passed over the admiralís face other than curiosity.
"I was about to ask you something similar, Admiral," Malcolm said coolly.
"I asked first," Nelson answered frigidly. "And besides, I donít know what happened next door. I have been on this property most of the night." He gazed intently at the agent. Chip was pleased to note that the fed dropped his eyes rather quickly. "Well, Iíd like to sit and banter with you but I have two men who need medical attention and Iíve been told that medical and transportation access are impossible right now. I might as well take them on my jet and get medical care back at the Institute if I canít get attention here for them soon."
"Your jet?" The two men looked at one another in astonishment and then back at the admiral, who had waited for their response.
"Private. Submersible. I parked it at the bottom of Johnsonís Lake when all hell began breaking loose."
Both of the newcomerís gaped at him a moment.
Chip figured it was time for him to jump into this conversation. "Gentlemen, I came into this area on leave expecting to hike and camp. I was on my way back when I fell and hurt myself. When I didnít come back on time, the admiral and captain began to worry. I finally got my communicator to work and they came out to find me," Chip explained before the admiral could say any more.
"And Captain Crane?" Malcolm asked.
"Captain Crane should never have gotten up on a horse," Lee grumbled, his words slightly slurred. He perused the two men through half-closed eyes then asked. "Someone got a couple of APCís?" He closed his eyes and lay quietly.
"So you thought that being a boat jockey qualified you for being a cowboy?" Wainright asked with a slight chuckle.
"I hurt too damn bad to catch the humor," Lee retorted, glaring at the sheriff. Wainwright nodded. Then Crane seemed to remember something and looked around with his eyes, not moving his head. Seeing Mrs. Johnson, he added, "Sorry, maíam."
She just smiled. "I guess if J. Golden Kimball* can be excused for some colorful language, you can, too, Captain."
"Who?" Lee asked and then groaned softly, his hand to his head.
"Sorry, a Mormon leader some years back noted for his tart language, Captain.
Crane just closed his eyes and sighed, "Oh."
"Medical help, Sheriff?" Nelson reminded Wainwright. "Or will I have to let DOD know how shoddy the military is treated around here."
"The doctor was finishing up when we left Sanders, Admiral," the sheriff said hastily. "He should be here soon." He paused briefly. "Weíll be leaving but someone might contact you briefly for a follow-up." He looked ready to bolt and Chip knew he would have to congratulate the admiral for his skillful art of intimidation. As it was, the sheriff nodded to Mrs. Johnson and then walked from the room.
Malcolm gazed at them again, his stare penetrating, and then he, too, turned and left the room as well.
Nelson chuckled after the pair left. "How long have you been awake, Lee?"
"Too long," Crane responded, opening his eyes again. "I was serious about the aspirin."
Mrs. Johnson laid a cool cloth on his forehead. "Dear heart, that is up to the doctor at the hospital. I am not going to presume to give you anything with a knock on the head like you have. Oh, and when all this is over, Jeffrey, our youngest can give you riding lessons."
"Subís safer," he muttered. "No need for lessons, though. I can ride. With all that going on next door, Yakima Canutt** wouldnít have been able to stay on a horse."
Olive Johnson smiled. "I imagine so, Captain."
It wasnít long before the doctor arrived, followed closely by an ambulance. At the regional hospital, the two men were examined. The story concocted at the ranch wasnít questioned. To their dismay, both men were kept overnight, but by late morning of the next day, they were back at the ranch. For the moment all was calm, with only the acrid scent of exploded ordinance hanging in the air to remind everyone of what had happened the night before.
That evening, Chip, on crutches, carefully picked his way down a path, accompanied by the admiral. They reached the edge of the lake within a short time and sat down on a fallen tree trunk just within the line of trees near the waterís edge. The night was clear and a half moon reflected on the calm water of the lake. Chip reached down and absently rubbed his thigh at the top of a heavy cast.
"You all right, Chip?" Nelson asked.
"Yes, sir," came the reply. "Just some soreness. That was pretty potent stuff Rrarkgrrr gave me." Still, he winced at the memories of the orthopedist setting his leg. It had taken longer than usual, with the doctor grumbling the whole time about how long Chip had waited to get medical attention. As though he had had a choice, he thought sourly. The cast extended from only a few inches below his hip, down around his foot. They had not taken any chances with him, but it made it difficult to get around. The rancher had thought him nuts when he said he was taking a walk.
"Do you think theyíll show up tonight?" the admiral asked.
"I think so," Chip replied. "If not, we can try again tomorrow night."
"They very well might have gone away despite your advice," Nelson mused aloud.
"Yes, sir," Chip concurred without elaborating.
"I wish I had a magic place where they were assured peace and solitude," the admiral said wistfully.
Suddenly Chip smelled a familiar musky odor. "Rrarkgrrr?"
A soft whuff answered his query and Rrarkgrrr slid from the darker shadows to stand in the dim moonlight near them. The admiral stood up to greet her.
"Are you and Marrgrarr all right?" Chip asked, following the admiralís lead, but much more slowly.
She nodded and pointed to his cast gleaming whitely.
"Yeah, Iíll be all right, too. Just take a while for my leg to heal inside this cast." Morton thumped the object in question.
Rrarkgrrr made some more gestures, pointing to her head.
Chip wasnít sure what she was asking at first and then he caught on. "Oh, Lee is going to be all right, too, in a few days." He smiled. "Thanks for bringing him here. I donít think Sanders would have been . . . any gentler on Lee than he was on your mate."
Rrarkgrrr growled ominously.
"You donít have to worry about Sanders hurting you, but I think tomorrow night youíll be able to safely leave the area."
She nodded and turned to the admiral. She made a few gestures and then laid a large hairy hand on Nelsonís shoulder. "Thangsss," she growled softly.
"I just wishÖ." The admiralís eyes suddenly shone with an idea. "I do have an idea of a safe place where you two can live in peace. I have a friend who lives in CanadaÖ." In the sandy shore, Nelson bent down and began to draw a map. Chip recognized the mountains of northern Idaho and the border of Canada. There were more mountains. The admiral drew a lake, several roads and a town. "My friend bought about a thousand acres in this area, most of it mountains. He wanted a refuge not only for himself, but for any creatures that lived there. No hunting, no tourists."
Rrarkgrrr gazed at the map and then studied the admiral. She nodded again and thanked him again. Then she whuffed and turned back to Chip. There were quite a few gestures and pantomimes and the exec had trouble following at first. Without warning, she stopped Ďtalkingí and wrapped her hairy arms around Chip. She gave him a mighty bear hug. Just as suddenly, she released him and melted into the forest.
"Good-bye, Rrarkgrrr," Chip said softly. "And good luck."
Only the sighing of the aspen leaves replied. The two men slowly started back to the ranch house.
"What did she say to you before she left?" Nelson asked.
"Iím not positively sure, Admiral," Chip replied, still trying to figure out her gestures. Then it dawned on him and he began to chuckle and then to laugh. He had to stop so he wouldnít fall. Nelson kept a steadying hand on his arm and a puzzled expression on his face.
"What?" the admiral asked.
"Rrarkgrrr is going to have a baby. Thatís why she was so desperate. She wanted her mate with her when it was time."
"Well, Iíll be!" was the admiralís response. "I just hope they find Clemmonís refuge before itís time for the babyís birth."
"So do I," Chip said. "So do I." With that they continued slowly toward the rancherís house.
*J. Golden Kimball (1853-1938) was a leader in the LDS (Mormon) Church during the late 1800's until his death in 1938. He was a frank, but earnest speaker and religious teacher, whose language was sprinkled liberally with various expletives, learned while a boy working with teamsters to support his widowed mother. http://jgoldenkimball.com/ and http://personal.atl.bellsouth.net/w/o/wol3/kimbajg1.htm are sites that give some more info on Elder Kimball.
**'Yakima' Canutt (1894-1986) was a rodeo performer before becoming a highly rated and accomplished stuntman in Hollywood. He preferred coordinating and performing stunts to acting. http://www.win.net/~ltreed/yak/ tells more about "Yak".