Sergeant Reynolds paid the fare.
‘No cozzie, guv’nor?’ The cheeky youngster eyed the policeman. ‘Not swimming? Just ‘ere for the Belles?’
He’d strangle the oik, if he hadn’t a job to do. On board the steamer Princess Edith he sat and watched Frank Johnson play cards. He knew Johnson was the killer and he’d strike today. He’d not resist the Bathing Belles. Then they’d have to believe him.
Johnson breathed evenly. That bloody policeman. He’d slip him and find a filly, once on the beach.
Later, with Reynolds having stuck close, Johnson felt fit to explode. That stupid, sweating moron. He needed a release, and soon.
As the ship passed Rainham on the return, it began to pitch and Johnson slide outside. He caught his breath; the stench was awful, but he smiled. As the new sewage system disgorged thousands of gallons into the river to catch the retreating waters, no one would leave the saloon; apart from the young girl disgorging her lunch over the side. Johnson crept forward, watched through a porthole by Reynolds; all Reynolds needed was Johnson grabbing the woman and he’d arrest him.
When Johnson reached the woman, the ship pitched wildly and she lost her balance. As if in slow motion the woman slipped over the rails, caught in the paddle wheel and jammed the mechanism, gruesomely crushed and causing the already unbalanced ship to tip completely.
The boat went under in twenty minutes. Many drowned, but many more suffocated in the methane sitting above the water, Johnson’s last thought was how Reynolds had won and that made him furious.
Reynold was one of ten to survive; the images never left him but one recurred repeatedly – the sight of Johnson sinking under the waves and with him Reynolds’ last hope of promotion.