Twilight shaded the sky. Only a small shard of iridescent light traced the horizon as the sun gradually, bit by bit, sank
into the ocean bordering their slice of South Seas paradise.
“He should not be out there like that, Mauriri.” Lianni said, clearing the dishes on she and her husband’s
deck table. The attractive native woman looked beyond into the distance, scrutinizing the man sitting on the beach. He was
watching the waves but not truly seeing them. After supper David Grief had taken a bottle of spirits, procured from his own
pants pocket, and fixed his eyes on it for a long while. From his other pocket he pulled a half sheet of folded white paper.
He glanced at it once, an odd expression coming over his face, and stuffed it back in. Preoccupied, he thanked Lianni for
the wonderful meal. David appeared so thoughtful and sad she wanted to say something but just did not have the words that
could make it better. She watched as he turned and shuffled off the deck. “He did not bring his jacket.” Lianni
persisted, “At least take him a blanket; something to wrap around his shoulders. The breeze off the water is making
Mauriri nodded, understanding his wife’s unspoken plea. She wanted him to talk with David. He really was the only
person who could get through to him at a time like this. Mauriri recognized his friend’s mood; the slumped shoulders
and hung head. David Grief was not feeling the cold, as Lianni had suggested. Right now he was consumed by deep contemplation,
melancholy and probably, more than anything else, a sense of substantial responsibility and heartache. With a sympathetic
sigh, Mauriri kissed Lianni quickly on the side of her head then pulled a coverlet from the back of a wicker chair. He preceded
forward, his sandaled feet sinking deep into the white sand as he made a beeline to his partner.
When he reached Grief, Mauriri carefully dropped the blanket over his friend’s shoulders. He was not entirely surprised
to receive no reaction. David was already a quarter way through his bottle of brandy. Mauriri sat beside him and sifted sand
through his fingers. He did not say a word, waiting for the other man to speak.
Grief was staring down at the label on the bottle, “Napoleon, eighteen sixty five.” he murmured after a few
moments, “Isabelle said it travels well.” He reflected and took another swallow. “She was right.”
Mauriri nodded but remained silent.
“I saw William Reed off yesterday. Before we parted he told me I was a good man.” Grief snorted a sarcastic
laugh, “Can you imagine me being a good man?”
“You are, David.” Mauriri said.
“Good men don’t take advantage of the people they love. I took advantage of you, Mo. I took advantage of Lavinia
and Isabelle too …” Grief fought the urge to punch his fist into the sand, “Why? Because I’m selfish
bastard. I just don’t give a damn.”
“What happened between us was long ago, David. Lavinia has always understood what you are and the way you live your
life. And Isabelle …” He paused, knowing the pain a wrong word might cause his slightly inebriated friend, “You
didn’t know. None of us knew.”
“Ignorance is a very weak excuse, Mo!” Grief barked with more venom than intended, “I was lazy and she
was ... ambitious. I knew Isabelle wasn’t going to wait around.”
“She knew the risks. We all do.”
“I didn’t give her a choice.”
“Yes you did, David.”
It may have been easier if they had merely received a letter, Mauriri pondered, or if William Reed hadn’t been so
unwavering in his quest to tell them the whole wretched story. But Isabelle’s brother felt he owed it to he and
David. They were, after all, Isabelle’s closest “family”. Mauriri closed his eyes a moment, recalling when
Reed used that word. Partners, yes. Friends, yes. Family? Besides William, a brother she seldom saw, who else did Isabelle
Mauriri really hadn’t come to realized how special Miss Reed was, how much a part of the islands she had become,
until they heard the news. At the bar he and the others, including Lavinia, Clare, Colin and David had settled back to reflect
on Isabelle’s accomplishments and their camaraderie.
The woman’s good business sense had The Rattler turning a profit. It was possibly the first real income earned
since the Windham Run two years ago, and that had been more of a race than actual commerce. Both he and David
were thrilled to see their cut when she had presented the books to them last month. Mauriri added money to an account at a
mainland bank, a small nest egg for Tahnee and Tevaki. He wanted his children well educated, prepared to face the world outside
of their home island. David on the other hand, having no wife or children to consider, made a few significant upgrades to
his much cherished motorcycle. It had never run quite as well as it should after he crashed it into a fruit stand a few months
“Isabelle bought new Bibles for the church.” Colin said reflectively, during the gathering at Lavinia‘s
beachside tavern. “It was about four months ago. I told her I would make mention of her generosity in our church bulletin,
thought it might bring her a bit more prestige if others knew, but she declined.” His spectacles fogged ever so slightly
as he looked down into the glass he held, “Isabelle said she didn’t want anyone to know. It was between us …
and God.” Colin smiled mildly but his voice was hoarse with emotion, “Then she winked at me …”
Clare placed a hand on his shoulder, responsive to her friend’s sentiment, but addressed everyone as she spoke. “Do
you remember the advertisement placed in our island newspaper a few weeks ago? The one hundred dollar reward for the return
of that little native girl who went missing?”
“Isabelle?” Lavinia asked, behind the bar, fastidiously drying a tumbler. She appeared only slightly surprised.
Clare nodded. “When the girl was found Isabelle gave money to me and I, or rather the newspaper, paid those responsible
for bringing her back to her parents.”
“Always a lady full of surprises.” Mauriri chuckled mildly in fond recollection. He had joined the conversation,
telling all of Isabelle’s incarceration of a couple years ago, how she had managed to hold on bravely until he and David
could rescue her from a detestable and brutal island prison.
However, it wasn’t until later, as he lay in bed with his loving wife, that Mauriri realized David Grief had never
said a word the entire night. He took it all in but was merely quietly reflective as the rest of his friends worked through
“Isabelle was a high-quality woman, David, but she wasn’t perfect. She had faults. She could have waited
for us but she didn’t. You cannot blame yourself.”
“The hell I can’t. I baited her, Mauriri. I dared her to go alone.”
The sun had set over an hour ago but still they sat on the sand, talking. The only object alighting the beach now was the
full moon above them.
Lianni poked her head out once from her hut-home, making certain all was well, but could see she was not needed. Mauriri
had matters well in hand. The lady of the house quietly called her goodnight to husband and friend and went to bed.
‘Captain Grief, you are so stubborn.’ Mauriri thought and was quietly amused by an irony. This was yet another
trait David and Isabelle shared. They both had tempers too. As full of merit as she was, Isabelle could be a hellcat when
provoked, superficially selfish at times, and even greedy. Yes, a lot more like David than either of them were willing to
However, this knowing sometimes made Mauriri anxious. He had been certain that one day Captain Grief would see all
these similarities, and many of the other favorable components that encompassed Isabelle Reed, and he would leave the South
Seas with her on The Rattler, never to be seen again. A foolish notion, to be sure, because Isabelle loved it here,
as did David, but if she ever gave him reason to change his mind … would he cave? Just how close had the two of them
become? After all, why did Isabelle remain when, it seemed, Captain Grief had already explained she was not the lady
Of course, that had been over a year ago, before Isabelle had helped him out of a tight corner, when it seemed Captain
Grief was ready to lose his treasured ship forever. Isabelle was also instrumental in bringing he and David back together
when it appeared their partnership was doomed. Could things have changed between she and David? Had Mauriri somehow missed
it? In spite of everything, physical beauty aside, underneath it all the lovely Miss Reed was a good, resilient woman; a marvelous
lady as a matter of fact, and that facade of self-interest was present only to hide a secretly generous soul. Something they
had all eventually discovered -- but too late. Perhaps David had seen it all before any of them and that’s why he saved
her, all those months ago, when the rest thought prison the best place for the common thief she embodied.
“Did you see William Reed’s eyes when he talked to us?”
“Reed does not blame you or any of us, David. He knew where Isabelle had been, the business venture she was on before
she came to he and Alea’s island. He also knows how lucky they are, not being contaminated when Isabelle found herself
ill. She recognized the signs before it was too late for them. By not ignoring what she knew was the truth she saved a lot
of people, David.”
“Someone should have been there to save her.” Grief whispered, taking another swallow of brandy. “I
should have been there.”