Jed's single room house made from woven palm fronds glows in the light of battery lanterns. Lightning stabs, thunder rolls and rain lashes down outside. Jed, lounging on a bed consisting of low wooden frame, planks and blankets, stands up, moves to the glassless window and lowers the raffia blind. Kami and Akolo, sitting on the plank flooring, scramble up in alarm.
Ofa sweeps the floor.
Jed tells him, “You're not at work now, Ofa. Relax.”
Ofa puts the broom against a wall and sits in a wicker chair.
Lazarus Hornby, an American well into his sixties, gnarled, a permanent black patch covering one eye, his soaking wet T-shirt sporting a skull and crossbones motif, flowery Bermuda shorts sagging round his hips, comes through the doorway holding a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a lighted battery lantern in the other. “Ahoy there, me hearties! Party time!” He stumbles inside, plonks the lantern on a table, bangs the whiskey down beside it, takes off his blue sailor cap, shakes off the water, scratches his bald head and puts the cap back on.
Jed sinks down on his bed. “Captain Lazarus Hornby himself. Did you remember to bring the ice over from Rockyway?”
Lazarus shakes his head. “Clean forgot, buddy. Sorry. One of those days. Not a single passenger on board coming back. Must be the weather. Mind you, I went over empty as well. Here . . . have a sup of this. The beer will keep.” He offers the whiskey bottle.
Jed shrugs his shoulders. “No wonder you lost your captain's license in California. Oh well, that uncooked fish stored in a box full of lukewarm water will have to go. I'll find some mugs.”
Akolo chimes in. “I'll do that. Hi Mister Hornby.” He goes to one end of the room and gathers four mugs from a shelf.
Lazarus swigs from the whiskey bottle. “Listen, I could go home to work in the USA any time. I happen to like it here. Anyway, I ain't got nothing to go back to.” He sits on a wooden chair at the table. “So we have the lovely Kami and her little kid brother Akolo joining us. Must be something important you want to talk about, Jed.”
Akolo places the mugs on the table, pours whiskey and hands mugs to Lazarus, Jed and Ofa before pouring some for himself. He sits on the floor. Kami joins him.
Jed puts his mug down on a makeshift shelf, a strip of wood resting on blocks of wood near the bed. “During the war my father spent time on Goodway and had the good fortune to be given some valuable diamonds by an old African man from what used to be the Belgium Congo.”
Lightning flashes, thunder cracks and rain lashes the roof.
Lazarus slurps from his mug, staring at Jed. “Go on.”
Jed continues. “Seems this guy held a grudge about treatment back home. He grabbed some diamonds and turned up here en route to deliver them to the allied forces to help the war effort. He was dying when the war ended and gifted them to pop, who'd looked after him. Pop arranged his burial on Goodway after he died.”
Lazarus grins. “So that's why you chucked in your high flying advertising job in the Big Apple. How come you know all this?”
“My pop told me before he died back in The States not that long ago. He sealed the diamonds in a tuna can and hid it because there was no way he could take them with him after the war. All he managed to tell me is he hid them in a cave on a beach.”
Lazarus grunts. “Pity. Could be any one of a hundred caves.”
Jed nods towards Kami. “You finish the story, Kami.”
Kami leans forward. “My grandfather saw Jed's father take the tuna can into Sharpstone Cave.”
Lazarus wipes his mouth. “Never! Well would you believe it. Canned diamonds. Sharpstone? It's on the other side of the island. Boy, that cave is treacherous. Narrow, dark, twisting, not much headroom. And folklore says it's haunted. Nobody goes there anymore.”
Jed stands and crosses to Lazarus. “I need your help, Lazarus. You've got some caving experience.”
“Me? Now wait a minute. I'm an old man.”
“Well at least come with me . . . show me the ropes.”
Lazarus swallows the remaining whiskey in his mug and adjusts the eye patch. “Well, maybe. But you'll have to be patient for a day or two. I've got business to attend to on Rockyway first.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish