Welcome to the next episode of Silence in the Tortured Soul, book eleven in the Operation Quickline series. The KGB has infiltrated a group protesting a satellite launch. Lisa and Sid need to find out how to protect their friends Frank and Esther – and to train them as their new recruits. You can read the first chapter here, or click here to read all of the episodes that have run.
Five-thirty the next morning came a lot faster than I’d wanted it to. I had promised Nick and a couple of the girls that I’d take them fishing before the wake-up bell that morning. Sid, of course, was in his bathing suit, a t-shirt, and running shoes as I sleepily pulled myself out of bed.
“We should stay wired as much as possible today,” Sid told me, getting his towel from the rack next to the window.
I sighed. “Yep. Have you told Nick?”
“Last night when we went to bed. I’ll have to get mine on after I swim this morning.”
“Okay.” I got on my shorts and t-shirt, took my Model Thirteen out of my daypack and put it into my suitcase, then got out a pair of binoculars. “I’ll see if we can get far enough out that I can check out the next cove or two.”
Vanessa Ayala and Marti Carranza met me and Nick on the beach. I’d reserved one of the rowboats, and it and all the tackle were waiting for us on the beach, with a second boat and tackle nearby. Carl, Eddie Valentino, and Phil Meeker came up to claim the second boat.
“Hey, Nick,” Eddie called. “You sure you don’t want to come with us? Like, what are the odds you’ll catch anything in a boat full of women?”
“Better than trying to catch something with you doofuses,” Nick called back amiably.
I smiled warmly at my boy. Vanessa, a senior who’d gone fishing with me before, offered to shove us off. I accepted, glad that Nick and I could get into the boat without worrying about messing up our transmitters. I did the rowing, and I pulled us just far enough out that I could see into the next cove. Supposedly scanning the surface for fish, I aimed the binoculars at the other cove’s shore, but didn’t see anything.
Nick helped Marti, a sophomore who had never fished before, bait her hook. Then Vanessa, a tall, slender young woman with thick, black hair, showed the petite brunette how to cast. The hook had barely sunk when the pole almost jerked out of Marti’s hands.
“You got one!” Nick gasped as he helped Marti reel the fish in.
It was a decent-sized bass. I got the net underneath it, then had Marti hold up the line with the fish dangling from it.
“Hey, guys!” I called across the water. “Look what Marti reeled in. You got anything yet?”
They hadn’t. Nick reeled in the next fish, then Vanessa hooked and got a massive bass. I caught a couple, myself, but spent most of my time enjoying watching the kids and scanning the cove and water for anything suspicious. Carl and the other boys rowed back to shore well before the wake-up bell was due.
We caught up with them on the way to the dining hall. Nick held up our collective catch.
“Guess what we’re having for lunch.” Nick grinned. “How about you?”
Eddie just shot Nick an evil look.
“We didn’t get anything,” Phil sighed.
“We’ll share,” Vanessa said.
The four of us went to clean our catch and Nick showed Vanessa and Marti which fish innards were intestines and which were the hearts and other organs. Marti was grossed out, but Vanessa was impressed.
“I took biology last year and didn’t remember all that,” she told me.
“He’s a smart kid,” I said, smiling. “I’m so proud of him.”
Vanessa suddenly sniffed. “He’s lucky to have a parent like you. I’m never good enough for my mom.”
“That must feel really bad.”
Vanessa shrugged. “I know she loves me. I just don’t think she likes me very much. Guess I’m a little too radical for her.”
I let her continue on, not knowing how much of her pain was the usual teen-age conflict and how much of it was a mother who really did not like her daughter. Then the breakfast bell rang, and we had to go inside.
I did get a moment with Esther before grace.
“How are you doing this morning?”
She smiled. “Okay. My boss dying. That still gets me. But it’s nice being married to Frank.” She sighed. “It’s weird being so happy and so sad at the same time.”
“Know that one.” I looked around. “Is Frank still mad at Sid?”
“It’s worse.” Esther shuddered. “He thinks it’s funny now.”
“Oh, no! Think we can keep them from an all-out war?”
Esther made a face. “I sure hope so.”
Then we were called to join the group.
After small group discussion, we have a group game, and Thursday, we did the people pass. We all line up in two lines facing each other and shoulder to shoulder, then one person at the end of the line gets lifted above the two lines and, with everyone helping, gets passed along the lines to the other end. Sid was one of the last to be passed, and when he got to the end of the line, the guys saw their chance and started running with him to the ocean. At the last second, Sid wriggled free and remained dry.
“Maybe you should just let them do it,” I whispered to him.
“Can’t. Got to stay wired.”
Now, on most days, the second session of the morning is when we do seminars, usually four smaller talks on specific topics. There is one seminar that is so popular that everyone wants to go to it. I credit the topic. It’s also the one I give, “Sex and the Problem of Temptation.” When everyone wanted to hear the talk my first year at camp, our former youth minister gave up and just had me do it for everyone, and it’s been that way ever since.
This year was going to be really weird, though. You see, Sid’s infamous former lifestyle figured prominently in the talk. He knew about that, in fact, had cheerfully offered himself up as a bad example the first year I did it. That he’d given up sleeping around made the talk the previous year. This year, he was there.
He sat on the side of the room, smiling softly. I looked over at him. He just chuckled and nodded.
I took a deep breath. “Okay. The reason I got the talk on sex three years ago was that, at the time, I was working for a man who was randier than a British Royal. Sid, as most of you know, was and even now still is, a firm believer in free love. That sex is a really good thing and natural, healthy and to be indulged in as often as possible. Even back then, I said that Sid wasn’t wrong. Sex is a good thing. But for me, and for most of us here, sex is also something sacred, a special, joyful way of connecting to a life-time partner. It’s how life begins. It’s important to understand that. I’ve said this every time, and I’m saying it again. This talk is not about judging Sid because he slept around. It’s about how we deal with the temptation to have sex when we shouldn’t. Sid was the first real threat to my honor I have ever known. He was and is incredibly sexy and hot. And then I started falling in love with him and that did not make things any easier.
“The vast majority of us are not going to spend four to six nights a week trying to get laid with a different partner every time. We, as Christians, want to stay true to our values about sex in a world that seems more aligned with Sid’s values. So how do you do that when there are an awful lot of people out there who think sex is what you do? That there is something wrong with you if you want to reserve sexual intercourse for the commitment of marriage?
“The first thing is getting very clear that sex is about love, and I mean real love. The kind of love that makes a lifetime commitment a good thing. We saw last night, during the wedding, what that means. Frank and Esther promised to stay together, to accept children as gifts from God, to not sleep with anyone else. Why? Because that’s the kind of life-sustaining relationship that we aspire to, that we want. That’s why weddings are considered Happily Ever After, no matter how often we see that for many people, they aren’t.
“We also need to be aware that there is a biological imperative. Sid is right that sex is normal and healthy. We are biologically wired to want sex. Think about it. It’s how our species is continued. So, when you’re necking with that very special someone and you really, really want to go further, there’s a good reason for that feeling. But there are some even better reasons for not going further, not the least of them, that you believe that sex is a good and holy thing and should be reserved for that one person to whom you will make that lifetime commitment.”
The rest of the talk focused on staying out of trouble, which had not been easy back when Sid was still sleeping around. It was a lot of not getting yourself into a situation where it was easier to give in. That much, I had a lot of experience with. As I pointed out, Sid is and was a really sexy man.
“Finally, what I most want you guys to know and to hang onto is that sex within the committed relationship really is the best sex there is. You’re not just staying pure because you’re better than everyone else or you don’t want to go to hell. You’re hanging onto your best self because that’s what you deserve. Sid is a rare exception, because most people who sleep around do not have that much respect for themselves. Remember, you are worth the commitment. Which is a really good thing if you’ve already slipped. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re still a virgin. I have a friend who slept around almost as much as Sid did. Why did she stop? Because she recognized that she deserved better. And she does. So does each and every one of you.” I looked over at Sid. “Did I get that right, lover?”
He laughed. “Absolutely.” He looked at the kids. “I would never have thought it, but what Lisa is telling you about sex in a committed relationship is true. It has to be the right relationship. But I have done it all and seen it all. You can believe me when I say that right now, as a married man, I am enjoying the best sex I have ever had in my life.”
I flushed as the group both laughed and cheered. Well, Sid and I are pretty oversexed. I looked over at Nick, expecting him to be trying to get under the floorboards and away, but he just rolled his eyes in adolescent disgust, then grinned at us.
Lunch was fun, even though Sid sat at another table than mine. We kept grinning at each other as I kept up with the other scarfers. Sid waited until dessert, when there weren’t any seconds available, to rub the back of his neck. It was the signal that he wanted to be kissing the back of my neck, which was one of those things that really got me excited. I flushed, shifted, then rubbed the inside of my wrist. The way he caught his breath was very gratifying. John sighed, Frank chuckled, and Jeff and Tod both gasped.
“I’ll be at the waterfront when it opens, or not much later than that,” I said.
“Too bad,” said Frank with an evil glint.
John just rolled his eyes. “You know, I have told both of you that I do not care, nor do I really want to know what you are doing. I really don’t!”
Frank and I left the dining hall together. He was about to head for the beach when he stopped.
“You okay, Frank?” I asked.
He winced, then looked at me. “There’s a boat out there that shouldn’t be.”
“Where?” asked Sid’s voice in my ear.
We were still wired. Kathy and Jesse had also heard us. I could see them on the terrace of the main hall, scanning the small bay below. I didn’t know where Nick was, but I knew he’d heard, too.
“Which one?” I asked. There were several boats passing through, plus the ones that were part of the camp.
“That one.” Frank pointed. “Just a ways beyond the dock float. It’s anchored. The others are either tied up or moving.”
He was right.
“Frank, that doesn’t mean anything,” I said. “Lots of boats anchor here. It’s a nice cove.”
I glared at him. “And what are you going to do about it?”
Frank sighed. “Probably nothing. But I’m not going to let anybody hurt Esther. I swear I won’t.”
Sid’s curse rang in my ear. I looked around but couldn’t see him.
“Frank, don’t be stupid,” I said. “You don’t know what’s going on with that boat. Yeah, I know things are scary for you and Esther right now, but you don’t want to make a major mistake.”
Frank huffed, though he didn’t argue. I hurried to Sid’s and my room as I listened to Sid tell Kathy and Jesse to keep an eye on Frank and Nick to keep an eye on Esther, and that we were going to tune out for a few.
“We can wait,” I told him as I shut the door to the room.
Sid’s hot little grin popped out. “Yeah. But I have just spent past the couple hours thinking about the best sex I have ever had in my life. Do you still want to wait?”
I couldn’t help laughing. Yeah, we had to keep a lid on the noise, but Sid was in a mood, and come to think of it, so was I. Afterward, I ran to the outhouse to clean up a little, then came back to the room.
Nick was there. Apparently, the transmitters were still off so that they could have their debate in peace. My arrival did not help.
“Dad, nobody is going to notice a kid.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Our son,” Sid said with great resignation. “He wants to go snorkeling out by that boat that Frank spotted and see if he can find anything out.”
I shut my eyes and groaned. “There’s only one problem, Sid.”
“He might be able to find something out and the risk level is relatively low. He’s right. There are kids all over the place here. Why would anybody on that boat notice one who accidentally got too close to them?”
Sid shook his head. “He’ll be in the water. He won’t be able to wear a transmitter.”
“Dad, you were going to let me go swimming without a transmitter, anyway.”
Sid looked at me. I made a face and shrugged. The last thing Sid wanted to do was put our son or any other kid at risk. Neither did I. But with Nick, we knew we didn’t always have that option.
“Alright. But you wait to go in until your mom and I are on the beach. Okay?”
“Okay.” Nick ran off.
Sid looked after him with a sour look on his face, then switched on his transmitter and called Kathy and Jesse to the room.
“Your turn for lead,” I told him, and he nodded.
To Breanna, 1/3/01
Topic of the Day: My first kiss
Okay, this is a fun one. It was kinda scary, too, as it turned out. It was the first time Mom and Dad let me run an operation on my own. I was thirteen, and it was the summer right before I went into eighth grade. Someone was trying to attack some friends of ours, and the three of us had to protect those friends without letting them know we were.
So, we went to that church camp I went to a couple times. I was the only eighth grader there, but it was lots of fun being with all the high school kids. Most of them didn’t even realize I wasn’t going into high school yet, and a couple thought I had to be a sophomore because I knew so much stuff.
Anyway, this boat had anchored in the small bay in front of the camp, and the way things had been going, we figured it needed checking out. So, since I’d been snorkeling all over that bay that week, I talked Mom and Dad into letting me snorkel out near the boat and see if I could find anything out.
There was this really cute girl, Ming Channing, who had been hanging out with me that week. She was a freshman, real small, with long black hair. She’d been adopted, too, only as an infant from China, and her parents were Anglo. So, I go down to the beach, get my mask, snorkel, and fins on, and start swimming out in the general direction of the camp’s little dock, and beyond that, to the boat. I didn’t know that Ming was behind me with her snorkel, mask, and fins. Hell, my parents were on the beach watching, and they didn’t spot Ming until it was too late. Wait. Mom was on one of the hillsides, watching from there.
So, I started floating around the boat, with my ears just above the water, and I hear a woman’s voice coming from a radio. I couldn’t tell what she was saying, but a man on the boat said that they were going onshore that night after the camp was asleep. Another man said something else, but I couldn’t hear what it was.
“Hey, Nick,” Ming called as she swam up.
“What are you kids doing here?” A man appeared on the deck, and he was really angry. I’d also seen him the day before, tailing our friend.
“We’re just snorkeling,” I said. Ming was treading water and looked terrified because the guy was damned scary.
“Get out of here!”
I heard that ominous click of a shell being chambered.
I got a hold of Ming’s arm. “Okay.”
I pulled her from the boat and started her swimming for shore. Once we got past the dock, Ming started crying.
“We weren’t doing anything. Why was he so mean?”
“I don’t know. Uh-oh. My dad’s calling me in. Come on.”
Dad wanted to know if I’d found anything out and if Ming was okay. So, I told him what had happened. He told me he was proud of me, then handed me the sunscreen and told me to get some more on. I told Ming it was about the sunscreen when she asked if I was in trouble. I helped rub some on her back. She rubbed some on mine. I was surprised how fun that was. Then we went back toward the cabins, and behind the one where my parents were staying, Ming kissed me.
It was nice. The problem was that was all she wanted to do after that, and she got mad when I told her I wanted to do other stuff, too, which I did. The other problem was that I couldn’t tell her that I had to keep my transmitter on when I wasn’t in the water, and I did not want my parents to hear us.
From my hillside perch, I saw and heard Sid send Nick on his way. Then Sid called Jesse and me in. Kathy came up from the volleyball court where she and Esther had been watching Frank play. The four of us got some chairs from our rooms and sat on the terrace, where we could watch the waterfront. Nick and Ming had disappeared, which had me mildly concerned.
Kathy looked pained. “They’re coming in tonight, huh?”
“We’ve got at least two of them,” Sid said, gazing out toward the volleyball court. “Here’s the plan for later.”
The plan was pretty simple. Shortly after lights out was called, Jesse and I got into our black clothes, put on the night goggles and took up our positions on the two slopes on either side of the bay. Jesse was turning into a pretty decent sniper. We’d told Nick he could turn off his transmitter and didn’t hear any chatter from his cabin mates, so we figured he had.
Sid and Kathy had night goggles around their necks and night vision binoculars. They sat outside the cabin, waiting. Jesse and I each had a high-powered rifle with a silencer. The silencers wouldn’t actually silence the shots, but they would make them quieter and, I could hope, less likely to wake someone in the camp.
The crew from the boat waited until after one a.m. to push off the boat in a small rubber dinghy. As I looked through the night vision site on my rifle, I saw something.
“Hold fire, Red Dawn,” I whispered into my transmitter. “Big Red, suspects are using night goggles and what looks like AK-forty-sevens.”
“I have eyes on them,” said Sid’s voice very softly. “You may be right about those guns. Let them get to shore before firing. Maybe they’ll drop something before you scare them off.”
If we scared them off. I was praying we would. I was not looking forward to having to make someone a corpse, let alone moving said corpse from the camp. Assuming we could do all that and not wake anyone.
The two men slid onto the beach quietly. I wasn’t sure what they thought they were going to do, although if they had night vision binoculars and goggles, they could have seen Frank and Esther go into their cabin room earlier. One pulled the automatic rifle off his shoulder and got it into his hands. I shot two rounds at his feet. Jesse let off another round and the man’s partner crumpled. I heard Jesse cursing.
Fortunately, the first man dropped his gun and ran to get his partner. The second man didn’t quite get up, but was still moving. The first man got him on his feet and the two headed toward the dinghy. I let off another round. The dinghy headed for the boat.
“What’s going on?” someone called from the boys’ side of the camp.
“I heard gunshots.”
Jesse and I froze in position.
“Those weren’t gunshots. Probably someone shooting firecrackers off their boat.”
“Boys,” Dan called grumpily. “Go back to sleep!”
The boat suddenly started up and roared away toward Avalon.
“What are you two doing out here?” Dan’s voice hissed in my ear.
“Just getting some air,” said Sid.
“Did you hear anything just now?”
“Firecrackers, I think,” said Kathy. “Must have come from that boat that’s getting out of here. I thought I saw something flashing out that way just now.”
I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw Dan go back to the other cabin.
“Clear,” Sid’s voice muttered.
I hurried down to the beach, got the gun I’d seen dropped and swept the sand clear of tracks. Sid was not happy when we examined the gun the next morning. It wasn’t specifically an AK-47. It was another version of the Russian automatic rifle and one frequently used by the KGB.
The good news, the boat was gone and none of us saw anything that might be a threat to Esther and Frank the next day. Nick seemed to be dodging Ming a lot, too.
“I wonder what’s going on with that?” I grumbled just after lunch.
“What?” Sid asked.
“Nick and Ming. One minute they’re together, the next he’s taking off.” I frowned. “She’d better not be playing games with him.”
Sid laughed. “Lisa, my dearest, you are your father’s daughter.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know how protective your daddy is of you. And now, you’re trying to protect Nick.”
I just snorted. Sid went to join the other leaders who were playing in the staff versus leaders volleyball game. Our team of leaders killed the staff, never mind that they had a couple college-level players. We had a couple athletes on our side, plus Sid, whose serve scared even the college players. And I got my shoulders sunburned while watching the game. Sid just sighed.