Memoirs & Memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring, 1999

 

 

Harriman Nelson watched the young woman unpack her things with the thought that he wished he were a few years younger and she was unpacking something other than a tape recorder, laptop, and a notebook and pencils.  Melanie Driscoll was dressed casually today in Capri’s, plastic flower-decorated flip flops and a low cut cotton blouse.  Her long, auburn hair was tied up in a perky ponytail, slightly off the style of the day, but almost making her seem like a pixie, despite the fact that she was in her early twenties.  He sighed, feeling stirrings that he had thought he was too old to have. 

Nelson remembered the first time she had come to visit him at the Institute.   He had been supervising the packing of some of the last of his mementos and personal items now that he was relinquishing what little day-to-day personal supervision he had been able to do of late.  She had walked into his spacious office with the air of someone entering a lion’s den; at the very least, someone at their first important interview.   Business suit, hair perfectly in place, soft curls draped just so over her shoulders, high-heels that he figured had been borrowed—everything in place and the poor girl acting like a deer caught in a poacher’s spotlight.  He hadn’t really tried to cultivate that kind of reaction in visitors—well not most of them, anyway, he thought with a smile.  It just happened sometimes.  Perhaps this time it was because he finally had to give up something that had been like a child to him for almost thirty years.  Forced by age and physical ability to sit on the sidelines and watch others run his show.  

He had called her in because of the biographical materials she had written about him and sent to him for his approval.   That in and of itself impressed him.  With so much unauthorized crap floating around about the famous and semi-famous and wannabees, it was nice that someone had the courtesy to ask his approval.  Notwithstanding that, the request for her to come had not indicated either his approval or disapproval, only that he wanted to discuss it with her.  So, Harriman thought, it was natural that she would have been nervous.   Poor girl, he thought back at the moment; all she had wanted was his sanction and all he wanted was to see what this writer’s agenda really was.   It became quickly apparent that she greatly admired him.   Actually, as the interview progressed, Nelson had been more nervous with that than if she had come in trying to pry secrets out of him.  He could have handled that one more easily.    However, she was genuine and she was a very good writer.  Therefore, at the end of the first visit, he had given her his blessing to continue with her project.  To some extent, he thought, it would be good to put his memoirs down before he died and people tried to outguess his motives, thoughts and desires.   So they had worked together for the past four months, she with her questions and tape recorder and he with memories, some of which he had thought he had forgotten years ago.  Waltzing down memory lane had proven to be a rich experience.  And Melanie was very adept for digging out the details that would flesh out each experience and color each anecdote, bringing into focus so much that had been buried.   

Now they were almost through and Nelson was sad.  He would miss the girl.  Of course, she would be around to let him see the manuscripts as she edited each chapter, but it wouldn’t be the same.  It wouldn’t be as often and he would miss her companionship. 

She came to sit down near his recliner, pulling her chair right next to his, a TV tray next to that.  The notebook and pencil lay open on the tray, the mini recorder beside it.  The laptop was on her lap, earning the nickname the latest computers had been given.   She plugged the machine in and then smiled down at him.  “You like some refreshment before we begin, Admiral?”

“I already fixed something before you came, Melanie.  Herbal tea in the fridge,” he said with a slight grimace.  “And for crying out loud, call me Harry!  You have certainly earned the right.”

“I’ll get it and while I am, you can answer one question, sir.”  

Harry huffed and then smiled softly at her continued display of respect.  “What question?”

“Does Admiral Crane call you Harry all the time?”

“Yes; more often than he did before getting his admiral’s stars,” Nelson admitted. 

“But not before his rank approached yours,” she replied from inside the kitchen.  

Nelson laughed easily as she came back in with a tray containing a pitcher and two glasses.  She laid it down on the coffee table and poured him a glass of the semi-palatable brew.   It would have been improved immensely by a shot of Scotch, or even Vodka, but such wasn’t allowed these days, unless Lee, during one of his own perverse streaks, brought in a fifth to add a jigger to their drinks.  “Still, after all you’ve put up with, you certainly deserve the right.”

“Put up with?   I have enjoyed every minute!”

“Melanie, I have been cantankerous and snappish at times,” Nelson said in answer.

Admiral, if you were my grandfather, I’d call you Grandpa, but not Harry,” she replied gently, but stubbornly. 

He sighed.  “But you’re not my grandchild.”   He wished she were.  “You’re a close friend much more than a biographer and I would feel honored if you would call me Harry—at least occasionally.”

“Are you serious, Admiral?”

“Yes.”  She handed him a glass and he sipped at the too-bland drink, then he saw her hesitate to pick up her half filled glass.  He was distressed to see a tear form in the corner of her eyes.  “What’s wrong?”

“It’s just that I’m going to miss our time together.  The stories of the Seaview and your life before that have been wonderful.  I have felt transported.  I have felt a part of your life . . . Harry.”

He studied her face.  “There’s more to it than that, isn’t there?” Harriman asked leaning over stiffly and touching her arm with his dry and gnarled hand.  Blasted arthritis!  “Answer me this time, Melanie.  Why did you undertake to do a biography of me?  And don’t give me the standard answer.”

“But I do respect you!  Everything you’ve done.”  She paused.  When she continued her voice was very soft.  “I kind of had to after all that my father and mother told me.  You see, Dad served under you and his last talks with me were of his time on the Nautilus and then on Seaview.”

He had thought her name familiar, but he hadn’t asked who her parents were.  “Kent Driscoll?”  Chief Driscoll.  He had saved several seamen during that terrible time when the Seaview had hit the minefield and had nearly been destroyed.   By the time Harry had found him he had been injured badly enough that he had to retire from service.  So this was Kent’s daughter.

She nodded.  “He credits you with saving him.”

“I would say that Admiral Morton and Chief Jones deserve that accolade more than I do.”

She just smiled and turned on her laptop.  Then she pushed a button on the tape recorder.  “You told me last time that there was nothing left to remember, so I thought I would just ask general questions about some of the missions that you undertook, with or without Seaview.  Are there any that you consider the most important?”

He nodded and mentioned a few.  She typed in his answers since they were brief.   “What about the most interesting.”  Again, she typed in his answers.  Nelson figured that she was such a fast typist that she very seldom had to refer to the tape recorder.  It was good to document everything, though, he thought. 

“Which mission was the most harrowing?  The minefield incident?  Or when you were lost at sea and you had a reaction to your medicine?” she prompted.

His mind tracked back to a time that would haunt him to the day he died; a time that still appeared in his nightmares occasionally.  Before he could stop himself, he shook his head and said, “No.  It was Krueger.”

Melanie began typing and then suddenly stopped. “Krueger?  I thought you had told me everything, Admiral.” 

“No, there are some things that are still classified or that are too unbelievable or terrible that they cannot be revealed—at least until I’m dead.”

She reached over and turned off the tape recorder.  “I venture to guess that this wasn’t classified, but something so horrible that it can’t be published.”

“I’m sorry, Melanie.  I shouldn’t have even brought it up.  You’re right, though.  It was a nightmare.  It is as clear today as it was back about twenty years ago.  I don’t even like remembering it.”   His mind’s eye continued to play out the scenes and visions of his past.  Then he felt her hand on his.  “I dare say that although none of the surviving men would agree, if the incident became public, I might still be called up on attempted murder charges.”

Melanie gazed at him in shock and then calmed down.  She had realized very quickly that some of the missions Seaview had undertaken might easily have been considered beyond the auspices of lawful conduct, but all of them she had heard about had extenuating circumstances that any court would have concluded exonerated those involved.  “Harry,” she began softly.  “Maybe it would help if you told the story.  Get it out.  I promise that it will never appear in print.”  She had put aside the computer as well as the tape recorder. 

He gazed deeply into her blue-gray eyes.  “I believe you, Melanie, it’s just….”

“Just what, Admiral?” she asked softly. 

“It’s just that I still have a hard time relating how I deliberately set out to kill my friend and colleague.”  When she didn’t say anything, he continued.  “Lee Crane.”

Melanie said nothing for a while.  “Admiral Crane?  But you told about a couple of missions where the crew was under some kind of control.”

“No, I was totally in my right mind when it happened.” 

“Who was Krueger?” she asked gently.  She felt something vaguely familiar about the name.  It had to have been in one of the reports, but she couldn’t recall it right now.

Nelson sighed heavily and then struggled to stand up.  Damned hip almost gave out, but he made it and limped toward his bedroom.  It was hard to keep the affair inside any longer.  And he trusted her explicitly now.  Melanie was honest in her assessments and was an excellent listener.  The entire crew had let almost nothing out over the years except the official statement that the admiral had included in his report.  Lee’s injury was written up as a shipboard accident.  Even the native girl, Maria, had never told, afraid that she would be ostracized as a lunatic. 

“Is there something I can help you with?” she asked from behind him. 

“No, I just wanted to show you something.”  He reached the cabinet set into one wall in his bedroom and unlocked a drawer.  With shaky hands, he pulled out a large envelope and handed it to her.  With his cane to steady him, he limped back to his more comfortable chair and sat down.  He motioned for her to sit back down next to him and open up the envelope.   She did so, pulling out a picture of a man in a WWI German uniform and a picture of a derelict and corroded submarine—a U-boat.  However, it wasn’t lying on the bottom; it was floating in the water, as though fully operational, gaping hole notwithstanding. 

“That is a picture of a U-boat we encountered south of Hawaii about twenty years ago,” Harriman began. “And that is the photo of her captain, Gerhard Krueger. He was the U-444’s captain when she was sunk in the north Atlantic.”

Melanie jerked her gaze up in shock.  “But you said you encountered it in the Pacific.  How could something that was sunk in the Atlantic end up in the Pacific?  I didn’t think that U-boats operated in the Pacific anyway.”

“They pretty much didn’t.”  He smiled softly, remembering Lee’s words so long ago.  “I suspect that occasionally they made spying missions in various parts of the world.  But it was there on that occasion because it was a ghost ship. Just as her captain was a ghost.”

She just ogled for a moment. Then she looked more carefully at the pictures in her hand.  “He looked creepy even alive,” she murmured and then gazed back up at him.  “I would like to hear the entire story if you don’t mind, please.”

Harriman smiled softly. “I usually try to finish what I start, but if you think the less of me after I finish the story, I will certainly understand.”

Melanie laid her hand over his and softly squeeze.  “There is nothing you could tell me that would make me change my opinion of you, Admiral.”

But he didn’t say a thing.  She hadn’t heard the story.  In some ways, he wished that Lee was here to give his side, but another part of him was just as glad he wasn’t. “We were doing a survey mission and only had a few more days before we were finished. After that we were heading for Hawaii and some R & R before we sailed back to Santa Barbara.  It had been an uneventful mission up until then, but a long one and everyone was ready to get back home.”  Nelson took a sip of the tea and reached for his breast pocket.  He stopped, though, realizing that there were no cigarettes.  It had been a long time since he done that and it was an indication just how much what happened twenty years ago still affected him.  “Then sonar picked up a wreck on the ocean floor.  Of course, it was nothing on our charts or records, and it was more or less on our way, so we opted to investigate.”  Nelson paused and sucked in a shaky breath.  He had been through all of this in his mind, but to vocalize it?   “I have thought so many times how things might have been different had we not.  If we had simply ignored it, gone on our way, done our surveying, had our fun in Waikiki.”  

Melanie was worried.  The admiral seemed much more agitated than he had ever been.  “Sir, if it’s too painful, maybe it should just be left in the past and forgotten.”

“It can never be forgotten!” he burst out.  Then, “Never….”   Gazing at the girl he continued.  “Do you see why this was never made public?  And why I have to tell someone—someone who wasn’t there and a part of it?”

The young woman shook her head.  “No, Admiral; I only understand that this was very traumatic for you.”

“It was traumatic for everyone, but enough of emotional outbursts.   And I am sorry for shouting at you.”  He sighed and sat back.  “Captain Crane thought I was obsessing over what was going on almost from the outset, but he was wrong.  I wasn’t obsessed or even possessed.  I was scared spitless.”

“You?  Scared, Admiral?”

Again, he chuckled.   It relieved the anxiety that had clouded the intense blue eyes.  “I have been scared many times, but this time….    Almost from the moment I laid eyes on that derelict—the one you see in the old picture, I felt a sense of foreboding.  It strangled reason, logic and the ability to come to any kind of decision.  And I didn’t realize just how much until it was all over and I had time to reflect.  And I see how very ineffective and impotent I was at preventing all of this.”

Melanie softly sucked in a deep breath.  Somehow, she thought this was the key to the Admiral’s inner conflict.  But she said nothing.

“I had never believed in ghosts, goblins or things that go bump in the night, but let me tell you, Melanie….”   He took one of her hands in his old, dry ones and gazed deeply into her eyes.  “It didn’t take long before I believed in them then.  At least subconsciously….”  

Harriman released her hand, but she didn’t pull away, instead she continued to gaze into his face.  She had remembered his allusion to a “Christmas spirit” or some kind of manifestation in the form of the flute playing castaway named Old John.  She didn’t bring that up, though.  This didn’t seem to be the time or place.  Perhaps this story would explain why the admiral had felt the way he did about John.   “Tell me about it,” she coaxed softly, her hand warm on his knee.  She could almost feel the tension in the room and she wondered if it was the same that the crew of the Seaview had felt during that long ago mission.   Melanie had done so much research before she had begun the writing that she believed she almost pinpoint the date of this event.  However if it was the time frame she was thinking of, she also remembered that there was a gap in the official report.  Time unaccounted for, mysterious injuries.  Of course, she had found that in other missions, but the admiral had explained a few of those, saying that enough time had passed, that no one would be hurt by them, or that the threat was non-existent now.  Others he had waved off by telling her that the information was still classified.

“It was the U-444.”  Harriman pointed toward the photo on the coffee table.  As though he needed to; Melanie’s gaze was now riveted on the old derelict.   It seemed as though he was being carried into the photograph back in time as he described the events.   He could see the old submarine in crystal clear clarity as though from the observation windows of the Seaview.  “As I said, there was almost like a pall hanging over the boat.  During the moments when my mind seemed clearer, I noticed that it affected different members of the crew in different ways.  Some of the men just felt a bit of weirdness.  Kowalski told me later that sometimes he felt as though something was trying to tear his mind apart.  At the time I was wondering why Captain Crane was acting so paranoid.”  He focused again on the young woman’s face. “I don’t mean the safe kind of paranoia that we usually call suspicion in a dangerous situation, I’m talking about the kind of extreme paranoia that makes you see things in the corner that aren’t really there.  Funny thing is, his instinct was right on the mark; he just didn’t know it at the time.  Neither did I.”

He told her everything up to the point of the burial at sea, leaving out nothing of his narrative.  And he realized that that was exactly what it was—a straightforward narrative.  Nelson told nothing of his fear rising up and taking him by the throat, choking him, freezing his brain.  He didn’t tell of the moments so long ago when he wished he had told Lee everything about Krueger, his suspicions, what the German wanted.  Perhaps Lee would have understood and been more prepared.  The closest he had come was when Lee had accused him of protecting Krueger and he could only respond with, ‘I am trying to protect you!’

“When did you first get the idea that Krueger was a ghost?” Melanie asked softly, mesmerized by the story, but so far only getting hints at the emotional turmoil that the incident had caused. 

“My first tenuous inkling?  When I saw him at the hatchway and the lighting flickered.  I felt something cold and malevolent.  Even the emergency lighting seemed to emphasize the dangerous evil that this man—entity represented.  I think Lee did, too, but when you pick up someone in the middle of the ocean, you can’t tell them no when they ask to come on board. When did I know of a certainty?”  The old man sucked in a deep breath and thought a moment.  “I guess it was when he appeared in my cabin after I had gone to bed.  I had locked my cabin door and was still awake enough to know that no one had jimmied the lock or used a key.  Even then I wanted to deny it, but deep down it was undeniable.”

“And that was when he told you to kill Lee Crane,” Melanie probed. 

Nelson nodded. “I think my breath froze for a scant moment and then anger burned in my veins.  How dare he order me to kill the man who had become such a close friend! How dare he tell me to destroy such a vital, important and talented man!  Then I realized that although he wasn’t able to kill Lee himself, what he threatened to do to the boat and crew was not only possible, but probable.  He had moved a U-boat from the Atlantic to the Pacific, moved it to intercept us twice, caused systems to fail on the Seaview for no apparent reason.”

“But I’m confused, Admiral.  If Krueger wanted someone ‘vital and alive’ as I think you said he put it, why did he want the captain dead?  Wouldn’t that have negated what he said he wanted—to live again?” 

Harriman leaned back and pondered. “I wondered about that myself.  I honestly think that he didn’t want Lee dead outright. I think he wanted me to mortally shoot him. That way, Krueger could inhabit the body of his choice and make it his. Somehow, along the way, the wound would be isolated and contained, and Krueger would have his warm flesh to do his will for however long he desired. Giving Crane and himself immortality.  As it turned out, I believe I was right.”

She nodded but didn’t say anything, only pulling out a small bottle from her purse and pouring a bit of amber liquid into each glass. 

“Is that what I think it is?” Harry asked, incredulous.  His doctor, who made Jamie look like a reprobate, hadn’t let him have any booze for months. 

The girl smiled softly and nodded. “Jack Daniels, but only a little.”

“Bless you, my girl.” He said with a quick grin, and then he took a sip of his tea.  It was no longer bland; it now had a soft bite that made it palatable.  

“I had been meaning to bring some a long time ago, but I thought this time was the best to spring it on you.  I had intended on it being something of a completion toast.  Now, though….”

“Yes, because what happened next is very confusing,” he began. 

“And the other wasn’t?” she asked, her tone ironic.

Nelson just shook his head.  “No, it was horrifying.  After the burial at sea, I told Lee, while trying to tell myself, that Krueger had been mortal trying to convince us that he was a ghost and that was that.  I was still on edge, though, snapping at Lee and then finally deciding to go work in my lab.  I still felt that something wasn’t right.  That feeling of impending doom, I guess.”

Melanie said nothing, only waited.  

“Well, I went to my lab, but didn’t work.  Instead, I fell asleep and had the strangest dreams.  We blew up Krueger’s boat when it tried to ram us.  Krueger appeared and told us he was giving up.  Then a girl appeared to me telling me that Krueger had not given up.  He would be back.  I felt such euphoria at the first and such dread when the girl appeared.   I still couldn’t totally believe what I was seeing.  I didn’t want to believe it.  It would mean that Krueger had won.”  He rubbed a hand across his face.  “I was so unnerved that I went to see Doc Jamieson.   I guess I hoped that there was a medical reason for my . . . anxiety, malaise, or whatever it was.”

“But, of course, there wasn’t,” Melanie prodded, part of her wishing to just shut off what was causing the admiral so much anxiety and another part wanting to hear more.  It so fit with the vagaries that her mother had told her of the time in question. 

“No. I knew that Krueger would be back. I knew that eventually he would win, despite what the girl told me.  Still, I thought if I took precautions, tried to thwart Krueger, he might give up as he had in the dream.”  Nelson took another drink of the tea and then continued.  “I called Lee into my cabin, showed him the pictures.  He couldn’t believe that the man he had just said services over was a ghost and would be back.  I pulled my gun out of my safe and gave it to him for safekeeping.”  He gazed into the girl’s large eyes.   They truly reminded him of someone he knew from long ago, but he couldn’t remember who. Taking another breath, Nelson continued.  “What was weird was that Lee said something about blowing up the wreck, but we hadn’t, except in my dream. I began to wonder what was real and what was dream.  Reality seemed wrapped around itself in a fog of surrealism.”  He noticed his hand trembling as he picked up his glass.  “The look that Lee gave me.  It was in his eyes, the look on his face, even the stance of his body.  He truly believed that I had gone over the edge.  He couldn’t see that Krueger had effected his influence on all of us—that Gerhard Krueger was exactly who and what he said he was.”  

“What was it that Krueger did to make you carry out his order?  I can’t believe that you would have actually shot Captain Crane simply because you believed that Krueger was a ghost—this Flying Dutchman—and that he had exerted influence over some physical objects.”

Harriman shook his head and smiled softly.  “You sound like me, Melanie.  No, it took something much more than that.  Krueger shut down the boat. Totally. Shut down all systems. The Seaview was dead and heading to the bottom.  I felt it in my cabin, knew that Krueger, who had left when I had assured him that nothing would cause me to shoot Lee, was turning the screws.  He had upped the ante and the jackpot was death.” 

Melanie poured him some more tea.  Nelson motioned for her to pour a bit more of the whiskey into the glass. She hesitated, but finally did as he wanted.  He swirled the ice cubes to mix everything together, took a sip and then continued. 

“The sub hit bottom and lay at rest. There were only the creaking sounds of stressed metal. There was nothing on the intercom; there was no throb of engines, no whisper of air.  Krueger had turned off all systems including the ventilation system.  But it wasn’t that we didn’t have any fresh air; it was as though we didn’t have any air at all.  Like it had been sucked out of the boat all at once.  I fell to the floor, gasping.  I knew that it was happening all over the sub.  And I realized that every one of the hundred plus men were fighting for breath and dying.  It was worse than when the boat sank the previous year—much, much worse.”

“Just as Krueger had said he would do.”

“Yes, exactly as Krueger had said.  I had no choice.  I had to do what he wanted.”  Nelson looked down at his hands.  The same hands that had held the gun; the same finger that had pulled the trigger.   “I couldn’t let those men die because of my loyalty to one fine young man.  If it had just been me, there would have been no contemplation, but the men….”

Melanie heard the catch of breath that was like a sob and she realized that it really was.  She didn’t know how to comfort him.  “But Lee Crane lived; he didn’t die.”

Harriman laughed bitterly.  “It wasn’t for lack of trying.  Later on even Lani came to tell me off.  I didn’t listen to her.  I ignored her warning, she said.”  He snorted.  “What was I supposed to do?”  He threw his hands up in the air and cried out.  “She told me I would never see Lee Crane again!  She told me that while I lay strapped in a restraint jacket like some lunatic in a psycho ward!”

She repeated what she had just said, adding, “You did see Lee again.  So that means that you saved him.”

Nelson looked at her sharply, reminded of something Lee had told him after his rescue from the island.  Had he told Melanie something about all of this before and he had simply forgotten? Or had Lee told her during her interviews with him?  But he pushed that out of the way, determined to tell the whole story and see if she would still be as loyal to him as she acted now.

“I didn’t go and do Krueger’s bidding at once. I moved so slowly. I wanted it that way. I didn’t want to face what I had to do.  I don’t really know how long it took me. At least long enough for Lee and Chip to have some basic checks of the systems run.  And at least as long as it took us to regain trim, blow ballast and rise to just below the surface.  And all the while Krueger sat there in my chair watching me with his cold, hard, hungry eyes, making sure that I would ultimately do what I had told him I would do.  He wanted to feel warm blood again and he was willing to wait a little for it, but not too long.” Harriman ran his hand through his hair.  “Finally I picked up the gun from the safe.”

“I thought you had given it to Captain Crane.”

“I did, but then nothing stayed put if Krueger needed it.  It was back in my safe, ready for me to use.  With it in my hand and Krueger staring at my back, there was nothing else to do but finish the deed.  I kept telling myself, it was to save the men.  I walked slowly and deliberately forward, holding the cursed gun, ignoring anyone who came near. And all the while, Krueger was behind me, whispering over and over and over again—“Kill Captain Crane.  Kill Captain Crane.  Kill Captain Crane.”

Melanie was horrified.  The admiral even had the thick accent that she could imagine Krueger having.  The tone was menacing and she could only guess all that had gone on in the admiral’s mind during this. 

“I was almost hoping that the one or two of the crewmen I saw would say something, would do something. Take the gun away—anything!  But they didn’t. They just looked at me strangely and hurried on their way.  When the OOM had made up his mind about something, you didn’t get in the way or question it,” Nelson said bitterly.  “I walked down the steps of the spiral staircase to the control room.  No one paid attention to me then.  No one saw the gun.  Everyone was trying to figure out what had happened.  Hell,” he snorted ironically.  “I could have told them right then, but it wouldn’t have changed anything.”  Gone from his view was the young woman, his apartment, the iced tea in tall glasses.  Instead he saw the control room.  Chip doing some calculation, men bent over their stations.  Lee at the periscope, his back to him.  Slowly he turned the periscope, now he was facing Harriman.  Crane pulled back from the instrument.  Then Nelson, his hand trembling slightly, fired.  The report was horribly loud.  Everything stopped for a brief second.  Then Lee gazed at him, disbelief in his eyes even as shock began to cloud their hazel depths.  He collapsed and the brief second of frozen time ended.  Chip called out for the men to grab him while the exec rushed to Lee’s side.  Even as they hauled him to the ground, jerked the gun from his hand, he felt his mind sliding into despair.  He had done the despicable.  He had shot his friend, his colleague, his captain, his brother in arms, his . . . son.   Harry didn’t know he had been speaking until he heard himself sobbing quietly, felt Melanie’s body next to his, her arms comforting him, his head against her chest as though she was his mother rather than a young college kid writing his biography.  

“But Lee Crane got better.  He doesn’t think any the less of you,” she said soothingly.  “In my interviews with him; with any of the men, no one has anything but the utmost respect for you.  In fact I get the impression from Admiral Crane that he feels you are like a second father.”

He nodded, took the proffered tissue, and tried to regain his decorum.  In the silence that followed, he took control of his emotions.  Finally he asked her a question, “Have you ever done something that you feel is horrible?” When she didn’t answer, he rephrased it.  “Did you ever do something to someone you loved that you regretted terribly; even if that someone didn’t love or respect you the less for it?”

She still sat next to him on the recliner, her arm still around him.  Yes, she remembered saying something to her mother a few years ago that she wished she could stuff back down her throat.  Despite that, her mother didn’t love her the less, but still Melanie didn’t think she would ever forget the horrible things she had said that terrible night.  It had and still did cause her unbearable anguish.  At first she could only nod.  “But still, Admiral, it’s those who have good hearts that overcome those times and let the relationship become stronger,” Melanie finally said. 

“Yes, I suppose that you’re right.  Lee Crane is a good man and a very loyal friend.” 

“I wasn’t just talking about Admiral Crane, sir,” Melanie said softly.

He smiled his gratitude, then changed the subject. “As much as I enjoy the feel of a sweet young woman sitting in my lap, it’s also distracting,” he said with as much dignity as he could muster. 

Embarrassed, Melanie scrambled out of the chair and sat back down in her own.  She studied the admiral’s face to see if he was angry at her temerity and intimacy.   Rather he looked about as embarrassed as she felt.

“I do want to thank you.  I guess some would say that I needed a soft shoulder to cry on, but I am not used to it.  I appreciate your understanding,” Nelson said tenderly. 

“Anytime you want that shoulder again, just ask for it,” she replied.  When he only nodded, she queried. “Did you want to call a halt for the day, sir?”

This time he shook his head.  “I want to do this all at once.  I may not have the guts to continue if I stop now—or the energy.”

“All right, Admiral.  But would you like me to fix you a bite of lunch?” 

He looked at the clock and gasped.  They had been at this for almost three hours. “Not yet, Melanie, unless you’re hungry.”

“No, sir, but I’ll make you a bargain.  When we near the end, we’ll be really decadent and I’ll order a pizza.”

“Add breadsticks with that killer garlic butter and I’ll take you up on it,” Harriman said with a slight smile.  There was something about this girl that made him feel good, no matter what mood he had been in.

She nodded and sat ready to listen. “What happened next?” she asked, unnecessarily, she thought, but he had seemed reluctant to continue. 

“The med team came.  I was still attempting to get up, to get to Lee—anything to undo what I had done.  Mainly, though, I think I was struggling to keep Krueger from taking Lee’s body.   The more I struggled, the more they held me down until finally, they put me into a straight jacket.  At the same time, Doc Jamieson was tending to Lee.  It was a babble of voices in the control room and all I could do was struggle to get loose.  That was the obsession that I had at that moment.  Now that I had done Krueger’s bidding, I had to do anything to stop him from taking over Lee.”

“But what could you do against a ghost or against all of those who didn’t understand?” she asked.

“Nothing, it seemed.  Lee was put on a stretcher and I was manhandled up the stairs.  They had gurneys waiting in the corridor for both of us.  They hauled us inside sickbay and it was still bedlam, although with fewer people. Doc tossed everyone out and then sent his assistant out to his lab for something.  I don’t remember what.  I’m afraid I babbled on and on, trying to make some sense of what seemed totally senseless.  Doc tried to shut me up but when I saw Krueger in the shadows, I’m afraid I went ballistic.  Finally Doc gave me something to calm me down, not that I blame him, but my eyes were glued to the horrible sight of Krueger sitting next to Lee and merging with him.  I know I was half out of it from the anesthesia, but I will never forget watching Lee Crane, bullet hole in his gut, sitting up.  What was so very ironic was that even before Krueger took over, the wound hadn’t bled much.  Externally, anyway.”  Harriman took a deep, shuddering breath.  “And the eyes; the look in the eyes that told me this was not Lee anymore.  It was a German U-boat commander who had finally won and received his prize.”  

“But what about Doctor Jamieson?”

“I was not paying attention to anything other than Lee, what with the drug Doc game me, but do remember hearing him trying to keep the captain in sickbay.  The note in his voice was that of someone totally bewildered.  Krueger used what was probably his most intimidating command mode. That, coupled with the fact that this was all coming from someone Doc thought he knew, gained Krueger his leave of sickbay, fully assured of his victory.  Before he did, though, he had had the temerity to ask the doctor how I was, working hard to control the accent.  He finally did, using Lee in his weakened state, but I could hear it.  I could hear it and I despaired.  I wanted to totally give up.  They could have done anything to me right then and it wouldn’t have mattered.  I had failed.”

But you didn’t fail, Melanie thought.  Ultimately you won.  She wondered how, but figured the admiral would eventually tell her.  Mother had told her that Harriman Nelson was evasive about personal things as well as many of the missions when they had worked together so many years ago, but Melanie had found him very open, honest and detailed in his narratives.  Mother had told her recently that he had most likely mellowed with age. 

“Then Chip Morton came in to see me.  It seems that Krueger had ordered my arrest and wanted Chip to make sure it was done right.”  Harry laughed bitterly.  “I suppose he didn’t want any loyal, bleeding-heart crewmen to take pity on the homicidal, maniacal admiral.  Problem was, he picked the wrong person.”

“Admiral Morton?”

“Yes, if there was a catalyst for the failure of Krueger’s ultimate plan, then it was the executive officer. Chip told me what Krueger had told him.  There was nothing I could do but to tell him the truth.  It was obvious that Chip didn’t believe me, so I played my trump card.  Hell, it was my only card.”  He paused.  “I invoked our years together.  I asked him, no I believe I begged him to listen to and observe Lee Crane and then determine for himself if that was the man he had served with, had gone through the academy with.”

“And he agreed to do that?” she asked rhetorically.

“Yes, he did and with the results I had hoped for.  Not only did Krueger give Chip a nonviable order, he decked him when Chip tried to stop him from leaving on the Flying Sub.”

“So he believed you then.”

“Not entirely, but he knew that something was wrong with Lee and was at least willing to listen to me.  When he ordered me released to my cabin, I felt the first ray of hope that I had felt since we had first encountered the U-444.”  Melanie looked expectant, so he continued. “I poured over charts of the South Pacific, trying to find something that might hold a clue to where Lee had gone. Right then, I knew that Krueger was tied to the area.  He had to have been or he wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of transporting or however he got that wreck out to us.” Harry paused. The last sentence didn’t make sense and yet it did.  He simply continued.  “I also knew that there was a link between Lani, the girl that had come to me, and Krueger.  She was the girl Krueger wanted to return to, that he had fallen in love with so many years before.  I wondered at her desire to come to me in the first place and warn me, and to her fatalistic response to my failure. I felt that Chip and I were working against the clock. If I was somehow wrong and Krueger really did need a dead body, it wouldn’t take long for Lee to die, not with the wound that I had given him. While I felt relieved to be free of the restraints and Doc’s over-solicitous watchdogging, I felt pressure to find Lee.  If Krueger decided he was through with the South Pacific, then he could go anywhere in the Flying Sub, ditch it anywhere in the world and be long gone before anyone found it.”

“What did Mr. Morton do during all of this?” Melanie asked, not quite able to abandon her inquisitive and journalistic nature.

“I had ordered a course change and Chip followed it, instructing the crewman manning the radio shack to monitor everything.  He also continued trying to find evidence of the Flying Sub. Still, I was beginning to despair again.  I don’t even remember how long I had been looking.  I think it was about a day, but it felt like eternity.  Then suddenly I heard her voice and saw Lani.  She had returned!  She told me where Krueger was and how to recover Lee and a girl he had brought with him.  Mulayo.  It was a tiny, deserted island inhabited only by graves.  Lani told me to destroy it so that the link tying both of them to that spot would be sundered.  I would have felt stupid if I hadn’t felt so euphoric!  I had read that about ghosts before, not that I had believed any of it.” 

“It was moot, though, wasn’t it, Admiral?”

“Yes, and I realized that Lani had come back because of the girl. That was something else that should have occurred to me when Lani had come and chewed me out. I knew that Krueger would go searching for a woman’s body for his love, Lani. If she had protested Krueger taking Lee for a ‘warm’ body, then she would really be upset with him for trying to do the same for her. By that time, Chip had shown up to give me a status report.  I told him where we’d find Lee.”  Nelson paused and smiled. “I don’t think I ever told him where I came up with Mulayo.  Anyway, we were close to the area. It didn’t take long to get there. I prepared to go ashore, but was ready long before we got within distance for a raft to be launched. I paced my cabin, and then I paced the corridor under watch of the master of arms.  I am sure he really thought I was nuts, but I couldn’t help it.  At last we would be able to rescue Lee and then destroy Krueger, or at the very least, his influence.  Finally, I would be able to do something besides fail.”

“You didn’t have a choice, Admiral,” Melanie repeated.  

He just waved her comment aside and continued.  “I heard the whispers as I walked through the control room, but I simply ignored them. It was of no consequence. Finally I felt totally clear-headed and able to right a horrible wrong.  I left on the raft and rowed to the island.”

“No one came with you?” she asked. He shook his head.  “Why not?  If this Krueger was so powerful, so malevolent….”

“This was my battle, and Chip knew it. He had trusted me in the sickbay and he still trusted me.  He almost always trusted my instincts and Lee’s, too, for that matter.  I think by this time he was more than halfway convinced of my sanity, but even so, he couldn’t go with me.  He had to stay with the boat, and try to keep sanity an insane situation.  As he had so many times before and since, he stayed behind and kept the boat and men together.”

Melanie only nodded and the admiral went on with his narrative.  She listened raptly as he described how he landed, cautiously went inland and was drawn by a woman’s piercing scream.  He found a native girl, frightened out of her wits and Krueger in the body of Captain Crane, trying to choke her into submission. 

As he had all through his narrative, Harry was drawn back in time, seeing, hearing and feeling what he had more than twenty years ago. He felt his anger rise as Krueger spoke to him in the voice of his friend and colleague.  Now, when he pulled his gun, there was no temerity, no anguish.  He corrected himself.  Yes, there was anguish, but he saw something deep in Lee’s eyes, beyond the cold, icy evil of Gerhard Krueger. It was something that told him that Crane would rather be dead than to be possessed by this monster any more.  So the anguish was replaced by hard determination. And he won. He worked his bluff, threatening to shoot again now that Krueger was ‘alive.’ Krueger raged at him, threatened them all, then he left Lee’s body to look for his Lani, to return with her, thinking she would finally acquiesce. 

Harriman knew he had to get Lee and the woman off the island; blow it up before Krueger got back. Having seen what had been inside Lee, the girl was more than willing to help him as he carried the wounded man back to the shore. It was difficult. Lee was heavy in his unconscious condition. Relief flooded him as he made the call to Chip.  Relief continued to build as they reached the Flying Sub and boarded her, the girl helping him guide the still-limp captain down the ladder. 

The bleeding had begun in earnest, Harriman noticed as they gently but quickly lay Lee on a bunk and strapped him in.  Nelson regretted that he didn’t have time to do even the most basic first aide, but they had to get away from the island.  He quickly instructed the girl to buckle in and he did the same, quickly looping the communication device around his neck.  He reached over to power up the Flying Sub’s engines, but nothing happened.  There was similar luck with the communicator.  No power, no communications, there was only one explanation.  Krueger was back!  At the German’s terse and angry exclamation, he turned to face the ghost.  Now Chip, now!  Fire the damned missile now!  Krueger looked smug in his new victory.  To her credit, the girl flinched but didn’t scream when she saw him.  It has to have been five minutes, he thought furiously, not able to do anything else. Then there was a ferocious booming noise and the little vessel was rocked back and forth. 

“What have you done?” Krueger screamed, coming toward them, gazing in horror out the view port. Furious, he glared at Nelson, and then cried out in anguish, “Lani!  I have to get to Lani!” Then he walked toward the bulkhead of the Flying Sub and simply disappeared.  Power came back, the small reactor revved up and the communicator crackled to life.  Harriman didn’t even have time to revel in his victory.  He had to get Lee back to the Seaview.  

“Admiral!”  It was Chip. It sounded like the exec had been trying to get him as desperately as he had been trying to get the sub. 

“We’re all right, Chip. Our ETA is four minutes. Taking off now.  Have Doc in the nose ready to receive Captain Crane.  Nelson out.”

To his credit, Chip didn’t bother to answer and Harriman took the Flying Sub straight up and away from the island.  The girl said nothing for a moment.  She only stared out the dark windows in relief.  He realized that she had come to the island in the Flying Sub, so the initial shock had to have worn off.

“Such a strange little craft to sit in the water like a duck and then shoot skyward like an arrow,” she finally said, her voice trembling slightly.  Then she turned around and gazed at the still form on the bunk.  “What is your captain like?  I only knew him when the other man was inside him.  Except once….”

“Once?” Nelson queried. 

“He woke up a little just before you arrived and told me he did not mean to hurt me.  I had no idea what he meant until the other one, this Krueger appeared.”  She rubbed her neck, which was still red from the attempted strangulation. 

“That’s when you screamed?”

“Yes.”  She studied him closely now that they were safe.  “I am Maria Amore.”

Nelson studied her and smiled softly to reassure her. “Can I assume that is a stage name?  And I am Admiral Harriman Nelson, by the way.”

She looked at him through lowered eyelashes. “Thank you for rescuing me, Admiral. To answer your question, yes, my last name is a stage name.  I was performing in a club on Tulaki when your captain found me.” 

Nelson wasn’t going to ask the particulars of that one. Not yet anyway. Damage control could come later. “Did he hurt you?” he asked, wincing at the thought of Lee’s strong hands trying to strangle her.  

“He tried to, but I know now that it was the ghost who was really doing it. Why did he want to kill me?”

It was time for splashdown. “I can explain everything a little later, Miss Amore. Right now we are about to rendezvous with my submarine.”

Her eyes grew large. “Submarine?”

Harriman flipped a few switches and nosed the Flying Sub down toward the water. “Yes.  As you already know, this is a flying submersible. So while you had a good comparison with ducks and arrows, the Flying Sub also travels like a seal and docks with the submarine Seaview,” he explained.

“Oh,” was all she said as the admiral took the little sub toward the dark ocean waters. She gasped as they hit the surface, but otherwise made no sound. 

The hatch was being unsealed even as the Flying Sub settled into its cradle.  While Harriman powered down the systems, Doc fairly dropped down the ladder with two crewmen just behind him, one of them a medic.  He did a quick check of the captain and then the orders flew.  Crane was gently carried from the bunk and as carefully as possible, up the ladder. Nelson frowned; he would have to come up with a better way to exit the Flying Sub in a case where someone was injured. 

“Carter, please help Miss Amore up to the forward deck,” Nelson said to another crewman, as he also headed toward the ladder. 

The rate did a double take at mention of her name, but offered her his hand to escort her out of the Flying Sub without saying a word.

As Harriman climbed to the top of the ladder, Patterson reached out a hand to help him up.  After all that had happened, the admiral was grateful for the young seaman’s consideration.  Immediately, his attention was turned to Crane, who had been placed on a stretcher but was still being tended to by Doc.  He never knew what the catalyst was, but Lee suddenly began to cry out. 

“Oh, God, no, keep him away!” Several men glanced Nelson’s way, but the next words left little doubt as to who the ‘him’ was.  “No, Krueger!  No, not again!  Please, no more.”  His voice trailed off and the men looked at each other in astonishment.

“It’s all right, Lee. You’re safe.  You’re back on the Seaview,” Chip told him, taking the hand that was outstretched as though to ward someone away. 

Crane grasped the exec’s hand and hung on. Then his eyes slowly opened and he took in the sea of faces that hung around him. “Safe?”

Morton nodded. “Yes, Lee.  Krueger’s gone for good.” Chip glanced toward the admiral, who simply nodded. 

“The admiral.  Where?” Crane moaned softly. 

“We need to get him to sickbay, now!” Doc ordered. “You men get back!”

“No!  Admiral!” Lee kept tight hold of Chip’s hand while still looking around. “Where’s . . . Admiral?”

Nelson hesitated only briefly, glancing at Doc, who surprisingly didn’t countermand Lee’s desire. “I’m here, lad.”  The men nearest him moved aside only slightly in their anxiety, so that he had to push his way through to get to Crane’s side. 

Lee finally let go of Chip’s hand and grabbed Nelson’s arm. The admiral got down on his knees next to the stretcher.  “Admiral,” Crane said softly. “Thank . . . you.”

There were several things Nelson had in mind that his captain would say to him, but ‘thank you’ was certainly not one of them.  Harry was momentarily taken aback.  “What? Why?” he asked hoarsely.  “I’m the one who shot you!” It was painful to even say the words. 

“Had to.  Krueger.” He took a tighter grip on the admiral’s arm. “Almost . . . killed . . . the men.”

Again, Harry nodded.  “Yes.”

“Thank you . . . coming . . . saving me . . . from Krueger.” The pain-darkened hazel eyes locked onto his for several seconds and then he smiled softly as his eyes closed.  The hand loosened, but Harriman kept a hold of it for a moment more. 

“Now can I get this man to sickbay?” Doc asked caustically.  Men scattered except for the two crewmen picked to carry the stretcher.  Nelson and Morton moved back a couple of steps and then followed as Crane was carried out of the control room.  The girl, not knowing what to do, started to follow the admiral. 

Nelson turned to the crewman who had helped her out of the Flying Sub.  “Escort her to a guest cabin and find some appropriate clothing.”  He turned to Maria.  “Miss Amore, I will be back to talk with you as soon as Captain Crane is stable.”  He paused.  “Unless you need medical attention.”  She shook her head.  As Harriman followed Chip, he unbuckled the gun belt and held it out for the exec to take. 

Chip only glanced at it, refusing to take it.  He gazed into the admiral’s face.  “You were right.  It was Krueger who had taken Lee.”  When the admiral nodded, he continued.   “And what Lee said….   Krueger made us dead in the water?   Took the air?”

“A demonstration to show me what would happen if I refused to do what he wanted me to do.”

Chip looked away and sucked in a deep breath, but didn’t say anything.

“If it hadn’t been for you, Chip,” Nelson began, realizing the incredible faith that the exec had in him.  Morton had taken a great chance.  “Lee would have still been going through hell.”

“And if it hadn’t been for you, we’d all be dead.” The intense blue eyes held understanding as well as gratitude. 

Nelson thought it small consolation at that point.  Doc allowed him to sit in a corner of the outer room, but threw everyone else except his medical crew out.  For a moment, Harry thought that he would be thrown out along with the rest, but Jamie just pointed to a chair and ordered him to stay quiet or he’d toss him out, too.  For a while Nelson wondered if Lee was even going to make it.  It seemed hours before Doc came out of the surgery and sat down heavily in a chair in front of him. When Nelson looked at the clock, he saw that it had actually been a little more than an hour.  “Well?” he asked the exhausted CMO.

Jamieson opened up a drawer in his desk and pulled out a couple of mugs.  He reached for the coffee pot, but Harriman beat him to it, pouring out a cup for each. 

“If I didn’t have to keep a close eye on the skipper, I’d be making that Irish coffee instead of the regular gut wash,” Doc said tiredly.  He took a couple of swallows and then sighed.

“How is he?” Nelson coaxed, his anxiety building so as to have him reaching into his shirt pocket for a cigarette.  He pulled his hand away and picked up his coffee cup instead.

“I was worried for a while, but this is Lee Crane we’re talking about.  He’ll make it.  Frank is cleaning up and is going to sit with him until he begins to come out of the anesthesia.  Captain won’t be waltzing out of here in a few days, though.  Lee needs to be in the hospital in Pearl.”   Doc set his cup down and studied the OOM.  “What are you going to put in the report, Admiral?”

Nelson put the mug back down and ran a hand through his hair.  He remembered Lee asking the same thing seemingly eons ago.   “Hell, I don’t know, Doc.”

“You can’t put down what actually happened, you know.”

“I know,” Harry replied softly.  “But I . . . I don’t want to hurt anyone else trying to cover this up.”

“How would you be doing that, Admiral?” Doc asked, with a gleam in his eye.  “After we picked him up, we discovered that Krueger was insane, believing he was some dead WWI fighter out to avenge his enemies.  He managed to get a hold of a gun and shot the captain during an altercation."

Harry gaped at his CMO for a brief moment, then nodded.  “That might work, but I feel strange covering my butt that way.”

“Believe me, you’re not, sir.  This is covering all our butts. Can you see the report stating that the ghost of a dead WWI submarine captain haunted the Seaview and forced the admiral to shoot Captain Crane?” Doc said. Then he lowered his voice and intoned spectrally, “He wanted to feel life again, so he stalked the captain to get his body.”  He sat back and studied Nelson.  “I am not sure the Department of the Navy would appreciate or understand that one.  They’d throw us all in the loony bin.  You, too, if you were lucky.  The men don’t need to be drawn into that kind of morass either.”

“I guess you’re right, Doctor.”

“I know I’m right!  But may I ask you a small favor?”

“What, Doc?” Harriman said, his relief causing his hands to tremble.  He pondered a moment where that relief was coming from.  It wasn’t just the idea that he wouldn’t be going to prison for attempted murder.  He could have lived with that knowing that the men would be safe.  What then?  It dawned on him….   It was the fact that Lee was going to live and eventually be all right.  It was also the fact that he and Doc were sitting in the outer office comfortably discussing this and that together.  He didn’t realize just how important that was to him. 

“Next time you have to deal with a possessive ghost, aim for the leg or arm,” Doc said, draining the cup. 

Nelson almost choked on his next breath.  His relief turned to anger and he glared at the doctor. “That’s not funny in the least, Jamie,” he snapped. 

Doc sighed.  “I know, Admiral.  And Lord knows how tough that had to be to do what you did and to still pull off defeating Krueger,” Doc said softly.  He motioned for the coffee pot.  “Are you all right?”

Harry poured another cup and then drank a little of his own.  He would have preferred a cigarette, but that would have to wait.  “Yeah, I’m okay.  You’re right, you can’t imagine how tough it was.  And to have Lee actually thank me!”

“Would you have rather had him curse you?” Doc asked, studying the man across from him. “Don’t tell me that having dealt with Krueger like you had to, that you don’t think Lee was sincere?  I saw the marks on that girl’s neck, by the way.  Let me guess….   Captain Crane choked her while under the influence, so to speak.  So he’s going to have a major guilt trip when he’s better.  But why the girl?  Why did he attack her?”  

Nelson explained what Jamie didn’t know about the situation. 

The CMO whistled.  “And you wonder why he would thank you.” Doc finished his cup of coffee. “This oughta keep me awake for the next ten hours.” He put the cup down and peered closely at Harriman. “I suspect that Lee did that on purpose.”

“Did what?” Harriman was puzzled.  He felt exhaustion settling in and wondered if he had missed something.  “Thank me?” he asked, feeling stupid even mentioning it.

Jamieson nodded. “More or less. Lee was lucid enough when he realized where he was, to also know who it was who had brought him back.  It’s debatable whether the skipper was consciously able to realize just what he was doing by publicly giving you the credit that was due you.  Regardless, the result was the same.”  He took another drink. “Somehow, I think Lee did realize it.” 

“You can’t be serious!”  

“Very serious.  I venture to say that not only has your standing among the men returned to normal, but some of them probably would believe that you walk on water right now.” 

“That’s ludicrous as well as sacrilegious,” Nelson grumbled. 

“Maybe the latter, but certainly not the former.” The CMO heaved a great sigh as Frank looked through the doorway and gave a thumbs-up.  “Now you are hereby ordered to go to your cabin and get some sleep.  You need it and deserve it. And I will happily give you a couple of sleeping tablets to help you. Captain Crane will be out for much of the time that it will take us to finally get to Pearl.”

He didn’t argue with Doc, but he still felt that if he had been thinking straight, had focused from the very beginning, then Lee would never have been hurt. They would never have had to deal with Krueger and the horror that he had brought on board the boat.

 

 

Harriman came back to the present abruptly when he felt someone’s arms around his neck.  It was delightfully augmented by a kiss to the cheek and a whispered, “You were so brave, so wonderful!” close to his ear.  He felt his cheeks color that he had gotten so involved in his story that he had forgotten that Melanie was there listening to him.  She pulled back and he saw that her eyes were glistening with tears.  “What did you say?” he asked her, his voice hoarse.  Glancing at the clock on the wall, he saw that it was almost time for dinner. 

“I said you were so brave.  I don’t think there are very many people who would have had the courage to do that,” she elaborated.

“But….”

“Admiral, why do you think you could have prevented what happened?  It’s as clear to me as . . . as that pitcher of bland tea,” she said forcefully, “that you couldn’t.”

He couldn’t help it; he had to smile at the analogy.  “Why do you say that?” he asked, wanting to hear her reasoning.  Like Lee’s answer so long ago, this was not what he had expected.  Then he realized that his remembrance of the return to the boat was as sharp and detailed as the actual event had been.  Never before when he remembered the incident, whether as a nightmare or a waking ‘dream,’ had he gone beyond his despair of trying to find Lee after the shooting.  This time, though, he had remembered things in order and remembered much that he had forgotten-or pushed aside. 

“Because Krueger was in the area where Lani was buried, waiting for the right person to come along.  He was a ghost; he could investigate anything that came even close.  He liked what he found and it wouldn’t have mattered if you had ignored the initial teasing contact, he’d have parked that U-boat right under your nose.  He would have placed himself very conveniently to be rescued.  Don’t you see that?” she asked, sitting close enough to his chair for them to be touching knees. 

Harriman looked at her quizzically. “Why does it make so much sense coming from you?”

“Because I wasn’t part of it.  I can see the whole picture-be more objective,” she replied.

“You’re not just saying that?” he asked, although he thought he knew the answer already. Somehow, he looked back at the same events and understood; truly and logically understood now that she was right. 

“Of course not, Admiral.  You know me, very straightforward and blunt. I wouldn’t jerk you around.”

He nodded. She was right, she wouldn’t. Still, he wished there had been a way to avoid the pain that everyone had gone through. 

“But still, you believed that what happened was somehow your fault?” she asked, proving her bluntness.

“At the time, yes.  I had suggested checking out the wreck.   It didn’t make it any easier that afterward Lee kept having nightmares of being taken over and trying to kill girls for Lani’s sake,” Nelson said.  “And before you ask, he really couldn’t go to a Navy therapist or anyone else for that matter, even if he had been willing.”

She smiled softly. “I was going to ask, but, yes, I understand why he couldn’t.  For the same reason you had to fudge on the report.  So how….?”

“He and Doc did a lot of B . . . uh, talking,” Harry replied. “Doc had a minor in psychology.” He remembered the trip back to Santa Barbara and realized that he had had less contact with anyone in the crew than normal.  He had spent a lot of time in the lab under the pretense of studying and cataloguing the samples they had collected.  If anyone had noticed his taciturn demeanor, they had not commented on it.  Probably they were dealing with the incident in their own particular ways.

“I would think with all that happened on that boat, Doctor Jamieson would have needed one,” Melanie commented dryly.

Nelson laughed. “Yes, indeed he would.  Thank you, Melanie, for helping me to see what I couldn’t for so long.”

“You’re welcome,” she answered, seeing the intense anxiety and guilt fading from the intense blue eyes.  She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.  “And thank you for confiding in me.”

He smiled softly.

 

(This is self-contained.  However, if you want to learn more about Melanie, then the rest of the story, Memories and Reconciliation follows.)

 

 

 

Main Page