Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Betaed by my mates Helen and Kerry. If you haven't read A New Monarch of the Glen or Form and Function, don't worry, I've sprinkled part 1 with lots of reminders as to what's going on :0).
Size: Approx 215K
JD lay awake in the four-poster bed and tried - for what seemed like the millionth time - to make himself believe that this was real, he really was the owner of a huge estate with its very own castle. Disney himself couldn't have dreamt of a more perfect castle. On top of all this he had inherited a business turning over nearly two million dollars a year. Less than a year ago JD had been struggling to work three jobs in order to keep a roof over his head and pay off his late mother's medical bills, with any dream he ever had of going to college long ago crushed. The truth was he had wanted to quit High School two years ago, as soon as he turned sixteen, but his mother wouldn't let him.
"What's the point?" he had argued. "I can't afford to go to college, what use is a High School diploma while I'm cleaning offices?"
"You never know what will happen." That was what his mother had always told him, in that soft Scottish accent of hers. When he had been younger she would tell him stories of her childhood, growing up in a rambling castle in the Scottish highlands with her older brother.
His bedroom was in the old part of the castle; there were two rooms on the first floor. Above them two more rooms, his, overlooking the gardens and Ezra's, which overlooked the front drive. Above that a large attic which was full of all kinds of junk, furniture, papers and the like, the same stuff that lurks in millions of attics the world over, there was just more of it than in most homes. On the ground floor was the great hall, with its vast fireplace, and below that the cellars.
Beside the old castle was the want was known as the 'new wing', which was actually nearly a hundred and sixty years old. This was now the main wing of the castle. On the ground floor of this wing were the entrance hall, dining room, billiard room, a small study and the breakfast room. On the first floor overlooking the garden was the drawing room and the library. The two rooms overlooking the front of the house had been his late uncle's bedroom and that of his wife, Maude, Ezra's mother. Nathan now occupied her room. It connected to Angus' and when Maude, unable to cope with her husbands deteriorating health, had fled back to London, Nathan had moved in so that he was close at hand. Only with Nathan living right there in the house had Angus been able to stay at home and die in the place he loved most among the people he called family.
After Angus died and JD inherited the estate and the castle, Nathan had offered to move out, but JD insisted he didn't. He had no desire to put someone out of their home and besides, he wanted to sleep in the old castle. The novelty of sleeping in a four-poster bed, however new and luxurious the mattress, had quickly worn off - it felt claustrophobic and stuffy. Huge as the room was, and JD realised it was only two thirds of its original size with the remaining third now taken up by the bathroom, the ceiling was quite low and windows relatively small. The others counselled against it.
"I can have the bed taken out," Nathan assured, not mentioning that dismantling and moving the huge antique bed would be a major undertaking. "Or you can have you uncles room or mine."
"No Nate, I told you - I'm not putting anyone out of their room."
"Okay, fine, there are the attic rooms in the new wing. Now there is no central heating up there but we have electric heaters and the fireplaces are all open."
The four attic rooms were a good size but the windows were small and they shared a bathroom, one between two. Nettie had explained that they had been the nursery rooms, two bedrooms, the nanny's room and the playroom. One of them, the playroom, still contained all his mother's and uncles toys. To date JD hadn't been in there. Of course Ezra's room and bathroom were bigger than his, it even had a small turret room, but, JD noted, Ezra hadn't bothered to offer it to the new laird.
So JD had kept the bed and the room, and now that winter was almost there he was grateful. Despite the wooden panelling, despite the heavy curtains and secondary glazing, the draughts still seemed to find their way into the room and the four poster's red damask curtains were a last and effective form of defence.
JD wasn't alone in his room; one of his late uncles black Labrador dogs had adopted him. William was small, sleek, fast, and he was sleeping on the hearth rug. Behind its shiny brass fireguard the fire glowed softy. JD kept the bed curtains open just enough so that if he woke he could see it and the dog. Nathan was very skilled at laying coal over a log fire so that it glowed with warmth and light all night without ever going out.
On the far side of the new wing was the kitchen wing, connected to the house by a short range of buildings, just two stories high and housing two rooms on each floor. Chris and Buck had the two on the ground floor as offices, while Ezra had the one on the first floor that connected up a short flight of steps to the main house, close to the library. The ever faithful and long-suffering Gloria Potter, who acted as secretary to all three of them, used the last room. Her strict observance of her working hours of nine thirty to four thirty, Monday to Friday, was she clamed her only defence against insanity. She did point out that it was Chris and Ezra who drover her to distraction and not the newly arrived Buck, who - she claimed - was a real gentleman. Chris seemed to think she possessed some kind of ESP, since he expected her to know things he hadn't bothered to tell her, while Ezra's sometimes obsessive attention to detail and correct grammar often had her typing the same letter six or seven times.
The kitchen wing was arranged around a courtyard. Three sides were only one story high, but the side that was attached to the house had two floors plus an attic. Above the kitchen, the scullery and the office Nathan and Nettie shared, were two flats. The first had been Chris' until he moved out to Teal house, having taken on its restoration himself, something Angus had acknowledged when he gifted Chris the lease on the house in his will. This flat was now Buck's home. Above Buck was the attic flat Nettie and Casey shared.
It was almost November, the house had been opened to the public during the six week high summer season, but it wouldn't be come next summer. Angus had been forced to open the house for a statutory number of days a year, in order to qualify for grant money for essential repairs to the grade one listed building. Even though the castle was now in good order and the estate more than able to pay it's way, Angus liked to open his home and show it off. The trouble was with the ever-growing mountain of heath and safety, public health, disabled access and food safety legislation to comply with, it was more trouble than it was worth. Chris and Ezra had proposed to JD that they not open the house to the public anymore, and he'd agreed.
Having men of the calibre of Ezra and Chris come to him for permission to do something still felt strange and somehow wrong. Not that they came to him often, only with the major things and the things that directly affected him. He was learning all the time. Come September he would be going to university in Edinburgh to study estate management and computing. Never had he been more grateful that his mother had not only made him stay at school and graduate but made him study hard too. He wasn't ever going to get the kind of scholarship that would have paid for an education, but he was no slouch in the classroom either. Chris had joked that once he'd been there a term he'd think he knew it all, and never give them any peace.
"Hey JD!" Buck's voice boomed from the other side of the heavy oak door.
"You planning to come to breakfast or what?"
"Yeah, sorry, coming."
Nettie was way, on one of her rare long weekend shopping trips to Edinburgh, and this time she'd taken Casey with her. They weren't the only ones away. Nathan had been unsure of his place, now that his patient was dead, but the village and the surrounding countryside had come to relay on him as an unofficial district nurse. There was meant to be an official district nurse but there wasn't enough work to justify a full time post and no one wanted the job part time. With some 'persuasion' from Chris and some string pulling from Ezra with the local heath authority, Nathan had been offered and accepted the job. Now he was away on a study course to upgrade his qualifications, when all the courses were done he'd be a nurse practioner, as well as a paramedic. Chris and Vin were way participating in a cull of red dear hinds on a neighbour's estate. Distasteful as it was, the regular culls were needed or, deprived of any predators, the deer would just over run and over graze the Highlands. Josiah was also at the cull, not as a marksman, but as an official observer, ensuring best practice was used and no undue suffering was inflicted on the animals.
Today was Saturday.
Buck shook his head as he turned away from the bedroom door; with no Nettie or Casey it had fallen to him to provide breakfast. Neither JD or Ezra were early risers, but by nine Buck was impatient to start the day, Ezra was a lost course until at least noon, but he was determined to get the young laird up.
JD eventually made it to the big kitchen in his robe and sheepskin moccasins.
"Morning," he greeted.
"Morning," Buck responded. "What do you want?"
JD frowned, trying to get his brain in gear. He spotted the glass of apple juice in front of him and downed it in one. "What do you have?" he finally responded.
"The usual, bacon, eggs, sausage, tomato."
"Oh well, um " the young American looked uncertain.
"JD I'll not poison you, a single man needs to know the basics."
"No, I didn't mean sorry. I'll have whatever you have."
"Great, good choice, have some cereal while you wait."
JD pulled a bowl to him, added two Weaterbix, a healthy dose of sugar and some milk. While it soaked in, he watched Buck cook.
"What are we doing today?" he asked.
"Sika," came the enigmatic reply.
"Seeker? Seek what? We gonna play Quiddich?"
"I wish." Buck turned to JD and grinned. "Wouldn't that be great, if you could actually do that? No Sika deer, Josiah told me before he went that Ian MacPhee thinks he saw one, so I said I'd take a look, up around Allt na Cuach.
"What are Sika deer? Exactly?"
"Deer?" Buck shrugged. "Quite big, sort of cute."
"So that's good?"
"Bad. They're not native - wretched things belong in Japan, they escaped from parks and multiplied. They compete for grazing and worse still, interbreed with our native Red Deer."
"That's bad - right?"
"Very bad, we have pure-bred, free range Red Deer on this estate. We get money from shooting parties, not to mention photographic parties and from selling the meat at a premium, the last thing we want are mongrels.
"Ok, so we go and see if we have a problem, right?"
Two large plates of scrambled egg, grilled bacon, baked beans, grilled sausage and tomato arrived on the table.
"That looks "
"Yes?" Buck challenged Ezra, who had appeared in the doorway.
"Really very good."
"Tell you what, you make toast and coffee and when I'm finished, I'll make you some - deal?"
JD was munching his sausage, but that didn't stop him joining the conversation. "So w't are y' dow'in up?" he asked past his mouth full of food.
"You going up to Allt na Cuach?" Ezra asked by way of a reply.
"Yup," Buck confirmed.
"Can I hitch a lift?"
It took something very important to him to get Ezra out of bed on a Saturday before lunch. Looking at him no one would peg Ezra for a birdwatcher. Despite being the business manager for a Highland estate and living in a castle, he was always immaculately dressed and took great pains to stay inside during bad weather. Which since it had been raining steadily for days meant he hadn't been outside for days.
As he lay in bed, listening to Buck shouting at JD to get up, Ezra noted the sunshine attempting to make it past the heavy curtains. Despite his love of a nice long lie-in, he was aware he needed some fresh air and he wanted to check on the eagles.
It had been Angus and Josiah who had turned him on to birds, and birds of prey in particular, especially the rare Ospreys, which nested by the sea loch. The Ospreys had left for the winter long ago, but the Golden Eagles were permanent residents.
"So why do you want to see then today?" JD asked as the Land Rover bounced along the rough track that ran along the side of the glen, about halfway up the valley side.
"Last time I was there this year's young was still with them, I want to see if they have left yet. They can sometimes stay until winter, but he was a very big healthy bird, I suspect he'll leave relatively early."
JD looked at Ezra. He certainly didn't look like any of the birdwatchers that he'd seen around the estate. Ezra looked like a advertisement for Barbour, from his check shirt, crew neck sweater, over-trousers, stockmans coat and Derby boots, JD wasn't sure if Barbour made socks but if they did he'd lay money that Ezra was wearing them. He then had a vision of Ezra in Barbour check boxer shorts and failed to stop a small laugh escaping.
"What is so amusing?" Ezra asked, looking back at JD, who had the back seat to himself.
"Nothing," JD spluttered, only just managing to cover his smirk.
Shaking his head, Buck peered over the steering wheel toward the not too distant mountains and the ominously dark clouds gathering behind them. There had been constant rain for days, the burns were in full spate, small waterfalls cascaded down the mountain and valley sides, like white streaks against the rain soaked heather, which made them look almost black. 'Rain before seven, fine before eleven' was a favourite saying of his mother, who always insisted the opposite was true. Well it was almost eleven, and he reckoned rain wasn't far off. He pulled over and brought the old Land Rover to a halt.
"Why are we stopping?" Ezra asked.
"We're here." Came the simple response.
"No, I need to get to the loch side, that's further on, around the bend."
"And we need to get to the glen, down there." Buck pointed to the valley floor beside them. This is about half way between the two, besides I can turn around here without leaving the track. Come on JD, we're heading down.
Ezra huffed and then followed them out, powerful field glasses in hand.
"It's gonna rain again, you know?" Buck called to Ezra.
"When do you want to meet back?"
"Two hours max."
It wasn't easy, descending the heather covered glen side to the lush valley bottomland, and JD was pleased he taken his deputy estate managers advice and put on his waterproof trousers. The bottomland was very water-logged and it took some careful planning to avoid getting stuck, but they made it to the fast flowing river, where the land was actually firmer.
"What are we looking for?" JD asked.
"Deer, and tracks, droppings, fur - stuff like that."
They walked slowly along the bank of the river, for about half an hour, when Buck put his hand up. "Bingo!" he whispered.
"What?" JD hissed.
Buck was already dropping to his knees, pulling JD with him. "There."
JD followed Buck's out stretched arm, and saw - nothing. "Where?"
"There, by the rowan tree, see it?"
JD strained, then the deer moved and he finally spotted it. Got it.
Good, now dont lose it, whatever you do keep your eyes on him. Ill be right back.
Where are you going?
To get the gun.
JDs head spun around. What?
I said dont lose him. Insisted Buck, and JD turned back to keep his eye on the lone stag.
Youre gonna shoot him?
Yup, its best, even if we did want him here. Take a close look - hes in a bad way.
JD did look. The stag was big, not at big as a Red Deer stag, but big enough, but he also looked thin, even to JD. Not withstanding the resent rain, his coat looked dull and lifeless. As he watched, the deer moved on a little way, and it was clear it was limping.
I reckon hes an old boy, lost his harem to some young buck and been driven out. Hell be lucky to see the winter through. Best we do it now.
So why did you leave the gun in the car? JD asked, this time without losing sight of the deer.
Good question, Buck admitted to himself. Well, I expected to find a herd, and I cant take out a whole herd on my own, Id just scatter them with the first kill. Which was partly true, but he should have been prepared for a lone straggler. I wont be long. With that, he patted JD on the back and headed back up the valley side toward the Land Rover.
High on the hillside above the track, the land had soaked up as much water as it could, the relatively thin layer of soil covering the impermeable rock was like a sponge, soaking up water and now it was just too heavy to resist gravitys call any longer. As Buck set out for the car, above him a huge crack appeared in the ground. With in a few minutes it was ten times the length it had been and still growing, and now the crack began to get wider as well as longer.
Ezra tried not to think about how cold he was, and how close the dark clouds were getting. The young eagle was still with his parents - but only just. It was clear they were trying to drive him out and Ezra had seen some fascinating action. Sometimes it amazed him how far he had come in a relatively short space of time. When Maude had called him and asked him to fly up to Scotland to look at the estates books, he had expected to be there no more than a few weeks. If someone had told him hed never leave and further more that this would be a decision made by him, willingly hed have thought them touched in head.
He was a city high flyer, a corporate lawyer, qualified accountant and a more than competent share dealer. When Ezra flew first class to Glasgow that first time he was making almost a quarter of a million a year, not counting bonuses and his own private shares. He lived in a docklands loft apartment and drove, not a Porsche like the other City whizz-kids, but a classic Jag. He ate all his meals out, breakfast at the coffee bar on the corner, lunch in the pub, on the corner of Leaden Hall market and in the evening he patronised a wide circle of exclusive restaurants and wine bars. At the weekend he skipped breakfast, eating lunch at the gym after a long work out, and dinner at a pub on the river. Sunday lunch saw him back at the pub and after a long run on Sunday afternoon hed call for a takeaway, usually curry or Chinese, though he was also partial to the odd pizza.
If you had asked him then if he was happy, he'd have said yes, looking back now, all he could see was a lonely young man, who had a lot of things, a lot of acquaintances and on the fast track to a heart attack or stroke or ulcer. He didn't have friends, everyone he knew was in the City, just like him, so they were always on the look out for the next tip, the next bit of gossip or careless admission that could be used to make a killing on the markets. They were adrenaline junkies, living on the edge. You couldnt be a friend, not in the real sense of the word, because you might have to turn on your 'friend' at any moment, betray their trust or miss an opportunity to make more money. When you were together you had to keep your wits about you, watch your every word, never let anything slip.
Looking back now Ezra couldn't believe how miserable he had been then, and now happy he was now. His journey to work consisted of a short stroll of no more than ten yards from the kitchen or breakfast room, where he'd eaten, to his office. No more walking over Tower Bridge in driving January rain. He worked the hours he wanted to work, the hours the job needed, not what was expected to gain one more rung on the corporate ladder. He'd sold the Jag and replaced it with a second hand Range Rover. No longer feeling the need to have a car that proclaimed his wealth and status, happy just to have something to get him from A to B. He still had acquaintances, but now he had friends as well, real friends. He was earning a fraction of what he had been, but he was richer by far.
As the first drops of rain fell, Ezra reluctantly put his glasses away, and began to walk back to Buck's Land Rover Defender. He felt it more then heard it, a slight shift, vibration under his feet but from were he was the car was still more than four hundred yards away around the bend. There was something about that vibration, that made Ezra pick up his pace and set out at a run,
Buck and JD felt the trembling of the ground as well. JD pulled his eyes from the deer and looked around. Some way behind him he saw Buck, he'd stopped and was looking around him. JD spotted it first, the whole hillside was moving.
"BUCK!" he shouted. But the wind had picked up and his words were lost on it.
Had Buck heard him, he might have had a chance, but in the event it took him a few seconds more to understand what was happening. The landslide was heading straight for him, fast, and getting faster. He turned and began to run, trying to get clear of its path. The heavy, waterlogged ground sucked at his feet, the heather pulled at his trousers, he tripped, pulled himself up.
"RUN!" JD was closer now, running toward him.
"GET BACK!" Buck bellowed as he scrambled to his feet and ran on.
By now the road had been overrun and the wall of mud and rock now carried the Land Rover with it as it careered down the mountainside.
He almost made it, almost. The Land Rover hit something, jumped up into the air, spun over and continued to roll, picking up speed, rolling on top of the sliding debris, then outpacing the landslide itself As JD watched in horror, the side of the car seemed to hit Buck. It spun him around and disappeared from view. Without thinking JD was now running again, calling desperately at the top of his voice.
Ezra rounded the bend in the track, just in time to see the last of the landslide bury the roadway in front of him, pulling up short only just in time to miss being hit by stray boulders. He couldn't hear JD but he could see him shouting and running. Boulders, large and small, were still rolling down the mountainside, but the land itself had stopped moving. Like JD, Ezra didnt stop to think, he started to make his way down as fast as he could. It was hard work, as he placed a foot on the loose scree and mud, it slipped out from under him, he lost his balance and slid almost ten feet on his backside before his heels found purchase and he was able to stop his descent. In the end it proved impossible to stand on the loose surface and he was forced to make his way down on his bottom, shuffling along, using his heels as brakes.
He'd lost sight of JD but as he got closer he could hear him shouting for Buck, pleading with him.
"Where are you?" He shouted. "Say something!"
There was no response. More than a little panicked, Ezra sped up as best as he could. The Land Rover came into sight, some way below him, lying on its side, battered, mud encrusted, one wheel hanging off at a crazy angle. JD was scrambling on all fours toward it.
"JD!" he called.
JD's head shot up. "Ezra, can you see Buck? I can't find him, he was here!" He stood up, weaving as he tried to get his balance on the unstable ground. "He was right here and the car hit him and I can't "
"The car hit him?! Oh shit!" Ezra somehow managed to move even faster.
"What if he's buried, where do we start looking?" JD was still doing his best to get to the Land Rover.
The wreckage was still someway off when Ezra spotted something. "There, to your right!" he called out.
JD's head snapped around, there was a small clump of trees, some had been half buried, some had been snapped off, leaving broken stumps protruding above the ground. Among this tangle of branches he could just make out a corner of blue jacket.
Please let it be Buck, oh please God, please, JD silently pleaded as he scrambled over.
Buck had understood what was happening, but he was powerless to stop it. He's tried to run, but for every step forward he took he slid down two. The careering Land Rover appeared in his peripheral vision, he tried to speed up but it was impossible. When it was almost on him he turned to push it away. The chances of anyone pushing three and a half tons of sturdy Defender out of the way were slim, at best. But such simple logic is lost in a desperate fight for survival. Buck turned and stretched out his hand, desperately trying to push away that which was about to crush him. In that instant, the heavy vehicle hit something solid and moved fractionally away from Buck, but not in time to stop it hitting his outstretched hand. The impact spun him around and, before he knew what was happening, he was flying across the shifting ground. He stopped suddenly, stopped dead.
He found himself face down in the mud, more mud and small to moderate sized rocks and pebbles rolling over him, but not for long. He was panting, trying to make sense of what had happened. Pain; pain that went from nothing to unimaginable agony in a matter of seconds, radiated out from his left wrist. The damaged wrist was trapped under his body, so his first conscious decision was to roll over and release the trapped arm, hoping against hope that this was all that was needed to stop the pain. He tried, but nothing happened, he couldn't roll sideways. So he decided to push himself up. The trouble was something was pressing down on the back of his legs and with only one arm, he wasn't able to get enough leverage.
"Oh God," he groaned desperately. Not good, not good at all. Someone come, please.
How long it was, before someone came, he wasn't sure, it seemed to stretch on for an eternity.
"Buck?" JD called, as he pushed the branches away.
The voice was muffled, thin and strained but it was music to JD's ears. "Thank God. Are you hurt?"
"M' arm, but I can't move, think my legs are trapped or something."
JD looked down at the tall man's legs, there was some debris on them, but not much.
"JD?" Ezra's voice was close and desperate.
"Down here, in the trees!" he shouted. "What's left of them," he muttered to himself. "Ok I'm gonna get this junk off you, so you tell me if I hurt you?" Buck didn't respond. "Okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, just do it."
JD began to move the soil, fragments of shrubs and rocks that were thinly spread over Buck's lower back and legs. Ezra finally made his way over to them.
"Buck," he greeted guardedly
"Help me dig his legs out," JD instructed firmly.
Ezra frowned, Buck should have been able to pull himself of the limited debris that covered him, nonetheless he set to and helped JD.
"There all done." JD announced. "How can we help you?"
While they worked Buck found it harder and harder to follow what was going on around him. The pain in his arm was so intense it seemed to block out all other thought processes.
"Um, I'm not sure I can't "
JD and Ezra exchanged worried glances.
"Um Buck I was thinking, maybe we shouldn't move you, if you can't move your legs, maybe we should "
"I can move my legs, I think," Buck cut in. With that he lifted first one leg then the other, flexing them at the knee.
"But you said you couldn't move." JD was now very confused.
"I think I'm caught on something. I'm sorry I'm not making much sense. Please, I need to get off this arm, please." His voice was thin, with a desperate edge to it, which was so unlike Buck that they had an idea of just how much pain he was in.
"Don't worry," Ezra assured, "let's take a look."
With calmness and a presence of mind they didn't know they possessed, JD and Ezra checked Buck thoroughly, each taking a side. Ezra was working on the right, he gently pulled the edge of Buck's heavy jacket away, it snagged a little but came free. He tilted his head so that his cheek was parallel with the ground. There was something wrong with the way the simple check shirt looked. Ezra reached out and slid his hand under Buck's stomach.
"Watch it there!" Buck warned.
"I'm sorry, can you lift your hips a bit?"
Buck frowned but did his best to oblige, the movement pushing his chest harder against his arm.
"Oh shit that hurts! Fuck!" he gasped
"Sorry, but there seems to be something under " Ezra stopped suddenly.
"What?" JD asked, but Ezra ignored him, speaking softly to Buck.
"I want you to lower your hips again, softly," he instructed.
"Make your bloody mind up!" Buck bitched. "Do you know how much my arm hurts, just help me up!"
"No!" Ezra said far to quickly.
"What the hell is going on?" Buck demanded.
JD said nothing, but he clearly wanted answers.
"Well," Ezra licked his lips nervously. "As near as I can ascertain, you are impaled on a branch of some kind.
"Well Hell Ez, just cut the damn clothes off if you have to!" Buck snapped.
"Buck, listen to me."
"I heard you, just get me "
"Listen," Ezra stated again more firmly, moving so he could look his friend in the eye. "It's you that is impaled, not your clothing, a stick or branch or root or some such thing, as penetrated your stomach. That is why you can't move."
Even as he said it, Ezra felt sick to his stomach, he was aware of JD, standing in horror stuck silence, hand clapped over his mouth. This was one of the times living in the Highlands wasn't the rural idyll he normal saw it as. Normally, living somewhere where unless you were near a main road or a town there was almost no mobile phone coverage, was a blessing, right now it was a curse. Nonetheless, he pulled out his phone and tried to call 999. It was useless, 'No Signal' the screen flashed. Shaking his head, he flipped the phone shut. He remembered that there were two-way radios in the car, but they wouldn't work this far from the house, and besides there was no one at the house to hear any call for help. Always assuming they had survived the crash. All this flashed through Ezra's agile brain in no more than a second, and in all that time Buck stared into his emerald eyes, trying to comprehend what he was being told.
"No, no I can't be, it doesnt hurt much," he finally protested.
"I assure you, it is true." Rain was now falling steadily. "We need to get you under cover until we can get help. If we help you to rise slowly we can "
"No!" Buck and JD responded instantly.
Ezra was perplexed, they couldn't leave Buck, face down in the mud with the risk of more mudslides from above. I could take hours to get help.
"If we pull him off the whatever it is - he'll bleed like a stuck pig," JD explained.
"Who are you now, Nathan?" Ezra snapped.
"I saw it on 911, you have to leave things, like knives, in, until you get to hospital."
"911? As in the TV show? That's it?"
"Look! Will you two stop arguing," Buck snapped. "Besides, the kid's right."
Ezra opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. He took a deep breath then nodded at JD. "Very well, so what do we do?"
"Can you get into the car?" Buck asked.
JD looked over at the wrecked vehicle, he thought he could get into it. "Yeah," he assured.
"Tool box in the back, get the saw."
"Saw!" JD all but squeaked.
Ezra however understood perfectly. "Go," he instructed.
JD hesitated for a second, then began to scramble his way down to the Land Rover.
Ezra watched him go for a second or two, then turned back to Buck.
"This is going to hurt," he warned.
"It already hurts." Buck was beginning to feel both nauseous and faint, which he guessed was shock. He was also cold, so very cold, cold to his very core.
Ezra didn't respond to this comment, instead he once more dropped down and tilted his head so that he was able to see the wound. Then, explaining to Buck what he was doing as he went, he began to clear mud and debris out from under Buck and away from what he could now see was a root. Though it had been half torn out by the landslide, it was still very clearly anchored into the ground.
Buck grunted as Ezra's actions jolted his arm. "Stop!" he finally cried out.
Ezra froze instantly, eyes wide with fear and distress. "Buck?" he finally asked.
"It's my arm, I can't take it anymore, sorry."
"Do not even think to apologise. What can I do?"
Buck rested his head on the soft, waterlogged ground. "If I push up with my other arm, can you pull the left one free?"
Ezra took a deep breath and swallowed. "I guess I can, but "
"Anything is better than this, please."
Ezra's stomach, already a churning with fear, knotted up so badly he thought he was going to be sick. "Very well," he finally agreed. He manoeuvred around Buck and got ready, taking hold of Buck's left elbow. "I'm ready."
"Do it, on three."
"One, two, three." Buck pushed up just enough to free his left arm as Ezra pulled on his elbow, slipping his hand under to try to somehow support the injured lower arm.
"Oh God! Fuck!" Buck swore loudly.
To his credit, once he had started, Ezra didn't hesitate, knowing that this needed to be done fast and only once. The very second his hand cleared is shoulder, Buck collapsed back down, actually relishing the cool of the earth on his forehead. While Buck lay panting, his good right hand clenching and unclenching in the soft ground as he fought to get the pain under control, Ezra took a look at the damaged left arm. Buck's heavy coat and shirt hid his flesh, but even with the bulky coat sleeve it was clear the arm was bending midway between the elbow and the wrist. The wrist and hand were swollen; already the cuff of Buck's shirt was cutting into the puffy flesh. Ezra fished in his pockets and finally found his small penknife. Pulling out the long sharp blade, and without asking Buck, he quickly and deftly cut off the cuff button.
Buck had barely noticed that Ezra had even touched him before he registered the release of pressure.
"Thanks," he managed to gasp out.
It had taken JD longer than he had hoped to get into the Defender, it had taken a battering and was more than a little buckled, but eventually he got the lock to release. Buck always kept the equipment in the back of his vehicle neat and tidy, now it lay in a single, jumbled heap. The took box had come open, spilling its contents. It took him a little while to root through the pile and pull out the long wood saw. He also found a hacksaw and a pruning saw, not knowing what was going to be needed he collected all three and set out to get them back to Ezra as fast as he could.
Getting to the wreck hadn't taken that long, coming across the loose wet mud and scree was a different prospect, for every two steps forward he slipped back or sideways one. Worse still, he only had one hand to steady himself, since he was trying to carry three saws in the other. He was still some way off when he looked up to see Ezra kneeling by Buck's shoulder, and heard the pain-filled curses. For a second anger rose in him, fearful that Ezra was hurting Buck. Then, in the same space of time, he knew Ezra wouldn't do anything that didn't need to be done, even if it did cause so much evident pain.
By the time he was back with them, Ezra was back at Buck's side, excavating again.
"I didn't know which one to bring." JD held up all three saws.
Ezra looked perplexed. He'd learned a lot since arriving on the estate, but he still had little interest with what he called the 'hands on' tasks, particularly any task that involved getting dirty.
Buck didn't look up or even around. "Pruning saw, the one with the little handle," he instructed through gritted teeth.
"What are you gonna do?" JD asked.
Ezra examined the saw JD held out to him. "Improvise."
There was only just enough room to get the saw in between Buck and the ground, despite Ezra's efforts to excavate under him. There wasn't room for a second hand to steady the root as it was cut. The pruning saw was very sharp and specifically designed to cut branches and roots, but it wasn't going to cut through this slim but sturdy and fibrous root in one go.
"Ok, here goes," with that, Ezra lined up the wicked looking serrated blade with the root and pulled back.
Despite what they told him, Buck still hadn't really felt the foreign object invading his body, until now. As the blade cut in to it the root stump both moved and vibrated and suddenly his gut was on fire.
"Oh fuck!" he exclaimed. The blade had stopped. "Don't for Christ's sake stop," he pleaded. "Get it over with!"
Ezra forced himself to continue, while JD stood by and watched, feeling helpless and sick to his stomach. It took three strokes in all. Ezra pulled the saw out, alarmed that there seemed to be blood on it, but there was no time to worry about it, the rain was now steady and the temperature dropping rapidly.
"Ok, you let us lift you up, you just make sure that thing doesnt move," Ezra instructed firmly, somewhat amazed that these commanding and decisive orders were coming from him, he normally left leadership to those he considered more suited to it, namely Chris, Buck and Vin.
JD had stood to the side of Ezra, just behind Buck's feet, and watched. He was ready to do anything that was asked of him, but he didn't know what he could do to help. Some part of him told him he should be offering Buck some kind of comfort, kneeling by his head and talking to him, but he didn't move. He just stood there, rooted to the spot. He'd only known any of them a few months, though there was no getting away from the fact that he felt closer to Buck then any of the others. When Chris or Ezra wanted a decision from him, and he didn't fully understand what he was being asked, instead of admitting he didn't understand, he'd take the papers, and tell them he'd read them through. What he then did was find Buck, show him the papers and ask him to both explain it and advise him what to do. Buck was infinitely patient, he explained as best he could, even the financial stuff, his home spun analogies and earthy humour seemed to make even VAT understandable, though even he came unstuck trying to make sense of the common agricultural policy.
More than that, Buck gave him the encouragement and courage to admit to Chris and Ezra that he didn't understand something. He also pointed out what decisions he needed to be in on and what areas he could just leave to those more experienced. He started to shadow Buck at work as much as he could. The big deputy estate manager seemed to get involved in almost every aspect of the estate. When it came to the small and routine jobs, Chris said 'do this', Ezra said 'don't let it cost more then X pounds', Buck was the one who actually made it happen and project managed the whole job. If needs be, Buck rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in with the men or even did the job himself.
Buck was strong, he was dependable, he was always there, and seeing him lying there, helpless, scared JD.
"JD?" Ezra called softly.
It took him a moment to react.
"I'm here, what do I do?"
It was quite as horrible as he imagined it to be. Whereas before Buck had grunted and cursed, as Ezra and JD lifted him up he howled in pain, no longer able to hold it back. But they made it, he made it. Buck was up on his own two feet. His broken and bent left arm held against his chest, while his right had a death grip on the newly cut stump of a gnarled root that protruded wickedly from his gut. On either side his worried friends supported him.
Buck took a moment to overcome the blackness that threatened to invade his vision, and the nausea. All the time the cold rain was getting heavier.
"We can't stay here," Ezra stated firmly.
Buck wasn't up to thinking, he was just concentrating on staying upright, so he hoped that Ezra had a plan, because he surely didn't.
"Buck, do you think if we help you, you can make it to the bothy?"
Buck didn't respond.
"How far's the bothy?" JD asked.
"If memory serves, about a quarter of a mile up the glen, maybe closer, basically it's just the other side of the bend behind us."
One of the reasons the landslide had been so destructive was the presence of a raised promontory that jutted out into the glen; it stood about two hundred years up the glen behind them.
"Ah, Ezra, I don't think Buck can make it, that ground is treacherous. I could hardly stand up on it."
"There's no option, it's going to be hours, certainly dark, before help gets to us, we have to get Buck warm and out of this rain."
"I can make it."
The other two looked into Buck's ashen face.
"You sure?" JD asked softly.
"Don't see any other options."
The bothy, little more than a glorified hut, was closer than Ezra had thought, but it was still far enough. As JD had warned, the ground was treacherous, giving way under them as they tried to make their way across the loose soil and rock of the landslide. Ezra and JD stood either side of Buck, each had an arm around his waist, holding on to his belt on the far side, their arms crossing at the small of his back. That left them one arm each to help aid their balance. Buck himself just continued holding his broken left arm protectively across his chest and holding on to the root stump lodged in his gut with his right hand. He didn't look up, keeping his eyes down, he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and staying upright.
Finally the loose ground gave way to more solid ground where they had to negotiate heather bushes, random boulders and rock outcrops. Slowly the bushes thinned out and the ground began to rise slightly.
"Almost there," JD encouraged.
Buck's only response was to nod weakly. By the time they were helping him to negotiate the narrow doorway, he was struggling to breathe and his legs were threatening to give way under him. It was no easy thing to get a man as large as Buck into the small living room, situated immediately to the left of the front door.
Originally a hut to accommodate seasonal farm workers, the bothy was now set up to provide shelter for hikers, either as respite from sleeping out under canvas or as an emergency shelter for those caught out in a bad weather. There was no running water and no electricity. In the tiny wood panelled living room two sturdy leather sofas were positioned either side of the fireplace, a wood box and a well stocked bookcase took up almost all of the remaining space in the room. Ezra and JD gently eased Buck down onto one of the large sofas and helped him take his coat off. Ezra rolled up the coat to make a pillow, while JD knelt down and began to unlace Buck's boots.
"Okay, I think it would be best if you lay down," Ezra said softly.
Buck just looked up at him, but finally he nodded. He was deathly pale, even in the dim interior of the bothy he looked grey, perspiration beading on his forehead. He glanced back at the balled up coat behind him and began to lay back. JD lifted his legs as he eased himself down with a hiss of pain that turned into a sigh of relief as he finally made it to a horizontal position, though he kept his knees pulled up, as it seemed to eased the pain in his gut.
"Will you be alright for a little bit, while we get things organised?" Ezra asked.
"I'll be fine, I just need to rest." With that Buck closed his eyes.
Ezra nodded and then turned away and headed for the door. JD hadnt moved.
"Come on JD, the faster we do this the faster we get help here," Ezra encouraged firmly.
"We'll be really quick," JD promised.
"I'll be here," Buck assured, without opening his eyes.
The kitchen was no bigger than the living room, and like the living room, it was wood panelled. Where the living room had a fireplace, the kitchen had a solid fuel stove, with an oven and two hot plates. There was a dining room table and chairs and two dressers, one stocked with pots, pans, enamel plates, bowls and mugs as well as cutlery. The other dresser was well stocked with tinned and dried food, including long life milk, tea, coffee, instant hot chocolate, flour, sugar, rice and pasta. There was a polite notice requesting visitors pay for anything the use, there was small moneybox in the corner of the dresser. In the built in cupboard, there was a good supply of firewood and on the shelf above dozens of bottles of water. Lastly there was a stand supporting a large bowl for washing. Between the two ground floor rooms was a turning staircase that gave access to the long, low attic room, which contained five narrow cabin beds. Each one equipped with a mattress and in the draws underneath, two heavy blankets. There was a small wood burning stove at the either end of the room. Outside the bothy was small outhouse and that as all.
"JD I want you to go back to the car, collect anything you think might be useful, radios, tools, first aid, rugs, torches," Ezra instructed.
"Gun." Ezra and JD who were standing in the doorway of the living room, both turned to look at Buck. "Get my gun, shells too."
"Buck it's hardly an essential," Ezra began.
"Can't leave it unattended."
"Buck, I don't think "
"It's my licence," Buck countered. "Besides it's a good noise maker, you might need to attract attention."
"Very well." Ezra turned back to JD.
"I got it, I'll be as quick as I can."
While JD was away, Ezra set about building fires in the living room and kitchen, bringing blankets down for Buck and putting some water on to boil so they could have a hot drink. He found a first aid kit in the kitchen and brought it back to his stricken friend.
"Time to take a look," he announced softly as he knelt down beside the sofa.
"I guess," Buck admitted.
With infinite care Ezra unbuttoned the blood soaked shirt. He winced at the sight, as well as the hideous object embedded in his stomach, Buck had several ragged cuts were the saw had cut into the soft flesh.
"I don't think there is much I can do, I'll clean these other cuts and perhaps pack some dressings around the "
Buck looked at Ezra and sympathised. He'd been a solider for twenty years, he'd served in more than one war zone and not to mention Ulster and he'd seen his fair share of gruesome injures. He well remembered the very first time he'd seen someone who'd been caught in an explosion.
"It's okay Ez, just do what ever you think is best," he assured.
Ezra cleaned the cuts, applied antiseptic and covered them with dressings where he could, and used two large wound pads to pack around the root. Then, though it took some time to work out how to do it and no little pain for Buck, he managed to fit a sling to the broken arm. It wasn't the first time Buck had broken his arm and he knew from experience that, painful as it was to put on, once on the sling would support and steady the arm, thus lessening the pain.
Ezra sat back on his heels. "I believe that is as much as I can do now. It seems pitifully inadequate."
"You've done plenty," Buck assured, but as he spoke, he shivered, even though the fire had taken and was now well alight.
"Here." Ezra pulled one blanket up as far as the root, then he lay another across Buck's torso, tucking them in as best he could.
"Could you drink something? I have the kettle on." Buck shook his head. "Well, maybe later."
Grateful to have something useful to do, JD scrambled back to the wrecked Defender as fast as he could. When he reached the door he made himself slow up, the last time he'd climbed inside the whole thing had moved and rocked alarmingly. There tools were still spread out all over the place, but he managed to collect most of them and toss them back into the box haphazardly, then he found Buck's big torch, a long, heavy, silver Maglite.
"Always remember kid," Buck had told him once. "Most time you need a torch it's dark so don't get a black one, you'll never find it. Black torches are for people who don't actually need one."
He added the torch to the toolbox and looked around for anything else. The gun was still in its soft case, the box of shells not far from it. As luck would have it, the box was new and the seal unbroken, so it hadn't scattered its contents everywhere. He placed the gun by the tools and pocketed the box of shells. With some difficulty he managed to get the glove box open without all the contents falling out. Inside he found a two-way radio, a big bar of Cadburys Fruit and Nut and a Mars Bar.
"Always carry emergency rations," Buck had explained one day. "Now you're right on types and your medico types - like Nathan - will tell you to take something healthy and high energy, like a Tracker bar or one of those new breakfast bars, but theyre all wrong. There's a reason the army include Mars in their emergency ration packs, in a survival situation morale is paramount and there is nothing perks a man up when he's cold, wet and tired like a Mars Bar." They had been sitting in the car at a petrol station, having just filled the tank. Buck had come back from paying with two Mars; he used one to replace the one in the glove box. "Of course it doesnt do to let it get too stale, you need to replace it every now and again."
JD couldn't help a smile as he remembered this conversation. He placed the chocolate in the opposite pocket to the shells, along with the radio, and continued to look around. There was a travel rug, and a first aid kit, he added them to his pile, but despite searching he didn't find anything else that was of any use and wasn't broken. Piling his booty in the centre of the rug, he gathered the four corners together, slung the gun over his shoulder and set out for the bothy again.
The rain was coming down heavily now, and he found himself glancing up at the mountainside, wondering if more was coming as he tried to get out of its potential path as fast as he could, without losing any of his precious cargo. By the time he made it back to the bothy, those parts of him not protected by his heavy wax jacket were soaked and mud splattered. He all but burst in through the door, dropping his precious bundle as he turned to close the door on the wind and rain.
"What did you find?" Ezra asked as he met him in the small hallway.
JD let the gun slip of his shoulder and stood it in the corner. "Radio, torch, tools, chocolate, thats all."
"Well, it's better than nothing. Is the radio charged?"
JD frowned. "I don't know, I didn't stop to find out. Here." He held it out to Ezra, who quickly ascertained that it was charged but out of range. "Right, good. I'm going to go for help, you stay here and take care of Buck."
"What!" JD hissed. "I don't know what to do!"
"Believe me, you know more than me, besides I'm fitter than you and I know the way."
"I know the way," JD protested.
"It will be dark soon, can you promise me you can get back the castle, cross country, in the dark, from here?"
"By road it's a good fifteen miles, as the crow flies the castle is only about eight miles from here."
JD had to admit he couldn't.
"Just keep him warm, don't let him move too much, see if you can get him to drink some water. It should only take me about two hours to get to within sight of the road, from there I should get a signal on my mobile, with luck I won't even need to go as far as the house. There are candles and lanterns in the kitchen, you best light some, give me the torch and the gun."
"Take the chocolate." JD held it out.
"There's plenty of food here, you're gonna need it."
Buck had listened to the conversation between his two friends, and although he wasn't happy that Ezra was heading out into the storm to walk all the way back to the castle because of him, he realised there was nothing for it. JD came back into the room, looking uncomfortable and scared.
"What can I do?" he asked.
"Get yourself something hot to eat."
"I'm not hungry."
Buck let his eyes close for a moment, reminding himself that JD was still a teenager and not a squaddy. "You need to eat, you need to stay fit and alert, and for that you need food. I'm not up to arguing with you, so just go and make yourself some hot food."
JD suddenly looked like he was going to be sick. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be, just do what needs to be done."
"What do you want?"
Buck shook his head. "Nothing."
JD frowned. "You need to drink, Nathan always says water is the best medicine."
Buck didn't want to drink, he didnt want to do anything, but logically he knew it would do no good to get dehydrated. The trouble was he had visions of the water running out of the holes he imagined in his guts, like Tom after Jerry had shot him, except he wasn't a cartoon. Then again it was only water, even if it wasn't sterile it was fit to drink, it had to be cleaner than the thing that was now stuck fast in him.
"Okay, bring me something to drink."
JD poured out some water into a mug and carried it back to his stricken friend. "Do you want me to help you drink?
"No," Buck assured a little to quickly. "No, I can do it."
JD looked around, there was nothing that could serve as a coffee table, finally he pulled out a dozen or so of the bigger books from the shelf and stacked them up, placing the mug on top, where Buck could reach it.
"I'll just go make some supper for myself, I won't be long," he assured nervously.
"Take your time, I'm not going anywhere."
JD took a little time to explore the kitchen. Ezra had the stove fire well alight, but he tossed another small log onto it, just for good measure. As he looked through the food, he found that he was really hungry. He didn't want to attempt anything too complicated so pulled down a tin of baked beans with mini frankfurters. It wouldn't take long to heat, he also managed make himself a mug of instant hot chocolate with the water that Ezra had already boiled.
He tried to concentrate on what he was doing and not on the situation he found himself in. At the back of his mind he knew Buck cold die, he could even die while they were alone together, for all he knew his friend was bleeding to death in the room next door while he heated beans and franks. What would he do? What could he do?
Stop it! Stop thinking like that, it's not gonna happen! he silently chided himself.
The food was beginning to burn in the pan, he pulled it off the heat, picked up a fork and began eating it out of the saucepan, not even bothering to sit down. By the time he went back into the living room Buck had managed to drink some of the water.
"Did you eat?" he asked.
"Good, first rule of survival, one casualty is better than two, so you need to take care of yourself. Do you know how to light the lanterns?"
Since there was no electricity, oil lanterns hung from the ceiling to provide light.
"Well there should be some tapers over the fire, light one and light all the lamps, even the one's upstairs."
"I'm not leaving you down here, we dont need light up there," JD protested.
"There are sky lights up there, the chopper will find us faster if we're showing a light from the roof."
JD felt so dumb it wasn't true. Buck was the expert, why didn't he just do as he was told and not force his injured friend to explain everything. "I'm on it, don't worry."
Easier said than done, Buck silently lamented. He was - in a bizarre way - grateful for the pain his broken arm was giving him, he had the nagging feeling it was masking the pain from his gut. He tried not to look, but there was a kind of morbid curiosity that drew him to this alien object invading his body. Worse still was the temptation to just get hold of it and yank it out. His logical brain told him that would, in all likelihood, prove fatal, his primeval, survival brain just wanted this thing gone, so that he could heal and be whole again. JD's less than dulcet footsteps thudded above him. Hurry kid, come on back down so you can stop me doing anything stupid..
Ezra had scrambled up the slope to the track and headed off toward the road. He'd told JD he'd have to go cross-country to the castle, that was only partly true, though it was still an option. It was possible that he could get a signal on his mobile if he got to the road, possible but not definite. If he couldn't he had a choice, follow the road, it was another eight miles to the drive way and then three miles down the drive to the castle. Or he could turn away from the road and follow the footpath over the mountain to the back of the castle's gardens, no more than four miles. If there had been anyone at home he'd have done that, because as soon as he could see the castle he would be in range of the radio. It wasn't dark yet, but it wasn't far off. Still, he'd wouldn't use the torch until he really had too, who knew how long the he might need it or how long the batteries would hold out.
To start with he had set off at a steady jog, but as the rain came down and the light faded he was forced to slow down or risk tripping over one of the large potholes. He'd gone about two and a half miles when he was forced to pull up short. The track was gone; a second landslide had washed it away. It wasn't as big or as wide as the one that had injured Buck and destroyed their car, but enough to stop Ezra in his tracks. There was nothing for it; he had to get across to the track on the other side.
He set out carefully, using his hands to help anchor himself on the steep, treacherous slope. He slipped a few times, but was able to recover. He was about three quarters of the way across when he slipped again and this time he couldn't stop it, he went sliding down on his side, frantically scrabbling to get some kind of purchase. He felt something hit his foot as he juddered to a stop. Panting and gasping he forced himself to sit up, just as a blinding pain shot through his left ankle. There was nothing for it, he had to continue. Slowly, moving on his hands and one leg, Ezra hauled himself up the steep, loose slope back to the track on the far side of the landslide.
Once there, he tried to put some weight on his left foot, it hurt, it hurt a lot, but he found he could limp along. He had been making good time, now he was forced to slow to a snails pace. It began to get dark, and with his limited manoeuvrability he needed the torch to light his way. The pain was beginning to make him feel sick, but Ezra refused to give in. The road was close now, he convinced himself the phone would work, once he reached the road he'd get a signal.
JD came back downstairs; Buck opened his eyes as his young cousin came back into the room.
"We're all lit up," he announced.
JD picked up a log and added it to the fire before he sat down. "How long to you reckon, before help gets here?"
"Three, maybe four hours." JD looked at his watch, Ezra hadn't been gone an hour yet. They were in for a long wait. "Try and get some sleep," Buck advised.
"Don't think I can," JD admitted, not mentioning that the reason he couldn't sleep was the fear that he might wake to find Buck dead.
There was a long silence, JD stared into the fire, while Buck just lay back and stared at the ceiling.
"Can I ask you a personal question?" JD wasn't even sure it was him asking, he hadn't planned to ask this question, he hadn't planned to say anything, but clearly his subconscious didn't like the silence.
"Sure, go ahead, not that I promise to answer."
"Is Buck your real name?"
Buck smiled and then suppressed the smile. "Yup."
"Pretty unusual, for a Brit, isn't it?"
Without moving his head, since every movement however small, just brought more pain, Buck looked over to his young cousin.
"Guess this is as good a time as ever to tell you."
"You don't have to, not if it bothers you, not sure why I even asked."
"Don't sweat it kid." He looked back at the tongue and groove ceiling. "My mother didn't have an easy life, and things didnt get much better when I decided to make an appearance. She had to have an emergency caesarean then got a post op infection. You only get so many days to register a baby's birth and she was still in hospital, so even though she'd left home, she called her family - such as it was, or is, I guess there's still come of them alive - anyway her dad came to see her. And he's the one went to register me. Never a man to turn down a reason to celebrate, he first headed to the pub to 'wet the baby's' head as they say. By the time he made it to the registry office, he was drunk. At least that's what Mum assumes. You ever heard of an old TV show called The High Chaparral?"
JD was more than a little puzzled "Sure, great show, I used to watch it on Saturdays," he relied.
"Right, well it seems 'Buck Cannon' was my granddad's favourite character."
"Yeah, and since he didn't bother to give me a second name, I was stuck with 'Buck'. So, tell me how you got to be called JD?"
JD shrugged. "I'm not sure. Can't remember when I wasn't. You remember your father?"
Buck forced himself not to show any reaction. "No, he and my mother only met once."
"What about your father, Mr Dunne?"
"John, maybe that's why I've always been JD, 'cause he was John." JD looked up. "We've never talked about Mom have we?"
"No, but you don't have to, it's okay."
"Seems only fair to, since we're on the subject of family." JD sat back, still looking into the fire. "My mum's name was Jessie, she was much younger than Angus, but I guess you know all that." He didn't bother to wait for conformation. "Dad, John, he was well I'm not sure, but the way Mom described him, I think he was bipolar - you know what that is?"
"Yeah, he stuck around for a bit, I sort of remember him. Mom always said she loved him, even thought he was very high maintenance. Dad was incapable of holding down a real job, then. Then, when I was about four, he just didn't come home one day."
"You ever hear from him again?"
"Not one word. Mum raised me on her own, then last summer, she died."
"Do you know why she never tried to come home?"
"No, she never really spoke about Scotland at all."
"Nettie told me she took up with some backpacker? Was that your dad?"
JD shook his head. "No, she travelled around Europe with him, I think his name was Carl, anyway eventually they married and he took her back to New York. I'm not sure, but I think he got her on to the drugs. Whatever happened, he died, possibly an overdose, possibly suicide, not something Mom talked about much."
"I can imagine. You said he got her on to drugs?" Buck asked softly, it was clearly a sensitive subject, but he wanted to know more about his only blood relative, not counting the remaining Wilmington's, in whom he had no interest.
JD took a deep breath and looked over at Buck. "My mother was a drug addict." It was something he'd never admitted to anyone else. "You say 'drug addict' and people get this image, someone in an alleyway, dirty, alone, selling themselves or stealing to feed their habit. But it's not like that, not most of the time. My mom had a job, she took care of me, kept the apartment clean, well cleanish, but she was an addict, she needed a hit to get through a day."
JD looked up to see Buck close his eyes, a grimace of pain flashed across his face. JD was ready to shoot to his feet and cross the short distance between the two sofas. "What can I do?" he asked.
"Nothing," Buck gasped out through gritted teeth, "it'll pass. Can I ask what happened to her, how she died?" Not only was he curious, but talking was helping him deal with both the pain and the fear.
JD sat back, he too was finding this 'confession' session both cathartic and diverting.
"Hepatitis, it got her in the end, probably from a dirty needle." JD shrugged dejectedly. "I had friends at school who were using, experimenting I guess, I tried to tell them, make them see how dumb they were being, but I couldn't tell them my mom was a druggie.
Buck glanced across at JD, to see him backhanding tears away, trying not to let Buck see how upset he was.
"My mother was a prostitute," Buck's words came unbidden, like JD he as almost surprised to find he'd said it.
JD looked up. "Oh," was all he said.
"Not something you can tell your friends at school."
"She didn't do it all the time, she didn't lurk on street corners in a mini skirt, but it was how she made the extra money that kept us, well off benefits and in a real home."
"I remember you saying she died?"
"Yes, it was a long time ago now, mind you. She was killed by a hit and run driver, it was outside a pub so they were probably over the limit."
"They never caught them?"
"No, cops arent that interested in one more dead whore." Buck remembered a police sergeant all but telling him that to his face.
JD sniffed back the last tear. "Guess we're two of a kind."
"Aye, I guess we are."
Ezra limped on into the gathering gloom; he just kept telling himself that each step took him closer to the road. He had convinced himself that the phone would work, surely he used it only last month on the way back from Inverness at the very spot he was heading too.
Just one more step, courage Ezra courage.
The rain hadn't let up once, and has he rounded the bend in the track, the wind and rain were now blowing directly into his face. Hunching down even further into the collar of his coat he kept going, shining the torch beam directly down to illuminate his feet as he made his slow, halting progress. So intent on his continued progress was he, he almost didn't notice he had made it and was on the metalled road. When he finally looked up he found himself standing in the middle of the road.
"Oh thank God!" he exclaimed out loud.
Cold wet hands made getting the phone out of his pocket much harder then he could have imagined. Without even looking, he flipped it open and pushed the 'on' button. That should have illuminated the dial, but nothing happened. He shone the torch on the small phone to make sure he'd hit the right button and froze where he was. There was a huge crack running across the screen, some of the casing around the hinge was missing.
"No! No, no, no!" Desperately Ezra hit 'on' again and again, but the phone, no doubt damaged when he fell down the slope, was quite dead.
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