Authors: David Kowalski
david j. kowalski
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
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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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Printed and bound in the USA.
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.
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.