So, here it is. My King Kong fanfic! A bit of an introduction from me here, just to outline a few things. First of all, though this takes place a few years after the movie is set, its actually an AU. Kong never happened, Hayes is alive, as is Lumpy, Choy and all the rest.
I know that there are tons of these types of stories out there, where a girl joins the Venture and her and Jimmy fall in love, etc, etc, but as I was reading them, though I don't mean to criticise, I grew frustrated because most of them seem to be rather unrealistic. Therefore, I got to thinking about it and the result was this story!
A quick note on the title, as well. The story is named after the song 'How deep is the ocean' by Irving Berlin. It was published in 1932 and has been performed by many artists, including Judy Garland, Etta James and Frank Sinartra. My favourite version is sung by Ella Fitzgerald and its definitely worth a listen.
Thank you and I hope you enjoy reading it :)
How much do I love you?
I'll tell you no lie.
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?
Captain Englehorn grunted as he set down his pint glass. Running his hand through his hair, he scanned the newspaper in front of him once more.
"More money than sense," he muttered to himself, a slight German accent lacing his words.
The large man beside him shifted in his seat. Hayes was getting restless, the Captain noted. They all were. It was time to set sail again. Englehorn was getting tired of the city and its meaningless trivialities. It was too rich, too fast and too greedy for his liking, but the sea, now that was a different story. As with any captain or experienced seaman, he was most comfortable when on water. Preferably a vast expanse of open water, where no land could be sighted from any direction, where the only sounds to be heard were the shouts of men, the lapping of the waves on the side of the boat and the gentle chugging of steam like a steady heartbeat. Life was simple there. There was no politics to consider; no backhand transactions, unjust exchanges or corrupt businessmen to deal with. Just each man doing what he is meant to do, just doing his job, living off nothing but his wits and the strength of his arm. Nothing to consider but the constant need to keep moving forward.
"You read this?" He asked Hayes, tapping the headline that read 'Suspected kidnap of daughter of top businessman' with his index finger.
"Poor girl," Hayes commented.
"Played like a pawn on a chessboard," Englehorn continued, shaking his head in dismay. "Got to get out of this city."
He stood, motioning to Hayes that they were to leave, before draining the last of his glass and shaking on his jacket. They exited the public house and were immediately met by the cold night air. Neither man seemed fazed by it however, thanks to years battling the worst weather Mother Nature could throw at them. A Manhattan winter meant nothing to them now.
They strolled along the road until they reached the docklands, where their ship was anchored. They had been ported for nearly two months now, despite the fact that they had been ready to leave since week one. Though they had every advantage, given the size of the ship, there was just simply not enough work out there to keep every ship in New York busy, not while they were in the midst of a depression. Besides, there were plenty of other, newer ships out there that would be anyones first choice - the Venture was growing old, it needed a lot of work done and many things needed replacing. Of course, they were used to dry patches every now and again - sometimes they even welcomed them, for those who had other lives onshore they were a welcome break, a time for them to visit families or to just recover a little strength after months at sea, or even to blow their earnings on beer and good food - but this one worried the Captain.
Things were getting rather dire now. If they did not get work soon then he did not know what might happen. Perhaps the ship would have to be sold or taken to the scrap yard for it was surely on its last legs now, at the very least he would have to let some of the crew go. Though, who would be deemed redundant, he did not know. Growling under his breath at the frustration of it all, he pushed the thought from his mind and concentrated on discussing with Hayes how they were to find work.
"We must find something before the week is out, Hayes," he said, his voice low and terse. "Or else we'll all be out on our ear."
Hayes sighed heavily in response to the statement, knowing how true it was and how close it was to actually happening. However, the Captain had an unexpected attitude towards the situation tonight. Hayes had already told the crew to be on the look out for any prospective work and, although they had heard of nothing yet, Englehorn had a good feeling about tonight. There was something about life at sea that gave simple men like him the gift of foresight, partially at least. Perhaps it was all those years of watching the skies, of sensing the subtle changes in the wind and of the movements of the waves, of piecing together all the signs and signals that give away the arrival of a storm. Perhaps it had given him a sixth sense. In any case, the knot in the pit of his stomach had eased somewhat and for once; he did not dread the discussions to come.
Leonard Hartley, of Hartley and Denton Ltd, was an extremely rich man. His business was booming, growing day by day and bringing in cash by the millions. Some might consider him lucky to be where he was, living a life of luxury whilst others roamed the streets with no food and no shelter as a result of the Depression. But to him, it was not luck that bought him to his current position. It was hard work. A lifetimes worth of toil on his fathers behalf, rising up through the ranks, riding on the aftershocks of the Great War and establishing himself as an ambitious, well-educated and extremely powerful man in those troubled years. And he himself had continued the tradition. His Father had begun his training as soon as he could stand and by the time he reached the age of sixteen he was already immersed in the world of industry and business. He worked hard, learning the ins and outs of the trading world and how to control it, so that he might make his Father proud one day. He was quick-witted and the brain for ripe for business. By the time he was eighteen he was itching to leave school and join his Father and his business partner, Frederick Denton, in the running of the family business, an ever growing manufacturing company that had the potential to go global. Already with two factories in the state of New York, one in England and another opening in Germany, the company employed more than thirty industrial steamboats for the transport of materials and products and two thousand men to man the boats and work the factories.
He had married Grace Denton, Frederick's daughter, at the tender age of twenty one. She had given him two children - a boy and a girl. Then, Hartley's Father died after thirteen years of working in partnership with his son and his oldest friend. Five years after that Denton followed and, with no heir, left Hartley to manage the business by himself. Four years on and the company was thriving under his careful watch. Since Hartley had joined the corporation, the business had almost doubled in size; they had truly gone international, dominating the manufacturing scene in both the United States and England and with a steady hold over the market in most of Europe. The company dabbled in many industries - producing rayon and nylon, electronics and chemical products. And now, Leonard had hit the jackpot. Things were changing in America; there were new patterns in consumerism, new demands from the customers. Not only were they demanding different things, but they were demanding more. And Leonard was determined to be the one to give it to them. He was still fairly young and knew how to move with the times, adapting his products to suit whatever was the latest innovation or fad at the time.
It was nearing the end of the decade and the supermarkets were where the big bucks were. With nearly five thousand nationwide, Leonard had big plans. He was about to open three new factories, dedicated to producing canned goods and processed foods. That's what the people wanted - quick, easy and cheap. Both for him and for them. He was growing an empire - just like his Father had done for him, now he was doing for his son.
But there was a problem. To get power, power must be taken from others and so he had on many occasion over the years. Sacrifices had to be made of course, but by no means did he regret his actions. But he had enemies as a result, as did every powerful man in the world. And now, his new venture was riling them even more. He had trampled on hundreds of businesses over the years, crushed hundreds of dreams - indirectly of course, it was a necessary and inevitable consequence of business, survival of the fittest as they said - taken away jobs and destroyed lives, left families in destitution. This new plan did so more than ever. In previous times, Hartley knew exactly how to handle this; he had a knack for manipulating people, charming them and of brushing over the bad things. But not this time. A problem had arisen. His daughter had been kidnapped.
It had been two weeks since they'd last seen her and now the papers had gone wind of it all. He'd wanted to keep it hushed up, he would pay the ransom without a seconds hesitation and his daughter would be back with them no harm done. He'd heard stories of this kind of thing happening before, rich businessmen exploited and manipulated for money by their competitors. He swore he would never be victim to it. He'd learned long ago never to have anything in his life that he gave any particular value to. He had not married out of love, first of all, it was yet another transaction, another contract if you will, there was not the time for love in business. And though he did not want to seem heartless, he barely saw the girl in question, nor any of his family, save for his son. But he did not think his company could handle the stress of it all, the scandal and the negative press. The people did not need to know that he had enemies, especially not any that were justified in their endeavours.
But no such ransom had been demanded. They had waited and waited, but nothing came. Hartley had every man on the job, he'd hired every private detective in the city and the entire New York police force were dedicated to finding her - or at least, to finding who had taken her first. Though Hartley knew his enemies well enough, he could not think of any who would have the means, let alone the guts to perform such a stunt. And so far, to add to his worries, they had found nothing.
Evelyn Rose Hartley.
It was sewed to the inside of her jacket. Why, she did not know. She rarely left the confines of her home, so never even got the opportunity to loose anything. But there it was, plain as day in red thread, the letters curling and swirling around themselves forming the shape of her name.
She detested her name. Evelyn Rose was nice enough, it was her Grandmother's name after all, but Hartley, she did not like. It did not seem right seeing it next to her name. It did not belong there, it belonged next to her Mother's maiden name. Hartley and Denton. Of Hartley and Denton Ltd. That was where it should be. She did not want to be associated with that name anymore and everything that it stood for. She picked at the threads violently. Well, as violently as you could be when dealing with something so intricate. Her teeth were gritted and her hands shaking with irritation.
She sat on the edge of the dock, bare feet dangling off the side but not quite reaching the water, trouser legs rolled up exposing pale skin. The thin material of her shirt did nothing to shield her from the winter's cold. A shiver ran through her as she picked the remaining threads off. It was an old jacket, yet it still fit. She picked it because it was her plainest one, of a dark navy with no trace of pattern or embroidery on it. She needed to not be noticed.
When she was done, she pulled on the jacket and slipped on her boots, her trouser legs falling once more around her ankles. She picked up a swift pace and walked along the length of the dock. There were ships of all sizes moored next to her, from small fishing boats to large cruise liners. But there was only one ship that Evelyn was interested in. It was a large steam boat, probably used for industrial purposes, if her Father's business had taught her anything. The SS Venture, it was named. It was docked but half way down port and had been for at the very least a month. That was when she first noticed it there and it had not moved since. She had been watching it for some time you see. After a number of days of sitting at the docklands, walking along past the ships and watching as the men went about their daily work, she had finally picked this one. She had seen ship after ship come and go and knew exactly what kind she should like. The SS Venture fitted the bill perfectly.
She had to get away, you see. It was all very well leaving and travelling across the country, finding menial work here and there, but there was only so far she could go on foot before her Father, well not him personally, but her Father's men, caught up with her. He had all the money and power in the world at his mercy, to do with how he willed, but all Evelyn had was a spare change of clothes, a few personal trinkets and a loaf of bread. And after they were gone, only stubbornness and determination. For sure, she would put up a fight, but he was Leonard Hartley, the most powerful businessman in New York, in the United States practically, and who was she? A nineteen year old girl with an idea and a whole lot of courage.
People might wonder why one such as her should wish to leave her life behind her for one that is vastly unknown to her and would no doubt involve years of toil and hard work. To everyone else, Evelyn Hartley had everything. And in a certain respect, they would be right in saying that. Whatever she liked, she got. And this pleased her for many years. But the novelty began to wear off as soon as she had the savvy to realise that everything her Father gave her was meaningless. All the dresses and shoes and hats and gloves, they were all just replacements. Replacements for his love and his care, well, even just for his company, for he was never around to see her wear any of it. In fact, she might even take it one step further and say that he gave it all just to placate her. To keep her distracted and out of the way. If she was busy trying to decide what outfit to wear, which hat matched which pair of shoes, then perhaps she would not notice that she never saw her Father, or her Mother for that matter, nor had any kind of relationship with either of the two, even when she did see them.
Her Father did the same with her Mother. Except, Grace Hartley was happy with that. For a while, Evelyn felt sorry for her Mother. It had always been clear to her, even from a young age, that their marriage was not based on love. And so she pitied her Mother, for being stuck in a loveless marriage, something that Evelyn could never stand for. But then, as she grew older, she realised that her Mother was no better. Evelyn had forgotten that her Mother had grown up in the exact same surroundings as her Father - and with a mind for business. It was a business of another sort - the business of the heart - where contracts were still made and the most advantageous moves still carried out. Grace Hartley liked the way things were. And no, she had not just gotten used to it all, it was how she had wanted things from the start. It had been nothing but a business transaction for her, as much as it had been for Evelyn's Father. It was the only thing that they had in common.
And so, all pity for her Mother vanished. What replaced it was anger. She was angry that her Mother was no different from her Father, a man that she deemed to be heartless and cruel. She was angry that she sat by and watched as her Father became more and more of a distant figure in her life. She was angry that she, too, did the same without a second thought. She was angry that she could not think of anything more important than herself and the preservation of the family name. Evelyn Hartley had a lot of anger inside of her. Anger that she had tried very hard to conceal. So far, she had succeeded, but such strong emotions always find an outlet. Her decision to leave home, though she did not know it, was Evelyn's response to it all.
She had become tired of it all, tired of pretending to be interested in silk dresses and lace gloves and fur coats, of being prim and proper. She was meant to be a debutante, she had come out a year ago. And it had only gotten worse. Before she was eighteen, she had only had to satisfy a few people - her Mother, her Father, if and when she saw him, and a few other family members who came to visit. But now that she was out in society, it was a completely different story. Now she had to represent the family. She had to attend balls and dinners and be polite, hold her cutlery properly and always behave with dignity. She was not to leave the house without a hat and gloves, for it was most frowned upon by her Grandmother. She was bored of dressing in her finest clothes for dinner for only her Mother and brother to see and of changing her clothes countless times a day all so she show off just how rich the Hartleys were. It all just seemed so pointless. She was the only daughter of the richest man in New York, therefore, rather a lot was expected of her and by rather a lot of people, but she had not the inclination to appease them.
So, she had to leave the country. She had to go overseas and what better way than to hitch a ride on a steamboat headed some great, exotic country. She was not quite sure what she could offer them, somehow she envisioned that expert piano playing, near perfect pitch and embroidery were not the most valuable skills aboard a vessel such as the Venture, but Goddammit, she would try.
Captain Englehorn was beginning to think he was wrong about this evening. Perhaps his sixth sense had failed him this time. Most of the crew were back on the ship and no one had come up with anything of any worth. There were a few businesses in want of transportation of cargo, there always were, but they were small jobs; the Venture was too large for any of these jobs, it would be inefficient for such a ship to take them. Such a waste of resources and time. Englehorn was near the point of despair now.
He was sat in the navigation room, Hayes beside him and Jimmy watching from the other side of the room, a few other crew members were present, coming and going between rooms every so often. Lumpy could be heard whistling from the galley, whilst the other members were busy maintaining the ship or were onshore, enjoying their extended time off, leaving the three of them to debate what to do.
Captain Englehorn sighed and held his head in his hand.
"Jimmy," he ordered, without looking up. "Get me that bottle of gin and a glass."
The young boy nodded and did as he was told. He had barely set the bottle on the table when Englehorn snatched it up and poured himself a generous glass. He winced slightly as the liquid slid down his throat. It did help to soothe that ever tightening knot in his stomach, however. Hayes then proceeded to sit down opposite the Captain and to do the same. Jimmy looked ready to join them too, but at the same time, seemed to be thinking against it, not being one who generally partook in heavy drinking. Instead, he reinstated himself in his usual position across the other side of the room, observing his two superiors.
Just then, there was a knock at the door. "Come," the Captain called.
The door opened to reveal Choy, mop in hand, still slightly dripping from whatever task he had been doing. "There is someone here who wishes to speak to you, Captain," the man said, his accent thick. He stood to one side and a young girl entered the room.
"Who are you, young lady?" Englehorn asked, knocking back another glass of gin, puzzled as to what business such a young creature had with him. The girl stepped forward, head held high with what seemed to be every ounce of courage she had. He applauded her determination, though still could not place who she was. The daughter of one of the crew? Perhaps. She had a familiar face, he might have seen her before, but he could not be sure. If she was a connected with someone on board, he would most likely have known who she was. They were a large crew, but they had remained the same company for years, as the Captain he would at least recognise a family member, even if no name could be recalled.
But this girl, she was something else. She had an air about her that was not seen often around the Venture, only when they had people of great worth on board, like a rich businessman, not that it happened very often. She was not like the others on board, she had the innocence of one that has not known what it is to be hungry, to be exhausted, to have journeyed across thousands of miles of open water for months on end, against the wrath of the ocean and the force of the wind, for nothing but pittance for wages and a lukewarm meal. She was young, yes, but younger than her had endured the troubles that came with being poor. She had seen nothing of the hardships of this world, her hands were too soft and her resolve too strong. The world had not wearied her yet. Her clothes said it had, by their dishevelled and worn look, but her countenance said otherwise. She was an enigma, a walking contradiction. He probed her further, intrigued by her presence.
"What business do you have with the Venture?"
She took another step forward, taking a breath, so she stood but a little way from the Captain.
She flashed a smile. "Captain Englehorn, I am the answer to your prayers."