Shrouds of Grey

It was 1915, and though we weren't in the war yet, the United States and United Kingdom were secretly sending envoys back and forth as we discussed buisness pertaining to the Great War. That's what I was then, in fact it was my first assignment, and to this day those screams haunt my memory, urging me to tell the tale of what happened that day in May all those years ago.

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1. Interview Start: Exploring the Lost Lady


~May 7th, 1987

   "All right Rick, can you tilt the camera on the external beam up a bit? I want to get a good shot of the anchor..." spoke a ragged looking guy as he peered out of the small view port of the tiny submersible that he and two others had been crammed into for the past hour and a half. It was a wonder as to why he was even here, 49 fathoms below the mighty Atlantic's surface, recording images of what many around these parts refer to as the 'Lost Lady,' or simply by her name; Lusitania. Bret had always been fascinated by the story of this ship; a proud holder of the coveted 'Blue Ribbon' in the Atlantic run, she and her majestic sister, Mauretania, were majestic ships in their day. Boasting four, enormous red and black capped smokestacks and an impressive top speed of almost twenty seven knots, these two sister ships were England's grand attempt to retain her superiority as a naval power of commerce. At 785 feet long, the RMS Lusitania was once a majestic beauty of the Cunard Line, and, more importantly a shining symbol of the beauty and grace that was Great Britain.

   "There, that angle suit you, Bret?" asked a man in a beige sweater with a beard of freshly ground ginger. Bret shifted in his position to get a look at the camera's view finder.

   "Aw that's perfect, as usual, Rick," Bret smiled as he patted his colleague on the back as he sank back down to his view port. What really drove Bret to being here was an invitation by his friend Eugene, who was a member of the Oceanographic Institute back in London. Eugene knew full well of his friend's passion for the ship, and, the mystery that to this day, surrounded the ship. Once a marvel of man, the ship was now just a hollow shell of herself; barely recognizable as a ship anymore. Her superstructure had collapsed and slid off to one side over the years and her hull was bent backwards into almost a boomerang with a huge tear down by where her third and fourth smokestacks or funnels would have been.

   "Sea Robin, come in Sea Robin, over," crackled the communications radio. It was the mother ship calling, probably telling them that it was time to come up. Rick put down the camera's controls and picked up the mic.

   "This is Sea Robin, go ahead Mother Bird, over," he called into the mic. "This better be good guys, we're in the middle of getting some great shots down here."

   "Don't get your panties in a twist, Rick," the voice returned, "Eugene just told me to advise that you guys come on up, our guest just arrived, over." By guest, the operator was referring to a man that, not too many people even knew existed, never mind was aboard the ship and was still alive. 

   "You heard that, right, Bret?" Rick smiled as he still clung to the communications set. Shifting from his current position Bret looked at his colleague with a broad grin on his face.

   "Yeah, I heard," Bret brimmed as he turned back to his view port. "It means it's show time. So let's just say good night to the old gal before we head on up." He flicked a couple of the switches beside him and in an instant, the world outside plunged back into darkness as the submersible began its ascent to the surface. 

***************

   Watching the sea from the starboard wing of the ship's bridge, Eugene adjusted the balaclava he wore around his neck; the beginning of May, and yet it was still bloody freezing out here. He was a man of about five foot, eight weighing in at about 183 pounds with short cut, salt and pepper hair making him seem older than he was. His pale blue eyes were said by many to be that of an old soul trapped in a young body.

   "Hey, Eugene!" called one of the deck hands from below. Taking a break from starring at the sea, he turned and strode over to the ladder.

   "Yeah, what is it this time?" he returned the call as he descended the ladder.

   "Sea Robin's just surfaced, almost time to see what we can dig up on the old girl, eh?"

   "Yeah, I'd say your right on that measure," he patted the guy on the back as he moved aft towards the submersible's docking station. He arrived just as the hydraulic crane that hung over the ship's fan-tail on the stern hoisted up the canary yellow football that was the Sea Robin. Water splashed all over the reinforced steel deck plates as the submersible was brought to rest on her cradle that was on a track that led to her garage a few feet forward.

   "Well hey there!" called Bret as he slipped his shoes back on and descended down a ladder that was attached to the sub's cradle. "Where is he?"

   "Who?" Eugene smiled as he walked through an open hatch into the ship's superstructure. Bret smiled as he tagged close along behind him as they turned down one of the many narrow and twisting passageways that made up the inside of the Celtic Explorer. Arriving in one of the ship's field labs Bret stopped cold when he saw the man.

   "How do you do, Mister...er..-"

   "Callahan," the wrinkled old man smiled as he managed a weak handshake with Eugene. The man was clearly 'long in the tooth' as some would say; he was in brown trousers with a pair of loosely tied loafers. He wore a brick colored checkered shirt that resembled that of a fifty's table cloth. He was in a specially designed wheel chair with a hose running from his nostrils to an oxygen tank strapped to the chair's posterior. Wrinkles covered every inch of his pale, medium toned skin. His teeth long since yellowed with age to which, a few of those small bones were no longer present leaving only gaps in their places.

   "Well, Bret?" Eugene's voice snapped him out of his thoughts on the old man, "Are you going to gawk at the man all day, or, are you going to do your job?"

   "Oh, right, ofcourse," Bret stammered as he fetched his laptop from its charging base and quickly took a seat beside Eugene, opposite the old man.

   "So... your name's Bret is it?" 

   "Uh, yes.. Mr. Callahan was it?" Bret suddenly stumbled on his words; if his mother was here, she would have scolded him for being so rude to an elder. Out stretching his hand, he shook the old man's which, despite his age, the old man had quite a grip. "Pleasure to meet your acquaintance."

   "So, the fact that you boys have brought me out into the middle of the ocean, I assume there's something I can help you with.." Mr. Callahan lost his smile, becoming serious in his tone. Looking over at one of the monitors he seemed to go a bit white. "Can I get a better look at that?"

   "Sure," Eugene replied as he stood up and quickly scooted the monitor over to the man on its movable cart. Positioning it beside the man, he leaned up against it. "Better?"

   "Y-Yes," he tripped on his words slightly. "It can't be... the Lusitania?"

   "Indeed it is, Mr. Callahan," Eugene grinned, "What has it been, 72 years since you saw her last?" Looking at the old man as he touched the monitor slightly with his hand, made Bret shiver slightly, this man before him was a living piece of history, a history that, to this day had never been definitively answered in his mind. 

   "All those innocent people..." Mr. Callahan gurgled, "All those poor, innocent people...." A tear escaped his eye as the memories began to flood back to him; the shrieking of hundreds of terrified people, the ear splitting sound of steel twisting as the ship vanished beneath their feet. It all played out in his head, building in ferocity until he broke down and cried. Seeing a grown, and especially an old man cry, broke his heart.

   "Mr. Callahan, if this is too painful, you don't have to do this," Bret patted him on his shoulder in an awkward attempt to console the man. 

   "No, no..." He sat up, swatting away the younger man, "You got me out here, so the least I can do is tell the story." Looking at the laptop he eyed Bret skeptically, "You ready there, young pup? I'm only going to tell the story once, so I hope you can keep up."

   "Interview started, ready when you are Mr. Callahan," Bret responded, no longer looking up from his keyboard. 

   "Very well," he started to tell the story, his eyes returning to the monitor as images of the ship lazily meandered by. "It was 1915, and though we weren't in the war yet, the United States and United Kingdom were secretively sending envoys back and forth as we discussed buisness pertaining to the Great War. That's what I was then, in fact it was my first assignment, and to this day those screams haunt my memory, urging me to tell the tale of what happened that day in May all those years ago...."

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