It's raining now
The rain floods down from the dirty skies above London Town with alacrity of an emptied chamber pot in auld Edinburgh. Though not, thought Connor sullenly, with so much as a single ‘gardyloo!’ in warning. He pulled the sopping velvet of his evening coat tighter across his chest and hunched into his collar, miserable and still more than a little drunk.
He wasn’t sure why this particular anniversary had hit him so hard. Maybe it was being in London, a town that had never agreed with him. Maybe it was the fact that it was Kitten’s eighteenth birthday and for the first time ever he wouldn’t see her on the day. Maybe it was the fact that his beautiful daughter was now the age her mother had been on that blessed, cursed day. Whatever the factors, Connor had set out to drown his sorrows in drink and had taken a fairly good stab at it. The London rain seemed determined to finish the job.
A silent shadow slipped from an alley way and followed Connor’s stumbling steps towards the Thames docks. Connor was too preoccupied to notice he had picked up a tail. His thoughts were mired in the past. He burst into off-key song, a serenade for his lost love:
There was a lord in Lon-don town
He court-ed a la-dy gay
And all that he court-ed this la-dy
For was to take her sweet life a-way
Just paced the decks of the Palace waiting for the return of his best friend. His pain at the loss of Isabelle was the only thing Connor had ever refused to share. On the anniversary, Connor traditionally masked his scars long enough to celebrate with his daughter, but once she was safely tucked into bed, he would disappear to the seedy underbelly of the dock-side dives and drink himself insensible. More than once, Just had found a sick a bloodied Connor in the gutter the morning after, but he knew enough to help his friend home and not mention the events of the night.
The problem this year, was that Connor’s annual pity-party fell on the week they were in London. They had avoided this cursed town as much as possible over the years since Isabelle had died while they were berthed here. Just and Rita attempted to schedule London runs when they could be piggy backed onto Calais or Glasgow stops, to allow Connor the dignity of business demands away from the ship for the single night or two it stopped in London.
Now, though London was growing in prominence, and the lure of strong new business had made Connor schedule a week stop at Thames docks. Just had not noticed that the week would fall over the anniversary, and apparently neither had Connor. That was part of why the boss was out punishing himself. Just wished he had taken up Rita’s suggestion to send a telegraph to Kitten the day before. The child could have taken the train to London and been here to help anchor Connor to the here and now.
Well, it was too late for regrets of that stripe. Just would give Connor another few minutes, and then he would head out into the downpour to find his friend and bring him home.