There was something clean and relaxing about being on the water. Blue sky, and gray/green water, the separation clear and easy to see. It had smelled good too. That had been a surprise. The water smelled good, and it was only as they neared the shoreline that there was a whiff of dead fish and sewage that he had up till now associated with the lake. Patrick smiled as he thought of his time on the water.
It went too quickly, though, faster than he had thought. Two weeks ago he had signed on as a guard for the regular caravan heading up to Green Bay. That trip had taken a week, a week of long days walking and short sleep standing watch. The trip back had only taken three days, or a little more, and there hadn't been much to do but watch the water and sleep. And pray, of course. He rolled the rosary that hung from his belt between his fingers, automatically muttering a brief prayer as each roughly fired clay bead passed between his fingertips. He stuck to the Hours as best he could, Nones, Matins, and all of them, but it wasn't always possible on the road. Lacking a clock, the habit of prayer at regular times was how he marked the day, and whenever he missed a chance he felt out of place, lacking.
Working the boat had been good. He didn't know anything about sailing, though it seemed a good trade, honest and somehow godly. Casting yourself upon the waves, trusting your skill to take you as far as possible, and trusting in God beyond that. The family that had crewed the boat, the Skerrits, had been Catholics, and Patrick had been happy to lead them in prayer and take confession. As a Brother Militant, he wasn't strictly supposed to do that, but the Skerritts hadn't known any better, and it gave them comfort. Their sins had been the small ones of a family living close, anger and envy and the like, quickly expiated.
They were distant relations of the Fleet's Commodore, he had discovered. “The poor cousins,” Pop, father and captain, had said with a grin.
“I don't suppose that ol' Hugh could pick us out of a crowd,” he had said, “even with his ma being being my cousin. I suppose he got more important things to think on.”
Patrick had just smiled, and nodded. He was still learning about the wider world. But he had been happy to haul on any line that had been presented to him, and mop the deck (“swab,” he thought to himself with an inward grin), and peel potatoes for dinner stew with Ma. He couldn't stand potatoes, but it had seemed impolite to decline.
Perhaps that is why he enjoyed it so much. It reminded him of the Monastery. There were things to be done, everyone knew what they were and only wished to have them done as well as could be managed. You had duties. If you weren't sure what they were, you asked, and someone told you.
And people had said what they meant. That was something he missed too much.
The small group stood on the dock together, standing in an awkward group. Shoulders were tense, and each seemed unwilling to both turn his back on his fellows, and the wider world as well. They had spent the few days on the boat largely avoiding each other, it seemed, and he still hadn't gotten to know each of them yet. Marcus had been a sailor, and had been taken on as a temporary part of the crew, relating to the Skerritts in a way that Patrick had not. He had fixed a few things on the boat as well; a broken table leg and a hatch cover had both passed under his hands and come out in better shape. Otherwise the former sailor had said little.
Klaus, a great bear of a man, seemed like a broody sort of fellow. Patrick had given him some space, as he had recognized the type. Everything would be a fight to him, from simple conversations to negotiations on what to have for dinner. A few of Patrick's brothers from the Monastery had been that way. He had found them exhausting.
Lelo, now, that fellow was a study. He had sweet talked Patrick into hiring on with his little expedition, and while doing it had seemed a nice guy and honest. But once Patrick had agreed to come along, had taken the fellow's money, things had changed a bit. He still smiled, still seemed friendly, but there was a reserve. Patrick wasn't sure that Lelo trusted the men he had hired. Which, when Patrick thought about it for a moment, was probably a sign of intelligence.
The monk licked his lips, and found them cracked and slightly swollen. Water was tough to come by period, and the sailors had hoarded their supply as if it were more precious than diamonds. Which it was, come to think of it. Patrick had a glass bottle of weak beer in his pack, and he pulled out, opened the fancy flip top, and took a swig, licking his lips to spread some moisture around. The beer was skunky and bitter, and not in the good way that beer should be. Most brewers in the wider world did not seem to have the skill, or the practice of cleanliness that lead to good beer the way the brothers of the Monastery did. But he stuck to the beer, as he had been told before being exiled that it was less likely to make you sick. He passed the bottle around, and by the time it got back to him it was empty.
Patrick put the bottle away with an inward sigh. “The Father commanded us to be generous,” he thought to himself. “I wonder if anyone else has read that particular commandment.”
That was unfair, though. An ungenerous thought. His hand found his rosary again, and he muttered another quick prayer, asking for forgiveness.
Lelo smiled that genuine, or genuine seeming, smile at the other three. “Back in Milwaukee,” he said.
Patrick had mixed feelings about that. In this city, the Monastery exerted a pull on him. It was bitter sweet, somewhere he wished he was and could not be.
Lelo continued, “Let's go see the Boss.”
Patrick followed along with the others. They were taking their first real steps toward the murder that was at the end of their road.