The air was heavy, full of the sound of crashing waves breaking over the harbor. Mist was borne aloft on the breeze, bringing with it the smell of salt and shore. Every now and then a man’s shout, the horn of a disembarking ship, or the cry of gulls would shake Ryan Dowler from his reverie as he sat there, seated at a coffee table near the pier’s wrought iron fence, awaiting the vessel that would carry him far away.
It had been the gulls this time, their call breaking the monotonous sound of the ocean and causing Ryan to start. The young man straightened, looking down the dock for what seemed like the hundredth time in half-hearted search for his transport. When only the crashing waves greeted him, he sank a hand into the pocket of his tweed coat and drew from within a golden timepiece, which he flicked open. Minuscule hands made their slow dance across the polished backdrop—half-past noon. Ryan shut it and gave another look down the dock, a puff of derision escaping from nostrils.
Of course, Ryan expected such a wait and had prepared his patience accordingly. Captain Jasper had earned a bit of a reputation around of the docks of Clydesport as an excellent navigator, but somewhat unreliable in terms of punctuality. It was common for the old skipper’s ship, the Meredith, to take port hours after its intended arrival time, usually to the detriment of whatever contract Jasper had offhandedly signed days before. Ryan, after learning of this, had taken the necessary steps to avoid such a situation, and had arranged for their meeting some four hours early in order to try and assuage any lateness of the eccentric seaman.
Nevertheless, Ryan had made sure that he had been there for the initial meet-time at eight-thirty that morning on the off chance that Captain Jasper may keep his word. It had been peaceful then, the sun dampened by thick gray clouds and the sounds of the ocean surrounding the pier. He had sat at the same table he was now, nursing a small cup of coffee as he looked out over the waves through darkened spectacles. The Meredith had remained absent, which annoyed Ryan somewhat, but he recovered quickly and chose instead to simply enjoy the morning.
When a familiar voice boomed from behind him, however, Ryan could hardly help but frown.
“Ryan? Little Dowler, is that you? My, my, boy, have you grown!”