Savage, p.8
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       Savage, p.8

           Richard Laymon
 

  Trudy’s wrists were bruised and raw, too, but not near as bad as her neck.

  I looked her over pretty good while I stuck food into her mouth. I wasn’t quite fit as a fiddle, myself, but all that damage on Trudy made my heart ache. I felt so sorry for her. But mostly I felt guilty as sin. I’d done all this to her, just as surely as if I’d strung her up, myself, and given her the whipping.

  “I won’t let him hurt you again,” I said.

  She chewed and swallowed. She looked into my eyes. All I saw in hers were tiredness and pain. She didn’t say a thing. She didn’t try to boss me or scold me or nothing.

  It was just awful.

  Whittle hadn’t killed Trudy, but he’d sure taken the starch out of her.

  When the last of the old stew was gone, she turned onto her back and covered herself to the chin. She stared up at the ceiling.

  “Everything will be all right,” I told her.

  I knew it was a lie. So did she, more than likely. But she didn’t tell me so, just lay still and gazed.

  Back in my bed, I licked the stew gravy and grease off my hands. Then I spent a while licking my wrists, which were pretty much as raw as Trudy’s.

  I gave some thought to having another go at Whittle. But remembered all of what he’d done to Trudy after my last try.

  If I should attack him again and muck it up, she would be the one to pay.

  I decided to call it quits and behave.

  Reckon I’d lost near as much starch as Trudy.

  CHAPTER TEN

  Patrick Joins Our Crew

  By and by, Whittle came in. His arms were full of clothes, and he left the door open. “Good afternoon, my friends,” he said, sounding wonderful chipper. “I trust you slept well.”

  With that, he commenced to split up his bundle, tossing garments and shoes onto our beds.

  “You’ll have free reign of the ship for a while,” he explained. “We’re anchored at Plymouth, and I’ve sent Michael ashore for all we’ll be needing.”

  He stood with his back to the doorway, watching as we sat up and dressed ourselves. He’d brought heavy sweaters for both of us, trousers for me, pantaloons and a skirt for Trudy, along with stockings and shoes. The clothes were too large for me. I reckoned they belonged to Michael or to Trudy’s dead father. Michael, I hoped. It didn’t set well, the idea of wearing a dead chap’s duds. Why Whittle hadn’t returned my own trousers to me, which would’ve fit properly, I didn’t know. I allowed I wouldn’t make a nuisance of myself, however, by asking.

  He watched me cinch the belt tight.

  “Should you consider using that to strangle me, please remember what came of your previous mischief.”

  “You needn’t worry,” I said. “I’ll not attack you again.”

  “It will go very hard with Trudy, should you forget yourself.” With that, he patted the handle of the knife at his hip.

  Trudy’d managed to get herself dressed, but she just sat on her bunk when Whittle told her to stand. He pulled her up. She hobbled, stiff and moaning, as he ushered her past me. I followed them out of the cabin.

  He let her go alone into the lavatory. He shut the door and we waited in the narrow aisle. I saw he’d changed his bandage. The new one was fresh and white, without blood and such leaking through.

  “I take it you’ve grown rather fond of Trudy,” he said.

  “I shouldn’t like to see her hurt, is all.”

  “Such a gallant lad. I was quite impressed with your efforts to save her from hanging, last night.”

  “You could’ve lent a hand.”

  “Oh, but I had such a merry time watching.”

  “We might have perished.”

  He laughed and clapped my shoulder. “Not allowed, my boy. Nobody dies while I am captain of the True D. Light.”

  Trudy finally came out, and I got my turn. In a mirror above the wash basin, I took a gander at my face. It was a frightful sight, all puffy, dark with bruises, stained with dried blood. I cleaned off the blood, then sat down to relieve myself. I’d had no opportunity for that since setting off for Whitechapel. Two nights ago? Three? Sitting there, I realized I had no certain knowledge of how much time I’d spent aboard the yacht. I was aware of two nights passing, but others might have been missed while I was asleep or unconscious. Though I’d had little to eat and nothing whatsoever to drink during that period, the toilet proved itself welcome.

  Done, I stepped out and was surprised to see that Trudy and Whittle had wandered off. I spotted them beyond a narrow doorway at the far end of a room considerably larger than the one where we’d so far spent our captivity. This, I supposed, must be the main saloon Trudy had mentioned last night.

  It had berths along both sides which were more spacious than ours. One looked as if it had been slept in. No doubt, this was where Whittle had spent the night after returning Trudy and I to our beds.

  There were cabinets, seats, a table, and even a gas burner which accounted for the warmer air in this section of the boat. Through portholes, I glimpsed other crafts anchored near ours. Thoughts of escape set my heart to pounding, but I pushed them away, fearful of the outcome for Trudy if I should arouse any suspicion or anger in Whittle.

  I joined them in the kitchen—or galley, as Trudy had called it. The room was as wide as the main saloon, but not so long. At the far end, a few stairs led upward to a closed door.

  The galley was equipped with a stove, a sink with water pumps, counters and cabinets. Whittle sat at a small table while Trudy stood at the stove, preparing ham and eggs.

  Whittle gestured for me to sit down across from him. I did so.

  “I’ll have a dab more tea,” he said.

  I filled his cup from the pot on the table, and eyed the cup in front of me.

  “Do help yourself, Trevor.”

  I poured steaming tea into my cup, and sipped at it.

  “Had I known we’d be embarking on this little adventure,” he said, “I should’ve asked Elsworth to join us. However, I fear I’ll be forced to get along without his services. A fine fellow, Elsworth. What’s to become of him? I didn’t even find an opportunity to provide him with a reference.”

  “Shall we go back for him?”

  Whittle laughed. “I think not.”

  “Are you certain you wouldn’t prefer to…return home?”

  “You’ve made that rather impossible for me,” he said, and lightly fingered the bandage where his nose used to be. “Besides, I’ve long had my heart set on America.”

  “Why?”

  “Just the place for a gentleman of my tastes. Particularly the Wild West, don’t you know? Why, with any luck, my various depredations will be laid at the feet of the aborigines, the redskins. They’re really quite keen on a wide variety of mutilations.” Whittle put down his cup and leaned toward me, his eyes agleam. “I understand that they not only scalp their victims, but have been known to skin them alive, dismember them—oh, they have a jolly time of it.” He patted his lips with a napkin. “Perhaps I’ll join up with a band of marauding savages and show them a few new tricks.”

  “Perhaps you’ll find yourself scalped.”

  That set him to laughing again. “Oh, Trevor, you’re marvelous. A fellow of infinite jest.”

  I didn’t care much for the reference to Yorick. After all, he was dead, nothing more than a skull, when Hamlet made that remark about him. Nevertheless, I judged I ought to count myself lucky that Whittle found me so amusing. It might help to keep me alive, at least for the duration of the voyage.

  Trudy brought the food over. She sat down and joined us. We ate in silence for a while. It was wonderful to wrap my teeth around the hot eggs and ham. Trudy merely picked at hers. She seemed just as tired and gloomy as she’d been when I first woke her up.

  “Why so downcast?” Whittle finally said to her.

  She didn’t answer. She just stared at her plate and pushed around a bit of egg.

  Whittle smiled at her. Then he jabbed her arm with his
fork.

  She flinched and tears filled her eyes.

  “Speak when you’re spoken to.”

  She nodded.

  “Am I to take it you’re not enjoying your voyage?”

  “I…I’m not feeling well.”

  “You must take better care of yourself.”

  “You’re going to kill me.”

  “Not at all. Perish the thought. Perish it,” he said again, and tipped me a wink. “Even should I face a sudden urge to—how shall I put this tastefully?—slice your sweet flesh, why, I should most certainly resist it. I’ve already explained how important you are to the success of our venture. I must keep Michael cooperative, don’t you know? Now there’s a stout fellow,” he added, turning to me. “I doubt he’s slept a wink since we set sail, and I’m sure it’s been no easy task to skipper this yacht single-handed. He’s made quite a fine account of himself, all in all. And, unlike some I might mention, he’s given me not a moment of aggravation.”

  When we were done with the meal, Whittle set us to work. I pumped a bucket full of salt water at the galley sink, and went off to scrub the stew off the floor of our quarters. While I was busy at that, Trudy washed the dishes.

  The scrubbing didn’t take long. Whittle carried my bucket topside, going up the stairs and out the door at the rear of the galley. Then he came down and ordered Trudy to bake some loaves of bread.

  “We’ll be having company this evening,” he told her.

  I saw some life come into her eyes. “Michael will be eating with us?”

  “More than Michael, I daresay. He’s to fetch along an ablebodied seaman.”

  I rather hoped he might fetch along, instead, a troop of constables. Or perhaps a concealed revolver.

  “He was all done in, actually. I realized it would be the height of folly to attempt our crossing without an extra hand.”

  “It’s no less the height of folly,” I said.

  As usual, he laughed.

  “We’ll all find ourselves in Davy Jones’ Locker.”

  “Full fathom five, is it?”

  “Make sport of me, then. You’ll be whistling a different tune when we capsize in a gale or fetch up on an iceberg.”

  “We should take the southern route,” Trudy said, all at once showing some more interest in matters. Maybe my talk of going down had stirred her up.

  “A southern route?” Whittle asked.

  “Instead of making our way west, we should sail south to the Canaries.”

  “A foul idea.” He eyed me, but I gave no hint that I’d caught on to his wordplay.

  “This is just the best possible season for it,” Trudy went on. “We’d have fine, sunny weather for our crossing, and ride the tradewinds and currents all the way.”

  “All the way to where, might I ask?”

  “To the West Indies.”

  “I’ve no use for the West Indies. Nor for the Canaries. The Canaries! Unless my schooling has been for nought, those islands lie off the coast of Africa! And they’re in the control of the bloody Spaniards. Isn’t that correct, Trevor?”

  “Lord Nelson lost his arm there,” I pointed out.

  “You see? That’s no place for an Englishman. I’ll have none of it.”

  Trudy knew better than to push him. So she hauled out the flour, after that, and got started on the bread. Whittle stayed with her.

  I went into the main saloon. It had a small library. I found a collection of tales by Edgar Allan Poe, set myself down and tried to read. Couldn’t manage it, though. Here I’d been a day or two on the rough seas of the Channel without so much as a touch of sickness, but trying to keep my eyes on the lines of a story while the boat was rocking ever so gentle put my breakfast in jeopardy. By and by, I gave up.

  I just sat there thinking and worrying. When the nice smell of baking bread came along, it made me just so lonesome for home I near cried. Later on, Trudy staggered by. She didn’t give me a glance or a word, but went straight to the forward cabin and plonked down on her bed. Whittle went topside.

  He was up there for a long spell before he hurried down. He locked the door on Trudy, then said to me, “Come along. Michael’s returning.”

  I followed him through the galley and up the stairs, coming out on a section of deck toward the rear of the yacht. I glimpsed the wheel and a passel of instruments. Didn’t give them much of a look, though. It was the harbor that caught my eyes. Every sort of boat and ship was moored around us, plenty near enough to reach with a good, quick swim. The shore itself, with all its docks and markets and crowds, was less than a quarter mile off. The water looked gray and cold, but calm.

  Well, I was sorely tempted to plunge in. I didn’t have a single doubt but that I could make an escape. I’d be free of Whittle for good, I’d miss out on drowning in the Atlantic, I’d find my way home and be safe and Mother’d weep for joy at my return.

  And Whittle’d likely open Trudy with his knife.

  I told myself he’d do it anyhow, sooner or later.

  But if he killed her on account of me…I just couldn’t stomach the idea of that.

  Besides, I judged that sooner or later, one way or another, I might somehow get to save her. Couldn’t do that if I jumped ship.

  That all went through my head as I went with Whittle to the stern and we stood there waiting for the skiff to reach us.

  It had two men in it, so Michael’d found himself a hand for our trip. The broad-shouldered fellow had his back to me. A seam of his sweater was split. A tweed cap, tilted at a jaunty angle, topped his scraggly red hair.

  The other sat at the stern, his head down. I took him for Michael, as he looked so thin and beaten-down.

  The boat was fairly heaped with a seabag and all manner of bundles and kegs and boxes and sacks.

  Whittle called, “Ahoy!” That caused Michael to lift his head. He looked up at us. He was still a fair piece away, but the distance wasn’t enough to stop me from seeing the dull, sorry look on his face. He said something to the oarsman.

  That fellow checked over his shoulder. He seemed younger than Michael and not more than a couple years older than myself. His rosy face was rather square, with a wide nose and heavy chin.

  “He’s up and hired a bloody Irishman,” Whittle muttered.

  “Perhaps the fellow’s French,” I said.

  He glared at me. “Better that than an Irish addle-head. Blast him!”

  As the skiff glided in close, we tossed out lines to Michael and his crewman. Before long, it was tied up snug alongside.

  The Irishman smiled up at us and touched a finger to the small brim of his cap.

  “And who have we here?” Whittle said, sounding miffed.

  “Patrick Doolan, sir,” the fellow answered.

  Turning his gaze to Michael, Whittle said, “Were you unable to find a full-grown man?”

  “He’s an experienced sailor,” Michael explained, his voice weary. “And he’s eager to go to America.”

  “If it’s after a strong, hard-working seafarer you are, sir, you’ll not find one in these parts the match of Doolan himself.”

  Whittle groaned. But he laid off with the complaints, maybe figuring it wouldn’t help any to turn Patrick against him.

  Both fellows commenced to hand up the supplies, which we piled on the deck all around us. Each time I went back to the rail for another helping, I gave Michael a look. Not once did he have a pistol in his hand for blowing Whittle to kingdom come, so by and by I concluded either he’d had no luck in finding himself a weapon or he’d been too yellow to take any such risk.

  I wondered what he might’ve told Patrick about our plight. More than likely, not a whit. Patrick went about his unloading chores as if he hadn’t a care, all helpful and smiley.

  Once the skiff was empty, we lowered a ladder over the side for Patrick and Michael to climb aboard. Then we towed the skiff along toward the bow. We hoisted it out of the water, turned it bottom-up and lashed it secure to the deck. Whittle had us tie it down dire
ctly on top of the forward hatch. His idea, more than likely, was to make things all the harder for Michael in case he might take a mind to open the hatch and let Trudy out.

  Not that Michael had the sand for such a trick. He was shorter on gumption than any fellow I ever ran across.

  Why, there wasn’t a reason in the whole world he couldn’t have fetched himself a pistol while he was ashore buying up supplies and looking for a crewman. If he’d done that, would’ve been no feat at all to put a ball of lead into Whittle. The man was a monstrous fiend, but not so powerful that a bullet wouldn’t have laid him low.

  Later on, when we were far out at sea and had a few minutes that the waves weren’t trying to kill us, I asked Michael

  how come he hadn’t latched onto a pistol back at Plymouth and filled Whittle with lead.

  He gave me just the queerest look.

  He said, “I should’ve thought of that.”

  He wasn’t just a coward, but a numbskull to boot.

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  Patrick Makes his Play

  By the time we got done stowing the gear and supplies, it was night. Trudy had stayed locked inside our quarters all the while. Whittle finally went and let her out, so she could make us supper.

  Michael and Patrick both looked mighty shocked to see her. It seems like Patrick hadn’t known, till then, we had a woman aboard. I’d gotten used to her battered face and skinned neck, but not so her husband or the Irishman. We’d gathered in the saloon and lit the lamps, so there was plenty of light for them to see her injuries by.

  Michael let out a moan and rushed to her and threw his arms around her. She petted his hair and wept.

  Patrick watched, frowning and looking confused.

  Whittle watched, grinning. I don’t know which amused him more, how those two were carrying on or how Patrick seemed so perplexed by such matters.

  At length, Whittle said, “They’re husband and wife.”

  Patrick nodded. “And what is it that’s befallen the lady, and yourself and Trevor? It’s only Michael here that hasn’t a bit of injury to him.”

  “Young Trevor befell me,” Whittle said, and touched the bandage in the middle of his face. “I befell Trevor and Trudy.”

 
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