“The news says it’s a bit chilly
in Florida today,” my duty Corpsman, also putting in some time in NIMR’s Med
Center, seemed to say absently. But I knew and he knew that it was a direct reference to the fact that Seaview’s Captain
was, right now, more likely than not, braving the 50 degree sea breeze astride one of his two vintage motorcycles with untold
hundreds of other bikers in Daytona Beach.
“I mean,” Frank continued, “I
don’t think that’s the kind of temperature he expected...you think he took along warm socks, a sweater or jacket
“I’m the only one who’s
supposed to be paranoid about his health, Frank, not you,” I had to laugh. To a man, Lee Crane’s crew worried
about him. “Not that a little worry it isn’t deserved,” I added, “I’m sure he packed appropriately.
Can be downright cold aboard one of those Coast Guard cutters or choppers, even
when it’s warmer.”
“Yeah, like I’m really sympathetic,”
he laughed as another wave of torrential rain hit the window. “I mean, what a great assignment. Beach bunnies and bikes...”
“Only when he’s off duty,”
Nelson approached. “And by my reckoning, that won’t be until later this afternoon. Hear anything from Chip, Will?”
“What makes you think he’s reporting
to me?” I feigned surprise.
“Because,” Nelson smirked, “he
only asked to be assigned to Flotilla #44, not any other kind of Reserve assignment. There’s only one reason for that.
To keep an eye on Lee.”
“Not out of any sense of patriotic
duty? You wound my beliefs to the core, sir. Mr. Morton is the epitome of the brave, duty bound XO we’ve all come to
know and love. Besides,” I decided to put Nelson out of his misery, “he called last night and asked what the max
dose of Dramamine was.”
“Lee was sick as a dog on his first
patrol with them, then?”
“No, Chip was. Lee was safe and warm
inside the station, shuffling and filing papers. Manning the phones, too.”
“Ouch, that had to hurt.”
“Which one of the boys to you mean?”
of them,” Nelson snorted. “Chip, recalling the whys and wherefores of choosing subs over surface craft, and Lee,
for not being able to go out and get his feet wet, so to speak.”
“I am a bit surprised though,”
I pondered, “Chip’s a good sailor, God knows he’s been out with Lee on Crane’s wreck of a sailboat
of his numerous times and I’ve never heard either of them complain about seasickness.”
“Not always,” Nelson leaned
back against the wall and grinned. “And sailboats aren’t quite the same thing. You know, I took Lee deep sea fishing
once on a cabin cruiser I was thinking of buying, and he spent almost the entire
time upchucking in the head or over the side. I offered to return us to shore, but he refused, telling me to enjoy myself!
And that I’d spent too much on the rental which was non-refundable, he’d stressed. Yes, Lee Crane certainly knows how I feel about wasting money. Well, I tried
to enjoy myself as requested. Really I did. But with each fish I caught the guilt
just escalated. Finally I took him to task and ordered him to tell me just how badly he felt, if that wasn’t blatantly
obvious. Finally, and a bit shamefaced, he admitted he felt so sick that he wouldn’t mind if the boat capsized and sank.”
“You returned to port early then.”
“Shortest trip in the rental’s
history. But that wasn’t the worst of it. They offered to weigh in my catch. Now, that
“But you still caught two fish. Hardly
anything to be ashamed of.”
“Will,” he patted my arm, “I’d
been out with Lee a few years before, and I caught a Halibut, a 400 pounder, you remember the one that ate my watch? These
two, well, they’d have fit in fishbowl. Together!”
“Lee wasn’t seasick that time?”
I finally asked after laughing.
“Not one bit, but he had other things
on his mind, like the drug runners he, or rather we intercepted.*”
“Excuse me, sir,” Frank returned,
“you might want to watch CNN,” he turned the button of the wall TV in the staff corridor, “It’s on
the scroll bar..”
Beach, FL... accusations and arrests mar Bike Week...several injured from the wild altercation taken to Halifax Medical Center...the
vintage bikes unharmed....
“Lee has vintage bikes...” Nelson
“It didn’t say anything else.
And it’s not like Lee to get into a brawl...er...at least not on purpose...oh, hell,” I reached for the phone
seconds ahead of Nelson. “Angie, get me Halifax Medical Center...Daytona Beach...tell them I’m a physician inquiring
about a possible patient of theirs... “ that done I handed the phone to Nelson’s waiting hand.
“Angie, Nelson. Get me the earliest
round trip flight to Daytona...coach is okay if there’s nothing else. Make that two
tickets,” he added, looking at me.
minutes I was speaking to patient information. “You’re sure? No one admitted by the name of Crane?”
“What about Glenn?” Nelson interrupted
loud enough to be heard. “He uses it sometimes, okay?” he whispered for my confused benefit.
“Thank you,” I said at the negative
response and hung up, “well, that’s a relief. If Lee saw us now...acting like a couple of old mother hens...”
“You know,” Nelson ran a hand
through his hair, “that doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved...he might have managed to melt into the crowd to
avoid being taken to the hospital, injured or not. Will, get packed. We’re taking a little trip.”
“And if you’re wrong? If he’s
just fine? Enjoying himself? He’ll kill us!”
“That may be, but I’d rather
he kill us for no good reason than if there is one.”
And so, at the time of this writing, I’m
somewhere over Texas on our flight to save Lee from himself. We could take a transport shuttle from Orlando to Daytona, but
Nelson, being Nelson, well, if he wants to spend a little extra cash, who am I to argue if we board yet another flight to
Daytona directly. Strange though. He rants and raves for the least little expense for Admin, but where Lee’s concerned,
he’d hock the institute itself! I guess you just can’t argue with love.
It’s in the official record that Nelson
once said that he was ‘Lee’s friend, enemy, partner, rival, big brother,
blood brother and that sometimes he wanted to bash his head in.’ Well, if that isn’t love, I don’t know