Chapters: 

2

3

4

 

 

 

For Curley

 

by Sue Kite

 

 

As I have watched the episodes on the Voyage DVD's, I am once again fascinated with the character of Chief Curley Jones.   The death of the actor who played him, Henry Kulkey, left a void in the program that was later filled by actor Terry Becker as Chief Sharkey, but there was never any explanation as to what happened to Curley. 

I have attempted to fill that void.....

By the way, there really is a North Andaman Island and it's owned by India.  The place names and the name of the guide, Kidseri, (means 'to come and go')  are real Andaman places and names.   I conjectured what it might be like in the mid to late 70's by what's there now.  

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Chief of the Boat Curley Jones didn’t have the slightest clue as to why he had volunteered to go and pick up the skipper from the rendezvous point near the Andaman city of Kalipur.   City?  Hah!  It was more of a downscaled, primitive resort area, with an even more primitive village nearby.  But that was okay, too.  The breezes were nice, when it wasn’t raining.  He had come by small cruiser, a tourist affair, from Bangkok, where the Seaview lay in the harbor, presumably making ‘emergency repairs.’  It was a cover for Captain Crane’s excursion to Northern Andaman Island, part of a small chain of islands belonging to India.  

While he respected the new captain and was certain of his loyalty to the boat and crew, he still took issue with some of Crane’s decisions, mainly the early ones—starting with that stealth arrival at the beginning of his tenure as captain.  That had rankled for a couple of months, although he had understood intellectually what the young captain had been trying to do.  Curley had understood, but was galled that not only had the skipper managed to get to the control room unseen during his watch, but that the COB had been called to task for Crane’s limited success.  It didn’t help that Admiral Nelson had ‘discussed’ the topic with the new captain; it had still irritated him. 

Later, when they had almost died when the sub sank, he had seen the skipper in a new light and his previous irritation had been partially supplanted by respect.  Crane was as deeply devoted to the boat as he or any of the others were and he took his command extremely seriously.  But somehow, when they were all off duty, Curley had occasionally asked the admiral, the XO or most of the other officers to have a drink with him at Marcel’s bar and grill.  For some reason, he had never asked the skipper.

And then there were these spy missions.   Crane seemed to be called on to do these things at the drop of a hat.   Running the boat was a full time operation, Curley thought.  That ONI and other feds felt it necessary to continually call on the man seemed dangerous to him.   Didn’t they train spies for that sort of thing?  He shook his head.  That little incident where Crane had been brainwashed and had come close to killing the admiral just served to prove Curley’s point.  The captain had made dangerous enemies. 

Then he backed up his thoughts.  The admiral had been asked to do espionage almost as much as the skipper had.  But somehow, for Nelson, it was different.  Curley shook his head and quit trying to figure out his convoluted thinking.  It was too hot and humid to do any serious thinking.  The only thing he did know was that now they and the boat in general were most likely up for target practice by any two-bit crackpot with a little power and a big grudge. 

So here he was acting like a dumb tourist waiting to meet the skipper.  What Crane had come here for was not for him to know.  He didn’t care—most of the time, that is.   The area was beautiful, with all its streams and beaches.  Yes, he was a sucker for water.  Always loved it, always would, in all its forms.  Well, most of it, he thought, slapping away a mosquito from the back of his neck.  But Crane had been near Saddle Peak, the tallest point on this island.  The tourist pamphlet had said it was about twenty-one hundred feet.  Not a huge height, but certainly not something Curley would think of as fun. 

Crane was supposedly returning on the hiking trails and would be back in Kalipur this evening.   That was all Curley had been told, other than some information as to what to do if the captain didn’t show up.   He sincerely hoped that the captain showed up on time.  Then they could get back to the sub, be done with this spy stuff and the insects and rain.

After walking the beaches, visiting the little village, fishing in the surf, Curley had a bite to eat and then returned to his tiny cabin.  Following a dose of antacid to offset that curry he had just eaten, he went to his bed to take a nap.   There were still several hours before the captain’s arrival.  The bed creaked ominously when he sat down.  He frowned.  That, like so many things, reminded him of his impending physical.  He wasn’t looking forward to it.   He pushed that thought away, just as he did all of the previous times he had been reminded.   Curley was determined that it was he who would decide when he left the service, not some portside doctor and the Navy regs that the admiral had to pretty much adhere to. 

A couple of hours later, Curley woke up with a start to the drumming of heavy rain on the wood-slat roof.  In fact, he realized with irritation, it was rain dripping into his face that had done the actual waking.  He looked at his watch in consternation.  The skipper should have been here by now.  Gazing out the window, Curley decided to give it another hour before reading the contingency instructions.  After all, this was a rain that would make Noah pause.   As if to punctuate his decision, a large bolt of lightning brightened the room, followed by a monstrously loud clap of thunder.

Curley waited, and waited some more, constantly looking at his watch.  What could have kept the man?  Finally, a couple of hours before sunset, Curley opened up the envelope that contained the next instructions.  It was short and sweet.   Find Kidseri in the village.  He will guide you.’   Kidseri?   With a sigh, Curley simply walked out the door and headed toward the village that lay in comfortable and ramshackle disorder along the beach to the north.   A slightly clad, dark-skinned old woman was cooking some kind of fish concoction.  She called to him to buy some of her dinner, but he shook his head.  “Kidseri?” he asked.  

Frowning, the woman pointed toward her pot.  Again Curley shook his head, but he got a notion of what might open her up.  “I am looking for Kidseri.  Kidseri.”  Then he handed her some rupees—the equivalent of what might buy a pack of gum in the states.

She smiled and nodded and then point down the road, giving rapid-fire instructions. 

“Whoa!” Curley said, motioning for her to slow down. 

Gazing at him like some ignorant little boy, she made more motions, then drew in the dirt.  Three houses down the dirt road, to the left, then four houses, then to the right, second house.  That was Kidseri’s house, she motioned. Or at least he thought that was what she said. 

He followed the directions and was soon standing outside a hut sitting at the edge of the forest, calling the name he had been given.  A younger woman emerged, a young child on her hip.  The child was naked, the woman only had on a grass-like skirt.  Curley kept his eyes on her face.  “Kidseri?” he asked.   She nodded and ducked back into the small house.  Soon a short, dark man came out.  He began talking and gesturing at the tall hills toward the interior of the island, pantomiming the act of guiding someone along a trail.  Curley began to get an impression that Kidseri was most likely the captain’s guide several days before.  He pulled out a small photograph of Captain Crane taken in civilian attire. 

When he showed it to Kidseri, the Andamanese man nodded and grinned happily.  “Lee,” he said, drawing out the e’s.  He gestured again.  This time Curley was able to follow the story.  Kidseri had taken the skipper into the mountain area and had left him at the captain’s instructions.  It had been a little over three days ago. 

Curley gestured his desire for Kidseri to guide him into the mountains to follow Crane.  This time Kidseri shook his head and then explained by pointing toward the setting sun, that it was too late in the day.  Curley frowned in frustration, even as the guide motioned that he would guide him first thing in the morning.   All he could do was agree.  Curley placed a small handful of rupees in the man’s hand with a promise of more if they could find the captain.  Kidseri bowed several times and grinned happily. 

All Curley could do was return to the tourist complex.  The headquarters of the tourist company was serving dinner and Curley bought something that didn’t look as potent as his lunch.  After he had finished, he returned to his cabin and tried to get comfortable on the soggy bed.  The mosquito netting kept off most of the insects, thankfully.  But the damp sheets?  He didn’t think he would be able to sleep, but apparently he did.  He woke up to the screaming of birds and the vision of a dark, almost naked man squatting on the floor in front of his door in the early morning light.   Jerking the netting aside, he saw that it was Kidseri, who, when he saw that Curley was awake, grinned happily and started speaking and gesturing. 

“I’m hurrying, already,” Curley grumbled, wondering if there was any privacy on this island.   He motioned the native to turn around and then he changed into clean, although, like the sheets, slightly damp, clothes.  Not wanting to linger, the chief grabbed a quick cup of tea, irritated that they didn’t have coffee.  He wondered just how the skipper had made it these past few days without his ‘cuppa joe.’  

It wasn’t long before they were heading through the forest on a trail that seemed only wide enough for a cat to pass.  Kidseri seemed almost catlike himself; barely making the branches shiver as he passed them.  Curley, on the other hand, felt clumsy on the path.  He tried to watch his guide, but ended up watching his feet more often. 

After several hours, Curley had to call a short halt.  He was puffing like a steam engine and the sweat was pouring down his face.  His sides and legs hurt.  His back hurt.  Why didn’t he admit it?  Everything hurt right now.  It had been a long time since he had hiked like this.   Wiping his face on his now unbuttoned shirt, Curley saw that Kidseri was nowhere to be seen.  He pulled his canteen from around his neck, but hesitated, thinking that the captain may need something when they found him.  Where had the Andamanese gone?  He almost called out, but decided that whatever reason Crane was out here, it wasn’t just to look at the local flora.  There may be unfriendlies out here.  That had the COB looking over his shoulder and straining his ears to hear sounds that didn’t belong.  

Just as suddenly as he had left, Kidseri returned, seeming to almost materialize in front of him.  The small man just beckoned for Curley to follow him.  They continued up the path, but Kidseri seemed to understand the COB’s need and didn’t set quite as brisk a pace.  A short rain shower passed overhead and Curley muttered under his breath as the water ran down his neck.  After what seemed an interminable time, Kidseri stopped and studied the ground around him.  Curley could see nothing different, but apparently the Andamanese had.  Kidseri continued to study the ground and the bushes, occasionally stopping to listen to the noises of the forest.   When the native did that, the chief did the same, but could hear nothing out of the ordinary.   While he could hear a slight deviation in a boat’s engines, especially Seaview’s, the chief couldn’t differentiate the different insects and birds to save him.  

Kidseri pointed to the brush to the left and Curley quietly, or at least as quietly as he could, moved in the direction the native had indicated.  He had only gone a short way when the chief began hearing movement ahead of him.  It was like the thrashing of a wild animal and Curley wondered what the small man behind him had led him to.  He broke through into a tiny clearing and found the captain.  Crane looked worse than the chief felt.  The younger man was disheveled and using a stout pole as club, swinging at something that clearly wasn’t there.   He hadn’t seen them approach. 

The Andamanese guide tugged at the chief’s sleeve and indicated that there were others in the area and that they all had to be quiet.  Curley could only assume that he was referring to Crane’s enemies and he grabbed the captain’s arm to warn him.  With a sudden move, the skipper swung around and clipped him alongside the face.  Seeing stars, Curley could only be grateful that Crane had used his fist and not the pole.  “Captain,” he hissed.  “It’s me, Curley.”  Crane didn’t seem to hear or understand him and rushed him again, pole raised.  With only a slight moment of regret, Curley made his own, more calculated, jab and knocked the captain to the ground.  Surprisingly, Captain Crane was out cold.  The chief didn’t think he had hit him that hard, but apparently he had.  

He didn’t have time to check for other injuries; Kidseri was gesturing that they had to leave.  Curley nodded and hoisted the captain over his shoulder.  This was when he was thankful that Crane, although tall, was very slender.  With a nod, the native led the way through the brush even as the rain began to fall again.  They quickly came to another path and Kidseri picked up his pace.   Curley felt the muscles cramp in his side and his breath come in gasps.  Sweat poured down his face and back and his head pounded.  A familiar heaviness settled in his legs, but the chief pushed most of the discomfort from his mind.  There was a job to do and he was going to get it done.

They crossed a stream, and then climbed a slight incline.  They were heading up the mountain, but by a slightly different route than the one they had been taking.  They walked along a narrow shelf that worked its way up the side of a cliff.  Curley felt his breath catch in fear and he shifted the skipper on his shoulder to more easily navigate the path.  They walked around an outcropping of rock and Kidseri stopped.   He pointed and pushed between the vines and brush that had lined the entire route along the cliff.  Amazingly, there was a narrow fissure behind the foliage and the native disappeared.  Curley followed.  

The fissure opened up somewhat inside, allowing the chief to ease his burden to the ground.  It was dark with only a bit of light filtering from above as well as from the entrance.  Kidseri gestured.  All Curley could make out was that the Andamanese was going to continue on the path and that he was to keep the captain quiet.  Curley nodded and the little man was suddenly gone.   He sat on the hard ground a moment, waiting for his chest to stop hurting.  Finally his breath came more easily, the pain subsided and he was able to turn his attention to the captain.

Crane seemed to have no apparent injuries until the chief checked his legs.  His left ankle was greatly swollen and there were small, but bloody cuts.  When he touched the spot, the skipper groaned softly in pain.  Curley pulled away and Crane was once more quiet.  The chief would have to wait until the danger was past before he could do a more thorough exam.   He pulled out the gun from inside its holster and took off the safety.  Then he waited.    As the pain subsided, fatigue set in.  He tried to keep his eyes open, but it was getting more and more difficult.   The sound of footsteps and muted voices came and then continued on along the path.  He continued to wait, struggling to stay awake.  Finally, he dozed. 

“Curley?” a soft voice awoke him. 

“Skipper?” he answered in a whisper.   The small cave was almost entirely dark.  It had rained again.  Occasional drops of water fell down on him from the crack above. 

“Where are we?” Crane asked, his voice also a whisper, almost in his ear. 

“In a cave.  That guide, Kidseri, led us here.”

“I don’t remember,” came the puzzled reply. 

“That’s because I carried you, Captain,” Curley said sardonically.  “You were out of your head back near the path and making too much noise.  Sorry, I kind of had to, uh, pop you one.”

“That’s why the side of my face feels numb.”  Crane chuckled.  “And I thought I was the boxer.”

“Middle weight, sir.  I was heavy weight.”

There was more soft laughter in the darkness, then a groan.

“You all right, Skipper?”

“I got cocky and thought I was home free coming back.  It had been so easy during the reconnaissance.  On the way out, I felt something nail my ankle.  Thought it was a snake, but seems it was something that imitated one.”

“Huh?”

“I can’t tell you much here, Curley, but the place I was checking out had safeguards around the perimeter.  They had a trap on the path, something a guerilla fighter would be proud of.  It was a dart from a loaded spring in the form of a small snake.  I thought I had been bit by a snake and took a little time to do what anyone is supposed to do when snake-bit.  Then I saw the dart almost hidden in the grass and I just took off.”

“But there was poison in the dart,” stated Curley.

“Yeah, just as I figured, but I didn’t have a choice.  I had to keep going.  Some of the symptoms seem to imitate snakebite, though.  I think my pursuers thought I would just pass out and they could pick me up at their leisure.”

Curley smiled.  “But you fooled them.”

Crane sighed.  “It wasn’t easy, but the streams I waded seemed to take a bit of the poison out of the wound.  Or the cool water kept me more aware of what was going on.  Good thing you showed up when you did, though.”

“The way you were going, you would have taken them out just as easily as you almost took me out,” Curley said with a chuckle. 

“Did I hit you?  Sorry about that.”

“Uh, Skipper, you just took me by surprise.  It wasn’t that bad.”

Soft laughter and then, “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

 

 

Chapter Two
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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