The Ink Chase
A Serial in eight parts
Previous Episode 1
But it was nice and calm when later I sat out in the verandah, with Diane and a tall scotch and ice. The lambent moonbeams braided the shadows with their silver thread, while the stars above weaved a shiny web against a clear sky. No inky phantasmagoria there, just a plain rustling in the leaves and the simple smell of rain in the winds coming in from the Andaman Sea.
“How was the run today,” she asked, moving her hand in slow circles over her belly.
“How is the baby?” I leaned in and briefly placed my head in her lap. The bairn was up and kicking.
“Another three months…why don’t we move into the islands till it comes? It’s a lot healthier, and the infirmary and doctors are all there,” she said, swatting a whining mosquito off her pointy knee.
“Maybe.” I tilted my cane chair, and placing my feet up on the bamboo railing, rocked lazily. “A lot easier for me to manage things here on the mainland. The monsoons are here, the seas are very rough – I don’t want to risk a sea journey in your condition.”
“I hear the prisoners work the gardens and get you the best fish.”
“Why, isn’t the long line of servants here quite enough?”
“Yeah…but there is no one for miles around – just this grand, Governor David Barry’s Bungalow, its high walls, and its silence. Out there you have rows of quaint cottages up on the cliff with their bright flower gardens and…the women’s gossip.”
“I could ask the officers to send in their wives to visit you. And fill you in on the natter.”
“That would be so colonial, David…and obvious!” she swung her fair mane and looked away.
“I am sorry – I’ll try to stay more at home then – keep you company. I’ll even try to keep an ear out for tidbits – we have a fair amount of scandals going on all the while. And the prisoners in the cellular jail lead a pretty colorful life themselves! Oh, I could even ask mamma to sail down from Largs.”
“No thank you, she doesn’t keep so well herself – the journey would kill her. I am fine – I’ll manage.”
I smiled at her. “I know.” I clasped her hand and her fingers wound tightly around mine.
“It’s a bit loud today, unquiet,” she observed suddenly.
“Why, I haven’t noticed anything at all.”
She cocked her head. “Listen – the birds are still wakeful at this hour. Uneasy – calling out to each other.”
“There must be a leopard prowling – or a python climbing up to warm eggs in a hornbill’s nest.”
“No – then it would be one tree, or two. It’s like the whole jungle stirring – and the shadows – look they’re longer – it’s so dark all of a sudden!”
I peered into the dark; a whirling mist, like black hair floating in the rain-tossed wind, loomed above the treetops, and then climbing down to the grey parks it smothered the white jasmine swathe, strangling it of its sweet perfume. Misty blue ink suffused the trembling dew on the grass blades and like a fast spreading oil-swill it gathered together and headed towards us.
“What is this vile mass that marches onward? Is it a locust swarm?” Diane grabbed my hand and pulled me inside the house. She watched with baited breath through the door’s wire mesh. The mist curled up like a black cat at the staircase, lingered awhile and then swept away in a flurry of flying black fur.
The moonlight glowed through once again; the stars shimmered in relief, and the wailful choir of the redbreast ceased, while the fragrance thankfully returned to the night.
“What was that?”
“Black storm clouds…playing on our mind probably!” I draped my arm around Diane’s waist, and kissing her in the hollow of her neck, steered her away to the bedroom.
To be continued