Castaways - Mutineers
Thanks to Mitzi and Beth for their invaluable time.
No 3 in the Series and follows Castaways - The Storm
“Enough!” Vin shouted, standing abruptly. Silence grudgingly settled over the six castaways and Vin Tanner glared long and hard at each of them in turn, his blue eyes shimmering with intensity. “Ain’t it bad enough that we’re stuck on this damn island? Without you lot constantly at each other’s throats?”
The tension among the group had escalated dramatically over the past weeks. The isolation from the mainland and primitive existence they were forced to live was wearing on them all. Vin was no exception, but he’d reached his limit of restraint.
With the chance of rescue dwindling as another day lapsed, their optimism was gradually eroding away. They argued over the simplest of requests and the smallest details were hashed out doggedly. Chores were done grudgingly, but resentment in the allocations were growing. All of them, for whatever reason, questioned Larabee’s role as leader, even Chris himself. But to survive in this primitive environment they needed to pull together.
“What’s it gonna take?” No one bothered to respond to Vin’s rhetorical question. In fact, they faced the normally softly spoken man with stunned expressions. Tanner huffed in disgust at his fellow islanders. “I thought after the storm ya got some new perspective, but yer worse then ever. Talk about bitchy females,” he muttered. He was also feeling the strain and had been guilty of arguing and disagreeing too, but admitting this was the first step to bridging the conflict. They all had their own opinions on how things should be done, but they needed to find some common ground.
“Vin—” Wilmington began reluctantly; obviously none of the others wanted to respond.
“Don’t want to hear it,” Tanner snapped, quickly forestalling whatever Buck had been about to say by storming off into the jungle.
“That went well,” Standish drawled.
“Shut up, Standish,” Larabee growled. He’d had enough of the former car salesman’s surly comments. Ezra seemed to always be egging him on for some reason. In fact, he was certain Ezra went out of his way at times to irritate him. Goddamned Southerner! He’d broken the radio and GPS which made rescue practically impossible, constantly complained about doing his share of the chores and was slow and unenthused about building a raft. If they were ever to get off the island they’d have to do it themselves. And it irked him beyond reason that Ezra’s mother, Maude Devereux, had been perfectly accommodating, promising them funding for their venture, yet Standish claimed that she’d axed the project before it even got off the ground.
Ezra’s mouth twitched into a sardonic smile. “By all means,” he drawled thickly. “But as it seems to have escaped your attention, Vin wasn’t referring only to me—”
Larabee snorted and rolled his eyes. “Well, we all know who’s to blame for us being marooned,” he accused.
Here we go again. Ezra bit his bottom lip, but returned the glare without flinching. Since they’d been marooned, he’d contemplated his meddlesome actions frequently. It had been a rash act to damage the radio and GPS and he knew it had been wrong, but there was no going back. He couldn’t undo what had already been done. But since he’d never admitted to doing these acts it did infuriate him that Larabee was so quick to judge him. And that none of the others came to his defense. But that shouldn’t surprise him…after all they were Larabee’s friends. “Oh…and it had absolutely nothing to do with your position at the helm,” Standish goaded, throwing the blame squarely back on Chris’ shoulders.
“I did everything possible,” Chris sneered, pointing his finger at the Southerner and stressing each word by jabbing it menacingly, “to…save…your…hide. You’d think you’d be grateful…we could have tossed you to the sharks any time that night and been well within our rights—”
Ezra stepped up the irate captain; his eyes blazing with fury. “Thanks for the warning…I’m presuming murder doesn’t rate too highly on you so-called morality code.” Standish mockingly saluted an imaginary hat at the boat owner and left camp.
“What the hell did you just say?” Buck asked Chris in astonishment.
“You heard me.” Larabee returned Buck’s stare.
“Buck’s right.” Josiah pushed between Buck and Chris. “That was totally uncalled for.” Surely Chris was just venting…
“Ya all know I am only stating the truth.”
Dunne dropped his mug in the sand and looked around each of the remaining men. Men who he’d thought were his friends. “How can you say that? Ezra saved my life…and he’s helped Vin too. It was the storm that shipwrecked us.”
“Yeah, but we might have been able to call in our position, if the instruments hadn’t been broken,” Nathan stated.
“Exactly my point,” Chris agreed.
“But you don’t know that it was Ezra who did it,” JD countered.
“Who else would have done it?” Chris asked Dunne. “Besides, he’s never denied it.”
Wilmington shook his head. “I don’t believe I’m hearing this. Chris you know as well as I do that we had no chance of getting a message out. We were tossed about so much that night that a search party would be looking in the wrong place even if we’d sent off any coordinates.”
“At least they would have had a starting point,” Chris retorted.
Buck sighed…Vin was right, they were bickering like children. “Can’t we just leave it be, Chris?”
“Don’t you want to know the truth, Buck?”
“The truth, according to whom?” Sanchez queried.
“Josiah, let it rest,” Jackson growled, not wanting to see any of them coming to blows. He’d only have to patch them up.
“Standish has you hoodwinked, Josiah. He’s not your friend and you shouldn’t trust him.” Larabee kicked at the dying coals in the fire pit and wondered who was going to collect more firewood. Probably him.
“I’m not a fool, Chris. I’ve been around for a long time. And don’t you go giving me that look, Nathan…I know what you’re thinking… it’s the same thing I’ve been wanting to do for the past twenty minutes. So before I give in to temptation and decide to hit you,” he glared pointedly at Chris, “I’ll be leaving.” Sanchez lumbered down the worn path, following, where he thought, the Southerner had gone.
Nathan thanked the Lord that his skin color was dark, because the flush that stole up his cheeks would have been easily seen. He cast a sidelong look at Chris, and shrugged. Guess it was out in the open now. Josiah had to open his big mouth. Didn’t he know how to keep it closed?
“I thought we were friends, Nathan?” Of all the seven, Chris thought of Nathan as the most grounded.
“Hell, Chris! We’re all friends. But that don’t mean we can live together without getting on each other’s nerves,” Jackson chose his words carefully and responded as diplomatically as possible.
“So what are we going to do about it?” Chris asked.
Jackson sighed, looking down the path Tanner had disappeared. He was a doctor, not a psychologist. “I don’t know.” Tanner seemed to have the right idea, maybe even Standish. It was best to put some distance between them all. “I’m going for a walk.”
Larabee lifted his hands outward in a bewildered gesture then rubbed the nap of his neck. This was getting beyond difficult; these SOBs were a pain in the ass. He twisted his lips into a stiff line and mentally groaned. “Whose turn is it to watch the signal fire?”
Buck strolled past Chris and patted him on the back. The mustached man shook his head and snorted, answering with the same contempt that Chris had given them. “Reckon that’d be your job.”
Wilmington broke into a sardonic grin. “Nobody but you seems to look after it how you want…guess you’ll have to take a turn.” Buck dropped his arm over JD’s shoulder and smiled smugly at his oldest friend then headed inside the cave.
“Buck?” Chris spun in a slow circle, shaking his head and muttering. “JD?” Dunne didn’t even turn. They had all deserted him. He was responsible for them all! It was his job to keep them safe. Couldn’t they understand the necessity to keep the signal fire alight? This was mutiny! Why didn’t they understand? They needed to work together as a team – needed to form a cohesive unit. Instead they griped and whined like two-year-olds. At least two-year-olds could be convinced into helping, but these yahoos were self-serving bastards. He sighed deeply and trudged up to the signal tower and began the job of collecting firewood to burn.
“Do you think we should have done that?” JD anxiously asked, bending at his waist to see out the entrance of the cave, but he couldn’t see Chris.
Buck flopped down on a sun lounge, stretching out his long legs. “Don’t worry about Chris, kid. He just needs to pull his head in a bit. It’ll blow over.”
“Maybe I ought to go and take over the watch—”
“He’s not going to hand it over to you, kid.” Buck didn’t say it to dampen JD’s spirit, but with the mood Larabee had been in of late it was prudent to avoid further confrontations. Chris had actually attacked JD a few days ago, not physically, but the backlash had been the same for the young stowaway as if he’d been beaten to a pulp. Chris had turned his frustration on the youth for abandoning the inferno while he’d eaten lunch, and unfortunately for Dunne, the fire had withered to nothing but embers. Buck had become very protective of the junior member of their tribe and in JD’s defense, Wilmington exchanged heated words with Chris.
“Guess you’re right…it’s just that Chris has been doin’ an awful lot lately and he probably needs a break.”
“Isn’t anything we can do about it at the moment. He just wants everything done his way. I’ll go relieve him later,” Wilmington added to appease Dunne.
JD chewed at his bottom lip, eventually sitting on the floor among his merger possessions. “Buck?”
“Yeah, kid,” he replied absently.
“You know, what I said out there…to Chris? Well…maybe it wasn’t Ezra who broke the radio—”
Wilmington sat up on his elbow and frowned. “Look, JD…I know ya like Ezra…and he did good savin’ your skin, but the truth is, that it couldn’t have been anyone else.”
Dunne lowered his head, unable to meet Buck’s eyes. “What if I told you I did it?”
Wilmington arched his dark eyebrows and eventually broke into a grin. “You’ve got a good heart…but it’s kinda misplaced—”
“No…I’m telling the truth! It was me,” Dunne admitted, ashamed of his actions.
Buck rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Why would you have done that?” Not that he believed JD…he figured Dunne was covering for Standish – a noble act, but unnecessary.
“I didn’t want any messages coming in…” He glanced up and swallowed guiltily. “I think the cops were looking for me.”
Buck swung his legs off the sun lounge and sat upright, his face pinched. “Why would the cops be after you, JD?” he asked seriously. He was only a boy…what could he possibly have done?
“I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t thinking straight. What with my ma gone…and I needed the money…no one was hurt,” he looked up to emphasize.
“What’d you do?”
“There was this guy in the mall…and he dropped his wallet—”
“How much did you take?” Buck asked knowingly.
“A few hundred…but you should have seen how much was in there…he was loaded. I was taking it to lost and found and…well, I kinda opened it…just to check for ID, you know? But when I saw all that money…something came over me. I just needed some to tide me over. I swear I didn’t take it all. Honest, Buck, you gotta believe me.”
“Let me get this straight…You found a wallet, took some of the dough, but still handed in the wallet?” The kid was too honest for his own good. Probably scared himself witless thinking he’d be locked up if he’d been caught.
“I guess.” JD shrugged.
Buck sighed, running his fingers through his thick hair. “So why did you think the cops were after you?” He just needed to hear JD confirm his thoughts.
JD abruptly stood in agitation. Did he have to spell it out? “I stole that guy’s money, Buck!”
“Sure…I get that…and it was wrong, but we all make mistakes at times. Now sit back down,” he ordered calmly. “Have you thought about what could have happened if it wasn’t you who picked up the wallet? If anyone else had found it, they may have taken all the money, but not you. You did good handing it in, even if you did help yourself.” Buck paused, allowing his point to sink in. When Dunne began nodding his head in understanding, Buck decided he’d give JD a little something else to consider. “If you’d returned it to the fella who lost it, he may have given you a reward.”
“You think?” Dunne asked in surprise.
“Yep.” There was no point scaring the kid, especially as it was something that was of no consequence now that they were isolated on an island. “Hmmm… so that’s why you were hiding out on our boat?” Running from the cops, when they weren’t even looking for him. Poor, kid, he must have been terrified.
“I guess. You gonna tell Chris? And the others?”
“We’ll see. Does Ezra know?” Had Standish been covering for the young stowaway? Didn’t seem like something the Southerner would do.
Dunne shook his head.
“You haven’t wondered why Ezra took the blame for wrecking the radio and GPS?” Not that Standish has ever directly assumed the responsibility.
“I never actually wrecked the radio… just cut some wires inside so it couldn’t receive and I didn’t touch the GPS,” JD clarified.
“I saw the radio, kid. I know it was smashed. And the GPS was in pieces.” Buck wondered if he should mention to Larabee that he had forgotten to put fresh batteries in the GPS. ‘Cuz even if it hadn’t been broken they wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint their position. Nope…it was a moot point…with the GPS broken it wouldn’t have worked even with new batteries.
“I didn’t touch the GPS, I swear. And why would I smash the radio when I’d already fixed it?”
“I dunno, kid. I dunno,” Wilmington answered thoughtfully.
Vin crashed through the jungle, his anger guiding his direction. He had to come up with something that would take their minds off the fact that they were marooned. At least temporarily. But nothing came to mind. He was so angry, tired and irritable he couldn’t even think straight. There was no two ways about it…Vin wanted to leave this island. He wanted to return to the civilized world. He wanted a burger and fries, hot running water, a flush toilet and a chocolate bar, but he knew that wasn’t likely anytime soon. Over the weeks he’d resigned himself to the possibility of never being rescued. At least not for some time. Not that he was happy about it, but he figured they didn’t need to kill themselves with tasks Larabee had been ordering them to complete. Tanner grunted and shook his head…Chris was being an ass.
Since they’d been shipwrecked Larabee’s every waking hour was focused on how they would eventually depart the island. Which was something they all wanted, but they needed to reassess their priorities. Chris had them working around the clock, cutting timber and ferrying it to the beach in the hope of constructing a raft. He was so hyped about leaving that he didn’t allow a day to pass without the signal fire being lit and manned. He was positively single-minded about it. Added to that they needed to survive the rigors of everyday life on the island. Basic necessities like food and water were been neglected in order to work on the raft. Shelter was another issue that needed some attention…cramped in a cold and mildewy cave was fine initially, but they needed to find, or make, better accommodations. They were losing weight and needed to redefine what was essential to survive.
Chris was a good leader, but there was no point working them into a fit of exhaustion. There were other things Vin would like to do while they were marooned on the island – like exploring the caves and climbing the many hills and outcrops…abseiling came to mind, but he’d first have to convince Larabee the benefit of such an exercise in recreational activities. Tanner glanced at the highest peak and a sighed. “Gonna conquer you,” he predicted confidently.
Vin sighed and swallowed a mouthful from his water bottle. It wasn’t only Chris. Buck and Nathan had almost come to blows the other day. Apparently Wilmington had tripped and crashed into Jackson while they’d been fishing and their rods became entangled - unfortunately they eventually lost the tackle from both lines. It had been a bleak dinner that night. There was new tension between Josiah and Nathan which seemed to escalate when they discussed Ezra. Nathan seemed to be of the opinion that Ezra was using Josiah, but Josiah couldn’t, or wouldn’t believe it.
Buck and Ezra weren’t the only ones having difficulties with the doctor – Vin had also been guilty of losing his temper and shouting at the doctor. If he had to defend his actions then it was because almost since the time they’d been shipwrecked, Vin had been a patient of Nathan’s. He’d injured his knee during that huge storm and Jackson had been on his back ever since. But enough was enough. It was seven weeks ago and his knee was now healed. But still Nathan kept harping on about it, right up until two days ago, when things came to a head...
“How’s your knee?” Nathan abandoned his meal on the ground intending to check Vin’s knee.
Tanner waved off the inquiry…it wasn’t as if it’d only happened a few day ago. He’d been walking around on it for weeks. “It’s okay.” When the doctor didn’t immediately return to his meal, Vin balanced on his injured leg and hopped on the spot. If that’s what it took to stop Nathan hassling him, then he’d prove that the knee wasn’t a problem. “It’s fine, Nathan. See?” The knee twinged slightly at the blatant abuse, but Vin staunched the grimace and forced a lazy grin to his features. He’d had enough of Jackson monitoring him and curtailing his activities in deference of the old injury. It had healed and now he wanted to build back up the strength he’d lost while he had been scheduled to bed rest.
“You shouldn’t be putting undue stress on it,” Jackson had warned. “I could wrap it up for you—”
“Damn it, Nathan…I said it was alright!” Jackson had returned to his dinner and not spoken to Vin about his knee since. They’d hardly spoken since.
Chris had tried to intervene and Vin had snapped at him for his interference. The relationship between Standish and the boat owner wasn’t any better; the conman was taking a sadistic pleasure out of provoking the blond-haired man. But then the former car salesman didn’t limit his niggling just to Larabee, he also harassed Nathan and Buck.
There were a few positives since their time on the island - Both Buck and JD were becoming firm friends, but then JD seemed to get along well with all of them. Ezra and Josiah also shared a mutual camaraderie that seemed to surprise not only Chris, but Standish as well. The conman was mystified by Josiah’s attention, and it seemed to amuse Larabee no end watching Ezra squirm under the chef’s protection. And Vin and Ezra had come to an understanding following the storm.
Vin wiped his brow on the sleeve of his shirt, the fast pace he’d set out from camp needed to be adjusted, the humidity was a killer on the island. They needed some diversion, something that would bring them together as one. He glanced up and saw Nathan heading his way, but not ready to face the doctor Vin quietly slipped off the path and hid behind thick foliage.
Josiah shaded his eyes as he looked up the beach for either Vin or Ezra. Vin had been right, they needed to start building some bridges, mend those fences and work on their friendships. Since they’d been shipwrecked they’d all had to make majors adjustments in order to survive. He decided his try his luck down by the rock pools; they were within sight, but he couldn’t see either of his friends. It would be easy to disappear down in among the rocks…he’d try there first.
“Ezra? Vin? Anyone about?” Sanchez hopped cautiously from rock to rock, treading his way through the slippery granite. He stopped to catch his balance and smiled. “Nice view.”
Standish had found a flat rock to sit on and faced out to sea. The tide was on the turn and rushed over the granite land forms swirling about, filling hollows with each new wave to hit the shore.
Josiah made his way over to the Southerner and sighed loudly. “The tide’s coming in.”
“Chris is a cantankerous old fool…but he didn’t mean what he said.”
Ezra snorted. “We must have been listening to two different people then.”
“He’s stressed out…worrying about too many things he’s got no control over. Give him some time to cool down.”
“Then what?” he asked, wiping his arm dry of the fine sea spray.
Josiah shrugged. “Find some common ground…get to know each other.”
Whatever Ezra’s response was going to be was drowned out with a wave crashing over the rocks. They both jumped up quickly and stumbled over the rocks to avoid being swept up by the roll of water, and only just made it clear.
Josiah laughed; a full-throated roar. He glanced down at his waterlogged joggers and grinned. “That was close…Arg!” he screamed and bent forward, his face contorted into a grimace, his hand clutching at his chest.
The wisp of a smile that had briefly appeared evaporated from Ezra’s lips at Sanchez’s cry of pain. His eyes widened uncertainly as the older man groaned. “Josiah?”
“Arg… hurts,” he hissed.
Oh, God! “Sit…Josiah.” What should he do? He swallowed nervously and realized they needed to get off the rocks…it was too dangerous with the in coming tide, but was it wise to move a person with chest pains? “Josiah…how bad is the pain? Do you think you can manage to walk?”
Sanchez groaned, and leaned forward. “Hurts,” he managed to gasp.
Standish shaded his eyes and glanced up the beach…where were the others? He nervously returned his attention to Josiah. “We’ve got to get away from these rocks,” Standish explained and wrapped his arm around Sanchez’s waist and slipped his shoulder under Josiah’s arm. “Take it easy…you can rest soon.”
“You…need to…get…Nathan,” he panted.
“I agree, but I’m not going to leave you here. Just a little further,” Standish promised, guiding the chef towards the sand.
Sanchez groaned loudly and sank to his knees, pulling the Southerner down with him. Water spilled at their feet, rushing in and swirling about their ankles. Josiah pinched his eyes closed and panted heavily, leaning into the smaller man. “Don’t… think… I can… make it.”
“That is a pessimistic approach….damn you!” Standish shifted into the chef’s side and heaved. “Come on, Sanchez!” Standish somehow managed to maneuver Sanchez off the rocks and they trudged up the beach to where the rainforest touched the sand. Only then did Ezra allow Josiah to collapse to the ground. “I need to get Nathan,” Standish informed Josiah. “Please remain here.”
“I don’t… plan on… going… anywhere,” he puffed.
Ezra nodded uncertainly and patted Sanchez on the shoulder. He cast a worried look along the beach and up to the overhang where one of the signal fires was and quickly knelt in the sand. “Josiah…I need your watch,” he advised pulling the wristwatch from his arm. He held it up and positioned it to reflect the sun’s rays and flashed an SOS in the direction of the outcropping. He couldn’t be certain if anyone was up there, but on the off chance there was, at least he’d alerted someone to their predicament. He repeated the action once more before returning Josiah’s watch. “I’m going to head back to our base. And I’ll bring Nathan back,” he promised. “Hold on.”
Sanchez lifted his head off the sand and winced. “Hurry…”
Grim-faced and weary Ezra sprinted up from the beach. “Nathan!” Please be here. “Dr Jackson…you need to come immediately.”
Buck and JD rushed from the cave and seeing the Southerner’s agitation realized all was not right.
“What’s the matter, Ezra?” Buck queried.
“Josiah…He needs Nathan…he’s experiencing chests pains,” he puffed, trying to catch his breath.
“You the one who signaled from the beach,” Larabee questioned, arriving in time to hear Ezra’s explanation.
“We’ll find Nathan,” Larabee decided, “Ezra, go and wait with Josiah.” Chris faced Buck, but stopped and turned back to the Southerner. Realizing it may already be too late for Josiah he asked; “Do you want one of us to come back with you?” It was never easy confronting death, even harder to do it alone.
“No! Just find Nathan and bring him down to the beach,” Ezra called out as he was retracing his steps back to where he’d left Josiah.
Chris, Buck and JD mutually decided to split up in search of Nathan.
Larabee rushed out of camp and several minutes later bumped into Vin coming the other way.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Vin abruptly cut Chris off before he had a chance to utter a word.
“Shut-up and listen, Tanner. We need to find Nathan…Josiah’s in a bad way, could be his heart.”
“Shit. I saw Nate heading toward the fresh water stream a while back.”
“Let’s go get him, then.”
“No…I’ll fetch him…someone should be with Josiah.”
“Ezra’s with him. I’ll head back to base and pick up a blanket and Nate’s bag and meet you down the beach with Nathan.”
“Sounds like a plan. Do the others know?”
“Yeah, Buck and JD are out looking for Nathan, too.”
Vin grunted. “If I see ‘em first I’ll send them down.”
“Don’t waste all day…the way Ezra was acting I’m guessing Josiah ain’t doing so great.”
“I’m gone,” he called out, sprinting in the opposite direction.
Larabee arrived on the beach to find Ezra seated at Josiah’s head, talking softly to the gentle giant. He dumped Nathan’s bag in the sand and settled the blanket he carried over Sanchez. “How is he?” he asked the Southerner.
Standish relinquished his position and shrugged. “About the same,” he surmised, not elaborating further as Buck and JD arrived almost on top of each other.
Josiah groaned and rolled on his side. “Is Nathan coming?”
“He’s on his way,” Chris answered, raising his hand to shield the sun’s glare from his eyes, he added seeing Nathan and Vin rushing through the undergrowth; “A few more minutes, Josiah. Hold on.”
Nathan fell to his knees, placing his broad hand on the chef’s chest. “I’m here, Josiah. Tell me what the problem is.”
The others moved back to give the doctor some space and afford Sanchez some privacy. But none of them strayed too far. Ezra, Chris noticed, was the first to retreat. Since Jackson’s arrival, the Southerner seemed to distance himself from them. He noticed now that Ezra paid more attention to the rest of their group than Sanchez. Could be his way of coping… but he’d swear the conman was trying hard not to smile. Standish glanced up and Larabee shot him a glare, but Ezra had the gall to grin. What the hell was he playing at?
Chris waited impatiently while Nathan assessed Sanchez. He shared a worried look with Buck and flicked his gaze to Dunne. JD was terrified; it showed on his face and in his fidgeting. It didn’t come as a surprise to see Buck offer his support to the kid; it was something Wilmington was well-practiced at, having been there for Chris for many years following the death of Sarah and Adam. Vin stood perfectly still with his back to the group gazing out to sea; his shoulders rolled forward and his head lowered, unable to stand by and watch a friend die. Chris prayed it wouldn’t come to that. He returned his gaze to the grey-haired chef, lying calmly on the beach while Nathan pumped up the blood pressure cuff. Josiah had eagerly complied with Nathan’s requests and answered all queries clearly. Larabee thought it was odd…he’d naturally expected Josiah to look… terrible, but the older man appeared… strong and healthy. “Nathan, how is he?” Chris asked.
Jackson sat back on his heels, rolling up the blood pressure cuff and returning it to its case. He held up his hand forestalling further questions. He didn’t know what to tell them. Without modern medical facilities he had no hope of diagnosing Josiah’s condition. No heart monitor, no ECG machine, no X-rays…nothing! And he certainly didn’t have the medications available either. But was any of that necessary? “Blood pressure is reasonable, pulse rate is within normal limits and his heart sounds good, too. Chest is clear and he’s breathing without any difficulty,” Nathan concluded out loud. He glanced down at his patient and continued, knowing Josiah was coherent and listening. “Eyesight is not impaired; ears, nose and throat are okay, too. He doesn’t have a headache or any other complaints at this time.” No broken bones, sprains, strains, cuts, grazes or gashes. No open wounds or bleeding. No swelling, tenderness and certainly no infection and no temperature. Not even a concussion to report.
Josiah snapped open his eyes and grinned widely. “So what’s the verdict, doc?”
Larabee raised his eyebrows wondering the same thing.
Nathan twisted his mouth into a half grimace. “Indigestion?” he shrugged, hazarding a guess.
“Indigestion?” Larabee parroted. “Indigestion,” he repeated, spinning about and noticing Standish had started to snicker.
Sanchez sat upright tossing the blanket aside. He thumped his chest a few times and exhaled. “Reckon I’m hungry…I missed lunch,” he added at the mystified expressions thrown his direction.
Nathan crossed his arms and moved in front of Sanchez. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
He reached out and patted the doctor on the shoulder. “You just examined me, Nate, from head to toe. I’m fit as a bull. A perfect specimen of health.”
“I don’t understand,” Nathan followed Josiah as he walked down to the water’s edge. “Vin said you were having chest pains.”
Sanchez stopped short. “Yep…could have been that…”
Chris watched Standish bite his bottom lip and shook his head. “Was this your idea?”
“Mine?” Ezra pressed his hand to his chest and grinned innocently. This was too hilarious. “No—”
“It was mine,” the chef admitted calling out, terribly pleased with himself and the results.
JD looked to Buck in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
Wilmington scratched his chin and sighed. He stayed that way for several moments, eventually cracking up and laughing at Josiah plunging fully clothed into the surf with Nathan hot on his tail. “Near as I can figure, kid, Josiah pulled a quick one over us.”
“He was pulling our legs,” Vin added, also pleased with how things had panned out. He’d been racking his brain to come up with something to bring them all together and Josiah beat him.
“He isn’t going to die?”
“Not today,” Chris answered.
“Our Mr. Sanchez is quite the performer,” Ezra acknowledged, still grinning.
“Mr. Sanchez, how are you faring this fine morning?” Humor danced in his eyes as he sank into the collapsible chair beside the older man. He continued to grin, wondering how Jackson had convinced Josiah to spend the day in complete repose on the sun lounge with pillow and blanket. “Comfortable?”
“You seem to have acquired a few perks after yesterday’s… venture.” Ezra picked up the novel and thumbed through the pages before replacing it next to the bowl of fruit, water jug and glass.
“I did try and talk them out of it,” Josiah defended, shrugging, “but Nathan convinced me that there’d be no harm in taking a day’s rest. Wants me to keep my feet up…Just in case.”
“Truly a wise man.” Several minutes of silence stretched between them. “Perhaps I should leave you to enjoy your respite.”
Josiah nodded, waiting until Standish had left his seat before asking the question that had been playing on his mind. “When did you realize?”
Ezra licked his lips and grinned, showing the dimples in his cheeks. “Ah…that would be telling.”
“After you came back…from looking for Nathan…It was then…wasn’t it?” Josiah persisted.
Ezra raised his eyebrows and smirked. He had been caught up in the drama when they had been among the rocks, but he’d started becoming suspicious as they came up the beach. It clinched it when he discovered Josiah doing push-ups while he’d been waiting for the conman to return. Hardly capable of a man who’d suffered a heart attack. Ezra hadn’t let on that he’d known, but he’d been highly amused by the subterfuge. “I would never have suspected you of such deception.”
Sanchez picked up the glass and poured himself a drink. “It was a means to an end.” Hopefully now they could get themselves onto an even keel.
Ezra nodded his head in acknowledgement. “Indeed.” He’d been impressed by Josiah’s performance. He saluted his cap and left Sanchez to enjoy his reprieve. It wouldn’t last for long.
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