George Enos was gutting haddock on the noisome deck of the steam trawler Ripple when Fred Butcher, the first mate, sang out, "Smoke off the starboard bow!" That gave George an excuse to pull the latest fish off the deck, gut it, toss it down into the icy, brine-smelling hold, and then straighten up and see what sort of ship was approaching.
His back made little popping noises as he came out of this stoop. I'm getting too old for this line of work, he thought, though he was only twenty-eight. He rubbed at his brown mustache with a leather-gloved hand. A fish scale scratched his cheek. The sweat running down his face in the late June heat made the little cut sting.
He followed Butcher's pointing finger with his eyes. "A lot of smoke," he said, whistling low. "That's not just another Georges Bank fishing boat, or a tramp freighter, either." His Boston accent swallowed the r's in the final syllables of the last two words. "Liner, I'd guess, or maybe a warship."
"I think you're right," Butcher said. He was little and skinny and quick and clever, his face seamed by wind and sun and spray till he looked to have ten more years than the forty-five or so he really carried. His mustache was salt and pepper, about evenly mixed. Like Enos, he grew it thick and waxed the ends so they pointed toward his eyes. Half the men in the United States who wore mustaches modeled them after the one gracing Kaiser Wilhelm's upper lip.
Captain Patrick O'Donnell came out of the cabin and pressed a spyglass to his right eye. "Warship, sure enough," he said, his Boston mixed with a trace of a brogue. "Four-stacker--German armored cruiser, unless I'm wrong."
"If you say it, Captain, we'll take it to the bank," Fred Butcher answered. That wasn't apple-polishing. O'Donnell had spent years in the U.S. Navy, rising to chief petty officer, before he retired and went into business for himse...