Loneliness - Moving On

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 9

Once Corporal Baines had left, Jus collapsed into a chair. He looked tired and frightened.

"Will this nightmare ever end Alex? So many people are being put to so much trouble and all because of me."

"Not all because of you. You mustn't think like that. What happened between you and Paul wasn't anything that unusual, you said yourself that it happens all the time at boarding school. You were just the pinch-point, the catalyst that triggered a hate campaign. You became the focal point but it could've been anyone of a hundred boys."

"I can see that but it's escalating out of control. It's bad enough someone gunning for me but now you're implicated by association, I've placed your life in danger and that's something I can't accept."

"You need some fresh air. Come on, let's go for a walk."

" I can't go out! I'm too scared Alex!!"

"Listen Jus. We're safe as houses, you heard what Peter said? We've got our own private army looking out for us. Trained killers who wouldn't hesitate to put those skills to good use if the necessity arose. We've got to get on with our lives otherwise whoever it is that's after us has already won. C'mon. Get your shoes and socks on and let's get off this damn boat for a bit!"

"Where are we going to go?"

"There's only one place to go when you're in this frame of mind. The tree, we're going to get the hounds and go to the tree!"

Jus managed a grin.

"Okay then. Let's do it!"


There's an expression made famous by the 'Goons' that goes "Only a fool would be out on a night like this."

Okay it wasn't night but the weather was pretty dire. Sleet blown along by a vicious north-easterly wind fit to strip the flesh from your bones but for all the world it could've been mid-summer, good to be away from the boat and safe in the knowledge that although we didn't see a soul on Balmore Hill, out there somewhere was at least one possibly two armed men whose only interest was to watch over us and keep us out of danger.

"Do you really think they're out there somewhere Alex? I know they're trained in stealth but I would've thought the dogs would've picked up on them?"

"I'm pretty sure they are. Maybe they're down-wind of us or something. We took our time leaving the garden, they must have seen us go so yeah, they're around. We better not get too touchy-feely! That would be soo embarrassing!"

"Oh shit and there was I planning on making love to you under those leafy boughs!"

"Yeah right! Remember 'shrunken tackle time'? Well the moment you dropped your kegs yours would shrivel up and fall off in this weather!"

"But what if I found somewhere nice and warm to put it?"

" Don't!! There's nothing I'd love more but it can't happen so don't get me all excited!"

True to form, as we entered the treeline the dogs sped off as if by some unheard command, we only had to follow their paw-prints to find our way to the tree. The snow hadn't managed to penetrate around its base so we sat down with our backs to the trunk and opened our flask of coffee.

We sat there for about twenty minutes then suddenly Spatz stood up and growled.

This time it was my turn to be scared.

"Oh God! Someone's coming Jus!"

"Where, who? Couldn't it just be he's seen a rabbit or something?"

"No rabbit boys. Sorry to alarm you but you must follow me, do what I say when I say it, okay?"

We spun around to see Corporal Baines standing about ten feet behind us.

"What's going on Peter?" I asked.

"You've been followed and not just by one of my boys. They're good but not that good so hurry along now. Get your dog's together and follow me please."

Jus was ashen-faced. Peter calmed him down.

"You're not in any immediate danger Justin, just do as I ask and everything will be fine. Come along."

We were lead deeper into the woods where again, fortunately for us, the snow hadn't succeeded in reaching until we came to a high barbed-wire fence which we followed until we saw a door, chained shut by a very rusty padlock.

Peter pulled a length of wire out of his pocket and after a few seconds of fiddling around, opened the lock and ushered us through the door then relocking it behind us motioned us to sprint across a piece of open ground towards a very large and dilapidated house.

"Alexis? Get your dogs to jump through that window then I'll lift the pair of you though then I'll follow you."

Whatever this place was it obviously hadn't been lived in for many years. Every ground floor window was broken, plaster was falling off the walls in chunks and the air smelled of rotting wood.

"Okay lads. We're safe here but if our friends out there are of any use at all I've a few more tricks up my sleeve which might just surprise them!"

"But we've left more footprints in the snow than you could shake a stick at. They're bound to follow us aren't they?"

"I sincerely hope so Justin. Watch this."

Peter pulled back a large piece of carpet from under the widow we had just come through revealing a large trap door set into the floor and again using the bit of wire, picked the lock and swung it open. A rush of fetid air filled the room making me feel rather sick but Peter seemed not to notice as he pulled some long thin pieces of wood off the ceiling where the plaster had come adrift. These he placed over the opening in the floor and then finally he replaced the carpet, masking his booby-trap.

"Right boys, follow me and we'll await our visitors."

Peter lead us out of the room and into a large hallway then up a flight of stairs where we doubled back down the landing and into a room which I assumed was directly above the one with the trap door.

This part of the house seemed to have survived the ravages of time far better than the ground floor, this was confirmed when Peter flicked a light switch illuminating our surroundings.

"Won't they whoever they are see the lights Peter?"

"No Justin. One-way glass at the windows up here. We can see out but they can't see in. Look. Here they come now, just like lambs to the slaughter! See that part of the floor? Also made of the same glass so let's watch the fun shall we?"

Two men approached the house, each holding a hand gun. One of the men spoke as they neared the window.

"So the little queer fuckers' recon they can hide in here then eh? Not a fucking chance! C'mon, let's go earn our money."

Both men jumped through the window, hit the carpet and with a piercing scream, fell through the hole in the floor landing with a splash.

Peter laughed.

"Well they'll be out of harm's way down there. Now we can call the cavalry. I'll radio Jonty and get him to call the police but first I'd better disarm them."

He reached across and opened what looked like an old school desk, inside of which was a large control panel and holding down a toggle switch spoke into a microphone.

"Thank you for gracing us with your company gentlemen, I trust you're comfortable.

In a moment I'll be switching on some lighting so you can see your surroundings. You will notice there is only one way out and that's twenty feet above you. The walls are glass-smooth, there are no ladders so there you stay until I decide to pull you out but in the meantime you are to surrender your weapons, all of them and to this end I'm lowering a basket into which you will deposit your guns, knives and whatever else you're carrying together with the entire contents of your pockets. Leave nothing in your possession or your life will become even more miserable."

"Who are you, you bastard? Let us out of here. We aint done nuffin' wrong!"

"You are in army custody and leaving aside possible charges that the police might care to bring, you illegally entered a sensitive military installation and as a result of which you are subject to military justice.

I would like to remind you, you have no rights as a civilian here, and we need not even tell anyone that you're in our custody so I would suggest you cooperate fully if you wish to see the outside world again. Do I make myself clear?"

"You fucking shithead! I'll kill you for this!"

"Wrong answer gentlemen."

Peter flicked another switch illuminating the cavern below, the two men knee-deep in brackish water then a small hatch slid open revealing a grate and three brown rats appeared behind it.

"Would you like some company? My little friends are very personable, possibly very hungry as well and just so as to make you aware, their bite is definitely worse than their bark."

"Oh no! Not rats! Okay, okay! Send down the basket!"

"All in good time. All in good time.

First off I need to know what made you trespass on Ministry of Defence property."

"We never knew that? We thought it was just…… well, private!"

"Oh it's definitely that! Very private! But you've not answered my question. What is your reason for being here?"

"Run-aways. Couple of kids, needed to find them and take them home to their Mum's and Dad's."

"Do you always carry guns when looking for run-aways?"

"Well…… no not always but these two are very dangerous. They escaped from a mental hospital. We got us guns just in case they went crazy."

"Oh okay. So…… you're looking for a couple of kids who maybe ran away from home, maybe escaped from a mental institution, they're both as dangerous as rabid dogs so you arm yourselves and when you've caught them, you want to take them home to Mummy and Daddy or perhaps take them back to that mental hospital.

I do wish you'd make up your minds."

"You cunt! We're being paid to find them. Satisfied?"

"Not entirely. Let's change the subject shall we? Your weapons, all of them, in the basket right now!"

Peter pushed a button and a wicker basket attached to a length of chain was lowered from the ceiling above them and down into the pit.

The men placed both hand guns into it followed by a nasty looking hunting knife.

Another button pushed and an alarm sounded on the control panel.

Peter looked at us and smiled.

"What a pair of arseholes! Talk about clueless!"

He switched the microphone back on and addressed his prisoners.

"Now I don't know which banana boat you think I came over on or is it that you don't understand the Queen's English. I said all weapons! You, the tall one. You've a cut-throat razor stuffed down your sock. Lose it into the basket NOW!!"

Peter watched as the razor was deposited into the basket then reeled it up out of the pit and through a hole in the ceiling below and into the room we were occupying. He looked at the guns.

"Cheap Russian rubbish. Most likely jam the moment they tried to use them."

He then lowered the basket and instructed them to empty their pockets and once done, told them to remove their shoes and place them alongside their personal possessions then the basket was raised back up to us.

On again with the microphone.

"Well done boys. I do believe we have an understanding finally. Now I want you to raise your arms above you heads, count to ten then relax."

As they complied, Peter watched the control panel.

"They're clean. No warning noises. Pass me those shoes will you?"

He turned them over and peeled back the heel of each shoe in turn. The left shoe of each pair contained a razor blade.

"These guys are pro's. Thick as pig shit perhaps but professional hit men. Dear God, you really have rattled somebody's cage haven't you! Look in their wallets. Any identification?"

Jus and I took a wallet each and studied their contents. Jus was the first to speak.

"Yes. Apart from money there's a train ticket, Paddington to Reading return and a drivers licence in the name of Patrick William Doyle."

"Date of birth Justin?"

"Yes. 5 th June 1940."

"Sweet! Have you found anything Alexis?"

"Same. Money, train ticket and a drivers licence in the name of Sean O'Connor. Can't make out any date of birth, it's a Southern Irish licence."

"Let's have a gander at that please."

I passed it over to Peter who looked at it with interest.

"It's a forgery and not a very good one either. He obviously landed on his arse 'cos it's wet and the print's starting to run! I'll dry it out before it's totally ruined."

"So where do we go from here Peter? Call the law?"

"Not just yet Alexis. I'd rather like to find out who exactly they are because once they're handed over to the police, they'll have access to swanky lawyers and they'll clam up for sure."

"How are you going to do that? Photos, fingerprints?"

"Photos we have a-plenty. Fingerprints might be a start but I've other methods."

"Torture?"

"I wish that were an option! No, we use stealth, the same way we apprehended them.

Allow them some of the better things in life, get them to let their guard down and we will have them eating out of our hands."

Just then a second soldier walked into the room.

"Good man Izzy. Did you manage to get everything?"

"Yeah but with one exception Pete. The off licence didn't have any Irish whiskey so I took a flyer and got some scotch instead. I hope they like Chinese food. There's enough to feed our battalion!"

"Suitably laced I hope?"

"Well I'm not going to try any of it!"

"Okay. Good work. Get everything set up in the recreation room. Give me the nod when you're ready and I'll make my peace with those bastards."

Peter turned to us.

"What we're doing is this.

We feed them up, give them clean, dry clothing, plenty of alcohol and plenty of weed. They have the run of the recreation room, billiard table, darts and the like, get 'em stoned and or pissed and let them tell us everything."

"What was all that about lacing their food?"

"A mild sedative, a truth serum if you will. Untraceable through blood tests so we're quid's in."

Peter's radio bleeped at him. He answered the call.

"All set Pete. I'll assume the look of a down-trodden Private and show them through."

"Roger that Izzy. Give me five okay?"

"Sure thing. Out."

"Show time boys."

Peter switched on the microphone.

"Okay you two. My commanding officer has instructed me to be lenient much against my better judgement but I have to obey orders.

I am going to lift you out of there, you can have a hot shower and while your clothing is being laundered, you will be provided with cover-all's. A hot meal is being prepared for you and you will have the use of our recreation room and bunks.

Tomorrow morning at eight o'clock sharp, you will be escorted off these premises and I strenuously advise against returning."

Peter hit a button and very slowly the floor of the pit began its accent.

The two men, finding themselves back in the room, turned to each other.

"What the feck is this place?" The first hint of an Irish accent.

"Shut the fuck up Michael. They might be listening. Anyhow, how the fuck should I know! I steer well clear of the British army as well you know."

A door the far side of the room opened and the solitary figure of Private Izzy Moea walked in.

"I've been asked to show you the way to the reception area. Please follow me and don't deviate from the route, it might not be good for your health."

"Right, right! Sure a little chink like you is going to be a match for us!"

"Maybe not but I do advise against wandering off and by the way, I am not Chinese, I'm Nepalese."

"Same fecking difference! You all look the fecking same anyhow, don't they Liam!"

They followed Izzy as requested and on reaching the shower block they were shown their cover-all's.

"Please enjoy your shower. Leave your clothes here and I'll make sure they're laundered. Use these overalls and when you're ready, that door over there will take you down to the recreation area. Please ring the bell on the table and I will serve your meal."

"I hope it's a Chinese laundry you're using! Oh and Chinese food of course!!"

"Chinese food yes. Laundry no."

Izzy left the shower block, anger clearly written all over his face.

Peter spoke into the radio.

"Cool down mate. Your turn will come! As soon as they're under the water, grab their clothes and get someone to take them down to 60 then get ready to do your best waiter impression."

Izzy looked up at a camera and grinned, gave a 'thumbs-up' sign and disappeared.

"Okay we can relax for a bit. You've questions you need answered?"

Jus was literally staining at the leash.

"Where are we? What is this place Peter?"

"Okay but I need your word that nothing I tell you gets repeated, understood?"

We both nodded our heads in agreement.

"Good. First a short history lesson.

During the last war, communication between the allies was of paramount importance and equally important was the interception of German radio traffic.

You've probably seen Caversham Park House with all those radio antennas on the roof, that was and is now a BBC relay station but during the war it doubled as a listening station monitoring enemy broadcasts.

Where we are now was an annex of that operation feeding vital information from Caversham Park to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire where most of the genius code breakers were centred so this place was pivotal in getting one step ahead of the enemy."

"But it looks so sad now. Isn't it used anymore?"

"It may look sad Justin but I can assure you it's not!

Yes it's still very much in use. I can't tell you why and to what purpose, I don't have the necessary security clearance to know details but there are probably sixty maybe seventy people working in this building as we speak."

I interjected.

"Where? This place is about to fall down!"

"Not so Alexis. You'll notice every route we've taken, every route Izzy has taken has been around the periphery of the building. You've not stepped through a door that takes you deeper inside the house, have you?"

"So…… everything is like an inner chamber?"

"Yes. The house might appear to be about to fall down but it's like a film set. Made and engineered to look that way.

The place is regularly maintained, even the ivy growing up the walls is managed, all done during the hours of darkness for the sake of privacy of course."

Jus was still curious.

"I've cycled past the entrance on quite few occasions and for as long as I can remember there's been a great big tree growing in front of the gates. How do people get in and out?"

"Now that my dear Justin has to remain a secret!

Just remember, you must not go telling anyone about this place. Your Grandfather will be very aware of it Justin, he's on the operational committee but your folks Alexis? No disrespect but they needn't know."

Jus hesitated before responding.

"They might ask though? What if I have a word with Granddad? Could he tell Kaz and Tim?"

"That would have to be his decision. I'm only a Corporal, Sir George is a much decorated man held in high regard and revered in the theatre of war. Not for me to say either way Justin."

I had to bite my tongue. Sir George had told me that he held Peter in high regard as a man he was truly in awe of given his cap badge and what it represented. For Peter's sake I kept my council.

Jus, seemingly satisfied with the answers, begged the next question.

"What happens now?"

"We wait until Izzy radios in to serve our cocktail of diamorphine and really mouth-watering Chinese food, let them find the whisky and cigarettes laced with marijuana and see what pops out of the woodwork. It's all being taped so I suggest we take a break. It might be a long evening."

"Look I know they're bad people but you're not going to hurt them are you?"

"No Justin, we're not. A mild sedative in their meal just to relax them, it's up to them if they take advantage of the drink on offer, they'll smell the cannabis in the cigarettes so again it is their choice whether to smoke them or not.

We need to find out who they are and who's the paymaster and so whatever evidence we manage to glean has to be admissible in a court of law. Believe me, this has been drummed into my skull by your DCI in Newbury!"

"He knows what's going on?"

"Every step of the way. We couldn't do this without authorisation and the complete backing of the police. We're military not law enforcement. Personally I'd not waste time on these people but…… I have to tow the party line."

"I don't suppose there's any chance of Alex and I going back to our boat is there? I'm seriously beaten up and I need my bed."

Peter thought for a moment before replying.

"I have to stay here and Izzy with our friends so let me see if I can get someone to back up on the other two guys at Mapledurham, alright? If I can get everything in place then I can't think of any good reason why you shouldn't go home. Give me ten minutes guys and…… please don't leave this room!"


Half an hour later we were in the back of a Land Rover taking us back to the rather more comfortable surroundings of 'Spook'. Our driver was going to be the backup for Peter and Izzy but offers of a tour of the estate were turned down.

"Thanks lads but we know the layout like the back of our hands. You're safe as houses and then some. Nobody will get within sight of your boat no matter from what direction they approach it but our guess is, we have those who meant to harm you in safe keeping if you know what I mean!"


The stove had gone out and the boat felt chilly and damp, not the welcoming place either of us were expecting.

"Fuck its cold in here Jus! Put the kettle on and I'll relight the fire."

"Coffee?"

"Yeah and I'm going to break the habit of a lifetime and put a shot of brandy into it!"

"That sounds like a plan. That'll make for a good night's sleep if nothing else."

"But only after you…… you know?"

"Know what?"

"Do what you threatened to do up at the tree? Make love to me Jus but slowly, make it last. Today has been horrible and I need to feel you inside me, take away those pictures in my head,"


For the first time in an age, I didn't wake until eight in the morning, Jus of course was still sound asleep!

I slipped out of bed and gave the stove a poke then peered between the curtains.

A clear, bright and frosty morning, so cold that ice could be seen floating down the river but it takes severely low temperatures over many days to completely ice over the Thames so there was no reason to be concerned.

Just then a wee small voice from our bedroom.

"Alex? You making tea?"

"It's on its way. I needed to kick the stove back into life first."

"You're a star. It must be my turn to make it next mustn't it?"

"It was your turn about three weeks ago but hell will freeze over before you wake before me! Don't worry about it Jus."

"I need to talk to you. Please don't be too long?"

"Problem?"

"No. Nothing's wrong, I just had a weird dream last night, nice but very weird and I want to tell you about it before I forget it."

The tea brewed, I climbed back into bed beside Jus.

"Okay? What's with this dream?"

"You'll laugh! We were walking back up from Caversham where we go past St Mary's Church and you suggested we go inside. That's weird in itself being as you don't have a faith but anyway in we went.

Inside was just about everyone we knew, Granddad and Grandmother, Tim and Kaz, the guys from the Mill, DCI Lockwood and the army lads, everyone. The upshot was we got married! I told you it was one very strange dream didn't I?"

"I'm not laughing, neither do I think it's weird.

It's something I'd thought about, you know, if it was ever possible for us to be a proper couple and marry…… would you…… marry me Jus?"

"Without any hesitation. Are you proposing to me Alex?"

"Yes. Could you see yourself happy to spend the rest of your life with me? If the answer to that question is 'yes' then if it were ever possible, would you marry me please Jus?"

"Happily and without reservation. Whatever happens, I'm yours for life. I love you so much Alex, so much I can't put it into words."

We went back to bed, not surfacing until mid-afternoon, the tea I'd made earlier now cold and untouched.


At six that evening there came a knock on the roof. I responded to find DCI Lockwood standing on the jetty.

"Hello Alexis. May I come aboard?"

I stepped aside and ushered him in, quickly closing the hatch against the bitter wind.

"I thought I'd update you both.

We've taken two men into custody, the two you saw up on Balmore Hill. Now I don't need to know what you saw or where you saw it, really I don't! Methods used by the MoD are to say the least, unorthodox if legal. They have their own set of standards which unfortunately aren't extended to the civilian police but that said, it has provided us with vital information, all of which is admissible in court and in any case these jokers might still be looking at charges of Accessing a Secure and Restricted Area and if they do and that prosecution is successful, they could be looking at many years in military custody, rather more punishing than civil prisons and made more serious because they were carrying firearms.

Our holding charge is one of carrying illegally held firearms, so far we have no concrete evidence of a planned attack on you but our legal-eagles are going through transcripts of conversations that went on at…… wherever to see if there's a case to put pressure on them. I have to say boys, my gut feeling is that there's insufficient evidence for us to push it further but it isn't all bad news.

The chap with the UK driver's licence is from Northern Ireland, the chap with the forged licence is from the Irish Republic and that would suggest a link to the IRA, something our Counter Terrorism unit is investigating especially given the source of the guns being Russia, a regular supplier of arms to them.

Now we come to the question of who's paying them? In truth, we have no idea at the moment but given what's gone on before with you Justin, we have lines of enquiry which we are actively exploring."

"Are we safe though?"

"Perfectly safe. Your friends from the Ghurkhas are still watching over you day and night. You couldn't be in safer hands. Look, I'd better go or my wife will give me hell! I promise that I'll keep you updated okay?"

"Thanks sir. We're sorry to be the cause of so many problems."

"Justin? Think about it for a moment.

We might be halfway to solving a potential double attempted murder case and we may well find we've uncovered a terrorist cell on the UK mainland. We don't see those as a problem or if we did, we'd love to be faced with them every day of the week. Just go about your everyday life as normal, alright?"

We both showed DCI Lockwood off the boat and once he'd walked up the lawn and disappeared into the avenue of trees leading to the drive we sat down outside despite the chilling wind.

"So what do you recon Alex? Just a touch scary or what?!"

"Yeah very. It's gone from bullying, to assault with intent, to attempted murder maybe twice, to links to terrorism. All very frightening.

How much do you know about this boy who was the organiser?"

"Not very much. He was two years above me remember but he was talked about as being totally clueless to the point of ignorance, then again how much of that is fact? No idea."

"Did you ever meet his parents?"

"I saw them, you could hardly miss them! Flamboyant probably sums them up. They flaunted their wealth like having a bright yellow Rolls-Royce, both of them draped in gold chains and various other loud jewellery and maybe this is being unfair but they were common. No manners, no niceties, they had no idea about deportment and how to behave in polite surroundings. You don't need money to know how to behave do you?"

"I suppose it's all down to how your parents raised you. Mum and Dad don't have endless amounts of cash but I was always taught to be respectful and polite to everyone. That doesn't cost anything, everyone in the world can afford that.

I wonder where they got their money from? I mean you do hear about people from poor backgrounds making good."

"Search me."

Jus shook his head.

"I mean, a lemon-yellow Roller! How naff is that! I'd rather walk than be seen in something like that!"

I laughed at this remark.

"I'm 100% with you on that score! I wonder if their house is as gauche. High gates with lion heads on the pillars, probably called 'Dunroamin' or something!"

"'Mineanhersgaff'. God, I can see it all now! Sipping cocktails by a kidney shaped swimming pool surrounded by plastic palm trees and with an inflatable dolphin floating on the water."

"Not today I think."

"Not today what?"

"Sitting outside sipping cocktails beside the pool not!"

"Yes well…… perhaps you're right. Maybe a diamond encrusted Jacuzzi off the master bedroom then."

"Now you're talking!"

Just then, another knock on the roof. I went forward and opened the hatch only to be greeted by Izzy.

"Hey Izzy! Come on in. Want a cup of coffee?"

"No coffee thanks Alexis. A glass of water would be good."

I drew up a stool making space for Izzy next to Jus on the couch.

"Is there a problem?"

"No problem, just a change of direction. We need you lads to be up promptly in the morning, latest by eight o'clock. Can you manage that?"

Jus looked at him and grinned.

"He's always up at the crack of dawn, it's me who hates mornings but I can do it once. What's going down?"

"Well as you know our two friends are now in police custody and while that takes the pressure off for a while, letting our guard down can't and must not be allowed to happen so in the morning I'm to take you into Caversham where you will provision your boat in readiness for the journey."

"What journey's that?"

"Oxford. You are to be escorted to a safe mooring in the centre of Oxford."

"It was mentioned that we might have to move but why now? Those arseholes are locked up so danger over right?"

"Look Justin, I'm just a squaddie who follows orders but there's a chance whoever is behind this has been really pissed off so the police think it best to get you to a safe haven just in case they haven't read the writing on the wall."

"If they're in custody then that means they've been given access to legal advice. Who's representing them?"

"I'm not party to that information. You'd have to talk with Mr Lockwood but getting back to your move, an army launch will be here at eleven tomorrow morning, two of the crew will take your parents boat and you yours. Either myself or Pete will be with you on board, two of our boys are staying behind to look after the house and once in Oxford you will be very safe as it's a secure SBS installation."

"SBS?"

"Special Boat Service. An elite commando regiment not to be messed with. Something akin the American 'Seals' except we think they're better than the yanks!"

My turn to speak up.

"The river's still running high. Will we be okay?"

"You made it back from Caversham weir so there shouldn't be a problem and anyway, no one would expect you to transit up to Oxford in these conditions so that gives us an advantage in case your enemy try to make a move. You're being escorted remember?"

"Diesel, water, gas. Got to make sure we have full tanks. We're light on coal as well."

"All that will be done before you get back from shopping in the morning. Everything has been thought through Alexis. We plan our every move, remember? Now enjoy your evening and don't be too late to bed. Tomorrow is going to be very tiring. Night boys."


After Izzy had left the boat, a weariness hit me like I'd been punched.

"Can we go to bed Jus?"

"You don't want me to……."

"No. I need to sleep. Just cuddle me?"

"I can do that. Are you nervous about moving the boat?"

"Yes, a bit. I've only ever done it under my Dad's supervision and then only when the conditions were favourable but tomorrow we'll be master before God and on a fast running river."

"You can do it, I know you can. We'll be fine. C'mon, let's hit the sack."

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