Death in the Darkness (A Trial of Love) Part Four

1 Nov


The debris screen was well constructed but after careful examination Steve saw a weakness that he was sure he could use to his advantage. It was a requirement of Naval Ships Systems Command that no piece of equipment be welded to the pressure hull itself except for the frame member I-beams. This requirement was instituted to prevent corrosion at the weld joints which could drastically reduce the integrity of the hull in deep water. What this meant for him was that the screen was attached to its supporting structure only at the top of its framework. By slipping his fingers through the lattice work of the screen as low down and near to the hull as he could, Steve was able to pull it toward himself almost a half an inch. This attachment method would explain how he was able to crash through the other side’s screen and get snared by it on the way down and in. If he could exert enough force at the bottom of this screen he might be able to bend it up enough to let him slip underneath.

 A quick inventory of the items he had to work with yielded a small, but better than nothing list of tools. He had a standard issue navy blue web belt and brass buckle, his blue dungarees, a pair of underwear, a pair of boondocker boots and their laces as well as a pair of socks. Last on the list were his wallet and the flashlight. After a few minutes consideration, Steve set to work with renewed spirits. Where there’s a will, he thought, there’s a way.

Steve let go of the screen and slid back down the chute to the bilge, set down the flashlight and undid his belt buckle. He arched his hips and removed the belt, held it in his teeth, then undid his pants and began to slide them off. When they reached his knees and began to bunch up he realized he had to remove his boots. There was no way to untie the laces so he just used his heels to force them off, then contorted his body and dragged each boot up along the frame with his toes until he could move them no farther. When they were stable and just out of reach of his hands, Steve slid his whole body down toward the keel until he could grab the boots, then wriggled and pushed back up to the screen. When he got there he untied the laces, slipped them through the lattice on either side closest to the frame members and tied them back to themselves. That done he slid back down to the bilge and rested.

His dungarees had almost slid completely off during his struggles to move the shoes up and by kicking his legs, Steve was able to get the pants to migrate completely over his feet and off. He hooked them with his toes and maneuvered them up to his knees, repeated his slide down toward the keel and grabbed the dungarees. Once more he wriggled back up to the screen where he hung the pants over one of the boots and then grabbed the bottom of the lattice in both hands and pulled. The screen moved in towards him and a small space opened up at the bottom. He let go with his left hand, shoved it palm up under the edge of the screen and hooked his fingers up. Supporting himself with that hand, Steve took the belt from his mouth and removed the buckle. He put the buckle in his mouth and then folded the end of the belt without the brass tip and inserted it into and through one of the lattice holes low and near the center of the screen. His muscles ached with the strain of holding himself up against the screen but the excitement he felt overcame the fatigue. He kept feeding the belt through the lattice until he could snag the loose end with his left hand and pull it out the opening at the bottom edge. Using his left hand to hold onto the belt and keep him positioned close to the screen he kept feeding the belt in with his right hand. When he judged he’d gotten the right amount through and pulled back and out the bottom he stopped and replaced the buckle. He then slid the brass tip though the inside of the buckle a few inches and reefed hard while setting the knurled locking dowel. The backward pull set the dowel and the belt now formed a perfect loop through the screen.

Once more, this time with a huge sigh of relief, Steve Brace slid back down to the bilge to rest. The pieces were falling into place and with a little luck he’d be out of trouble in no time.

8 Responses to “Death in the Darkness (A Trial of Love) Part Four”

  1. Madison Woods November 1, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    Another comment I’d left might show up after pinging around in the cybersphere for a while Doug.

    You’re very good at leaving the reader in suspense. Love the way you have the scene set so I get the feeling I know exactly where he is and why he’s having such trouble getting out. That makes the suspense even higher.

    In one spot it seemed there were too many ‘with’s and I think you could do away with at least one by rearranging a sentence:

    “A quick inventory of the items he had to work with yielded a small, but better than nothing list of tools to work with.”

    Looks great other than that one snag to me 🙂

    • dmmacilroy November 1, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      Dear Madison,

      I must tell you I wrote all parts of this story at 14,000 feet of elevation and tonight I am particularly fried. Took your advice and ammended that sentence. Only proof-read the piece two or three times tonight.

      It’s probably not good practice to do what I’m doing but staring at my empty blog front page gets me feeling antsy and I succumbed to the ants tonight and just whipped out Part Four.

      Thank you very much for being one of the faithful few readers I have right now. I know that time wounds all heels and that I must be patient in the growing an audience or be satisfied with singing alone in the shower.

      Poor Steve. He had a bad day thirty-five years ago and I’m his only chronicler. I hope he makes it out.

      Yours in the night,


      • Robin Hawke November 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

        I felt cramps reading this…particularly in paragraph 2. I’m still knotted up, even though Steve is resting, Robin

  2. dmmacilroy November 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Hi Robin,

    Yes, me too. Writing this story really brought back memories. I’ve been in the space that Steve got stuck in and it was an unbelievably tight fit. At the time I had several inches and about seventy pounds on Steve so for me the feeling of claustrophobia kicked in right away. I don’t know how I would have reacted had our positions been switched. What I do know is that it would have taken a gun to my head to get me to even think about doing what he did.



  3. susielindau November 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    Not sure how I missed this installment! The title had me thinking he died at the end of this one. I am glad to see he is still very much alive. Great story!
    I will search for the next chapter….

    • dmmacilroy November 28, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

      Hi Susie,

      Last chapter will be written this week. Probably posted by Thursday. Thanks for reading this series and taking the time to comment. (True story, too.)



  4. eliserae January 16, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    It’s good see there’s more to be read. This was very unsettling!

    • dmmacilroy January 16, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      Hi Elise,

      Thanks for looking around. Have to finish this story before Steve gets drowned down there. i’ve left the conclusion for entirely too long.



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