Chief Doyle was forty-seven, an old China hand, with as much grey as black in his short-cropped hair. He seemed to have flourished on Navy chow, though his five feet, ten inches wore it fairly well. Two decades at sea had baked his skin to a plump and juicy golden brown, and he spoke with as broad an Irish brogue as you’d hear this side of Vaudeville.
“ ’scuse me, Ensign darlin’, but I’ve a message from Lieutenant Ziegler.”
Swenson-Jensen did his best to look firm. “Chief, naval regulations require you to refer to me as Sir, Mr. Swenson-Jensen, or Ensign Swensen-Jensen.” It would have been a devastating rebuke, but the ensign’s voice hadn’t broken yet.
“You’re absolutely right, Sir, and I apologize, it won’t happen again.” Doyle’s voice thickened. “It’s just that—” He drew an oily rag out of his pocket and dabbed his eyes with it, which left dark gray stains around them, as if he were wearing mascara, and it was raining. “Ya see, Sir, ya remind me so of me sainted brother Timothy, who the Lord took away before his time.”
Seaman Botsky grinned. “Syphilis, wasn’t it, Chief?”
Doyle glared at Botsky. “I’ll thank ya not to speak ill of the dead, Oscar Botsky, what with all those commodes needin’ scrubbin’.”