THIRTY-TWO – THE CLEANSING FIRE
While he and Glory talked, fire had nearly surrounded Tony Frost. Waves rocked the Titania, and he felt the ship breaking up around him.
Tony’s boat had been destroyed in fire after the explosion. He knew in which direction the shore lay, roughly, but surviving the storm and the cold waters of Lake Superior seemed a slim chance.
Still, a slim chance is better than none, he thought.
Tony spotted a section of the ship near the rail that wasn’t burning and carefully picked his way there through the fire and chaos.
But, as he prepared to jump overboard, the ship pitched again, and the staysail boom swung around.
Angel’s body still hung on the end of the boom. In a final and unwitting act of retribution, the dead tagger’s boots struck Tony in the back of the head. The impact sent Tony pitching over the side.
The cold, inky water slammed into him, and spots flashed before Tony’s eyes. For long moments, he thought he would drown. More by instinct and luck than by skill, he clawed his way back to the surface.
In a final flash of lighting, the storm spit the Titania asunder and sent it sinking to the depths of the lake. The power of the lightning strike stunned Tony momentarily, and he slipped back under the waves.
But the ring, Jenni’s ring, still clutched in his right hand, gave Tony hope.
He struggled back to the surface once more and flailed about, attempting to find some piece of wreckage to help keep him afloat.
The rain tried to fill his mouth and nose with water, and the waves battered Tony’s body.
Small pieces of burning wreckage floated by, but nothing big enough to support him. Then something bumped him in the back. Something large; something floating. He grabbed it and held on with all his might, slipping Jenni’s ring onto the small finger of his left hand, so he wouldn’t lose it.
In the next flash of lightning, he saw the identity of his savior. It was a box—Glory’s rosewood box. When the ship had split in two and gone under, her gruesome bed had somehow floated free.
Tony clung desperately to the box, like Ishmael on Queequeg’s coffin, as the chill waters sucked the warmth from his frame.
He tried to kick in the direction of shore, but his legs soon lost their strength. His body shook. He knew he couldn’t hold on much longer.
How sad, he thought, to have come through all this and never see Jenni again. Her fair face flashed before him, and he smiled. He said a silent prayer for Jenni and his family.
Then the white light of salvation washed over him, and he knew no more.