Not surprisingly, newcomers will find the explanation for what follows in the introduction to the whole sequence before episode 1. Meantime, for other visitors, this is a story called Death Ship …
By the time I got back down to the hold, some of the crew had already left. Others were climbing into hammocks and the boatswain was still arguing with Noah.
“We shouldna have to do any of it,” Noah was shouting. “We’re no sailors. You ken what you’re doin, you can look out for yourselves, we never know what’s comin at us.”
The boatswain bunched his fist in front of Noah’s face.
“This is what’ll be comin at you if you dinna do as you’re told.”
He was a big man. Too big for Noah.
“Ach, leave him, Noah,” said Tam Donald. “Come away. We’re on lookout in a while. Just think of the money.”
Noah spat on the deck, pushed the boatswain’s fist aside, shoved Tam out of the way and started back up the steps.
“He’ll be alright,” said Tam. “I’ll keep him quiet.”
“If you dinna, he’ll be next. And it’ll be me who does it,” said the boatswain.
“I’m surprised to see you with them,” I said, as he turned to follow Noah.
I didn’t want to mention his daughter but I think my face must have shown my embarrassment.
“Life goes on,” he said. “Anyway, I’m no with them. It was just chance that I was there that night you kidnapped us.”
“You seemed happy enough.”
“Does drink no make you happy?”
“Not if I’m with a man who’s . . .”
I stopped. I couldn’t say it.
He shook his head and looked hard at me.
“Nobody kens what goes on in folks’ heads,” he said.
I thought of following him as he climbed up to the deck, but I was weary. I hauled myself up into my hammock and watched the bulkheads moving up and down as I hung steady between them.
I don’t know how long I slept but I was woken by shouts and a rough hand shaking me. It was the boatswain.
“On deck,” he said. “We’ve lost another one.”
Others were stumbling from their hammocks and it was a while before I could pull on my boots and go up to join the crew around the foot of the mainmast. The word was that Tam had gone forward looking for Noah. It was their lookout watch but there was no-one there. In the end, Noah joined him and it was only when they started talking that they realised that Cammie hadn’t been there to be relieved. It was Tam who raised the alarm and all hands had been called to search the ship from stem to stern. Noah was still at his lookout post in the bows, one of the mates was at the wheel, and Big John had some questions for Tam. The rest of us spread through the holds and spaces, crawling into the bilges, opening every compartment.
We searched for a good hour but there was no trace of Cammie. No-one doubted that he was now at the bottom of the black German Ocean. Big John got us together again. We stood there, listening to his new orders and knowing that, for all the wind’s whistling and the sea’s crashing against the hull, the real dangers lay somewhere in the crew. Some of them had been shipmates for many years, but their eyes were flicking around, each man unwilling to trust any other.
“So forget about being in pairs, we all work together from now on,” Big John was saying. “Wherever you are, make sure there are always at least three other men with you. We’ll take a chance and set more sail. I want to get us back while I’ve still got a crew.”
He nodded to the boatswain, who immediately started shouting his orders.
“All hands. Clew up the mainsail. Stand by the braces.”
“What about Noah?” said Tam. “He’s still on lookout.”
“Stay with him,” said Big John. He jerked his thumb at me. “You, too, Joe. And keep your eyes aloft, too.”
I nodded and climbed up onto the foredeck with Tam. The ship was heeled over on the larboard tack and we bent into the wind to crab our way up the slope to the bows. Suddenly, Tam stopped.
“Where is he?” he shouted.