8:5 An Uncanny Stowaway

THE PACIFIC OCEAN  |  1889

Philomena quickly realized there wasn’t much involved in watching over her drugged guardian sleep in the dark cabin. Fox was stretched flat out on the berth still dressed in his evening clothes with only his shoes missing. A barely perceptible snore was the only sign that he was still alive.

She certainly hadn’t had the time to grab any of her favorite books before embarking on this new phase of her life. When she heard a noise in the passageway, she was temped to open the door and ask whomever it was to turn on the electric light and bring her a newspaper or something—anything—to read, but the memory of the drowned sailor lurking at the bulkhead kept her silent, and bored enough to gradually drift off herself.

Philomena awoke with a start and the sudden awareness that something was amiss. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could hear gentle breaths rising and falling like the lapping of waves from the direction of the preacher’s berth. That is not it, she thought. The diminutive cabin held few places to hide; there were the two berths, a chair, and a small table set up underneath the porthole …

The girl’s eyes opened wide as to exploit any stray bit of light to help illuminate what her brain told her she couldn’t be seeing. Sitting at the table, as if waiting after dinner for a small glass of port, sat her father—the man she still considered her real father, the recently departed Mortimer Gilliam—only now horribly burned and with a piece of his skull missing.

The screams coming from cabin 227 brought a small army of ship’s attendants. Fox, meanwhile, slept the opiated sleep of the dead.

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