Brothers

by

Sean Branigan

 

 

 

 

“Hit me.”

He pushed the shot glass across the counter and waited for the barkeeper to fill it up again. He tossed back the shot, and with a grimace, sat the glass down with a click on the hard polished surface.

He tugged at his tie, thinking he probably should have changed clothes before coming in here, but Margot knew him, didn't think twice to pouring a couple of tequila shots to a four star admiral. Right now the bar tender was wiping down the counter and giving her only customer a long look.

“Harry, you need a cab?” she asked. Harriman Nelson only shook his head, running a hand through his still thick auburn hair. That was one blessing, he supposed. Might be loosing everything else, but at least he still had his hair.

“No, Margot, I'm fine. Not drunk yet, it's damn tempting, let me tell you though,” Nelson replied in a low voice.

“Why don't you tell me? Better than a shrink, and a whole hell of a lot cheaper,” Margot said with a smile.

Harry waited. He toyed with the glass, holding it up to the light, watching the refraction as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. Did he want to talk about it? He wasn't the spill-your-emotions type. He didn't feel the need to get in touch with his inner self. This was personal.

He hadn't talked about it at all with Lee yet. He should have. But right now, Lee and Chip were dealing with it in their own way. Chip didn't take it well at all. He and Curly had been with Seaview since day one, since that first rivet, that first rib was set. It didn't help that Chip had been the one to find the COB's body, when Curly failed to report when Chip called for an status report.

Curly was dead, cold and still on the Circuitry Room floor. Doc said it was heart failure, brought on by electrical shock. Curly must have touched a wire and the shock had killed him instantly. Chip was hiding it well, but Lee had called it before Harry had the chance to think about it.  After the funeral, Lee had pulled Harry aside, while Chip had stared at the closed casket, those blue eyes that the ladies were so drawn to full of loss and grief.

“Admiral, I think I'll stay with Chip tonight. He doesn't need to be alone. He's just gonna brood and blame himself if somebody doesn't stay with him,” Lee had said, his voice low and concerned as he kept one eye on his oldest friend.

“Whatever you think is best, Lee. Take the next couple of days if you need it. I've called a halt to the refit for the time being. There's the matter of replacing Curly, and I need the both of you together if we're going to find someone up to par for Seaview. Take Chip home. Give me a call if you need anything,”

Lee had turned those intense golden eyes on Harry. “Yes sir. Are you . . .what about you, Admiral?”

Nelson had  stopped in his tracks. He hadn't considered how he was going spent the rest of the evening. Then he remembered Margot's. Been ages since he stopped in there. Tonight might just be the night to stop it and say hello.

“I have an old friend to visit. I'll be fine, Lee. You just keep an eye on Chip, don't worry about me.”

So that was how Harry Nelson ended up in the small little bar the local Navy rats found themselves in. Harry used to come here all the time but as the demands on Seaview and the Institute grew, he had found himself coming here less and less.

“Hon, maybe you don't need another drink. Least not here. Let me call you a cab. You look like you just lost your best friend. You need to be with your Navy buddies, not playing barfly.”

Margot picked up the cordless phone from under the counter and simply held it up in the air.

“Not my best friend, but a very good friend all the same. You just might be right. Go ahead and call me a cab.”

<><>

Harry had the cab drop him off at the gatehouse. He had made one stop, picked up something and starting walking up the hill once the cab dropped him off. He was pretty sure the guard had notified security. Wouldn't do to have the Boss trip and fall in a ditch.

As he walked, Harry thought about Curly. His laid back manner, his attitude. Where was he going to find someone like that? Curly was unique. Replacing like with like wasn't going to be easy. Maybe he was going about this all wrong. Maybe he need someone different. Someone closer the men's own age. Someone who understood the command structure and could work with the rather unique skipper and exec.

That was tomorrow's problem. As Harry neared Chip's condo, he tucked his package up a little closer to his chest. He walked around back to the house and as expected, found Chip and Lee lounging on the back deck.

“Admiral?” Both men jumped to their feet, maybe a bit on the wobbly side as their boss and superior officer appeared from nowhere.

“Sit down, this isn't official,” Nelson stated. He sat the brown paper sack on the table. Lee reached over and pulled out the bottle of Captain Morgan. Nelson pulled off the jacket and draped it over an empty chair. Chip had gone back into the house, and came back with a third glass.

Lee smiled. “Curly's label,” he said, cracking the top.

“Thought we'd send off the Chief in style,” Harry said, watching as Chip sat the glasses together and let Crane pour the first round. Nelson picked up the first glass and held it high. His action was mirrored by the two young commanders.

“A toast. To Curly. His kind are few and far between.”

Lee and Chip nodded and the three glasses came together with a musical click.

“To Curly.” Three men, brothers by choice, tossed back their drinks in memory of Chief Curly Jones.

 

(and to Sean, a right fine storyteller)

 

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