"RNLI" Alternate Universe
Father Liam Connery had thought being sent to a small town on the edge of Cornwall - know as a Protestant non-Methodist stronghold - would be very tame, and probably boring. His closest friend, with the unlikely name for a Catholic priest of Alistair Kohan - had been sent to a parish in Manchester, and Liam had committed one of the seven deadly sins and been very envious. But he couldn't have been more wrong. Father Sanchez was not your average parish priest and when he told his young curate he was rejoining the lifeboat his life changed completely. He was suddenly left alone 'holding the fort' for hours - even days - at a time, when Sanchez was injured he was working alone for weeks. And he had managed; he had taken Mass, given the last rites and bereavement counselling, taken conformation and first communion classes, the only thing Josiah wouldn't let him do was wedding and marriage counselling and preparation, for which the twenty four year old was very grateful.
He was barely awake when there was a ring at the door; the housekeeper Mrs Penbry wouldn't be up for another hour so Liam pulled on his dressing gown, and in bare feet ran downstairs to answer the door. When he opened it he at first thought no-one was there, then he notices JD heading away.
"Hey JD!" he called.
JD hesitated then turned back, he had almost decided this was a bad idea, but then he turned to look at Liam; he got on well with Liam, on the odd occasion he stayed at the presbytery he and the young priest often went to the cinema. Slowly he walked back toward the door. When Liam got a better look at him he had to stop himself from gasping, he looked truly awful, pale, tear-streaked, eyes red and puffy.
"Come on in, mate," Connery invited more quietly, stepping aside to let JD enter first.
As he came inside, Josiah appeared at the top of the stairs leaning on the banister for support.
"JD?" In response the devastated young man looked up at his friend with a look of hopelessness Josiah hoped he would never see in someone so young. "Son, do we need to talk?"
JD just nodded.
"Come on up."
Buck ran further than he ever had. Normally he just ran to the far end of the south beach and back, sprinting the last two hundred yards. Today he ran off the beach and up into the dunes at the end, across the edge of the golf course, past the back of the army small-arms range, up the hill, and along the cliff top to St Agnes Head, Mac didn't know what had hit him. He only stopped just before the edge. Gasping for breath he shuddered to a halt, bent double, his hands on his knees, knees and legs that were trembling with fatigue.
"Oh God JD, why did you have to do it?" he asked out loud.
Thinking that his master, who had clearly gone mad, was speaking to him, Mac ambled up and nudged Buck's still shaking hand.
"Boy, how are we going to sort this out, eh? What made him do it?" he reached out and fondled the sleek black head that was now slowly licking the salt-rich sweat from his legs. "Why couldn't he leave well alone?"
Feeling stronger and less like he was about to throw up or pass out, he stood up tall and for a long time he just stood and looked out at the sea. St Agnes Head was the closest point to St Just island, from the beach if you didn't know better it almost looked like they were connected. He couldn't imagine ever living away from the sea; he had been drawn to it all his life. As a small boy in Devonport he would often spend days - when not at school and sometimes when he should have been at school - down at Western King Point watching the ships go in and out of the naval dockyard, but also, just watching the sea. Most of the time he got on well at school, he was an outgoing, gregarious boy who liked to be liked. He was tall, but until he was eleven or so, rather skinny, even after his voice broke he was still thin and uncoordinated, not until his late teens did he gain the muscle, speed and co-ordination that, when he got to Four Corners, made him a star athlete.
His mother hadn't been a common streetwalker, far from it, and she made a good living, but in the tightly clustered community around the naval dockyard, secrets were hard to keep. It wasn't a big problem at junior school, by the time he was able to understand what the older children were saying about her, he was already the biggest boy in school and at that age physical size was enough to stop most bullies. But at eleven he had, like everyone else, moved to senior school, a huge comprehensive called Rockhouse, with nearly twelve thousand pupils. There he was neither the tallest or the oldest, and he became the target for a group of boys and girls just a year or two older who bullied him remorselessly, about his mother, his thick unruly curly hair, his name, his clumsiness, everything. His education suffered and he started to play truant, often for days at a time. His mother had known what was happening, but was loathe to do anything. Her greatest fear in all the world was that the social services would come and take her son away from her, so she didn't like to draw attention to them by making a fuss.
Everything changed when he was fifteen, and they moved to Four Corners, his mother had made enough money to retire. For the very first time she bought a house, she couldn't get a mortgage so it had to be a small one, that she could buy outright; and small it was, very small, but it was theirs. No one knew about her former 'profession', he was finally growing into his height, and life was very good - until she died. Only then, with the coroner's inquest, did the truth about her background and by implication his, became known. But in those bad times at Rockhouse Comprehensive, he found escape and peace just sitting and watching the sea and the ships.
Slowly the sea worked its magic, calming his anger, soothing raw nerves and irrational refusal to look deeper at what JD had been saying to him. The kid had done something very, very wrong, but he knew enough about JD that he had done it for a good reason, or at least what he perceived as a good reason. It wasn't what he did that was still angering him it was why he did it. He had no right or indeed reason to interfere in his relationship with Heather.
If nothing had happened, if he had just stayed there watching the sea even this anger might have cooled, but something did happen - Ezra happened. Buck suddenly became aware of the steady drum of hoofbeats behind him, spinning around he watched Ezra on his fine bay hunter come to a halt in front of him.
"Good morning Mr Wilmington. I don't believe I have seen you up here before. I "
"What did you say to the kid about Heather?" Buck demanded.
Ezra frowned, and tried desperately to rack his memory and locate the relevant conversation, and at the same time keep his horse calm, as it was getting agitated by Buck's clearly threatening and aggressive presence.
"I don't know what you "
"Yes you do! What did you say to him?" Buck demanded.
Finally the penny dropped and Ezra remembered a brief conversation.
"Ah, yes, I do recall. At the gathering to celebrate the passing of his driving test, I advised young master Dunne to be careful what he said to Miss Flint, he informed me he already was, so my advise was superfluous. That was the extent of our discourse regarding Miss Flint."
"Oh did you indeed? Why did you do that?" He advanced on Ezra and waved his arm dramatically, causing the horse to back up and shy away.
"If you insist on holding this conversation here and now please refrain from alarming my horse." Ezra commentated irritably.
"Yes, I bloody well do insist! What gives you the fucking right to tell JD not to trust my gir..." He almost said 'girlfriend', almost, but then changed his mind. " Heather."
"As I told you, I advised him to be careful what he said to her, that is all. He is entitled to choose where he bestows his trust." By now the high-strung gelding was practically rearing. "Mr Wilmington I will not stay here to be ranted at and risk being thrown to my death!" With that he turned the horse, gave him his head and in a heartbeat was galloping away.
Buck stood and watched, his heart pounding, head spinning, what calm he had gained was gone.
Chris came as soon as Sanchez had called him. He trusted the older man's judgement, if he said Chris needed to come and see him but couldn't give him a reason over the phone he didn't question it. Once the big priest had told him as much as JD would let him impart - which was basically everything - he sat back and regarded the older man, wishing it wasn't so early and he could have a drink, because God he needed it!
"It's a mess, isn't it?" he commented as he regarded the mug of rapidly cooling and undrunk coffee in his hand.
"And then some. You got any idea how to handle it?"
Chris shook his head. "Not a clue," he admitted. "Where's JD now?"
"Upstairs, he's asleep. It's all been too much for him to take in, and what he really needs is to have Buck there to lean on. I could tell as we talked I was second-best, and that's the one person he can't turn too. Poor boys feeling lost and alone right now."
"Oh shit!" Chris cursed. Most people would have immediately apologised for swearing in the presence of a priest, but not Chris. "I guess I'll have to go and talk to him."
"No. I'll go."
"Thanks, but I've known him the longest - it should be me," Chris insisted.
"That's just the problem. And you're also less than diplomatic. Let me do it - please."
"Well," Chris wasn't exactly looking forward to this conversation. "Okay, but not yet, I know Buck, we need to give him time to cool off, Buck doesn't stay angry for long, it just isn't in him," he advised, adding ruefully. "Which is a good thing or we'd have killed each other by now."
"Haven't you got a night exercise coming up," Josiah pointed out.
"Yeah, er night after tomorrow, and yes you're right we need this sorted by then. Bloody woman!" However they came by the information, Buck had to be told the truth before it was too late, and whoever did it wasn't going to be easy.
The run back from St Agnes Head had cleared Buck's mind of everything except the pain in his legs and the burning of his lungs. He all but staggered into the pub, with just twenty minutes to spare before the delivery was due. As a result his shower wasn't long enough to give him time to do more than wash, no time to let the heat work its magic on over-taxed muscles or clear his mind. He only just got down stairs in time to meet the truck. Man-handling full barrels of beer down into the cellar, even tossing up empty ones, was hard work. And it wasn't just the barrels; there were crates of bottled beer, as well as wine, spirits, soft drinks and mineral water. By the time he had the cellar squared away it was mid morning and the cleaner was in and working, only then did he realise he hadn't seen Inez all morning. Already tired after a long night and an even longer morning, Buck trudged wearily up stairs to investigate.
He knocked on the door once and got no response so he knocked again, still no answer. "Inez," he called. "Inez are you in there?" As he waited outside the door he heard the toilet flush, so he knew she was in there. "Inez!" he shouted. "Honey are you okay?" Still there was no response. "Okay if you don't come to the door I'm coming in." Finally he fished in his pocket for his huge bunch of keys and sorted out the key to her attic flat. "It's me, Buck hope you're decent," he called as he came in.
It didn't take him long to locate her in the bathroom, modestly dressed, but very miserable.
"I must thank JD for so generously sharing this with me," she commented.
Buck stiffened at the sound of JD's name, but she was too sick and too tired to notice. Once he had her back in bed with water and a nearby bucket, he returned downstairs. With three staff off sick and no JD to fetch and carry he was going to be run off his feet. Normally he might have called Chris or maybe even Ezra to help out, but not today. He was too angry with Standish and had no desire to have to explain his mood to Chris, who knew him too well not to notice something was wrong. Inez had asked where JD was, had they argued and if so had he sorted it out? Buck had bristled visibly. What made her think he had to do the making up and sorting, what made her think it was he who was in the wrong? That was as far as their row got, because she had to make a run for the bathroom and he had to work.
By the time he was closing up he had cooked almost all day, shown Nathan up to see Inez, kept an eye on her, shown the Environmental Health inspector over the kitchen, handed over the food samples and gone over the necessary paper work. He should have been exhausted; he should have fallen asleep dead to the world. But sleep did not come. He had never been able to switch off if something was praying on his mind. He hadn't even noticed JD was gone until Inez mentioned she had heard him leaving, he hadn't tried to find him, and had felt guilty when Father Connery had called to say JD was safe at the presbytery. He wanted it to be right again but he didn't know how to do it or even if he could. And at the back of his mind was the nagging need to know what it was JD had found out.
It went against his very being to judge people on what he was told about them by others. He prided himself he took people as he found them and that was all. So many people had spread ill-informed rumours and outright lies about his mother and him, he swore he would never do the same. But then JD wasn't just anyone; he wasn't a gossip, or a slander monger, so he must have had a good reason for what he did. As he lay there in the dark he remembered the look of devastation on the boy's face when he had first looked up, the look of pleading, begging Buck to understand and forgive and listen. And what had he done, shouted, ranted, given him the impression, unintentionally as it happened, that JD wasn't welcome in his home anymore.
By four in the morning he had given up trying to sleep and so got up, dressed and with the increasingly bewildered Mac in tow headed for the beach. The tide was on the way out, and the lights from the cliff top path threw enough light on the newly exposed beach for him to be able to walk on the pristine sand safely. That was all he did walk. Before he knew it he had walked past the spilled light and on into the unlit dark beach, Mac trailing behind him, when he turned for home dawn was paling the sky. But the sea had worked its calming magic again and he felt he was ready to talk to JD and get this sorted. He had to; Heather was due back that morning.
Vin had finally had a good night's sleep but had awoken early as usual. It was a warm morning, promising a hot day, by the time he was up on deck with a mug of tea it was already warm enough for short sleeves and no shoes. As he sat there taking in the morning sun and sounds he was surprised to see Chris sitting on the harbour wall next to the St Nicholas.
"Mornin' skipper!" he called brightly. "What's up?"
Chris stood slowly and waded down the steps to the floating dock the lifeboat shared with Vin's yacht.
"Permission to come on board?" he enquired formally.
"Sure." Vin waved him on wondering what was going on. He'd been very busy changing the oil in one of the lifeboats engines, it was a mucky, time-consuming job, and he hadn't seen much of anyone for a couple of days.
After Larabee had accepted his tea and sat in silence for a long time, Vin finally asked him if he could help.
"No, no not really, best you stay out of it, it'll be sorted soon I hope."
"Well if you need anything, let me know, I'll be here."
After that they talked boats and farming for a few hours before Chris helped him with the daily checks on the St Nicholas.
At the Inn things had improved, all the staff who had been off sick were better and back or coming back except Inez, but Mrs Potter was back from holiday so she was coming in to cook. The interim report from the health inspector was very good, although the cause of the illness was still not known. Confident in his resolve to go and see JD just as soon as he was free, Buck was in a better frame of mind, until Josiah walked in. He was out of the cast now and although he limped and was still using one crutch he was getting about better and better.
"We need to talk," he said quietly.
"No we don't. I can sort this, me and JD, we don't need no help."
Oh God I knew he'd be like this, Josiah thought.
"Brother, this is not just about you and JD, there is more, things you are not aware of yet, please hear me out, please."
Buck stared into Josiah's steady, calm, pale blue eyes. If anyone else - including Chris - had said this he would have continued to push them away, but he trusted Josiah. He had no agenda, no 'history', no preconceptions. Finally he nodded and led him upstairs.
"How's JD?" he asked as they came into the living room. "I was gonna come and see him today, now, as it happens, I never meant for him to leave, I'd never want that "
"Pity you didn't explain that to him," Josiah's tone wasn't accusatorial, he was just stating a fact.
"Look the kid did wrong, okay? I had a right to be mad, I'm only human you know!"
"I know," Josiah said keeping his voice calm. "You have a right to be upset and JD knows that. But it isn't just about the row you had with JD, it's what he found out that is upsetting him, and it concerns you as well."
"It doesnt matter what he found out, I don't judge people on hearsay, only on their actions, and I don't read personal stuff, even second hand."
Chris had told Josiah Buck had very rigid rules when it came to the ethics of relationships, but rare as they were and much as he hated to go against such an admirable show of decency Josiah had to press on.
"I would normally agree with you, and JD knows it too, believe me that boy wishes he hadn't done what he did. But on this occasion it was a good thing he did, please listen to what he found out." The priest made sure to keep his voice calm, and neutral, at all costs he wanted to keep all confrontation out of the discussion. "Buck, you know me, would I be doing this if it wasn't important?"
Buck had been pacing up and down, his body rigid with tension. But finally he stopped and turned to face the patient priest. "So tell me."
Sanchez took a document out of his pocket and unfolded it. "JD saved what he found and printed it out, but first I have to ask you, were you aware Heather Flint is a reporter for the Torch?"
The Torch was a national tabloid paper, know for its sensation stories and scandals. Buck covered his surprise well.
"No I didn't, we never talked about her work, what of it?"
"What JD found was a file called 'Dunne'. It appears to be notes and even a draft of a story. It seems JD's father saw a picture of him in the paper - did you know he hasn't seen his father since he was three?"
"The man wasn't one hundred per cent sure so he approached the paper to see if they could help. The story is all about this man and how he has been searching for his long lost son. JD says it's all lies. In the story he claims his wife ran off and hid JD from him. JD says he was a drunk and they ran away because he became violent. The article claims his mother was excessively pushy, forced him to do nothing but study."
"But that's all lies, JD told me, it was him not being pushed that was the problem, not the other way around," Buck protested suddenly then he realised what he was doing. "But you said this appeared to be only notes, a first draft, that might not appear in the story."
Josiah continued. "True enough, but it also implies things about her conduct with the men she worked for sensational, unpleasant and unjust things. You can imagine how it upset JD."
"Oh Jeez, the poor kid. See, this is why you shouldn't read private stuff."
"There is more, she has made notes on all of us. Nathan and I are apparently too boring to be of much interest, thought she finds Rain quite interesting, New Age Traveller equals law breaking, trespassing, crank - apparently. Ezra she claims, was a suspect in an insider trading case, it makes implications as to why the case was dropped, it seems all the witnesses failed to testify. Vin's military record is sealed by the Official Secrets Act, that she claims is unusual and suspicious."
"No it isn't."
"Quite, but how many people know that?"
"What about Chris?" Despite himself Buck was curious.
"A violent drunk."
Buck mulled this over. Once that had been true, though the violence was mostly directed at himself, and as far as Buck knew, he was the only other person who had ever been on the receiving end of one of Chris' drunken rages - rages that were in the past.
"And me?" he finally asked.
A look of real concern came to Josiah's kind eyes as he handed over the document.
"You better sit down," he counselled, as Buck took the document from him.
Taking the advice, he sat on the edge of the sofa as he read. The gist of the story was that JD was in danger, given that he was still a minor, and most of the apparent or perceived 'danger' was from Buck and their living arrangements.
"We have be unable to establish 'Buck's' real name, but given that his mother was a well known prostitute with numerous aliases this is unsurprising. He was questioned at length after her sudden, violent and unexplained death. No charges were bought and he mysteriously left the town for some years, returning with enough money to purchase a thriving public house in the town, the source of his new found wealth has never been explained."
"Wilmington - who has a reputation as a sexual predator, admitted John paid for his room with 'personal' services."
When Buck had finished reading he looked up at Josiah, who could barely look into those deep blue eyes and see the degree of betrayal.
"How how could she write such things, how? Josiah, she lied, she's twisted things I told her, things, I told her while we were oh God!"
Suddenly he was up, and crossed to the corner of the room where he snatched up the laptop bag and opened it, pulling out the sleek black object in one swift moment. Then, before Sanchez could stop him and in a display of raw strength even the massively strong priest would have been hard pressed to match, he ripped the screen off its hinges, dropped it and stamped on it, shattering the screen. Eyes blazing with an intensity of anger that was quite frightening he coldly and deliberately walked to the kitchen and placed the body of the computer in the kitchen sink and turned both taps on full. Finally, with an odd little laugh, he added washing up liquid, as if, Josiah supposed, to wash it clean of the lies within it.
He was still standing there looking at the submerged remains when the door opened.
"Hello, Buck? I'm back," Heather called as she came in. Suddenly she saw Sanchez in his dog collar. "Oh, um, have you seen Mr Wilmington?"
Buck walked out of the kitchen, and to Josiah the look on his face was quite terrifying.
"Mr Wilmington? Is that what you called me?"
"Buck?" she questioned sensing the danger in the air.
"Buck." Josiah warned, also sensing danger.
"Mr Wilmington; isn't that a bit formal, don't you mean 'mother-murdering, sexual predator'?"
She stood stock still, but her eyes scanned the room, picking up the empty bag and shattered screen without its keyboard.
"What the hell have you done?" she demanded.
"What have I done? ME!" he advanced on her. "You " For once he couldn't find the words to express himself to a woman. Exasperated he crossed to where he had thrown the paper down on the floor and retrieved it. Then thrust it at her.
She scanned it briefly. "How the hell did you get this? This is private."
"It doesnt matter how I got it, you wrote this, you were going to publish this this " he waved at the paper in her hand. "I can't even give it a name, it's not even rubbish, I wouldn't use that as loo paper, it's all lies, all of it." He was pacing now, it was a defence mechanism, if a man had done this he would have been flat on his back by now, his face a bloody mess. But Buck Wilmington had never and would never hit a woman, no matter what the provocation.
"It isn't lies. Standish was the main suspect in the Thornton-Rounbush case; all charges were dropped because no witnesses would testify. Larabee has several convictions for D&D and Tanner's military record is sealed. Your mother was a tart, she did die mysteriously and you did leave town after being questioned, and you did say JD paid you in services."
Her calm defence of the indefensible was even getting to Josiah, who was finding it harder and harder to turn the other cheek. He knew full well how JD paid his rent and how she had twisted it to make a sensational story. Buck walked over to his own computer in the corner of the room and calmly removed a small object from the top draw of the desk. Then suddenly it was flying though the air toward her. Instinctively she caught it.
It proved to be a passport. She opened it slowly and turned to the back page, which read - Surname: WILMINGTON. Given names: BUCK.
"Only people with boring, common names need more than one," he commented with a same satisfaction he always had when, as a child, he said that to those who made fun of his name. "Now get out! Get out now!" Buck suddenly roared. "Get out and never come back and if you try to publish this muck I'll sue you and that rag of yours from now until damnation!"
She stood still unmoving. "Where is it?" she asked.
"Where is what?" Josiah asked, because he didn't think Buck capable of rational thought, let alone speech.
"The keyboard, where is the rest of my laptop?"
An evil smile spread across Wilmington's anger-darkened features, very slowly he walked into the kitchen and pulled the rest of the offending object from the water and detergent, then returned to the living room with the dripping keyboard between his fingers.
"There you go, get everything else that's yours, I don't want anything here that's yours, nothing!"
"This is ruined, it's totalled! Oh my God, do you know how much these things cost? I'll have to pay for this, all my files!" She looked up at him, anger finally sparking in her cold eyes. "I had private stuff on there, my own stuff, it took me years you bastard!"
"Yeah I'm a bastard, a fatherless son of a tart, but at least I'm not a liar who mind-fucks innocent, defenceless seventeen year olds!"
Sanchez was wondering how long it would take for Buck to realise what impact the information about his father would have on JD. He was quite rightly upset, she had used him in the most callous way, she had slandered him terribly, but even so he was a man who was always thinking of others. He cared for JD like a big brother, and sooner or later he was going to realise how all this was affecting him, and when he did his own hurt would be pushed to one side. It wasn't entirely a healthy thing, but it was the way the man was made, and Chris had told Josiah more then once he would never change Buck. Taking care of others was what Buck did best, taking care of himself was what he did worst.
"Make sure she gets out of here, and um tell JD I'll come and see him soon, tell him I'm not mad at him, I'll I'll be back." With that he picked up the car keys and was out of the door calling to the dog as he went.
"I will, don't worry," Josiah called after the retreating figure.
Josiah had stayed, albeit mostly silent, not to stop Buck doing something rash like hit her - he knew that the big man would never do that, though he had been surprised at his degree of verbal control. Vows or no vows, Josiah would like to call Heather Flint all kinds of foul names. He had also stayed to protect Buck, anyone who would so shamelessly write such lies, and then defend them wasn't above damaging her own face and crying assault, or, God forbid, rape. But with a Catholic priest in the room at all times Buck was safe from that at least. He stood impassive, on the outside at least, while she hurriedly collected a few items from the bathroom and bedroom - unselfconsciously she walked into the kitchen and returned with a carried bag to put them in. While she did that he put the two broken halves of the laptop in the bag and zipped it up.
She was about to leave when she found her exit blocked by the huge priest. "Not yet," he said ominously.
"I said you're not going anywhere yet, first give me the passport." He held out his hand and she passed it over. "Second, I want you to understand what you have done and then you will tell me how to contact Mr Dunne."
"That is private information, I can't give it out."
"Lady, if you cared about privacy we wouldn't be talking now. You have no idea what damage you have caused have you?" he signed, shaking his head with resignation. "JD, is just a boy, he may be almost eighteen, almost an adult in the eyes of the law, but he is a boy, a very clever, very brave, very independent boy. Do you have any idea what you put him through, finding out his father is not only close at hand, but is trying, as he sees it, to hurt him. And Buck? Buck Wilmington has the biggest heart you will ever meet, he is the most tolerant, most trusting, and most courageous man it has ever been my privilege to know. Souls like his are rare, but also very fragile and easily wounded, sometimes these wounds can be fatal, even if they are not they can take years to heal, but they are also often invisible, so those close to them cannot see the damage and aid in it's healing. I don't know if this wound is deep enough to be fatal, but it is very serious. To destroy or even just wound a soul that good is a sin indeed, a sin that I believe will not be easily forgiven, child."
She stared at him with a look of pure boredom. "Can I go now? I don't know why you're defending him, he destroyed my laptop and if I tell you where Dunne is my story is totally ruined, I am just doing my job you know?" She shifted to the side in an attempted to get past him to the door.
Josiah didn't move. He tried again to explain to her what she had done and make her see how fundamentally wrong that was, but to no avail, all she seemed able see was that her story was in danger and her laptop broken. To the hurt she had caused she was seemingly oblivious. But faced with Josiah's looming presence she did finally part with Sean Dunne's telephone number. Not trusting her, he rang the number and gave Sean his number just to be safe, before he let her go. Sometimes, he mused, God's plan was hard to fathom.
As she exited she found Inez, looking like hell, sitting hunched up on the stairs a bucket ominously close. Red-rimmed baleful eyes bore into Heather.
"Listening, were you?" Heather asked.
"I live here too, how could I not. Buck is a gentleman, he will not hit you or curse you and JD is too young to stand up to you on his own behalf, but " Inez stood up and came down the last few steps to stand face to face with Heather. " I will tell you. You, Senorita, are a witch, a cow, a sick bitch."
She looked around the reporter and eyed Josiah. "Sick bitch? That is the right saying?"
Un-phased, he nodded.
"Good, sick bitch, I like that, also; youre a puta barata! If you hurt my boys again, if you even look at one of them ever again, I will take your eyes out with a spoon and fry them and eat them! And " Suddenly Inez took told of Heather's face with both hands and kissed her. " I hope you get as sick as me!" she announced triumphantly.
For once Flint was speechless, she just stood there, then suddenly she spun on her heels and headed downstairs. Inez jumped as the slamming of the door made the stairs shake.
"Well you told her alright," Josiah came to Inez's side.
"Oh Father, I am sorry if I offended you but I will not be sorry for what I said."
"Fair enough, I just wish I had been brave enough to say them too. Now young lady, I think we need to get you back to bed."
"You know if you polish that any harder it won't have anything written on it at all," Vin commented as Chris rubbed away at the lifeboat's brass nameplate. Chris kept working on it.
"If you need to burn energy isn't there something you could be doing about the farm?"
"You telling me you don't want me here, Senior Mechanic Tanner?" Chris ground out.
"I'm saying you need to take out whatever's bugging you on something other than my boat."
"Your boat? Since when was she your boat?" Chris finally looked up from his manic polishing.
"I look after her, she's mine, but I don't mind sharing, just so long as you don't hurt her," Vin explained. "So what's up, come on, give."
"Can't, wish I could but I can't. Damn!" He stepped back and threw down the rag he was using. "Life sucks sometimes, and I'm not talking about Sarah and Adam. Why are the truly good people, the ones who it's easiest to hurt? Well?"
Vin didn't even try to answer that question, but he knew what Larabee was trying to say. "Would this have something to do with why JD has moved in with Josiah? By any chance."
"Don't miss much do you?"
"Told you mate, you live longer that way."
"Gentlemen." They both looked up to find Ezra standing on the harbour above them.
"Hi Ez, what yah doing here?"
Ezra strolled down the steps and stepped onboard. "Well," he began. "I was trying to find our ever friendly Mr Wilmington, or friendly until recently. I wanted to see if I could talk to him and try to make amends in some way."
"Why's Buck mad at you? I mean, take's a hell of a lot to get him mad at anything or any one," Vin was getting the distinct feeling he wasn't in the loop.
"Well no, all it takes is to interfere, how ever peripherally in his relationships," Ezra admitted.
"Oh shit," Chris commented.
"Look," Vin said with clear irritation. "It seems to me we are a crew, we need to rely on each other, stick together and look out for each other. You know what's going on." He pointed at Chris. "Josiah knows, it seems Ezra knows at least some of it, it's got something to do with Buck and JD and that woman, so they know. Don't you think me and Nate deserve to be in on it?"
"I for one would very much like to know what has Mr Wilmington so upset." Ezra added, moving subtly so he was standing beside Vin, both of them facing Chris.
Chris debated. On one hand Vin was right, they had a right to know what was going on, the night after next they were all back on call and involved in a tricky night exercise, one involving co-operation and co-ordination. On the other hand the matter was private and, while he wasn't that worried about JD, Buck was an intensely private man about some things.
"Look guys, let me talk to Josiah, take his advice - professionally - then I promise I'll let you know what I can, okay?"
Ezra and Vin looked at each other, seemed to come to some kind of agreement and turned back to Chris. "That will be acceptable," Ezra confirmed.
"Tonight in the pub, we don't want to do anything behind their backs," Vin instructed.
Nathan was run of his feet, with the number of new cases. Several of the nurses and one doctor were off sick. And while most people who caught the sickness bug were able to stay at home, the very young and the very old were very vulnerable and ended up in the cottage hospital. Rain was beside herself, apart from being short-staffed at the shop, she was worried about Nathan who just seemed to work and sleep. Some days she had a job to get food into him.
But tired as he was he hadn't forgotten his promise to Buck, to chase the lab and get him the results as fast as possible and so get him off the hook with the health authorities. He was at work - of course - when Sister Pentwith came in to him.
"Mmmm." He was trying to get his patient records up to date.
"You wanted to be called when the lab called back, they're on the line now."
Nathan picked up the phone instantly. He was on line for only a short time, and as soon as he hung up he dialled the pub. Needless to say he was somewhat surprised to hear Sanchez's familiar baritone on the other end of the line.
By evening they were all in the bar at the Lifeboat Inn except Buck. Josiah had persuaded JD to return home.
"He never wanted you to leave you know. And hurt as you were - are - by what you read, I think he was more hurt by the way she used him. He will want you home when he gets back, you mean a lot to him, you know?"
"I don't know, he was so angry, and he had every right to be, do you really think "
"I know he'd want you back, everything back to normal, like it never happened."
JD wanted nothing better than to get back home, back to normal. Josiah and Liam were very kind, and he and Liam had had some good times in the past, but it wasn't home, it wasn't the same.
The two older men had debated long and hard about what to tell the others, but when it came down to it, Vin was right; more of them knew than didn't and it was better for them as a crew if everyone knew what was going on. When the telling of it was done, in outline if not detail at least, Vin sat back looking shocked.
"Duw man, the bitch!" he commented. "If I'd have caught her I'd told her, bet Buck didn't even swear did he?" Josiah shook his head.
"Mind you he did destroy the laptop, and " He was about to tell them about Inez, but stopped. What he knew about her feelings for Buck was protected by the sanctity of the confessional and he didn't want to let anything slip. " well lets just say she is in no doubt about her lack of welcome if she ever comes back."
"Does anyone know where Buck is?" Nathan asked.
"No, but he'll come back, he did this before once, he'll be back," Chris assured.
"Before?" Vin prompted.
"After well after the funeral, Sarah and Adam's, he took off for a day or so, but he came back, he'll be back by tomorrow night. Besides he's not alone, he's got Mac with him."
"Not that that mutt is of much use," Ezra commented. "But what makes you think he'll be back by tomorrow?"
"Because we're on call and you leave Mac alone, he's okay!" JD stated defiantly.
At that precise moment, Mac was sitting peacefully and patiently beside his master, at Western King Point. His master was just sitting and looking at the sea, he had fed Mac and a bowl of water was beside the dog. But that was all he had done, other than that he just sat and looked out to sea. To start with Mac had nudged and nuzzled his strangely quiet and unresponsive master, but now he just sat or lay beside him, both of them still and silent.
Nathan was watching JD, gauging his physical well being, which he judged to be good and his mental well-being, which was harder to determine. "Son?" he asked quietly. "What are you going to do about your father?"
JD looked at Sanchez and then looked down.
"I have set up a meeting for tomorrow, John has asked me to go with him," Sanchez explained.
Buck did not return that night, or the next day.
Inez returned to work though she was far from fit and didn't cook, with her, Tom and Mrs Potter the pub ran as usual.
JD and Josiah set out to meet Sean Dunne at a quiet country pub. It was a tense meeting, but an understanding was reached.
At eleven that evening the crew of the Lifeboat St Nicholas assembled to head out for a night exercise with a Navy search and rescue helicopter. Even though he wasn't sailing with them Josiah was there too. It was a warm, still, moonlit night, perfect for the exercise. As they walked to the boat they spotted Buck, already changed and talking to Tiny beside the dock.
"Come on guys, you're burning moonlight," he called cheerily, his old smile firmly in place. "Kid!" he called when he spotted JD. "You okay now?"
JD took a while to stop himself asking how Buck was, and where he'd been for the best part of two days. Chris had warned all of them not to do that, but just to treat him the same.
"I'm fine, glad to be back," he called.
"Well get a hustle on then kid, come on, move it!"
On the short trip out Nathan took time to take Buck to one side and gave him the good news that the test results showed the illness was viral and definitely not food poisoning. They were headed for the waters between the town and the island, and once they reached the rendezvous point a decision had to be made.
"Right, the Sea King will come in and pick up a casualty from the water, who we will illuminate and then land the casualty on the deck, all we need now is to decide who is gonna play the casualty," Chris announced.
"Yup," Buck agreed. "And it should be someone who hasn't done it before." He turned to face JD, Nathan and Ezra. "You know Chris, this can be a tricky thing, people have been known to get hurt - nothing serious of course - but still we might want a medic on hand, not in the water or the air."
Chris nodded his agreement, and Nathan grinned as he moved to stand beside the two senior men, breathing a sigh of relief.
"Speaking purely medically, young JD has not been well, he really shouldn't be dunked in a cold sea and then waved about in the night air," Nathan all but purred with a strangely evil look on his face that was quite uncharacteristic. JD quickly crossed to stand beside Buck, secretly revelling in once again feeling the steady, strong and reassuring presence of the taller man.
Ezra now found himself alone facing four of his five crewmates.
"Now wait a minute!" he protested. "Maybe not letting Dr Jackson risk injury unnecessarily is wise but, if he thought Master Dunne was fully fit he wouldn't have let him sail, there's nothing wrong with him!"
"Are you questioning my medical judgement, Mr Standish?" Nathan asked innocently.
"Well no, er what about Mr Tanner?" Ezra looked up at Vin, who had the helm on the flying bridge. "Vin?" he asked desperately.
"Sorry Ez, this sort of thing is standard commando training, I done it lots."
"But not with the us, I mean this will be different," Ezra argued.
"Oh yeah, we didn't have lights or survival suits, this will be a doddle, honest." Just then the radio came to life and Vin answered it. "They're on their way," he confirmed.
"Come on now Ezra, lets have you over the side." Buck advanced on the smaller man with a look of pure devilment.
"This is persecution," Ezra accused.
"Very likely," Buck confirmed.
"I'm sure you're right."
"It's it's it's unfair!"
"Oh for Christ sake Ezra, just shut up and get in the water." With that Buck gave Ezra a firm push toward the rail.
"All right I'm going, of all the insufferable, inhumane, unjust, petty Oh hell." And with that he jumped over the side.
Everyone except Vin looked over the side at him. "Well don't just float there, swim man, that way." Chris pointed away from the side of the ship, as the sound of the helicopter became audible, and its strobe lights visible in the distance.
When it was over Ezra was safely back on board, holding a mug of coffee, and muttering about the damaging properties of instant coffee to one's palate. No one was hurt and they were headed back, the whole trip had only taken an hour. With Buck at the helm, the St Nicholas slipped back into the harbour to be met by Orin Travis on the steps.
"Don't get off boys your going out again, there's a fishing charter over due, stupid relatives waited until now to report them missing, you're going out to search. Here!" He tossed a small bundle at Ezra. "Dry clothes."
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