La Cantina

by Chris Allen



The dark, poorly-lit cantina offered only a small amount of relief from the oppressive heat outside as the sun blazed down on the tiny village. The two men entering the cantina stood in the doorway for a few moments until their eyes adjusted to the darkness. They then moved over to a corner table and were quickly joined by a girl who had come to take their order. After ordering some beer they surveyed the almost deserted place and were pleased to see that the local representative of the policia was standing at the bar with glass in hand, talking to the bartender. A small group of locals were sitting on the opposite side of the room talking quietly with one another. No one seemed to be paying any attention to the two young men although they knew that their presence had not gone completely unnoticed.

The two men were dirty and unshaven and looked as if they had been working the fields or had been travelling a long way on foot. Their clothes were dusty and unkempt. The dark haired one leaned over to the blond man and whispered, "It's almost time, Chip. We want to make our move before he leaves."

"Do you have some kind of plan, Lee?" asked Chip, uncertainly.

"Just follow my lead and hope for the best," Lee replied with a grimace.

"That's what I was afraid you were going to say," countered Chip, shaking his head and sighing. "Okay, ready when you are." He sipped the warm beer and waited for his friend to make the first move.

As the waitress walked past their table, Lee suddenly grabbed his mug of beer and knocked it across the table with his arm. The glass smashed to the floor, breaking the silence of the room. He stood up, knocking his chair over and yelling, "What kind of poison are you serving in here! This beer isn't fit to drink!" He grabbed the girl's arm, pulled her towards him and demanded, "Get me some more beer and make sure it's the real stuff this time!"

Chip saw his chance to jump in. He pulled the girl away from Lee and gave him a shove. "Leave her alone. She didn't do anything!"

Lee glared at Chip and shoved him out of the way. "You stay out of this!"

Chip leapt toward Lee, diving over the table to get at him. The two of them wrestled around on the floor and then Lee hauled Chip up and shoved him across the room into the table occupied by the locals. Chip slid right across the table, spilling all the drinks and landing heavily on the floor. One of the men at the table grabbed hold of Chip and hauled him back across the room and pushed him into Lee.

Then two other men ran across the room to join their friend. As Lee scrambled to his feet he swung wildly at the first man, hitting him in the stomach. Two of the locals grabbed Lee and started punching him. He managed to break loose and grabbed another chair and was about to throw it when the bartender grabbed him from behind and smashed him over the head with a bottle. Lee slumped to the ground.

Chip scrambled to his feet and tried to make a fast exit out of the cantina but as he rushed for the door, his way was blocked by the large form of the Chief of Policia who was holding his beer in one hand and a gun in the other.

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

Lee Crane was beginning to dislike his part in this latest mission. His head was throbbing and this jail cell was one of the least comfortable that he had been in. He lay quietly on the filthy floor, waiting for the room to stop spinning.

"Are you okay, Lee?" asked Chip.

"About as fine as anyone would be who got smashed on the head with a bottle," replied Lee curtly, struggling to a sitting position.

"Hey, don't blame me for that!" protested Chip, "Anyway, next time you get to be the person who gets tossed back and forth across the room. I've got so many bruises I've lost count!"

"Next time?" asked Lee, looking Chip right in the eye.

"You're right," concluded Chip, "next time we send Sharkey and Kowalski to do this part and we get to do their part."

"Definitely," agreed Lee, smiling back at his friend.

Lee stood up slowly and took stock of their surroundings. They were locked in a small room that consisted of cement walls and a dirt floor. On one wall was a heavy wooden door. There was a tiny barred window built high up on the outside wall. The furnishings were not exactly palatial. A top and bottom bunk complete with filthy mattresses was built up against one wall and on the opposite side was a small bench.

Lee thought of his comfortable cabin aboard the Seaview and longed for a hot shower and a decent meal. He glanced at his watch, thankful that he still had it. "It won't be too long now."

"It should be dark in about an hour," agreed Chip. "I sure hope the Admiral's sources gave him the correct information."

"Well it won't be long before we find out," said Lee. He walked over and stretched out on the bottom bunk. Chip started to protest but Lee held up his hand to stop him, saying with a slight smile, "Rank has its privileges, Commander."

Chip conceded the point and climbed up to the top bunk and lay down, his face just a few inches from the ceiling. He watched with fascination as a particularly large cockroach crawled up the wall and then turned around and headed down the wall, straight for the Captain's bunk. The huge insect dropped down onto Lee's blanket and began crawling under the filthy cloth. Chip thought of mentioning this to Lee but decided it wouldn't be a good idea to disturb the Skipper right now. Maybe he would mention it later. With a smile on his face, he rolled over and closed his eyes.

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

Chip woke a short time later to the sound of Lee cursing and throwing his blanket to the floor and stomping on it. Chip leaned down and asked innocently, "Is there a problem, Lee?"

Captain Crane had spent the last four years aboard the Seaview, battling sea creatures and enemy agents and making life and death decisions that often put his life and the lives of his crew in jeopardy, but there was something that made even Lee Crane shudder and that was bugs.

After having disposed of the unwelcome visitor, Lee decided it wasn't worth trying to get any rest. He checked his watch again. "Come on, Chip. Let's go over the plan one more time and then we'll be ready to make our move."

Chip climbed down from the top bunk, barely concealing a smile. He had rather enjoyed watching Lee do battle with the cockroach.

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

The two friends had come equipped for their latest mission. Hidden inside their shoes and in the linings of their tattered jackets were an amazing array of articles that would do any jailbreaker proud.

The timing had to be just right and they had to hope that the information that they had was correct or the two men of the Seaview would be spending more time in this tiny cell than they had counted on.

Lee placed the small chemical packet into the lock of the door and lit the fuse. With a slight hissing sound, the chemicals burned their way through the wood surrounding the lock. In less than thirty seconds the lock dropped off and the door swung inward slightly.

Chip peered out into the dark hallway. Seeing no one, he signaled Lee. They both headed off to the end of the passageway where another identical wooden door was located. Lee set off another chemical charge and soon this door was opened. Chip and Lee entered the room.

Standing in the corner, watching in fascination was an elderly gentleman. He was dressed in similar clothes to Chip and Lee and had been prepared for this turn of events.

Lee walked over to the man and introduced himself. "I'm Captain Lee Crane, of the submarine Seaview and this is my Executive Officer, Commander Morton. We've come to get you out, Professor Diego."

"Yes, I was told you would be coming. I have been waiting for you."

"We have to hurry, Professor. Our men are waiting just outside of town. We'll take you to the Seaview."

Chip hurried to the door and checked the passageway again. The coast was clear. Lee grabbed the Professor's arm and hurried down the hall with Chip following right behind, watching their backs. At the end of the hallway they came to another door. Chip tried the handle. It was unlocked. He carefully opened it and was greeted by the sight of the Chief of Policia, leaning back in his chair, snoring loudly.

Chip closed the door again quietly and the three men backed down the hallway a short way so they could confer. Lee handed Chip a small square of cloth and a tube of liquid. "This should ensure that our large friend stays asleep a little longer," remarked Lee.

Chip nodded and headed back down the hall, entered the office and gently held the cloth soaked in liquid over the Police Chief's face. The snoring suddenly stopped and the Chief began to struggle slightly but soon slumped back down in his chair.

Chip signaled to Lee and the Professor that the way was clear. The three of them moved quickly through the office and out the front door into the street. They walked at a normal pace so as not to attract attention and headed down the side of the dusty road into the darkness of the countryside.

They had barely gone more than a quarter of a mile when they heard the sound of a jeep approaching them. Chip and Lee were relieved to see Kowalski at the wheel. Another jeep soon arrived with Sharkey driving this time. Lee motioned for the Professor to ride with Sharkey while Chip and Lee rode with Kowalski. In case they were followed, the two jeeps were to go in different directions but would each end up at the shore, ten miles away, where O'Brien would be waiting on the beach with the Flying Sub.

As Sharkey took off in his jeep with the Professor and headed off down the road, Chip and Lee climbed in the back of Kowalski's jeep, relieved to not have to walk anymore. Kowalski headed east, away from the coast, but would soon double back along another road and meet up with the others.

After about ten minutes, Kowalski turned off a side road which was little more than a goat trail and began to head south and then found another rather rocky trail which seemed to head toward the coast. Lee began to relax a little, despite the bumpy ride. A shave and a hot shower would sure feel good right about now.

Chip glanced back from time to time to see if they were being followed but there was no sign of anyone. As the jeep bounced along, he could feel each and every bruise he had received from the fight in the cantina. He made a mental note to remind Lee when they got back aboard Seaview that he wouldn't be volunteering for any more missions like this one unless he got to play a less painful part . . . although, the sight of the cockroach sharing the Captain's bed almost made up for the pain. Chip smiled to himself as he recalled the incident.

Lee looked over at the smile on Chip's face. "What are you so pleased about?"

"Oh, just happy to be almost home, that's all," Chip grinned back at Lee.

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

Admiral Harriman Nelson was waiting for the word that his two officers had reached the safety of the Flying Sub along with Professor Diego. He glanced at his watch and then walked over to the Radio Shack to check for messages. Nothing. He wandered back over to the Observation Nose and stood at the windows looking out at the blackness of the ocean. The Seaview remained submerged off the coast just outside the territorial waters. I certainly don't want to have to explain to the "authorities" why we're here, and why two of my men are breaking the Professor out of their jail. He looked at his watch again, unseeing. I don't think the rebels would appreciate hearing that their plans - for renting out space to foreign powers for weapons installations - were about to become public knowledge.

Nelson's thoughts were interrupted by a call from Sparks on the intercom. "Admiral, sir, Chief Sharkey just reported in that he and the Professor have reached the Flying Sub. He says that Kowalski should be there soon with the Skipper and Mr. Morton."

"Thanks Sparks. Tell Sharkey 'well done' and have him call back as soon as the others reach the FS1."

"Aye, sir."

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

As the jeep sped along the dusty road, Lee leaned over Kowalski's shoulder and asked, "How much further, Ski?"

Kowalski turned his head slightly, "About another two miles, Skipper."

Lee nodded and settled back in his seat again. He was about to ask Chip something when suddenly there was a loud bang and the jeep lurched from side to side. Kowalski hung onto the wheel, fighting to keep the jeep from swerving to the side. He braked hard but the front wheel hit a large rock and Kowalski lost his grip on the wheel. The jeep flipped over twice, then came to a sudden stop upside down in the brush at the side of the road, its wheels spinning.

As the dust began to settle, there was movement from under the jeep. Kowalski pulled himself out from under the driver's seat and crawled out of the wreck. Turning around and peering under the jeep, he looked for the Skipper and the Exec.

"Skipper, Mr. Morton, can you hear me?"

Kowalski could hear someone groaning so he crawled back under the jeep. He shook the Exec gently on the shoulder and was rewarded with a voice saying, "I'm O.K., Ski, look after the Skipper."

Kowalski searched under the wreckage but there was no sign of the Captain. "He's not here, Mr. Morton. He must have been thrown out when the jeep flipped. Here, give me your hand." Kowalski pulled Chip clear of the wreck and propped him up against the trunk of a tree while he went to find the Skipper.

"He's over here, Mr. Morton!" yelled Kowalski, indicating a spot about ten yards from the wreck. Chip got to his feet slowly and made his way over to where the Captain lay.

"Don't move him, Ski. Let's check him out first." Crane had a large cut on his forehead which was bleeding quite a bit. Chip couldn't see any other obvious injuries but he still didn't want to move him in case he had internal injuries.

"Lee, wake up. Lee," Chip called gently. There was no response. Chip looked up at Kowalski. "See if you can find the first aid kit in the jeep."

Kowalski went back to the overturned jeep and located the first aid kit and brought it to Chip who was still trying to wake the Captain. Chip bandaged the cut on Lee's forehead and then turned his attention to Kowalski. "Are you hurt at all, Ski?"

"No, sir. I'm okay, just a few bruises. Are you all right, sir?"

"Just bruises here, too," replied Chip, "to add to the ones I already had." He grinned at Kowalski who looked puzzled. Chip looked over at the wrecked jeep. "I guess we blew a tire?"

"Yes, Mr. Morton. We sure did," replied Ski, looking troubled. "I should have been able to control it, but I couldn't."

"Don't blame yourself, Ski. You did the best you could."

Ski nodded but still felt he should have been able to stop the jeep from turning over. Both men turned toward the Captain as he started to moan and move a bit.

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

Lee opened his eyes slowly and saw two anxious pairs of eyes staring back at him. He tried to sit up but felt a wave of dizziness and nausea then lay back down again.

"Lee, are you hurt anywhere?" asked Chip, trying to determine the extent of the Captain's injuries.

Lee moved his arms and legs slowly. "The only thing that hurts is my head."

"Well, Doc has always said that you have the hardest head he knows," said Chip lightly.

"Yeah, well twice in one day isn't good for anybody's head, even mine," replied Lee as he shifted uncomfortably and started to sit up.

"Take it easy, Lee," cautioned Chip, "we can rest here for a while."

"They're waiting for us at the Flying Sub, Chip," said Lee, "we can't risk the rebels finding the Professor. Come on. I'm fine now, let's get going."

With some difficulty, Lee got to his feet, determined to keep going. Kowalski came around to one side to help support the Captain who waved him away and started walking down the road. Chip and Kowalski quickly grabbed the canteens of water from the jeep and ran to catch up.

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

It had been half an hour since Sharkey had reported to the Seaview. Nelson paced back and forth in the Observation Nose wondering what was keeping Kowalski and Lee and Chip. Sparks hailed Nelson on the intercom.

"Chief Sharkey is calling in again, Admiral. No word from Kowalski and the others yet. He wants to know if he should go and look for them, sir."

Nelson thought for a moment before grabbing the microphone. "Patch me through, Sparks."

"Aye, sir. Go ahead."

"Chief, listen carefully. I want you to put the Professor on the Flying Sub and have O'Brien fly him back to Seaview. Then I'll send O'Brien back to pick up you and the others. See if you can backtrack along the trail that Kowalski was supposed to be taking. They must have run into some trouble or else they would have made it to the beach by now. Take the portable radio from the Flying Sub and keep in touch. Understood?"

"Aye, sir, understood. Uh, Admiral, what if I can't find them?"

"Let's worry about that if and when it happens. Just find them, all right? And don't forget to check in, let's say, every fifteen minutes."

"Aye sir," replied Sharkey.

Sharkey relayed Nelson's orders to O'Brien as they escorted the Professor aboard the Flying Sub and strapped him securely into the copilot's chair. Sharkey grabbed the portable radio and headed for the jeep. Once he was clear of the takeoff area, he waved to O'Brien who started the engines and flew straight out toward the water. Then he turned and headed off into the darkness to rendezvous with the Seaview.

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

It was a very warm night and the heat, combined with the darkness, made the walking even more difficult. Lee slowed his pace a bit as he realized he was tiring quickly. Chip and Kowalski exchanged looks. Chip glanced over at the Skipper and couldn't help but worry about him. He was perspiring heavily and was short of breath. They had only a couple of miles before they reached the beach but at this rate Chip doubted if Lee would make it.

"Let's stop for a minute, Lee," requested Chip, "I need a drink."

Lee didn't have the strength to argue so they sat down by the side of the road and rested for a few minutes. The water in the canteens was cool and they drank thirstily.

"You know," began Chip, "I bet Sharkey will come looking for us when we don't show up at the beach."

"I expect so," replied Lee wearily. He stood up and looked around. "Come on, it can't be too much further."

The three men began walking again but had barely taken more than a few steps when they heard the sound of a car engine. They immediately turned around and spotted a car off in the distance speeding towards them.

"Take cover!" yelled Lee as the three men dove into the brush and lay still.

They knew that whoever was in that car must have found the overturned jeep. Since there was no way they could outrun it, their best bet was to lay still and hope that they hadn't been spotted.

"Kowalski, have you got your gun?" asked Crane as he lay down in the tangled undergrowth.

"Aye, sir," replied Kowalski.

"Right. I want you to work your way around to that tree over there and keep behind it for protection. Chip and I will work a diversion so you can get the jump on them."

"Right, Skipper." Kowalski crawled on his belly through the bushes and settled himself down behind the tree, waiting for his chance.

Upon hearing the Skipper's words to Kowalski about some kind of diversion, Chip's thoughts went back to their latest escapade in the cantina. He groaned inwardly at the thought of another one of the Skipper's 'just follow my lead' plans. He doubted if his skin had any more available areas to accommodate any extra bruising.

The car came to a screeching halt, blocking the road sideways, about fifty yards away. Three men with rifles jumped out and stood behind the car using it as a shield. They supported their rifles on the roof of the car and pointed the barrels directly at the area where Chip and Lee were hiding.

"Come out and show yourselves!" yelled one of the men.

Chip looked at Lee who was doing some quick thinking. "What next, Lee?"

"Just follow my lead, Chip," said Lee flashing a rather uncertain smile.

Chip returned the smile and nodded encouragement -- even though he had grave doubts about whatever Lee had in mind.

Lee stood up with his hands in the air, followed immediately by Chip. They walked out into the middle of the dusty road and started walking towards the car. When Lee was almost even with where Kowalski was hiding behind the tree, he stopped and started to sway. He put his hand up to his head and began to stumble. . . then he fell to the ground and did not move.

Chip was not sure what to do next. Is this part of the plan or did Lee really collapse from his head wound? Chip kneeled down next to him and tried to rouse him, but Lee's eyes remained closed.

With their rifles still pointing at the two officers of the Seaview, the three men began to walk slowly towards them. As they approached the fallen man and his friend, they relaxed a little and lowered their rifles.

"Now, Ski!!" yelled Lee as he leapt up and tackled one of the men. Kowalski started firing and wounded one man in the leg and another in the shoulder. Chip helped Lee subdue the third man and kicked his rifle away. The man with the leg wound reached for his rifle, intending to shoot Lee, but Kowalski got another shot off and the man dropped.

As the men of the Seaview finished tying up the two rebels, they heard another car approaching from the west. They were well-armed now and much more ready for this next attack. They ducked back into the underbrush leaving the two men tied up behind the car. They didn't have time to move the body of the rebel that Kowalski had shot.

Sharkey pulled the jeep over to the side of the road about a hundred yards from where he spotted the car. He could see a body lying in the middle of the road. There was no sign of anyone else so he took out his gun and walked slowly towards the body, hoping fervently that it wasn't anyone he knew.

As Kowalski recognized the driver of the jeep, he turned to the Skipper and Mr. Morton and grinned. "Trust the Chief to show up when the party's over."

Lee, Chip and Kowalski stood up and walked out of the brush, startling Sharkey who quickly turned his gun on them only to lower it immediately when he recognized them. He breathed a huge sigh of relief. "You scared the life out of me, sirs!"

"Sorry about that, Chief," replied Lee, grinning at the surprised look on Sharkey's face. "What kept you?"

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

"Let's take a look at that head of yours, Skipper." Doc Jamieson was quite accustomed to treating Captain Crane for various head injuries. "How did you manage to get hit on the back of the neck and on the forehead, all in one day?" asked Doc curiously.

"Well, the cut on the forehead was from when the jeep turned over and the one on the back of the neck was from the bar fight," answered Crane.

"The bar fight, you say," Doc continued as he checked the injuries closely. "And I suppose that was the same bar fight that gave Mr. Morton all those bruises?"

"That would be the same bar fight, yes," replied Lee with a wink at Chip who was sitting on the next bunk in Sickbay.

As Doc moved over to examine Chip's bruises once more, he turned to the Exec and asked, "And I suppose you were in this jeep when it overturned also?"

"Yes, Doc. And Kowalski too, of course," added Chip turning to Kowalski who was sitting on the third bunk.

Admiral Nelson chose that time to check on his men in the Sickbay. Seeing their smiles, he concluded, with a sigh of relief, that there were no serious injuries this time.

"How are they, Doc?" inquired Nelson.

"Pretty lucky, considering what they have been through, Admiral," replied Doc, putting the finishing touches on the bandage to Lee's forehead.

Nelson smiled and then said, "Well, Doc, when you are ready to release them, I would like Captain Crane and Mr. Morton to join me in the Observation Nose." He looked over at Lee and Chip and smiled, "I'd especially like to hear about this bar fight that you two started."

Nelson chuckled to himself. Those two do tend to get themselves into trouble on shore leave - it just seems to be attracted to them. I'm not surprised they managed to get themselves arrested so easily. He walked over and stood next to Doc, "It seems I picked the right two men to carry out this assignment, don't you think so, Doc?"

Doc shook his head ruefully, recalling the various scrapes that the two officers had been involved in over the past few years, "Well Admiral, they certainly don't suffer from lack of experience, that's for sure."

"Right you are, Doc," laughed Nelson, "the next time we need to break someone out of jail, we know who to call on, don't we?"

Before Lee and Chip could utter a word of protest, the Admiral had left the Sickbay and was heading down the passageway toward the Observation Nose -- looking forward to a cup of coffee on his "front porch".

The End



Copyright 1999 by Chris Allen
Please send comments to Chris at: csrmail@home.com
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