During the course of my edits, I have had to cut various parts of “On Dark Shores” because they were flashbacks or other backstory. In most cases leaving them in slowed the story down and, as my editors pointed out, the important bits could better be told in a few sentences that kept up the pace.
Although both editors were right, knowing a bit of the backstory might enrich the novel for you so rather than throw them away, it occurred to me that I could do a quick edit myself and post them up by way of a taster of the story and an introduction to some of the characters; however, do be aware that these are the bits that have NOT been curated by editors / proof-readers and beta-readers – just myself!
Correspondingly, (and hopefully for your pleasure) here is the first of the samples. As always, all comments welcome!
“I’m sure you see my problem,” Copeland drawled, toying with the papers on his desk. “If I let you have more time to pay the money back word would get around, and every ne’er-do-well in town would be begging for the same. It would be very bad for business.”
“Sir, I’m not one that finds it easy to beg, but if you say so, I’ll beg. My cargo was ruined in the great storm, when some fool of a sailor left the hatches open.” Striding over to the window, agitated, the Captain did not see the smirk which passed across the moneylender’s face. “Please, let me have more time. If you take my ship my son and I will be without a home, without a livelihood and without honour. The Black-Eyed Susan is my life; I’ve sailed in her forty years, man and boy. My son was born aboard her and my wife, God rest her soul, died there not three days ago.” He turned back stiffly. “I’m begging you, sir; give me a little more time. I’ll pay whatever you ask….”
Copeland was not listening to the Captain; he was picturing the Black-Eyed Susan. The ship was sleek and fast and, with his own man at the helm, would pay him well for all the trouble to which he had gone to get hold of her….
The silence grew. Captain Vansel’s face was gaunt with grief and loss; anxiously running one hand through his greying hair, only iron self-control kept him going. The doctor had sworn that a very expensive treatment would cure his wife’s illness; that the treatment had failed so spectacularly was incomprehensible to the Captain – though less so to Copeland who had suggested the scheme in the first place.
“My dear Captain, if you didn’t want to part with the boat, you shouldn’t have put her up as security for the loan. Your allotted time is up; give me the money or leave at dawn tomorrow. Those were my terms, and as you have failed to make your payments you leave me no choice.” He opened a drawer, took out a penknife and began to pare his nails. “Are you still here, Captain? I do assure you, there’s nothing further to be said.”
“Mr Copeland… another month… a week… I beg of you…”
“Blakey!” The door opened to reveal a bear of a man. “Ah, Blakey, the good Captain here was just leaving. Until dawn, Captain.”
“No, Copeland! My ship! My good name! Not for my sake, but my son’s, I beg you -”
“What ship? What good name?” Copeland enquired smoothly. “You forget yourself, Captain; as of five minutes ago you’re possessed of neither.”
“You leech! You damned-”
Copeland returned to his tattered leather chair as the Captain’s voice broke off into an abrupt hiss of breath. Another day, tediously like every other. It would be refreshing to have someone actually pay the whole sum on time for once; still, though novel, it would hardly be profitable. No, these tedious little scenes were simply another part of his everyday affairs, and the price of his occupation.
He paused to listen. The Captain, if he had any sense, would resign himself to the inevitable and leave. Blakey was a man whose job appeared to be remarkably well-suited to his natural temperament, and he had dealt with many a similar scene before this. No, to judge by the muffled thumps and thuds in the stairwell, the Captain had more determination than sense – and less money than either, like so many of Copeland’s clients.
The moneylender turned to look out of the window at the bloody sunset. “The doctor did his job well; and it seems that Able Seaman Hardy has done as required. However, I don’t recall having it recorded anywhere that his sabotage of the cargo should offset the money I loaned him; and besides, as the new owner of the Susan, I can scarcely let that sort of thing go unpunished…”
A short time later, Blakey knocked on the door. “What do you want me to do with the Captain, Mr Copeland?”
“Leave him somewhere near the ship; we wouldn’t want him to be late in leaving tomorrow. Oh, and ask around until you find our good friend Able Seaman Hardy.”
“Yes, Mr Copeland. Do you want to see him?”
The moneylender stretched one hand in front of him and examined the pink little nails absently. “No; precisely the reverse. I don’t want to see him. And I think it’d be for the best if no-one else does – unless he can be persuaded him of the benefits of silence, of course.”
“Right you are, Mr Copeland.” The bodyguard grinned crookedly. “I can be very persuasive when I need to be.”
“That’s why I employ you, Blakey. Now, I believe you have business to attend to…?”
Copeland listened to the bodyguard’s heavy tread as he dragged the former Captain over his shoulder and hauled him away to regain consciousness elsewhere. An efficient man in his own way, Blakey, but lacking in imagination. Still, Copeland mused, seeing what the man was capable of without it, it was possibly just as well.
Blakey made his way down to the docks in the gathering dusk, slinging the Captain down in an alley on his way to the Black Cat brothel where he expected to find the man’s crewmember. He was mildly surprised that the man was still unconscious but, hurrying off, he did not notice the greyness of his face nor the frothing sound of the Captain’s breathing as it slowed to a stop.
Dawn approached, and the crimson sky was stark against the white sails as the Black-Eyed Susan slipped silently out of the harbour. On her deck lay the body of her Captain, grey and cold; and at her tiller a slender dark-haired boy, half-blinded with tears and rage, turned one last look on the town and vowed vengeance for the death of his father.
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On Dark Shores is available from Amazon US and UK – see appropriate link below