Friday, October 5, 2007

Excerpt No. 3 from "From the Depths"

Author's note: All right--dialogue! Interaction! More dead people! I promise, there is a lot of all three in "From the Depths." This is the final excerpt... to read more, you're going to have to find a way to get a copy of the book in your hands.

"How’s it going, Doctor?" Larsen’s voice pulled me back into the dining area’s bleakness. He had appeared in person this time, leaning against the doorframe.

"Things are a little confusing," I said, gesturing to the bench to his left. "Maybe you can help me out."

He sat, laying his rifle next to him.

"Help you? How can I do that? I’m just a sailor, a simple submarine driver."

Men and their macho idiosyncrasies didn’t bother me. I had even been engaged once, when I was in my late 20s, although, as Mom would say, it just hadn’t worked out. With my odd schedule, it was tough to meet men, and most of the guys I hung out with were co-workers. Stephen too, of course, whenever I was in Washington. None of them ever had been able to dent my patience with testosterone-inspired behavior.

But now I reached over and closed the door, a sudden rush of black emotion clouding my thoughts.

"What is your deal? Really, can you tell me that? As far as I’m concerned, we’re on the same team here, trying to accomplish the same thing. But since I climbed on your helicopter, you’ve treated me like some kind of an obstacle to your mission." I tried to keep my tone conversational, but each word seem to detonate in the tight quarters, filled with anger I couldn’t hide.

His expression didn’t change. I don’t think he even blinked. He pulled his watchcap off and tossed it on top of his rifle, then ran his fingers through the blonde buzzcut the hat had concealed. Taking a deep breath, he screwed his features into a caricature of clenched muscle, then relaxed and exhaled. His off-kilter eyes bored into me.

"Yeah, we’re on the same team, Doctor. General Patterson called us both, right? Called us and told us there was some fucked-up situation on a submarine, and we needed to fix it. Except he told me that my men and I had to take control of the submarine—without knowing who was onboard, really—by helicopter insertion and then navigate it safely to port." He placed both of his hands palm-down on the table, as if he wanted to prevent them from doing something more drastic. "That’s a pretty tall order for most people, but we’re fucking SEALs. Our job is to put a boot in someone’s ass before they even hear footsteps. This kind of operation is what we do, and no one does it better.

"Then I’m told, just before we’re scheduled to take off from the base, that there’s someone else being included at the last second. A civilian. A civilian who is going to be examining the boat while we’re trying to operate it. ‘Yes, sir,’ I said. ‘No problem, sir.’ You know why I said that? Because I’ve never met a civilian who could keep a SEAL platoon from fulfilling its mission."
He leaned toward me. I could see the edges of his nostrils twitch.

"And our mission is to get this sub back to port in one piece, without any complications. Nothing you do onboard will be worth a damn thing if we don’t make it to shore."

"I know that. I’ve tried to stay out of—"

"No, Doctor, you haven’t. You’ve ignored at least two orders I’ve given you, and if your presence on this boat weren’t so damn important to the general, I’d just stick you in one of the officers’ quarters and have Young lean on the door until we were in Norfolk."

I sighed and nodded. "I’m sorry. The first time, that wasn’t deliberate; I just jumped off the helicopter without thinking. And I’m sure that’s the kind of thing that worries you about involving civilians in your missions. But all this," I said, gesturing at the collection of plastic bags and envelopes on the table, "is absolutely vital. I needed to find the gun that shot the man in the control room, and it wasn’t in the control room. I knew we had limited time. So rather than risk it being moved or tampered with once you and your men came onboard, I left the control room to find it."

"Understandable. In your situation, I might have done the same thing," Larsen said. He crossed his arms, the limbs sturdy and powerful under the turtleneck’s ribbed sleeves. "And that’s why you’re not locked up. I’m not asking much from here on out, Doctor."

I was sick of the way he spat out the title like it was a pejorative.

"You don’t have to keep calling me ‘doctor.’ Christine is fine."

"OK, then, Christine. As I said, I don’t require a whole lot from you in the next few hours before we make port. You can examine what you need to examine, take pictures, dust for fingerprints, whatever it is you do. Just understand that this is my boat. If you’re in the way, no matter how important you might think your work is, you have to move. If you’re interfering with my men as they operate this thing, then you’re in the wrong place. Do you read me?" He raised his eyebrows, an expression that showed his question wasn’t rhetorical.

"I understand, Lieutenant. And believe me, I don’t intend to get in the way of you or your crew. OK?"

"OK. I’m glad we’re on the same page."

"In fact, I don’t think there’s much more for me to collect. Autopsies, that kind of detailed analysis, that will all be done on shore. I’ve sketched together a rough scenario that, hopefully, the lab technicians can solidify."

"Oh yeah? Let’s hear it. I’m interested in what went down on this relic. In fact, I’ve got some more evidence for you," Larsen said, drawing two black automatic pistols from his waistband and laying them, butt-first, on the table.

"What are these?" I asked.

"The firearms we found in the mess hall. This one’s cockeyed—the barrel’s bent. The other one seems fine. Both mags are full, eight rounds each."

I leaned in to look more closely, knowing as I did so that any value as evidence had been lost when the SEALs picked up the pistols and inspected them.

"Nine millimeter. The bent one’s got some blood and hair caught on the front sight. Probably used as a club," I said. "Norinco, same as the one I found in the forward torpedo room."

"What else?" Larsen said as I sealed the weapons inside separate plastic bags and put them away.

Links: McBooks Press
"From the Depths," by Gerry Doyle, available in November!

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