“Some of the men met their deaths in unexplained circumstances,” he said. “Others disappeared. I’ve yet to gain access to the survivors’ statements, but they’re said to be extremely contradictory. I shall learn more during our voyage to the island.”
It did not strike me as particularly wise to decide to send a man so obviously unwell as Malcolm Hurd on so tiring a mission, but I refrained from commenting and a voyage to the island.” It did not strike me as particularly wise to decide to send a man so obviously unwell as Malcolm Hurd on so tiring a mission, but I refrained from commenting and simply said, “So you’d like me to accompany you?”
He sat back, and I could tell that even that movement pained him. “It’s like this, Arthur. I’m being permitted to take another expert with me. In addition to being a physician, you’re a man with a nose for what might be described as unusual occurrences.”
“What are you getting at?” I asked.
“I’m aware that you’re an extremely active member of the Parapsychology Society.”
“And you’re assuming that the so-called occurrences on Prins Karls Forland may fall into that category?”
“Yes,” Malcolm replied. “What little I know certainly warrants that conclusion.”
Three days later I was in the Sunderland harbor in northeast England. Situated at the mouth of the River Wear, Sunderland had welcomed me with the worst weather imaginable. Waves came crashing against the Quayside, driven by a gale blowing in from the North Sea. Fishermen were busy securing their bobbing boats. Far too cold for the time of year, the rain came pattering down and soaked me to the skin in seconds.
The Ramsgate seemed unaffected by all this. The freighter was hugging the Quayside like a monolith, merely groaning a little when a particularly big breaker strained her steel innards. A man leaned over the rail.
“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?” he called. I could scarcely hear him; the wind was carrying his words away.
“That is I!” I yelled back, waving my arms. The man came down the gangway and hurried toward me.
“Colin Broke, first officer of the Ramsgate,” he said by way of introduction and saluted me in navy fashion. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Broke had a boyish face that didn’t go with an officer of his rank. He picked up my bag. “Let’s get aboard. One of our best cabins has been reserved for you. Your colleagues arrived last night.”
“My colleagues?” I queried.
“In addition to Dr. Hurd, your team includes a biologist and a geologist,” he explained.
We went on board together, and I took in my surroundings. I was surprised by the relative silence, which contrasted with the hustle and bustle that normally reigned on a vessel of that kind. For me, being on board a ship was not an unusual experience. When young, I had worked as a ship’s doctor on a whaler, so the sea was almost like a second home to me. It was pleasant to be back on a vessel, and, rain and wind notwithstanding, I could tell that the freighter was in excellent condition almost new.
Broke showed me to my cabin and asked whether I would mind if he called for me in half an hour for a conference in the wardroom, where I would meet the other members of the expedition.
There were seven more cabin doors in the passageway, and I wondered if one of them concealed Malcolm Hurd. I could detect a faint vibration from the engine room. The boilers were getting steam up. The Ramsgate would be sailing despite the storm.