Justice from the Deep by Cheryl Brooks
Justice from the Deep
by Cheryl Brooks
A telepathic warning from the pilot enables flight attendant Susan Maxwell to survive a terrifying plane crash. In the wake of the disaster, she takes charge until the inevitable breakdown occurs and her mind is filled with the voices of other passengers. When she contacts her fellow survivors, she learns that they too have been hearing voices, and that a greater destiny awaits them.
Seamus Quinn found the woman of his dreams when he rescued Susan and her friends, but her initial reaction left him with no hope of ever seeing her again—until she shows up on the dock asking to hire his boat.
With his love and assistance, Susan discovers the role that both Seamus and the sea will play in fulfilling her destiny as the Bringer of Justice. Reuniting with her fellow survivors culminates in a display of power that will alter the course of human history.
Justice from the Deep
The drive from the Cliffs of Moher to Liscannor took only a few minutes, but to Susan Maxwell, the trip might as well have taken a week. Her feet dragged as she walked down to the docks when her step should have been springy and light. She should have been pleased to see the boat and its crew. They had, after all, plucked her and two other women from a life raft after their plane crashed into the sea off the west coast of Ireland.
“And there she is,” Susan muttered as she approached the dock. The Branwyn Eostre rocked gently at her moorings, her blue and white hull reflecting off the waves. The two crewmen were busy on deck, undoubtedly tucking their craft in for the night.
Seamus Quinn and Ian… Had she ever heard Ian’s surname? She didn’t think so. If she had, it didn’t register. Not like the name of the boat itself, which, according to her captain, was derived from Branwyn, the goddess of love, sexuality, and the sea and Eostre, the goddess of spring, rebirth, fertility, and new beginnings.
New beginnings, hell.
“Every ending is a new beginning.”
“Shut up,” Susan said absently. She hadn’t quite gotten the hang of ignoring the voices that had taken up residence in her head in the wake of the crash. Cleona Mahoney, one of her fellow survivors, had told her they would help her to—Susan couldn’t help but chuckle—save the world.
Yeah, right. How can I save the world when I couldn’t even save the man I love?
“Forget that,” she whispered aloud. “He isn’t in the group.”
That omission had been the unkindest cut of all. When she might have drawn comfort from hearing Chuck’s voice, it had been denied her, save for those few frantic moments before the plane went down.
One of the first flights she’d been on as an attendant had been with him.
“You’re who?” she’d asked. “Chuck Yeager? Seriously?”
It had seemed like such a joke at the time, one Chuck had used to his advantage on frequent occasions, although he’d only been named after the famous aviator. His last name was actually Travers, the “Charles Yeager” having its source in his parents’ expectations of him—not that he’d ever had the chance to be anything but a pilot, given the number of them in his family.
She and Chuck had enjoyed an intense, passionate affair that ended shortly before he met his future wife. Although he and Susan had remained good friends, he had moved on to find love with another, whereas Susan never had. Chuck and his wife lived with their two children in a big old house in southern Maryland. Susan still lived alone in the same Newark apartment, partly because she’d never met anyone who measured up to Chuck, but mostly because she’d never really stopped loving him.
She’d never met any of Chuck’s family, but at least they were still alive to mourn him. Entire families had been aboard that plane, all of them lost along with the 747’s full complement of passengers and crew—with three exceptions. Four, if you included the dog.
Susan still wished she’d been among the dead. Twice now, she’d stood on the edge of the cliffs gazing down at the rocks while mentally calling out to Chuck’s spirit. Refusing to accept the ensuing silence on her first visit, she’d gone back there again. Redoubling her efforts, she concentrated on him so hard she could almost see his face, but if he was there, he wasn’t talking.
How could she have received a telepathic communication from him when he was alive and he not be among the others after his death? Both times, Cleona had interrupted Susan’s attempts to contact him, although whether her intervention was fortunate or unfortunate remained to be seen.
And now, instead of airplanes, she’d been told to seek out a boat.
Seamus, the younger of the two men, glanced up from his task and swept off his cap, revealing a thatch of dark brown curls. “Well, now… I wouldn’t have thought we’d be seeing you again.”
“Me either,” Susan replied. “But here I am.” She drew in a fortifying breath. “I was told to hire your boat.”
An eyebrow rose as he strolled over to the port side. “And who would’ve told you that?”
Another sigh. “Cleona. She said I was supposed to find you and hire your boat.”
“Did she happen to say why?”
“No, she didn’t.” Saving the world wasn’t going to cut it as an excuse. Not with this guy—especially since she didn’t fully grasp the need herself. “I think…” She straightened as an explanation suddenly occurred to her. “I think she thought it would help me to, um…recover.”
With a slow nod, he rubbed his chin in a contemplative manner. “I see. Would you be wanting it tomorrow? We’ve an hour or so free in the afternoon.”
“Whenever,” she said with a shrug. “I’m not really sure it matters.”
He glanced toward the horizon. “Or would now be a better time?”
She was still staring at him when she realized her mouth had dropped open. “N–no. I don’t think so.” The mere thought of being out to sea at night set off a shiver.
“Just as well,” he said. “It’ll be getting dark soon, and there’s some weather moving in.” He cocked his head. “You said you needed to recover. You look fine to me—a bit pale, perhaps, but—”
“Please don’t start that again.”
A smile tugged the corner of his mouth. “Start what?”
“That crap about redheaded women being fierce.”
“Ah, but it’s true, isn’t it?” His eyes narrowed to a squint. “You were plenty fierce before.” His gaze shifted toward the top of her head. “And you’re still a ginger.”
“Hmm…” She pressed her lips into a firm line. This was a conversation she truly didn’t want to have. “How do you know the color didn’t come from a bottle?”
The boat rocked as he took a step closer and peered up at her. “It’s been almost two weeks since that plane went down, and the roots of your hair look to be the same shade as the ends. Something tells me you wouldn’t have been in any mood to dye your hair.”
He was right, of course. As adrift as she’d felt, she barely had the inclination to wash and comb it.
“Adrift, hell. You’re clinically depressed. And rightly so.”
The shrink was talking to her again. She had to bite her lip to keep from retorting aloud. She took a moment to regroup before saying, “You’re probably right.”
“So tomorrow, then? At about three?”
She nodded. “That should work.” Deeming the conversation over, she turned to go.
“Hold on.” Within seconds, he’d climbed nimbly up the ladder and hopped onto the quay. “Can I get a phone number in case we need to call you?”
She stood there for a long moment. I’m gaping again.
“You have a mobile phone, don’t you?”
Actually, she had two. One that worked, and one that didn’t. Oddly enough, she didn’t know the correct number for dialing either of them. Nevertheless, she fished through her purse for the phone the airline had given her. The other one was back at her hotel in a bag of rice. She didn’t know what she’d hoped to accomplish by trying to dry out some stranger’s phone, but it had given her something to focus on at a time when her life had lost any semblance of order.
“Nice purse,” he commented.
She glanced up at him in surprise. Granted, it was a Gucci, but why a fisherman would notice such a thing defied logic. “The airline people gave it to me in London.” Her fingers touched on the smooth plastic of her phone. “Here it is. Hold on while I look up the number.” Something as simple as a phone number should’ve been easy to remember, but for some strange reason, she hadn’t been able to commit it to memory.
“Why don’t you just call mine?” he suggested.
Deeming it easier than delving into the settings on her own device, she tapped in the numbers as he rattled them off, then pressed the Send icon. Within moments, his phone rang—playing an ordinary ringtone, as opposed to something more distinctively Irish.
“We’re connected,” he said, checking his phone. “All we have to do is look under Recent Calls.”
So simple… Unlike Cleona’s talents. She’d been using Ireland’s stone towers to communicate with Susan, which was weird as all get-out, but was, thus far, their only mode of contact, if somewhat inconvenient. Not only did Susan have to climb to the top of O’Brien’s Tower, she had to pay the two-euro admission fee every time they needed to talk. Still, as a means of proving that something spooky was going on, such “calls” were unsurpassed. At least it proved she wasn’t losing her mind.
Or did it? Perhaps their peculiar abilities were a sign of mutual insanity. She waited a moment for the shrink to chime in—which, of course, he didn’t. None of her ghostly cohorts ever answered questions on demand. They only made random comments whenever the spirit—her choice of words elicited a mental eye roll—moved them. They hadn’t said anything when she’d stood at the edge of the cliff. She’d told Cleona that the cliffs were the only place she could find peace, when what she’d really meant was that the voices ceased as she approached the edge. Maybe it was their way of trying not to goad her into jumping—or holding their collective breath to see whether she would.
“Um…where are you staying?”
“I’m at the Cliffs of Moher Hotel.” The description had intrigued her—Unassuming lodging with restaurant and bar. You couldn’t go wrong with a place like that—aside from the fact that it was the only hotel in Liscannor that wasn’t booked solid when she arrived.
“So you decided not to stay on in London?”
She shook her head. “I was there for about a week. I tried to avoid this place, but it kept calling to me.”
If he thought her reasoning was strange, he was at least tactful enough hold his tongue. “It’s a nice enough hotel,” he said. “And I’m not a bit surprised you came back here.”
Susan waited for the obvious quip about being anxious to see him again. But once more, he didn’t comment. “Oh? Why is that?’
His gaze swept the bay and the surrounding village. “There’s a kind of magic to this place. I’ve lived here all my life and I still can’t explain it—although the proximity of St. Brigid’s well might have something to do with it.” His eyes met hers once again. “Have you been to the well?”
“No—at least, not yet.” She had passed by the site a number of times. Even without a sign to point the way, the statue of St. Brigid standing in her glass case by the roadside was hard to miss. Thus far, however, Susan’s only comfort had been walking along the cliffs rather than visiting the local holy places. She wondered why. In the wake of such a terrifying disaster, she ought to have sought solace in every shrine in Ireland.
“You should go,” he urged. “It’s not far from here. People visit from all over. Even without the religious aspect, it’s an interesting spot. Very soothing to the soul.”
She nodded. “I’ll do that.”
Ireland itself had provided a measure of healing. The sweeping vistas of County Clare contrasted with neat, whitewashed buildings, and a pub sat right beside the site of the holy well, the perfect mix of magic, practicality, and natural beauty. The air was clear and fresh, carrying with it the faint tang of the sea, which was the only clue that the ocean was so near. No lawns sloped down to a sandy beach; the land was well above sea level, as the height of the cliffs demonstrated so vividly.
“I could take you there now if you like,” Seamus said after glancing at the horizon once again.
Susan smiled to herself, thinking that perhaps it was a seaman’s habit to consult the sky rather than his watch to mark the time of day. “That’s very kind of you, but I know the way. And I have a car.” Truth be told, one of her excursions to the cliffs had been accomplished on foot. Walking exercised the body and calmed the mind—except when her hitchhiking ghosts decided to chime in. Would they be as quiet at the well as they were on the cliffs? Either way, she’d have bet money that her resident shrink would tell her that visiting the well was good therapy.
Figured that would get you going again.
Seamus shifted from one foot to the other as his smile slowly broadened. “You misunderstand me.”
Deliberately, perhaps. Cleona had seemed to think Seamus could aid them in their quest to save the world; no doubt she would read Susan the riot act for pushing him away. “Okay, then. If you really want to take me there, I have no objection to allowing you to do so.”
“Your enthusiasm is bowling me over,” he said with a mocking grin. “But I’ll take that as a yes.”
“See now… That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Oh, hush up.
He offered her his arm. “Shall we?”
“Don’t you have to do more, er…boat maintenance before you go?”
“Ian will take care of the rest. We were nearly done anyway.” Turning toward the boat, he waved at his shipmate. “Oy, Ian! We’ll be heading out now. I got us a three o’clock for tomorrow.”
Ian waved back. “Is that the ginger Yank, then?”
“Aye, it is. Told you she’d be back, didn’t I?”
“That you did.” Ian nodded toward Susan. “Good to see you, lass. You look a mite better than you did the last time we saw you.”
“I’m doing okay,” she said. “At least, as well as I can be.”
With a wag of his head, he went on, “A terrible business, that. Still amazed anyone survived. The investigators talked to us the other day. Said it was a miracle, and I didn’t argue with them.”
“Aye. Asked us to tell them everything we remember—not that our story would be any different from what any other witnesses could’ve told them. Just checking the facts, I’ll wager.”
“I suppose so.” Susan shouldn’t have been surprised. She’d been interviewed at length in the aftermath, although “interrogated” would have been a more apt description.
No. That was too harsh. “Debriefed” was closer to the truth.
“We’re going up to St. Brigid’s well,” Seamus said, filling the gap in the conversation. “She hasn’t seen it yet.”
Ian nodded. “An excellent notion. We could all stand a bit of spiritual guidance after such a tragedy.”
Susan nearly laughed out loud at Ian’s choice of words. Somehow she doubted either man suspected she was already carrying around her own private pack of spiritual guides, none of whom had seemed particularly religious. Thus far, the shrink had been the most vocal, leading her to assume he’d been charged with the task of keeping her from offing herself long enough to—she cringed at the thought—save the world.
Perhaps the other spirits would help her with the actual planet-saving.
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