When a tsunami hits, Blair is forced to leave his home and his beloved cat behind. Returning to search for his pet, he hurts himself in the treacherous mud and debris the tsunami leaves in its wake.
When Joshua spots Blair struggling in a cordoned off area, he quickly finds himself not only Blair’s unofficial next of kin, but also the caretaker of Blair’s pets, feisty cat Whiskey and three dogs.
The unlikely friendship between the men slowly warms and becomes something much more. However, Blair isn’t being entirely honest with Joshua.
When an old flame of Joshua’s turns up on the doorstep, he makes it a personal mission to prove Blair has a hidden past. But delving into Blair’s past brings a more deadly danger than the tsunami.
His heart heavy, Joshua sloshed through what was now a field of mud and silt that had once been neat little gardens. Looking over toward the row of battered baches, he sighed and shook his head. Some of the more robustly constructed properties still stood and looked fairly sound.
A couple of buildings at the far end of the row clearly missed the ocean’s more destructive power -- purely by the sea’s own capriciousness -- and a few had lost roofs or walls and were open to the elements.
All had been flooded up to a couple of feet. Sand and debris, as well as mud and silt, covered the floors. No one was going to continue their holidays in these baches, or be able to stay in them any time soon.
Movement caught his eye and Joshua stopped to look along the baches. Sure enough, someone had ignored the cordon around them and was slipping and sliding trying to get up one of the steeply sloping paths that led from the baches to the road.
“Hey, Manu.” Joshua shouted to one of the other volunteers. “Over here. Someone was in one of the baches. Looks like he’s having a bit of a problem, too.” Watching the stranger’s progress, Joshua felt certain that something other than the slippery, sludgy surface was making the man walk in that peculiar lop-sided manner. But despite his labored gait, the man didn’t relinquish the basket in his arms.
Hurrying a little, but careful not to lose his own balance in the treacherous conditions, Joshua headed over toward the stranger. “Hey! You all right? This area’s still cordoned off. Too dangerous. No admittance.”
“I hurt my leg. I fell.” The man shouted back. “I can’t get up the path.”
The row of baches lay below a small rise that hadn’t protected them from the tsunami and was part of the reason they were still dangerous. Then the ground sloped away steeply. The ground was muddy and hazardous, likely to take days, even weeks, to really dry out.
It was obvious that while the man had managed to get down the steep incline to the baches easily enough, he was never going to make it back up. Especially with such a big basket in his arms.
Getting closer, Joshua heard, rather than saw, the reason the man wasn’t letting it go. A cat wailed a protest, probably at its enforced confinement, in long, deep yowls.
“Here! Pass the basket to me. Then we can come and get you.” Joshua had a stout stick to test the ground ahead of him. Ducking under the tape he made his way gingerly down to the man. Getting close enough Joshua steadied himself and reached out, gazing into blue eyes filled with a mix of pain and anxiety.
“The lock isn’t very good. I don’t want Whiskey to escape.” The man’s pleading tone brought out Joshua’s protective urges.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.” Taking the basket, Joshua set it down, and delved in his pocket for the twine he knew was there. A couple of seconds later the basket was secure and the cat glowered at Joshua as if he was to blame for the entire predicament. “Sorry, Whiskey. I’m one of the volunteer helpers to clean up. I didn’t summon the tsunami. Just trying to help in the aftermath.”
The cat cocked his head to one side then, as if judging him no longer worthy of further consideration, lay down and curled into a ball.
“I’ll just take this up to the road and then we’ll help you.” Joshua turned his attention back to the man. Despite being covered in mud and with a couple of days’ stubble, there was still something about him that called to Joshua. He couldn’t explain it, and didn’t have time to worry about it. The stranger had come to rescue his cat and was now in need of rescue himself.
“I can’t make it back up there. I hurt my leg when I fell in the bach. I’m sorry.” The man sounded so distraught, that Joshua was tempted to just slide down and join him.
“Don’t worry and don’t panic. There’s a crew here to help with the clean-up. Manu, see if you can get a couple of the guys to give a hand here. I’m going to get kitty here up onto the road then stand with -- hey, what’s your name?” Joshua peered at the stricken man who now sat shivering in the mud.
“B-Blair. My name’s Blair.”
“Cool. Well I’m Joshua. Good to meet you, wish it was in better circumstances.”