The sailor on lookout duty was sleepy. Overnight duty often went to junior crew members, but Tom wanted badly to make an impression and have a chance at moving up through the ranks. So he made himself stay awake and alert even though it was well after midnight and he still had a couple of hours to go on his watch.
That said, he wasn’t really sure what to watch for. What sort of threats could there be in the middle of the Honolulu harbor? The ship was safely anchored off-shore. The approach of any large war vessel would be obvious, not that anything of the kind was expected. And small boats usually didn’t present much in the way of danger. They would have to get very close before they would be able to do anything and they would be easy enough to detect at near range.
Tom’s thoughts drifted to home and his mother and brother in Weymouth, eking out a living running a small beach cottage, hoping to earn enough of a summer to last through the winter. Tom wished he had more pay to give them but a lowly sailor in the Royal Navy didn’t earn a lot. Well, at least he wasn’t one more person for his family to try to feed.
Tom shook his head. He had almost drifted off. That would never do. Anxious to do his duty, he quickly scanned the waters around the ship. Nothing to see. Good. He could really use a cup of tea right now but he needed to remain aloft in the crow’s nest for a little longer.
Dark clouds scudded through the sky, obscuring the stars and occluding the moon. Tom didn’t like dark nights like this one. He wanted to see the heavens in all their glory …
A cloud passed by and suddenly the moon shone brightly, even if only for a few moments. In the moonlight, Tom saw it. There was a small boat just barely visible in the distance.
And then there was a flash of light.
Kate and Paulie were on duty at Tea Trader. It was Joan’s day off and Ted was at his regular day job as an information technology consultant.
Business was a bit slow in the early afternoon, and Paulie was in the small kitchen blending a batch of Tea Trader’s signature breakfast blend, Alberta Clipper.
“I can take a turn if you like,” Kate called from outside at the counter.
“No, I’m good,” Paulie said. “It’s pretty slow today, and I’m happy to have something to keep me busy.”
“Hey, Paulie, can I ask you about something?” Kate came out from behind the counter and went over to the kitchen doorway.
“Well … I was just wondering … you and Ted and Joan keep talking about some kind of book with stories in it …”
“Oh, you mean Admiral Grey’s logbook?” Paulie’s tone was guarded. Joan had told her about all of Kate’s questions about the book. Why was Kate pretending not to know what the book was?
“Yes, yes, that’s the one. Joan told me something about it. That you got really absorbed in the Admiral’s narrative and even missed a day of work.”
“So what do you want to know?”
“Well, I was kind of thinking … maybe I could read the book myself? You know, just for a night or maybe over a weekend.”
Something isn’t right, Paulie thought. The logbook, with its seeming ability to compel Paulie to keep reading … and Kate’s dissembling … was there something more to this?
“I don’t know … I don’t mean to put you off but after all it’s Ted’s book; maybe you should ask him instead.”
“Yes but you have the book at home, right?”
No, Paulie thought, it’s at Joan’s, but I don’t think I had better say that. “Yes, it’s at home. But I still think you should ask Ted.”
Kate knew Paulie was lying to her. Kate’s search of Paulie’s apartment had been thorough. The book wasn’t there. Without thinking, Kate’s reflexes engaged and she grabbed Paulie’s left wrist, causing some tea to spill to the floor.
“Kate! You’re hurting me!” Paulie tried to twist her wrist away but Kate had an iron grip. Then, suddenly Kate, realizing what she was doing, let go.
“What was that all about?” Paulie said, rubbing her wrist with the other hand. “And look at the mess you made!” Tea leaves were strewn about the counter and floor.
“I’m so sorry,” Kate said. “I didn’t mean to be rough. I was just … well, I really wanted to read the logbook. It sounds so interesting. Here, let me clean up. You just go out front and I’ll take care of everything.
“Well, okay.” Paulie, still looking angry, went out and took a seat behind the counter.
Kate was angry with herself but angrier with Paulie. Another moment and she might have actually killed her. An assassin was trained to be calm and in control. Kate couldn’t imagine what had come over her, but she was more worried that Paulie and Joan might now be suspicious. And given the listening devices she had implanted in the shop, word of this might go upline.
There was now little time. She would have to come up with a plan of action. And she was starting to formulate an idea.
There was that creepy abandoned basement two floors below the Tea Trader shop. She could make use of that. Soon.
Paulie looked at the mark on her wrist, an angry red outline of Kate’s fingers that Paulie knew would turn an ugly brown-and-yellow by morning. She really ought to tell Ted. But Kate had apologized, and maybe it was best to let it go. She’d sleep on it, and the logbook was still at Joan’s, where she’d leave it for a while.
But before anything, she had to deal with the mess in her apartment. Joan had offered to help clean up, but Paulie, knowing how little free time Joan had, declined, at least for the moment. Paulie could clean things up little by little. The kitchen would come first, and thankfully her bed hadn’t been torn up so there was a place to sleep.
It was hard to know where to start. Paulie got out some large plastic garbage bags and began by simply filling them with broken china, and later whatever she could sweep off the counters and up from the floor. It was tiring, and by ten o’clock she was all-in. She had tomorrow off and she could continue then. It was time to turn in for the night, and without the logbook, she would’t be distracted by whatever strange compelling force that book seemed to have.
She was oddly wondering about Kate’s vehement, violent interest in the book when her cell phone rang.
Her fingers shook a little as she picked up the phone and swiped toward the green “answer” button. “Ray? It’s been … how long?” An unexpected tear trickled from her left eye.
“Sorry, Paulie, I know it’s been a while. But I’ve called a few times and you didn’t answer.”
Suddenly Paulie remembered the missed calls her phone had showed. She had been reading that logbook … there was so much time lost and unaccounted for. And she hadn’t called back.
“Yes, I should have called you back, I know, but Ray, the most terrible thing has happened. Someone broke in and ransacked my apartment. The police don’t get it. Nothing was stolen, the place was just trashed.”
“Are you okay?” There was an unmistakable note of concern in Ray’s voice. Paulie was relieved to hear it. Maybe everything was going to work out after all.
“Yes, I’m okay, I was at work when it happened. But Ray, where are you? When will you be home?” Another tear fell. “I’ve missed you … I was angry for a while, but …”
“Same here,” Ray said. But then his tone changed and his voice dropped. “But right now I need you to listen carefully and do exactly as I tell you.”
“What are you talking about?” Confusion swept over Paulie, and the sudden emotional shift made her shudder. What was Ray on about?
“Please, just listen. Okay? I want you to pack a bag right now. Right now. Pack a bag and get on a plane to Toronto. Visit your sister there. Tell her you need to stay for a couple of weeks. Make something up if you have to. Say that we’ve broken up or something.”
Paulie gasped. “Ray you’re not telling me …”
“No, no, of course not. Tell another story if you want. But leave. Don’t waste any time. Will you do that?”
“Ray, this is crazy! Are you sure … oh … you’ve found someone else, is that it?”
“No, Paulie, no. Nothing like that. But you have to …”
Fear was turning to anger. “I don’t have to do anything! My job is here. My friends are here. My life is here. You’re here. So tell me the truth, Ray. What game is this that you’re playing?”
Paulie heard him sigh, but there was a clear note of fear in his voice. “Paulie, please. There isn’t much time. I don’t know how much. I can’t tell you more. You just have to trust me. Get out of Calgary. Just do it. If you love me, do it.”
“If I love you?” She knew she was beginning to sound hysterical and she didn’t care. “How about if you love me you’ll tell me what’s going on? You’ll tell me the truth about all these trips of yours and being away all the time and skipping out on things and …”
“Paulie, I shouldn’t say this, but something bad might happen. Something really bad.”
But Paulie didn’t hear those last words. She had already turned off the phone and thrown it across the room in anger.
Mr. Briston had been to dinner at Julianna’s home, invited yet again by her parents. This time he had sought time alone with her, and her parents had tried to contrive to make it happen. Julianna knew there would only be one reason for this: that Mr. Briston was going to propose marriage.
At the moment that her parents left the drawing room, saying they wanted to take a stroll— despite the rainy, cold evening— Julianna knew what was up. Thinking quickly, she said that they should make it a foursome as she was in want of a bit of fresh air.
Things went quickly downhill. Mr. Briston suddenly realized it was late and that he had an early appointment in the morning. After he hastily took his leave, Julianna’s father began what would have been a long scolding about ruining her prospects with a fine gentleman, had not Julianna fled to her bedroom and only after hours of restless tossing and turning, fell into a troubled sleep.
She awoke several times before finally, just before dawn, dropping into the deep slumber of the pre-dawn hours.
She was on a ship, and it seemed to be at rest in a harbor. It was night, and she was standing on deck and she could see the lights of a city in the near distance. There were warm breezes and the air had a peculiar scent and an unusual feeling. It was nothing like the English seaside and Julianna realized that she must be somewhere far off.
There were sailors walking about the deck, clad in British naval uniforms. The boat rocked gently in the water as Julianna looked about her. Yes, clearly a naval vessel, everything in spic and span order, the decks scrubbed clean and gear neatly arranged.
She addressed one of the sailors but he walked right by without acknowledging her presence, without even seeming to see her. She tried to grab the sleeve of another but her hand passed right through it.
Ghosts? That couldn’t be. There was no such thing. Or was there?
Then there was a small glimmer of bright light, off in the water not so far away. The light approached …
There was a roaring sound, a great flash, and suddenly everything was on fire. The deck splintered beneath her feet and she began to fall into a black abyss.
And then she was somewhere else.
It must have been another great city, but like none Julianna had ever seen. There were buildings all around her, impossibly tall, all glass that reflected the sun and dazzled. There were so many of them! And on the streets strange vehicles sped by at incredible speeds, only to stop while other vehicles went on perpendicular streets.
On the walks people hurried by. They were dressed in a fashion and style that was as unfamiliar as anything else. Women hurried by, wearing clothing that didn’t even extend past the knees. Again she tried to address some of them but they didn’t see her and a few of them even walked right through her. More ghosts?
Bewildered, she wandered up and down the streets, completely unnoticed and ignored. She tried to stay out of the way of everyone but then realized it didn’t matter. It was as if she were transparent.
But all at once she heard loud sounds, as if giant sirens were wailing. Everyone around her looked up toward the skies and began scurrying in panic, some of them pushing their way into buildings, others just seemingly fleeing at random.
Then the skies lit up with the brightest, most blinding light she ever could have imagined, and everything faded into oblivion as a tall cloud ascended higher and higher, wider than the city and miles tall.
To be continued in March, 2021.
Enjoy the full colour and body of an Assam/Yunnan base with the unmistakable signature of Darjeeling. Tea with enough strength to combat the coldest of climates!
An Alberta clipper (also known as a Canadian Clipper) is a fast moving low pressure area which generally affects the central provinces of Canada and parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions of the United States, precipitating a sudden temperature drop and sharp winds. The term ‘clipper’ originates from the clipper sailing ships because of their quick speeds.
You can order your supply of Alberta Clipper online at mrmaxeystea.com. If you’re in the Calgary area you can call ahead at 403-264-1868 for pickup at the shop door. Tea Trader is located a 1228A 9th Avenue S E, Calgary, Alberta, T2G 0T1.