Sterner nodded. “And you say there is a concealed hole in each cabin?”
He nodded again. “I think we should wait for His Majesty’s Magistrate before we open more. Meanwhile, Renard, these ships go nowhere. They don’t leave port. Is that clear?”
“As crystal, milord. I’ll give the order and see to it personally.”
“Thank you,” Raven said, holding out his hand.
“For what it’s worth,” Renard said, taking his hand. “I believe you, Lord Willoughby. I can bear witness to some of the refits,” he told Sterner. “I didn’t see all, for I was hired after this place was built. But I did see the last two ships done over. This, and one other. I can tell you, without doubt, that portrait you hold, is what this ship looked like before she was done over.”
“Where is the other ship? The one Willoughby claims is the Annabelle?” Sterner asked.
“Not in port, but I’ll find out where she’s running.”
They trooped off the ship to find the constable present. He balked at cuffing his Governor without the word of an authority, but he held Bluth by the arm. Once he had the word of Mr. Sterner, he put heavy shackles on Bluth and led him to the police wagon. It wasn’t nearly as cozy and comfortable as Bluth’s carriage.
“You’ve raised quite a stink,” Uriah said as they watched Bluth ride off.
“Day’s hardly started,” Raven said. Cocky smile on his face, a confident bounce in his step, he walked up the hill to the harbor master’s office.
Renard had done as he said he would, securing the ships in port. He was going through papers to find the whereabouts of the Annabelle. “She’s now called Bluth’s Beauty,” he snorted. “Stupid name, doesn’t suit her a bit. But she’s on a run to the Carolinas. Should be back in a day or two.”
“Thank you, Renard. You’re a fair and honest man, and I thank you for your attention to detail.”
“You’re welcome, my Lord. May I offer refreshment? My wife is an excellent cook.”
“I could be persuaded. Thank you.”
He and Uriah stayed for a meal. Sterner, though invited, had to decline so he could deal with the legalities of arresting the Governor.
“Do you think you’ve a fair chance of getting the ships back?” Renard asked after their delicious meal.
“I have little doubt. It will take some time, but Sterner is a power to reckon with. Even when he was just beginning his practice, he was tenacious.”
“Some might say bullheaded,” Mrs. Renard said as she cleared the table.
“You’d be right there, ma’am,” Raven replied. “And a few other , not fit for the ears of a lady, such as yourself.”
She giggled, heading back to the kitchen.
“My lady wife is around sailors day by day,” Renard said with a smirk. “Not much she hasn’t heard.”
“Aye, I believe that. But I do try to behave like a gentleman, though I don’t always master it.”
“It’s a worthy goal,” Uriah said, raising his mug of ale.
“To worthy goals,” Raven added.
They drank to that, and a fair few more toasts. Feeling his cups a bit, Raven appropriated the Governor’s coach and four to take him and Uriah home.
“Do you live at the office?” Raven asked. He knew there were quarters in the building.
“I did, until the dead took to walking. I have a room at a congenial, but less than savory, establishment some blocks away.”
“Indeed?” Raven chuckled. “They rent rooms by the night?”
“If you’re on friendly terms.” Uriah blushed, swallowing hard. “Ah, here’s me.”
The coach drew up in front of a house not far from the docks, but out of the shuffling roaming of the undead. It sported red lights across the front, and a half dozen windows. In each, a scantily clad woman sat, displaying her—wares. They were pretty, voluptuous, and willing. It was a temptation Raven found hard to ignore. His night, however, would be spent in less enjoyable pursuits. Sighing, he told the coachman to take him to Sam’s inn. He took an early dinner and went up to his room to prepare for the night ahead.
By nightfall, Raven was armed with his silver daggers, ensconced in his offices by the docks. Where it used to bustle at night, the waterfront was silent. Those forced by circumstances to remain, barred their doors, and didn’t go out from sunset to sunrise. What he was doing was either very brave, or very foolish. Raven reflected that the two often ran together.
The first shuffling blunder sounded. Ears perked, Raven closed his eyes, filtering out the lap of waves and the creak of ships at dock. Below that, the sound of a dozen or so feet, shuffling, could be heard. A low, mournful sigh carried on the breeze, and he caught the scent of death. It was faint, but prevalent. Rising, he doused the lamp and sat in darkness. Drawing two knives, he waited until the wandering forms drew near.
©2021 Dellani Oakes