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The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Epilogue


August 1972, Belfast

Avoiding the busy pedestrian traffic, 26-year-old Sam Altair parked in front of the house known as Dunallon, and waited a moment to gather his nerve, reflecting back over the strange invitation he’d received. He knew who Casey Andrews was, of course. Everyone in Ireland did. The widow of Thomas Andrews, the man who brought Harland & Wolff through the twentieth century with increasingly modern sailing ships, airplanes, and eventually space shuttles. He made Ireland a force in modern industry and gave her a real presence in space. Along with her husband, Casey Andrews had been tireless advocates for a peaceful Ireland, and instrumental in bringing the warring factions together, even if they couldn’t always keep them together. They were heroes a hundred times over. But he could not imagine what her interest was in him.

Only one way to find out. He locked the car and approached the house, looking around him at the famous garden. At the door, he was greeted by a middle-aged woman who shook his hand, informing him she was Mrs. Andrews’ secretary. She guided him through the parlor and into a library at the back of the house, pausing in the doorway. “Dr. Altair is here, Ma’am.”

An old woman balanced on a cane in the center of the room, contemplating a box of books. When she saw him, her face crinkled into what could only be described as a huge grin. She limped toward him, taking his hand and studying his face intently. Sam took the time to study her in return.

He’d seen pictures of her as he was growing up, and had even seen her on a television talk show once, but he wasn’t prepared for how small she was. Her hair was white, the eyes a vivid green. She was pale and wrinkled, but dressed impeccably, and stood straight, supporting herself with the cane. He knew she was nearly ninety, and he was impressed with her bearing. He gripped her hand with care, afraid of hurting her, and bowed briefly. “Mrs. Andrews. How do you do?”

The smile widened. She shook her head as if amazed. “Incredible,” she murmured, then gestured to the divan. “Please, have a seat. Would you like some tea?”

He acquiesced, as the tea service was already in place. She poured, her hand shaking a bit. As he took his cup, she sat back in her chair and looked at him. “This will all be very strange to you, Sam,” she said, then blinked. “Excuse me, may I call you Sam? I know it seems forward, but it will make sense, shortly.”

He smiled at the old world formality and nodded, not without some confusion. “I have no objections, ma’am. I’m honored to meet you, but I don’t understand what I can do for you.”

Her eyes were bright, as if tears had formed in them. “I read your Ph.D. thesis.”

He nearly choked on the tea. “My thesis? It’s not even published, yet.”

Her smile was enigmatic. “I have connections. I understand your hypothesis predicts time travel.”

He put the cup down. “Mrs. Andrews, my work is extremely esoteric, even among physicists. What is your interest in it?”

Still that smile. “I’m going to do the same thing to you, that I did to my husband over sixty years ago. I’m going to tell you the bottom line, then we’ll go back to fill in the details. I practically had to tackle Tom to keep him in the room after I told him. I’ll beg a little more forbearance from you. I’m afraid my tackling days are over.”

He couldn’t help returning her smile, deciding she was senile and harmless. He spread his hands in submission. “Consider me glued to the chair, ma’am.”

She laughed. “I’ll remind you of your promise. You see, Sam, in the year 2006, you create an experiment in time travel, with unforeseen results. You end up moving yourself backwards through time to the year 1906. Along with a not very appreciative twenty-year-old American girl who had been attending school at Queens.”

He thought of his hypothesis and stared at her. “I know what my hypothesis predicts, but even I don’t think that’s possible, Mrs. Andrews.”

Her lips tightened and she gestured toward the boxes on the floor. “These journals are yours, Sam.” She seemed to sense his alarm and smiled briefly. “I don’t mean they were all written by you. Some of them were. Some were written by my husband, some by me. But they will be given to you, Sam. For your work.”

He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

She picked up the loose-leaf notebook on the table in front of her. It was very old, the binding cracked and torn, its pages yellow and crumbling. She made no effort to hand it to him.

“This is the first one. I had my backpack with me when we went through time, and Sam and I started keeping our notes on these pages. It was all an accident, you see. He couldn’t get us back.” She rubbed the binder, her expression sad. She looked up at him earnestly. “You must try to accept it, Sam. Try to understand. Read the journals. Sam and I kept a section for memories of our time. We wanted a record of what had happened in our history and of what our world was like in 2006. For comparison, you see.”

He shook his head again. “Comparison with what?”

“We changed things, Sam. Some changes were inevitable, just because we existed in 1906. Some things, we changed deliberately. Other changes occurred as a result of the first changes, a domino effect. You realize we had almost no control.”

“I don’t believe this.”

She didn’t respond and he continued. “We don’t know what travel backwards through time would do. Are there parallel time streams? Tangential time streams? I don’t see how we can go back to the same time stream and create a loop, but maybe that’s what happens. We just don’t know!”

She held out a hand. “You didn’t know when it happened, either. We’re pretty sure we started a tangential time stream. But we don’t know. That’s one of things you’ll have to work on. But you see,” she handed him the book; he wouldn’t have taken it, but it was too heavy for her and he didn’t want her to hurt herself, “your older self did not want you to waste time redoing his work. He wanted you to have this information so you could begin where he left off.”

He closed his eyes, hoping it would all be gone when he opened them. That didn’t work, of course. When he opened his eyes, she was watching him. “Your husband was not from the future. I know about the Andrews family. Everyone does.”

Her smile was soft. “No, he wasn’t. Tom Andrews was born in 1873. I met him in 1906. I loved him almost at once. I didn’t know who he was, but Sam did.” Her gaze was direct. “I could not have just let him die, Sam. I had to warn him about his future and Sam agreed. It’s the first time we deliberately tried to change something.”

“Are you saying he died earlier in your history? Before 1961?” Sam struggled to keep up with the changing tenses and her confusing way of calling both him and this older self she said she knew, by the same name.

She thought about it, looking at her hands for a moment, as they rested in her lap, before looking back up at him. “Read the journals. I’m not willing to actually give them to you, yet. I’d like to request that you leave them here for now, but you are welcome to spend as much time here as you wish. You can even move in, if that would help you.” She stood, her gaze piercing. “There is a foundation established to provide you with funds for this work, should you decide to pursue it. There will be rules, particularly regarding my children and their descendants. I’m not willing for them to be hurt by this. I’ll give you some time, now. Please, look them over.”

He stared at the notebook as she made her slow way to the door. His hypothesis predicted this, but it made no conjecture about the consequences. Nothing was in there about the people and the lives affected by time travel. Perhaps it was fitting that his own life was disrupted by this. He looked up to ask her a question, but she was gone, the door closed. His own hand shook a bit, as he reached to turn the cover of the book.


Thank you so much for reading SHIPBUILDER! I truly hope you enjoyed it. Let me know! I’d love to hear what you think. If you have a blog or Facebook page, please consider leaving a review. Every bit helps a struggling author.

If you liked SHIPBUILDER, please continue the adventure in BRIDGEBUILDERS, the second Time Travel Journals book.

Marlene Dotterer_TTJ bk2_BRIDGEBUILDERS smallest

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 44

Thomas Andrews, Managing Director, Harland & Wolff Shipyards
Thomas Andrews, Managing Director, Harland & Wolff Shipyards

Chapter 44

May 1915

Tom watched as George signed off on the final paper turning the Britannic over to White Star Line. She was every bit as beautiful as her sisters had been. George was confident she would perform well. Despite the Titanic tragedy, he said he was looking forward to heading the guarantee group on this voyage. Handing Tom copies of the reports, he raised an eyebrow at his friend. “Sure you don’t want to come along?” he asked, only half joking. “We could use your expertise.”

Tom laughed a little, holding up both hands as if to ward him off. “Now you know my wife would have my head if I left on that ship. Not only that, I honestly don’t want to go.” He reached over to shake George’s hand. “She’s as safe as we can make her, George. The workers are confident, but even more, I think the world is confident about that. No other ship has been watched as closely as this one has been during her construction, yet she’s going off with nearly every berth full.”

“They must think we did something right,” George agreed, “thanks to all the rule changes since the inquiry. Listen, I appreciate you looking in on Susan while I’m gone. I know you and Casey can understand her nervousness.”

“Indeed we do. We’ll have her and the children over as often as they want to come. We’ll keep her occupied.”

The “all ashore!” whistle blew and Tom gathered his papers. “Good voyage, George.”

“Thanks, mate. See you soon.”

Tom walked down the gangway, meeting Ham at the bottom and handing off the reports. Saxon joined them, as they watched the Britannic make her slow way to the river and on to Southampton, before the three of them went back to their duties. Tom sent off a telegram to Lord Pirrie, informing him the ship was off without a hitch.

Back in his office, he pulled out his time travel journal and entered the information, staring thoughtfully at the page as he finished. After a few minutes, he continued writing.

So many changes. Fourteen hundred people that died in another timeline still walk the earth, still building their dreams, because Sam and Casey chose to act. We now have shipping rules in place that reflect both the reality of the ships we build, and the dangers that nature can throw at us. World War I, as Sam and Casey call it, has been vicious, but is already contained. Sam insists the differences there are enormous. Was it because of someone on Titanic who lived instead of died?

Sam’s ‘inventions’ have begun to appear everywhere, even among the poor. His work to harness the sun’s energy is remarkable. I’m going to talk to Uncle Will about using his solar sails in the next ships we build. Sam thinks we’re ready to try that. He says if this is the primary energy source for the world, the changes from his future will be astronomical. He’s convinced it’s a good thing, and I believe him.

We are making real progress in keeping the various factions of Ireland talking to each other. Despite the effort it takes, Sam and I both want to concentrate on bringing our Ireland in this timeline to a peaceful existence, without all the bloodshed that occurred before. There are no guarantees, but ever since that letter, people have been insisting we live together in peace, and they’re voting like they mean it. I suspect we won’t be part of the UK much longer, but once again, Sam has helped with that. Ireland is the world’s technological leader, and we can deal with England from a position of strength, so breaking off will not beggar us. We can make it worthwhile for England, too.

From my point of view, these things are amazing, but I don’t see the future as changed. I am just living, with life going along as it always has, except for outside knowledge from a couple of future time travelers.

Tom smiled slightly, at the joy he always felt when thinking of one particular time traveler. His pen continued to move.

I am willing to just let life be. It’s good this way.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 43

Statue in Cobh, Ireland, representing the many Irish who left for America through Cobh port.
Statue in Cobh, Ireland, representing the many Irish who left for America through Cobh port.

Chapter 43

April–May, 1912

Subpoenas awaited the crew and guarantee group at Liverpool, and that meant traveling to London rather than the homes they had been longing for. Many passengers were suing, and the Americans had already begun an inquiry; Britain dared not lag behind. Although the ship was owned by an American company, most of the crew was British. The Wreck Commission was convened immediately, and presided over by Lord Mersey, whose first order of business was to obtain witnesses.

Captain Smith, bridge crew, Bruce Ismay, and the guarantee group, were required immediately. Lord Pirrie, already in London and still in poor health, would no doubt be required to testify at some point.

 I cannot tell you what it means to have the pictures you sent with Ham, Tom wrote to Casey, as he rode the train to London. He gave me your package right away and I have devoured it, feeling as if I am starving. The photograph is my constant companion; I must look at it a hundred times a day. To see your precious smiles, the three of you blowing kisses–Casey, how do you think of these things? How do you understand so clearly what my heart needs?

I worry that my little Terry will not remember me, that when I come home, I’ll be a stranger to her. If I am, then I will simply try every day to help her remember. When you write that she sleeps with my shirt and my picture held in her arms, I sit in wonder. How can she understand? But you say it helps her and I know you remind her always how much I love her. Do you know that you are the glue that makes the whole world stay together?

I have Jamie’s drawing in my pocket. I am a father drifting loose, but these gifts are like an anchor. I hold them and look at them often, hearing their voices and seeing them in my mind. I can picture Jamie sitting at his desk, drawing his picture, his tongue poking out as he concentrates. He is always so intense when he draws, so careful. I can tell that he actually wrote the message. I’m sure you helped him spell it, but to see the letters in his own hand makes me nearly burst. You see how silly I am? All children learn this, yet I am overcome.  

Casey, I feel so furious, so bitter. All I want is be with you, to hold you and hold our children, and to just be home. I feel that I have reached some limit, that duty no longer holds me under its sway. I am not myself, dear, and that worries me. Have I lost that part of me that holds honor as precious? Have I become selfish and shallow, feeling that I have given all I can, and having it refused, I have nothing more to offer?

I know they need answers. People died. Others lost money and valuables. Some of them lost everything they had. And I remind myself that we have accomplished only half of our goal. It is not enough that we saved most of the lives. The rules must change. People must change and learn that all our lives are precious. These hearings are a necessary part of that, and until I have finished all my part, I cannot rest. So I will set myself to get through this, to get it done and then return to Dunallon, and my heart’s desire as quickly as possible.

I beg you, continue to write. Send me all the little things you can think of. Hold me to the earth a little longer, Casey, and then I will be home and can hold you myself.

I love you,



He was in London for two weeks, and had to testify for five days. His first session lasted nearly all day, with questions about the ship’s design and construction. He had to explain nomenclature, how to read a blueprint, nautical measurements. It went on and on. And then he’d have to explain it again when someone else stepped up to question him. Tom had always been told he was a patient man, but this was beyond his capacity. Before the first day was over, he was convinced they weren’t looking for true answers. Rather, they wanted a particular answer to support their own agendas.

He wanted nothing to do with a whitewash. He did not expect Harland & Wolff to accept accusations of building an inadequate ship. At most, Lord Pirrie was guilty of short-sightedness for rejecting Tom’s own scenarios for accidents. But that was for Lord Pirrie to answer, and Tom would not let them trick him into accusations. He explained the designs, he explained how construction proceeded from the designs. In this, he had many supporters. The workforce of Harland & Wolff was held in the highest regard by the shipping industry. The commission would not be able to blame the firm for shoddy workmanship.

He was asked to explain the damage to the ship and the reasons for his prognosis. They spent several hours having him explain why he made no effort to repair the damage, but none of them seemed satisfied with his answers. What would they have wanted him to do? He couldn’t understand them by this point–he was tired and depressed with describing the injuries to his ship. Good Lord, did they actually think that he would not have done everything possible to save her? That he uncaringly let her die?

They finally let him go as they adjourned for the day, but then he had to work his way through the reporters. He had been told to not discuss the collision with them, and could only tell them he was very tired and needed to rest. This was the truth, and they let him go after a few minutes.

After Tom had testified for two days, they put Captain Smith on the stand. He testified all that day. He touched on Tom’s actions during the evening of the fourteenth, including their conversation on the boat deck, but he left out any mention of a “premonition.” Tom realized this was probably wise. Another experienced sailor might understand about premonitions and the feeling of pending disaster one could get while at sea, but this commission would not understand, and the reporters would create a sensation with it. They would never live it down.

So when they put him back on the stand and had him describe his actions that night, he also left out that part. He was relieved to do so, since he knew it was no premonition he had, but actual foreknowledge. How could he ever tell them that?

Before letting him go, in the middle of his second week there, they asked him what could have been done differently. He was desperate for good to come of this, and he spoke earnestly.

“Differently? I am on record as asking for a double hull and for higher watertight bulkheads. I fought hard for the number of lifeboats we had, and you all know that number greatly exceeded the requirements in place.

“What do we need to do differently? Sirs, we need to grow up. As industrialists, as traders, as businessmen, we need to act like adults. I have children, sirs, as do many of you. Children do not understand danger. They plunge ahead without regard for their environment because they don’t know any better. But we do know the dangers. We have no right to build bigger and bigger ships that carry more and more people, without also putting in place the protections we know are needed. We need to change the rules. We need safer ships.”

They let him go home then, although they warned him he might have to return for further questioning. The rest of the guarantee group had been allowed to leave after the first week. He booked his passage and sent a telegram to Casey telling her when he would be home. He had stayed with the Pirries of course, and his last evening in London, he shared a meal with his uncle, who was confined to bed. They had talked often during the week, and Lord Pirrie was philosophical about the commission’s possible verdict.

“I’ve no doubt they’ll put some blame on White Star and possibly myself, since we chose not to heed all of your warnings, son,” Lord Pirrie told him. “I expect that poor Captain Smith will take the brunt. But when it comes down to the finish, the real blame will rest with the Board of Trade and the shipping industry as a whole. Your final speech to them was right on mark, Tommy. Already, every line has added more lifeboats to their ships. Bruce plans on sending the Olympic and other ships back to the yard to be fitted with a second skin, and certainly the Britannic will be built with it. You’ll have to handle that, Tommy. It will be a huge job. There are other rules to be changed as well. It will all happen, son. I’m sure of it.”

“It’s a start, Uncle Will.” Tom moved his uncle’s empty tray to the bedside table and stretched the kinks out of his back.

His uncle watched him with concern. Tom seemed to look much older than his thirty-nine years. Lines etched his mouth, the skin around his eyes was puffy and drooping, new gray speckled his hair. He was subdued, somehow, as if the joy he usually carried with him had been misplaced. Perhaps he just needed more time to put this all behind him. It would do him good to get home, too.

Lord Pirrie reached for Tom’s hand and patted it. “There’s a lot to do, lad, but take some time when you get home. I imagine your wife has been through hell these last few weeks. She’s a good girl, Tommy. Take care of her for awhile.”

Tom’s soft smile touched his eyes as he returned the hand pat. “I’ll do that, Uncle Will. You follow your doctor’s orders and get better, all right? I’ll take care of things at the yard.”

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 42

Wreaths for the memorial ceremony on board Balmoral, April 2012. The wreaths were tossed into the ocean above the site at the time of Titanic's sinking, one hundred years later.
Wreaths for the memorial ceremony on board Balmoral, April 2012. The wreaths were tossed into the ocean above the site at the time of Titanic’s sinking, one hundred years later.

Chapter 42

April 15, 1912

As dawn lit the sky, the Virginian came over the horizon. Captain Rostron gave way for them to finish picking up the people in lifeboats. By eight, the Californian arrived, having spent some hours working her way around the ice field in which she had stopped the night before.

Baltic came in as they were loading the last of the passengers. Since the Baltic was heading to Liverpool, her captain offered to take Titanic’s crew on board. Most of them took advantage of this, especially since the White Star Line stopped paying them the moment their ship sank. The guarantee group was also welcome, and Tom sent them over with Bruce Ismay.

As Carpathia, Californian, and Virginian steamed away toward New York, Baltic remained, her only Titanic passengers consisting of the crew, the guarantee group, Captain Smith, and Bruce Ismay.

They had begun to pick up the bodies.

Baltic‘s doctor was adamant that they could not handle too many bodies. The ship was over-full with passengers and Titanic crew, and he didn’t have the space or equipment to properly store so many dead. Tom, unable to forget the sight of people falling out of the boat, could not bear the idea of deserting them to the lonely Atlantic. Finally, Baltic‘s captain brought them news that the Mount Temple was on her way. Captain Moore had promised to pick up as many bodies as possible and transport them to New York. It was hoped most of the dead would have relatives there to claim them.

While they were discussing this, Ismay sent two telegrams, one to J.P. Morgan in New York, the other, at Tom’s request, to Lord Pirrie in London, letting him know what had happened, that the guarantee group was alive and well, and they were on Baltic, en route to Liverpool.

Once these details were finished, Tom, with slow and heavy steps, descended to the room they had found for him. It was little more than a broom closet, but it had a cot and was reasonably warm. He sat wearily on the cot, almost too exhausted to move further. After a few minutes, he undressed enough to justify getting into bed and slipped under the blanket. It was nearly two-thirty in the afternoon of April fifteenth. The plans and hope and dread of the last five years were finally coming to an end. In some alternate reality, he was dead twelve hours, the ship at rest in her grave on the ocean floor. It had happened sometime, somewhere, or Casey would not have been able to let him know.


Belfast was in shock.

The news that came through on Monday was sporadic and contradictory. People gathered in groups, in pubs and street corners or offices, discussing the latest bit of information. At Harland & Wolff, work continued, but slowly, as if each man was working with one ear cocked toward the main offices, waiting for news. They had sent their beautiful ship into the world as perfect as they could make her. Their strength and skill, indeed the very blood and lives of some of them, had gone into her. With every breath, they waited to learn her fate and the fate of their mates.

“Bring ‘er home,” they said to each other in low murmurs whenever they stopped work to give vent to their sorrow. “Just bring ‘er home and we’ll fix ‘er. She’ll be all right.”

At Dunallon, and at all the homes of the guarantee group, relatives waited, hearts soaring with hope and dread with each piece of indefinite news. When would they know for sure?

The businesses of Belfast had closed and people had returned to their homes, or gathered in pubs or churches, when a telegram arrived from Lady Pirrie. The telegraph office had stayed open and reporters waited there for each notice. Willie Andrews had stayed as well, taking this duty to himself, with young Jack at his side to run messages back to Dunallon.

Lady Pirrie’s message passed on the news from Bruce Ismay and thus constituted the first official notice they had received. At its news, the reporters raced to put out a special edition, some writing notices that would make the rounds of pubs and churches. Jack and Willie both raced for Dunallon, a hastily written copy in Willie’s hand.

Willie’s copy contained a private postscript from Lady Pirrie, and he and Jack burst into Dunallon, shouting to all, “He’s all right! He’s all right!”

Casey, still holding her mother-in-law’s hand, nearly fainted as relief made her heart first skip, and then begin racing. She covered her face with her hands, letting those three words echo over and over in her mind. Despite all the anxious relatives around her, it was Sam who got to her first, sobbing as he held her, at last able to let go of the dread he’d kept to himself for five years.

They stood, surrounded by Tom’s family, as Willie quietly read the message:

Deeply regret advise you Titanic sunk this morning fifteenth after collision iceberg resulting in loss life. Further particulars later. All Guarantee Group alive returning Baltic.

Bruce Ismay

Personal to Andrews, Belfast: No word from Tommy but all GG alive and returning. Hope to know more soon. All our prayers.

M. Pirrie


The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 41

Taken from the deck of the cruise ship, Balmoral, over the site of Titanic's sinking, April 14, 2012.
Taken from the deck of the cruise ship, Balmoral, over the site of Titanic’s sinking, April 14, 2012.

Chapter 41

15 April 1912

Titanic, 12:08 a.m.

Captain Smith ordered all hands on deck and assigned Chief Officer Wilde to see to the lifeboats. He sent crew to wake all passengers, tell them to dress warmly, put on their life belts and where to wait. Blankets were collected. Tom offered the help of the guarantee group. His electrician, Billy Parr, was already below, but the others could help with the lifeboats and in assembling passengers. Captain Smith agreed.

Tom took immediate action. This scenario had been discussed at length with Sam and Casey over the years, and he already knew what he wanted the guarantee group to do. “There was chaos in third class,” Sam had told them when they first discussed it a few years ago while sitting in the garden. “No one gave them instructions, and they all just waited below until it was too late. Those who tried to find the lifeboats got lost because they didn’t know their way around the ship. A lot of them didn’t speak English, and there were no translators.”

Tom knew that some stokers had probably died when the iceberg hit. He was determined to not lose another soul to this disaster. That meant taking charge of third class. He gathered the guarantee group and gave them instructions.

“Billy is staying below to help the electricians keep the lights on and the pumps working. I need the rest of you to help out with organizing people. There are about seven hundred third class passengers, and they’ve been down in steerage the whole time. They’ll not have any idea of where to go in order to find the lifeboats. I want each of you to get down there and help organize those people and bring them in groups to the boat deck. It might be helpful to locate a few capable third class men to help you with this. They’ll respond best to each other. Work with the crew that’s down there, but don’t let them tell you those people can’t come up here or can’t go through first class areas.”

“One other thing,” Tom looked for Artie Frost and pointed at him, “A lot of those people will not speak English. Artie, this’ll be like when we work with the deaf people at Mission Hall. You know how to do that. Yelling louder at them in English won’t get your message across, right?”

Most of the group laughed at this, but Artie nodded; he knew what Tom meant. “I think you can figure out how to communicate with them, so I’m leaving that up to you. All of you,” Tom looked around at them, “make sure they all have their life belts and warm clothes. We only have about three hours to get everyone off, so move those people up here.”

The group took off for their assignment and Tom turned to the boat deck. The crew was working in teams to unhinge the lifeboats and swing them out. Tom went from team to team, racing from port to starboard, showing them the best method for working the davits. As he worked, he felt his mind narrowing to a focus: get everyone through it. Don’t stop, don’t hesitate. You know what needs to be done, Tom. Just do it.

At 12:20, when no people were queuing up for the boats, he stopped and looked around. Spying Lightoller releasing another boat from its davit, he stepped to his side and jostled his elbow. “Where are the passengers? Why aren’t they loading into the first boats?”

When he answered, Lightoller’s tone was high and frustrated as he kicked the davit loose. “Cap’n hasn’t given the order to load ’em, yet.” At Tom’s astonished expression, he continued defensively, “He only ordered the boats swung out. Said to wait for his order to load the passengers.”

“Hell and blast!” Leaving Lightoller to his task, Tom dashed for the bridge, but spied the captain near the bow, looking into the darkness. “Captain!” he called as he turned that way, but the man did not respond. Tom called again as he reached his side and slowly Captain Smith turned his head, taking several moments to recognize Tom. Oh, this is wonderful, Tom thought, exasperated. He’s in shock. Sam never said anything about that. “Sir, most of the first boats are ready. Shouldn’t we begin loading the passengers?”

It seemed an eternity before Smith nodded. “Quite right,” he answered, his voice sounding dead. He turned to Murdoch, standing behind Tom. “Give the order, Mr. Murdoch. People must load up.”

Murdoch exchanged one brief, frustrated glance with Tom as he turned to shout out the order. Tom headed through the first class entrance and into the fray of passengers milling around and on the grand staircase, and below in the promenades and dining rooms. Lifting his arms and raising his voice just slightly, he got the attention of most of the nearby people.

He spoke forcefully, but calmly. “Captain Smith has ordered all passengers to load into the lifeboats. Please begin queuing up immediately on the boat deck. Ship’s crew will direct you to your boat. Wear your coats and lifebelts and move with expedience. There are many people to load up.”

Instead of following his orders, they began peppering him with questions. What had happened? The ship was not going to sink, was it? Wasn’t it true that this ship was unsinkable?

Murdoch entered and repeated the captain’s order, ignoring their inquiries as he moved through the crowd. Tom followed his example and stopped answering questions. He moved quickly through the crowd, instructing them to load onto a boat, and moving on.

He realized his mistake when a waiter impeded his progress. “Would you care for a drink, Sir?”

Tom turned to stare in astonishment at the proffered tray of wine and champagne. He noticed another waiter with a tray of canapés and he turned in a bewildered circle, seeing the chatting groups, the orchestra playing jauntily, the fur coats and sparkling jewelry. He turned to answer the patient waiter.

“You are a member of this crew. Put these drinks down, put on your lifebelt, and report to a lifeboat. Encourage everyone you see to do the same. The Captain has given the order.”

The waiter nodded. “Aye, Mr. Andrews. I know. But it’s cold outside and people want to be comfortable while they wait their turn to load.”

“Comf…” Tom stopped. Sam and Casey had mentioned this. I always thought they were exaggerating. Trying to show me the excesses of this time.

He shook his head and moved to the starboard exit. He grabbed a crew member. “Put your lifebelt on, now. I need you to help me.”

The skinny boy nodded and fumbled with the belt in his hand. While he was doing that, Tom turned and tucked a hand under the elbow of a lady he recognized as Mrs. Appleton. She had come aboard at Southampton.

“Madam, please put on your lifebelt and follow this crewman to a lifeboat. I see your sisters are here as well. All of you, move smartly, please. We have many people to load.”

“Surely, this ship will not actually sink, Mr. Andrews.”

“We certainly hope not, madam. But the Captain refuses to take chances with the lives of the passengers and crew. Hurry now.”

He saw them out, instructing the young boy who was still buckling his lifebelt, “See them into a boat and return for more passengers. Move sharp.”

He repeated this scene, starting with those closest to the exit and slowly widening his circle. Murdoch had moved to the boat deck and was supervising the loading of portside boats. Everywhere Tom saw a crew member, he put them to work guiding passengers outside.

He stopped when he came upon John Astor for the second time. “Sir, I thought you already got into a boat. Where is your wife?”

Astor bit his lip and stood straight. “Women and children first, Mr. Andrews. I asked to go with my wife, as she is in a delicate condition, but the officers are not loading men at this time.”

Blast. He’d forgotten about that. He dashed to the starboard boat deck and found Lightoller. “Listen, I know it goes against the grain, but don’t turn men away. We don’t have time. Make sure every boat is loaded to the full. They’ll be warmer, too and there will be more people to help with rowing.”

Lightoller looked doubtful and Tom shook his arm. “I’m serious, man. Fill those boats up! We’re getting people out here as quickly as we can. Get them into boats! Don’t send any away less than full.”

He raced portside and gave Murdoch the same speech. Murdoch was more receptive. “Aye, I’m trying to load women and children first, but if they’re not here, I’m putting men in.” He hesitated, but went on. “The boats haven’t been completely full. We’re worried about the weight.”

“Nonsense!” Tom blew his breath out in frustration. “These boats have been tested for up to seventy men in weight! Fill them up!”

Damn, he thought as he turned away. How could I forget they’d do that? What else am I forgetting?

Back inside, he ushered Mr. Astor out again and reminded every crew member he saw to tell the men to load up along with the women and children. “We have time to get everyone off this ship. But we can’t be sloppy about it.”

He stopped in despair when he spied a group of ladies, lifebelts tied snugly around their warm coats, standing near the orchestra. What in thunder is going on now? “Ladies, I thought you were in line for boats. Why are you back inside?”

Miss Elizabeth Eustis, a handsome spinster traveling with her sister, placed a flirtatious hand on his arm. “Oh, Mr. Andrews, don’t be angry with us, sir. But it’s so cold outside. We thought it better to wait in here and listen to the music.”

An idea struck him and he reached for the first violinist, interrupting his playing. “Mr. Hartley. May I have your assistance?”

The orchestra had stumbled to a stop at Tom’s interruption and Mr. Hartley did not look happy. But he remained polite. “Certainly, Mr. Andrews. What can I do for you?”

“Do you have your coats and lifebelts?”

Hartley gestured behind the stage. “Aye, we do.”

“All of you, put them on and come with me.”

“What?” Hartley began to sputter. “Where? We’re needed here.”

“No, sir.” Tom said. “I need you in a lifeboat. You can play once you’re on the water. It will help immensely with getting these people to load up. I’m afraid that by playing, you are slowing things down considerably.”

There were protests from the bystanders and Hartley considered Tom as if he’d grown a second head, but he put his instrument down and reached for his coat. The rest of the orchestra followed his example. Tom helped them with the belts, pushed their instruments into their hands and guided them starboard.

“Mr. Lightoller. May I ask for your sufferance for one thing? Please load these gentlemen into this boat and send it out straightaway. We’ll sacrifice space, just this once.”

Lightoller waved the orchestra into the half-filled boat, shaking his head at Tom. “Mr. Andrews, you are crazier than a fox in a henhouse. But if it will keep you happy…”

Tom turned his head back to see several more people crowding onto the deck after the orchestra and glanced at Lightoller with a grin. “Didn’t Handel write “Water Music” for the King of England, to be played on the Thames? We’ll have our own version.”

Hartley heard him and sputtered in laughter. “All right, Mr. Andrews. The first request is for Water Music. As soon as we’re down, I promise.”

The crowd waiting to load began to laugh, and the word got around: if they wanted to hear the music, they needed to get into boats.

With the party atmosphere subdued, loading began to move more efficiently. By 1:10, just one-and-a-half hours after the collision, they had launched twelve boats. A good number of people waited near their assigned spaces, and others stood ready to take their places once they were loaded. The guarantee group were coming and going at a steady clip, bringing thirty or forty third-class passengers as far as the first class promenade on A deck. From there, they could easily reach the boat deck and were loading onto boats as efficiently as first- and second-class passengers.

Tom had a chuckle seeing Roderick Chisholm, his chief draftsman, guiding a group from third class with a small girl sitting snugly on his shoulders. She couldn’t have been more than two, but she was looking around in a serious manner as Rod approached Tom. “Her parents are lost,” Chisholm informed him. “Don’t think they speak English. You haven’t noticed any frantic people looking for a child, have you?” Tom couldn’t say that he had, and Chisholm nodded briefly. “Well, I’ll head back down for another group. She’s got a good perch and she’ll spot them right enough. Doubt they got on a boat without her.” He headed off then, with the child clutching to what little hair he had, chatting a blue streak to her about keeping an eye out for her wayward parents. As Rod was approaching the stairs, the child suddenly spotted her parents, and with a shouted “Maman!” used Rod’s head as a launching pad to jump into the arms of her frantic mother. Tom treasured the moment.


The list of the ship was getting worse.

As the pumps began to lose their battle with the seawater, the ship leaned more and more to starboard, making it harder and more dangerous to lower the boats on that side. Tom went below to see what was happening, stopping in waist-deep water at D Deck. He rested his head against the cold metal of the ladder, his body heavy with despair and fatigue. He felt the ship’s pain, heard her groans and creaks as she fought against the pressure of water where no water had a right to be.

A yell of anguish escaped him as he clung to the ladder. “I’m sorry,” he told her. “I knew the danger and I built you anyway. I wanted you to live. I’m so sorry…” He hugged the ladder, trying to give her his strength. She would need all the spirit he had built into her to accomplish her task.

I’m trying, he heard the ship tell him. I hurt all over, but I’m trying. I’ll float as long as I can. With a deep breath, he accepted her sacrifice, vowing to help her as much as possible. He went up and over to amidships, then back down to check on the engineers.

Engineering wasn’t flooded yet, but they were working in a couple of feet of water, laboring to keep the machines running and the lights on. He gave the chief engineer a quick report of conditions topside and in the bulkheads. Tom did not need to ask the question he most wanted an answer to.

“We’ll work as long as you need us to, Mr. Andrews,” Joseph Bell told him. “Just give us a shout when everyone is off, and we’ll head to a boat.”

Tom nodded in thanks, took a moment to clap an encouraging hand on Billy Parr’s shoulder—he was more proud than he could say of his guarantee group—and headed topside.

On the starboard boat deck, Mr. Murdoch continued to load people into a boat, but he paused to confer with Tom as he came over, dripping wet and shivering, from his excursion below.

“Finish the boats you’ve started, but it’s getting too dangerous to keep working from this side,” Tom suggested in a low voice. “We should start sending the others to port. Those boats will have to do.”

Murdoch nodded, touching Tom lightly on the shoulder in reassurance. “We only have about twenty-two hundred souls, Mr. Andrews. We won’t need all the boats, as it is.”

There was a sudden lurch as the ship dropped an abrupt few inches toward the bow. Tom instinctively grabbed a rope, watching in horror as a wave washed several feet up the deck, sweeping people off their feet. Some went overboard and he cried out in futile protest. But the real horror was much closer.

He heard Murdoch shout, “Christ!” and turned to the lifeboat, which had begun to rock in great arcs, passengers screaming in terror. Murdoch was shouting orders to the seamen working at the swinging ropes. Tom quickly tried to take the passengers in hand, hoping to calm them. Several stood up, or made as if to jump back to Titanic, and over Tom’s frantic shouts, a few determined fools began to push their way through the crowd on the boat. There was not even time to think: the boat tipped precariously, and three people on the edge fell out. Even over all the noise, Tom heard the crack of a woman’s head against the ship’s railing as all three fell into the water.

Complete chaos engulfed the passengers as every person in the boat attempted to jump out. A few made it, grabbing the railing and hanging on. But most didn’t make it, as the boat turned almost completely over, spilling its cargo into the cold darkness below.

Murdoch was weeping in great gasps as the survivors were helped back on board and he turned to Tom, grasping handfuls of Tom’s life-belt in his fists. “What was that?” he screamed, his face contorted. “Why did the ship fall like that?”

Dear God, the coal fire. The weakened bulkhead. Tom stared at Murdoch, silent with grief and guilt. But Murdoch didn’t seem to want an answer, anyway. He let go of Tom as suddenly as he’d grabbed him and straightened solemnly, his face stern and calm. “Mr. Andrews, take the remaining passengers portside and help them into boats. We can do no more on this side.”

Too numb to think or respond, Tom just nodded and turned to the cowed group of passengers crying and shaking as they leaned against the wall. He gestured toward the door. “All of you, we’ll go portside. It’s safer to use the boats over there.”

He moved them inside. The quickest way was down one level and over through the writing room, and as he guided the shocked group through the ship, he told everyone he saw, “Go portside. Starboard boats cannot be used. Go portside.”

How many people are left? Tom thought in despair, as his crowd of frightened passengers joined the throng still waiting portside. A quick glance at his watch told him it was three o’clock. An hour and ten minutes longer than they had lived before. But still an hour before Carpathia arrived. Would they make it?


At 3:30, an excited murmur spread through the crowd on deck, and out to the evacuees in lifeboats. People were pointing off into the darkness and for a short time, all activity ceased as everyone turned at the shout, “It’s Carpathia!” As they watched, the indiscriminate flickers of light far in the distance turned into larger, brighter, steadier lights. Final certainty came when the far away ship sent up a rocket and a full cheer went up from every person on deck, and in the boats at sea.

On Carpathia, the cheer reached them faintly, but there was no mistaking what it was. Captain Rostron exchanged a grin with his chief officer and went to have a word with the wireless operator.

Harold Cottam had been nearly non-stop on the wireless with Titanic and other rescue ships. He had to be exhausted, but Rostron needed further information. “It’s still dark and we don’t want to run over any lifeboats. Find out where the boats are in relation to Titanic. Tell them to make sure the boats stay on the other side of the ship from us. We’re slowing down, but we should reach them in about fifteen minutes. We’ll approach from the south and stop just west of the ship. We’ll start loading from the boats as soon as we stop.”

Cottam nodded, writing furiously, but Rostron’s hand on his shoulder made him look up. “You all right, kid? Need anything?”

A rueful grin tugged at Cottom’s mouth. “Coffee, sir. And maybe a big piece of chocolate cake.”

Laughing, Rostron tipped his hat and promised to send it right down. He did, too.

Dunallon, 9:00 a.m.

They all came to Dunallon: Tom’s parents, brothers, sister-in-law, all the children, and a few extra servants who came along to help the Dunallon staff. The usually boisterous crowd was quiet, gathered in the garden shade, watching children play. Talk was subdued: even the younger children seemed to catch the mood.

Casey held her mother-in-law’s hand as if it were a personal lifeline. Her face was nearly bloodless as she stared at something only she could see. Sam stayed near her, partly afraid she would say something that would require some damage control, but mostly concerned for her well-being. He was truly afraid, if the news was bad, that she would simply die.

The day crawled by. People moved in and out of the house as the weather warmed up, but Casey stayed among her flowers, and Mrs. Andrews stayed with her. Tom’s brothers took shifts at the telegraph office, unwilling to wait for news to filter down to them through the shipyard. Around eleven, James came in to say a telegraph had been received from Carpathia, stating they had reached the Titanic and were in the midst of rescue. The Baltic, Olympic, and Virginian were on their way, as well. The original message had been sent from Carpathia to New York about three hours ago. There were no details, but with word that the ship still floated, a little color returned to Casey’s face. She and Sam exchanged a glance. In their past, the ship was gone by the time the Carpathia arrived. Something they had done was working.

Titanic, 4:00 a.m.

They continued to work steadily, loading people onto the boats, lowering the boats, starting again with the next batch of people. By four o’clock, Carpathia was nearby, taking people from the lifeboats. Once water had reached the long hallway they called Scotland Road, it had begun to fill the port side, which had more open space to hold the water. This had straightened the list to starboard, but was now creating a list to port. She would not be able to right herself this time. The bow was completely submerged. Water had been pouring over the tops of the watertight bulkheads for thirty minutes. She would fill quickly, now. Tom thought they still had about a hundred people to get off.

Those still aboard had to hang on and pull themselves up the incline of the deck. As the boat tilted further, Tom slipped, and along with about thirty others, fell in a heap to the deck. He slid toward the water, desperately grabbing for rails or ropes. The deck burned his hands and ripped his nails as he tried to stop his slide. When he entered water, still on the ship, he made a desperate lunge and found a rail, stretching his body lengthwise to try and catch the others. Some slid past, landing against submerged rails, a few continued further and he could no longer see them. Bruised and aching, Tom began pushing people back, urging all of them upright again.

Looking down, trying to see those who had fallen further, Tom spied a couple of empty boats heading for them. One boat stopped to pick up the people who had fallen and Tom turned to his group.

“Go down! Hang on and go into the water. There are empty boats from Carpathia.”

They obeyed, too frightened to argue. Tom helped them past, watching until the sailors had them in hand, pulling them into the boats. Then he turned, shivering violently, and made his way back up, looking for people to help.

He stopped when the electricity flickered. The next moment, the ship plunged into darkness. Screams pierced the night, as those still on board panicked in the dark. They were practically at water level, and the remaining mob began jumping for the lifeboats floating at the ship’s side. A few men kept their heads and began cutting the ropes to free the boats. Tom added his shouts to the chaos, trying to encourage the people to help each other into the boats.

As the last few people climbed in, Tom looked around. Was everyone off? He and Captain Smith, along with Lightoller, made one more round of all the areas they could reach, wanting to make sure. Titanic was submerged to amidships now and the rate of sinking had increased so much, Tom could no longer estimate it. Wet and shivering, sick with sorrow, Tom hurried up and down ladders in the eerie darkness. Carpathia was shining lights on them and in the sporadic flashes, he splashed through water nearly to his chest, checking nearby staterooms, lavatories and sitting areas, calling out and listening for human voices. Through it all, his hands were constantly on his ship, touching her, offering comfort. He heard only sloshing water and the deep groans of fatigued metal and wood. Titanic was dying. He was saying good-bye.

Satisfied there was no one left, they agreed to abandon ship. They began to enter the freezing water, one by one, to swim toward Carpathia, several yards away. Tom and Captain Smith shared a brief look. With a twitch of his eyebrows, Tom acknowledged Smith’s final claim as Master of the Ship, and with grief filling him, he left his ship to her fate.

He was already wet and cold, but the freezing water stabbed every part of his body, even under the lifebelt, as if a million needles had fallen on him. He swam as hard as he could, forcing his exhaustion and grief to wait. Only his promise to Casey, that he would do everything in his power to live, kept him moving toward Carpathia. It would have been so much easier just to die.

After he reached Carpathia, after they helped him up the ladder and hauled him onboard, after he gave them his name and place of residence, after they gave him a blanket, Tom refused to go below. Shaking furiously with cold and shock, he turned, leaned against the rail, and watched his ship. As if in a dream, he heard a steward suggest again that he go to the saloon for hot soup and dry clothes, but was vaguely aware that someone shushed the steward, explaining who he was. He ignored it all. He just watched her, wanting her to know that she would not die forsaken.

Her death throes soon claimed the attention of everyone on deck and those still at sea in lifeboats. She was at an ungodly angle, her stern high against the stars. They had begun to move away but they were still so close, Tom almost could reach out and touch her. She began to groan, an unfathomable sound from deep within her, soon joined by the creaking and shriek of wood and metal. They watched, Tom with the dread of foreknowledge, the others astonished, as she began to break apart, right in the middle.

He had heard about it from Sam and Casey. He had seen Sam’s drawings of it. But nothing could prepare him for the horror and majesty of the actual sight. Although it was underwater and dark, he knew when the bow broke away, not quickly, but gradually breaking free, as the stern slowly settled back into the water. Tom’s breath came in short gasps of silent weeping at the indecent sight of the open stern, filling again with water.

It took just a few moments. As he watched, with one hand unconsciously reaching for her, what was left of Titanic faced downward, and slipped beneath the sea.

Part of display on Balmoral during the Titanic Memorial Cruise, April 2012.
Part of display on Balmoral during the Titanic Memorial Cruise, April 2012.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 40

Titanic Memorial in Southampton, England
Titanic Memorial in Southampton, England

Chapter 40

14 April 1912

Titanic –North Atlantic

At 9:30 p.m., Tom made his way to the wireless room. As Casey and Sam had described, Jack Phillips and his assistant, Harold Bride, were swamped with messages to transmit. Phillips was polite, but short. The wireless had been broken, he’d just gotten it repaired, and he had a hundred messages to send out. If Mr. Andrews had a message to send, it would not be going out until morning. Tom assured him that he was only checking on things. On his way out he paused next to the box marked “Bridge.” There were several slips of paper in there, and he felt a chill that went through his entire body as Casey’s voice echoed in his head.

“The wireless operators had several ice warnings that they just never turned over to the captain. They were too busy…”

He turned to Harold Bride, his hand hovering over the box. “I’m on my way to the bridge. How ’bout I take these for you?”

Harold’s eyes flicked briefly over and he shrugged. “Sure, that’d be great. Just ice warnings. Nothing the Cap’n doesn’t know.”

Tom was gone in an instant, notes in hand, quickly flipping through them. Only four were about ice, with latitude and longitude given for berg sightings, including descriptions of a large ice field.

He put these together with the three warnings Captain Smith had received earlier, struggling with the idea of approaching the captain. He was enough of a seaman to understand the inviolability of the captain’s position. I’m not even a member of the crew. I have no right to offer unsolicited advice.

But with seven warnings, just today, and several others since Friday, could he suggest that the Captain at least slow down? Could he convince him to change course further south?

He had to do something. He was at the bridge, the captain and officers working efficiently inside. Tom shivered. Lord, it was cold, tonight! No wonder, as Casey had said, the passengers had not wanted to wait on deck or get into lifeboats. He entered the bridge, returning a nod from Second Officer Lightoller, and waited for the captain to finish his log entry before approaching him.

Captain Smith was happy to see him. “Tommy, my lad! Wonderful bread the baker prepared for you, tonight. Thank you for sharing.”

“Oh my pleasure, Captain. Wouldn’t do to eat it all myself, you know.” They both laughed. “I still have work to do tonight and I’m hoping to get a letter finished to my parents. You know my father is poorly, these days. I’m anxious to get to New York and hear some news.” He held out the wireless slips. “I was just in the wireless room. Poor lads are earning their keep tonight. I told them I’d bring these along with me to the bridge.”

He held his breath as Captain Smith looked through the notes. The captain shook his head, lips pursed, as he turned to beckon Lightoller to join them. “More ice warnings. Have Mr. Murdoch calculate our position relative to these sightings. Maintain course and speed, but keep a sharp watch; sounds likes there’s a large ice field ahead. I’ll be off duty. If it becomes at all doubtful, let me know at once.”

He turned to Tom. “Thank you for bringing these by, Tom. We don’t want to take too many chances, do we? These warnings almost never pan out, of course, but we’ll keep an eye out. We’ve changed course a bit farther south to avoid most of the ice, but we want to keep to our schedule, if possible.”

That’s what you did before! Tom tightened his lips against the outburst. “The ice is further south than I’ve ever seen it, this early in the year,” he said. “It won’t be such a bad thing if we have to change course further.”

Smith nodded. “We’ll see what Murdoch says when he’s checked our position. ‘Night, Tom. ‘Night, all.” He left the bridge, leaving Lightoller to follow the last set of orders.

Frustrated, Tom left as well, glancing at his watch. 9:50 p.m. Nothing new had been done, even with personally handing Smith the warnings. Sam had already told him about the course change. They needed to go further south, or better yet, stop for the night. He faltered for a moment before the enclosed promenade, looking hard at the ocean. Where was that berg? What about others? Sam had said there were several out there. He moved forward to the crow’s nest and called a greeting.

“Ho, there! All clear, then?”

The lookout responded laconically. “All clear, Mr. Andrews! Cold night, eh?”

“Bracing’s, what I’d call it!” At their laughter, Tom reached into his pocket. “You lads have your binoculars?” he asked. “I have an extra pair here, if you need ‘em.”

They conferred, then answered, “Why, that’d be great, Mr. Andrews. We seem to ‘ave misplaced ours.”

Tom made his way up the ladder and handed over the pair. “You know about the ice warnings the captain’s received. Seems we’re approaching an ice field and he’d like to avoid it. Keep sharp, lads!”

“Aye,” they answered. “Thanks for the touch-up, sir.”

He left the nest and paused once more on the deck. The chill in his bones had nothing to do with the temperature. What else could he do? His half-baked idea to sabotage the engines came back to him, but he had to keep in mind Sam’s doubts about that. They needed to be able to maneuver the ship.

He could wait a while before deciding. Best wait and see what happened once Murdoch had figured their position and, hopefully, noticed they were surrounded by ice. He’d wander back up to the bridge about 10:30 p.m. and see what was up.


 Dunallon–2:00 a.m.

Casey sat in bed, fully dressed, and stared at the clock. With the four-hour time difference, it was ten p.m. on the Titanic. Every bit of her soul longed for a telegram from Tom, or better yet, a phone call. If she could hear his voice again…

Neither of those would happen, of course. Even if Tom sent a telegram, it would not be delivered until morning, and phone calls were impossible. If she wished hard enough, could she put herself on Titanic and see what he saw? Could she be there to help?

She slowly rocked herself, back and forth, face resting on her bent knees. His name filled her mind, her body tense with the desire to have him safe. The minutes ticked by.

Titanic—10:30 p.m.

Wrapped up tight against the cold, Tom moved out to the Boat Deck and over to port. The night was still pitch black, the sea still calm. The only wind came from the movement of the ship as she raced through the water, her engines thrumming evenly. Looking over the rail, he could hardly hear the water splashing against the hull, far below.

He hailed the lookouts. One waved, the other was looking through the ‘nocs as the ship moved ahead. He turned to stare at the lifeboats, his mind rehearsing the steps to follow to most efficiently release them.

He realized what he was doing and closed his eyes. Dear Lord, I’m acting as if it’s actually going to happen. I’ve got to stop it from happening, not just give up!

After a minute, he walked to the bridge.

First Officer Murdoch and Sixth Officer Moody were discussing their position when Tom entered. Both were surprised to see him, but greeted him cordially enough. “You’re wandering around late, sir,” was Murdoch’s casual inquiry.

“Aye,” Tom said, “just checking on a few things.” He looked curiously at the map. “Looks like you’ve found some ice?” he asked them, noting himself that the pin marking the ship was indeed surrounded by areas marked as icebergs.

They nodded and Murdoch answered. “At least according to the messages. Some of those are a couple of days old, of course. We’ve no accurate measurements.”

Tom shook his head in dismay, but tried to keep his voice light and easy. “You know, I’ve built you a good ship, gentlemen. But she will no’ appreciate a rubbing from a berg.”

They agreed, laughing a little. Then, as Tom continued to stare at them, Murdoch cleared his throat. “Cap’n said to let him know if we had any doubts. Hate to wake him, but he’ll be interested in our position.”

Tom nodded, not taking his eyes from Murdoch. It took all his willpower to not demand he get the captain immediately. Murdoch exchanged an uncomfortable look with Moody as he went to rouse the captain. Tom checked the time. 10:40 p.m. One hour to go. One hour!

Knowing he had no real right to be on the bridge, Tom moved outside and over to the railing. Give Smith time to check things. He can’t miss those bergs marked on the map!

At nearly 11:00, he felt a presence beside him and looked up into Captain Smith’s frown. “Jitters, Tommy?” Smith asked quietly.


Captain Smith looked away, out into the darkness, and considered his words. “You know sailing, Tom. I know you understand the risks we take, the fine line between caution and cowardice.” He looked back at Tom. “It’s a good crew we have, in the bridge and in the nest. They know their jobs. I’ve been at sea a long time, you know. Long before these wireless messages came along to add confusion to what should be straightforward decisions. I’ll tell you, I don’t entirely trust them. You and I both know the bergs move with the currents and we can’t pinpoint their exact locations. I’ve often run at night and I’ve never hit a berg.”

Tom nodded, heart pounding as Smith continued. “Bruce Ismay has made a few suggestions regarding course and speed. You are pestering my crew. Now I know Bruce owns the ship and you know the ship. But Thomas, I’m the captain of the ship. You and Bruce need to back off and let me do my job.”

Tom struggled to swallow past the dread filling his throat. Smith’s eyes narrowed as he regarded Tom. “Do you have a premonition, lad? I’ll tell you, in forty years of being on the sea, I’ve never had a real problem, but I’ve seen enough and heard enough to not ignore an experienced seaman’s nerves. Are you that worried about the ice?”

Tom’s breath returned. “Yes, Captain. I’m not a superstitious man, but sir, we need to slow down. I know that as well as I know my name.” He turned to stare at the night. “There’s a berg out there with our name on it. I’m sure of it.”

He glanced back and saw Captain Smith’s blink of surprise. “It could be,” Smith said reasonably, “that slowing down will put us right in its path. If our name’s on it, it’s possible that any action we take will bring us right to it.”

Tom nodded at this, looking at Smith earnestly. “Aye, it might. But if we’re moving slower, or better yet, stopped, the damage will be less. We need to do what we can.”

Smith stared out at the water a moment, before nodding slightly. “I’ll take it under consideration, Tom.” He turned, his expression unreadable. “That’s all I can do on the strength of a premonition. I’ll not run my ship based on superstition, but I’ll re-examine the ice reports and our heading. In the meantime, I’ll request that you return to your stateroom and cease bothering my crew. Can I count on that?”

“Aye, Captain. Thank you, sir,” Tom said, and he moved to follow his orders.

Dunallon—3:30 a.m.

Sam wearily looked up from his journal as Casey limped into the library, arms around her stomach. She looked ill and old, pain etching her pale face, her eyes hollow and lined with dark circles. His breath caught in his throat and he stood to put his arms around her and hold her.

Neither one of them found anything to say.

Titanic—11:30 p.m.

Tom’s breathing was unsteady and his heart was pounding. He stood in his cabin, staring at the door, waiting. Another heartbeat went by and he knew he couldn’t take any more. The captain’s implied order had been for Tom to remain in his room, but as long as he didn’t bother the crew, Tom felt he could be outside. He couldn’t stay in place another minute. He walked quickly out to the forward boat deck and stood out of the way, watching ahead with complete intensity. He saw nothing.

The boats creaked against the ropes, the ship continued to sail at a fast clip; Captain Smith had not reduced speed. A powerful ship, clean and strong, but not indestructible. His spine straightened with rage. He had built her for a full life. Careless fools would deny her that.

11:40 p.m. He saw it at the same moment he heard the shout from the lookout.

“Iceberg, right ahead!”

God almighty! A black mountain was suddenly there in the darkness, blocking the stars. So close.

Too close.

He couldn’t move. For a wild, dizzy moment, he was filled with thoughts of home, feeling the softness of Casey as she moved beneath him, his nostrils filled with the smell of her skin, hearing her moans. If longing could move time and space, he could have reached out and twisted open a portal to take him home instantly.

The moment was gone in the same instant the ship shuddered around him. Screeching metal filled his ears as the ship scraped the berg, a stretch of time that seemed to last forever. Shouts from the crew rang out, orders were given and repeated.

With a vision of Sam’s description of the damage in his head, he raced for the crew stairway in the bow. He heard shouts from below. As he neared the Orlop Deck, he encountered frantic stokers racing up the stairs, and heard the watertight doors clanging as they closed. The saline smell of seawater reached him as he struggled past the men, pausing when he saw water flowing along the deck. He saw no damage. The excited stokers milling about told him they’d barely escaped before the doors came down. A few mentioned names of those behind them; they had not seen them get out, although they still had access to the escape ladders.

“The hull buckled real sudden,” they told him, “like holes being poked all along the side. Water’s pouring in.”

He ran down the last flight of stairs to the tank top, which was really the top of the double bottom. The watertight doors to the sixth compartment were closed here, and as above, there was water pooling on the deck. He could see no other damage here, and he took a few minutes to run the length of the deck he could reach, checking for cracks. It looked clear.

Remembering that Officer Boxhall would perform a cursory examination and report no damage to Captain Smith, Tom abandoned his investigation and raced up to the bridge. As he approached, he heard Bruce Ismay’s voice.

“Perhaps we should restart the engines and head for Halifax. I believe it’s the nearest port.”

Tom moved faster, entering the bridge nearly at a run. “Don’t move this ship!” he shouted. Smith and Ismay turned, startled at his appearance. Ismay’s lips tightened in annoyance, but Tom addressed the Captain. “The hull’s been damaged in the forepeak and at least four compartments. Further investigation is needed to determine the full extent. But sir, you must not start the engines again until we know exactly where we stand. If the bottom is damaged the tank top could rupture.”

This is what happened in the other timeline, according to Sam. Moving the ship forward, even for a few minutes, had greatly increased the flow of water into the ship. It had been the final, fatal mistake.

Ismay spoke before Smith said anything. “Andrews, how soon can we be under way?”

Captain Smith stood straighter, his expression stern and determined.

“Have you seen the damage?” he asked Tom quietly, ignoring Ismay. “You’ve been below?”

“Aye, Sir. I need more time to look it over.”

Smith nodded once, and gestured to Tom to lead the way down. “Let’s go see for ourselves, shall we?” He turned to Murdoch. “Remain at full stop. Send the carpenter down to help sound the ship.”

Tom felt a brief rejoicing. At last! Something has changed! He left the bridge with Smith behind him.

At the first compartment, they climbed the short ladder to the upper hatch, swinging it open. They stared in dismay at the water flowing freely down the bulkhead and pooling on the deck below. It was worse the farther forward they went. The forepeak was completely flooded. Tom estimated the flow rate in each compartment as best he could. They discovered holes in the sixth compartment as well. The water flow was much slower there, moving in a thin, but solid, stream down the wall in three places.

“The post office is flooded,” Tom remarked as they reached the staircase on their way back to the bridge. He spoke quietly as there were a few passengers about, whispering to each other or to stewards. They looked curiously at Smith and Tom, but no one approached.

Smith’s face was tight. “I’ll see if they need help moving the mail. Would you bring the ship’s plans to the bridge? We’ll discuss the damage with the staff in a few minutes.”

They parted and Tom went to his room to retrieve the plans. He paused a moment as he entered. His stateroom was quiet and clean, just as he had left it. Vertigo seized him and made the room spin for a moment. He rubbed his face with his hands.

The entire world had changed. He’d known it was coming, but now that it was here, he felt inadequate and guilty, full of fear. All this time, I’ve never faced the reality of this. It’s all been hypothetical. I never believed it would really happen.

He should have stopped it.

Smith, Lightoller, Chief Officer Wilde, and Bruce Ismay were waiting in the chart room when he arrived. He spread the plans on the table.

Six compartments were flooding. Tom showed them the consequences of their collision, pointing out the sections on the plan. “The watertight doors are all sealed, but these compartments are filling with water. Once the water reaches C Deck, it’ll start flooding into the stair wells.”

Ismay sputtered, but Captain Smith held up a hand to silence him, never taking his eyes off of Tom. “Will she stay afloat?”

“No sir.” Tom thought for a moment that those words would kill him.

“That’s ridiculous! This ship can’t sink.” Ismay moved next to them, sounding angry, but uncertain.

“Without a double hull, the water is filling those compartments. It will reach the top of the bulkheads on C Deck and from there will flood the rest of the ship. We have no way of blocking off the stair wells past that point.” Tom could barely bring himself to look at Ismay, he was so angry.

“What about the pumps?” the Captain asked.

Tom shook his head. “The pumps can’t stop it. But they have a new efficient mechanism that will buy us time. A few hours, maybe.”

He reached for paper and pencil, making a rough calculation. “Conservatively, we can stay afloat for about four hours, maybe five.” Whatever else, they were in better shape than in the other time line, when the ship had sunk in two-and-a-half hours. “We need to get everyone off this ship, quickly, and call for help.”

RMS Carpathia, North Atlantic, 1:30 a.m.

Harold Cottam sighed with relief as he pulled off his dratted boots and pulled down the sheets. This was the last time he ever went to sea as the lone wireless operator. In the future, if he didn’t have a backup, he wouldn’t take the job. He had hoped to turn everything off and be in bed an hour ago, once he received a reply from the liner Parisian. But that reply had required a response, and now he was waiting for a confirmation to that. But that was it. He was going to bed the second the response came through.

Once he was ready for bed, to keep himself awake for the reply, he switched over to the Titanic’s frequency. He’d heard several messages come in for them, but they had not been replying. Eejits, he sniffed disdainfully. They had two wireless operators and still couldn’t keep up!

Ah, they were transmitting, now. Too tired to translate, he leaned on his elbow and listened to the clicks, until something made him sit up. What was that? Had that been a CQD? All Stations Attend: Distressed. He started translating automatically. The Titanic was broadcasting her position. He wrote it down and waited. Nothing else happened and he tapped quickly: Repeat your message. Did you say CQD?

The reply came back in an instant: Yes. Come at once. We have struck a berg Old Man. Going down by head. CQD. CQD. They repeated their coordinates.

“Blimey,” Cottam breathed. Throwing on his boots and jacket, but otherwise not bothering to dress, he grabbed the message and ran to the bridge. He presented his disheveled self to the first officer, who read the message and pulled Cottam with him to the captain’s quarters.

Captain Rostron had just fallen asleep, leaving him groggy and irritated at the interruption, but the message he read woke him instantly. Dressing quickly, he took the others to the chart room to determine distance and course. He sent Cottam back with a message for Titanic: we’ll be there in four hours. Then he immediately began giving orders to turn his ship into a rescue boat.

15 April 1912

Dunallon—4:00 a.m.

Neither Sam nor Casey knew when they could expect news. The telegraph office opened at six, but they had no idea when a specific telegram would be sent to someone at Harland & Wolff and from there, to them. They did expect that telegraphed messages were flying through the airwaves from ship to ship as Titanic called for help, and these would be picked up by various news sources. News should be getting out soon.

If events followed the original timeline, Titanic would have hit the iceberg at 3:40 a.m., Belfast time. By 6:20, she would have sunk and Tom would be gone. Casey, fighting rising panic and despair, fainted twice, until Sam insisted she lie down on the sofa. He put a pillow under her feet and a cool rag on her forehead and forbade her to move.

At seven o’clock, the doorbell rang. Ham stood on the step, his hat in hand, his long face miserable, as he gazed at Sam. “Dr. Altair,” he began, and paused in shock as Casey came into view. Sam realized how strange her appearance must seem to Ham: her hair was loose and wild, her face pale and pinched, with deep lines around her mouth, her eyes groggy and unfocused.

Ham seemed to throw off his shock, though, stepping inside and gripping her shoulders. “Casey, I have some news. Let me say first that, as far as we know, Tom is okay.”

Her expression didn’t change and he took an uncertain breath. “We’re still trying to find out what’s happened, but wireless messages between ships at sea have been picked up by several news services. Mr. Kempster received a call about an hour ago from a reporter who had heard about the messages.”

He glanced at Sam, instinctively begging for help with Casey’s blankness. “Titanic hit an iceberg sometime last night. We don’t have details, so we don’t know when it happened or what the damage was. The last we heard, they’re loading people onto boats. Several ships are working their way to her. That’s all I know.”

Casey stared at him, her hands on his chest, but before she spoke, Sam put a hand on each of them and turned them toward the parlor. “Sit down, Ham,” he directed, as he guided Casey to a divan. She went with no argument, staring blankly at the floor. Sam sat next to her, bringing his attention back to Ham. “Do you have any idea of when or how you’ll learn more?”

Ham swallowed, hard. “Carpathia is excepted to arrive within the hour. We’ll have to give them time to rescue everyone, which could take several hours. We hope to hear more sooner than that, but we’re uncertain.” He shifted as Casey’s haunted eyes moved up to watch him. “You see, they are much closer to New York than to us. The messages we’re getting are being passed on from other ships as they move in and out of range. It’s quite haphazard, I’m afraid. We’ve sent inquiries, but have not received any replies. We don’t expect to, really. We must allow them to concentrate on their situation, and understand they cannot take the time to send information.”

Casey placed a hand on Sam’s arm and stood up. Both men stood awkwardly, not sure what to expect. Her gaze at Ham was direct, with eyes that were suddenly clear. “Is there someone at the telegraph office? How is Harland & Wolff getting the information?”

“George Cummings is down there, with a few of the office boys. Since we’re not having any telegrams addressed to us, Mr. Kempster thought it best to remain on the scene. George is having the boys run information to us, although someone at the telegraph office is letting him use a phone there, too.” Ham twisted his hat and held out a hand to her. “We’re getting it in bits and pieces, Casey. I’ll return to the office and call you every time I get more news. Is that all right?”

“Has anyone contacted Tom’s parents?”

Ham shook his head. “We wanted to talk to you first.”

She nodded. “I’ll talk to them. Go back, Ham. Let me know everything. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if you don’t trust it. Call immediately.”

He nodded, giving her a piercing look before heading for the door. She turned to Sam, lips tight, cheeks flushed with color against her paleness.

“There’s been no change.” She was almost accusing him.

“That we know of,” he reminded her. “We really have very little news. Remember, even if the collision occurs exactly as before, we have higher bulkheads, better pumps. This will certainly give them more time. We have forty-eight lifeboats and perhaps enough time to load them up. Don’t lose hope.”

She reached for his hand. “Will you gather the staff? I’ll speak to them after I talk to Tom’s parents.”

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 39

Part of the Titanic Memorial in Belfast, listing those who died on Titanic.
Part of the Titanic Memorial in Belfast, listing those who died on Titanic.

Chapter 39

November 1911–April 1912

Tom had just arrived home and was in the library with Casey and Sam, when Mrs. Pennyworth appeared in the doorway, her arm resting lightly on the shoulder of young lad of about ten, who stood twisting his cap nervously in his hands. His gaze took in the three adults before he ducked his head and stared firmly at the floor.

“This is Johnny Peake,” Mrs. Pennyworth said, her face tight. “He just showed up at the back door, sayin’ he needs to speak with ye, sir.” Her eyes flicked briefly to Casey. “He told me what it’s about and I know ye’d like to hear him.”

“Certainly.” Tom took a step toward them, but stopped when the boy flinched. Thinking quickly, he slipped into the common Ulster dialect. “D’ye need to talk to just me, or to all of us, lad?”

Johnny looked the question to Mrs. Pennyworth, whom he had evidently decided was his ally. The corner of her mouth turned up for a moment as she returned his look. “All of ye, I think, sir. T’would be best.”

Tom nodded and held out an arm. Mrs. Pennyworth gave the boy a gentle shove into the room, before turning to leave.

“Perhaps some hot cocoa, Mrs. Pennyworth?” Tom asked. She nodded as she walked away. Tom eyed the nervous boy. “Sit ye down, Johnny.” He held a hand out to Casey. “This is Mrs. Andrews, and this gentleman is Mr. Altair, my wife’s guardian.”

Johnny perched on the edge of a chair, his wide eyes going from one to the other, hands continuing to twist his cap. He was pale, freckles visible on his face. His foot shook, as if he were prepared to dash from the room at any moment. Casey sat across from him, and Tom let her speak first, hoping the boy would be less afraid of her. “You’re out late, Johnny. Do your parents know you’re here?”

Johnny shook his head, back to gazing at the floor again. “Nay, ma’am. I told ’em I was down the street at my mate’s. They don’t know anythin’ about it, I swear.”

“About what?” Tom asked.

Johnny was trying valiantly not to cry, but tears sparkled in his eyes as he looked up. “About that letter. After the riot. They don’t know my little brother was ‘ta one who wrote it.”

Tom froze, seeing Casey slowly lift a hand to cover her mouth, as if to hold back a scream. He placed a hand on her arm, not taking his eyes off the boy. Sam stood next to him, silent.

The boy continued. “Was Sloan made him do it. He didn’t know what it was, sir. He were only seven last year. Can’t spell right or nothin’. He said Sloan spelled the words for him to write.” He looked over at Casey, at the tears rolling down her cheeks, and his lips tightened. “It was in the paper. Our Da’ brought the paper home and read it out loud to Mum. Said whoever wrote that letter should be skinned alive.”

Johnny’s whole body was shaking now, but he seemed determined to finish. “My brother never said anythin’ to anyone. But he’s been sick all year, his stomach hurtin’ all the time and he stays in bed a lot. An’ he keeps havin’ bad dreams. Wakes me up all the time with his yellin’.”

Johnny stretched the twisted cap, playing it like an accordion. “He finally told me about it last night. He’s afraid Da’ will skin him if he finds out.” He looked up, his face earnest. “Da’ wouldn’t. I told him that. Da’ meant the man who made the boy write the letter should be skinned, but my brother didn’t know that. He’s been scared all year. He said Sloan made him promise to never say he wrote it and he was real afraid to tell me. Sloan’s mean, sometimes. I don’t know what to do.”

“Ah, lad.” Anger, regret, and triumph warred within Tom as he stood and pulled the boy into a hug, holding him tightly. “’Tis a miserable world where our children are used as pawns in adult games.” He stared at Casey over the boy’s head, seeing all her emotions play across her face–compassion for the children, fury at Sloan, fear. He was filled with uncertainty. What was their next step?

“We can’t pit a child against Sloan, in court,” he said. Casey nodded.

“Aye,” Sam said. “With no other proof, it would be the lad’s word against Sloan’s. Not good enough, I’m afraid.”

“My brother’s no liar!” Johnny was indignant.

“Of course not, lad,” Tom said, letting him return to his chair. “But Sloan could say an adult had put him up to it. It wouldn’t be fair to your brother.” He studied Johnny for a moment. “Did your brother say if anyone else was there when he wrote the letter?”

Johnny nodded. “Aye, the usual men who help Sloan. Teddy Clotworthy, John Cone, Billy Irwin. He said they were waitin’ by the door.”

Casey rubbed her eyes. “I know what it’s like to deal with them.”

Tom sighed. “Yes. The same men who were helping Sloan when he confronted you at the shipyard.” He shook his head. “But we already knew they would’ve been involved. They’ll never betray Sloan.”

Mrs. Pennyworth came in with the cocoa and they were all absurdly glad to see it. Johnny drank it as if it were liquid gold. Tom made a decision. “We need to help you, Johnny. This could put your whole family in danger. You may need to leave town. Do you have relatives outside of Belfast?”

He nodded. “Some have gone to America. My Mum’s brother lives in Cobh. But my Da’ has a job here. He works at the rope factory. He won’t want to move away.”

“I’ll talk to your father, Johnny. He needs to know about this and decide how to protect all of you. I’ll help in any way I can.”

Johnny looked frightened. “If Sloan sees you talkin’ to Da’…”

But Tom was shaking his head. “Nay, lad he won’t. The owner of the rope factory is a good friend, and he’ll arrange a safe place for us to talk. I’ll do it tomorrow. In the mean time, ye should head on home. You’ll have to let the grown-ups handle this. It won’t be easy, I’ll tell you. But you and your family will be safe. I’ll make sure of that, myself.”

Johnny nodded and stood. “What should I do?”

“Nothing.” Tom slipped an arm around the boy’s shoulders and led him toward the door. “It’s best if you don’t say anything. By tomorrow, this will be taken care of. But you don’t want to scare your brother any more than he already is. Let me handle it.”

Johnny nodded, with one longing look toward his empty cocoa cup before leaving.


The next day, Tom and Ham made their way to the rope factory and called Johnny’s father into the chairman’s office. “Ach, my poor lad.” Billy Peake rubbed his face, then curled his fingers in front of him. “If I could just get my hands around that Sloan’s neck…”

He looked at Tom, his eyes haunted. “My poor lad’s been so sick. My wife was afraid he was dyin’, it was so bad sometimes. All because of Sloan usin’ him like a grease rag!”

Tom’s cheek quivered in empathy. He knew how Peake felt. “We want to catch Sloan, Mr. Peake. We want him prosecuted and we want it made clear to these fanatics that we won’t tolerate them threatening our wives and children. But we need good, solid proof to do that, and I won’t put your son in danger, without it. You’ll have to decide: are you safe here? There’s a danger Sloan will find out your son told the tale. Or he’ll continue to use him for other things. He may even use the letter as blackmail, telling your son he’d be in trouble if anyone found out about it.”

Billy Peake was a big man but right now, he looked beaten. “I’ve got a good job here, sir. If I go somewhere else, how will I support my family?”

“I’ll see you have employment, wherever you decide to go,” Tom said. “I’ll see you’re moved safely and I’ll cover the cost of it. It’s my family that was the target, sir. I would not have your family suffer because of it.”

Peake nodded. “I appreciate it, sir. ‘T’wouldn’t be possible, otherwise.” He ducked his head. “I’ll have to talk to my wife.”


Two days later, Tom came home at three in the afternoon. He sat at the dining table with Casey and told her why he was home early, alternating between laughter and awe. “Those boys took matters into their own hands.”

“What boys? What do you mean?”

“Johnny Peake and his brother, little Willie.” Tom rolled his eyes. “If he’s anything like our Willie, he probably thought of the whole thing himself.”

“What did they do?” Casey was torn between concern, and amusement at Tom’s behavior.

“They got together with a troupe of older lads in the neighborhood. They all hid themselves in various spots and little Willie stopped Sloan on the street at the exact spot where they’d have a good ear. Told Sloan he was looking to earn some extra money so he could buy a bike. Since he helped Sloan with that letter last year, he was wondering if Sloan might have other uses for him.”

Casey stared at Tom in horror, her mouth hanging open, but she didn’t interrupt. His lips kept twitching.

“Seems they had an amiable conversation on the street. Sloan didn’t mind talking because he didn’t see anyone around. He told Willie he’d done a fine job with the letter but he hoped he remembered to never mention it to anyone. That if he had other work for Willie to do, Willie would have to keep it secret.”

“Willie was very assuring, saying he’d kept it a secret for nearly a year and could keep anything else a secret, too.” Tom paused. “He actually told the truth with that statement. He did keep it secret for nearly a year, but he made it sound like it was still a secret. Clever…”

“Thomas Andrews!” Casey’s voice carried a hint of threat, and he laughed again.

“I’m telling you! Willie even managed to mention my name and the fact the letter was written to me. So there’s no doubt at all. The boys went straight to the police. They arrested Sloan this afternoon. Came right into the Yard and took him and his cohorts to jail.”

Casey was breathing in deep gasps, unable to speak.

“Ah, lass.” Tom stood and pulled her into his arms, holding her until she calmed down. “It’s almost over, sweetheart. This is a big nail in their coffin. I don’t think the fanatics will recover from this.”

She gave him a gentle shove. “You’re proud of those boys, aren’t you? They could have been hurt, Tom!”

“Aye, it was dangerous. But they didn’t want to move away from Belfast. They’d have to leave their mates, you see.” He was looking at her earnestly, to see if she understood.

She shook her head, a small smile tugging her lips. “I can just picture you and your brothers planning something similar and trying to pull it off. Hell-raisers, I bet you were.”

He just smiled and kissed her.


The small details recorded about Titanic continued to happen exactly as if changes had never been made to the timeline. Sam dutifully recorded them in his journal, and fretted. Was anything they were doing going to make a difference? He would be happy even if something of no consequence happened in a different way. He would have thought that anything he or Casey did would cause a change, since neither of them had been born when Titanic sailed in the original timeline. But even Casey unwittingly contributed to one of legends on an innocent shopping trip in March.

Sam was setting up an experiment in his lab, bent over his wires, so he didn’t look up when the door opened. A smothered giggle and “hush!” made him smile, as he wrote a figure in his notebook before turning to greet his visitors. Flushed with the March wind, Casey and Penny stood in the doorway, Jamie anxiously jumping up and down to see what his surrogate grandfather was doing.

“This is a surprise.” He grinned down at Jamie. “Come to see what your future job will be, kiddo?”

“We brought you lunch!” Jamie informed him, rushing to clamber onto a stool so he could see better. “But I want to see! I won’t touch,” he added before any of the adults gave him the tiresome instruction.

“We were at the market and brought you some meat pies,” Casey offered, handing him a bag. “Feel free to share them out if you’ve made other plans.”

“No, this is great. Thanks! Have time to join me?”

They did, and everyone wandered into Sam’s office. Casey picked up Terry, leaving the pram in the hallway. Co-workers came by and admired the children, nearly all of them adding a comment or question about the upcoming Titanic departure. Casey answered in as few words as possible, trying to be polite. She cheered up when she remembered an encounter at the market and told Sam about it.

“I ran into Charles Joughin while we were shopping. He’s the chief baker on Titanic. He mentioned how much he enjoys sailing with Tom. He said he wanted to do something special for him, so he asked me what Tom’s favorite bread is. I gave him the recipe for the cornbread Tom loves so much, and he promised to fix it for him on the ship! It’s a surprise, so don’t mention it to him.”

Everyone promised to keep the secret and Casey seemed especially pleased. Sam was glad she found some enjoyment in the chance encounter, so he never told her that the surprise loaf of bread was one of the many anecdotes about Tom that was told to school children in Belfast, when they learned about the ship.

But how did it happen before, when Casey was not part of Tom’s life in the original timeline?


The wind woke Tom about four o’clock. First of April, 1912. Swallowing against the fear in the pit of his stomach, he turned and put his arms around Casey. She was awake already, listening to the wind they had known would be blowing. Her heart was racing. Tom kissed her head, massaging her shoulder and neck. She wrapped her arms and legs around him, kissing him thoroughly. Her hands made passages along his back, providing urging he didn’t need. He took his time, memorizing anew each inch of her. If he could, he would spend the next twenty-four hours making love to her.

He couldn’t, of course. Even with the extra day, there was enough work still to do, that he could work for the next twenty-four hours. He also had to show up as if he thought they’d be leaving today. He dressed, then with Casey by his side, he stopped by the nursery to kiss his children. Just in case.


Lord Pirrie was out recovering from surgery, so Tom and the directors met on the bridge with Captain Smith and the pilot. The wind tore through the channel, and even in the dock, the ship was in constant motion. With the narrowness of the channel, they didn’t dare try and take her out. Their decision was unanimous. The sea trials and subsequent departure would be put off until tomorrow. Tom gave up trying to shake the strangeness of it all. The next fifteen days of his life had been documented almost in detail in Sam and Casey’s time stream. Déjà vu was going to be his constant companion for a while, and he needed to get used to it. He felt like they were all following a script.

Joe Bell, who was chief engineer, had reported a coal fire in boiler room five. Sam had warned Tom about it, and he had tried to keep it from starting. But this was another thing that they weren’t able to change. The fire continued to smolder at the bottom of a pile of coal. It was not a problem at this point. The coal had to be removed, which they were doing, but any real progress would have to wait until Southampton and a full crew. Until then, it would have to smolder. Joe thought the bulkhead would be okay and it wouldn’t be necessary to report the fire to the Board of Trade inspectors. And it probably would be okay, under normal conditions. Tom had no doubt that in the other timeline, the weakened bulkhead had given out when flooded, and contributed to the ship’s rapid sinking.

Before heading for home, Tom made one more round of the boat deck, reveling in the number of lifeboats. Enough for everyone. Almost no room to walk though, and there had been a few complaints from first class passengers about the crowding on the Olympic, but Tom had managed to prevail. Ismay was unhappy, but by putting the extra boats on Olympic, they had placed the Board of Trade in an awkward position. People were beginning to ask why the rules were so out of date.


Despite the work, he went home a bit early. The children were napping and Tom coaxed Casey out of the garden and into the bedroom. He really did intend to make love to her as many times as possible before morning.

Afterwards, she held his hand and kissed each finger, then his palm. She started to speak, but hesitated. He lifted her head to look in her eyes. “It will be all right, Casey.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “You don’t know that, Tom. It’s your own choices that I’m afraid of.”

“What do you mean?”

“Sam and I have talked a lot about what happens on the ship that night. But no one knows… Sam says there’s always been speculation about why you didn’t get in a boat or at least, wear your life belt. Some people said it was because you loved the ship. You felt like the ship was your child, and I know you feel like that about them.” Her whisper was agonized. “But I need to know that you’ll really try to live this time.”

Anger surprised him. He sat up, face burning. “That’s bunk, Casey,” he said. “It’s bunk, do you understand? I’ve talked to Sam, too. I know that I had a family in that other time. Do you think for one minute, that one of my ships is more important to me than my children? Than my wife?” His voice shook and he reached for her shoulders, pulling her to sit beside him. “I can tell you why I didn’t get in a boat, because I would do the same thing now, if the situation were the same. All those women and children who did not have a seat, Casey. All those men… how many men put their wives and children in boats and stepped back to die, or stayed to die when they had families at home, waiting for them? What right, how could I, of all those people, have possibly taken a seat on a boat?” He buried his hands in her hair, holding her head tenderly, feeling the preciousness of her. “If there were not enough boats, now, I could not make myself get into one, Casey. You have to know that. But there are enough boats. And I swear to you, I will be in one if there is any way possible. I swear I will have on a belt. I will do everything in my power to live, sweetheart. I promise you that with all my heart.”


They gave Penny the night off and spent the evening with their children, eating with them, playing games and reading to them. Tom called his parents and had each child talk to them, especially their Granda, who was not feeling well. Sam hung around for a while, playing three-way catch with Tom and Jamie. After a while though, he pulled Tom aside to say good-bye.

“I wish I had some pearls of wisdom for you, lad,” he said, before heading upstairs. “But I guess I’ve told you everything I know, along with a hell of a lot of conjecture.” They both laughed a little, then Sam shook Tom’s hand and ended it with a hug. “We’ll see you in a couple of months, Tom.” Sam shook his head helplessly. “Good luck, son.”

Tucking the children into bed was one of his favorite tasks, and Tom tried to memorize each moment as he and Casey dressed them in nightclothes. He sat on Jamie’s bed, holding his son in his lap as he read a story, and Casey nursed Terry. He noticed how Terry played with a bit of her mother’s hair while she nursed, and how she fell asleep holding the strand in her little grip. He read the entire story, even though Jamie was sound asleep before he was done. It was almost as if he was looking at the scene from outside his body: the nursery seemed encompassed in a glow, like an out-of-focus picture. In his mind, he took the picture, then tucked it into a figurative pocket, to keep with him while he was gone.

He made love to Casey again, even though she wept the entire time, holding on to him desperately. How could he leave her? Was he a fool to walk away from this and force her to face his death?


In the end, leaving came down to putting one step in front of the other, no matter how difficult or heavy the step seemed. Staying behind came down to the same thing. Casey wandered through the day, as if she had lost something, but wasn’t sure what it was, or where she should look for it. Sam watched her with mounting concern, staying nearby rather than going to work. He felt guilty about not being on the ship with Tom, but Tom’s word had been final. Whether or not he had an answer for each of Sam’s objections, he flatly refused to allow Sam to come. So Sam stayed and did what Tom asked him to do: be there for Casey.

Toward evening, Casey seemed to waken and Sam heard her unspoken communication. Leaving Terry with Penny, they took Jamie, and climbed the hill behind the house, watching as Titanic came back down the Lagan after her trials. There would be a transfer of mail and workers, and the ship would leave straightaway for Southampton. Casey explained to Jamie that his Da did not have time to get off the ship at all; that was why he had woken Jamie early this morning to say good-bye. But they could watch the ship for a while and send him their love by waving as hard as they could. Jaime added a few shouts of “Bye Da! I love you!” just in case, he said, “the wind carried the sound, too.”

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 38

Chapter 38

July 1911—October 1911

The police investigator, the same man who took their report about the riot, came to see them one evening shortly after Tom returned. He commented that he was spending far too much time with the Andrews, and he hoped their lives “would settle down and not require his presence again, any time soon.” Then he sat in the parlor with Tom, Casey and Sam, and proceeded to explain how he had captured Colin Riley.

Riley had indeed come close to committing the perfect crime, the investigator told them, waving an unlit cigar in his hands. His alibi was solid, there was no evidence anywhere, and if the victim had died as expected, there would have been almost no questions at all. But like most amateur criminals, Riley was obsessed with his crime. Soon after his return from Paris, he had made his way to the burnt farmhouse, walking around, inside and out.

“I followed him, you see,” the investigator said nonchalantly. “I knew he’d trip himself up, eventually.”

Whatever Riley expected to see at the farmhouse, he didn’t seem to be finding it. He grew more and more disturbed, bending to look under the fallen and burnt bookcase, scraping in the ashes on the floor, searching the ground outside. The inspector finally took pity on him and put in an appearance.

“Startled him a bit, I did,” he said, eyes crinkling in amusement. “In fact, he nearly jumped out of his skin. Who am I? he wanted to know. What did I want? Like he owned the place.”

The inspector shrugged. “So I told him who I was, and asked what’s he looking for? He was nervous, you see. It never occurred to him that Mr. Altair hadn’t died, so he didn’t have a plan for dealing with that. He couldn’t answer my questions, kept contradicting himself. We talked for about fifteen minutes and I told him someone pulled a fellow out of a fire here a few months back, and he completely cracked. Broke down crying and confessed.”

The inspector smiled at Sam, who had tears in his eyes. “He’s in custody and will be going to trial in a week or two. You’ll be up to testifying, sir?”

Sam nodded, looking relieved and regretful all at once. “I wish it wasn’t like this,” he said, his voice husky.

The inspector nodded. “I understand. When it’s a colleague who turns on you…” he left it unsaid and shrugged again, slipping the never-lit cigar back in his pocket. He stood and shook hands with all of them. “I’ll be in touch. You people try to stay out of my life from now on, what?”

They promised to try.

Tom saw the inspector out. Sam stood and limped to the window. His legs still had not healed completely and he often used a cane for support. He stared out at the darkness, not seeing anything, a state of affairs he sensed matched his soul. He felt Casey beside him and smiled grimly in acknowledgement, but didn’t look at her.

She knew what he was thinking. “It’s not your fault, Sam.”

He wrapped his arms around himself, suddenly chilled. “What right did I have to just appear on his doorstep? To expect him to do something about us? I only knew his equation; I knew nothing about the actual person.”

“You have to let him be responsible for his own actions.”

“He’s insane, Casey. He’s not responsible.”

“Maybe.” She seemed unusually annoyed. “No one is guaranteed a stress-free life. Maybe our problem was stranger than most, but you did not send him over the edge, Sam. Anything could have done it.”

“What am I condemning him to?”

“He tried to kill you, Sam!”

He sighed and did not respond. She tried again, resting her forehead against his arm. “If he’s let go, you will always be in danger. Maybe I will be, too. He might even decide my children are abominations against the natural order of the universe.”

He turned to stare at her and Tom spoke up from the doorway. “Why would you want him to be free? I don’t understand.”

They both turned. “Our concept of crime and mental illness is different in the future, Tom,” Sam explained. “My experience with Riley convinced me he’s not sane. He should be helped, not punished. I feel responsible for him.”

Tom laughed. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” He held up his hands. “Not about him needing help. That’s fine. But you are not responsible. Even if all you say is true, you’d be the worst person to try and help him.”

“That’s true,” Casey chimed in. “He freaks as soon as you’re around. He needs a chance to be away from your influence, and deal with his own issues.”

Sam gazed at Tom. “What is the state of treatment for the mentally ill, Tom? What’s done with them, these days?”

Tom looked disturbed. “I don’t know very much. Most people are taken care of by their families, who try to keep them safe and someplace where they can’t harm others. There are institutions for truly violent people. Riley may fall into that category.” Tom moved into the room, his eyes glinting in the lamp’s light. “There are doctors who try to help them.”

“Not successfully.” Sam was bleak. “If he lives long enough they’ll start jabbing him with electric shocks and turn him into a sponge.”

“He’s going to jail, Sam,” Tom said. “Not a mental institution.”

Sam looked startled. “But if he’s insane…”

Tom shrugged. “He committed a crime. Maybe it’s different in the future, but right now, that means jail. In fact, with this degree of premeditation, he might be put to death.”

Casey gasped and Sam turned back to the window. “I’ll find a place for him. I’ll ask the judge to send him there. Where he can be safe. I’ll pay for it, myself.”

Tom’s lips tightened, but he didn’t say anything. Casey just nodded.


The shipyard’s conference room was stifling in the unusual July heat. The managing directors were close to wilting as they compared notes on the progress of Titanic. As bad as it was for them, they were all aware how much harder it was for the men in the yard. George came in, shaking his head. “I just overheard a fellow promise to start praying to the pope if they would just get a breeze through the plating shop!” he reported with sardonic amusement as he took his seat. The laughter that met this story was only half sincere. With the Home Rule questions raised by Tom’s letter, the extreme factions were determined to cause trouble. Sloan’s group was quietly malicious. The heat was fraying tempers and making things worse. The managers kept the water boys hopping to supply water to the men, but even so, a current of fear ran underneath the work. Tom had just had to force the workers to remove anti-Catholic graffiti from the ship’s walls and funnels. The yard was on the tipping point.

Lord Pirrie was in London, but had sent a telegram to Mr. Kempster, who presented it to the directors. “Ismay is asking for a deadline when he can expect delivery of Titanic. Can you all give me an estimate?”

As they each reviewed their records and considered what was still needed, they began throwing out dates. Tom, already aware of the date that would be chosen, sat back and watched the byplay. These moments were problematic. He knew what the answer was, but not how that answer was reached. He was never sure what role he had played in reaching the decision, so was not sure if his actions now would change something, and in changing something, would it be for better or worse?

Thinking about it produced a headache. So he didn’t think, he just watched and waited. He did know his own schedule and tossed out the date of 15 March. After more discussion, they decided to tell Lord Pirrie the ship would be ready on 18 March 1912. Tom felt an eyebrow twitch. Sam had said the date was 20 March.

Later, when he told Sam and Casey what they had decided, Sam was unimpressed. “Is that the date Lord Pirrie is going to give to Ismay?” he asked. “Let’s wait and see before we get our underwear tied up in knots.”

Sure enough, the next day a telegram from Pirrie informed them that they would turn the Titanic over to White Star Line on 20 March, 1912. Lord Pirrie had given them two more days after consultation with Mr. Kempster revealed that a vendor would have trouble meeting the original deadline.

Tom made a notation in his time travel journal: The smallest details seem to fall into place without any prodding or manipulation from anyone. I don’t know whether to be confident or afraid.


Sam was determined to save Riley, and finally found an asylum in Switzerland that seemed accommodating. He then began the lengthy process to convince the powers that be to send Riley there, rather than to jail. He worked with Tom’s brother James, whose practice in law, Sam knew, would eventually lead to a Judgeship in Ireland’s highest court. James approved of Sam’s empathy, but warned Sam that he must not let his empathy for Riley overrule his common sense.

The judge was skeptical. He was inclined, based on the evidence, to use the death penalty, unless he could be convinced that Riley was insane and incapable of controlling his decisions. It was Riley who provided the final proof.

James told everyone about it over dinner at Ardara the Sunday before the trial, shaking his head in amazement. “Sam had hired a psychiatrist to talk to Riley and give the judge a report. So the fellow’s visiting Riley and ‘just chatting,’ he says, when Riley leans in toward him, all intent-like, and says,” James sat straighter, wagging his finger furiously in front of him at his audience, quoting his source who was quoting Riley, “’He’s from the future, you see! He knows things! He’s planning to take over the woooorld!’” James finished with an exaggerated flourish, extending the last word dramatically, as everyone around the table laughed or gasped in amazement.

Tom, Casey, and Sam all managed to smile, as if amused. After a piercing glance to Casey, Sam attempted some spin control. “I knew he thought that, he’s accused me of it, before.” He shook his head. “It’s why I thought he was insane, after all. He believed it enough and was frightened enough of it, to try and kill me. He needs help.”

James sipped his tea. “He’ll get it, now. Your doctor will recommend to the judge tomorrow that he be sent to that asylum you found. He said he’s only disappointed he can’t work with him, himself. He thinks it’s a fascinating case.”

They were all relieved at the satisfactory ending and the conversation moved on, but Sam noticed Mrs. Andrews, as she watched Tom with a thoughtful expression on her face.


Early in September, Casey was unpacking herbs in the greenhouse when Sam came in. He watched for a minute, then moved over to help. “You’ve been awfully quiet the last few days, girl. What’s up?”

She shrugged, not answering, but her expression could just about freeze the herbs. He tried again. “Did you and Tom have a fight?”

She gasped out a laugh. “Don’t be silly. I’m just worried, is all.”

“About what?”

Her look clearly said, you’ve got to be kidding, as she picked up another container of herbs.

He moved to the next table and spread out a batch to help. When Casey spoke, her voice was small. “I wish he wouldn’t go.”

Sam turned in astonishment to stare at her. “He has to go, Case.”

She looked perplexed and angry. “Why? Where is that written?” She shrugged again. “He’s led the last three guarantee groups on maiden voyages. Maybe it’s time to let someone else take the reins. I’m thinking of asking him.”

“Don’t ask him to do that, Casey.” Sam couldn’t even look at her, he was so disturbed.

She threw the herbs onto the counter. “You have no right…”

You have no right! Damn it, Casey! You have no right to ask this of him. You’ve lived with him all this time, you’ve loved him, and you don’t understand this one thing?”

“I understand he has children. He has a life, here.” Casey was shaking. “I can’t do it, Sam. I can’t let him walk onto that ship. If he doesn’t come back… how can I live without him? How can I live knowing I could have stopped him?”

“Casey, he can’t do it. No matter what you want, no matter what he wants, he can’t stay away. And if you ask him to, gods, Casey, do you have any idea what that will do to him? Think, damn it! If you force that choice on him, you destroy him. Do you see that?”

She shook her head, stubbornly. “No! It won’t! He has a right to stay with his wife and children. No one will blame him for that.”

He’ll blame himself. You know that, Casey. If he’s not there and something happens, you’ll lose him anyway. He will never forgive himself and on some level, he’ll never forgive you for forcing it on him. Is that the life you want?”

He could see her shaking from across the room, as she gripped the table, trying to stay upright, tears falling on the herbs. “How can I live without him?” she whispered. “How do I do this?”

“You just let him go, Casey. You, of all people, understand that we all make our own choices. Yet you want to take his choice away from him and turn him into a prisoner.” Sam sat, trying to remain the calm one, and continued, “He’s worked—we’ve all worked—these past years to make this event a non-event. We have a very good chance of succeeding. But he must be there. If something happens, his knowledge, his skill, will be desperately needed by the two thousand people on that ship. If the worst happens, there are now enough lifeboats. He’ll be on a lifeboat. You can make him promise you that. I think he’d do it anyway, but ask him that. But don’t make him choose between you and those people. Because no matter what his choice is, Casey, you’ll be the loser.”

She looked at him, letting his words sink in. Gradually her shaking lessened, although her tears continued to fall. Eventually she nodded and left the room. He didn’t follow her. He’d stopped her from forcing a choice on Tom, because he sincerely believed the cost of that choice would be more than they would want to pay. But he had forced a choice on Casey, and he did wonder what the price would be for that.


The fallout, as Sam called it, from Tom’s letter, continued to hold the attention of Belfast’s citizens. The ladies of Belfast had rallied behind Casey, even those who had voted her out of the Horticultural Society.

“They were afraid,” Mrs. Herceforth told Casey over tea one afternoon in her elegant parlor, newly painted a delicate pink, with golden wood wainscoting. “A good many of them thought your idea was harmless, but no one was willing to stand up against Sloan. They were too afraid they’d be the only one doing it.” She offered Casey another sandwich. “Even I was afraid, dear. And I doubt that Sloan would ever try to hurt me.”

“And now?” Casey was still leery of their acceptance.

“Your husband has roused the entire town against them.” Mrs. Herceforth shook her head. “I’ve never seen anything like it. But somehow, your husband has convinced people that even Catholic rule would be better than being prisoners to those who are supposed to be our brothers.”

“You see, that’s where people have the wrong idea,” Casey put her cup down and stared firmly at her hostess. “I’m concerned that thinking like that will eventually turn people away. Tom isn’t advocating for Home Rule and certainly not for Catholic rule.” She held a hand out in supplication. “Secular rule. Ireland needs secular rule.”

“You mean like in America?” Mrs. Herceforth shook her head. “I’m not sure that’s possible in this country.”

“Nonsense. If the Irish were so afraid of it, they wouldn’t be moving to America in droves.”

Mrs. Herceforth laughed at that. “There’s a lot of truth to that, isn’t there? So when I hear someone say Tom wants Home Rule, I’ll correct them, I promise.” She tilted her head. “Will he run for office, dear?”

“Tom?” Casey shook her head again. “He’s been asked, but he always says the same thing. He wants to build ships.” And I don’t know which occupation will get him killed faster, she thought bleakly.

With effort, she turned her attention back to Mrs. Herceforth. “Tom and Sam and I have discussed it. We all think Tom can do more good on the sidelines, working with both sides. He still has the respect of everyone, even if he is married to me.”

Mrs. Herceforth nodded in slow agreement, her gaze amused. “Well, you should know that you and your children are probably the safest people in Belfast. If your son scrapes his knee, Sloan’s group is worried they’ll be blamed for it. If people continue to demand peaceful solutions, they’ll have to back down. And Tom is just the person to get the Catholics to demand peace at the same time, which is essential, of course.” She smiled broadly. “And thanks to your garden plan, the Catholics who prefer peace are putting the same kind of pressure on their fanatics.”


On 18 September, White Star placed an ad in newspapers worldwide, announcing that Titanic’s maiden voyage would be on 20 March, 1912. Tom and his time travelers, who knew the actual date would be the tenth of April, waited for the next proverbial shoe to drop.

The telegram came late in the day on September twentieth. Lord Pirrie, ill with an enlarged prostate, was at home in London, but he informed the directors that Olympic had been damaged in a collision, and would need repairs. The only dry dock in the world that was big enough for her was at Belfast, the dry dock that was currently occupied by Titanic.

They waited to examine Olympic before giving any new dates for turning Titanic over to White Star. The new date ended up being Tom’s decision, since he was most familiar with both ships, and with Titanic’s schedule. He based the decision on his knowledge of the materials needed to repair the Olympic, what they had in stock, what needed to be constructed or delivered, and how much time, almost to the hour, this would put Titanic’s fitting out behind schedule. He spent twice as much time on the equations as he needed and even had George Cummings look over his figures, because he could not believe the date the figures insisted was correct.

The first of April, 1912. The exact date planned for her turnover in the other timeline. Sam had told them that with the April first turnover, White Star would schedule the maiden voyage out of Southampton for the tenth of April. Wind would keep them from leaving Belfast until the second of April, but White Star would not change the date for the maiden voyage again.

Really, he had no way of knowing why or how White Star chose any particular date for sailing. The options were myriad and even Ismay couldn’t predict it. So he told them April first, and prayed that Casey would never find out it had been his decision.


Olympic’s accident had the unfortunate effect of providing an excuse for overconfidence in the new liners. Olympic had all the same features Sam and Casey had insisted were needed for Titanic, and she performed exactly as they had built her to perform, when she collided with the HMS Hawke. The damage was easily contained, and the ship was never in danger of sinking. The builders and owners were justifiably proud of this result, but it was the press that took it to the absurd conclusion that the ships were truly unsinkable. Worse, it was the shipping industry’s own journal, Shipbuilder Magazine, that perpetuated the myth when they ran an article about the collision, and the repairs being done. Newspapers worldwide gleefully picked it up as a sensational headline, and the ever-gullible public ate it up.

Tom wrote a furious letter to the magazine, sternly reminding them that no ship was unsinkable. They printed his letter, but never actually made a retraction, and the newspapers that received a copy of the letter never printed it at all.


Despair numbed Casey, as if part of that Atlantic iceberg had settled in her chest. She moved through the days automatically, feeling alive only when Tom was around. Now, on the patio at Ardara House, she picked up the fussing baby and settled into a rocker, surrounded by the other women. Bees buzzed behind her in the surprising October heat, providing accompaniment to the squeals of children and the shouts of their fathers as they all played football on the lawn. As she nursed Terry, Casey closed her eyes and let the women’s conversation drone overhead.

She hurt. Not in any specific part of her body, and certainly she had no injury. She just hurt everywhere, inside and out. Fear seemed to be an unavoidable companion. I don’t want to be alone. The thought came again, as it had every day for weeks, filling her with chills. Tom will die with Titanic and I’ll be alone in this century. She knew this wasn’t true, that she had her children and Sam, and Tom’s family would always include her. But none of them could provide the love and companionship she had found in Tom. It was not fair to him, it was wrong to place such responsibility on him, but it was true.

Her misery was interrupted as the children were herded inside for drinks and naps. The men began a rougher game of football. Little Jamie had escaped the women and stood at the edge of the patio, watching the game. At three, he was still too young to be in a game, and he had only played on the sidelines for a few minutes.

Casey laid her sleeping daughter on a mat and moved to stand behind Jamie, picking up another ball from the ground. He didn’t notice her, his eyes following the men on the grass as they dashed back and forth. She could practically feel his longing, and she dropped the football in front of him, reaching to halt its movement with her foot. She didn’t look at him, so that when he glanced up at her, she was searching for something several yards away. She motioned with her chin. “See those two birches beyond the roses?” He nodded and she looked at him appraisingly. “Right between them is our goal. Whoever kicks the ball through first, wins.”

She kicked the ball, not hard. When his glance went briefly back to his father and uncles, she went after it, skirts lifted in both hands, feet nudging the ball quickly toward the trees. Not about to be left behind, Jamie forgot the men and raced after her, reaching the ball just as she paused to give it an exaggerated, but gentle kick. He kicked hard, sending the ball to the right. Casey let go of her skirts in surprise as he ran to catch the ball. She took a long moment to lift her skirts out of her way before following.

He kicked it again, with more control. He kept up with it, instinctively moving in the direction of his goal. She caught up with him, but he turned to block her. The ball started down a slope toward the creek and he threw himself in front of it, blocking it with his stomach, then scrambled to his feet and kicked hard toward the trees. Casey whooped, and ran toward it, but it rolled haughtily through the goal and continued its interrupted trek to the creek.

Jamie was right behind it, fishing it out before Casey reached him. He looked up, his face bright with joy that suddenly changed to alarm, as he shouted, “Look out, Mum!”

She turned in time to see the ball from the men’s game heading straight for her. Briefly aware of Jessie’s scream from the patio, and shouts of dismay from the men, she jumped to meet it. It bounced off her head, dropping a few feet from her. She lifted her skirts to run with it toward the nearest of the men’s goals, defying their chivalrous concern for her safety.

Tom recovered first. He raced in, shouting to John to block the goal. He spared her no quarter, or at least not much, and the two of them wrestled with the ball to gain or keep control.

Exhilarated, Casey nudged them nearer the goal, occasionally using her long skirts to good advantage; Tom could not see the ball when she let them drop a bit, but she could always feel where it was. He laughed a bit in frustration, then took a chance and kicked where he thought the ball was. It escaped them both, but Casey was closer and she kicked it hard, startling John, who had not taken Tom’s order seriously.

As it sailed an inch above John’s outstretched arm, accompanied by yells and whistles from the spectators, Casey’s melancholy returned in full force, slamming her to a complete standstill, heart racing and lungs unable to fill with air. Tom touched her shoulder in alarm.

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”

She looked up into his anxious face, twitching once at the concern in his eyes, and her own fear. “Don’t go.”

“What?” He looked confused.

Her lips twisted in sudden rage and she moved back a step, away from his arm. “On Titanic. I don’t want you to go.”

If she had turned him to stone, he could not have been more frozen. They faced each other, the breeze dancing through the trees and through Casey’s hair, which had come loose from its pins. Willie’s voice came to them just as a shaft of sunlight lit the ground at their feet: “Everything all right? Is she hurt?”

Tom raised an arm, keeping them all at a distance, as he continued to stare at Casey. The others drifted away, taking Jamie with them, mystified, but giving the couple space. Casey’s chin quivered a moment, then she lifted it defiantly, returning Tom’s stare; the course was committed and she couldn’t take back her words.

“I have to go.” His words sounded hollow, somehow.

She shook her head with deliberate slowness, her eyes still on his face. “You don’t. We need you, Tom. I need you.” Her voice was brittle.

“Casey.” He licked his lips. “For five years, we’ve planned this. I’ve done everything you and Sam suggested, I’ve made every change I could, I’ve made every contingency plan. Would you have me send someone else?”

Guilt tugged at her. She looked away, unable to meet his gaze. But her lips tightened when he spoke again. “Should I send George? Or Ed?” He searched her face. “They have families, too. Would you have me send them off, with no warning of what’s to happen to them? With no knowledge of what needs to be done?”

He reached for her hand; she didn’t pull it away, but made no effort to hold his. He continued. “You and I and Sam have worked out the best method for unlatching the lifeboats, for loading people onto the boats. We’ve worked out how to get the third class people up to the boat deck. I’m taking an extra pair of binoculars and I know to give them to the lookouts. I can make sure Captain Smith gets all the ice warnings. If I have too, Casey, I can sabotage the engines. Sweetheart, there isn’t anyone else who can go.”

Tears trickled down his face. She knew what this was costing him. He stepped toward her, putting his arms around her and she felt something loosen in her heart. She slid her arms around his waist. “I know you have to go,” she whispered, not sure if he could hear her. “But I don’t want you to. I will never want you to. I don’t know how to live without you.”

He tightened his hold on her. “There’s never a guarantee about that, sweetheart, you know that. We always assume I won’t die before April fifteenth, but we don’t know anything about after that. It’s that way for everybody.”

“I know.”

He began to stroke her hair, urging her to look up, but she wouldn’t. So he just held her, and she listened to him whispering how sorry he was for what he was asking of her.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 37

The author walks along the Lagan on a cold day in Belfast.
The author walks along the Lagan on a cold day in Belfast.







Chapter 37

May 1911

The early mail on the second Tuesday in May brought a note from Casey’s sister-in-law, Jessie. The letter’s greeting made Casey’s heart squeeze in fear, but as she read on, laughter forced her to a chair in the parlor.

My Dearest Sister, the note began, John and I wish to extend our heartfelt condolences for whatever fate has befallen your husband. It has come to our attention (so we have acknowledged to each other), that the dear Fellow perhaps fell into the Lagan one day. Is it possible Uncle Willie neglected to inform you?

Well, we want you to know your family is ever full of love for you. As such, John and I request the honor of your presence at Maxwell Court for dinner, this Friday night. If, by some joyful miracle, you find our Tommy before then, by all means, bring him along. We shall expect you no later than seven o’clock, although I extend my personal wish to see your arrival even earlier than that.

In deepest love,

Mrs. John M. Andrews

As it happened, Casey did not see Tom that night, but she left the note in his dressing room, where he would find it. The next morning it was on his pillow, with his scribbled note promising to be home early on Friday.

Wednesday night, as Casey sat in bed reading, the bedroom door silently opened and her husband crept into their bedroom. When he saw that Casey was still awake, he sighed, and continued the removal of clothes that he’d begun on the way up the stairs.

Casey watched him place coat and cravat on the dresser, and slip his suspenders off his shoulders. When he sat on the divan to remove his shoes, she closed her book and joined him, gazing at his face.

He smiled at her, but the smile did not quite erase the wrinkles of exhaustion at the corners of his eyes. “I’m pretty sure I still live here,” he said, his tone lightly questioning. “I did sleep in that bed for a few hours last night.”

“Did you?” she asked. “I must have missed it. In fact, I’ve been thinking of renting the space out, it’s been vacant so often.”

He laughed, but pulled her possessively against him with one arm, while the other hand buried itself in her hair, tilting her face up so he could look at her. “I miss you,” he said. “I can’t do anything about all the work, but I promise it won’t be like this forever. Once Olympic is turned over to White Star, and Titanic is launched…”

“I know.” She placed a finger against his mouth, then stood, lifting the skirt of her nightgown and sinking onto his lap, legs astride him. “My mother was an obstetrician, remember. My father never gave her a hard time for the hours she worked. I try to follow his example.”

“Building ships is not quite comparable to delivering babies,” he said, but she shrugged.

“It’s your chosen career. Thank you for replying to Jessie’s note. I let her know we’ll be coming. But…” She hesitated.


“Can I trouble you for another appointment?”

“I’ll try. What is it?”

She ran a finger along the buttons of his shirt. “I need a few minutes of your time tonight, say about ten o’clock. I’ll make it worth your while.”

He thought about it, then retrieved his watch from its pocket, flipping open the gold lid with practiced fingers. He nodded as he placed the watch on the table next to the divan. “I can arrange to be free at that time.” He traced a finger up her leg. “What did you have in mind?”

She sputtered a laugh, leaning forward to kiss him. “Keep still. I’ll show you.”


“Casey!” Jessie hugged Casey as she and Tom entered the stately foyer of John and Jessie’s home on Friday. “You look wonderful, dear. And who have you brought with you?” Her eye critically appraised Tom and she raised an eyebrow at her sister-in-law. “Such a handsome fellow, dear. Where do you find them?”

“Oh, this one was on the corner, Jessie. He looked so woebegone, that I had to bring him. I hope it’s all right?” Casey sounded serious, but Tom didn’t look concerned. He just hugged Casey to him, at the same time catching Jessie in an effortless head lock, making her squeal in comic protest.

“John? John!” Tom looked around for his brother, who entered just behind an anxious eight-year-old Jack, whose eyes widened at his mother’s predicament. “Ah, there you are, fellow! I’m keeping this one,” and Tom dropped a kiss on Casey’s head, “but what on earth should I do with this one?” indicating the squirming Jessie with his chin. “She’s frightfully noisy.”

John held up both hands. “You can let her go. She means well, really.”

“Ah, well then,” and Tom let her go gently, with a supporting hand kept to her back. “Do try to keep track of her, will you?”

Jessie straightened, dignity never wavering. “There’s no chance of that, you know,” she told Tom, tucking a strand of hair back under its pin. “He hasn’t been able to keep up for years.”

Young Jack was allowed to stay up for a few minutes to visit with his uncle and aunt, who had not made it to Comber for several weeks. They heard about Jack’s latest school project and then, at Jack’s insistence, Tom launched into a description of the great ships taking shape at ‘Grand-Uncle Willie’s shipyard’.

“Oh my, we are ever so busy these days,” he told them in his best story-telling mode. “The Olympic is nearly complete, and I must say, she is the grandest lady I’ve ever set to sail the sea. There’s not a ship in the world that’s larger than she is and there won’t be, until the Titanic sets sail later.”

Jack’s eyes widened more and more, as his uncle continued his description. “We’ve still got to finish painting the passenger’s quarters in third class and I’ve got ovens and hot plates and ice boxes to be delivered next week. Enough ovens to cook for over two thousand people! And the last week of this month, she begins her sea trials, then it’s off to Southampton for her maiden voyage to New York on thirty-first May.” Tom leaned back in his chair, the bard keeping his audience enthralled as he went on with his story.

“Now, thirty-first May. Let me tell you, that will be some day! The Olympic finishes her trials, and returns to the dock in the morning. And at 12:15 p.m., the grandest sight of all will occur, for at that time, the Titanic will be launched!” Tom lifted a hand to his brow. “Oh the to-do! You’ve no idea what it takes to launch a ship, do you?”

His audience obediently shook their heads and Tom leaned forward in earnestness. “We have to let everyone know when it’s happening, for one thing. Announcements in the news, especially in foreign lands—we have to give the American and European journalists time to arrive. The ship’s owners, the insurers, the harbor commissioners, the Board of Trade… the list is as long my arm! We have to make sure the engines and boilers are ready to go. We have to test the ship itself to make sure all the drain holes are filled and the plates on the hull are closed. Oh, and we have to have plenty of chains and ropes connected to the ship. Can you imagine if we launch her and she just kept sailing off down the lough? We have to be able to stop her once she’s in the water!” This last was said with sternness and increased volume over the guffaws of his listeners.

“Caulkers and carpenters have to be ready, the flagpole installed, and woe is me if I forget to have the flags ready to fly! And do you have any idea how much tallow we need?” Tom spread his arms as wide as he could and stood to indicate a height much taller than himself. “More’n that, I’m telling you! Every bit of the ship bottom and sides has to be covered in tallow, so she can slide into the water. Och, the smell of that stuff as we cook it!” He sat down again, expression fretful. “But what we need most is men.” He nodded seriously. “Aye, lots of men, to knock away the boards and scaffolding so the ship floats free. Uncle Willie has tasked me especially, to make sure we have enough men to do the job.”

He looked at his brother, exceedingly worried. “I’m afraid I’m missing one. I need just one more, even a young lad will do, to help knock away the boards.”

Jack could not contain himself. “Me, Uncle Tommy! I can do it! I’m big enough!” He waved his arms frantically, and jumped up and down, as if to make certain his uncle could see him.

Tom turned a stern visage on the youngster, eyebrows nearly to his hairline. “You? Och, I’m not sure, lad. “Tis an important job, you see.”

“I can! I even launched my own boat of sticks a week ago! I know I can! Da’, tell him!”

“Oh, so you have experience, too, is it?” Tom looked to his brother for confirmation and received a quiet nod, although the eyes shone with pride and laughter.

“Aye, he did, and well enough.” But John was not so easily swayed. He stared at his son, lips pursed. “Ye’d have to miss school, lad. What about that?”

“I’ll write a report!” was the instant rejoinder, causing every adult to burst into laughter. Tom reached out a hand.

“All right, then. Consider yourself part of the Board Demolition Team, lad,” and he was nearly knocked over by sixty pounds of boyish excitement as Jack threw himself into his uncle’s arms, a loud “Yippee!” deafening all of them. Jack recovered enough to firmly shake his uncle’s hand, as Tom told him, “I’ll make sure your Da’ will know when and where to have you there. Mind you, you’ll have to do exactly as you’re told. It’s a dangerous place, lad.”

Jack solemnly promised to obey, and at his mother’s word he kissed each of them goodnight and followed his nanny to bed.


Tom’s story had not included even a small fraction of the tasks left to do to prepare for both the launching of one ship, and the turning over of another ship to its owners. Since he was sailing on the Olympic’s maiden voyage as head of the guarantee group, Tom gave that project his strictest attention. As the first of the grand ships to sail, the Olympic had the dedicated attention of the press, including an eight-page spread in Shipbuilder Magazine. The ship must be completely ready for its maiden voyage. Tom was leaving nothing to chance.

However, he was not going to be aboard for Olympic’s sea trials. Most of the guarantee group would be aboard. He was sending Ed Wilding in his place to run things. He could depend on a thorough report from Ed regarding the ship’s performance. Tom was conflicted about this. The Olympic was up to then the largest ship ever to sail, and her trials would last two days and be unaccountably thorough. In fact, if he had not been privy to future knowledge, and already aware that the Olympic would function perfectly, he didn’t know if he could have stayed away. But Lord Pirrie expected him to personally handle the launching details for Titanic, and for that he had to be at the yard, not at sea.

Until the Olympic sailed for her trials, Tom was able to depend on Ham to substitute for him as they prepared for Titanic’s launch. They had handled many launchings, and Ham knew the process frontwards and backwards. They met two or three times a day to quickly go over details, but all was proceeding smoothly, and Tom felt able to concentrate on the Olympic. After Olympic sailed off for her trials, he settled into the launching procedure and last-minute details for Titanic. They expected around a hundred thousand people to view the launch from various points around town, and several thousand of them would be watching from the shipyard itself. Three sets of bleachers were erected to hold them. One set alone was reserved for journalists, who would be coming from all points of the globe.

The millions of details that went into the launching of a ship had one important goal: to make Lord Pirrie look good when he gave the signal to release the ship, and she settled into the water for the first time. If they succeeded with this, then Harland & Wolff also looked good, and the people of Belfast could point with pride to what they could accomplish.


On the thirty-first, Tom was at the shipyard by five in the morning, having gone to bed close to midnight. Before leaving, he held each of his sleeping children for a minute. He would be gone six weeks, and already every moment he would miss was pushing down on him.

The day dawned bright, the sky a deep blue, and the air already warm at eight o’clock. Lord and Lady Pirrie arrived with J.P. Morgan and Bruce Ismay. Tom continued to supervise the final steps taking place on the dock and in the water, including the removal of any buoys, and placement of tugs and flagboats to move the ship after her launch. He made sure the flagpole was secure in the stern, and with George helping him, they unfurled the flags and hooked them to the pole: the flag for the White Star Line and a series of white flags spelling out the word “SUCCESS.” The flags would be raised moments before the ship was launched.

At eleven, they opened the gate for spectators to take their places. Jack Andrews reported to his uncle on the dock, ready for duty. Tom inspected him sternly, shirt tucked in, hair combed underneath the cap, shoes clean. Jack bore the inspection well, standing tall and straight, torn between gawking with wonder at the huge ship just a few feet in front of him, and watching his uncle for any sign of displeasure, which could result in his being packed off to the stands with his Aunt Casey and Dr. Altair. Tom made him bear it only for a moment. Then he smiled and clapped the lad’s shoulder, turning to the foreman standing nearby. “Ho, Albright. Here’s your final worker to help with the blocks.”

“Aye, Mr. Andrews.” Albright motioned for Jack to follow him, and Tom sent him on before continuing his inspection of the boilers. He looked up in time to see Jack join the crew, take a hammer, nod seriously at the instruction given him, and with an authoritative whack!, send the block falling onto the dock away from the ship. The men cheered and Tom flushed in delight at the look on Jack’s face. Such a simple thing, but the boy would remember it his entire life.

They were ready. Lord Pirrie began his final inspection of the ship, walking along both sides and then looking over the hydraulic launching equipment. He and Tom then walked back to the owner’s gallery, and Lord Pirrie gave the signal.

A rocket was fired and the flags were raised. In the stands, Casey held onto Sam’s hand with a fierce grip and stared in near horror as the ship that in another time had claimed her husband’s life, slowly moved back and settled into the water. In just over a minute, the Titanic was floating, and the anchors and ropes easily brought her to a halt. The excited crowd roared its approval. Jack, next to Sam, jumped up and down, yelling with delight. Standing still amid the tumult, Casey had eyes only for her husband, as he stood in the owner’s gallery and accepted congratulations from those around him.


After the celebratory lunch, Tom hooked an arm around Casey’s waist and guided her to his office. It was empty since Ham was already on board Olympic; he would be sailing as far as Southampton to help with the administrative work until the ship left for New York. Tom took a moment to gaze at Casey as she leaned against his desk. She wore a new green dress that demanded his constant attention. A tiny smile moved the corners of her mouth. She had removed her hat. Her hair was up, but shorter strands of red framed her face with curls. Her eyes were large and intensely green, matching the dress. He allowed himself a good long look, then gripped both her shoulders as he smiled down at her.

“That dress is all eyes and cleavage, do you know that?” he asked her teasingly. She laughed and slipped her arms around his neck. Any reply she might have made was forgotten in the kiss that followed. It was all they had time for. He had inspections to do and papers to sign on Olympic before she sailed, but they made that kiss worthwhile. They held each other a moment longer, memorizing the feel of the other’s body before Casey returned to Dunallon, and Tom boarded his ship.

The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 36

Chapter 36

April 1911

Heading into Monday evening’s cold darkness, Sam turned left to start the walk home. He liked the exercise as long as it wasn’t raining. Shifting his briefcase to the other hand, he looked up in surprise as he nearly bumped into Colin Riley, who looked just as surprised as Sam.

“Dr. Altair.” Riley blinked, but recovered before Sam. “I was just on my way to see you.”

“You were?” Sam was first astonished, then confused. “I thought you were at a conference.”

Riley shrugged. “Plans changed. Do you have some time to spare? My flat is nearby, I can offer you some tea.”

Sam didn’t bother to hide his bewilderment. “Why? What would you possibly want to discuss?”

The wind whipped Riley’s coat open and he pulled it closed, his lips tightening. “I have a proposition, sir. I won’t pretend that I’m not reluctant to pursue this, but its importance is greater than my pride.” He held out a gloved hand. “Please. I assure you, it’s quite important. An hour of your time, at most.”

Feeling like Alice–curiouser and curiouser–Sam reluctantly agreed and walked with Riley the five blocks to his flat. Riley offered no further conversation and Sam could think of nothing to say himself.

Unlike his office, Riley’s apartment was neat and clean. It was sparsely furnished with heavy Victorian pieces over a dark rug. The electric lights were dim, and the fire that Riley lit added welcome light and warmth to the room.

Riley was solicitous and anxious, hanging Sam’s coat and hat on a rack, and setting the water to boil after he got the fire going. He brought out some small sandwiches, “to cut your appetite, since you’re postponing your dinner.” Sam ate a couple, sipping tea as Riley brought out several sheets of paper and sat in the chair opposite Sam.

“So what’s up, Dr. Riley?” Sam asked. “Are we declaring a truce?”

Riley regarded him, fingers tapping his mustache before smoothing out the papers on his lap. He seemed disturbed and his nervousness had increased.

“I’ve decided I must ask for one,” he said at last, and an eyebrow rose. “I am not giving up, sir, but for the moment, I feel we must work together.” He held up the sheets. “I’d like to talk about your paper on sound waves. Your team just published it in Science.”

They talked for a while. Riley asked several observant questions. Sam began to enjoy the exchange, hoping that Riley might be coming around. He ate and drank more–they both did–and he decided he’d skip dinner, realizing at one point that Casey and Mrs. Pennyworth were expecting him and that he had not called. He would ask to use Riley’s phone before he left. In the meantime, he did ask to use Riley’s water closet, and he headed for the door Riley pointed out.

It was the last thing he remembered.


Sam woke, aware of raw pain across his cheek, and a sickening, disorienting dizziness. The ground was moving, he realized groggily, scraping his face as it went by. His head felt too heavy to lift. He tried to move his arms to help, but couldn’t seem to find them. He moaned, and the ground became blessedly still. He swallowed against the nausea that rose up, taking a deep breath, willing the dizziness to stop. Where was he? What was happening?

Something moved beside him and he knew it was Riley. A hand grabbed his hair and pulled his head back, then dropped it back to the ground. The rough movement caused stars to explode and abruptly he was sick, unable to move away. The figure was gone, and Sam heard noises but had no reference for them. There was a bang behind him, then he was moving again. This time he could feel Riley’s hands on his legs, pulling him along. He realized that his legs and arms were tied. What the hell was Riley doing? Had he gone completely crackers?

He was dragged over a threshold and left on the floor, watching Riley’s legs move past him. The door closed, plunging the room into darkness. He took a slow breath, trying to banish the panic filling him. Think, damn it, he told himself. Stay calm.

He heard footsteps. Light pierced his eyes as Riley lit a lantern. Pain shot through his head and he was almost sick again. Had Riley hit him over the head? Did he have a concussion?

“What’s happening?” he managed to ask. He could barely hear himself, but Riley, who was walking around out of his sight, answered readily enough.

“Oh, it’s easy enough to figure out, Altair. I tried to stop you, using civil means. But I haven’t had any success that way. I have to stop you. You know I have to.”

Sam waited for more information, but Riley had gone silent. He was still walking around though and Sam tried unsuccessfully to move, to somehow roll onto his side or raise his head. “Damn it, Riley! Untie me. We can talk about this. What are you going to do? Kill me?”

He thought the idea was farfetched, but the footsteps approached him and Riley knelt down at his head. Sam blinked and tried to focus up at Riley’s face.

“Yes, Sam. I’m going to kill you.” He might have been discussing the weather, or an unimportant physics problem. “More precisely, I’m going to arrange circumstances so that you have an accident.” He stood and Sam stared at the shoes in front of his eyes. When Riley spoke again, his voice was sad. “I like you, Sam. I wish you had been more reasonable, more willing to cooperate.” He sounded as if he wanted to say more, but instead, he sighed and moved away again.

“They’ll find you, Riley. You won’t get away with it. Don’t destroy your life because of this.”

Riley laughed. “Give me some credit for intelligence, Altair. I may not be capable of committing the perfect crime, but I can come awfully close. As far as everyone knows, I’m out of town. Even you thought so.”

A shudder passed through Sam as nausea and despair washed over him. He groaned and waited for it to pass. “Did you hit me? What’s wrong with me?”

“Chloral hydrate and antimony. You may feel so bad that death will be welcome.”

A sob escaped Sam as he moved his head against the floor. So damned helpless! “You accuse me of being insane! Jesus, Riley, don’t do this.”

There was no answer but after a long minute, Sam felt hands on his legs. “Hold still,” Riley instructed, “I’m cutting this rope.”

“Thank you,” Sam gasped at the relief flooding him, his face covered in tears.

“Oh, don’t thank me.” The rope fell away, but Sam felt too weak to move. He concentrated on his legs, trying to will them under him, then screamed in pain and terror as something large and heavy crashed over them. Smaller items showered around him, striking his head and upper body. He screamed again, as much in frustration and betrayal as in pain. He couldn’t see what had fallen on him, but he could see the outline of books lying near him.

Riley was moving faster now and Sam became peripherally aware of a dangerous smell. The rope holding his arms came away and Riley knelt again by his head. “I’m sorry, Altair,” he whispered. “I really am. Stay still. Breathe the smoke and you’ll die easier. I’d rather you didn’t suffer.”

Sam could hear the crackle of flames somewhere behind him, and already smoke was drifting through the room. The door opened and closed as Riley left, the added oxygen causing a whoosh of flames that Sam saw reflected on the floor in front of him. Shaking with effort, he got his arms under him and pushed against the floor. It felt as if he were fighting the weight of the universe. He nearly blacked out with the effort. He paused, sobbing again as he realized he hadn’t moved an inch. He could not move his legs at all.

Do it, Sam. Get up! He kept repeating it to himself, sick with the knowledge that no one knew where he was, that the only way out was through his own efforts. Nausea and pain battled his attempts, but he kept going. Push. Finally, he’d raised his head and upper body a few inches. Arms shaking with weakness, he turned his head.

The back of the room was in flames. A large bookcase covered his lower body, preventing his movement as efficiently as the rope had. He couldn’t even turn over. Facing forward again, he tried to drag himself free, pulling with his arms against the floor. He soon stopped in breathlessness and exhaustion. He was low enough to the ground that the smoke was not hindering him much, but he felt it with each breath. His eyes were streaming with tears as he looked up, desperately searching for something to help him.

A support beam rose from the floor a few feet from his head. He reached, arms shaking violently. He groaned as his fingers only grazed the wood. He stretched again, then collapsed as violent pain caused him to vomit, his stomach furious at the tortured movement. In the brief respite from pain, Sam reached again, stretching as far as he could, farther…

His fingers gripped the edge of the beam. He exhaled, breathing in and coughing as hot smoke burned his throat. Was it his imagination or could he really feel blisters breaking out on his skin? More of his fingers went around the beam and he began pulling himself, bit by bit, trying to get closer. It seemed to take forever, every inch filled with pain, his body bathed in sweat. Occasionally, he saw a spark flash onto the wooden floor near him. A few sparks settled into the wood, gaining brightness. The heat had become intense. He focused on his task, ignoring the flames and the smoke.

He thought his back would break with the effort, but suddenly, he felt his whole body move. Crying with relief, he got a solid grip on the beam and pulled again. Now he could wriggle his legs and he frantically moved from side to side, inching forward a little more with each wriggle, the movement filling him with swirling blackness that nearly knocked him out again.

When he could move a knee, he began going faster, swimming out from under the heavy case, coughing violently as he tried to breathe with his effort. He kept going forward, past the beam, keeping his head down, but where was the door? In front of him, somewhere.

The room was filled with smoke, but it was fractionally cooler farther from the fire. He was at the wall and raised himself enough to feel along it, looking for the doorjamb or a crack.

There. Almost directly in front of him. Pulling his coat up to cover his mouth, Sam went to his knees, reaching for the doorknob. It took his last strength to get the door open and fall through it. He took a breath of blessed fresh air, then was sick again, vomiting weakly into the grass, blacking out as pain knotted his stomach and dizziness swirled around him.


He could breathe. That was the first thing he noticed. The second thing was the absence of nausea, then the press of a hand holding his. Opening his eyes abruptly, he stared at the white ceiling over his head. He heard a gasp and turned his head slowly to see Gladys Pennyworth smiling down at him. Her round, practical face had never looked so precious before.

Casey appeared at Mrs. Pennyworth’s side, her face splotched from crying, but with a big smile beaming at him. He felt a twitch at the corners of his mouth.

“Finally waiting on me,” he tried to say, but his voice was thready and cracked. He stopped to cough.

Mrs. Pennyworth bent down and kissed his forehead gently. “Now then,” she said, and he had the feeling she was addressing Casey, “ye see what has to happen to get him to not talk so much.”

Casey laughed, reaching to squeeze his arm. “I’m going to tell Tom you’re awake. We’ll give you two a few minutes.”

Sam turned his eyes back to Mrs. Pennyworth to see that she was picking up a glass of water with a straw. That sounded like the best idea in the world, and he let her put the straw in his mouth. He pulled the water in with strong gulps and coughed again.

She put the glass back and he reached up to wipe the tears from her face. “Hey,” he said, his voice a little clearer this time, “it sure is good to see you.” He didn’t know what his injuries were, but he sat up, ignoring the pain, and took her into his arms while she cried.

“I’ve never been so scared in all my life, Sam Altair,” she told him, voice muffled in his chest. “We didn’t know where ye were and then the hospital called…” She raised her head to look at him, touching his face. “But ye’ll be all right. That’s what the doctor says and I believe him. We’ll bring ye home and I’ll take care of ye.”

He smiled at her. “I can’t think of anything I’d enjoy more,” he said, then kissed her tenderly.


“You were in a deserted farmhouse outside of town,” Tom told him later that day, after Mrs. Pennyworth had returned home to pick up a few personal items for Sam. Casey sat in a chair next to Tom, legs pulled up against her as she rested her chin on her knees and gazed at Sam. “A passing farmer on his way home from the pub saw the flames. He was sober enough to pull you out of harm’s way and get help to put out the fire. They brought you to the hospital here, but you were unconscious for an entire day. We looked everywhere for you, but didn’t check with this hospital.” He leaned forward and whispered, “You’ll have noticed it’s a Catholic one” his eyes indicating the crucifix on the wall. Sam grimaced. He’d noticed. The nurses were nuns.

Tom leaned back. “Anyway, you came to enough to give them your name and have them call us, but it’s been another day while you’ve been drifting in and out of consciousness. You’re red as a lobster and blistered along your back. Your legs are black and blue and you’ve been throwing up like there’s no tomorrow. You’re lucky to have missed most of it. And that, sir, is all we know.” His eyebrows went up. “We’re hoping you can fill us in.”

Sam did, to the best of his ability, enduring their shocked interruptions and increasing horror.

Tom finally broke in. “You’ll have to talk to the police.”

Sam nodded, but looked uncertain. “What about Riley’s alibi? He’s right, even I thought he was out of town.”

“Well he wasn’t, was he?” Casey asked rhetorically. “Even if he left, he came back and then left again. Someone had to see him. Or maybe find out when he checked into his hotel.” She bounced her chin on her knees as she thought. “Is it too early for fingerprints?”

“I’m afraid so,” Sam told her.

Tom shook his head. “Not our problem. Talk to the police and let them handle it. They’ll take it from there.”


Since Riley’s conference was in Paris, the Belfast police could not do much to question him. They could not find anyone in town who had seen him on the day Sam was attacked. The university said that Riley had planned on staying in Paris for a few months, so they bided their time. Sam went home and settled down to recover from his ordeal. This was not as easy as he would have thought.

“Guess I’m too old for this sort of thing,” he joked to Casey as she brought him lunch a couple of days after he got home. He had tried to eat with them in the dining room, but his legs weren’t working well enough and he was just too tired. She positioned his tray and sat on the edge of the bed, smiling at him.

“You probably are,” she teased him. “Too old for what, exactly?”

He sighed. “You just wait, dear. One day, you’ll look back and realize that you used to bounce right back after injuries or illnesses. And you’ll wonder why you don’t bounce like that anymore.”

He took a moment to look her over while she laughed. When they’d first met, she’d been practically a child, smart, but light-hearted and hopeful, despite the circumstances. They’d only been here five years, but she had matured far in excess of that time. She still looked like a child. She could pass for eighteen rather than the twenty-five years she was. Except, there was a seriousness that made one pause and re-evaluate her age. Was it due to motherhood? Responsibility? The strain of fear that she carried within her, for all of them?

He sipped his soup and tried to banish morbid thoughts. Casey was fine. The public support she’d received since Tom’s letter was published had heartened her considerably. She was working, unofficially, with the Horticultural Society again, and was a popular figure at ladies’ teas. Where, she often said, they usually managed to solve the world’s crises before the pudding. Quite satisfactorily, too.