There Comes Trouble
Jesus! I must have been really crazy when I had agreed to this trip, I thought as I leaned over the rail spilling my guts out into the dark water underneath. And it was just the first night. We'd had the ship, an XVIIIth century galleon named Lady Virginia, for several months but we hadn't taken it out for a proper ride yet. True, half of the time had been spent in the shipyard being repaired and having all the modern facilities installed and then we just hadn't found time to do it. Until now when Rolfe had suggested to take off for a few days before the holidays. Guilt is such a powerful feeling. I wasn't spending enough time with him and I knew it so I agreed to it. The fact that he'd mentioned a warmer climate might have had some influence on my decision.
Which I regretted greatly right this moment. Seasickness was something I didn't wish even to my worst enemies. Well, maybe I did, but not for my friends and definitely not for myself. The other thing I regretted was not taking the pills Maya had given me when I first set foot on the ship. Now it was too late, nothing stayed in my stomach, not even water. Rolfe was so not gonna get anywhere near me anytime soon!
While I was hanging half over board cursing my days he was laying down in his cabin sleeping peacefully or perhaps reading some book. This hadn't been the initial sleeping arrangement but after seeing how sick I felt he'd moved into one of the other cabins reserved for the family so I could rest. How I had made it on the deck by myself in the middle of the night it hadn't been easy, believe me. I had hoped that some fresh air was going to do me good but obviously I had been wrong. All I did was freeze on top of all too.
Shivering, exhausted, and still sick, dammit, I let my head rest on my arms briefly. We were far from the harbor, it was dark with only half a moon in the distance and there was no other soul in sight. Wrong again. An arm wrapped around my shoulders to pull me up. It didn't belong to Rolfe, its owner used a different brand of aftershave.
"Are you alright, Miss?" a voice with a thick accent asked.
"Yes." I replied even if all signs hinted the opposite.
"You shouldn't be alone here at this hour." The man continued to support me as he scolded me.
"Why? You don't do rescue missions after midnight?" I said a bit more harshly than intended. Blame it on the seasickness if you want.
"I thought that's what I was doing." He muttered and was that amusement in his voice?
I turned around to look at him but the dark glare wasn't so efficient due to the poor light conditions. I noticed though that he was tall, taller than Rolfe, well built, his hair was dark and short and he had light color eyes, could be either green or blue. Who he was I had no idea, one of the crew members no doubt.
He lowered himself a little to take a better look at me and I saw it on his face that he wasn't happy with what he saw. If I had had a mirror I would have screamed. "Why do you need a boat if you don't like sailing?" he wondered.
"I've never been given the chance to see if I like it, I always get sick…" I grumbled "…and it's a gift." I rolled my eyes at the fact that I had to explain myself to him. A sailor. Who was only good at scrubbing floors, I added grimly in my head. Yep, I was being mean but I was still polite, and I was sick.
He shook his head and with the free hand pulled out a flask from the inside pocket of his leather jacket. "Drink." He ordered.
I so hated being bossed around. But it was hard to avoid the thing pressed against my lips and I tried to do my best, which in the given situation resumed to trying not to stain my clothes. "God, you're trying to kill me?" I gasped for air when the alcohol burned down my throat and I doubled over in pain. I would have fallen if he hadn't caught me.
Apparently he knew the same treatment I used when at sea. Unfortunately my stomach was too abused to put up with alcohol, in a day or two was going to work but right now it just hurt.
"It will help." He promised and putting back the flask in his pocket he lifted me up in his arms. Too tired to argue I rested my head on his shoulder and let him take me under the deck to my cabin without stopping to worry what his intentions might be.
It turned out they were pretty simple. He kept me up long enough to strip me off my jacket and then he laid me on the bed and as I curled up and hugged the pillow he pulled the cover over me. He waited a moment longer standing by the bed and then he left closing the door after him. I didn't have time to admit that his medicine worked 'cause I fell asleep right away.
The next day I spent it laying in a lounge chair on the deck hiding under a thin blanket even with all that sun. Most of the morning I alternated between napping and sipping from the tall glass filled with cold fresh lemonade that stood by my side and someone took care of refilling it whenever it became empty or the lemonade got warm.
At first I didn't bother to open my eyes and see who the good Samaritan was or thank him, and whoever that person was my glass was always full. Rolfe must have given them précised instructions, I had to thank the steward for that.
It was towards afternoon that I started to feel more like myself again. Enough to crack an eye open and smile at the cute blond guy who was moving away with an empty tray after having brought me more lemonade. I was definitely feeling better.
The deck was empty as if no one came there not to bother me and after several more minutes of enjoying the sun and the wind I came pretty close to the conclusion that maybe this wasn't such a bad life after all once you got used to it. That is until I started to get bored all by myself. I was still weak and couldn't do much but when Rolfe came to check on me and saw that I was feeling better, and restless, he accompanied me on a walk around the bridge, the one on top and the one below, which was way larger and got me pretty much exhausted as I walked all around it.
I saw the man from the previous night talking to a couple of sailors, giving orders apparently, but he didn't bother to look at me or acknowledge my presence in any way. As long as he did his job well I didn't mind, honest. The ship had a small crew, only the strictly necessary people had been hired, and I still had to meet the captain. Rolfe had told me it was a simple man who kept a low profile so there were going to be no dinners at the Captain's table, which was a good thing since food was the last thing on my mind at the time. I was just glad it wasn't one of the Auberys, 'cause being at sea and having to deal with their patronizing manners were too much for me to bear.
It felt like a whole new world when I woke up in the morning. The seasickness had decreased to a tolerable level, and, surprise, I was hungry. I hopped into the shower quickly as we were going to be at sea for several days and God forbid we ran out of water, imagine all those male stinking bodies, ewww, and I sneaked into the kitchen to steal a sandwich when the chef wasn't looking. Still chewing on it I climbed upstairs on the deck to face the new day.
Rolfe didn't look too thrilled with the way I was dressed, shorts and a top that revealed plenty of skin for tanning. If it were after him he would have me walking around in long dresses with tons of lace dragging after me restricting my moves. He nodded at the overly serious stranger who gave me a disapproving look just like he'd done it by the rail that night, and finishing the conversation with him Rolfe came to me.
"Good morning, Love. You look much better." he smiled a hand reaching up to caress my face.
"Thanks, I fell better." I grinned leaning my head into his palm. He always made me feel better.
"You're lounge chair is over there, Love." he gestured towards the upper bridge. "Let's sit down and have a coffee." he suggested.
"You've already had yours and I don't drink coffee." I reminded him. "Don't make me sit and watch the clouds. I wanna explore!" I whined.
"OK, go explore then…" he laughed quietly and returned to his conversation with the stranger.
Having been given the okay by the higher powers, not that I really needed it, I skipped away minding my own business and apparently sticking my nose in everybody else's. About an hour later I was finishing eating an apple, nausea completely gone, and I tossed the stem over board. Or so I thought.
"Auch!" I heard a yelp and a blond man in a blue and white stripes t-shirt and rolled up pants showed up scratching his head.
"Oups… sorry." I made a face but the sailor grinned as he made his way upstairs on the bridge.
"Don't worry, ma'am. I've got a strong head, it's seen worst." he joked, his heavy Irish accent that even I recognized being hard to miss.
"Ah, okay then…" I chuckled.
"You should learn to throw better."
"You should see me caching." I bragged.
"I don't doubt you're good at that." he smirked. The innuendo in his voice didn't go unnoticed. He knew he was out of my league but he did have a nice smile. Unlike grumpy over there who was coming our way.
"Rory, didn't you have something to do?" the stranger called out.
"Aye, sir!" The observation didn't ruin his mood. He scurried away to check on some sails but not before he glanced back over his shoulder to wink at me.
"Careful with those apples… we can't afford losing people due to head injuries." The stranger warned me.
"I'm paying them medical insurance, I can do whatever the hell I want to them." I answered brazenly. I made sure to show a hint of a smile to let him know I was kidding, I wasn't such a slave driver.
He shook his head slowly the green eyes still peering at me. As I looked up at the dark figure, he didn't have on the black leather jacket but a dark t-shirt, I noticed that his eyes were green like the sea and his short hair was spiked with silver strays at the temples.
Since he didn't seem to be willing to say anything else my attention diverted elsewhere. To the mast Rory was coming down from. Now wouldn't be nice to climb up there? I watched it carefully looking for points I could securely grasp onto.
"You'll get sunburns." I heard him saying out of the blue.
Oh so he'd been watching me. I wasn't the type of person to put on sunscreen every other five minutes. I didn't like that stuff that seemed to be stuck on my skin forever.
"I never get sunburns." I replied and rubbed my hands getting ready to attack the huge mast.
Behind me the man nodded at Rory for him to stay close in case I need any help. But it was no problem really, not more difficult than the gymnastics training I used to do. Stiffed muscle protested a little in the beginning but I didn't give up, I clenched my teeth and moved on. There was a bit of disappointment when I discovered there was no land in sight from up there. Of course, what else, we'd been out at sea for over two days now and after fixing it the old ship didn't rely only on wind power but had a damn good engine inside.
"Well done, ma'am!" Rory clapped his hands as I set foot back on the deck.
"Piece of cake." I smirked smugly though my arms were shaking a bit, because of the excitement no doubt.
"She'd make on fine sailor, wouldn't she?" Rory addressed the other man.
This one nodded. "Only the sea dive is missing."
Was he kidding? It was hard to tell. But even if he wasn't I had no intention to become a sailor. Life at sea was not for me.
And then the stranger smiled amusement clearly written in his eyes and I wasn't sure what to make of it. Was he making fun of me?
He turned around to leave and I glared at his large back. Big quiet patronizing sarcastic men annoyed the hell out of me. Come to think of it that description fit Santee just well. Hmm. It had to be a coincidence, right, I told myself.
Rory was off to tie some ropes and I watched him with curiosity.
"Can you show me how you do that?" I asked him. Could use learning something if I had the chance.
"Sure." He grinned and untied it to do it again. "Watch."
"Who is he? Why do I feel like I'm missing something?" I gestured with my fork in the air.
We were having a late light lunch on the deck. As long as the weather was fine I didn't feel the need to go under the bridge and I didn't mind eating on my lap. Rolfe would have probably preferred to be served in our private quarters but he was indulging me. He liked spoiling me if my requests were reasonable and I always was.
"I don't know, Love. I've only interviewed the Captain when I hired him. He was in charge with getting the rest of the crew."
"Hmm… I hate it that we don't have Internet access here and I can't check it on IMDB." I grumbled. I should have listened to Stanley and got satellite connection. I hadn't imagined that we would go where our cells didn't work.
"You should ask the Captain if it bothers you that much." Rolfe suggested.
"Yeah, maybe I should…" I muttered. Who was this Captain whose hat even I hadn't seen yet? I wondered.
"Captain, can you come over for a moment?" Rolfe called over the rail to the deck bellow.
No hat. The man who climbed up the stairs two minutes later wore a black t-shirt. The stranger was the Captain? Just great.
"The lady has a question for you…"
"Miss?" green eyes turned to me.
"It's about Rory… what do you know about it?"
"I know he's a fine sailor." The answer was short and unsatisfying.
"But he wasn't always a sailor." The reason behind that statement was based on the fact that Rory looked younger, had longer hair and was less bulked up than John Smith whom I had recently happened to meet. I could be wrong but I didn't remember Brad Pitt playing a sailor.
"We all have a past, Miss. It doesn't define us." There went off the alarm signal in my head.
"It makes us who we are today." I locked eyes with my interlocutor.
"What are you saying?" he asked after a moment of frowning at me. "You want his resume? You want me to fire him? What?"
"What I'm saying is… do you trust him?" Without me realizing it my voice was copying his accent slightly. I'm not sure where that came from. Maybe because after living with my guys for several years I had become very good at noticing when someone had a past he didn't want to talk about.
"I am responsible with the lives of all the people on this ship. So yes, I trust him. He wouldn't be here otherwise."
And now I had to trust him. I wondered if I could, or should.
"OK… if you say so."
He nodded with a grunt and retreated leaving us to finish our meal. We were almost done.
"So do you trust him?" I repeated the question to Rolfe and handed him half a chocolate bar.
"I do. He's a good man." Rolfe had the ability of reading people with a surprising accuracy. And I did trust him.
I made a debating face but nodded at him. He better be right. I leaned into him and wrapped my arms around his neck. "What do you say if we go downstairs and have a little siesta?" I smiled playfully.
"Are you still feeling ill, Love?" he teased me. He knew I never slept during the day.
"No… but we need to work off that chocolate." I grinned and wiggled my hips down the stairs. Green eyes followed us all along.
Something was different, I felt it before even opening my eyes. It was too quiet. The ship wasn't moving. And then I remembered. Rolfe had scheduled a fishing session for that day and knowing my morning habit of waking up late when I could it had probably already started. I stumbled around the room looking for something to wear, the seasickness persisted for a few minutes but by the time I was ready to get out of my hole and face the day it was gone and it didn't interfere with my breakfast.
I went up on the top bridge and looked around the ship. It was easy to spot the small white boat anchored not that far and the tall man with a fishing rod on board. From the opposite side of the boat a blond head waved at me and I smiled and waved back.
"If you want to go to them, ma'am, we've got orders to take you there." An older sailor yelled from bellow and I leaned over the rail and nodded.
Not just yet though. I had plans. They say curiosity killed the cat. Let's hope this cat wasn't going to be chewed by the big grumpy one.
I sneaked back under bridge and walked around the narrow corridor not running into anyone. With the ship not moving the crew apparently considered it as good as a day off. We occupied the best cabin there was but I wasn't heading that way. The cheese was somewhere else. I knocked on the door twice and sneaked my head in through the door.
"Hello," I put on my best innocent smile.
"Good morning." The Captain straightened his back when he saw me. "I gave the men orders to take you to the boat." He told me.
"Yes, I know," I smirked. "Why is everyone so anxious to get rid of me?" I chuckled. "You plan to take off with the ship?"
"And spend the rest of my life on the run or in jail? No, thanks. It's hard to hide a ship like this."
"It's not that big." I argued.
"No, but it's old and in perfect condition. It's worth a fortune."
"Tell me about, we're still paying for it." I muttered. "So what are you doing there then?" I gestured with the chin towards the map he was hovering over.
"I'm planning the course for tomorrow. Mr. Rolfe wants to visit Reyes Island." He pointed at a place on the map.
I stepped closer to look at the map. "What's so special about it?" I smiled thinking that there still lived the spirit of an explorer inside my dear Bale.
Seeing that he didn't answer right away I looked up raising my eyebrows.
"It's not my surprise to tell." He grinned a little.
"Oh, so you can smile." I teased him.
He watched me disconcerted and let out a short laugh. Small victories, that's how the world is conquered. "What is it?" I insisted pushing it to get more out of him.
"It's nice, you'll see." He promised but his lips were sealed.
"Oh…" I made a long face pretending to pout to see if it worked. I had feeling it didn't and I was right so I changed the tactic. "Well, if you're not gonna tell me you should at least make up for it…" I started to bargain.
"How am I supposed to do that?" he wondered.
"Give me a tour of the ship? It's part of your attributions after all." I stated.
"I thought you already did that. The men said you stuck your nose in just about everywhere, even in the crew's bathroom."
I wasn't peeking, God knew I had plenty of good lucking guys at home I didn't need to drool over rough sailors, or cute ones. "I was checking their working conditions to see if they had anything to complain about." I deadpanned with a serious face.
He really laughed this time. "Such a perfect employer."
"I give the best and I expect the best in return. I think it's a fair trade." I wasn't kidding much, if I paid for services I really did expect them to be of good quality. "So about that tour…"
"Umm…" he looked at the clock on the wall and I thought he'd come up with some excuse since he didn't seem to like me much, but maybe that was how he acted with all people cause he nodded. "Yeah, I have some time for that."
For the next hour or so I listened to him speak on that throaty accent that was giving me a headache trying to understand it. At first drawing the words out of him was like pulling teeth but it got better once he loosened up. Rofle had taken me on a similar tour when we had first gotten the ship, but his explaining had lacked in modern terms that he didn't know. Rolfe was a born storyteller so that made up for it.
The Captain though was a whole different story. He seemed to know the ship as far as I could tell, but I didn't know that much in that department, what it was clear was that he knew much more than me. Of course, he was the Captain, duh!
He gave me a full tour from the top to the bottom of the ship, he even took me to the engine room where I didn't understand a thing. In the kitchen the man in charge with the cooking was grumbling something about salmon packages missing. The Captain's answer to that, after he looked at me to check if I wasn't the night food thief, was the suggestion to give the crew more food. He had plenty of resources, he claimed. That was comforting! Since we were there we grabbed a quick snack on the way out. There had been no sign from our fishermen and we had been promised fish for lunch so that was going to do for now.
"Was the tour to your satisfaction?" he asked once we got out. He was frowning again.
"Don't change your day job… but yeah, it was fine. Thanks for doing it."
"Good. You're welcome." He nodded.
Wow, he could actually be polite. Now if only we could get him to relax and smile more. Oh, I knew what he needed…
"Could you take me to the boat now?" I asked him nicely. "Maybe we can speed up their work a little." I smirked.
"I doubt anyone can actually make the fish bite faster but you can try and see if it works." There he was playing smart ass again. "I'll tell someone to do it."
"Can't you do it? Please? You don't have to work all the time, you can take a break for time to time."
He made a face, looked away and then back at me. "I've already taken a two hours break for you."
And I had thought I had just given him an order and he had complied, silly me. So he'd done me a favor. What was I supposed to make out of that?
"Well, then take another one… I'm here, I don't mind you wasting my money." I shrugged my shoulders.
"No kidding?" he said ironically.
"It's Rolfe's money, he hired you, so why would I mind?" Better set things straight, apparently the employer-employee relationship wasn't working right for us. Something also told me that nothing much else would, call it a hunch.
"I thought you are a family."
"Yes, and I'm taking good care of his finances." I replied.
He needed a moment to think, to readjust to the situation. "OK…" he pressed his lips together "let's go fishing." he agreed.
Little he knew fishing wasn't what I had in mind but things were getting there.
The motor boat we used was much smaller than the one used for fishing and it looked like an ant compared with the ship, but it did the trick and got us to the destination rather fast.
"Hello, hello!" I called out as I climbed on board.
"There goes all our fish." Rory sighed demonstratively.
"Lady's orders." His superior smirked and busied himself with tying securely the boat.
"How's going?" I went to kiss Rolfe and stood between the two fishermen. "Where's the catch?" I asked looking around and not seeing any sign of fish, not even a little one.
"Down there?" Rory pointed down at the water.
"You didn't catch anything?" I made a shocked face.
"In there, Love." Rolfe showed me the net hanging by the side in the water with about a dozen of fish still alive inside.
"That's not enough to feed the entire crew. They're strong men, they need more than that, don't they, Captain?"
"Right… though they might not all like fish."
"Hey, I'll exchange mine for anything else that's good in the fridge." Rory offered.
"Done." I granted his wish.
"Yey…" he cheered. "I can retire then." He put away his fish rod and pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it away. "Wish me luck, I'm going gold digging." He said and jumped over board.
"What's he doing?" I asked the men, especially the one who had had the decency to shave in the morning and was grinning now. In fact they both seemed to have kind of a secretive smile.
"You'll see." God, I hated to hear that.
"OK, boys, if you don't want to share your toys then I'm gonna find some other kind of game." I pulled off my top and wiggled out of my shorts. Don't worry, I had a two pieces swimming suit on. I stepped out of my sandals and dived. "You sure you don't want to join me? The water is warm!" I yelled after going back to the surface.
"No, but you go ahead, Love." Rolfe smiled indulgently forgetting about the fish. Wasn't he sweet? And my, oh, my, the Captain was grinning too.
Half an hour of splashing and swimming around playing fish, or mermaid if you like, with little help I climbed back on board. Rory had come out for air several times but hadn't joined me. He had his own schedule spending the time swimming up and down with a knife in his teeth. Well, if he considered it fun…
"You don't know what you're missing." I told the men pulling my hair back over my head.
"Mmmm… salty…" Rolfe kissed my cheek and handed me his shirt to dry.
"Any luck?" I inquired settling down on the bench and enjoying the caress of the sun on my skin.
"A little…" Rolfe said, it wasn't clear whether he was being modest or just didn't want to disappoint me.
"Since you scared all the fish." The Captain added.
"No, he did!" I gestured towards Rory who was just climbing on board.
"What? What did I do?" he gasped for air and sat on the deck with his back propped against the rail to catch his breath. Unlike Rolfe who pretended I was covered from head to toes and I wasn't wearing only two small pieces of fabric, or the Captain who just wasn't looking, he ogled me openly.
"Scared the fish." I pouted as if I cared.
"Oh, that…" he smirked "but I've got something better…" he started to empty his pants pockets adding more oysters to the pile laying next to him.
"I don't like oysters…" I mumbled "Auch…" I frowned watching him as he split them open with the knife.
He smirked up and continued with the slaughter. When he was finished he held up to Rolfe an empty shell with two pearls inside. "Here you are, sir."
"Wonderful." Rolfe picked one up and offered it to me. "For you, darling…"
"Thank you." I smiled. It would make a fine ring I reckoned.
"You keep that one for all your trouble." he handed him back the remained pearl. Rolfe was a generous soul.
"Thank you, sir." The sailor grinned happy with the unexpected profit.
A couple of hours later when we all agreed there was no fish left in the sea, maybe also because they had had enough of my whining, we were ready to return to Lady Virginia. There seemed to be something wrong with our boat 'cause the engine refused to start no matter how much swearing was thrown at it. We had to use the small boat instead to take us to the ship and as soon as we got there several sailors went back to check on the engine and see if it could be fixed.
Dinner at candle light. That was Rolfe's idea of a romantic night. To rise up to the situation I had put on a bare back evening dress, pulled my hair up in a French twist and slipped on a pair of high heel sandals. Good thing I had come prepared for the trip. I hadn't brought many suitcases but between t-shirts and shorts I had squeezed in two dresses too just in case.
We ate in a large nicely decorated room which could serve as gathering room for the passengers when the weather was bad. Alone, served by the steward who knew how to make himself discreet, we enjoyed the delicious fish and the good wine that Rolfe had ordered. Music was playing quietly in the background but we were focusing mostly on our light conversation. It felt good not to think about problems or every day worries everyone had and just think about the two of us, there, right then.
Half way through dessert, a yummy cream strawberries cake, Rolfe took the glass from my hand and holding it into his he helped me get up. Up into his open arms I went and I wrapped my arms around his neck smiling. He was very good at dancing on slow tunes, so smooth.
it's a marvelous night for a Moondance Can I just have one
more Moondance with you, my love Well, I wanna make love to you to…"
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love
Can I just have one
more Moondance with you, my love
Well, I wanna make love to you to…"
A sharp knock on the door interrupted us in mid dance. What now? I wondered looking at the Captain's frowning face. We were being good, we weren't being loud, and for God's sake we owned the ship!
"Sorry to bother you at dinner, Miss," he insisted to call me Miss for some reason while Rory was calling me ma'am "but we have a situation." Why on earth was he reporting it to me since it was Rolfe's ship? And I didn't know anything about boats. "We have an illegal passenger on board." He moved from the door to let Rory get in.
This one walked inside pushing forward a blonde girl who was struggling to get free but he was holding her securely by the upper arms from behind. From the way he was favoring his side it was clear she must have gotten him good a couple of times.
"Emily!" I exclaimed moving away from Rolfe.
"Do you know her, Miss?"
"Yes, she is a family friend." Well, more exactly the Cowboy's friend, they went to the university together, and by extension a friend of the family but that was beside the point. "What are you doing here?" I asked the girl.
"Taking a free ride." She answered brazenly. "Tell the gorilla to gets his paws off me."
Rory looked at the Captain and seeing him nodding he released her.
"Brute." She hissed at him as she rubbed her arms where he'd squeezed her.
Instead of frowning at her the Captain frowned at me. It wasn't my fault that she was acting like a spoiled brat.
"We need to talk." He told me, like I didn't know that already.
I nodded shortly at him and turned to Rolfe. "Can you see that she gets settled in one of the empty cabins for the night, please?" She hadn't been occupying one up until now, I knew because I had checked the whole ship and had seen no sign of it so I could only assume she'd been hiding in the hull. No need for that any longer. She could sleep in a decent bed from now on, preferably somewhere close where I could keep an eye on her. She was nothing but trouble. It was one of the reasons why Jack had never gotten romantically involved with her although she was bright and good looking. He would have lost any influence he had on her if he did and she really needed someone to keep her grounded.
"Of course. Come with me, Miss Emily." Rolfe held out an arm to her to show her the way. For a moment I wondered what this might lead to since canon Rolfe had a thing for young girls, but he liked them young and innocent and this one was a little devil. I decided he was safe.
"Help her get her stuff to the room." The Captain ordered Rory.
"Yes, sir." This one nodded but the look on his face showed just how much he enjoyed that order.
I knew what he was going to say before he opened his mouth after they cleared the room. "This is my ship. I cannot accept such behavior on my ship."
"I did not invite her over. I had no idea she would come and try to sneak in." I protested. I didn't even know she knew about our trip, but she'd probably heard it from Jack.
"We're getting her off in the first harbor."
"I don't know…" I hesitated "I'll have to talk to her first."
He frowned again not pleased with my decision.
"I'm sorry… I have a responsibility… I can't just let her go…" I don't know why I was apologizing but it was hard to explain. The girl had issues, no doubt about it. "I'm going to check on her and have a little chat… I might need to use the radio tonight." I told him in advance.
He muttered something and I felt his glare on my back all the way to her cabin. Or maybe it was concern.
"Gentlemen, please leave us." I asked Rory and Rolfe who were still there fussing around her.
They left quietly closing the door after them. Emily climbed on the bed and crossed her legs under her and watched me prepared for a lecture.
"What were you thinking?" I scolded her. "Coming here like that?"
"Don't try to play my mother, you're not old enough." she replied.
"Your mother?!" I stared at her in shock. Sure, I was a few years older than her but not nearly enough and I had never considered that position. I liked the color of my hair to stay the way it was. "Oh, you've seen nothing yet. You'll wish for your mother when I'm done with you!" Her mother was dead, I remembered. Crap. "Sorry." I mumbled. I sighed and took a place on the bed next to her. "Emily, what's going on?"
"No, you just woke up one morning and decided to spend some time in the hull along with the cargo." I said sarcastically. "Come on…"
"I was on vacation… and I felt like taking a trip…" she shrugged.
"With the cargo …" she rolled her eyes hearing me repeat those words "sleeping all day long and fighting the seasickness."
"I don't get seasick."
"Lucky you…" I muttered. "So what are we going to do with you? Does your uncle know where you are?"
"No?" she said with a little voice making a face like a kid caught doing something wrong. "Please don't tell him… he would turn mountains to bring me back and we can't really afford it." I could easily see him do that. I had only met him briefly but I knew Jack sort of feared him although they were friends and not just about anyone could scare the Cowboy. The problem was that he was just as crazy as his niece.
"Hmm… tell you what…" I thought about it for a long moment. "You come home with us and I won't tell him to come and pick you up." I offered her a deal. Notice I didn't say I wasn't going to tell him where she was.
"Okay…" she agreed reluctantly.
"And no more troubles… or the Captain will lock you in the hull, I wouldn't put it past him." I warned her seriously. He'd make her wash the floors for sure. With a tooth brush.
I still kinda believed that when I knocked on the door looking for him a few minutes later. "You still up?"
"Can't sleep on this bloody ship. There's always someone who needs rescuing." There had to be some humor somewhere in there but I just couldn't see it.
"Ok, the good news is that I know who the salmon thief is," I went straight to business "the bad news is I need to send a message and let people know Emily's here." I told him.
"Now?" I could see it on his face that he didn't believe it was an emergency.
"We'll have the entire army, navy and air force chasing after us by morning." Emily's uncle, Ray, used to be in the military and he still had connections that went very deep. It was the end of the third day, it never took him longer than that to find her.
"I see…" he fiddled with the radio and sent the message I gave him. It was for the family, they were going to deliver it to uncle Ray as soon as possible and hopefully in a nice calm manner that wasn't going to annoy the hell out of him.
"God, this is worse than army." Emily groaned when we were woken up at 7 AM and called to have breakfast before leaving on our little expedition.
I smirked to myself happy that I wasn't the one whining about the early hour for a change and I kept my mouth shut to show the Captain what a good girl I was. I couldn't eat much because my stomach needed longer time to settle in the morning but I did my best and I was feeling rather well when we went up on the bridge.
"Wow…" the island covered in vegetation was visible in the distance. It was quite a beauty reminding me of Santa Maria Island. We'll go there this summer, I promised myself. "Are you coming with us, Captain?" I asked seeing he was bringing his jacket.
"I'm sure Mr. Rolfe is a great explorer but I was told you could use a little help." He nodded towards our young friend.
Oh, no, little blonde Emily had gotten to him too? I found that hard to believe.
"We're ready to go, Captain!" Rory reported from the boat where he was getting it ready doing one last check up on the troubled engine.
I found out we were going to take the boat to get to the shore while the ship itself was going to follow at its own pace. No need to hurry and use extra fuel when it wasn't an emergency. Wise thinking, I thought.
"I'm going to find a mechanic and have some parts of the engine replaces. We'll meet here back in an hour." The Captain instructed when we set foot on the docks and I was very tempted to click my heels and salute barking 'Yes, sir!'.
But Rolfe slipped an arm around my waist saying something about sightseeing and shopping. As we were about to discover it was a small town and an hour was more than enough to visit it all stores included. Emily seemed to like the shopping idea and we ended up buying lots of souvenirs we didn't really need, but at least we made it back to the docks five minutes early which gave us time to eat an odd flavor ice cream and the Captain didn't have to wait for us. I was quite proud of that accomplishment.
We left our purchases on the boat, renewed our water resources and started off, across town and out into the forest that covered the rest of the island. Two hours later Emily was whining out loud about all that walking on uneven ground and she'd already given her backpack to Rory to carry it for her. As for myself I had had plenty of time to reconsider and wish we'd had an Aubery with us. They were older and heavier and wouldn't have forced us into this marathon like the Captain did.
"How long have we still got?" I asked Rolfe assuming that he was actually taking us somewhere and wasn't just satisfying some sadistic streak I wasn't aware of.
"Not much…" came the answer.
"I was thinking we might take a break before going any further." I said and glanced at the Captain. No, I wasn't asking for permission, it was a simple suggestion. All it needed was for him to say no to become a decision.
He gave me one of those looks saying 'what are you looking at me for? Rolfe is in charge with the expedition'. Better. I knew how to work my magic on that one.
I opened my mouth but Rolfe stopped me. "Half an hour, Love… we'll rest there." Apparently not.
I sighed and not wanting to argue with him in front of everyone else I agreed to follow his lead. He better know what he was talking about if he wanted to spend the night doing other activities beside sleeping. That is if we were still going to be able to move when we got back to the ship.
The path we had been following so far started to narrow little by little ending up by totally disappearing among the trees. I didn't know where we were and I had a vague feeling it wasn't going to be easy to find our way back to civilization. Lucky for us it turned out the compass was reliable enough in the hands of someone who knew how to use it right, that would be Rolfe, and after some staggering in the area we finally found it.
In one spot the forest was opening widely leaving place to a lake at the bottom and a waterfall falling down from the top of a cliff. Well, I have to say it was an impressive sight. All that green vegetation surrounding us and the crystal clear water looked somehow taken out of a fairytale.
I put down my backpack and I sat on a solid rock at the borer of the water. Emily did the same only that she took the relaxation one step further, she stripped off her clothes and when she got to her underwear she jumped into the fresh water. I looked longingly at her wishing I could do the same but I hadn't brought my swimming suit and I wasn't a careless free girl like her, I was a responsible woman who wanted to preserve the slight sign of respect earned so far. Sometimes it sucked to be a grownup.
Rolfe crouched down and splashed some water over his face, it was hot and we were all warmed up after the march, and Rory washed his hands. The Captain stood still on the grass bordering the lake waiting for us to get bored of playing tourists. With a small nod he told Rory to follow Emily on the ground and stay close and ready to run to her if she needed any help. The lake didn't seem to be too deep but one could never know what unexpected things might happen.
Well, let them take care of that, I thought to myself and drank from my water bottle. I could have tried to go to the source and get some fresh water but I didn't feel like climbing that whole pile of rocks and I didn't want to catch malaria either. Rolfe didn't seem to share the same worries with me and drank from the lake before I could stop him.
"Hey, guys… I think I found something!" we heard Emily calling and we got up and went after her.
She'd reached the stone wall the water fell over and she was waving at us telling us to hurry. But the other side was several dozen of meters away and we didn't have the luxury to go straight there, we had to walk on the ground and follow the curved border of the lake. We moved fast for what was left of our energy resources but one moment she was there waving at us and then she disappeared. Shit! Where was she? The men rushed ahead and I followed the best I could with my shorter legs.
"In here!" Emily's voice came out muffled by the water.
Rory being closer found a way to sneak along the rocks and he too disappeared but this time we were paying attention and saw him going behind the vertical layer of water. Aha! At least we knew that nothing bad had happened to them.
The Captain was next and then Rolfe which left me all alone there for a moment hesitating in front of the liquid curtain. An open hand emerged from it waiting for me to take it. I placed my hand in it and as it closed I found myself pulled quickly through the cold shower spray. I stumbled and collided against the Captain's chest.
"You have to move fast not to get drenched." He explained his action.
It made some sense and I nodded and looked around forgetting my hand in his. It was a large seemingly round cave with old paintings on the walls, star studded ceiling, a flower bed on the floor and an altar with a small statue in the middle. But what I found most impressive was the way the sunrays made the water sparkle as they went through it to bounce against the walls and come back out.
"Wow…" I turned still circled by those strong arms.
"Beautiful isn't it?" Emily smiled in an awe.
"I feel like in a Hallmark Indiana Jones movie." I deadpanned.
Rory chuckled, and I felt a groan reverberating in the chest pressed against my back. Even Rolfe shook his head in disbelief. Where was my sense of romance? They all seemed to wonder.
Emily sighed, "I wish I had my camera…"
"No…" I said softly "some memories are better kept in here." I pointed at my temples.
"And in here." Rolfe agreed pressing a hand against his chest.
I noticed the Captain was staring down at me and I blinked at him. What? I could be romantic if I wanted to be.
Several long moments were spent in there inspecting everything in sight unable to get enough of it all. And when we finally decided to leave Rolfe picked up an edgy rock from the ground and scratched a star on the wall. His gesture touched me because it wasn't the typical sign for a star, he'd used the manner in which I was usually drawing stars to make them look like they shone.
We granted ourselves an hour of rest in the shade under the trees by the lake where we ate the chocolate bars I had brought with me and then we started on our way back to the town. The road seemed longer maybe because we were still hungry and couldn't wait to get to a decent restaurant, no way we were waiting to get to the ship.
There were several outdoor restaurants lined up along the quay and we were checking them out trying to decide on one when I heard a familiar voice coming from a terrace:
"Jack!" I squealed and ran to hug the Cowboy. Emily didn't look too happy to see him. "What are you doing here? When did you arrive?" I threw questions at him wanting to know it all at once.
"This morning… Captain Rich flew me in with the jet." He grinned. Geez, I told Rolfe we should have taken the jet if we wanted to go somewhere. "Since you and Rolfe are on vacation it sounded like you needed someone to keep an eye on…" he looked at Emily "yes, you." he smirked. He didn't say he'd been sort of blackmailed into going by her uncle. It was either that or Ray himself doing it and that would have interfered with my vacation too much, I found out later. Awww, what a love!
"That is if we're not bothering you 'cause we can always take the next ship home." The jet had already left.
"Don't be silly, you're coming with us." That was final. I wasn't going to let both of them travel on their own when we were so far from home. "What's good to eat here? What are you having?" I picked two French fries off his plate and took a sip off his beer.
"Just fries… everything else on the menu is too strange to even read."
"Oh, yeah? Let me see that…" I sat in his lap and reached for the menu. "Well, sit down, what are you waiting for?" I gestured for the others to join us at the table.
Knock, knock. "Ma'am?"
"Yes… come in." I rose my eyes from the book to look at Rory who sneaked his head through the door.
"We are having a bit of a party down there… the guys were wondering maybe you would like to join us for a bit? Jack and Emily are already there…"
"Umm… okay, thanks… let me see if I can wake up Rolfe so he won't think I disappeared."
I put the book down and slipped on my shoes and stretching my back I went to the other room where Rolfe was sleeping. After the expedition we had done earlier in the day we had all reckoned we deserved a little rest, only I had refused to follow their example and sleep preferring to read instead. The pirates in my book were in the middle of a fight and I knew Rolfe was going to have to wait until I finished the chapter before we went to bed that night.
To make up for that I woke him up with kisses and a bit later we joined the crew in their quarters. Those who weren't on duty had gathered there to relax drinking beer, playing cards and chatting. Someone had brought an accordion and a couple had harmonicas and they were singing Irish drinking songs. How fitting! With the way the beer was flowing they were all going to be drunk soon. And we were going to sink. Sarcasm put aside I wondered where had Rolfe, or was that the Captain, found those people.
Seeing us entering the door Rory got up and hurried to make some room for us to sit and we had to accept the offered beer. It tasted oddly but Rolfe had no problem with that. Not far from us Jack was watching Emily who was playing cards with a couple of sailors. He'd had the inspiration to retire from the game early, a good thing to do cause she was cheating heavily. On the opposite side the Captain was discussing animated with a group of older sailors sharing stories about their adventures at sea and trips around the world. It sounded interesting, better than my pirate book upstairs, and I shifted my chair a few inches to the left so I could listen without looking like I was intruding.
Meantime Jack had left Emily to her schemes and started to talk to the small group providing the entertainment. He'd heard that type of music occasionally and while not being very familiar with it he liked he rhythm. The conversation turned to dancing and one of the most jovial men got up to show him some steps. No need to say it turned into a full show since dancing came very naturally to him, it was only singing he was reluctant to do.
"Yey!" I cheered and clapped after a dynamic routine. Shouldn't have done that. He took off the red bandana around his neck and came to me to put it around mine.
"No, Jack…" I whined "I don't wanna… I don't know how to dance that." Sure it looked like fun but good whining took practice and I could always use the exercise. It also wasn't a good idea to do it in front of the crew I reckoned.
But would he listen? He was still holding onto the corners of the bandana and he pulled me away with him, out of my seat and onto the improvised dancefloor. "Sing the one you did before!" he asked the man with the accordion.
"Something nice for the lady!" someone called and whistled. That made several pairs of eyes turn, I felt at least a couple glancing over me, but Rolfe nodded in encouragement and clapped his hands. No way back now, so better enjoy it if I could. That wasn't a problem, Jack might be over enthusiastic once he got started but he never stepped on my toes.
Several dances later, I had managed to stop Jack from dancing on the tables, we were both a bit out of breath and took a break. He straddled a chair with a well deserved beer in hand still keeping the rhythm on the back rest of the chair and I fell on my seat for a bit. Rolfe went back to his stories about conquering the old territory having several ears listen with interest mine included although I had heard it all before.
The air was heavy with all the smoke floating around and I leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I'm going out to take some air."
Outside it was a peaceful night with more than half a moon visible and a soft wind. If men were at their posts I didn't see them, the place seemed empty from what I could see. I went up on the top bridge and leaned against the rail. Again nothing to see out there. The island was long gone and there was no other piece of land in sight, nor ship either, no veils. Boring.
The only thing not boring up there was the lonely steering wheel. No one was standing by it. Of course, the whole ship had been modernized so it wasn't really needed, it had been only kept for decorative purposes. It was kinda sad. I ran my fingers on the old polished wood. No cracks. And it wasn't moving being stuck in place.
"Trying to change course without telling us?"
"No, just wanted to make it fly." I smirked into the darkness.
I heard the Captain's steps moving closer. He walked around and rested his hands on the wheel from the other side. "It's a good ship but she won't fly I'm afraid."
"Wanna bet?" I dared him.
"I'm not a betting man." he replied.
Good, cause you would have lost, I thought. "Why isn't it moving?" I asked.
"We had it locked so naughty girls don't start playing with it."
Arghhh. We locked eyes above the wheel and he was the first to show a hint of a smile. "It doesn't work while the engine is functioning."
"A-ha…" I muttered, not that I would have known how to use it if it did.
He tilted his head as he kept looking at me. "Are you of Irish descendance? The dancing you did down there…"
"No, I was improvising mostly." I admitted with a shrug.
"Well, it looked good." he nodded.
Was that a compliment? I wondered. "Thanks… Are you? Irish I mean."
"Ah…" I didn't know much about accents, and I didn't fancy them either. They annoyed me usually. "So you always talk like this." I muttered.
"I suppose… why?"
"It's annoying." I blurted out and grimaced at my own rudeness.
He smirked amused. "Women usually like it."
"It makes it hard to concentrate… at least for me it does." I had to guess his every other word.
"Sorry… it wasn't specified in the job's application."
"Oh, it's not an issue really… it's just…" I shrugged my shoulders not knowing how to explain it. Maybe it was a way of saying that I would have liked to spend some more time talking with him. But he took a long time to relax and open up and I didn't want the crew to start gossiping about us if they saw us together more than necessary. Like now. "It's late… I better go send the guys to bed. It's been a long day."
He blinked debating whether I was making fun of him with that accent that had slipped in my last phrase. "Good night then. I have to check on the crew and course." He said.
The Irish dances continued in my dreams for the rest of the night. The only difference was that I had a dress and sandals on and my partner wasn't Jack. Oups. But he was a good dancer.
Small random rain drops kept falling from the gloomy sky all morning and the wind became stronger around noon. My companions were watching DVDs below the deck but I went upstairs to check on the weather. I didn't like rain, it was depressing. Rain while on a ship was even worrying a little. But it wasn't raining so much that I needed a raincoat or an umbrella, the sailors would have definitely laughed seeing me carrying one.
"Hello, ma'am," Rory nodded busy securing some things around the big mast.
"What's the weather forecast? Any chance for some tanning soon?" I inquired wrapping my arms around myself. The wind was getting colder.
"Not today. We changed course twice already and it's still following us. We'll have a big storm by evening."
I didn't like the sound of that. "How big?"
"Don't scare her… she might sell the ship and put us out of the job."
"Captain…" I turned to the man who seemed to have come in inspection. "Is there going to be a storm?"
"Yes, but you don't have to worry about it. We're ready for it and while it might be a bit of a bumpy ride we're gonna be fine." he assured me.
I nodded not too convinced but in the same time not wanting to look scared. The ship had survived for hundreds of years and it had never been in a better shape than it was now. No reason to worry.
"I want you and your friends to stay in your cabins for the following hours." he told me and it wasn't a request, it was an order. No worries, right?
"Of course." I didn't enjoy the idea of going out in the middle of the storm and getting soaked in the process.
"And ask the cook to prepare a light supper."
At first I didn't understand what he meant by that but then I realized that with my stomach that protested even when the ship was standing still a storm was going to be quite a challenge. "Right." I muttered though it was kinda sweet of him to think about that. Let's just say he was being thoughtful.
Still things didn't turn out exactly as predicted. No, there was a storm, a big one. It wasn't too bad in the beginning but Emily and soon after that Rolfe started to complain about not feeling well. Water, ice and empty buckets were placed by the sides of their beds and I paced between their cabins being the designated nurse. I didn't even have time to think about my own stomach.
As more time passed thunders were getting louder and lightning stronger and I could feel the walls of the ship vibrating under the impact with the restless ocean. Jack was almost just as restless running up and down and constantly being chased off the bridge as the crew was doing their job well and didn't need any help.
Until something happened and they did. There was a loud blasting noise accompanied by a heavy thud and I felt the hairs standing up on my arms at the amount of electricity the air. Weird. Only minutes after that I heard some commotion on the corridor just when I had sat down by Rolfe's side to check on him and catch my breath. I walked out and saw two men carrying another one towards one of the empty cabins led by Jack.
"What happened?" I followed them fetching some towels on the way. There was a lot of blood involved and underneath it was Rory laying there.
"Lighting stroke the fore mast and the yard fell over him crushing him." Jack, who'd seen it happen and had helped with the rescue mission, explained.
"Jesus… someone call the doctor!" I requested and I was relieved to see the Captain bringing in the doctor. Hopefully he was going to do more for the poor injured man than he'd done for Emily and Rolfe.
Water was dripping off the sailors pooling on the carpet by their feet as they stared helplessly like all men who didn't have much to do with modern medicine.
"Back to posts." The Captain ordered. "The weather is getting worse." Like I needed to hear that.
"Jack!" I called after the Cowboy seeing him starting after them.
"Rory's down, they need someone to fill in for him. It's hell out there!" he said and seeing the shocked look on my face he rushed back to give me a short hug, "It will be fine.", and he was out the door.
"Fine…" I grumbled.
"Are you afraid of blood?" the doctor asked distracting my attention.
"No…" I shook my head and I came by the bed to assist him at stopping the bleeding on that clearly broken leg. Back to playing nurse again.
The boat continued to shake periodically, at one time so bad that all the lights went out. And they didn't come back on. Shit. Imagine me and the doctor stumbling around blindly in search of flashlights or at least candles. Once we did that the doctor returned to the patient and I grabbed a rain coat and staggered upstairs. The doctor's prognosis wasn't good.
"Where's the Captain?" I had to yell at Jack to make myself understood.
"Up there!" he pointed at the top bridge.
What the hell was he doing there? The wind was so strong it nearly blew me off the ladder as I climbed and I was soaking wet when I got to him.
"Rory… it's bad… two ribs and one leg… broken… possibly internal bleeding too… he needs to go to the hospital!"
"He will! When the storm is over!"
"Call a helicopter or something!"
"No one will come to us on this weather! We're on our own!"
"At least turn around for God's sake!"
"I can't! There was a surcharge when the lightning hit and the entire electric system is down. The engine is dead!" Stupid modern technology. I should have let the ship run on steam. "I can only steer it from here!" Some.
"Oh, God…" I gasped only then noticing the strong cord wrapped around his middle that he'd used to tie himself with to the steering wheel so the water wouldn't wash him over board.
A wave cleaned the deck and he grabbed me and pulled me to him to keep me from meeting the above mentioned fate. "Go bellow… stay there… we'll make it!"
I wasn't sure if I believed him but I had to at least hope so I bit my lips and nodded.
"Jack!" he yelled for the Cowboy to come to us. "Take her to the hatch!"
"Ok… come Boss…" Jack took my hand and only then the Captain released me.
"Wait… how long?" I refused to move yet.
"How long will the storm last?" I wanted to know.
Another five or six hours at least. God help us all!
That night was worse than a nightmare. I spent it moving between three different cabins and feeling useless because I couldn't help any of them. Around 3 AM Rolfe and Emily finally fell into an exhausted sleep. Rory had been passed out for a couple of hours but then woke up delirious because the fever was rising. Painkillers were used but not too much not to knock him out completely and the things I heard him saying made me broke into a cold sweat. I was glad the doctor had fallen asleep in his chair and didn't hear him.
Sometime towards morning I fell asleep too for about forty minutes. When I woke up I was disconcerted by the silence surrounding us and the lack of movement. It felt like we weren't moving at all. I pushed off the blanket that someone had put over me and I went to check on the patients. Rory was passed out and didn't look too well in the daylight, and the doctor I found in Rolfe's cabin doing the morning round. The short conversation we had made me run out the door right to the Captain's cabin. That was it! This ship was turning around and it was doing it now!
"Captain!" I barged in without bothering to knock. "The storm is over! We need to take them to the hospital!"
He was apparently changing his shirt 'cause he pulled one out of the closet and put it on. "I know." He said dryly and started to button it up.
"Did you call for help?" I insisted.
"No. The radio is not working. Nothing based on electricity is." He stated.
That meant… that meant the engine didn't function either. And no one knew to come to our rescue. Damn. "Can't it be fixed?"
"We're working on it. Until then we'll use the sails… once the wind starts again."
When? The wind starts? "We're not moving…" I mumbled "but… Rory and…"
"The boat is being prepared… will send him ahead." He told me. "Let's hope he'll make it."
"Good!" I clung onto that thought. "We'll take Rolfe and Emily too. The doctor just changed his mind, it's not seasickness and not food poisoning either… they've got yellow fever."
"Yellow fever." He repeated staring at me. "How? I haven't heard of such cases in… years."
"I don't know!" And who cared how? The important thing was to treat them and there weren't the right conditions to do it on the ship according to the doctor.
"Are you feeling alright?" he asked right away.
"Yes…" Tired but reasonably well.
"The lake…" he suddenly said. "Have they been given the shots before leaving on this trip?"
"I… don't know…" Emily hadn't known exactly where we were going and Rolfe wasn't up to date with all modern procedures. "It is possible… they haven't…" I admitted.
His lips pressed hard together. I could see it on his face that he was trying to come up with a solution.
"You see… we have to take them…" I said weakly.
"No. There are strict laws in these parts. Right now this ship is in quarantine, no harbor will accept it to dock in it. If we get them all three on the boat the quarantine will extend to it and we won't be able to get Rory off."
"What are you saying?" I narrowed my eyes at him.
"They don't need immediate treatment. If it follows the normal pattern the symptoms disappear in a few days. The doctor can monitor their condition, but the emergency right now it's Rory. The rest of the crew will be fine, they all got their shots."
Jack hadn't but I remembered him saying once that he'd had yellow fever as a child so maybe he was immune too. As for myself my system had resisted to any kind of infections since I had started sleeping with Logan so I wasn't worrying about that.
"No, I can't agree with that…" I shook my head. Fever, dehydration, this whole thing could go down pretty badly.
"You're not the Captain." He replied and I wanted to smack him.
A knock on the door and someone sneaked his head inside. "Mr. Rolfe is asking for you, Captain."
My heart jumped inside my chest fearing the worst and we both started for the door nearly colliding into each other.
"Only the Captain, ma'am." I had to surprise to be stopped before entering Rolfe's cabin and had the door closed in front of me.
I don't know what they talked about in there but when the Captain came out he announced "You're coming with me. Mr. Rolfe's orders. He only trusts you to set things into motion once we get to the shore, have Rory treated by the best doctors and then return with the right equipment for him and Miss Emily."
"You've got to be kidding me! I'm not leaving them, I'm not going anywhere…" I protested.
"I'm going with you. I'll bring you back by night fall. I promise."
"But… you're the Captain, you're not suppose to leave the ship." I argued.
I knew I hit a nerve by the way his face darkened. "He's the boss, he hired me. I have to do what he says."
"That's not true."
"I… also believe he's right." He said quietly.
"What about the ship? Who's gonna run it?" I wondered.
"He knows nothing about running a ship!"
"There won't be any wind for several hours. And then the crew knows what to do. He doesn't have to run the ship, he needs to lead the men and he's a good leader. I've seen it last night." That was true.
"This is crazy."
"Maybe… but it better work. Pray it does."
"I don't pray." I hissed. "Just let me get my purse." In fact all I needed was my credit card. But it was morning and I was feeling nausea and I didn't doubt I looked like a ghost.
"How's he doing?" the Captain looked over his shoulder at Rory who was laying on his stretcher in the cabin. The boat was speeding crushing the waves and had been doing so over the past hour.
"Uhhh…" I ran a hand over my face, the constant vibration all around was making me drowsy after a sleepless night. "He's still passed out… the doctor gave him a shot before leaving, it should keep him quiet for a while." And hopefully in no pain, or one that he couldn't feel. "Is he a real doctor?" I asked him with a frowned look.
"I'm sure Mr. Rolfe must have checked his accreditations when he hired him. Why?"
"I don't know… I just… hmmm…" I muttered. I hadn't quite liked the way he'd treated Emily and Rolfe and me too. Mind you, I had known my entire life that I was suffering from seasickness but no, he suggested I should take a pregnancy test. I hadn't slept with a regular human in years and I was not Virgin Mary. Maybe I should check those accreditations myself when we got back. Talking about that… "How long do we have to go?"
"The storm took us off course more than expected after the engine died. We're heading towards the closest inhabited island with a heliport. Should get there in the beginning of the afternoon. Lady Virginia has orders to follow us, or turn to the closest hospital base in case we don't return today."
"If the wind starts…"
"It will. And maybe the mechanic can get the power back too." They were working on it when we left, but the system was just too complicated and they didn't have the tools they needed, or knowledge for that matter. "Until then… you should get some sleep."
There was nothing for me to do there at the moment and I was tired so he was right but I had something to sort out before doing anything else.
"We need to talk first." I told him.
He didn't look back or moved but I could imagine him making a grimace when he heard that.
"You're friends will be fine…"
"It's not about them… I mean it is in a way." I sighed. "Look, I heard Rory talking last night while he was being delirious… he used to be in the IRA, did you know that?"
"And you still hired him?!" I protested revolted.
"Everyone deserves a second chance."
"Well, did you know he tampered the boat when he and Rolfe went fishing?"
Now there was a pause. Aha! "I suspected something," he admitted.
"And you just let him walk around like nothing happened." I scolded him.
"I had no proofs. What did you want me to do? Lock him in a cabin for the rest of the trip? We're short of men. Two men resigned just before leaving. They claimed Lady Virginia was haunted."
"That ship is not haunted." I stated adamantly.
"Of course not," he glanced back giving me a 'don't be silly' look. "But I know Rory for a while now, he's been on the two testing trips after taking the ship out of the shipyard and he made no trouble. Something must have happened." He paused and rubbed his forehead with one hand. "I was planning to talk to him, try to figure it out, but there simply was no time for it."
"Sure, blame it all on me." I grumbled knowing he was thinking about me getting sick, the fishing trip and island trip he'd been forced to go onto, the clandestine passenger and now the damn storm.
"I'm not blaming it on anyone. I'm only telling you how things are." It was his turn to scold me.
I crossed my arms upon my chest and pouted but not for long. "Do you think he's got any accomplices?" I wondered.
"No." He said it fast, a sign that he'd thought about that. "The rest of the crew… they all have a long track of records of working on other ships. It's only Rory who doesn't."
"And you." I hadn't intended to say it out loud, it slipped.
That sure made him look at me. "And me." he agreed. "I wasn't always a sailor, not my entire life."
OK, so now that we got that in the open now what? I didn't feel like I didn't trust him doing his job, Lady Virginia was a big ship and things had been running smoothly so far, with a few exception. "So I'm paying you more than I should." I concluded flatly.
"You pay me for my work. And I would really appreciate it if you made up your mind on who's paying me, you or Rolfe?" More scolding? Who did he think he was? I made a grimace and then I stared hearing him say "I think I preferred it to be him." Of course, who would want a bitchy shrew like me to have to answer to?
"What are we going to do about him?" I got over the insult and gestured towards Rory.
"Take him to the hospital… get him well… and then fix it." In that order. It sounded like a good plan but…
"What if… umm…" I frowned "I can't think of a reason for him to do that…" I tried to explain what was on my mind. "He must be working for someone, following orders or being forced to do it or something…"
"Have you been working for the intelligence service?"
I froze but I then realized he was teasing. "It just doesn't make sense otherwise…" I ran my hands through my hair in frustration. "And if he doesn't do the job then what is going to happen?" I couldn't risk the safety of everyone on that ship.
"Do you honestly think someone might come with a racquet launcher to blast the ship out of the water?"
Err… Rolfe was a nice gentle man who didn't have any enemies and while the family might have some I couldn't think of anyone willing to go through so much trouble to harm us. "No, not really…" God, I hoped not.
"Then we stick to the plan." He decided with a nod. "Now get some sleep."
"I'm the Captain here, OK?" he reminded me. "Can we at least agree on that?"
"Okay…" I mumbled, and added silently to myself for now just because I could.
"You better go…"
"Don't tell me to go bellow." I warned him with a glare.
He smirked but didn't finish contented that I had agreed at least with the first part.
I curled up in a corner of the bench facing Rory after checking on him one more time and I closed my eyes. I still had one question left but I could ask it later, the answer wasn't going to change anything right now. It was not a restful sleep, I woke up often half the time being neither awake nor asleep, and when I finally had enough of that torture I got up with a headache and feeling nausea again. I stretched, checked on Rory, and I went to drink some coffee from the thermos placed on board near the Captain. Grrr, it was black, I made a grimace. These people had never heard of sugar?
After standing there for several seconds looking quietly at that immensity of water suddenly I asked out of the blue on an even tone:
"What did Rolfe tell you when you were alone in his cabin?"
"I told you already… he told me to go on shore with Rory and take you with me."
Yes, I knew that. But it didn't make sense for Rolfe to send me away. There had to be something he wasn't telling me. Something they had talked about while I had been locked out no doubt.
Pause. It was as if he was debating whether it was better to be fired by Rolfe or his real Boss.
"He didn't want you to get sick." If it really was yellow fever, I added in my mind.
Ah. Now this made sense. Poor darling, sending away his 'nurse' to save her. And he'd trusted the grumpy Captain to protect her and do that. I couldn't make up my mind who should I smack first. Not now. Later. When they were both going to be fine.
"And you agreed."
It was what he'd said. I nodded biting my lips and dropped the subject.
"How long do we still have to go?" I muttered.
"A couple of hours." He answered. "Did you get any sleep? You stirred a lot."
"I know, I always do that." I mumbled. "It's getting clouded." I noticed looking outside.
"We're heading after the storm. But we won't catch it." He added seeing me frown.
I was just wondering how safe we were on that boat if we happened to run into one. As I stood beside him I looked down at the complicated board not understanding much of it.
"Is this hard to drive?" I asked to pass time.
"Not that much. Wanna try?" he took a step back to let me move in front of him.
"Well… ok…" not one to say no to a challenge I reckoned I could handle well I slid in the small space between him and the steering wheel. So much smaller than the one on the ship, piece of cake. All you had to do was hold onto it and not fall asleep.
"Put your hands here…" his hands rested on mine for a moment "It's very similar to driving a car. With the smaller boats you have to turn it to the left to go to the right but not with this one. The speed is controlled by the throttle, it functions like the gas pedal. And here you have the lever for gearshift with three position: forward, neutral and reverse."
"Where's the brake?"
"There's no brake."
"How do you stop it then?"
"With the lever. It takes a bit of practice to get used to it."
"Aha…" that didn't sound like fun. "And what are all these?" I nodded at the board indicators.
He told me what each of them meant and more importantly what was the range for normal values but I only paid attention to the gas panel. We had enough to get us to the destination it seemed.
"There's more but that's enough for a lesson." he replied. He reached over my shoulder to get the thermos and drank straight from it.
"So we go straight ahead from here?" I asked this time having a particular purpose in mind.
"Yes, until we reach the harbor. There a few more trickier maneuvers will be necessary."
"I see…" I mused. "Does being in control with the wheel make me in charge with the boat?" I asked with a naughty glimpse in my eyes that he saw too late.
"Pretty much." He narrowed his eyes at me. "Why?"
"Because if I'm in charge here then I say you should get some rest too."
Green eyes blinked at me wondering where had that come from and carefully evaluating his options.
"You'll need toothpicks soon to keep your eyes open. And you said it's a straight ride. I can handle it." I assured him.
He sighed and rubbed his eyes. I had a feeling he hadn't slept in over 24 hours which was close to the truth. "Umm…"
"Don't argue with me." I stopped him before he could say no.
He glanced for the bench I had sat on. "Just for an hour…"
Good enough for me. "OK… and no, don't go below deck. I don't trust myself that much when it comes to running boats." I smirked.
"Wake me if anything happens. And send this message every other fifteen minutes. We're getting closer and someone should answer soon." he instructed and I nodded to show him I understood.
He laid on his back on that bench, put his hands under his head and closed his eyes. The next moment he was asleep. He didn't move, he didn't stir, at some point it looked like he wasn't even breathing and I had to go and check. As for Rory, he mumbled through his sleep, I gave him some water to drink and another shot. It kept me busy so I wouldn't have to think of what might happen to the patients on the ship. Other than that I am proud to report that everything went fine during my watch.
I was a little startled to see the Captain get up exactly sixty minutes later. His internal clock had to be better than my wrist watch.
"Any problem?" he blinked to adjust to the light change. It was sunny again and it was getting suffocating hot.
"No. I got some statics on the radio but that's all." I saw him look at Rory and I shook my head. "His condition is getting worse. He needs to get to a doctor soon." His breathing was shallow and his complexion had gotten a very unnatural color.
"It won't take long now." He grunted and came to take back his position behind the wheel.
What happened during the rest of that day was very rushed and a bit of a blur. The moment the Captain put his hand on the mic someone answered as if it had been waiting for him all along. He informed the coast that we were transporting an injured crew member who'd had an accident at sea and that we needed a chopper to take him to the closes hospital since the island we were approaching didn't have one big enough for such type of emergencies.
Symptoms and injuries described before hand we docked into the harbor. An ambulance was waiting for us and two solid men picked up the stretcher and carried it to the car. The local doctor examined the patient briefly and he was almost relieved when we asked to go along with them as he was more used to supervise women giving birth and treat broken limbs than chest injuries cause that seemed to be the most acute of the problems.
The bumpy ride to the small private heliport on the other side of the island was particularly hard on Rory. The pain in both his chest and leg woke him up and the doctor wasn't prepared with painkillers other than a half a vodka bottle left in the ambulance by who knew who and I was out of shots. One didn't have to be him, it was painful to just sit beside him. I was exchanging worried looks with the Captain above the patient both feeling helpless and not knowing what to do and he squeezed my hand in encouragement.
The gate to the private property opened and big guarding dogs accompanied the car to the landing strip. The chopper was late, we had to wait for it for about twenty minutes to arrive in the hot humid air that made even our lungs choke not to mention poor Rory. The dogs looked fine. And then the nightmare began. They didn't want to take us with them in the helicopter. They had space enough to carry four more people but they had orders to take just one and refused to do any differently.
After a heated argument while Rory was being transferred from the ambulance I pulled the Captain aside and asked him "Do you have any money on you? I've only got my credit card…"
He nodded understanding my idea. A couple of bills where slipped into the pilot's hand and, there you go, there was room for us! Only two minutes later I wished there hadn't been any, that pilot had worse driving skills than I did while riding a boat.
In those conditions fifty minutes of hell followed until we landed on top of the hospital building located two islands away. At least there they were better prepared for us. A doctor with an army of nurses was already waiting for the patient. We had to run after them answering critical questions, that we didn't have answers for all, on the way to the surgery room where we had the door closed on us.
I leaned against the wall breathing heavily and I looked up at my companion, the eyes begging to be told everything was going to be alright. Not only with Rory but with life in general. He was panting too and had a difficult time saying anything.
"Ok…" he rested a hand on my shoulder "I'm going into town to find the equipment we need for the ship and a chopper to take us back… you talk with the doctors for Rory and find someone willing to come with us and see what else is needed to bring along."
Whaaat? He was leaving me alone there? I wanted to protest but I felt silly so I nodded.
"Wait!" I yelled and ran after him. "You'll need money… where's an ATM machine?"
We went in search of an ATM and extracted a good chunk of money that I split in two and I gave him half. I had some pockets to stuff too.
"I'll be back here in two hours tops." And with that he was gone. At least he trusted me with that.
Rory was in surgery to have his chest condition stabilized so I found a paid phone and talked for half an hour with Maya and Julian about Rolfe and Emily and what were the chances for Jack to get sick too. The things they told me enhanced my suspicions and left me a little less worried but only a little.
I was heading back to check if Rory was out of surgery when I heard some steps running on the corridor and someone bumped into me.
"Ah!" I gasped as the air rushed out of my lungs.
"I apologize, fair maiden." A familiar voice said. "I hope I didn't hurt you?"
"Laurie?" I looked up at the young Bale. He had the same boyish smile, long hair and even crooked teeth. The similarities stopped below his neck where the white hospital gown started.
He ignored my question and grinned at my startled face. "What brings you into my kingdom?"
"I'm looking for a doctor." I stammered. Was he mad or was he pretending?
"I think…" he paused as if in waiting "you just… found one." he smirked and stepped aside to let another Bale in a white coat and with a stethoscope hanging around his neck join us.
"Amled, I told you to go back to your room." this one scolded him as he fought to catch his breath. "I'm too old for this." he grumbled to himself. He wasn't old at all, late twenty or early thirties, but the way he said it I understood he was sick of running after this particular patient. "I'm sorry if he bothered you, Miss." he apologized.
"It's alright…" I murmured not knowing at which of them to look first.
"The lady needs a doctor." The younger Bale informed him.
"Oh… doctor Sam Laurel." The other one held out his hand. "May I help you?"
"Hi…" I shook his hand smiling "It's not for me. I have two sick friends on a ship out there."
"Amled, go to your room. I'll be back with you in a minute." Sam said.
"No, you won't. You'll go with her." He said prophetically. "Oh, well… until I will see you again" he sighed "Prince of Jutland bids you farewell, milady." He took a deep bow and walked away.
"Jutland?" I repeated looking after him. "Who was that?"
"Amled, Prince of Jutland. It's a small kingdom." Sam smirked jokingly. "Actually… he's sort of a Hamlet with a happy-end… in canon. Not so much in real life as you see." he rose his shoulders.
"What happened to him?"
"He was born like this and no one managed to cure him so far. He's totally harmless, very bright, and has perfect manners" Sam's voice turned a bit ironic when he said that "but he's seriously mentally deranged. He enjoys to periodically run out of his room, out of the hospital, out of town… but he's always brought back. It's a sad story." he nodded. "Anyway… what's wrong with your friends?"
"Yellow fever apparently…"
"That's odd… we haven't had a case here in two years." He frowned. "And we get all the serious cases. Are you sure it's yellow fever?"
"That's what the doctor said."
"So you do have a doctor."
"I don't trust him. I would like a second opinion. Can you come with me to examine them?"
"What makes you trust me?"
"You work in a hospital. God knows where the other doctor came from." I replied honesty.
"I see… well…" he checked his watch "my shift ends in an hour. Can you wait that long?"
"Yes." There was still time and I had some other things to take care of until then.
"I'll meet you in the cafeteria then."
"Ok… umm, listen, could you ask what happened with a member of the crew, Rory Devaney? He's had an accident and was brought here half an hour ago. I'm really worry… and I'd like to talk to him when he's awake."
"I'll see what I can do." He promised.
By the time the Captain returned I had achieved quite a few things. First, I had found out that after having the liquid built up in his lungs extracted Rory's condition had improved. He was stable now, though weak which determined his leg operation to be postponed for the following day. With Sam's help I even got to see and talk to him for a couple of minutes. He didn't deny the accusation I made and confessed the rest. It was worse than I had thought.
I paid the nurses and the doctors tossing money right and left to take good care of him. We weren't finished and while he wasn't going to jail I needed him healthy to be able to pay for his mistakes. Then I called Ethan and I told him about the group of people who had planned it all. Gonzalo's competitors had paid Rory to do as much damage to the ship as possible in order to ruin his shipyard's reputation. Well, they were going to have a big surprise. Ethan had assured me they were never going to bother me or Gonzalo again. That was all I needed to know and I didn't ask for any more details. It was good to have a bartender with Ethan's special qualifications.
The Captain found me, he was twenty minutes late, he'd been having problems with finding the spare parts for the engine, and we went to the cafeteria to meet with Sam. There we had a very brief and delayed lunch while waiting for everything to be loaded into the chopper, Sam had brought his own kit with supplies in case things had gone really bad on board of the ship in our absence, and eventually we were up in the air again.
This pilot was much more experienced and didn't turn our stomach upside down, thank God! We were following the course the Captain had settled for Lady Virginia for when the wind would start. He had assured me it had already, and he'd been right. Only three hours later we saw the ship in the distance speeding towards us with all sails up. And I mean it, it was really speeding! Worry hit my gut like a knife. What if something went wrong?
I should have worried more though about the absence of a place to land. There was no room on the ship, Lady Victoria was big but not that big, and the chopper couldn't land on water. Therefore we had to climb down on a ladder pushed by the wind in all directions. I had asked for wind, right? My knees were shaking when I set my feet on the deck along with the sunset. Who'd said this vacation was going to be boring?
"Love!" Jack grabbed me in an enthusiastic hug.
"How is everyone?" I yelled to make myself heard through the noise made by the helicopter. The rest of the stuff we'd brought with us still needed to be descended.
"Better… the doctor changed his mind… it's food poisoning… not yellow fever…"
"What?!" I exclaimed.
"Should I…?" Sam pointed up meaning if he should go.
"No, I want a second opinion." I said a little too harshly. "But I need to do something first…"
I pulled myself away from Jack and I stormed downstairs in hunt of the doctor, before checking on his patients, having the Captain close on my tail.
"You're fired!" I snapped when I found him.
I felt so much better after I did that.
Another night with a full moon shining brightly in the sky. We were heading home by now. Rolfe and Emily had recovered enough to be given a clean bill of health by Sam. In fact they were all partying with the crew downstairs. I had been there with them too until recently enjoying their laughter and mostly to see them all happy. You should have seen the Captain laugh, his eyes wrinkled when he did.
The need for air and a bit of quiet peace had made me sneak out at some point and I climbed up on the top bridge. This was supposed to be the Captain's territory but since he wasn't there it made no difference. Besides I wasn't famous for respecting rules, except for my own and sometimes not even those.
"Well, it's a marvelous night for a Moondance / With the stars up above in your…" I hummed softly to myself as I leaned against the rail enjoying the warm breeze brushing against my skin.
"It's a beautiful night indeed."
OK, forget that, he was there.
"Hey, Pat…" I smiled in the dim light.
"You left us down there." he stepped closer smiling too.
"I needed a bit of air."
"Dreaming about the Bale who left?"
"Sam? Nah… I don't like doctors that much."
"How… how do you find them? All those Bales…"
"I don't know. They find me. If it didn't sound like an insult I'd say I'm some kind of herbivorous…"
"Could you find me?"
Was that a rhetorical question? But his eyes had narrowed and he looked expectantly at me.
"What for?" I murmured.
"How about a dance for start?"
"There's no music…"
"You were singing earlier… sing that song again."
"I don't know…" I hesitated shrugging a shoulder and I didn't do it just because I wanted him to beg.
"Come on…" he smiled and his arm circled my waist.
"Well, it's a marvelous night for a Moondance…" I started in a whisper my voice getting louder as I sang.
the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush
I just have one more Moondance with you, my love
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love…"
"Well, I wanna make love to you tonight…" he stepped in with his rougher more manlier voice.
can't wait 'til the morning has come
And I know that the time is just right
And straight into my arms you will run
And when you come my heart will be waiting
To make sure that you're never alone
There and then all my dreams will come true, dear
There and then I will make you my own
Any time I touch you, you just tremble inside
And I know how much you want me that you can't hide
I just have one more Moondance with you, my love
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love…"
"'morning." The Cowboy joined Rolfe for the morning coffee.
"Good morning, Jack." Rolfe nodded. "How did you sleep?"
"On my back…" The Cowboy muttered not completely awake yet.
"You slept in late. Must have been a tired night…" Rolfe grinned in his beard.
Similar though less wrinkled eyes looked at the former explorer. "You dirty old man… you know Emily and I don't do that." The Cowboy smirked.
Rolfe didn't take offence. "I meant Boss." he smiled.
"I thought she spent the night in your cabin." Jack replied.
The two men stared at each other confused. If she hadn't slept in either Jack or Rolfe's cabin then… A distant laughter made them look up. The Captain was teaching their Mistress to maneuver the big old steering wheel. She was laughing and he was grinning at her in return.