You Never KnowbyMoogPlayer©
This is a fictional story as are the characters and events, as well as some of the places mentioned. It's a long one, but I still hope ya like it...lol...oh, and don't forget to vote!
It's kind of wild how things work sometimes, isn't it? You never know when fate will step in and knock you on your ass. This is a story of how I got knocked on mine. My name is Doug Peters; I'm 45 years old, stand 6'2", and weigh 225 pounds. I have dark brown, almost black hair and dark brown eyes. My mother was full blooded Chiricahua Apache Indian, and my father came from old English lineage. Therefore I was given an olive complexion that basically kept me fairly tan all year around. After 20 years in the Navy, I'd decided to move back to Key West, Florida, where I was born, and open up a Dive and Salvage Operations business. I'd been single my entire life, and after many flings, one night stands and such, and at my age; I didn't see any prospect of a serious relationship on the horizon. That all changed one day when.......
I'd been in business for myself for almost six years, and I own a 125 foot research and salvage vessel, which I named Andromeda. Being a research ship, it has a submersible, which I designed and built, capable of diving safely to a depth of 30,000 feet, locked down and resting below the stern, back near the crane. It had been a busy season so far. We had already reached our projected sales goals in the dive shop; and the season wasn't even half over. I was out on the docks cleaning Andromeda one Saturday afternoon after closing up for the day, and I'd just finished polishing all the brass aboard ship when I heard Sherry, one of my instructors who also ran the office, yell, "Doug! You've got a phone call. It's from Washington D.C., the Office of Congressional Funding!" The adrenaline immediately began to permeate my entire system. You see, eighteen months prior, I had applied for a Federal Grant. I won't go into detail, but to make a long story short, in 1994; Jacques Cousteau proved that there were subterranean aqueducts, which are basically rivers that run beneath the ground that connected the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. He passed away in 1997 and never got the chance to study them any further, and now I wanted to take up where he left off.
I dropped what I was doing and ran down the dock to my office. "Hello?" I said when I was handed the phone.
"Hello Mr. Peters, my name is Jennifer Pierce, and I'm calling you from the Office of Congressional funding," replied a distinctly pleasant female voice on the other end.
"Since when are the U.S. Government offices open on Saturday?" I good-naturedly asked.
"I was told you were a smart ass," she giggled, "But I assure you, Mister Peters, that I am for real."
"In that case," I chuckled, "How can I help you, ma'am?"
"On, no," she laughed, "I think you've got it a little backwards, Mr. Peters."
"I don't understand."
"Congratulations Mr. Peters," she happily replied, "Your grant has been approved."
I was so excited that I yelled, "OH YEAH!" into the receiver.
"You need to be here on Monday, the day after tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.," she giggled, "Can you do that?"
"I'll be there, Ma'am," I replied crisply.
"Okay then," she said, "We'll see you soon. Bye," and then hung up.
As I hung up the phone, I looked at Sherry, and with a stupid grin plastered across my face, said, "It looks like all our troubles are finally over."
"What's up?" she asked, grinning, "And why are you so excited, Boss?"
"I've got to go to Washington D.C. in a couple of days, and I probably won't be back for at least a week," I told her, "I'm gonna need you to run the office and answer the phone. Oh, and be sure to tell the rest of the guys I gave them next week off, because we got our grant, okay?"
"You got it Doug," she excitedly replied, and after giving Sherry a hug, which always made her grin; I gave her a few parting instructions and then went home to prepare for my trip.
I'd taken an early shuttle flight out of Key West to Miami the afternoon before I was to meet Ms. Pierce. And after a long and boring flight from Miami International to Dulles, I took a taxi to my hotel and got a good night's sleep.
The alarm clock woke me at 5:00 a.m. sharp that next morning, and after waking fully and getting dressed; I took a long jog down Pennsylvania Avenue, and then back around the block to my hotel. It was 6:30 a.m. when I returned so; I took a nice hot shower, shaved, and then got dressed. The only dress clothes that I possessed were my old dress uniforms, and before I left Florida; I bought a new suit specifically for this particular occasion. It was an Armani and it fit me well. It was dark blue and I wore a white shirt and red tie beneath it. I'd also bought a new pair of black Stacy Adams dress shoes to go with it. As I stood in front of the full length mirror there in my hotel room, I admired the way I looked and I felt, if only briefly, as if I were getting ready to meet the president himself.
I looked at my watch and saw that it was almost 7:30 a.m. so; I went down stairs and ate breakfast. At first I was concerned at what the food in the hotel restaurant was going to taste like, as I'd always had bad experiences in the past. However, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy one of the best breakfast meals I'd had in quite some time.
By the time I was finished eating, it was nearing 8:30 a.m. so, I quickly paid my bill and left. I jumped into a taxi that was waiting at the cab stand outside the hotel, told the driver where I was headed, and off we went. It had been a long time since I'd been to Washington D.C. and I smiled, remembering the past as we drove by the Capitol Building.
I made it a point to arrive early at the Office of Congressional Funding in order to be able to find my way to Ms. Pierce's office easily and not be late.
After obtaining the proper directions and making my way to the elevator, a woman went to brush past me but ended up bumping into me instead. As we collided, a stack of papers that she was carrying went sailing in all directions and onto the floor. "I'm sorry," I said, as I bent to help her pick up the mess.
"Oh no, it was my fault," replied the most beautiful voice I'd ever heard. I looked up from the floor, and what I saw almost took my breath away. She had long blonde hair that went past her shoulders, almost to her waist, softly touching the floor as she bent to pick up her spilled papers. Her eyes were a sky blue that, at first glance, nearly had me hypnotized.
In order to keep myself from looking like an ass, I smiled and said, "Won't you at least let me help you pick these papers up, okay?"
She gave me an odd but pleasant smile and replied, "Thank you, I really appreciate it".
I helped her retrieve all her paperwork, and as I turned to get my briefcase that I had dropped, I turned back around and she was gone. I looked in every direction but didn't see her. I thought it was a bit discourteous of her, but I had more important business at hand.
It took me a few minutes to find Ms. Pierce's office, and with plenty of time to spare; I opened the door and went in. I saw a lady whom I'd say was in her mid to late fifties, sitting behind a desk that was situated just to the right of another door.
She looked up from her work and politely asked, "Can I help you?"
"Yes, ma'am," I replied, "I've got a nine a.m. appointment with Ms. Jennifer Pierce."
Looking down at her book, she smiled and then looked back up at me and said, "Yes, you're Mister Peters, aren't you?"
"Yes, ma'am, and it's just plain old Doug," I replied, still grinning.
She smiled pleasantly and said, "Well then, just plain old Doug, Ms. Pierce is running a few minutes behind so, can I offer you something to drink, maybe some coffee, perhaps?"
"No, thank you," I smiled, "I'll just have a seat and wait."
"That's fine then," she replied courteously. I sat down in the chairs there and opened my briefcase to make sure that I had all of my paperwork in order. A few moments later, the phone rang on the woman's desk. She picked it up and held it to her ear. Then, smiling at me, she said, "Yes, he's sitting right here.....I sure will." After hanging the phone up, she looked back at me smiling, and said, "Ms. Pierce will see you now."
I got up and walked toward the door that the woman had been sitting next to. She opened it and led me in. To my astonishment; sitting behind the desk in the inner office was the woman that had bumped into me downstairs. She looked up at me, tilting her head and smiling, as I said, "It's you!"
She smiled, nodded her head, and then rose from behind her desk, offering to shake hands, and said, "Hi, I'm Jennifer Pierce and you are Mister Douglas Peters."
"Yes," I replied, shaking her hand, "But please...call me Doug,"
As the handshake ended, she blushed and said, "I never thanked you for helping me pick up all the papers off of the floor downstairs when I bumped into you earlier."
"Aw, don't mention it," I replied. As I took my seat, I also took in the sight of the rare beauty that was before me. She stood about 5'9" with her measurements proportionate to her height, making her appear somewhat statuesque. If I had to guess, I'd say she weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 pounds, or so. I was still hypnotized by her eyes though. Every time she would look at me, I felt as if she was staring directly into my soul.
"Hello?" she asked, bringing me out of the trance I'd fallen into just looking by at her.
"Huh? I'm sorry, I guess I've got a little jet lag," I lied.
"Oh, that's alright, I understand. It's a long flight coming from the Keys," she said, with a slightly knowing smile, "I was telling you that I'm sure you're very happy about the grant, but I've got some news to tell you that I'm not sure how you're going to react to." I suddenly had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that must've been evident on my face, because she looked at me strangely, then giggled and said, "It's not that bad ya know."
"What is it?" I asked, suspiciously.
Jennifer giggled again, and replied, "Well, because you're retired Navy, and a SEAL, Congress thinks that you'd be better suited for your research if an engineer took a look at your submersible, as you might have to go deeper than your design is rated for."
At the very idea of my designs coming under government scrutiny, I got slightly defensive and said, "Ms. Pierce, I assure you that there is nothing wrong with my designs. And what do you mean when you say that I might have to go deeper?"
Sensing my apprehension, she smiled at me and said, "First of all, it's Jennifer, and not Ms. Pierce. Secondly, I had an opportunity to read the presentation you made before Congress, and I happen to think you're a very brilliant man. Receiving a grant for the amount you've been awarded does have some stipulations though, and it's the only way Congress is gonna let you have it."
"What is it?" I asked, almost afraid of what she was going to tell me.
Leaning back in her chair, Jennifer smiled and replied, "They want you to be on call for two years to do consultative work for the Navy."
"Is that all?" I asked sarcastically, "I gave the Navy twenty years of my life, and if they think that now I'll come running whenever they snap their fingers; they can forget it. I can apply to other places for my grant ya know. I just thought that my own government would want to help me in my discoveries. Like I said before, I gave them twenty years of my life." By this time I was genuinely pissed off, and before Jennifer had a chance to reply; I stood up and curtly said, "I'm sorry for wasting your time Ma'am," then turned and abruptly left. I heard the secretary call my name right after I'd turned the corner to the elevator, but I refused to stop. After all the years I'd given this government, I was in no mood to hear any more lame-assed excuses, and although they'd been good to me, I especially was not taking Andromeda or Nautilus anywhere near the Navy, or the government. No disrespect, but this was my research project that they would try to take credit for. I'd seen it happen to a few other people that I know, and I wasn't about to let it happen to me.
I went back to my hotel room mad as hell, and as I was packing my bags to go back home, I heard a knock. I went to the door and opened it to find one of the porters with an official looking envelope in his hand that was addressed to me. I took the envelope, tipped the porter, then closed the door and walked over and sat down on the bed. "Damn! These people don't waste any time, do they?" I said aloud, to no one in particular. After taking a deep breath and sharply exhaling, I opened the envelope and withdrew the note. It had the United States Congressional letter head above a typed letter which read:
Dear Mr. Peters,
This is to inform you that you have not completed the rest of your grant approval process. If you do not respond within ten days; you will be in default and will face immediate dismissal and forfeiture of your grant all together. We hope to see you soon.
Thank You, Jennifer Pierce
I was about to tear it all up and throw it away when; another smaller note fell from the envelope. It was hand written on a light blue colored piece of paper and it read:
I'm very sorry for all the red tape, but it's just the nature of the beast here in Washington. As I said before, I read your original presentation and I think you're brilliant. I might know a way around all the crap. If you're interested, call me after 5:30 p.m. this evening at the enclosed number. I do hope you call, because I'd really like to see you again!
Through my own anger at the bureaucratic bull shit in here in Washington, I'd forgotten about Jennifer and how I'd felt when I was around her. I looked at the elegance of her hand writing and remembered her eyes, as well as how they'd affected me when I ;d looked into them for the first time. The peace I'd found there was something I'd not felt in many years, and somehow I suddenly felt like everything was going to be alright. I set the note down on the bed and looked at my watch. It was only 11:15 a.m., which meant that I still had a little over 6 hours to kill before I was supposed to call her. I wanted to visit an old friend of mine while I was here so, I decided that this would be the ideal time to do it. Not only had I not seen Admiral Nelson since he retired in 1995, but I'd always trusted him implicitly and maybe he could give me his opinion of my situation.
I took a long taxi ride across the Potomac River to Fairfax, Virginia, pulling up in front of Rear Admiral Michael Nelson's house an hour later. After paying the cabbie, I got out and walked to the front door. However, before I got the chance to even ring the bell, the front door quickly opened. "Well I'll be damned! You made it out alive," said Admiral Nelson, while he put his arms around my neck to give me a hug.
I hugged him back and said, "It's good to see you, too, sir."
After pulling me into his house and closing the door behind us, he heartily laughed, then replied, "You can cut the sir shit, Doug. We're not in the Navy anymore and you know my name is Mike to my friends, and you are definitely one of my best friends, m'boy. Now, come on in here and sit down and have a drink with your old skipper, son." When Mike Nelson grinned, it had always been infectious and today was no exception.
We sat and talked of old fiends, here and gone, for about an hour before Mike looked at me and said, "So, Doug, you never told me what you were doing here. I know you always hated coming to D.C. when you were in the Navy."
I told him what had been happening with me and my research. But when I told him about the grant, and almost all of what had transpired in the last few hours, except the note from Jennifer, he let loose with that hearty laugh that I had always loved hearing as a young Frog, and said, "Well boy, I'll tell you what, if it was me, I'd tell the Navy to kiss my ass and petition the Senate to over ride Congress. In cases that involve research grants, they have the power."
"How do I do that?"
He laughed devilishly and asked, "Do you know anyone who's close to that office?" That's when I told him about Jennifer, my meeting with her and I showed him the official letter as well as the 'unofficial' note I'd received earlier that day. He began to laugh again and said, "What does she look like?" I smiled, and before I could respond, he said "Oh, so, she's beautiful huh?"
"Why do you say that?" I smiled.
He sat up in his chair, then looked me right in the eye and said, "Look Doug, we've been through too much shit together, and I know and can tell that you like her. From the note that she sent you, it's apparent that she likes you, too. This can work to your advantage if you let it."
"I don't understand, Mike,"
"Well, from the looks of this note, she wants to see you on unofficial terms," he chuckled, "I would at least listen to what she had to say, and if you think she's on the level; I might just be able to help you both out. I still have a few friends in high places here and they all owe me favors" After saying this he stood up and asked, "Have you eaten lunch yet?"
"No Sir," I replied.
He walked over to an intercom on the far wall and pushed a button on it and, "Yes sir?" came squawking from the speaker there.
He smiled at me, and then into the speaker, said, "I'm sorry for the short notice, Andre, but I have a guest over so, for lunch, we'd like to have Chicken Divan with Chocolate Mousse for dessert."
"Very good, Admiral," was the reply.
We enjoyed our meal, saying nothing more of Congress, or Jennifer, and when it came time for me to leave, Mike put his hand on my shoulder as I walked to the front door and said, "Relax kid, everything's gonna be just fine, I promise."
"If you say so, sir," I uneasily replied.
That evening back at my hotel, I looked at my watch and it was nearing 6:00 p.m. So, I nervously picked up the phone and dialed the number Jennifer had left. After the first ring she answered "Hello?"
"Hi, this is..."
"Hi Doug, I'm very glad you called," Jennifer sweetly interrupted.
"Hello Jennifer," I replied nervously, "Why did you want to see me?"
She giggled and said, "You need to relax Doug."
"How can I relax when, not only my future, but the future of the people who work for me is at stake, not to mention my research?" I replied, beginning to become irritated all over again.
Her soothing voice disarmed me as she softly replied, "Why don't you meet me somewhere and we'll talk about it. Okay?"
"Okay," I relented, "You name the place and I'll be there,"
Softly giggling, she said, "There's a place called Two Quails Restaurant, and it's on Massachusetts Avenue. Every cab driver in D.C. knows where it is, and luckily for you; it's only about twenty minutes from your hotel. I'll meet you there in an hour. Okay?"
"Alright," I said.
The smile on her face was evident in her voice when she replied, "Good, I'll see you there, and dress casually. Bye!" Then she was gone.
After I'd showered and shaved, I put on a pair of Levis 501 jeans, a Polo shirt and a new pair of Rockports. I always enjoyed wearing casual attire as opposed to the suit I'd been wearing all day. Even at 45 years old, I was still in great shape because of all the training in the Navy, and I thought I looked good, even if I do say so myself. I looked at my watch and saw that I was running behind.