The Admiral was shocked. These men were impersonating British sailors? What had happened with the actual contingent on shore?
“We’ll find out just how much he knows,” he heard one of the men say.
But just then there was an explosive sound and a splash and explosion just ahead of the boat. It took Admiral Grey only a split second to realize what was happening.
The Sovereign was firing on the boat!
His crew must have seen what had happened and reacted quickly, and now they had warned the boat that it had better stop and be boarded, or else. The Admiral looked behind him and saw the Sovereign turning about to move in the direction of the boat.
But would they fire on the boat while he was in it? A warning shot was one thing, but a direct hit could kill everyone on board, himself included.
Another cannonball exploded, this time just behind the ship.
Admiral Grey knew that his gunners were accurate. But the men on the boat didn’t know what the intentions of the Sovereign might be. They furled their sails and waited.
But they had arms at hand, and if Admiral Grey had been briefly a prisoner, he was now a hostage.
The Sovereign approached, and the men stood ready. One of them pointed a pistol at Admiral Grey’s head. A megaphone hailed the ship.
“Surrender! Put down your arms and release Admiral Grey at once!”
“Stand back or we kill him! Sail off if you want your Admiral to live!” the man holding the pistol shouted back. The rest of the phony British sailors held their musket pointed at the facing gunwale of the Sovereign.
“Last chance!” came from the megaphone.
The Admiral heard the man standing next to him pull back the hammer on his pistol.
“I’m not joking—“
Five musketeers sprang up from behind the gunwale of the Sovereign and the crack of musket fire was heard. The men on the deck of the launch fell instantly to the deck, dead.
Admiral Grey had been rescued, and soon he was back on board his ship while his crew combed over the launch.
“Well done,” he told First Mate O’Connor, “well done indeed.”
O’Connor grinned. “We have excellent cannoneers and marksmen.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that. I would have been dead if their aim had been off. That operation was balanced on a razor’s edge.”
“As you say, sir.”
The crew members inspecting the launch reported back. An ensign saluted at the entrance to the Admiral’s cabin and said, “Sir, the launch is ours. Must have been stolen from the dock.”
“Any word about the real crew?”
“Nothing, sir. Perhaps they’re on shore wondering what has become of their launch?”
“Perhaps.” But Admiral Grey wasn’t so such and feared the worst.
“Let’s go ashore,” Admiral Grey told his First Mate. “Bring the ship back to its anchor point and have a couple of the crew bring the launch along.”
Within thirty minutes, all was ready. The Sovereign was anchored and Admiral Grey had selected a small crew to go with him and the First Mate. The Admiral made sure the men were armed.
The launch quickly took them across the harbor and up to the docks, where they were met by customs officials. The officials quickly passed the British sailors through, looking at their firearms but not objecting. Admiral Grey left two of their compliment on board the launch in its berth at the port.
“Wait here for further orders,” he said. “Who knows if we might have to make a hasty return to our ship.”
Admiral Grey and his squad walked along the harbor to the slip where the British launches were generally kept. There was a small boathouse. It looked eerily quiet.
O’Connor hand-signaled to the squad, who spread out around the boat house, pistols at the ready. One of them covered the door while another kicked it open and stepped back. Then they all rushed in.
One of the crew came slowly back out. “Sir, you’ll be needing to come inside.” The sailor had a grim look on his face.
He stepped to the side as Admiral Grey and First Mate O’Connor entered the small building. They coudn’t surpress a gasp at what they saw before them.
Five British sailors lay dead on the floor, each of them shot through the head, their uniforms stripped off of them.
“How could this happen?” O’Connor said, his voice expressing shock.
“That’s something that we’ll have to find out,” Admiral Grey said, “but I think the ones that did this have already paid for it with their own lives.”
The Honolulu police were called, but they didn’t seem especially interested, especially when they were told about the shooting of the men on the launch.
“Seems like the case is closed,” a police sergeant said. “Nothing to investigate and no one to catch.”
“How could this have happened without anyone hearing any shots?” Admiral Grey asked. “Five gunshots? And no one noticed.”
“Lot of things happen on the docks,” the sergeant said. “Lots of noises, no one pays it any mind. But looks like we’re done here. I assume you’ll want to see to the bodies, being as how they’re your people and all?”
The Admrial nodded gravely. “Yes, we’ll see to the bodies and a proper burial at sea,” he said. “That’s the least we can do. But we need to get to the bottom of this.”
The sergeant wasn’t even listening. He didn’t want more work to do. Some Brits were killed, probably by some other Brits, who cares.
“Sergeant!” The Admiral’s sharp tone got his attention. “You should be told. The men on the launch weren’t British. They looked like they might be from around here. They weren’t white, at least.”
It wasn’t what the sergeant wanted to hear. “Could be anyone,” he said, after a brief pause. “Lots of sailors from lots of places. Chinese, Japanese, who knows.”
“Don’t you even want to …”
“They’re dead, the culprits aren’t at large, nothing more to it,” the Sergeant said, walking away.
It took a little time to give proper honors to the British sailors. In the meanwhile, Admiral Grey sent one of his own sailors to the British Embassy to notify them of the loss of some of their naval staff.
But something was bothering Admiral Grey. Back on board the Sovereign, he asked his First Mate, “Have you seen anything of the Marauder? We’ve been so occupied with the goings-on here, that I neglected to ask about it, and I haven’t seen it here in the harbor.”
“You’re right, Admiral,” said O’Connor. “You would have thought they would be in contact with us.”
“It’s been barely a day,” Admiral Grey replied. “But it seems odd. It’s time to pay a visit to the Embassy. And why didn’t the Ambassador hurry out to honor the fallen sailors?”
“They said he was away,” O’Connor said. “At least, that’s what the men reported back to us.”
“Away.” The Admiral paused for a moment. “Let’s get ready. We’ll use one of our own boats to go ashore. Ask a couple of the sailors to come along, and make sure that they are armed.”
It was around eight in the morning. Sea birds were out hunting for fish, the air was calm, and it was warm and humid. It all seemed so peaceful, and yet something was going on beneath the surface. Something that was very far from peaceful.
It was a slower than normal Sunday at Tea Trader and Joan had just brewed a pot of Eight Bells as an afternoon pick-me-up for her and Kate. They were staffing the store by themselves. It was Paulie’s day off and Ted was with his family at his mountain cabin.
The two young women were behind the counter, sipping their tea, when Kate said casually, “I hear Paulie is reading an interesting book of some kind.”
Joan looked up. Had she detected just the edge of something in Kate’s voice? Joan couldn’t say for sure but it just seemed to her that Kate’s question was a little too casual.
“Uh, right, it’s an old book she got from Ted. How did you know about it?”
“Oh, I think Paulie mentioned it or something. I was just curious, that’s all.”
“Why don’t you ask Paulie on Tuesday when she’s here?”
Joan didn’t miss Kate’s dark look. This time there was no doubt; there was something amiss although Joan couldn’t say just what it might be. She’d have to warn Paulie.
Kate wasn’t what she seemed to be, and it wasn’t just Joan’s imagination.
Episode 5 of Season 2 will appear in late April, 2020.
Why the name Eight Bells? Unlike civil clock bells, the strikes of a ship’s bell do not accord to the number of the hour. Instead, there are eight bells, one for each half-hour of a four-hour watch. Eight Bells, then, is indeed the end of the watch and perhaps time for a refreshing cup of tea. You can lay in your own supply at Tea Trader.