Blood Sport Part 3

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Hestilldidn'tbelieveit,butashewasnowhappythatIshould,sinceitmeantthatIwouldgototheStates,heraisednomoreobjections.Withashrugandaruefulsmilehetossedmeadarnedbrownsweater,whichhungroundmelikeatent;andIpickedupmyownwetclothesandfollowedhimoutintothesuns.h.i.+ne.

PeterandLynniebothgiggledatmybaggyappearance,thenervousshockstillsharpintheirvoices,especiallyLynnie's.Igrinnedatherandruffledherhair,andmadeasiftokickPeteroverboard,andsomeofthetensionloosenedintheireyes.Inanotherhalfhourtheywouldhavereachedthecompulsivetalkingstageandanhourafterthattheywouldbebacktonormal.Nice,ordinarykids,withniceordinaryreactions.

Iclimbedwearilyupontothecabinroofandspreadoutmyclothestodry.MyshoeswerestilltherewhereIhadsteppedoutofthem,andabsent-mindedlyIputthemon.Then,standingup,Ilookedacrosstotheweir,andbacktotheheftypostwithitsnotice;DANGER,andattheinnocentemptypunttiedupbehindtheFlyingLinnet:andIfoundmyselfthinkingaboutthelegendoftheSirens,theseanymphswhosatonarocknearawhirlpoolandwiththeirprettyvoicesdrewpa.s.singsailorstowardsthem,tolurethemtotheirdeath.

CHAPTERTHREE.

Thepunthadthenameoftheownerscrewedontothesternonasmallmetalplate.Thelock-keeper,consulted,saidthat.i.tcamefromaboatyardaboutamiledowntheriver,nexttoapub;youcouldn'tmissit.



'That,'ImurmuredtoKeeble,'iswherewehadourdrinksthismorning.'

Hiseyelidsflickered.Hesaidtothelock-keeper,'Isupposealotofpuntsfromtherecomeupthroughyourlock?'

'Theysuredo,onafineSundaylikethis,'heagreed.

'Didyouhappentonoticethisone,withagirlandayoungmaninit?Thegirlhadlongfairhair,whitetrousers,andapinks.h.i.+rt,andtheboywaswearingtightpalebluejeansandaredandyellowchecks.h.i.+rt.'

'Ishouldsaytheycameupbeforemydinnerbreak.Ican'trememberanyonelikethatthisafternoon.'

Thelock-keepereasedthewhite-toppedhatbackonhisheadandeyedtheboatslininguptogointothelock.Hewasayoungishmanwithanairoflong-sufferingpatience,theoccupationalresult,nodoubt,ofalifespent.w.a.tchinganendlessprocessionofincompetence.People,hehadsaidmatter-of-factly,fellintohislockeverydayoftheweek.Near-drownings,however,wereofnospecialinteresttohim:hetoooftenhadtodealwiththeunsaved.

'Wouldyouknowthemagain?'Keebleasked.

Thelock-keepershookhisheaddecisively.'Notachance.AndifIdon'tgetbacktomylockthere'llbealotofbadtemperscomingthroughthegatesandaslikeasnotwe'llbefis.h.i.+ngoutanotherone...'

Hegavemeasketchyfarewellsaluteasoneofthefewwhohadgonedownhisweirandwalkedaway,andstrolledunhurriedlybacktodealwithhisSundaygoinghometrafficproblem.

'Wemayaswelltowthepuntbacktotheboatyard,'Keeblesaidthoughtfully.'We'vegottoG.o.downpastthereanyway,andtheywon'tbeabletospareanyonetocomeandfetchitonabusydaylikethis.Andmaybethey'llknowwheretheboyandgirlcamefrom...'

Andmaybetheywouldn't,Ithought:buteventhemosthopelessquestionshavetobeasked.

'I'dliketolookatthepost,'Isaid.

Keeblewasagreeable,butLynnieandPeterandtheirmotherwerehorrifiedwhentheyfoundwherewewereproposingtogo,andsaidtheywouldwaitonthebank.Inarow,withanxiousfaces,theystoodguardoverthepunt,whileKeebleneatlymanoeuvredtheFlyingLinnetupstreamalittlewaythroughthedowncomingcruisers,andthendriftedgentlyacrosstowardsthepost.I,standingonthesternseat,caughtholdofthecrossbarwithitsemphaticwarningandclungontoitwhileKeebleputtheboatintoreverseagainstthedragoftheweirstream.

Oncetheenginewasthrustinghardenoughtoholditsown,sothatthetensiononmyarmsslackened,Ikneltdownontheseatandtriedtodowhatthegirlhadbeendoing,topa.s.saroperoundthepostfromonehandtotheother.ThetendencyofthetwotonFlyingLinnettodriftawaycouldn'thavebeenmuchlesstodealwiththantheweightofthepunt,butevenallowingalsoforthefactthatmyarmswerelongerandstronger,itwaseasy.IsecuredtheropeandgaveathumbsuptoKeeble,whostoppedtheengine.Thenwithonetoewedgedandthenarrowsideoftheboatundermypelvis,Ishovedupthesleevesofthebrownsweaterandleaneddownandovertoinspectthescenery.

'ForG.o.d'ssakebecareful,'Keeblesaid,hisvoicesharpoverthenoiseoftheweir.

Iturnedmyheadandlaughedathim.

'Wehaven'tanymoredryclothes,'hepointedoutscowling.'Nonethatyoucangetinto.Ifyoufallinagainyou'llhavetogohomewet.'

Smiling,Iturnedbacktothepost.Butfeelandlookhow Imight,therewasnothingoutoftheordinaryaboutthesquarest.u.r.dywhilepaintedbaulkoftimbersetrock-likeuponendintheThames'bed.

Keebleshruggedandsaid'Itoldyouso,'andsteeredhisboatbacktothebank.

'Howaboutfingerprintingthepunt?'Isaid.

'Youneverletup.'

'Youshouldbegladofit.'

Thelonglineofpastoccasionswhennotlettinguphadledtoausefulharvestroseupbetweenus,andIsawhisconvictionwaver.

'Allright,Gene,ifyou'resure.'

'GetRabentodoit.He'sthebest.'

'Allright.Tomorrow.'

'Howaboutthepolice?'

Hepursedhislips.'It'snotourusualterritory.MoretheirsIagree.b.u.t.they'renotlikelytotakeyourtheoryseriously,ortoactonit,unlesswetellthemwhatyourjobis...andimpressthemwithit.No,I'mnotinfavourofthat.Wecouldjustgoalongwiththisquietlyonourownforalittlewhile,Ithink.'

'Sothatifnothingturnsup,wewon'thavemadeb.l.o.o.d.yfoolsofourselves?'

Allhisfacialmusclescontractedforasecond.'Youarenotpaidtoturnyourperceptionsonyourboss.'

'Iprobablyam.'

'That'sapoint.'

Theboatgroundedgentlyagainstthebank,andIhelpedJoanandLynniebackonboard.Peter,onhisfather'sdirections,steppedintothepuntandhandedhimupthemooringrope,whichKeeblefastenedtothecleatontheFlyingLinnet'sstern.Then,towingthepunt,wetookourturnintothelock,explainedwhatweweredoingtothelock-keeper,andcruiseddownstreamtothepubanditsnextdoorboatyard.

Afl.u.s.teredmiddle-agedboatmantherewastryingtocopewithreturningfamilypicnicpartiesandabunchofyouthsandgirlswhowantedtofillinthehalfhourbeforethepubopenedatseveno'clock.Thelateafternoonshoneredlyonhisbigsweatingfaceandhisfreckledbaldhead,andwehadtowaitwhilehejuggledhiscustomersprecariouslyinandoutofskiffsandpuntsandtooktheirmoneyandwarnedtheyoungcouplesthat.i.twasanoffencetobeontheriverwithoutlightsafterdarkandthattheboatyardclosedatnine-thirtyanyway.

WhenKeebleatlasthadachanceheaskedtheboatmanifhehadseenthegirlwithfairhairandtheboyinaredandyellowchecks.h.i.+rtwhohadhiredapuntthatmorning.

'Seen'em?Isupposeso,I'vebeenhereallday.'

'Imean,doyourememberthem?'Keeblesaidpatiently.

'Wherearetheythen?'Theboatmanlookedroundsuspiciously.

'They'vegone,'Keeblebegan.

'Thenwho'sgoingtosettleup?'saidtheboatmanbelligerently,thislastproblemlookingtobejustonetoomanyforhistemper.

'Oh,Iwill,'saidKeeblesoothingly.Hetookhiswalletoutofhisbackpocketandunfoldedittoshowtheusualthickishwad.Keebledidn'thavetoliveonHerMajesty'spayandworkedfromconviction,notneed;hisbeermoneyrepresentedaweek'swagetome,andhisboatayear's.

'Howmuchdotheyoweyou?'Hehandedoverwhattheboatmanaskedandofferedafiverontop.'I'dliketohirethispuntforthiseveningandtomorrow.'Hesaid.'Isthatallright?'

Theboatmantookthemoneywithouthesitationandmadeafewhalf-heartedeffortstoappearcautious.

'Where'llyoubetakingit?'

'Henley,'Keeblesaid.

'Youwon'tleavethecus.h.i.+onsoutifitrains?'

Keebleshookhishead.

'Allrightthen.'Theboatmanhadalreadytuckedthenotesaway.'Andyou'llbringitbacktomorrow?'

Tomorrowafternoon,'Keebleagreed.'Now,aboutthoseyoungpeoplewhotookitthismorning...'

Unexpectedlytheboatmansuddenlyleered.'Iremember'em,'hesaid,'cometothinkofit,theywasthetwowhohadn.o.businesstobeouttogether.'

'Whatdoyoumean?'Keebleasked.

'Well,see,thisgirl,shesaidlike,whatifheroldmanhadputdetectivesonher,whatwouldtheysayifshewentoffalldaywithhiminapunt,andhowshe'dsaidshe'donlycomeoutaslongasitwasnothinganyonecoulduseinadivorce.Andthefellowinthechecks.h.i.+rtturnedroundandsaidoldmoneybags,meaningheroldman,see,wouldneverfindoutwherethey'dbeen,hewasinFranceonbusinesswasn'the,orsomesuch,andthentheytooknotethatIwa.s.standingtherehearingandtheysortofnudgedeachotherandshutup.ButIreckonastheywereoffforabitonthesidesee,anddidn'twantnoonetocatch'em.'

'Exactly,'saidKeebletomewithanothertouchofI-told-you-so.

'Andverynicelydone,'Iagreed.'Artistic.'

'Youhaven'tseenthemsincethismorning,Isuppose?'Keeblesaidtotheboatman.'Doyouhappentoknowhowtheygothere?'

'Car,'saidboatman,wavinganarm.'Theycamefromthecarparkbackthere.'

'Whichcar,doyouknow?'

HegaveKeebleapityingstare.'Look,there'scarsinandoutallday,whatwiththepubandus.AndI'mlookingattheriver,see,withmyhandsfullan'all,andIcouldn'ttellyounoonewho'scomeandgonenorwhattheycamein,b.u.t.theymusthavecomeinacar,becausetheycomeinthemorning,andthere'sn.o.busesalonghereonSundaysbeforehalf-twointheafternoon.'

'Thankyouanyway,'saidKeeble,sighing.'You'vebeenveryhelpful.'Headdedanotherpoundtohisoverpaymentandtheboatman'seyesswivelledrapidlyfromthepubtotheclockovertheboathousedoor.Stilltenminutesuntilthebaropened.Iproceededtofillthem.

'Didtheyoungman,orthegirl,orbothofthem,speakwithanyspecialtypeofaccent?'Iasked.

SincehespokebroadBerks.h.i.+rehimself,theboatman'shesitationwasunderstandable.'Theytalked,'hesaid,considering,'liketheydoonthetelly.'

'Notmuchhelp,'Keeblecommented.

'Howdoyoulashtheendofyourpunts'mooringropes?'Iasked.

'Eh?'saidtheboatman,puzzled.

'Doyoulashtheendoftheropestostopthemunravelling?'

'Oh,Igetyou.No,wesplice'em.Turntheendsbackandsortofweavethemin.Las.h.i.+ng'snogoodasitcomesundonetooeasily.'

Iunwoundthepunt'smooringropefromtheFlyingLinnet'ssterncleat.'Thisoneiscomingundone,though.'

'Let'sseethat,'hesaidsuspiciously,andIgaveittohim.HetwistedthefrayedunravellingstrandsinhisstrongdirtyfingersandhoveredinwhatIguessedtobeafairlyusualmixtureoffuryandresignation.

'Thesebleedingvandals...excuseme,ma'am,'heapologisedtoJoan.'

'Thesesoandso's,theytieuptoatree,see,orsomething,andcometheywanttopushon,theycan'tundotheknotsiftherope'swet,andtheyjustdon'tbother,theycutthroughtheropeandofftheygo.'

'Doesthatoftenhappen?'

'Everysummer,wehasthistroublenowandthen.'Hepulledtheropeupstraight,measuringitslengthwithhiseye.'There'sagoodfourorfivefeetgoneoffthisone,Ishouldn'twonder.We'vebeentalkingofswitchingtochains,b.u.t.theycangetintoholyterrorsofknots,chainscan.Here,'headdedtoKeeble,'you'dbetterhaveanotherpunt,onewithabetterrope.'

'Thisonewillbefine,'Keeblesaid,fasteningitonagain.'We'llseeyoutomorrow.'

HetowedthepuntdowntoHenleyandrightintothegarage-likeboathousewhichkepttheEnglishsummerofftheFlyingLinnet.Thepuntwa.s.securedalongsidebyPeterandhisfatherandeveryonedisembarkedalonganarrowboardwalkcarryingthingsliketheremainsfromlunch,newspapers,bathingtowels,andinmycasewetclothesandaloadedjacket,outthroughtheboathouseandintoKeeble'sRover,whichwasparkedonaneatsquareofgra.s.sattheback.

Peter'smaincarewasforhispreciouscamera,againhangingroundhisneckonitscord.

'Isuppose,'Isaididly,'youdidn'thappentotakeaphotographuptherebytheweir?Youdidn'thappentogetashotofthosepeopleinthepunt?'

Heshookhishead,blinkinglikehisfather.

'Gosh,no,Ididn't.Idon'tsupposeactuallyIwouldhavethoughtoftakingone,notwheneverythingwashappening,doyouthink?Imean,itwouldhavelookedabitoffifyouandMrTellerhadbeendrowningandIwasjuststandingtheretakingpicturesandsoon.'

'You'llneverbeanewspaperman,'Isaid,grinningathim.

'Wouldn'tyouhaveminded,then?'

'Idon'tthinkso.'

'But,anyway,'hesaidmournfully,'Icouldn't,yousee,becauseIfinishedthefilmatlunch-timeandIdidn'thaveanotherone,soeveniftherehadbeenafireorsomethingIcouldn'thavetakenit.'Helookedathiscamerathoughtfully.'Iwon'tfinishupanymorefilmsinthemiddleoftheday,justincase.'

'Afire,'Iagreedseriously,'wouldanywaymakeamuchbetterpicturethanjustpeopledrowning,whichtheymostlydooutofsight.'

Peternodded,consideringme.'Youknow,you'requitesensible,aren'tyou?'

'Peter!'exclaimedhismotherinunnecessaryapology.'That'snotthewaytotalk.'Andshewasn'tmuchpleasedwhenIsaidasfarasIwasconcernedhecouldsaywhatheliked.

Keebledroveroundtothestationcarpark,whereLynnieandItransferredtotheAustin.

'I'llringinthemorning.'Keeblesaid,standinghalfoutofhisrespectablecar.

'Right.'

'TakecareofLynnie.'

'I'lldothat.'

Lynniekissedherparentsgood-bye,butherfathermorewarmly,andmadeafaceatPeterastheRoverrolledawayoutofthegate.ThensheclimbedintotheAustin,waiteduntilIwa.s.sittingbesideher,andstretchedoutherhandtotheignition.

Shewastremblingagain.

Blood Sport Part 3

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Blood Sport Part 3 summary

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