Is Iomaí Aghaidheanna Ar An Fhírinne

(The Truth Has Countless Faces)

 

By Helen H.

 

 

Thanks to Fidelma for translating the title for me...

 

 

Chapter 1

 

He was in the middle of solving the problems of the universe when the phone rang, and it was an irritated Harriman Nelson who rolled over and groped for the receiver in the dark.  “Damn it, who is it?”

“Admiral, it's Chip.  Sorry to wake you.”

Bad news was in every syllable that Chip spoke.  Fully awake now, Harry turned on the bedside light and looked at the clock.  0345.  He'd only been in bed for a couple of hours.  Throwing the covers back, he said, “Never mind that.  What's wrong?” 

“Sir, it's Lee.”

Harry's heart dropped into his stomach.  Outside his apartment windows, open against a soft June morning to be, he was aware of the faraway crash of breakers as the sea flung itself against the Santa Barbara coastline.  Inside, the stillness in the room deepened as he fought to control the emotions flooding his brain.  He knew that Chip and Lee had planned to have dinner together.  Chip sounded okay.  Harry closed his eyes.

“Admiral, are you still there?”

“Yes, Chip,” Harry, said gruffly.  “How badly is he hurt?”

“Sick to his stomach and groggy, sir.  But that's not the problem.”

He couldn't help it.  Relief infused his voice.  “Thank God.  What happened?  He was going to the Solamar Hotel for dinner.  Weren't you supposed to go with him?  Was there a car accident?  Are you all right?” 

Chip's voice was full of misery when he answered.  “I'm fine, sir.  I wish I could say that a car accident was all it was.  Lee's down at police headquarters, Admiral.  He's been accused of murder.”

 

* * * * *

 

What the hell happened?  And where the hell am I? 

His head was stuck sideways to a table, held down by some weight he couldn’t quite figure out.  But at least his eyes were finally staying open.  It was like emerging out of a fog, only foggy conditions would have been a lot less painful, Lee figured.  It took a real physical effort to straighten up, but he managed it finally.  The first thing he noticed was that the clothes he remembered wearing were gone, replaced by a faded blue shirt and dungarees.  It took only another few seconds to figure out he was in some sort of interrogation room.  The rooms always looked the same: hard table, hard chairs, walls bare.  And freezing.  Freezing him to his very core.  Trying to put two thoughts together, which was hard with the headache he had, Lee flashed through his ONI cases.  Was someone he’d acted against holding him?  No.  There was no one who had lived to come after him.  His assignments, his teams, had left no loose ends. 

Lee rested his forehead against the palms of his hands and concentrated on the last things he remembered.  Chip and I were at the Solamar Hotel.  We got a call from the boat, Chip said he’d handle it and take a rain check for dinner.  I was just about to go into the dining room when the girl walked in and sat down next to me...great looking girl...got to talking.  Invited her to dinner, then I started feeling real sick.  That was a vivid memory, how sick he’d felt all of a sudden.  She said she had a room at the hotel, I could go up there and lie down for a while...stumbled upstairs...she pointed me towards the head...think I passed out...then what?  Oh, yeah.  The rough shock of hands shaking him by the shoulders.  His instinctive defensive reaction only got him stronger hands and the cold steel of handcuffs.  That was another definite memory.  The rest was pretty much a blur.  How long had he been in here?  He automatically slapped his wrist to look at his watch, and realized it was missing, too. 

The door opened and a tall, strongly built man walked in, fiddling with a manila folder.  He was dressed in a cheap pair of pants, saggy jacket and a polyester shirt, the cuffs frayed at the edges.  Shadows edged his narrow brown eyes.  The eyes weren't friendly, and the look of them matched the sharp, craggy angles of his face, unshaved cheeks and chin strangely pink in the unforgiving fluorescent light.  He stopped behind the other chair and regarded Lee with a hard and unwavering stare, then raised a stubby hand and pushed back a wedge of black hair that had fallen across his forehead. 

Lee’s eyes widened.  He knew where he had to be now.  The guy had a badge and a holster clipped to his belt.  Slowly, Lee turned his head.  That had to be a two-way window.  God, he had to be at a police station!

The cop threw the file folder on the table and sat down, staring across the table at Lee.  His mouth was smiling, but the smile wasn't reaching his eyes.  “Glad to see you're still among the living, Crane.  Wish I could say the same about your victim,” he said in a nasally Midwestern accent, the voice deep in his chest.

“What vic.…”  Lee's mouth was dry as a bone, and he licked cracked lips before trying to speak again.  “Who are you and why am I here?  And where is here?”

“The name's Flynn.  Detective, Santa Barbara P.D.  First things first.  You don't have to talk to me if you don't want to.  Just thought I'd pass that along, don't want any fancy lawyer saying we forced a confession out of you or anything like that.”

“Confession?  Confess to what?”  Lee fixed the detective with the steeliest gaze he could manage.  “Tell me what this is all about.  Right now.”

Flynn’s expression tightened.  “Oh, you're not on the Seaview now, Crane.  I don't have to jump when you say frog.  I call the shots around here.”  Flynn pulled the folder over to him and flipped it open.  “Let's see, where should I start?  Her name was Carla Banner.  That wasn't the name she gave you, though, was it?  According to her record she was five feet five inches tall, a hundred and five pounds, brunette, hazel eyes.  And just 22 years old when you killed her.”

The room grew colder.  “What -- what are you talking about?” 

Flynn ignored that comment and continued to glance through the information in the file, speaking in a soft undertone.  “Did I mention she was a working girl?  Didn't look like one, did she?  She had prior arrests for prostitution.  So I’ve seen ‘before’ pictures -- mug shots, of course.  She was smiling in them, like it was a joke.  She probably wasn't doing much smiling when you were beating her up.”

Lee shook his head violently, which was a mistake, because it took a few seconds to get rid of the lights swimming in front of his eyes.  “I didn't kill anybody,” he said weakly.  “The girl I met in the bar, she called herself…Jenny something.  We had drinks, I invited her to dinner, but right after that I started to feel sick.  She took me up to her room.  I must have passed out, because that's all I remember.  Until your goons grabbed me and threw me into handcuffs.”

“Funny, that's what they all say.  Oh, by the way, ‘those goons’ was just me, buddy.  We don't get too many murders in this little town, so just a couple of us show up for calls like this.  My turn tonight.  Now, if we were in Chicago, where I used to work, there’d be a dozen cops in here, talking to you.  None of 'em as nice as me.”  He smiled that cold smile again.  “Did she refuse to do what you wanted?  Or did you find the cameras right away?  Whatever it was, it made you mad.  So you--” he pulled a photograph from the folder and slammed it down on the table “--cracked her skull with the table lamp.  Take a good look at your handiwork.”

Lee looked down.  The picture was of the woman he remembered, but death had taken away any attractiveness.  She was lying on her side on a bed, eyes wide open and staring, hair flattened down and matted with blood.  The blood had formed a grisly necklace under her chin.  Swallowing, he said, “I did not do this.  I didn't know she was a prostitute.  I don't know anything about a camera.  I told you, I was sick, she said she was staying at the hotel and helped me upstairs.  I went straight to the head and got rid of everything I'd drunk.  And that's all I remember.”

Flynn had a smirk on his face before Lee stopped talking.  “Just like that.  I guess I should just say thanks for the info and let you go, huh?  Have you wondered where your clothes are, Crane?”

“Out to the laundry?”

“Wow, a sense of humor.  You Navy boys are tough.  We took your clothes and your shoes for further analysis.  Not that we need it, you understand.  But you wouldn't want them now, anyway.  Nasty blood stains and all that.”  Flynn sat back in the chair with a satisfied, 'I've got you dead to rights' grin.

Lee turned away from that look.  He had to think of something else besides Flynn's smile and that photograph.

The details of the evening were coming back to him.  He and Chip had been in the bar having a couple of drinks, enjoying the setting sun through the restaurant’s floor to ceiling windows.  The hostess had come over and told Chip he had a phone call.  Chip had gone out, then returned and said there was a problem with one of the men on Seaview, nothing serious, he’d handle it.  Told Lee to stay and have dinner and he’d catch up with him later.  He had finished his drink and was about to get up and go into the dining room when the woman walked in and sat at the next table.  He’d smelled her perfume first, had turned his head and immediately liked what he saw; big smile, a great body, and long brown hair that she kept flipping over her shoulders.  What she’d poured herself into was designed for attention, and it had definitely gotten his.  He'd made no effort to conceal his interest, and after a word or two she'd identified herself as Jenny Keller, on vacation from her work at an ad agency in San Francisco.  She'd even produced a business card. 

Always reticent about who he was and what he did for a living, Lee had mentioned only that he worked in Santa Barbara.  She'd been friendly, eager to talk to him, interested in everything he had to say.  No longer was he sorry that Chip couldn't make it to dinner.  The evening was looking up.  She'd even bought him a drink, brought it over herself.  A pleasant surprise. 

The new thought hit Lee like a cannonball.  She'd drugged that last drink!  He was suddenly very angry with himself.  He’d be laughed out of ONI for this.  The oldest trick in the book, and he'd fallen for it.  Would he have figured out what she was there for, he wondered, before dinner was finished?  Or would he still have been thinking with a part of his body other than his brain? 

“I want to make a phone call.” 

“Well, that didn’t take long,” Flynn said, disgustedly.  “I'll bring a phone in.  Very accommodating, I'm that kind of guy.  What's your lawyer's name, just for the record?”

“Don't have a lawyer.  Want to call my X.O.”  Chip would understand, about the girl. 

“Semper fi, eh?  Wait, no, that's the Marines.  Let's see.”  Flynn stood up, taking the folder with him.  “’Damn the torpedoes,’ full speed ahead?  Think you tried that already, and it didn't work out.  Oh, I've got it.  How about 'don't give up the ship?’  Might be a little late for that, Crane.  I'll get that telephone for you.  Oh -- just the one call, got it?  You’re lucky I’m not making you get up and go to the back.  But I think you might just have a little trouble doing that, and I sure don’t want you to complain about the fine service you’re getting here at the Santa Barbara jail.  We take good care of our murderers.”  He left the room chuckling, shutting the door firmly behind him. 

Lee sagged back in the chair.  His strength was coming back, little by little, but it was still taking an effort to keep his head off the table.  He’d been drugged, that’s all there was to it.  There was no way he'd been able to kill anybody.  They had the wrong guy.  Of course they had the wrong guy!  They had too!

 

* * * * *

 

Chip was sure the admiral had broken a personal record in getting dressed; it had only been a few minutes and he was already outside the apartment when Chip drove up in the Institute's duty car.  Once on their way he described the terse phone call, Lee talking slowly, his voice strained.  He didn't mention that Lee had insisted the admiral be kept out of it; Chip had won that argument.  His C.O. was crazy if he thought that Admiral Nelson wouldn’t want to be there every step of the way.  It was just an example of the unreality of what was happening.

Chip glanced sideways.  The admiral’s face was set like stone, a grim visage that said he was in no mood to talk.  Having been on the receiving end of a Nelson tirade a time or two, Chip knew what the cops were in for.  All Chip wanted to do was talk to Lee and make sure that he was okay.  The rest of it was just a horrible misunderstanding that would be cleared up quickly. 

The lateness of the hour ensured a fast trip to police headquarters.  Harry was out of the car and starting up the steps as soon as Chip braked to a stop.

The sleepy policeman on duty, hand propping up his head as he sat at the telephone desk, was unprepared for the red-haired figure that slammed the front door open and confronted him, face flushed and anger flashing in his eyes.  The young man almost fell off his chair as Harry halted against the counter and said angrily, “You have a member of my crew here!  I demand to talk to him right now!”

The cop sat up straighter, fingers moving away from his holster, reacting to the unmistakable command in the admiral's voice.  He grabbed the telephone.  “Yes, sir!  I'll get somebody out here right away!”

Chip had come in quietly and was now standing behind his boss, his body tense and wary.  He had been at the police station a couple of times, when one of the Seaview’s crewmembers had found himself a guest of the ‘graybar hotel.’  Never in his wildest dreams, though, could he have ever thought that he’d be here to see Lee Crane behind those same bars.

The duty cop spoke into the phone and then spoke directly to Chip, being careful to avoid the admiral's eyes.  “Detective Flynn will be out here in a minute.  He says he knows what this is all about.”

“He'd better,” Harry said tersely.

The minutes ticked by as both men waited, each growing more impatient.  The desk phone rang a few times, giving the cop a respite from Harry’s unremitting glare.  The flush on the admiral's face was getting further into his hairline when the inner door opened and Flynn emerged.

“Estevez, go get me a cup of coffee,” Flynn said to the rookie, who didn't need to be asked twice.  He disappeared through the same doorway that the detective had used.  Flynn’s eyes went from the admiral and then to Chip.  “What can I do for you gents?”

“You can let me see Commander Lee Crane.  We'll start with that,” Harry growled.

“’Fraid that won't be possible -- Nelson, isn't it?”  His contempt was audible, and Chip bristled at it and the cop's obvious lack of respect.  “We're not done processing him yet.  He'll be arraigned later this morning.  You can see him in court.  Around 11 AM.  Don't be late.”  He turned to leave.

“You damn well will let me see him, Flynn!”

The cop spun on his heel and snarled, “Don't you even think about telling me what to do!  Who you are means zero to me, Nelson.  Maybe you'd like to join Crane in his cell!  That can be arranged!”

Chip stepped up to Harry's side and deftly edged him away.  “Sir, this isn't helping Lee any,” he said quietly, reading Flynn's face.  He could see the cop was as angry as the admiral was, was just waiting for an excuse to throw Nelson into a cell -- and would get pleasure out of doing it.  “We can wait a few hours.  We need to make some phone calls, sir.”

With one final, contemptuous stare at Flynn, Harry backed down.  “You're right, Chip.”  Visibly getting control of his anger, he said, “I don’t suppose you have an objection to me calling your Chief of Police, do you, Flynn?”

“Oh, personal friend of yours, is he?”

“As a matter of fact, he is.”

Flynn looked taken aback for a moment, but recovered quickly.  “Knock yourself out.  Wake him up again, I'm sure he won't mind.  I called him soon as Crane asked to make a phone call.  Wanted to make sure he knew what was going on.  This is going to make the papers.  Maybe even TV.”

“Bet you can't wait for that, can you, Detective?”  Harry asked sourly.

“Oh, no, you won't see me,” Flynn said, shaking his head.  “I leave that to the big boys.  The boss gets to talk about it; me, I just catch the bad guys.”

“There’s no bad guy here, Flynn,” Harry replied.

“Like I told Crane, that’s what they all say.”  The detective took the coffee cup from Estevez, who had come gingerly back into the room.  He took a big sip and made a face.  “Damn it, rookie, where’s the sugar?”  Grinning, he looked at Chip and the admiral.  “Just can’t get good help anymore.  Weren’t you two going somewhere?

Chip turned and walked to the door.  “C'mon, Admiral.  We'll call from the car.”

“Better yet, we'll drive over to Jim's house,” Harry countered.  “You'll see us later, Flynn.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Flynn said, sarcasm dripping with every word.

Chip held the door open for the admiral, glancing back at Flynn as he did so.  The cop’s eyes were twinkling over the rim of the coffee cup as he held it to his mouth, the other hand casually placed on his hip.  He was absolutely, thoroughly, enjoying this, Chip realized.  Chip had on more than one occasion seen the admiral's blue-eyed stare freeze an incompetent into immobility.  There was no question of that happening with Flynn; the detective’s undisguised scorn was written all over his face.  There was not a hint of understanding or compassion in his eyes.  A small town Santa Barbara might be, but this was no small town cop.

 

* * * * *

 

Two times this morning Chief of Police Jim Johnson had been awakened, and his expression was as dark as the pre-dawn hour as he met them at the door to his home.  Chip had persuaded the admiral to make a call to Johnson first, reaching him when they were only a few minutes away from the upscale bungalow in a hillside neighborhood above the city.

Clad in his pajamas and robe, the chief ushered the two men into his darkened living room, where a friendly German Shepherd puppy wagging his tail and jumping up and down greeted them.  “Some watchdog, huh,” Johnson said, rubbing the puppy behind his ears.  His face hardened to seriousness.  “Harry, I've already heard from Flynn.  He says he’s got his murderer.  The circumstances don't sound good.”

Pacing up and down, Harry stopped moving long enough to roar, “I don't care what that man says!  Lee hasn't murdered anybody!  Sitting in that jail cell is out of the question.”

The admiral's voice was rising in volume, and Johnson shut the door into the rest of the house.  “Geez, Harry, I don't want to catch hell any more tonight!”

Harry waved that off impatiently.  “Jim, you and I have known each other a long time.  My personal guarantee that Commander Crane will be present if there's a trial isn't good enough for you?  How can you even begin to think that he had anything to do with this?”  His voice softened.  “This boy is like a son to me, Jim.  You've got a son.  If Jeff told you he was innocent, wouldn't you believe him?”

“I’d want him to tell me the truth,” Chief Johnson answered evasively.

Harry squinted his eyes thoughtfully.  How long had he known the Santa Barbara head cop?  Maybe he didn't know him at all.  “You don't think Lee is telling the truth?” he said, slowly and evenly.

“Flynn doesn't think so.  He told me about the crime scene.  Says it’s one of the worst things he’s ever seen, Harry.”

“Flynn’s obviously talked to you about what they found.  I’d like the details, Jim.”

“I don’t know that I should, this is official police business--”

“--You owe me many favors, Chief Johnson,” Harry said evenly. 

Johnson stared down at the carpet for a long while.  Finally, he said, “If it was anyone else but you, Harry, we’d be done here.”  He faced the two men, hands wrapped across his chest.  “It was obvious there’d been a struggle, the bed messed up, chair knocked over, that sort of thing.  Weapon was one of the lamps from the nightstand.  Caught her on the left side of her head.  Cracked it pretty good, we’ll know the full extent after the autopsy.  The kicker that this was no ordinary murder were the two hidden movie cameras, one concealed behind the television stand and the other taped up behind the closet door.  The door was open a couple of inches, just enough to provide a clear view.  She probably turned them on when the guy was occupied elsewhere and got quite the show.  Now, we don’t know if she played this particular dodge on anybody else, but it was all set up in advance, that’s for sure.  Flynn figures that Crane became suspicious over something, found the cameras pretty quickly and got mad.  Beat her up some, then picked up the lamp and...well, that was that.”

Harry turned to Chip and then back to Johnson.  That’s ridiculous!  Lee told Chip here that he was very sick to his stomach.  How does someone that nauseous have the strength to do what you say -- no, what Flynn says -- he did?”

“Lee had blood on his clothes, blood all over his shoes.  There were footprints in it.  You’ve told me he’s done ONI work in the pas--”

He got no further than that.  Harry began to roar again, practically pointing his finger in the Chief’s face.  “Whatever he did, you can't hold that against him!  You can be damned sure that some of the security of this country is directly attributable to what Lee Crane accomplished on those missions.  You and I have been in war, you know what it's like.  I won’t tell you what Lee’s been through.  I'll admit he’s been forced to...silence people, people who were fighting against this country and everything she stands for.  He has secrets, Jim, we all do.  But I know he didn't do this.  I'd stake my life on it.”

“And take his place, if you could.”

Face clouded with emotion, Harry couldn't answer that. 

The Chief walked over to the front door and held it open.  “Flynn isn't going to be too happy, but I'll deal with him.  I'll talk to Todd.  I can't promise that he'll cooperate, but I'll talk to him.  It'll have to wait until later today, Harry--“ He stopped when he saw Harry’s anger rising again.  “For Christ’s sake, I'm not going to wake up the D.A. right now!  You want this to be okay, don't you?  This is going to use up a lot of favors.”

Harry’s eyes went cold.  “Whatever you say,” he agreed.  “We’ll see you later.  Let’s go, Chip.” 

The puppy gave them a friendly send-off as the two men walked back to the car.  By now a hint of dawn was creeping into the cloudless sky, a ghostly outline on the tops of the trees that lined the street.  A day that had started out so badly was already transforming itself into another beautiful California morning.  Chip looked up, unsmiling.  “Admiral, why do I get the impression that they're all lining up against Lee?”

Harry looked back towards the now dark house.  “You find out who your friends are in surprising ways sometimes, Chip.”

They returned to the Institute, going straight to the boat.  Chip went back to his duties while Harry shut himself up in his lab.  He soon found that concentrating on equations was a losing battle.  When his latest calculation resulted in an error that a first grader wouldn't have made he threw the pad down disgustedly.  This was no way to be; he needed to be clear-headed, to think rationally about getting Lee out of this mess.  The initial elation that the boy wasn’t dead in a car accident had given way to feelings of dread that went even deeper.  It was a mistake, of course.  Whoever had murdered this unfortunate girl, it wasn’t Lee Crane.  Detective Flynn’s smug expression indicated that it was going to be a long, tough road to prove Lee innocent.  At least they’d have the benefit of experienced legal representation.  He had left a message with the firm’s answering service for the senior partner of Santa Barbara’s best legal team, another friend of long standing.  

Like a son to me.  It was, Harry knew, truer with every day that went by.  He had known Lee from his Naval Academy days, had undertaken a deliberate, well-planned campaign to ensure that he -- and Chip Morton -- would chose pigboats as their career path upon graduation.  Their working relationship was strictly professional; both had served in military careers long enough and well enough to know how to separate public from private.  A bit of camaraderie was expected, of course; the Seaview was crewed by men who got along well for the most part.  The bond that was growing between himself and the boat’s commanding officer was well known to everyone on board, however.  Harry hadn't tried to hide it, but it was not a situation that he was completely comfortable with.  He had decided very early on to deliberately disassociate himself from the usual conventions, had never had any intention of marrying or having children.  The opportunity to change his frame of mind had never really arose; or, what was more truthful, as the years went by he had persisted in his cold, solitary behavior, wrapping it around himself like a blanket until a barrier was created that no one ever seemed able or indeed willing, to cross.  It became easier, too, as the promotions kept coming and he rose higher and higher through the ranks.  Staying aloof from his fellow human beings had become automatic, or perhaps autocratic was a better description, he thought.  In any event, he had made it a point to guard his emotions all his life.  No one would ever be able to accuse Harriman Nelson of wearing his heart on his sleeve.  It was so much easier that way, no entanglements, no emotional ties. 

Wearily, Harry ran his hands through his hair and sank into the worktable chair, mind churning.  No emotional ties, indeed.  The only thing, the only thing he was interested in now was how to prove that a young man who had become as close to him as a son was incapable of murder.  Reaching over, he drew his notebook and pen closer.  Could he, with his analytical, scientific mind, solve this by logical means?  He had to try.  Otherwise, the hours waiting for the arraignment were going to be agonizing. 

 

* * * * *

 

Alone in the Engineering office, Chip was fighting his own battle of concentration.  With Sam Kent, the Engineering Officer on the binnacle list, he had to use his energies to see that Sam's responsibilities were covered and in the meantime figure out a way to keep his best friend from being convicted of a terrible crime -- all without letting the crew know anything was wrong.  On the trip back to the Institute Admiral Nelson had asked him not to make any announcements until they had more information.  The time would come for that soon enough. 

The visit to the police chief kept running through his mind.  Despite the situation, Chip smiled.  It wasn't often that the admiral let his guard down about his relationships with others.  To actually admit that his feelings went as deep as a father’s did love revealed the seriousness of the situation.  And, Chip thought, what about his own feelings for Lee?  This was his best friend he was worried about.  They were as close as brothers, maybe closer than most were, given that each had saved the other's life a time or two.  Chip stared down into his empty coffee cup, wondering how such a simple event as a sick crewmate could have been the catalyst for the events of the evening.  It was a standing order that any type of medical emergency on Seaview necessitated a call to the X.O.  If Sam hadn't come down with what looked to be appendicitis there wouldn’t have been any reason to come back to the boat.  It would have been just two good friends getting together for drinks, dinner and a few laughs.  A great sigh escaped him, one of both exhaustion and sorrow at how he'd let his friend down.  Lee wouldn't see it like that, Chip knew.  Sam’s illness had just happened, there’d been no way to know it was coming.  But no way could he get past the fact that if he'd been there, the evening would have passed without incident.  And what if -- NO!  He wouldn't even think the words.  A judge and jury would see that there was no way that someone like Lee Crane could have murdered some girl he'd just met for dinner. 

The com system going off startled him from his reverie.  “Mr. Morton, this is Chief Carey.  I just found out you’re here, sir.  Thought you’d like to know the heating system's acting up again.”

Chip put down his cup and keyed the mike open.  “I'll be right there.”  Work first, worry later.  Good ol' Seaview. 


Chapter 2

 

Judge Kevin Whitney's courtroom in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse was already in session when Harry and Chip arrived.  They had dressed in civilian clothes, but that hadn't made any difference.  It was obvious the press had been tipped off.  They'd been recognized immediately and surrounded by a gang of reporters and photographers milling at the main entrance, the reporters shouting questions while flashbulbs popped off like fireworks.  Getting past all that hadn’t been easy, and they had pushed their way into the crowded courtroom just as Lee was brought in. 

Harry was appalled at Lee's haggard appearance in the awful prisoner clothing.  He looked like he'd lost ten pounds, and on his slim frame that was saying a lot.  His eyes, usually full of fire, were dull against the gray pallor of his skin.  Halting at the railing, Harry reached out and gripped Lee’s shoulder.  “You'll be out of here soon, lad.  Jim Johnson is going to talk to the D.A. and ask him not to oppose a request for bail.  I've got a lawyer on his way.”  Harry had gotten a return phone call just before he’d left the sub, assuring him a lawyer would be there. 

Lee nodded slowly, then shook hands with Chip.  “Thanks for coming, Chip.  I've got myself in a mess this time,” he said dully, as if it hurt to talk.

“Nothing we can't get you out of, Lee.”

The door to the courtroom opened and Chief Johnson came in, followed by the District Attorney, Ellison Todd.  Chief Johnson caught Harry's eye and shook his head.  The admiral started to turn purple. 

The bailiff cleared his throat and announced in a monotone, “The people of the State of California versus Lee Crane, case number 6776.  The charge is murder in the second degree.”

Judge Whitney made a point of scanning the courtroom.  “Don't see a defense lawyer.  Am I missing something here?”

Harry stepped forward and said, “Judge Whitney, a member of the firm of Slater and Lowell should be here shortly, he’s--” 

“Sorry I’m late, Your Honor!”

Everyone in the courtroom turned towards the voice coming from the rear.  An individual who bore an astonishing resemblance to Harry was standing in the doorway, a huge grin on his face.  A fringe of red hair ran around the back of his otherwise bald head.  Thick eyebrows arched above a pair of glasses whose thick lenses made his blue eyes seem even larger.  He marched forward as he said, “Excuse me, Your Honor, this will only take a minute!”  If there was a doubt of his country of origin, his brogue offered no doubt.  He stuck out a chunky fist and took up first Harry's hand and then Chip's, shaking with both of them vigorously.  “Nice to meet you, Admiral Nelson, and you, Commander Morton.  I see you've marked the resemblance, Admiral.  Been told that I look just like you.  We’ll have to compare ancestors once this is all over.”  He reached out and grabbed Lee's hand.  “Glad to meet you, too, Commander Crane.  We’ll be getting you through this, never fear.”

Judge Whitney found his voice first.  “Who the devil are you, sir?”

Moving to the defense table, the newcomer said, “My name's Sean O'Shea.  That's Sean O'Shea, Esquire, Firm of O'Shea and nobody at the moment, just me.  And before you ask, I’ve been a citizen of this fine country for many a year, even if my heart’s in County Kildare.  I’m the lawyer assigned to this case.”

“My lawyer?”  Lee asked in an incredulous voice, looking at Harry and then Chip, who were both staring back with equal astonishment.

Sean fixed Lee with a warm gaze.  “It would appear you need one, son.  Word travels fast from this lovely little city.  Seems I got here just in time.”  

“Mr. O'Shea,” Harry began, “I don't know who you are or where you came from, but I have a lawyer from one of Santa Barbara's most experienced firms on his way over here.  If you don’t mind---”

O’Shea waved that off with a desultory hand.  “Oh, now, don’t be worrying about that, my good sir.  It has been explained to the other young man that I'll be taking over this case.  Would it help if I mentioned that friends in the hallowed halls of Washington speak highly of me?  And that Admiral Starke would do so, too?  I’m sure I can provide proof of that, if you’d find it necessary.” 

Harry hesitated, to look at O’Shea searchingly.  There was something about this little man…Harry nodded and offered his hand again.  “I'll take your word on it for now.  Glad to have you on board, sir.”

Judge Whitney cleared his throat.  “I'm getting old up here, Mr. O'Shea.  But I’ll give you a few minutes to confer with your client.”

“That won’t be necessary, Your Honor.  I believe that Commander Crane is ready and eager to enter a plea.”

Lee hesitated for a moment, long enough to worry Chip and the admiral into thinking he was going to say ‘guilty.’  Sean put a hand on Lee's shoulder and squeezed.  Hard.   

“Not guilty,” Lee said, wincing a little from Sean’s ‘helping’ hand.

The D.A. stepped up to the podium.  “Judge Whitney, we ask that the defendant be denied bail and remanded into custody.  He's a definite flight risk as the captain of a nuclear submarine, a vessel able to disappear for months at a time.”

“Your point is well taken,” Judge Whitney replied.  “In that case--”

“Your Honor, if you please!”  Lee’s new lawyer interjected.  “As a former Navy man yourself, you know that an officer's word is his bond.  Bein’ an honorable man, Commander Crane has absolutely no intention of eluding the jurisdiction of this court.  And I’m sure that Admiral Nelson will personally guarantee Commander Crane's continued appearance.  We ask the Court’s indulgence in granting bail to this young man, who has been so falsely accused.”

Judge Whitney’s brows knit together.  “Hmmm.  Interesting that you know so much about me, but I don't believe I've had you in my courtroom before, sir.  As this is a capital offense, I am not inclined to release Commander Crane on his own or anyone else's personal recognizance, not even Admiral Nelson's.  By the way, nice to see you again, Harry, sorry it has to be under these circumstances.  But I see no compelling reason why bail cannot be granted in this case.  I'll set the amount at $1 million cash bond.”  He banged down his gavel.

“Your Honor!”

The judge stared balefully down at defense counsel.  “Men in the Navy can be quite resourceful, Mr. O'Shea.  One million dollars, if you please.”  The gavel came down again.  “Next case!”

As the proceedings moved on, O'Shea began pulling things out of his briefcase.  “We anticipated this, lad.  Everything's fine, the arrangements for bail are being made even as we speak.  We'll be out of here in a few minutes.  We won't use the Institute car, too conspicuous.  The reporters are still hovering about the building.  We'll go out the police entrance.  I've got a car waiting outside to take us all back, and we’ll be picking up the other car later.”

Lee sighed confusedly and said, “Alright, whatever you say.”

“Now, now, chin up, Commander!  And let's have a smile, can we?  Remember the reporters I mentioned?”  He handed Lee two packages.  “Here's a shirt and a pair of pants.  Take a minute to change, and sign the paperwork.  We're not going anywhere.”

Lee did as he was told, bringing a big grin to his face, but his eyes said his heart wasn't in it.  Taking the bundles he followed the bailiff back to the holding area.

Another lawyer and his client were headed for the defense table, so Sean made way for the lawyer coming up the aisle and turned to his lookalike.  “Well, Admiral, I expect there’s a lot you’d like to be asking me.” 

Harry was shaking his head and rubbing his ear, all at the same time.  “I’m sure I’m supposed to know what’s going on here, but I’m damned if I do.  Mr. O'Shea, what kind of resources do you have that can put together that kind of money in a few minutes?  My property is substantial, I can make arrangements to transfer--”

“--I know exactly what I'm doing, Admiral Nelson.  You'll just have to trust me.  Just as Commander Crane will be doing.  About the bail, that's easy: I have a powerful employer, sir -- who shall remain anonymous -- who frowns upon miscarriages of justice.  A word, and I’m sent at the earliest possible opportunity to mount a defense.  Oh, and please, call me Sean.  And with your permission, I’ll call you Harry.”

Harry was surprised again by the man’s easy demeanor and replied easily.  “Not at all.  What I know about this case is what Chip's told me, and what I’ve been able to found out with a bit of arm-twisting.  They wouldn't let me in to see the boy,” he said grimly.

“We’ll need to talk, then, Harry.  Ah, here he is.”  Lee came out from behind the court clerk's desk, looking a bit better than when he'd gone in.  “C'mon, let's get out of here.  So many lawyers around, the sharks are confused.  Follow me.” 

Displaying a remarkable grasp of the layout of the building, O'Shea led them down several corridors and numerous doors until they reached one marked “For Police Use Only.”  Without hesitating he pushed it open into the bright sunlight outside.

Flynn, leaning casually against the wall, met them as they emerged.  The cheap clothes of the early morning had been replaced by a crisp lightweight suit, silk shirt and expensive tie.  Gold cufflinks flashed as he took his hands out of his pockets and straightened up, saying belligerently, “Just a little reminder, Crane.  Flight is an evidence of guilt in California.  Just thought you'd like to know that.”

Lee's hands clenched.  “I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction, Detective Flynn!”

“Seen that submarine of yours.  You could get pretty far in something like that.”

Sean stepped forward as Chip and the admiral pulled Lee past.  “Now, there's nothing we've got to say to you, detective.  Admiral, this is not the time,” he added as Harry started to open his mouth.  “As my old friend Publius Syrus says, and I’ll translate for you, detective, since Latin was probably not your strongest subject, 'He who is bent on evil can never want occasion.'  See you in court, sir.” 

Sean led them right to a large four-door sedan parked in one of the closest spots with a placard in the front window proclaiming ‘Fire Chief.’  “Let's go before anybody recollects the Fire Chief is on vacation.  Mr. Morton, you drive.  The keys are in the car.”

“Where to?”  Chip asked.

“Someplace on the Institute grounds,” Sean answered.  “Avoiding the fine members of the fourth estate is our first priority.  I was late getting to the courtroom on account of my little statement to the press explaining that the truth will be revealed shortly.  They've gotten enough from us for this day.”

“Guest quarters, then, Chip.  We'll send someone to Lee's apartment to get anything he needs,” Harry said.  He pulled Chip aside just before he got into the car.  “I'd like you to stay with Lee,” he said quietly.  “He can use someone to talk to.  And I think I know what you’re going through, too.  It’ll be good for both of you.”

Chip, startled by the admiral’s insight, mumbled an “Aye, sir” and got into the car.  He’d had no intention of leaving Lee alone.  He needed to talk to his friend, work out the guilt that was roiling his insides.

The atmosphere in the car was heavy as Chip maneuvered out of the lot and started toward their destination.  Lee sat slumped in the front seat, head turned toward the window.  Harry started to say something a few times, but received a warning finger from his seatmate, Sean holding a finger to his lips.  Not a word was spoken by anyone until Chip had driven through the Institute's gate, maneuvering carefully through the pack of reporters and their cars that filled either side of the road.

“Well, now that we're home, anything you can tell me about all this, son?”  Sean asked.

“Don't remember much,” Lee said coldly.

 “Nothing?  A dhath ar bith?”

“If that means no too, then no!”

“Lee....” Harry said, but Sean held up a hand.  “It's alright, Harry.  The young man is understandably distraught.”  He rubbed his hands together and added, “Fine and dandy, then.   We do know what their side of the story is going to be, I’m sure.  A dead woman, and a young man found in the room with her.  If we can't explain how that happened, lad, Mr. Ellison Todd, he of the 85 percent successful conviction rate, is going to have a field day.”

Lee whirled around in his seat and glared at the little man.  “Look, once and for all, I didn't kill this girl!  If you don't want to believe me, then you can just forget trying to help me at all!”

Sean looked at him as a father looks at his headstrong child.  “When did I ever say I didn’t believe you?  I know you didn't do it, son.  And very soon I'll have everybody else knowin’, too.”  As Chip pulled the car to the curb he added, “The admiral and I have a bit to talk about, so we'll be leaving you two boys alone now.”  He got out of the back seat and moved to the driver’s side of the car.  “Leave the worrying to me, Commander.  That's where Sean O'Shea, Esquire, comes in.”

 

* * * * *

 

Sean took the keys from Chip with a cheery “see you soon!” and drove off.  Chip wasted no time hustling his friend into the spacious VIP residence.  The Institute's guest quarters were always kept well stocked, and Chip made a beeline for the kitchen and liberated a couple of cold beers from the refrigerator.  Bottles in hand, Chip headed for the living room, only to find it empty.  There'd be only one other place his C.O. would be drawn to.  Chip made a 45 degree turn and headed outside.

Lee was sitting in one of the beach chairs on the patio, head down, elbows on his knees.  Chip stepped in front of him and offered the beer.

“Here, Lee.  Drinks on the house.”

Lee didn't move.  “That's what got me in trouble in the first place.”

Chip tapped him on the head with the bottle.  Lee reached up and took the drink and dropped back into the cushions.

Chip lowered himself into the closest chair and took a swig of his beer, staring across the open space in front of him, a carefully manicured lawn that vanished at the edge of cliffs above the Pacific.  They were in Quarters One, the largest of the residences provided for special visitors to NIMR.  An awning shaded the cottage’s lanai, the sun's rays beating down just a few feet away.  Chip narrowed his eyes against the bright light.  It was very quiet.  The only sounds were the insistent calls of gulls overhead and the muffled roar of pounding surf.  The rest of the world was very far away, which suited Chip's mood at the moment.  But sitting there glum and silent wasn’t what Lee needed, nor would it do either of them any good to avoid the subject.  He looked over at his old friend, who still sat in the same position, beer bottle balanced against his thigh, the drink seemingly forgotten.  “It's going to get hot,” Chip intoned.

“Huh?”  Lee answered after a moment.

“Your beer.  Won't taste so good when it's hot.”

Lee looked at the bottle as if he couldn't figure how it had gotten into his hand.  “Yeah, right.  Thanks.”  He took a long drink and went back to staring into space.

“Want something to eat?”

“What?  Um, no, they gave me a sandwich at the jail.”

“A sandwich won't cut it, Lee.  Let me get you something.” 

“No!  I don't want anything right now!”  Lee snapped“Okaaay,” Chip said, spreading his hands in submission.  “Sorry I asked.”

Lee's head went back, and he looked sideways at Chip.  “I'm sorry, Chip.  I didn't mean to bite your head off.”  

“Not a problem, Lee.”  Carefully, Chip asked, “You want me to call anybody?”

“No!  Nobody needs to know.  Not...yet.”

“Let's just talk then, okay?”

Lee took another drink of his beer.  “Don't think I really want to do that, either.”

“Yeah, you do.  I haven’t forgotten about all those late night bull sessions at The Hall.  I spent more time listenin' to you than studying.”

Lee's face broke into a tiny smile.  “Which is why you didn't graduate at the top of the class.”

“That is absolutely correct.  Took everything I had to keep you in line.”

The smile faded.  “Wish you'd been with me last night, then.”

“Would have, if Sam hadn't got sick.  His timing was lousy.”  Making a little joke was one thing, but the guilt was still there.  It wouldn't be going away any time soon, either.  “Talk to me, Lee.  It'll help.”

Lee's shoulders slumped.  Chip could see his jaw muscles working as he stared towards the lawn.  Lee shook his head a couple of times and let the silence lengthen.  Lieutenant Commander Charles Philip Morton was a patient man.  He would wait as long as it took Lee to say something.  Stubborn as Lee was, he had nothing on his X.O.

Coming out of his reverie, Lee said, “She was pretty, Chip.  Really pretty.”

“A knockout.”

“Absolutely.  Great hair, great body, and she smelled really, really good.  Had this red dress that clung in all the right places, and her perfume...wow.  Gave me a story about visiting Santa Barbara on vacation from work, checking out the university for grad school.  We sat there talking for a while, then she went over to the bar and brought back new drinks.  She wouldn't let me pay.  I remember her laughing, saying her trust fund was paying for everything.  Should have known something was up.  Some ONI agent I am.  But she kept leaning over....”  Lee's face flushed, and he hurried to continue.  “I was looking forward to dinner and... maybe something later, when all of a sudden I started to get really hot and then my stomach started churning, and I knew I needed to get out of there fast.  I vaguely recall her saying we'd go to her room, which sounded great to me, except that I was getting sicker and sicker.  I remember going through the door and making a run for the head.  And that's it, until I woke up in the detective’s loving arms.  The next thing I know I’m in jail, being told I’ve killed some girl I’ve known for ten minutes.”  He went through the story that Flynn had told him, about the arrest of Carla Banner for prostitution, about the cameras found in the room, and finally, the photograph of the dead girl and the blood evidence.”

Chip sat still for a long time and then took a long drink, smacking his lips.  “Must have been a shock, seeing that picture.”  Lee nodded slowly.  “All that proves is someone was really angry at this woman.  It couldn’t have been you, Lee.  Plain and simple.  How about another beer?”

Lee did a slow double take.  “Weren't you listening?  Did you miss everything I just said?  I just confessed to making a fool of myself over a woman who then happened to turn up dead.”

“Nope.  Didn't miss it.  Heard every word.  You didn't kill that girl, Lee.”  Very deliberately, Chip put his bottle down on the little table between them.  “I’ve seen you get angry.  But I’ve never seen you angry enough to do something like this.  Think about it, Lee!”

Lee’s eyes flashed.  “I have been thinking about it!  That’s all I’ve been doing since I woke up!  I just can’t remember,” he said quietly. 

Chip hesitated for a moment, and then said, “Maybe if we put our heads together, you’ll come up with something.  Lee, I know you.  I've seen you at your best and your worst.  I like to think I'm a good judge of character.  You wouldn't be my friend otherwise.  I don’t want to get too melodramatic here, that's not my style.  But I am absolutely, 100 percent sure that you're innocent.  And O'Shea will prove it.”

Lee studied Chip’s face, looking for anything less than calm certainty.  He couldn’t find it.  Lee thought that many people considered Chip Morton cold and unfeeling, like the machines he was so fond of.  Lee knew that was as far from the truth as it was possible to be.  A deep-thinking, caring individual lurked behind those clear blue eyes.  Hard-nosed when necessary, conciliatory when a softer touch was required, Chip was everything a man needed in a friend and fellow officer.  Lee's determination took a turn for the better.  “You put it that way, I'd have to believe it myself.” 

“Damn straight.”  Chip rose to his feet and held out his hand.  “We'll get through this. 

Lee grasped his friend's hand firmly.  “Thanks, Chip.”

“You got it, pal.  Now, sit tight.  I'm going to raid the kitchen.”

Lee grinned.  You don’t give up, do you?  I guess I am a little hungry.  Just not some of that hot plate grub you were famous for at Groton, okay?”

“For that I should make you get it yourself, but you're the world's worst cook, not me.  Don't worry, I'll whip something together that doesn't poison us both.”

As Chip rose and went back into the house, Lee's grin faded and he fell back in the chair again.  That photograph of the dead girl...he couldn’t have done that!  Killing a woman in that way, beating her to death in anger -- no.  But why wasn’t his memory coming back?  Not remembering was the worst.  With a grasp on the events of the evening he'd be able to provide Sean with little details like who had actually murdered Jen-- Carla Banner.  The man -- he assumed it was a man -- had come into the room and bashed her skull in while he was passed out in the bathroom.  Just little details like that that he needed to remember -- how else was he going to get out of this?  Then again, Flynn and the D.A. and the rest of them wouldn't have believed him, anyway.  He'd been in the room, hadn't he?  His clothes, his shoes were obviously evidence to that fact and hadn’t Detective Flynn said so, more than once?  What more did they need?  They thought he was a murderer. 

A sudden gust of wind lashed the awning over his head, snapping it like a whip.  Startled, Lee looked up.  Damn it, there's no way I killed her!  What the hell am I thinking!  Feeling sorry for himself was not in his nature.  He’d have something to say about it, that was a given.  Although he was still a little leery about him, he’d work with Sean, figure something out.  No way was he going to let anyone think he was capable of such a base act.  If they tried, they’d have a real fight on their hands.  The truth would come out.  They’d find the real murderer.  He had to believe that.  Sean O’Shea would do...something. 


Chapter 3

 

To Harry's surprise, Sean drove straight to the Institute's administration office without once asking for directions.  “You continue to surprise me, Sean.  You seem to know your way around here very well.”

“It pays to be a quick leaner, my friend.”  He deftly swung the car into Admiral Nelson's parking space.  Harry led the way into the building, ushering Sean into the outer office where Angie, the Admiral's secretary, was just finishing a call, a perplexed look on her face.  She was looking particularly harassed today, a look of disbelief in her large round eyes as she put down the phone.  Pushing her hair behind her ears, she said, “Admiral, I've been getting the strangest calls all morning, about a murder, and Lee, and---” She stopped talking at the expression on Harry's face.  “Oh, no, Admiral, it can't be true!”  Her hands went to her cheeks, and she looked back and forth at the two men standing in front of her desk, her expression going from horror to incredulity as she took in the resemblance.

“Angie, I'm sorry, I should have spoken to you first thing this morning,” Harry said, his consternation showing.  “I'll draft something for PR right away, and then you can refer all calls to Michael--”

Sean put a hand on Harry’s arm and produced a slip of paper out of his bag with a flourish.  “A statement, if you please.  Read it over and tell me what you think.”

Harry slowly reached out and took the sheet.  “Seems you've thought of everything.”  He quickly glanced at the handwritten words on the page.  “Short and to the point.  Angie, type that up for Michael and get it over to him right away.”

Sean winked and gave Angie a little bow.  “Sean O'Shea, at your service.  A pleasure to meet you, miss.  Don't you worry about Commander Crane, either.  I'm on the job now.”

Angie took the sheet from Harry while staring at Sean.  “Nice to meet you too, Mr. O'Shea.  I suppose you know... you two....”

Sean nodded his head solemnly.  “It's been mentioned a time or two, my dear.  Harry, shall we?”

Harry opened the door of his office and ushered Sean in.  “Coffee?”

“It would be appreciated, thank you,” Sean answered, settling himself into the chair in front of Harry's desk.

Harry filled two cups from the carafe that Angie always kept filled on his credenza.  He carried the cups over to the desk and handed one to Sean.

“To your health, sir.”  Sean said, taking a satisfying sip.  “Miss Angela makes a fine cup of coffee, I must say.”

Harry picked his mug up and leaned forward.  “Tell me how I can help you, Sean.”

Sean took another long drink and said, “Let’s begin with what the police believe.  They know that the room was bugged, not with one camera but two.  They know that Commander Crane was found in the bathroom, shirt and shoes stained with blood.  Those same shoes left marks on the carpet, indicating he had walked from the bed to the bathroom, where he passed out.  They know that the dead woman was known by the police in Santa Barbara for being a working girl, shall we say.”  He paused and took another drink.  I believe this was not the first time Miss Banner had worked this little scheme.  Ergo, I’m thinking that someone at the hotel was partnering with her, or at least looking the other way.”

Harry was stunned.  “You’ve found all this out in the few hours you’ve been with us?”

“Not exactly, my good sir.  My...people have been on the case almost from the beginning.  They are in a position to listen, and to learn.”

“Apparently.  It would almost appear that you have someone on the inside at the police station,” Harry responded, never taking his eyes off Sean’s face.

The other man laughed heartedly, staring back with equal fervor.  “That’s a good way of putting it.”  He drained the coffee cup and held it out for more.  “I’m going to press for an early preliminary hearing.  Santa Barbara being a small town, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Then, I'd like to borrow Mr. Morton for a little assistance, with your permission, of course.”

“Chip?  Yes, of course.  But what will you have him do?”

“Man's got a fine mind, sharp and analytical.  Soaks up information like a sponge.  Mr. Morton can be my eyes and ears, looking for more information.  I’d like him to talk to some of the employees at the hotel.  They don’t have to talk to him, a’course, but I’m thinking our young XO will know how to do the asking just right.  A quickly scheduled preliminary hearing will then give me a chance to cross-examine their witnesses before they’ve had a chance to drill their stories into ‘em.”

Harry nodded.  “Chip will be eager to help Lee in any way he can.”

“Speaking of the Commander, you, sir, will need to find something to keep him occupied, better for him than too much dwelling on things.  Can't take the Seaview out, won't look good.  A little shore duty it'll have to be, I'm afraid.”

“I'm behind in a couple of experiments.  He can help me with those in the Institute's main lab.”

“He won’t like it, but it’ll do.”  Sean settled back in his chair.  “'It’s sure the D.A. thinks he's got an open and shut case.  I’m expecting that he believes that every single thing that's been uncovered points directly at our young man.  However...Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde.”  Harry looked puzzled, and Sean added, “Did your forebears teach you nothing, Harry?  It means 'beware of the anger of a patient man.'  When the time comes, I’ll be ready.”  Putting the coffee cup down, he brushed a spot off his tie.  “I'll be leaving now, time to get the car back before it's reported stolen.”

“What!  Sean, what, how...?”

“Careful, Harry, careful.  All's fine, think of your blood pressure!”  He rose from the chair and said with a wink, “I'll be in touch.”

Harry sat in his office for a few minutes after Sean had left, drumming his fingers heavily against the stack of papers on his desk.  The paperwork needed attending to, but it would have to wait.  First...he went to press the intercom button on his phone but had second thoughts.  He got up and walked into Angie’s office.

“Angie, put your detective skills to work.  I’d like you to find out everything you can about Mr. Sean O’Shea, Esquire.  Get hold of that clipping service you’ve used in the past.  Put together something as quickly as possible.  And don’t let him know you’re doing it.”

“I’ll get on it immediately, sir.”

“I’m going down to see Lee.  Clear everything off my calendar and ... well, just deal with everything.”

“Yes, sir,” his secretary replied.  “Is there anything else?”

Harry paused at the door and turned back to her.  There was a little too much sparkle in Angie's eyes, but he was pleased to see she was keeping her emotions in check.  “We’re going to keep as tight a lid on this as we can, Angie.  No public announcement until Michael gives the go-ahead; even then, I expect you to act as if it’s just business as usual.  We haven’t told the crew yet, that’ll be soon.  See if you can’t work with Michael, take some of the heat off his PR people.  I’ll be at Quarters One.” 

Angie waited until the door had firmly closed behind him before she buried her face in her fingers and let the tears flow.  Never would she let the admiral see her this way, never allow any weakness to show, nor let him see her as anything less than a cool and composed individual incapable of breaking down.  She had learned early on that that was what he preferred.  Consequently, she had trained herself to be what he wanted her to be.  But this was a time like no other, and the tears weren’t going to stay pent-up.  In fact, they were soon falling from her eyes like a waterfall. 

The door opened with a crash.  “Angie, I just thought about some--”

Harry’s eyes were as wide as hers were as she frantically reached for the tissue box in the top drawer of her desk.  Dashing a hand across her cheeks, she straightened up, took a deep breath and said in her best professional voice, “I’m very sorry, Admiral Nelson.  It’s inexcusable, I know.  It won’t happen again.  What is it, sir?”

Harry came around the corner of the desk and gathered her to him.  “Angie, never apologize for caring about a friend.”

Angie came into his chest with a muffled, “Oh, Admiral” and began weeping again.  Between patting her on the back and uttering “It’ll be alright, Angie,” the notion of how completely he relied upon this young woman to keep his life on shore organized leapt to the surface of his mind.  Just like Lee, she was a vital member of the Seaview family.  Had she ever uttered a word of complaint about working sessions that went far into the night or the phone calls on weekends when he’d been angry that he couldn’t find a particular file, and Angie had told him precisely where it was?  Or being the recipient of an outburst when he’d just been angry, period?  He’d never forget the look on her face when he opened his office door.  Like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.  Or worse.  It had been brought home to him pretty forcibly right then how he could run roughshod over people, good people, and their feelings.  God, he could be an SOB.

 

* * * * *

 

He’d left Angie drying her tears.  He was the one needing the time to come to grips with everything now.  Luckily, the walk to the housing area would take a few minutes.

Far down the block someone in a white coat stepped out of one of the many laboratories that occupied this part of the Institute and began crossing the street.  Catching sight of Harry, the man raised a hand, and after a moment, Harry waved back.  Scientists kept working, the ocean kept thundering, and the sun rose and set over Santa Barbara.  Life went on.  Life went on...he stumbled for a moment, his heart clutching at the thought of what that could mean for Lee.  Life in prison.  Harry had already given up hope of ending this with the preliminary hearing.  It was inevitable as far as he could see.  Todd was too good, the evidence enough to bind Lee over for trial.  Then it would be up to the mysterious Mr. O’Shea.  Why did he have a feeling he could trust the man?  It went against his very nature.  Perhaps because time was of the essence.  Whatever other reasons there were, it was enough for now to accept Sean and allow him to conduct Lee’s defense.  ‘For now’ being the operating words.  He’d reserve final judgment until Angie had done her detective work.

He had come to an intersection.  The tiny street that ran crossways to the way he was headed ended in a little cliffside park, a postage stamp-sized area that consisted of a bench underneath a tall pine tree and only one other thing -- an obelisk commemorating the men who had lost their lives serving aboard submarines.  There were no signs identifying the memorial.  But everyone at NIMR knew where it was and what it was for.  He had not been there in many months.  His feet turned that way now.

The park was very tiny indeed.  A brick wall about four feet high kept visitors from tumbling over the cliffs.  In the center of the wall was the obelisk, its black marble spidered with white threads.  The hand-carved pair of dolphins on its face flanked a small granite plaque containing three simple words:  ‘We Shall Remember.’  He softly fingered the cold stone, and then sat down on the bench, staring out to sea.

So intent was he on nothing at all that only a small foot scuff alerted him to the presence of another human being.  He started a bit and looked up over his shoulder.

“Sorry, I didn’t think you’d heard me walk up.  Mind if I sit down, Harry?”

“Not at all, Jamie.  Sit.”

Seaview’s medical officer stepped around Harry and took a seat on the bench.  “Saw you from my office window.  Just so you know, I gave Angie a call.  She sounded very upset about something, but don’t worry, even I got the patented “you’ll have to ask Admiral Nelson” speech.  So here I am.”

Harry sat very still for a few moments, then said, “It’s bad, Jamie.”  He began going over the details, Dr. Jamison sitting silently, occasionally uttering a quiet grunt in response to what Harry was saying.  “...I’ve got Angie checking on Mr. O’Shea, just to make sure he’s on the up and up.  I want to make absolutely, positively sure that he knows what he’s doing.  He’s saying he can get Lee out of this mess, and I want to believe him.”

“I’ll help in any way I can, you know that.  I’ve got contacts at the lab that the Police Department uses, I’ll see if they can tell me anything.  Have Lee come see me as soon as he can so that I can do my own blood test.  It’ll also give me a chance to talk to him and gauge how he’s doing.  We already know how good he can be at hiding what he’s feeling.”

 “Thanks, Jamie.  Your help has always been appreciated.  I want you to know that.”

Jamie turned slightly sideways and regarded Harry with a speculative eye.  “Is this a new Harriman Nelson in the making?  Angie told me how you'd actually acted human for once -- no, she didn’t say it in those words, Harry, that’s my interpretation of what she said,” Jamie added, chuckling.  “But this goes way deeper than anything you’ve been faced with in a very long while.  Something’s stirring, that’s obvious.”  He stood up and Harry followed suit.  “I’m heading back.  I’ll talk to Lee when he comes in, and give you a full report.  And if you just want to talk, I’m always available.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Both men fell silent again.  Harry had found himself in this situation before, just visiting with Jamie, using him as a sounding board.  They had met each other during the war, a chance encounter in a Pearl Harbor hospital with a young corpsman encouraged by then-Lieutenant Nelson to pursue his dream of medical school.  They had kept in touch during the years following, and Harry had been delighted when his old friend had expressed interest in the CMO position at the Institute.  Jamie had given up a prestigious career as personal physician to the President of the United States to take on the role of running NIMR's Medical Department, and it had been gratifying to Harry that such a man had been willing to join him in making his dream of the marine research facility a reality.  He was a friend of long standing, another individual who had touched his life.

The Pacific was quiet today, waves gently rolling inland to a hidden beach.  Off in the distance a trio of pelicans flew stately by, heading south.  Harry was thinking about loss and remembrance, and he imagined that Jamie was, too.  This little park in its quiet eloquence, with its silent salute to men on eternal patrol was a sobering reminder of the vulnerability of life.  And how nothing should ever be taken for granted.

“I don’t come here nearly often enough,” Harry said quietly.

“Nor do I.”

With a nod to each other both men turned away, Jamie to his clinic office and Harry headed in the opposite direction. 

 

* * * * *

 

Chip came to the door in response to his knock, brandishing a kitchen towel.  “Thanks again, Chip.  Where's Lee?”

“Patio, sir.”

“Give us a few minutes.”

“Of course, sir.  Can you stay for an early dinner?  I'm cooking.”

“As long as it's not that hot plate food I've heard about--”

“--No, sir!”  Chip interrupted.

“Then I accept, with many thanks.”  Harry waited until Chip had disappeared into the kitchen and then walked out to the patio.  Lee started to rise, but Harry put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back into his seat.  “Relax, lad.  Just came to see how you're doing.”

Lee watched as Harry settled into the chair that Chip had vacated.  “You put that bail money up all by yourself, didn't you, Admiral?”

Harry made a protesting gesture with his hands.  “Actually, I didn't.  You'd have to ask Sean about that.  We have him to thank for it.”  His face crinkled up into a smile.  “Of course, he’ll be getting it back very soon.” 

“Good thing they don’t keep it if you’re found guilty, sir,” Lee said wearily.  He stood up and faced Harry squarely.  “Admiral Nelson, as soon as I can find a pen and some paper, you’ll have my resignation.  I think it would be best for your reputation and that of the Institute if I were no longer associated with it.”

“Resignation!”  Harry shot back, visibly put off by the suggestion.  “You’ll do no such thing, Commander Crane.  The idea is ridiculous!  I will not hear of it!”  Softer this time, Harry said, “Talk to me, son.”

Lee settled back into his chair, hands eloquently illustrating his words.  “I’ve sat here for the longest time, Admiral, going backwards and forwards over everything I remember, which really isn’t anything at all.  Maybe...I just had a sort of breakdown, Admiral, maybe the drugs messed up my head enough that I...what if I did it, sir?”  Lee asked softly.  “What if I did kill that girl?”

Harry shook his head from side to side decisively.  “Lee, I've known you for a long time.  There is no way, drugged or otherwise, that you hurt that woman.” 

“But I've done things, Admiral, things that I--”

“--Under orders, Lee!”  Harry interrupted.  They sat quietly for a few moments, Harry struggling with something that he wanted to say, and then making up his mind to say it.  “Lee, I’ve got something to tell you.  There are only a few people that know this story, and it’s something that happened long ago, best told and forgotten.”  As Lee nodded, Harry continued.  “Many years ago I had a friend who loved a girl very much.  They had been together and in love all through high school.  The night of graduation, they had a huge fight over a silly misunderstanding.  He was going away, and in his teenage torment refused to believe her when she said she would wait for him to return.  In fact, he accused her of already cheating on him with his close friend.  She protested, crying, telling him it wasn't true, but he wasn't having any of it.  He had brought the ring he had been planning to give her, but he threw it in her face and stormed out.  The next day word came that she was dead, dead from a fall from the bell tower at school.  Now, Catholic girls don't commit suicide, it's a mortal sin.  Her father insisted that she would never hurt herself, and besides, no suicide note was found.  Since there had been many witnesses to the argument who had seen how angry my friend had been, the girl's father demanded that he be arrested for her murder.  That came about quickly; the girl came from a very prestigious family, and her father was a pillar of the community.  His word was law, as far as many people were concerned.  The trial came, and it looked hopeless.  As good as his lawyer was, and he was very good, there was nothing he seemed to be able to come up with to keep my friend from being convicted.  It was a foregone conclusion that the jury would find him guilty.  

“And then her father, who'd aged 100 years during the trial, came forward and admitted to the police that she had left a suicide note, had gone up to that tower alone and thrown herself off.  He'd been so angry with my friend for making her so unhappy, you see.  He didn’t want this to be the last act of his daughter, to do away with herself, so he had hidden the note.  But in the end, his sense of right and wrong prevailed.  The truth will come out, Lee.  No one, absolutely no one, is going to do this to you.  I won't allow it.”

Lee stared at Harry, a speculative look in his eyes.  “Admiral, did your...friend ever get over what happened?”

“Eventually, Lee,” Harry said slowly.  “He had the support of his family, and his friends.  And he threw himself into his career.  John Gibson Starke became a fine officer in the United States Navy.”

Lee looked shocked, and Harry realized that he had thought it was himself the story was about.  This was a part of his past that Jiggs never mentioned, for good reason.  At the time he had wished that he could take Jiggs’ place.  It had been, after all, an innocent conversation with Theresa that had set Jiggs to thinking that Harry was after his girl.  The remorse that he carried about that, combined with the trial had kept Harry in agony for a frantic few months, long sleepless nights worrying about the outcome, racking his brain for a way to help his friend and coming up with nothing.  To be wrongly accused of a terrible crime, to feel the weight of evidence against you, false or not...it didn’t matter that it wasn’t him it was happening to.  It was happening again to someone that he cared about, and that made it his problem, too! 

“Thank you, Admiral.  I’m sure you’re right.

“What?”

“I can see the wheels turning, sir,” Lee said, a small grin coming to his lips.  “I find myself trusting Sean.  Maybe it's because he looks so much like you.  He says he's the best, I’m willing to believe him.”

“I’m willing, too.  But just in case,” Harry said with a wry grin, “I’m having Angie do some discreet checking.”

Lee smiled.  He wasn’t surprised the Admiral was checking on the strange little lawyer.

Harry took a steadying breath.  Uh, since the boat’s going to be dockside for a while, you won’t have much to keep your mind occupied.  Maybe you could help me out in the lab some days.  I know I’ll be grateful for the company.”

Lee grimaced, but he knew that was the best situation in the circumstances.  There was another matter to discuss.  “We'll need to tell the crew, sir.”

“Yes.  We'll meet with the department heads on Monday.”

“I can do it, Admiral.”

Harry shook his head.  “You will consider this a joint operation, Commander.” 

“Dinner!”  Chip called from the kitchen.

As Lee rose from the chair Harry grasped his arm.  “Just so you know, if you persist in giving me that resignation, it goes in my desk unopened.  Understood?”  It wasn’t often that Lee needed help, but some situations were even behind his capacity to fix.  He would have that help, would have it in spades if Harry had anything to say about it.  Resignation was out, plain and simple.

  Lee nodded.  “Aye, sir.”  He’d let Admiral Nelson think what he wanted to think, put it in his desk if he wanted.  But he would write that resignation letter.  Lee snapped a smile on his face, concealing his thoughts.  ““Dare I ask what we're having?” he said to Chip as they walked into the dining room.

  “The famous Morton spaghetti with garlic bread,” Chip answered, popping the cork on a bottle of wine.

  “Well, if it tastes as good as it smells, you have a winner here, Mr. Morton,” Harry said admiringly.

  “Thank you, sir!”

 

Chapter 4

 

With Chip and the admiral at his side Lee held a special meeting with the Seaview’s officers, with instructions to pass along the news to their men.  Thereafter each member of the ship’s crew he encountered d pledged his support.  It was one of the few positives in the days that followed, as Sean prepared his defense.

  It didn’t help that his mind wandered while he was working alongside Admiral Nelson in the lab.  And he hadn't been able to go back to his apartment, since Sean wanted no encounters with reporters.  That in itself he found confining.  Finding himself in a strange place, with nothing exclusively his around him made him unsettled.  And for someone used to jumping in his sports car when he needed a break, the fact that he couldn't go for a drive was especially rankling.  Chip had helped, occasionally cooking dinner, keeping him talking about a million things, filling him in on what was happening on the boat, which wasn't much, since Seaview wasn't going anywhere for a while.  But it wasn’t enough.  If Sean didn’t call soon....

  Finally, that night, as he and the admiral were clearing away what they had worked on in this particular lab session, the phone rang.  Lee listened, his heart racing -- action at last!  as Nelson spoke to the lawyer.

  “Yes, Sean, yes, I had a very nice dinner.  How do you find out about these things?  What?  They’ve set the date?  That doesn’t give us much time.... Yes, of course, Chip will be happy to help.  Where shall I have him meet you?”  Harry's face registered a dark truth.  “You're actually staying at the Solamar Hotel?  Alright, whatever you say.  1000 tomorrow, Room 316.  I’ll call him and let him know.  Goodbye, Sean, and thanks.”  He put the phone down and returned to the dinner table.  “Sean wants to see Chip tomorrow.  He's got some questions he'd like him to check out with some of the hotel staff.”

  Lee fidgeted in the chair.  “Just Chip?  Not me?  There has to be something I could be doing here, Admiral!  My memory’s coming back.  I remember putting one foot in front of the other as we left the dining room.  I was pretty proud of myself that I was even moving at that moment.  I can see her fumbling for the key and getting the door open, and her pointing towards the bathroom.  And then -- that’s it,” he said ruefully, then added quickly, “But I’m sure if I just keep going over and over what I do remember, something else will pop up.  Maybe if I went with Chip to the hotel and got into the room….”  His voice trailed off.  “Sitting here, I feel like I’m just letting this happen to me, sir!  I’ve never been a quitter, Admiral.”  He began twisting his class ring.  “I don’t want anyone to think I’m quitting now!  I can’t let Chip do all the work....” 

  “Son, I know how you feel.  But we’ve got to trust Sean to organize this the way he sees fit.  His history implies that he’s rather good at it."

“What do you mean?”

  “I had Angie do some sleuthing.”  Harry thought back to the file that Angie had handed him, all neatly organized and surprisingly, filled with information.  “He’s been a member of the California Bar for some time, although he’s mainly practiced on the east coast.  She was able to get some newspaper clippings that point to his success rate in criminal cases.  They go back a few years, but the expertise is definitely there.  And he did mention his Washington connections.  Until we know something to the contrary, I’ll take his word for it that he’s a very good lawyer.  And trust that he’ll know what he’s doing every step of the way.”

  Lee sucked in a quick breath, planning to say something, and then stopped.  He wanted to be there with Chip at the hotel, get people to talk, get them to understand that he wasn’t the murderer, that somebody else had been in that room with Carla Banner.  And if that weren’t good enough, he’d get up in the courtroom and testify for himself, make them see that he wasn’t the one.  He thought back to how the wind had snapped him to attention that day, out on the patio.  Odd.  There hadn’t been any hint of breeze before that moment.  But it had startled him into thinking positively again.  Didn’t matter that he still couldn’t remember every minute; what mattered was what his heart kept telling him.  That and what Sean O’Shea and his friends kept reminding him…he was innocent! 

  But the resignation letter was in an envelope in the upstairs office, just in case.

 

* * * * *

 

Chip was at the hotel bright and early.  In his phone call the admiral hadn't said much beyond Sean wanting him to assist in the defense's investigation.  Whatever it was, he would do it gladly.  Running a hand through his hair -- he was sure that the blond strands had been replaced by gray overnight -- Chip knocked at the entrance to Room 316.

  A smiling Sean opened the door, coffee cup in hand, suspenders undone over his substantial stomach. 

  “Morning, son, good morning!  I always appreciate promptness in a man.”  He ushered Chip in and indicated the sole chair in the room, then perched himself on the edge of the bed.  “We've a lot to go over, so we'll get started right away.  Coffee?”  Chip nodded assent, and Sean poured out a cup.  “This is a bad business, but we'll get through it.  With your help.”

  Chip's eyes blazed.  “I'll do anything you tell me to do.”

  Sean stared at him speculatively.  “I do believe you would.  You're a good and loyal friend, sir.  We might push the boundaries of the law, but we'll not be breaking, it, Mr. Morton -- Chip,” he added, as Chip started to correct him.  “Luckily enough, we have Lady Justice on our side.”

  “I don't think Flynn or Chief Johnson believe that,” Chip said coldly.

  Then they are misinformed.”  Sean opened his notebook, staring through the bottom of his glasses at the pages.  “I’ve been working on getting the defense organized, but there are always gaps that need filling.  Since I'll not be wanting to embarrass him a second time, tell me what Commander Crane told you about meeting the girl.”  Seeing Chip's look of chagrin, Sean added, “You're his best friend, lad.  He's told you everything for sure.”

  Chip relayed what Lee had said, making sure that nothing was left out.  Sean listened, occasionally nodding his head, making notes.  When Chip finished Sean sat quietly, staring straight ahead, his eyes closed.  The resemblance to the admiral was remarkable, Chip thought.  If Sean had been taller, and gained back some of his hair, it would be difficult to tell them apart.  Sean didn't seem to have acquired the famous Nelson temper, however.

  “A perfect plan.  I don't think this started here, Chip.  The young lady knew exactly what she was doing.”  He turned over a page in his notebook.  “First up -- the waitress who was working in the bar.  You’ll recognize her; she was the one that waited on the two of you.  Her name is Lisa Rossi.  From what I’ve seen, the young lady’s got some brains.  As well as other attributes.”  Sean looked at his watch.  “She should be arriving for work shortly.  She’s always early, so you’ll have a few minutes to pump her for information.  I want to know what she thought about our dead girl.  And if she gives you some leads, like I think she will, you can check those out, too.”  He stood up and opened the door.  “Keep your eyes open.  I understand that our friend Detective Flynn has been nosing about the place ever since I checked in.  I doubt if he’s planning a courtesy call.”

  “Understood, sir.  I can take care of myself.”

  “I’m sure you can, but you’ll be no help to me inside a jail cell.  Tread easy, son, tread easy, that’s all I ask.”

 

* * * * *

 

There was a bench on the sidewalk that led from the parking lot to the employee’s entrance, and Chip had taken a seat on it.  Even this area, the back of the hotel was fully landscaped, and he had to admit, the gardens were pretty – if you were interested in lots of flowers.  He preferred the vast, surging seas that raced past the boat, the white spray flying from the wave tops as the Seaview plowed through the water.  He knew that he was lucky to live in Santa Barbara, where the wide beaches and green hillsides were a photographer’s delight.  But his home was the sea.  That was where he wanted to be now, certainly not at this place.  He and Lee had always looked forward to coming to this hotel, one of their favorite places in town.  He doubted if he’d ever come here again.

  “Something I can help you with, sailor boy?”

  Chip stiffened, concealing the shock of hearing a voice right behind him.  He stood up and turned around.  “No, detective.  Just waiting for a friend.”

  “Friend?  You plan on getting cozy with anybody I know?”

  “No.  Just here to check out a few things.”

  “That’s not what I call it.”  Flynn stepped directly in front of Chip, standing almost toe-to-toe.  “Look, sailor boy, your buddy is as guilty as hell.  I don’t know what you’re trying to do here, but it isn’t going to work.  That friend of yours got himself in trouble, and there’s nothing you can do to get him out.  Got it?  So why don’t you just quit while you’re ahead, and you’ll keep out of trouble that way, okay?”

  Chip stared at the detective’s face, and then stepped defiantly around him.  “I’ll keep that in mind.  Now, if you’ll excuse me....”

  “Late for a date or something, are ya?  You planning on paying for it, same as your friend?”

  Chip’s eyes flared and his hands started to come up.  He just as quickly damped down the inclination to put the other man on the ground.  Controlling himself with an effort, he said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Flynn but you’ll soon find out how wrong you are!”

  Flynn held up his hands and started to walk away.  “Sure, whatever you say,” he said as he started up the sidewalk.  Chip could hear him laughing as he disappeared around the corner.

  Breathing deeply, Chip calmed himself and turned back to the parking lot, just in time to hear a car door slam.  In a few seconds Lisa Rossi appeared.  The morning sun showed her to advantage, a long-limbed, thin-waisted brunette with large, dark eyes and very red lips, moving with purpose in the short cocktail waitress uniform.  Chip stepped out on the narrow path.  Something caught her eye and she turned her head towards the lot, and consequently didn’t see him until she was only a few feet away.  Then her head came back around and she stopped dead.

  “Yikes!  You startled me!” she shrieked.  Then, more quietly, “I know you.  You were with the man they arrested for the murder.  I recognized his picture in the papers.  What do you want?”

  Chip catalogued the wary look in her dark eyes.  She had an attractive face, definitely.  “I’m hoping that you know something about what’s been going on around here.  I swear to you, my friend didn’t do this.  I need some information to help prove it.”

  She was silent for the moment, and Chip could practically feel her sharp scrutiny.  He hoped that the determined look on his face would be enough backing for his words.

  She shook her head while turning her mouth – a nice, soft mouth – up in a slight smile.  “I’ll probably regret this -- but I’ll do what I can.”

  Chip’s shoulders relaxed and he let out a huge breath.  “Thank you, Miss Rossi.  Where can we go to talk?”

  She pointed toward the parking lot.  “Let’s go back to my car.  That’ll be private enough.”  As she spoke she began walking, and Chip fell into step beside her.

  “The police have talked to you, right?  Did you suspect that she was a prostitute?”

  “Not really.  I thought she was just a gal looking for a good time, and making sure she got cozy with men who she figured could pay for it.  That's why,” and here she began blushing, “I was kinda surprised she started to talk up your friend.”

  “Why's that?”

  “He was way younger than her usual choice,” Lisa answered.  “She had always gone for much older guys.”

  Chip waited until she seated herself in her car, and then walked around and got in himself.  “So she’d been around a while?  Did you ever see any of the staff talking to her?”

  “Mr. Griffin started getting real cozy.  He's the hotel manager.  I figured she'd found herself another sugar daddy in him.”  She shuddered and said, “Griffin's creepy.  He's tried to flirt with me a couple of times, but I acted dumb and he gave up.  I need this job,” she added, smiling ruefully.  “Anyway, I got the idea that Griffin was real interested in her, and it wasn't being reciprocated.  He seemed really mad a couple of nights ago, when she’d come in and then left in a big hurry.”

  “Where was he the night of the murder?”

  “Don’t know for sure.  I remember seeing him at the beginning of my shift -- he likes to ‘check’ on our uniforms, make sure we’re ‘up to hotel standards...’ yeah, right.  I don’t remember if he was around after that.  I’m sorry, I have to say this, but much as Griffin can be disagreeable, I can’t see him killing anybody,” she said thoughtfully.

  Chip’s lips drew together.  “Anger can make men do crazy things.”

  She tilted her head to the side, at the same time moving a lock of hair that had fallen across her mouth.  She was definitely pretty, in an exotic way that Chip found particularly attractive.  “Couldn’t that be said of your friend, then, too?” 

  His eyes met hers.  “No.  No way.  Someone else went to her room and killed her.  It could easily be someone that works at this hotel.”

  “Why do you say that?”

  “They found cameras in her room, probably used for blackmail pictures.  Maybe one of her former customers showed up, or maybe a disgruntled partner.  She angered someone, that’s for sure.”

  “Blackmail!”  She thought about that for a long moment.  “Look, I’ve got to get into work.  Go talk to Mr. Stewart at the front desk.  He’s into everybody’s business.  He’s another caveman with eight arms, but harmless aside from that.  I think.  If there’s something fishy going on he probably knows all about it.” 

  Chip jumped out of the car and walked around, opening her door for her.  “Thanks again, Miss Rossi.  You’ve been very helpful.”

  She gave him her hand.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.  It was always nice to wait on you two.  Big tippers, you are.  I sure hope your friend gets off.  He doesn’t look like a murderer.”  She flashed him a smile.  “It’s not that likely I’ll get to see you here again, but if you’re ever interested, you know where to find me.  And my name’s Lisa.”  She nodded to Chip and walked away, Chip watching her go, her hips swaying in the short uniform.  Definitely a pretty girl!

  He was in luck.  Entering the hotel from a side entrance and walking into the lobby Chip found the place fairly empty, and the supercilious-looking fellow working behind the front desk today had a nametag on that said ‘Stewart.’  Chip waited until the last guest had been checked in and then stepped forward.  Mr. Stewart looked up and smiled, exposing two rows of blindingly white teeth.  They contrasted sharply with the slicked down, shiny black hair. 

  “Checking in, sir?”  Stewart asked.

  “No,” Chip said quietly.  “I’d just like a few minutes of your time.”  In a flash of inspiration, he plucked out the case that held his I.D. card and let Stewart have a second’s glimpse of it.  “Some questions that need to be cleared up about the murder investigation.”

  Stewart went white.  “I...I...I’ve talked to the other policeman and told him everything I know.  I don’t know anything more!”

  “We just like potential witnesses to make sure they’ve got their stories straight,” Chip said.  “It’ll only take a few minutes.  Can’t you take a break or something?  I’d like to be able to tell the DA you were cooperative...”

  The little clerk pointed to his watch.  “I’ll be free in five minutes.  We'll go someplace.”  In an undertone, he added, “I don’t want Mr. Griffin to see us.  He’s not very happy about all this.  Such bad publicity!”

  “Griffin is here now?”

  Stewart scowled.  “Shouldn’t you know that?  He's always here, he’s the hotel manager.”

  “Yeah, right, well, I’m not involved in every aspect of the case,” Chip said hastily.

  True to his word, the man was at Chip's side in five minutes, indicating with a thumb an alcove off the main dining room.  They stood there together, Stewart practically whispering.  “I was at the desk checking some accounts with the night auditor when a policeman walked up and asked me to call the hotel manager, that he had received a report of a disturbance in 225.  Well, of course I paged Mr. Griffin immediately.  It took him only a minute or so to come to the front desk, and then he and the policeman went up to the room.  Room 225 is one of our larger suites, a very nice room with an ocean view.  A shame, really....  I went up myself a minute later, just to see if I could assist, you understand.  That’s when I saw the policeman was in the bathroom working on someone, getting the man to stand up it looked like.  Mr. Griffin was pulling at something on the television set, and I could see wires on the floor, of all things!”  He pondered that for a moment, pursing his lips in and out.  “I was told to go down and call the police station and ask them for assistance.”  Stewart shuddered.  “I wasted no time coming down and calling.  My goodness, Mr. Griffin was distraught.  This has never happened in our hotel before.  The detective, Flynn I believe his name is, was very angry about something,” Stewart said, taking a handkerchief out of his pocket and patting his upper lip.  “I think he was having trouble with the man in the bathroom.  I was very happy to get out of there.  I never want to see anything like that again.”

  “Had you seen this woman before?”

“I... am not sure.  We get many pretty women--”

  “But how many are prostitutes?”

  Stewart’s eyes flashed.  “I resent that, sir!  This is a very prestigious hotel; we do not condone that type of activity!  Besides, we ask the police to keep a watchful eye on our guests, and they are very diligent.”  He looked at Chip, his brows drawn together suspiciously.  “You should know all about that, should you not?”

  “Uh, sure,” Chip hurriedly said.  “You were at the front desk, correct?  All the time?  Could someone have come out of the room that you wouldn’t have seen?”

  The clerk thought about that for a minute, eyes shifting back and forth.  “Alright, maybe I had gone in and out of the accounting office, and I took a few minutes to get a cup of coffee...but I think if someone had been up there, I would have seen them leave.  I pay attention to what happens at the front desk.  That’s my job,” Stewart said primly.  “In any event, Mr. Griffin said that naval officer was the one who murdered the girl, so that was good enough for me.”

  “So you can’t say exactly where you were when the girl was murdered?”

  The color flared in Stewart’s cheeks.  “Not to the instant, no.  It could have been while I was in the back office or in the employee cafeteria.”

  “Anybody see you there?”

  The answer was slow in coming.  “If I thought I needed an alibi I would have grabbed the first employee that walked past,” he said coldly.  “No, no one saw me there.  I have already mentioned all this.”

  “I’m just making sure that everything checks.  Don’t want witness stories getting changed.  Defense lawyers can be tricky.  Where can I find Mr. Griffin?”

  Stewart looked at his watch, relief obvious on his face.  “It's almost noon, he'll be out at the tennis courts.  The tennis pro has a class for some of our local ladies at this time every day, and Mr. Griffin likes to make sure that everything is running smoothly.”

  “And check out the students, no doubt,” Chip said acidly.

  “I wouldn't know about that, sir.  Excuse me, I've got to go back to work.”  Stewart turned on his heel and strode off. 

  The tennis courts were on the ocean side of the hotel.  It was beautifully landscaped here, too.  The courts were in tiptop condition, attractive complements to the dozen or so women who were arranged in a semicircle on the center court.  They were all paying rapt attention to a man in their midst, Chip assumed the tennis pro, who was demonstrating a backhand stance.  Ballboys flitted around picking up errant tennis balls and handing off towels.

  Another man was standing to the side in a section where food service was available, brushing off tables and seating diners.  The man was tall, with a potbelly that he was trying very hard to keep from sticking out of his tan suit.  He had a full head of hair, slightly curling, a little longer over the collar of his golden-colored shirt then was currently in fashion.  Tortoiseshell glasses framed his eyes.  Chip watched for a couple of minutes as he moved about greeting everyone, shaking hands vigorously with the men and getting a hug and a kiss from the female patrons.  Chip didn’t think that deciding this was the hotel manager was going to be off the mark, nor would it hurt to try the ID card thing again.  He was showing it to the guy from a safe twenty feet away as he walked towards him, adopting his best official demeanor.  “You Griffin?”

  “Yes,” the manager said warily.  “You’re not with the Santa Barbara Police Department.  Who the hell are you?”

  Chip thought quickly.  “Office of Naval Intelligence.”

  Griffin, who was looking very belligerent up to that point, deflated as fast as a popped balloon.  “There’s nothing I can tell you that the Santa Barbara Police can’t tell you.”

  Chip ignored that and asked, “How well did you know Miss Banner, Mr. Griffin?”

  “I had spoken to the young lady about her, uh, continued presence at our hotel,” Griffin said stiffly. 

  “Really.  That's not what our sources say.  I understand you were real cozy with her.”

  “I don't know who is telling you these lies, but that's what they are!  Lies!  In fact, I was going to speak to her that very evening,” he said, adjusting his glasses so that he could regard Chip through the lower part of his bifocals.  “Unfortunately, she disappeared before I could say anything.  I’m sure you know what happened next.  That officer of yours killed her.  Oh, well done, Mrs. Lynderman!”  he cried, flashing a wide smile and raising his voice so that the statuesque Amazon in the crisp white tennis dress would be sure to hear.  The scowl returned when he faced Chip again.  “Are we done here?  I've got my guests to consider, I don't need to have them see me talking to you.  We’ve had enough trouble already.”

  “Just a couple more questions.  Where were you when the murder took place?”

  The suit rose and fell a couple of inches as Griffin puffed himself up.  “I was in my office, going over paperwork.”

  “You have proof of that?”

  “As I have told the Santa Barbara Police,” Griffin said heatedly, “I was in my office going over paperwork when Mr. Stewart, who was on duty at the front desk that evening, called me and said there was a policeman at the desk.  That’s where I met Detective Flynn.  We went to the room and discovered the body.”  He stiffened for a moment, and then resumed.  “Mr. Stewart came up shortly afterwards, and we sent him to call the station.”

  “What was Flynn doing all this time?”

  “Trying to get that man out of the bathroom.”

  “And what were you doing with the cameras?”

  “Cameras?”  Griffin’s mouth straightened.  “My my, Mr. Stewart has been quite the chatty one today.  I shall have a talk with him immediately.  Those cameras were a complete shock to me, sir,” he said, speaking in quick nervous beats.  “A complete shock.  Now, I think we’re done here.  If you have more questions you’ll need to talk to the police.”

  “Not going to tell me about the cameras, then?”

  The manager’s face was getting redder and redder.  “I’m asking you to leave, sir!”

  Chip was going to ignore that when Flynn popped up at the opposite side of the courts.  From the furious look on his face, any further confrontation with Griffin would prove hazardous to Chip's health.  “Thanks, Mr. Griffin, for the information!”  Chip spun and began striding rapidly away.  Turning back just once, he could see Flynn and Griffin in conversation, both men gesturing angrily at each other.  Chip grinned.  He’d have something to tell Sean, after all.  But he thought it would be better done from a safer distance, like over the telephone.

 

* * * * *

 

Chip soon found there was no need to phone.  He’d gone straight back to Quarters One to find Lee, the Admiral and Sean deep in conversation, the dining room table covered with paperwork and coffee cups.

  “My boy!”  Sean cried as soon as he’d come in the door.  “I hope meetin’ Miss Rossi made up for the little contretemps you had with Detective Flynn.  You’ll have to tell us all about it.”

  “Do you have spies all over the place, Sean?”

  “Ha ha, very funny.”  He grabbed Chip by the arm and propelled him towards the lanai.  “We’re having a bull session here, Chip.  Seat yourself,” Sean practically pushed him down into one of the empty chairs, “and tell us what you found out.”

  Chip pulled out the small journal he’d used to jot down notes.  Talking quickly, he went over the gist of the conversations he had with Lisa, Griffin and Stewart.  “I can’t say that I found out much.  But neither Griffin nor Stewart have very good alibis at the moment,” he pointed out.

  “You did just fine, son.  I’m just trying to put everyone in their place.  This will help.”  Sean picked up his cup and drained the contents before talking again.  “I’m sticking to the idea that someone at the hotel knew what was going on with Carla Banner.  Stewart doesn’t seem the type, but timid little men have been roused to great emotional heights before.  Griffin, now, I can see him being angry with Miss Banner.  Maybe she had turned him down, and not in a very nice way.  And maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t conducting business the way he wanted.  Then there’s the business with the cameras.  He might have been just shocked, as he said, or maybe he was planning to grab ‘em and go, and Stewart spoiled that plan by showing up in the doorway.”  He stood up and placed a fatherly hand on Lee’s shoulder.  “I’d advise you to make it an early night, Commander.  Probably the best thing for all of us.”  He arched an eyebrow at Harry, and made a ‘c’mon’ motion with his head.

  Harry rose from his chair and said, “Good idea, Sean.”  He turned to Chip and said, “Thanks, Chip.  You’ve been a big help.”

  “You’re welcome, sir.  See you in the morning.”  Chip waited until both men had left before addressing Lee again. 

“Neither one of those guys I talked to has a really good alibi, Lee.  I think that Sean will be able to work with this.”  He rubbed his hands together.  “Then the real fun can begin.”

  “You know I wanted to be there with you, Chip.”

  “I know.  Sean wanted to handle it this way.”  Chip snapped off a quick hook to Lee’s arm.  “Sometimes you’ve just gotta let somebody else carry the ball, Lee.”

  Lee’s shoulders rose and fell.  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.  Hopefully this will be enough to raise some reasonable doubt when it gets to the jury.”

 “Jury?”  Chip questioned.  “We haven’t gotten to the preliminary hearing yet, Lee.”

 “That’s just a formality.  There’s going to be a trial, you can count on it.”

  “Can I, Lee?  I think maybe Sean has some tricks up his sleeve he’s not telling us about.  I think there’s a very good chance that--”

  “No,” Lee interrupted doggedly.  “No, this is going to a trial.  It’s inevitable.  It’s okay, Chip,” he said as Chip made to speak.  “I’m ready for it.  I’m ready for anything.”

  Chip frowned, then said, “Just because Sean doesn’t go over every little detail doesn’t mean a thing.  Lawyers like to keep things close to their vest.”

  “Oh?”  Lee inquired.  “You know many lawyers?”

  “Well, n-n-n-n-no, but I’m beginning to know this one.  He’s good.  You can trust him.”

  “Trust,” Lee mused, his eyes going far away.  “Every so often, I have a little trouble with that.  This is one of those times.”

  “Then don’t trust the times,” Chip told him.  “Trust me.”

  Lee regarded Chip with a thoughtful smile.  “Is it always easy for you to come up with the right thing to say?”

  Chip returned his smile.  “Yep, pretty much.”

 

   

Chapter 5

 

The day of the preliminary hearing saw a long caravan of cars emerge from NIMR’s main gate and turn onto the winding road that led up to the highway.  The duty driver was piloting the first car with Harry, Chip, Lee and Sean, and behind them were a dozen other cars.  The crew had all asked to be allowed to go along, so many that a drawing had to be made up to pick those unlucky enough to stay behind on the boat for the port watch.  The group that was going, including men like Chief Jones, Patterson and Kowalski, crewmen who were only too happy to run interference for the captain.  Following behind them was Angie, in a car with members of the administrative staff.  The admiral's phone calls would just have to wait.  There would be a formidable cheering section inside Judge John Edrington’s courtroom. 

  The crew formed an effective phalanx as the cars pulled up in front of the courthouse and emptied their passengers.  The sidewalks were filled with reporters again.  They were no match for the men of the Seaview, Chief Jones later boasting he had managed to throw some effective elbow jabs.  Sean proved to be a born showman, alternatively looking grim and then in the next instant grinning as expansively as he could while he parried questions on the courthouse steps.  The courtroom was packed, of course; this was the biggest event that had happened in Santa Barbara in years.  The Seaview contingent took up the first two rows on both sides.  Pride of place was reserved for Harry on the outside of the row immediately behind the defendant’s table.  Lee, face pale but composed, walked forward and took his seat, managing to look as if he’d just been called to dinner at King Hall.  Angie leaned over, placed a gloved hand on his arm, and whispered something into his ear.  The words brought a small smile to Lee’s face.

  Harry was looking for Sean.  They had been walking along just fine when the lawyer had stopped in the middle of the hallway as if a wall had been placed in front of him, sending Harry on ahead, saying he would ‘just be a moment.’  The moment had stretched into a couple of minutes, but finally the door had swung open and Sean had entered, looking very satisfied about something. 

  Flynn came in and seated himself behind the D.A.’s table.  He was dressed today in an expensive-looking dark suit, the shirt underneath blindingly white.  He caught Harry’s eye, raised his right hand and made a mocking little salute.  Harry stared back, not bothering to hide the anger in his eyes, until Sean turned from his place, smiled and held out a hand.  “Shake,” he said.  The two men shook hands.  “A piece of cake, Harry, you’ll see.”

  “Not maligning your expertise, of course, but I wish I had your confidence, Sean.”

  Sean winked.  “It’ll all be clear in a short while, my friend.  We’ll be out of here before you know it.”

  Harry’s eyes widened.  You know something more, don’t you?  Are you saying you know who did this?”

  “Aye, sir, I do.  I received a little information just prior to coming into the courtroom.  It was a tiny piece of the puzzle I was missing, a confirmation of sorts, you understand.”

  “Received information?  But you’ve been with us the whole morning!”

  “’Ní bhíonn an duine críonna go dtéann an beart thart,’ Harry.  Our murderer has been busy, covering his tracks, fixing it so everyone will believe that only Commander Crane could have done this foul deed.  Maybe that would have been enough, if he hadn’t come up against the likes of me.  The bell’s just rung, Harry!  All will be revealed!”  Sean cried. 

  Judge Edrington, looking suitably grave in his dark black robe, settled into place behind the ‘bench’ and said, “This is the time fixed for the preliminary hearing in the case of the People of the State of California versus Lee Crane.  You have your witnesses ready, Mr. Todd?”

  “Ready for the People, Your Honor,” Ellison Todd answered, throwing a smug look across the aisle.  The district attorney was looking very pompous this morning, his hair carefully groomed, the thin mustache over his lips carefully trimmed, hands delicately shooting the cuffs on his expensive suit.  He was in his element.

  “I presume that you are also ready, Mr. O’Shea?”

  Sean rose ponderously and adjusted the bottom of his vest.  Despite the warmth of the June day he was wearing a dark green waistcoat under a heavy green jacket, a sartorial splendor that would have invoked guffaws directed toward lesser men.  With his red hair on top, he looked like a Christmas candle.  “The defense is indeed ready, Judge.”

  “Fine.  Mr. Todd, let’s begin,” Judge Edrington said.

  Todd rose and addressed the judge, first beaming a wide smile to the assembled spectators.  “If the Court please, this won’t take long.  The defendant, Lee Crane, is an individual used to commanding others to do his bidding.  He is a member of an elite corps; a group no doubt convinced they can do no wrong.  This particular evening he meets a young, beautiful woman at a swanky restaurant and invites her to dinner.  But that wasn't where the evening was going to end, Your Honor.  No, Commander Crane obviously had something else in mind other than a quick meal with his victim.  We only have his word that he didn't know that Miss Banner, or Jenny, as he says she called herself, was a woman for hire.  Be that as it may, it is a known fact, which will be attested to by witnesses, that he accompanied Ms. Banner to her hotel room.  It may have been then and only then that she identified herself as a call girl.  Now, Crane may have gotten angry at this deception, or he got angry when Miss Banner refused some obscene demand.  Perhaps something else didn’t feel quite right.  He is, after all, a man who is used to suspicious situations.  Whatever it was, he quickly discovered the cameras that Miss Banner was going to use to take pictures, possibly for the use of blackmail.  Whatever the motivation, it was not enough to warrant the horrible brutality that Commander Crane inflicted on this young woman when he beat her to death with the base of a table lamp.

  “There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that anyone beside Lee Crane committed this horrible crime.  The witnesses I will present will attest to these facts, ensuring that Your Honor will order the defendant bound over for trial.”

  Todd sat down.  Judge Edrington asked Sean, “Mr. O’Shea, do you have an opening statement?”

  “Moving right along is fine by me, Judge,” Shea said, hooking his fingers through the armholes of his green paisley vest. 

  Judge Edrington hesitated, and then said, “Call your first witness, Mr. Todd.”

  “The People call Dr. Charles Bradford,” Todd announced.

  Dr. Bradford came forward, held up his right hand, was sworn in, identified himself as the county coroner and seated himself on the witness stand.  He testified in graphic detail complete with blow-up photographs to the extent of Carla Banner's injuries, which brought some of the spectators out of their seats and out of the room.  The District Attorney appeared to take a gruesome delight in showing the photographs, and as each photo was revealed the mood in the courtroom grew darker, the nature of the crime transcending any sympathy Lee may have received at the beginning.  “Steady, lad,” Sean had leaned over and told him.

  The next witness was the jail physician who had examined Lee when he’d been brought in.  “Dr. Jepsen, you examined Commander Crane, is that correct?”

  “Yes, sir, I did, briefly.”

  “Will you tell the Court what he told you, doctor.”

  Judge Edrington held up a hand.  “This is becoming hearsay evidence, Mr. Todd.  Mr. O’Shea, did I hear you make an objection?”

  Sean leaned back and crossed his hands over his stomach.  “Not a word, Your Honor.  The defense is happy to accept Dr. Jepsen’s testimony.”

  “All...right,” Judge Edrington answered, clearly perplexed.  “You may proceed, Dr. Jepsen.”

  “Thank you, Your Honor.  As I was checking him over for injuries he told me that he remembered very little after consuming several drinks, that all he remembered was being helped upstairs, being violently sick in the young lady's bathroom, and then passing out.”

  “Why is it that you do not believe him?”  Todd asked.

  “Oh, we believe that he became sick to his stomach.  We found traces of vomit in the bathroom that contained chloryl hydrate, and a blood test confirmed the presence of the drug.  What we don't believe is when he says this sickness occurred.  Given the state of Miss Banner's injuries and the extent of evidence present in the room and on Commander Crane, we believe that he was sick after he had beaten Miss Banner to death.”

  “Just one more question, doctor.  Could the drugs that Commander Crane ingested render him incapable of a violent act?”

  “Not in my opinion, no.  A man in Commander Crane’s general state of physical fitness and trained to resist such drug effects would have a higher tolerance level than most men.  The trace amounts that remained in his system when I examined him suggest that he rid himself of the effects fairly quickly.”

  Todd nodded and moved back to his seat.  “Your witness, Mr. O'Shea.”

  Sean shot up and buttoned his coat over his ample middle.  Flashing the doctor a welcoming smile, he said, “Well, Dr. Jepsen, do you know, I wonder why the Santa Barbara Police Department bothers to employ detectives, when they have you on the case.  Am I to believe you came up with these conclusions all by yourself, Doctor?”

  Dr. Jepsen squirmed a bit in the chair.  “Um, well, no.  I shared my findings with the detective assigned to the case, of course.  Detective Flynn agreed that this was the obvious conclusion.”

  “Of course.  Now, Doctor, have you any proof, any proof whatsoever except what you and Detective Flynn have already decided upon, that this is exactly how the evening's scenario played out?”

  “The evidence speaks for itself.”

  “Does it, sir.  Perhaps one of the movie cameras found in the room was actually yours.”

  “Certainly not!”

  “Then my client saying he was sick and passed out almost immediately upon entering the room can't be verified?”

  “No!”

  Sean turned and fixed Judge Edrington with a grin.  “Well, seems to me, that yours can't either.  That'll be all, Doctor, thank you.”

  In rapid succession the D.A. called employees of the hotel and the restaurant, all of whom placed Lee with Carla Banner.  Finally, it was Lisa Rossi’s turn.  As she came up the aisle she turned and threw a smile at Chip, who smiled back.  She was dressed today in a conservative suit which did nothing to hide her curves, her hair hidden under a small pillbox hat.

  “Miss Rossi,” Todd said, “you were the waitress who served Commander Crane and Miss Banner, correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

  “You saw Commander Crane and Carla Banner together throughout the evening?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Had you had occasion to see her before that evening?”

  “A few times.”

  “Did it ever occur to you that Miss Banner was, shall we say, a working girl?”

  “Not at the time.  I always thought she was just somebody looking for a good time.  It's a resort hotel; we get a lot of women who come in.  I’ve seen her around for a while, figured her for one of them.”  She hesitated, and then added, “She was pretty enough.”

  “So when you saw the two of them together you thought he was one lucky fella.”

  “No, sir,” she said, blushing furiously.  “I thought she was one lucky girl.”

  Laughter filled the courtroom.  Even Lee had to smile a little at that.

  “What happened with this particular pair, Miss Rossi?”

  “They had been there for a bit, chatting and laughing, drinking.  While I was busy with some other customers she got up and got a couple of drinks from the bar.  I guess that’s when she slipped Commander Crane the mickey.”

  Ellison Todd spun towards the judge.  “Your Honor!”

  “Just stick to the facts, young lady.”

 She smiled a dazzling smile at Judge Edrington.  “That's what I'm trying to do, Judge.”

  He nodded and then frowned as several members of the courtroom audience chuckled.  The spectators quieted.  “Go on, Mr. Todd.”

  “What happened then, Miss Rossi?”

  “She signaled for the bill, so I brought it over.  The gentleman was looking a little green around the gills.  He managed to pull out his wallet and she grabbed it and took out some bills and threw them on the table.  While I was back making change they left.”

  “That’s the last you saw of either one.”

  “Yes.”

  “Your witness, Mr. O’Shea.”

  Sean rose and walked up to the witness box.  He patted Lisa on her hand and smiled broadly.  “You’ve seen Commander Crane in the bar on other occasions, miss?”

  “Yes, he and his friend,” she looked over at Chip, “have been in several times.”

  “Ever have them make advances, flirted with you while you were working, that sort of thing?”

  “No, sir.  A lot of men come in that try to get fresh with me.  It’s a constant battle with some guys.  I never had any trouble with either of these two customers.”

  “Commander Crane was the perfect gentleman, Miss Rossi?”

 “Absolutely.”

  “Was there anyone else in the bar while Miss Banner and Commander Crane were there?”

  Lisa thought about that for a moment.  “A couple of regulars, and there was one gentleman sitting by himself at the bar.  He’d been coming to the hotel on and off for a couple of weeks, told me he was a contractor in town doing some construction work.  I don’t remember him leaving.  It could have been at the same time!” she said brightly.

  “One more question.  Did she leave you a good tip, Miss?”

  Lisa's nose curled up, like she had smelt something unpleasant.  “No.  And I noticed that she took the remaining bills she'd taken from the wallet and stuffed them into her purse.  That's another reason I remember her so well.  A little thief.”

  “Your Honor, again!” 

“Quite right, Mr. Todd.  Miss Rossi, I won’t ask you again.”

  Lisa looked contrite.  “Yes, sir.”

  Sean grinned expansively.  “Thank you, Miss Rossi, that will be all.”

  The D.A. rose smoothly and straightened his tie.  “I have a couple of questions on redirect examination, Your Honor.”  He strode up to the witness box again.  “How do you know that Commander Crane was sick, Miss Rossi?”

  “He looked sick.”

  “Are you a doctor?  How do you know?”

  “Well, he was flushed and he was kinda swaying at the table, and he was changing color.”

  “You've had drunken patrons, I'm sure, Miss Rossi.  Couldn't it be more likely that he’d just had a little too much to drink?”

  She looked at Lee in consternation, and then back at the D.A.  “I guess,” she said sullenly.

  “Thank you, Miss Rossi.  That's all the questions I have.  Anything else, Mr. O’Shea?”

  Sean winked at Lisa.  “No, Your Honor.”

  “You’re excused, Miss Rossi,” the Judge said.

  Lisa arose from the witness chair and took a seat with the rest of the spectators.  But not before throwing an apologetic look at Chip, who responded with a shrug and a tight-lipped smile.

  Todd looked at some papers on his table.  “The People call Anthony Stewart to the stand.”

  The little clerk walked up to the witness stand and took a seat, smoothing his crimson-colored tie and settling himself in with a few wiggles.  Todd walked up and stood in front of the stand.

  “Would you identify yourself for the record, sir.”

  “My name is Anthony Stewart.  I am employed as one of the front desk managers at the Solamar Hotel.”

  “And you were at the hotel the night of the murder?”

  “Yes, I was working my shift.  I was there when Detective Flynn came to the desk.”

  “Had you been at the front desk all evening, Mr. Stewart?”

  “Except for a couple of minutes, yes.”

  “And the front desk has a view of the second floor.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Tell the Court what you were in the process of doing, Mr. Stewart.” 

“I was checking some of the accounts when Detective Flynn came to the desk and told me he had received a call saying there was a disturbance in one of our suites.  He asked me to locate the hotel manager, and I immediately paged Mr. Griffin.  He arrived almost immediately, and they went upstairs to the room.”

  “And you followed, shortly thereafter.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Tell the Court what you saw.”

  “I saw a young woman dead on the bed.”  He pulled a handkerchief out of his suit pocket and used it on his lips.  “Then I saw Mr. Flynn working on someone in the bathroom.”

  “And that person is in this courtroom, Mr. Stewart?”

  “Yes, sir.  He’s the defendant, Commander Crane.”

  “Thank you, Mr. Franklin.  Your witness, Mr. O’Shea.”

  Sean strolled up to the witness chair.  “Mr. Stewart, you are basically saying you saw nothing.  Didn’t see Commander Crane and Miss Banner go up to her room, didn’t hear any noises, didn’t get any calls, didn’t see anyone else go upstairs or downstairs, nothing.  For all we know, you could have gone up to Room 225, murdered Miss Banner, and come back down, apparently with no one the wiser.”

  “That’s preposterous!  I never...sir, I deeply resent your implication that I had anything to do with the murder of this woman!”

  “Be that as it may, sir, I think you would have to agree that you are hardly in a position to say who was or wasn’t in that room.  It could have been that mysterious patron in the bar that Miss Rossi spoke about.  It could have been anyone.  It could have been you!”

  Stewart half rose in his chair.  “And it could have been the defendant!  I mean, it was the defendant!”

  “No sir, that it could not.  You’ll know that shortly.  Thank you, that’s all.”

  Stewart came off the witness stand quickly, averting his eyes from Sean and dashing through the railing gate. 

  “The People call Thomas Griffin to the stand.”

  The hotel manager came to the front of the courtroom and was sworn in.  He glanced over at Sean and Lee, and his face set in lines and furrows. 

  Todd wasted no time.  “Mr. Griffin, you are the manager of the Solamar Hotel, is that correct?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Tell us what transpired the evening of the murder.”

  “I was in my office going over paperwork.  I got a call to come to the front desk.  That’s where I met Detective Flynn, who had been called to the hotel.  I accompanied him to Room 225, and that’s when we found the body of Carla Banner.”

“And you can confirm that the defendant, Lee Crane,” Todd turned around and pointed to the defense table, “was in the bathroom of Room 225 when Detective Flynn and yourself entered the room?”

  “Absolutely, sir.”

“And you can also confirm there were cameras in the rooms, items that certainly no one employed by the Solamar Hotel would have placed there?”

  “Yes, I examined the cameras myself.  And no, they had not been placed there by anyone employed by the Hotel!”

  “Your witness, Mr. O’Shea.”

  This time Sean stayed at in his seat to ask questions.  “Mr. Griffin, how is it that the police came to the hotel in the first place?”

  “Detective Flynn said he received a phone call.”

  “From whom, Mr. Griffin?”

  “I...don’t know, I didn’t ask.  I presume a guest, someone on that floor, perhaps.”

  “Who was this guest, Mr. Griffin?”

  “As I have said, I didn’t think to ask Detective Flynn.  It didn’t seem important.  It was enough the police were immediately on the case.”

  “Wouldn’t it be more customary for a guest to call the front desk to report a disturbance?”

  “Perhaps it wasn’t someone who was actually staying in the hotel,” Griffin offered.  “Many times people don’t want to get involved!”

  “That’s a convenient theory, sir.  However, in that case, don’t you think you need to scare this person up, so he or she can corroborate your story?”

  “The thought hasn’t entered my mind.  Why would I need such a thing?”

  Sean said sneeringly, “Because you’ve come to realize you might need a good alibi?”

“Objected to as argumentative and not proper cross-examination!”  Todd cried.

  “A thousand pardons, Mr. Todd, I’ll withdraw the question,” Sean said smoothly.  “Mr. Griffin, how close were you to Carla Banner?”

  “There was no relationship at all.  And I resent the implication!”

  “Never tried to get cozy with her, never tried to form some sort of relationship?”

  “Hardly!”

  Sean’s mouth twisted in a grin.  “Why would you say, that Mr. Griffin?  Did you know what she was doing at your hotel?”

  Griffin shifted uneasily under Sean’s stare.  “I have certainly done nothing wrong!”

  “That remains to be seen, sir.  Your Honor, no more questions.”

  Todd watched him go, then stood up and in a booming voice, said, “The People call Detective Flynn to the stand.”

  Flynn turned his head and gave Admiral Nelson a small smirk before taking his place in the witness chair.  The D.A. followed him to the front.

  “State your name and occupation for the record, please.”

  “Michael Flynn, detective, Santa Barbara Police Department.”

  “Now, Detective Flynn, you were the arresting officer the night of Carla Banner's murder, is that correct?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Please tell us the circumstances of that evening, Detective Flynn.”

  “I was on duty in the homicide division that evening.  We received a call from the Solamar Hotel that there had been a disturbance in one of the rooms.  Since the Solamar is only a few minutes away from the station, and it being a slow night, I decided to follow-up on the call personally.  I went to the front desk and told them to call the manager so he could accompany me up to the room.  We went up and found the door unlocked.  I immediately observed a woman on the bed who had a large quantity of blood on her head and around her body.  Checked for a pulse, and found none.  There was a trail of bloody footsteps heading to and from the bathroom.  I pushed open the door, and that's when I saw the defendant leaning up against the bathtub, semi-conscious.  I saw that he had blood on the clothes he was wearing, and there was blood on the soles of his shoes.  Careful to disturb the crime scene as little as possible, I placed the suspect in handcuffs, after a little scuffle--” here he threw a sneer at Lee “--and went back out to the main room.  It was then that Mr. Griffin drew my attention to the cameras.  A minute or so later Stewart, the front desk clerk came to the door of the room.  I had him go back down to call for the coroner and the rest of the homicide crew.  As soon as they showed up I got Crane out of there and let them do their job.”

  “Commander Crane was found inside the same room with the deceased, Carla Banner?”

  Flynn glanced lazily over at Lee before replying, “That's correct.”

  “Any evidence that anyone else had been in the room?”

  “None that I found, sir.  There was no blood trail from the body to the door, for instance.  The only blood trail was from the bed to the bathroom.”

  “These cameras, Detective Flynn, how did you determine that they were there for blackmail purposes?”

  “I can only assume that,” Flynn answered.  “The film was brand new.  They were definitely set up to take pictures of the bed.”

  “You feel that Mr. Crane found the cameras and became angry, that the evidence all points to that obvious premise?”   

  Sean scraped back his chair.  “If it please the Court, that calls for a conclusion of the witness, Your Honor.”

  “Objection sustained,” Judge Edrington agreed.

  Todd took the pronouncement with ill grace.  “Fine.  You found the defendant in the room’s bathroom, with blood on his clothes and shoes that matched the blood of the deceased?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “No blood evidence outside the room?”

  “No, sir.”

  “Therefore, based solely on the evidence, Detective Flynn, is it your professional opinion that this terrible crime was committed by one person and one person alone?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “And that person, again based on your years of experience, is Commander Lee Crane?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Your witness, Mr. O’Shea.”

  Sean leaned forward in his seat.  “I have no questions at this time.  I however, reserve the right to cross-examine Detective Flynn as soon as the honorable District Attorney is done presentin’ his case.”

  Judge Edrington nodded.  “Alright, Mr. O’Shea, as you wish.  Are you finished, Mr. Todd?”

  “Not quite, Your Honor.  We have one other person we wish to call as a witness for the prosecution.  He has not been served, but he is present in the courtroom.  Your Honor, the People call Admiral Harriman Nelson to the stand.”

  “What!”  Both Harry and Sean cried out at the same time as the courtroom exploded.

  Todd let the noise filter down before saying, “Your Honor, we fully expect to treat Admiral Nelson as a hostile witness.  But we do expect him to take the stand.”

  Judge Edrington pondered that for a moment.  “The Court will allow it.  Call Admiral Nelson to the stand.”

  Harry stood up, the anger on his face evident, and slowly made his way to the witness’s chair. 

  Todd waited until Harry seated himself, then walked forward, buttoning his coat, looking first at the judge, then Lee, then back to Harry in the witness box.

  “Please identify yourself, sir.”

  “My name is Harriman Nelson,” Harry rumbled.  “I administer the Nelson Institute of Marine Research.”

  “You've known Lee Crane for some time, Admiral?”

  “Yes.”

  “Time that includes his years at the Naval Academy.  Wasn't part of his extracurricular activities there being a captain on the boxing team?”

  “Yes,” Harry acknowledged mechanically.

  “So he's often used his fists to make a point?”

  Harry’s face darkened.  “Not at all!  Those are controlled bouts against other young men!  Your attempt to somehow characterize this sporting activity as brawling acts of violence is completely unfounded!”

  Todd ignored that outburst.  “Prior to his service on the Seaview, Commander Crane was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, correct?”

  It was a few seconds before the admiral answered.  “Yes.”

  “He carried out missions of a secretive and dangerous nature, I understand.  If there was trouble on these missions, an operative would be expected to do all that was needed to complete the mission successfully.  Correct?”

  “Yes.”

  “Including acts of violence if necessary?”

  Harry paused for a moment.  “If it was necessary.”

  Todd picked up a pen from his desk, stared thoughtfully at it for a moment and then asked, “Admiral Nelson, I presume that you would like this Court to believe that Command Crane is incapable of violent emotions?”

  “Commander Crane,” Harry said in an icy voice, “is incapable of murder.”

  “The Court has been given ample evidence to question that, Admiral.  One final thought:  Commander Crane is expected to come to quick decisions, decisions that may mean life or death to himself or those around him?”

  “That’s part of the responsibility of command,” Harry said cautiously. 

  “Have any of those decisions, made hastily, thereafter been proven wrong?”

  Harry’s eyes glittered with suspicion.  “On very, very rare occasions.”

  “But there have been occasions, you must admit, Admiral, when he has made serious mistakes?”

  Harry flung his hand out in a dramatic gesture.  “Of course, but that doesn’t mea--”

  “--Thank you, Admiral Nelson, that will be all.  Your witness, Mr. O’Shea.”

  Sean’s face split with a grin.  “I like the sound of that, Mr. Todd.  Now, Admiral Nelson, as you testified, you’ve known Commander Crane for some time?”

  “Since his Naval Academy days.  I've followed his career for years.  When the opportunity arose for him to command Seaview, it was a natural selection.  There's no better man for the job.”

  “How would you describe him, sir?”

  Harry looked over at Lee, who was staring back intensely, his face reddening a bit.  “He's one of the finest men I've ever had the opportunity to know.  He's highly intelligent, a superb Naval Officer with several decorations to his credit, and a good friend.”

  “Knowing him as you do, would you say that he committed this heinous crime?”

  Harry shook his head emphatically.  “Never.  Not in a million years.”

  “Thank you, Admiral.  That’s all the questions I have.”  Harry left the witness chair and charged back to his seat.

  Todd closed the file on his desk with a snap.  “Your Honor, the prosecution has no more witnesses.”

  Judge Edrington glanced up at the courtroom clock.  “Mr. O’Shea, I presume you wish to recall Detective Flynn.  However, it’s approaching the time for the afternoon recess.  I would prefer that a lengthy cross-examination be conducted tomorrow.  So, if you don’t mind....”

  “This will take only a few minutes.  I beg the Court’s indulgence, Your Honor.”

  Judge Edrington patted the top of his desk, and then said, “I shall hold you to it, Mr. O’Shea.  Lieutenant Flynn, come forward.  May I remind you, you're still under oath.”

  Sean first took a sip of water and then walked forward to stand in front of the witness box as Flynn took the seat again.  “Before I get started, I’ve noticed how hot it’s getting in this room,” Sean said, looking around at the male spectators in their shirtsleeves.  You have my permission to remove your jacket, sir.”

  “That’s okay, I’ll keep it on, if you don’t mind,” Flynn said, rolling his eyes.

  “As you wish.”  Sean grasped the witness box and leaned in a bit.  “Lieutenant Flynn, if Commander Crane didn't kill Carla Banner, who else could it have been?”

  “Nobody.  There's nobody.  Nobody else could have done it but him.”

  “How can you be so sure, Detective?”

  “It's called evidence.  Too bad you can't figure that out.”

  Judge Edrington leaned down over the edge of the bench.  “Lieutenant Flynn, you will refrain from making personal comments about counsel, is that understood?”

  “Yes, Judge.”

  “May it please the Court, I'm not offended that Mr. Flynn thinks I'm an idiot.  As that fine Irish proverb says, 'it takes one to know one.”

  The court spectators tittered while Flynn went scarlet. 

  “Lieutenant Flynn, how well did you know Carla Banner?”

  Arrested her a couple times.  That’s it.”

  “Never spoke to her on the phone the day of her murder?”    

  Flynn regarded Sean with smoldering hostility.  “No.”

  Sean tilted his head to one side and regarded Flynn in arch appraisal.  “I submit that you did.  You didn’t get a call from some mysterious guest at the Solamar Hotel.  You got a direct call from Carla Banner.  You immediately hightailed it over to the hotel and, making sure that Mr. Stewart had stepped away from the desk, went up to the room.  You might even have called Mr. Griffin, your contact at the hotel, telling him that you were there.  I understand he’s an old friend from Chicago, is he not?  No, Mr. Griffin, sit back in your seat,” O'Shea said, spinning around to confront the now red-faced man as he started up from his place in the audience.  He waited until the hotel manager had sat down again and the bailiff was blocking the door.  Let me lay it out for you, and for the Court.  You went to Carla Banner's room in response to a desperate call.  You knocked quietly on the door, and she let you in, frantic at what she'd done.  You quickly determined that Commander Crane was just out cold, not dead, as Carla had thought.  Now, since blackmail was pretty much out of the question at that moment, you may have decided that it would be best if you put the Commander out of his misery.  Luckily for him, Carla either said something or did something that made you suspicious.  And that's when you found the second camera.  How am I doing so far, Detective?”

  Flynn crossed his arms and shaking his head, looked up to the ceiling.

  You killed Carla Banner, Mr. Flynn.  You cracked her skull with the lamp because you found a second camera, a second one beside the one you'd already set up.  Nice little racket you had there, sir.  Mr. Griffin makes sure the little lady gets the room with the hidden camera already in place.  Pretty girl lures men up to her room, gets them into compromising positions, and takes some very incriminating movies.  A neat little blackmail scheme, Your Honor, pure and simple.  The victim pays up because a scandal would be worse.  She was getting to be an old hand at it, with your help, wasn’t she?  But then she double-crossed you, and that's that.  The young lady is dead, and lo and behold, you've got a ready-made scapegoat passed out in the bathroom.  It was easy to take off his shirt and spot it with her blood, and put it back on.  Easy when you have an unresisting body.  You even went to the trouble of taking off his shoes and making sure they'd provide more evidence.  Needed to pile it on thick, you did.  Finally, here’s the clincher, Your Honor.  Miss Banner might have been a slip of a girl, but she had fingernails, and used ‘em,” Sean said gleefully.  “Put up quite the fight, didn't she?  You could see the broken nails in the photographs.  I saw scratches on your face and neck the day of the arraignment, out there in the beautiful Santa Barbara sun.  You’d tried to cover them with makeup, but it wasn’t fooling the likes of me.  And then, for all that it's so hot in here, you don't want to take off your jacket and roll up those sleeves, like so many of the other gentlemen have.  Even though I asked, quite politely.  I’ll wager if you took off that expensive shirt, your victory shirt as it were, we'd see some fine little scars left over from the rake of her fingernails.  Might even be a faint bruise or two, I’m thinkin’.   

  “Then there's the little matter of the enormous sums that have been regularly deposited into Carla Banner's out of town bank account.  For which Mr. Flynn is a co-signer.  And the equally enormous sums that have been removed.  I understand you’re quite the gambling man, detective.  I believe you had a bit of a setback in Las Vegas, isn’t that right?  And the proof of that is right here.”  Sean held up a folded sheet of paper.  “I’ll wager Carla had found out about that, too.  And that, in itself, was enough of a motive for murder.” 

  Griffin catapulted himself from his seat.  “It was him!” he shouted.  “I was just the go between.  I didn't kill her....”

  Griffin's voice trailed off as everyone looked at the thunderous expression on Flynn's face.  O'Shea saw it, too.  'Bíonn ciúin ciontach.' Which, Your Honor, means in English, 'the quiet are guilty.'  Cat got your tongue, Mr. Flynn?”

  Flynn had stood up in the witness box.  Very slowly, he sat down and glared at the lawyer.  He laughed bitterly, a short, bitten-off laugh.  “Little bitch had botched the mickey.  I slapped her around some when I found out she'd given Crane too much of a dose, he'd gotten sick instead of just doped up.  And then I found the second camera.  She'd learned a lot, from me.  She had big ideas, thought she was going to blackmail the navy boy twice.  She started in about the bank account, said if I was going to steal from her she’d just get twice the money.  Couldn’t let that happen, could I?  But you know what the funniest part of all of this is, Crane?  She had mixed you up with the wrong guy.  He was still sitting in the bar when I got to the hotel.  Imagine my surprise,” he said dryly, the words slow and far-spaced.

  In the shocked silence of the courtroom Sean's voice rang out like a clarion.  “A shame, that some fine Irish gentlemen should share a last name with such as you, Flynn.  Your Honor, if you wouldn’t mind....”

  “I am very happy to accommodate you, Mr. O’Shea.  Bailiff, you will take Detective Flynn into custody.”  Judge Edrington banged his gavel down firmly.  “The case against Commander Crane is dismissed!”

  The courtroom erupted.  Angie was the first to reach Lee, who was sitting frozen in his chair, staring as if he couldn't believe his good luck.  She began smothering him with kisses.  Chip was next, leaning over the railing and clapping his friend on the shoulders.  Kowalski, Patterson and Chief Jones crowded behind him, yelling and whooping.

  Only Admiral Nelson sat quietly in his seat, hand gripping the bench in front of him, head down, quietly mouthing some words.  His head came up and then his eyes, to look directly into Sean's face. 

  Sean covered Harry's hand with his own.  “I know, Harry.  I know.”

   

* * * * *

 

Angie turned and hugged Harry, and spoke into his ear.  Smiling, he turned to Sean.  “It appears we're having a victory barbecue at Quarters One.  I hope you'll be joining us, Sean.”

  Sean began putting his folders and papers away.  “Of course, I never pass up the invitation to a party!  You go ahead, sir.  I’ll be along presently.  I've got my employer to contact, let 'er know how everything went.”

  Her?”  Harry cried.  A woman?  Someone I know?”

  Sean made a face.  “Ooops.”  He picked up his briefcase and began hustling down the aisle, throwing a quick “See you at the party, Harry” over his shoulder.  “The reporters await!”

  Harry watched him go, marveling that someone that little could move that fast.  Then Police Chief Johnson, who was walking up with a smile on his face and his hand thrust out, blocked his view.  “Congratulations, Harry!  Sorry it had to be Flynn that got your boy in trouble.  I knew all along that Lee must be innocent, glad that you had a great lawyer to prove it.”

  Harry didn’t move.  “Did you, now.  That’s not how I remember it.  If you excuse me, Chief Johnson, I’ve got a party to attend.”  He thrust himself around the cop and followed everyone out, leaving Johnson with his hand out and an apologetic look on his face.

 

* * * * *

 

The Seaview crew had formed a semicircle at the edge of the sidewalk as Lee and Harry pushed their way through the mass of bodies, ignoring the shouted questions.  Undeterred, the reporters swung around and thrust their microphones and notebooks into Sean’s face.  “Settle down, boys, settle down!  There’s story enough for the likes of all of you!”

  The crew moved aside as Chip made a deep bow and with an elaborate flourish indicated the sparking clean car parked at the curb, Lee's beloved Jag.  “We brought her down, figured you'd like to drive her back to the Institute.  C'mon, Lee!”  Chip threw him the keys and Lee, with his lightning-fast reflexes caught them in his right hand.  He still wasn't smiling, and looked down at the keys as if he didn't recognize them. 

  “Something wrong, Lee?”  Harry asked, regarding him quizzically.

  “No….”  He thrust the keys out at Harry.  “Admiral, you drive.  Please.”

  The Admiral's eyes crinkled up in a smile.  “Well, this is a surprise.  You’re trusting me with your pride and joy to drive back to the Institute?”

  “With my life, sir.”

  Harry took the keys.  “Gentleman, we'll see you back at the Institute.  Get the barbeque hot and the beer cold!”

  A chorus of “yes sirs!” followed this pronouncement.  Lee got into the passenger seat and Harry slid into the driver's side.  They were soon on Pacific Coast Highway heading north.  Harry waited until they were away from the city limits and then opened her up, the Jaguar responding with a velvet roar.  Harry took his eyes off the road for a few seconds and studied Lee’s face.

  “Lee, is there something you’d like to get off your chest before we get back to the Institute?”

  Lee managed a smile and turned to Harry.  “Sorry, sir.  Didn't think I'd make it out of there.  Guess I'm still having trouble taking it in.”

  “I understand, son.  We’ll talk when you’re ready.”  Harry concentrated on his driving and they were soon pulling up to the Institute's main gate.  Lee couldn’t miss the huge banner hanging above the guardhouse that said ‘Welcome back, Commander Crane!’”  The guard was grinning as he waved them through.

  “They've gone all out, haven't they?”  Lee said quietly.

  “They're your friends, Lee.”

  “And I've let them down!”  Lee cried, hammering at the top of the car door.  “Them, you, Chip, everybody.  I think I’ve put a serious chink in your judgment of my ability to make good decisions, sir.”  Lee hesitated then with deadly seriousness said, “I still want you to accept my resignation, Admiral.”

  Harry almost slammed on the brakes right there.  “Now, hold it right there, mister!  Time to get something straightened out!”  Instead of making the right turn at the “y” intersection Harry executed a neat left, tires squealing.

  “We should be heading in the other direction, sir.”

  “Glad to see you've noticed something,” Harry said irritably, and then his expression softened.  “We're not going to the house quite yet.”  He turned onto a siding that dropped sharply towards the sea.  Half way down at a spot that flattened out in a large semicircle, the car rolled to a stop.  Turning in the seat, he confronted Lee.  “How have you let everyone down?”

  “I shouldn't have been there, with that girl.  Shouldn't have let my libido tell me what to do.”

  “I see.  So you're supposed to live like a monk, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  That may keep you out of more trouble, Lee, but hell, that's no fun at all,” Harry said with a grin in his voice.  Lee didn't join in the laughter.  Shaking his head, the admiral got out of the car, came around to the passenger side, and opened the door.  “Get out, lad.” 

  Lee did as he was told.  Once outside, he leaned back against the car and stared out at the sea.  Harry stood next to him, almost shoulder to shoulder.  The sun was going down over the horizon and the brilliant sunshine was reflecting off some late afternoon clouds, casting a crimson glow that lit up the sky like a thousand Chinese lanterns.  “Son, it’s over.  Sean exposed the real murderer.”

  Lee’s face turned stony.  “I could see it in their expressions, Admiral, the people in the courtroom.  The way Todd spoke, the pictures, the way that Flynn made it seem like a foregone conclusion…I know now he needed a scapegoat, to draw suspicion to me and away from himself.  But at the time all I could see was everything stacked higher and higher against me.  Those people, sir, their faces, the loathing in their eyes, the disgust.”  His voice became heated.  “That’s what I can’t forget, that they could think I could ever kill anyone like that.  The only thing that kept me going was what you, Chip, and Sean were telling me.  That I was not that man.  I never want anyone to think that I was THAT MAN!” 

  “And you are not!”  Harry began, and then broke off, letting his emotions simmer down.  “Lee, I've got another little story for you.  You caught my eye when you first came to the Academy.  I saw the intelligence, the promise in you then.  Knew that you'd make a fine Naval officer, hoped that you'd realize it and make it your career.  And when you did, and even better went into the submarine service, I couldn't have been more proud.  I still get angry when I remember how ONI stole you away before I could ask you to become Seaview's first skipper.  Don't get me wrong; John Phillips was a fine officer and a great captain.  His death will always weigh upon me.  But you were born to command the Seaview.  You and I both know it.  Hell, everyone knows it.  The crew loves you, Lee.  You're fair and impartial and you make decisions that don't play favorites.  You take the heat off me when I can't handle one more bureaucratic snafu.  You're the first man to volunteer for a dangerous mission, damn it all!  In other words, everything the Seaview demands in her captain.  Look at me, lad.”  Harry turned sideways and laid his hands on Lee's shoulders, and turned him to face him.  “I've missed out on many things, including a wife and a family.  I'll have to content myself with leaving the legacy of Seaview and our work at the Institute that will stand the test of time.  But what I've come to realize, is that without your friendship and support, it won't mean a thing.”  Harry looked away, cleared his throat and then said, “When I saw what was happening in that courtroom it made me think back to a time long ago when it happened to someone else I know.  And just like then, there wasn’t anything I could do except pray that everything would come out right in the end.  And thanks to Sean O’Shea, it did.  And I thank God for it.”

  Harry looked up into the young man's eyes and saw the first sign of a change bubbling up in them.  Then Lee's chin went down and in an instant Harry’s arms encircled him, holding him tightly while Lee shook in anger and anguish, ridding himself of emotions he’d held in check for so long.  

  After a little time and one mighty heave of his shoulders, Lee regained control.  He whispered a muffled, “Admiral, I'm sorry.”  Raising his head, he said, “I’m sorry for everything.  For disgracing you, and the boat, and, well, I really think you need to accept that resignation, sir.”

  “Absolutely no reason to apologize, son.  And as I told you before, I’ll have no talk of resignation, Commander Crane.”  He affected his best command voice.  “I won’t hear of this again, do I make myself clear?”

  Lee wiped the traces of moisture off his cheeks and took a deep cleansing breath.  “Clear as a bell, Admiral.  Thank you, sir.”  Slowly his face was transformed by the famous Lee Crane grin.  “I'm glad I got that out of my system.  Would have put the lie to my tough guy reputation if it had happened in the middle of the barbeque.  Speaking of which, they'll be wondering why we took the scenic route!”

  Harry started around the car then stopped.  Digging into his pocket, he held out the car keys.  “How about it?”

  Lee stepped forward and his hand closed over the keys.  “I don't know about you, sir, but I'm starving.”

 

* * * * *

 

The barbeque had been fun.  Sean had been gratified to see a restored Lee Crane enjoying himself and the tension lifted from the whole crew.  Everyone that was there had come by, thanking him for his help, thanking him for saving their C.O.  The esteem that Lee was held in was evident.  If any proof was needed that a good man had been saved to fight another day, he had received all he needed. 

  In a quiet moment Sean found himself alone with Harry.  They had moved away from the crowd and stood watching Lee joke and laugh with his crew.  “The boy is in fine spirits again, Harry.  It’ll take a while longer, but he’ll be fine.”

  “You know I’ll never be able to thank you enough, Sean.  None of us will.  As to the rest -- you know you have a blank check as far as your fee is concerned.  I’ll have it taken care of immediately.”

  Sean waved that off.  “My employer has already seen to my...fee, my good sir.  Justice is all that matters.  That, and making sure that a fine young man comes back to the bosom of his family unscathed.  And what you have here is indeed a family, Harry.  You’ve done well.”

  Harry offered him a smile.  “I think I’m finally beginning to realize that, Sean.  And once again you’ve flummoxed me.  You’ve got to tell me who it is you’re working for!”

  “In due time, sir, in due time,” Sean said.  

  “At least tell me how you came up with all this information about Flynn and his activities!”

  “Tomorrow, Harry.  I’ll be by your apartment and explain everything.”

  “Everything?”  Harry queried, a twinkle in his eye.  “Will you tell me where you came from?”

  Sean chuckled.  “Ah, always the scientist, looking for answers.”  He picked up his briefcase and stuck out a hand.  “We’ll talk tomorrow.  I’ve got a car here, so I think I’ll call it a night.”

  “Not the Fire Chief’s car, I hope,” Harry said as his brows knit together.

  Sean’s laugh was genuine.  “Not this time.  Please give my best to your crew.  And tell that young man...well, I think you’re ahead of me in that regard.  I’ll just slip out, I hate long goodbyes.”  With a wave and a smile Sean disappeared into the house. 

  Lee rushed to Harry’s side as soon as he saw the admiral was alone.  “He didn’t wait for me to say thanks!”  he cried.  “I wanted to thank him again for everything....”  Lee’s voice trailed off, and he turned to Harry.  “Did he leave a business card with you or anything, Admiral?”

  “I’ll see him tomorrow, lad.  I’ll tell him for you.”  Harry clapped Lee on the back.  “They’re calling us back, Lee.  You go ahead.  I’ll be along in a moment.”  He would use the time to let the events of the past few hours wash out of his system.  The bands that had tightened around his chest were slowly loosening.  How to build a cocoon, somehow keep the evils of the world from doing harm to everything -- and everyone -- he cared about?  Unfortunately, as good a scientist as he was, that was beyond even his capabilities.  Fighting evil in any form it appeared was the best he could do.  And he had people he could count upon to help in that fight.  Including a little Irish lawyer, he figured.

  Harry looked over at Lee, surrounded again by the crew.  He was smiling, and the worry lines had disappeared from his forehead.  He was keeping the depth of his feelings from the men, but Harry knew this had shaken Lee to his core.  It would take a while before time would erase what had happened.  He would stay close, would let the young man know that if he ever wanted to speak of it, his door would always be open.  What a father would offer, to a son.

  Like a son to me....

  Harry turned and headed for the lanai.  “Kowalski, I hear another one of those beers calling my name!”

  “Aye, sir!”

 

 

Chapter 6

 

It was late, and the State Street pier was deserted, only his footsteps echoing against the wooden planks as he sauntered toward the end that jutted out into the Pacific.  It was a fine night to be walking, and he wanted to savor his last evening in this beautiful corner of California, so green and lush it reminded him of his homeland.  As lovely as it was, he hoped he would never find it necessary to be here again. 

  As he came to the end of the pier the lights overhead slowly began to wink out, one by one, until everything was plunged into darkness.  Grinning, Sean leaned over the rail, peering into the water.  “As I told you earlier, mistress, it was an easy thing after all.  Your submarine is available again with all her crew, honor restored.”

  “You did magnificently, Sean,” a feminine voice answered him.  “I appreciate your help, as always.  Is there something I can do for you?”

  “I’d like to go home.  Can you make me mortal again, Galené?”

  The disembodied voice was firmer this time.  “That is something that this particular goddess cannot do, Sean.  Your expertise is too valuable to me.” 

  “Ah, as you wish.  I enjoy my work too much to ever really want to leave it.  It's just that sometimes, I miss my old life....”  He reached for a handkerchief, blowing his nose noisily.

  In the darkness, something rose up in front of him, blotting out the moonlight shimmering across the great ocean.  The voice was closer now, and he knew she was there.  For all that he had left behind, there were worse things than working for a sea goddess.

  “I’m glad that you’re reconciled to it, dear boy,” the feminine voice said quietly.  “Your legal skills are always in such demand.”  He felt something alight on his wrist, a hand or a coil of her beautiful hair.  “Thank you again for taking care of my new charge,” she added.  “It will not be long now before I can go aboard her and introduce myself.  I wish I could have contrived to be at the trial somehow, but the time was not quite right.”

  “The assistance that you and your kin rendered made it unnecessary.  Their help was beyond measure.” 

  “Perhaps.  But if the Moraie were more disposed to me at the moment, Sean, it would never have happened in the first place.  Such an event should never have been chosen as a test of our young commander.”  Her voice had grown colder, as cold as the breakers that were crashing against the pier pilings underneath him.  “Such insolence has not gone unnoticed.  Fillean meal ar an meallaire. 

  Involuntarily, Sean shuddered.  “When you start speaking the Irish like that, milady, we are all in trouble.”  Another thought struck him.  “So, we will say goodbye to another fine sailor in the not too distant future,” he said quietly.  “I would not wish to have your job, Galené.  In the meantime, is there anyone in particular you'd like me to keep an eye on?  Take the dark-haired one, for instance.  As fine a man as anyone can ever hope to know.  And his friend, the blond -- there’s a lot of passion inside that tall, lanky frame, I’m thinkin’.  And both of them easy on the eyes, definitely.  But perhaps I don’t have it correct a’tall.  Perhaps it’s that certain someone who's strong and intelligent, and nearly as good-looking as me?  You’ve broken hearts for thousands of years, goddess.  Will you be toying with these ones, then?”

  He began laughing, and she soon joined in, a throaty chuckle that held a multitude of meanings.  “I never toy, Sean.  And when have you known me to give away my secrets?  It will definitely be a new adventure for me.  I hope that they are up to the challenge.  Your offer is appreciated, however.  I thank you deeply for all that you have done this day.”

  He stepped back and bowed deeply.  “As you wish, mistress.  A pleasure, as always.”

  Tá’n fharraige ag seinn, Sean.  I must go.  We will see each other again soon.”  A ghostly kiss, and a splash, and she was gone, back into the sea.

  A big California Gull was sitting on a corner of the pier.  His sleep had been disturbed by the sound of voices, and he was watching Sean with one wary eye.  The bird was debating whether he should rise up into the air when the problem was solved for him.  One moment the thing-that-was-not-a-gull was disturbing his sleep, and the next moment it had disappeared.  The bird ruffled his wings and settled back down again to rest. 


Chapter 7

 

A bright morning’s sunlight was streaming through the windows of Harry’s apartment office as Harry and Sean seated themselves.  Sean had dressed casually today, in a soft shirt and cotton pants; gone were the three-piece suits he’d worn in the courtroom.  He looked relaxed and happy.

  Harry leaned forward over his desk and interlaced his fingers.  “How did all this come to you, Sean?”

  Sean crossed his legs, grinned and said, “When a case is brought to my attention, sir, much of the work has already been done.  My...staff is extremely efficient in that regard.  Their research uncovered that Carla had already been arrested in Santa Barbara, and yet here she was at the hotel, plying her trade.  Flynn knew that a beautiful girl like her would attract attention.  He was the one that set up the camera.  In exchange for her help, he'd look the other way when she was working, as it were.  Fancy hotel, fat cat company executives with a lot to lose.  A tidy little scheme.  Chief Johnson has filled me in on all the details.  Manager Griffin has seen the error of his ways and told all, it seems.  And they've been to Flynn's house, found more cameras, more film, and a bunch of notes that Carla had written him.  Got 'em dead to rights, he does.  Including the details of the financial records of the partnership.  An open and shut case.  One that even Flynn would appreciate.

  “Think about it, Harry -- since our young man didn’t do it, that meant someone else had come to the room.  Whom would she let in without question?  Why, the man who was helping her with the little blackmail scheme, of course.  Stewart would like us to believe that he’s very diligent about keeping an eye on the desk, but he was certainly gone when Flynn slipped in and made his way to the room.  Up there she must have said something, or she was so flustered she forgot to hide the second camera.  Flynn walked in, found everything and his anger got the best of him.  He picked up the lamp and bashed the poor girl over the head -- but not before she’d done some damage to him.  Then he fixed the room up special, including using Lee’s shoes to make a blood trail, waited until Stewart had walked away from the front desk -- again -- and left calm as you please, sauntered around the building and made a big noise of going to the front desk and announcing himself, then taking his buddy Griffin with him to open up the room.  Unfortunately, Mr. Stewart spoiled it all by showing up at the door, seeing the cameras before Griffin could do anything about that. 

  “Flynn left Illinois just ahead of a bunch of creditors.  He’d been assigned to the Chicago Vice Squad, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he hadn’t honed his skills back there.  He arrives in California, finds a little town where money flows freely, and then he comes across Carla Banner.  Figures it's an easy way to make easy money.  The last piece of the puzzle was finding the details on Carla's bank account.  Flynn had had a bad streak of luck in Las Vegas, I understand.  The information that came to me indicated a slew of large withdrawals lately.  A fatal mistake for Miss Banner, bringing that up in the course of their conversation.  As she must have done.”

  “That's what you found out just yesterday morning?  But how did you get those banking records so quickly?”

  Sean’s eyes were alive with fire, and his grin split his face.  “Banking records?  It was nothing but a blank sheet of paper, mo chara.”

  “A blank piece---!  My God, Sean, I--” The phone on Harry’s desk went off with a jangle.  Recovering his composure, Harry said, “Excuse me a moment” and picked up the receiver.  “Hello, Nelson here.  Oh, Commander Elton.  Do you have that information for me?  Good, go ahead.”  Harry scribbled some notes, added a few “uh huhs and “I sees” for emphasis.  “Okay, Elton, thanks for the information.  Tell Jiggs I'll see him in a couple of weeks.”

  Harry laid down the phone and turned a menacing glare onto Sean.  “I wanted to believe you, knew I needed to, for some reason.  So I waited.  Now the trial's over, and I find out you lied to me about Jiggs Starke!  According to his aide, he's never heard of you in his life!”

  “Now, I didn't quite lie to you, Harry.  I said that Admiral Starke would speak of me highly, too.  And of course he would, if we'd actually ever met each other!”

  Harry looked at him askance, and began to laugh, softly at first and then louder as it sunk in.  He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out the file Angie had given him on Sean.  “I’ve got a dossier here that purports to be all about one Sean O’Shea, a highly respected lawyer in New York and Maryland.  Practicing back there for years.  The only problem, which I should have thought about at the time; there aren’t any pictures attached.” 

  Sean raised his shoulders in a huge shrug.  “Indeed, lad, there is a mighty fine barrister by the name of Sean O’Shea living back east.  He comes from a long line of distinguished lawyers.  I have it on good authority the first one came over from Éire right after the Civil War, and went to work savin’ the innocent.  It can’t be a surprise to find out there is more than one of us, now, can it?”

  Harry rubbed his ear and grinned.  “I have to accept that, I suppose.  But,” he added, "those friends of yours in the ‘hallowed halls of Washington?’  Who might that be?”

  “Well, that would be Hall's House, a lovely drinking establishment in Georgetown.  You should go, you’d feel right at home.  Of course, there might be a problem with the resemblance, they’re not very happy with me, seeing that the last time I was there, there was a little accident--”

  Harry put up a hand to stop him talking.  “I think that would be somewhat difficult.  I know that place, did some research while I was a midshipman, working on a paper about the history of the District.  The building burned down in 1875.  Sean, just who are you?”

  “I told you, my boy!  Sean O'Shea, lately of County Kildare.  Very lately.  More I won’t be saying, sir.  Just remember that during your time on the Seaview you have seen things that defied explanation.  Open your mind to that, and everything will be fine.”  He rubbed his hands together and pointed at his throat.  “Time for that victory drink, Harry?”

  “You're changing the subject, but if it’ll make you more forthcoming, I might be able to scare something up.”  Harry leaned over and pulled the bottom drawer of his desk open.  “Well, look at that!  A bottle of '51 Jameson!”  Harry grinned and drew the bottle and two glasses upward, filling them both.  “But first -- answer my question.”

  Sean picked up the full glass and raised it in a salute.  “To your very good health, young man.”  Taking a long drink, he ran his tongue over his lips and added, “Manna from the gods, Harry!  Now, as to your question.  My employer runs a very tight ship.  She’s a lot like you in that regard, Admiral.  I would catch a world of trouble if I said anything more.”

  Harry scowled, but it was without anger.  “So you’re not going to tell me where you came from or who’s behind all this?”

  Is binn béal ina thost, Harry.  It would not behoove me to anger those whom I serve.”  He shook his head, and then said brightly, “Of course, it was arranged that the best lawyer in the world would be on the case.  Now, let's have one last drink together before it's time for me to leave.”

  “And go where, Sean?”

  “Oh, east o’ the sun and west o’ the moon,” Sean said, waving a hand in the air.  “Wherever men of the sea find themselves in a bit of trouble.  Just the innocent ones, you understand,” he added, jiggling a finger. 

  Harry grinned and shook his head.  Reaching across the desk, he filled Sean’s glass and then his own.  And then he stood up and held the drink in a salute.  Go raibh maith agat, Sean,” he said, in the best Irish accent he could muster, and drained the glass in one swallow.

Sean inclined his head and picked up his glass.  Tá fáilte romhat, my fine friend.  I knew we'd get along splendidly, Harry.  Your brains and my beauty!”


Glossary

  A dhath ar bith?

(nothing whatsoever)

  Ní bhíonn an duine críonna go dtéann an beart thart        

(the person is not wise until the deed is done)

 

Fillean meal ar an meallaire

(evil returns to the evil doer)

 

Moraie -- Greek word for The Fates, those who determine men’s destiny

 

Tá’n fharraige ag seinn

(the sea sings)

 

Is binn béal ina thost

(Sweet is the silent mouth; a close equivalent to “silence is golden”)

 

Mo chara

(my friend)

 

Go raibh maith agat

(thank you)

 

Tá fáilte romhat

(you’re welcome)

 

 

 

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