Dead in the Water

Dead in the Water by Nancy Holder Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Dead in the Water by Nancy Holder Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nancy Holder
even was a poem.
    “It’s great,” John said, and Donna realized she’d been drifting out to sea again. Ha ha. “It’s about a man on a sailing ship who shoots an albatross. He’s doomed to sail with a ghost crew and—”
    “Oh,” she cut in, brightening, “I do know it. He’s the Flying Dutchman, right?”
    He paused and cocked his head, as if he were running through the rest of the story. Finally he smiled. “Why yes, I guess it is. I guess it’s the same thing.”
    Triumphant, she gave her shoulders a modest shrug. Not so ignorant after all.
    Below them, the
’s propeller geysered up balloons of water, great packets of bubbles that burst apart and sprayed their faces. Gray octopus shapes pulsed below the surface, surprises the sea was keeping to itself.
    “It’s his crew that dies,” Ruth supplied. “The Ancient Mariner is the captain. And there’s a Spirit that propels his ship toward a ghost ship.”
    Donna shifted. “A spirit like a ghost?”
    John nodded. “Yes.”
    “Or a force of nature. Some kind of motivation,” Ruth cut in.
    John’s brows rose above his glasses frames. “I never thought of it that way. But you’re right. It could be simply a force. But didn’t the ship come to him? It found him? And there was a beautiful woman aboard. Death in Life? Life in Death? She was the thing that cursed him.”
    “Behind every great man,” Donna said, and drew a chuckle from John. She warmed a bit, though she was growing uneasier by the moment as the sun sank down, down, down toward the rabbit hole of water, water everywhere. The vastness made her feel insignificant.
    And a bit helpless. If there was one thing in the world she hated more than feeling uneducated, it was feeling helpless. Helpless got you squat.
    “And his crew is filled with dead men?” Ramón asked.
    “Yes, he’s the only living person,” Ruth replied. “And he has such a terrible thirst; it’s all he can think of, and—”
    Donna lost track of the conversation as she focused on the drowning sun. Ghost ships, and ghosts. Kids’ stories.
    And ghosts. Before she realized it she was thinking about the little boy. Death spasms, right in front of her. Her stupid ankle. Hell.
    She shook herself and flashed a fake, generalized smile at the others. People who dealt in violence—and death was the ultimate violence—had to learn how to compartmentalize their minds. It had been nearly two years since her first corpse, an old man who died of a heart attack, and she still hadn’t developed the knack. Glenn had quizzed her about her choice of a freighter to Hawaii, if it was too soon to go back into the water, so to speak. Maybe she’d figured she had something to prove. Or to get over. She told him it was none of his business what she did.
    “Yes, it is,” he’d answered breathlessly. “It most certainly is.”
    “And there’s the symbolism of the woman of course,” John was saying.
    Ah, the symbolism of the woman. There always was one, wasn’t there? The woman behind the man, push-push, pull-pull;and so he runs off, leaves his old lady to mind things—Country Cafes, for instance—doesn’t come back. What the Marines needed was a newer, younger wife. So Dad took off way before Mom did. Waited until the kids were grown up, at least. Almost grown up, anyway: Baby Donna had been fifteen. That was pretty good of him, ha.
    Good men didn’t leave in the first place. And Glenn was the best, the very best there was.
    “Ah, the woman,” Ramón said huskily. He brushed his fingertips against Donna’s forearm. “
? Are you watching?” Though she kept her face impassive, she wanted to chuckle at his pseudo-intensity. Far be it from her to wound his male ego, but with this action, he’d now hit on every woman aboard. Ruth had been first, flattered but taking him no more seriously than Donna did now. She’d treated him kindly, like a wayward child. But Elise van Buren-Al-phabitch had practically taken his

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