Exiled – A tail in four short chapters.
Andrea Locke woke up confused. She was lying on the tide line with water washing over the lower half of her body and even in her befuddled state knew something was wrong. As the memory of what had happened slowly returned she rolled onto her back then propping herself up on her elbows, looked at her legs and screamed…
“So that’s your mum?” asked Pris in her cut glass voice.
“Yeah, that’s her alright.” Jacko replied wistfully.
“She was beautiful” the couple were looking at a photo next to the painting hanging on the wall, “The artist Noel Pender with his model Persephone Tremayne”. “You can see your sister in her.”
“Felicity certainly got her good looks.”
“Flick is short for Felicity? You’ve never told me that before.” Pris regarded the man in the photo. “And you look just like your dad.”
“Oh Pris, please!” he sighed. “The man was a drunken bully who was only nice to mum when it suited him.”
“Jacko I’m sorry.”
“Look at him now, his pictures hanging in the bloody art gallery as part of the Local Artists Exhibition, I was glad when the bastard finally drunk himself to death.”
“He had a true talent just like you.”
“Yeah, but mum sold all the pictures he gave her for a song just to put food on the table. He’d turn up at the door begging her to take him back, give her some guilt money for me only to chase after some other young piece of skirt the week after.” Pris had heard it all before but let him continue. “And mum never once complained.”
“She must have really loved him.”
“Yeah but he didn’t love her did he or he’d have married her? Look, Pris, can we please move along? It’s bad enough being reminded of him but I feel real uncomfortable standing next to a painting of my mother in the nude.”
“Alright darling” they turned the corner. “Hey look, there’s some of your work here, you didn’t tell me, eek… that’s me!” Pris stared aghast at the painting “Girl in a Peacock Chair” which depicted her sprawled naked in said chair with only a bent knee to preserve her modesty. “Oh bloody hell I hope no-one recognises me!”
“They asked me to put a few paintings in, didn’t reckon on them using this one.”
“Jacko!” she cried.
“What’s the matter my lover, you posed for it and didn’t bother you then?”
“Yes but in your studio only you saw me, I’m on full display to everybody here.”
“No-one’ll know it’s you Pris.” said Jacko.
Priscilla didn’t reply but just stared over his shoulder in horror, her father was making his way towards them. “Good evening Priscilla, I read about Jackie’s work being displayed here so I thought I’d come and see what all the fuss is about.”
“Evening Mr Jones.” said Jacko.
“Bloody hell is that you Pris?” he asked in surprise, she made a strange eeh noise by way of reply.
“The gallery reckons it will sell for a good few hundred easily.” said Jacko unabashed.
“Priscilla I want a word with you, young lady!” he looked again at the painting. “But not here!”
Tremayne watched from a safe distance as Thomas Jones harangued his daughter about the painting. Her father, having all the business acumen had married the moneyed Veronica Hartford with Priscilla being their one and only offspring.
Seeing the photo of his parents brought it all back, Persephone Tremayne had been the only daughter of John “Johnno” Wilkins, drummer with Nasty Behaviour and his ex-groupie partner Greta Tremayne. They bought a large cottage outside St Ives and moved there in the 1980’s and shortly afterwards Persephone arrived into the world. The Wilkins “family” lived a bohemian lifestyle attracting many of the local art set including one Noel Pender. He was louche, vain, had a tendency to drink too much and Persephone, being incredibly naïve, fell for him immediately. She was his model at first and for a while muse and lover but after falling pregnant with Jacko he lost interest as her slender figure filled out. Pender became abusive and unfaithful and after a blazing row kicked them out, forcing them to move back with her now widowed mother. Johnno while still touring with the band, had left the world in typical rock and roll fashion by overdosing in a hotel room on the other side of the world bottle of whisky in one hand and the other on a hooker. Jacko enjoyed living with his eccentric gran who was very often stoned then one day Pender had turned up full of remorse, having sold a painting he splashed money around impressing Persephone and convincing her to move back to his studio in St Ives. After a short while his mother fell pregnant again and he threw them out once more claiming the baby wasn’t his so it was all back to gran’s, which suited Jacko perfectly.
He remembered the fuss when his sister was born, his gran had refused to let Persephone have the baby in hospital and instead, a very old midwife who Jacko thought looked like a witch arrived to attend the birth. His new sister looked just like an ordinary baby to him, but both mum and gran seemed very concerned until a strange man came to visit. He was very handsome and well-spoken with long dark hair and the greenest eyes, they seemed to relax afterwards and Jacko thought he was perhaps a doctor who had come to reassure them his sister was well. When the baby was one Noel turned up again like a bad penny charming Persephone back to St Ives, Jacko wanted to stay with gran and Pender, only too keen to rid himself of the son he didn’t want agreed. He would have happily left Flick with her grandmother too if he could but it was no great surprise when his Sierra turned up at the cottage a few weeks later to dump mother and daughter unceremoniously on the doorstep. As he got back in the car he shouted something about a devil child, leaving Jacko to wonder if he meant him or his sister. The courteous man had returned shortly afterwards to make a big fuss of Felicity and listened gravely while his gran informed him about the artist’s treatment of her daughter and children. The man mentioned something about letting him know if Pender should return again.
As he left he tousled Jacko’s hair. “You’re a good lad, you’ll look after your mum and sister.” he said in his posh voice.
“How do you know if I’m a good lad or not?” he had asked crossly and the man had merely smiled with his perfect white teeth. As he left, the young boy had thought he could smell the fresh tide on him.
A few years went by and then back came Pender banging on the door in a well-oiled state, his drinking was getting worse and consequently his artistic output had dried up to nothing “Persefnee!” he had yelled. “Get out here!”
Greta had opened the door shotgun in hand. “Bugger off and leave my daughter alone or I’ll shoot you, I ain’t afraid to go prison at my age.”
The expression on the eccentric woman’s face made him step back. “Listen ere grandma, I need some cash just while I sort me self out.”
“I told you to bugger off!” she cocked the gun.
“You won’t shoot me granny, I know all about that little granddaughter of yours and what happens when she goes in the sea, just give me a few hundred and I’ll be off.”
She raised the gun. “We’ve got no money for the likes of you.”
“Don’t you kid me none, Johnno must have been worth loads.”
“Shoved it all in his arm or up his nose, are you going to bugger off or do I pull this trigger?”
“You won’t do it Greta. I ain’t that fucking stupid, I’ve left evidence to find if I don’t come back alive, just in case.”
The woman tightened her grip on the gun.
Persephone ran out “Mum stop it now!” and turning to the artist said. “Noel, you wouldn’t tell on little Flick would you?”
“You got till this time tomorrow, couple a hundred will do to start.” He staggered off towards the cliff path.
“I could follow him and push him off the edge?” suggested Greta. “Make it look like an accident.”
“No… I’ll talk to Flick’s dad he’ll know what to do.”
Jacko was hiding on the landing and saw his mother head towards the path then Greta noticed him peering down the stairs.
“I suppose you saw all that?” she asked matter-of-factly.
“Why didn’t you shoot him gran?”
“Jacko, he’s your dad!”
“I wish he wasn’t” he thought for a second. “The nice man is Flick’s dad isn’t he?”
“You are a very perceptive boy Jacko, it’s a shame he can’t be around more.”
“Is he married then?” Jacko was worldly for his age.
“No, I don’t think so… it’s just difficult for him to be here all the time.”
“Gran, what did my dad mean about Flick?”
“Come downstairs and I’ll make you a hot chocolate, it’s time you knew about your sister” replied Greta, and while they drank the cocoa while she told him the truth. “So remember my love, no-one else must know, it’s a family secret.”
“What will happen to Flick when she gets older?”
“I dare say she’ll go to the sea where she belongs, Jackie promise me you’ll look out for her won’t you?”
“Yes gran but…”
“No more questions now get to bed!”
Jacko didn’t want to sleep till his mother returned so watched from his bedroom window until she came up the path looking quite elated with her hair ringing wet.
He sneaked out onto the landing once again to listen.
“Well?” he heard his grandmother ask.
“I managed to contact him, we talked about old times and stuff.” replied his mother lightly.
“I guessed as much, you’re soaking wet. What did he say?”
“He said they would deal with it.”
“They’ll deal with it, how?”
“He didn’t say, just said not to worry…”
Pender didn’t come back the next night as threatened or the next night then after a few more days a couple of policemen turned up to talk his mother and when they left Jacko rushed in eager for news. “What did the coppers want?”
“Your dad’s dead Jackie” announced Greta bluntly.
“Good!” said Jacko, then sat down and hiding his face started to sob.
His mother hugged him tightly. “It’s alright to cry Jackie, he wasn’t much of a father but you only get the one.”
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Felicity looking curiously at them.
“Come on you little sea-monkey, granny’s going to take you down to the beach” said Greta leading her from the room, the waste of space had been found dead from alcohol poisoning, Flick’s dad said they’d fix it, surely they didn’t kill him?”
“Swimming Granma?” asked little Felicity eagerly.
“If there’s no-one about Flick.” she replied, poor lamb, it hurts every time she changes but she can’t wait to get into the water.
Five years later a car crash had claimed the life of his mother then Greta suddenly took ill and died to leave Jackie, barely out of his teens, looking after a fifteen year old girl who grew a tail whenever she entered the sea. The lure of an aquatic life had been growing ever stronger in Flick and Jacko was often called out by the police to recover his sister, who had been found walking around naked on the beach yet again. By now Flick’s teeth had begun to be replaced by sharp pointed ones, when she turned sixteen Fliiik, as she now called herself and almost unable to communicate easily in a human tongue, went to live in the water with her father and cousins as Greta had predicted. Bizarrely brother and half-sister were somehow linked, each knowing when the other needed them.
His reverie was broken by the ringing of his mobile. “Jacko, its Morwenna. Andrea Locke has returned and… look get to the station ASAP” as the sergeant rang off he had a strange feeling of foreboding.
“Dad’s alright now he’s let off steam.” Pris had returned to his side “You’re as white as a sheet, are you alright?”
“Pris we have to go to the police station, Andy’s there and I think Flick’s in trouble.”
“Well, are you going to charge me or let me go?” asked Andrea Locke.
“You were running around stark naked screaming and yelling, I could arrest you for indecency or for public disorde.” replied the policewoman. “Have you got anywhere to go?”
“No… I dunno, Jacko would probably put me up.”
Sergeant Nance looked at the woman sat on the other side of the desk. “You had a tail last time we met.”
“Well I don’t now!” she snapped then fell silent.
“Andy can I do anything to help?” asked Sergeant Nance sympathetically.
“No.” Andrea shook her head sadly. “Morwenna, I really need to speak to Jacko.”
“He’s coming, how are your feet now?” Andrea was wearing a forensic suit but her feet, red raw from contact with the tarmac were bare.
“Better now, that cream seems to have worked, walking on the sodding path was like walking on fire.” she replied.
Morwenna was reminded of the Hans Christian Anderson story where every step the Little Mermaid took was like walking on knives. “Must be something in the tarmac, doesn’t it have carbolic acid in it?”
“Don’t know Morwenna, it bloody hurt that’s all I know.”
“Do you want anything to drink, can you drink?”
“I haven’t needed to drink for ages, but I’d love a cup of tea, no milk or sugar and not too hot.” The sergeant stuck her head out of the door to organise it. When she turned back Andrea was sobbing. “I haven’t needed to do this for a while either, where’s Jacko?”
“He should be here soon Andy.”
The tea arrived and she took it in both hands to drink slowly. “Do you know I didn’t realise how much I missed this?” she started to cry again.
Constable Watts opened the door again to let in Jackie Tremayne with Priscilla Hartford-Jones, Andrea got up to hug him tightly. “Jacko!” she cried when she finally let him go. “Fliiik’s in trouble!”
“I thought you couldn’t change form, where’s your tail gone?” he asked as Pris was driving them back from the police station.
“The sea-folk took it from me and I’m stuck as a dry-lander again.” Andrea related what had happened. “We were sleeping in a rock pool then four bloody mermen came for us, they tied us up and Fliiik was taken away. Then they took me to our beach meeting place where some ancient mermaid was waiting, she looked into my eyes and I passed out. When I came to I was on my own and had legs again.” Her voice became urgent. “Jacko you and Fliiik are linked aren’t you, where is she what have they done with her?”
“I don’t know Andy, it’s not as exact as that but I can feel that Fliiik is frightened and I don’t know where she is.”
“Can’t you call for her” asked Pris.
“I’ll try my best.” Pris took Andy to their apartment while he went to the secret place along the coastal path and sitting on the rocks reached out to her as he always had done. He waited for an hour but Fliiik failed to show, a head did pop up some distance out to sea but it could easily have been a seal. Finally giving up, he returned to Pris’ home bearing the bad news to Andy.
After spending a disturbed night the three of them went to the Pendinas Gallery on Street-An-Pol, it had a flat upstairs and Pris, who owned the premises, told Andy she could live there rent-free for as long as necessary. All her old things had fortuitously been put into storage by the couple after her transformation and Jacko was on the phone to the company when the bell on the door clanked.
“We’re not open today, sorry.” he called from the back studio.
“I know, it’s written on the sign on the door” said a suave male voice that Jacko recognised. “You have a lot a paintings of the sea-folk don’t you young man?”
Andrea came out of the back room and flew at the owner of the voice, who grabbed her flailing hands gently as she screamed at him. “What have you done with her you bastard? I’ll kill the lot of you if she’s hurt.”
“My dear I am as concerned for Fliiik’s health as much as you Nndi and I’m sure you are too Jackie?”
“Damn it, don’t you ever age?” Jacko recognised him immediately “the last time I saw you was at mum’s funeral.”
Thiir was a little over two hundred years old. “We sea-folk age quite slowly, your mother was a wonderful human being who was taken from the world too soon” he said sadly.
Pris looked at the man holding on to Andy’s wrists, he was incredibly handsome with green eyes and shoulder length dark hair. “And who are you?” she asked.
“Pris this is Thiir, Fliiik’s father.” Jacko informed her.
“Let go of me you tuss!” demanded Andy, Thiir acquiesced and she backed away glowering.
“I don’t wish to discuss things of such a delicate nature in a shop window, is there somewhere more private we can go?” he asked and they moved to the rear studio, Pris sat down quickly in the peacock chair leaving the others to sit on the less comfortable alternatives. Thiir looked at her and smiled. “Yes I thought you were the girl in the painting.” Pris coloured visibly.
“Less of the familiarity you, where’s Fliiik?” snarled Andy.
“My daughter is currently residing in a cage out at sea and it’s partly your fault young lady!”
“What?” Jack and Andy shouted simultaneously.
“She brought you to our world using dry-lander magic and that did not sit well with Queen Piirl, worse still our existence was very nearly brought into the public eye by your folly.”
“We handled that, made it look like a hoax!” retorted Jacko.
“Nevertheless Fliiik’s human girlfriend has caused great distress to my people… and there is the other matter.”
“What other matter?” Jacko asked with concern was it something to do with Smith?
“She has previously refused several offers of matrimony from the sons of several high born families among the sea folk.”
Jacko was almost relieved. “Hardly surprising since she’s gay.”
“I know that” said Thiir. “But when Fliiik was taken yesterday she was given to the queen’s son Viig as a concubine and she attacked him.”
“Good, I hope she killed him!” snarled Andy.
“No, fortunately for her he was only slightly wounded, but that was, as you dry-landers say, the final straw.” replied the merman.
“She was given to the queen’s son?” interjected an incredulous Pris’. “You can’t just give Fliiik away she’s not a possession and you can’t go round abducting people, it’s against the law!”
“Our society is very different to yours and dry-lander laws mean nothing to us, a female of her age should be producing fry by now, our numbers are dwindling and our species needs all the children it can get if we are to survive. Some of us are even permitted to mate with land dwellers in the hope of swelling our numbers.”
“Like you and mum?” asked Jacko. “And she thought she was special, you didn’t love her at all did you?”
He nodded. “I felt for Persephone as much as it is possible to feel for a dry-lander, please do not think ill of me for that, Jacko.”
“Don’t talk crap, Fliiik loves me alright and I love her!” interjected Andy .
“Thiir, what will happen to her?” asked Pris’.
“She may be given to the tide, it really depends on the queen’s mood, injuring her son was a serious offence!”
“That sounds bad, what does it mean?” asked Jacko.
“They will take her a long distance out to sea then tie her to a rock, make her bleed and leave her overnight, if the pointed fins or other predators of the waves do not take her by morning she will be considered innocent of any wrong.”
“Bastards!” snarled Andy clenching and unclenching her fists. “Pris’ I have to become a mermaid again, will you lend me the money for that witches brew?” she asked. “I’ll buy a spear-gun, I’ll find Fliiik and kill anyone who tries to stop me!”
Thiir looked at the slight girl. “Andy please, the queen has decreed you are to be killed if you are found in the water!” he warned.
“She’s your fucking daughter, are you going to let them do that to her?” Andy was furious. “Are you going to let her become shark food?”
“I cannot intervene, I have other children and the queen is vengeful, they could be punished” he sighed. “But she has a daughter as well as a son and this daughter likes to walk among the dry-landers. I’m not suggesting you should do anything Jacko, but I know she enjoys the night life in Newquay” Thiir looked him in the eye saying. “You’re a good lad, I trust you to do the right thing.”
Thiir wanted him to intervene on his behalf? “You’d better tell me more about this daughter.”
After the merman had left Jacko and Andrea hatched a plan. “You can’t really be considering this Jacko?” asked Pris’ with concern, “You just can’t, it’s dangerous to say nothing of illegal!”
“They reckon they’re not governed by our laws, so it’s not illegal is it?” stated Jacko. “Are you in Pris’?”
She shook her head “No, sorry my love I just couldn’t do that. I’ll help but…”
He smiled reassuringly. “It’s alright my handsome, you just be there if we need you, Andy and I are personally involved, we have no choice.”
“Right enough Jacko, but we’re a bit lacking in muscle.” remarked Andrea.
“Don’t worry girl, I know just the person for that.”
Trevor “Tug” Bosanko could be said to be an old school friend of Jackie Tremayne’s. The truth was, he was an old fellow absconder as neither pupil had been too fond of school. Jackie because of the constant taunting about his odd sister (who skipped lessons as often as he did) and Tug because he just didn’t like school. The boys were kindred spirits spending their time beachcombing, rock climbing and listening to the old fishermen who loved to spin a yarn about the sea. Jacko found himself comparing their tales of mermaids around Zennor with what little he knew of his half-sister’s origins. The heavily built Tug would step in to back-up his friend without a second’s hesitation if it came to a fight and upon leaving school at the earliest opportunity had started working for his father and now ran the second largest haulage company in Cornwall.
He was sitting in his office when the door opened. “Hello Tug.” said a familiar voice.
Trevor looked up from his computer to see his friend standing there “Hi Jacko, what are you after?”
“I need your help old cock.” he replied.
“Why am I not surprised?”
“It’s a risky business my handsome, could be some bother.
“Of course or else why would you come to me?”
“Tug, Flick’s in trouble, serious trouble.”
Trevor had a soft spot for Felicity Tremayne even though he knew she had no interest in men and importantly Jackie had let his best friend in on the family secret years ago. “Why didn’t you bleddy say so straightaway you tuss, what do you want and how soon do you want it?
Jackie stood at the bar in Pure and watched the shapely girl dancing barefoot in the throng of clubbers realising that no-one could have suspected her true form. As he saw it, the biggest problem they were going to have would be her minders who were two of the largest mermen he had ever seen. That job would be down to Tug and a certain Gaz Teague an ex-marine who was ever so slightly unhinged but very loyal to Tug and well accustomed to sorting out difficult customers as and when needed. Gaz had been told they were rescuing Pris’ heiress friend from a weird cult based outside Newquay, he hadn’t questioned why the cult let their converts party around the resort and the five hundred pounds Jacko had bunged him courtesy of Pris’ (as usual) allayed any qualms he may have had.
Noticing his attention through the crowd she stuck her tongue out, the girl was extremely self-confident and with her minions to protect her felt comfortable flirting with the dry-landers. “How do we split this Tiiki from her two thugs?” asked Andrea Locke next to him at the bar, she was uncharacteristically wearing a black mini-dress coupled with a long brown wig for a disguise.
“I don’t know Andy, when she goes to the toilet perhaps?” it was hot in here and the mermaid had been drinking a lot of bottled mineral water, virtually the only thing sea-folk could drink without problems.
Smiling at Jacko she sashayed over carrying her shoes, her guards did not move but fixed him with their eyes. “You look familiar do I know you?”
Her voice was light had a slight lisp which would have been endearing had he not known she was trying to speak without showing her pointed teeth. Andy quickly turned her back to avoid being recognised.
“That’s my usual chat-up line” he laughed. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Just a mineral water, no ice.” the mermaid replied. She was wearing a short green-blue dress which clung to her every curve, the sea creature had red hair and green eyes like his sister and as he gazed into them he could almost hear the tide crashing onto the beach.
He snapped from his reverie, is that how they do it, how they enchant humans? “My names Noel.” he lied.
“I’m Tiki” she informed him as she drained her glass. “You’re cute, want to dance?”
They danced while being observed furtively by Andy, Tug and his henchman and more obviously by Tiiki’s bodyguard. “Who are those gorillas watching us?” asked Jacko.
“My nursemaids, mother insists I have them but they can cramp a girl’s style.” Tiiki smiled again ensuring her teeth did not show.
She seems totally different to Thiir and his ilk thought Jacko.
“I need to pee.” she announced. “Will you wait outside?” she took his hand to lead him into the corridor and Andy, taking this as her cue followed them unrecognised by her minders.
When Tiiki came out of the cubicle she saw the slight blonde woman waiting for her, arms crossed. “Nndi!” exclaimed the girl, eyes wide in shock.
“Yep that’s me.” she replied grabbing the mermaid and shouting for Jacko who dashed in to pin Tiiki’s arms behind her back. “Don’t let her call for help” cried Andrea and he put a hand over her mouth only to draw it away bleeding upon finding out how sharp her teeth were.
Tiiki squealed in a high pitched note only that dogs and mermaids could appreciate. Andy slapped her hard and her face fell. “You dare not strike me, I’m the queen’s daughter!” she said shocked. Tears were in her eyes.
“Then shut up bitch!” snarled Andy.
A commotion could be heard outside but it quickly fell to silence. Tug burst in and put his thumb up. “Bad guys dealt with.”
The two mermen, on hearing Tiiki’s distress call had rushed to the toilets only to be intercepted by Tug and Gaz in the corridor. They manhandled Tiiki, still in shock at being struck past the stunned bodyguards and out of the fire door, setting off the alarm
“That’ll stop the bastards following us.” said Gaz as the other clubbers streamed out into the night behind then “Did you know they were tooled up?”
“What, they were armed?” asked Jacko incredulously.
“Yes boss, both had a Sig P226, I’ve got ‘em now.” replied Teague.
Shit, this is more serious than I thought Jacko wondered if they had done the right thing after all.
They quickly drove back to St Ives and were tearing up the Hayle bypass when Tug noticed blue flashing lights in the rear-view mirror. “Oh fuck, I should have kept my speed down!”
Please, let it be Morwenna” thought Jacko.
“I could deal with ‘em.” suggested Teague.
“No we’re in enough trouble as it is Gaz, I’ll take the fine. We just act like we’ve been on a night out.”
“You hear that bitch?” hissed Andy to Tiiki. “If you say anything these lawmen will arrest us and then your secret is out, I’ll make bloody sure of that!”
Jacko looked at the figure getting out of the police car on the dark road please be Morwenna!
It was Morwenna Nance and Tug wound his window down to speak to her. “Evening Sergeant.”
“Good Evening Mr Bosanko, going a bit fast weren’t you, have you been drinking?” she asked.
“No Sergeant not a drop has passed my lips tonight, just take my details, breathalyse me or whatever, give me a fine and I’ll be on my way.” He replied.
“No excuses, that’s a bit odd for you Trev?” the policewoman regarded the passengers in the car. “This is a right old rogues gallery isn’t it? Jacko, I thought you’d reformed and you Miss Locke what are you doing with likes of this lot?” she studied Tiiki curiously. “For a moment there I thought you were Flick Tremayne.”
“Morwenna, we’re not doing anything wrong please let us go?” begged Jacko.
She looked at Tiiki again. “You alright miss?”
“Yes thank you.” she replied meekly, the policewoman thought she saw sharp pointed teeth.
“She’s with me” said Andy and the girl smiled with her mouth closed.
“I’m letting you off with a caution this time and as I can’t smell any alcohol I’ll take your word about the drinking. Don’t forget we need to see your documents within seven days, now bugger off and be more careful because next time it might not be me!”
Sgt Nance watched them drive off. You’re up to something Jackie Tremayne as sure as eggs is eggs.
Gaz looked at the two women sat with Jacko in the back of the car then reached over and pushed Tiiki’s top lip up exposing her teeth, Andy angrily snatched his hand away. “What’s your problem?”
“Just curious, so both of you are sea-folk then?” he looked at their surprised faces. “I ain’t bloody stupid you know?” he gave a sardonic grin. “Wish I’d asked for more money.”
“I’ve phoned Pris’ everything’s ready” announced Jacko as they headed down the A3075 towards Newquay. “Tiiki listen to me, I didn’t want to do this but your people gave me no choice.”
The mermaid just glared silently.
She lay in the bath listening to the humming of the filter pump, the sound amplified by the salty water. It was not the best accommodation but at least her captors had considered her circumstances. Andy had set up the bathroom of the old Tremayne cottage in the same manner as she had for Fliiik when she stayed with her. Jacko had kept his grandparent’s old home on as a useful bolt-hole for his sister to keep her dry-land things in.
Pris’ entered the room with a tray, having witnessed the painful transition a mermaid underwent when changing from legs to tail she had taken responsibility for Tiiki’s well-being. The mermaid was completely submerged at present but for her golden tail hanging over the side of the bath, her copper hair floated around her head like an aquatic halo.
Tiiki saw the blonde hair through the water and for a moment was afraid Nndi had returned. Fliiik’s partner with her short temper frightened her but sitting up she was relieved to see it was the other woman.
“I thought you might be hungry.” said Pris’
Tiiki looked at the plate. “Herrings, are they fresh?”
“They were this afternoon but they have been in the fridge.” She watched as the mermaid gulped one of the raw fish down hungrily “there’s bottle of mineral water and the glass has a mixture that will help balance your electrolytes while you’re out of the sea.”
Tiiki eyed the drink suspiciously asking. “Where did he learn to make this witches brew?”
“Jacko used to mix it for Fliiik if she stayed out of the sea too long, I think his grandmother showed him how, this is her old house.”
Tiiki took a sip and pulled a face. “Yuck!” she looked at Pris’ “Why are you being nice to me?”
“I don’t blame you for what’s happened to Jacko’s sister and I’m not too happy about this kidnap business either.”
“Do you believe that my mother will exchange Fliiik for me?”
“That is Jacko’s plan.” answered Pris’.
“She won’t do it you know?” she ate another of the silvery fish. “I like you, I won’t let mother harm you when she comes for me.”
“We’ll see about that” said Pris’ with more bravado than she felt.
“You’re Jacko’s girlfriend?”
“He tried to pick me up he did, can’t dance though.”
“No, hang on he danced with you?”
“Mmm.” replied Tiiki slyly.
“He only did that so they could catch you but you’re right he can’t dance for toffee.”
“I know Fliiik and I quite like her. She came on me to once but I’m not like that.” confessed the mermaid.
“Yet you were out clubbing when your friend is in trouble?”
“Fliiik is not my friend, she used dry-lander magic to bring that stranger into our world, nearly exposed our existence and then attacked my brother. She broke our laws and must be punished” replied Tiiki with a hint of doubt.
“By tying her up for sharks to feed on, it’s inhuman.”
Tiiki swished her tail. “But we’re not human are we? The sea-folk are an old people with old ways, I cannot go against them.”
“Your ways are wrong!” Pris’ stormed out of the bathroom leaving the mermaid to her own devices and joined the others downstairs where the immensity of what they had done was sinking in.
“What now?” asked Andy .
“Tomorrow I’ll go to the gallery and wait, I’m sure someone will contact me. Gaz can come with me and we’ll leave Trev to look after you.” He held up one of the pistols taken from Tiiki’s minders “I’m not sure I can use one of these. Andy, gran’s old shotgun is in the cupboard under the stairs you’d better take that.”
“I’ve brought my shotgun and Gaz has the other pistol.” said Tug.
“Interesting that sea-folk have access to guns.” mused Gaz examining the weapon. “You know these are standard issue for the military, I wonder how her minders got hold of ‘em?”
“Black market or maybe the base at Culdrose, perhaps a mermaid charmed them off some poor sod there?” suggested Tug.
“Makes you wonder what else they got and where they keep ‘em.” Said Gaz. “Trev why didn’t you tell me the truth about what we were doing?”
“Didn’t know if you’d believe me and I didn’t want to get you involved too deeply, you needn’t stay you know?”
His gnarled face split in a grin. “If it comes to shooting I’m the only one who knows what to do, so you’re stuck with me, me old cock!”
The pair went outside for a fag and Andy disappeared into the kitchen so Pris’ snuggled up to Jacko on the old settee “I can’t believe what we’ve done.”
“Pris’ my lover, what Tug said to Teague applies to you, in fact I’d rather you buggered off home, it could get nasty here.”
“Jacko I love you and I’m standing by you, besides I feel sorry for that poor girl up there it’s not her fault her mother is an evil bitch.”
“That poor girl will succeed her mother as the queen one day, mermaid society is dominated by the womenfolk and the succession always goes down the female side.”
“Sounds like a good thing to me.” she kissed him. “It’s late shall we go to bed?”
“I don’t feel tired Pris’ no-one’s going to sleep much tonight.
“Who said anything about sleeping?” asked Pris’ with a smirk. The group did manage to catch some sleep with the men taking alternate watch.
“I don’t think could I shoot anyone Gaz.” remarked the artist next morning. He was sitting in the back studio of the Pendinas Gallery with the ex-marine drinking coffee and awaiting contact from the sea-people.
“Don’t worry, you probably won’t have to and if it comes to that leave it to me.” Gaz reassured him.
A loud rapping sounded on the shop door. “Oh shit!” exclaimed Jacko, heart in mouth.
Teague produced his pistol and cocked it. “Show time!”
Jacko stepped out of the back room and was surprised to see a familiar figure stood outside.
“Sergeant Nance, what do you want?” asked Jacko, in the studio at the rear Teague put the safety catch on and lowered the automatic.
“Bit formal today Jacko?”
“Sorry Morwenna, bad night didn’t sleep much.”
“Just passing by, never seen you open this early before?” she said curiously.
“Waiting to meet an important customer.” said Jacko.
“That’s interesting.” she craned her neck in an attempt to see into the back room.
“Morwenna, is there a reason for this visit, I have got things to do?” Jacko asked.
“Last night when I stopped Tug’s car, what exactly had you been doing?”
“Just went out in Newquay s’all.”
“That girl was a mermaid wasn’t she?”
“Friend of Andy’s.”
“So you and Andy are out on the town when you’re both worried about your sister, that’s rather strange and with Trevor Bosanko and Gary Teague, both dodgy characters?”
“Tug’s my old school friend and Gaz came with him.”
“Jacko is there anything I ought to know?”
“No Morwenna, please this meeting’s important.”
“Okay Jacko, you know where I am if you need me?” leaving the gallery she spotted a man with long dark hair studying the adjacent shop window intently. “Morning Sir.”
“M’ning” he mumbled by way of a reply.
Sergeant Nance walked around the corner then stopped and looked back in time to see the man hurriedly enter the Pendinas Gallery.
“So they’ve sent you!” said Jacko.
“I had no choice” admitted Thiir. “The queen was enraged when she read your note.” Jacko had left a message pinned to the jacket of one of Tiiki’s minders. “You don’t need that” said Thiir. Teague had appeared pistol in hand.
“Well what is the answer?” asked Jacko as the ex-marine pocketed his gun.
“Jacko, Flick is safe for the moment, they have deferred giving her to the tide for now but Queen Piirl refuses to make any promises and demands you release her daughter immediately.”
“Fat chance!” snapped Teague.
“Jacko, Piirl is a very vindictive person it would be wise to consider releasing Tiiki.”
“Why are you all afraid of this Piirl?” asked Jacko.
“Because she is our ruler, do you dry-landers not give obeisance to your leaders?”
“We tend to tell them to bugger off!” laughed Gaz.
Thiir looked puzzled. “Your ways seem very disrespectful.”
“And your ways seem barbaric and stuck in the past.” said Jacko. “Go back and tell this Piirl there’s no deal and we don’t release her daughter until Flick is freed. Dammit Thiir she’s your flesh and blood!”
“I will give her your reply but I do not know how she will react, I am truly sorry Jacko.” he left the gallery.
“Fuck me Jacko, we’d better get back to the house, this could turn nasty!” suggested Teague
Sergeant Nance had been waiting for Jacko’s visitor to re-emerge, when he did so she casually strolled up to him. “Good morning again sir”
“Officer, can I help you?”
“I just wondered why you were hanging around Street-an-pol?” she looked at the man, he was strikingly handsome which green eyes that seemed to draw her in, Morwenna imagined herself on the beach rolling naked in the surf with this man, almost feeling the tide rushing over her body. “That’ll do my handsome!” she said pulling herself up sharp. “Your face seems very familiar to me and at a guess I’d say you were the father of Flick Tremayne.”
“You are very observant indeed Sergeant.”
“It helps in my job, what was your business with her brother just now?”
“I can’t discuss that I’m afraid.”
“Well I think it has something to do with a mermaid I saw last night, so you can either come with me to Camborne and a nice dry police cell or we can discuss this now.”
“You know Jackie Tremayne I take it?”
“He’s my friend and I’m concerned about him.”
“Well I don’t want to go to Camborne, let’s go to Bamaluz beach instead and we’ll talk on the way.”
Pris’ walked into Tiiki’s temporary cell to find her sitting on the hard wooden chair completely naked and reading a magazine. Choosing to ignore her state of undress she passed the mermaid a plate. “Herring again?” she enquired wrinkling her nose.
“Sorry haven’t had time to go to town, these are from yesterday.”
“I shouldn’t complain, at least you’re feeding me.” she bit one in half. “They’re okay, look Pris’ I was wrong to be so dismissive about Flick, perhaps things need to change?”
“It’s alright we’re all a bit strung out at the minute. Hey, why aren’t you in the water?” and why are you not wearing anything?
“It’s a bit cramped, fine for sleeping but I can’t stay in there all the time. I drank that awful stuff you left, it seems to be working.”
“Does it hurt a lot when you change?” asked Pris’ remembering what Tiiki must have gone through when she got out of the bath.
“It’s bad but not as much as childbirth.” Tiiki answered.
“You’ve had a baby?”
“I’ve had five, two boys and three girls. They’re all grown up now of course.”
“Five grown up kids, how old are you?
“Seventy-two.” she replied.
“Bloody hell, you only look about twenty!” exclaimed Pris’ in surprise.
“We don’t age the same way as you dry-landers, we can live for hundreds of years. Kiisi the witch, well her mother was the mermaid from the Zennor legend, Flick’s father is over two hundred years old, mother is even older.”
“Wow, can I become a mermaid please?” laughed Pris’.
“Isn’t that how all this trouble started?” asked Tiiki with a wry smile.
“Andy and Flick fell in love, that’s how it started!”
The mermaid looked down and gave no reply, Pris’ heard the front door open, Jacko had just returned with Teague. Picking up the empty crockery she left Tiiki to her own thoughts. “Any news?” she asked coming down the stairs.
“No my lover Thiir says the queen’s furious and wants us to release Tiiki without condition.”
“Shave her head and send the hair to them. Mermaids are proud of their locks, always combing them.” suggested Andy.
“Andy!” cried Pris’.
“That’s what kidnappers do isn’t it, cut bits off their hostages, at least her hair will grow back?” replied Andy defiantly. “I’ll do it!”
“It’s a thought.” said Jacko. “Let’s wait a while before we do anything drastic.” Kidnappers, that’s what we are! He’d been avoiding thinking about it up till now.
“I’ll make coffee” said Pris’. “And someone’s got to go to town and get some more fish for our guest.”
“Why can’t she eat normal food like the rest of us?” Gaz complained.
“Cos’ she’s sea-folk!” snapped Andrea. “Don’t forget I was until recently, she can’t digest cooked food properly it’ll make her ill.”
“Christ, you been eating raw fish too?” remarked Gaz. “Thought your breath smelled.”
“No laughing matter you tuss, I’ve got to wean myself back onto human food slowly.”
“I’ll get you something too Andy.” said Pris’. “What do you want?”
“Sushi.” she replied.
“Okay I’ll make the coffee, empty the rubbish then I’ll go to town.” said Pris sarcastically before going into the kitchen, after putting the kettle on she removed the plastic bag from the pedal bin and went into the back garden. As she lifted the dustbin lid she became aware of someone standing nearby.
Gaz Teague walked into the kitchen seconds later to see if there was any cake left, something felt wrong and looking out of the window he saw the dustbin with it’s lid off and a black plastic bag full of rubbish on the ground next to it. Then the back door handle slowly began to turn, Gaz couldn’t tell who it was but he was pretty sure it wasn’t Priscilla Hartford-Jones. He crossed the kitchen in a few steps and snatching the door open, punched the man in the colourful T-shirt standing behind it then snatching the weapon he was carrying brought its stock around to catch him on the side of the head and knock him out cold.
“What the fuck?” asked Jacko, who had run in on hearing the commotion nervously brandishing his pistol.
“He’s got an SA80, a fucking assault rifle!” said Teague by way of reply, he was busily tying the unconscious man up with gardening twine he’d found under the sink.
“Is he a merman?”
Gaz checked the intruder’s teeth. “Yep, Jacko, I think they’ve got Pris!”
“No!” he cried a cold feeling in his stomach, what was he to do now?
Several shots rang out and the kitchen window exploded inwards in a shower of glass sending them diving to the floor.
“Jacko!” yelled Tug from the front door “you’d better get here, sharp like!”
“Andy, get in here and keep down” shouted Teague as Jackie scuttled to join Tug. He handed his pistol to the girl. “Lay down some cover while I get outside!”
“Fire some bullets out of the window, here’s some spare.” He handed her his other clip, she nodded and put the barrel over the sill then nervously pulled the trigger. Andy was horrified by the noise but kept on firing as the ex-marine ran out with the stolen rifle. When he entered the undergrowth she deemed it was safe to stop but kept her position by what was left of the window.
As the sound of shooting died away Jacko and Tug were stood outside the front door staring in horror at Pris’ being held captive by a merman holding a gun to her head, he was wearing a bright T-shirt, shorts and pumps while another, similarly attired, was standing by the front gate with an assault rifle looking like some post-apocalyptic surfer.
Tug pointed his twelve bore at Pris’ captor. “You hurt her and I’ll blow your fucking head off so help me I will!”
Jacko looked at her terrified face “Pris my lover we’ll sort this, they obviously want to talk” god I hope so!
“Jackie Tremayne?” a cultured female voice came from outside the gate and a striking woman entered the garden, she was wearing a summer dress and had grey streaks in her red hair. She was the only mermaid he had seen with visible signs of age but her resemblance to Tiiki was unmistakeable, this had to be Piirl queen of the Pendinas sea-folk. “You will give me my daughter and I will spare your woman.” as with Thiir she had beautiful white teeth instead of pointed fangs.
“Let Pris’ go and we’ll talk.”
“We have the advantage Mr Tremayne, how many are you, only four I think? We outnumber you easily.” she motioned to the merman holding his girlfriend and he pressed the gun to her temple. “Do you want her to live or not?
“Jacko!” screamed Pris’.
Gaz Teague had surprised the gunman who had fired on the kitchen to leave him unconscious and was crawling through the scrub when he encountered a pistol barrel pointing at him. “Hello Sergeant Nance, didn’t know you lot carried P226s now?”
“Teague you bloody fool I could have shot you! This isn’t my gun, Flick’s dad gave it to me and he’s told me everything.”
“Are you on your own?” asked Teague, she nodded. “Bollocks, the only time I could do with a bleddy police presence and there ain’t none!”
“This isn’t official business I’m here for Jacko, they’ve got hold of Pris’ now what are we going to do?” she asked.
“Can you shoot that thing?”
“I’ve had firearms training but I’m not what you’d call a good shot.”
“Good job I am then, I’ve got an idea.”
“No killing, understand?”
“Won’t have to if it works, we have to go either side of them then…”
“Well what’s your answer Jackie Tremayne?” asked Queen Piirl.
“Mum!” screamed Tiiki. Andy, acting on her own initiative had dragged her downstairs and was now holding a pistol to her temple, mimicking the merman and his captive.
“Recognise me Piirl?”
“Nndi!” snarled the woman. “You are the cause of all this!”
“I’ll shoot her Piirl, do you understand that?”
“Try me!” retorted Andy.
“I’m calling your bluff dry-lander bitch, Hiiro shoot the girl!”
There was a single shot and the one called Hiiro fell back clutching his shoulder, Jacko pulled Pris’ to him as two more armed mermen emerged.
“Armed police put your weapons down!” shouted Nance from behind the garden fence. “Teague, I said no killing!”
“The fishy bastard will live, I only winged him!” shouted Gaz from higher ground on the other side.
“We will not surrender to you minor beings.” said Piirl haughtily.
“This is what we dry-landers call a Mexican standoff.” Jacko informed Piirl, yet more psycho-surfers had appeared
“Or who blinks first!” shouted Teague how many are there for Christ’s sake?
“I want my daughter now!” the queen demanded.
“And I want my sister released!” retorted Jacko.
“Her punishment has been decided she will be given to the tide, it will still happen regardless of whether you kill me or not.”
“Mum please, give a little, these people have treated me well, it’s not fair on Fliiik or Nndi.”
“What are you saying daughter? She has blatantly disobeyed our law.”
“I said it’s not fair.” repeated Tiiki. “We need to change.”
Jacko looked at the queen’s face and saw through her façade. “Andy, give Tiiki her clothes and let her go.”
“What!” exclaimed Andy?
“What!” echoed the queen in surprise?
“I’m returning your daughter unconditionally Piirl and I’m trusting you to do the right thing.” said Jacko.
“We’ve gone to all this trouble for nothing?” asked Tug.
Pris’ helped Tiiki to dress then hugged her. “You have done a noble thing Jacko.” said the mermaid then looked to her mother. “I hope we are capable of such noble actions.”
Andrea angrily watched the sea-folk depart. “They’ll kill her Jacko, I know they will. We could have had the lot of them.”
“And then Flick would have died for sure. I saw the concern for Tiiki on Piirl’s face, this way there is a chance.” he replied.
Morwenna approached holding a large canvas shopping bag she had found in the house. “All non-registered guns in here please, I’ll sneak them in when we have another firearms amnesty.”
“You didn’t take the bleddy sea-folk’s guns did you.” said Gaz reluctantly unloading the SA80 and placing it in the bag.
Pris’ put her arm around Jacko as he watched the figures disappear towards the cliff path. “You did the right thing love, I know you did.”
Dusk was falling when Fliiik was dragged struggling out of the tide and onto the beach, then as the witch Kiisi chanted an incantation over her she hissed and writhed in pain as her tail separated into legs, it increased to become unbearable agony she screamed aloud. When it was over she stood on shaky legs and watched the others swimming away and making her mind up instantly, ran into the waves after them but her legs stayed as they were.
Flick spotted a figure some distance away and wading into the water up to her waist saw it was her father. “Dad, help me please!” she cried, realising in horror she now had a human voice.
“I’m sorry Fliiik” he called.
She swam to him awkwardly, unaccustomed to using her legs in the water. “Please!” she pleaded.
“Fliiik you have family and friends on the dry land, join them and enjoy your life.” he disappeared under the waves and Fliiik diving after him had a further shock, she could no longer breathe under water and swam awkwardly to the surface coughing and spluttering. As she struggled to stay afloat her father took her in his strong arms to carry her back to the shore. “Dearest daughter you have to stay on the land now, I will visit you from time to time.” Thiir then swam sadly away and Fliiik watched until he vanished from sight. A sob welled up from deep inside and once it had had been released she could not stop.
“It’s alright my love, we’re here.” Andy folded Fliiik in her arms and kissed her, Pris passed her a light summer dress of the type she usually wore on land.
Fliiik put it on crying. “They’ve taken my tail Nndi… Andy, I can’t go back to the sea!”
“I know my love, that’s what they did to me, Tiiki told us this is what would happen. We can live together again and when our teeth have regrown as human ones we’ll get jobs. Jacko says your grandma’s old house is yours to keep.”
“We’ll live together like a human couple?” Fliiik raised a smile.
Pris’ took Jacko’s hand to lead him away after they had both hugged the ex-mermaid “Piirl just had to punish her didn’t she?” he said bitterly. “Exiled her to the bloody mainland!”
Pris’ looked at the couple holding each other on the sand “They’ve got each other now, they’ll be alright Jacko. How about taking me for a drink?”
He smiled. “The Cutter it is then!”
Morwenna sat on the beach watching the man swim to shore, as the water became shallower she could see his golden tail. The merman pulled himself on to the beach and changed into human form with hardly a murmur. She enjoyed seeing Thiir stand straight, his well-muscled body damp from the tide. “Hello my lover” she said.
“Good evening my dearest Morwenna.” he dressed in the clothes she had brought. “How are my daughter and her lovely partner?”
“Andy’s got her old job back at the Gaff Cutter and Flick is starting as a swimming instructor at the sports centre next week, I’ll tell you everything later.”
“Good and you my dear?”
“I’m fine darling.” They kissed “I’m taking you to Truro tonight.”
“Of course.” she replied.
“And my sleeping accommodation?”
“My bath’s full of seawater and the pumps working.”
“Excellent, Morwenna, you’ve not mentioned anything about this to Fliiik or Jacko have you?”
“You’re joking aren’t you? I don’t know which one of them would be the most upset!”
The End (?)