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Authors: David Kowalski

The Company of the Dead

the company of the dead

david j. kowalski

TITAN BOOKS

The Company of the Dead

Print edition ISBN: 9780857686664

E-book ISBN: 9780857686671

Published by Titan Books

A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

144 Southwark St, London SE1 0UP

First edition: March 2012

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

David J. Kowalski asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

© 2007, 2012 David J. Kowalski

Map copyright © 2007, 2012 Laurie Whiddon, Map Illustrations

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A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

Printed and bound in the USA.

For Lisa

Tables of Contents

Overture

I

II

III

The burial of the dead

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

A game of chess I

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

A game of chess II

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

Interlude

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

A game of chess III

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

Prelude

I

II

III

IV

A game of chess IV

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

A game of chess V

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

A game of chess VI

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

XXII

XXIII

XXIV

XXV

XXVI

XXVII

XXVIII

XXIX

XXX

XXXI

XXXII

XXXIII

XXXIV

XXXV

XXXVI

XXXVII

XXXVIII

The fire sermon

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

Death by water

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

XVII

XVIII

XIX

XX

XXI

XXII

XXIII

XXIV

XXV

XXVI

XXVII

What the thunder said

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

Coda

I

Acknowledgements

About the Author

OVERTURE

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,

Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell

And the profit and loss.

A current under sea

Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell

He passed the stages of his age and youth

Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew

O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,

Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

I
April 14, 1912
North Atlantic

Jonathan Wells stood by the starboard railing, a gaunt figure in a dinner jacket. His coat billowed gently, borne by the ocean liner’s rapid passage. His hair, thick and black, lay damp against his brow. His eyes blinked and watered in the frigid air. The strains of a Strauss waltz rose from somewhere behind him, a low, soft melody that was swiftly surrendered to the night.

I’ve entered uncharted waters
, he thought.
Hic sunt dracones. Here there be dragons
.

The magnitude of his undertaking began to dawn upon him. Tentatively he placed both hands on the ship’s rail. It was one final test of reality, one final test of faith. Cold steel retaliated with teeth of ice. He held his grip till the burn of it receded to numbness.

Two hours earlier he’d found one of the lookouts, alone on the forecastle deck.

“A cold night, isn’t it, Mr Fleet.”

“Aye, sir,” the man had responded with steady deference. “And it’s going to get colder.”

“I believe it’s your watch.”

Fleet nursed a steaming mug of coffee. He nodded between mouthfuls.

Wells withdrew a package from under his coat. “I’ve been asked by Mr Andrews to supply you with these.”

Fleet’s eyes widened at the shipbuilder’s name. Since leaving Southampton four days ago, Thomas Andrews had busied himself about the vessel, attending to minor design flaws and overseeing last-minute repairs. Wells hoped that the delivery of these binoculars would be seen as merely another example of Andrews’ attention to detail.

The crewman turned them over in his hands, studying them in admiration. The binoculars were remarkably compact and extremely light by comparison with the standard issue.

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