The sky was the grey of old flesh.
Rain fell in sheets and filled the harbour little by little. A spear of lightning lanced across the sky, cleaving the blackness in two. Not even the stars could penetrate the cloud.
Mordecai stood balanced on the top of the ship’s mast. His legs were bent at the knee and his arms were outstretched, for balance. The rain soaked through his waistcoat and linen shirt, chilling him to the bone, yet he felt alive. Around him, his father’s ships bobbed merrily in the water. Pretty to look at, but useless when unsold. The vessel atop which he stood rocked drastically, yet he did not fall. Looking down, he spied a gap between the boats, which ground against each-other in the waves. The gap was no more than a meter wide, but Mordecai was certain he could make it. Without to much as a tremor, he stood. Here, at the top of the world, he squinted through the rain around him. Arms outstretched, he leapt from the mast and plummeted through the air.
Wind rushed around him, and in the brief fall, he heard his heart beating.
He fell for three seconds, before nimbly slipping through the gap and entering the water with only the smallest of ripples.
The water closed in around him, transporting him to a weird world of muted sounds and slow movement. He didn’t linger, and already began swimming beneath the ships to the harbour wall. He held his breath all the way under, and it wasn’t long before he touched the wall. It was sharp with barnacles and seemingly smooth, yet he knew every hand and foothold; he made the journey often. Hauling himself from the water, he easily scaled the wall in a matter of seconds before reaching the top, where he lifted himself over stood.
Before him lay Isiah Shipyards. His father’s business. His part in it was small, which left him with plenty of free time. He nudged the door open to find his father.
Morgan Isiah was a shrewd, if honest man. His movements were precise, measured, and he held himself with a certain esteem. He had piercing, almost judging blue eyes and a thin mouth, which was pursed with dissatisfaction. Everything Morgan was, his son was the opposite. Morgan was thin and short, whereas Mordecai was tall and broad-shouldered. When Mordecai entered his father turned and regarded him with a mix of amusement and curiosity.
“Son, your clothes are soaking wet.” He pointed out, in way of greeting.
“Yes, but the rain would’ve done the job just as quickly.”
“You’ve been swimming in the harbour.” He said. It was not a question. Mordecai said nothing. “Why must you entertain yourself with such curious activities? If it is boredom that afflicts you I’ve no quarrel with you spending more time at the shipyard.” It was a joke, but Mordecai laughed and shook his head all the same.
“Anyway, you’ve caught me just in the nick of time. I’ve just been in a meeting with one Harvey Woodward.”
Mordecai became serious. Sir Harvey Woodward was the owner of Woodward Shipyards, the leading manufacturer of steamships. The company had been putting a lot of pressure on those belonging to his father.
“What was it about?”
“It was a ‘business proposition’.” He rolled his eyes at the last two words and punctuated them with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“He wants to buy us.” Mordecai translated.
Mordecai groaned and shook his head.
“Do not worry yourse;f with it; I have no intentions of obliging him.” He turned to face his son. “Do me a favour and deliver this to the address on the envelope.” He handed Mordecai a letter, which he almost pocketed before realising that his clothes were sodden.
“Allow me to change first.” He said. His father nodded and wandered off to another part of the shipyard.