Charlie Petty is a man known for having ice water in this veins. He never backs down and is never shaken but unfortunately stirred up into the wrong crowd. As a degenerate gambler, his luck has run out and his debt has now come due.
Charlie is offered a chance to clear his tab: simply stay alone on a ship overnight to prove to its owner and potential crew that it’s not cursed nor haunted. Never mind the ship’s history of suicide, violence, mutiny and murder. Or how the ship’s past crews have gone missing or insane. The fact that no one has set foot on deck in darkness for years doesn’t phase Charlie one bit. It sounds like easy money to bust up a superstition or two.
Charlie thinks his luck is returning. Little does he know it’s about to run out completely.
About the Author
Tim Curran lives in Michigan and is the author of the novels Skin Medicine, Hive, Dead Sea, and Skull Moon. Upcoming projects include the novels Resurrection, The Devil Next Door, and Hive 2, as well as The Corpse King, a novella from Cemetery Dance, and Four Rode Out, a collection of four weird-western novellas by Curran, Tim Lebbon, Brian Keene, and Steve Vernon. His short stories have appeared in such magazines as City Slab, Flesh&Blood, Book of Dark Wisdom, and Inhuman, as well as anthologies such as Flesh Feast, Shivers IV, High Seas Cthulhu, and, Vile Things. Find him on the web at:
Charlie Petty is a degenerate gambler, in over his head fifty-large to a gangster named Arturo. Arturo is the owner of the Yvonne Addams, a freighter ship that he cannot find a crew for. Sailors are scared to board her and rumors persist that the vessel is haunted. Crewman have hung themselves, captain’s have committed suicide, and, once, everyone on board disappeared, leaving the ship adrift until it was discovered by a fishing boat. All Charlie has to do is stay aboard her, alone, for one night, and his debt is forgiven.
Petty is a tough guy, a nerves-of-steel sort. To him, this haunted ship is a joke. Nothing to worry about.
Yet, almost as soon as he’s on board, things start to go wrong. He begins to see things – at first, a brief apparition out of the corner of his eye, and then the ghosts of murdered crew members and visions of their final moments aboard the Addams. He starts to question his own resolve, half-convinced by the horrors creeping up around him, and half-sure that it’s all a prank being played on him by Arturo.
Over the course of only a few works, Tim Curran has become one of my favorite horror authors. He has a knack for generating scares quickly, yet in a deceptively subtle way. He wastes no time cutting to the chase, laying out this novella’s premise in the opening chapter and sketching in the scaffolding that will support this hauntingly effective ghost story. Within only a few paragraphs, we’re primed for the scares and the stage is set.
Charlie is an effective protagonist, and his own doubts echo those of the reader. After all, how many times can a ghost story be told effectively and still generate chills? Although I was happy to return to the field of maritime horror after Curran’s Dead Sea, a niggling part of me doubted the needfulness of Deadlock‘s premise in a similar way that Petty doubts the superstitions surrounding the Addams. Of course, it’s a stupid doubt, for both us readers and for Petty himself. The final result is proof that there is always a need for more well-told ghost stories, regardless of how well trodden that particular field may be. As for Petty, well, we know what’s in store for him well before he does, yet Curran is able to take such conventions and make them work, and they work quite well, lest there be any doubt.
Curran’s world-building and character development skills are ripe, effective lures. We can feel the chilly fog of the sea and the dank, oily smell of the freighter that’s been dockside and unmanned for several years. Charlie’s fears quickly grow contagious, and Curran has a few sick twists up his sleeve along the way. I, for one, may never look at a hairball quite the same way.