Chapter One

The sun was high overhead and the day getting warmer by the time the large ship disappeared from view leaving many of the men feeling somewhat disorientated. Others clearly decided to move on as quickly as possible.

Thomas walked slowly towards the figure hidden behind the tree. He didn’t want to scare the lad off; he looked so skittish. “Hello!” he said, offering the young man a gentle smile. “My name is Thomas Fields.”

Soft, gray eyes stared into the face of the wide-shouldered man and finding the assurance he sought, the boy drew in a deep breath. ‘I can do this,’ he thought. “M-my n-name is Galen Deon Manara.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Galen, even in these trying circumstances.” Thomas extended his hand. “I thought I’d go and help get these crates opened so we can see what they’ve left us to work with. Would you like to come with me?” he invited.

A little self-conscious of the filthy state of his person and clothing, Galen at first didn’t respond. ‘Aah, what the heck! We’re all in need of a good clean-up,’ he reminded himself as he shrugged his shoulders and with a shy crooked grin, wiped his hand off on his overalls and accepted the one offered in friendship. “Yes, b-but I’d really like to t-take care of the animals.”

“Do you have experience with animals, Galen? Farm boy, were you?” Thomas asked as he took Galen’s smaller hand in his own. The young man’s hand felt cold and damp.

“I grew up on my p-parents vineyard, b-but w-we also had lots of animals.” Galen tried to speak slowly, wanting so badly for the words to come out right.

Thomas smiled. “That must have been a very nice place to grow up.” He studied the lad closely. Galen looked pale and thin. “Are you feeling ill, son?” he asked. “Was it a rough crossing for you?”

“I w-was sick a lot.” His small, pinched face gave testament to his words. “One of the guards got m-me something and even though it tasted awful, it settled my stomach a little b-bit. I think it w-was from the cook.”

“I hope it helped you to feel better. However, you were not alone in feeling ill. I would be quite surprised if there was a single man, other than the sailors, that didn’t get sick at least once during the journey. I was fortunate as I only lost my supper the first night out and got accustomed to the motion after that; though I could hear retching from many of the others throughout the crossing.”

“In a w-way I’m glad w-we finally got here; the fresh air feels good.”

“Yes it does, better than the stench of that ship’s hold.” Thomas looked to where some crates stood beside a number of goats and sheep that had been tied to trees. There were a large number of chickens, and an array of roosters, turkeys and ducks all in wire cages; a couple of large sows with their piglets in slatted crates; and a sturdy-looking mule standing next to a plow, its’ halter securely fastened to it. The livestock had certainly added to the unpleasant aroma Thomas was referring to.

“Look,” Galen pointed excitedly, walking towards two beautiful golden retrievers. “There are even a couple of dogs! I w-wonder who’s they are?” He bent to pet the large, chained, obviously well cared-for animals before following the older man over to the crates.

“Thomas Fields,” Thomas introduced himself to a tall, kilt-clad man and held out his hand.

“Aiden Mackenzie Shea at yer service.” Aiden smiled broadly and accepted the extended hand. Neither man realized at the time that a lifelong bond was forming. Both looked up at the approach of another.

While Thomas conversed with a big man wielding the crowbar, Galen stood quietly nearby bouncing on the soles of his feet and ready to make note of the items in a few of the containers as they were opened and their contents examined.

Meanwhile, Troy had picked up a sturdy-looking branch from the many others that peppered the beach and headed towards one of the crates where two of the men stood contemplating which one to open first. The bigger of the two men gave him a nod as he stepped forward to assist. He recognized the men from the days they had spent on the ship, but he hadn’t yet spoken with them. He hadn’t had much of a chance to speak with anyone despite their extensive leisure time aboard ship, much of which had been spent under the watchful eyes of the guards who seemed far from happy with their assignment. But then, he had also been focused on his lover and the seasickness the voyage had brought upon him. Fortunately, after being onshore for a good hour or so, he was relieved to see that Levi was finally beginning to lose his unnatural green pallor.

Putting one end of the branch under the rim of a crate, Troy started to push his weight against it. He saw Levi’s eyes get big and his mouth open to say something when the middle of the branch suddenly exploded upwards. Losing his support, Troy found himself falling ungracefully to the sand. From the corner of his eye, he could see his partner with a hand over his mouth in an attempt to stifle the giggles that escaped regardless. Looking up, he found other men staring down at him. Some were politely trying to hold back their mirth, while others gave their amusement free rein.

“Umm, the branch ‘tis rotten,” the large Scot said blandly and quite unnecessarily.

At this, Levi gave into the inevitable and allowed the gales of laughter to escape him. Troy cast a mildly annoyed look his way before accepting the offered hand of the now grinning Scotsman. “So I noticed,” he responded with a smile of his own at his folly.

“Aiden Shea,” the man introduced himself. “Cabinet making ‘tis my specialty, but I guess carpenter ‘twould be close enough, given the current situation.”

“Troy Harris, tutor and would be scholar. Though of what or to whom, I’m going to teach here is uncertain. That young man over there, the one having trouble curtailing his enjoyment at my imprudence, is my companion, Levi.”

Aiden nodded in the direction Troy was pointing to and returned the grin Levi set his way.

Seeing other men eagerly stepping forward to assist, Troy gathered what was left of his pride and stood next to his partner. It would take the next quarter hour or so for Levi to stop breaking out in renewed giggles whenever he looked at the older man next to him.

“We’ll soon need to find some food so a meal can be provided for everyone,” Thomas suggested. “It is past mid-afternoon and we haven’t eaten since well before noon.”

“I agree,” said a distinguished-looking man. “And I don’t think a chunk of dry bread, a piece of moldy cheese and a wrinkled, old apple will sustain any of us for long. I am more than willing to help prepare a meal, but I think it would be best if we first formed a plan of action on what to do with all these crates and barrels. By the way, Walker Drummond’s my name.”

As the containers and livestock had been unloaded and his fellow passengers had stepped onto the soil that would now be their home, Larry had kept an eye on the big Scottish man. When he’d seen him go to the crates, Larry walked over to lend a hand. After shaking hands with Thomas and introducing himself, he gathered his courage, looked up at the biggest man almost shyly and needlessly introduced himself once again. “Hello, my name is Lieutenant, I mean Larry, Larry West. May I ask who you are?”

“I’d be Aiden Shea,” Aiden replied, offering his hand yet again to a perfect stranger.

Larry gazed into deep blue eyes and felt a charge go through him as his hand was engulfed in a much larger one. He struggled to break the spell he found himself under by asking, “Where did you find that?” indicating the crowbar clutched in Aiden’s left fist.

“One of the crew tossed it down on this crate. He must have decided there ‘twas no longer a threat of any of us doing them bodily harm with it.”

Larry chuckled at the other man’s choice of words, appreciating his sense of humor. He stood to one side and watched Aiden pry the cover off a huge crate. Looking inside, he was pleased to see it packed with canvas to be used in pitching tents. This crate, like those already opened, had been labeled correctly.

It easily fell to a handful of men taking charge while the majority of the others willingly went along with whatever decisions were made. There was security to be found in the establishing of some order after so much confusion arising from the unloading of the ship.

“We really should consider moving everything to higher ground before unpacking,” Walker suggested.

“Ye may be right,” Aiden agreed. “There is a lot more here than I ‘twas led to expect. I can’t help wondering where it all came from or why?”

“All will be explained in due time,” Walker pleasantly replied. “But please take note that these two unmarked crates will require opening here and their contents relocated piece by piece. Trying to move either one as is will prove very difficult indeed.” He smiled at the nods of acceptance well mixed with confusion.

“I’ll round up a few volunteers to help with the move,” Larry quickly offered.

“Just over this slight incline may be an ideal place to set up a base camp,” a large man dressed in buckskin announced as he strolled down a grassy slope behind them. Uninterested in watching the ships being unloaded, Brock had set out to explore the immediate area. Having spent years in the wild, he knew the need to establish an encampment from which to slowly spread out and learn about the island.

Many of the men were startled by his sudden appearance. None had known that one of them had already been investigating the terrain.

“There’s a small open expanse that appears to be a grazing pasture for wild animals. It would be an ideal place for setting up a temporary home,” Brock informed them. “But we’ll need to trample down a path of sorts if we plan to move these supplies and the livestock.”

“How about me rounding up some of the guys to help with that while you figure out how to move all this stuff, Aiden?” Larry proposed.

“There’s a good supply of material to help with that endeavor,” Walker announced, pointing to the large coils of ropes resting against a pile of sturdy poles.

“Yes, and m-many of the crates have handles on the side,” Galen quietly observed.

Even with the combined effort of the many men able to do so, it took a good two hours for the plan of action to be completed. Numerous trips were made back and forth between the beach and the area being settled. All but a handful of men readily pitched in and did their part. Some boxes only required one or two men to carry them; others required four to six men; and a few had to be towed by the mule. Barrels, of course, only required rolling which greatly aided in the widening and flattening of the path.

Kevin McCaw traded introductions with Galen and Raythe when he commandeered them to help move the livestock. Galen worked willingly while Raythe moved the cages of fowl somewhat begrudgingly. Kevin had tried unsuccessfully to interest another young man, but Spyke barely mumbled his name before walking away. It was under Kevin’s direction that a makeshift pen got erected for the pigs, with the sows being partially hog-tied to hamper any attempts of escaping.

The distance needed to travel between the two sites seemed to get longer with each trip, but finally only two containers remained on the beach.

“We’ll have to exercise care in opening the crates,” Aiden instructed to the men within hearing distance. “The wood will come in handy for building animal pens and I’d like to reuse any extra wood to make furniture.”

He heard quietly murmured sounds of concurrence and began to carefully insert the crowbar under the cover of the nearest crate.

“Ye’ll all be pleased to see this,” Aiden called out as he stood looking down into the huge wooden bin he’d just pried the top off of. He had a huge grin on his handsome face. “’Tis a cooking stove, in need of assembling mind, but a stove nevertheless. And ‘tis a descent sized one at that”

The magnitude of this new find had barely registered when a large black man walked over to introduce himself.

“I’m Mitchell Wolfe. You gentlemen are?”

Thomas extended his hand. “Thomas Fields, late of Fullerton County. Nice to meet you.”

Mitchell shook his hand. “The pleasure is mine.”

“Walker Drummond,” the ex-magistrate announced.

“And I’d be Aiden Mackenzie Shea, at one time of the Highlands, and this wee lad ‘tis Galen.” Aiden smiled and nodded towards the young man leaning into and rooting through the packing. He frowned slightly when Galen failed to acknowledge the introduction. He was unaware of the boy having missed the exchange.

“I’m available to do anything more needed that will be of help to get the last of these items relocated,” Mitchell offered.

“Thank ye! Every willing hand is needed as we all work together at moving on,” Aiden commented philosophically while nodding in a friendly manner.

“Is that actually a stove we’ve got here?” Mitchell’s voice rang with disbelief as he stared at the crates holding various parts.

“Yes, and even after we get it out of the crates it will still weigh a great deal. It is going to be a challenge moving it,” Walker stated, somewhat amused.

“Aye, that it ‘tis! ‘Twas brought in on that barge-type affair with the mule and plow. We’re going to need a couple of sturdy men to assist in setting up the beastie so somebody can get a meal started,” Aiden murmured while scratching his head and trying to figure out the best way of transporting it.

Mitchell, Thomas and Aiden soon had the sides of the crates torn apart and the main section of the stove uncovered.

“Now to relocate the thing and all the extra parts,” Mitchell muttered.

The man they’d met earlier who was almost the same stature as Aiden, stepped up and heaved the heavy item onto his shoulder. He had removed his buckskin shirt and was bare from the waist up. He was the same man who had found the location for a base camp to begin with. “Where do you want this?”

Walker and Thomas stared in amazement at the strength this wild-looking man exhibited. “Follow Thomas and me please, and we’ll get it set up,” Walker replied with a note of wonder ringing in his voice. “My name’s Walker. What’s yours?”

“I answer to Brock!” The response was straightforward and abrupt as the big man followed Walker and Thomas, who were each toting various parts. Galen slowly trailed behind, carrying what he could.

Aiden and Mitchell began to clear away the remaining debris with plans to join them momentarily.

“Tell you what, Thomas,” Walker offered as he struggled to determine the best way to put the stove together, “if we ever get this thing properly assembled, I’ll bake some biscuits if you’ll throw together the rest of the meal; provided we find the fixings we need.”

“Sounds like a fair deal to me,” Thomas amicably agreed with a laugh, “now that we’ve an area to work in that has less sand being blown about.”

The crate opening continued according to a priority list decided upon by half a dozen of the older, take-charge men.

“We have all the crates lined up over here next to the barrels, Aiden,” Larry announced. “But seeing as you’re the one with the crowbar….”

“Then I best be putting it to good use, right, laddie?” 

Larry’s only reply was a light chuckle as he fell into step beside the larger-than-life man.

“You’ll likely come across one of those crates with the name Drummond on it, Aiden. If it’s alright with everyone, I’d prefer to wait until tomorrow before opening it.” Walker called out.

“Grand! ‘Tis one less we have to concern ourselves about today.”  

Larry stood to one side and watched Aiden pry the cover off another huge crate labelled ‘Provisions’. Looking inside, the men were pleased to see that the crate had been labelled correctly.

“Ah-ha, precisely what we need, Thomas, to cook up a large pot of savoury stew. Now to find the necessary ingredients with which to whip up a batch of biscuits to go with it,” Walker enthused when he saw what the crate contained.

“We’ll require some equipment to do it all with,” Thomas commented as he and Walker walked back to continue assembling the stove so they could get a meal started as soon as possible. “and a good supply of firewood and fresh water.”

Larry once again enlisted the help of some men who stood nearby. This time it was in the distributing of supplies as the crates were opened. They quickly realized it may take several days as their strength was slowly waning.

“I’m Quentin Bradley,” said one of them, “and I ran a general store back home. I would be more than willing to keep track of supplies for everyone. Maybe doing an inventory over the next few days will prove beneficial in case rationing should be decided upon.”

His suggestion met with welcome agreement, so he set about counting and writing down the beginning of what would prove to be a very long list. His quick search through a box marked ‘Literary Needs’ had produced a note pad and pencil.

“Tents, bedding, cooking utensils,” Galen quietly rhymed off. “Ah-ha!” he cried when the big Scottish man lifted the lid off the crate marked ‘Farming Equipment’. He happily grabbed up a couple of buckets. In the hubbub of preparing for disembarking, no one had milked the goats and they were being none too shy in letting their discomfort be known. Although still weak from the voyage, Galen felt he was capable of doing at least one of the most immediate chores that some of the men were in all likelihood listing in their minds. He swung a bucket in each hand as he strolled over to where the animals in need of attention had been tied up.

“Now look at this!” Mitchell exclaimed, pulling an ax from the same crate and holding it high. “I’m going to chop up that fallen tree over there so we’ll have fair size chunks of firewood to keep that stove going.” With that, he strolled off with every intention of keeping his vow.

Looking inside a crate with ‘Mess Tent’ stamped on the side, Larry was pleased to see it well stuffed. “How about me finding a few strong men willing to help with getting this set up?” he suggested as he pulled at the heavy canvas. “It looks to be a good size. Hopefully someone had the foresight to include poles, ropes and pegs with it.”

“Here be some,” Aiden informed him, pointing to the crate next to the one containing the tenting materials. “There are also several smaller tents in this container and what appears to be pallets and blankets in yet another.”

Thomas looked up at that remark. “I suppose it would be too much to expect they supplied us with mattresses and sheets?” A number of the men around gave a small laugh at that.

“Aye,” Aiden chuckled. “However they did include pillows, such as they are.”

“Stuffed with the finest of eiderdown no doubt,” Thomas replied.

“Me thinks ye be dreaming, mon!” Aiden returned the light bantering.

Deciding he was being more of a hindrance than a help with the stove, Thomas examined some of the items pulled from the crate marked ‘Kitchen Utensils’ before moving over to an opened container with ‘Staples’ printed on the side. “You know, we’d be able to put together a meal to satisfy us all for tonight, if someone could find some fresh water.”

Troy glanced up when he heard Thomas’ comment. “Well,” he said dryly, “being as there are plenty of others to assist with the unpacking, I’m more than willing to perform that task.”

“That will be a great help. We also need to gather some kindling to start a fire. There are plenty of pots and cooking utensils in this crate,” Thomas said as he stood straighter to stretch his back. He studied the men milling about, busily involved in various jobs and realized he only knew the names of a small number of them. “At some point in time, we’re all going to have to introduce ourselves and then decide how we’re going to survive this place,” he seriously commented, waving his hands in a gesture that encompassed the island.

“Excellent point,” Troy concurred, picking up a couple of buckets and walking back to Levi. “I’m going in search of a fresh water supply,” Troy informed the younger man.

Levi looked hopeful. “I’d really like to come.”

“Although I’d enjoy the company, I think it best you wait here. I really have no idea how far I’ll have to walk. I’d prefer you to just take it easy for a while. Moving here was a big chore and you are definitely winded.”

“But so are most of us,” Levi disgruntledly pointed out.

“But you are my main concern, my love, and I am telling you not to leave the camp.”

Levi saw the determination in his lover’s face, as well as a warning, and heeded it. “Fine, I’ll stay here and find something to help out with.”

“Just take it easy and don’t stray, okay?” Troy gave a reassuring smile before heading away.

Thomas was pleasantly surprised the more he dug through the crate of foodstuff. At least someone had given them some decent things to work with so they wouldn’t starve. There was a multitude of canned goods and sacks of staples such as flour, salt and sugar, basic seasonings, coffee, tea and even some dried fruit.

He then noted a smallish unmarked crate out of the corner of his eye and pried it open. He knelt down, pulled back the layer of packing material and found the entire crate filled with Holy Bibles. He laughed. “I’ll be damned, here’s our bloody redemption, eh?”

“Aye, the preacher aboard ship made mention of that,” Aiden commented, coming over to look in the box. “And ‘twas awful kind of them to worry so about us, but I fear they may have more need of those than we do.”

Thomas shook his head. “I’m not a church going man. I could never bring myself to listen to the preaching of hell for those men who would lay down with other men. But I suppose there are those amongst us who might find comfort in the things.”

Walker glanced down at the books. “What would you like to do with them?” he asked quietly.

“I suppose we should offer them to those who’d like one and pack the rest away. But that can wait for now,” Thomas replied to Walker before turning to Aiden. “You’re right, my friend, they might learn more from the words of love and forgiveness found within these pages than we will from their words of fear and hatred.”

Walker picked up one of the Bibles and thumbed through it. “Ah-ha, some passages have been marked.”

A grimace passed across Thomas’ face. “Don’t tell me! Let me guess! Sodom and Gomorrah, am I right?”

“Och, ‘tis worried they were that we’d miss them!” Aiden snorted, reading over Walker’s shoulder.

Thomas stood from his kneeling position by the crate. “Gentlemen, I have determined one thing will come of this nightmare they have put us all through. We shall prevail and we shall build a better, kinder society than those who would send us here could ever dream of. Damn them and all their righteousness to hell!”

“Aye, ye have a point there, Thomas!”

Thomas looked a little embarrassed. “My apologies; I sometimes get a tad worked up.”

“What say we put them aside for the moment and get back to putting a meal together for this hungry lot,” Walker suggested before kind-heartedly adding, “There’s no need to apologize. We have been put through enough without this final insult.”

Meanwhile, Wayne and Wesley had started to fidget almost immediately after the ship faded into the horizon. They’d been standing still for a long time and their limbs were weary with fatigue. Their clothes were soiled and wet, their skin beginning to burn from the bright sun and drying salt. Altogether, they were thoroughly miserable and frightened.

They remained on the sidelines as men engaged in beating down a path and moving crates. It looked like heavy work and while the twins were curious about what was in the crates, it was not enough to draw them over to help. They didn’t feel it was something they should be doing. Besides they had no gloves and they were damn sure the splinters from the crates would injure their carefully manicured hands. Looking around dispassionately, they started to move away. Already they were beginning to dissociate from one another.

Having eventually followed the group to the newly decided upon camp site, Wesley again stood to one side and watched as men worked. “I’m cold. I think I’ll just get me one of those,” he grumbled to himself when he heard blankets mentioned and he headed over to the crate that a couple had been pulled from. He didn’t spare his brother a moment’s thought.

At some point earlier when the move had been about to begin, Yancey had walked over to kneel down beside a blond man sprawled in the sand. He introduced himself and offered his hand in friendship.

Spyke glared up at the black-haired man. He was about to make a snide remark but thought it better to avoid making enemies this soon after being stranded here. “Spyke’s my name,” he murmured and unenthusiastically accepted the other man’s hand.

“Instead of frying here in the sun, how about we go help the others?” Yancey suggested.

“I’d really rather be left alone for a while, if that’s alright with you,” Spyke grumbled and laid his head down on folded arms.

“Suit yourself,” Yancey replied, not unkindly. He walked away leaving the young man by himself.

After helping with the move, Lakota looked down at himself. His formerly fine suit of clothes was badly rumpled, torn and soiled; in all probability not salvageable. Not that this mattered to him. These clothes had been part of what was expected of a prominent surgeon. Personally he had always been more comfortable in sturdy working clothes or the buckskins of his mother’s people. However, he was a fastidious man and was uncomfortable with the many layers of dirt and sweat he was wearing, to say nothing of his desire to pull the braid from his long ebony hair and give it a thorough washing.  

He knew that hygiene could become a serious issue for these men. They would need to be careful in dealing with waste and with the proper storage of food or he could in very short order have twenty-seven very sick or even dying men on his hands. He said a silent prayer to the gods that these men could be made to understand the need for sanitation. The idea that disease could be spread from one man to another in the form of bacteria invisible to the naked eye was still a new one and many were non-believers. Yes, there was much work ahead of all of them and it would need to start now. He approached the tall man prying open the crates.

“Hello, my name is Lakota. I was told there would be a crate of medical supplies.”

“Aye, ‘tis over there. Would ye like me to open it for ye?” Aiden offered.

“It is safe for the time being, so I think I’ll just go help with the setup of the larger tent. Someone is calling for volunteers. Possibly there will be a smaller one to set up as an infirmary when we get more settled.” Lakota smiled and with a friendly wave of his hand, headed towards the sounds of men working just across the clearing. 

Nathan walked over to the two young men struggling under the weight of a couple of heavy valises. “Hello, there! My name is Nathan.” He smiled and held out his hand.

“I’m Brodie and this is Jordan,” one of the young men answered in a friendly manner as he bent to pick up the satchel he’d dropped. It had barely missed landing on his foot.

“I was thinking of offering to gather the last of these personal belongings and moving them to another location before helping with the pitching of that huge tent they found. Care to help me?” Nathan asked.

“It’s fine by me,” Brodie responded enthusiastically. “What about you, Jordan?”

“Sure, I’d rather be busy,” Jordan murmured, his eyes searching for Seth.

“Don’t worry about him, Jordan. He’s better off on his own.” Nathan spoke kindly in the face of Jordan’s unhappiness. He had also overheard and been disgusted with the nasty comments the fancy dressed man had made earlier to the younger one. “Come on! There’s work to be done, fellas!”

“Do you think I’d be allowed to help out in the cooking area when we’ve finished here?” Jordan shyly inquired.

“I’m pretty sure the two men presently working there would appreciate your help, Jordan. I can take you over and introduce you if you like.” Nathan received a beaming smile to indicate his offer was genuinely appreciated.

“Hello, there! Can you use another pair of hands and strong back? If so, I’m available,” Hendrik offered. “By the way, my name is Hendrik.”

“Yes, we’ll take all the help we can get,” Nathan laughed. “I’m Nathan and these fine-looking young men are Brodie and Jordan.” Handshakes were exchanged before all four men began working together on the task at hand.

“Thomas,” Galen placed two heavy, well-filled buckets on the ground and pulled at the older man’s sleeve. “Are two b-buckets of m-m-milk enough for supper?”

“You’ve finished milking them already?” Thomas asked the young man.

“Only four of them,” Galen answered.

“Well, I’m sure we can make good use of the milk for our dinner, thank you. Do the other goats need to be milked yet?” he asked.

“N-no, the last two n-nanny goats look like they are going to kid soon. I’ll p-put covers on these and set them in water at the edge of the ocean to cool.” Galen picked up the buckets and headed off on his self-appointed chore.

Thomas watched Galen as he walked away. The young man still looked very pale and a little unsteady. He decided to make sure the boy got something to eat and drink as soon as possible.

Larry returned to let Aiden know he had rounded up a good number of volunteers. “I see you managed to pull this heavy tent out by yourself, Aiden.” He glanced down at the pile of canvas on the ground.

“Aye, it and the poles are waiting for you. Better get it set up before they start cooking,” Aiden directed.

“Yes, sir!” Larry’s automatic use of the title reflected his military background and his acceptance of Aiden as a leader. “That’s perfect for a mess hall! It looks large enough to hold all of us. I’ll get the other guys and we’ll set it up next to the stove and cooking area. With a little bit of work, some of the fallen trees and boulders could be used to sit on, don’t you think?”

“Aye, they’ll certainly do in a pinch,” Aiden agreed. 

Larry and his team managed to get the mess tent up in less than half an hour. He stood back and took in the results of their labor. “Hey, everyone; we’ve now got a shaded place to eat! Now to gather up the rest of the tents and stack them over there to be put up later.”

Gille had been looking around at the activity going on about him. He was still slightly winded from trampling down the path several times with a heavy carton in his arms. He hadn’t spoken to anyone yet, but now found he was suddenly feeling desperate to belong. He walked over to the group of men gathered about the crates and introduced himself. A little uncertain of himself, he cleared his throat before speaking up. “Hi. I’m Gille and I’d like to help.”

“I’m Nathan and these men are Brodie and Hendrik. We’d also like to be kept busy. Got anything specific for us to do?”

“Aye, laddies. Would ye be willing to help distribute some of these supplies as they’re unpacked?” Aiden asked and got an affirmative nod.

Kevin approached a somewhat younger, black-haired man standing by the sidelines and looking a little lost. “Hi! My name’s Kevin. What’s your name?”

“Just call me Dallas,” the young man answered. He had helped another man named Thad move cartons from the beach but was wondering what he could do next when Thad went over to offer his assistance with the meal preparation. Dallas wasn’t exactly a model volunteer. 

“Well, it looks like things are getting organized around here, Dallas. Do you want to join in offering our assistance?” Kevin smiled. “Anything in particular you’d like to do?”

“I’d rather go and offer to help cook whenever they get ready to make a meal. I’ve got no idea how to do much else.” Dallas surprised himself with what he’d said, as it went totally against his nature to admit to a weakness.

The two approached the proposed tent area and immediately addressed Larry, who seemed to be in charge of things. “Hi, I’m Kevin and I’ve got some experience in living rough as I’ve been traveling around and not always in populated areas.”

“I’m Dallas. I’ve done plenty of odd jobs around kitchens.” Dallas didn’t add it was usually for a free meal or while he was checking out a place to break into later, or both.

In no time at all, much to Kevin’s delight and to Dallas’ chagrin, Larry put them both to work.


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