They end up in the church itself, which is decrepit and broken. One of the windows is cracked. Fractured light streams in through the dirty panes; it’s proof that no one has been here for a very long time, and that there’s not much to this island as far as civilization goes.
Fala huffs and snorts the whole way inside. “What are we in here for? Och! There’s nothing but dirt laying around this place!”
“We’re going to ask the Island Master where your watch is,” says Tabe, as though that’s supposed to make perfect sense.
Still, no matter how much Fala grumbles or complains, he can’t get another answer out of the fox.
They sit in front of the pews for longer than Fala cares to admit, but eventually a rustling can be heard. The dog can smell soured air and stagnant water and an earthy sort of musk. A sleek looking mink steps into view. Like most of his species, he’s got a rich, glossy coat. The dark brown fur looks almost like silk.
The mink pauses, glancing at them with narrowed golden eyes. “Tabe. Aisha. What madness have you gotten in now?”
“We’re looking for something,” says Aisha, but Tabe is quick to take over.
The Arctic fox explains, “this dog saved me from an old hunter’s trap. I need to repay my debt to him now. We’re looking for a watch, Island Master.”
The mink blinks. “A watch?”
At the same time, Fala tilts his head and asks, “island master?”
Aisha lands on Fala’s head, perching between small black ears. “That’s right! This is the Island Master! He knows everything that happens on this island!”
The mink is nearly twenty four inches long, from nose tip to tail tip. He curls up at the base of the pulpit. In the dirty light streaming in through the broken windows, it’s clear that the mink is very, very old. “A watch. I do recall something about a watch. You saved Tabe?”
“Aye, that I did,” says Fala, still confused but willing to do just about anything, at this point, if it means getting the darned watch back to Dick and going home.
He’s not that young himself, after all.
Still, the mink doesn’t answer for a very long time. Technically, foxes are one of the mink’s three biggest predators. Yet, if anything, Tabe is the one showing this mink respect.
One day, Fala would like to know the Island Master’s story.
Today is not that day.
Fala is grateful when the mink finally nods and says, “alright, I’ll show you where I last saw this watch of yours.”
Katelynn E Koontz – Author