Yanto awoke and opened his eyes. He felt as though his brain had stopped working. What day was it? Where had he spent the previous night? Why was there sand under his body? Memories made a tentative return, first recollections of Nye with that girl on his arm, then of leaning over someone's pool table. Yanto could barely find enough energy to roll over, let alone get up. A small wave slapped him on his face. He raised his head, then saw that he was sprawling on a sandbar. Dawn had broken. Clouds were the colour of rhino hide. Yanto scrambled to his feet. Sea shells cracked under his weight. Small white scallops and long razor clams broke. Yanto's teeth chattered and goosebumps rose on his body. He looked around with bleary eyes. He could see the beach but cold water lay between it and him. There were boats on shore, so near yet so far. Three gulls floated on the sea. He could have sworn they were glaring at him.
Yanto Morgan panicked. He cupped both hands around cracking lips and called for help. His throat was so dry he couldn't shout loudly enough. He coughed tried again and this time sounded louder. He felt as if there was molten lead in his bladder. Alcohol from last night caused him to stumble. Sharp pain made him clutch his head. Damp sand clung to his clothes and plastered brown trousers to wobbly legs.
Two figures ran down the beach and launched a small open boat. Hope rose in Yanto's mind. He waved strong arms and shouted "I'm here! I'm here!" They came closer, pulling on oars with their backs to him. Those gulls took flight to avoid them.
Finally the craft reached Yanto's refuge. The duo drew alongside him. He recognised Cox and Bladen. "Thank you, thank you!" Yanto cried. He flung himself into their boat with a clatter and a thud, sat down and let out several deep breaths. Bladen and Cox turned their craft around and began rowing back to safety.
"Ow did you get out there mate?" Cox asked.
"I don't remember, last night I was drunk as a lord." Sand made Yanto's thighs itch so he scratched them.
"We're sorry Mr Morgan," said Cathy's father, talking over sloshes from oars. "We should've kept a better eye on you."
"Don't be sorry, you just saved my life." Yanto shivered and pulled his coat more tightly around himself. As adreneline subsided he felt the morning chill more keenly. Grey waves raised their boat a little, then lowered it gently. Yanto emptied his bladder over the side.
The timber hull came to rest on solid ground. All of them got out. Yanto needed help. He staggered over shingle and it rattled beneath unsteady feet. His companions lent their support. They reached a flight of steps that lead down the sea wall. Yanto had to sit down on them. Bladen and Cox joined him. They needed a rest anyway. Stone felt cold underneath them, but their body heat started to warm it.
They waited for Yanto's head to clear. Cox and Bladen felt guilty but somehow managed to conceal it. Yanto hadn't blundered onto that sandbar by chance, they had lead him there while the tide was lower and left him. They had watched from on shore, crouching behind lobster pots, then heard his cries and rowed out to him. Both knew these shores and tides well enough to know when to go. On the steps Nye's Dad held his head in his hands. Cox shot Bladen a look that said "we did right." Cathy's father nodded.
Fishermen came down weathered steps, forcing the trio to move. Cox turned to Morgan the elder. "Your son's doin' a good job with us," Cox began. "Maybe now you see how important that is. I know I can only ask, but I'm askin.' Please let 'im stay 'ere."
Yanto furrowed his brow, then raised thick fingers to his forehead. He exhaled and released the smell of beer. Cox guessed that he was trying to think how to yield without seeming weak.
"You"re a determined man Mr Morgan," Cox assured him. "You survived an explosion, then managed to track Nye down. I respect you for that." He still despised Yanto for knocking Nye about, but now was not the time to say so. Nearby, two gulls flew down and landed on brown pebbles. Both local men held their breath.
To be continued.