Part One Aboard the clipper ‘Sundowner’ 1936
Black is the night as the clipper named ‘Sundowner’ keeps its speed up, the glimmer of occasional stars in the dark black sky are a guide for Captain James Emberton as he demands more speed from his crew. Sails set high as the clipper cuts through the crashing waves. The crew shake with fear as they now know that their captain is acting like a man possessed, staring into the horizon, unblinking, determined. First mate Billy Jones pleads with his captain to pull back on the speed of the ship before it’s too late.
Captain Emberton dismisses Jones and tells him to get below to keep the two large furnaces burning even hotter. “We need more speed Mister. Be quick about it too!”
Jones made his way below deck and informed his crew mates that the captain is raving and that he has now lashed himself to the helm. Edward Taylor, who is a mere sixteen-year-old sailor, is in fear of his life. He looks at the first mate, “how far till we reach land Mr Jones?”
All the crew turn to look at Jones waiting for a reply. “I would say about two nautical miles. Why do you ask lad?”
“The captain is taking us all to our doom sir, we need to get off this ship to save our souls. The lifeboat should hold us all,” was the reply from the young sailor.
“We can’t abandon ship, we’ll all be charged with mutiny as well as deserting our posts and our captain!” Jones responded looking around the lower deck at the ten crewmen.
“It’s a better option than dying at the hands of a madman sir. What has happened to make him go mad?” Edward Taylor asked with panic now beginning to rise in his voice.
“He says he can hear someone calling him, singing to him. He says it sounds like something he’s never heard before and he is desperate to find whatever it is that’s calling to him. I will try and talk sense into him again, bear with me lads.”
On heading towards the helm Jones could hear the captain shouting out loudly, begging, and pleading to something unseen in the waters. It was then that Jones spotted something swimming along the port side of the ship and froze in his tracks. Dashing towards the stairs leading down below deck he shouted out to the crew, “Everyone, cover your ears with anything you can. Edward, do we have cotton wool on board? If so go and fetch it but keep your ears covered if you can and bring it back here at once!”
Ten minutes later all the crew sat in total silence with their ears stuffed with cotton wool. Billy Jones wrote down what he had in mind. That was to get off the ship as soon as possible as they were getting near to land and the ship would strike the rocks and seal their fate if they didn’t act now.
She sits on the rocks singing her siren song, willing the human to come to her. Baiting him with her call, knowing he cannot resist her song. Her voice is penetrating the captain’s mind, taking a hold of him. He is now totally captivated by her and steers the ship towards the sound of her song. His eyes now glazed over he does not even see his crew lowering the lifeboat and escaping fate. He unties the ropes and stands’ forward gazing into the darkness, his fate is sealed.
It was a warm humid day and Elizabeth Bethany was preparing to open up the Golden Lion pub for the usual punters, locals and tourists. Elizabeth or Liz as she liked to be called had been running the pub for twenty five years and still enjoyed every day as if it was a new day.
The Golden Lion public house is one of two original pubs that have survived to this day and is situated in the middle of the town. She is a direct descendent of the first family to live in the town of Bethany. Her family took the town name as their surname as most families did in those days.
She runs a tight ship but is fare and is well liked by staff and customers alike. The pubs interior is adorned with items that have been in her family for centuries. An old fishing net hangs from the old black beams; old fishing spears hang on the walls dating back to the 1700’s. She is proud of her family heritage and enjoys regaling stories from her families past.
Jenny Stockwell bade Liz a warm good morning as she entered the pub. Jenny, a barmaid of the pub for six years, had a good working relationship with Liz. She was a bundle of fun and always had a smile on her face. Life was good for her and Jenny was looking forward to getting engaged to her boyfriend of four years, Phil Lightfoot, who owned the art gallery shop three doors down from the Golden Lion.
“Another sunny day eh Jenny, I think we’re going to be busy again today. I phoned Tony to see if he would work some extra hours, and he was delighted to do it. So he should be here soon.” Liz said as she sat with Jenny drinking coffee prior to opening up. “Yes, it’s going to be another humid day, but it’ll bring people in for drinks and then once they smell the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen they’ll be ordering food too.” Jenny responded as she finished off her coffee. “Well I’ll get started behind the bar Liz, it’s nearly ten o’clock.”
As Jenny made her way towards the bar Liz cleaned away the used cups and checked all was ok in the kitchen area. Dave O’Sullivan was one of the best chefs around and with two assistants he prepared delicious meals of fish, meats of all types, and even lobster and crab when called for. Dave gave Liz the thumbs up, indicating all were prepared for the day’s business. Liz proceeded to open the doors wide and awaited her first customers.
Phil Lightfoot looked like he hadn’t slept well all night, with red rimmed eyes he clumsily walked around his apartment that was situated above the art gallery that he owned. He had been kept awake by a strange but alluring sound that he couldn’t quite fathom out. He had gotten up out of his bed on a number of occasions looking out of his window to see if there was anything odd in the street that was making the strange sounds, but could find none. Now after downing three cups of black coffee he still felt like turning back to his bedroom to lie down. But he couldn’t, he knew that today was the first showing of Mike Templeton’s art work, and very good it was too. “Ah well”, he thought to himself,” I will just have to drink black coffee all day to keep awake.” With that he made his way down the side stairs to a door that led into the gallery.
The door to the gallery opened and Phil welcomed Mike Templeton in, offering him a hot drink. “If all goes well today, I’ll be drinking more than tea or coffee this evening.” Mike said as he studied his display of paintings. He had spent a few hours with Phil the night before, arranging his paintings on the two walls devoted for his works of art.
“You really do capture the essence of the old port well Mike. I’ve got my eye on one of them already.”
“Which one is that Phil, and what price would you give me if you were to buy it?” Mike responded looking pleased.
“Well, I’ll tell you Mike, it’s the one portraying the rocks down by the cove. I love the colours you have integrated into it, and the figure on the rocks, which looks like a mermaid.”
“Ah, yes I call that one The Siren. It’s based on the old folk tale that has been handed down over the years, you know the one.”
“Um let me think, my head is a bit fuzzy this morning, and no it wasn’t too much alcohol ha ha. Ah yes the old tale of the sea captain who supposedly ran his ship to ground hitting the rocks. Doesn’t the legend say that his crewmen fled the ship and in doing so saved their own lives and told the tale of the captain being drawn by some thing or other causing him to wreck the ship?”
“You’ve got it Phil, the story has been passed own over the years but whether it’s true or not is a matter of opinion. I have always been intrigued by the story, hence the painting of the Siren on the rocks.” The artist replied as he walked around looking at his other paintings. “So, how much would you offer me for The Siren?”
“Well, how about fifty pounds, how does that sound to you Mike?”
“It sounds like music to my ears Phil, but what if someone offers me more when the viewing starts later?”
Phil Lightfoot wanted the painting; he was drawn to it for some reason. A reason he couldn’t explain. “I’ll put a higher bid in for it!”
The fishing boats had now left the harbour and the old port was beginning to come alive. Guests at hotels had eaten breakfast and were getting ready to head into the town to look at all the shops, quirky and not so quirky. Some of the tourists even took advantage of the sun shining down on the old port and hired deckchairs to relax in and some even took to the cool waters.
Jade Stone opened the door of her ‘Stitched by Hand’ clothes shop. A very attractive twenty five year old woman standing at five foot nine tall, with long black hair and almond shaped eyes. Her face had an almost elfin look to it, with high cheek bones and full red lips. Slim, long legged and small breasted she has been living and working in Bethany for two years. No one was sure where she hailed from as they couldn’t place her accent. Whenever she was asked, she just replied “I come from a land on the other side of the world.” Alluring and sultry she had many male admirers in the town. Smiling and waving to passers-by she placed a rail of handmade garments outside the shop hoping to entice people inside the shop to look at more of her handy work.
Tony Harrison made his way through the narrow streets of Bethany and taking a right turn made his way up Tailor Street, named after a large tailor’s mill that once covered half of one side of the narrow street. It was on this street that ‘Stitched by Hand’ was situated and Tony purposely walked down this road every day in the hope that he would see Jade and chat her up. There was something about Jade that made his pulse beat faster, the blood in his veins run quicker and his heart pound whenever he saw her. He wanted her, of that there was no doubt, but she would just smile and say hello if she saw him walk by. Today he was determined to ask her for a date, nothing heavy, just a drink or a meal together was all he wanted, for now.
Jade spotted Tony walking up the street towards her shop as she was wheeling the rail of garments outside the shop window. Waving her usual hello, she noticed Tony’s pace quickened, and then heard him shout her name. “Hey, Jade hang on a second will you?” Jade stopped where she was and waited as Tony approached her. “My you look lovely today Jade. How’s business going?”
“Quite good Tony thanks for asking. I always like it during the summer season as the tourists always bring good custom to the town and to my little shop.” Jade replied in her strange accent.
“Hey I’ve been meaning to ask, would you like to go out for a drink one night, or a nice meal in the Golden Lion pub? The food there is second to none!”
Looking Tony up and down Jade liked his strong physique and shoulder length dark hair, which he always wore in a ponytail. “I think that would be a good idea Tony, should we meet about six o’clock after I shut shop?”
“If I can get off work by then, yes that would be great. Liz has called me in to do an extra shift as she feels it’s going to be a busy day in the pub today.”
“I’ll walk down to the pub once I’ve finished here and closed the shop and see if you are free. How does that sound?” Jade smiled at Tony as she replied.
“See you later then Jade bye for now.” Tony walked off a very happy man and began humming a tune that suddenly came into his head.
The old fishing port was well and truly alive with locals and holiday makers enjoying the hot weather. The pubs and diners were all doing a roaring trade, and the shops were bustling with people looking for unusual items to buy and take home with them. Phil Lightfoot managed to bid the best price for the painting, The Siren, even though he had to pay Mike Templeton one hundred pound more than he would have liked. Templeton sold all but two paintings that had been on display and was looking forward to drinking champagne in the pub later to celebrate. The beach area was alive with parents and children as well as loving couples playing, relaxing and swimming. The Golden Lion pub was full to capacity and Tony knew he would be serving people till well after six o’clock, he would have to cancel his date by the looks of it and he wasn’t too impressed by that fact.