Read Sea Fury (1971) Online

Authors: James Pattinson

Tags: #Action/Adventure

Sea Fury (1971) (8 page)

BOOK: Sea Fury (1971)
7.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The knock on the door sounded discreet too; just loud enough to be heard, not loud enough to be aggressive. She supposed it was the steward, and she called to him to come in without troubling to glance up from her writing.

She heard the door open and close. A voice that was
certainly
not the steward’s said, “Hope I’m not disturbing you, Mrs. Lycett.”

She looked up and saw that it was Perkins, the engineer, the man who had seen her wearing that ridiculous polythene cap after the fiasco of the bathroom. It was the memory of that encounter that caused her to colour slightly with anger when she saw who the visitor was.

“What do you want?”

Perkins smiled. It was probable that he too was
remembering
the earlier encounter, remembering it perhaps with more relish than Moira Lycett was.

“I’ve come about the fan.”

She saw then that he was carrying a tool-box in his hand. With the other he rubbed his cheek, as though massaging it, gazing all the while at the woman with his bright, beady eyes that put her in mind of some small species of rodent, a rat perhaps.

“It’s not working, I hear.”

“I suppose my husband told you.”

“Not directly. The message was passed on, as you might say. I’m the electrician in this ship.”

“Then you’d better get on with the job. It’s stifling in here.”

“It’s all a question of what you get used to. It’s worse in my cabin. Nearer the engine-room, see.”

“I’m not interested in your cabin.”

“No? Pity. If you were, I’d be only too pleased to show you round. No etchings, mind; but you can’t have everything, can you?”

“I think you’d better get on with what you came for and then leave,” Moira Lycett said tartly.

She turned her back on him and began to write again in her diary. The insinuation in his words angered her. She would have got up and left the cabin, but that would have been a kind of triumph for him which she refused to concede. She heard him chuckle softly as he opened the tool-box. After that there were other sounds as he operated on the fan. She felt certain that he kept glancing at her as he worked, but she did not turn her head. Nevertheless, the mere fact of his presence made it impossible for her to write coherently; her pen moved, but what appeared on the paper was little better than gibberish, and this made her only the more angry with the engineer and with herself.

After a time she heard him say, “Well now, that should have fixed it.”

Then there was the click of a switch and the sound of the fan whirring, and she could feel the air blowing on the back of her neck.

“Is that better, Mrs. Lycett?”

“Yes,” she said. “Thank you, Mr. Perkins.” But still she did not turn. She waited to hear the sound of the door as he left the cabin.

But she heard no such sound. Instead, she felt something warm touch her neck where it curved towards the shoulder, something warm and soft and slightly moist.

She was so amazed at his audacity that she did not even move. He must have taken this lack of reaction for
acquiescence
, for she felt his hands exploring and heard his voice whispering in her ear. She was nauseated by the odour of bad breath and stale sweat that came from him, and she tried to slip away sideways off the chair. But his arms were round her, his hands cupping her breasts, and he was stronger than she would have imagined.

She could feel his mouth on her cheek now, moving down along the curve of her chin to her throat. She raised her feet and pressed them against the bulkhead under the hinged table, then straightened the legs abruptly, thrusting hard back on the chair. The sudden move took Perkins by surprise; the wooden back of the chair dug into his stomach and caused him to loose his grip. Moira Lycett took advantage of this loosening to wrench herself free. She turned to face him, flushed and raging.

“You filthy little swine!”

She lashed out with her hand, striking him on the left cheek with her open palm. He moved hastily back out of range, crestfallen. He put his fingers to his cheek where her sharp nails had drawn blood.

“Now, Mrs. Lycett, there was no call for that. You don’t
have to put on the outraged wife act, not for me. We both know you like having a man around.”

“A man! You flatter yourself.”

An angry glitter came into his eyes and a sneer into his voice. “Maybe you like them a size bigger. Bigger and
boneheaded
. Is that the trouble?”

“Get out.” Her voice was low, trembling slightly with
suppressed
fury.

He took his fingers away from his cheek and looked at the blood on them with an evil lopsided grin. “You’ve got sharp claws. Maybe I’d better give somebody who’ll remain
nameless
a friendly warning. Tell him to watch out for himself because the cat can scratch.”

“Will you go?” she said. “Or must I call for assistance and have you ejected?”

“Oh, I’ll go.” He picked up his tool-box. “I’ve done what I came for.” He opened the door, then turned and again gave the lopsided grin. “I like to give satisfaction, Mrs. Lycett.” He went out of the cabin and closed the door softly behind him.

Moira Lycett gripped the side of the upper bunk with both hands and let the stream of air from the fan blow on her face. She felt dirty, soiled by Perkins’s touch and by his insinuations. Did she look so easy that even a creature like that might try his luck?

The current of air gradually cooled her, gently stirring her chestnut hair, fanning her heated cheeks and brow. Perkins’s words repeated themselves in her mind: “Maybe you like them a size bigger.” So others had taken note of her
conversations
with Carl Johansen. On board ship there were always eyes watching, tongues wagging. Well, let them wag. Perhaps she would really give them something to wag about. If she already had the reputation, why not have the pleasure also?

She looked down and saw the cockroach that Lycett had
crushed, still sticking to the woodwork. With a shudder of disgust she turned away from the bunks, moved to the basin and began to wash. She had to wash away the imprint of Perkins’s mouth, the contamination from her skin.

* * *

Mr. Finch was half-way through the first watch and not at all happy. It was not his duty that was worrying him—not at this particular time; it was a pleasant evening, acceptably cool after the heat of the day, there was no wind to speak of, and the Indian Ocean was as smooth as any ocean could ever be. One of the small dark seamen was at the wheel and Finch had just checked that he was keeping the
Chetwynd
on her correct course. The latest weather report that Maggs had brought gave no indication of any change for the worse and it looked as though the ship would have an uneventful run to Fremantle.

And yet Finch was very far from happy.

He stepped out of the wheelhouse on to the starboard wing of the bridge and looked at the sky. No clouds dimmed the brilliance of the stars shining in the infinite blackness of space; ahead the Southern Cross sparkled brightly, pointing the way the ship must go, and all around those other astral aids to navigation glittered like precious stones embedded in a vast slab of pitch.

Mr. Finch let his gaze fall to the bows of the ship, and he could detect the sudden surge of phosphorescence as the iron ploughshare thrust aside a myriad tiny living things that had the salt water for their home; creatures from which this strange luminosity emanated that seemed like liquid fire flowing past to port and starboard until it was quenched and lost in the fading wake of the ship.

Mr. Finch saw no beauty in any of these natural phenomena. He was interested in the stars only insofar as they had to be studied for the purposes of navigation, and though he had, times without number, seen the phosphorescence in the water, he had never once bothered to inquire what was the cause of it. On this night especially he was too deep in his own thoughts, his own worries, to be much concerned with anything else.

For the plain fact of the matter was that Mr. Finch was in love.

And of course it was Maggs whom he had to thank. If Maggs had not suggested going to that house he would never have seen the girl and it would never have happened. He still could not understand why on earth he had gone ashore with Maggs; after all, he didn’t even like the fellow. It just happened that they had got to the head of the gangway at the same time, and as they were both obviously going ashore alone he felt almost compelled to invite Maggs to have a drink with him.

Maggs himself seemed not at all keen on the idea; Finch had noticed before how unsociable the radio officer was; but after thinking it over for a moment or two he accepted the invitation.

So they went to a bar and the drink expanded into two and then into three, and finally more than he could remember. It was well on into the evening by then and suddenly Maggs, quite out of the blue, said he knew a house where they could have some congenial female company and why not go there?

“You mean girls?” Finch said. His mind was not working quite as quickly as usual and things took a little time to get through. “Girls?”

Maggs nodded his head wisely. “What else would I be meaning?”

Finch also nodded. “Could be the very thing to complete
the pleasure of the evening.” And he had to speak the words very carefully because they had a way of becoming slurred.

Maggs stood up. “Okay then. Let’s go.”

“Let’s go,” Finch said.

 

Her name was Ah Mai or something of the kind. She spoke a funny kind of twittering English and Finch could understand only half what she said. But what did that matter? She looked wonderful with those mysterious black, slanting eyes and that mysterious, half-shy, half-inviting smile which made Finch’s heart beat faster whenever she turned it on him. She was wearing a long Chinese dress of green silk, tightly fitting, high at the throat, and with a slit in one side that revealed her leg up to the thigh. It was the kind of leg that was worth revealing.

Finch thought she was far better than the girl Maggs had got. Maggs’s girl was shorter and dumpier, and she had a wider, coarser face. She was not really in the same league as Ah Mai. But Maggs seemed satisfied.

“You’ve been here before then?” Finch said. He had been in the same ship with Maggs for a couple of years and he realised now that he still knew nothing whatever about him.

“A few times,” Maggs admitted.

They had more drinks. There was music coming from
somewhere
, a kind of juke-box with oriental overtones. A few couples were dancing—if you could call it dancing; they hardly moved, just seemed glued to one another, swaying a little. The room had embroidered hangings, alcoves here and there, a lot of bamboo; and there was an indefinable odour which Finch, for no reason at all, immediately associated with the smoking of opium. He had never smelt an opium pipe, but that was what he was sure it would have smelt like if he had.

He was now more than a little drunk and he kept pulling
out his wallet and giving out paper money as though he were dealing a hand of cards. Maggs for his part seemed to be quite unaffected by the alcohol he had consumed; now and then Finch noticed the radio officer looking at him with an
expression
that might have been described as one of malicious
amusement
, not unmixed with contempt. Even with the haze of intoxication clouding his susceptibilities, he still knew that he really did not like Maggs and that Maggs most certainly did not like him. The fact that they were out on the town together did not mean that they had suddenly become bosom chums; it was a purely fortuitous excursion that would probably never be repeated.

“Enjoy yourself,” Maggs said. “Throw away all restraint. Let your bloody self go.”

 

Ah Mai’s room was up a flight of stairs and along a corridor so dimly lighted that it was like going into a cave. Ah Mai went on ahead and Finch caught exciting glimpses of her thigh breaking through the slit in the green silk dress. She came to the room, opened the door, switched the light on, smiled at Finch.

“You come in?”

Finch went in and Ah Mai closed the door. The room was not really big enough for the bed; it left very little space for the other furniture, even less for people. The girl stripped quickly with sinuous, wriggling movements. Finch thought of a snake casting its skin, but there was really nothing
snakelike
about Ah Mai.

She had a lovely soft, resilient body, golden yellow skin as smooth as satin and small, firm breasts with impudent little nipples. She seemed to have one thought only—to give him pleasure. Lying with her on the big bed, Finch gave
himself
up to sensual delight. He would have liked to stay there
for ever, caught in this honeyed dream of infinite sweetness, never to return to the ship, to Captain Leach’s biting tongue, to all the worries, the responsibilities of his hated job. He kissed her mouth, her throat, her breasts. Her limbs twined themselves about him; her tongue made playful, darting
explorations
; they scarcely spoke a word. Oh God, dear God, he thought, let this last for ever and ever, Amen.

But it could not last for ever. He had to get back to the ship, to the cold, sober realities of life, to his own
incompetencies
as a sailor, to the searing criticisms of Captain Leach and the brutal scorn of Mr. Johansen. He had to go back from heaven into hell.

Nevertheless, Finch had returned to the house another night —without Maggs; he had gone back to Ah Mai. And after that he had gone to her many more times while the
Chetwynd
remained
loading in Hong Kong; and there could be no doubt about it—he had fallen deeply, irrevocably in love with this utterly enchanting Chinese girl.

He talked with Ah Mai on these later visits and he believed that she loved him too—unless she was simply playing a game with him. That was what plagued his mind now that so many hundreds of miles of sea divided them—the thought, indeed the fear, that she had just been playing with him; that and the knowledge that while he was away there would be other men with her, other men enjoying her. When he thought about those other men with Ah Mai Finch’s mind squirmed with agony; it was mental torture. And every day and every night he tortured himself again and again with pictures of Ah Mai, his darling Ah Mai, in the brutal arms of other men.

BOOK: Sea Fury (1971)
7.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Dark Secret by Christine Feehan
Beguiling the Earl by Suzanna Medeiros
The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Perdita by Hilary Scharper
The Man in the Moss by Phil Rickman
Run To You by Gibson, Rachel
La amenaza interior by Jude Watson
B01EU62FUC (R) by Kirsten Osbourne