5: Jack’s back

The yacht was his pride and joy, at 35 feet of battered wood and rusty nails hardly the biggest or proudest in the yard, but it gave Jack his freedom, and that made it the biggest in the world. The Island Dreamer. For him, the sails gave it a classic thrill that sunk the neighbouring stink-boats into the water.

He told people he’d won it in a card game, he thought the story had an old school roguish charm, although the reality was a bit more cut throat and a lot less charming. That was a side of Jack he didn’t want known, a side he didn’t want to admit to himself.

He busied himself preparing for the voyage ahead on the Port Vila jetty. While Neri scrubbed the inside cabins he did the out, checking the rigging, mopping the deck, smoking a cigarette before the off. The sun glowed warm as he worked, another beautiful Vanuatu day.

A wave of embarrassment washed over him when he realised company would soon be approaching. He hastily pulled his T-shirt back on. The scars that lined his long, lean back still shone white against the deep tan of his skin after all these years.

He had a bad feeling about the job. Taking that imperious bitch to Crab Island to retrieve her dead husband’s corpse was not the run of the mill sightseeing tour that usually made his commission. It wasn’t as though the body would ever be found anyway.

Unfortunately, he was cornered in the Waterfront Bar when the offer came, and there were too many eyes watching to refuse. The pretence of his life had to be maintained, and “happy go lucky Jack” would never turn down such good money. He wasn’t ready to escape to his new life just yet, so the charade had to continue.

Jack wasn’t like the other foreigners that wheeled and dealed on the islands. He didn’t want to rip off the locals, he loved them, he wanted to join them. For now though, he couldn’t turn down such an obvious cash grab, it would raise too many questions if he refused, could risk too many probes into who he really was, what he did and what he had done. Until he could run with Neri he was stuck playing a rictus grin with those he despised.

The arrival of his cargo at the dock added a new twist. Stupid asshole that he was, Jack hadn’t figured on the kid being there. But there they were, the tall thin blonde hand in hand with her blonde munchkin, carrying a rucksack each, striding towards him down the jetty. The girl had a teddy bear sticking out of the top of hers.

Jack jumped off the deck and held out his hand. “Whoah there cowgirls,” he said. “I thought the deal was for one, not one and a half.”

Blake’s icy stare cast his hand down. “What, you thought I was going to leave my daughter in childcare on this island? Seriously?”

Jack motioned her to one side. Blake released Madison’s paw reluctantly. “Look,” he whispered. “You really think it’s a good idea for your child to search for her father’s corpse on a remote island? What if we find him? Think of the smell on the way back. Y’know, trauma…”

“She’s her mother’s daughter,” said Blake, stare not melting. “She’ll deal. Besides, there’s isn’t going to be a corpse.”

“Well, okay, apart from that there’s the health and safety concerns.” Jack knew even as the words came out they weren’t going to wash. “Y’know, insurance, and the sea can be a rougher mother than, uh, y’know a boat isn’t always the safest place for a small…” Even he wasn’t convinced.

Blake looked over at the Island Dreamer. He’d already lost his case and she was ignoring there was one. “Is this thing even going to get us there?” she said.

Jack sighed, then smiled. “Hey, it did the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.” He patted the hull.

Blake looked at him blankly. Damn, no-one ever got his Star Wars references. Suppose that was the downside of living in paradise.

“Whatever. Just tell us where to stow our shit.” Blake glanced back at her daughter and nodded.

“Uh, sure, I, Neri!” Jack called to his beloved and his love popped her head out of the cabin, smile even wider when she saw Madison.

The little girl laughed when she saw her new friend and scampered forward. She halted in front of Jack and stared up at him. “Hello captain,” she said. “Permission to come aboard?”

Jack looked down at his extra cargo. “Sure kiddo, knock yourself out.” The girl bounded onto the deck giggling. She was a heart melter alright. Jack sighed. Just another boat trip, he told himself. What could possibly go wrong?

TO BE CONTINUED

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