This week’s installment contains the critical moment in this story, the one I’ve felt the urge to correct ever since I saw this movie in early 1973. If only I had imagined fanfic!
Anyway, let’s return to the ongoing adventure aboard the capsized Poseidon…
On her way back to where she’d left the injured Liam Acres resting, Julia Finney located the locker containing some flashlights and lanterns. She took as many as she could carry, and when she got back to the others she saw that Belle Rosen had just been pulled up the staircase. She set the lights down against the wall of the passageway, and went to Liam.
“How are you, Honey?” she asked, as she knelt beside him.
“I’m all right, Luv. Did you see Brian?”
“Yes, and he’s with Reverend Scott,” she smiled. “He says he knows a way up for us.”
“Yes, he and I talked about it.”
She moved to unroll the bandage. “Let me look at your leg.”
He winced as she touched him, but allowed her to do as she wished.
“I don’t think It’s bleeding as much, but I’d like to get something to clean…”
They were interrupted by Nonnie Parry’s screams. Julia jumped up and ran to the top, (bottom?), of the staircase. She was horrified to see the corridor below rapidly filling with water. Nonnie had just been pulled up, and was hysterical, so Julia took her in her arms to comfort her, moving her out of the way. Mike Rogo tossed the hose down again and his wife, Linda, put it around her waist, then threw one arm around James Martin, and they both scrambled to the top.
Frank Scott and Brian Curry came rushing back as soon as they heard the screams. “Come on this way!” the minister shouted, as he grabbed a lantern with one hand and motioned them in the direction he’d just come from with the other. They all fell in behind him, many also retrieving a lantern or flashlight, as Julia and Brian helped Liam to his feet.
Due to the recent panic, and the resulting discussion over how much longer the Poseidon might remain afloat, no one noticed at first that there was a new member in their party. They formed a semi-circle around Scott when they reached the shaft tunnel.
“Hey, you’re the bartender, aren’t ya? Where’d you come from?”
“Yes, Mr. Rogo, I’m Brian Curry. I was in the storage room behind the bar when it happened, and made my way up to this deck using a different staircase. I was looking for a way up to Broadway when I saw Liam…Mr. Acres, then I went to find Jules, I mean Miss Finney, and Mr. Scott.”
“Oh, so you think this will get us up to Broadway?” the detective asked.
“Yes, Sir, I think so,” Brian answered.
Scott was on his knees, preparing to enter the tunnel, and looked up at the group surrounding him. “This duct leads to a vertical air shaft…”
Belle Rosen looked dismayed, and interrupted, “Through that little hole…?”
“This little hole, as you call it, is going to get us out of here and up to Broadway. We’ve climbed four decks, so far. We have two more to go. This is the only way…”
As Scott was assuring the heavyset woman that she would crawl right through that ‘little hole,’ Julia looked at Liam with concern. “Reverend, are you saying that this tunnel ends with a ladder, and we’ll have to crawl through it, then climb up? I…I don’t know if Liam…” She looked at him standing beside her. “Maybe we should just…”
Liam took her hand and turned her to face him. “I can do this, Luv! You and Brian will be there to help me. It will be all right, I’ll manage.”
She smiled slightly. “I don’t know…maybe we could find another way…and let everyone else go this way…” She looked around helplessly.
“We’ll all help as much as we can,” Scott said, “but no, it won’t be easy for you, Acres. I think it’s our best chance, and that you owe it to yourselves to take it, but if you want to try for something else, I can’t stop you.”
“No, Sir, we’ll come with you,” Liam said firmly.
“All right, good!” Scott said, as he turned to crawl into the darkness. “Rogo?”
“Yeah?” the detective asked.
“You come after me. I want you to see that everyone gets onto the ladder.” As Rogo grumbled, yet ducked inside, Scott called behind him, “Curry?”
“Yes, Sir?” Brian answered.
“You come next, so you can show me the way.”
“All right, Sir.”
“Mr. Martin?” Scott finally yelled, his voice echoing slightly.
“Yes, Reverend?” the shy haberdasher asked.
“You bring up the rear, make sure everyone’s accounted for.”
“All right, Reverend.”
Slowly they began to crawl through the hatch. Linda Rogo was next, making a comment about not wanting to get stuck behind Belle Rosen. Susan and Robin Shelby followed. After the kids, the Rosens slowly made it into the duct.
“Nonnie, you’re next,” James said, pushing her forward a little.
“No, with you. With you,” she gasped, holding his arm tightly.
“Miss Finney, Mr. Acres, would you mind…?”
Before Julia helped Liam to his knees she made sure the bandage was securely tied. He turned away when his leg made contact with the metal surface, hoping she wouldn’t see the grimace of pain that crossed his face, but she was watching him closely. She touched his back. “Are you sure you want to do this, Honey?”
“Yes, Luv, we have to,” he said, through gritted teeth, as he crawled off with Julia close behind.
When they came to the air shaft, they saw Manny Rosen climbing onto a rickety ladder, and Mike Rogo at the entrance to the shaft, waiting to help them. Liam tried to get Julia to go ahead of him, but she refused.
“No! I’m going right behind you, so I can help you keep your balance, just like I’ve been doing.”
Rogo helped him swing out onto the ladder, and he smiled gratefully at Julia. “Thank you, Luv.”
It was very rough going. Liam had to hop on one foot most of the time, because it hurt so much to put any weight on his injured leg. He also feared it might give out on him. Julia was right behind him though, helping hold him to the ladder.
“You’re doing fine, Honey,” she called up to him. “We’ll be up to Broadway soon…”
Suddenly there was a large explosion, and the ladder they were clinging to seemed to almost be going sideways. Liam’s foot slipped, and he lost grip with one hand. He would have fallen into the bubbling water below if Julia hadn’t moved quickly.
“Liam, hang on! I’m here!” She climbed up behind him, holding him between the ladder and her body as he scrambled for hand and footholds.
Below them Martin was looking on anxiously, ready to grab for the steward if he should fall, knowing that such action would most likely cause him to fall himself, but fortunately it wasn’t necessary.
The pool below them blew up, covering the five still on the ladder with oily water.
As soon as Liam was a bit more balanced, he began to slowly inch his way up the ladder to the open duct. He couldn’t maneuver climbing from the ladder into the tunnel by himself, so Julia squeezed past him, and helped pull him to relative safety. She knew they didn’t have time for more than a quick embrace, but she held him very tightly for a moment. I almost lost you there… she thought as she nuzzled against his neck.
Below them, Martin was having troubles of his own. Nonnie, who had been on the edge of hysteria much of the time since the capsize, broke down once again, and was frozen in place.
The young singer had been petrified with fear when the ladder had tilted. She’d looked down at the churning water below, knowing that if she fell into it she would surely sink like a stone. I wish Mom and Dad had allowed us near water, so I would know how to at least swim a little… she thought. She knew though that after losing their oldest son, five-year-old Mark, to drowning in Lake Sammamish, back home in Washington State, Mr. And Mrs. Parry would never take such chances with Teddy and Nonnie.
Teddy! her heart cried out. You’re really gone! What will I do without you? How will I tell Mom and Dad? She began to sob again, fully feeling her loss of her brother and the danger of her current situation.
Behind and below her, Martin was wondering what to do. He’d been relieved when Miss Finney had managed to climb up to Mr. Acres and hold him to the ladder. He’d been even more relieved when the two of them had begun to inch upward again. He wasn’t very good with heights, so he wasn’t at all comfortable on the long, open ladder. He knew it was the only way though, and was determined to climb up it to the relative safety of the next deck. He thought Nonnie would follow once the way was clear, but she didn’t. He could hear her sobs, and as he climbed up another rung or two behind her, he could feel her trembling.
“Nonnie?” he called softly.
“Y-yes?” she answered in a quivering voice.
“Nonnie, it’s all right. Miss Finney and Mr. Acres made it up the ladder. They’re safe. Now it’s your turn. Can you just reach up one hand…?”
Before the terrified girl could answer or move there was a loud voice from below. “Hey! What’s goin’ on up there? Whaddya doin’, takin’ a coffee break? Move it!”
Martin looked down for a moment. “Please, Mr. Rogo!” the usually timid man said sharply, then turned back to the panicked girl, and softened his voice again. “Nonnie, reach up your hand…come on, you can do it. Reach for the next rung…that’s it. Now your other hand…yes. Now your foot. Nice and easy, one rung at a time.” As she moved, he continued, “That’s the toughest one, the first rung.”
James was right behind her encouraging, comforting, praising. He discovered that the more he concentrated on helping Nonnie, the less he noticed his own fears. He’d never known this sensation in his solitary life. He’d never experienced giving this kind of care to someone, of putting her needs before his own. He had to admit it was a good feeling. They finally made it to the duct and began crawling toward Broadway.
Julia continued to help Liam as they made their way through the tunnel. “Can someone help us please?” she called out, as they neared the exit. “Liam needs a hand getting out.”
Linda Rogo was hovering around the duct opening. “Here, take my hand,” she said. Concern distorted her doll-like features. “Is everyone alright? The explosions…Mike…?”
She pulled Acres to his feet as Julia followed close behind. The two women held each other’s gaze for a moment, each understanding how the other felt.
“Thank you, Mrs. Rogo,” Julia said. “I don’t know for sure about your husband, but I think everyone else is fine… Liam almost fell.”
Linda nodded and bent down to look into the dim passage, straining to see the figure of her husband, but he wasn’t visible. She could see Nonnie and James inching along though, and prayed Mike was behind them.
Julia turned to Liam as she helped him sit down. “Let me look at your leg again. I ought to be able to find the doctor’s office around here, and get some antiseptic and clean dressing,” she said shakily.
She was hoping that if she concentrated on the task of finding medical supplies she would be able to banish the image of Liam, plunging into the churning waters of the shaft, from her mind. She shuddered slightly, then Liam covered her hand with his.
“It’s all right, Luv,” he said softly, patting her hand.
“I know, I…” a sob broke her voice. “What if I’d gone ahead of you…? I wouldn’t have been there to…”
He pulled her toward him, caressing her wet and tousled hair, trying to brush it back from her face. “Hush, Luv! You were right there. Nothing happened.”
I’ve done what I set out to do, I’ve saved Acres from the fall in the air shaft. That was my original goal of this story; all the rest came later, based on some of the inspirations I told you about at the beginning.
There’s MUCH MORE adventure in store for our brave band of survivors though, so come back next week.