Friday, October 15, 2010

The Diary of Lilian Whitlock - A Sinking Feeling, Part 2

The first few rays of dim sunlight reflected off my brass pen.  I blew out the small candle that stood on the saucer at the head of my bed as it was light enough to see now without it.  The ink on my journal entry still appeared damp and fluid.  I smoothed a spare scrap of paper over the page, blotting the ink.

As I quietly put my writing supplies away, I thanked myself for volunteering for the top bunk.  It was peaceful up here alone.  In the beds below, Miss Alders and Miss Bly were probably still asleep.  Somewhere on the other side of the sheets, I could hear a man snoring.  I had to assume it was either Mr. Binford or Captain Kirkpatrick.  Everyone would wake soon and the stillness of the night would be lost.  I began to dress myself as much as I could on my own.

When Miss Alders awoke, I helped her dress.   “Let me help you,” I offered.

“Thank you, dear,” She replied.  Our fellow prisoners were now awake as well and there was much activity about the gondola.  The smell of breakfast intermingled with the strong body odor smells that permeated the room.  It seemed that some of my traveling companions had not bathed in quite some time.


As I tightened her corset she hollered out in discomfort, “A little too tight!”

I loosened the strings a little, “Is that better?”

“Yes, a bit,” she said.   “Do you have a comb?” she asked me after a few minutes.  I retrieved the silver handled comb, brush and mirror from my purse.  In a few minutes her hair was loosely pinned up.

“Fire!  Fire!” Captain Kirkpatrick yelled from the other side of the gondola.

Miss Alders quickly left, to investigate.  I was left to myself with my hair not yet done.  I quickly tied my hair into a makeshift pony tail with a spare ribbon and resolved to learn to do my own hair later.

There was a brief argument from the other side of the gondola.  I could not tell what was going on, but apparently everyone else was already awake and involved in the commotion.  I took down the sheet wall and stashed the sheets on the nearest bunk.

Smoke was filling the kitchen area.  Miss Alders was holding a plate of burnt food and coughing.  She threw the pan out the of the side door.

“Damn it, Miss Alders!”  Captain Kirkpatrick yelled in a frustrated tone.

“I will have you know that I will not suffocate for your madness!” she screamed in return.

“There’s plenty of air, Miss Alders.  No one is going to suffocate,” the Captain retorted.

“Forget about frying anything, I’m going to have to stew everything,” Miss Bly lamented over the lost frying pan.

“I’m sorry but…” Miss Alders began.

“I could have put it out with flour,” Miss Bly told her.

Captain Kirkpatrick was at the side door now, aiming his gun outside the airship.

“I am distinctly uncomfortable about you randomly shooting holes in the thing that is holding us aloft,” Miss Alders argued.

“Miss Alders, if I were actually aiming for the other gondola, I could understand your concern but since I am aiming nowhere near it, don’t bother me,” the Captain retorted.

“He’s going to shoot the ship,” Miss Alders told me pleadingly.

“I know,” I said, helpless to resolve the issue.

“The fuel tanks are above each engine,” Mr. Binford told the Captain.

“Oh, lovely,” Miss Alders replied to the news.  “This is indoors,” she protested at the idea of close gunfire.  “An enclosed space,” she reiterated.

Captain Kirkpatrick braced himself in the doorway and began to aim his carbine carefully.  Before the Captain could fire, Miss Bly reached over and pulled him back inside the gondola.  “Miss Bly, what are you doing?!” he asked.

“Do not fire at this gaseous mound.  You are going to kill us!”  she screamed, her voice full of panic.

“I am not firing at the gas bags.  I am aiming for the engine,” Captain Kirkpatrick explained.

“An engine that is holding us up here,” Miss Bly retorted.

“If one is disabled, the ship will turn,” Mr. Binford told her.

“The engines are propelling us; they are not holding us up,” the Captain confirmed.

“And if you miss the engine?  Are you going to blow us up?” Miss Bly continued.

“Then I shall hit the sky,” Captain Kirkpatrick concluded.

“And if you blow out an engine, then what will you do?  Crash land in the ocean?” Miss Alders asked sarcastically.

“There are four engines,” Mr. Binford tried to explain to the excited women.  “If one of the engines is disabled, it could turn the ship towards land.”

“And which engine do we need to shoot to turn us towards land?” Miss Alders argued.  Mr. Binford, Miss Bly and Miss Alders continued to argue about the navigational course of the ship.

“As long as I know you’re not shooting a gun at a gas blimp and you’re prepared to take the consequences,” Miss Bly told the Captain when she noticed that he was near the door again.

“I have no intention of shooting the gas bag; I’ve been told it can explode,” he explained.

I approached the door slowly, not wanting to disturb the Captain.  He made room for me to peer out through the hatch opening as well.  The Captain was visually surveying the engine and the surrounding area above our gondola.  I began to size up the shot.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you are going to go near the door, hold on to this rope.  I have it tied inside here,” Mr. Binford announced.  “Just tie it to yourselves.”

“What do you see, Lilian,” Miss Bly asked me.  “What are you doing by the door?”

“It doesn’t look like it is that difficult of a shot,” I said.

“I was thinking of possibly hitting the cables instead of the engine.  You see those cables up there?” he asked as he pointed upward.

“Those could be holding us to the ship,” I said, concerned that the cables somehow supported the gondola’s weight.

“But I’m assuming those cables are how Preeble telegraphs his instructions from the bridge directly to these engines.  I think those cables are what he uses to tell the ship what to do,” he explained.

“But they could be holding us to the balloon, right?” I asked.  “I would rather shoot the engine, because if the cable is holding us up to the balloon.”

“No, no.  They’re not,” the Captain reassured me.

“If we shoot the engine then at least we’re just adrift,” I continued.

“I am assuming it is some kind of telegraph and somehow he is sending his instructions to the engines.”

The Captain was an experienced sailor and he would certainly know more about such things than I.  I took his word for it that the cables were for communication purposes.

“We don’t know how the ship works,” Miss Alders countered.

“I’m pretty sure I could hit the engine,” I told the Captain as a final attempt to persuade him to change targets.

“Well, I’m pretty sure I could hit the engine too, Miss Whitlock,” he said.  “I am thinking about shooting his telegraph.”

If we go down in flames, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your … well, whatever,” Miss Alders said, washing her hands of the situation.

“If we die, you may come back and haunt me at your leisure, Miss Alders,” the Captain said with sarcasm.

I stepped back inside the ship, since the Captain was again preparing to fire.  Mr. Binford approached the door, taking my place.  He peered outside and assessed the situation.

“Do you think you could do a better shot?” Mr. Binford asked me.

“I don’t know how good the Captain’s shooting is.  I only know how good my skills are,” I said.

“Are you a good shot?” he asked me, his voice filled with optimism.

“Well, yes.  Kind of,” I said.

“Can you shoot the eye of the squirrel from a hundred yards?” Miss Bly asked me.

“Kirkpatrick?” Mr. Binford tried to get the Captain’s attention.

“I am fairly light.  If I was on the rope, I could lean out pretty far,” I offered, knowing that the angle required for the shot was precarious.

“Lilian, no,” Miss Alders said flatly.  Her tone had no question in it.  It was an authoritative command.  When she saw my jaw tighten, she changed her tone.  “Miss Whitlock, no.  Please no.”

“Let her pull her weight, if that is what pulling her weight is,” Miss Bly said.

“We are not dangling her at the end of a rope!” Miss Alders said in a panic.


The Captain chuckled.  “Have you been trained in the use of a rifle, Miss Whitlock?”

“She grew up on a farm.  She’s probably a very good shot,” Mr. Binford vouched for me.

“May I reiterate that we are not that we are not dangling her out doors on a rope,” Miss Alders said again.  She was determined to make this decision for me.

“If Miss Whitlock is an adult and wishes to do so, it is her prerogative,” Captain Kirkpatrick defended my choice.  I found it ironic that the argument for my independence was now reversed and the Captain was the one letting me make my own decisions.

When she saw that her argument was going nowhere with the men, she addressed me again.  “My dear, as someone who took you under her wing…”

“I think either way, my person is risked,” I told Miss Alders, meaning that I was already in danger by being held hostage.

“I’m firing now, Ladies,” the Captain announced.

I covered my ears and waited to know the result of the Captain’s shot.  A loud gunshot rang through the air.  The smell of the discharged weapon wafted through the room.

He had missed.  He was reloading his gun when Miss Alders asked, “Are you going to do this 29 more times?”

“Why don’t you let the woman try?  Let the little lady try,” Miss Bly said.  I was unsure if she was being optimistic or sarcastic.

“We are not dangling her out the back door,” Miss Alders said for the umpteenth time.

Captain Kirkpatrick stepped back inside.  He untied the rope from around his waist.  The Captain approached me with the rope in his hands.  I knew what he was going to do; he was going to let me try to shoot the cable.  “I apologize if this is too forward,” he said.  I let him tie the rope around my waist using what looked to be a very secure sailing knot.

He assured me that he had tied it in such a fashion that I could lean out the door but not fall any father out the ship than that.  He held the carbine’s strap up so that I could step into it, securing it to myself with the straps over my arms.  The far end of the rope was secure, but the Captainheld the rope a few feet away from me for an added measure of security.

I was tired of feeling helpless.  Men had been forcibly controlling my destiny and inflicting harm against me for too long.  I would not allow Mr. Preeble and Mr. Alders to decide the outcome of the remainder of my life.  As my slippers slid along the doorframe and I saw the ocean below, I realized that this decision was dangerous; but I was determined to continue my chosen course of action.

I heard Miss Alders cry out in despair as I leaned out the doorway, closed my left eye and began to aim for the cable that the Captain had pointed out to me earlier.

“This isn’t quite like skeet shooting,” I said.  I took a breath and exhaled as I pulled the trigger.  It was a perfect shot.  The cable split in half.  Immediately, the cable whirled about and the ship lurched.  I cried out in panic.

As soon as I felt my weight shift towards the door, the Captain pulled the rope taught and then grabbed me by the shoulders.  He pulled me back inside to safety.

“Watch your hands,” Miss Alders said from across the gondola.

“Thank you,” I told the Captain.  He checked me over to make sure that I was alright.  Captain Kirkpatrick then left to return to the door and look outside again.

There was some shouting from the front gondola, but I could not make out what was being said.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Alders.  Prisoners of war are required to attempt to escape!” Captain Kirkpatrick yelled towards the front of the airship and then he came back inside.

“May I have the carbine back?” the Captain asked me.

I said, “Yes” and immediately returned the weapon to him.  He began to reload it.  The Captain peered at the hatch for a moment.

The ship’s engines roared as it suddenly climbed a steep angle.  I almost lost my footing as the floor shifted.  The side door slammed open.  Captain Kirkpatrick tried to reach the door to shut it.  I was still tied to the rope and thought it best if I tried to reach it as well.  It was too difficult to walk with the floor rising, however and I failed to make it to the door.  The Captain shut the door securely.

The ship leveled out.  It was now freezing in the gondola.  The very exposing nature of my party dress left much to be desired at this point.

“Can you turn up the oven as high as it will go?” Captain Kirkpatrick asked Miss Bly.

“Yes, I can start up the oven,” she said.

Captain Kirkpatrick took off his jacket and set it over my shoulders.  “Thank you,” I told him sincerely.  I slipped my arms into the long sleeves and began to feel warmer immediately.  I began to untie the rope.  Once it was undone, I closed the jacket and wrapped my hands in the long sleeves.

“Mr. Kirkpatrick, how many shells do you have?” Mr. Binford asked.

“Twenty-seven, including the one in the chamber,” the Captain answered.

“Could I have four?” Mr. Binford continued.  “We might be able to rig a small explosive to blow open the hatch,” he said.

“Can you do that?” Captain Kirkpatrick asked.

“We’ll find out!” Mr. Binford said optimistically.

The men and Miss Alders began to discuss the explosives.  There was a heated discussion about the dangers of gunpowder and shrapnel.

“I’m sorry!  I must simply put my foot down; we are simply not exploding things on this ship!” Miss Alders yelled at the top of her lungs.

“What’s going to happen when you go to the next hatch and they’ve got it locked from inside? You’re going to have to blow that one.”  Miss Bly argued.

“Yes, I understand, Miss Bly.  And I had thought of that,” Captain Kirkpatrick agreed.

“We don’t know how much damage this thing can take!” Miss Alders hollered.

“Gunpowder isn’t that powerful,” I said.  If it isn’t in a confined space, such as in a gun’s chamber, it does not produce a very large explosion out of so few grains.

“If we blow something up in here...” Miss Alders struggled to find the words that would win over her side of the argument.  “We don’t know, with the addition of the shots… and Lord knows what kind of condition it’s in.  We don’t know what kind of damage this will do!  We could very well shoot ourselves off the bottom of this thing and land in the ocean!” she continued, now completely hysterical.

“Yes, we could,” the Captain countered coolly.

“Oh, that sounds like a brilliant idea!” she yelled sarcastically.

“Mr. Binford, I don’t think that an explosion is the best idea,” Captain Kirkpatrick relented.

“No!” Miss Alders yelled, not realizing that she had already won the argument.

“Miss Bly raises a good point.  If they have somehow locked the hatch of the other gondola, then I don’t want to use my entire supply of ammunition in order to get us to the bridge,” Captain Kirkpatrick reasoned.  “Miss Whitlock, do you know how to handle a handgun?  Could you please watch the hatch?” he asked me.

“Yes, but I won’t shoot another person,” I told him.

“Just aim it at them if anyone appears.  Pull back on the hammer,” he instructed me.

“I know how to use it,” I told him, trying to sound confident.  He smiled and seemed pleased.

“You’re going to use that?” Miss Alders asked me.

“I won’t shoot another person,” I told her.

“Of course,” she said quietly.  “Under no circumstances should you shoot the balloon above us.”

“I understand,” I told her.

I wanted to make sure that I had a good bead on the upper hatch.  I aimed the revolver in that direction and prepared myself to fire should the need arise.

“Lilian, are you sure you need to have the gun cocked?” Miss Alders asked me.

“What the hell?!” Miss Bly screamed from across the gondola.

“She is aiming at the hatch,” Captain Kirkpatrick explained.

“You don’t have to have it cocked.  Uncock it!” she demanded.

“No!” Mr. Binford yelled.

“What if it goes off accidentally?” Miss Alders asked.

I wanted to be ready if anyone appeared at the hatch.  I didn’t know how much time I would have to react to an attack.

“Ladies!  She said she knows how to handle a gun.  Until she proves otherwise, I am going to believe her.”

“Well, he believes her,” Miss Alders said upset.

“Yes, that is correct Miss Alders,” The Captain told her.  I was glad to hear that he knew I was honest.  Nothing frustrates me more than when my honesty is in doubt.

“Well, ask me anything then! I am tired of you calling me a liar,” she said in frustration.

“Is this the time?” I asked.  We were in the middle of a struggle for our freedom and old arguments should be set aside momentarily.

“This isn’t the time,” Captain Kirkpatrick agreed with me.

Miss Alders made an indignant sound and said, “I’m sorry.  Never mind, just bloody well never mind.”

“So, Mr. Kirkpatrick, the idea is this hatch here is one-inch thick steel,” Mr. Binford said.

“Then there is no way we can get through,” Captain Kirkpatrick said as he tied the rope around his own waist again.

“The bullets will bounce around this cabin if you fire at it with a gun,” Mr. Binford continued.

“She is there,” Captain Kirkpatrick said, nodding in my direction, “Incase Mr. Alders sticks his head down.”

“The one thing, if we could do, is…” Mr. Binford struggled with to explain, “the way this is locked, it has a hook, in a way…”

“If I may make a suggestion,” Miss Alders interrupted.

“If we could pry the metal just a little bit, enough to get an explosive inside, in between the two things, it will push it out and up,” Mr. Binford continued.

“I was not…” Captain Kirkpatrick began to answer.

“If I may make a suggestion,” Miss Alders interrupted again.

“Let me finish first, Miss Alders, then I would like to hear your suggestion,” Captain Kirkpatrick said politely.

“Thank you,” Miss Alders said, equally polite.

“I was not able to move the wheel enough to even pry the hatch open,” he said.

“I’m not talking about moving the wheel.  I’m talking above opening it up between there,” Mr. Binford explained.

“The only tool we have that might work for that would be this and it would be destroyed in the process,” Captain Kirkpatrick said, lifting the carbine slightly to make his point.

“We have frying pans,” Mr. Binford suggested.  He would have a hard time prying any cooking supplies from Miss Bly if he tried to use any.

“Uh, no.  The frying pan went out the back door,” Miss Alders reminded Mr. Binford.

“One of them did,” Mr. Binford and Captain Kirkpatrick said at the same time.

“One was a frying pan, the other is a kettle,” I told them.

“You said the explosion would send the shrapnel upward,” Captain Kirkpatrick pointed out to Mr. Binford.   “It is the gas bags that are holding us up.”

“No, it would go sideways.  The pressure is going that way,” Mr. Binford said, his hand pointing off to the side of the gondola.  There was much discussion about what direction the forces of the explosion would travel in and how much shrapnel there was to be expected.

“Miss Alders, what was your suggestion?”  I asked.

“May I make a suggestion now?” she asked the men.

“Yes, please Miss Alders” Captain Kirkpatrick agreed.

“Perhaps in our vigor to escape, which is commendable, it would be better advised for us to actually touch down – somewhere near land.  So that we don’t end up somewhere in the drink,” she told everyone.  “And therefore we can enact our various escape attempts then.”

“By the time we get to land, Mr. Preeble will be taking us down to his base,” Captain Kirkpatrick countered.  “I can only assume that there are at least a dozen men there, all heavily armed, possibly with hand-held versions of the weapons that wiped Mr. Binford’s mind – in order to take us prisoner.”

“But it’s possible that we might have a better chance there…” she argued.

“No,” Captain Kirkpatrick interrupted.

“Then we would have in the middle of the ocean,” Miss Alders continued.

“No, it’s not,”  Captain Kirkpatrick argued.  “If we are unarmed (and we will be disarmed), taken as prisoners, returned to New Britannia, enslaved or whatever it is, or jailed…”

“We make a lot of assumptions, don’t we in this whole thing,” Miss Alders said.

“Well I am told that I will not be able to be integrated into their society.  Either I will be killed, which he denies but I believe Mr. Preeble less and less, or I will be imprisoned for the rest of my life.  Now Miss Alders, that is not something that a man like me can stand for at all,” Captain Kirkpatrick continued to press his side of the argument.

“I am not asking you to stand for anything.  What I am asking is that perhaps, rather than blow us off this blimp or into a fiery oblivion, how about we wait until we’re at least in sight of land – were we have the potential to survive a crash landing?” Miss Alders pressed onward.

“Because, Miss Alders, if we do not make an attempt as soon as possible, then we will lose the initiative and quite honestly, the closer we are to land, the more likely Preeble’s men are going to find us,” the Captain explained.

“Cuba is a rather large island,” Miss Alders stated.

“Yes and we don’t know how much of it is controlled by New Britannia,” Captain Kirkpatrick said.  “They destroyed an American warship – a new ship of the line and the most advanced thing we had ever invented killed at least 200 men with one pull of a trigger.  Do you think they will be able to find us in Cuba?”

“You make a lot of assumptions about all of this,” she countered, the frustration apparent in her voice.

“Miss Alders, he told me he blew up the Independence!” Captain Kirkpatrick yelled.  The volume of the argument was increasing again.

“By accident, I thought!” Miss Bly shouted in retaliation.  Her voice rose to inappropriate levels as well.

“Yes!  Heaven help us if they are intentionally trying to do some damage!” the Captain screamed, teetering on the edge of reason.  He was quite excited and loud at this time.

“As opposed to your intentionally trying to do some damage, which, in theory, might damage us all,” Miss Alders countered.

“May I suggest…” I began but my voice was far too quite to gain anyone’s attention at this point.

“It might.  Better that we die trying than go down like sheep,” the Captain continued.

Miss Alders said insultingly, “I do not aspire to your courageousness, sir”

“I do think it’s prudent to guard the hatch,” I said, hoping to cause some agreement.

Captain Kirkpatrick chuckled at the break in the argument.  “Thank you Miss Whitlock I do appreciate it” the Captain told me.

“I’m not saying it isn’t.  I just don’t want to blow us off the map,” Miss Alders said, trying to start the argument up again.

“Ladies, you should probably move closer to the stove,” the Captain warned us.

The Captain prepared to shoot outside again.  He opened the door and the cold morning air filled the room.  I was considering returning the Captain’s jacket, given the circumstances.

I overheard Miss Bly and Miss Alders arguing if they should consider sending me back out to shoot again.  They began to whisper and looked in Captain Kirkpatrick’s general direction.  The two women were over by the stove at this time.  I stood by the door, near where the rope was tied and I kept an eye on them.  If either of them made a move to the secured end of the Captain’s rope, I might have to intimidate them with the revolver.  It was a difficult thing to consider but I would not let them kill a man who was attempting to rescue us.

“Are you going to stand there with that gun?” Miss Alders questioned me.

“I’m watching the hatch.  They could come in here any second,” I retorted.

“I doubt that very much,” Miss Alders said.

“Well, we are causing trouble for them right now, right?” I asked.  Obviously, if Mr. Preeble or Mr. Alders were going to take any interest in our actions, now was the time.  “If we keep shooting the ship, eventually they will come back here to deal with us.”

Miss Alders resumed her whispered conversation with Miss Bly and I could make out nothing that they said.

The Captain fired a shot, then came back aboard the ship.  He began to reload the carbine.

“They are going to come back here eventually,” I said to the Captain, gesturing to the upper hatch.

Captain Kirkpatrick again leaned out the door.  There was shouting from the front gondola but it was difficult to make out what was being said from inside.

“You’re so tempting, Gavin Alders!” the Captain shouted towards the front of the airship, his rifle pointed in that direction for a moment.

“Excuse me!  You shoot my brother; I will shove you out that hatch!” Miss Alders threatened.  I no longer looked towards the upper hatch for danger, but focused squarely on the irate British woman.  When the Captain did not respond to her threat, she began to dramatize to Miss Bly rather loudly what a crash in the ocean would be like for us.

“At least our fate is in our own hands now,” I said.

The Captain ignored her and aimed upwards to the engines again.  Another shot rang out.  Captain Kirkpatrick came back inside, closing the hatch to reload again.  He then opened the door and peered forward again.  “Mr. Alders!  Can you hear me?” he shouted.

“We don’t know what will happen,” Miss Alders said to me.

“There are no guarantees in life,” I told her.

“I understand,” she said quietly, upset.

The response from the front gondola, assumedly from Mr. Alders, carried an angry tone but the words were indistinguishable to me.

“We will not be taken prisoner and not fight back!  I would suggest that you undog this hatch above us or these engines will both be destroyed!”  The Captain hollered in protest.

Mr. Alders must have given a negative answer.

“Very well, sir!” Captain Kirkpatrick replied.

As the Captain leaned out again to shoot the engines, the airship lurched again.  I had nothing nearby to grab onto when the ship began to waver.  I slid along the wall and landed harshly on the floor.  There was a lot of commotion.  The revolver went off.  I shot out one of the far windows.

When the ship righted itself, Mr. Binford asked, “Captain, do you think we can get on top of this thing?”

“To what end?  Are you going to detach this thing?” Miss Alders asked.

“No,” Mr. Binford said.  It was a preposterous question.

:If we can get on top of the gondola and get into the…” Mr. Binford began.

“The hatchway?” Miss Alders interrupted.

“We could make our own opening into the hatchway, go up in,” he suggested.

“It’s risky,” Miss Alders argued.  Of course, anything we would try to free ourselves would involve risk.  “It’s very cold up there, she added.”

“It’s risky, but we’re still trapped in here,” Mr. Binford explained.  “We’re not going anywhere.  I think Kirkpatrick is the healthiest of us all.  We’ve got fifty feet of rope,” he continued.

“That’s what you want to do?” Miss Bly asked, uncertain.

“How about it, Oliver?” Mr. Binford asked the Captain.

“I understand exactly what you’re saying,” Captain Kirkpatrick said, considering the suggestion.

“I’m not exactly in a healthy state to do it myself but I think you are if you wish to.  I will hold the rope,” Mr. Binford explained.

“Captain?” I asked quietly.

Miss Bly began tearing down a crate and Mr. Binford began cutting up sacks.

“I have an absurd question… do you have any communication with our captors?” I asked.

“Yes.  Let’s see if they’re still there,” the Captain said, checking outside.

“Could you perhaps ask them for a parlay?  Because maybe if we just talk to them…” I suggested.  “Could we get them a message?”

“Miss Whitlock, you were saying something?” Mr. Binford asked.

“I would volunteer to go parlay with our captors,” I offered.  “If we communicate with them and say that I am unarmed, I will go parlay with them and they may let me go through the hatch.  And then I can at least find out what they want to do with us.”

“Miss Whitlock, would like to see if we can parlay,” Mr. Binford repeated, since no one else had been paying attention to my suggestion.

“Send her as our ambassador,” Miss Bly volunteered me.

“Send her where?” Miss Alders asked.

“I could shoot the engine again.  That is when Mr. Alders sticks his head out,” The Captain said.

“Just fire a shot,” Mr. Binford suggested.

“To what end? What are we trying to accomplish by speaking with them?” Miss Alders said, trying to cut short my idea.

“Well, at least deal with this hatch situation,” I explained.

“So, you’re going to shoot the engine so they’ll open the hatch?” Miss Bly asked sarcastically.

“No,” I retorted.  I didn’t think we had to shoot at the engine any more.

“So you want them to open the hatch?” Miss Alders asked, sounding confused.

“They don’t need to treat us like prisoners,” I said.  I was hoping to negotiate better treatment.  I could never understand why some people could take pleasure in exerting their will over others.  It seemed a personal violation against myself to be treated thusly.

“But we are prisoners Miss Whitlock,” Captain Kirkpatrick said softly.  My heart sank at the prospect of being helpless.

“If some of us believe we are prisoners - but we don’t want to be treated like prisoners, we are going to have to come to an accord as to what we actually believe,” Miss Alders said from across the room.

“That’s what I’m saying,” I replied, hoping that everyone else would see that we could possibly reason with the men in the front gondola since our efforts so far had not been successful.  I did not want to sit and wait to land in Cuba but rather I did want to take some sort of action.

Captain Kirkpatrick reiterated, “We are prisoners.  We are being taken against our will someplace where we will be incarcerated and/or incorporated into a society that is not our own.”

“Well, then I don’t believe negotiation is possible,” Miss Alders said with finality.

The captain began to take aim again.  Miss Alders and Miss Bly whispered discontentedly.  The Captain took another shot, the loud bang ringing through the air.

I felt bad suggesting it, but I told Mr. Binford, “We could be deceptive in the matter,” referring to the idea of offering a peaceful parlay.

“Mmm hum,” Mr. Binford seemed to agree.

“That I am unarmed and I will go over there… but they would have to open the hatch…” I began.  This would give the men here the chance to they needed to overtake at least one of our captors at the hatch.

“Yes, I get what you mean,” he said.

“Can you climb?” Mr. Binford asked, changing the subject.

“Climb?  I’ve never tried,” I informed him.  “I guess, with the rope, I would try” I offered.  “I am not much of an outdoor girl,” I explained and chuckled.

Our conversation was cut short by yet another gunshot from Captain Kirkpatrick’s rifle.  There was a loud bang outside. The ship dove sharply, falling out of the sky. “Brace yourselves!” the Captain yelled.

Some unknown instinct hinted at our impending fate and I reached for my handbag, looping its straps over my arm to take it with me.  I had never flown before this journey and had certainly never crash landed.  How I had recognized the sensation at that time, I may never know.

For a brief moment, I smiled in triumph, feeling clever for retrieving my purse.  The ship listed heavily and the floor rose to a precarious angle.  My slippers slid along the smooth, wooden floor.  I gained speed as I flew upwards; my hands failing to find any purchase.  The irony of slamming into the stove struck my mind briefly, just before I was flung against it.   I remember nothing after that.

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