Chapter 9: The Adversary

At 11:00 P.M., lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee were eagerly awaiting the end of their shift. It was freezing up in the crow’s nest, with the wind hitting the two men at 22 knots. Fleet brought a pair of binoculars to his eyes and peered out at the open sea ahead of them.

“The sea’s calm tonight,” he commented.

“Too calm, if you ask me,” Lee said. “With no moon and a calm sea, the bergs’ll be hard to see.”

“Well, we’ll just have to look harder, then, won’t we?” Fleet said. “Besides, we don’t have that much longer ’til our shift’s up.”

/\/\/\

Brynne didn’t have much of an appetite for dinner. For some reason, knowing that most of the people on the ship would be dead by morning put a damper on the enthusiastic and festive moods that usually accompanied dinner and she didn’t much feel like being around cheerful people. She knew she had to eat, however. She had a long night ahead of her, which she would spend in a cold, damp boat. She would need as much strength as she could muster, so she’d summoned a stewardess to bring her something from the dining saloon.

Brynne only left her room once that evening, to visit the lavatory, but that was long enough, as it turned out. She hadn’t planned on straying very far from her room, but she’d made sure that notebook was with her everywhere she went, even if it was only down the hall to the bathroom for a few moments. It would turn out to be one of the best policies she’d ever adhered to.

Brynne had only been away from her stateroom for a few minutes, but when she pushed the door to her room open, she surprised the man inside who was hurriedly searching through her belongings, tossing them about and creating an absolute mess.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Brynne demanded of him upon discovery.

The intruder turned to her. Brynne recognized the tall, dark-haired man, as she’d seen him around the ship on a number of occasions, but she didn’t know his name. They’d never been formally introduced. He was caught red-handed, but it didn’t make any difference to him. He knew what he was after. And with the way his blue eyes honed in on the notebook in her hands, Brynne knew what he was after, too. The man lunged for it, but Brynne was quicker than he, and she darted away from the room and down the hall.

Brynne knew he was behind her. She could hear the quick sound of his shoes on the carpet and his heavy breathing behind her. She wasn’t used to running in slippers and a long, flowing bathrobe, but she couldn’t let that stop her, even if it was slowing her down considerably. Being chased aboard a ship at sea was one of the scariest circumstances Brynne could think of to find herself in. There was no escape in the middle of the ocean (save for a lifeboat), and one could only hide for so long.

She reached the foyer and sprinted up the Grand Staircase. There was no use looking behind her to see because she knew the man was still behind her. She quickly reached the top of the stairs and darted out onto the boat deck. The frigid air was a stark contrast to the warm interior of the ship, and Brynne instinctively clutched at her arms. The thin bathrobe offered little protection against the cold.

Brynne looked to her left and then to her right. Which way should she go? She wasn’t going to be able to outrun him, and there were only so many places she could hide, even on a ship this size. She knew the man would come bursting through the door in only seconds, so she began to run toward the stern. She reached a flight of steps and scurried down them to A deck, then down to B deck. She had an idea.

The man chasing her was obviously after something in her possession, and Brynne was 99 certain that the notebook was what he wanted. She didn’t know who he was working for, but he wasn’t working for COSI, and that was enough reason for Brynne to want to keep the notebook away from him. She didn’t want to have to resort to what she was about to do, but she had no choice. She couldn’t let that man get that book.

Brynne sprinted to the very end of the ship. She looked over the rail at the dark depths below and then looked at the notebook in her hands. The man wouldn’t get his hands on it if she threw it over. COSI wouldn’t, either, but that didn’t matter. COSI just wanted to make sure the wrong eyes didn’t get a hold of it. If Brynne destroyed the notebook now, they wouldn’t.

Brynne pulled her arm back, preparing to pitch the notebook into the open sea. But before she could send it flying over the rail, arms much stronger than hers wrapped around her body, restraining her.

“Oh, no you don’t,” the man said. He grabbed her wrist and squeezed it hard.

The sudden pain caused Brynne to cry out, and she lost her grip on the notebook. When it slapped the deck, the man let go of Brynne’s wrist and immediately went after the notebook. But Brynne wasn’t about to give up that easily. She kicked the notebook away from the man and sent it sliding clear across the deck. Brynne doubted it would make much of a difference, but she didn’t know what else to do. It would all be over if he gained possession of the notebook.

Almost immediately after she kicked it, Brynne went after it. She was going to have to fight the man for access to the notebook, but this was her job, her mission. She would do everything in her power to keep the notebook away from him.

As she’d expected, the man grabbed her again to keep her from retrieving the notebook. Brynne kicked him. He yelped and grabbed his shin. He forgot his pain when he saw her closing in on the notebook again. He tackled her to the deck and tried to crawl over her to the notebook, but she elbowed him, her hard bone making contact with his stomach. He rolled over onto his back, freeing Brynne for a moment but not for long enough. The man grabbed Brynne’s ankle and dragged her backwards along the deck. Brynne quickly rolled over onto her back and kicked the man in the chest, but it only seemed to make him madder. He straddled her and pinned her wrists to the deck.

xxx

Lee shivered and rubbed his arms in vain. There was no getting warm, not up in the crow’s nest at this hour.

“Brr!” he said. He blew into his gloved hands and rubbed them together vigorously. “Bloody cold!”

Fleet brought the binoculars to his eyes and peered through them at the sea ahead. He saw something, a dark form that blocked the sky behind it, looming in the distance. He took the binoculars away from his eyes and looked out again, but didn’t see anything. He was amazed that he couldn’t even see it without the binoculars. He peered through the binoculars again. He could barely make out the dark object, but he could see it. He could see something.

“What is it?” Lee asked.

“I’m not sure,” Fleet said. “I’m pretty sure it’s a berg.” He rung the bell three times and picked up the phone. He continued to look at the dark ice through the binoculars.

xxx

Upon hearing the signal bell, Sixth Officer Moody, on bridge duty, walked over to the phone and picked up the receiver.

“What do you see?” he inquired.

xxx

“An iceberg, sir,” Fleet replied to Moody. “I can barely make it out with the binoculars, but it’s right in our path.”

xxx

“Thank you,” Moody said. He hung up and walked out to Murdoch, who stood watch just outside the wheelhouse.

“What is it?” Murdoch asked.

“A berg,” Moody said. “Right in our path.”

Murdoch brought his binoculars to his eyes. He could see a small black figure ahead, but he couldn’t really make it out. The figure was so dim that he couldn’t make out exactly how far away it was, but it was better to err on the side of caution.

“Prepare to alter course,” Murdoch said.

xxx

Brynne’s struggle with the man had halted when the lookout bell sounded. They looked at each other, because they both knew what was about the happen.

Or so they thought.

The man was momentarily distracted by the impending collision, so Brynne took advantage. With as much force as she could muster, she brought her knee up and planted it in the man’s crotch.

He crumpled over and tried to ease the searing pain now coursing throughout his nether regions. “You bitch!” he spat.

Brynne wasted no time. She scrambled to her feet and scooped up the notebook. She was shocked, though, when the man, on his feet again, rushed her. He backhanded Brynne across the face with such force that it sent her stumbling backwards. But her grip on the notebook remained firm. The blow stunned her, but she still had most of her wits about her. She was only a few feet away from the rail, so she flung the notebook as hard as she could. The man tried to catch it, but it slid past his fingers on its way to the water below.

“NOOO!” he screamed, futilely watching the water. Enraged, he wheeled around and seized Brynne by the throat, driving her backwards against a bench. Brynne felt his fingers tighten around her neck. She felt the tears spring to her eyes as she struggled to take a breath. She felt the world go dark. And then she couldn’t feel anything anymore.

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