“A child’s eyes light up when they see their Grandpa.” –Catherine Pulsifer
“Where is she? Are she and Leah well? Don’t just sit there man!” Isaiah was as frantic as Keisha had ever seen him during the short time they’d known each other. At the first mention of his Mom’s name, Josiah rushed over to his Dad. The teenager from another universe stood and waited.
The lighthouse keeper was rapidly writing on a pad and then put the pencil down. “She’s ceased transmitting. A moment, Isaiah.” Joachim began tapping at the telegraph key. Grandpa had taught Keisha Morse Code when she was little since one of the projects they’d worked on was building a working signaling system, but Rosenstein’s finger was moving too fast for her to understand the message. Then he stopped and listened.
“Sorry. I think she was cut off in the middle of her transmission. She’s not answering now.”
Isaiah put his arm around his son and took a deep breath. “Can you read out what you got?”
“Yes, of course. First part she’s identifying herself and such. Here. ‘Leah and I escaped. Leah in good hands. I have the package. Rendezvous plan whiskey alpha.’ That’s all there is, Isaiah. I’m sorry.”
“You’ve nothing to be sorry about, old friend. She knew the plan upon acquiring the Dakuwaqa was to dock here. Nothing about where she was transmitting from?”
“No. That’s the entire message.”
Isaiah knelt down next to Josiah. “Your mother and sister are alive. We’ll find them and make this right.”
“Yes, Pa. I understand.” The child was on the verge of tears and Keisha realized she was, too. They’d all been through so much in the past few days, but especially the nine-year-old boy.
“She mentioned a rendezvous, Isaiah.”
“Yes. Unfortunately, each site is identified by a three-word code and she was able to send only the first two.”
“Pa, there are only two meet ups that start with whiskey alpha.”
“True, but they are in different locations at different days of the week and times.”
“Wouldn’t she have chosen the soonest one?” Keisha nearly flinched as Isaiah quickly turned to face her. His expression was one of annoyance for an instant, and then changed to revelation.
“You could be right, Miss Davis. No doubt she would want to rejoin us as quickly as possible, but it’s still a gamble, since it means bearding the lion in his den. Well, not precisely, but the location entails considerable risk.”
“It’s not for more than two days, Pa.”
“Yes, son, you have a good memory. We can do nothing at the moment. Your mother will only appear at the appointed place during the wee hours of Monday morning.”
“Then I invite you to share Shabbos with me, Isaiah. You and yours are always welcome at my table. Speaking of which, I’d better get cracking. Only a few hours left until sundown.”
“Thank you, Joachim. We will help in any way you wish.”
Rosenstein opened a drawer at the desk where he was sitting and produced a book. “Here. All the instructions for refueling the lantern. Unless it’s an emergency, I cannot do so once Shabbos has started. This’ll make sure the light continues for the full duration.”
“Not to fear. Remember, I’ve done this sort of thing before, so I will take care of it. Will you be needing help from Miss Davis or my son?”
Keisha didn’t like it that Isaiah was speaking for her, but under the circumstances, she wasn’t going to complain. She had only a vague idea about the Jewish sabbath and that Jews didn’t do work on Saturday, but other than that, it was a mystery.
“Not at all. I’ve got a routine. Let the young people settle in for now.”
The lightkeeper stood and shook hands with his friend. Keisha saw a momentary scowl on Isaiah’s face, as if he weren’t comfortable with the adults working while the kids didn’t. He kept silent about it though.
“As you wish, this being your home.”
“Home away from home. I’m only here a month at a time. Now, I’m off to the kitchen.”
“I’d be glad to help, Mr. Rosenstein.”
“No, thanks, lad. I’ll be fine. Besides, it would be a chore to figure out how the kitchen is organized and, as I told your Pa, I’ve got a system. Sit with your friend and enjoy the view.”
Keisha noticed that Isaiah looked pleased with his son. He probably wasn’t with her because she didn’t volunteer too, but if Rosenstein said he didn’t need help, then he didn’t need it. She turned to sit down again almost tripping over the hem of her voluminous and uncomfortable skirt. The corset sometimes made it hard to take a deep breath, and the high collared blouse made her want to choke.
“You look uncomfortable, Miss Davis. Can I get you something?”
She sat down and the boy did the same. “No, I’m fine. These clothes are a little strange compared to what I’m used to. Why are you always worried about me, anyway?”
“Just trying to be polite is all.”
“It’s okay to worry about yourself. We’re hiding out from this Tyson character or whoever’s after us. Sure, your Mom and sister are alive, but who knows where they are or how they got out of your house before it exploded. You don’t have to be a little adult all the time, Josiah. Try being a kid once in a while.”
She interpreted his expression as conflicted, like he didn’t know what he was supposed to be, a child or a helper.
“I can’t say how you grew up or what your life has been like, but I’ve always been taught that you put others before yourself. The Lord Jesus did that, dying so we could be free of our sins. Pa says we are obliged to do the same.”
“Don’t you ever get to relax and think of yourself? If it were my Mom who was missing…” She stopped, remembering the last time she saw Mom alive, and then the funeral, and then how empty the house seemed without her. Mom had always been giving, too.
“What? Oh. Never mind. I was just thinking of my Mom.”
“I think about my Ma all the time. Little Leah, too.”
“The world is full of so much pain. Maybe helping someone else isn’t so crazy a response after all.” She put her arm around him. “I miss my Mom, too.”
They sat together and watched the sun continue to settle toward the western horizon.
Mr. Rosenstein said that the Shabbat was a time of joy, and Keisha wished she felt that way. It seemed that Isaiah did, or at least he put on a good show. After their host said a blessing in Hebrew and lit twin candles, they sat down to a simple but festive meal punctuated by a series of recited blessings. Isaiah knew all of the songs that Joachim sang, and even Josiah made a good attempt at them, but the high school student couldn’t understand a word.
When dinner was over, Keisha did offer to help clean up, and Mr. Rosenstein clued her in on the “rules” about what she could and couldn’t do. It was puzzling, and he said something about not being in favor of having a “Shabbos goy” do for him what he was forbidden to do himself. That only made her feel more confused.
“Never mind all that. I realize this is a difficult time for many reasons, but on Shabbos, we take joy in our Creator and that He gives us rest.”
“So much for rest,” she muttered to herself in the darkness.
Keisha couldn’t sleep, so she got dressed in her “cosplay” outfit again and wandered around. She ended up back in the underground dock. She boarded the Dakuwaqa and walked up and down the main passageway wondering why both Isaiah’s place and this lighthouse came equipped with matching submarine pens. There was still so much she needed to learn, and her Grandpa’s youthful doppelganger was doling out information with an eye dropper.
Sitting on her bunk in her cabin, she looked at the gun belt she’d left behind along with her hat.
She let herself lift the belt up and examined the holsters, but she was too intimidated by their contents to withdraw either pistol. Isaiah said the shells used a variation of the Barsoonian charge, in this case, disrupting the bonds between molecules causing them to fly apart within a certain radius. She shuddered at the thought of that happening to flesh and blood.
The girl returned the belt to the top of the blankets. Picking it the head wear, she saw it vaguely resembled a top hat but wasn’t as tall. The material was black felt but it came equipped with multi-lens goggles. She tried them on and got views that went from microscopic to telescopic. Keisha took the hat with her but left the firearms. What was Isaiah thinking, that she’d be able to shoot someone?
She spent a few more hours in the Watch Room using the different magnifications to spy on passing steam freighters, and toward the morning, a small fleet of fishing boats, until the fog made even that impossible.
“Miss Davis.” His voice was soft and melodious.
“Hmmm? What?” For a moment she was five years old and sleeping over at Grandpa’s house. She thought she smelled his banana pancakes cooking on the griddle. Then Keisha opened her eyes. It was Isaiah. She realized that she’d fallen asleep on the sofa in the Watch Room. “What time is it?”
“Well past nine. We tried to be as quiet as possible.”
“Thanks.” She sat up. “What’s going on?”
“Breakfast for one thing. After you’ve had your morning meal, we have to plan out the next part of our mission.”
“Coffee first, then mission.”
“Fortunately, our host has left some heated water in a dispenser for such a purpose.”
For Keisha, it ended up being coffee, then breakfast, then a bath (Isaiah showed her how to heat the water over a fire) while she lamented that no one had invented a shower here, getting dressed, and then finally back to the submarine dock with Isaiah and Josiah.
“Why do you have all this stuff, Mr. Covington?”
“You mean the submersible.”
“That and a secret sub hideout both at your house and here. You said submarines weren’t common in your world, so this can’t be normal.”
“Very true, Miss Davis. Submersibles are uncommon in peace time, but these facilities were built during the war between the states.”
“The Civil War?”
“There’s nothing civil about war.”
“You had a sub pen built under your house during the war.”
“No, but I bought the property because I saw in the original designs that such a structure was part of the property. It once belonged to the Naval officer in charge of submersibles in this part of California. It was said he enjoyed being able to privately employ his personal craft directly from his home, and he is responsible for this, and other similar docks built for the Navy, these islands having been pressed into military service for the duration.”
“Does this guy Tyson know about them?”
“This particular dock and others like it around the Bay are a matter of historical and public record, but as I mentioned, the one under my home was not.”
“So where did the Dakuwaqa come from?”
“I built it. Mr. Tyson was extremely encouraging, providing me and the other engineers under his employ with free access to tools and material on the hope that we would manufacture something of commercial interest. I might have provided him with plans for this vessel had I not started to become suspicious of his intentions some time ago.
“So, he doesn’t know about it?”
“After our being attacked in the Bay following our narrow escape from his assassins, I’d say he must know by now.”
“Won’t he search for you in places like this?”
“He more than likely will. His company provides weaponry and support to both police agencies and the military, so it’s unlikely they would deny him any resource in the effort to locate us. Still, it will take time, which is why we must be out of here no later than Sunday evening.”
“Where are we going?”
“That’s what I intend to plan with you and Josiah.”
“Pa.” The boy called out from the top of the submarine’s tower. “I’m going to need some help with the adjustments to Miss Davis’s snorkel.”
“We’ll be right there, son.”
“I don’t suppose I could file a patient on that thing since in this universe, I invented it.”
“Anything is possible, Miss Davis. Now let’s help young Josiah with making your brilliant improvisation a permanent part of the Dakuwaqa, and then map out our next steps.
“I wish you could stay longer, but I understand the need for haste. Rest assured that should any of Mr. Tyson’s flunkies inquire of you, they’ll learn nothing from me. I’ll have the dock returned to its previous state. They’ll think it hasn’t been used in decades.”
“Very well, Joachim. You are a good and trusted companion, and I thank the Creator of all living souls that we are friends.”
Everyone was at the dock. Once the sun set on Saturday, Mr. Rosenstein pitched in on servicing the submarine, which included stocking the larder, and performing maintenance and repairs. By sunset the following day, the work was done and they were ready to depart.
“Miss Davis, it was a pleasure to meet you. I hope our paths will cross again someday under better circumstances.”
“Me too, Mr. Rosenstein. Thank you for everything.” Keisha remembered not to offer her hand, but it still felt really awkward.
“Josiah, you keep on growing like a weed.” He tousled the child’s hair. “In no time at all, you’ll be challenging me to arm wrestling like your Pa used to.”
“No thanks, Sir. Maybe a game of chess, though.”
“We’re prepped. Be good to yourself, Joachim. My best to the wife and children.”
“Mine to yours when you see them again. May it be the will of the God of our fathers, that He should lead you in peace and direct your steps in peace.”
“May you walk with God as well. Amen.”
This time, Keisha followed Isaiah and Josiah to the sub feeling weighed down by the gun belt on her hips. She’d let them convince her to put on twin firearms which were nearly the same as Isaiah’s own. She spent several hours outside earlier in the afternoon practicing with her benefactor. The last time she shot anything was with a .22 and she’d been 10. Grandpa liked target shooting, but in this world, the targets would be people.
Rosenstein watched them climb the sub’s hull and tower and then disappear inside. Then he was on the radio guiding them out of the tunnel and back to the open sea.
Keisha had spent much of the weekend not only practicing at the communications console, but becoming more familiar with overall submarine operations. She’d also helped Isaiah and Josiah secure the snorkel as a regular piece of equipment that could be operated from the engineering panel where the third-grader sat.
“I’m picking up that freighter from Japan Mr. Rosenstein said would be entering the Golden Gate about now.”
“Very good, Miss Davis. We are proceeding on course for our destination.”
“Goat Island? I think they call it Yerba Buena Island where I come from.”
“That’s the old name for it. Now the Navy grazes goats their for meat and maintains a small training base on the premises.”
“You still plan to take a raft to the island before dawn?”
“My dear wife will be waiting for me. Rest assured.”
“You didn’t say how she’d get onto a Navy base.”
“She has her means, isn’t that right, Josiah?”
“Yes sir, she does, Pa.” He was all grins just thinking about seeing his Mom again. “Can I come with you?”
“No, son. You and Miss Davis need to stay on board in case anything goes wrong.”
“You don’t think we’d leave you behind, even if we could run the Dakuwaqa alone?”
“I expect you to follow my wishes, Miss, and yes, you and my son are fully capable of piloting this vessel to safety if the need arises.”
“Okay, Mr. Covington.”
Keisha was upset at the thought because without Isaiah, she hadn’t the faintest idea what do to next. Josiah was mainly disappointed.
“You’ll see your mother soon enough, son. I promise.”
Listening for any nearby ships, the teen thought about making promises, especially the ones you couldn’t keep. How long was it before Mom died that Dad told her everything would be alright?
They were at optiscope depth and the interior of the control room was illuminated in dull crimson. “Yes, I can see the docks. I’ll put to shore away from them. There’s a small cove directly under the bridge span on the south side. She’ll be waiting there for me.” He collapsed the scope’s handles and it began receding into the ceiling.
“We’ll keep the sub on the surface only long enough for you to deploy the raft.”
“Remember, we want to exchange signals with Mrs. Covington first. No sense taking unnecessary chances.”
“Everything will be alright, Pa.”
“I trust in the Lord that it shall be.”
Half an hour later, they had surfaced and were sitting low in the water several hundred yards off of the island. While Keisha and Josiah remained below, Isaiah climbed up the tower with a covered lantern. They could signal each other with the light, and if Eralia gave the “all clear,” he’d go after her in a small raft.
Long minutes passed and at one point, Keisha realized she was holding her breath. They were still using the red light inside the control cabin. Keisha thought she could hear the sound of a steam locomotive crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge above them.
Then slow, halting feet descended the ladder. When Isaiah returned to the deck, he looked like a defeated man.
“What’s wrong, Pa?”
“She’s not there.”
“Maybe she couldn’t get a light to use as a signal.”
“No, Miss Davis. I received a message from our contact on the base. Tyson’s half-mechanical men were waiting for her. My wife is now being held prisoner by that ambitious despot.”
“We’ll find a way to get her back.”
“It’s worse than that. They’ve also captured your Grandfather’s journal. With both that and the Graceful Delight in Tyson’s possession, our last hope of thwarting his cruel ambition is gone.”
A new sound was beginning to fill the control cabin. Keisha turned back toward the speakers at her console. When she took off her headset, she’d switched the feeds so she would hear if any sea traffic was coming near. “Fast propellers, Isaiah. Heading this way.”
“Stanley Tyson’s trap is sprung. Prepare to dive.”
Previous chapters of Keisha’s wild adventure are:
- The Adventure Begins!
- Aerial Encounter
- Police Pursuit
- Desperate Attack
- Submersible Disaster
- Menace in the Dark
- Below the Waves
- Prelude to Piracy
- Farallon Sojourn
At the end of this tenth chapter, things have gone from hopeful to desperate, as not only has Eralia been taken captive by the sinister Stanley Tyson, but he is also in possession of the Graceful Delight as well as the journal that hold the secret of using the airship against him. Even if the three souls aboard the Dakuwaqa escape pursuit, how can they hope to reverse these disastrous events?
The next chapter is Assault on Red Rock Island.