“And lay and do nothing because otherwise you’ll nag my head off about ‘proper neurological rest’.” Jonah said, without much heat since Jamie only ever laughed when Jonah stormed at him. In fact he liked Jamie more than Dare had seen him like many people, and as long as he had known Jonah he had had hundreds of acquaintances and people who liked him but beyond Dare himself, no real friends he let close to him, particularly not gay friends.
“But you bought the cottage, didn’t you?”
It was a dog friendly inn; there were several dogs laying under tables and Poppet regally ignored them with a tennis ball in her mouth, walking close to Jonah as they made their way through the crowd in the bar. It was busy tonight. Christmas music was playing over the speakers, although blessedly quietly, and large fires were roaring in the several hearths. Jamie waved from a table in the front bay window, one of the quieter tables that was surrounded by armchairs rather than upright chairs. Being the landlord, Mick had clearly appropriated what he wanted. The doctor, Tim Dunkley, was relaxed in one of the armchairs with a pint in his hand, and Dare went to the bar to collect drinks for himself and Jonah while Jonah took one of the armchairs at the table and accepted Jamie’s hug as Poppet lay down beside him.
“They’re the ones helping out with my boat.” Dunkley agreed. “Historical renovation of boats is one of their specialties, they’ve worked on the couple of living museum Wherries around the broads.”
“I’ve seen one or two go by.” Jonah agreed as Dare came back to the table with two pints in hand. “Magnificent things.”
“How is the work going on your boat?” Dare asked, taking a seat beside Jonah. Dunkley grimaced.
“It is, the chef’s great.” Mick said peaceably, passing Jonah and Dare the large restaurant menus. “What are you having this evening?”
“He’s got something wrapped around his hand.” Jamie was gone in a flash, dodging through the crowd with the ease of long practice. He was back a moment later with the bar’s first aid kit in his hand and the river police officer in the other, who looked fed up in his heavy police waterproof jacket and had a makeshift wrap of what looked like an engine oil rag around his hand which was well bloodied. Dunkley pulled up a chair beside him, indicating for the man to sit down and starting to unwrap his hand.
“Stay and eat, and then I’ll drive you home.” Mick said succinctly, leaning on the back of his chair to watch. “You can’t sail all the way to Potter Heigham in the dark with that at this time of night. Where did you find the boat?”
“We met while I was chasing another nicked day boat the other day.” Edward winced as Dunkley cleaned out several wide, bleeding grazes that covered most of the back of his hand.
“Everywhere.” Edward said expressively. “It’s never the same yard more than one night running, and with all the smaller yards closed for the winter I’ll bet plenty of thefts haven’t even been noticed yet. The boat gets taken, occasionally someone sees a boat empty apart from a few men speeding past in the early morning and then I find it dumped somewhere at a staithe. We’re used to equipment and fuel being stolen during the winter, but from some of the grass and oil and bits left in some of the boats I think it ties up with some burglaries our land team’s been investigating in the area. Boathouses and garages broken into, tools, parts and fixtures being pinched, all metal. I think they use the day boat to store it somewhere for later pick up and then randomly dump the boat in a different place.”
“We bought Eel Cottage on the Odham estate.”
“Jonah’s a boat designer.” Jamie informed him, and nodded with satisfaction as Edward looked up. “Yes, I thought that would grab you. British Silver in the Olympics three years ago?”
“Yes. Those are a bit private-”
“It’s ok.” Jonah gently took the camera from him as Jamie handed it over. The body on the bed in the picture was not recognisable as anyone in particular. Tubes from each orifice, machines all around it. It didn’t look or feel like him. Dare looked with him at the picture and under the table Jonah felt his hand close over his and squeeze. There it was on the camera screen. The turning point. The moment. The end of one time and the beginning of another.
“….How long?” Jonah said rather more quietly. Dare leaned on the back of the wheelchair, looking down at him.
“You don’t want to move on?”
Dare stooped to kiss him, picked up the pillows and with some reflection picked up a matching thick rug too.
“She looks beautiful!” Dare called. “Did you Christen her before her launch?”
“We’re doing it properly this year.” Dare said apologetically. “Or we’re having a go, we’ve never done this before.”
“Bright and twinkly is good.” Jamie kissed his cheek in hello and leaned against Mick as he was shivering slightly. “That yacht is gorgeous. Tim’s been raving about Jonah’s suggestions and him sorting out the spreader. The guy from the boatyard was quite struck with him too.”
“Jonah was ok with that?” Jamie asked him. Dare nodded.
“Dare!” Jonah called from the yacht deck. “Tim’s going to take her out around the broad, we’ll be half an hour – ok?”
“Think they’d take an offer for her? She’d be worth making it an offer they’d be daft to refuse.”
“Random and not far from a road.” Dare mused, fingers playing with Jonah’s spine where the bones disappeared down into the curve of his behind. “Neatishead, Ludham Bridge, two minutes walk and you can meet a car and be gone.”
“It’s here. There must be a boathouse further on but there’s a small staithe here by a path.”
Dare handed him a mug, returned Jamie’s hug and passed the other mug to Mick as Mick stepped aboard the Sealark.
“This is perfect.” Jamie agreed, taking a seat on the sofa beside Jonah. “You do have good view in this cabin, she’s really designed for spectating.”
“We were talking last night and we think we’re going to make an offer for her.” Dare took the steering chair with his own coffee, leaving Mick to stretch out his height and bulk on the other sofa and Poppet to circle round a few times before flopping on the floor at Jonah’s feet.
“We are.” Jonah agreed. “She feels like ours.”
“I think every boat I’ve ever had – and I’ve sailed since I was a kid – has been a friend,” Mick said reflectively, “Some more than others, but they all have different feels to them. Personalities. We saw the Swanning About for sale in a yard and fell for her on the spot.”
“With that name we couldn’t resist.” Jamie added. “It just seemed meant to be. The right boat does seem to find you at the right moment. Tim’s been nursing the Edie May along for about four years now, she was a wreck dried out in a barn when he found her. I just wish he’d find someone to mess around on her with.”
“Stop match making.” Mick ordered. Jamie gave him a naughty look over the edge of his glass.
“Will Edward be here this morning?” Dare asked. “I’ve been trying to phone his base this morning but no one’s answering.”
“It’s going to be a 999 job or calling him direct on his mobile,” Jamie advised, “The police are a bit pushed at this time of year. He very likely will be around, but I don’t know when?”
“Do you have his mobile number?”
“Yes.” Jamie pulled out his phone, found the number in contacts and handed Dare the phone. “Something you need to report?”
“It’ll probably be long gone before Edward gets here,” Mick said regretfully. “I don’t know what shift he’s working today-”
“We scuttled the boat.” Jonah topped up Jamie’s coffee and handed the coffee pot to Mick. “Put it down on the bottom of the dyke. They won’t find it and it won’t do the metal any harm for a few hours.”
“We’ll be here.” Dare said into the phone and ended the call. “He’s on his way and he’ll check Ludham Bridge, thinks he’ll be here in a couple of hours.”
“Yes. We probably won’t find all the turned over places until the new season starts, but at least we can say when the reports come in to come and pick this lot up.”
Mick pulled him close enough to kiss his temple. “We need to think about getting back anyway, it’s going to be busy tonight. We’ll see you two at one pm tomorrow.”
“It’s her first real trip since her restoration was finished.”
“Always takes time to shake a new boat down. I’ll go take him home.”
Mick look surprised but got up obediently. “I think we’re leaving. Dare, Jonah, see you tomorrow.”
The Police cruiser pulled away and the Swanning About’s engine started up, Jamie took in her ropes and waved as they followed.