Here is the last chapter of The Island, released to a thunderous indifference . Will I ever finish it? I don’t honestly know…
Linda had taken the arrival of a stranger in the house in her stride. She was not the kind of woman that flustered easily and the occasional strange visitor was a by-product of Frank’s business so she had learned to accept strange faces around the table without comment.
This man Slater was different though. He claimed to know Frank from his student days.
‘Oh, Frank and I were quite the pair of radicals back when we were at Edinburgh Uni. Student politics was a good way to meet girls.’ He smiled but his bonhomie had a forced air about it. ‘Of course that was all years ago. We’ve all moved on a great distance since then.’
‘And what do you do now then Mr Slater?’
‘Just Jack, please. I work for the Post Office believe it or not. I’m based at Mount Pleasant in London – it’s one of the busiest sorting offices in Britain.’
‘Really? That must be interesting.’
‘I don’t know if I would go as far as that but it’s a living – the mortgage won’t pay itself, especially not at London prices.’
‘That’s the price you pay for living in the big smoke.’ Frank told him. ‘I dare say that you could probably buy a big chunk of this Island with the kind of cash it takes to buy a decent house down there.’
‘You’re not wrong. Cindy – that’s my wife, would love to move out to the countryside somewhere but you have to go where the work is don’t you?’
Linda started to clear away the dinner things.
‘Can I help you with those? I’m a dab hand at washing up.’
‘No need,’ Linda told him. ‘We might not be on the mainland but we have a dishwasher. I’ll get these and leave you boys to catch up.’
‘Drink?’ Frank asked. ‘I’ve got some beer in the fridge.’
‘I wouldn’t say no.’
Frank returned with two bottles and an opener.
‘Do you need a glass?’ he said. He popped the metal cap with a hiss of escaping gas and passed one of the chilled bottles over to Slater. Beads of moisture studded the glass making its surface slick to the touch.
‘Nah, bottle’s fine.’
Both men sipped their drinks in silence for a moment.
‘So, it’s been like ten years since I saw you last.’
‘More than that – thirteen.’
‘You seem to be doing alright for yourself. Business good is it?’
‘It’s more of a sideline. I’m not a big player if that’s what you mean. I have a few contacts on the mainland who appreciate my out of the way location. I pick up a few deliveries off-shore for them and arrange to forward them on to destinations unknown – not a million miles away from what you do yourself come to think of it.’
Slater raised an eyebrow.
‘Nothing heavy, no powders or pills – I won’t have anything to do with that shit – all 100% natural fibres if you take my meaning. It pays the bills and gives Linda and me enough left over to afford a reasonably comfy lifestyle.’
‘Sounds like you’ve got it made – provided the police never come calling of course.’
‘It goes without saying.’
Linda stuck her head around the door. ‘I’m going to turn in if nobody minds. Will Jack be staying with us?’
Slater looked at Frank.
‘If he wants to.’
‘I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble – I’m sure I could still blag a room in the local hotel.’
‘Wouldn’t count on it – we’re not into high season yet but it’s getting close.’ Frank told him.
‘Honestly, it wouldn’t be any trouble – the spare room is already made up.’ Linda said.
Slater raised his hands. ‘Ok, if you’re sure it’s no trouble.’
‘That’s settled then. Frank will show you where to put your stuff. G’night.’
She left the two men to their conversation.
‘I’ll get us another drink,’ Frank said. ‘Fancy something a bit stronger?’
‘Don’t go away.’