Wednesday April 10th was a morning brimming with excitement, especially for anyone involved with the Titanic. There were people everywhere, both on the ship and on the dock at Southampton.
Jeremy and Brynne strolled among the passengers who’d already boarded and were now milling about on the enclosed Promenade deck.
“Mr. Andrews seemed nervous this morning,” Brynne said.
“He’s got a lot to be nervous about,” Jeremy said. He walked beside Brynne with his hands clasped behind his back. “Ismay threw many of his safety specs out the window. The bulkhead height, the extra lifeboats … But if anything goes wrong with the ship, it’s Harland and Wolff that gets the blame.”
“And if everything goes well, Ismay gets the glory,” Brynne added.
“It isn’t fair, is it?” Jeremy said. He and Brynne walked over to an empty spot near one of the glass windows.
“I don’t see how Mr. Andrews can stand it,” Brynne said.
“I suspect he knows what to expect from Ismay by now,” Jeremy said. “He’s been working with the man now for years.”
Brynne shook her head. “Even if I had been working with Ismay for as long as Mr. Andrews has, I think I’d still want to take Ismay by the neck.”
Jeremy cast an amused glance at Brynne. “Language, language, Ms. Larence,” he said.
Brynne returned Jeremy’s glance. She knew that he was joking. He should know her well enough by now to be used to her colorful language. Her words wouldn’t have made anyone blink an eye in her own time, but in 1912, a respectable woman would never say such things.
“I suppose we shouldn’t dwell on it,” Brynne said. “What’s done is done.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “How’s that fire in coal bunker 10?”
Jeremy looked at her with a knowing nod. “It’s still smoldering,” he whispered. “Mr. Barrett says that it isn’t an immediate problem.”
Brynne, her eyes wide, turned at Jeremy. “Not an immediate problem?” she balked.
“It isn’t as if the fire is raging,” Jeremy said. “It’s more like a subtle ember. There aren’t even any flames. They keep the coal on top damp so the fire won’t grow. It’s noting to be worried about. Now, if the lookouts do their job, we’ll be home free.”
“That reminds me – I found a pair of binoculars in my stateroom,” Brynne said. “Perhaps someone left them there by mistake. Would you mind getting them to the crow’s nest, or where ever they belong?”
“Of course. What cabin are you in?”
“A-2,” Brynne replied.
“You’re in First Class?”
“Yes,” Brynne answered. “Aren’t you?”
“No. I’m in second. I’m all the way down on F Deck.”
The ship’s horn blasted, and Brynne and Jeremy both looked out at Southampton dock. “Looks like we’re on our way,” Jeremy said, as the ship began to slide past the throngs of people waving at the Titanic.
Brynne beamed from ear to ear. The excitement of the day, of the very moment, coursed through her. She’d never expected to feel this way, but everyone else was so excited and happy. It was in the air, and it was contagious.
She turned to Jeremy with a wide grin. “Isn’t this wonderful? It’s amazing.” She looked back out. “Look at all those people.”
“And they all wish that they were standing right here, beside us,” Jeremy said.
Brynne’s smile faded. Those people standing ashore now would be in mourning this time next week. That thought put a real damper on the exuberant feelings Brynne had been experiencing. “I suppose that makes us very lucky, then,” she said quietly. She turned to Jeremy again, trying not to think too much about it. “I was going to take lunch in the Café Parisien. Would you like to join me?”
“Are you sure I’m allowed? It is, after all, a First Class amenity.”
Brynne raised a brow at Jeremy. “I’m sure it won’t be a problem, as you’re with me.”
“Oh, of course. The fact that I designed the place means nothing whatsoever.”
The Café Parisienne was already open for business by the time the Titanic was steaming toward Cherbourg, France. A good number of passengers had taken advantage and were enjoying their first meals as Titanic passengers. Brynne and Jeremy were finishing their satisfying lunch.
“What did you think about your first real meal on the Titanic?” Jeremy asked.
“This is hardly my first meal here,” Brynne reminded him. “I ate in the crew saloon, too, don’t you remember? I was right there beside you.”
“I said your first real meal, in the passenger areas, among the passengers. I’m talking about the experience of it all.”
“Oh. Well, in that case, it was very enjoyable. Better than I would have ever anticipated.” Brynne picked up her cup of coffee and took a sip. “I just can’t get over this.”
“What?” Jeremy asked.
“This ship. I can’t get over the fact that we had a part in it.”
“It is a little surreal,” Jeremy agreed, taking a sip from his own cup.
“I’ve never been a part of anything that anyone has ever made a big fuss over before,” Brynne said.
“Now that is something I find difficult to believe.” Jeremy dabbed the corners of his mouth with his napkin and settled back into his chair.
“Why is that?”
“Because I would’ve thought that people would make a fuss over everything you do.”
“Because I’m a woman,” Brynne guessed, sipping from her coffee again.
“Because you’re brilliant.”
Brynne nearly sputtered into her coffee. “Brilliant?”
Jeremy grinned at Brynne’s reaction. “Don’t tell me that comes as a surprise to you.”
“It does. I’ve never been called brilliant before.”
“I’m not just calling you brilliant – you are brilliant.”
“Why on earth would you say something like that?” Brynne asked, grinning slightly. She knew a blush had already appeared on her cheeks by now.
“Oh, it isn’t just me saying those kinds of things,” Jeremy said.
“Who else might it be, then?”
“Everyone,” Jeremy insisted. “Mr. Andrews, Mr. Carlisle, Lord Pirrie.”
“That isn’t everyone,” Brynne said. Her tone was dismissive, but she was actually elated. If people were really that satisfied with her work, it meant that she’d done at least part of this mission correctly. She’d been convincing at Harland and Wolff; now she needed to get her hands on that notebook those COSI agents had left behind.
“I’m going to get the notebook tonight,” Brynne said. She turned away from the window in her stateroom. It was only the first night at sea, but the sooner the notebook was in her possession, the better.
“What time?” Carmen asked.
“I haven’t decided, yet,” Brynne said. She turned around to face Carmen. “It’s got to be late, though. It would probably be best if no one saw me.”
“What room is it in?”
“B-16,” Brynne said. “The reports from the agents who were last here say they left it in a drawer.” Brynne turned and looked at the small clock on the wall. “1:00 seems like a good time to go. What do you think?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Carmen said. “Once you have the notebook, you do realize that you’re not to leave it anywhere?”
“I understand. Payton made that very clear to me.”
“And whatever you do, don’t let anyone see it,” Carmen reminded.
“Give me a little credit, at least,” Brynne said, annoyed. “I’m a rookie, but I’m not stupid.”
“I just wanted to make sure that you still know where the boundaries are when it comes to certain people.” Carmen’s gaze was steady, and it was obvious that it was meant to imply something.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Brynne asked.
“You know what it means. I’ve been watching you and Bratt. You two have been getting awfully close.” Carmen walked across the room to put away some towels that had been delivered earlier.
Brynne walked over to her. “So because we had lunch together, that automatically means we’re sleeping together?”
“I’m trying to intervene before that happens.” Carmen shut the drawer and turned to Brynne. “You can’t get too involved, Brynne. I know they drilled that into your head during training.”
“Yes, they did. And I’m keeping my distance as best I can without arousing any suspicion. But it’s only natural to form some kind of relationship with people that you spend a year working with. You can’t expect me not to form any relationship at all.”
“I can if that relationship has the potential to jeopardize the mission. The mission comes first, Brynne. Always. Not friends, not feelings – the mission.”
As the clocks on Titanic ticked toward 1 a.m., Brynne descended the deserted Grand Staircase to B deck. She moved quickly and quietly toward the B-deck staterooms. B-16 was the first door on the right side of the corridor. Once she was sure no one was watching her, she pulled out her key to the room and slid it into the keyhole. The lock clicked softly, and the door opened effortlessly. She walked into the room, making sure to close and lock the door behind her.
She found a lamp, turned it on, and immediately began to search the room for the notebook. She moved to the first drawer she saw, a desk drawer, and pulled it open. Nothing but a map of the ship was inside. She closed it and looked around the room. She walked into the adjoining room, the bedroom. She made a beeline for the dresser and pulled out the top drawer. Nothing. She pulled out the next drawer. Nothing. She moved on to the third drawer and found a notebook. She reached in and pulled it out. There was nothing on the cover, but Brynne knew that it had the thing she’d been looking for.
Before she could open it up to make sure, though, she heard a noise. Someone jiggled the doorknob to the room. There was no other way out of the room, only the one door that she’d come in through. Brynne held the notebook behind her and waited for the door to open. She tried to think of an explanation for her presence in this room, which was supposed to be unoccupied.
Brynne waited, but the door didn’t swing open. Instead, the doorknob stopped jiggling. Brynne heard soft footfalls on the carpet in the hallway, walking away from the door.
When she could no longer hear the footfalls, Brynne slowly pulled the door open. She looked both ways up and down the corridor but didn’t see anyone. She desperately wanted to flip through the notebook, but figured that it would be better to get back to her stateroom immediately and worry about the notebook later. She stepped out into the corridor and closed and locked the door to B-16. She began a brisk walk down the corridor. She was almost at the Grand Staircase. She rounded the corner of the landing and ran into a man. It was Andrews.
“Mr. Andrews,” Brynne said, steadying herself against the rail. She realized she was winded from her power walk and tried to slow her breathing.
“What are you doing out so late?” he asked.
“Well,” Brynne said, trying to think of something, “I was just having another look around, to see how the colors and designs worked together and to see if anything should be changed.” She hoped she sounded convincing and that her voice wasn’t giving anything away.
Andrews grinned at Brynne. There was a hint of skepticism in his face. “Is this your usual method of fighting insomnia?”
“Insomnia?” Brynne repeated. Then she nodded. Insomnia was as good an explanation as any. “Sometimes,” she said.
Andrews’s brown eyes fell to the notebook in Brynne’s hands. “What’s that you’re holding there?” he asked.
Brynne stopped walking. She had forgotten about the notebook just that quickly. She looked down at it and then back up at Andrews. “Oh, these are just some notes that I was jotting down.”
Andrews nodded. “You know, you shouldn’t be roaming around this late by yourself. It isn’t safe.”
“I know. Actually, I’m on my way to my stateroom now.” Brynne began to climb the staircase. Andrews climbed with her.
“A lot of people find that reading does the trick,” Andrews suggested. “To cure insomnia, I mean.”
“So I’ve heard,” Brynne said. “I’ll have to be sure and give it a try.”
“You aren’t nervous about this trip, are you?” he asked.
“A little,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this. Most of the structures I usually work on are meant to be stationary. And I believe I have a legitimate reason to be a little nervous.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. I can imagine that it hasn’t been easy for you this last year. But you’ve done good work, and no matter what anyone says about you, they can’t deny you that.”
“I appreciate your kind words, Mr. Andrews, as always,” Brynne said.
“They aren’t just words, Brynne. It’s true. You’ve become a valuable member of the firm. Trust me – you have nothing to worry about.”
They reached the top of the staircase, and Brynne and Andrewes walked toward the A-deck cabins.
“You’ve been working hard, Brynne,” Andrews said. “I know this isn’t a pleasure cruise for us, but you be sure to take some time out to enjoy yourself before we dock next week.”
“I will, sir,” Brynne said. She walked over to the bedroom door. “Good night, sir.”
“Good night, Brynne.” Andrews walked past her on the way to his own stateroom. Brynne pushed the door to her stateroom open and rushed inside. Carmen was there waiting. She pounced to her feet when Brynne entered the room.
“You got it,” Carmen said.
“It was right where they said it would be,” Brynne said. “In a drawer inside the stateroom.” She handed the notebook to Carmen, who eagerly accepted it. She opened it and began flipping through the pages.
“What’s wrong?” Brynne asked when she saw Carmen’s knitted brows.
“Brynne, I don’t think this is the right notebook,” Carmen said slowly.
“What do you mean? It was the only one there.”
Carmen shook her head and looked from the notebook to Brynne. “This can’t be the right notebook.”
“Because,” Carmen began, handing the notebook over to Brynne again, “it’s empty.”
Brynne flipped through the notebook. Page after page after page – all of them were blank, not even so much as a stray pen mark anywhere.
Brynne, at a complete loss for words, looked at Carmen. If this notebook was blank, where was the one they needed to find? There was no telling on a ship as large as the Titanic. It could be anywhere. Anywhere at all.