A Winter Cruise
Fred showed up at Sandy's place one evening with unusual plans. A friend of his was captain of an old steam yacht, something of a collector's item, which was presently moored in the Chicago River near the Wrigley building.
"He's delivered the owner to Chicago and has nothing to do for a few days, so he's taking us out for a dinner cruise. I knew you liked the lake, so I thought you'd like to be on it."
It was the sort of thing Sandy most liked about Fred. No one else would have dreamed of a dinner cruise in February, but it was a calm clear night, and it would be warm inside the cabins.
The yacht was some hundred feet long with masts and a long curving stem and bowsprit. The captain, a rather elderly man named Sam Hutchins whom Fred had known in the merchant marine, was jovial and welcoming. He was obviously amazed that Fred should turn up with a young woman such as herself, but managed not to say anything tactless.
A half hour later, Sandy had her first experience of open water. The yacht rolled slightly, but in a pleasant secure way as they cut sharply through the waves. She was told that it had the lines of an old clipper ship, and its speed, with hardly any vibration from the engine, seemed to be effortless.
They soon turned to parallel the north shore. It was possible to stand in the open doorway to the exposed wing of the bridge and still be largely sheltered while getting a feeling of what it would be like to be at sea in winter. Fred huddled closely and warmly behind her, and pointed out "their" spot on the beach. Moving further out and braving the cold for a few moments, Sandy looked ahead to see the long white-topped wave that angled out from the bow and took precedence over the lesser natural waves. Indeed, Fred had to urge her back inside before she got too cold.
A little later, they went below to dinner. The owner was a very rich man, and the dining saloon reflected his rather ornate taste, or perhaps that of a previous owner. The yacht also had its own cook who remained on board even when the owner was absent. Sandy wondered, but didn't ask, whether they were really supposed to run cruises for persons such as she.
They were in the middle of soup when Fred said to Captain Hutchins,
"Sandy works for a psychologist named Narrison who used to be Captain Gundvun Narveson."
The captain almost dumped a spoonful of soup in his lap for reasons that evidently had nothing to do with a sudden lurch of the ship.
There was a story, and it was, appropriately, a sea story. Both men contributed to it by turns, sometimes neglecting their food. Sandy continued to eat, but listened eagerly.
The convoy for Murmansk in north Russia assembled in Iceland in a long deep fjord called Hvalfjordur for the whaling station near its end. Dead whales were towed in there to be cut up, and there was an immense smelly carcass nearby when the captains and officers of the ships went ashore for a conference.
Hutchins and Fred were the first and second mates of an English freighter called the LAURA ENDERBY. She had already made one run to Murmansk, and Hutchins said,
"We knew how tough it was, but we expected to survive. We didn't think we were on a suicide mission. That was before we knew that the SCHARNHORST was out."
The SCHARNHORST was the German battleship that was to block the way. That was in addition to the U-boats and the German aircraft based in northern Norway. But, still, the men in Hvalfjordur made their plans. The commander of the escort force was Rear Admiral Wake-Walker, who had played a conspicuous role in the sinking of the BISMARCK. As he gave the orders, it was enough, according to Hutchins, to look at him to see that he would fight them through.
Some of the meetings were only for captains, but at one for both captains and mates Fred had seen the man he now referred to as Narveson.
"I thought he was dead, so I was amazed to see him."
Fred then added, apparently for the benefit of Hutchins,
"We'd had differences. He'd stolen a girl I thought was mine, and I'd stolen money he thought was his, but it had been more than twenty years before. So I went up and greeted him. He acted as if he'd never seen me. He said I was mistaken. But he was polite. He asked what ship I was on and wished me good luck."
Hutchins then commented,
"Fred told me about this man so I watched him. He was a queer duck. I was near him when one meeting broke up and the others wanted him to go with them to a farm nearby that was providing meals. We all went. It was good food, and it was a change from the food on board."
Sandy was at that moment doing very well with her pepper steak and Hutchins, noticing her appetite, added,
"This isn't the kind of thing we got on ships then. Anyhow, Narveson wouldn't go, then or later. It's a very odd seaman who gets a chance to spend some time ashore and insists on going right back to his ship."
Sandy gathered that Fred had never told his friend that Captain Narveson was really an Icelander named Thostolfson who didn't want to be recognized in what was virtually his home town. She didn't let on, and the story took them out on to the Atlantic.
She was given to understand that Lake Michigan gave one only a tiny feeling for the northeastern North Atlantic in winter. Gales, some exceeding hurricane force, occurred routinely and blew the tops off waves to create a layer of scud which was half water and half air. The seas often reached thirty or forty feet and battered the ships, breaking loose and smashing anything that wasn't lashed in the most secure fashion. Even then, boats were sometimes reduced to kindling wood in their davits. Hutchins said,
"All the same, we loved the bad weather. There wasn't any threat of enemy action. In fact, we got all the way across to Bear Island without losing a ship from the convoy. It was then that the weather cleared up."
There was a two hundred mile gap of ocean which was free of ice between the North Cape of Norway and Bear Island. The convoy had to pass through it, but it was largely controlled by German aircraft based in northern Norway, by U-boats, and by the battleship SCHARNHORST. Fred said,
"One of the problems in being a merchant marine officer was that we weren't told much. We knew there was a German battleship in the area, but no one passed on any information about her to us. It was night most of the time, but, in the periods of daylight, it would have taken her only fifteen minutes to blow the whole convoy out of the water."
Fred spoke with his usual denonair manner, and it was Hutchins who seemed more bound up in the episode. He said,
"I was standing on the bridge watching Admiral Wake-Walker's cruiser when he put down his helm and stood off to the west. The convoy was signalled to scatter. I felt absolutely abandoned."
"It wasn't Wake-Walker, but the British Admiralty that ordered us to scatter. From then on, it seemed just to be a question of whether we'd be sunk by bombs from airplanes, torpedoes from submarines, or shells from big guns. I remember hoping that it would be a torpedo. I thought there might be more chance of getting off the ship alive that way."
"You got your wish, Fred. A torpedo right in the engine room."
The trouble was that the force of the explosion was so great that it broke the ship's back. Men below decks were injured when they were thrown up against the deck above them, and some men on deck were blown overboard. The tanks and artillery pieces lashed to the decks were catapulted into the air, and one tank, on its way down, crashed right through the deck.
The ship went down so fast that there was no time to launch the boats. Fred and Hutchins both wound up in the water, but Fred was near a large Carley float which he climbed out on. Paddling around, he managed to pull a few other men out of the water before they succumbed to the cold, among them Hutchins. Even as he drank his hot coffee, Hutchins glanced out through the port-hole at the lake and shuddered, as if cold. He said,
"We dressed warmly all the time, but I was wet through, shaking, and turning blue when Fred pulled me out. I'm older, you see, and I wasn't as strong. But Narveson's ship was about a mile behind us. He was coming right for us, so I figured I only had to hang on ten or fifteen minutes and I'd be wrapped in blankets with hot soup to drink."
"The long and short of it is that he steamed by, a couple of hundred yards away, and made no attempt to rescue us."
Fred was smiling, but Hutchins, suddenly furious, asked Sandy,
"And you work for this man?"
It was almost an accusation, and Sandy replied, a little defensively, that it was apparently true that her boss, even though he now had a different name, was the same man. Fred explained,
"It wasn't really as bad as it sounds. In the first war, the British sent out three big armored cruisers together. A U- boat torpedoed the first one. As it was sinking, the second stopped to rescue the men in the water. The U-boat was waiting and sank the second one. The third one stopped to rescue the men from the other two, and the sub sank her, too. Ever since then, it's been understood that the captain who stops to rescue men in U-boat territory is risking his own ship and his own men, perhaps unjustifiably. This was a close call. Some captains would have stopped, but Narveson didn't. No one in authority would have thought that he acted unreasonably."
They had spent the night on the float, four of them huddled together with no food and no water. Hutchins was even now surprised that he had survived. In the morning, by great good luck, a Dutch tug designated as the rescue vessel of the convoy had almost run them down. Fred said,
"We caught up with Narveson in Murmansk. He still refused to recognize me. My friend here wanted to murder him, but I restrained him. Our Russian hosts might have reacted in unpredictable ways."
After dinner, they went back on the bridge to watch the approach to Chicago. Fred put his arm around Sandy, and she found herself weakening. Her mother and sisters would certainly disapprove of her even seeing him, but what other man could have organized an evening such as this one?
Calvin hadn't been alone with Sandy much in recent weeks, but it happened at lunch one day. There was a tiny bit of awkwardness. While he couldn't say so directly, he considered her to be wasted on a man practically old enough to be her grandfather. Moreover, since Samantha continued to resist his sexual advances, it might be no bad thing for him to look in other directions. Since the booth in the little restaurant had only the one bench on which they were seated, he had only to look sideways to look at Sandy. He then noticed that her breasts had very good definition. It would be interesting to know whether they were being caressed these days, and, if so, whether she allowed her bra to be removed for that purpose.
It took only a little touch on the hand to prompt Sandy to say,
"Hold hard there, Calvin, you're Samantha's boy friend."
"But she'll hardly let me touch her! One might wonder why I'm so fascinated with her."
"Well, I understand, Calvin. She is fascinating. I love to be with her. And Dr. Narrison, despite his thing for Susan Gatewood, would be happy to take Samantha out to lunch every day of the week. You may never get very far with her, but you aren't wasting your time."
"I suppose not. How are you coming with your admirer?"
"Hopelessly split. Whenever I'm not with him, I think it's a hopelessly unsuitable match. My mother and sisters would have fits if they knew."
"Is that because of his age?"
"Only partly. Even though his manners are perfect, there's something unquestionably sleazy about him. You'd recognize it immediately if you met him."
"You forget that I'm a bogus operator myself."
"You aren't really, Calvin. Not in any serious sense. But Fred really is."
"Are you going to cut him loose?"
"I've decided to about three times. I suspect that he knows it. Each time, he comes up with something imaginatively different and I weaken. It's a wonder he hasn't gotten me into bed."
"That might be next on his agenda. You've never done it with anyone, have you?"
"No. I'm not proud of that, the way my mother might have been, but it happens to be true."
"It could be tricky if you do have sex with him. The first time is disappointing for many people, but, if he knows just how to manage everything, the euphoria of the moment might sweep you into marriage."
"Yes. I'll bear that in mind. It's funny that, although I'm almost sure he has marriage in mind, he hasn't said a word about it."
"That's probably good strategy. You already have strong misgivings, and they'd only be intensified if he proposed to you."
"That's one of the problems. Fred's always out there in front of me, calculating what I'll do. Then, even if he's got things planned down to the last detail, he'll manage to seem terrifically spontaneous. I'm overmatched. He's got too many moves for me to keep up with."
"I've never met him, but it doesn't sound good."
"It isn't good. I'm definitely going to get rid of him."
It was February at its fiercest, but Dr. Narrison still insisted on his morning walk. As he told Paul, the winds that swept the prairie weren't nearly as bitter and painful as those at sea. Paul had his muffler, which streamed out in front of him, and, as he half-skipped and half-scampered to keep up with his friend's fast pace, he managed to make an announcement.
"Doc, I meant to tell you, Rosie has accepted my ...."
Paul only occasionally stuttered, but it seemed appropriate to the occasion. Dr. Narrison slowed down to shake his hand and congratualte him warmly. Paul replied,
"Of course, it won't be exactly a ....."
"You're remaining here, aren't you, Paul?"
"Yes. Rosie's very glamorous, but it's Jemima who can really help in so many ways. I'll be going down to see Rosie a couple of evenings a week, and we'll have lunch often."
"That's very wise of you, Paul. And she'll get her citizenship, which she wants very much. I haven't seen her for a little while, but I'll send her a note of congratulation."
With that, he put his arm around Paul to steady him and guide him as they turned into the wind.
It was only an hour later when Alice led a gentleman into his office. Dr. Narrison stood up and greeted him,
"Good morning, Manfred. I've been wondering when you'd turn up."
"Hello Leif. Did Sandy tell you?"
"No, but you're no more cautious than you ever were. I've seen you a number of times."
"Well, I wasn't sure just how you'd react, so I wanted to cover the ground a little first. You refused to recognize me in Hvalfjordur."
"I'm sure you understood why."
"Yes, I think so. That was your home fjord, so to speak, wasn't it?"
"Yes indeed. So good of you to remember."
"Then it was quite a coincidence that the convoy assembled there."
"Not so much. There's a narrow easily protected entrance and lots of good deep water inside."
"Still, it must have been uncomfortable for you."
"A little. Not many people who knew me as a boy would have recognized me, but, as you may remember, I'm always cautious in the absence of reasons not to be."
"Didn't the real Captain Narveson have any friends among the captains of other ships?"
"He wasn't a man who made many friends, and he sailed an obscure route."
"You weren't his friend, then?"
"No. Just an acquaintance."
"And then, you and I met later, in a different way, off the North Cape. Was that caution too?"
"Certainly. Of course, I didn't know it was you until later."
"But, even if you had ...."
"There was obviously a U-boat in the area."
Dr. Narrison smiled genially and his friend replied,
"We've had a long history, Leif. Not everything always went well."
"We solved some problems in ways that we might not now want to advertize. But there's no need to."
"You always talked in that way, long before this."
Manfred gestured at the surroundings, evidently referring to the brand of psychology practiced there. Dr. Narrison sat, still smiling, but watchful. His visitor then said,
"The fact is, I want you to give me a job, here in your organization."
"I thought you were pretty well off."
"I am. The money from our old ship got me off to a good start, and I did well. You don't have to pay me much."
"Why the job, then?"
"I want Sandy. You'll hire me, and I'll do a conspicuously good job. Nothing else will win Sandy's respect so much as to see how well I can perform in her chosen field."
"You can't blackmail me, Manfred. We were together in most things."
"That's right. Our enemies were always well treated, but our ship-mates were best advised to exercise extreme caution. I don't know how you managed to be the only survivor the second time, but I can guess."
"The Federal Republic of Germany might conceivably have a case against each of us, but I can hardly imagine it's being pursued."
"I dare say you're right. I wouldn't think of trying to blackmail you, Leif. On the other hand, you know what'll happen if I can't have Sandy."
"This isn't Surabaya forty years ago. You'd never get away with it here."
"Perhaps not. But, if you recall, I've always combined a certain passion with my lack of caution. You want to protect Sandy, and you don't want a mess that would, at the least, destroy your business."
"I also don't want to deliver her to you."
"You wouldn't be doing that. She's going out with me as it is. Let's just say that I need a professional opportunity."
"Yes, I see that. I have a young man who helps me run things here. I could speak to him about finding a good slot for you."
"Is that Calvin?"
"I've heard about him. He's your first mate. This time, I'll be your second mate. And I don't suppose there are explosives in the basement."
"No, nothing but cockroaches and water-bugs. No need to go below at all."