9. Mystery

It was established the stranger was German, he told them his name was Jens and that was it. There were questions to be asked, but nobody on the island cared enough to ask them. Neither did anyone on the island speak any German whatsoever. None the less, he’d be a welcome addition to the community.

The islanders never bothered enquiring about other people’s comings and going, word generally filtered out in due course anyway but by and large everyone kept themselves to themselves.

Nora and Siobhan liked a gossip but seeing as they were the only two women on the island who lived within gossiping distance they had very little to gossip about. They mainly talked about how crap their husbands were in bed. Perversely they both already knew that, but that’s another story altogether.

Although the storm had abated and Brady had managed to get to the mainland and back, Brian had no intentions of going back yet. He had engineered his freedom quite skilfully, infact seamlessly he thought, so he was going to milk it for everything he could. Infact if truth were known, he was considering staying on the island. He had a sort of plan where he’d feign his own death, tell everyone he was going for a swim, leave a pile of clothes on the beach at high tide, live rough for a few weeks and return as Paddy, a student whose boat simply capsized in the storm. The accent might be a problem as black country and rural Irish was quite an eclectic mix and he’d probably have to explain the meaning of “mature student”

However, on second thoughts. The island folk were a canny lot and he doubted a single one of them, except maybe Gimpy or maybe Brady, would be fooled. To change his appearance he’d have to lose a shed load of weight first and that would take too long. His wife would have called the police by then and in any case, where would he get any clothes to fit him? There wasn’t a shop on the island to buy new ones from and in any case his body shape wasn’t made for “off the peg” clothes.
Little did Brian know, his wife wouldn’t have called the police, she wasn’t even in their home. She’d upped and gone to live with her mother in Lowestoft.

Brian planned on familiarising himself with the island a bit more, he’d procured a coat and planned to walk the whole way around the island. The old man’s belongings had been thrown out into the yard and Brian had found a moth-eaten old Barbour coat, but amazingly, both zips worked and four of the presstuds as well. There wasn’t a hood but it was still waxed so it would most likely be waterproof. It had a peculiar smell to it and after he’d worn it for a while he realised he was not the only living thing using that coat. But it was a coat, it was quite damp so whatever else was living in it would catch it’s death and die pretty soon anyway.

Wingnut the dog was delighted, had a new friend. Wearing his bed as well!
Brian struggled into his flea-ridden coat and set off up the track towards O’Driscoll’s farm. Wingnut was by his side. His fur had grown a little but unfortunately he was doing a whole lot more scratching than he was before because all the fleas had migrated from the bald side to the hairy side.

Brian plodded along, also having a scratch here and there. As the coat warmed up, so did the fleas. His theory yesterday that the wet weather would have killed all the fleas didn’t hold true. He had always held to the theory that you could get used to anything after a while. His theory was being tested to the full.

After just a few hundred yards he climbed over a style, Wingnut walked through an open gate adjacent to it. There was a stone built barn at the other side of the field, it was in a bad state from the weather and neglect. All one side was covered in ivy, but part of the roof was intact, the ivy covered that as well and provided shelter for the half a dozen cows in there. There was a huge pile of dry hay in the middle which the cows seemed to be playing a tug of war with. Pat O’Driscoll was sat on an old oil drum, swinging his legs, beating the drum with them to a tune only he knew.

“Mornin’ lad, nice to see yer”, said O’ Driscoll. “Have yer brought me bike back?”
“Sorry, no” said Brian, “I’ve let Sean have a go at mending it, I’ll pay for it of course, but it might be a day or two until Brady brings the parts from Bluebell End stores”.
“Ah, yer daft lad, mind, yer’ve got a few hundred quid haven’t yer” said O’Driscoll in a matter of fact way.
“No, not me Pat, it’s for Missus Kelly. I only get travel expenses” which was something he’d forgotten all about until now.
“Aah, yer shouldn’t have bothered wi’ bike, I never use it anyway, too hilly see” joked O’Driscoll, a plume of smoke rose from his pipe which momentarily took him by surprise because he couldn’t remember lighting it.

Brian didn’t see the joke but as he’d vowed not to care about anything ever again, he tried to pretend it hadn’t upset him and let out a subdued laugh. A cow let out a huge moo and then proceeded to have a never ending pee which caused both men to step outside the barn to avoid the splashback.

The stiff breeze cause sparks to fly from O’Driscoll’s pipe and blew straight into Brian’s face causing his eyes to smart. He blinked a few times to clear his eyes.
The cows moved en mass towards the door, obviously fed up with eating, and headed out into the driving wind. A warm draught followed them out. There was a tiny break in the cloud where a triangle of deep blue sky exposed itself but the dark grey clouds closed the gap and the skies darkened looking more threatening than ever.

“How is it with you and Missus Egan?” asked O’Driscoll out of all innocence.
“What do you mean?” said a startled Brian.
“Oh, come on, she fancies yer summat rotten. she bathed yer didn’t she, so she’s seen yer bits and pieces,” announced O’Driscoll like a man in the know.
Brian blushed a little then regained his composure to clear his throat and stuttered “I-I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yer three piece suite, Allcock & Balls” said O’Driscoll in a kind of loud whisper.
“Yeah, I know what that means but I can’t imagine what you mean about Nora” choked Brian.
“Nora is it? Aye lad, if you say so” said the old farmer, the last few words trailed off into the wind.

The German had been given the room next to Brian in Egan’s.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing” snapped Joe to Nora who was stood at the top of the stairs with a pint pot, the rim flat against the wall.
“Jesus wept” whispered a startled Nora loudly. “Nothing” she said, trying to pretend she was cleaning the glass.
“You were trying to listen to him weren’t you?”
“Yes, what is it to do with you?” she spat.
“He’s a guest, in our pub for Christ’s sake”.
‘Oh is that what he is, I thought he had just been washed up in a boat and was living for free in our pub” Nora exclaimed with more than a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

“What if he’s a German spy” she hissed.
“WHAT?” exclaimed Joe. He looked at his wife incredulously, as if she’d just crashed the car, which wasn’t possible because they didn’t have one, but he gave her that look. “Are you on the gin or something, what do you mean “what if he’s a spy?” Do you think he’s a spy? What is there to spy on on this Godforsaken pile of mid Atlantic stones?”
“I don’t know?” she said, fumbling for even the most simple answer but none was forthcoming.
“You’re nuts.” he said.