“Private Chuck Bob!”
“We did it Private Chuck Bob, we did it.”
“Yessir. Uh sir?”
“Yes Private Chuck Bob?”
“Uh, what did we do? Sir?”
“Well isn’t that obvious Private Chuck Bob?
“Uh right sir. Obvious, sir. Um, sir?”
“This is the port, private Chuck Bob, and that ship, that is arriving, that is the ship on which our target is currently hiding. There’s no escape now private Chuck Bob. We have simply to wait in hiding here where the gang-plank will land, and wait for two young people and a chicken to disembark before we step up and apprehend them!”
“Wow sir, that’s a great plan sir, but sir?”
“Yes Private Chuck Bob?”
“What happens if they put up a fight or run away or something? Sir?”
“Well, Private Chuck Bob, that’s the best part.”
“Which part is that sir?”
“The best part, Private Chuck Bob, heh heh heh, I have a trick or two up my sleeve, Private Chuck Bob. A trick or two.”
“Sir, you are a very wiley operator, sir. May I ask, sir? What is the trick you have up your sleeve?”
“You may, Private Chuck Bob, you may. In fact, they should be arriving just about . . . now!”
“Sir! Oh my gosh, sir!”
“That’s right Private Chuck Bob, the many vehicles loaded with dedicated soldiers that are disembarking around you just now are the elite squad of special forces for the Lithuanian Guard. I called in an old favor back at the airport, and they’ve come through in spades! With this fighting force surrounding the ship, no one will escape. Not this time!”
“Deploy your troops around the perimeter of this docking facility. Don’t let anyone leave without being searched.”
“Yes sir! What is the target sir?”
“The target is a small, brown, chicken, sergeant.”
“A chicken? Sir?”
“You heard me sergeant, that chicken is of the utmost importance to the security of the United States of America, and truly, all of civilization. We must apprehend it. Are you clear sergeant?”
“Keep this in mind, and tell all of your men, we have intel that this chicken may be hiding in a bowling ball bag. Look for those specifically.”
“Good, now go, and deploy your soldiers accordingly. Now, Private Chuck Bob. We’re ready. We’ll get that chicken. We’ll get that chicken this time.”
“Captain? You need to look at this.” The first mate was looking over the rails of the top deck of the shipping vessel. What he saw made his heart sink.
“Yes, Yuri? What is it?”
“Sir, take a look at the landing slip. We’ve got trouble.”
The captain took the binoculars from the first mate and scanned the port. “Well,” he said at last, “we knew there would be trouble. I didn’t think the special forces would be involved, but it makes no difference. Will’s plan is a good one, and it doesn’t matter who is in the port waiting.”
“But sir, the soldiers, do you think they’ll shoot us?” Yuri had gone quite pale.
The captain gave a hearty laugh, but couldn’t hide the strain in his voice. “Why, Yuri, these are our countrymen!” He said, “they could no more shoot us than if we were their own brothers.” The captain slapped Yuri heartily on the back, and moved of to rejoin his steering crew on the bridge. Yuri picked his binoculars up again and began to nervously scan the port, noting the size and quantity of machine guns the special forces employed.
On the bridge, his steering crew was carefully plotting their trajectory into the port. Small murmurings of minor course corrections and the sound of static over the radio with the port authority were the only sounds that filled the small space. The tension in the room was thick. Somehow word of the soldiers at the dock had spread quickly amongst the crew.
On each of the sailors’ minds was the fact that at this very moment, Will and Sally were in a small dinghy headed to a little park not far from the port. That they were alone, and that the group of sailors who had become so close with them in such a short time would be unable to help them if something happened to them. Which, with the arrival of the soldiers, seemed even more likely.
Just then, Moze walked into the room. The captain looked up from his charts and graphs. “You look perfect, son. Is Jonas ready?”
The captain looked over the young man. The ship’s barber had done an excellent job of dying and cutting his hair, and with the clothes switch, the look was nearly perfect. He was the spitting image of Will. Just then, Jonas came into the room. He was a slight man, and despite the best efforts of the ship’s barber, looked quite a bit less like Sally than Moze looked like Will.
There were a few laughs as Jonas walked in, wig and all, but the captain’s serious gaze stared them down, and the men fell back to doing their work in silence. “Jonas, lad, come here.”
Jonas walked over to the captain, gaze slightly down. “Jonas, my boy, chin up. You’ve been chosen for a very important assignment. You may have heard, there will be soldiers with guns at the port. This is a very serious business, indeed. Crimson’s only chance will be if you give her time to escape. You must be swift, and you must be clever. And there is a high likelihood that you will be captured. When this happens, you must not resist, or they may shoot you.”
Jonas recoiled at these words, but the importance of his work sank in, and he held his head a little higher. He nodded a curt nod. “Thank you captain. I will remember your words.”
The captain broke the formality and pulled Jonas into a long hug. “My lad,” he said, “may the winds of fate keep you safe always.” He wiped away a tear and then went back to his work station. Jonas joined Moze and the two of them walked out onto the upper deck.
The captain’s voice called out on the intercom all over the ship: “My lads, now is the time for docking! We will come to a stop very soon, and then the plank will reach the shore, and then, my lads, then! Then we will sing the songs of our fathers and rejoice as old friends meet old friends and the north wind which brings cold chaos is defeated and summer reigns through the hearts of us all!
A great cry came from all around the ship. Cheers and then, slowly at first, but building and building, the sounds of a song – an ancient song of wood and wine and the sea – rose up from all the decks as each man according to their rank and voice, joined their voices until the ship rang with their call to challenge fate and time and any enemy who dared stand in their way.
And the ship lurched finally to a stop. They had arrived.
“I don’t know about this,” said Sally, “the water’s awfully choppy, do you think we’re going the right way?” They had been in the dinghy for several hours and now the sun was just beginning to crest over the horizon. Sally and Will were navigating by compass, and the little motor in their craft seemed fit enough.
“I think we just have to stay the course,” said Will. “We’ll get there in good time. Follow the compass and we’ll arrive all right.”
They had been dropped off out of sight of the port, and were given a bearing to follow. Their landing target was a small park to the north of the port. Actually, most of the coast to the north of the entrance to the port was park, and so they really just needed to head east, and they’d hit something. Still, Will and Sally were nervous.
“I just hope it works,” said Sally for the millionth time.
Will let out a sigh, “I know Sally, I know. But I think it will. Anyway, Crimson Hen has confidence that it will.”
“You’re right,” she said again for the millionth time, but there was tension between the two. A minute or two of silence passed before she said again, “but what if it doesn’t? What do we do if it doesn’t?”
“It will!” Will was beginning to lose patience, but even still, he shared her concerns. Just then, a dark line appeared on the horizon. “Look, Sally! It’s land, we’re going to make it.”
They shared a moment of revel and happiness with the thought of landing on the shore and disappearing into the Lithuanian countryside. Will looked down at the bowling ball bag at his feet, and smiled to himself. We’re going to make it! He thought to himself, and tightened his grip on the handle of the little motor pushing them toward shore.
Minutes passed, and the little line grew longer and wider and thicker and darker. Suddenly, Sally sat up sharply pointing, nearly upsetting their little craft. “Will!” She shouted.
“What! What is it?” Will turned to crane in his seat to see what Sally was pointing at. On their tail was a small dark blob, just visible in the morning haze.
“What is that?” Sally asked. They both watched it for a while and it dawned on them at the same time that the little blob was rapidly growing into a bigger and bigger blob. “It’s a boat, Will and it’s headed straight for us! Can this thing go any faster?!”
“I have it full out, I’m afraid,” Will said grimly. He was looking at the land ahead and back at the rapidly advancing boat, and then back at the land. “I don’t know if we’re going to make it, Sally, it’s going to be close.”
“Oh Will, it’s a military vessel, it has guns on the deck! Will, I’m scared! I think we’re caught Will, what will we do?” Sally was kneading her hands with anxiety. “What are we going to do Will?”
Will looked down at the bowling ball bag and said with his teeth gritted, “We’re going to keep going, Sally, we’re not going to give up until Crimson Hen has found her friends!”
The little boat plunged on in silence as the giant military craft over took them in leaps and bounds. Then the little boat was a hundred yards from shore, then the military boat, loaded with soldiers passed them and went screeching into the shallows coming to an abrupt stop. Dozens of heavily armed men piled out of the boat into the shallow water. They were clearly well trained in this kind of maneuver because by the time the little dinghy pulled up to the shore, they stood in a tidy semi circle around where the dinghy came to rest, weapons trained directly at Will and Sally.
“Hands up!” Came the command. Will and Sally stepped out of the little dingy onto the shore with their hands up. Will looked at Sally, and Sally looked at Will.
“I’m sorry Sally.” Will said quietly into the silence.
Sally was suddenly calm. Waves crashed around them, though nothing else seemed to move. There was no breeze in the early morning. Something in Sally gave, some primordial thing, something she’d been carrying for a long time that the crisis of their current circumstance made impossible for her to carry any longer. So in her heart, she laid it aside. Something about her fears being realized made them seem less important. Less powerful.
She looked at Will and smiled. “I love you, you know.” Will forgot about the men with guns. He forgot about being undocumented in a foreign country. He forgot about Moze and the Captain and the crew. He even forgot about Crimson Hen. He just looked into Sally’s eyes. And he smiled.
“Private Chuck Bob!”