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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3. The 202nd Crossing


~May 1st, 1915

 He was amazed at the size of her; the statistics in the brochure didn't do the ship justice; starring down her side it was nothing but a seemingly endless wall of sleek black steel, with a line of brassy gold running the length of the ship just under where the white superstructure of the ship ended. However, his amazement was soon shattered as his partner grumbled beside him.

   "They've painted out her name and stacks..." he grumbled. Looking about the masts and the flagstaff he snorted in disbelief. "No flags either, the Lusitania is looking more like a blockade runner than a cruise liner." Picking up the leather bag they had been entrusted with back in Washington, the pair proceeded onwards to the check in station.

   "Tickets, please..." the clerk behind the iron bars spoke in an uninterested voice, obviously bored with his job. George handed him the tickets to which, the man behind the bars punched out part of the ticket and ripped another part and discarded it into a box beside him as they were waved onto the actual pier.

   As the pair proceeded forward, George stopped and purchased a newspaper to read later when he was aboard ship. Quickly catching up to Joe, he wandered aft until they came to a gang plank to which they crossed the narrow moat of inky blackish green water separating the ship from the pier as they stepped into the ship.

   "My god..." George wondered in amazement as he looked around. Walking through a pair of double doors, he beheld a marvelous sight; the reception room was decorated in a muted cherry oak paneling with ornate green and gold trimmed carpeting. The wicker style chairs that seemed to be part of the wall themselves were padded with fine cushions; a familiar scent filled the air as they moved forward, that of fine tobacco.

   "Now that, I could go for," Joe laughed as he moved to the edge of the minorly crowded room. Catching up to him, George noticed a young man go by with a cart of alcoholic beverages, to which he answered his partner.

   "What, you want a Bermuda Highball?" he asked, motioning to the traveling cart of alcohol.

   "Not the bleedin' drinks! A Cigarette!" Joe laughed as he moved down the passageway to the stairwell. As they moved down the stairwell, they moved trough an open companion way that ended in a hallway of polished oak paneling and doors. "Ah, here we go, 204C," he smiled as he turned the key and threw open the door. 

   "Christ, for second class, these are sure nice rooms," George whispered in awe and wonder. The two began to unpack, or rather, Joe unpacked his stuff into the main bedroom and threw George in the smaller spare bedroom, to which, once their stuff got dropped off they packed away their things. Their quiet was disturbed by three long, mournful blasts of the ship's whistle, the signal that the ship was departing from the harbor as it started its cruise across the Atlantic.

   "You wanna go up and wave goodbye?" Joe asked of his partner while leaning up against the door frame as he lit a cigarette. "After all, we're goin' into a war zone soon, this may be the last time you see your home, boy."

   "Jesus, no need to be so dramatic!" George grinned as he stepped by his partner, "And could you not smoke here?" He attempted to snatch away the burning tobacco from his partner who just shoved him off laughing.

   "Don't deny and old man his simple pleasures, sonny," he laughed as he blew smoke in George's face. Moving out the door, he began to wander back to the stair well, he knew George would come up on his own.

   "Old man my ass," George commented to himself as he too left the cabin, making sure to close the door, as he wandered up the stairs to the main deck.

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

  ~May 7th, 1987

 "I remember stepping up to the railing as we had already pulled away from the pier, but there were still so many people waving and cheering after the ship, some on smaller boats that danced about the waves and foam the ship made as she warmed up her boilers and began to stretch her legs."

   "Alright, that brings us up to May 1st, the ship's departure day," Bret commented as he set down his laptop. Stretching his arms up over his back, there was a series of satisfying cracks as he placed the laptop on the nearby table and stood up. "it's a little late, and I'm hungry, let's wander down to the mess and see what's for dinner, shall we?"

   "I think that's a swell idea, how about you, Mr. Callahan?" Eugene smiled, patting his stomach lightly. The elderly man in the wheel chair at up abit, breaking his stare from the images of the wreck.

   "I think that's a fine idea, and yes, I myself am feeling a bit peckish right about now," he smiled as he managed to wheel himself out of the way of the two younger men, "Just lead the way."

   Once the three of them were down in the mess, they quickly got their respective choices in budget styled food and sat down at a table in a corner of the small mess hall. Eugene had procured for himself a french dip style sandwich and ojour sauce to dip the sandwich in should he choose to. Bret had purchased a simple turkey breast sandwich with mustard and mayo for condiments. The old man, having attained a chill in coming out onto the boat stole for himself a bowl of thick, creamy clam chowder.

   "So, Mr. Callahan," Bret started to speak again, "What did you think of sailing into hostile waters, knowing that you stood a chance of being attacked?"

   "Honestly, after the first day," the old man slurped some of the chowder from the bowl, "we all forgot about those details, Joe and I became just another passenger, the only other man who knew who we truly were was Captain Turner, and even he didn't find out until towards the end."

   "Even the captain and crew had no idea?" Bret asked, excitement in his eyes as he jotted down some quick notes on some napkins.

   "Nope, for all of us, until the end, it was just another crossing of the Atlantic," Mr. Callahan mused, slurping more chowder. "It was just 202nd crossing of the Lusitania. No one could guess at that point, it would be it's last..."

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