by Chris Allen
The island as viewed from the periscope looked harmless enough. It looked like most of the other small tropical islands in the area. It was uninhabited except for a lot of jungle growth and swamps and who knows what kind of animal and insect life. These thoughts ran through Captain Lee Crane’s mind as he contemplated what might be in store for the landing party once they reached the island.
“All stop.” Crane gave his order and then looked over at his Executive Officer, Chip Morton. “Looks like we’re going for a nice hike in the jungle, Chip. Is the landing party all set?”
“Aye, sir. The Admiral has already checked everything. You’ll be beaching the raft on this part of the island.” He indicated to Crane a point on the chart that had been selected for the landing.
Crane studied the chart for a minute and then nodded slowly. “It’s going to be quite a hike from the beach to the area where the transmitter is located, and mostly uphill from the looks of it.”
The transmitter had been installed on the island over six months ago and was an important part of the defence system communication project that Seaview had been involved with. But the transmitter had suddenly stopped working and Admiral Harriman Nelson had been contracted by the government to go and find out what was wrong. Nelson was also the best man for the job because he had been responsible for the initial setup of the complex system of communication transmitters. The Defence Department had put a curtain of secrecy around the project. The submarine, Seaview, was the best equipped ship to get the job done without endangering the secrecy of the project.
It was a rough ride past the rocks that protected the sandy beach from the big waves but the small rubber raft made it safely with its load of passengers. Seamen Kowalski hopped out and secured the rope from the raft to a large rock. Chief Sharkey jumped out next, followed by Nelson and Crane. As Kowalski and Sharkey unloaded the equipment that they would be needing for the hike, Crane contacted Seaview and informed Chip that they had landed safely. They would be checking in by radio every two hours.
They set off almost immediately, hoping to make it to the transmitter station before dark. As Chief Sharkey pointed out, there weren’t any streetlights on this island and their small flashlights wouldn’t make much of a dent in the dead of night. They each carried a backpack of equipment and a rifle in case they ran into any unfriendly animals.
For the first few hours the only problem they had were the hordes of mosquitoes that plagued them. It was hot and humid and tough going through the jungle. They could occasionally get a glimpse of the transmitter perched on top of one of the highest hills. They were looking forward to completing the job and then heading back. The return trip would be downhill and the going would be a lot easier. Unfortunately they were going to have to spend the night on the mountain once they reached the transmitter. It would be too dangerous to attempt the trip back in the dark.
They took a much needed break and had something to eat and drink. Crane checked in with the Seaview and then they continued on their trek. All of a sudden it became unnaturally quiet. The constant screech of jungle birds had accompanied them throughout their trip but now the jungle was strangely silent.
“Could be a jungle cat nearby,” offered Kowalski. The others nodded and readied their rifles. Something was not quite right. They continued up the trail looking around as they walked. They had to be careful of their footing. One side of the path dropped down quite sharply. It was a mass of undergrowth and dense bush that was so thick that they couldn’t see the bottom. The eerie silence continued. Kowalski led the way with Sharkey right behind him. Nelson was next and Crane brought up the rear.
After a few minutes, Kowalski stopped abruptly and bent down to pick up something from the dirt. “Admiral, look at this!” Between his fingers was the butt of a cigarette. Nelson took the cigarette from him and examined it.
“Someone has smoked this not too long ago. The last time anyone was here was six months ago when the transmitter was installed. This cigarette was dropped here recently!”
“But... Admiral.... ,” questioned Sharkey, “this island is supposed to be uninhabited, isn’t it?”
“Apparently not anymore,” answered Nelson, grim-faced. “Lee, get on the radio and inform Seaview that we may not be alone.”
Crane put down his rifle and started to call Seaview. The transmission was weak but he managed to get the message through to Chip. A second landing party was to be dispatched immediately to provide backup in case there was any trouble.
It was decided that they would continue on their way and be on the lookout not for the four-legged animals but for the two-legged variety instead. It was a gruelling hike up to the summit and the trail that had been cleared six months ago had already gotten quite overgrown. They also had to be careful of poisonous snakes which were abundant on the island.
After almost an hour, Nelson signalled for another break. Kowalski and Sharkey removed their packs and sat down, positioning themselves with their rifles ready. Nelson stood looking up at the transmitter which was still many hours away. Crane put his pack down and was about to ask the Admiral something when out of the corner of his eye he saw the sun glint off something metal. A rifle!
“Look out, Admiral!” yelled Lee as he heard the shot and threw himself at the Admiral, knocking him to the ground. They rolled over and over together unable to stop until they both tumbled off the path and down the side of the hill, disappearing into the dense undergrowth. Kowalski and Sharkey watched in horror as they saw the two men tumble off the edge. There was nothing they could do.
It had suddenly gone very quiet again. “Where did the shot come from?” whispered Kowalski.
“Somewhere over in that direction.” Sharkey indicated a spot a few hundred yards down the path. They lay down with their rifles pointed in the direction from where the shot came and waited. Five minutes passed but there were no more rifle shots. Kowalski and Sharkey were pinned down. They couldn’t go forward and they couldn’t go back.
“We’re sitting ducks right here,” said Kowalski. “There’s hardly any cover.”
“There’s only one place to go,” said Sharkey, indicating the edge of the hill where Crane and Nelson had disappeared. “Let’s go!”
Without barely taking time to take a breath, Kowalski and Sharkey grabbed their rifles and a couple of packs and crawled toward the edge of the path and began to slide down the side of the hill. They were quickly swallowed up by the jungle.
Nelson lay on his back trying to catch his breath. He had heard what seemed to be a rifle shot and then had suddenly found himself tumbling down the side of the cliff. He had tried to grab at branches and vines as he was swept past them but his momentum kept him going until he came to an abrupt halt at the bottom. He rolled over slowly and was thankful that he didn’t seem to be badly hurt although he could feel quite a few bumps and bruises. He managed to get to his feet and staggered slightly so he leaned against the trunk of a tree and looked around to see where he was. All around him the jungle was so thick that it seemed like it was nighttime. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light he could barely make out a shape on the ground a few yards away.
“Lee!” He staggered the few yards and kneeled down next to Crane who seemed to be unconscious. “Lee!” he said again, shaking him slightly. Crane began to stir and opened his eyes slowly. “Are you alright?” asked Nelson.
“I’m O.K.,” answered Crane, “Just got the wind knocked out of me. I’m fine.”
Nelson checked Crane over. He found a large gash on his leg just above the ankle. It was starting to bleed quite a bit.
“Your leg is bleeding, Lee, let me see what I can do.” Nelson managed to tie a handkerchief around the wound. The bleeding had almost stopped by then.
“Thanks, Admiral, it’s O.K., now.” Crane looked around at the thick jungle undergrowth. “Where are we?”
“Well, after our little trip over the side of the cliff, we landed here, wherever that is.” Nelson smiled at Crane. “I haven’t thanked you for saving my life. That bullet came pretty close. If you hadn’t pushed me out of the way. . . .”
Lee looked sheepishly at the Admiral. “Well, I hadn’t exactly planned to send us flying over the edge. I saw the sun glint off the rifle and I just reacted without thinking where we might end up.”
“Well it was quite a trip but I’d rather be here than up there with a bullet in me.” Nelson looked back up from where they had fallen. “There’s no way we can climb back up there. I haven’t heard any more shots. I wonder what has happened to Sharkey and ......”
There was a sudden crashing sound and before Nelson and Crane could even begin to look for cover, Kowalski and Sharkey came sliding down the hill and crashed through the undergrowth. They both landed heavily on the ground right in front of the astonished Crane and Nelson.
“Admiral, Skipper, you all right?” asked Sharkey as he stood up and brushed himself off. He looked over at Kowalski who was gathering the packs and rifles together.
“We’re fine, Chief, just a few bumps and scrapes, although Captain Crane has a bad cut on his leg. Have you got the first aid kit in one of those packs, Chief?”
“Let me check, Admiral. Yes, here it is.” Sharkey started to open up the first aid kit but was interrupted by a noise from the top of the cliff.”
“SShhhhh!” cautioned Nelson. “Someone’s up there.” They all looked up to where they heard the sounds. It was impossible to see anything through the thick jungle growth. Hopefully, if they couldn’t see who was up there, then they couldn’t be seen but they weren’t taking any chances so they lay down and remained motionless. There were no further sounds so after a few minutes they slowly got up.
“We can’t stay here. We have to keep heading toward the transmitter,” said Crane as he started to get to his feet. His leg was throbbing now but he could still walk on it.
“Let me fix your leg, Skipper,” said Sharkey.
“Later, Chief. It’s okay for now and we’d better get out of here in case whoever is up there decides to come down here.” Crane reached into his shirt pocket for the walkie talkie and examined it. “I’m afraid the radio has had it. At least Chip got our last message and hopefully help will be on the way. Let’s get moving.”
The four men started out once again on their trek to locate and fix the transmitter. Nelson reckoned they would not make it there before dark now but they planned to keep going as long as the daylight held out. Crane found it rough going; his leg was really beginning to hurt but he didn’t want to stop until it was too dark to continue.
It had been more than two hours since the last radio contact and Chip Morton didn’t like it. Sparks had been unable to raise the first landing party. Either their radio was not working or they were in trouble. Chip, Patterson, Riley and Davis had landed on the island over half an hour ago. Chip could see that it was going to be difficult catching up to the Admiral and the others. It was very tough going through the jungle and there were only a few hours of daylight left. He stopped, took out his radio and checked in with O’Brien again to see if there had been any more word from the others. Nothing.
“Okay, men, let’s keep going. We’ve got a rough trip ahead of us.” They headed up the hill, following the overgrown path, hoping to find some sign of the others before it got too dark to continue.
Darkness came so quickly on the island that it seemed as if someone had just suddenly dimmed the lights then turned them out altogether. Nelson could see that Lee was having a more difficult time walking. Kowalski, who was leading the way, had turned on a flashlight but it was still becoming increasingly difficult to see the path ahead. Nelson decided to call a stop for the night. They could all use the rest. They couldn’t risk lighting a fire in case they were spotted by whoever shot at them. A fire would have been a comfort and would have offered some protection from whatever jungle animals would be lurking at night, but it was still too risky. They would have to take their chances with the animals.
Sharkey got out the first aid kit and with the aid of a flashlight, attempted to look at the wound on the Skipper’s leg. The bleeding had stopped but the gash was becoming infected and the skin surrounding it was quite red. Sharkey did the best that he could to clean the wound and bandage it, but he wished they were aboard the Seaview so that Doc could have a look at it.
They ate a meagre dinner of cold rations. Kowalski stood the first watch while the others tried to get some rest. It was a long night.
They welcomed the sun as it rose the next morning but it wasn’t long before the heat became intense once again. And with the heat came the bugs. They had a quick breakfast and prepared to get underway. Crane could hardly stand on his leg and Kowalski offered to help him walk.
“Look, you’ll make faster time without me,” argued Crane. “Just leave me here and Chip and the others will be along in no time. I can stay hidden in the brush. I’ll be fine.”
Nelson wouldn’t hear of leaving Crane behind. They had no idea if Chip and the others would be able to find them. Nelson insisted that Crane come with them. They would slow their pace for him. Crane argued the point but finally gave up when Nelson ordered him to come with them. They set off once again.
After another hour of walking, Nelson could see that Crane wasn’t going to last much longer. He called for another break. They sat in the shade, exhausted from the heat and from the effort of climbing up the trail. Nelson sat by himself trying to decide on the best plan of action. Sharkey came and sat next to him.
“Admiral, the Skipper doesn’t look too good. His leg is swelling up and he needs to rest it. Begging the Admiral’s pardon sir but don’t you think we should do as Captain Crane says and leave him......I don’t mean by himself. Why don’t I stay with him until the others catch up to us and you and Kowalski can go on ahead? You could be there in half the time, sir.”
Nelson thought over what Sharkey had told him. It was true that he and Kowalski would be able to make faster time on their own. They could probably reach the transmitter in another hour if they pushed themselves. He glanced over at Crane and then back at Sharkey. “Alright, Francis, I don’t like it but we’ll leave you and the Skipper here with a rifle and some provisions. When Mr. Morton and the others find you, the Skipper can return to the Seaview with two of the men and you and the others can meet us up at the transmitter.”
“Aye, sir.” Sharkey gathered up a rifle, some food and water and the first aid kit. Nelson explained the plan to Crane and Kowalski. Then he and Kowalski set off, warning Sharkey and Crane to be careful and stay hidden.
Morton checked in for the third time that morning. He talked with O’Brien and made sure that everything was okay with the Seaview. Sparks had received no further contact with the first landing party. It was getting hotter and the sun was now directly overhead. Chip reminded Riley and Patterson and Davis to keep a sharp eye out for any sign of life, other than the hundreds of pesky mosquitoes that were making a meal of them. The group continued on their way, hoping to meet up with the others before too long.
It was hard to stay awake in the oppressive heat. Even though they were hidden in the shade of the jungle growth, there was no escaping the heat along with the humidity. Sharkey and Crane took turns staying awake, watching for Morton and his party. While one dozed, the other stood guard with the rifle. Sharkey found himself nodding off when he was supposed to be watching the trail. The Skipper was asleep so Sharkey decided to stretch his legs for a bit to try to stay awake. He looked around carefully before emerging from the hiding place in the undergrowth. As he came out onto the trail he instantly realized his mistake. Standing not more than twenty feet away were three men with rifles. The rifles were aimed at Sharkey.
Sharkey’s first instinct was to try to lead the men away from Crane. They probably did not know that Crane was hidden in the brush. If Sharkey made a run for it they would probably just shoot him. He had to figure something out. He dropped his rifle on the ground and started walking toward them with his hands in the air.
“Boy am I glad to see you guys,” bluffed Sharkey. “I’ve been wandering around this jungle by myself for hours trying to find my way out of here. You guys wouldn’t happen to know which way to the beach, would you?”
“Be quiet!” yelled one of the men, at the same time he swung his rifle butt at Sharkey, hitting him across the face. Sharkey dropped to the ground, covering his face with his hands.
The leader of the group ordered the others to search the brush. “We saw four of them yesterday. The others must be around here somewhere.” The two men headed toward the spot where Sharkey had earlier emerged from the undergrowth. They used their rifles like machetes, slashing at the vines and branches, hoping to find more of the men they had seen the day before. After a few minutes of futile searching they came out from the tangled growth shaking their heads, carrying the pack of provisions with them.
“No one else there, sir,” one of them reported to the leader. “But we did find one of their packs. This man must have gotten separated from the others.” He indicated Sharkey who was grimacing in pain from the blow from the rifle. Blood streamed down one side of his face.
“Get up!” the leader yelled at Sharkey. “You’re coming with us!” Another of the men roughly grabbed Sharkey’s arm and pulled him to his feet and gave him a shove up the trail.
Sharkey had no choice but to do as he was told, but he couldn’t help wondering where the Skipper was. How could he have gotten away so fast?
Nelson and Kowalski were finally within sight of the transmitter. Only a few hundred more yards and they would be there. They approached the site cautiously. The man who shot at them yesterday could be nearby. Nelson reasoned that a foreign power may have discovered the transmitter and someone may have reprogrammed it so that it was no longer able to be controlled by the US Defence Department. It could already be under the control of another country, an unfriendly one.
Nelson and Kowalski stopped about fifty yards from the site and hid behind some trees to watch the area for a while to see if anything suspicious was going on. They didn’t have long to wait. Two men dressed in uniform appeared from behind a supply shack that had been built six months ago by the construction team that had installed the transmitter. The men stood in front of the shack for a few minutes, smoking cigarettes, then they went inside.
Nelson sighed and looked at Kowalski who had a worried look on his face. “Well, Kowalski, it looks like we have our work cut out for us. First we have to get rid of those two soldiers and who knows how many others inside and then we have to fix the transmitter. Aren’t you glad you volunteered for this assignment?”
Kowalski smiled. “Well, sir, to tell you the truth, I didn’t exactly volunteer. The Chief asked me if I wanted to go for a nice hike on a tropical island. How could I refuse?”
Nelson chuckled. “Sounds like Chief Sharkey all right. Speaking of the Chief, I hope he and Captain Crane have met up with Mr. Morton by now.”
Kowalski thought about their own situation and was glad that the Skipper and the Chief were relatively safe. “I sure hope they did, too, sir.”
Crane had been awakened by the sounds of the Chief crawling out of their hiding place. He was about to call for him to return. It was too dangerous to go out on the trail. Crane started to go after him when he heard voices. Sharkey was talking to someone on the trail! Crane crawled to a spot where he could see better. There were three men with rifles. He looked around for the rifle that Nelson had left with them. Sharkey must have taken it with him. Then he saw the rifle lying on the trail where Sharkey had dropped it. He almost leapt out of the bushes in anger when he saw one of them hit Sharkey with his rifle. But he knew he had to keep his head and wait for his chance. Right now he had to get out of there. The men were coming over to where he was hiding! He frantically looked around for another hiding place. He knew he couldn’t outrun the men with his bad leg. Crane began to scoop some of the leaves and dirt over top of himself. He burrowed further down under the piles of decaying vegetation and hoped he had completely covered himself. Then he held his breath as he heard the men come right past him, swinging their rifles at the jungle growth. It was a miracle that they didn’t trip over him, but they went right past and then it grew quiet. A few moments later, Crane could hear voices again, muffled by the piles of vegetation that were on top of him. He slowly lifted his head so that he could see what was happening. The three men were heading back up the trail and they had Sharkey with them!
Admiral Nelson and Kowalski had decided to wait until dark before they made their move on the shack. They couldn’t do anything about the transmitter until they had taken care of the soldiers who were guarding it. Nelson hoped that Chip and his men would be able to reach them before too much more time passed.
Another hour went by and Nelson and Kowalski took turns resting and watching. They were suddenly startled by sounds coming from down the trail. They scrambled to hide further in the brush, not sure if it was Chip and the other landing party or if it might be more of the soldiers. They were surprised to see Chief Sharkey, his face half-covered in dried blood, being pushed up the trail by three other men. There was no sign of Captain Crane. Nelson and Kowalski lay quietly as the group passed by them. It was too risky to try and jump the men. One of them had his rifle aimed directly at Sharkey. All they could do was lie there. Sharkey was led to the shack. One of the men opened the door and pushed Sharkey inside. The three men followed him in and shut the door behind them. Things had gone from bad to worse.
Lee Crane lay in the bush for a while trying to decide what to do. The pain in his leg was getting worse, he had no rifle or provisions and there was no sign of Chip and the other men. He was also worried about the Admiral and Kowalski. They should have reached the transmitter by now and those three men who had taken Sharkey were heading right for them!
Crane had to decide which way to go. If he went downhill he would eventually run into Chip and his party but by that time it might be too late to help the Admiral, if it wasn’t too late already. If he went up the trail and followed the men who had Sharkey then maybe he could do something to help the Chief. With his leg slowing him down, he doubted if he was going to be much help to anybody but he couldn’t just sit there and do nothing. He headed up the trail.
The shack had been built against the side of the hill offering some protection from the sun but it was still unbearably hot inside. Sharkey had been tied up with his hands behind him and made to sit on the floor in one corner. He couldn’t believe how stupid he had been to get caught so easily. He was worried about the Skipper. He also wondered where the Admiral and Kowalski were. They should have been here by now. He hoped that they hadn’t been captured too.
They had left one soldier to guard Sharkey. The rest had gone into another room that seemed to be built into the side of the hill, almost like a cave. There was a door that connected the room where Sharkey was to the area where the others had gone. Sharkey thought if he could only get his hands untied then he could take out this one guard. He started to work on the ropes around his wrists, hoping to loosen them.
Crane had to stop and rest every few minutes now. Without any water and with the sun beating down on him, he was getting weaker. The pain in his leg was getting increasingly worse but he had to find Sharkey before it was too late. He had no doubt that the men who had captured Sharkey would probably kill him unless they had some other use for him. Whoever had shot at them the day before had been aiming to kill; it was no warning shot.
He had the transmitter in sight now. Not too much further to go, he kept saying to himself. The Admiral and Kowalski must be nearby, unless they had been taken prisoner. Crane searched around for some kind of weapon to use. He found some bamboo that might be useful, although it wouldn’t be much protection from a bullet.
Out of the corner of his eye, Crane spotted a slight movement in the shadows about ten yards away. He quickly ducked down out of sight and watched to see who or what was there. His concentration was so taken up with watching to see if there was any further movement that he didn’t hear someone creep up behind him until it was too late.
Nelson shifted his position and tried to stretch his cramped legs as much as he could. He had been watching the shack for over an hour since the soldiers had taken Sharkey inside. Nobody had come in or out. It was just a small supply shack, barely big enough for five or six people, certainly not comfortable enough to stay in there for a long time with the sun beating down on it. They must be frying in there, Nelson thought, unless..... He looked at the position of the shack. It was built right up against the side of the hill. It was very possible that the men had tunnelled into the hill and built another room. It would certainly be a lot cooler in there, like a cave would be. That had to be it, reasoned Nelson.
He figured there had to be at least five men in the shack plus Sharkey. There could even be more if they had indeed tunnelled into the side of the hill. Nelson looked over at Kowalski who was sleeping next to him. He started to gently wake Kowalski up when he heard a commotion behind him. Kowalski was nearly awake and was just about to speak when Nelson put his hand over Kowalski’s mouth and motioned to him not to speak. He pointed behind him. They both flattened themselves to the ground and stayed hidden in the undergrowth, watching to see what was happening just a few yards away.
Nelson heard Kowalski’s sharp intake of breath as he whispered, “It’s the Skipper! One of those soldiers has got him!”
Crane was limping along the trail followed by one of the soldiers who was holding a knife against Crane’s back. Nelson could feel Kowalski tense up as if he was about to leap out and help Crane. Nelson held him down and cautioned him not to try anything; it was too dangerous. All they could do was lie there and watch as the soldier ordered Crane to head for the shack. When they reached the shack, the soldier knocked on the door. The door was opened and Crane was pushed inside. The soldier followed him in.
Nelson realized the situation was getting even more desperate. “Kowalski, I want you to go back down the trail and find Mr. Morton. We’ve been waiting here long enough. Find him and bring him and the other men here as quick as you can.”
“Aye, sir. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Kowalski hesitated for a second. He didn’t like the idea of leaving the Admiral all by himself but he could see that Nelson was growing impatient with the situation. “You keep the rifle, sir, I shouldn’t need it. Mr. Morton can’t be too far behind.”
“All right, get going now, Kowalski and good luck.”
Kowalski headed down the trail. Nelson watched him until he was out of sight. Then he looked around carefully, picked up the rifle and headed for the shack.
The transmitter was easier to spot now as they neared the summit of the hill. Morton and his men were exhausted from the gruelling pace they had kept to try and catch up to the Admiral and his party.
“It shouldn’t be much farther,” said Morton, hopefully. “Keep an eye out for the others. We’d better be more careful now.”
Sharkey looked up as the door to the shack was suddenly flung open. His heart skipped a beat when he recognized Captain Crane who was pushed through the doorway and then shoved roughly down onto the floor. Sharkey had hoped that the Captain had met up with Morton and was on his way back to Seaview but at least he was still alive. One of the soldiers dragged Crane over to the corner where Sharkey was and tied his hands behind his back and sat him next to the Chief. Then Sharkey and Crane were left alone in the shack. The others had disappeared through the doorway that seemed to go straight into the hillside.
“Skipper, are you all right?” asked Sharkey. Crane was looking around the room and cursing inwardly for having gotten himself caught. He looked up at the Chief and gave him an encouraging smile.
“Thought you might be lonely here all by yourself so I thought I’d join you.”
Sharkey grinned. “You really shouldn’t have, Skipper, but it was nice of you to think of me.” Then Sharkey leaned closer to Crane and whispered, “Any sign of the Admiral and Kowalski?”
“No, but I have a feeling they’re not too far away. Any idea what these people want with us?”
“None. They haven’t said a word to me, except to tell me to shut up.”
“Nice guys,” grinned Crane. He tested the ropes that were cutting into his wrists. “These ropes are pretty tight, how about yours?”
“I’ve been working on them to try to loosen them but no luck yet.”
“Let’s see if I can work on your ropes some more. Turn around with your back to mine so I can reach your hands.” They sat with their backs to each other and Crane tried loosening Sharkey’s ropes. The heat in the shack was stifling and both he and Sharkey had not had any water for a long time. Both men were dangerously exhausted.
As Nelson approached the shack he crouched down and then skirted around to the back of the shack were it butted up against the side of the hill. Nelson was looking for another entrance. He hadn’t seen any of the other men come out in quite a long time. They only seemed to be going in, not coming out. He carefully walked around the hill examining the ground and surrounding area for any sign of another way in. After a few minutes he was rewarded with the sight of a makeshift wooden door that seemed to be carved into the side of the hill. It was partly concealed by the vegetation that had been allowed to grow over the entrance. Nelson wasn’t quite sure what to do next but he hoped that it wouldn’t be too long before one of the men came out and he could take care of him and perhaps pick them off one at a time. Then when Morton and the others got here, maybe they could surprise whoever was still inside. Nelson realized it was a pretty feeble plan but the combination of the oppressive heat and lack of sleep didn’t help his reasoning ability too much.
Nelson waited for about ten minutes but there was no sign of anybody coming out. He was just about to give up and go and wait back at the spot that he and Kowalski had been waiting when he saw the door begin to open. He quickly stood behind the door as it continued to open. One of the soldiers stepped out and Nelson immediately felled him with the rifle butt.
“Well done, Admiral!” A voice from behind Nelson startled him and he turned around quickly only to be greeted by the sight of two rifles aimed at his head. “Please, Admiral, don’t be shy. You must come in and sample our hospitality. I do believe we have two of your comrades here already.” The person who had spoken wore the uniform of a general. He and the soldier next to him continued to point their rifles at Nelson while the general indicated to Nelson that he should enter through the doorway that led into the hill.
Nelson reluctantly walked through the entryway and was surprised to see that a huge area had been dug out of the hill. It was pleasantly cool inside compared to the unrelenting heat outside. A large space had been cleared and there seemed to be some more tunnels going in a number of different directions. Large pieces of wood had been cut and used to shore up the walls and ceiling. Nelson was quite impressed with the amount of construction that had taken place. Someone grabbed him and tied his arms securely behind his back and then began to direct him into one of the tunnels off to one side. He was led down the tunnel where it opened up into a smaller area about the size of his cabin on the Seaview. Nelson was told to sit down in the far corner and to stay there. A guard was posted to make sure that he didn’t move.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes, Admiral,” said the General as he left the room, “you and I need to have a nice long talk.”
Kowalski had been walking for barely ten minutes when he heard someone coming up the trail. He dived into the brush at the side of the path and waited. A huge smile broke out on his face when he recognized the blond hair of the exec who was leading the small group up the trail. He foolishly leapt out of the bushes and came very close to being shot by one of his own crewmates who recognized Kowalski just in time.
“Kowalski!” yelled Morton, who was slightly shaken by the sudden appearance of the crewman.
“Boy am I glad to see you, Mr. Morton.” Kowalski was feeling a lot better about the whole situation now that Morton, Riley, Patterson and Davis were with him. He quickly filled Mr. Morton in on what had happened to Sharkey and the Skipper. Morton contacted Seaview and relayed the infromation to O’Brien who was ordered to send out further reinforcements along with more weapons and extra food provisions. The group then set out to join the Admiral.
When Crane and Sharkey heard the inner door begin to open they quickly moved away from each other and sat with their backs to the wall. Two soldiers entered the room with their rifles pointed at Crane and Sharkey. They motioned for them to get up and directed them to go through the door into the inner area. Crane had difficulty getting up on his bad leg and one of the soldiers pulled him to his feet and shoved him towards the door. Crane and Sharkey felt immediate relief from the heat as they left the shack and entered into the large area that had been dug out of the hillside. As they were led down a tunnel they both looked around them trying to find an avenue of escape. At the end of the tunnel was a small room and sitting in one corner of the room was Admiral Nelson.
“Lee, Chief, I’m very glad to see you,” said Nelson, “I was beginning to wonder where they were keeping you.”
The guard that was left with them motioned them all to sit down. He positioned himself in the opposite corner of the room, blocking the exit.
Nelson noticed that Crane’s leg looked much worse and was bothering him quite a bit. Both Crane and Sharkey looked worn out.
“Man, it’s a lot cooler in here than in that shack,” said Sharkey, relieved to find that the Admiral was all right but dismayed to find that he was a prisoner also.
“Where’s Kowalski, Admiral?” Crane asked quietly so that the guard couldn’t hear them.
“As far as I know he should be with Morton by now. I sent him back to find Chip and the others once I saw that you both had been captured.”
They were interrupted by the arrival of the General and one of his men.
“Well, gentlemen, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to talk to you ever since we observed the arrival of your submarine. The Seaview, isn’t it? Very impressive, indeed. And you must then be Admiral Nelson, is that not right?
“You seem to have all the answers already,” said Nelson in a calm voice. “Just what exactly do you want with us?”
“My dear Admiral,” replied the General. “You don’t realize what a famous man you are. I understand it was you who set up this wonderful transmitter. We had no problem disconnecting it so it would no longer work but we are having some difficulty with the control panels. You see, my country would very much like to make use of this transmitter and we need to reconfigure the wiring so that it will be compatible to our equipment.”
“And you want me to fix this little problem for you,” said Nelson, sarcastically.
“Yes, Admiral. I knew you would understand.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, General, but I have no intention of helping you.”
“That is most unfortunate, Admiral. I had hoped that we would be able to work together without my having to resort to anything unpleasant.”
“Just one question, General. If you needed my help so badly, why did one of your men try to shoot me yesterday?”
“An unfortunate misunderstanding, Admiral. The person responsible has been punished for his transgression. Please accept my apologies. Now to the business at hand. We do not wish to harm you, Admiral but I believe that your Captain and your Chief could become expendable, if you get my meaning.”
“Both the Captain and the Chief are needed to help me with the transmitter,” argued Nelson, trying to keep his anger under control.
“Come now, Admiral. I’m sure my men would be able to provide any help that you may need.”
The General paced around the small room for a few seconds as if he were trying to come to a decision. He turned to the guard standing at the doorway and snapped his fingers and motioned for him to leave. The soldier left but returned almost immediately carrying a small wooden box about the size of an orange crate. The three prisoners looked at each other and at the box, wondering what the General had in mind.
“Place the Captain and the Chief in the corners and tie them up more securely,” ordered the General to the guard. He put Crane and Sharkey in two separate corners of the small room and tied their legs together tightly. The General motioned to Nelson to join him by the doorway. The guard placed the wooden box in the centre of the room.
“You know, Admiral, there is not a lot of excitement on this island. We have been here for nearly six months now. The seven of us arrived shortly after your people had finished installing the transmitter. The construction of our hillside quarters has taken a lot of our time but I decided I needed a hobby. As a young boy, I was always collecting things and I have continued with this hobby. Please observe as my man removes the lid from the box.”
The soldier approached the box in the middle of the room and with the tip of his rifle, lifted the lid off the box and let it fall to the ground and then hurried quickly toward the doorway.
“Admiral, please accompany me out of the room. There is a small window in the door so we will be able to observe in safety.” The General and his man ushered the Admiral out of the room and shut the door. It was a wooden door with a small window cut out of it near the top.
As Nelson and the General stood on the other side of the door watching, a small head appeared over the edge of the box. “A snake!” yelled Nelson. “What the blazes are you trying to do, General!”
Crane and Sharkey looked at each other as they saw the snake start to slither out of the box. “Stay still, Chief, don’t move a muscle,” said Crane, his eyes on the snake as it began to slide out of the box.
“Don’t worry, Skipper. I’m not going anywhere. You don’t suppose it’s one of those harmless varieties, do you Skipper?”
“Not by the looks of those markings on its back, Chief. Don’t talk anymore. It might leave us alone if we stay absolutely still.”
Kowalski led Mr. Morton and the others to the spot where he had left the Admiral. They approached the area quietly and were surprised to find the Admiral gone. The rifle was gone too.
“Maybe he went to scout out the area, Mr. Morton,” said Kowalski. “He was getting tired of sitting around waiting.”
“Well, he’s not here now. We had better sit tight for a while in case he comes back.” The men were relieved to get a chance to rest. It had been a long, hot hike. They took the opportunity to have something to eat and drink. Morton posted a guard while the others tried to rest up.
They could see the shack clearly from where they were hidden. Morton radioed to Seaview to check in and then he got in contact with the third landing party which had just arrived on the island. All they could do for now was sit and wait for the Admiral to return.
Nelson watched, horrified, as the snake slithered out of the box and began to head slowly toward Chief Sharkey. It stopped for a moment and raised its head and then began to move towards Crane. It continued to move nearer to Crane, stopping every few feet as if it were looking around to see if anybody was there.
“All right, General, you win!” yelled Nelson. “I’ll help you with the transmitter. Just get that snake out of there!” Nelson knew that if he wanted to save the lives of Crane and Sharkey, then he had to pretend to go along with what the General wanted him to do.
The General quickly ordered the guard to go back in and take care of the snake. The soldier hesitated momentarily but could see that he had no choice but to go back into the room. With a revolver in his hand, he opened the door slowly, trying not to alarm the snake.
“Unfortunately, he will have to shoot the snake. It will be much too difficult to recapture it in time,” said the General, in a voice that was much too calm.
By this time the snake had moved to within three feet of Crane. The soldier moved slowly toward the snake, his gun ready. He took aim and pulled the trigger.
The bullet missed! The sound of the gunshot frightened the snake, which leapt forward
right onto Crane’s injured leg. It sunk its fangs deep into the Captain’s lower leg, injecting the venom deep into the infected wound. Crane yelled out in pain as the snake clung to his leg for a few agonizing moments before releasing its grip and slithering off to the other side of the room. A second shot rang out and this time it hit its mark. The snake jerked a few times and then was still.
Nelson saw his chance. The General had been watching the scene before him in fascination and had temporarily forgotten about Nelson. The Admiral grabbed the General’s rifle out of his arms and swung it at his face, knocking him out with one solid blow. He then quickly turned the rifle on the soldier in the room and ordered him to drop his revolver. The soldier was caught off-guard and so he let his gun drop to the floor. Nelson told him to untie Sharkey and Crane and then drag the General over to the corner behind the door. Nelson knew that the other men would have heard the shots and were probably on their way to investigate. They had to hurry.
Sharkey helped untie Crane and got him into a sitting position, leaning him against the wall. “Admiral, we need the pack that has the first aid equipment. There’s a snake bite kit with antivenin in it. We have to give the Skipper a shot right away!”
“Where is the pack?” asked Nelson. He had finished tying up the guard and had put him next to the unconscious General. The Admiral was anxious to get out of there as quickly as possible.
“It was in the shack when they first brought me in,” said Sharkey. “It must still be there.”
They heard the dull thud of footsteps on the dirt floor as the General’s men came running.
Morton and the men from the Seaview heard the first shot and leapt to their feet, guns ready.
“That sounded kind of muffled, as if it came from behind the shack,” remarked Kowalski. “The Admiral thought that there might be another room built into the side of the hill. I bet that’s where the shot came from.”
Then they heard the second shot and saw three soldiers running down the hill from the direction of the transmitter station. Morton motioned for them all to get down and stay hidden. Once the soldiers had passed them and had gone into the shack, Morton gave the order to follow them. They spread out, moving quickly across the open area until they reached the door of the shack.
At Morton’s signal, they opened the door of the shack and rushed in, guns ready to shoot. There was nobody inside. They noticed the other door that seemed to lead into the side of the hill.
“They must have gone in there,” whispered Morton, indicating the inner door. “All right, men. We’ve come this far. Let’s keep moving. But be careful. The Skipper and the Chief may be in there and I have a feeling the Admiral is with them. Let’s go!”
Nelson and Sharkey stood on either side of the door ready to attack anyone who came into the room. A face appeared at the small opening in the door. All he could see was Crane in one corner, leaning against the wall. The soldier opened the door slowly and entered the room, followed by two other men.
“Now!” yelled Nelson, as he and Sharkey both jumped on the first two men, knocking them to the ground. Nelson clubbed one man with his rifle and then turned to help Sharkey subdue the other. The third man started to enter the room but decided against it and began backing away hoping to go and get help.
“Hold it right there!” ordered a voice from behind. The third man turned around and saw that he was surrounded by Morton and his men. He quickly dropped his gun and raised his hands in the air.
Hearing Morton’s voice, Nelson came out of the room to greet him.
“Well, Mr. Morton. What took you so long?” Nelson didn’t wait for an answer. He quickly ordered Patterson, Riley and Davis to head up to the transmitter station and take care of any other soldiers that may still be there. The General had said that there were seven of them on the island so that meant that there were probably two more men up there.
“Chief, you and Kowalski help get the Captain into the shack. We’ve got to get that antivenin into him as quickly as possible.” Crane was already beginning to feel the effects of the snakebite. In his weakened condition, he wasn’t able to put up much of a fight against the poison. The venom had gone right into the open wound.
Sharkey had done his best to administer the antivenin to the Skipper and had tried to clean the wound as best as he could. Morton had contacted the third landing party and they were bringing a stretcher with them but Nelson knew that they couldn’t wait that long. They decided to start back down in order to meet the other group and save time. They weren’t going to be able to make it back to the beach before dark.
Nelson and Sharkey were going to remain at the transmitter station in order to make the necessary repairs. Riley and Davis were in charge of the seven prisoners who were tied up in a row like a chain gang. Kowalski, Patterson and Morton were to help carry the Skipper down the trail until they met up with the others. They set off just a few hours before sunset. It was a gruelling trip back down to the beach.
Even with flashlights it was very difficult to see more than a few feet ahead. They were very relieved when they finally met up with the others. They lifted Crane onto the stretcher. The antivenin had not counteracted all the effects of the poison that had invaded the Captain’s body. He was feverish and had difficulty breathing. There was nothing they could do for him except get him back to Seaview as quickly as possible.
Two days later, Captain Crane lay in bed in Sickbay, thankful to be alive. The Admiral and the Chief had just finished filling him in on the details of repairing the transmitter. It was working perfectly now and the Defence Department was assigning security to the station so that there wouldn’t be any more problems.
Doc came over and checked on his patient. “You realize, don’t you, Skipper,” said Doc, “that it isn’t too often that I get the opportunity to treat anyone for snakebite. Snakes aren’t that common on submarines.”
Crane laughed and added, “Well, Doc, I don’t plan on a repeat performance. That’s for sure.”
Sharkey had been deep in thought for a while. “Skipper, why do you think the snake chose to go after you instead of me.”
Crane looked up at the Chief. “I don’t know Chief. Maybe it was attracted to my leg wound. I certainly tried not to encourage it.”
Doc agreed, “I think you are right, Skipper. The snake probably smelled the wound and was probably curious. Those types of snakes don’t often attack without cause. When the guard fired at it, the snake got scared and lashed out at the closest person. Unfortunately, that was you, Skipper.”
Crane sighed and lay back in the bunk. “Well, I’ve had enough of snakes and hot weather and tropical islands with palm trees for a while.”
“What is our destination now, Admiral?” asked Sharkey.
“Pearl Harbour, Chief. You know. . . in Hawaii. The Skipper will be able to recuperate on a nice hot beach, lying under a palm tree.” Nelson laughed as he saw the expression on Crane’s face.
Return to story index,
The Story Index
Return to Home Page,
The New Captain's Log