Love and Murder: The Last Voyage of the Erewhon

Love and Murder: The Last Voyage of the Erewhon

by Bill Mooney


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Love and Murder: The Last Voyage of the Erewhon by Bill Mooney

Tommy and Val are adventurers who love to dive. They board the sailing ship Erehwon, ready for a trip filled with excitement and maybe a little danger on the high seas. Of course, there's more to their trip than sightseeing. They are in love, but Val questions how real Tommy's feelings are. Is his love for a season or for life? She hopes the trip will decide where they stand.

The Erehwon sets sail under the cover of an ominous fog, and Val prepares to spend time alone with Tommy without the distraction of friends, family and academics. When a fellow shipmate goes missing, though, Tommy and Val's romantic urges are put on hold. The passengers and crew search for the lost traveler but find not a trace.

The captain presses on, despite the macabre mood that has settled like a cloud over his ship. Soon, another passenger vanishes, but that's not the worst of it. Something on the Erehwon is hungry for blood. Tommy and Val's love conundrum is the least of their worries as they find themselves trapped on a ship that wants them dead-a ship that might never make it back to port.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491740729
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/18/2014
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)

Read an Excerpt

Love and Murder

The Last Voyage of the Erewhon

By Bill Mooney

iUniverse LLC

Copyright © 2014 Bill Mooney
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-4072-9


Cape Upstart is situated close to the middle of the east coast of Australia about a thousand kilometers north of Brisbane. The sea almost surrounds a small hook of jutting land that allows sweeping views of coast and sea, that and the generally balmy climate make this little peninsular a particularly attractive spot. It is handsome places like Cape Upstart, and such towns as nearby Merinda, that make the Coral Sea Coast the unique place that it is. And of course, out there, beyond the breakers, the magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef itself.

A few of the divers had arrived and now waited on the dock for the launch that was, by this time, supposed to be there to take them out to the boat. Most of them showed the effects of long journeys from different places and although they were strangers to each other whatever inhibition there might be, soon melted. As more turned up they were easily recognized and greeted by those already there, as a brother or sister diver.

Tommy and Val sat on one of the wooden barriers on the wharf. They were first to get to the wharf and had introduced themselves as more arrived, among them several others from America, one a young man by the name of Spencer who Val figured could not be more that about sixteen. After the customary 'hi' and 'where you from?' exchange he moved away to re-join the rest of his group, a big athletic guy of twenty-something and others of about the same age all from the San Diego area. It was getting late in the day—the sun was still hot but most of them were shaded by tall trees growing right up to where the land ended and the dock began. There was also a cooling sea breeze that bought with it a strong scent of the ocean. Relaxed and patiently awaiting the launch, Val and Tommy talked quietly.

'And,' Val said emphatically, 'I don't want you backing out on the reason why we made this trip to Australia.'

'To have fun, relax and to see if it's really down under.' Val disregarded the quip.

'Yes, but the significant reason, is to give us the opportunity to find out if we should stay together or not, a subject that you are curiously adamantinely disinclined to discuss.'

'Sure, absolutely, we'll do that, Val,' he said breezily, 'but who in the hell says adamantinely?'

'Shrinks do. Tommy, you're not absolutely sure of anything,' Val gestured with her palms up and a shoulder shrug. 'On the plane down here to Australia you said you might even quit law.'

'I never said that, I said I didn't want to be my dad's office boy.'

'You wouldn't be his office boy, you'd be a lawyer.'

'A lawyer yes, but right now I'm only fifty-fifty on going into his firm. Mayhew Smith, Partners and Associates and since there's no Smith anymore it's dad's firm, Oliver Mayhew, Partners and Associates.' A fine point of law that Tommy could wrestle with could always capture his attention but the mundane day-today matters would bore him rigid. 'And as for the partners and associates,' he went on, 'they're a stuck up clique of law firm hacks, and I could be on the lowest rung for years.'

'Stop it! Tommy, Mayhew Smith is one of the most prestigious law firms in Philadelphia.'

'They're all crooks.' He persisted, trying to keep a straight face.

'They are not.' Val said dismissing it for the baseless wisecrack that it was.

'And so are most of the clients, crooks I tell you!' He alleged, faking solemnity, 'cheating on taxes and anything else they can get away with, believe me Val,' shaking his head and lowering his voice, 'it's a grubby business.'

'Oh, for God's sake will you please be serious? I'm going to enjoy you a lot more after you grow up, any idea when that's going to happen?'

'It's a slow process.'

'It sure is.'

'Okay, okay. So I get it done and pass the bar and baby, passing the bar is no slam-dunk —'

'Come on, you were in the top three per cent of your class!'

'Well,' Tommy said a little more seriously, 'so I pass, you know what? I think I'd like to do criminal law.'

'No you wouldn't.'

'Sure I would, I like desperadoes.'

Val sighed. 'You're odd.'

'Interesting little word, odd—and speaking of odd,' he said with a nod toward the others on the dock, 'have you taken a good look at our soon to be shipmates? Check them out. It's like someone called central casting and said send one of everything you got.'

'They're fine—just eclectic.'

'Only a clinical psychologist would say eclectic.'

'It's going to be another year before you can call me a psychologist.'

'So doctor is out?'

'For now, doctor is out.'

'But I can call you shrinko?'

'Certainly.... shyster.'

Thomas Mayhew and Valerie Castellano looked like they should be together, that they belonged together, the way some people do. Val with the light olive complexion that signposted her northern Italian ancestry—dark, lightly streaked hair—long but for now tied in a pony tail that poked out of the back of a well-worn New York Yankee's cap. Lovely dark eyes and an exquisitely shaped mouth that when she smiled, which was characteristic—and most of the time, displayed even, white teeth. And she had a body that any model would envy. Without doubt Val was nothing short of a knockout. Tommy, just a tad over average height with an even tan that seemed to be uninterrupted by the seasons and short brownish hair that tended to sun-bleach unevenly. His lineage descended from immigrants who had got themselves out of an impoverished and famine-ridden Ireland to America. Tommy was not especially handsome, he was rather, a well-set-up, overall good-looking guy.

Both were fairly athletic and from time to time, engaged in some form of outdoorsy things whenever their commitments allowed—they had dived before during a four day Florida vacation and liked it. They also looked like they came from relatively well-to-do families, which they did—but they didn't flaunt it. And neither of them cared about that anyway. They were clearly two people who would make their own way in the world. Tommy was taking a year off before tackling the bar exams and to take a post-graduate course in Constitutional Statutes and, for no particular reason, some of the more uncommon aspects of International Law. And Val was in the final year of her clinical psychology degree. They had heard about the diving trip from another guest at one of those backpacker hotels on their third day in Australia. Tommy and Val knew it was something they had not even thought about but it seemed like a good deal, it cost pretty much nothing and all you had to do was some work on the boat, how hard could that be? And you got to dive the Great Barrier Reef. They bought the bare minimum of diving gear, flippers, face masks and so on—and said yes.

Tommy stood, stretched, took in a deep breath of the clean air and looked around. The sea, the town, to the other people on the dock. Then he sat back down and put his arm around Val's waist.

'About the ... discussion, Val, can we just say: we'll see what we will see?'

'That's such a prosaicism.'

'And what the hell is that?'

'Prosaicism? ... A cliché, a platitude.'

'Of course, we'll see what we will see, is a platitude.' Tommy retorted with a laugh, 'Every profession, 'every professional, has platitudes to get him off the hook from challenging questions—and they all mean nothing.'

'Give me a for instance?'

'Okay, for instance, a doctor will say "in the fullness of time"—a Priest or a Pastor will say "we are not meant to know everything" and a ...'

Val cut in ... 'and a psychologist will say?'

'Hmmm ... "well, what do you think about that?"'

'Smart-ass. And what do Lawyers say, platatudiously? "Justice must be seen to be done."'

'Naaaaa and platatudiously is not a word. Lawyers just keep saying—we'll see you in court, buddy!'

Val linked her arm in his and with a kiss on his cheek breathed, 'I'll say it again, my love—you're odd.'

The wheels of a bus grinding to a brake squawking halt near the dockside had them look back to the road. There were few people around and those that were showed only passing interest as Wally, Beth and Jim tumbled out exhibiting the fatigue due to a long bus trip. Like the earlier arrivals, they tossed their duffel bags with the rest of the gear on the dock and received a friendly greeting. One old fisherman, tending his nets further along the shoreline, observed them silently with scant curiosity other than that, little attention was paid to the newcomers.

'Back to you and me, sport.' Val was not going to let it go. 'We said this trip would be the perfect time to decide what is going on between us, right?'


'And since it is a proven fact that there is always—always, Tommy, a defining moment in everyone's life,' Val declared earnestly, 'this may be our defining moment.'

'Wow! Psychology and philosophy, Val, is there no end to your talents?'

'Nope, so what do you say?'

'I say okay, but Val, what I don't get is why you have to be so, well, so analytical about it?'

'Why? I'll tell you why, Tommy. Too many relationships are decided on at a highly emotional time and confirmed for the wrong reasons.'

'Love is love. It's as simple as that.' He shrugged.

'No, it's rarely simple.' Val said emphatically, 'may I tell you something?'

'Go ahead.'

'Ever heard of—lovesick?'


'Well,' Val went on, 'for some people, love itself can be a sickness—an actual sickness, not joyous euphoria, not exhilaration gushing from every pore. For some it can be an actual debilitating, often devastating, sickness.'

'I known about cases like that, that's not us though.'

'No, not us. What I mean is more the norm, two people are thinking with their passions instead of their common sense without considering all the aspects of what it means to be linked forever. They are, in all probably, dissimilar to each other, and many are just that, dissimilar, that can mean they are eventually going to clash. Just ordinary people like us, and God knows, Tommy we are dissimilar. All right—take an ordinary couple, let's call them—'

'Bonny and Clyde?'

'Never mind—these two average, ordinary people decide to get together for the long haul, they are often totally different in temperament, nature, and character with practically nothing in common and what happens? I'll tell you what happens—it all turns to shit!'

'Not all of them.'

'No, not all, but a scary percentage.'

'How about, opposites attract.'

'That old saw, the cry of the truly desperate.' Val paused to let him think about it all and to gather the rest of her thoughts, then went on. 'What I'm saying is — do we really love each other enough for—well, forever.'

'Ah, love—luuuuuve!' Tommy lifted his eyebrows up and down several times mischievously.

'Okay, so that part is fine but—'

Tommy threw her a flabbergasted look.

Val ruffled his hair. 'Settle down, big guy.'


'Alright,' Val conceded, 'the sex is great, so is being together and all the rest of it but this is for our lifetime. Don't loose sight of the fact that we've had our ups and downs over the past year. I have to be sure of you and just as important—I have to be sure of myself.'


'Yes, me.'

'Isn't there some kind of test you could take?'

'You mean something out of one of those sappy magazines?' Val laughed at the idea. 'No.'

'Oh, I don't know, maybe you could—'

'No, Tommy, no! Val declared. 'And I asked you to be serious.'

'I am serious. So, no test?'

'No test.'

'Decision time, huh?'

'Exactly,' Val took his face in both her hands. 'We decide to commit or ... or—go our separate ways.'

'Separate ways?' Tommy nodded slowly, lost the smile and said, 'okay then.'

'So it's agreed?'

'It's agreed.'

One or two of the divers became a little restless at what was turning into a long wait for the launch that was to take them out to the boat from which they would dive the Coral Reef. They could hear music coming from a small cafe across the street.

'What do you think we should do?' One of the people from San Diego asked Spencer.

'We have to wait for the launch,' Spencer said after consulting a carefully itemized itinerary, 'for the launch guy.'

'Hey Jeff!' Another one of those from San Diego, Tony, hollered, 'where are you going?'

'Get something to drink over at that place.' Others began to follow him across the street to the cafe.

'Someone should watch all this stuff.' Spencer called to them.

'Go ahead,' Tommy told him with a friendly grin, 'we'll keep an eye on everything, Spencer, right?'

'Yes, Spencer,' the young man said, 'want me to get you something?'

'Thanks anyway, I'm good.' Val said.


'We're okay.' Tommy lifted a plastic bottle.

The cafe, although possibly a center of town activity for the younger set, was not crowded. Several of the divers scrambled to the counter while others took tables almost filling the tiny eatery. The jukebox was stocked with old rock and roll and was pretty loud. The owner of the cafe liked it that way. They called out orders after reading from a chalk menu on the wall and they were a little rowdy. The owner was not about to complain, that kind of business was not an every day thing for the small eatery. And when they asked if they could have the music cranked up even louder he said okay. The song playing when they entered was 'Give me that old time rock and roll. They had been in the café for about an hour when Tommy appeared at the entrance to the café and called,

'He's here!'

As they left the café and ran toward the dock and the waiting launch, the words of Crystal Gale's song hung in the air and trailed after them ...

'Don't take me half the way,'


The launch was moored against the wooden piling with the motor running noisily. They stood there not knowing quite what to do.

'Well, what are you waiting for?' A man in the boat called as he came up from beneath the motor housing to the deck, 'get aboard.'

Two or three of them stepped onto the launch and the others passed, or tossed, the gear to them. After all the gear had been passed down onto the deck, the rest of them crossed over onto the launch. When the boat man was sure everyone was aboard, he gave the two gas levers a sudden jerk. The engines roared to life and the launch began to pull away from the dock.

'Hey, wait for us!

'Hold it, mate!'

Frank and Jack clambered from the back of a truck. They called out their thanks to the trucker and ran to the launch. Tommy made a leap back onto the dock to help them with their gear then tossed it to others on the boat. But the launch drifted too far away for the three on the dock to make it back. The man reluctantly revved the engines into ahead for a minute to get the boat closer. There were still several feet between the dock and the launch but Tommy and the two newcomers didn't wait any longer, they took a run and then a leap, tumbling hard onto the deck. Frank rolled over onto his back then sat up grinning.

'See Jack,' he said grabbing at his friend for a handshake, 'what did I tell you, plenty of time.' Frank looked up at the faces of those standing around him and shouted good-naturedly, 'Giday all!'

The launch surged out into midstream then wallowed slightly when it hit the outer water. Tidal water flowed down from the hook of land jutting out from the coast and gave the launch a bumpy side to side motion. The granite headland of Cape Upstart climbed steeply from the sea with its northern and eastern faces forming an unbroken rocky rampart. Upstart Bay, which they could see more clearly now, appeared less forbidding. With small sandy beaches enclosed by a narrow rocky promontory around which a stiff breeze then hit the launch. Compounded by the speed of the boat the offshore breeze fired spray into the eager faces that gazed expectantly straight ahead.

'There she is!' Someone shouted excitedly. Others joined in with yells and a few cheers.

'Oh, boy!'

'Wow! That's some boat!'

'You beaut!' One of the Aussies bellowed.


Excerpted from Love and Murder by Bill Mooney. Copyright © 2014 Bill Mooney. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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