Mother's Blue Dress
by Peg Keeley

Part 7

There were three mechanics struggling with the disabled bilge pump. Three other pumps were laboriously dumping seawater out of the ship, but, Steve noticed, the water level was still rising.

Hermano hailed the officer who was heading up a crew working on the bilge pump. As they exchanged rapidly words in Portuguese, Steve glanced quickly around, hoping to see Williams.

"He says the pump needs part - they are trying to make something else work," Hermano reported.

Steve noticed that there was about an inch of water on the floor. "How bad in the flooding?"

"Lower cargo hold is taking water."

"Hermano," Steve murmured quietly in spite of the noise. "There may be human cargo down there."

Hermano, without blinking replied: "We do not know that, McGarrett - but we know we all die here without the pump. I cannot send a team after nothing."

"Then give me the pass key," Steve retorted.

Hermano started to object, then gave a sharp nod. He picked up the microphone and called Garcia on the bridge. In a quick rush of Portuguese he told Garcia Steve was coming for the key and to give it to him.

Steve noticed that the deck was beginning to list to port. "Hermano, you need to send a distress signal or no one will reach you in time. You are still fourteen hours out of Honolulu."

Hermano ground his teeth, glanced back at the men laboring over the pump, then nodded.
"I will do this."

Steve considered the ship's captain who was humble enough to seek assistance and he hoped Hermano would not lose his ship to nature.

Steve began to make his way back through the driving wind and rain. As he ascended the steel ladder, the water tumbled around him down the steps creating the effect of an un-glorious waterfall. On deck, the winds howled, snatching as his clothing, threatening to wipe him into the frothing sea as the deck pitched and rolled beneath him. He dared not release the railing for an instant. He approached the stairway leading to the bridge, when suddenly the path was blocked by a figure clad in yellow rain gear.

"You wanted the key!" Garcia screamed towards him although they were little more than three feet apart.

Grateful that the first officer had come to him Steve gave an exaggerated nod. "I need to inspect the holds! We're taking on water below decks."

"Yes, I know!" Garcia shouted back and took a few struggling steps closer, the key extended from his left hand.

Steve reached for it and Garcia suddenly gripped hold of Steve's left elbow yanking his hand free from the railing at the same instant Garcia's foot caught Steve leg swiping it from beneath.

With a gasp of shocked surprise, Steve struggled as his world flipped past him. In the final instant, both hands found the slippery metal railing and closed around it in a vice-grip. He was dangling above the churning white caps of water.

Garcia slammed an ineffective fisted blow against McGarrett's arms as Steve attempted with swing his legs up for a foothold. He lost his footing and tried two more times. The ship pitched wildly as it nosed into a large breaking wave. A two-foot wave raced down the deck, throwing loose items ahead of it. Garcia held on to the railing to keep from being swept away as the water from the swell gushed over Steve.

For an instant Steve could see Garcia's determined face. No look of hatred or malice. He feels no more about killing me than he would drowning a ship's rat.

As the water receded, Steve again swung a foot up to try to gain a foothold and this time caught the edge of the decking.. His hands and arms were tiring, he could not hang this way for long.

Garcia ignored Steve's leg as he pulled a bowie knife and in a quick motion stabbed it deeply into Steve's left lower left arm.

A cry of surprised pain escaped Steve's mouth as the blade sliced deeply through muscle and blood vessels. Against his will, his left hand let go the railing. The rubber of the sole of his shoe squeaked almost unheard in the gale and slipped from the deck. Clinging to the ship by just one hand as blood streamed from the injured arm, Steve looked up towards Garcia knowing he was in a critical situation and had to think fast.

Garcia's eyes suddenly widened, bright white even in the stormy darkness and he stumbled backwards, was suddenly lifted off his feet and crashed into a bulkhead.

Before Steve could even wonder at the events, a large hand gripped his right hand and he was pulled back aboard in a single powerful yank. Sprawling across the deck where he could easily see Garcia's now unconscious crumpled yellow-clad form, Steve turned to view his benefactor, expecting to see Williams.

The tall black man stooped down to look at Steve's wound. The driven water and rain were washing the blood away nearly as fast as it seeped out.

"Who are you?" Steve demanded.

Mbutu looked up as another large wave washed down the deck. He took hold of Steve as the wall of water flooded over them, dragging away everything in it's path. Mbutu reached for Garcia, but the water was quicker and moments later, he was gone.

Good God, Steve gasped, knowing the first officer had just been washed overboard. In spite of the man's murderous attack on him, he would not have wished such a fate on him.

As the last of the powerful surge drained off, Mbutu pulled Steve to his feet and nearly carried him inside the same galley Steve had earlier occupied with Sizegate. With one arm Mbutu swiped saltshakers and centerpiece from a table as he hauled Steve atop the table. Steve tried to protest, but Mbutu pushed him back. Blood had thoroughly saturated Steve's white shirt and had left a trail from the doorway. Snatching up several cloth dinner napkins and tearing open the shirtsleeve, Mbutu tied them tightly around the bleeding wound.

"Thank you," Steve stated, getting to really see his rescuer for the first time.

The large man gave a single nod. "Bad."

Steve wasn't certain if that referred to the weather, his arm, or the general circumstances. In any event, it still applied. "I need to get to the lower holds. I need to rescue some young women who may be locked down there."

Mbutu gave no immediate response.

"Do you know anything about girls being held prisoner? Do you understand me?"

"Of course I do," Mbutu responded in heavily accented English. "Because I see no need to talk does not mean I am ignorant."

"Will you help me?"

"I know a boy who will know," Mbutu informed him. "Men speak freely around you when they believe you to be stupid. They say many things. You must be ware of the ship's engineer. He a dangerous man. We must fine Yusuf."

"Yusuf," Steve repeated. "Where is he?"

The deck beneath them rocked to port and pots, pans and china crashed in the galley. "Come," Mbutu bid and headed out into the storm.

Steve followed close behind as Mbutu led him back down into the lower part of the ship.

Mara had a growing sense of impending disaster as the structure of the ship moaned and whined around her. The water level was creeping higher. She stretched as far as she could and was able to move the head of one of the drugged girls to keep her face out of the water, but the other two were too far away. The American was also within reach. She hesitated, recalling Molland. He was also a nice looking American. Maybe this one will hurt me, too. All the white men hurt me. The water was rising more quickly now. She hoped the water itself would rouse him, but it did not. He was face down and would be submerged in another moment. What shall I do? Maybe I should let him drown. That is what these white men deserve. She twisted her hands together in fear an indecision. I know Marco is evil - and he chained the man. Maybe he was trying to help? No one tries to help, they only hurt. In spite of her inner concerns, Mara, hands shaking, touched Danny's shoulder. She tapped him again. With more courage, she shook him again. By this time, there the water had deepened so that he was floating. Unable to get a good enough hold to turn him over, she put her hand under his chin and lifted his head free of the water.

There was the sound of the key at the door; just as the door opened, water rushed into the compartment from the hallway, sending small waves over the bodies on the floor. Mara issued a small gasp of frustration as Yusuf entered.

He had been afraid for the girls below decks. Knowing that Marco and Garcia were keeping the women and knowing the viciousness of Garcia who had earlier abused him, Yusuf knew they would not rescue the prisoners and had come to free them himself. He quickly splashed the several steps to Danny's side and pulled him over, trying to arouse him as he dragged him into a sitting position. "It okay," he told Mara. He moved to the other two girls and pulled them higher out of the water as well.

Danny gave a gurgling cough and began to revive. For a moment, he could not remember how he had come to be here, but a glance at Mara's fear filled eyes brought the situation rushing back. Danny, now alert, discovered he was chained to the bulkhead. In a surge of anger, he slammed his arm down hard, hoping to break the bond, but it did not give.

At his action, Mara pulled back in fear and shock.

"Yusuf," Danny muttered. "The key - you do have the key."

Yusuf fished in his pocket and quickly unchained Danny, Mara, and the other girls. "We go now - they come be very angry," he remarked stating the obvious.

The ship gave a deep moan of metal and the floor began to tip, water rushing around the small group. With no bonds to restrain them, the unconscious girls flopped hopelessly against the bulkhead.

At loud pop could be heard and felt as a kind of shudder followed by a scraping sound and shaking crashes. Cargo in a bay had broken free from the ties and had come crashing towards the other side of the ship. The ship that was already low from taking on water was now unbalanced as well.

The floor was not coming back on keel. Instead there came another series of heavy crashing; something struck the wall beside them, then a second blow.

"We get out of here!" Yusuf shouted running for the escape door. Danny scooped up the semi-conscious girl who'd been wrapped in the blanket and gestured to Mara who seemed capable of following on her own. He glanced back at the two unconscious girls left behind, regretting abandoning them, and with Mara before him, ran for the door.

Just as they cleared the door into the hallway, Mbutu appeared at the bottom of the steep ladder at the end of the corridor, McGarrett behind him. "Come! Quickly!" Mbutu shouted, clinging to the tilted ladder.

"Two more back there!" Danny gasped hurrying towards them, passing the drugged girl to Mbutu. "I've got to go back!"

"No time!" Steve yelled above the moan of grinding, twisting metal.

There was a rumbling crash, the deck seemed to ripple beneath their feet. Mbutu and Steve were already retreating back up the ladder they had never completely come down, Yusuf at their heels.

The lights failed and they were plunged into blackness.

Mara gave a small whimper of fear. Danny took hold of her arm in the blackness and placed her hands on the rungs. "Go!" He ordered. Just as the words left his mouth, there came a strange hiss of air, the sinking ship tilted sharply, knocking everyone aboard ship off balance.

The water rushed in. Violent currents swept through the decks tossing cargo and humans like feathers. There was a deep, shaking rumble followed by an ear-shattering blast as the cold water reached the hot boiler. A huge rupture appeared as the outer left hull was torn open.

McGarrett wasn't certain if he ever lost consciousness or not. He knew that somehow he had ended up outside the ship and was at the surface where the gale and waves continued to toss him. Something struck him on the left shoulder and he took a life and death grip hold of the wooden deck chair that had floated into him. Using his one good arm to pull himself upwards onto the debris, he was now able to see a little better through the blowing rain.

Unidentified objects were everywhere, tossed by the waves. A wave lifted him up and Steve could look into the ocean below and see members of the crew, most of them floundering about and grabbing for something to stay afloat on. Steve spotted a motionless body close by and paddled to the man. Pulling the crewman over, it was evident right away the man had died from severe burns. Steve moved the other way. Did Hermano get out the distress call? How long will it take for someone to reach us?

It seemed an eternity, but the winds were gradually diminishing and the rain easing up. Visibility was better and McGarrett could make out a small knot of life about thirty yards away where several survivors had clustered on pieces of floating debris together. He gradually made his way over and as he neared, a crewman reached out and pulled him in. It was reassuring just to know there were others alive and to feel the slight warmth of their bodies close to his as his muscles shivered. He looked from face to face, hoping to identify any of the seven people. He knew the cook, but the others were strangers.

"Se llamo?" asked one man in Spanish, although it was apparent that was not the man's native tongue.

"McGarrett," he replied. "Do you speak English?"

"I do," replied another man.

Steve focused on the blonde haired, blue-eyed crewman. "There must be others out here."

The man glared through the drizzling weather. "Ya got to hope, right, mate? Crew of 64, ya got to hope."

Every so often, a survivor would spot a person, let loose of the raft of debris and swim to the form, only to return empty-handed and issue a name sadly.

At last there came the drone of an airplane high above them in the gray clouds.

A few of the survivors murmured and they all looked skyward, but the overcast was still thick. Everyone was cold and shivering by now and darkness would be upon them soon. Steve wondered how many of them could survive until morning in the water. Maybe none of us. The plane faded away into the wind.

"Estamos esgotado morremos. Não há nenhum esperança," one of the men muttered shaking his head.

"He thinks we're not gonna make it," the one speaking English translated for Steve.

"Tell him we will be all right. Hermano radioed for help before we went down," Steve answered emphatically. "We just need to wait. Help is coming."

The young man exchanged glances with Steve, his look wishing Steve's words to be true and searching for anything to make them believable. At least he glanced away and stammered to construct a sentence of hope to the others. "O Hermano chamou. A ajuda vem."

Steve looked from face to face of the other six men and wondered if any of them believed him.

They were distracted by the sudden sound of a voice calling out to them. A man was waving wildly from the water. Steve recognized the voice instantly as Mbutu. As they pulled the large man into their group, they realized that he was holding onto still another person. Mbutu had been able to just barely keep a young Asian girl's head about water. A few glances were exchanged amongst the survivors, but this hardly seemed the time for questioning.

The girl was shaking uncontrollably and in deep shock. Her arms and legs were drawn up close to her body, and she was totally unable to function for herself. Mbutu continued to hold her close as he found a small corner of the debris made life raft.

"The others," Steve asked him. "Did you see them?"

"Everything go at once," Mbutu replied. "I think I see Yusuf, but not now."

"And Williams? The other American?"

Mbutu scowled, then shook his head. "Nothing."

Steve turned his head away, wondering if Williams would be as resourceful as he had hoped. There was nothing to do but wait - and hope what he had told the survivors was true - that Hermano had radioed for help.

End Part 7

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