23

When David appeared at the stables, Isabelle was in Dante's stall. Her walk looked a bit stiff. He could guess that she was still in much pain by the way she was moving. Couldn't she rest for just one day?

Before he said anything, she said. "Is your wrist alright?"

"Not serious. How about you?"

"I'm fine." She didn't stop her busy hands.

David could see her knuckles were bruised, too. So many times he found those beautiful hands marred by bruises. Somehow he was felt like those hands of hers symbolized Isabelle.

"I've come to tell you - about Mauriri. About Mauriri and I. Isabelle, Mauriri is coming back to the Rattler."

She stopped her work and looked up him.

He could see the bruise was still vivid on her delicate face. Her expression was even.

"Mo came by last night. I talked with him. Even if he hadn't come, I knew, -I was there and looked at you two."

David stunned by her unexpected answer.

"Mo came by?"

"Yes."

She continued, "He can sail the Rattler. So you're going to rest until your broken wrist gets better."

"It's not broken, only strained. It'll only take a few days."

"It may take more than a week, if it's strained. Well, you'll be able to sail with him next week maybe. I better find some cargo for you two, before your good reputation, how reliable and brave you were last night, fades out."

With Mo!

His heart swelled again imaging the voyage with his best friend.

He hadn't noticed he was daydreaming a little bit too long. The young horsewoman had already returned to her work again when he came back from his reverie.

He called to the woman as she worked with a steady rhythm.

"So have you heard from Mo already? Winston agreed to keep our contract this season."

She halted and looked at him. Her large eyes were narrowed now. Then she said just, "Oh."

So what could I do for them? I was only flapping around worrying about their friendship and about the contract and they could do it all without me, she thought.

"That's good." Then she started to haul the hay bales again.

David was a little disappointed.

He had thought the news would make her very happy. Well, maybe he needed bigger contracts for that. She had helped him so much. And a small contract couldn't make up for it, of course.

"Isabelle."

"Yes?" She didn't stop her hands.

"Thank you."

Still Isabelle didn't stop but asked him faltering a little.

"-For -what?"

"For many things."

She slowed a bit, but still didn't look at him but at the hay and the end of her pitchfork.

"I really mean it."

She stopped.

Her large eyes; the left was still not fully open, but the right was blue like the deep ocean and she stared at him.

"I'm glad you're okay. I'm glad Mo came back to you."

Her sincerity hit him and he didn't make an effort to hide it.

"I owe you so much."

"Yes. And you can always pay me back, helping me here when your wrist gets better." Isabelle laughed. Her laughter he hadn't heard for awhile.

It sounded so nice. It's so genuine. David was watching as Isabelle lifted her bruised face to the morning breeze.

I could do nothing for them at the end. But it doesn't matter after all, does it? They are together again.

She was feeling the breeze which smelled a bit like salt as it caressed her bruised face, and she closed her eyes. It felt so nice.

She would buy a proper set of cutlery in the afternoon.

- - epilogue - -

-Hostages turn tables on captors in Matavai bar-

Reporting by CLARE DEVON

The five convicts who held over 15 hostages in Lavinia's were overpowered by the customers and arrested by Lieutenant Morlais and his men about 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The criminals had been masquerading as soldiers for over a week after a brutal attack on a prison ship on Apr. 1, 10-15 km off Niue.

Two of the escaped convicts were brothers – Pascal and Alain Ludovic. Pascal Ludovic, the former Governor's secretary, the ringleader of the escaped convicts was the brains behind the wave of crime and killing that has put fear in the hearts of sailors and townspeople throughout the islands. Alain Ludovic's men attacked the prison boat to release his brother who had recently been sentenced to 7 years of hard labour at the Makemo Penal Colony. The brothers and their gang took over the prison boat and killed everyone – the captain, officers and other prisoners on the boat.

After stealing the cargo from the prison ship, they pirated the Governor's ship, Charles V and murdered all the crew members, from the captain to the cook for the rich cargo in its hold.

As the former Governor's secretary, Pascal Olivennes, whose real name is Pascal Ludovic, knew about the route and schedule of the ship. Ludovic took on the identity of the soldier Paul Odier and the criminals approached the Charles V's posing as the real crew of the prison boat.

The captain of the Charles V was completely fooled by the fake soldiers and free convicts because they wore uniforms and the boat was a real prison boat. The gang sunk Charles V which was too easily recognizable to hide their stolen cargo but didn't make a chart of her position.

They then sailed on to Matavai to continue their deception. They even left the five convicts in their prisoner's clothes promising they would release them by breaking into the prison soon after, and did so.

Then the plotters made a crucial mistake Alain Ludovic had an uncommon memory and the chart which led to the sunken ship was only in his head. The notorious man couldn't hide long enough as they had planned because of his very recognizable looks. Before he had tried to escape and hide alone, it is rumored that he made a written chart. Apparently he tried to pass on that chart to his brother but failed and died in a chase at the market on Matavai, the same day. The police suspect that is what the criminals were searching for when they took over Lavinia's bar by force. Lieutenant Morlais confirmed that the chart which marks the ship's position is still missing.

The Governor also announced that a reward will be given to the finder of the chart or the ship.

The five convicts who impersonated the soldiers -Pascal Ludovic, Jan Drayfus, Jan-Paul Beart, Armand Sigro, Marc Didier- have been sentenced to death.

The rest of escaped convicts still have not been arrested.

Their poster attached to page 2.

David folded the newest Matavai Messenger and took an envelope from his shirt pocket.

Clare had been warned not to write or pursue inquiries about where the gold came from and where it would go. Same with the guns. It seemed there was corruption somewhere in the system. Clare wrote one line for her revenge 'The authorities are still not at all sure how many members there were in Ludovic's gang..' in another part in the paper where the reporter's view was written about the recent incidents.

She saw Jack everyday not in Lavinia's where he got his liquor but in her small office. She believed it was her mission to change Jack's bandage every day. And Jack seemed very happy to let her do it. Jack's words were enough of a prize for her that she was amazing- that, in all of Matavai, it was only Clare who had recognized Pascal Ludovic.

Morlais and his soldiers had been looking for the boat with its gold and gems but to no avail. All of Matavai now knew where the Ludovics hid the boat in the first place because of Morlais's men; they had been searching around a certain area of the ocean for two days.

David had an idea about where the small boat with gold was. He well knew where the tides in the area where Ludovic had sunk the boat and where they streamed to. The current would go to where Sun had almost drowned. He would be able to bring the gold up with Mo and Isabelle's help. The young captain rubbed his wrist. It was almost healed. He would be able to take the Rattler and search for Charles V with his two partners.

After Mo came back, soon three of them would go on a new adventure. He had his boat and his friends.

He couldn't remember when his heart had stayed so long in such high spirits.

- . - . - .

The two lemon shirks passed by the shipwreck. Far above the shipwreck, a turtle was swimming idly. On the deck, a few planks had peeled off and small colourful fishes came and went.

-fin-