Sunday serialisation – Knight & Deigh, 8.2

Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It, too, is partly set in the rural Tanzania I remember from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.

Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.

A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.

What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?

Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.

The full list of scenes so far published is here

Knight & Deigh. Chapter eight, scene two: Discovery.

Some days later, we had put out a little further and started to dig around another wreck that looked both interesting and challenging. This was the most difficult we had tackled so far. It was a ship that had been holed below the waterline as a result of hitting a hidden rock outcrop in the closing years of the 19th century. Part of its bow still protruded above the water line, but advice locally was that access to that part of the vessel was practically impossible. That sounded like a challenge to me, and I managed to persuade Sophie to accompany me in my attempt to reach it.

While diving through the various corridors, we found a hatch that looked as though it had recently been opened. We had enough air to spend another fifteen minutes inside the vessel before we would have needed to retrace our route. Making sure we still had plenty of line available, we eased the hatch open and gingerly passed through it. Beyond it was another corridor leading toward where the anchor chain was stored. We followed that corridor, a side-exit from which led to a part of the vessel that was above the waterline. Hidden in the darkness, in a dry corner of this chamber, was a rather new-looking chest, secured only by a steel bolt fed through its hasp.

“Look at this, Sophie,” I said, followed by the obligatory “over”.

Sophie joined me as I carefully withdrew the bolt from its hasp. The entire chest was completely dry, the ledge on which it rested being above the high-water line that was very clear to see around the room. We removed our masks and breathed the somewhat musty air inside the chamber. Sitting on the ledge, I lifted the lid of the chest.

“When was this ship supposed to have gone down?” Sophie asked.

“According to the blurb, late nineteenth century,” I replied, “why?”

“Because, my dear Mr Knight, most of the jewellery I can see here looks more like late twentieth century than late nineteenth; and that’s just the top layer,” she replied.

“Do we have a mystery here, Mrs Deigh?” I asked.

“It seems so.”

“Elementary, my dear Whatever. Looks like a case for Knight and Deigh, twenty-four-hour private investigators!”

“Ooh,” she said, “our first case is a mystery trunk; or is our first trunk a mystery case?”

“Either way,” I said, “it looks like we are going to have more fun than we had bargained for.”

We closed the trunk, re-secured it, replaced our masks and made our way back to the boat. Once aboard, I asked the captain if he had heard anything about any treasure in that wreck.

“Never heard anything about any treasure on any of the wrecks around here,” he said, “but I’ll make some enquiries. Leave it to me; don’t go doing any digging yourself, mind. If you give anyone the idea that there’s something worth plundering, they’ll be all over it like ants before you can say ‘me first’.”

His words were fine, but the cagey tone of his voice and the furtive look on his face conspired to suggest that the gentleman had more information than he was willing to divulge.

I hoped that the good captain didn’t seriously expect me to sit back and let him do whatever it was he was planning to do. If he did, he was setting himself up for a disappointment.

That evening, Sophie and I decided to dine in one of the quayside establishments frequented by people who, a few centuries earlier, would have plied a young man with hard drink, then pressed him into the service of whichever government or privateer held the balance of power at the time. We listened to the general conversation but heard nothing about anything remotely connected with hidden treasure.

I decided to take the proverbial bull by the equally-feted horns.

Raising the volume of my voice just enough for it to be heard by the occupants of the adjacent tables (one of which was occupied by a couple of men who looked like candidates for the epithet ‘rum sorts’), I said, “I wonder if there’s any truth in the rumours we heard in Portsmouth, about treasure hidden in a wreck.”

“I wouldn’t think so,” Sophie said. “Did the rumours say it was definitely here in Hawaii?”

“I was a little the worse for wear at the time, and can’t remember whether it was Hawaii, Bermuda or the Bahamas they were talking about. I expect it was just sailor’s talk, though.”

One of the men at the next table leaned over to his companion, and whispered something, all the time looking straight at us. The man who had been on the receiving end of the whisper stood and came across to me. He bent down and placed his face inches from mine.

“Nobody knows anything about hidden treasure,” he said menacingly, his breath reeking of cheap rum and stale cigarette smoke, “and, if I were you, I wouldn’t start saying anything about things I know nothing of.”

He walked away, then came back and said, “A man could find himself in an uncomfortable position, starting rumours.” He looked down at my legs, “Especially a man who would find it difficult to defend himself,” the last few words being seasoned with real venom.

He signalled to his companion to join him, and the pair left the premises.

An old salt, whose main occupation appeared to be preventing the barman from falling into the clutches of slothfulness, turned to us and said, “Beware those two men, Sir. Not the gentlest of souls, if you get my drift. No-one knows quite what their business is, they’re deadly secretive about it, but it’ll be something rum, I’ll be bound. If they be honest businessmen, then I’ll be Jack Tarr.”

“And you, I presume, are not the said Mr Tarr,” I offered.

“I most certainly am not, Sir. Peter J Gurney, master mariner, at your service.”

“Would you care to join us, Mr Gurney?” I asked, offering him a seat.

“I would gladly join ye and your young lady, Sir, but if ye be after information from old Pete, ye’ll have to stump up the customary currency,” he said.

“The customary currency being?” I asked.

“Why, old navy rum, of course. Barkeep; a bottle of your finest at the table of my new friends, if ye please.”

I was convinced that this man’s use of archaic language, while quaint, was totally contrived. It sounded too much like a weak effort for ‘Talk like a Pirate Day’. I purposed to break through the façade and expose the real man beneath, in the hope that he would be able to offer us some useful intelligence.

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