The Murder Game – Chapter 6 and Denouement

Murder Game

Under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1971, this is a fully copyrighted and protected work by law.  Copyright is owned by and all rights are reserved to Nathanael Miller.  No part may be reproduced in whole or part without my written permission.  Facebook and Twitter links to this story may be shared; but the work itself and all characters are my intellectual property and may not be shared or reproduced except with written permission.  All characters and events are fictitious.

The Murder Game

(A Short Navy Murder Mystery)

by Nathanael Miller

-Chapter 6-

“What the hell are you people doing?!” Shepherd bellowed, a demonic form straight from hell blown in by the storm itself.

“That witch was trying to screw with the body!” Steinbeck belted out from his place underneath Robinson. “And she was trying to kill Kelly! Geez, Robinson, would you get off of me?!”

The rain outside pelted down as another peal of thunder announced the arrival of three more shadowy figures behind Shepherd.

“Chief!” Robinson said, trying to stand up and sort of “by accident” trodding on Steinbeck’s wrist. “I honestly…it was all a confusion…but I did what you said and…well…it all went wrong, and…what are you doing coming in the back door?”

Shepherd glanced at the silhouettes behind him. “I wanted to show them the body straight away. Why are you people fighting in the dark?”

“I told you, Chief!” Steinbeck said, dragging himself to his feet, “That witch was trying to kill Kelly! Besides, the power’s out!”

“Really?” Shepherd said, “Did it occur to any of you to actually try a light switch? Or did you not notice the sound of the ventilation running?”

Sweeping his eyes over the floor (Killer, Smith and Sniff were untangling themselves and getting to their feet), he gingerly stepped around everyone (alive and dead) and made his way to the light switch by the door to the hallway.

The florescent lights overhead popped, sputtered, and burst into life, blinding everyone for a moment.

Shielding her eyes, Robinson realized she could hear the air conditioner running. The air felt cooler and dryer, too.

“Oh, crap!” Shepherd shoved past Killer and Steinbeck to get to Carpet. The woman was lying on the deck, her head bleeding. She had coshed her head against one of the walk-in refrigerator’s door hinges and was unconscious.

“Persia!” Robinson jumped and darted to her, reaching her before Shepherd could. She did a very fast examination.

“She’s breathing, and her pulse is strong” Robinson said, “But she’s got a good gash on the back side of her skull. I don’t think it penetrated the skull.”

Robinson looked up, “John, Miles—go get our jackets. We need to stabilize her neck! She might have a spinal injury. Kelly, go over to the pantry and get paper towels so we can stem the bleeding. MOVE!”

Robinson looked up. Behind Shepherd, and just as wet, were NCIS Special Agents Abraham Gray and Shey Cremer…and a third man she didn’t recognize. She guessed he must be the Bay Vista manager from the rack of keys in his hand—evidently he’d been the one to open the back door.

“Mr. Gray, Mr. Cremer—as far as I know cell service is still out,” Robinson said rather forcefully. “Get on your radios—we need an ambulance here. Now!”

Cremer, a short, muscular man who looked like a young Danny Devito pulled out his radio and called in the request. Sniff came back with small dish towels supplied by the Bay Vista manager. The small, Asian man still looked completely bewildered.

Gray, slightly older than Shepherd and blessed (cursed?) with a shock of white hair looked (as usual) like a politician in a dark blue suit under his rain coat.

Killer and Smith came back as as Robinson directed Sniff in the placement of the towels to staunch the bleeding. Robinson then packed the coats around Carpet’s head to immobilize her spine and sat down, holding Carpet’s head.

It was quite evident she would not move under the EMTs arrived.

“What…happened?” Shepherd asked again.

“That little witch–!”

“Harper, shut up!” Shepherd ordered. “I’ve had it with you and if you don’t stop talking, I’ll see to it I remove you from the rest of your life!”

“Isaac,” Gray said, putting a hand on Shepherd’s shoulder as Cremer began taking photos of Collander’s body.

“Ugh…” The Bay Vista manager had just caught sight of the dead body and copius amounts of blood in the kitchen. He urped again, grabbed his mouth, and ran out of the room.

“Dionne,” Shepherd said, “What was all that about?”

“Short version?” She did not take her eyes off Carpet; she was watching her skin color. “I did as you directed. I am ashamed to report I drifted off for a moment–”

“Understandable considering the strain you’ve been under,” Shepherd said. Gray was examining the body with Cremer. A distant sound of wretching came from (what they hoped) was the men’s room down the hall.

“When I woke back up, three people were missing. I woke up Killer and Smith–”

“And we heard a scream from the kitchen!” Killer jumped in.

“Quiet!” Shepherd growled, his sea-green eyes dark. “Dionne, continue.”

“As Miles said, we heard a scream in the kitchen. The three of us ran in and found three people—evidently Harper, Persia, and Kelly—in a fight. I tried to break it up but in the dark it all got…”

“Out of control?” Shepherd asked. “Right.”

“In the confusion none of us noticed the air conditioning was running, and the lights in the banquet hall did not come on, so we didn’t know the power was on,” Robinson finsihed.

“I’ll be a circuit breaker tripped,” Gray said from the body.

A siren wail became visible over the sound of the pouring rain. Shepherd stepped out into the storm (Robinson could see a light gray in the sky indicating dawn had broken) to direct them to the kitchen area.

It took all of ten minutes for the EMTs to examine Carpet’s vital signs and slap on a neck brace and temporary bandage. Another ten was spent gently getting her onto a gurney and rolled out to the ambulance.

As the ambulance departed, it’s siren being washed out by the rain, Shepherd closed the door and looked at Gray. Cremer was bagging the effects he was removing from Collander’s pockets.

Gray nodded at Shepherd.

“Alright,” Shepherd said, “Everyone who is not an NCIS agent—banquet hall, now!”

The group trooped to the hall and most sat down, almost automatically forming a circle. Smith threw back the curtains to the picture windows and the gray, deadened light of the stormy morning cast a pall over the scene, then joined the group. They were subdued from embarrassment and worry for Carpet. Shepherd passed through and went to the men’s room. Shortly he and the building manager (looking distinctly green in the gray light) passed back through and vanished.

Five minutes later the lights blazed on.

Shepherd returned with Abraham Gray.

“A breaker had popped,” Shepherd said. “Now, it’s time to solve this mess.”

He and Gray shared a glance, and then he surveyed the group. “Well, I supposed you’re all wondering why I called you here today?”

Even Robinson, who had been first exposed to Shepherd’s off-kilter long ago as a student of his at the Defense Information School, couldn’t believe he was opening with that line.

“Who’s that?” Steinbeck demanded, looking at the politician-like Gray.

“Special Agent Abraham Gray, NCIS,” gray introduced himself. He laid his long raincoat over a nearby chair.

“So you think you know who killed that dude?” Steinbeck asked.

“Oh, we don’t ‘think’ we know,” Gray said. “We know.”

“Then who?” Steinbeck asked.

Shepherd looked over at Robinson. He could tell the long night was finally taking its toll and eroding her reserves. She sat quietly, impassively, and Shepherd desperately hoped she wasn’t about to pass out.

“We’ll make this quick,” Shepherd said. “I would like to get back to the business of retiring. Ok, we came here for a ‘murder game’ even that was supposed to be fun and a bit lighthearted while also teaching teamwork. We had to call it early because of the storm so the only logical people who could have killed Jacob Collander are in this room.”

“No, that witch Carpet killed him!” Steinbeck blurted out, shooting to his feet. “I saw her trying to kill Kelly in the kitchen!”

Shepherd took a step forward, clasped his hands behind his back, and said very quietly, “Yeoman 1st Class Steinbeck, you will sit down and, for once in your life, shut up.”

“That’s ‘Chief Select’ Steinbeck!” Steinbeck demanded.

“No, it’s not,” Shepherd said. “The term ‘Chief Select’ is a courtesy afforded you during the transition process until you are frocked to Chief. There is no legal right to that title. Hell, even when you’re frocked, you’re not actually advanced, and you as a yeoman ought to know that. You’re only allowed to wear the uniform and use the title until your official promotion date. So…for now, Petty Officer Steinbeck, you will sit down, shut up, and stop proving you’re no where near ready to wear anchors.”

“I want to know–!” Steinbeck started, but was cut off as Abraham Gray stepped up behind Shepherd, putting his hands on his hips and (sort of accidentally) revealing his holstered sidearm.

“Sir, you need to desist and sit down!” Gray ordered quietly but very forcefully.

Steinbeck subsided, swallowing with an audible gulp.

Robinson’s rapid fading brain had enough energy to find humor in that and she actually smiled a little.

“As I was saying, we were supposed to play a game, but instead about 8:00 Dionne found her new boyfriend murdered in the kitchen. Shortly after that the cell tower next to the building went down, and we lost all communication with the outside world. That tower was built for the express reason that cell service out here the naval station waterfront sucks. So, with no signal, and no means to get into the office to use the land line since it was locked as Kelly let us know last night, we were on our own in the classic ‘locked room’ mystery. Something straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.”

Shepherd swept his eyes over the group.

“Dionne knows who the murderer is, and the restraint she has shown since she worked it out with me a few hours ago is remarkable. But…before we get to the ‘big reveal,’ let’s see if we can’t shame or scare our murderer out of their silence.”

“Uh, Chief?” Smith hesitantly raised his hand.

“John?”

“How you can be sure the killer is one of us?”

“Logic,” Shepherd said. “Logic and statistics. Point one: most murder victims are killed by people they know. Sad fact, but there it is. Point two: Jacob Collander was not selected for chief this year, therefore he had no reason to be here because this was a selectee-only event, therefore he was lured here by someone he knew…someone he trusted enough to brace seriously inclement weather. Had the event gone off tonight as it was supposed to, there would have about 30 people here tonight—much better cover for the murderer. Unfortunately for them Tropical Storm Kelly intervened, so they were stuck here with only a handful of us.”

“Chief, only Dionne know this guy,” Killer said, almost apologetically. “By your reasoning she’s the likely killer.”

“True…but for one thing,” Shepherd said. “Collander obviously knew someone else here. Dionne can’t be the murderer because, well, for one, it’s not in her character. For another—and more significantly legally, she was with me all day. We made a number of stops getting things ready for last night’s event, so there are dozens of witnesses around Naval Station Norfolk to prove she never had time to commit a murder.”

Killer sat back, impressed.

“The key was in your conversations,” Shepherd said. “Y’all didn’t realize it, but I was eavesdropping most of the time. And then I read the statements y’all gave to Dionne. The key is in the discrepancy between your statements and your conversation. I had Dionne go over those with me at length; that’s when she spotted the liar…and the murderer. But, still, the murderer was actually still scott free because none of that is enough to convict in a court of law. Had our murderer stopped there, they might have pulled it off.”

All eyes were on Shepherd. Outside Bay Vista’s picture windows the gray, rainy skies lit up Willoughby Bay and the James River with another lightning blast.

“Well, I correct myself,” Shepherd said, “They might have pulled it off for a while, but NCIS is very good at this stuff, and the murderer realized they had overlooked one very important item in our digital age—Collander’s phone. That phone would prove the killer—someone here tonight besides Dionne—had a connection to the victim.”

“That’s why he had me corral all us in here while he disappeared,” Robinson said startling everyone, even Shepherd. He was certain she was spent; she obviously had more in reserve than he thought. “And that’s why he had me order both Persia and you, Kelly, to pretend to fall asleep on watch. A double-pronged attack. He was going out in the storm to call NCIS and get a signal so he could check my phone.”

“You’re phone?!” Sniff said, abruptly.

“My phone, Kelly,” Robinson nodded. “Jacob and I were friends on social media; that meant Chief could look at his profile by using my account.”

“Then why the order to pretend to sleep?” Smith asked.

“In case, for some reason, my phone didn’t work,” Robinson said. “He and I hoped the killer would be spooked by my claim he knew where Jacob’s phone was hidden, get up and go get it. Unfortunately I did fail at my post and dozed off for just a second. When I woke up, you, Persia, and Harper were fighting in the kitchen.”

“I told you I saw Carpet trying to kill her!” Steinbeck couldn’t restrain himself. “Kelly must have seen her sneaking off to find that phone!”

Shepherd and Robinson shared a long look.

“You do it,” She said, her voice breaking for the first time.

Shepherd reached into his soaked coat and pulled out Robinson’s phone. “Jacob Collander knew two people here tonight. His friend list showed two names. Dionne, of course…and you, Kelly.”

Robinson was already staring at Sniff. Smith and Killer turned in disbelief. Steinbeck looked to Sniff, back to Shepherd, back to Sniff, back to Shepherd…almost like he was watching a tennis match.

“What?!” Steinbeck burst out. “But…but I saw—!”

“You didn’t see what you think you saw,” Shepherd said. “You saw Kelly attacking Persia, not the other way around. When she thought Persia, her fellow watch stander, was asleep, Kelly got up to go get the phone. Persia followed her, but Kelly either heard her and attacked, or else Persia confronted her and then Kelly attacked. Think, Harper, did you see the fight actually start, or did you just see Persia winning and made an assumption?”

“I…uh…” Steinbeck looked stricken.

“Assumptions will kill you every time,” Shepherd said. He turned his attention back to Sniff, “So which was it, Kelly? Did you hear Persia following you?”

“No,” Sniff said, “She confronted me.”

“So where was the phone?” Shepherd asked.

Sniff was wilting, deflating in defeat. “I threw it in a silverware drawer when I snuck off earlier.”

“When you said you were going to the bathroom?” Shepherd asked.

“Yes,” Her voice was quiet. “Why did you think it was me?”

“You were incredibly sloppy…and stupid,” Shepherd said. “You said during the conversations I listened in on last night that the Bay Vista office was locked, so we couldn’t use the land line after cell service was lost. But…when you gave Dionne your statement, you said you’d arrived just behind John and Miles and stayed with them the entire time. So…if you were in their company all the time, how could you know the office was locked?”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, ‘Oh,’” Shepherd repeated. “Only one possibility—you were here earlier and knew. The building was opened earlier, and it’s empty. Be easy for you to get in and get Collander in, kill him, and then drive around to the front and park just behind Miles and John.”

The pall of death itself had settled over the room, but Robinson broke it. Her energy seemed to have returned as she confronted the woman who had killed her boyfriend.

“When you snuck off to the ‘head’…well, we found you in the hall to the kitchen…and the heads are the other way, over by the front door,” Robinson said. “More—you said the ‘killer’ had tried to cut your throat but ran when he heard us coming, and you’d planted a knife on the floor near the kitchen. But…while your neck had a small cut and blood on it, that knife you planted was clean and free of blood. I’m willing to bet you used your own long fingernails to scratch your throat.”

“I see,” Sniff said, looking at her knees.

Gray stepped forward, “So, Petty Officer Sniff, am I to understand you are freely confessing to the murder of Jacob Collander in front of these witnesses?”

Sniff nodded, “Yes. This is going to kill my boys.”

“Should have thought of that before you killed Collander,” Shepherd said.

“In the name of God, why?!” Robinson demanded, standing up suddenly. “Why, Kelly?!”

Sniff shrank as she looked up at Robinson.

“I was seeing him before you. He didn’t know I was married. He found out when I accidentally left my phone unlocked and he saw my husband and boys. He broke it off. After that he started going out with you.”

“And last night?!”

“I wanted him back. I called him to meet me here. I said I’d tell you he’d been having an affair with me because I know you…you’d never go out with a guy who cheats. I got him to meet me in the kitchen, but he said he’d risk it because he thought you’d believe him when he told you he’d broken up with me after he found out I was married.”

“But why kill him?” Robinson asked.

“He…he was angry I had threatened your relationship. He said he was going to tell my husband; he said he had all the texts and photos to proven it. When he turned to leave I got mad and I panicked…”

Sniff trailed off.

“So you grabbed a knife, cut his throat, and started trying to make it up as you went,” Shepherd said. “It was obvious the crime happened in the heat of passion and was not premeditated. Abe, I guess we turn it over to you.”

“This is going to kill my boys and destroy my husband,” Sniff said, standing up and holding out her hands to Gray.

“Should have thought of that before you slept around on that perfect family you used to have,” Shepherd said. “You killed a man, devastated your friend and sister selectee, and you have forced your twins to grow up knowing their mother is a murderer. Good job.”

Gray already had base security called, and the masters-at-arms walked in just as Shepherd finished twisting his verbal knife in Sniff’s gut. The officers quickly cuffed and escorted Sniff out.

“I’m apologize,” Gray said, “Most especially to you, Dionne, but I need you all to stay here so Cremer and I can take your official statements. I’m afraid what you gave Dionne last night is not admissible in court…but it was a very effective tool for getting to the bottom of this. Isaac told me that was your idea, Dionne?”

She nodded.

“You’re good,” Gray said. “Maybe you’ll be NICS’ next headache—and ally—after Isaac retires. Alright, I’m going to set up over there. Isaac, you’ll go first. The rest of you, get some sleep while you wait. You need it.”

Gray and Shepherd walked over to the table Gray had indicated.

“No NCIS, no power, no phones, no digital-age forensics…and you still worked it out,” Gray said. “Not bad, Isaac. Not bad at all. You did good.”

“Thanks,” Shepherd looked sadly over at Dionne. Tears had finally started to flow and Killer and Smith both flanked her, arms around her shoulders (Steinbeck had gone off by himself to stare out the picture windows). “We did good work, yes. But not good enough for her.”

Denouement

Stand Navy out to sea,
Fight our battle cry;
We’ll never change our course,
So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.
Roll out the TNT,
Anchors Aweigh.
Sail on to victory
And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

Assembled on the stage in the auditorium of building C-9 near Gate 2 on board Naval Station Norfolk, the newly pinned Chief Petty Officers sang Anchors Aweigh with gusto, pride, and a just a hint of sadness at the fact their ranks were reduced by one murderer currently in prison.

Anchors Aweigh, my boys,
Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to foreign shores,
We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night ashore,
Drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

Down in the crowd, the assembled Chief Petty Officers of the base and its tenant commands, such as NEPAC East, stood at attention, singing with their newest brothers and sisters in the Chiefs Mess. Around them junior enlisted Sailors and officers, civilians, family members, and other guests watched as the time-honored traditions of the formal Chiefs pinning ceremony concluded with the Navy’s song.

Blue of the mighty deep:
Gold of God’s great sun.
Let these our colors be
Till all of time be done, done, done, done.
On seven seas we learn
Navy’s stern call:
Faith, courage, service true,
With honor, over honor, over all!

NAVY CHIEF, NAVY PRIDE!!”

That last was belted out with undeniable pride as the assembled crowd in C-9 broke into applause for the new Chiefs. On stage, an odd grouping four brothers and sisters stood holding hands: Killer, Smith, Robinson, and Carpet (her head still sporting a bandage). Steinbeck had not joined the group, and, of course, Sniff was in jail.

Those four had defied tradition and protocol once they were on stage after having their anchors pinned to their khaki collars and their combination covers put on their heads. They had graviated together once they walked up on stage, forcing the rest of their class to shuffle around a bit to keep the ranks even. However, the class had accommodated them as if they had secretly planned this in advance (which, in fact, they had with only Steinbeck refusing to participate).

The four pulled themselves into a group hug, Robinson letting her tears of joy and grief mingle freely with theirs this Sept. 16. That awful night in August had been three weeks ago, but for these four, and especially Robinson, the damage inflicted by Kelly Sniff was still raw and oozing emotional blood.

Down in the audience Admiral David E. Jones, Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, left his seat and headed out, stopping briefly to greet Shepherd and Abraham Gray. His stop surprised a number of people from around the naval station who didn’t know that Chief Shepherd had a long history with the legendary Adm. Jones.

After he left, Shepherd turned to Gray, “Did you mean what you said back at Bay Vista?”

“What did I say?” Gray asked.

“About Dionne taking over for me as the Navy’s ‘Accidental Detective’ and your next ally?”

“I believe I said ‘headache and ally,’” Gray laughed as the new chiefs filed out to form a receiving line. “And, well, if she’s as unlucky as you to keep running into murders…well, she’s smart as a whip, has the capacity to put aside her emotions and look at facts…why not? I have to admit it’d be fun to see Shey Cremer have a heart attack at the idea; he’s throwing a party you’re retiring and getting out of our hair.”

“Abe, you know my life…you know the rules of ‘normal life’ never seem to apply to me,” Shepherd said as he and Gray followed the crowd out of C-9 to the sidewalk so they could go through the receiving line and congratulate the new chiefs, “I doubt leaving the Navy will end my adventures. Hell, it all started back in Niceville High School. Next time Tom Coleman visits, remind him and I to tell you about the ‘Ghost of Niceville High.’”

The September sunlight dazzled them as they exited the building and got in line.

“Oh, after this I need you to come to the office,” Gray said. “I’ve been going through the footage from Sulfide Services your people got last week. In fact, I’m grateful to Dionne for helping make that reconnaissance mission happen, especially considering she was in the lead-up to the final night events last night before today’s pinning ceremony.”

“She’s invested herself in stopping Gordon Grey,” Shepherd said, referring to a serial killer they were tracking. “What do you want me to look at?”

“I think I’ve spotted Grey,” Gray said. “But I want you to confirm. You and I are two of the last people around here to have seen him up close, so I want your eyes on those frames. If I’m right and it’s him, then we have another noose to start tightening on him because, if it is him, then I think I’ve spotted someone helping him.”

“Be glad to,” Shepherd said, and then the conversation ceased as the line moved forward, and they started shaking hands and congratulating the new chiefs.

Finally they reached The Four.

“Isaac!” Robinson said, laughing. “I finally get to call you that!”

“Chief Petty Officer Robinson!” Shepherd laughed, hugging her. “I finally get to call you that!”

“Abe,” Robinson said, finally abandoning her obsessive “Mr. Gray” at his insistance.

“Dionne, John, Miles, Persia,” Gray said, shaking each of their hands, “You all did good. You all are going to be great chiefs!”

“I wish you were staying around longer, Isaac,” Carpet said, now allowed to use his first name.

Shepherd shook his head, “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. My retirement became unstoppable after I dropped my paperwork in February. My spot was factored into your class’ selection quotas. Meaning,” Shepherd turned to Robinson, “In one sense I gave up my career to give you a better shot at chief. Don’t waste it!”

“You know I’m really glad for?” Killer asked.

“What?” Shepherd asked.

“The combination cover! It’s nice to have a cover with a brim!”

Shepherd and the rest laughed. He had said the same thing two years before when he made chief. The traditional “Dixie Cup” white hat was pretty cool…but it had no brim to protect one’s eyes from the sun. The combination cover chiefs and officers wore provided that protection.

“Alright, we have to move,” Shepherd said. “We’re holding up the line.”

“You going to be at the khaki ball next week?” Carpet asked. The Khaki Ball was a ball thrown by the chiefs to celebrate their newest members. Everyone wore their khaki uniform to it.

“Honestly, I doubt it,” Shepherd said. “Got a few things to take care of; my retirement ceremony is on the 22nd—and that’s pretty close. We got to move on. I’ll see you all later!”

Shepherd and Gray finished the receiving line. Steinbeck had pointedly ignored Shepherd’s proffered hand and just said, “Thanks.”

“He’s going to go far, that one,” Gray said, looking at Steinbeck as the two finished the line and threaded their way through the crowd towards the parking lot behind C-9.

“Meh,” Shepherd said disgustedly, “The way things run, he’ll be the one to make Master Chief!”

“Alright, see you at the office,” Gray said, heading to his burgundy sedan. “If this is Grey I’ve spotted, then we can finally lay a trap for him.”

Shepherd nodded. “Ok. I’m going to stop at ‘Subway’ and grab a sandwich, then meet you there.”

Newly pined Chief Mass Communication Specialist Dionne Robinson watched Shepherd and Gray head off. It had been a very bittersweet ceremony for her. Shepherd and Gray had pinned her anchors on her collar, and Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jeong-ja Li (also of NEPAC East and Robinson’s sponsor during the initiation season) had placed her combination cover on her head.

Jacob Collander was the missing factor. She had found herself more serious about Collander than any man she’d dated for a very long time, serious enough that she originally asked him to pin her anchors on her collar along with Shepherd. His absence was a festering sore in her soul, and it was all she could do not to go to the brig and try to crush Kelly Sniff’s skull against the wall.

But…

What was done was done, and Collander was gone. She had to go on and be the chief now. During the season; indeed during all the years chiefs like Shepherd and Li had mentored her, they always said once the anchors went on there was no grace period; you were the chief and you were the one the enlisted Sailors and officers looked to for guidance, stability, discipline, wisdom, and even maturity.

She would grieve and let go of Jacob Collander, but for now she would celebrate making chief, and Monday she would go to work at NEPAC East…but nothing was the same anymore. She had moved up in the Navy world and jumped the Great Hurdle that many Sailors were unable to jump.

After all, now she was The Chief.

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