The Girl from the Sea – Chapter Twenty
Jonas began his tale. “I’ve been around a lot since I left. Various crews. Various ships. Various ports. Never been an easy life – you know Captain. You boys too by the look of you. You look like you live on the sea.” Anthony and Lucas nodded. Frankie elbowed Lucas in the ribs for agreeing with him. “I picked up some new crew in Plymouth. Bought and sold various goods. Got in a few scrapes. Met a fellow who didn’t like me talking to his girl and he gave me my new face. The face gave me a new reputation for being a bad seed. People steered clear. People just gave me whatever I wanted – no more bartering or struggling. They took one look at my face and knew I meant business. Never once have I had to resort to using violence to get what I needed.”
“Until now?” interrupted the Captain.
“You’re not listening Emos. I mean it. Never once have I resorted to violence. My last trip out, we picked up a man who was desperately looking for passage somewhere, anywhere. He seemed normal enough to start with did Billy. Willing to work. Mucked in and did his fair share. Kept his head down, nose clean etc. Didn’t speak much about his past, but who does on a ship?” The men all nodded. Everyone kept their own business.
“He drank a fair amount on the shore, but there’s nothing abnormal
about that. One time, he confided in a drunken state that he had people after him. I just laughed it off as drunken rambling. It turns out that it was true though. When you saw us, Miss, I’d just come across him at the back of the tavern, pierced through the chest. I swear that I had nothing to do with it.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!” exclaimed Frances. “There were other men with you when I saw you.”
“I’m coming to that bit, miss. He hadn’t been lying when he said that he had people after him. While I was looking at his wound I found myself surrounded by those men you saw, miss. Nasty pieces of work I can tell you. Well…they didn’t like the fact that I was taking an interest in their handiwork, so they decided they need to ‘take care of us’. Luck, hah, if you can call it that, was on my side though. When they found out who I was, they had heard of me…”
The Captain snorted disbelievingly.
“…I told you I had a reputation. Anyhow, when they found out who I was, the situation changed. They figured that I would help them, so that’s what I did. I gave them what they wanted – a boat, an escape route and a means of getting rid of the body. I thought the sooner I could get them out of my life the better. Nobody had counted on picking up a hitchhiker though.
“One of them spotted you, miss. Hiding there. I was ordered to grab you. There weren’t meant to be any witnesses. Whilst you were below deck they were planning all sorts of things for you. It turned my stomach, miss. I had to come up with a plan to get you somewhere out of harm’s way and I figured that you stood a better chance with the sea than with those men. That’s why, miss. You had to go overboard.”
He paused in his story and looked down at the scrubbed table top. “I’m mortally ashamed of what happened to you, miss, and it’s credit to you that you made it. Right glad I am to see you again. You’ve got some strength in you to come through that storm in one piece.”
“One piece!” exclaimed Esther. “She arrived here black and blue and scarcely breathing. I’d hardly call that one piece. Why were you so keen to find her then?”
“I wanted to see if you had survived, miss.”
“Hmmm.” Esther sounded disbelieving. “So if you’ve turned up here to find her, what’s to stop these other men from doing the same? Also we have a responsibility to the poor dead man. What about his family? Don’t they deserve to know the truth?”
“Well I tried Esther. After I had dropped the men along the coast, I went to Billy’s hometown to find his family and tell them what had happened. And to be a little bit nosey – my curiosity was piqued. I wanted to find out who had been after him – fill in the gaps if you know what I mean.
“I tried to speak to his wife but she wouldn’t talk to me, not even to hear the fate of her husband. I couldn’t even get past her front door. The sister lived across the street and saw me struggling. So I made my explanation to her and told her that we’d buried her brother at sea. Well, she didn’t mind about that at all. Best place for him, she said.
“I asked, if she knew of anyone who had wanted to harm him and she laughed. Not a nice sound, it wasn’t. He wasn’t a well-liked man it turns out. Had a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way and it had got him into trouble. He’d double crossed these men and they caught up with him. He’d figured he’d be safe enough on a boat, calling at different ports all the time. I guess someone must have recognised him. She said that the men had come and harassed her sister in law – that was probably why she wouldn’t talk to you, she said. She was afraid of me.” Jonas paused in his long tale and looked glum. He was aware of his looks causing fear in people. He’d meant no harm – he’d just wanted to give them some closure in Billy’s death.
He took a deep breath and looked over at Frankie. Lucas shuffled closer to her. Frankie stared back into his black eyes. “So, the sister was quite a chatty lady,” he continued. “I thought I could try and find out who these people were. She said that she’d recognise them again if she saw them. I figured that we could get them put away for what they’ve done!”
“So what now? Now that you’ve found Frances?” Lucas asked.
“Well at least she’s safe and didn’t end up in their hands. For all I know they don’t even know that she exists.”
“So, we can take her home with us then?” Anthony said from his place at the fireside.
“Wait a second…I think we’re missing an opportunity here,” interrupted Lucas, getting to his feet. “There are murderers out on the loose still. We know they’re guilty of killing one man – who knows if there are others?”
“What are you getting at Luke?”
Lucas put his arm around Frankie’s shoulders. “Frank, how do you fancy doing some fishing?”
“Fishing?” she queried, bemused. “For what?”