David had been correct in his assumption that Howard would be less than alert the morning after his sailing escapade. Fearing that his brother might wake up in alcoholic confusion during the night and fall overboard looking for the head, or get himself into some other sort of trouble, TJUTELAs skipper had slept aboard wanting to keep watch over things, but apart from the wrenching sound when the young man got up and relieved his suffering stomach of the results produced by his injudicious and ill-chosen first-aid medications, there had been no other unfortunate incident.
TJUTELA was delighted to have David and the samoyeds aboard once again. She was thoroughly fed-up with her slothful amateur crewman. Her feelings had been hurt because shed felt that David had deserted her, and also because he hadnt gone down to see just what a bad scrape she had suffered while out cruising with the two young people who had treated her so badlyat least in her opinion. She wanted some comforting attention. She forgot to take into consideration that David had been told by Armand to stay ashore, not to go diving, and that the face mask he needed for the job of inspection had taken the deep six in the little bay where she had been anchored by her inexperienced crew.
Now, resting against the old wharf where David had moved her at Armands suggestion so that he could keep an eye on both brothers, she felt a little mollified as David and the dogs peacefully had their breakfast on the foredeck, which had been the usual procedure on their unaccompanied sails before. David had given up trying to rouse Howard to join him, so he sat on deck enjoying his meal along with Ulf and Gurth who were doing the same with theirs.
Morning was calm but, watching a few clouds drifting up from the southeast, TJUTELAs skipper began to wonder if the weather just might be turning its fair face away. He finished his breakfast, had a second cup of coffee while Ulf and Gurth ate the second helpings they had asked for, then cleaned up the dishes, and said to the two,
Okay guys, I think we can leave Howard to take care of himself now. Lets go see what Rose is up to.
Rose was up to another leisurely cup of coffee, and the two sat on the big flat sun-warmed stone in front of her house, enjoying the quiet, watching Squirrel scrambling along branches and swinging from tree to closely grown tree until the thick growth hid him from their view.
Busy little guy, remarked Rose.
Yuh. Which reminds me Id better follow suit. Ive been wonderingwould you let my young mechanic spend a few days here working on LEAF WINEs engine?
Of course he can, agreed Rose, ButI thought you were taking her back with you.
Well, Im thinking I shouldnt try hauling her all that way. Shes only temporarily patched and the weather looks like it might be getting ready to break up. It could get dicey if that happens.
You could be rightprobably isnt a good ideain case another sogger falls for her charms again, Rose cautioned with a laugh, recalling the emergency. Send your young genius over. Well make him welcome.
Great. Hes a good kid and wouldnt give you any trouble. I think hed enjoy it here, speculated David. He doesnt get away much. Spends all his time and spare cash on his antique motorbike and an old four-by-four of a like vintage and then doesnt have the time and money to take them anywhere. Hes already looking forward to working on this engine, and maybe a bit of a holiday to go along with it would be okay too. He and Harry can share trade secrets. If we got LEAF WINEs engine going I could get her back home in short order then, and shed be fixed up in no time.
Sounds good. Im sure he wouldnt mind crashing aboard the barge, or anyone here would be glad to take him over and put him uphis choiceand Ill get my fast patrol boat sooner.
Speed demonVrooom! Vrooom! accused David with a grin.
Absolutely, admitted Rose, laughing with remembrance of her appreciative time sitting at the old commuters wheel. As well, therell be no need for you to worry about her floating idly at anchor pining for time on the water, because I really do need to make my presence known on the point. Last I heard, the land poacher was making a rumble and threatening to go ahead with his building anyway, so thank you for at least trying to give us a tool to keep our eyes on things.
Sounds like wed better get at it.
When are you leaving then? asked Rose, voicing a question which had been with her for a couple of days.
Thursday, I think. Ive been watching the weather forecasts and it looks like if I dont go by then it would be better not to for awhile, but I do have to get back.
Wellall good things have to come to end sooner or later.
There was something of a wistful silence between the two then, which each tried to hide from the other.
Which means, said David at last, Id better get TJUTELA into shape. Ive been neglecting her shamefully and letting Howie have his way, which is pretty abominable where housekeeping and care of boats is concerned.
He is a bit of a slacker with his responsibilities, laughed Rose, Butmaybe we should remember what it was like to be his ageand hell get enough harassment when he gets older.
Yeahdont we all, returned David, And we never know when were going to be taken out permanently, so wed better enjoy things while we can.
That hit on the head seems to have turned you into a deep thinker, she told him with something of surprise in her voice.
Well it sure gave me lots to think about. There I am sailing along figuring I owned the world and wham, it sure told me who doesnobody. So while Im still renting space in it Id better get the boat in shape for the trip. Thanks for the coffee. Ill go find out if Howie got up yet. See you later.
Howard had got up.
When David went aboard TJUTELA he found his brother in the head wielding a pair of scissors.
What the hell are you doing?! exclaimed David, getting a fleeting impression that Howard was about to stab himself.
Cutting my hair, was the brief replyand after the first snip,
She called me a freakshe said my hair was freaky,Snip! Snip!So okay, Ill cut my hair off and maybe shell think Im as straight and upright and boring as everybody else she knows.
Heydont! protested his brother reaching out and trying to wrest the scissors away, Quit thatleave it alone or you really will look like a freak.
You sure as hell dont look straight with all that pile of hair, complained Howard bitterly, holding on, How come she doesnt call you a freak?
What makes you think she hasntand anyway, nobody says anything about my hairand nobody said anything about yours either except the twins, and they only said it because they decided you should be a cool alien from outer space. Lucy didnt mean youre a freak. Saying somethings freaky is just her way of saying somethings different and interesting. You think its our hair people judge us by? Okay. Gimme the scissorsIll take mine off too. Well see.
Thoroughly jolted by the unexpected idea of his brother with his hair cropped off, Howard held the scissors high over his head away from Davids reach and yelled,
Get away! Youd look like a nerd without that compost heap on your head. Nobody would recognise you.
How do you figure that?
Because thats your logo.
You ass, David told his brother, I dont need a logo and neither do you. People here dont give a damn about our hair, or theirs either, or anything else like that. They dont have to identify themselves in any way shape or form. Theyre individuals in their own right and they wear their hair any way they want to. As for meIm used to mineit keeps my neck and ears warm.
It probably keeps your brain warm too and thats why youre always boiling up kooky ideaslike that barge, came the barb.
That was a good idea, protested David, Made me a lot of money and gave the bay a community centre.
Yeah, and damned near landed you in jail for a few years, he was reminded.
That too, admitted David, You win someyou lose some. Put those damned scissors away and leave your hair alone. You live too much in the world of herd animals, following all the other sheep as they run off a cliff.
Try using your own head for a change. A young woman like Lucy needs to be thought about a bit. Shes grown up independent and self-sufficient, probably not so much because she wanted to but because she had to. Maybe shed have liked to be soft and cute and selfish and slinky like the girls you know but she hasnt had the time, and now shes got to the point where she sees all that as silly and frivolous and she has better things to do.
So maybe youd better start trying to figure whats inside Lucyintelligent, beautiful, and well aware that every man who looks at her is trying to grab a piece of it and shes not into that. She has more self-respect. You should be flattered that she actually looked at you twice, never mind calling you a freak. You should hear what shes called a few others.
Howard put down the scissors.
Probably doesnt matter anyway, was the observation in defeated tones, Guess Ill never see her again.
You give up like that and its a certainty, advised David. Did she say anything like that?
She didnt have to. I know when Im dumped.
Uh huh. Well guess thats that, returned David, with tongue-in-cheek acceptance of the statement. If that piddling effort is all youre willing to put into the pot for your interest in her maybe its just as well. Tell you what, How. Wed better start cleaning TJUTELA up for the trip home.
Howard looked surprised.
Were going home already?
Already? Thought you couldnt wait to get out of here.
I didnt say that, objected Howard.
Oh? I kind of got that impression. Anyway, I cant stay away from business forever. Im getting anxious phone calls from the guys, so yeah, we have to think about heading back. Lets start cleaning. You can just pick up all that stuff youve thrown around in your spaceand mine. We have to be ship-shape and battened down before we take off out of here. I dont want stuff flying around every time we hit a wave.
Youre too damned fidgetty fussy, retorted Howard.
David gave him a hard look, telling him,
This is a boat. It moves. So does everything else in it and on it if it isnt tied down and secure, including us, so wed better start tying.
Yes sir, Your Admiral Lordship, flung back Howard as he headed back to his bunk, Get busy and do that. Right now I need sleep. Im so hungover Im no good for nothin.
Thats no lie, agreed David as he started to pick things up, Hungover or not. Maybe you better go have a shower ashore and clean up. The hot water will be good for your bumps and bruises.
Later Bro, later, was the answer as Howard settled himself in his bunk
Yuh. Good ole Broll do it all, as usual, sighed David, continuing to tidy things up, and got so absorbed in his work that he didnt see what was happening right then outside the sphere of TJUTELAs saloon.
Around the southern arm of the bay shot a small, swift catamaran, like a bright, quick, colourful water nymph. The man aboard was using all his sailing skills and physical power to maintain a semblance of control as Tide on the turn and Wind as companion, pleased with this bright toy which they had caught in their combined force, rushed the little boat along with them as they headed into Gap.
Keeping his craft upright, skimming the top of the water on the edge of one hull set at a sharp angle of heel, it was a precipitous career which made it appear as though the operator was headed for certain disaster.
To a novice observer this apparently imminent calamity would arrest the attention while the inevitable capsize was expected, but to Fitz Jolly, who stood at the stern of LEGER DE MAIN, watching the performance as the boat was thrust skimming through the Gap, the skill of the man on the rainbow-hued craft was what held his attention. He knew that the impression which all small, competently handled catamarans give to the uninitiated was that of total unthinking abandonment which must surely end in a collection of wreckage, but having tried his hand at the sport himself he also knew that the kind of skilful handling he was seeing meant that sort of outcome was not likely.
While he watched, the little boat broke free from the grip of Wind and Tide as those two forces were dissipated a little on their entry into Bay. The mainsheet was released and the small craft dipped its airborne hull onto the water, bringing the platform to an even keel and allowing the man aboard to let up on his concentrated efforts a little.
The skipper took this time to look around, taking note of his location, then changed course and sailed at a more leisurely pace toward the barge and JOLLY ROSE. He was as obviously as interested in the ketch as Fitz was in the catamaran.
As he sailed close and both men looked at each other they waved and Fitz called,
Beautiful day for a fast sail.
Sure isfaster than I expected, came the reply as the small boat came alongside, and Fitz recognised the sailor as police sergeant Percival Winfield from the village, wearing the mini-version of a wetsuit favoured by catamaran and surfboard addicts. He couldnt help wondering what this unexpected visitor was doing in the Bay, knowing as he did that the officer and Rose Hold were at different swings of the judicial pendulum.
Guess it didnt take you long to get here from town, he hazarded, considering the speed with which the boat had approached.
Not too bad, agreed the officer.
Got time to come aboard? was the invitation.
Rest of the afternoon and then some, smiled Percival, But Im not sure if Im persona non grata around here or not. I didnt intend to come into the bay but the tide grabbed me and the wind added to that didnt give me much choice. I think Id better go make peace with Leader Hold first, if shell have me. Okay with you?
Ohby all meansif you have something to settle with Rose youd better do that fast, urged Fitz. Come back aboard when youre finished.
Sounds great if Im allowed to stay, grinned Percival. Can you tell me which house is hers?
Receiving directions he headed the little catamaran for shore, pulled it up on the sand and, soft-footed in his reef runners, he walked toward Roses house. She wasnt in the house, but in the garden, and his quiet approach caught her unaware, as she turned to see a man in a surfboard outfit walking toward her, and was even more surprised when she saw it was Sergeant Winfield.
Good-afternoon Miss Hold, he smiled. Sorry if I startled you. Im not here officially and I didnt intend to trespass, but I sailed too close to the peninsula shore and got caught on the incoming flood. Id heard the tide here was something else, but I didnt realise that when it turned around here it acted with such force. When it ripped through your Gap it ripped me along with itwouldnt listen to any arguments from me either. Looks like Im stuck for awhile until it calms down. I hope youll forgive my unexpected arrival.
You did give me a jolt, she admitted, And Im glad to hear its a friendly visit. Tide does get pretty swift when it comes through into the bay and it has a mind of its own, so you wont be able to get back out for awhile. Stay as long as you likeas long as its unofficial.
It is that, he assured her. I have a couple of days off and thought Id try my new rig out. It shot me out of town and along the coast faster than Id expected and I sure didnt intend to wind up here, although its a great place to finish up a sail.
Thenwelcome to the home of the Shalisa, she smiled.
He didnt miss the meaning of her words. This was Shalisa land and he was being accepted as a visitor here, not an officer of the law.
Thank you Miss Hold.
We neednt be formal here, she suggested, Rose will do fine. Its nice to meet you outside of the halls of justice.
Its nice to be outside of them, he told her. I guess you know Im called Percy.
Oh yes, and a few other things, she laughed.
He rubbed his hair, laughing too, a little ruefully, and replied,
Ive heard some of them. Pleasenot from you too.
Of course not. Would you like a cup of coffee?
Ohthanksbut Fitz Jolly has already put the pot on for meso to speak.
Go enjoy yourself, she smiled. His coffees much better than mine.
Thanks again for your hospitality.
He turned then and went back to the beach, got aboard his catamaran and headed back out to the barge, tied up to the boarding ramp and went on deck saying, as he went over to regard JOLLY ROSE who was tied alongside,
Sure admire this boat of yours. Shes a beauty. Id love to have a little ship like that, but I wouldnt dare. Soon as I got it safely anchored theyd transfer me to the middle of the continent just for spite, and you cant sail one of these on an alkaline slough. WUTTERFLY here is the best I can do without tempting the powers that be. What I like about a catamaran is that when I get a bit of time off I can get far away in a hurry.
Not a bad choice to my way of thinking, agreed Fitz, Care for coffee, or a beer?
Beer sounds good, accepted the visitor. Just let me get out of this.
He removed his wetsuit and followed Fitz into the big room, regarding the interior with interested eyes.
Sure has changed since the last time I was aboard, he commented.
Fitz, busy at the bar getting glasses and bottles, turned in surprise.
Youve been aboard?!
Yeah. First I ever had to do with it was when I raided it as an illegal casinoat least I thought it was at the time. After that it became a pretty regular visit for awhile when some kids took it over to trash it and raise hell on it. Havent been back since then. Whats this? Home brew? he enquired in pleased surprise, as Fitz set two glasses, and two bottles guiltless of advertising, on the table.
Bettinas, Fitz informed him.
Well, chimo, Percival responded, pouring, and lifting his glass in salute. And the health of the lady who made it too, he added as he tasted.
Ill second that, came Fitzs agreement.
Yeah, continued Percival, Always wanted a big boat, but, guess I should have taken up a different profession. I was born on the coast and most of my working life has been spent away from it.
Its nice that youre finally able to enjoy it.
I hope I didnt interrupt a good game of solitaire, said the sergeant, noticing the cards Fitz had pushed aside to make room for the beer.
Oh, no, Fitz assured him. Its just a habit. Like smoking, which I dont do anymore. Its something to occupy my hands and mind while I get myself together to do something useful.
Say, do you play poker? enquired the visitor with obvious enthusiasm in his voice.
Ive been known to, smiled Fitz.
Great! Feel like a friendly game right now? I havent had a good round of poker for I dont know how long. I guess, since Bill wrecked his back and I wound up with two buddies instead of one. Penniworths into jogging and frisbees, and Lawsons idea of an exciting time is a hot and exhausting session of computer games. Whatever turns you on, I guess.
Cant leave a fellow player out in the desert, laughed Fitz, gathering up his old deck in preparation for a game. Whatll it be?
How about penny-ante? Thats about perfect for me right now since I didnt bring much cash with me, laughed Percival, indicating his tee shirt and shorts, Do you take IOUs?
Well, I guess I can trust the law, decided Fitz, But just to keep it on the level Ill use them too.
The two men laughed together, knowing that this game was just for fun.
As Fitz was shuffling, Davids voice came from astern, calling,
Hoy JOLLY ROSEanybody aboard?
Here in the barge David, called Fitz. Im receiving visitors.
Who owns the cat? enquired David as he came into the casino room, then stopped in startled wariness, saying, OhHi Winfield. You here to arrest somebody orjust cruising around?
Havent seen you for some time, was Percivals greeting. You done something I need to take you in for?
Not lately, laughed David.
Goodbut youre safe even if you have. Im off duty for a couple of days, and this is Shalisa territory, so dont worry.
Glad to hear that, although Ive heard of off-duty officers quickly putting themselves back on the roster if the occasion demanded.
So dont make any demanding occasions, grinned the sergeant.
Mmhmso, not today came Davids decisive reply, then, voicing his reason for being there, Is that catamaran yours?
Nice. Maybe I could persuade you to let me take it for a spin. TJUTELAs great, but the feeling of fending off catastrophe all the time is mostly lackingmostly.
You thrive on that do you? suggested the officer meaningfully.
It does add a little spice to life, Winfield, admitted David, But sometimes a little goes a long way.
My friends, said the sergeant pointedly, Call me Percy.
Percy itll be, conceded David, his eyes on the deck of cards in Fitzs hands. I sure wouldnt want to seem unfriendly.
We were just about to have a few rounds of poker, explained Fitz, seeing the direction of his gaze.
Both Fitz and Percival laughed at the surprise in his voice, and the sergeant told him,
Out of uniform Im my own man as long as I dont do anything which might disgrace me when Im in it.
Theres a difference? enquired David, amused.
Its a fine point, but its there, replied the sergeant.
Okaygot room for a third?
Then, seeing a look of caution cross the officers face, David added,
Fear not, oh keeper of the laws, for I will do no cuff stuff.
Actually, enlarged Fitz, feeling David was being wrongly judged, I understand David learned about cheating to stop other people from taking advantage of him, not the other way around.
Very commendable. Im into a bit of that myself. Think like a thief to catch a thief, offered Percival, as something of an acceptance for the person possessing the dangerous knowledge. He also thought that anyone who owned such skill and had the integrity not to use it for his own ends had to have a few positive things going for him. By all means, join us. The more the merrier. I guess you know how to play poker.
David didnt miss the inference as he seated himself while Fitz shuffled the deck and passed it to Percival.
Alas, all too well, he admitted. As for thieves, none of those around here, Im sure. Uhjust one thing thoughno stakes if you dont mind. Its kind ofone of my principles, then, seeing the laughter of disbelief rising in the sergeants face he added, At least not around here.
Fitz and Percival digested that for a couple of seconds before the officer said,
Actually, were just penny-ante on paper. Wouldnt want anyone to violate his principles.
Uhcan we put a hold on the pennies? Im sure even you would admit that Im not so contemptible that Id cheat in a game with no stakes.
Granted, surrendered Percival. At least until its proven otherwise.
Ill bet you hedge your bets, laughed David.
I am a most cautious person, he was told. Probably why Im still alive.
I get your point, murmured David.
Cut for deal, said Fitz, wanting to deflect the direction of the conversation.
Your deck Fitz, said David, having the last cut, low.
Help yourself to a beer, offered Fitz as he started dealing, And bring a couple extra while youre at it, if you will please.
They were well into their game when Fitz discovered his small store of beer had run out. David, who had just folded his hand, volunteered to go and get a further supply.
His return was nosier than his leave taking. Following him onto the barge came Shiro, Armand and Harry.
Had to round up a few bottles, explained David with a grin, as they came into the former gambling hall, which was now beginning to smile and feel like the good old days had arrived again, And after that I needed help to get it aboard. This should change the odds a bit. Anyway, I think I heard you say the more the merrier, Percy.
Seeing recognition in the mans face as the officer looked at the additions he had brought to the game he remarked,
Guess you know all the present company?
Oh yes, very well indeed! returned the officer, as the brew delivery men deposited their load in the galley, Old friends you might say. I miss you lot in the village. Very quiet around the place now. Wheres Bud?
Hes off in the tug being good, making moneyat least I think hes being good, Shiro told him, then offered, straight-faced, Armand and I could come back and raise some hell if youd like though, just to keep you in trim.
Not I, Armand backed off from the suggestion, I have found paradiseand it seems even here I can get into enough trouble.
Were not going to discuss business, stated Fitz with smiling friendly authority. Percys here for a day off from work.
Thatll be the day, grinned Shiro.
Thought you were going to have a game without us did you? enquired Harry.
Welcome, laughed Fitz, But its just a friendly game, or did David tell you? No stakes.
Not that friendly, surely, said Armand in disgust. Something has to be in sight.
Hes the gambler, said Percival, indicating David, And he set the table. Well keep our cards close to our chests and our hands in sight.
Fagh Davey. Nothing?! exclaimed Armand.
Its one of my principles, reiterated David.
Ohgamblerholics anonymous, hazarded Shiro.
Something like that, agreed David with an embarrassed little laugh, colouring a little and keeping his eyes on the glass of beer he was pouring for Fitz.
It would seem he is not a decadent, immoral, unscrupulous, debauched, unrepentant law-breaker like the rest of us, intoned Armand. He has principles.
Well, retreated David as the laughter from that remark subsided a little, Tell you whatmaybe we could keep the penny-ante you two started with. Ill exempt myself. If I win anything it goes back in the kitty as loose change. If I lose, Ill pay.
Sounds like penalties instead of pots, laughed Harry, And what do we use for betting chips?
We were planning to write it down, explained Fitz, Since neither of us has too many pennies on us at the moment.
No pockets in these, elaborated Percival, once more indicating his tee shirt and shorts.
Wait a minute, frowned David, continuing to struggle with his problem, Will I still be gambling?
Mon dieuspare us the reformed libertine, pleaded Armand.
I wish the whole world would reform, sighed the sergeant.
Then youd be unemployed, Shiro brought it to his attention.
Yeah. Maybe I could start over as a fisherman.
Bad swap, Shiro advised, shaking his head. No money, lousy hours, no pension, man-eating waters.
You do make it sound horrible, agreed the officer. How come you stuck at it so long?
Wife and kids get hungry, along with myself. Besides, there were times when I could sit around mending my nets and the world was a beautiful place.
What if we consider Davids losses, if any, as a donation toward the Indigent Sogger Fund, broke in Armand coming up with a solution, And with pennies it cant do much harmor good for that matter.
What a good ideaagreed, David accepted.
Just how do we keep tally of all this? enquired Harry, more concerned with the machinery of the game.
Would slips of paper do it? asked Fitz. We can just write our antes and raises on paper, like chips. You raise me five, I raise you five more, you see me and so on and we just sign the chits. Ill get some paper and pencils.
Serve the deck! David pronounced as the implements for betting were distributed, and he reached for his refilled glass.
Ah ah! reproved Armand, snatching it away from his hand, I believe you are confined to non-alcoholic refreshments for the sake of your health.
AghgeezeI forgot. How long does this go on for?
Until you stop having headaches, at least.
I think youre giving them to me, David returned jokingly. Besides, Ive already swallowed some, then, seeing the look of concern the doctor threw him he capitulated, Okaysorrywheres the juice?
Shiro, seeing Percival giving Davids discoloured face an interested perusal, explained,
It was a gamble he took with the boom aboard his boat and he lostmaybe thats why hes stopped gambling.
Oh, bad luck, commiserated the sergeant, Thrice over. Bad enough getting slammed with your boats boom, but having to give up gambling and beer as wellhow bad can things get?
So dont rub it in, grinned David.
NowDavid, clarified Fitz, Youve agreed to stick any winnings you might have back in the pot, but if you lose you take the consequences, all this being donated to the Indigent Soggers Fund, so this arrangement exempts you from the taint of gamblingyes?
UhWhats the Indigent Soggers Fund anyway?
Lets just say it might go for school books or something like that, invented Fitz. Agreed?
Yes! the pledge was confirmed.
Okay, lets play, prompted Harry.
The game was on.
That first hand was tight, and bluffing mushroomed immediately while players added pledges to pledges, the little pile of papers in the middle of the table grew, and the scrutinising of the dealt hands got more intense as the game progressed, the laughter became louder and the betting wilder, since nobody took pennies seriously.
It wasnt until close to lunchtime that the game broke up and chaos took over.
It seemed that the chits had been somewhat hastily written out and there was much scratching of heads trying to figure who had signed their names to which bits of paper and how much was owed to whom until finally Percival suggested,
Think we should get an accountant? Otherwise this will take all day.
Its hopeless, groaned Shiro, holding his head.
Maybe we should just hand out so many apiece, was Harrys equitable suggestion.
A real Gordian knot, stated Armand with conviction.
In that case, decided David, I guess somebody has to play Alexander, and reaching over the table to where Fitz was trying to solve the problem he said, Here, let me have a look.
He gathered up the bundle of papers, patted them into a neat heap in a businesslike manner and thenwith a devilishly delighted grin on his face, he got up, ran out the door, down the three broad steps, over to the railing and hurled the lot over the side into the water, to the accompaniment of the startled exclamations from the others.
Why, you RAT! exploded Harry, into the shouts of disapproval which followed his act as they all rushed out onto the deck after him.
Thats downright criminal, was Percivals laughing condemnation.
We cant let him get away with that, complained Shiro.
Over the side with him, ordered Fitz. Thats fit punishment for such a heinous piece of work.
No! No!! protested David in mock fear through his laughter, as he ran behind Armand and tried to use him as a shield, Tell them Im a sick man Doc, and they cant do this, but there was no hope of withstanding the indignant and outraged movement in his direction.
Arretezstop! Hes a recuperating invalid! Youll cause him to have a relapse!
Armands anxious objection was completely ignored. The other four clutched at him, raised him over their heads and dropped him, struggling and protesting through his laughter, into the water with the lost pledges.
He surfaced, gasping from the cold shock but still laughing, as he did a wobbly back stroke until he could control his breathing, then he shouted,
I dont recall anyone dumping Alexander in the salt chuck, and he swam swiftly for the TJUTELA while threats and names followed him.
The laughter and hoots brought the children and samoyeds out onto the foredeck of ELFINSHOE to add their voices to the uproar, rooting for David because they had no idea what it was all about.
Cries of, Go Uncle David! mingled with shouts of, We forgot that wharf rats know how to swim, and, We should have tied an anchor to his ankle, rang out across the water along with happy woofs, added by Ulf and Gurth just for the fun of joining into the free-for-all bedlam.
As he climbed aboard the yawl, David yelled back, laughing as he stood in the cockpit removing his wet clothing,
Thatll teach you not to gamble, you decadent, immoral, unscrupulous, debauched, unrepentant law-breakers, then he disappeared quickly below decks.
Got a good memory hasnt he? enquired Percival of the others.
How do you think he got to be such a good poker player? Armand asked back.
Will you listen to that maniacal cackle? snorted Shiro, as Davids laughter bounced out over the water.
Easy come, easy go, shrugged Harry, good-naturedly, And considering that most of it was recirculated by him anyway, I guess we dont have much to complain about.
I think he did me a favour, admitted Armand, I was down quite a few pennies.
A fitting end for a farcical morning, was Fitzs verdict. Time to call it quits, before we all start pushing each other overboard. Anyway, its lunchtime.
Yeah, agreed Harry. Im gonna go have a good lunch and a nap.
Good idea. See you later guys, said Shiro, then added, And no setting nets for paper fish while were not looking.
As the poker participants departed Percival remarked,
I havent enjoyed myself like this for I dont know how long.
The two men went back and collected a lunch together in the galley and Fitz asked, as they finished eating,
Want to stick with beer or would you like to try Bettinas mead?
The latter was an innocent suggestion and it was accepted innocently, but Bettinas mead had caught the spirit of the morning, and as they sipped the sweet liquor from Fitzs little crystal glasses the friendly atmosphere of LEGER DE MAIN cradled Percival in a feeling of comfort, kindness and relaxation which he hadnt experienced for some time, as he remarked with a thoughtful smile,
That Davids something else. Reminds me of a buddy of mine. We used to raise a lot of hell together.
Hes certainly full of the devil sometimes, but hes a good man to have around if you need one.
You could be right, agreed Percival, then after a pause, Theres real peace here in this bay isnt there. I used to dream about living in a place like thiskids, wife, boat. Damned near got married once, but I could tell it wasnt going well when she started saying things like, When we get a little money ahead you could quit, or You could quit right now. My father will give you a job.
That was when I knew it wouldnt work out. I didnt want her to get torn apart trying to manage a future she couldnt handle, so one night I told her I didnt love her, and then I applied for transfer. I think I was right as it turned out, because she married an oil company executive and didnt have to wait to get money ahead or have her father give him a job, and he didnt get punched up and shot at and called obscene names half the time.
Guess I kind of sank my career after that, because I didnt seem to worry about those things too much anymore. I also got into the bad habit of saying what I think and people dont like to hear it.
It does kind of get a person into trouble when theyve been a bit indiscreet with words, commented Fitz.
Thats part of it, returned the officer, But that came later, after I saw my buddy shot in front of my face. Id have been taken out too, except Ted fell against me and shifted me out of range, so I got my cap blown off instead of my head. When I got my hands on the guy I wasnt very gentle. It took the back up team to get me off him. Then before I knew it I found myself in front of some martinet, getting lectured about discipline and self-control, most of which I didnt have much of right about then, so I said a few things which had been on my mind for awhile.
Got a nice long holiday out of that one. Police brutality, insubordination. Interesting thinghe didnt mention the brutality of my buddy getting killed. That goes with the territory. We get paid for that, dont we? I almost quit then, but the only way theyll get rid of me now is if they kick me out, or I retire with a pension, or I go out to the tramp of dress boots doing the dead march.
Sergeant is as far as I go. Its damned difficult sometimes. I can never be one of the boys, and the elite have shut me out. Im a go-between. Not much doing in the area of friends either. Go out for an evening and as soon as they hear youre a peace officer a sudden invisible wall goes up. Cant see it, but it hurts just as much when you run into it. The attitude isWatch your mouth around this guy. It sure gets me sometimes when Id just like to be treated the same as anybody else butthis is what I am, and this is what I do, and Im good at it.
Percival was silent then, and Fitz let the morning stay that way, while they watched Sun ducking a cloud and there were the sounds of subdued voices and quiet laughter from shore, until the sergeant remarked,
Boy, I think Ive really tied one on. Im, running off at the mouth, and thats a no-no with me. Whats in this stuff anyway?
Lots of bottled sunny summer days and happy memories, Im told, smiled Fitz.
I thought there had to be something sentimental in it. Im getting maudlin. Sorry about that.
Dont apologise. I guess wed better pack it in before I start, and we wind up crying on each others shoulders. I got broken up by a lady once too. Never forgot it after all these years. Lets have a potful of coffee to straighten us up.
Good idea, accepted Percival, And maybe Ill go walk it off laterget in shape for the sail back to the village.
- - -
WUTTERFLY was being readied for the return from the bay and Percival Winfield was getting into his wetsuit when David walked down to the beach asking,
Need a hand for launching?
Oh, thanks, he accepted, She is a bit high on the sand. Sorry I didnt get the chance to let you try her out.
Hey, not to worry. Maybe some other time. Hope you enjoyed your day off. I sure did.
If you cant enjoy a day here theres not much around which will brighten up your life, smiled Percival.
For sure. It certainly has a hold on my sensibilities as a place for relaxed tranquillity.
Rose Hold is really getting it back into a live area like I was told it once washouses all fixed up, gardens and everything.
Yeah, they sure do get a lot of good green stuff growing here, laughed David as he helped to carry the catamaran toward the water.
The sergeant looked directly at David then, and said,
I met your young brother while I was walking off my beer. He seems to be enjoying some of the green stuff himself.
Not quite sure what Howard and Percival might have talked about David offered,
Well, he lets everybody else do the work and he enjoys the results. Hes not into growing things back home.
Undoubtedly, good for him, came the answer, accompanied by a little laugh as Percival asked, Is that a new leaf youve turned overgardening?
I am pretty good at that, admitted David, deciding to ignore the dig and thinking of his grandmothers garden, And I help things out around here when I come. Weeds grow like a sonovva gun around here. Gotta keep everlastingly at it. Everybody needs a hand with their crops. I have a green thumb with that stuff.
He thought he got a surprised look before Percival replied,
Well, just as long as the results of your efforts are confined to Shalisa Creek Bay I guess you and your brother can get away with your blundering efforts, and then, as he took the tiller and WUTTERFLY sailed free he finished with, Didnt know Rose Hold was much of a gardener that way butwhat she does here is her own businessthanks for the help and the fun morning.
See you around, no doubt, grinned David, as he waved Percival away.
He stood for awhile, amused with the thought that the sergeant figured he had reformed to such an extent that hed been reduced to the point of planting vegies for something to do, as he watched the colourful little boat until it went through the Gap and out of sight, then he returned to TJUTELA where she sat at the deep end of the wharf.
He was checking his jeans and tee-shirt where hed hung them over the starboard lifelines to dry when he saw Rose coming alongside in BRIGHT LEAF.
Hi David, she called, softly, May I come aboard?
Sure, glad to have you, he called back.
I saw them toss you in the water while I was out for a paddle, she told him as she came onto the boat, So I thought Id better check to make sure you didnt feel too rejected.
Thats nice of you, he smiled, But it was all in fun. Come on below. Im just making some hot chocolate to go with an afternoon snack. Want to join me?
Thanks, Id like that, she accepted, giving her attention to Ulf and Gurth, who had returned from their rambling to ensure that they didnt miss lunch.
Want it spiked? Im putting something in mine to ward off a chillbut dont tell Armand or Ill get hell. I havent had a drink for so long Ive forgotten what it tastes like, never mind not playing my flute. I admit Id do that too except hed hear.
I gather youre feeling totally yourself again.
You betcha! Sure feels good to be me again, he assured her. Brandy?
Yes please. I guess the water was cold.
Not bad as long as you dont stay in too long.
Im glad the bums rush didnt leave any permanent scarif any impression at all.
Hey! Bums know how to handle all kinds of rushes. That was an easy one.
I wont go into that. What did they pitch you in for?
They didnt like the way Alexander the Great solved a problem, was his laughing explanation.
Ohyou did something outrageous I gather, Mister Great?
They thought so. I thought it was a pretty good solution. We were playing penny-ante poker on paper and at the end of it nobody could figure out who had signed what, or how much was owed to which, so I just dumped the lot overboard.
The look on her face made him say hastily,
Dont look at me like that. I wasnt gambling. If I won I put it back in the pot. I told them right from the start that I didnt gamble here.
Oh, I seenot here.
He got the smile which he had said could melt a polar icecap as she told him,
Thank you for that. Grandfather would be pleased and so am I. From what youve said it sounds like you won a bunch of nothing at all.
Mostly, except a lot of fun.
That little laugh of yours makes me think that the others got taken for quite a lot of pennies, and you must have pushed a bunch back into the pot.
You play poker and drink and you forget what youre doingor ratherthey did. I wasnt drinking. Doctors orders, then he corrected, WellI snuck one because I forgot, in the excitement of the moment.
Like youre doing now.
Oh no. This is purely medicinal.
Okay, she agreed, You go ahead and medicate yourself and Ill just be a pig and enjoy it.
You got a deal.
How much did Howie lose paddling among you sharks? she asked, laughing at the thought of the young man trying to hold his own against such a formidable group.
Nothing. He was asleep aboard herehungover from yesterdayso he didnt join in. He took off somewhere while I was on the barge. Probably went to scrounge lunch from Bettina. Think hes gone off for a walk to commune with nature and tell himself what an idiot he is.
Dont be so hard on him, advocated Rose with an accompanying smile of sympathy for Howard. Broken hearts are for real when youre that young.
Im not being hard, just realistic, David denied the charge. Bet hell have it mended the minute we leave here and he starts thinking about his old girlfriend Jan. One cell phone call along the way and hell be whistling all the way homeand who said theyre not real when youre older?
Guess I cant comment on that since I have no experience in the latter field. Could be we all take ourselves too seriously when we get older. Maybe we should just have a go at some pot like he did yesterday and get a little more laid back.
She was unprepared for the shocked look he gave her.
Hes smoking pot?!
Oh ohhave I snitched on somebody? she retreated, surprise in her voice. I thought you surely knew. He was so delightfully gone when he came back from his sailing jaunt.
That little beggar! exploded David. I go to all the trouble of hauling him here to get him away from that smoking and snorting scene so he could meet some real people and the first opportunity he gets he goes and picks some more stuff up in the village!
I thought you knew, Rose told him again, I meanthe air was pretty thick around him, and it wasnt just the smell of what hed swallowed from the bar aboard.
Well my sense of smell has been a bit off from that whack I got, he informed her. I just knew that the boat smelled like something I didnt want it to. My nose seems a bit more normal now since its somewhat like its usual shape, so guess itll get sniffing properly again soon, butthanks Rose. Ill deal with him.
Hope I havent caused a family row, Rose returned, feeling a little guilty.
David gave her a grin and told her,
Okay, for your sake Ill try not to make a rowand I wont mention your name. Maybe one slip up can be forgiven with just a few frowns, sort of.
Hearing that remark, Rose argued with herself as to whether she should tell him she had smelled the weed on Howard before. She decided that she should leave it alone since David now knew that his brother was doing something he disapproved of. It hadnt occurred to her that Davids reason for bringing Howard to the Bay had been because of drugs, nor that he wouldnt have been able to smell it on his brother. She herself hadnt wanted to interfere, seeing that Howard didnt use it around the children or anyone else.
She finished her chocolate and got up to leave. David followed her out to the cockpit where she stood leaning on the railing watching Sun touching Sea, turning it all to liquid silver.
Look at that sun on the water, she directed his attention, It looks so fascinating and inviting this wayit just grabs me totally, waving and rippling and shining like that.
Thats our poker game treasure dissolving there, making it that colour, he laughed, regarding the silver sheen.
Somewhere in the trees a varied thrush trilled, a salmon jumped near the wharf, telling them that a seal was on the hunt, and the quiet, glistening waters spread away to tint the sand of the beach with the same colour.
Leaning against the bulkhead, David switched his eyes from the water to the light the sun was shining around Roses hair, and he thought of what had prompted him to take this trip to the Baysun dancing on the water, butterflies in a love tryst, their colours flashing and whirling with their wings, oblivious of everything around them, their concentration solely for themselves and the joy of the moment.
The longer he looked at her the more the memory of that moment returned and the more he got into it himself, until she turned while his feelings were wide open in his face. He jerked his gaze quickly away and looked back at the water hoping she hadnt seen that glance. Apart from the fact that he knew he looked something less than pleasing to view, this was not the butterfly moment he had conjured up in his mind when hed abandoned business so precipitately for a vacation.
He censored himself.
The water sure does look inviting, he told her, stepped away from her with determination, ordering the two samoyeds to, Stay fellows, then climbed over the lifelines and dove into the water.
David! You fool! What are you doing? called Rose, in shocked surprise, keeping her voice down in the hopes that it wouldnt carry too far, as she leaned over a stanchion and watched him treading water. Once today is enough. Youll give yourself a headache again. Come back aboard.
Hot today. Just cooling off. Waters great. Care to join me?
You silly donkey! Youll catch pneumonia. Get up here!
Not just yet.
Ohyou are a stupid idiot! Armand was right. Your brain has been addled.
Rose turned, went quickly down the stern ladder, stepped into BRIGHT LEAF and as she released the painter she found David hanging on the bow.
Sure you wont come in? Guess you dont need cooling off.
No I dont! Let go! You exasperating, irrational, preposterous, absurd... .
She spluttered and ran out of invectives.
He gave her an exaggerated grin and setting his chin on his hands, presented the appearance of a bodiless head bobbing up and down on BRIGHT LEAFs bow.
Rose took her paddle, end-for-ended it, set the handle firmly against his chest and pushed, pronouncing as he fell back into the water,
Youre as mad as a mischievous spirit. You need to go soak your head.
As she swung the canoe for shore, David did a dolphin dance alongside for a few moments and then turned back to TJUTELA, feeling the cold reaching into him.
Saved for the moment, he murmured to himself, as he scrambled quickly aboard.
Yanking off his clothes, he threw them over the lifelines alongside the other set, ran below, grabbed a towel and quickly dried himself off. He lit the stove under the kettle and scrabbled in a locker until he found a warm sweat suit, got quickly into it and then invited Ulf and Gurth, as he seated himself at the table,
Come on fellows, cram up here and keep me warm, or hypothermia will claim me before I die of unrequited love. He snuffled and added, as he hugged them where they sat, one on either side of him, Maybe pneumonia too. You know, this new way of gambling isnt half bad. I get the bang out of it and nobody gets hurt. Oops! Did I say gambling? Lets change that to playing. You know, I think Ive put one over on her, and I didnt intend to, and she doesnt even know it.
Ulf and Gurth looked pretty sceptical.
Aw come on! Are you guys on her side too? he enquired. Who can a man trust? Ah, I know. At least I have one friend who hasnt fallen under her enchantments. What do you think Bjorn? Sorry you have to keep hiding behind that cushion.
Of course Bjorn agreed with David. If a mans teddybear wont agree with him he is in trouble.
GeezeI damned near blew it, he continued. Thats not the way I want it to becrash, bang, out of control. What was it Li said? Fragile things must be handled with infinite care.
He sat quietly for a few moments considering, then asked himself,
<So how the hell do you want it? Waiting for the right moment? Youve already trashed a few. Why dont you just let it happen instead of trying to arrange it? Maybe Ive been handling it too carefully. Okay. Scared stiff shell kick me in the teeth and tell me to get lost. Agh! Youre an idiot like she said. Thats how she sees you. Shut up and make yourself a cup of something hotter than you are in her view.>
Deciding hed already broken enough of Armands restrictions he settled for a cup of mint tea.
Like David, Rose also sat musing to herself. Sitting by her front window, looking out toward TJUTELA, a mug of coffee in her hand she asked herself,
<What did he meanHot today. Just cooling off?jumping in with all his clothes on? What was it Armand said about he might be a bit disoriented? At this late date? Surely hed be over that stage by now. Was he really looking at me that way or am I getting into wishful thinking? Like that time when we were coming back from the little pond. I thoughtI shouldnt think. Im just his lawyer. He keeps saying that all the time, as if to remind me where I stand. He came here this time to get his brother away from trouble, not to see meoh damn! I think Im getting too steamed up about the whole thing. I should have jumped in with him and cooled off.>
Sun carried on playing with Sea as a man and a woman sat gazing at the show from different directions, neither knowing what the other thought, and both afraid to find out in case they did and it wasnt what they wanted.
David, sitting there thinking about his ruined holiday, sighed and turned his mind to the conversation hed just had with Rose, going over her remark about Howard smoking pot. Then it occurred to him that the talk hed had with Percival Winfield as theyd launched the catamaran seemed a bit oddcertainly in this contextabout green stuff and growing things.
<I didnt pay too much attention at the time but, what was it he said about Howard enjoying the green stuff? And the way he looked at me. Was that damned fool sucking on a twist when he met Percy? What did he say about growing itis that a new leafgardening? Didnt know Rose Hold did that kind ofgardening? You and your brother blundering?>
David sat with his hands around the mug of tea, and the more he remembered the conversation and thought about it, the angrier and more concerned he got, so that by the time Howard came aboard he was fuming.
Hi, greeted Howard as he came down the companionway. Im kind of hungry. Got anything left from lunch?
Well I hate to ruin your appetite butPercy Winfield told me he met you along the way today.
Yeah, he did, replied Howard, a bit puzzled by the strange direction of the conversation. Nice guy.
Did you have a joint in your face at the time?
The question jolted Howard. Since David hadnt said anything about this before he had assumed that he was getting away with it. Now it seemed that the new acquaintance hed made while on his walk had a big mouth and had given him away to Big Brother. He retreated behind silence as a best defence.
I trusted you with the boat. I didnt think youd go into the village and pick up pot the minute you got the chance, came the accusation. Have you got any more on you?
Howard knew he had been caught out. He decided hed better say yes and give up the twist he had in his shirt pocket along with some mint. Plainly, it seemed, David didnt know where his stash came from.
Lets have it, ordered David, holding out his hand.
Howard handed it over in silence.
Mint huh? Thought you could hide it with that?
Up to this point Howard thought hed been doing a pretty good job.
Got any more hidden around here?
The question caught him off guard and the guilty look in his face let David know there was more.
Okay. Ive respected your privacy while youve been aboard, and the forepeak has been your space, but Im not putting up with this.
While the young man watched in alarm David got up, went to the forepeak and began pulling everything apartuntil he came across the bag of Howards harvest.
He turned around, holding it out.
Where the hell did you get this much?! he asked, amazed, genuine concern in his voice. Who else knows about this? Lucy?
Still unwilling to reveal his source, or to involve Lucy because hed given her some, Howard came up with a half-truth.
No. Percy, thats all. I was having a smoke and he came along and I offered him a drag, but he said no because he had to get back to the village in one piece, and he asked me where I got it so I told him it just grew wild around places.
David was dumbfounded. He stared at Howard, bag in hand.
You told him it grows here?! In the Bay?
I didnt say hereI said around. I didnt want to tell him where I got it. Somebody would have got in trouble.
Davids voice expanded in volume.
You shilly sit! You bet someones in trouble. That mans a cop! The one who ran me in on the gambling charge. No wonder he was saying those things to me before he left. Do you know what youve done?! Youve made him think Rose Hold is running a grow op. Youve made every one of the people who live here come under suspicion of growing pot and selling it. Every time they go into town hell be watching them. Hell be watching the kids. Now he thinks Im growing stuff here for them. Hell probably hit us with the police boat as soon as were out of Shalisa waters when we leave here. If theres even a smidgeon of this aboard they can confiscate TJUTELA and throw the two of us in jail for some good long time.
Howard was as horrified about this revelation as his brother was about the discovery of the bagful.
I didnt know who he was, he protested, I thought he belonged here and just wanted some himself. You were all playing poker together when I looked in. How was I supposed to know?
Damn it, you no-brained moron, couldnt you stay away from the stuffat least here?
Bag in hand, David headed for the companionway and went out on deck.
Armand and Fitz, having a glass of wine on the stern deck of the barge, had been hearing loud voices from the TJUTELA but, apart from exchanging a couple of questioning glances, they hadnt paid too much attention. Theyd heard David and Howard arguing before. Now they watched with growing interest as they saw David dumping a large bagful of what looked like chaff over the railing into the water.
What on earth do you suppose is going on aboard the TJUTELA? asked Armand with a laugh of surprise.
It looks like a mini-version of the Boston Tea Party, suggested Fitz humorously, Except this time its the captain of the ship throwing the goods over the side while the rogues protest.
We should have more captains like that, applauded Armand. If theyd all throw the over-taxed useless goods off the ships before we got to it wed be better off. We could then spend what money we have on wonderful local production and food, like wise old Benjamin Franklin suggested to his people so long ago.
Yeah, but who listened, muttered Fitz into the monologue as Armand continued,
Then we could barter for what we cant pay for. Perhaps at that point the ship-of-state might get the idea and stop taxing the derrière off the poverty-stricken populace.
Doubt it, mused Fitz. Then theyd start taxing us for having a glass of home-made wine.
Theyve already tried that, laughed Armand. Didnt work. Couldnt enforce the law against home-brewing. Too many home-grown products, like berries carrying their own resident microbes, carefully stored away for future use in large containers, accidentally turning to wine which of course we didnt want, and sugary things like malt mistakenly mixed with hops and water, unfortunately getting infected with little wild yeasts which are all around us, and they then proceed to do their own thing, converting their environment into a sea of bubbly alcohol, thereby doing themselves happily in. We peasants have to eat something, so we eat whatever we have around, whether spoiled by ferment or not.
Dont express that opinion on the soapbox at the Rascals, advised Fitz, Or theyll cart you off for inciting-to-happily-self-destruct.
Is there such a charge? queried Armand. Then we must pretend to be unhappy. Pass the wine please, but dont smile while youre doing it. Im in enough trouble with the law already.
Bonne santé, Armand? asked Fitz with irony, raising his glass and his eyebrows.
Bon vin, untaxed! returned Armand. Our health is our own, to do with as we please.
I wouldnt count on it. I think theyre even arguing about that now, came the sceptical rejoinder.