Summary: The boys take a sea journey.
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
you to Cat - who devoted a great deal of time attempting to teach me
period and comma placement. I hope her efforts are not wasted.
For Lewie - This is all your fault.
was raining. A heavy, soaking downpour that turned the streets to mud.
Johnny leaned against the window frame and watched the sheets of rain blur
the buildings on the far side of the street. It was unusually heavy rain
and he was feeling melancholy. He sighed and crossed his arms across his
chest. Being cooped up in the musty hotel room was making the gray, dreary
endless. He didn't even turn when he heard the key in the lock and Scott burst into the room.
Scott pulled off his slicker and laid it over the only chair in the room, fat drops rolling off the oilskin to form a puddle on the floor. "I have good news," he said as he took of his hat and placed it on the bedside table.
"You found the plans for the ark?"
Scott's warm laughter filled the dreary little room.
"Almost as good." He pulled an envelope from his pocket and passed it over to his younger brother.
Johnny turned so that he was no longer blocking the light from the window and pulled to contents of the envelope out so he could study them. A deep crease formed between his dark eyebrows. With his head still tipped he looked up at his brother through long, dark lashes. "What is this?"
Scott tapped the package and grinned. "Home."
Johnny's frown deepened as he pushed the envelope back at his older brother.
"If we hurry," Scott began and put his words into action as he crossed to the bed and got on his knees to pull out their saddlebags, "we will sail with the evening tide. She's a cargo and passenger ship that is headed for Monterey before going up to Portland."
"A boat." The dismay in Johnny's voice was evident.
had snagged one of the bags and tossed it up onto the bed. "A ship. The
Saint Anne." He fished under until he found the other one and brought it
over to the tall, narrow dresser. He didn't bother with his usual neat
packing, just jamming his clothes into the soft leather bag. "Think of
he said with a faraway look. "We will be out of this dreary, muddy town and home by Friday."
rather not," Johnny said with a shake of his head and turned back to look
at the mud-laden street. A bolt of lightning lit up the dark clouds on
the horizon. He didn't hear the thunder, but the flash seemed to have opened
a valve and the rain came down in sheets making it difficult to see
more than three feet away.
"Rather not think of going home?" Scott tossed the stuffed bag on the bed and picked up the other one. Pulling open the second drawer he packed his brother's belongings with out even asking. "I can't wait to get out of here. I have to admit, I am not madly in love with The City of Angels."
"It's not usually like this." Johnny thought back to the many times he'd been to this usually mild-weathered town. Now the streets were so bogged with mud the stages had stopped running. They had come down for business, and little had gone right the entire trip. The stage had broken down near Goleta and delayed them for two days. The livestock they'd come to see was nowhere near the quality they had been led to believe and so they were headed back empty handed. And it hadn't stopped raining for two weeks. Normally hard packed roads had turned to a clay-like soup. "Let's buy a couple of horses and ride home."
Scott turned incredulous blue eyes on his younger brother. "Do you really want to sleep on the ground in weather like this? We'll begin to mold long before we ever get home."
"I'd rather do that than go on a boat." Johnny paid no attention as Scott continued to check the room to be sure that nothing was being left behind.
Scott was content that he'd missed nothing and came to stand beside his brother. "Have you ever been on a ship?" His tone was wistful, "The sea air in your face, the smell of the water. Nothing between you and God for miles. Johnny, it is the most astonishing experience." He went over to the chair and began to put on his still damp oilskin. "When I came around the horn, there aren't words, little brother. If I ever take up another profession, I'll be a pirate."
This comment finally turned Johnny away from his pensive stare out the window to face his brother, his arms crossed over his chest, shaking his head with amusement. "Scott Lancer, terror of the high seas?"
"Scott Lancer, brigadier," he said with a flourish.
"Doesn't have the right ring to it, does it?"
no, but that doesn't matter. Can't you see me standing on the bow of a
ship, the wind in my hair, the taste of the sea?" He glanced out the corner
of his eye to see his younger brother viewing him with a look that was
a mix between amusement and concern. Scott laughed, "I loved my trip
out here. It stormed around the cape." He turned serious when he face Johnny. "The power, is like nothing I've ever felt before." He playfully slapped his brother on this stomach with the back of his hand. "And today I get to show you."
Johnny grimaced again. "I don't think this is a good idea."
Scott shoved Johnny's slicker at him and moved over to the door, holding it open he ushered his brother before him. "Trust me, you will never forget this trip."
They finally found a hansom cab being pulled by two sturdy draft horses to take them down to the docks. As Scott excitement grew, so did Johnny's apprehension. Used to loading skittish stock into train cars, Scott deftly moved in behind Johnny and prompted him up the gangplank.
Once on the deck, Johnny only once attempted to return to shore, but the line of passengers heading up the narrow passageway prevented his escape. Low, barely under his breath, he continued to mutter, "This is a bad idea, this is a very bad idea."
A bearded crewmember offered to show them the way to their cabin, but the idea of going below decks took the color completely out of the younger mans' face. "No!" This time Johnny's emphatic response could not be ignored.
Scott noticed Johnny's tightly clenched jaw and ashen features and relented. "I'll just stow our gear in our cabin and be right back, okay?"
It took two tugs before Johnny released his hold on his saddlebags, but finally he relented. Scott disappeared below while Johnny prowled the upper deck. The bow area was open, with numerous boxes, crates, and bales lashed to the deck covered with tarps and oilskins. There were two narrow passageways that led down either side of a raised wheelhouse that led a short, squat stern. What little space there was on the stern also had containers tied down with heavy rope.
A small three-sided storage area sat under the stairs that led to the wheelhouse. It had a few crates in it, and Johnny tipped one on its side and sat down out of the weather. His stomach rolled with the heavy sway of the outgoing tide, but he managed to keep his lunch down.
rain continued to fall steadily, casting the shoreline and the buildings
along it in a gray, blurry fog. Johnny kept his eyes firmly locked on that
coastline as if keeping it in sight would keep the boat afloat. He was
dismayed as the ship began to move away from land, gliding silently on
outgoing tide and the shore quickly faded from view.
Scott came back on deck with two steaming cups of coffee and Johnny took one gratefully. He wrapped his hands around the tiny piece of porcelain and let the warmth soak up his fingers.
"I hope you'll enjoy this trip," Scott said wistfully.
"Don't plan on me signing up as your first mate." Johnny smiled ruefully as if realizing he was letting his fear get the best of him. "I don't think I'll ever love the sea."
"It might grow on you."
"Boats are like jail," Johnny said with a shake of his head. "With the added chance of drowning."
"Jail doesn't take you anywhere. This little lady," Scott said patting the wall gently, "is going to take us home."
"I know you think I'm crazy, but." Johnny just couldn't find the words to express what he was feeling. His blue eyes searched his brother's face.
"Johnny, my boy, this is not just a journey, it's an adventure." Scott's voice was filled with enthusiasm. He gestured with one hand out at the sea. "Look at her, Johnny." Scott stood in the little shelter, his head bowed, but looking out at the storm-tossed water.
"You keep calling it - she," Johnny muttered and took a careful sip of his coffee, attempting to keep from wearing it as it sloshed with the rocking of the boat.
Scott turned and smiled down on his brother. "Ships and the ocean are 'she's. It's tradition."
Johnny stared down into his cup, watching the liquid move on its own. "I don't have the best luck with women," he muttered. "I love them, but they don't love me back."
They passed the entrance to the harbor and a current from a different direction hit the side of the boat, causing it to lurch. Despite Johnny's best efforts, most of his coffee slid over the side of his cup and onto his leg. He wiped at it futilely and glanced balefully out of his little shelter. Johnny reached up and patted the side of the wheelhouse. "Thanks, honey."
Crewmembers were scurrying from one place to another, moving sails and rigging, shouting to each other. To Johnny's untrained eye the Saint Anne was a strange-looking ship. She had three masts, one forward, one center and one stern, two paddle wheels, one on each side and a large smoke stack, square in the center of the ship showing all of her adaptations by each owner. But she was a fast ship, a record-setter in her day.
Scott had told him that below decks were two large, well-appointed salons. She was outfitted to carry over 500 passengers and 600 tons of cargo. Johnny felt the squat ship must have been filled to the brim because she seemed to sit low in the water.
Not many of the crew came up on the decks because of the cold, slanting rain and the heavy seas, but Johnny didn't mind. He was dry, if not warm, in his little cave and he made friends with two crewmembers who stopped to chat for a few minutes at a time on their watch. As the hour grew late, he wrapped himself in his blankets, curled onto his side behind the crates and managed to drift off into restless sleep.
It took two days for the ship to make it from the port of Los Angeles up to Monterey. There the Saint Anne was going to offload the crates of peas and beans and fruit and take on machinery destined for the lumber fields of Portland before heading on up to Alaska.
Some military men were on board and they would occasionally stop by Johnny's little shelter and make small talk, but aside from Scott and a few crew members Johnny stayed alone, not once regretting his decision to go below decks and join the elegant dinner and social gatherings.
Never once did he feel Scott's love of the sea. Occasionally the rain would stop only to have the ship surrounded by fog. The fog would blow out in gusts of wind that flapped the sails in eerie patterns that reminded Johnny of vulture wings.
Four hours outside of Monterey the clouds lifted and spirits began to soar. Passengers came on deck to view the coastline. Johnny could hear them from his shelter as the captain ordered the crew to ready the anchor as they rounded the breakwater and headed into port. He sighed as he chastised himself for letting his worry get the best of him.
He could see Scott near the railing. The wind whipped his blond hair in a thousand different directions. Every time Scott would look back in his direction his blue eyes danced with merriment over his wind-reddened cheeks.
A mate yelled from his post near the anchor and Johnny lurched to his feet. A swell rose the ship and dropped her, with a wood-shattering crunch onto a pinnacle of rock that jutted up from the sea floor.
A strange silence filled the air until another wave stuck the ship and twisted her sideways. Her bow now pointed toward the shore, only four miles away. Crew scattered and scurried. One manned her lamp, frantically signaling the lighthouse on the shore.
The firecrews from below decks hastily shut down the boilers before they could explode. The Captain quickly realized there was no way to save the ship as her lower decks were quickly taking on water from below.
He ordered the lifeboats over the side. The officers were quickly trying to organize screaming woman and children into some semblance of order.
The first lifeboat, made of iron, was ready and could easily hold more than 100 people. It was lowered over the side but in the heavy swells and wind it was too much for the crew to handle. It capsized immediately, throwing its passengers into the water and drifting under the wounded ship.
The crew allowed more of the male passengers to help with the next boat, trying desperately to get this second boat, mostly filled with woman, children and the cabin boys over the side. She was almost to the water when giant swells began to tip the ship. The lifeboat crashed against the side and slipped back toward the paddle wheels. With a great deal of effort the lifeboat was raised and held, partway up and then lowered again.
There was no cheering, but a sigh of relief went up as the second lifeboat was safely away.
originally rooted to the spot in horror as his worst fears came true, took
a deep breath and stepped out of his cave. He began to assist his two friends
from the crew to lower one of the smaller wooden surfboats to the side.
It banged dangerously against the side, chipping the paint of
the ship as they quickly loaded up as many passengers as they could. Despite the little boat being slightly damaged, the third mate managed to get twenty-three passengers safely away.
Scott looked up from where he was helping to lower the iron lifeboat, to see Johnny struggling with the rigging as the first wooden surfboat made its way into the water. In that way he had of knowing when he was being watched, Johnny turned his head and their eyes met. Scott tried to express across the distance his sorrow at having gotten his younger brother into this mess, but Johnny only smiled. First a little, then an all out grin, that seemed to say, "What did you expect?"
The ship lurched and Scott grabbed for the rail as she rolled onto her side, breaking up fast. He looked back toward his brother, but he was gone.
The last iron boat was hoisted over the side and Scott was bodily shoved into the boat with dozens of other passengers. He looked up into the determined faces of the crew as they did their best to get this boat into the water.
Scott took up an oar and waited with the other men. As soon as the lifeboat hit the water they pulled with all their strength to keep from being slammed against the hull of the dying ship.
Fifteen minutes. It had only taken fifteen minutes; from the first crunch of wood against rock until the hull of the Saint Anne slipped off her impaler and under the waves. Men, who had scrambled up to the bow, jumped into the water before the ship slid under.
Silence. Not a whimper or a moan from the survivors. Then came one from the water, then another. The officer in charge of Scott's lifeboat ordered her turned. In spite of the rough seas and rocks they headed back toward the victims in the water.
The men pulled woman and children, shivering from shock up into the boat. Other passengers shucked their jackets and cloaks to wrap around the bedraggled people huddled at the bottom of the lifeboat.
Scott could see the only other iron lifeboat, off in the distance doing the same. He could only hope that Johnny was there. Dangerously overloaded, they struggled to find others in the high water, but when the cries stopped the officer blew his whistle and they put their oars back in the water and made for shore.
The other lifeboat, only yards away followed. It was desperately silent again.
Three grave hours later Scott's lifeboat made it to shore. Four ships had attempted to leave the harbor, only to be turned back by the high swells and rough current.
The wet, desperately tired passengers were aided ashore. Hundreds of people had turned up to aid in the rescue. Twenty minutes later the second iron boat and the wooden surfboat were dragged safely to land.
Scott attempted to watch the other boats, to see his brother, but helping the other survivors' from the lifeboat diverted his attention. A blanket was put over his shoulders; a tin cup, full of coffee, was thrust into his hands and he was led away.
He had no recollection of how he'd gotten to the warehouse that was being used as a hotel. Cots were hastily being erected. A tall, skinny man with thinning brown hair wrote his name on a list. When Scott asked about his brother the man scanned his list with small, worried eyes. "I'm sorry, I don't know. I'll find out," and wrote Johnny's name on another list.
Gratefully he ate a plate of stew that was handed to him. He ate quickly. With a renewed sense of purpose he found the man taking names. He double-checked that Johnny wasn't on it and asked where he could send a telegram. He had to inform Murdoch.
A boy from the telegraph office had been dispatched and handed Scott a form and piece of paper. Scott quickly wrote his message, being more wordy than usual, as the shipping line was paying for it, and handed it back to the boy.
Attending to his personal mission first, he realized he now had nothing to do. He looked around at the sea of stunned and grieving faces, mostly woman and children, and knew he had to help. He wrapped the blanket he'd been given around a pale-faced teenage girl. When she looked up at him, with large hollow eyes, his stomach clenched. He gently placed his hand on her cheek. "It'll be all right, sweetie, you'll see," he whispered.
The girl, shuddered, her eyes welling up with tears. Scott folded her in his arms, hugging the frail body close to his chest and urged her to sit on the cot. She was sobbing and he rocked her, crooning nonsense words and fighting the constricting lump in his throat as his own eyes misted.
An elderly woman came over, she too draped in a dull gray army blanket, and relieved him of the sobbing child. She patted his arm and took over the job of soothing the girl. For a brief instant, Scott didn't want to let go, resenting the loss of a chance to do something useful.
But when he looked up he saw three military officers who'd been on board with him. His lips pressed together tightly, he went over. Maybe together there was something they could do.
Dawn came at 5:17 am, clear, bright and painfully calm. Scott stood in the doorway with his three new comrades and watched as three ships passed the breakwater to search for survivors. Two more were steaming through the port.
Bodies had washed ashore all night. Of the 513 passengers and 62 crewmembers fewer than 300 had made it safely into the lifeboats. Now the grim task of identifying the dead would begin.
Scott and his friends had taken up the task of creating small rooms for the survivors sheltered in the warehouse. With ropes and blankets they made private areas for each person.
They passed out washbasins and, as emergency supplies arrived, they took over the handling of distribution.
A little past ten murmurs went through the crewmembers. The lighthouse light was signaling. "Survivors." One said in a breathless whisper. "They're finding survivors in the water."
A mixture of relief and dread washed over Scott. "Please, God," was all he could think, but the numbers were few. As the day wore on, the survivors from last night, were moved to better facilities and the dead were laid out in the warehouse. Lines of bodies, covered in sheets, their pockets had been searched for any identification. Anything found was placed in a washbasin beside the body in the hopes that family members could identify the objects without having to look at the corpse itself.
Still Scott carried on with whatever menial task they had for him to do. "Mr. List", as Scott came to call him, came by a few times a day and patted his arm and shook his head. No words were exchanged, and none were needed. A small flicker of hope remained burning in Scott's chest. If he wasn't listed among the dead, Johnny might still be alive.
The crew went first, identifying those they could. The two waiters who'd made it into the last lifeboat had staggeringly good memories and the person's name was written on a card and laid on the sheet.
A line formed for the survivors to go down the rows. The edges of the sheets were turned back to expose only the cold, white faces of the dead. Shrieks rose and wailing sobs rent the air. Scott couldn't bring himself to listen, so he stepped out of line and headed to the shore, his hands clenched in useless fists.
"Hey." The tall lieutenant he'd been working beside for two days came up to him.
"Hey," Scott responded.
"My name's Jack, by the way." He held out a small flask of what turned out to be whiskey.
"Scott," he replied taking a small sip, then a bigger one. "Scott Lancer." Scott handed back the flask and Jack held out his hand. They shook.
"Hell of a thing," Jack said, staring out at the water.
"Hell of a thing," Scott agreed. In the silence, Scott felt his emotions begin to overwhelm him. Anger, despair, frustration, grief all welled up inside making it hard to keep control.
Jack noticed, "Have you eaten?" he asked gently, observing his weary companion.
Scott could only nod and held out his hand for the flask again.
Jack returned it reluctantly. "Have you slept?"
This time Scott shook his head. He took a big gulp and wiped his chin on his sleeve before passing the flask back.
"Come on." Jack got to his feet and extended his hand down. Scott looked at it briefly before allowing himself to be dragged up. "You won't do your family any good dropping from exhaustion."
Scott couldn't choke out a reply. Jack led him up to the road, gently helping his bleary-eyed companion into a wagon and taking him to one of the hotels being used for the survivors. Jack put Scott's name on a list and took him to a back room. Tiny and narrow, its one saving grace was that it was dark and quiet.
Gently Jack removed Scott's boots before pulling back the sheet and coaxing Scott into bed. Just seconds after Scott closed his eyes he was asleep.
Jack stood by the bedside for a long moment before leaving and shutting the door behind him.
Scott slept the rest of the afternoon and night. He woke at five in the morning, briefly thinking he needed to get up and start his chores before the reality of the moment crashed over him.
This wasn't home and Johnny wasn't about to come bursting through the door at any moment and begin to tease him about him sleeping late. He rolled off the cot and shoved his feet in his boots. He needed to get to the warehouse to see if Johnny had been found.
Maybe he'd come in with one of the ships sent out yesterday. He hastily made his morning ablutions, barely recognizing the hollow-eyed unshaven man that looked out at him from the smoky mirror. He made his way down a narrow corridor and into the dining hall.
"Scott." Jack Davis got to his feet. It was obvious that Scott intended to grab a roll and keep moving, but the lieutenant intervened. With a gentle hand on the blond man's shoulder he steered his friend into the chow line. "You gotta eat, my friend." Jack pushed a cup of coffee into Scott's hand and went down the line with him, filling a plate with hotcakes and bacon.
It was so much easier to sit and eat than make the trip to the warehouse so he sat and ate. "Any word?" Scott asked savoring the feeling as warmth crept up his finger from the tin cup he held.
"Eight people were pulled from the water, yesterday. They were found clinging to wreckage. Six woman and two men. None named Lancer, I checked." When Scott cast his eyes downward, Jack continued, "I'm sorry, Scott."
"How many more de." He couldn't finish so he picked up a fork and stabbed a hotcake.
"Bodies are washing up all up and down the coast. It's a terrible tragedy."
"Did you, I mean, are you.?"
"I was on board with six other officers. We were headed up to Portland for treaty negotiations with the local Indian tribes. Four of us made it. We've identified the others." Jack's tone was regretful and somber.
"Were you in the war?" Scott asked between bites.
"I didn't fight, but I'm from Virginia. I just joined up two years ago."
Scott shook his head, knowing full well this young man knew loss. "Thank you, for everything."
"Scott, I'm so very sorry."
"It wasn't your fault." Scott put down his fork, drained the last of his coffee and refolded his napkin. "Now, I need to get back."
"I'll drive you. I've commandeered a wagon and I'm moving supplies from here to there."
"You are a good man, Lt. Jack Davis." Scott held out his hand and they shook again.
"Thank you, sir," he said as he ushered Scott out ahead of him into the morning sunshine.
The warehouse still hummed with activity. There was a motion of men as they moved from one task to another. Two wagons slowly pulled away with the first to be buried in the back.
Jack saw his companion stiffen beside him. "Don't worry, Scott, they're only moving out those that have been identified."
Scott relaxed a little until the thought of what lay ahead of him. He climbed slowly from the wagon and just stood looking at the big, dull building. He closed his eyes tightly as he willed himself to complete his task. Part of him needed to do this, the other part dreaded it.
He opened his eyes, took a deep breath, clenched his jaw and moved forward, swallowing his dread.
"Scott!" The word was shouted with joy and relief and fear and amazement.
Before he knew what was happening he was enfolded in a crushing hug that smelled of pipe tobacco and leather and, "Murdoch." He hung on, resting his cheek on that broad shoulder and clung to the man. He felt one hand snake up his back and touch his hair, the other around his ribs holding him so very tightly.
Murdoch pulled back first, bringing both hands up to hold the unshaven cheeks and stare into those deep blue eyes. "My God, I was so worried," he half whispered.
"How did you get here so fast?"
"Fast? It's been a lifetime. And I damn near killed a good horse getting to the train." Scott was crushed in another hug, which he gratefully accepted. "Are you all right?"
"Except that I can't breathe," he said with a flicker of humor and could feel his father's laughter against his chest.
Murdoch pulled back again, but he kept his oldest son encircled in his arms as he examined him for unseen injuries.
"Have you.." Scott gestured to the warehouse.
"No, I was about to when I saw you."
Scott stepped back and squared his shoulders. "I can do this Murdoch, you don't have to."
"No," the big man hesitated, "I need to know."
They stared at each other, so much more they both wanted to say but neither finding the words.
"We'll do it together." Murdoch finally broke the silence.
"Mr. List" was standing near the door. "Ah, Mr. Lancer," he scanned his sheets of paper. "There is still no word, I'm afraid."
"We'll go look now," Scott said firmly.
The room had been divided since the last time he was here. Those identified, and waiting for burial were on the side closest to the loading bays. The others, a much smaller number were on this side.
A small, balding man with a somber air went first and pulled the sheets away from the faces of the dead. Mr. List followed behind. Scott recognized one man that he'd had dinner with and gave the name and they continued down the rows.
The bile rose in their throats as children were uncovered and Murdoch wished he could blurt out, "Just the men." But the words wouldn't pass his throat. They made their way down each row a painful silence between them. Scott identified one other man and then they went back outside.
"Mr. Lancer," Mr. List began. "Thank you for your help. There are still two ships out and, I'm sorry to say, more dead are being brought up from the beach every hour. If I know something I'll leave word at the hotel."
Murdoch stepped forward. "My son, the one that's missing, has black hair. If you find someone like that."
"Yes, yes, I can do that."
"Thank you." Seeing that Scott was turning pale, Murdoch grabbed his shirtsleeve in one hand and steered the younger man back down to the shore.
They were only a few feet from where Scott and Jack had been only the day before. They stood in silence for a long moment, watching the waves lap at the shore, hearing only the screech of seagulls overhead.
"Oh, God, Murdoch, it's the not knowing." And Scott was again folded into a hug and all his emotions from the last three days came pouring out. He cried and he railed, he wanted to hit something, and he did, his fists pounding uselessly against his fathers' back.
But he was held secure in his father's arms and the big man had no intention of letting go. They sank to the sand as Scott sobbed out his grief against his father's chest. The big man rocking his son in his arms, letting him cry it all out as his own silent tears ran down his face into his son's hair.
And then again it was silent, just the sounds of the sea and the birds and the wind in the tall grass.
"Upwind" was a fishing vessel owned and captained by a squat little man
with a good sense of humor. But this day, his humor had been sorely tested.
Having been forced further out to sea because of the storm, he'd come in
yesterday in the wake of the wreck of the Saint Anne. His fishing nets
had been used to bring up the bodies of 47 of the unfortunates who had
it into lifeboats.
The tides were turning and he was headed into port when he stepped out onto the bow of his ship and shook a finger at the heavens. "Just once," he shook his finger again, "just once you couldn't do a good thing?"
"Cap!" His first mate yelled and pointed starboard.
What looked like a door was floating with the tide. And on this door lay a woman and two small children and a man, only his dark head and shoulders out of the water.
Captain Riceman cocked a wary eye heavenward, "But is they alive?" he muttered. "Go alongside, Freddie." Long grappling hooks were used to grab the edge of the door.
At the door rocked suddenly one of the children let out a pitiful wail. "Praise be." Captain Riceman whispered. He looked at the cloudless sky. "I take back every mean thing I ever said about you."
His crew scrambled over the side, grasping and pulling at the tiny raft until it they could grab its occupants. The woman looked up, her cheeks sunburnt and her lips cracked. She picked up the baby and weakly handed it to one of the crew. A cabin boy dove over the side and swam to the raft. He lifted the second child up into the waiting arms of the crew.
The dark haired man roused himself in the commotion. He looked up to reveal vivid blue eyes that put the clear sky to shame. His left arm clung to the door, his right, helping him to tread water.
The woman was bodily dragged up the side; she had no more strength to aid her own rescue.
The cabin boy swam up to the man, using just his legs to propel them he put his hands on the waist of the man who at least tried to get himself into the ropes hanging over the edge of the fishing boat. "Great," he croaked out from between cracked lips, "another ship."
The tide was rising and Murdoch had sat too long in one position on his bad leg. But when he shifted he roused Scott who sat back abruptly.
The sun would be setting soon, a chill in the air. "We should go and eat," Murdoch said brusquely, wiping away any last traces of tears from his cheeks.
Scott nodded, never looking up, his own eyes still bloodshot and puffy with grief. "We're not going to find him, are we?" he asked as he got to his feet.
Murdoch shook his head and allowed Scott to give him a hand up. "It's a possibility we need to consider."
"I'm so sorry, Murdoch."
"It was an accident, son. You didn't cause this."
"Johnny didn't want to go. He knew something bad was going to happen."
Murdoch shook his head, "You don't believe that, do you?"
"I know he kept saying it was a bad idea. He fought me every step of the way. He wouldn't even come below decks, convinced that if he let down his guard the ship would sink."
"Scott," Murdoch's tone had turned placatory, "for all we know Johnny had a bad experience on a boat before. He was nervous or anxious, but he went. That's Johnny, he's not one to not face his fears."
"For all the good it did him," Scott muttered, swiping at his cheek again.
"Let's go eat. We'll both think better with something in our stomach."
Scott nodded, again content to let someone else make the decisions. But he glanced back out at the calm port and silently wondered how he'd ever been entranced.
The last two boats had returned and the search was called off. All but 112 had been recovered. It was expected that a few more bodies would wash ashore, but the sea had claimed the rest.
Scott and Murdoch waited silently as the dead were off loaded. A new section was made in the warehouse so those identifying their loved ones didn't need to view them all, only the new arrivals.
Again, they made their way down the rows, and again, it was with unrewarding results. They turned to trudge back up the hill to the hotel when Jack Davis stopped them. "Have you heard?"
"Heard what?" Scott rubbed at his cheek and realized he hadn't shaved in days.
"A fishing trawler is headed in. She found survivors."
"Jack, this is no time for rumors." Scott was weary and depressed.
"No, I was with a crewmember as he read the light flashes. Four alive, it said. Six miles out to sea."
Scott stared at the Army lieutenant as if he'd grown a second head. "Are you sure?"
"Four alive. I was there, Scott."
"It's a miracle." Murdoch pulled his son close, his arm around his shoulder, "Don't get your hopes up, son."
Scott looked over and realized those words were not said for his benefit alone. A grim line marred his father's broad forehead. But they stood together, waiting, silently.
More people came from the hotels, loved ones still searching, volunteers in the rescue effort, medical staff, reporters and observers. A hushed silence fell over the crowd as the "Upwind" made her way to dock.
The medical staff was climbing over the rails before the gangplank could be lowered. Again the grim line of dead began their procession, and the gasp and cries of recognition could be heard.
Murdoch's grip on Scott's shoulder was almost crushing and he forced himself to watch. Scott continued to open and close his hands in futile fists.
The wait continued. Jack, by benefit of his Army uniform, moved swiftly to the dock and spoke in hushed tones to one of the crew. He made his way back to Scott and his father.
"One man, one woman and two children." He said softly as the last body was swiftly moved to the make shift morgue. "The doctor is checking them over. They've been in the water a long time, and they're worried about dehydration." Silence had returned.
A cheer went up as the two children, miraculously saved, were carried out in the arms of the crew. A little girl, maybe two, red faced and crying with her fist in her mouth stared wide-eyed at the crowd. "Emily!" A man shouted from the crowd. "Papa!" was returned.
The space was cleared and the man rushed to his child, tears rolling down his cheeks as the little girl clung desperately to his neck.
The boy was a little older. He kept his dark head turned away as if shy, but the crewmember spoke to him in low tones and he turned and faced the assembly. Scott recognized the girl he'd seen the first day in the warehouse as she feebly pushed her way forward, the boy saw her too. "Sissy, sissy," he cried and held out his arms, struggling to get free of the crewman. She fell to her knees and the little boy squirmed down and ran to her. "Oh, Danny. Oh, Danny," she murmured.
Jack decided that the tearful reunion had gone on long enough in front of gawkers and with the aid of the crewman he helped the weeping girl and her little brother from the dock.
The woman was carried from the ship in a litter. Captain Riceman stood at the railing of his ship and called out, "Mrs. Elizabeth Franklin."
A woman stepped forward, tugging a teenage boy behind her. "My aunt," she said simply, and followed behind the litter, as they made their way down the dock.
All eyes turned back to the captain. "He says his name is Scott."
Murdoch closed his eyes in despair and Scott looked down, the toe of his boot creating a crater in the sand.
The man came forward, his arms slung across the shoulders of two crewmembers, their arms locked across his back supporting his wobbly steps. The dark head came up and he stared back at the crowd. The man coughed as the two crewmembers began to maneuver him down the gangplank, the doctor right behind.
Murdoch was the first to look, his curiosity getting the better of him. Stunned, he stared at the bewhiskered, hollow-eyed youth. His breath caught in his throat and before he could think he surged forward, whispering, "Johnny!"
Scott looked up as he felt his father lurch through the crowd and followed in his wake, seeing only his father's broad back. But then he looked up to see the man moving down the unsteady gangplank. "Johnny," he shouted and moved quickly behind his father.
Johnny coughed again and barely squeaked out, "Scott." They had misunderstood him, he wasn't giving his name, he was requesting information about his brother.
Murdoch had to wait until the trio stepped off the gangplank and onto the dock to fold his youngest child into the same bone-crushing hug he'd given his oldest earlier that day. This time he was rewarded with a barely whispered, "Pa" and his heart soared.
Scott came around the other side and added his arms to the hug. "Johnny."
They stood there for a long minute before Johnny coughed again, "What's a fella gotta do to get a sandwich?" His ordeal with the elements clearly showed in his over-bright eyes and painfully dry skin, but his stubborn sense of humor remained intact.
Scott laughed and pulled back, but Murdoch just clung a little tighter. For the first time Scott saw, plainly written on the older man's face, what the thought of losing his children meant to the man. He touched his father gently on the shoulder. "Murdoch."
Murdoch let go, and cleared his throat gruffly. They took the positions vacated by the crew and helped Johnny down the dock.
"I ain't got my land legs back, yet," Johnny said, looking up at first one than the other. They both only nodded their agreement to the assessment. "You two all right?"
They halted right were they were in the middle of the dock, both of them with the same look of amazement on their faces. Neither of them had been missing, lost at sea for three days, without food or water, but here Johnny was asking after them. They looked across at each other, equally stunned.
"Yes, little brother, we're all right."
"Very all right." Murdoch added.
"Good, cuz you were starting to worry me."
Murdoch started walking again, leading his sons to a wagon. Johnny was lifted into the back; both Murdoch and Scott settled in beside him.
Johnny looked from one to the other, still unsure of their condition. "Just want you both to know, I'm not going on a boat again."
Scott laughed, his cheeks hurting from smiling so much. "Whatever you say little brother, whatever you say."
Johnny narrowed his eyes, still a little concerned for the mental well being of his family.
"Let's get you two boys home. I don't think either of you are going anywhere for a good long while." Murdoch rested a hand on the leg of each of his sons and thanked God for his blessings.
St. Anne is based on the wreck of the Brother Jonathan. Jonathan's rock
near Monterey, CA is named after the wreck in memory of those who died
at sea. It was once considered the worst marine disaster of its time. Thank
you for reading my story.