21. The Dawning

The sky over the Atlantic looked unforgiving. By contrast, in the east it was deep blue changing to an illuminated coppery glow as it got closer to landfall. Within minutes it had disappeared leaving a dark emptiness except for a few lights burning in Bluebell End. Brian was sat on a bollard at the end of the jetty under the single orange lamp, staring into the darkness wondering what the hell he’d got himself into.
He took a long draw on his cigarette, went dizzy for a few seconds and wondered why he’d started smoking again. It was a whole week since he’d arrived on the island in a surreal scene resembling something out of weird dream. He wondered what had happened to his car. What was his wife doing this exact moment? She was infact with her mother in the Pridley St. Jude village hall learning how to crochet.

It was a bit of a surprise for him to feel so at ease with what he’d done. Of course, it was all in his mind so far, staying on the island indefinitely, but he felt so comfortable with the island folk. He resolved to lose some weight so he wouldn’t look out of place. Nobody else on the island was overweight, infact most of them looked like people did after the war when there was food rationing. It wasn’t for the want of trying. He’d been to the local slimming club with his wife albeit reluctantly, apparently it was a trendy thing to do back in the 60s.
He got weighed and tutted at and stared at. So he didn’t go again. Since then he’d applied a fatalist attitude, he wasn’t going to join in this trendy carrot and lettuce eating fad, that was for rabbits. He’d eat what he wanted and if it made him fat then he’d walk to work twice a week to get it off. After three weeks of walking the 3 and a half miles to work in the middle of winter, getting soaked from cars deliberately, in his mind, driving through slush whilst he struggled along the footpath.

Gimpy startled him as he emerged from the darkness into the dim light, ‘penny for them’ he said, pulling up an old lobster pot to sit on.
“Nothing much, just wondering what will happen if I just pack my job in” replied Brian.
“Where will you go?” enquired Gimpy. “Not sure yet. I’d like to stay here, it’s nice and peaceful, everyone’s so friendly”. Gimpy had no answer for that and no questions either.

They both heard it. A faint voice, a man’s voice, coming from out at sea. They got up simultaneously and hurried over to the breakwater at the very end of the jetty. Neither could see anything except white horses riding the occasional breaking wave. The voice was clearer now, obviously getting closer to the shore, presumably in some boat or other.

“I’ll get a torch from Kelly’s” yelled Gimpy as he set off running down the jetty. He was excited, never in the history of the island had so much happened in such a short time since the IRA man arrived with a boat loaded with rifles in 1916.
Brian shouted towards where the voice seemed to be coming from. “Here, here” shouted back the voice.
He could see a shape silhouetted against the rocks outside the harbour rhythmically moving with the swell. The words “Hilfe bitte” came clearly and loudly through the night air. Brian was almost certain the words were German. What the hell was going on, first one German and now another!

Gimpy arrived with the torch. “Here, shine it over that side near the rocks” hissed Brian.
“Why….?” enquired Gimpy puffing and panting for good effect.
“What’s happening?” asked Sean nonchalantly as he arrived on the scene.
“There’s another bloody German out there in a boat” answered Brian.
“Shine the torch……there, there it is……what the hell, it’s my feckin boat” said Sean “It was round the other side of the island in Blacks Bay the last time I left it!” he exclaimed. “It wasn’t there yesterday” said Gimpy. “I was round there looking for Milligan’s sheep.

“Get the rope ready, I want to find out what’s going on” ordered Sean.

As the boat floated closer, they saw that the man was wearing a thick woollen sweater similar to the one the dead man was wearing. The small outboard motor was missing as were the nets and the two crab pots that normally lay under the small bow cover.
“Just throw him the rope” ordered Sean. Nobody responded so he picked it up, looped it round the bollard and threw the remaining loops towards the boat. The German caught the rope and looped it around the outboard mounting.
Unceremoniously dragged in backwards, the German cast an eye over the three men. As he climbed up the ladder onto the jetty, Sean couldn’t help notice he looked remarkably dry for someone who’d been adrift in a boat for goodness knows how long. He put his arm round him to guide him along the jetty and the German reacted by ducking his head.
There was something suspicious about the way he had reacted. He’d not uttered a single word since he’d got out of the boat. He didn’t make any attempt to communicate at all. Brian and Gimpy had just watched it all in silence.

Sean tied the boat up and walked with the German towards the bar, Brian and Gimpy following closely. Joe looked up from behind the bar. “Well what’s this then?”
“I don’t know” said Sean. “He’s another German” he said looking at the German for some sort of recognition “but seems reluctant to talk”.
“Sit him in the corner” said Joe, I’ll fetch Jens.
The German finally spoke “Jens? Jens is here?” he said softly.