The Girl from the Sea – Chapter Three
(Catch up on Chapter One and Chapter Two here)
Frankie clambered out of the boat and stood at the edge of the quayside wrapped in her brother’s coat. The summer wind lifted a strand of hair out of its hiding place under her cap. She shoved it back under impatiently – she would have to go home at some point. If she didn’t go soon, someone would be sent to fetch her, and that would be ten times worse. The boats nodded up and down encouraging her, tied fast to their moorings on the inky black sea. The tide was coming in and the water was starting to encroach upon the town.
The sounds of the taverns were becoming more and more raucous as the darkness deepened. To Frankie it was just background noise while she was lost in her reverie, staring at the hypnotic up and down motion of the boats. Most of the occupants of the boats were making the noise in the taverns.
A group of drunken sailors staggered along the harbour front carrying one of their colleagues. She tutted at the sight of them but didn’t want to be seen by them so she jumped back on board “The Hawk” and hid between some lobster pots. She hoped they weren’t heading her way. She could see them turning onto her jetty and stop three or four boats down from “Hawk”. They were supporting their companion by the shoulders – he looked like he had passed out from the drink!
As they approached, Frankie could hear them whispering. “What do we do now then? We can’t exactly leave him here, like this.”
“Shhh, you idiots. We’ll bring him with us of course. We’ll sort him out later.”
The hushed conversation between the men took place with the shadows of the masts and stays cutting across their faces. From where Frankie crouched she could see the backs of four of them – all tall, broad shouldered working men by the look of them. Two of them were supporting their companion. He hung between them like a shirt on a washing line with his head hanging down.
Another man was standing apart, lighting up a cigarette, cupping his hands around it against the breeze. He was taller and broader than anyone else. The fifth man was facing her and his appearance made her gasp. She clapped her hands over her mouth to stop from crying out. His face was lined with evil scars and Frankie shuddered to see him. His eyes were shadowed by a peaked cap and he had a mean look about him. He looked around them to check they were not being watched. For a moment he looked directly in Frankie’s direction. She held her breath. His stony gaze passed over her.
“Get him on board, quick.” One of the faceless men spoke with authority. They disappeared below deck a couple of boats up from where Frankie was hiding. She slid out of her hiding place and scrambled to her feet. Her breathing was coming fast.
Something was not right about the man they were carrying. He’d looked limp and lifeless. She needed to go and get help. Fear rose in her belly and she swallowed it down. She crept along the side of “Hawk” to see if the coast was clear. She couldn’t see anything. The men must have gone below deck. She finally released her breath. All of a sudden the breath was knocked out of her from behind as a pair of iron fists grabbed her. She struggled but she was well and truly caught. The more she wriggled the tighter his grip was.
“Don’t move, boy,” whispered a voice in her ear. Close up Frankie could see a scar running from his eyebrow to his mouth and from his left ear to his nose. Up close he was more frightening than she had thought. “Someone has very sharp eyes. Just what did you see then boy? You should know when to keep yourself hid.” His face was close enough to hers to smell the tobacco smoke and ale. She flinched away from him and kept her mouth shut.
“What have you caught there Jonas?” Three of the men slid out of the shadows like eels.
“Just a small fry, Captain…nothing for us to be concerned about,” the man called Jonas said.
“I don’t like people knowing my business lad. Some things are private.” The tall and broad shouldered Captain paused. He fixed her with a glassy stare – she could see her reflection in his black eyes. His voice was quiet and conversational. “What did you see boy?”
Frankie bit her tongue. There was something in his tone that she didn’t like.
“Nothing to say? A kid who knows how to hold his tongue? That makes a change. I can use people who know how to keep their mouths shut.” He paused and laughed – a nasty laugh which sent cold shivers and goose bumps down Frankie’s spine. “Lads! We’ve got a new crew member. Show him to the guest quarters!”
Two men grabbed her roughly and dragged her on board. “Please, I don’t want…”
“This is not a good time to find your tongue boy,” one of the men hissed through pipe smoke. They opened a door to a cabin and shoved her inside. It was dark, and cold and as her eyes accustomed themselves to the darkness she could see the unconscious man was already there, asleep on the bunk. The door was slammed in Frankie’s face as they all went back on deck to make ready to sail. She realised that her plan had been taken out of her hands. Her dream of going to sea was turning quickly into a nightmare.
The noises of the boat being prepared for sea rang in her head. Frankie rubbed her arms from where she had been grabbed and looked over at her roommate. “Sir,” she whispered. “Sir?” No response. She edged closer to him only to turn away repulsed. The smell was overpowering – sweat, alcohol, and something unidentifiable to her. She held the bile down that rose in her throat.
She reached a trembling hand out to shake his shoulder. “Sir? Can you help me?” With her shake the man rolled towards her and she retched in horror. His eyes had rolled back in his head and his mouth was fixed in a silent scream. He had an ebony handled knife sticking out of his side between his ribs. She identified the smell as rotting death.
She heard screaming inside her own head but realised that no sound was coming out of her. She felt the boat swaying beneath her and blacked out.