Oblivion 2

Chapters 24 to 27

Part 2 of the Oblivion Trilogy


Chapter Twenty-Four

Much to everyone’s delight, the fish had returned by the following morning, in time for breakfast. And as everybody woke to the sound of running feet around the boat, and realised why, they jumped up to look out of their own windows.
Holding a fish out towards Gerry, Devin advanced thinking he had her cornered, and lunged at her as she flipped herself between his legs and darted away.
“Are you certain they crossed you with a tiger Gerry, and not an eel.” he called after her, to which Father listening in with his door ajar burst into fits of laughter. “This I must see.” he told himself, and quickly dressing went up on deck.
“Arh huh” Devin called out, “help is at hand.”
Gerry sidled up against Father, taking his arm firmly, “Help for whom?” she called back at Devin, and then winked at Father, saying, “You will be on my side won’t you Father, after all your secret is safe with me.” she finished on a quieter note.
Father coloured up, stammering, “I don’t know what you mean.” Gerry smiled seductively, and licked her lips slowly, “Oh yes you do, Devin and I were too far from Vincent and Catherine yesterday, and as Devin had nodded off, and I was laying perfectly quiet, that meant it had to be another couple who were moaning softly in the shrubbery. I know that sound Father, and its implications.” she told him laughing up into his face. “But as I say your secret is safe with me...at a price.”
Father laughed with her, “Why you little minx, no wonder Devin has his hands full with you.”
“So is that a yes or a no?” she asked him, as Devin advanced, trying to hear what they were talking about.
“It’s a yes, though really I have no secrets, all of you will guess eventually.” he told her.
“Arh yes, but I can tell it so much better. You know, with sound effects.” she told him mischievously.
Father grinned at her, “I can see I shall have to be a lot more careful with you around with that unique hearing you have, hmm, looks like you win, this time.” he added, dryly.
Just then Charles came up on deck and seizing the opportunity, Devin rushed to Charles side, calling out to Gerry, "if you can have a bodyguard then so can I.”
And so the two advanced behind their respective bodyguards, with their hands upon the hips of those in front. Devin whispered into Charles ear, “As soon as you are close enough, make a grab behind Father for Gerry.”
And likewise Gerry bade Father, “As soon as we are close enough, make a grab for Devin behind Charles.”
By now, Catherine, Vincent and Mary were up on deck, laughing at the show before their eyes, wondering to the outcome.
Devin remembering the wet fish he had put down temporarily on the table, picked it up and flung it in Gerry’s direction, but she had anticipated this, and swung Father around just at the right moment, so that the slimy fish caught him right between the eyes.
“Pooh” Father exclaimed, and Gerry doubled up with laughter behind him. Devin saw his chance and ran in front of Charles to grab her, but Father saw him coming and put his foot out. Devin saw it, but couldn’t stop in time, and falling over Father’s outstretched leg, flew to the floor.
“Hey”, exclaimed Devin, “ That was bad tactics, now if you want to play rough...”
“Sorry Devin, I couldn’t resist it, after all I have to do my up-most to protect the good lady.”
“Good! Huh don’t make me laugh, she wouldn’t know good if you slapped her in the face with it. Mischievous, impish, maybe, wicked and cruel definitely, but good, never!” He baited Gerry, watching her seethe. And cracked out laughing as she lunged for him, scraping his bare chest with her claws. Drawing blood.
“Well really!” cried Father, “This is getting beyond a joke, he’s bleeding. I’ll get my bag.”
“Ever the doctor. Don’t worry dad, no doubt Gerry has a better remedy.” ”Devin told him gleefully. “Where has she gone?” He saw her standing with her back to him looking over the side of the boat into the blue of the ocean. Though seething still, she had become subdued, and had an unbearable longing to cry. Had Devin of said those words to her when they had been alone, she would have taken them as he meant just a joke, but in front of his whole family! Gerry found the words stung like the lash of a whip, and crumpled her feelings.
Devin thought she was summing up another means of attack, and was on the verge of finding somewhere to hide, when he saw her dive over the side of the boat and swim towards the beach.
“Oh, it looks as if your game has turned sour.” Catherine told Devin. His mouth dropped open, in surprise, “Really, do you think so, Cathy?”
“Could be another way of getting to you.” Vincent teased, “Or it could be Catherine is right, your words were a little harsh.”
“My words....?” Devin looked vague, “oh them.”
“Yes them.” Mary added, “If someone said that to me, in front of a load of people I would be hurt no matter how gladiatorial I usually am. I think an apology is in order whatever her mood.”
Devin looked down sheepishly. Blood trickled down his chest, and he looked up in time to see Gerry reaching the beach without a backward glance.
He felt tremendously sad. “I’ll go bath my wounds in the salt water, and catch up with her, you lot enjoy the day, this may take some time.”
“There’s no shark around here are there, Devin.” Father looked around warily, “I mean with the blood and all that, they can home in on the smell for miles.”
“I don’t know dad, I’ve not seen any, but where there’s Orca I suppose there are shark, do you think I should use the dingy?”
“Better to be safe than sorry Devin.” Father told him.
Later as Devin finally made it to the beach, he couldn’t see Gerry at all, but she had left her footprints in the sand, and he followed these, and found her up one of the palm trees, idly looking down at him.
“Why did you use the dinghy?” she called down to him.
“Father thought there might be shark in these waters, and they would smell this blood, I used the dingy more for his feelings than mine. Mine were such that I wanted to come straight after you.”
“You hurt me.” she told him defiantly.
“Yes, I know. I’m so sorry. I thought you could take it, it was only words, just a joke, Gerry.”
“And is it only words that you use, when you say you love me, are they a joke also.”
“No. Gerry.” a lump rose into Devin’s throat and tears stung his eyes. “I do love you.”
“And how do you define love Devin, when only recently you could not decide who you wanted to give the most of your love to?”
Devin winced. “I thought you had forgiven me for that.”
“Forgiveness can only be given when the trait no longer exists. Would you have said such horrible words to Catherine?”
“Gerry, come down here please, it is hurting my neck to gaze up at you,” he told her, dodging her question.
“You think I care that a limb of yours is hurting when you have broken my heart. And you did not answer my question.” she retorted.
“I love you Gerry. You.”
“Who are you trying to convince, Devin, me or yourself?”
“I’m already convinced. It is you that I love.” Devin spoke softly, the fight was becoming too much, and he sighed, and sat down upon the sand, his back to her.
Sensing his hurt, Gerry relented, “Perhaps I have paid you back enough.” she told him, dropping herself down to his side. “Now we are both sorry.”
Devin looked into her eyes, saw the mischief in them and smiled. “Why you little...”
Tracing the wounds her claws had made with her lips, Gerry finished for him, “Wildcat?” then began to kiss him better, the light in her eyes showing her obvious intentions, as she pushed him gently backwards to lie on the sand.

Back on the boat, Charles made an alternative breakfast. Devin’s favourite, blueberry pancakes, for since Father had tasted them that morning they had left the mountains, he couldn’t wait to try them again.
Cutting a slice of the crispy pancake, oozing with blueberries, minus the cream, Father’s looked at the delicious morsel about to enter his mouth, “This Vincent, is the most delicious breakfast I have ever known, you must try some.”
“I intend to do, if you leave me any.” Vincent told him, eyeing the three pancakes already rolled upon Father’s plate.
When everyone had been served, Charles asked, “Cream anyone?”
bringing an aerosol can from the kitchen, “Its that lovely squirty stuff.”
“You are just itching to use that aren’t you Charles?” Catherine asked him, noticing the way Charles hovered behind every one in the hope that they would say they would like some. Charles nodded, “Yes, usually its Devin who gets to do the honours, but in his absence...”
Catherine laughed, “All right then, fill me up.” Catherine told him, and Charles was delighted to comply, by squirting swirls of cream on top of her pancake.
“How many of those cans did we bring?” asked Vincent suddenly, he had a idea.
“About ten, one for every day.” ”Charles replied, “Why?”
“Can you spare one?” Vincent wanted to know.
“Yes, but why?” Charles asked him.
As Vincent remained silent Catherine spoke up for him, “I think my husband has another kind of desert he wants to try with cream.” She told them matter-of-factly, without looking up, and delighted at hearing the sudden gasps, as everybody came to realise what she had meant. Catherine giggled when she saw how red Vincent’s face had become.
“Perhaps we should try some too, Jacob?” Mary ventured, just a little nervously hoping he would realise she was joking.
With a forkful of pancake half way to his lips, Father turned to her horrified, “You, aren’t serious, are you Mary?”
Mary smiled, “Of course not Jacob, as if.” Father relaxed, and glared at her again, as she mumbled “Still it might have been fun.”
Catherine and Vincent burst into laughter. The thought of one or either of the two covered in cream, while the other licked it off, was too much to cope with, knowing Father as they did.
The sound of water dripping over the side of the boat signalled the arrival of Devin and Gerry. “Pancakes!” Devin cried, “See Gerry what did I tell you?”
“What kind of nose have you got Devin, homing in from so far away?” Catherine laughed at the dreamy look upon his face, when he spied the pile of cream and pancakes upon their plates.
“Yes, but pancakes. I can smell them a mile away.”
“This I’d believe.” Charles told everybody. “Do you know Devin can be out chopping trees for the winter log store, and I swear the moment the first drop hits the pan and sizzles he is through that door.”
“Now that is exaggerating!” Devin exclaimed, “But not too much.”
“So I take it you two have made up then.” Vincent asked, “Or is this the lull before the storm?”
Gerry slipped her arms around Devin’s waist looking up into his eyes, and kissed Devin’s lips hungrily, murmuring between kisses, “Does this answer your question Vincent?”
“Only if Devin tells me he loves you more than pancakes.” Vincent replied.
In reply Devin gathered Gerry up into his arms, and headed for their cabin, “Oh I do, I do.” he called back to Vincent, between kisses. “Then I believe you.” Vincent called back.
Devin stopped, and turned back, “Huh...But I almost forgot the cream.” he told them, picking up the can and continuing on his way. “Well really!” Father exclaimed, “And in front of everybody too.”
Everyone laughed out loud, except for Father, whose mouth was full of blueberry pancake.

*** *** ***

Chapter Twenty-Five

"Upon finding one pearl of high value, away he went and promptly sold all the things he had to buy it."
(Matthew 13 v 45)

Many miles away, back beneath the streets of New York City, an absolute panic was going on. Young Jacob it seemed, had decided that his missing parents were playing a game of hide and seek with him, and had toddled off to find them.
Marie, Mich’ael and Peter were frantic, having been left in charge of the young child and his tiny brothers and sisters, they searched everywhere, employing the help of every tunnel dweller, yet to no avail.
“He simply can’t have gone far.” Mich’ael tried to reassure everyone, “I saw him only moments before he went missing.”
“A child that small, cannot afford to go far. The way below is perilous to one so tiny, he could literally fall into anything.” Pascal told him, anxiously. “I think the best thing we can all do is check out all the dangerous places first, and then put someone on guard in each area, until he is found.”
“Yes,” Peter agreed, “Pascal is right, we simply cannot afford to take any chances. Why the child isn’t even two years old yet.”
“Don’t let that lead you into a false sense of security though Peter, “ Jamie told him seriously, “When Catherine was in the hospital, Jacob would walk all that way with me, and though we had to stop and rest a few times, he managed the journey remarkably well. I only had to carry him on the return trip, and that was months ago. He would be stronger now, and able to go further.”
“You really know how to cheer a guy up don’t you Jamie?” Peter told her.
“Just trying to face facts Peter. Really if he’d a mind to, he could have journeyed anywhere.”
“Then why are we wasting time talking, we should be making an effort to find him,” Pascal told them all, “Come on Peter you sort out some teams, while I put out a call of urgency over the pipes. Vincent and Catherine would never forgive us, if anything happened to that little fellow.”

Jacob had wandered further than anyone had realised. He was unique in many ways, and having the ability to sense things before they occurred gave him wonderful insight beyond his years. So that he had no fear of the way he travelled, knowing only that Jamie had brought him this way, and at the end of the journey he had found his mother awaiting him. Holding fast to that memory, Jacob toddled onwards along the tunnels, laughing at the flickering candlelight as he passed by.
There were places where Jamie had lifted him on the way, and Jacob worried a little about how to cross these parts, but as they were yet some way off, he thought he would worry about that when he came to it. So often they had travelled this journey, that Jacob had imprinted the way firmly into his mind, even so far as the little outcrops of rock that reminded him of things he had seen in books.
When he reached the puppy dog’s waggy tail rock, he knew at once that the next part signalled trouble. There was a deep gorge that he had to cross, where steam floated upwards, and it was impossible to see what lay down where the steam came from. Jamie had always picked him up here, and he had clasped his chubby little arms around her neck while she hopped over to the other side.
Standing on the very edge, Jacob tried to assess the situation. He had jumped various spaces in play before, but this one looked ominous, besides, if he were to fall into the steam, he didn’t know where he might end up. Gazing around him, he could see nothing that might help, so he wandered further onwards, hoping he could find something with which to make a bridge to cross over with.
This part of the tunnel was alien to him, and when he came to a fork he was unsure. Both ways looked dark and seldom used, and he glanced backwards the way he had come. Sitting for a moment he thought hard, had he passed anything that would help. He shook his head, no he couldn’t remember having seen anything along the way. There was nothing for it, he would have to keep looking, and that meant choosing one of the two tunnels in front of him, to see if they had anything in them that might help.
For several moments he stood, undecided, and then with a resigned shrug, he walked into the left-hand fork, and hoped he didn’t have to journey into it far.

Peter had arranged the teams, and each had set off in pairs, with strict instructions to keep relaying messages whenever they could. An all clear had been put out on the pipes. Jamie went with Mouse, along the route she had taken to the hospital so many times, believing deep in her heart that if she had been Jacob looking for his mother, this would be the way she would have chosen to go. When they reached the place where the steam rose, they were undecided.
“He surely wouldn’t have been able to cross here, Mouse.” Jamie told him, “I used to have to carry him over.”
“Could have gone straight on.” Mouse suggested.
Jamie looked ahead, at the two darkened tunnels, “Seldom people go that way Mouse, and it looks eerie, do you think he might have?”
“Jacob different, Vincent’s son.” he told her as if that answered everything, which of course in Mouse’s mind it did, because any child of Vincent’s would surely be bolder than most.
Jamie nodded, “Yes, but which fork, should we split up?”
“Not good.” Mouse told her, “Should stay together.”
“I know, but we would be wasting time. If I put out a message before we split up, then everyone will know which way we have gone, what about that?”
Mouse thought it over a few seconds, then with his eyes bright answered, “Okay good, okay fine.”
Jamie picked up a rock and tapped out their message, before turning to Mouse, “There is no time to lose. If we take a burning torch each, and go as far as we can, we should be all right. Which way do you want to take?”
Mouse scrutinised the two different pathways, indecisive, so Jamie made up his mind for him, “You take the left hand fork and I’ll take the right, and I’ll see you hopefully later.”
Mouse shuddered, though he was used to being alone, and deep beneath the earth, he enjoyed Jamie’s company, and didn’t want to be alone now, especially if he were to find the child in need of help.
He nodded, and started forward, listening as Jamie disappeared into the opposite fork.

Jacob started to run, he was getting cold, and he knew his father had told him that running would warm him. The tunnel was barely lit, just a burning torch here and there, to aid lost travellers, and Jacob was certainly lost. Coming to another fork, he again had to make a decision in his young mind, as to which way to go, and he was getting hungry too. He stopped and looked back, how far would it be to the steamy bit? He hadn’t even found anything lying about with which he could use to cross over there. And even in his young mind, he knew he was going away from his mother. The Bond ever sure, told him that she was not in this direction at all, neither was his father, but wherever they were, they were together, this he did know, and he missed them so much. He simply had to find them. Even Grandfather had gone missing, was he playing hide and seek too?
Slowing down, Jacob came to a standstill, and looked back, he wouldn’t attempt going any further, already his mind was playing tricks on him, and fears were clouding his thoughts, obviously his parents were the other way, he would have to go back, and hope they were home by now. With that thought in mind, he made his weary way back along the tunnel from which he had come.

Swinging the torch this way and that, Mouse started to call out to Jacob softly, more because it was reassuring to hear his own voice in his ears, but also if Jacob was nearby he would hear him. And then he broke into a song, which was unusual for Mouse and something he never did in company. It made him laugh as he sang Grandma’s Feather Bed, and it was his gay laughter that Jacob heard and warmed to many yards ahead.
“Mouse.” Jacob called softly, recognising the distinctive voice, as the light from the torch beckoned a welcome, and as they came closer to one another, “Mouse?” he repeated again. Oh the pleasure at finding someone, who could carry him, his little legs had grown so tired, and he was so cold and hungry.
The beaming torch lit up the tunnel casting eerie shadows, and over the sound of his singing Mouse saw Jacob before he actually heard him, his face wreathed in smiles he spoke softly, “There you are. People looking for you.”
Jacob cringed, Mouse’s tone was stern, but he knew Mouse well and liked the boy. Reaching upwards, Mouse knew that Jacob wanted lifting up, but he was undecided as to what to do about the torch. There didn’t seem anywhere to stand it, so he lay it down onto the ground, where it promptly went out. Plunged into total darkness, Mouse gathered the child to him, “Don’t matter.” he told the child, “Mouse know way.”
“Jacob know way too.” Jacob mimicked, causing Mouse to laugh, as he turned to carry the child back towards the steamy tunnel.
“I can see you do. Where have you been Jacob?”
Jacob buried his face into the warmth of Mouse’s neck, warming his nose and cheeks, and whispered, “Mummy and daddy playing hide and seek, wanted to find them.”
Mouse understood at once, “No Jacob, they aren’t playing, they have gone away. Will be back next week.”
Jacob digested the information very slowly. The words gone away paramount in his mind, and he started to cry.
“Shhh,” Mouse tried to comfort him, “Its okay, they will be coming home soon.”
Jacob hiccuped comforted by the word soon, but he desperately wanted his parents now, and a week was so long to wait.
“Want Mummy.” He told Mouse, sobbing into Mouse’s shoulder.
Mouse didn’t know what to say so changed the subject. “Jamie is up here somewhere, you like Jamie, she will play with you.”
“Want Mummy.” Jacob repeated, crying harder now.
Mouse was grateful when he saw the first wisps of rising steam through the candlelight ahead and hoped Jamie would soon be able to return to catch up with them. Putting Jacob down, he took up a stone and tapped out a message, “Jacob found. All Well. Mouse.”
Peter was happy to find that nothing untoward had happened to Jacob, when Mouse carried him into Father’s chamber some hours later, but he was quick to notice that the child seemed to be suffering with something he could not put his finger on. He was very cold, tired and hungry, but even after a rest, food and warmth, his eyes had lost their lustre, and he moped around the chamber, idly, neither wanting to play with his toys, or allow anyone to coax him into his usual chatter. The only words he uttered from time to time, was, “Want Mummy.”
“I’m worried about him, Peter.” Pascal told the doctor. “He’s no normal child, that is, his powers are remarkable, and this link he shares with Catherine and Vincent can’t be helping. In his heart they have abandoned him, look how he was for weeks after Catherine went with Devin abroad, look how he fretted, and that was within Vincent’s company too. I think we are going to have to find a way to get him to them on that island.”
“Does anyone know which island Pascal?”
“Not for definite. Its privately owned by someone Devin knows, and Devin did leave a number to call for emergencies, though I am loath to use it in case it brings people to the island and they see Vincent or Gerry.”
“How did he propose you to use it?”
“Its a radio frequency, someone has to make the call from the coast-guard, to establish where to locate the boat, but that isn’t the only problem, what if the authorities find out that they have left their children in someone’s care and gone away. Okay, we know we leave our children with one another all the time, but we wouldn’t want the authorities sniffing around asking questions that couldn’t be answered. The worst scenario would be to have Jacob taken into care until his parents return, and then what, the questions would be endless.”
“Slow down Pascal, you are racing ahead of yourself here. If you give me the number to call, I can go along to the coast guard, and being a doctor, I am certain I can make up something that would suffice to have their help locating the boat. And if we can contact someone on it first, we can have Vincent and Gerry out of the way, before anyone arrives. The thing is how to get to them, I will have to take the child, and believe you me, I am terribly travel-sick on boats, and we may have to go by helicopter. But how will he be on board one of those things?”
“I don’t think we have a choice Peter. Jacob is too young to understand that his entire family has gone on a holiday. All he knows is that they have left behind all their children, and as far as he is concerned they aren’t coming back for a long, long time.”
Peter agreed, yes, children go off in a very short space of time, when they are insecure and fretting. All kinds of additional problems loom up from it. I think we have to try to get through to the boat today, and hope I can find a way to get Jacob out there to them.”
“Well if it makes you any happier, I am certain someone here would take him on a boat in your place, it can’t take much longer than a day or so to get to where they are can it?”
“Its about eighteen hours away, quite a distance. Okay, can you find someone to go with him, someone he knows well, and someone else who can steer a boat, and I’ll get onto the rest, so if you can get me that number Devin gave you, I’ll get started on it at once.”

Pascal approached Cullen's chamber with some reservations. Having asked so many people if they knew how to steer a boat, and finding no one, he could only now think of Cullen, and stepping through into the chamber, found his quarry bent low over a piece of wood that he was shaping into a stool.
“Cullen, there you are, can you spare me a few minutes?” Outlining the problem and asking the question Cullen remained thoughtful for a few moments.
“I have steered a boat in the past, not for many a year, but that isn’t the only problem. Eighteen hours away you say. I expect that’s in good weather, and then there’s the homeward journey. So you can say three days in all, that’s an awful long time to keep one’s eyes open for. It will need two people to steer, one taking the wheel and the other resting for their turn. Then you will need two people to watch the child. And especially people that can swim.”
“Why two people?”
Cullen just looked at him, as if he hoped he would realise all by himself. When Pascal continued to look mystified, Cullen told him, “How many people did Vincent and Catherine leave Below to take care of their son?”
Pascal understood at once, of course, there were up to four people at any one time around the children, and Jacob had still slipped the net, of course they would need more than one person, even on a confined space like a boat, the ocean was a big place. Nodding, he told Cullen, “I see what you mean, is there anything else?”
“There has to be a dinghy on board.”
“A dinghy surely nothing will go wrong?”
“Will it rain tomorrow?” Cullen asked. “Who knows, the ocean has a mind of its own, various water and air currents, freak weather conditions, it’s always best to be prepared. Look I’ll do it, but someone will have to come with me, and there must be at least two people to care for the child. Does Devin know what we are planning?”
“Peter Alcott is getting on to that even as we speak.”
“Right then, give me an hour and I will be ready to go, just make sure you find someone to accompany me. What about yourself?”
“Why not?”
Pascal shook his head; “I’ve never been far Above in all my life.”
“Well now is the time to start. If Vincent can do it, then you can.”
“No, there’s the pipes, and Father would never forgive me if I weren’t here to man them.”
Cullen nodded, “Yes there is that I suppose. Ask Mouse then.”
“Mouse! You can’t be serious?”
“Never more. Okay so some of Mouse’s inventions go down the pan, but basically he has the mind of a wizard. If anyone can get us out of a difficult situation Mouse could. You have to plan for these things Pascal, the ocean is a big place.”
“I don’t even think Mouse can swim.”
“Oh yes he can, I’ve seen him, that’s not a problem. And ask Jamie to come to look after the child, she is used to watching over him, and one other person, I’ll let you chose.”
Pascal drew in a deep breath, “I’d ask Peter Alcott, but he is sea-sick.”
“And there’s another thing. Sea-sicknesses, the motion of the boat really quells the stomach, make certain you find someone that doesn’t have this problem. Really Pascal is there no other way but to use a boat, couldn’t someone use a helicopter?”
“Can you fly one?”
Cullen laughed, “I see your point, it’s not your everyday activity is it. Okay a boat it will have to be then.”
Pascal nodded, “I’ll go tell the others, can you meet us in Father’s chamber as soon as you’re ready.”
Cullen nodded, “Give me an hour.” He said.

Peter made his way along to the coast guard’s office, feeling somewhat nervous. He hated spinning yarns, and the words, oh what a wicked web we weave, when first we start to deceive, kept floating to mind. He hoped he didn’t say anything that might trip himself up.
Opening the door, he was momentarily relieved to see the office empty. The radio was crackling, and just as he was about to call out, someone lifted their head from beneath the bench from where they had been searching for a paper clip they had dropped onto the floor. Each made the other jump.
Recovering first, the coast-guard told Peter, “Sorry Sir, I never heard you come in.”
“That’s okay, I thought the office was empty.”
“We never leave it unmanned Sir, too risky. You can bet the moment we did; someone would be sending an urgent May Day. So how can I be of assistance to you?”
“My name is Doctor Alcot, and I have some friends vacationing on a privately owned island, just off the Florida Keys, I need to contact one of them, can I do it from here?”
“Is it an emergency?”
“No, but it is important.”
“Do you know which island?”
Peter shook his head, “No but I have a radio frequency with which to reach them.”
“Do you know the name of the boat they are on?”
Peter hadn’t thought of that. He shook his head, “Sorry no, I don’t, is it important.”
“We can get around it, but it would have made things easier. Other boats in the area can then get involved in the search, you know if they have seen a boat by such and such a name, they can contact us, to tell where they saw it and all that. No matter, just give me the name of the person in charge, and I’ll call his name out over the radio instead.”
“Thank you. His name is Devin Wells, and this is the frequency.” Peter handed him a piece of paper.
“Devin Wells! Well now you are in luck, he hired that boat from here; I have the name of the boat in the ledger, plus the name of the island. Its unlikely though that anyone would be going into that bay though, close enough to see the name of the boat, because it is a privately owned island. I understand Devin has prior arrangements for unlimited use of the island. Lucky guy, it’s a beautiful retreat, totally unspoilt. What it is to have friends in high places, eh?”
“After I have contacted Devin by radio, I shall need to get out to that island, well not myself personally because my stomach couldn’t take it, so other people will go in my place. Can you arrange that too?”
“I was going to suggest you use a chopper to get there, but the owner of that island has specifically asked that nothing is landed on that beach, for reasons known only to himself. So you will have to take a boat. Did you want anyone to accompany you from here, or do you have someone who knows how to handle a boat?”
“Do we need a license?”
“No, that isn’t necessary, simple seamanship will suffice. We aren’t expecting any tropical storms and the weather forecast is good for the next week, there shouldn’t be any problems, just ensure that there are at least two people, to take it in turns to steer. They couldn’t drop anchor way out there, the water is too deep, so they will have to keep steering or they’ll go off course.”
Peter nodded.
“Right, I’ll just contact Devin then, and you can speak to him direct, is this a private call, that is if you want to take it in private, you can go into that booth over there.”
Peter nodded, “Yes, I’d appreciate that, thank you.”

Peter listened, with trepidation, as the coast guard made contact with Devin who fortunately was on deck when the radio started to crackle and burst into life.
“Call for Devin Wells on board the Albatross, come in please.”
Gerry looked up from the table she had been sitting, “That’s for you darling.”
Devin felt rooted to the spot, who on earth wanted to speak to him and why? His stomach churned.
“Aren’t you going to answer it Devin?” Gerry nudged him.
He got to his feet and went across to the radio, “Yes.” he told her, then speaking into the receiver said, “Devin Wells here, what’s the problem.”
“Coast-guard here Mr. Wells, sorry to bother you, I have a Doctor Alcot here, wishing to speak with you. Hold on a moment, I’ll switch the call over to the private booth.” Indicating to Peter that he should enter the booth, he waited until Peter picked up the receiver, before saying, “Right, Mr. Wells you can speak to Doctor Alcott now.” before switching off the transmission at his desk.
“Peter, what’s wrong!” Devin whispered down the transmitter.
“Hello Devin, nothing wrong as such. Quit worrying. We have a problem. Its Jacob, he is well, but missing Catherine and Vincent to such a degree, that he is becoming unwell. We lost him earlier; he went walkabout looking for his parents, and keeps asking for Catherine. Devin, I want him brought out to you, and I am making arrangements to do so. Can you keep your eye open for the boat that brings him, hopefully sometime tomorrow?”
“Of course Peter, but make certain whoever you send knows how to handle a boat. The ocean is calm; there shouldn’t be any problems. We met a large school of Orca on their migratory path, but they should be well out of the area by now. A smaller boat might be caught in their swell otherwise. Father had to operate on one, but that’s another story.” he heard Peter laugh, “This I must hear.”
“I’m sure Father will want to tell it his own way, you will have to wait till we get back. All right Peter, I will keep my eyes open for the boat tomorrow, but in the meantime, should I mention it to anyone else?”
Peter was thoughtful for a few moments, before replying, “No, don’t worry anyone else, least of all Cathy and Vincent. Everything should go without a hitch. I’ll have as much as Jacob needs taken with him. Right then, see you next week.”
“Thanks Peter, Bye.”

Returning back to his place beside Gerry, she waited expectantly for her husband to speak. “Its as well, we are on board by ourselves, save for Charles who is sleeping. That was a call from Peter. Jacob is fretting badly, and someone is bringing him out to us tomorrow, that is they should be here by tomorrow. But I don’t want anyone other than you or I knowing Gerry, least of all Vincent and Cathy, I don’t want to cause them unnecessary worry.”
“I understand honey.” Gerry told him, “Are you worried about anything?”
“No, not really. Its just that, we should have realised before we left, leaving the young lad alone like that, with his special connection to his parents, we might have realised he would miss them. I wish we had the foresight to plan for that, we could have saved him from this distress. Apparently he has been looking for them, and they lost him today for a time. I can imagine the panic that caused.”
“I bet Mama was frantic.” Gerry exclaimed.
Devin nodded, “Yes, I wonder how long he was missing for, and where they found him. He must be really missing them Gerry, for Peter to insist he be brought out to us. Well, we can only wait until tomorrow, and let whoever brings him, fill us in with the story. In the meantime, do you fancy another swim?”

By late afternoon, Peter found himself standing on the dock waving goodbye to Cullen, Mouse, Jamie and Brook as they took the young child Jacob off into the sunset to find his parents. “Any problems call the coast guard, don’t take risks, and don’t wait, any problem, remember, no matter how trivial, call the coast-guard, promise me.” Peter called after them, as Cullen steered the boat deftly out of the harbour.
. Jamie and Brook waved to him, “We promise,” they chorused, holding Jacob between them upon the rail so that he could wave to Peter too.
Peter turned away, the sun was blinding, he hoped they had done the right thing, it was only a fretful child after all, but then what a child, more unusual than most, and they couldn’t risk another performance as they had that day. With him going missing, another time he mightn’t be so lucky. Good job Mouse had found him when he did, and a good job Jamie knew where to look. If the child had tried to cross over that steam, it could so easily have been another story!

*** *** ***

Chapter Twenty-Six

It was such a wonderful holiday, already so much had happened. The Orca, Father and Mary’s announcement to their marriage, the fun and games Devin and Gerry had, the coconut fight between Gerry and Vincent, swimming in the ocean, building the biggest sand-castle, watching the beautiful fishes through the glass bottomed boat, collecting sea-shells to take back to the children. Pancakes every morning to Devin’s delight, and the good company along with the wine, made it just perfect.
So when on the fourth day Devin pulled out some wet suits, flippers and snorkels for everyone, and announced they were going to the ocean bed, everybody was delighted.
“There are oysters down there. I saw them last year, and I’ve seen them since we arrived this time. I haven’t eaten oysters in a long time, and there may be pearls in them. I don’t suppose you have ever delved into an oyster for a pearl have you Vincent, or you Charles?”
“As they both replied No, Father told Devin, “I shouldn’t think any of us have, I expect it is quite exciting.”
“Yes, one lives in hope of finding a black pearl, the closest I got to it was one half black and half white. Of course most of the oysters these days are farmed, so that the manufacturers can control exactly what they get but its still a real pleasure to open them and look for oneself, then there is the added bonus of eating them.”
“But aren’t they protected, Devin?” Catherine asked.
“Possibly, but we aren’t going to steal hundreds are we, just a few to have with our salad. I propose that we have a competition to see who can find the largest pearl.” Devin told them.
“And the prize?” Catherine asked.
“I’ll think of something.” he told her, “Don’t you worry.”
“I’m sure you shall.” she told him laughing along with Gerry.

Putting on the wet suits was an experience in itself. For Vincent and Gerry it was so easy, as the suits glided over their fur, but against skin, it was another matter.
“Lie on the floor, and I’ll pull the suits up you all.” Vincent told them. “Gerry you take Mary and Devin, and I’ll manage Father, Charles and Catherine.”
Rolling about on the floor while Vincent and Gerry tugged sent the others into fits of laughter.
“Keep still,” Vincent demanded as Catherine wriggled beneath his fingers.
“I can’t you’re tickling me.” Vincent smiled, and pulled the suit deftly up and over Catherine’s shoulders, “There”, he said, “That’s you done.”
It took almost an hour before everyone was ready, and by then they were all so hot, with it, that they wanted nothing better than to take the suits off again, but more was to follow.
As Devin handed them each their flippers and snorkels, everybody groaned.
“Look at the ocean.” he told them, “See how inviting it is. Far below it will be quite cold, you will soon be grateful for these suits. Come on, take a net bag each, and follow me.”
Charles was delighted to be in the ocean. He surprised himself at how unafraid he was. Holding onto Vincent on one side and Devin on the other, he lowered himself over the boat side, into the depth of blue. And when he looked below through his goggles he was struck with awe at the beauty he saw all around him and soon forgot that he had never swum before, revelling only in the life and the stunning colours that darted all around him from the beautiful painted fishes.
Devin helped Charles to descend into the ocean depths, encouraging him to hold onto coral for support, to keep himself down. They each carried a tiny bottle of oxygen strapped to their arm, and this afforded them each fifteen minutes to view the underwater world.
Vincent had never seen anything more wonderful, the coral, red, white and pink, the anemones, some like daisies, some like fronds and frills, that danced in the current and snapped tightly shut when Vincent reached out a finger to touch them. And the fishes, were everywhere, some bright blues and glowing oranges. Others translucent in their colouring, so that as they shifted in schools they seemed to vanish before the eyes, when in fact they were still there.
Reaching the ocean bed, Devin pointed to the oysters, and scooping as many as his hands could hold, Devin dropped them into his net bag. Each bag held about half a dozen.
The fifteen minutes soon went by, and as everyone heard their alarms signalling they had three minutes oxygen left, reluctantly, everybody said his own farewell to the ocean bed, and made their slow ascent back to the boat.
“I didn’t think this holiday could get any better Devin.” Father told him, “Thank you, for your thoughtfulness, I will never forget that experience as long as I live. Why those fishes, those anemones.” Father shook his head, “Simply stunning. What did you think Vincent?”
Vincent looked as though a silent force that had rendered him speechless had struck him. He shook his head, his long wet hair, hanging in tendrils about his face. “There are no words.” was all he could manage to say.
“My sentiments exactly.” Catherine added, “I never knew that such beauty existed. Oh I’ve seen it on TV, but somehow that’s like looking at unreality. This was real, so real as if to be unreal, if you know what I mean.”
Devin nodded, “Yes, I know what you mean.”
Slipping out of their wet suits in silence moments later, Gerry was surprised when a little fish jumped out of her own suit, and wriggled about on the deck, “I’ve caught a fish.” she squealed happily, “And I wasn’t even trying.” Then picking up the little orange and blue fish by its tail she dropped it back over the side of the boat.
“What did you do that for. You could have eaten it for supper.” Devin told her.
Gerry shook her head, “No, Devin, when I saw schools of them down there, all with their family if you like, I made them a promise, never to capture any of them again for the sport of it. You know it made me realise, as much as I’ve loved our fish chase game, some poor little fish had to die, just so we could get to play it, and we seldom ate the one we battered to death on one another. It was all so fruitless, and I feel very ashamed that I have killed so many so thoughtlessly.”
Devin drew her to him, kissing the tip of her sweet little nose. He could find no words to answer her with.

Between them they had collected thirty-five oysters, and each sat around a table with five each and a sharp knife to open them with.
“Be very careful,” Father told them “These knives are sharp. I have to conclude that Devin had them sharpened for the purpose.”
“Oh yes dad, believe me they need to be sharp.”
Father soon realised the wealth of his son’s words, when trying to prise open the shell, the oyster had muscles stronger than anything he had ever encountered, even though all the oysters had been placed into pans of boiling water to deaden them first.
Devin was the first to open one, and carefully opened the fishy folds to seek his treasure. Sure enough he found a pearl, dull and yellowed, yet he was ecstatic over it.
Father looked at the tiny round object in Devin’s hand. “Well, its nothing to look at, at all.”
“Not yet dad, you have to remember that to an oyster this was a troublesome piece of grit, coated smooth in a saliva to prevent it hurting, it needs to be polished to see its true beauty.”
“What are we going to do with all the pearls, when we have them?” Gerry asked.
“They can go in a jar as a reminder of our holiday, or threaded on catgut to make a necklace for someone. Just as a momento really, of our time here. Mainly I live in the hope of finding a black pearl.”
“It sound a bit like one of Jesus Christ’s parables doesn’t it, Jacob. You know the one about the man that sold everything he had just to obtain a pearl of very high value, and though he was destitute afterwards, he didn’t mind because he had the treasure he had always wanted.” Mary told everybody.
“Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far.” Devin told her, “Not that I’ve much to start with.”
As they continued edging their knives around and between the oysters’ shells, slowly each was rewarded with his own ‘treasure’. Vincent seemed to find the pearls enchanting, and while Catherine and Mary took the oyster flesh into the kitchen for Charles to prepare it for lunch, Vincent took a cloth and set about trying to polish the pearls. They really needed a polishing solution, but he managed to bring quite a shine with some vigorous rubbing, and he was well pleased with the results. Unfortunately for Devin, there wasn’t a black one amongst them.
Even later after the meal Vincent continued to toy with the pearls, he was fascinated how something that started out in life as an irritant could be worth such a lot of money.

It was about late afternoon, as the sun was going down that Father lifted a hand to his brow and stared out to sea. “Devin?” he called, “Is that a boat I can see coming this way?”
Devin looked up, his face wreathed in smiles, “Its okay dad, I’m expecting that boat. Nothing to worry about.”
Gerry leaned close, “Aren’t you going to tell them?” She whispered.
“Not yet. Let it be a surprise.”
“Who is it Devin?” Mary called over, “Someone we know?”
“More to the point Devin is it someone that knows us?” Father asked worried about discovery for his unique son and daughter-in-law.
Devin picked up his binoculars, and focused them to the direction of the boat, he was eager to see who Peter had entrusted the responsibility with to bring Jacob by sea to them. As he lifted the binoculars to his eyes, he checked his watch, and frowned. Since Peter’s call, there was hardly the time to have done everything and got here in only fourteen hours. Something was wrong.
Scanning the deck, Devin saw a man and a woman he didn’t recognise on the other boat, and froze. “Oh no!” he groaned, to which Father and Mary were beside him instantly.
“What is it Devin?” Father cried.
“It’s not the people I was expecting. I don’t know these people dad.”
Such a simple statement, yet it caused so much panic.
“I don’t believe it,” gasped Devin, “last year we never even saw sight of anyone else, and now, a boat is coming straight towards us. I hope they don’t intend staying long. Right all hands below deck then, we have to set our stage, and quickly.”
Bringing out the camera’s and the lights, the director’s chair, the props, the costumes, and touch up make-up, everybody milled around trying to look professional, while quaking in their shoes, just as the boat drew into the bay almost alongside their own.
“Where are the scripts Devin?” Father asked.
“Oh don’t tell me.” Father said, “I knew you would forget something. What are we to do, how can we pretend with no scripts?”
“I have an idea, Father.” Catherine told him, “We can pretend we are shooting just for a voice over. Let’s say that the Chinese or someone want some film for some advertisements, that way we won’t need to worry about knowing our lines.”
“Good girl, nice idea. That’s what we will do. Do we have a theme?”
While Catherine grappled with her thoughts, trying to come up with one, she saw some people leaning over the railings of the other boat, and call across to them. Shrugging her shoulders, she told Father, “I can’t think of anything, let’s hope they don’t ask.”
For Vincent and Gerry, this was quite frightening. Devin had insisted things would look more natural if they just remained sitting up on deck, drinking wine, rather than hiding below deck, and coming out later. “Remember” he told them sternly, “These features of yours are masks. People who wear masks, laugh a lot, knowing how stupid they look, or they act the part behind the mask, make it look real, but not too real.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?” Vincent had asked. “I am too real.”
So when the members aboard the other boat called out a greeting, Vincent and Gerry were up on deck, wanting more than anything to run and hide.
“Hi,” a woman in a blue and white T-shirt and shorts called to them. Her black hair tied back in a ponytail with a blue bow. Noticing the camera’s and cables, her heart soared with excitement, “What are you doing?”
“Filming.” came Devin’s curt reply, pretending to find the right spot to capture the light.
“Isn’t it a little late for that, the sun is well down now?” The woman called back.
Devin gulped, ‘oh no, this gets worse’ he thought, ‘trust us to get someone who knows more about filming than I do.’
Devin decided to feign ignorance, “There’s a certain light I want to capture.” he told her, “It fits the scene.”
“And that is?” she asked him.
Under his breath Devin muttered, ‘nosy old cow’, and refused to answer.
Turning her attention to Catherine she called, “As your cameraman is otherwise occupied, will you tell me what you are filming?”
“Well really it isn’t my place to say. The people we are working for asked us to keep quiet about it. You know in case of competition and all that.” Catherine replied.
“Arh yes, competition. We know all about that don’t we darling?” she asked reaching out her hand to hold onto a man at her side, he nodded meekly. It was easy to see who wore the trousers in their relationship.
He muttered something to his wife, and she laughed, “Oh darling, we aren’t doing any harm, don’t be such a spoil sport.” Then turning to Catherine, repeated, “My husband says he thinks we should leave you in peace, but I’m sure you would be glad of some company. And I must admit as soon as I saw you through the binoculars getting your props into place, I just had to sail right on over and take a peek.”
“My wife is a member of the local amateur dramatics society. Fancies she will be famous someday.”
“Pooh darling. Everybody hopes they will get their big break someday, don’t ridicule me so. I wondered if you might need an extra.”
“No thanks, “ Devin retorted, the woman really got under his skin, “We have all the extra’s we need.”
Just then Charles came out onto deck, carrying a tray of drinks. Once he would have been too afraid to do that in front of strangers, but Devin had taught him to have pride in who he was. “You’ve heard of the word stranger,” Devin had told him, “There’s none so stranger as them that can’t see.” Charles had liked that saying, and since then if people took offence at his looks then that was their misfortune, for had they of taken the time to get to know him they could have found themselves a true friend.
So as Charles came out carrying the drinks, the woman leaned over further calling, “Wow, now that’s what I call make-up. I bet yours took a lot longer to put on than those hairy ones. All those lumps, Yuck.” she laughed.
Charles turned to her, held her gaze, and Devin almost wet himself with laughter at her face when Charles said, “I have you know Madam, this is no make-up, what you see, is what I am.”
As her laughter died, she stared at Charles then nervously ventured to say, “Oh, you’re having me on aren’t you, no-one can look like that.”
Her husband catching the glances of the other people on the boat prodded her.
“Yes, they can.” Charles told her seriously, “For I do.”
“Pooh. I bet if I came over there now, and wiggled my fingers around your neck, I could find a seam.” she told Charles.
“Be that you could, for I would give anything not to have to look at this face in the mirror everyday, I can tell you.” He replied sadly, handing out the drinks.
Her husband reddened, and whispered something to her again; but she turned on him, “Oh shut up you. It’s not real. Can’t you see he’s just a good actor.” Then turning her attention to Vincent and Gerry she called out, “And I suppose you two are going to tell me you aren’t wearing make-up either?” she laughed comically.
Vincent looked from one to the other of his friends. Her challenge was so tempting. And whereas he may have declined to reply, Gerry thought otherwise in her usual flamboyant way. “But of course”, she replied seductively, “We too always look like this.”
“Ha, Ha, yes I bet you do. Did it take long to put on?”
“Your face.”
“It came with my body.” Gerry told her, and saw Devin crease up with silent mirth.
“Pooh, you’ll be telling me next you were born that way.”
“Well actually...”
The woman scrutinised her, pursing her lips, a little unsure now, and Mary watching from her cabin, decided it was time to make her appearance. Donning the face mask that Devin had handed her, she walked up on deck, taking it off as she went, saying, “If we aren’t going to do anymore filming for a while, I’m taking my mask off, this thing is hot.”
The woman let out a deep breath, unaware that she had been holding it, “Phew,” she said, “Thank goodness you came out, your colleague here almost had me convinced that her mask was her own face.” ”Then turning to Gerry, told her, “You really are believable, and I must say it is an excellent mask. Won’t you take yours off too, so I can see what you both really look like?”
“No, ours aren’t masks,” Gerry replied, intent on scaring the pants off of the woman still, as the woman just nodded and said, “It’s make-up then, I thought as much, I guess it takes hours to put on, I can see why you can’t remove it, forget I asked. So tell me, what is it you are actually filming?”
“Adverts.” Devin muttered. He wished they’d go his back was aching while he carried the heavy camera pretending to find the best area to film from.
“Adverts. You don’t say, well there’s a coincidence. My brother works in advertising.”
“There’s a vast difference darling.” her husband told her, quietly.
“Nonsense, its all the same thing.”
“No, you are wrong, your brother works for the local newspaper, getting contracts from businesses in the area to advertise. These people are making a film for an advert, you know the commercials we see on TV.”
“Oh! those adverts. Oh, how silly of me, I do apologise. So what is it you are advertising.” “That we aren’t at liberty to say, “ Devin told her.
“Oh that’s right, competition and all that. Well we won’t steal the idea, you can tell us, my lips are sealed.”
“I wish they were.” As soon as Devin said it he knew by her face that he had said it too loud, he hadn’t meant her to hear!
Her husband pulled his lips tightly together trying not to laugh, while Devin’s family and friends held back their own bout of laughter.
“Well really!” she exclaimed heatedly, “I was only trying to be friendly.” and she flounced off, calling back to her husband, “Come on Sam, let’s go.”
Looking apologetically, across at Devin, her husband called over, “Thanks for that, you don’t know how long I’ve waited for someone to tell her the obvious, though I am afraid I won’t hear the last of it for days, still he who laughs last, laughs loudest huh?” He leaned over the railings as far as he dared, “Say the name is Sam Hastings, and I’d like to shake your hand.”
Devin smiled, and grasping Sam’s hand shook it firmly. “Apologise to your wife for me, I shouldn’t have said it.”
“Oh yes you should have, she’s a pain in the ass, such a snob, its untrue. Say, before I leave, tell me what are the names of the actors with that terrific make-up.”
Looking at his friend’s Devin’s lips twitched. “This is Charles, and really this is the real Charles, he wears no mask.”
“Gee, I’m sorry Charles.”
“There’s no need, you weren’t to know.” Charles replied.
“No, but that sucks, at least you have some good friend’s huh?” Sam told him sincerely.
Charles nodded, “Yes I have some good friends, and I would like to include you in amongst them.”
Sam coloured up, “Say thanks, Charles. So what about the other two, what are their names?”
Catching Devin’s impish grin, Charles thought he would do better, just for the fun of it, so pointing to Gerry he told Sam, “Her name is Tiger Lily.”
“For real? What she Japanese or something?”
“Yes,” Charles told him, adding beneath his breath the words ‘or something’.
“And him?” Sam pointed at Vincent, “What’s his name, I must say he does seem vaguely familiar even under all that make-up, should I know him? Hold on don’t say it, yet, see if I can guess.”
“Maybe,” Charles replied, “He’s been around.” Then as he tried to think up a name for Vincent, his gaze fell upon the jar of pearls.
“Tell me?” Sam asked, shaking his head, “I can’t think of the name.”
“Heck,” cried Sam, “Is she mad or what? I’d better go.” He started to run to start up the boat, and then dashed back again, “Quick tell me, what’s his name?”
Charles looked at Vincent, who was fingering the pearls again, trying with all his might to keep a straight face.
“Pearlman.” Charles cried, suddenly having the idea, “That’s his name. Its Mr. Pearlman.”
Sam frowned, “Nope, never heard of him. See ya.” And he was gone, as fast as his legs would carry him, as a screech of bad language came up from below deck!

*** *** ***

Chapter Twenty-Seven

"Alas! For that day is a great one,
so that there is no other like it,
and it is the time of distress for Jacob,
But he will be saved even out of it."
(Jeremiah 30 v 7.)

The blue of the dazzling ocean stretched into infinity and neither Jamie Brook or Mouse, had ever witnessed anything quite so awesome in all their life. Even young Jacob seemed spellbound by the sight.
“I can’t get over how calm he is” Jamie remarked to Brook. “He doesn’t seem a bit afraid.”
“Jacob knows we are taking him to Vincent.” Mouse stated matter-of-factly, and Brook nodded, “Yes, he can probably feel the connection growing stronger by the mile.”
“Actually I don’t think it works like that. By the mileage I mean. When Catherine was in Europe, she and Vincent felt as if they were in the next room to one another. I can hardly imagine such a connection, sometimes I guess it has its good side, but I don’t know that I would want it.”
“That’s because you wouldn’t want anyone knowing what you are up to next.” Cullen told her laughing over his shoulder. “You young girls keep secrets.”
Jamie and Brook giggled, “We do not.”
Cullen smiled, “I believe you, thousands wouldn’t.”
Mouse’s face creased into an enigmatic look, he didn’t understand these sparring matches, and they went right over his head. Jamie laughed at his expression, “Well would you like someone to know what you are doing all the time Mouse?”
Mouse thought about it long and hard, before replying. Brook and Jamie waited patiently, enjoying the view, until they laughed out loud when Mouse said simply, “No.”
“I think that covers everything, doesn’t it Mouse?” Cullen told him, steering the boat against a current that wanted to turn the boat around. His knuckles were white on the wheel, “Just imagine someone knowing when you went topside, especially if it were Father that had the gift.” he laughed out loud at the thought. Then changing the subject because of the unhappy expression on Mouse’s face, he told the boy, “Come up here, and help me will you Mouse. This current is a strong one. It's as well you learn to tackle one such as this, while I am awake to help you.”

They had been travelling for well over twelve hours, and there was not a speck of land in sight. “I feel as though we are the only people in the world. Its a weird feeling isn’t it Jamie?” Brook told her when Mouse and Cullen were otherwise entertained.
“Its beautiful though isn’t it. All this ocean, all this sunshine, you can just imagine how Vincent felt out in it the first time can’t you?”
Brook nodded, “Oh Yes. Do you know this must be the first time I have felt alive since Stephen died. I can understand how it must have felt to Vincent. The whole view is revitalising. I don’t think I will ever forget this experience. Will we be able to stay awhile on the island do you think?”
“I’d expect so. Besides, I will insist, and if Culled refuses, I’ll stowaway on Devin’s boat.”
“I heard that.” Cullen called down to the two girls.
“You don’t need a connection then do you?” Jamie called back, “Your ears are big enough.” Cullen burst into laughter.
“I was a little nervous when we went to bed last night, the feel of the ocean beneath me, was so strange.” Brook told them, then directing her next question to Cullen looked up at him, “How was it for you Cullen after so many years away from the ocean?”
“Its funny you should ask that. You know it was almost as if I had never been away. I spent several years sailing with my uncle, and the motion beneath you is one you seldom forget. Do you know some sailors can be seen gently swaying, even when on land, as they get that used to the motion of a boat.”
“I bet people think they are drunk.” Brook replied smiling.
“Yes they do. Have you never heard of the drunken sailor?” and he broke into song, “What shall we do with the drunken sailor, what shall we do with the drunken sailor, what shall we do with the drunken sailor, early in the morning.”
“Oh spare us please.” Jamie covered her ears with her hands.
“Yes all that cat-o-wailing will frighten Jacob. Talking of which, shouldn’t he be taking a nap about now?” Brook asked.
But Cullen wasn’t listening to that part, “Frighten him! Me! You have got to be joking, have you ever heard Father sing? My, if he can get the child to sleep with that voice, Jacob should be hardened off by now.”
Everyone, even Mouse, burst into laughter, and even Jacob’s lips twitched, although he didn’t understand exactly what had been said, the laughter around him was infectious.

They were well into the fourteenth hour, when Cullen checking his watch announced that he was taking a rest. “You should be okay Mouse, we aren’t that far away from the island now, and the sea is calm, I don’t expect any problems, and Jamie can always help steer if you hit a difficult current. Wake me if there is any real problem though, okay?”
Mouse nodded, not replying he was a little nervous. He had never been asked to carry out something quite so important as this in his life. But having steered the boat for two hours, unaided, he felt he should manage all right.
Jacob too was sleeping, alongside Brook, asleep also, while Jamie washed up from their lunch. When she had finished she went to stand alongside Mouse, who told her, “Mouse, okay, why don’t you read a book or something.”
“I’d rather stay with you.” Though everyone was out of earshot, Mouse still coloured up, he had been slightly aware for some time, of Jamie’s growing attraction towards him, and it made him feel uncomfortable.
“Do you like me Mouse?” The direct question made Mouse tremble.
“Like you?” Unsure as to where this was leading he remained evasive.

“Yes, you know, like me.” Jamie walked around him trailing her hand suggestively across and round his hips.
Mouse shuddered, the feel of her hand unnerved him, and for a moment he allowed the boat to get the better of him, and sway slightly to the right.
“Must keep boat straight.” he told Jamie.
She laughed at him, “That’s okay Mouse, you keep your eyes on the road, and I’ll keep my eyes on you.”
A blush crept up Mouse’s neck infusing his cheeks in red blotches; he didn’t like this one bit.
“Not on road. On ocean.” he stammered.
Jamie laughed, and Mouse detected unreality about that laugh, it was different, somehow stimulating in ways he was inexperienced with. She had kept her hand on the swell of his hip, and he pushed it roughly away, but Jamie, just laughed and put it back there, caressing his bare skin beneath the hem of the T-shirt at his waist. Mouse swallowed hard, not knowing how to handle Jamie in this mood, and wished Culled were there, especially when Jamie trailed her fingers round to his stomach, and stood at his side looking up into his face. He refused to look at her, keeping his concentration, what was left of it, firmly on the way ahead.
“Has anyone ever told you how handsome you are Mouse?” Jamie asked softly.
Mouse’s mouth dropped open wide, but nothing came out, and Jamie’s tinkling laughter did nothing to make matters any better. To top it all, a feeling he was unaccustomed to had started to creep up from his toes, and settle in his groin, from where it refused to budge.
Aware of what she was doing to him, Jamie found the situation immensely funny, and a feeling of power overrode her advances. Her usually shy disposition flew away over the ocean, as she trailed her fingers up his T-shirt to stroke whisper soft caresses over his chest slightly brushing his nipples. Mouse was lost. The feeling was too much, he groaned, nothing like this had ever happened to him before, and not knowing how to handle it, he knew only deep embarrassment, as his pants grew damp, and he thought he had wet himself. Excusing himself rapidly, he ran from her teasing, and fled towards the bathroom, leaving the boat un-manned, as the sound of Jamie’s laughter followed him.
Still laughing, Jamie took the wheel and started guiding the boat, gaining confidence as it cut through the softly rippling water, sending a swirling scent of sea-spray up to her nostrils. Suddenly her laughter died abruptly, as some ominous black and white shapes appeared just ahead of her on the ocean. Great swirls of water broke over the massive forms, and just as Jamie uttered the word Orca, she felt the first jolt as the boat rammed straight into the side of one of the great mammals.
Pain and distress filled the great Orca’s mind, and she flipped her huge tail in protest, sending spiralling water plummeting across the deck, soaking Jamie. She screamed out in fear as she recalled a horror film she had once seen about two killer whales crashing through the bottom of a boat.
A full throated scream followed, as the great Orca lashed its tail again at the boat, and others buffeted it from side to side. Jamie heard the wood crack, saw the sides split, and watched in horror as the surging foam covered the deck. Cullen was beside her in an instance. She hadn’t seen him come to her, he was just suddenly there, “Where’s Mouse?” he yelled over the sound of the splitting wood, his face showing the fear he felt, “Don’t answer that, no time.” he told her as she stammered a reason for Mouse’s disappearance. “Go find him, get Brook and Jacob, and as many supplies as you can especially fresh water, and head for the dingy.”
“Why?” Jamie’s wide opened eyes showed that her mind could not comprehend the seriousness of the situation, or maybe it had just shut it off.
Cullen pushed her forwards; “Just do it, NOW Jamie, or we are all lost.”
Stumbling forwards, Jamie ran into Mouse who was on his way back from the bathroom, grabbing him as she ran tugging him back along with her. He resisted, unsure of her reasons to drag him below deck, but something about the look on her face told him not to argue.
Shaking Brook awake, and gathering the sleeping Jacob up into her arms, Jamie, screamed, “The boat is sinking, we have to get off it.”
Brook laughed, “Yes, and I’m the Loch Ness Monster.” she called back gaily, smiling while she rubbed her eyes, “Are we there yet?”
“No, really, come on Brook, get up, the boat is sinking, we have to get in the dingy,” and as to emphasise her point water started to gently lap at her feet.
Brook froze, “No.” she mumbled, “Tell me I’m still dreaming.” as Jamie bundled as many things into bags as she could with Jacob slung over her shoulder.
“Here take these bags, we need fresh water, and supplies, and blankets. Come on Brook, get up, let’s go.”
Stumbling up upon the deck, Brook found her feet would not hold her, she staggered and slipped as the boat tilted at one end, and the realisation of the horror hit her as she came up on deck. One end of the boat was completely submerged, and Cullen had unhitched the dingy and was waiting for them to get in. “Here, I’ll take the baby, you two get in. Mouse, you next.” He helped the three into the dinghy, passing the whimpering Jacob to Brook and made to get in himself, when he had a sudden urgent thought. “I must radio for help.” he called. “You get going, try to keep away from the whales, I’ll swim to you if I have to do, now go!” He passed them two pairs of paddles, and raced back towards the cabin.
His mind still in a whirl, Cullen could only stammer when he made contact, “ We’re sinking!” he yelled.
“Who are you, give me your course.”
Cullen shook his head; it seemed to be full of cotton wool. “Skylark,” he stammered, only just remembering the name of the boat, “We’re about four hours from destination.”
“Can the boat be emptied?”
“No, it’s partially sunk now, we are getting into the dinghy.”
“What happened, is there another boat involved?”
“No, crashed into killer whales. They’re everywhere.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll find you. Keep the dinghy away from the boat or you will be sucked down with it.”
“Okay.” Cullen dropped the receiver, and fled, half pleased to see the dingy well away from the almost submerged boat, half afraid at having to swim to safety through the swirling ocean filled with Orca.

“Coast guard to Albatross. Hello Albatross are you reading me?”
Devin jumped up to answer the radio, something in the way the words were uttered sending waves of the shivers running through him.
“Albatross here, what’s wrong?”
“That you Devin?”
“You alone?”
“Yes why?”
“There’s a problem. A big problem. The boat bringing your friends has capsized.” Devin gasped, “Jacob?” he whispered almost to himself as fear clutched his heart.
“What did you say?”
Regaining his composure, he replied, “The people on board...are they...lost?”
“No, they are in a dinghy, but we must get to them. Seems they hit a shoal of Orca, and are still in the middle of them, can you get out to where they are? You are closer than we are, and the helicopter is already out on a mission. As soon as it returns I’ll have it out there to them at once.”
“Of course, of course.” Devin told him, his mind reeling, listening, and writing down the estimated location.
“Keep in touch Devin, keep the frequency open, I’ll call you when I know anything.”
Devin put down the receiver. Running up onto the deck, he shook Gerry awake who had been sunbathing on the deck, she stretched lazily, “Okay, where’s the fire?” The smile died on her lips when she saw his expression, and was on her feet instantly. “What’s wrong?”
“Gerry, I need you to get across to the island and back in the fastest time you have ever swum, and call everyone back, there is no time to lose, the boat that Jacob was on has sunk, they are drifting in a dingy, amid all those killer whales.”
Gerry clasped a hand to her mouth in horror, and without wasting a second, dived over the side of the boat into the turquoise sea.

“Tell us?” Catherine slithered her body over the side of the boat, and ran towards Devin; “Tell us?” she shook his benumbed body, as he continued to stare horrified at her. Vincent ran behind her sliding on the deck, and Devin watched, as anxious faces appeared one by one over the boat’s side, to haul dripping bodies up onto the deck.
“I didn’t want to worry any of you.” he told them lamely, “I didn’t expect there would be a problem. Jacob was missing you two dreadfully, and Peter thought he would be best coming out here.”
“We should never have come.” Vincent shook his head, his long wet hair hanging in tendrils down his shoulders, “We should have realised he would miss us so.”
“I’ll never forgive myself if he drowns.” A sob caught in Catherine’s throat, and Vincent wound his arms around her drawing her back against the hard length of his body. “He won’t die Catherine, but I can feel his anguish. I have felt it for days.”
“Me too, but now he is really frightened.”
Devin had started up the boat, “Are you all coming, does anyone want to stay on the island?”
“Are you kidding?” Father retorted, “Get moving, we are wasting time.”
Devin nodded, “They are about four hours away.”
“Four hours!” Vincent exclaimed, “Anything could happen.”
“But it won’t.” Devin tried to reassure them.
“How can you be so sure.” Mary cried.
“It’s all I have to cling to.” he told her simply, as tears welled in his eyes.
“I’m sorry Devin, of course they will be all right. Whose with Jacob?”
“I don’t know.”
“You, don’t...you don’t know?” Father screeched.
“No, I spoke to Peter yesterday, at that time even he did not know who was bringing Jacob. I only know what time they left, but the coast-guard didn’t know who was coming out either, and the boat was hired in Peter’s name.”
Father shook his head, “Well lets just hope its someone responsible, and not someone like Mouse.”
“Father please!” Vincent begged, cradling Catherine’s trembling body close.
“I’m sorry Vincent, I spoke without thinking. Mary can you fetch my bag please, I’ll give Catherine something to calm her.”
“No!” Catherine exclaimed, “No, I don’t want any drugs Father, nothing to numb my senses, or it will effect the connection Vincent and I have with Jacob, and that now is his lifeline.”
Father nodded, and patted her hand, words failing him. There was nothing he could say now that would ease her pain. Ease any of their pain, and he could only lower himself down into a seat and watch as Devin steered the boat out of the bay into the great expanse of blue ocean.

*** *** ***

To be continued in Chapter Twenty-Eight – Click on ‘Next’ below:



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