So many pieces … so many chances for everything to fall completely apart. Before it was glimpsing creatures and taking a chance that too much of a glimpse could break momentum. Now it’s a question of pulling in seemingly disparate strands of storyline, fusing it together, and taking a crew that has known each other in some cases for years and breaking the trust they’ve built through the story.
My favorite thread to pull together began with an enigmatic statement by Elizabeth Hartt back aboard The Covenant in 1835. While staring at a swaying stern light, she comments on Peter’s panicked assertion that Third Mate Nathaniel Rawson’s course is bringing them too far west … “Into the Reach.” Elizabeth says, simply, “Where the wicked crawled to die…” It was startling. Tobias St. John, the First Mate and Elizabeth’s cousin, did not know what to make of the statement. Peter knew exactly what it meant, and, in his way, so did Captain Priam Hartt, Elizabeth’s husband. It was not unexpected when Hartt turned St. John roughly toward the door and ordered him to the helm.
But… what did it mean? It turned out that Josh Padgett, the greenhorn aboard The Case in Point told the story best…. At that point in the story, Josh and the rest of the crew know what they’re out there to face. He leans against the rail and tells Ethan the story…..
“You shouldn’t be out here by yourself, Josh,” Ethan began quietly as he turned from the weather deck ladder and crossed to the starboard side of the boat where Josh stood, looking out at San Angelo Island and smoking a cigarette. “You heard Col in there.”
“What time is it, Ethan?” Josh asked suddenly without turning around.
“It’s late,” Ethan conceded and Josh smiled as he nodded.
“Exactly. Bein’ alone or bein’ together,” Josh hesitated and smiled at the tree-covered island, “it’s late.” He gestured to a cleared area near the north side of the island with a sweep of his hand. “See that?”
Ethan squinted into the distance. “That cleared space?”
“Yeah,” Josh replied. “Know what that is?”
“No clue,” Ethan chuckled as he drew out another cigarette and lit it.
“You’re not from here,” Josh smiled.
“Skwentna,” Ethan replied as he blew a breath of smoke out to starboard. “I grew up on Talachulitna Creek,” Ethan continued. He bowed his head. “Beautiful place, Skwentna. I keep meanin’ to get back to see the folks.”
“Sorry,” Josh offered quietly. He shot Ethan a lopsided smile. “How the hell did you end up in Southeast?”
Ethan laughed around his cigarette. “I’m a bush kid, Josh,” he replied, still chuckling. “Boarding school.”
“How long did you last?”
“Three months,” Ethan replied. He pulled the cigarette from his mouth and sighed. “I was fifteen. I started hanging out on the docks, started cuttin’ classes. I was sure they were gonna ship my ass home for that.” Ethan shook his head. “I beat ‘em to the punch. I dropped out and conned my way onto a seiner–”
Josh raised an eyebrow. “Conned?”
Ethan shot Josh a conspiratorial smile. “I told ‘em I was an awesome cook. Told that skipper he’d find out just how awesome if he hired me on.”
“Nan said you can’t boil water,” Josh said quietly.
“But, I make damn good coffee, and I worked my ass off to prove I wasn’t just another slacker. That guy. He ended up likin’ me.” Ethan hesitated and took a drag on
his cigarette. “The crew hated my guts ‘cause the grub sucked that whole trip, but the skipper liked me.”
Josh smiled. “Lucky bastard.”
Ethan laughed and kicked at the deck. “Sometimes we make our own luck, Josh,” he
replied, his voice falling to a whisper.
Ethan shook it off and smiled. “So,” he said, his voice sounding lighter, “up there. What is it?”
“The Spanish were there,” Josh replied. He laughed faintly. “About a million years ago, they built a mission on San Angelo.”
“Fascinating,” Ethan muttered as he took another drag at the cigarette.
“Consecrated ground,” Josh continued.
“What? You mean like a graveyard?”
“Sorta,” Josh replied with a lopsided grin. He sighed and flicked a bit of ash over the
side. “Wanna hear the story?”
Ethan chuckled. “Does it have a happy ending?”
Josh hesitated. “No.”
“Fire away, Josh,” Ethan laughed ruefully as he leaned back against the rail beside the greenhorn.
Josh settled back against the rail and nodded toward the island. “Years ago,” he started, his voice falling lower, “the Spanish were exploring in these waters. Pretty soon, they wanted a more permanent foothold in the area, so one of the ships brought several priests along to establish a mission in the islands.” Ethan watched as Josh stabbed out his cigarette and reached into his slicker pocket for his pack.
“Shit’ll kill ya, Josh,” Ethan remarked with a grin as Josh lit another cigarette. Ethan pushed himself off the rail and flicked the remains on his cigarette over the
side. “At least you’re not using your last one to light your next.”
“Give me an hour and see how I’m doin’,” Josh smiled as he took a drag on the newly lit cigarette.
“Anyway,” Josh continued as he took the cigarette from his mouth and gestured away toward the island with it, “the idiots picked San Angelo ‘cause the Natives had told them it was the home of an unspeakable evil.” Josh hesitated. “And the holy fathers believed they could prove to the Natives that it was all superstition.” Josh looked down and kicked at the deck. “Only it wasn’t superstition. There was really somethin’ there, and when they started to build and when they started saying their Masses, they pissed it
“I can imagine,” Ethan smiled. Ethan felt his smile falter as Josh’s face remained serious.
“’Cept, it didn’t prey upon the priests. It preyed upon the people. It scattered ‘em. It over-turned canoes, it spoiled the fishing so the people went hungry.” Josh
paused. “Wáat’éex’i sáyú ch’a á wooch isxá aantkeení,” he said softly.
“It was so hard the people ate each other. It dragged men from their beds, down to the
sea to their deaths. It ate the babies from the inside out, filling them with spiders that crawled from their mouths and eyes.”
Ethan drew back, startled. “Shit, Josh,” he whispered.
“So, the people called upon GonaqAdê’t to save them.” Josh watched Ethan closely. “You know his story….”
“Yeah,” Ethan replied, not realizing how breathless his voice was until he spoke, “I know about that one.”
Josh nodded. “So he came and bound the evil again on San Angelo.
He could do that because they are … similar… But,” Josh hesitated again,
choosing his next words carefully, “the people became angry with the
priests. They believed the priests had loosed the evil intentionally. That they
were in league with the creature, that they were wicked as well.”
Ethan felt down for his cigarettes, knowing he was barely breathing as Josh’s story continued. Josh watched as Ethan lit his cigarette with a shaking hand.
“The evil had been taken away. So, in celebration, the people prepared a feast to share with the holy fathers in their mission.” Josh hesitated. “The women brought blue mussels and oysters and cockles to share with the holy fathers and their servants.”
Ethan felt his eyes close.
Josh nodded. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “Ten of them fell away dead within the hour. The other forty boarded their pulling boats and tried to flee, believing they had only been sickened by something in the food.” Josh gestured around the northern edge of the
island. “They went ‘round that way,” he said simply. “They were trying to make for another Spanish fort to the north. They believed they could make it there safely
because the people did not follow.” Josh hesitated. “They made it to The Reach.”
Josh bowed his head and took a long drag on his cigarette. “The Reach,” he repeated as he looked straight at Ethan who, startled, met his eyes, “where the wicked crawled to
Ethan and Colin have known and worked with each other since 2004–that’s six years of history they have together before the events of 2010. Mike Passarella met Ethan back in 2002 when Ethan, at the age of 15, showed up on the docks of Port Saint Anne, Alaska looking for work. Colin showed up two years later. Danny Rennick and Ethan had been friends for 4 years, and while the boys didn’t have much history with Brett Riesgraf, they were embroiled in a rivalry with him, so he wasn’t a complete unknown. Tommy Ansoategui was another one who had been on friendly terms with Colin and Ethan since about 2007. Josh Padgett was the only wildcard. At 17, his stint with The Case in Point was his first job aboard a fishing boat. Events continued to unfold, and uncertainty about Josh fueled the breakdown in the trust the crew had formed with one another.
Brett was always a skeptic. Even when he sees something horrific pull a crewmember from Antares from his grasp, he refuses to believe. When faced with the creature attacking the crew on deck after Josh pulls it aboard on a longline, he not only begins to believe it, he believes he sees evidence of it everywhere. After the loss of Jack Burnsed and Ezra Galen aboard their boat, the appearance of a liferaft gives Mike, Danny, and Brett pause for thought. When Brett and Danny pull Ezra aboard, Mike and Danny are convinced it is a miracle. Brett, however, is not so sure….
Ezra’s eyes opened slowly and took their time shifting into any kind of focus. His hands shook as they moved up toward his chest. He clasped his chest, taking the moment to convince himself that he really was breathing. He was warm. A blanket covered him. He lay on a cushioned bench. Light surrounded him. Ezra’s eyes slowly closed again and he took a breath. “Where am I?” he ventured quietly in case there was someone nearby who could answer him.
“Aboard the F/V The Case in Point,” Brett replied quietly from the bench by the main cabin’s table. He held the shotgun across his lap as he watched Ezra carefully.
Ezra turned his head, willing his eyes to focus on the speaker. “Brett?” he started
slowly. “Is that you?”
Brett gripped the stock of the shotgun tightly. “It’s me,” he said, keeping his voice low. “Who are you?”
Ezra took a shuddering breath as he raised himself up on his elbows. “It’s me, Brett, Ezra–”
Brett drew back abruptly and raised the shotgun as Ezra turned on the bench and attempted to sit up. “Stay there.”
Ezra froze. “Brett,” he said gently. Ezra took another breath. “I’m going to put my hands up,” he continued quietly, “just so you know I’m not armed.”
Brett stood up quickly and trained the shotgun on Ezra as he began to raise his arms. Ezra stopped. “You think I give a shit about guns?” Brett started harshly. “Who are
“Detective Ezra Galen,” Ezra said again, his voice still quiet and gentle.
“Bullshit,” Brett growled.
Ezra felt his heart begin to race as he stared down the barrels of the shotgun in Brett’s hands.
“Brett, Mike wanted to–” Danny stopped abruptly, his hand hesitating on the bulkhead door, his gaze switching, terrified, between Brett and Ezra. “Brett! What are you–”
“Stay back, Danny!” Brett snapped, not taking his eyes off Ezra. Brett held the shotgun steady, Ezra sat with his hands slightly raised, not willing to move lest Brett lose what little composure he had left.
“Brett—it’s Ezra,” Danny softened his voice, but his eyes were wild as he stared at Detective Galen.
“I am, Danny,” Ezra said quietly, evenly.
“Shut up!” Brett barked. Brett took a shuddering breath and steadied the shotgun against his shoulder. Ezra quickly bowed his head, still unwilling to move his hands.
“Brett, this is nuts,” Danny faltered. “Ezra. Look at him, Brett.” Danny’s voice rose slightly. “It’s Ezra, damn it!”
Brett shook his head with a jerk. “It isn’t,” he said quietly. Brett crossed the cabin quickly and pushed Ezra back with one hand before snapping the shotgun back to a readied position. “You’re not–”
Ezra stayed down. He kept his hands where Brett could see them. He made no move.
“He is,” Danny insisted. Brett turned and swung the shotgun as Danny raced back to the bulkhead intercom. He punched at it. “Mike!” Danny screamed into the intercom.
“Danny! Down!” Ezra barked as Brett took aim.
Danny dropped to the deck as Brett squeezed off a shot, hitting the intercom and sending sparks skittering across the deck. Danny raised his head tentatively. “Jesus, Brett,” he whimpered.
Brett’s eyes darkened as he turned on Ezra. “What are you?” he demanded as he pressed the shotgun’s muzzle to the side of Ezra’s neck.
“Brett!” Danny screamed.
“Danny! Don’t!” Ezra pleaded, closing his eyes against the burn of the muzzle, waiting for Brett to fire the second shot. Ezra took a series of rapid breaths. “Brett,” Ezra faltered, opening his eyes and gasping back his fear, “Jack Burnsed was my partner, I was there the night Colin and Ethan brought Revelation into Ketchikan.” Ezra’s eyes became wild, “and I know what Ethan saw in Revelation’s fo’c’sle!”
“Liar,” Brett snarled. Brett’s green eyes flashed dangerously as he drove the muzzle harder against Ezra’s neck.
“Brett! I swear!” Ezra gasped, trembling.
“Not even Colin knows what Ethan saw. How could you possibly–” Brett hesitated. Ezra was not looking at Brett, but looking past him toward the forward end of the cabin.
“Darkness,” Ezra breathed, his eyes wide with terror.