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image from the book The Brittle Sea


A voyage form New York down the eastern coast of North America, through the Caribbean Sea and on past Central America to eventual dock at the northern part of South America was no mean feat in the days of sail, but the coming of steam power saw a surge in such voyages both for profit and for pleasure. True, it was faster transit time in the age of steam than in the age of sail, but even so it was still a journey that would take the Lady Jane a little over a week and the Lady Jane’s captain found no pleasure in this first stage of his three-month voyage.

Blackmore did his best to avoid the US trade delegation as best he could, but Gordon Bellagon had made it clear he was to suck up to these delegates as much as possible, a pathetic attempt to curry favour from New York and Washington’s elite. Blackmore did not enjoy the process of glad-handing anymore than he enjoyed meal-times surrounded by politicians and businessmen hell-bent on enjoying their jaunt away from their wives, sweethearts and families. As the days passed, the evening meal became a raucous affair and often ended in drunken food fights that Blackmore had to endure. It wasn’t until the penultimate night of the voyage to Venezuela that Blackmore decided enough was enough and brought the rowdy proceedings to an end with a well-placed shout of “Order!” After that the delegation seemed to realise who they were and where they were and their last night at sea was by far a more gentile affair and greatly appreciated by Blackmore and his officers who attended.

On leaving the ship, the delegation to a man thanked Blackmore both for his hospitality and for his courage to put a stop to their over-the-top behaviour. Blackmore was thankful for their thanks, but never the less realised that he had a ship to run, not a kindergarten and couldn’t wait for the day he would be with Maggie.

Blackmore watched from the gangplank aboard ship as the contrite delegation filed down, some more unsteadily than others, and were whisked away in a series of carriages.

“God help the American people if that’s the best they have to offer for politicians,” Blackmore muttered under his breath and made his way back up to the bridge, where he met his First-Officer. “I want as quick a turnaround as possible, David,” Blackmore said.

“Aye, sir. We will do our best.”

“I’m going to my cabin for a while, David. I need some time on my own after dealing with those people,” he added, nodding in the general direction of the quayside. As he started toward the exit to the bridge, the door opened and the telegraph operator, Mr. Archer, entered.

“Message from Mr. Bellagon, Captain.” The young man handed the paper to Blackmore and stepped respectfully to one side as the Captain read the brief note.

“David,” Blackmore said.

“Aye Captain?”

Blackmore handed the note to David James as he walked to Blackmore’s side. “Seems our old engineer is missing. The Arabia is late sailing due to his tardiness. Bellagon wants to know if I know where he is.”

David James read the brief message and then handed it back to his captain. “Why would you know where he is? Probably in some whore-house and drunk as a skunk. He’s done that to us on more than one occasion.”

Blackmore nodded and handed the message back to his telegraph operator. “Tell Mr. Bellagon I have no idea where his nephew is.”

The young man nodded and left the bridge.

“It seems I was one of the last few people to have spoken to Collins.”

“You were?”

Blackmore nodded. “We had words at the Arabia’s birth.” Blackmore did not offer any further information or explanation and left the bridge, leaving behind a puzzled David James.


Finders Keepers

“And you say you found this on the quayside?” Captain Hanson of the Arabia held a fob-watch in the palm of his hand and waited for an answer from the crewman.

“I did, sir. That I did. Down by the gangplank. So, I picked it up to give it to the officer of the watch, but I forget.”

Hanson smiled at the man. “Mulroney are you telling me that in the time it took you to walk from the bottom of the gangplank to the top, to where the officer of the watch, Mr. Cotton, was standing, you forgot about the watch.”

The bridge was deserted apart from the captain, Jack Cotton his second officer and crewman Mulroney.

“I did sir, completely went out of my mind.”

“Until we found it during a routine search for a stolen item, an item the owner said you stole, which we also found in your kit-bag with the fob-watch.” Jack Cotton was young for an officer, but he wasn’t stupid. “You’re a regular Jackdaw aren’t you, Mulroney?”

“A fob-watch owned by another captain, Richard Blackmore, according to the inscription on the back,” Hanson said, turning the watch over. “You could easily have handed this in once you had examined it… no, don’t tell me another lie, Mulroney. You knew who this belonged to and you never said a word.”

Mulroney stared ahead, saying nothing.

The door to the bridge opened and Hanson’s first officer, Fred Blake, entered. “Sorry to disturb captain but I think you need to come and see this.”

Hanson sighed, annoyed at the disturbance when he had specifically given orders he was not to be disturbed. “We’ll carry on with this later, Mulroney,” Hanson said as he walked to the door. Blake kept the bridge door open for his captain, closing it after he had walked through. “What’s so urgent, Blake?”

“We’ve found a body.”

“A body? Where?”

“Seems it’s been trapped underwater for a while, by the propeller we think.”

“We being?”

“The new engineer and me. We were inspecting the ship, at his insistence, since Collins’ disappearance indicated to him the engineer may be lacking in…” Blake left unsaid what he and the captain both thought about Arthur Collins.

The pair were making the way to the gangplank when the captain suddenly stopped in his tracks. “Don’t tell me what I think you are about to say. You’ve found Collins?”

“Aye, sir. We think it’s him.”

“Think? Don’t you recognise him?”

“No sir, his body is too badly mangled. But the work-overall the body is wearing has Arthur Collins embroidered on it. The state of the body indicates he may have fallen between the ship and the quayside. It’s not a pretty sight.”

The two men continued the short journey to the quayside where the new engineer was standing beside a body covered by a sheet. Hanson lifted the sheet and inspected the corpse. A few minutes passed, and he dropped the sheet.

“It’s certainly Collins, I recognise the work-overall. The poor bastard was probably drunk. Well Mr. Blake, inform the Harbourmaster and ask him to inform the police. They will need to ascertain the circumstances of Collins’ demise.”

Copyright Tom Kane © 2018

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MARCH 15, 1931

APRIL 15, 1912



















This is a first draft, so please forgive spelling & grammatical errors. Context and characters may change between now and the final publication date.

When published as an eBook and paperback at the end of 2018, this book will be the first in a trilogy: The Brittle Sea, The Brittle Land and The Brittle Sky.

As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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