Ok then, someone, no names mentioned Bernie, said they might be interested in reading what I'm thinking about writing as per my last post. Its taken so long to make another post because my 18th century brain can't keep track of the fact that I now have three email accounts, all with passwords that are similar enough to be slightly maddening when i can't remember them. Anyway, below you will see a chapter or so from a short story I am sketching out. Please bear in mind this is simply writing from the top of my head with no research and no redrafting, its like having brain-shits, it comes out in a slurry and there's a lot of cleaning up to be done afterwards. Grit your eyes and read.
THE door to the storage bay groaned open, four forearms taking the strain to prevent the iron clanging mercilesly in the cold November quiet.
Steam rose from the darkness, as if the cavity were breathing.
On the underside of the hatch were industrial claw marks, patterned like fingers on a hand but the indentations too deep to be made by man on metal.
The slight movement beneath his feet unsteadied him as the giant vessel queased on the water, the sea's long reach ending at the harbour walls to create a rough swell. His legs were strong enough, his stomach stronger, but the water and the smell weakened both.
That smell. Hot. Rich. He recognised the gasses of decomposition, but much stronger. Intensified and multiplied.
"So what do we know?" asked Gray, his eyes wandering across the black horizon.
"Everything and nothing," replied Carthage. "Captain Pugwash there called us an hour ago. This ship is just in from Budapest. It seems his Roger the Cabin Boy opened the hatch on arrival to unload his naughty cargo and the next thing Pugwash hears is Roger screaming."
Gray's eyes raised to the upper deck where the captain, just about audible, was giving his staement to an officer in accented but excellent English.
"Where is the cabin boy now?" asked Gray, keeping his words short as the air chilled his tongue.
"In the ambulance. Been unconcious since we got here. Paramedic says he's fine. Likely in shock."
"Shock?" said Gray flatly, lowering his gaze to his shoes as he dropped his cigarette onto the deck and ground it out with a worn leather sole that had seen better days.
"What's so shocking?"
Carthage shook his head. "Don't know yet. Pugwash says Roger said one word before he passd out. 'Farkas'. No idea what it means. My Hungarian is as bad as Pugwash's English."
"The captain's English sounds fine to me, Sergeant. Bring him down," said Gray, stiffening his back as his buttoned coat blew tight against his legs in an icey gust. When the wind kicked up it was like death stroking at his shins. He pulled another cigarette from the box in his pocket. Struck a match and cupped the flame in his hand, feeling what heat it offered, and lit up with a long careful drag.
"Captain?" enquired Gray curtly, offering the sailor the respect of his title.
"Yes. My name is Afelay," he said, pulling his head back into the thick woolen collar of his jacket.
"What happened here?"
Afelay raised his eyes to the sky, a lone cloud drifting past the moon at seemingly furious pace. He levelled his eyes with Gray's and the policeman saw something as yet unfathomable in them; was it a lie? Fear?
"I want to help you for this," offered the captain. "I do. You must believe that. Do you believe that Mr?"
"Gray. And it's Detective Inspector, not mister. I make it a habit not to believe every sea captain I meet at a murder scene. What's in the hole Capain?"
"I will tell you what I think happened here if I get your word that you will not hold me responsible. Or Vanya.
"Vanya?" echoed Gray, a eyebrow raising
"Vanya is the man who found them. He is my sister's son. He is a good man. He could not kill a man. Not like that... " he tailed off.
"I'll indulge you for a moment captain. What's in the hole?"
Afelay let out a deep sigh:"People."
Afelay breathed deeply and looked at the ground. He dredged the word from his gut and sounded drowed when it left his mouth. "Eighty." he gurgled.
"And how many are dead? asked Gray.
Again Afelay paused, summoning courage for the simple act of speech. He raised his eyes to meet Gray's once again. "Eighty. But maybe 79 were killed. I think one might have died on the journey. When they carried him onto the ship he looked very ill. White as lelek. Shivering. He had little clothes on. Rags."
"Are you saying an illness killed these people? A virus?"
"God's wishes it were so. See for yourself."
"How did they die?" said Gray, tersely, his patience wearing thin.
"I do not know" defended the Captian. "But it could not have been by a man's hand. Not that many. Who has the strength? Who has the .. the will?"
"So you've been down there Captain. You've seen it for yourself?" asked Gray a little surprised.
"No. The screaming on the voyage told me. The torches told me the rest. Have you seen it?"
"No." said Gray, knowing the moment could not be avoided. "Please finish giving your statement to the officer there. I will want to speak to you later. Once I have seen the bodies. Are there lights down there?
"Yes but they are not working now. They were fine when we left port. Whoever did this must have cut the power to them."
"Can we get some light in there? Are he spots here yet?" asked of the ether.
"No Sir. Looks like you'll have to do it the old fashioned way if you want to go in now," answered Carthage. "Here have mine too," said the deputy, handing Gray the powerful barrelled end of his torch."
"Uh-huh," said Gray, "You think I'm going in there on my own? Whatever did this could still be in there," he grinned.
Gray gripped the ladder to the vault and hoitsed himself overt the edge. Taking the torch from Carthage and stuffing it in his teeth, he lowered himself into the blackness below.
Unrelated: Random observations at 0.10am on July 22. I have a new mobile phone arriving today. Yay. It's silver. It's a newer version of the model I already have. Familiarity breeds phones apparently. Also arriving in the post, my new cape. I bought said cape for my impending 30th birthday party. A boy's got to have a cape on his big day.
7 months ago