Endeavour’s Fall #15: ImpasseFeb 27, 2017
People like us don’t go out at night cause people like them see us for what we are
-Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
Jack looked back and forth between Jones, and Adams and Sam. Watching out for younger airmen had gotten him into a scrape or two before, but he’d always avoided trouble with the officers and mates. This was not what he had planned when he’d come looking for the peg-legged boy.
Sam was not much of an airman yet, but Jack hoped to see him live to learn more. Jack felt a little responsible for hauling him aboard. Sam looked more than a little bit lost right now.
Now the only way to dodge trouble with Jones would be to rat out Adams and Sam. Jack was a liar, a thief, and occasionally a vigilante. But he was no rat.
Jack felt no love for Jones. He was harsh and cruel, and Jack detested his whippings. Jack had no respect for men like Jones. If the Airship Navy needed them to function, that was one thing. He was going to avoid him whenever possible. Jones did not seem to be armed, but his shout could bring in the whole crew.
Jack was not sure what Adams and Sam were up to, but he was pretty sure it was no good. Jack was also fairly certain that Adams held a knife. He had a hand on his own dagger still, and he was confident he could defend himself in a fair fight, but Adams’ knife was hidden somewhere, probably in Sam’s back. Jones did not seem like the kind of fellow who used a knife.
Better a liar than a rat, then. He could straighten it out later. Jack cleared his throat and broke the tense silence.
“What she said is true, Jones. We swapped duties around in the mess hall. I lost a wager and so Sam and I had to help on our off shift.”
Jones looked at Jack, puzzled. “What duty in the loading bay would require three of you,” he asked slowly.
“Clearing the lines, of course,” said Jack.
“I don’t like it. Not one bit,” said Jones.
Adams and Sam started to edge towards Jones. Adams kept Sam between her and the older airman. Could she possibly try to get a jump on Jones?
Jones seemed to sense the movement and turned to face Adams. He held up both hands. “Easy there,” he said. “I think you can stay right where you are.”
Jones backed up to the bulkhead, and bumped the speaking tube open with his elbow. “Bridge! This is Jones in the loading bay.”
“Report, Jones,” came the voice of Boulanger.
“You asked me to keep an eye out for anyone acting fishy,” said Jones. “I have three hands here who smell like old cod.”
“Not over the tubes!” said Boulanger. “Stay there.”
The tubes snapped shut.
“Well, that’s that, then,” said Jones.
Adams was still clutching Sam, with her back to the open hatch.
“It will be fine,” said Sam calmly. “We can explain to Boulanger about the lines.”
“Of course we can,” said Adams. She spun and closed the hatch.
“Of course we can,” said Jack. “No problems, then.” Sam eased towards him in the darkness.
Four marines stomped into the bay with Boulanger. They were armed and two carried lanterns. Jack had to squint in the sudden brightness.
Boulanger coolly took in the scene.
“You three?” said Boulanger. “Well, I suppose that makes a type of sense.” He shrugged.
“They were all up to something,” said Jones. “I have been keeping my eye out, like you said.”
“Could be, could be,” said Boulanger. “This one always seems to be around when an airman goes missing.” He gestured towards Jack.
“You can’t trust his kind, you can’t,” said Jones. “He looks too much at home in the shadows, if you ask me.”
“And that one, I have never trusted to begin with.” Boulanger nodded at Adams.
“It was odd how that airship ambushed us at sea while she was lookout,” agreed Jones. “Very odd.”
Adams looked back and forth between the two and the marines behind them.
“The other boy with one leg, well, who knows and who cares,” said Boulanger.
Jones grunted in agreement.
“Your leg is still on the bridge, you know,” said Boulanger to Sam. “It has been there for some time now. I hope you did not need it.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, about spies and all,” said Jack. “But you’ve got something wrong. There’s no trouble here.”
“No, I’m sure there is not,” said Boulanger. “Jones, do you think we could do without these three?”
Adams still looked at the two older men and the four marines. Jack thought here was something cat-like in her stance.
“We are short-handed, but we’ve made do with less,” said Jones.
“That’s what I think,” said Boulanger. “You three are not worth the trouble. One or all of you could be my spy.”
“Spies?” croaked Jack. This was not what he’d had in mind at all.
“Yes,” said Boulanger. “Turncoats. Traitors.”
“That’s impossible,” said Adams.
“Is it?” said Boulanger.
“What are you going to do?” asked Sam.
“We do not have a lot of time,” said Boulanger. “I could have you all shot or tossed overboard, of course. But by dawn we will arrive at our destination and we may have a fight on our hands. I will find something to do with you then.”
Boulanger gestured at the marines, who took Adams by the arms and shoved her towards the two boys. “Lock them up,” he said.
© J. O. Evans 2017. All Rights Reserved.