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The Hawaiian Triple-Cross - Page 2: March 19, 2013 - April 21, 2013

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Your Province?
Now We’re Negotiating
Very Observant
Port Cities
Sea Change
Well, That’s Just Crate


Your Province?

Entry for March 19, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

Erasmus found himself squatting down in the darkness, in the back of the bridge, searching around with his hands to find the handle of the heavy door that separated him from his lifelong friend, Edwin Llewellyn. He needed to get back inside the room without his captors knowing that he might have overheard their villainous conversation. His fingers bumped against the unmistakable wooden surface of the door and immediately felt to his right in an up-and-down side-to-side random walk to overcome his lack of sight. The door seemed bigger than he remembered as he took an extra frog-like step following the direction of his hands. Then in one of the sweeps, his right ring finger’s knuckle rapped against the cold hardness of wrought iron. The beating that he had endured just a few weeks ago by the metal Dragon’s Teeth left his hands tender to such unexpected impacts, and Erasmus winced at the shock. Still, he was pleased to have found the handle. He wrapped both hands around it in an attempt to control its squeakiness.

He attempted to twist the handle slowly, but it resisted. Erasmus figured that his odd position of working a handle just above his head was giving him poor leverage. He started to stand when he heard heavy footsteps through the fore door of the bridge. He jumped to his left behind the captain’s chair, hoping it would conceal him in the shadows.

“You think the rope ladder is in here?” bellowed the encroaching Hawaiian trying his best to be heard over the wind and rasping of the taut anchoring lines. Working the side of the bridge opposite Erasmus, he also struggled in the darkness, lifting tarps and patting around for the object he sought. Erasmus was frozen in place, his eyes starting to get used to the light and feeling very exposed.

“We found it,” came the loud reply from the external deck. The large intruder huffed his distaste for a wasted search and turned to leave. Erasmus looked back at the door and its handle, knowing that getting through that door might give him more time and a chance to warn Edwin.

The junior crewmember rounded the door just as another shout from outside rung out. “Wait! Secure the rudder!”

Erasmus could see him stop and slump in his hesitation. The Chief Inspector quickly formulated a small ruse. He jumped up and, facing away from the door, opened it behind himself quickly. The returning Hawaiian heard the noise of the lever and hinge, and looked up from his errand. He saw Erasmus backlit from the cabin’s lamplight.

Erasmus leisurely asked, “Do you need any help out here? Sounds like the wind is making it difficult to dock.”

“No. Return to the room and keep the door closed. We want to keep the lights as low as possible.” There was a hesitation before he added, “Thank you.”

Erasmus felt that this man had a harder time hiding his lack of concern for Edwin and himself. That meant the pecking order among the Hawaiians correlated with who best hid their ultimate task. Erasmus tucked this away in his mind and turned to enter the cabin behind the door, closing the door behind himself. The light of the room’s lamp was bright enough to cause Erasmus to squint, and to take his first steps carefully given his temporary blindness. Edwin was just as calm as before, sitting quietly in his upholstered chair. “Did some snooping? What did you find out?”

Erasmus’ voice was quiet and serious. “We’re in grave danger.”

Edwin smiled. “I was hoping you had found out something new.”

“You have something they are looking for. Some key. You are alive as long as they don’t have it.”

Edwin shifted in his chair to an even more relaxed position. “Then we best not give it to them.”

“Edwin, we are playing in my province now. We need to save our hides, quickly.”

“Your province?” Edwin punctuated his question with a wry smile. “I am glad to see you take ownership of this sort of thing, but please don’t forget what my world is, my young friend.”

Erasmus needed to put these pieces together. “Edwin, you are playing this like you have a card up your sleeve. Let me see if I can figure this out.” He knew that the teacher in Edwin would bite, and it didn’t matter if he had to unravel the mystery himself, just so long as he got to the bottom of the cat and mouse game that Edwin is playing. It might be needed to save Edwin, and perhaps himself, too.

“You are calm, so you know enough about these men to know that action at this time isn’t needed. Right?”

“Well, of course. Keep going,
Chief Inspector.” His tone was not sarcastic, but rather a nod to Erasmus’ new title. Erasmus felt it was a rather fatherly way to rib him regarding his current success. But it was also a poke at Erasmus using his professional capabilities on the man who taught him to read people. Opponents, if you will.

“Your story has some truth to it. You were visited by Hawaiians. Mr. Judd, Lota, and Alexander. I remember reading about their visit with the royals, which if memory serves, wasn’t successful in getting a treaty secured for their island nation.”

Edwin nodded noncommittally to Erasmus’ statement.

“Ah ha!” Erasmus continued. “They had visited, but you don’t know how their lack of treaty has effected these turns of events.”

Erasmus waited. Only a simple, “go on…” request was Edwin’s response.

“If they visited, it was not because they wanted to see fencing lessons. They could have watched schoolboys getting an education in the gentleman’s art of the swordsmanship in France, or any of one of the other schools about London. For Hawaiian royalty, they came because they heard of your other instructions.”

Edwin smiled broadly at Erasmus’ postulations.

“The classes you teach at your country house. Hmm, so they watched, no…, took one of your classes in live weapon dueling or…”

Edwin raised an eyebrow. It meant
keep going…

Erasmus continued in a low whisper, “You taught Hawaiian royalty assassin techniques? Was that wise?”

“Her majesty…”

The door sprung open and Kalei walked in. His previously dapper clothes were spotted with the beginning of a rainstorm, but his smile was wide and he looked chipper.

“Time to disembark, my friends. We need to make our way to the ship. You must be careful on the rope ladder; it is starting to get wet from the new rain.”

Edwin stood and walked toward the door, which Kalei held for them. The fencing instructor didn’t look worried at all.

Erasmus thought to himself,
“There’s another thing I have also puzzled out. Edwin does not know what key they are looking for, so he is not worried about his life being cut short.”



Now We’re Negotiating

Entry for March 26, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Needless to say, the commotion had the collateral effect of waking the slumbering commanding officer in the next room. Bleary-eyed and disheveled, he shambled through the adjoining door while wrestling a dressing gown over his nightshirt.

“What is the meaning of this?” he barked.

Sergeant Fox snapped to attention and executed a crisp salute. “Sergeant J.B. Fox, on Her Majesty’s mission, sir!”

Colonel Morris missed the mastery of the sergeant’s martial maneuver because he’d managed to open his eyes enough to see his aide de camp crumpled in a heap, smallish though it was, on the floor.

As if he hadn’t just said it, he repeated himself. “What is the meaning of this?”

Still standing at attention, Fox blinked once, then twice. He thought he had made himself perfectly clear.

Sparky interjected impatiently, “We’re on urgent business for Her Majesty and we’re wasting time. A chief inspector for Scotland Yard was abducted in London this afternoon. We’re hot on the trail of his kidnappers. We’re certain they made their way to Portsmouth by airship to meet a sailing ship at the dockyards. They have quite a lead!”

The colonel looked bored and unimpressed. “You’re certain? How is that so?”

“We have evidence…” Sparky’s voice trailed off. She was new to Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears, and wasn’t certain how much she was allowed to say and to whom.

“Evidence you say?” He examined their assembled company, mulling over the facts in front of him. The conclusion he drew both embittered him and presented an unforeseeable opportunity. “A sergeant of the Royal Aerial Marines putting on airs of authority, an impudent American, airship pilot pretender, and their chinawoman chattel. You must be from Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears. How unfortunate for you that I’m more the arms and legs sort. You know, useful body parts,” he sneered.

Although Yin was standing behind Sparky so the adventuress couldn’t see her face, the airship pilot could feel a chill emanating from her sister-in-arms. Sparky thought to herself, “When this is over, I’m going to offer her my help knocking the stuffing out of this churl, officer or not.”

Colonel Morris continued, “You know, Howell Spreckler and I served together in the China War. He’s a good and loyal man. You’re not in my chain of command. You’re not carrying orders from her Majesty. If you were, you would have shown them by now rather than assaulting my secretary. I’m going back to bed. If you don’t leave, I will have you court martialed.” He turned back toward the door through which he’d entered and started shuffling back to bed.

Fox swallowed hard. The colonel had him in a tight spot. The colonel outranked him. He couldn’t get the support he needed to find the Hawaiians and Drake in time without the commander’s cooperation. He considered giving Sparky free rein to pursue her “usual” methods, but he suspected a colonel who fought in the China War would be a more challenging opponent than the sprig of a private or the tottering old hippopotamus that was the Duke of Milton. Diplomacy must be the order of the day.

“Sir, this matter is of critical importance to Her Majesty. How can I convince you?”

With his back still turned, Colonel Morris smiled slyly to himself. Apparently he hadn’t lost his skill for reading and manipulating enemies. He composed his face into a mask of practiced indifference before turning to face the sergeant.

“Portsmouth is rather monotonous for a man of my cosmopolitan tastes.”

“Excuse me, sir.”

This strait-laced sergeant was so damnably literal! “I had hoped for a posting to someplace more cultured. Colonel Spreckler was assisting me such a change of venue when he was…er…reassigned.”

Sparky huffed. The four occupants of the room stood in stalled silence for several seconds. Sparky huffed again in exasperation. She stood on her tiptoes to whisper in J.B.’s ear. His only reply was to scowl and grunt, “Unh?” She gave it another go, whispering more loudly and enunciating each syllable. Fox’s expression of perplexity persisted. She thumped down onto her heels in frustration.

“Extortion!” she blurted out. Morris winced. Fox shook his head in confusion. “Quid pro quo?” she ventured. She should have known that resorting to Latin would only make the situation worse. “He wants a favor in exchange for actually performing his official duties. I wonder that he isn’t Russian. I gather that his price is a posting to London.” Her disgust at the colonel’s malfeasance was clearly etched on her face.

Recognition bloomed on Fox’s visage, followed almost immediately by an expression that no one would mistake for anything but righteous rage. For a second, Sparky thought the honorable Aerial Marine might resort to his fists as well. She laid a hand gently on his forearm. As much as she understood and empathized with his desire, and frankly would have enjoyed watching the outcome, she knew from personal experience that no amount of force would sway a loathsome opportunist such as Morris. She was sure she could hear Fox grinding his teeth as he considered his distasteful options.

His jaw was set rigidly when he said, “Very well. I will put in a good word with…the right people.” The way he worked his mouth suggested that he had been forced to drink Thames water and wanted more than anything to spit it out. “But only if we are successful in finding the chief inspector and securing his safe return.”

Sparky had seen more sincere smiles on gargoyles than the one that was Colonel Morris’ response. He shook Fox’s hand. The sergeant looked like he’d just touched a leper. The colonel navigated around the assembled representatives of HMEE to open the cottage’s front door and poke his head out. Not even bothering to address the guards outside by name, possibly because he hadn’t thought it profitable to learn them, he grumped, “Give this sergeant whatever he needs.” Without giving more detailed orders, addressing the company, or even ascertaining the liveliness of his secretary, the commanding officer disappeared back to his quarters, closing the door behind himself and locking it.

McTrowell marveled that Fox’s fury at the officer’s dishonorable behavior didn’t burn a crater in the cottage’s floorboards. She tugged on his arm. “Come along. He will get his just rewards in due time, although it will not be soon enough for either you or me. Ask Lord Ashleigh about karma the next time you see him. For now, we must focus on our mission.”

“You are correct, as usual, Dr. McTrowell. The return of your fiancé is more important.” Sparky had to turn her head quickly so he wouldn’t see the effect his words had on her. “Her fiancé.” She squeezed her eyes closed tightly to hold back the tears.

Flourish Break


For all his years of athletic training, Edwin Llewellyn was not a young man. Drake fretted all the way down the slippery rope ladder about his foster father. He did his best to assess the situation rapidly when they reached the ground, but the storm reduced visibility to almost nil. Any thoughts of making a run for it were quickly quashed when the Hawaiian he had identified as the most junior of the kidnapping party grabbed a firm handful of his collar and Edwin’s. He felt uncomfortably as though he were back in the custody of an orphanage warden.

Kalei and the second Hawaiian whom Erasmus had taken to be his lieutenant walked ahead. He strained his ears against the sound of the rain to catch what he could of their conversation. His years at Scotland Yard had taught him to recognize the audible tones of contention, even when masked by purported deference.

“Kaleikaumaka, Pa’ele and I were hanai together. I say we take the Englishman to Pa ’ula’ula o Hipo. The old, Russian fort is falling down. No one will think to look for him there. If we get the key from him first, we can offer it to the one who will pay the most.”

“Ah,” thought Drake, “Negotiation.
Here is my opportunity.




Very Observant

Entry for April 1, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

Erasmus looked up at the airship from which they had just disembarked. The hour and weather made it a black distended silhouette against an angry grey sky. It was tethered to the mooring post only by its nose, allowing it to be buffeted around like a weather vane in the vigorous wind. Erasmus knew that it was being abandoned, and that the flight crew, if they could be legitimately called that, was not leaving the craft properly sheltered. For good reason, he could not help but think that this was a living analogy for how these men would treat Edwin and him. It was a discomforting thought.

The Hawaiian that walked with Edwin and Erasmus was rougher in his manner, and lacked the level of civility that the other two at least attempted. He forced a gait that was good for him, but clearly disagreeable for Edwin and Erasmus, causing a mismatch between the size of steps on both of their left and right legs. He grunted as he walked in a most unpleasant way, and gave an air of wanting his stay in England to be over.

Erasmus hoped he could start another congenial conversation with Kalei. “I was wondering if…”

Kalei turned rapidly, staring at Erasmus. He immediately interrupted, “Quiet! No more talking until we get to the ship!” Then to Erasmus’ surprise, Kalei continued nonchalantly. “We have arrived at Portsdown Hill, which overlooks the Island of Portsea. From here you can make out the city of Portsmouth below, south of us. We are going to walk down to there,” he pointed down the hill to his right, “to the edge of Portsmouth Harbour. We have a dinghy docked there that we will take to our anchored clipper. We will set sail and leave the harbor in the morning, if we have fair weather. Quiet now. No need to disturb anyone else.” Erasmus thought this was an odd request since no one else was around. Yet another fact that Erasmus wanted to file away with all of the other odd details of this excursion.

The downward path was through a fallow field. The unmaintained dirt path toward the harbor provided poor footing as it was slowing turning muddy. The surrounding tall wet field grass was not much better. Erasmus’ dress shoes were getting an unwelcomed introduction to country life, which was just another annoyance for Erasmus to add to this evening. The Chief Inspector also noted that despite their fineries, no one in the troop cared that their clothes were getting rained on or soiled by meadow grime. He was not looking forward to this dinghy ride, which he assumed would have damp seats and pooled water in its bottom.

The five men arrived on the rocky shore as the last of the evening light disappeared. Kalei led the way down to an aging wooden dock. Their feet clomped across its timbered deck, which smelled of stagnant seawater, pine pitch-impregnated planks, and old seaweed. Memories of childhood rushed through Erasmus’ mind; some good, others not so.

Kalei bent over to take control of one of the docked vessels, which Erasmus perceived as nothing more than a darker spot in the night that made muted splashing noises as the harbor waves tickled its belly. Erasmus heard a tarp being removed and the sounds of a line being retrieved to stabilize the dinghy from its unsecured end.

The fist that had been clamped to his shoulder finally let go with a slight push toward the vessel. Erasmus took the hint and followed those ahead of him into the boat. It was drier and more comfortable than he expected, and he was allowed to take a middle seat. Kalei sat at the bow. Meanwhile, the other two Hawaiians took up the oars to row, much to the surprise of Erasmus who thought he would have been assigned the manual task. Kalei navigated by the few points of flickering lantern light visible in the harbor, guiding the rowers with whispers and directed finger jabs. In near silence they rowed out to the space between the lapping waves and the constant drizzle.

The evening chill set in as they made their way across the water. The Hawaiians proved to be strong rowers and they made good time as they went deeper into the heart of the harbor, skirting the quiescent anchored ships in the night. Through the haze of sprinkling rain, a distinctive amber-tinted lamp twinkled from within a distant ship and Kalei pointed it out with whispered enthusiasm. The rowers laid in a course towards it and soon pulled alongside the clipper. Kalei let out a “coo-coo” birdcall, and a wooden-step rope ladder thunked against the hull as it was lowered from the deck above. The five men clambered up.

They were greeted by a trio of non-military sailors, to Erasmus they looked to be whalers or fishermen, who helped them aboard without much ado. Kalei quietly commanded, “Good show, men. Pa’ele and Ke
ō, please get clothes and bedding for our ‘guests.’ Food would be good, too. I will escort them to where they can clean up. Meet in the mess hall on the hour.” To a man, all nodded their acknowledgement to Kalei and dispersed. To Erasmus and Edwin, Kalei continued, “Let us get below deck and out of this English rain. Follow me.” Kalei led the way down the wooden stairs and soon they were in a warm dry hallway. They stripped off their jackets and shook what rain they could from them, which was mostly a futile task done for show. All three of them were soaked through their shirts.

“Right this way,” Kalei insisted, and all three men stepped through a wooden door into a crowded storage hold full of sail material. Kalei lit a lamp and closed the door.

Edwin spoke for the first time since landing, in a confused tone, “Why are we here?”

Kalei was quick to answer.

“We don’t have a great deal of time, so please let me state this quickly and plainly. There is an on-going coup to depose the ruler of our island nation, King Kamehameha III. I am secretly working with the King, and I have infiltrated the traitors. Although I have been given responsibility and rank, I am still not privy to all of their plans and motivations. I was sent to bring you, Edwin Llewellyn, back to Hawaii so you could provide a key to…something. If you could tell me anything that would make sense of this request by the traitors, I could help you, perhaps free you both now, and save us all a great deal of anguish.”

Edwin leaned in toward the hulk of a man. “How do I know I can trust you? We both know that this may be a ploy to just have me hand you what you want right now. Then Erasmus and I are both useless to you.”

Kalei nodded his understanding of the response. He stepped back and reached his right hand across his body. There, from under a colored sash wrapped about his waist, he quickly drew a long whaler’s
leaning knife. Erasmus saw a bit of the scrimshaw on the ivory-white handle and the distinctive eyebrow-curve to the razor-sharp blade. Kalei crouched slightly into a fighting stance, the blade held out in front of him in a menacing way. Edwin instinctively moved his left leg back and he sank into a guarded fighter’s stance, ready to protect himself. Erasmus felt the tension in the room as the two men locked eyes, and also crouched, but instead with his right leg back.

Kalei stated, as if reading from a book, “When your opponent locks their fingers into the handle or bell of their weapon, they will use strong circular motions of the Italian school to control the action. Roll your hand over,” which Kalei did and patted the back of his right hand with the palm of his left, “Knuckles up, and use strong outside-sweeping motions for defense.”

Edwin relaxed and stood up straight. “You have been trained by someone I have trained. Interesting. So you personally know either Lota, Alexander, or Mr. Judd.”

Kalei relaxed his stance and sheathed the knife back into its hiding place.

“I know them all. Personally.”

Edwin leaned back and rubbed his chin. “Let me think on this. I am not a man who changes his trust in someone quickly. Although, you have given me something to consider. Come see us…privately…in the morning. I want to discuss this with my friend Erasmus tonight.”

The Hawaiian smiled broadly. “Dry clothes and food may help you with your thinking, I am sure. Let me show you your cabin. But I must mention the obvious. Tell no one of this conversation or all of our lives are at risk. Now, please, follow me.”

Erasmus felt a twinge that was new to him. He wished he were back in his flat with Sparky, enjoying a dinner, instead of on this ship, soaking wet and not sure who was telling the truth.

As the three of them made their way to one of the bunking rooms, it suddenly hit Erasmus.
Sparky might have tried to follow him! Could she have gotten all the way to Portsmouth? And if she had been able to follow him, this was not the situation to go into with fists swinging unless you had…well…an army to back you up.

If she is in route, I need some signal to show Sparky where I am, Erasmus thought. He looked about his body for anything unique. The blue sash that he had around his waist was now wet and dull looking, although it would make a grand signal if he could affix it on the hull of the ship. If it dried out a tad.

On the other hand, Erasmus thought, I may be needed to help stop the coup of a King, so my rescue may be the undoing of a nation. I cannot let her find me, since she will be walking into as bad a situation as I am in, his thoughts continued. I must discuss this with Edwin tonight.

Kalei opened the door to their cabin, revealing two built-in bunks and a set of brass hooks on the wall for hanging clothes.
Some things have improved over the last twenty years, Erasmus thought to himself. Erasmus and Edwin saw the dry clothes on the beds and both signaled the other to enter first. Erasmus was the more insistent. Edwin entered and closed the door behind himself, leaving the remaining two men in the hallway.

Kalei turned to Erasmus. “You are a sailing man, I see.”

“Interesting that you say that. How did you know?” Erasmus asked because he didn’t know how he had given it away.

“The way you walk onboard. You have no problem with a swaying ship. Your hips and back give and roll. You probably do not even know you are compensating for the pitch of the ship. Am I correct?”

“Yes. Yes, you are right, although it has been a while. You are very observant.”

Kalei smiled broadly again. “Then you should also know that I’m not planning to give you a bladed weapon of any type. I saw your stance back there. You have been formally trained. Maybe by Mr. Llewellyn himself, given your obvious loyalty to him.”

“Very observant again. But keep in mind that at some point, to save what you believe is precious, you may want me to have that bladed weapon.”

Both men nodded in silent agreement.



Port Cities

Entry for April 10, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“If the dockyards work like an airship port, there should be a harbormaster with a log of all the ships currently docked,” Sparky commented to Fox.

“Yes, ma’am.” Fox turned to address the Marine sentries, “Corporal...?”

“Ickenham.”

“Right, Corporal Ickenham. Round up a squad and meet us at the harbormaster’s office.”

The two sentries set off toward the barracks, but not with the spirit of urgency that the muscular sergeant considered commensurate with the circumstances.

Sparky interjected, “Now that you’ve sent them away, how are we going to find the office? I doubt he’s going to be much help, even if he were conscious.” She indicated the still quiescent private on the floor with a dismissive flick of her wrist.

“Usually you walk along the docks until you find the shack with a light burning. However, this is not my first visit to Portsmouth, so I know where to find it.” He led his two companions out of the cottage at a brisk clip, skirting the harbor to east.

They were subjected to the same type of lackadaisical reception when they reached the harbormaster’s. There was not the light burning from the shack that Fox had predicted. Sparky felt a wave of foreboding when she realized that, if not for J.B.’s foreknowledge, they would have wasted precious time applying his search method in vain. Sergeant Fox took his frustrations out on the door with a full two minutes of hammering before they heard creaking and shuffling from inside. They glared at the door, waiting for it to open.

A weathered nose dotted with moles and freckles poked out. “Whatcha want?” the voice below the proboscis grumbled.

“Sergeant J.B. Fox of Her Royal Majesty’s Aerial Marines on special assignment from Her Majesty,” Fox bellowed in irritation.

“Awright, awright, don’ getcher wings in a twist.”

The door inched open the rest of the way and a meager gas lamp sputtered to life, revealing a gnome of a man fittingly matching his nose.

Fox shoved in. “We need to see the log.”

The shack’s resident cast a dubious glance at McTrowell and Young before turning to rummage through the disarray of papers piled in, on top of, and spilling out of an ancient roll top secretary. This activity also took considerably longer than it should have considering the enormous size of the well worn, leather bound logbook. He dumped it unceremoniously in the Marine’s arms. Fox turned so the light fell on the pages and held it open so Sparky could flip through the pages. She scanned over the scrawled rows of vessel names, port of origin, nationality, and date of arrival.

“They’ve probably been here at least a week,” she offered. She searched backward and forward over a couple of pages. “Somehow we need to eliminate more of these ships.”

“They weren’t British, so they won’t be on any of Her Majesty’s naval vessels.”

Yin spoke up for the first time since they had arrived. “I believe they are Hawaiian.” McTrowell and Fox both stared in bafflement. “As they passed through the Howgill house, I heard one of them say ‘No ka pono e…’ I did not understand it, but I believe it to be the Hawaiian language.”

It took Sparky a moment to snap out of her astonishment at the revelation of yet another amazing skill of Dr. Young. “The trip to Hawaii requires a large, long-range ship. That rules out cutters, fishing smacks, and probably the howkers. We need to look at frigates and clippers.”

The only saving grace of all the delays was that it gave the Marines time to arrive from the barracks. “What sort of cargo are you looking for?” Corporal Ickenham asked.

“We’re not looking for goods. We’re searching for a chief inspector of Scotland Yard and an elderly gent who were kidnapped from London this morning.”

“Kidnappers, ay, not smugglers?”

Fox thought that a peculiar thing to say.

“Although I suppose they might be the same lot,” the corporal continued. “There might be a bit of coin in that. They’d be anchored around to the west by Gosport where they can keep a lookout and sail on short notice, if you take my meaning.”

Fox nodded his comprehension, although he feared that he had understood the corporal only too well, and the knowledge did not sit well with him. He made a mental note that HMEE needed to take a closer look at the operation of the Royal Dockyards once they had successfully completed their current mission.

Sparky scanned the names and registries of the ships in the log that hadn’t already been eliminated; there were six. “Do we split up or stick together?”

“We should split up. Only the three of us will recognize Chief Inspector Drake and the Marines will be stronger rowers.” Fox pointed to the logbook as he selected the names. “I’ll take the Gamecock and the San Francisco. Yin, search the Pinghu and the Trieste. Dr. McTrowell, Byeliya Nochi and the St. John.” They all trampled back out to the darkened docks.

Following Corporal Ickenham, Sparky clambered into a dinghy. As they rowed out into the harbor, she wondered at the wisdom of wearing her leather duster in a boat, particularly so small and susceptible to capsizing. Oh well, there was nothing to be done about it now. There hadn’t been any place safe to leave it and it was pretty chilly away from the docks. “Corporal, which ship are we searching first?”

“Belly Noggee, it’s closer.”

She winced at his butchery of the proper Russian pronunciation. Antagonizing him under the circumstances seemed ill advised. She busied herself with studying the sterns of the ships in the brief instants when they were illuminated by the tiny lantern mounted on the top of the dinghy’s prow. She noticed for the first time how many of them were named for port cities.

When they reached the Russian frigate and tied up to her, Ickenham turned to her. “Stay here while we board. These Russians can be a rough lot.”

She was about to retort sharply that that her command of the Russian language vastly exceeded his, but she thought she might keep that useful bit of information in reserve, the element of surprise and all.

So, she waited. And waited.  And waited. She could hear voices. And at one point she thought she heard the echo of boisterous laughter. Her minuscule patience was very nearly exhausted and she was about to climb the rope ladder when the Marines returned. They seemed a tad unsteady climbing back down and she thought she caught a whiff of vodka.

“Well?” she demanded.

“Not here.”

“You’re quite sure?,” she continued, peevishly.

“Unless your chief inspector smells of pickled herring and has a greasy beard down to his chest, no, he’s not aboard that ship.”

The impatience in Sparky’s voice was palpable, “So, the St. John, then?”

“Right.”

Out across the inky waters Sparky spotted the one of the other dinghies, its lantern lighting up the back of a dark brown vessel, the brass lettering spelling out San Juan shone across its stern.

Sparky’s thoughts drifted back to the rows of names in the logbook. “Ironic that there should be two ships anchored at the same time, both named for the same saint.”

“Pardon?”

“San Juan is Spanish for St. John.”

“Unh,” the Marine responded noncommittally.

“That’s it!,” Sparky yelped. “It’s not the San Francisco. It’s the San Juan!”

“What are you going on about?”

“Sergeant Fox said, ‘the San Francisco.’ I didn’t notice his mistake because it’s flying a Spanish flag. I thought it was a Spanish ship from San Juan. He said it backwards!” She very nearly capsized the boat in her excitement at her realization.

“Are you mad, woman?”

“Don’t you see? The ship is named the San Juan and it sailed out of San Francisco flying a Spanish flag.”

“So?”

It should be flying an American flag!



Sea Change

Entry for April 15, 2013 Written by David L. Drake

The mess hall was a fairly small and crowded room with a long table and benches with just enough space for walking single-file around it. These fixtures were fashioned of thick planks that had been smoothed by use. The table had been oiled some time in the recent past and washed down recently, but Erasmus didn’t think of it as clean in any real sense of the word. There were a half dozen ship hands having a meal of bread and soup at the far end of the table. They eyed Erasmus and Edwin with disinterest as they entered. Erasmus noticed the same unpleasant smell that lingers in a market square after the vegetable and fish carts have rolled away for the night, except concentrated in a tight room.

Erasmus and Edwin stopped at the entryway with Kalei close behind. “Sit here, and here,” the Hawaiian commanded with a point of his finger. Both men scooted between the bench seats and the table, and then hiked up their odd sized pants to aid in sitting down. During this maneuver, Erasmus realized how much he appreciated the dry clothes, as ill cut as they were. His legs were just too big for these britches, and he could tell that Edwin’s arms were far too long for his lent shirt. After this minor amount of outfit adjustment, they both found their seats.

Edwin turned to Kalei and asked, “Do you have something easy to digest for an old man?”

Erasmus did his best not to react. Edwin would never refer to himself as an old man, despite his age.
How old is he now? Erasmus wondered. Sixty-five? Seventy? Whatever the right answer was, he knew that the man could out maneuver just about anyone half his age, so he must have been trying to appear feeble. Which means he has a plan. Odd that he hasn’t told it to me, Erasmus thought.

Kalei smiled at the request, mostly out of amusement. “We have just freshened the larder, so we have fish and fowl, bread and beer, but we best keep to our rations early, given the length of our trip. We made fish soup tonight. Be careful of bones. The treat is bread, which is fresh and you should enjoy it now. We do some baking while underway, but it is rare. So consider it the indulgence that it is. Oh, hope you both have a taste for grog.”

The meager supper passed with limited dialog. After the bowls were cleared, the Hawaiian who had roughly led Edwin and Erasmus from the airship to shore entered the mess hall dressed in dry sailor clothes. He hovered over Kalei for a while, just enough to annoy his countryman.

“What can I do for you, Ke
ō?”

Ke
ō flatly responded, “I am here to escort the Englishmen to their cabin.”

Kalei gave a combined look of surprise and annoyance at being relieved of his charges. Ke
ō justified his request by stating, “You need to get out of those wet clothes, Kalei. I will take care of them.”

Kalei hid his indignation poorly as he rose and left the mess hall, looking back over his shoulder with concern twice before exiting.


Ke
ō waved his paw of a hand towards the door, “Let’s go.”

Erasmus and Edwin exchanged concerned glances as they stood. They shuffled past the bulky man and into the hallway.

The three men single-filed into the cabin and
Keō closed the door. When he turned back to face the Englishmen, he had a pleading look on his face and a submissive posture. “Gentleman, I pray I have not been too rough with you. A word, please. I beseech that you hear me out.” Both men were awe struck by Keō’s instant personality and vocabulary transplant.

Erasmus answered him, “Go on. You have our ears.”

“The other Hawaiians on this ship are working against the King of Hawaii. I am here clandestinely to reverse whatever plot they are hatching. We haven’t much time. Please throw in with me to aid in protecting our Hawaiian Sovereign. The key that you possess will help us protect the King.”

Edwin answered this time. “I see. You have done well to disguise your loyalty. And the sailors on board? Who are they aligned with?”

With a dismissive gesture of both hands,
Keō responded, “Them? They are sailors for hire, and will do as we say. They came with the ship we procured in San Francisco. A bit rough, but they keep to themselves. They do some shipping business on the side, which greatly reduces what we have to pay them. But enough about them, do we have an agreement?”

Edwin leaned in toward Ke
ō. “How do I know I can trust you? This may be a ploy to just have me hand you what you want right now. Then Erasmus and I are both useless to you. We would not want to be…disposed of.”

Ke
ō smiled and reached inside the neck of his shirt, pulling out a smooth white object hung on a leather thong around his neck. “See this shark tooth? It was a present from the Kamehameha family. I keep it near to my heart.” He slipped it back into his shirt. He had a serious look as his considered his next words. “You can trust me. Please.”

Edwin responded, “It has been a long day. Sleep is needed so I can think this through. I will give you my answer in the morning.”

“I understand,”
Keō said, but it was clear from his intonation he had hoped to get the information much sooner. “Unfortunately, I need to shackle you tonight so it will appear I have properly prevented your escape. I am sure that over the open ocean this will not be needed. I apologize for this inconvenience.”

“I realize your situation,” Edwin said as he turned and offered his right hand behind his back, “here, shackle me first.”

What an odd stance, Erasmus thought. Edwin’s had his left leg back toward the Hawaiian, and his right hand back, offering it for shackling. But not his left.

Keō retrieved a manacle from his belt, and ratcheted one of the hooped ends around Edwin’s right wrist. He then reached over to take Edwin’s left wrist. As soon as he touched his hand, Edwin whipped his right arm around, fully extended, with his hand stopping at his left ear. The motion yanked the manacle out of Keō’s hand and swung it around in a perfect arc, the loose end slapping its full force into the Hawaiian’s left temple.

As his consciousness was snuffed out, the mountain of a man collapsed without an utterance. Erasmus grabbed the other manacle Ke
ō had in his belt and secured his hands behind him. He found the manacle key in the unconscious man’s pocket and freed Edwin’s right hand, saying, “Nice move. Well executed. Did you have a grander plan than just knocking out this one?”

Edwin rubbed his right wrist. “Escape would be the obvious suggestion, but they would just come back after me. We need to find out what is really happening.”

“Considering that, to a man, no one has told us the actual truth yet, this may be quite a challenge. The good news is that there are only two more Hawaiians to clonk on the head.” Erasmus thought for a second, and then continued, “I would like to think
Kalei may not need that treatment, but…we will see what we need to do. First things first…”

Erasmus opened the diminutive porthole and hung the majority of his blue sash out into the night. He closed the circular window onto the sash so that it would hold fast.

Erasmus explained, “Just in the rare chance that Sparky’s out there looking for me. She will remember my sash.”

Edwin wrinkled his face up. “Who’s Sparky?”

Flourish Break


As quietly as she could keep her voice, Sparky implored the Marine at the oars, “Row, you fool, row!” The Marine put his back into it as best he could, but between grimaces, he made his “What’s your hurry, lady?” face. Sparky turned her attention to eyeing the San Juan as a hawk contemplating its prey.

The oarlocks squeaked during the stroke and rattled on the gunwale during the recovery. This caused enough clatter to catch the attention of Sergeant Fox and his crew. He stood in his dinghy with his arms out and shoulders up, gave his best “What’s up?” pose. Sparky commanded her rower to direct their craft over to J.B.’s boat near the stern of the San Juan.

Sparky sputtered out in an excited whisper, “This is it! It has to be!” She pointed up at the stern and the brass lettering.

“Why?” J.B. asked while finding his seat. The dinghies drew close enough that the Marines could carefully hook the other boat with one of their oars to keep the boats from drifting apart. The bobbing of the harbor surface had its effect on the boats, making it difficult for Sparky and Sergeant Fox to visually track each other.

She was beside herself. “The Spanish Flag! The log said it was flying the Spanish flag! It’s out of San Francisco. It should be an American flag!”

“I see. I agree, that’s odd. But why this ship?”

“I know San Francisco shipping routes. Hawaii is a frequent destination. And why hide their nationality unless they are trying to conceal themselves?”

Sergeant Fox knew that Sparky wanted to get her man. Literally. “How do you want to approach this?”

“Before we rush onboard, let’s see if Erasmus left some clue. That would help us know how to proceed. We can circle the ship and look. Starboard side first.”

Both dinghies quietly rowed to midship and stopped, their occupants searching for anything that would indicate that the Chief Inspector was, in fact, onboard. A small porthole opened above their heads causing everyone in the dinghies to stop breathing so as to make as little noise as possible. Something that looked like a dark cloth banner was hung out of the porthole, and then it was shut again, with the banner flapping in the harbor breeze.

“What is that?” J.B. asked sotto voce.

Both dinghies rowed away slightly from clipper to get a better view of the fabric. J.B. held up his lantern to shed some light on the object. Sparky gasped and jumped up.

“That’s his sash! From the wedding!”

The Marine rowers in Sparky’s boat couldn’t hold back his incredulity. “Yo’ ‘asta’ be yankin’ me leg.” He looked about at the fifty or so ships anchored out in the harbor. “Thar’s just no way t’at could’da
just ‘appened, righ’ above our ‘eads.”

J.B. laughed at the serendipity of their good fortune, and hoped that the adventuress was right. “Board from the stern, I presume?” Sparky nodded with agreement at the simple plan.

As they rowed around to the stern, the third dinghy was there, waiting, Yin sitting quietly on board with her Marines.

“Yin!” Sparky exclaimed, “How did you know to come here?”

“You make a great deal more noise than you think. I knew you had found something.”

Sergeant Fox called up for assistance, and when a sailor peered over, he was surprised at the three dinghies and their inhabitants.

“What yer want?”

“Routine harbor check,” J.B. shouted up. “Only take a few minutes.”

“Harbor check? We’re experienced sailors. No need to check on us. Setting sail come daylight. No need to bother.”

J.B. needed a good reason to get on the ship. “We are just checking for plague ridden rats. There been reports of them from other harbors. Even if you haven’t brought on any cargo, we need to do a quick inspection. Wouldn’t want to have to delay your getting underway with the tide in the morning.”

“I’ll get the captain,” was the only reply, and the sailor disappeared. A minute or so later, another sailor’s head appeared over the stern. With resignation, he shouted out, “I’ll toss down a ladder.” A rope and wood ladder was lowered, and everyone from the dinghies clambered up, save the three oarsmen.

When Sparky peered over the rail, she gave the ship a quick look. It was an impressive three-masted clipper ship. Its sails were stowed for the night, but even the sight of the yards and rigging were impressive. It looked to be more than two hundred feet long, with a beam of about thirty-five feet. It looked like a fast ship even sitting still in the harbor.

The sailor who had tossed down the ladder addressed the party once they were aboard. “Nine people for an inspection? Oh, well. Come this way to the hold. Watch your footing.”

The Marines followed the sailor while Sparky, J.B., and Yin trailed behind. As soon as the sailor disappeared down a set of steep stairs, the three rescuers started their search to find another way below deck.




Well, That’s Just Crate

Entry for April 21, 2013 Written by Katherine L. Morse

As soon as the rest of the company was out of sight, Fox pointed silently at an open wood grating in the main deck just a few yards ahead of them with a faint glow emanating from it. They approached silently and looked down. They could just barely discern the outlines of stacks of crates below them on the cargo deck. Wordlessly, they crouched down, grabbed the handles on the grating, and pulled as smoothly as they could manage. It was fortunate that no one else was about because the hinges were not well maintained, a fact that didn’t surprise Fox given what Corporal Ickenham had said about smugglers. It had been the sergeant’s experience that sailors of such low moral standing lacked proper respect for their vessels that was consistent with their lack of respect for the laws of civilized society.

They scrambled down the ladder with Fox bringing up the rear to close the hatch, albeit not particularly quietly. They regrouped behind some crates out of sight of anyone nosey enough to peer through the grate. Pointing toward the stern in the general direction of where they had seen Drake’s sash, Fox whispered, “We should split up. They may be guarded.”

He gestured for Sparky to head down the farthest aisle of cargo and Yin to take the near one. That left him to take the most direct route, the one most likely to be guarded and, therefore, the most dangerous. Sparky touched the ring on her left hand, thinking of Erasmus. She wondered if there were a sweetheart or a Mrs. Fox somewhere fervently hoping for the sergeant’s safe return. He was one of the finest men she had ever met, but she wouldn’t want to be that woman who must worry every time he left on such a mission.

She snapped out of it. She needed to focus on the safety of her own sweetheart. Despite her eyes being adjusted to darkness and the meager light cast by the widely spaced lanterns, she could barely make out more than shadowed shapes. She pressed close to the crates, touching them every few inches as she walked to maintain her equilibrium in the dark. She froze in mid-step as an image flashed through her brain. Had she imagined it? Almost certainly she hadn’t seen it clearly in the dark. She tried to compel herself to move forward, but she couldn’t ignore the sense of dread seeping into her brain. She really hoped that Fox and Young had the situation in hand. She backed up two steps and squinted at the crate she had just passed.

Sparky’s desperate hope that she had been mistaken was dashed. She recognized the distinctive packing label and unusually high quality of the crate itself. She read the contents on the label. Mining equipment indeed!

J.B. and Yin simultaneously froze at the sound of nails creaking and wood splintering ahead of them. Sensing imminent danger and using the cacophony as cover, they sprinted toward the source. They rounded the corners at the ends of the aisles to find two men breaking into a shipping container. The haste of their approach had given them away.

The two men turned on them, brandishing splintered laths from the demolished container. The taller of the two, facing off against Yin, cursed, “What the devil?” But it didn’t stop him from engaging his slight opponent. He took an expert swing at Dr. Young with the ragged piece of wood. A less nimble warrior would have been felled, but Yin narrowly dodged the attack despite the encumberment of the device strapped to her head. She circled out of range while listening to the sounds of Fox’s engagement with the other unidentified assailant.

Thump. “Oof.” Swish. Crack. “Damn!”

Yin danced back farther. “Drake?”

“What? Ouch!”

“Is that you, Chief Inspector?”

An older man’s voice called out, “What is the meaning of this?”

“What is it Yin?” Fox retorted from several yards away.

“Sergeant Fox?” came the voice of J.B.’s adversary.

“Drake?”

Drake responded, “Edwin, hold your position!”

The battle ceased. The combatants stood in confused silence. Edwin Llewellyn spoke first. “Would someone please explain to me what is going on?”

Drake replied, “I believe our rescue has arrived. Sergeant Fox? Dr. Young?”

Fox responded, “Here, chief inspector.”

“How did you know it was us?”

“I didn’t.”

Yin interjected, “I recognized your voice. My sensei teaches listening as a defensive skill.”

Drake and Fox both pondered that idea a moment before Fox thought to ask, “If you’re trying to escape, why are you making all this noise by breaking into this crate?”

“I’m not sure we’re escaping.”

“What?”

“There is some plan afoot here that is more complex than a mere kidnapping. We were off to investigate when I spotted this shipment of Green Fantasy. Dangerous stuff.”

J.B. wasn’t sure what Green Fantasy was, but he knew to take Erasmus at his word when he described it as dangerous. “Your kidnappers are smugglers.”

“We believe our kidnappers are Hawaiian revolutionaries and royalists. We just discovered they are probably traveling in the company of smugglers when we opened this crate. As to how these factions are intertwined, I haven’t yet divined the extent of that either.” He paused for a moment. “Is Sparky with you?”

They heard stumbling footsteps hurrying toward them from the far side of the cargo hold.

“I’m here. Oof!” She bumped into Yin. “What is that monstrosity on your head?”

“Multi-vision goggles. On this setting, they help me see in the dark.”

“You look like a dragonfly.” Without waiting for a meaningful reply that probably wasn’t forthcoming anyway, Sparky scooted over to Erasmus and threw her arms around his neck. She planted a ferocious kiss right on his lips before whispering her belated answer in his ear, “Yes.”

Fox interrupted their passionate reunion, “We need to get out of here.”

“Not so fast,” Drake and McTrowell replied in unison.

Erasmus continued, “At least one of the Hawaiians may be involved in a coup d'état against their rightful monarch. We cannot just ignore the potential repercussions of such an act.”

Sparky added, “
I don’t mean to make matters worse, but there are also several crates of EPACTs on the far side of the cargo hold.


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