Best Laid Plans

by Chris Allen


The incessant knocking woke him from a deep sleep. He lay there for a moment, wondering if he had been dreaming but no, there was the knocking again. He threw back the covers and grabbed his bathrobe and flung it on. Glancing at the clock on the bedside table, he saw that it was nearly 0300. Who would be knocking at this hour?

Still half-asleep, he unfastened the lock and opened up the door to his apartment. Standing there, tears streaming down her face, her clothes dishevelled and dirty, stood Angie, Nelsonís secretary.

"Lee, you have to help him, please!"

"Help who, Angie, whatís happened?" Lee quickly grabbed hold of Angieís arm to support her as she stumbled into his apartment. He led her to the couch where she sat down, trembling and sobbing.

"Itís the Admiral, Lee, theyíve got him!" She reached into her jacket pocket and handed him an envelope. "They told me to give this to you. Iím not supposed to tell anyone else, just you."

On the front of the envelope was typed: CAPTAIN CRANE. Lee opened it carefully and read the short message inside. IF YOU WANT TO SEE YOUR ADMIRAL ALIVE, COME ALONE WITH THE S-41 DOCUMENTS. DO NOT TELL ANYONE ELSE. MEET AT THE CLOCK TOWER IN HASTINGS PARK AT 10:00 TOMORROW NIGHT.

Lee ran his hand through his hair and read the message again. He looked down at Angie who was still shaking and had obviously been through a terrifying ordeal. He sat down next to her and gently asked, "Can you tell me what happened, Angie?"

Angie nodded and, trying to compose herself, began her story. "We were working late. The Admiral wanted the papers finished, you know the ones on the S-41." She looked up at Lee who nodded and motioned for her to continue. "Well, it was almost midnight when we finished so the Admiral suggested we get a bite to eat and then he would take me home, so . . . ." She began to tremble again and had difficulty speaking. Lee put his arm around her and held her until the trembling ceased and then she took a deep breath and continued. "Well, we went to Edouardoís and then after we ate we left the restaurant and were waiting for a taxi when this car pulled up and . . . ." Angie hesitated again and started to cry. Lee encouraged her to continue. "They grabbed us and made us get into the car and they pushed me down onto the floor and put something over me, a blanket or something and . . .oh Lee, they hurt him. They hurt the Admiral and I think he was unconscious because he didnít speak and then . . . ."

"Go on, Angie, they canít hurt you now. Youíre safe here," said Lee soothingly. He could feel his anger beginning to build at the thought of these men hurting the Admiral and terrifying Angie.

"Then they gave me this envelope and told me that if I talked to anyone else but you then they would kill the Admiral and then . . .and then they would . . . kill me."

Lee could see that Angie was close to hysteria but he had to have all the details. He had to know everything that had happened to Angie and Admiral Nelson. He went to the liquor cabinet and poured some brandy. He handed her the glass and she thanked him and sipped the brandy slowly as she held it with trembling hands.

"Oh, Lee, what have they done to the Admiral? What are you going to do?" Angie was beside herself with worry.

"Tell me the rest of it, Angie. Just take it slow and try to remember as much as you can."

"Thereís not much more, Lee. They let me out of the car and then the car sped away with the Admiral still inside and . . .and then I came here. I didnít know where I was at first and I had lost my purse somewhere and . . .and so I had to walk here."

"Can you describe the men who took the Admiral?" Lee questioned Angie carefully, trying not to upset her more than necessary.

"There were three of them I think," Angie replied slowly, trying to remember every detail she could. "One was driving and one was sitting next to the driver and the one in the back seat, he was . . .he was the one that hurt the Admiral and. . ." Angie began to sob again.

"What did they look like, Angie? Can you remember anything about them? And the car, do you know what kind it was?" Lee was anxious to get all the information that he could but he didnít want to push her too far.

Angie tried again to calm herself. "It was too dark, Lee. I couldnít see their faces clearly and they covered me with that blanket for most of the ride. I donít know what kind of car. It was black I think, or a dark colour. Iím sorry, Lee. Things happened so fast and I was so worried about the Admiral and I . . . ." Angie began to cry hysterically now and all Lee could do was to hold her and wait until she cried herself out.

*************

He could feel the ropes cutting into his wrists and ankles. As he tried to sit up, pain shot through his head and he lay still, waiting for the pain to subside. He tried it again, more slowly and managed to sit up with his back leaning against the wall, his head throbbing.

It was dark. There was only a small amount of light coming from under the door. He seemed to be in a small room; perhaps a storage room of some sort. He couldnít make out any furniture or much of anything else. He listened. Nothing. He tried to think. Then he remembered. Angie! Where was she? He began to tug at the ropes binding his wrists, desperately trying to free himself, but it was no use. He lay his head back against the wall and closed his eyes again.

*************

Angie had finally fallen asleep on the couch and Lee had covered her with a blanket and then sat down to think. He knew the Admiral would never allow the S-41 documents to be handed over, even if it meant the Admiral might be killed but Lee knew he couldnít just sit and do nothing. He needed a plan.

Lee Craneís first phone call was to Doc Jamieson. Doc recognized the urgency in the Captainís voice and decided it was best not to ask any questions. He replied that he would be there as soon as he could.

As Captain of the submarine Seaview, Lee Crane had often run into dangerous situations and had put his life on the line many times to save his crew. Admiral Harriman Nelson was not only Leeís boss as well as the owner of the Seaview, but he was also a very good friend. Lee was torn between his duty to safeguard some important documents and his friendship for the Admiral.

Leeís second phone call was to his Executive Officer, Chip Morton, who, understandably, was not pleased to be woken up at such an early hour.

"Chip, listen carefully. Donít ask questions. Just get over to my place right away. Iíll explain when you get here." Chip barely had time to acknowledge the message before Lee hung up the phone.

*************

"Well, Admiral, Iím glad to see you are awake. I must apologize for the poor accommodations but you wonít be staying with us for very long, that is unless your Captain doesnít know how to follow orders."

"What the devil are you talking about?" Nelsonís head was still throbbing and he was having difficulty concentrating.

"We are presently negotiating a trade, Admiral. Your life for something that we want very badly."

"And just what would that be?" inquired Nelson.

"The S-41 documents, of course, Admiral. I understand they are locked up in your safe in the Institute but with your Captainís help they should soon be in our possession."

"Lee Crane isnít about to give you anything!" replied Nelson defiantly.

"Donít be too sure, Admiral. Iím sure your secretary has told him all about her little adventure and how you have been taken captive."

"Angie? What have you done with her?"

"Relax, Admiral. We are only interested in the documents. She should be with your Captain right now, delivering the message we gave her. She is unhurt, although I expect she is perhaps a little upset and worried about you."

Nelson remarked warily, "And just what was this message that she delivered to Captain Crane?"

"A very simple request, actually, Admiral. He is to bring the documents to me and I will let you go."

Nelson snorted, "Iíve already told you. Captain Crane isnít about to give you anything. He knows very well that I would never let those documents get into the wrong hands."

"We shall see, Admiral. We shall see."

*************

Chip and Doc arrived at Leeís apartment at the same time. Neither one had any clue as to what was going on. Lee answered the door immediately and motioned for them to be quiet as he pointed toward the couch where Angie was sleeping fitfully.

Lee explained the situation as clearly as he could to the two men who sat and listened incredulously. As Angie began to stir, Doc went over to talk to her.

Lee handed the envelope to Chip who slowly read the message that Angie had delivered to Crane. He shook his head and then looked up at Lee with a puzzled look on his face. "It says not to tell anyone?"

Lee managed a weak smile. "So far Iíve just told you and Doc, but whoís counting." Lee leaned over and lowered his voice so that Angie wouldnít hear. "Chip, you know we canít hand over those documents but we are going to have to play along and try and find out where they are keeping the Admiral."

"If heís still alive," replied Chip.

"Exactly, Chip. I have to find out if heís still alive. Thatís why I am going to do what they ask. Iíll meet them at the clock tower."

"And then?" asked Chip, trying to see what Leeís plan was.

"And then. . . I havenít figured out that part yet," replied Lee with a shrug and a half-smile.

"Let me get this straight, Lee," Chip said, hesitating a little, "you are going to meet them at the clock tower but you are not going to bring the documents?"

"Right."

"And this is your plan?" asked Chip helplessly.

"Well, not exactly. I plan to have them take me to where they are keeping the Admiral so I can see that he is all right and then I will give them the documents."

"But you are not going to bring the documents with you, right?"

"Right." Lee nodded quickly in agreement.

Chip shook his head and held it in his hands. He rubbed the back of his neck and then looked up into the Captainís face. "And whatís going to prevent them from keeping you as a hostage too?"

"Thatís the part I havenít figured out yet," replied Lee, uncertainly.

*************

At five minutes before ten oíclock that night, everyone was in place. It was a dark, cloudless night, warm for February, with a slight breeze coming off the nearby ocean. Hastings Park was situated just a few short blocks from the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Lee Crane, wearing a dark turtleneck and black jeans and carrying a small briefcase entered the park gates and headed toward the clock tower.

As he approached the clock tower, two dark figures came out of the bush and began walking a short distance behind Crane, keeping pace with him. He was well aware of their presence but continued to walk until he reached the base of the tower. He then turned around and faced the two men.

"You are Captain Crane?" one of the men asked.

"I am."

"I understand you have something for us."

"And you have something for me."

"You are to hand over the briefcase and then we will give you this envelope. It will tell you the whereabouts of the person you are seeking."

"First you take me to him, then I will give you the briefcase."

The two men looked at each other. The second one spoke, "And what is to prevent us from taking the briefcase from you."

"You can have the case if you like; itís empty," replied Crane bluntly.

One of the men grabbed the case from Crane and opened it. Seeing that there was nothing inside, he flung it to the ground and pulled out his gun. "What kind of a trick is this?" he yelled at Crane who stood there passively.

"No trick. I want to see that my friend is alive. I expect you to take me to him. Only then will I tell you where the documents are."

The man was furious and approached Crane menacingly. Crane stood his ground and stared defiantly at the man. The two men looked at each other and then the one who seemed to be in charge nodded to the other.

"All right. Weíll take you to your friend. Our boss will not be happy about this. I canít guarantee your safety, or your friendís."

"Iím the only one who knows where the documents are. If you kill me, or my friend, you will never find them," Crane delivered this last message in a very matter of fact manner, despite the fact that he had grave doubts as to the outcome of his plan.

"Search him," ordered the man in charge. The other man frisked Crane thoroughly and determined he wasnít carrying any weapons.

"All right, Crane, turn around." As Crane obeyed, one of the men tied a blindfold around the Captainís eyes and shoved him roughly forward. "Keep walking until I tell you to stop."

The two men led Crane down the path and through the park to the other side where their sedan was parked. Looking around to make sure they werenít being followed, they then opened the door and pushed the Captain inside and onto the back seat. One of the men got in with him and the other got in the driverís seat. The man in the back with Crane got out some rope and tied the Captainís hands in front of him. They left the blindfold on and then the dark sedan sped off down the almost empty street.

*************

Chip, Sharkey and Kowalski watched the proceedings from their hiding places in the bush. Chip had reluctantly agreed to go along with Leeís plan, such as it was. At one point he had to stop Kowalski from jumping out of the bush when the Skipper was shoved along by one of the men.

The Captainís orders were to watch and wait and then follow him wherever he was taken. As the two men led Crane down the path, Chip signalled to Sharkey and Kowalski to get going. The three men went their separate ways. Chip and Sharkey each had their own cars and Kowalski was to follow the Skipper on his motorbike. They were to keep in touch by walkie talkie and pray that at least one of them would be able to keep on the Skipperís trail.

As the car with Crane and the two men left the park and headed east on Main Street, Chip pulled in behind them and followed as closely as he dared. Sharkey followed about a half a block behind and kept in touch with Chip on the walkie talkie. Kowalski, on his motor bike, was on the next street over, running a parallel course.

From time to time, Chip and Sharkey switched places so the men wouldnít see the same car on their tail. Things seemed to be working well when suddenly the sedan made a sharp right turn and then another sharp left. Sharkey, who was following right behind had a difficult time keeping up. He contacted Kowalski who quickly sped up and located the sedan once more.

The sedan headed out of town and into the countryside. There were few cars on the road now and Chip and the others had to stay further back. Chip was following as close as he dared when the road made a sharp turn and then straightened out again. As Chip rounded the turn in his car he was dismayed to see that there was no sign of the sedan.

"Sharkey, Kowalski, this is Morton. Iíve lost them. They must have turned off one of the side roads."

*************

Nelson had a lot of time to think, sitting in the dark by himself. These people had better have been telling the truth when they said Angie was all right. I hope that Lee wonít do anything rash. I know he wonít hand over the documents but if I know Lee Crane, heís going to try and do something to rescue me. Nelson sighed and tried to think of some way of getting out of this predicament without endangering Leeís life.

His thoughts were interrupted by a commotion in the other room. There was a lot of shouting going on. The voices were muffled but Nelson could tell that the men were not pleased about something.

Suddenly the door opened and the light from the other room blinded Nelson. He shut his eyes and then opened them slowly. As his vision adjusted he could make out the figure of a tall, slender man standing in the doorway. Someone gave the man a shove and he stumbled into the room and fell heavily to the floor. The door was then slammed shut and it was dark once again.

The figure lying on the floor was still for a moment and then began to move slowly. As Nelsonís eyes adjusted to the darkness again he heard a very familiar voice calling his name. "Admiral, is that you?"

"Lee?" asked Nelson incredulously.

"Permission to enter?" Lee responded and then started shuffling over to where Nelson was leaning against the wall.

Nelson didnít know whether to laugh or start yelling at his Captain.

"Iíve come to get you out of here," said Lee, who could barely make out Nelsonís shocked expression.

"Well, youíve got a funny way of going about it," replied Nelson gruffly.

"I know it doesnít look too good right now, but actually I planned to get captured so we could find out where they had taken you."

"Well, congratulations, Lee. So far your plan is working beautifully. I hope the next part of your plan is just as good."

Lee smiled. He didnít expect the Admiral to be very happy to see him. "Are you hurt, Admiral?"

"Just a bump on the head. Iíll be fine." Nelson watched as Crane was reaching down and taking his shoe off.

"Planning on making yourself comfortable?" Nelson asked.

Nelson watched with increasing interest as Crane reached inside his shoe and pulled out a small penknife that he had hidden there. "Youíve been watching too many spy movies," said Nelson with the hint of a smile.

Crane grinned back at him. He took the knife and quickly cut the ropes around his own wrists and then cut through the ropes that bound the Admiralís wrists and ankles. Nelson gratefully massaged his hands and legs to get the circulation back.

Lee moved over next to Nelson and leaned against the wall and gave a big sigh. Nelson was having a difficult time understanding why his Captain would deliberately let himself be captured. "Well, you better tell me what happens next, Lee, or are you still figuring that part out? What was all the yelling about in the next room?"

"Well, it seems the two men who brought me here had to explain to their boss that I wouldnít give them the documents until I saw that you were still alive. He was not very pleased when I explained that the documents were in a safety deposit box at the bank and of course the bank doesnít open until tomorrow morning. So here I am, at least until tomorrow morning."

"And what happens tomorrow morning?" asked Nelson, still not sure if his rash young Captain hadnít taken leave of his senses.

"That was the same question that Chip asked me," replied Lee with a chuckle.

"And what did you tell Chip, if I may be so bold as to ask?" Nelson thought Crane was taking this situation a little bit too lightly.

"Well, I told him that you and I shouldnít have to worry about that part of the plan because by then he and Sharkey and Kowalski would have rescued us," concluded Lee.

"And the documents are still in my safe at the Institute?" enquired Nelson.

"Definitely, Admiral. You know I couldnít have brought them. Youíre the only one with the combination."

Nelson smiled, "Letís be thankful that those three in the next room didnít know that."
And then he added with concern, "Lee, is Angie all right?"

"Sheíll be fine, Admiral. She was frightened and upset but mostly she was worried about you. Doc is looking after her."

Nelson nodded and let out a sigh of relief. "All right, Lee, what happens next?"

*************

Lee glanced at the luminous dial on his watch for the third time in ten minutes. It shouldnít be taking this long, he thought, Chip and the others should be here by now.
He looked over at the Admiral who seemed to be lost in thought. Nelson looked over at Lee and gave him a reassuring smile. Both men knew that Chip, Sharkey and Kowalski would do everything they could to find them and rescue them.

"It will be daylight in a few hours," said Lee somberly, "we may have to make a move on our own if our rescue party doesnít show up soon."

Nelson stood up and stretched and then began walking slowly around the room looking up at the ceiling. Then he suddenly stopped and whispered to Lee. "Hand me your knife."

Lee walked over to the centre of the room where the Admiral was standing. He handed him the knife.

Nelson looked around the darkened room, trying to see into the corners. "Can you find me something to stand on?"

Lee searched the entire room but was unable to find anything other than a few old sacks and some long metal pipes. He reported his findings to Nelson who smiled and then said, "Iím going to need you, Lee, I canít reach high enough. Would you mind?" He indicated for Crane to go down on his hands and knees. Nelson then stood on Leeís back trying to be as careful as possible. He reached up toward the light socket in the ceiling. The light bulb had been removed but the wiring was intact. With the help of Leeís penknife, Nelson removed the casing around the light fixture and stretched out the wires, leaving them dangling. Much to Leeís relief, Nelson climbed down to try and locate the metal pipes that Lee had described. It was difficult working in the dark and trying to be as quiet as possible. He then indicated for Lee to bend down again and Nelson climbed back up to complete the job.

The Seaviewís Captain was always amazed at how the Admiral could contrive to put together a fascinating contraption out of a few odds and ends that happened to be lying around. A long metal pipe was suspended from the light fixture and was connected to another which reached up to the doorknob. It wasnít hard for Lee to guess what might happen to the unlucky person who touched the doorknob on the other side of the door.

Nelson and Crane sat down and waited a while longer, hoping that the rescue party might put in an appearance but they soon realized that it was almost daylight and they may have to make their move without the assistance of Morton, Sharkey and Kowalski.

"Letís try and get a little rest while we can," suggested Nelson. "We have to wait for those guys in the other room to make the first move." Crane nodded in agreement and the two men lay down on either side of the door so they would be ready for their first visitor.

It was only ten minutes later that Crane and Nelson heard a noise in the next room. There seemed to be a slight disagreement going on and then they heard the footsteps of someone approaching the door. Nelson and Crane got up and each stood on one side of the doorway and waited. They were soon rewarded with a loud scream as one of the men inserted the key into the lock and tried to turn the doorknob. The electricity flowing through the metal pipes and into the doorknob gave the man a tremendous jolt. There was the sound of a body hitting the floor.

The two men of the Seaview braced themselves for what would happen next. There was the sound of gunfire as the two other men in the next room shot at the door, splintering the lock. The handle dropped off and the pipes fell to the floor shutting off the flow of electricity. Crane clutched the small penknife in his hand, ready to attack. One of the men kicked the door open and yelled for Crane and Nelson to come out. They didnít move but remained where they were on either side of the doorway.

As the first man entered with gun in hand, Crane leapt on him and threw him to the floor. The gun skittered across the floor and into a corner. Crane tried to grab for it and was tripped by the man on the floor. They wrestled together while Nelson grabbed one of the metal pipes and waited for the second man to enter.

The second man ran into the room holding his gun out in front of him. He saw the two men rolling around on the floor and looked behind him just in time to see Nelson swing a metal pipe down on his head. He fell to the floor discharging his gun at the same time. There was a yell as one of the men on the floor was hit and lay still. Nelson quickly grabbed the gun and pointed it at the man who was still moving.

"Hold it right there!" yelled Nelson, not knowing which man had been shot. The man stood up and Nelsonís heart skipped a beat. It wasnít Crane standing there!

There was a sudden rush of footsteps as Chip, Sharkey and Kowalski came running into the room, guns drawn. Nelson grabbed hold of the man who was standing and swung him into the arms of the Chief. "Get him out of here!" he yelled at Sharkey as he ran over to where Crane lay on the floor.

"Lee, Lee, are you all right?" Nelson asked, very concerned for the young Captain. He turned to Chip who had come over to help. "Get some light in here!"

Chip quickly returned with a flashlight and Nelson bent to examine Crane who was beginning to stir.

"How is he, Admiral?" asked Chip, holding the flashlight so that Nelson could see.

"Heís got a bullet in the shoulder. Doesnít look too serious," replied Nelson with a sigh of relief, applying his handkerchief to the wound to stop the flow of blood.

Crane opened his eyes and grinned weakly, "What do you mean, Ždoesnít look too seriousí? You wouldnít say that if this was your shoulder," and then he added, "sir."

Nelson laughed out loud and helped Lee sit up with his back against the wall for support.
The Admiral then turned to Chip who was smiling down at the Skipper.

"Well, Mr. Morton, what kept you?" demanded Nelson.

Chip quickly lost his smile and looked down at his shoes. "Everything was going great, Admiral. Leeís plan was going perfectly until . . .until we lost the sedan." Chip smiled sheepishly at Crane who was listening with interest to Chipís explanation. Chip continued, "It turned down a side road and we didnít know which one. There were at least four different roads and we spent most of the night going up and down each road looking for the sedan. We had just located the car when we heard the gunshots and thatís when we found you both in here."

Nelson sat down beside Crane and ran his hands through his hair. He turned to Lee and assumed a serious tone, "You know Captain, I donít know whether to thank you for risking your neck or throw you in the brig for disobeying orders."

"What orders, Admiral?" asked Lee, confused.

"You were supposed to be on shore leave, remember? I had ordered you to stay out of trouble and get some rest. So what do you do? You get yourself shot trying to rescue me with some cockamanie plan that had more holes in it than an old rusty, barnacle-covered World War One U boat."

Lee looked up at the Admiral and grinned, "But my plan worked, didnít it?"

Nelson chuckled and looked down at his young Captain, "Aye, lad, that it did."

The End

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