CHAPTER WARNINGS – None
Author's notes –
EDIT/ Rewrote the first part of the chapter for personal/story reasons as well as improvements in my writing style :)
So I pretty much started writing this monster for no reason other to waste time that I should be spending studying. Anyway I watched King Kong the other day, liked it a lot more than I thought I would, then started writing off the bat funnily enough and it seemed to take on a mind of its own :| Anyway it was a challenge because of various different reasons but I hope you find it somewhat believable and interesting. I wanted to try something totally different to what is available on FF/net in relation to Englehorn's love life. And yes, I'm aware that I am totally late to this party, Kong was released in 2005 I think. This was just for practice purposes, and also Thomas Kretschmann was pretty good in the Englehorn role, and by 'pretty good' I mean 'pretty sexy'.
Please excuse any inaccuracies with nautical terms, rankings or procedure as well as mechanical and historical things too; I'm not a sailor/historian/mechanic so it was just a lot of research. The only thing I really had trouble nutting out was the crew size, ship layout and watch system. I have also tried my best to make susan well rounded and believable. Believe it or not female engineers and mechanics did exist in the 1920s however unlikely (very unlikely).
Originally i wrote in Susan's accent (Irish) but after receiving a helpful review i decided to change that : )
Anywho comes in eleven parts, fo sho. It's totally a romance but is set from a period six years before Kong and then an additional year or so afterwards, I was going for the slow burn. This is the first and last author's note. Aside from small mentions if need be Lordy loo Too many words!
Sorry for waffling on!
Enjoy (Reviews are much appreciated :)
Part 1 – (1927)
October 6th, 1927 – New York, North America
The day Susan first came to work on the Venture started off as a day as ordinary as any other. The golden sunlight peeked dustily through the gap in the curtains of her small but tightly packed bedroom, an un hung mirror reflecting it widely around the room. Susan ran her hand along the faded wooden frame ponderously and adjusted her faded work shirt. Stepping back she paused to consider the reflection and smiled crookedly. Same old average Susan. Turning away and shrugging on her pea coat she flung open the curtains widely and blinked in the morning sunlight. The day looked to be a good one, for but a few patches of cloud lingering on the horizon. There didn't seem to be any wind as she opened the clunky window to let in a light breeze; perfect for sailing. Grabbing the large duffle pack on the bed, she slid through the door quietly and crept down the narrow hallway so as not the wake her sister's two children. Her father too she supposed, but it was likely he was already awake. He was, in his own words, a morning person and had been finding it more and more troublesome to sleep for long preferring to take short naps during the day. It was an unspoken truth in their house that he was getting steadily worse as the years went by, something they all had come to accept and take into account. It was probable he had had a turn in the last few hours as she had been woken in the early hours of the morning by the hallway light streaming from under her door and the soft steps of her sister. She confirmed this instinctively because the minute she'd emerged in her sister kitchen for breakfast she was greeted with the worried lines on her sister's face.
"He had a turn Su," Millie clasped Susan's hands tightly and bit her lip. "Worse this time, I think we should call Dactor Ingram." Susan sighed and shrugged off her sister, moving to check the teapot for warmth.
"We have no money for Ingram Mills," she plonked down at the kitchen table and tore off a hunk of bread. Millie flittered round her anxiously.
"For goodness sake Su! Use a knife." Susan shrugged off the offered utensil and chewed the day old bread laboriously. Millie often became distracted and flighty when their father was in ill health. It was not that Susan cared little for her Father's wellbeing or didn't believe her sister's claims, but her sister had a tendency to over exaggerate things to a degree that caused unnecessary panic. It was then convenient that Susan herself had a knack for calming her sister down.
Millie pursed her lips at Susan's indifference and slid gracefully into the opposite seat dropping the knife on the table and laying her head down hopelessly. "I'm just worried 's all, you know with father and the children, and you going away, i'm not sure i can do this by myself!" Susan turned to her, swallowed and put the bread down, placing a hand on her sister's shoulder.
"I'm worried about Pa too," she paused and smiled gently. "That's why I'm taking this job, it pays better than the factory, and you know me," she placed a finger under her sister's chin and lifted it to look directly into her eyes. "I'm a sailor, like father. You said yourself, it suits me." Millie smiled uncertainly at her sister and straightened up, setting about pouring the tea to distract herself. "And Mills," she looked at her sister pointedly. "You have raised two children in less than desirable circumstances and looked after father for years, i could think of nobody else more capable than you." Millie smiled at her sister gratefully.
"You're the kindest sister I could ever hope for Su," she slid a steaming sup toward her and offered the milk jug. There was a pause as Millie considered Susan quietly. "We wouldn't be anything without you." Susan sipped the mug gingerly and looked up at her sister. There was truth in that statement; Susan's income was primarily the breadwinners. Working the last 2 years in the local auto factory and before that working Steamers with her father until he'd grown to old for the intensive work. It was a hard life, but Susan found that once she had gotten used to it, she enjoyed it. She supposed the ego inside of her liked being such an anomaly, one of a kind as it were.
"We'd be nothing without you either Mills, were a family, we stick together." They set down their cups at the same time and Millie sighed.
"Ya right, as usual," She made a face and Susan laughed, glad to have stemmed her sister's anxiety. All she had said was truth, Millie was indeed capable and more than smart enough to survive on her own, she just lacked confidence. It would come, Susan was sure. Millie had a great many talents after all.
"I'll make you samething to eat on the way while you go say goodbye to Pa," Susan nodded at her sister.
"Thanks," the legs of the chair scraped on the wooden floor as she got up. "I kind of feel like that jam if we've got any left?" Millie frowned.
"You don't want anything hot?" Susan shook her head.
"Nah," she ran a hand through her short hair. "New crews always make me feel too anxious to eat much." Millie nodded as Susan turned to go into the sitting room. Their father was dozing by the window in his wheelchair. As Susan walked over to him she felt a ting pang of sadness and, not wanting to wake him, she kissed him gently on the forehead.
"Now dont you die before I get back ya hear?" It was as much a plea as it was a joke. "I want ta hear all about the kids from you, you were always a better story teller than Mills." She took a lasting look at him and smiled sadly. Their poor Pa had seen better days; he was not even a particularly old man, just sick and prone to sickness after a rather damaging bout of pneumonia. It had been quick, one day he was strong and healthy, the next bedridden and on the verge of death. It had broken Susan's heart more than once. It gave her motivation though, to work hard and give him the best chance for the rest of his life. Some men got to a point where they wanted to die; Jeremy O'brien was not one of these men; fiercely stubborn and more than a bit like an old lion, he had always had a vivacity for life. Susan admired that, in fact she admire her father in his entirety. She often wondered what it would have been like being brought up by her mother, but in the end she was proud of herself, and her father, for making her who she was.
Taking a last look at the sleeping man she retired to the kitchen where Millie was wrapping up a pair of sandwiches in greased paper. She looked up as Susan walked in.
"He was sleeping," Susan answered her sister's unasked question. "I didn't feel like waking him." Millie gave her a funny look.
"You sure?" They both knew what she meant but Susan just laughed softly.
"I don't think he's going anywhere honestly," Mille smiled and handed her sister the package.
"There was some jam left," she patted down her sister's coat and flicked a bit of lint from the collar. "You packed the shirts I made for you?" Susan rolled her eyes.
"Yes mam," Millie tutted and eyed her critically.
"Well with one of us going out doing work like a man, someone has to stay hame and be the responsible woman." They laughed merrily together and embraced lovingly. "Behave yaself Su, and dont get into any scrapes ya hear!" Susan nodded and opened the front door.
"Don't worry about me," she looked back at her sister as she stepped through the door. "Tell the kids all be back in a month or so for a visit." Millie nodded.
"Love you Su," she sang and smiled, Susan grinned.
"Love you toooooooo."
Walking down the busy docks she looked alert for the dock numbers and finally spotted the reasonably small tramp steamer.
It was tucked quite neatly between a large cruiser she recognized as the MS Alcantara, and another ship she couldn't identify. The Alcantara had been in the news recently, being only recently launched from it's dockings in Belfast. She admired the craftsmanship of her own countrymen. The Irish have engineering in their blood, her father had told her. True enough she supposed, although she suspected it had more to do with cheap labor and effective outsourcing than anything else really. Still she turned her attentions back to the small Tramp steamr and sighed both adoringly and determinedly, eyeing its rusted body. Perfect, just perfect, Alacantara could have its Burmeister and Wain diesels and it's 4 story engine rooms. Nothing could beat the gritty subtleties of a tramp steamer.
The men busing themselves with loading various cargos and provisions hardly glanced in curiosity at the plain faced and slightly drab female, Susan did not doubt they would not have given her a second thought. Still there were glances; both of surprise and indifference, from what she assumed were her future crewmates as she strode purposely along the dock parallel to the steamer.
When John had told her an old friend of his was looking for a sailor, preferably with engineering experience she'd tried to contain her excitement, and her fear. It was always difficult to start anew with a foreign group of rough men, none of who she could trust to either keep their hands to themselves or to treat her with any respect, even to be willing to take on a woman, especially with so many men out of work these days. But she'd done it before and from what John had told her, this Englehorn was a reasonable fellow and a good captain. She was sure with the right approach she could gain at least some of the respect she knew she deserved, even if it took her years. She mused this absently whilst scanning the docks for an authority figure, it probably would take years, ship hierarchy was a tricky business even at the best of times. Still she was a patient woman and with a bit of luck this job would turn out well. She had enough connections to enable her some kind of work if the whole Venture business went south, but she didn't relish the thought of going back to factory work. She'd been stuck in that rut for as long as she cared to think about. 2 years break from the sea was enough for her thank you very much.
As she mused, she paused in front of the gangway, again, eyeing the decks for the telltale signs of a captain; authoritative, barking orders and German apparently. John had mentioned it to her in passing, surprising for a man who had fought hard against such countrymen to have such an amiable relationship with one, though not entirely unexpected. John was a good man with an open mind, probably why he had been such a help to her in opening up job opportunities, despite the disadvantage of her gender. She admired his ability to look to the future so readily, a concept she had been grateful to learn from him.
She smiled to herself lightly, if she had been told 20 years ago that she would end up greasy and uncouth working in a man's domain, she probably would have hit the instigator with one of her many beautiful dolls. Yet here she was, prepared (somewhat) for her newest hurdle, ready to dive headlong into another seaman's fray for the sake of her family. It was daunting, frightening and just a bit exhilarating. Susan had long known the price for freedom and doing what she wanted was isolation and contempt from the normal conventions of society but it was a price she was willing to pay; both for herself and for the ones she loved.
She shuffled out of the way of a middle-aged sailor carrying a crate in the opposite direction and hoisted her rucksack over one shoulder. Her milk cap shifted over her dull brown-red hair as it caught on the corner of the wooden box; Susan adjusted it and smoothed down her pea coat absently. She was dressed ready for a life at sea and aside from the risk and the alienation shed have to endure this what she loved; the rocking of the boat against the waves, the smell of the salt and grime and the gentle harbor breeze. Not to mention the loud clanging of the engine she'd soon be mothering.
"Miss O'Brien I assume?" She pivoted swiftly at the low male voice behind her and looked upwards sharply into the hard face of a very tall Negro man carrying a writing board. She offered her hand.
"Yes, but please O'Brien or Susan is fine." His face didn't change as he took her hand firmly and shook it, his eyes lingering slightly on the left side of her face. She shook firmly back.
"First Mate Ben Hayes, but please Mr Hayes will be fine," she smiled slightly as he ushered another man past him and onto the gangway.
"Captain wants those on the bridge, Frick." The man or boy rather, now that she looked at him, named Frick nodded, looking at Susan curiously.
"Yes Mr Hayes," at the pointed look from his superior he tore his eyes from Susan and continued up the gangway, the first mate nodded and turned his attentions back to the woman in front of him. He was authoritative to say the least, but without having to even try. A wedding band glinted on his finger as he gestured to her in the direction of the ships stern, and walked on. As she followed him up the platform Susan wondered what kind of a woman he was married to.
"As I'm sure you're aware if you have had sailing experience," he eyed her sideways as they reached the top. "I am second in command. When you don't answer to the captain you answer to me," he walked confidently along the decking, clipping reminders and occasional greetings to various members of the ship's crew before climbing steadily up to the waist deck. "I'm also in charge of discipline and keeping the peace, and I'm not going to beat around the bush." He stopped at the top watching her clamber nimbly up the small steps and eyed her with a measured gaze. "Having a working woman on board is going to present some…interesting situations, regardless of how good you are at your job," as she straightened up he continued walking towards the bridge deck and wheel room. "I assume as you have apparently been in this business for a while you would know this." He paused as he reached the bridge deck and Susan looking up at him, climbed confidentially and nodded shortly as she reached the top.
"Yes Mr Hayes, I've had my fair share a 'encounters', I know the score and I truly wish to make as little fuss as possible." She paused as young Frick hurried out from depositing his crate in the wheel room, her eyes following him vaguely. She turned them back to the officer. "I know there is nothing I can do besides acting as little like a woman as I can to stop such attentions but I promise to be as unappealing as I can as to deter unwanted notice." There was a slight tug at the man's mouth at her rueful statement, she continued quickly. "This opportunity means a lot to me and my family so I assure you I will work twice as hard as any man to make up for any lacking I may have."
"Well im glad to hear it," another man stepped out of the steering deck, not as tall as the first but he exuded the aura of authority. She had only one guess.
"My captain I presume?" He grimaced in what seemed to her to be meant as a welcoming smile and held out his hand. She took it like she had taken Mr Hayes' and shook firmly. It was warm and appropriately calloused.
"You presume correctly," he eyed her critically, giving her a one over. Like Hayes, and all people she met, his eyes lingered for a moment of the jagged scar down one side of her face. She looked back at him confidentially with the same level of regard in her eyes. His face was hardened much like the face of her father but the deep lines over his hooded eyes did little to hide the colour that had seen much. A soldier perhaps, at least someone who had seen war, he certainly had that look about him. Given his position and body language she would not be surprised if he had been in the navy. He finished his inspection and withdrew his hand. "You are strong enough to handle your responsibilities I hope?" Susan nodded and squared her shoulders unconsciously, it seemed to amuse Hayes, and she eyed him defensively but honest nonetheless.
"Yas, I won't pretend to have the brute strength most of ya sailors have I expect but I'll work twice as hard, if not more, to make up far it." Englehorn seemed to nod approvingly though she was not sure whether he was pleased or just twitching.
"John has assured me of you competence and I trust his word and his recommendations," he kept a steady gaze with her own shrewd eyes. "But I'm taking a risk with hiring you." He said bluntly, she nodded. "There are a dozen men ready to take your place," he emphasized the word men, as if she didn't already know that. The reminder was tiring but she knew he was just being blunt to avoid any miscommunication. "If you're working on my ship you obey my orders keep your head down and get treated like everyone else." She nodded quickly, her pleasure growing inwardly at his sentiments; she was pleased at his authority. She wouldn't consider herself an expert of captaincy or its complexity, given her lack of leadership experience, but she knew what she liked to see from one. This Englehorn seemed to tick all the boxes, if a bit harsh and she doubted he had a particularly open sense of humor. She grinned at him, it would do.
"I wouldn't have it any other way Captain." He regarded her sternly, seeming somewhat satisfied with her reactions but still rather unreadable. She continued in her honest fashion. "In regards to the matter of my sex and the men," she turned to Hayes to address his earlier concern. "I want complain past any serious business with wandering hands. I have a thick skin with men and their mouths ya see. It takes a lot to get me riled up." Hayes raised an eyebrow quizzically and she continued in a firm fashion. "But if any of ya man take it too far I will not hesitate to do what I have to to protect maself." There was a moment of silence.
"As you should," it came from Hayes funnily enough and she smiled at him appreciatively. Glancing at the captain, he still showed no real sign of what he thought of her, but there was a slight flash of condescending amusement and slight skepticism in his eyes. She felt peeved at that, but not surprised. Still, she knew that if push came to shove she'd be able to defend herself adequately regardless of what the two men thought. As the captain's face froze over again harshly, she knew it was now just a matter of proving herself professionally as it were, not too complicated given the fact that John's recommendations had not come without merit.
"Of course I will expect full responsibility for my actions, as long as any possible offender will too." She added confidentially and it seemed to be enough for the German captain as he uncrossed his arms.
"Good," he said simply and glanced out at the docks, watching his crew go about their business. "I expect a lot from my sailors and I expect them to deliver." He looked back at her sharply. "A working relationship is a two way thing, if you work well I'll treat you well. And if not," he paused and without a flicker of change in his tone or his face he continued. "Well there's always a coast somewhere, isn't there." It was not a question and the clear warning was prominent as he spoke. She had no doubts that he would, if needs be, abandon her at the nearest landmass if he deemed fit. And probably, she mused, drag her behind the ship the entire way.
However her face mirrored his own, if not slightly more determined, as they both stared each other down. After a moment he let out a non-committal 'Hmmm' and looked away.
"Mr Hayes, see to it that O'brien knows what she's meant to be doing," he pulled out an ornately carved metallic cigarette case. A slight oddity she thought on such a rough, bare bones type of man. "And come see me about the cargo manifest when you're done. " It was clear he was done with her and she took no offense, granted he would undoubtedly have more important things to do bother with than the finer points of her induction.
"Aye, captain," Hayes nodded at the man and looked pointedly at Susan who followed, eager to put down her bag and start getting into the swing of things. She glanced momentarily back after the captain as she moved to follow Hayes down the steps. A reasonable fellow indeed and just the type she'd hoped for, if not slightly dull and reserved. Still, he was her captain now and not her friend and God knows it's not like she had expected anything else anyway. He, like most captains would undoubtedly distance himself from interacting socially with the majority of the crew. After all a captain that was too friendly with his crew risked a loss of respect. As long as he paid her what she was due and ran the ship well it didn't matter what Captain Englehorn was like as a person. She got the sense anyway that there was a lot more going on under that steely brow than she or indeed anyone could probably interpret and she did not want to get involved with that. Not that it would even be her decision if Englehorn took more than a passing interesting her as a worker anyway; she snickered silently at the ridiculous image of her and the harsh captain laughing it up on the bridge. Still her opinion of this ship was greatly elevated after meeting its two most important figures. With any luck this could turn out to be just the godsend she needed, they seemed like good enough men, though you could never really tell.
She smiled at Hayes as she stepped surely down the steps to the middle deck. He returned the expression tightly.
"You're a very lucky woman O'Brien," he looked at her with slight incredulity, she regarded his expression curiously. "We've only got one bunk left and it's in the Galley quarters, so you'll only be sharing with a man called Russell and his son George," he led her onto the lower deck and through to the Galley. Susan praised her luck indeed and none to subtly. My Hayes returned her smile, with kindness in his eyes this time. "They're both good men, shouldn't give you any trouble, you'll be working with Russell a lot too, he's our chief stoker, and on your watch." She nodded mutely but a smile still attached to her face as they stepped through the Galley. Most tram steamers of the Venture's size had crew quarters that housed anywhere from 6 to 8 men in the forecastle, she blessed her luck indeed that she had managed to snatch a more private situation. It would certainly make her life easier. Hayes stopped unexpectedly in front of the galley bench and cleared his throat. A slightly unkempt looking man stood up from his business and grinned crookedly upon spotting the woman at the first mate's side. The young man stacking crates in the storage turned on his heel too
"Ahhh, so this is our new engineer aye?" Hayes nodded at the dark haired man and his assistant.
"Lumpy, Dan, this is Susan O'brien," he glanced down at Susan. "O'brein, this is Dan, one of our apprentices and Lumpy, the ships cook, barber and surgeon." She smiled a friendly smile at the two men and Dan stuck out his hand unceremoniously.
"Nice to meetcha," and she shook enthusiastically. His young face had a wide mouth that sported a wide smile; she liked him already though she imagined he probably had that effect on everyone.
"Always nice to have a new face," Lumpy grinned and shook over from Dan. He grinned in jest as the cautioning look of the First mate. "'specially such a pretty one." Susan chuckled, knowing he was being purposefully charming.
"Am just here to do my job fellas," the men nodded in agreement.
"And we respect that. No funny business here," Dan resumed his business and lugged a crate onto the bench. Lumpy wiped his hands down the front of his grubby apron. "Just so you know, dinner's served in between dogs so when you get on Afternoon watch remember to stick around for that." Susan nodded and Hayes cleared his throat and gestured her towards the other end of the galley. She nodded thankfully at Lumpy who mock saluted.
"Yes," Hayes opened the door to the humble quarters. A stack of bunks lined one side, the top two looked taken but neat enough, and she plunked her bag down on the bottom one. "We work on a three section dogged watch so you will be on with Jenkins in engineering for the first few weeks. He's the chief so he'll be able to show you the ropes." He tucked the clipboard under his arm as she struggled with the slightly stuck locker underneath her bunk and moved down to help her tug it free. "As soon as he's satisfied with your ability you'll be to a certain degree on your own," Susan nodded and roughly pulled the draw open successfully before Hayes could touch the handle. "In any case we cast off at 1600 provided the manifest is in order so you'll start off with the first dog watch" He straightened up again as Susan plunked her bag inside, eyeing her calculatingly. "It'll give you a chance to see how we run things from the outset, until then," he shifted and took out the clipboard again. "If you are ready I'll introduce you to Jenkins and you can get started, the rest of the crew you'll meet in due course." It was a perfectly sound plan and she nodded.
"Sounds good to me," she straightened up, adjusting her collar to move out but he paused regarding her again with his dark brown eyes.
"You know," he started. "I was a bit apprehensive about the skipper hiring a woman," she looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "But you seem to know the score, I hope you don't disappoint." Susan took that as a compliment and smiled to herself as he moved past her. So far it was all going so well, she just hoped it wasn't too good to be true.
November 1st, 1927 – Madras, Southern India
The first time Englehorn felt pleased with his decision came about more quickly than he had expected. Of course he was never one to doubt himself or his decisions but a new crewmember, no matter what was between their legs, was always a tricky business. First impressions were something but until Englehorn experienced that gratifying moment when they did something, didn't matter what it was but they'd do something with initiative. Then he would know, he'd know, it had been a good decision and he'd have a good worker for as long as they chose to stay. It was his way of evaluating the men. Because even though Englehorn had a hundred places to be in at once, he was very good at observing his crew, it was what made him a good captain. He knew everything that went on aboard his ship, good and bad; almost nothing went unnoticed although most things often went unacknowledged, it was about picking his battles he found. As long as the men knew their shrewd captain was watching them and stayed on their toes he was happy.
In his experience there were three types of men; leaders, followers and the ones that couldn't hack it. Ideally Englehorn liked his ship to be populated primarily with hardworking followers. Men that obeyed orders, kept their heads down and did their jobs; team players, he almost never had a problem with team players. Coming from a military background Englehorn knew he valued the team far more than the hero, that crap that Hollywood spouted about the lone hero saving the day was ridiculous nonsense in his opinion. A well-oiled team was his preferred mode of operation; unfortunately he had often found himself falling short of this mark since leaving his homeland. American's, he scoffed, nothing could match German efficiency, the lack of competence was something he often found irritating about the arrogant nation. Still, he mused, all his men had displayed some level of competence, some more than others.
Leaders he found, though generally more skilled, were slightly trickier; men who liked to lead often came with egos that were unwanted, and often unjustified in his opinion. It was difficult to find someone who had good leadership qualities and smarts, but without the ego. One did not want too many men who thought they knew best but 3 or 4 men who were capable of leading separate departments within the ship were necessary.
The 'ones that couldn't hack it" was self-explanatory; Englehorn had absolutely no patience for useless, idle, prissy or self-important men and women. As he so often liked to remind his men (and sometimes passengers of both genders), he had absolutely no qualms about dropping them off at the nearest coast if he deemed fit.
"Get that cage up!" The men tugging hard on the block and tackle grunted and pulled again. The magnificent Bengal tiger paced irritably within the floating cage, still groggy from its recent encounter with the Venture's vast supply of chloroform but dangerous nonetheless. Englehorn's scowl matched the tiger's and he was fairly certain his men were as afraid of him, if not more, than the magnificent man eating beast. Good, as they should. He had not been having a good couple of days and it was showing. First there was the storm coming into the bay, that had rattled his beloved Venture more than he had appreciated, then the ridiculous troubles with Holiday and O'brien. He sighed, annoyed, and now this boiler business. It seemed if it wasn't one problem, it was another.
Taking a drag from his cigarette irritably he observed the crew scuttling about, most of the longer serving sailors wisely staying out of their peeved captains way. Despite their engineering issues everything did seem to be running somewhat smoothly. He noticed Hayes having a hurried discussion with one of the senior harbor Masters. Englehorn had spoken to him minutes prior and the aged Indian was not happy about their cast off being delayed. Englehorn wondered how Hayes was going to tide the irritating man over, and sneered sardonically.
Hayes' was a leader, granted he was hired as an experienced officer from the outset, but still it was pleasing and self-gratifying to know it was the right decision. Military experience didn't mean anything until Englehorn saw the ability up close. But the first mate was good with the men, authoritative and firm and had a slightly more approachable nature than Englehorn himself which was good. He also knew his place and didn't try to tell Englehorn how to run his ship past gentle opinion. Aside from that Englehorn had found himself actually enjoying the dark man's company. The captain didn't consider himself particularly agreeable in terms of sociability but it was nice to have someone he could trust both as an employee and a friend. He and Hayes had worked together for many years anyway that Englehorn didn't consider it a conflict of interest.
In fact despite his harsh standards Englehorn found he had several good men at his disposal who knew the score well. Rhys Smith, the boatswain, although unlicensed, had show great ability in more than one area, particularly a good repertoire with the rest of the crew and an uncanny ability to mediate most of the problems that arose between them. Danny Jenkins, his head mechanic, too had shown a great wealth of knowledge and ran the mechanics of his beloved Venture like a boot camp, something Englehorn liked. Both were reliable men with good standing and respect, who lead well but didn't give him trouble. It made running his ship easier and less stressful, though at this point in time, it didn't feel like much.
He flicked the cigarette he'd been smoking onto the pavement crushing it with his boot irritably. "God damn it! Hurry up." The men were focused on their task and there really was no particular need for them to hurry at all given the apparent state of their situation. However Englehorn felt obliged as captain to vent his anger somehow. Hayes stepped up beside him, somehow rid of that irritating Harbor master, a writing board in his hand and a worried expression on his face. His presence diverted Englehorn's attention from barking abuse, but Englehorn knew it wouldn't be good news.
"Jenkins says it'll be the day or so at best till he's got the boiler leak patched up properly," Englehorn sighed in frustration and pinched the bridge of his nose. Earlier in the day Jenkins had come on watch only to discover a crack in the second boiler, it was an unwelcome problem that Englehorn really did not have the time, money or patience for. Hayes looked at his captain with concern. "He sent a few of the men out to look for another one but he said to tell you not to get your hopes up. It'd be rare to find a good enough replacement that fits the seals apparently." The German took out his smoking case again as he often did when frustrated or under pressure and flicked another stick into his mouth, lighting it expertly. He took a drag.
"What was his excuse for the crack?" Hayes swallowed at the steel in his captain's voice, despite the older man's smaller stature; Hayes had known him long enough to be wary of ambiguous questions like these, it usually meant Englehorn already knew the answer.
"The water levels were very low apparently," Hayes looked dutifully at the shrewd captain. "Some inattention could have been involved in the last watch. They seemed to have quite a few issues last night." Observing the crew with a tight mouth Englehorn let out an aggravated sigh. He could respect Hayes' diplomacy, but he was really more concerned about knocking some sense into the moron who had delayed their casting off, abandoning them on the southern Indian coast at the mercy of an overzealous harbor master. It was costing Englehorn money and time, both of which, he was quite aware he was running out of.
"Inattention." He scowled dangerously. "Mr King was engineer on the morning watch yes?" Hayes nodded as Rick Holiday approached the pair innocently, presumably to talk to them about something. Despite his slightly leery demeanor in Englehorn's eyes and the unneeded air of superiority, Rick was another one of those generally useful men. Reliable, licensed as an officer and most importantly knew what he was doing. He seemed to be a good man to ask, seeing as Englehorn was feeling the need to try and understand why this had happened. "Tell me Mr Holiday," he took a long drag from his cigarette eyeing the now wary looking man. "How do you think you would miss noticing that a boiler was nearly empty?" The man set his mouth in a thin line at the dangerously ambiguous question.
"I can't say captain," his reply was gratingly evading, Englehorn felt the overwhelming need to sigh and then give him a good solid whack but he controlled himself with practiced ease. A pity, he considered, he could do with letting some anger out. Rick paused momentarily handing the First Mate a set of papers.
"It wasn't the woman was it?" He looked somewhat hopeful; it wasn't exactly a secret that Rick found the idea of O'Brien working on the ship to be some kind of sick joke, a sentiment shared with perhaps one or two other men. Reactions to her hiring had ranged from mostly indifference and skepticism, right up to outright hostility from the Carpenter. None of the men had the gall to challenge Englehorn upfront about it though and as far as he was concerned, if they didn't have the balls to confront him about his decision then they should leave the woman alone. She had been doing a good enough job so far anyway, better than he had expected if he was honest. Jenkins seemed to be pleased at her work ethic and know how, and as long as the chief was happy Englehorn would oblige the bizarre situation. Rick sneered, obviously having a different opinion to the German. "That bitch doesn't know what she's doing."
Englehorn scowled a habit he seemed to have gotten into with alarming, though not surprising ease. He didn't like hostility between his men, it wasn't productive and it certainly wasn't going to help them get off port any sooner.
"I'd rather you not single out crew without good reason if you would Mr Holiday," he added, being true to his train of thought. "It's neither productive nor good for moral." The carpenter looked put out.
"O'Brien is just doing a job like the rest of you Holiday," Hayes interjected diplomatically. He glanced at the captain as Englehorn breathed deeply observing the seamen now lowering the tiger into the hold. "She has nothing to do with it anyway," he said shortly, closing the matter and eyed the now peeved looking carpenter with distain. "Wasn't even on watch till it was discovered," he paused and looked at the man, warning in his eyes. "More importantly, you be best not to question the captain's judgment." He gave Rick a pointed look but the carpenter's attention had shifted behind him. Hayes hoped he hadn't missed the message, for his own sake.
"Speak of the devil," both men looked at the carpenter as he spoke under his breath, attention caught by something, or someone, rushing swiftly through the piles of cargo toward them. "I swear she gets uglier and uglier everyday," he sneered and the three men turned fully and observed Susan as she stopped short of their trio breathing quickly.
"I've found a new boiler," she put her hands on her hips and breathed deeply raising her eyebrows at the captain. Englehorn looked skeptically at her and then to Hayes who was eyeing the captain with a look of incredulity. Nearly 40 years on this earth had told him to never get his hopes up in such cases, especially when a woman was involved.
"Where?" He narrowed his eyes. Susan paused to catch her breath then continued.
"In the shipyards," she gestured vaguely behind her. "Master's got a decommissioned trawler that they're dismantling, prop's carked it but I had a quick peek, the boiler looks okay." She rolled her eyes scornfully. "'a course the bastard wouldn't let me get a decent look at the seals but I know boilers, so I got Chief to take a look and it's perfect." She looked at the captain encouragingly. "He says just get your permission and we'll be good to go, back on schedule, should only take a bit to install." Englehorn glanced at Hayes who sniffed incredulously, both men not quite believing their problem could be solved so easily.
"If chief's happy," he trailed off. Englehorn couldn't argue with that.
"Did the master offer you a price?" Susan's face fell and she fiddled with her shirt uneasily.
"Ah well that's the thing," she looked defeated and slightly annoyed, like she'd been through this before. "The masters a right bastard you see, he's under this impression that I couldn't possibly know a thing about engines." Rick let out a derisive laugh earning a scowl from the woman.
"Why ever would he have that idea?" He let out under his breath sarcastically. Susan gave him an exasperated glare but didn't take the bait. She turned her attention back to the captain and the matter at hand.
"So the master offrin' me 20, 30 percent more than the damn thing's worth, cause he thinks I don't know and refuses to go lower even when I told him he was rippin me off." Rick snorted mockingly at her predicament earning himself a look of contempt from both O'Brien and somewhat from Hayes.
"I wonder why."
"Oh shut up Holiday," Susan placed her hands on her hips and turned to the man, peeved. "Am tryina help you know, more than I can say for you."
Englehorn clicked his tongue impatiently at both of them, and turned to the man specifically; he had no patience for the carpenter's personal issues especially since O'Brien was actually being helpful, although very lucky.
"Get back to work Mr. Holiday," he dismissed shortly, turning his back on the man. He pointed at the woman before she could say anything else, "and you can be quiet O'brien" The carpenter scowled at the captain apparent defense of the woman. In truth Englehorn cared little for Susan's feelings but the carpenter had been standing idle for about 10 minutes and ten minutes from an officer was enough to delay them even further. Besides the man was once again questioning his judgment call despite all the warnings, Englehorn wasn't quite sure why Rick didn't realize that was dangerous ground to be on, he supposed Holiday just really didn't like the woman. Hayes and O'Brien looked at each other nervously as the carpenter moved to point aggregately at Susan.
"You're not seriously going to listen to that bitch are you?" Englehorn turned to him sharply, holding a hand up swiftly to stop Susan's from retaliating again. His temper was quite finished with the subject, and he did not quite believe the man wanted to push him further. "Women don't belong on ships captain, certainly not in engineerin' anyway!" The carpenter really didn't seem to realize just how angry Englehorn was and squared him up; Englehorn supposed it was a combination of his own generally unreadable demeanor and the man's irritatingly overinflated sense of self importance.
Hayes certainly recognized the dangerous flash in the captain's eyes and interjected.
"We've talked about this Holiday," he said quickly and stepped in between the two, ever reasonable. The dock was almost silent as the majority of the men were either eyeing the group nervously or flat out had stopped working to watch the drama unravel. "Believe me, I don't think anyone's under any pretense about the disadvantages of O'Brien's sex but at least she's making an effort to get this mess sorted." Rick stepped back and set his mouth in a thin line, he seemed to finally realize just how close he had been from either getting punched or fired by the captain.
"Sorry captain, I…" he was cut short as Englehorn ignored him, fishing yet another cigarette out of his beautiful case to busy his hands with something other than injuring one of his more skilled seamen.
"Let's get one thing straight Mr Holiday," Englehorn looked at him with steel in his eyes and ice in his voice, a puff of smoke hovering ominously between them. His voiced rose so it could be heard by the entire crew above deck. "O'Brien is irrelevant, I neither care nor have any interest in her feelings or your feelings towards her, but," he paused. "The next time you question my decisions with such gall and no reason except for your prejudice you'd better hope I'm feeling nice enough to let you keep your bond." After a moment the dock swung back into life again. Rick blanched and nodded self-consciously, his mouth apparently dried up of words. Susan looked at him derisively and raised an eyebrow as he took a last angry glance and moved swiftly down dock. Englehorn pinched the bridge of his nose and turned to the engineer.
"Get on with it O'Brein," he sighed wearily. "All this drama better be worth your job." Susan shifted her weight nervously.
"Uhhh, anyway," she paused trying to get her brain around what had just happened. "I think that if a respectable captain came forward to buy the thing instead of me he'd lower his price." She fidgeted nervously. Englehorn looked at Hayes who nodded, apparently more relaxed now that the tension had subsided somewhat.
"He probably would," Englehorn considered it. Hayes added, "It's not like it would cost more than it would extending our docking period and not to mention the deadline." This was true.
"Very well," Englehorn turned to Susan. "Show me the place." She seemed to jump into action at his direct order and bounced on the balls of her toes. Englehorn turned to Hayes. "We have Rupees from Kantamnemi yes?" the first mate nodded.
"He paid us when we arrived," Hayes flipped a paper over on his writing board, examining it closely. "Yes, it's in the safe." Englehorn nodded and looked to Susan.
"Wait." She didn't need to be told and stood silently, though still fidgeting absently. He looked to Hayes. "Send Dan and some of the others over once they're done here." The first mate nodded as the captain strode off up the gangway. Susan looked at him anxiously as he glanced at her.
"He wasn't doing you a favor you know," she looked at the tall man with a raised eyebrow.
"I know," she grinned crookedly and crossed her arms. "I'm not stupid enough to think the captain cares about my feelings much less anything past my ability as a sailor." Hayes smirked as she continued, re-rolling her shirt sleeves. "Besides I can defend myself just fine again Mr Holiday, thanks very much." They both chuckled and Hayes chipped off some orders to a couple of idle seamen as she waited. Airing out her sticky work shirt she sighed and turned back tot the dark skinned man.
"I did want to ask though, as first mate, do you think I'm doing well? You know, not a woman" She rolled her eyes. "But as a sailor." Susan looked at him with furrowed brows trying to gauge his opinion astutely. "I'd just like to know, for professional reasons." Hayes chuckled.
"Susan," she narrowed her eyes at the use of her Christian name. "Woman or man, if you weren't doing a good job you'd currently be walking the docks of Madras trying to find passage back to America." Susan raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms, Hayes looked at her amusedly and she nodded, somewhat unsatisfied at the first mate's comments but appreciative all the same. Susan found she liked to know if she was doing the right things, though she was used to it all this male ambiguity could get a little tiring. "I know you women like to know exactly what us men are thinking all the time," he smiled broadly. "but sometimes you've just got fill in the blanks." Susan shrugged.
"Yeah i guess," she eyed him with amusement. "I guess i was too hopeful 'ey?"
"You and my wife both," they both laughed easily.
"O'Brien!" Susan jumping slightly and the both looked over to where the captain was impatiently striding down the gangway. She nodded goodbye to the first mate and jogged to catch up with the German as he strode purposefully in the direction of the shipyards.
She mused on Hayes' comments before catching up and looking up at the captain by her side.
"Thanks for," she paused, unsure whether she should really be acknowledging it or not, it was probably going to sound very unprofessional. She'd never really talked to the captain outside of work before and after what had just happened she was even less sure of how to do it. "Err…" She trailed off. Englehorn grunted and eyed her with cynicism.
"Oh God, you're not feeling special are you? I wasn't defending you," he adjusted his cap agitatedly, looking ahead. Susan looked up at his hard profile defensively.
"I know that! I can defend myself jast faine thanks," she looked around and breathed out deeply in the humid heat. There was a pause.
"We're not friends O'Brien," he glanced down at her pointedly and wiped a hand over his forehead. His voice was blunt and there was no give. She was not offended. "Rick is a good sailor but he was questioning my judgment in hiring you. That's it" Susan rolled her eyes.
"Ha! I know that." She said simply repeating what she had said to Hayes. Why did these men think she didn't know that? She looked up to meet his eyes and followed his train of thought. "You men always thing women fawn all over you don't you?" Englehorn gave her a blank look, she expanded on her previous statement. "Look Captain," She stopped walking and faced him, he seemed peeved by the interruption. "I don't want to especially be best buddies either, there's no issue there. Just wanna do my job, get paid and live reasonably." She paused and took a breath. "I just appreciate you helpin' out with Holiday s'all, it's nice to know you see things fairly" There was another pause as they both examined each other's reactions, from her view Englehorn just looked tired and pissed off, perhaps not at her but all the same.
"Well that's good then," Englehorn sniffed and looked at her with dark understanding in his light eyes. "Just remember, if he gives you serious trouble you come to me first, don't do anything stupid." Susan nodded.
"Sure thing Skip," she paused lightly and grinned. "But you know it was nice to know you care." Englehorn gave he a withering look and gestured pointedly at her to keep walking. His face told her he was in no mood for shenanigans, she was pushing his patience even with her harmless humour. She took a few steps to catch up with him.
"You're a real comedian O'brien," with unabashed sarcasm he looked down at her again, seriously. "Watch yourself though, I've had just about enough insubordination for one day." Nodding, Susan knew when to quit, especially after what had happened with Rick. Still, she broke into a wide grin and Englehorn eyed her dryly. He was too tired to be angry at her shenanigans, really, especially since it would seem the mad woman might have just gotten lucky enough to get them out of a fix.
"Be careful O'Brien, people might get the wrong idea that you're an idiot,"
It was a rare joke and Susan was surprised that the harsh German even had it in him, even at the best of times. He resumed his quick pace dismissively and Susan jogged to keep up with him, the infuriating little grin on her face the entire way to the shipyard.
"It's a small price to pay captain. A small price to pay."