Finally, I choked out, ‘Who is it?’
‘Rupert?’ A hoarse whisper. But it seemed to be Billie’s voice.
‘Thought it must be, but...’
‘Where’s Kimberly?’ I whispered.
‘Get in here,’ Billie said, rising up slightly higher in the darkness.
We hadn’t exactly rehearsed this part. I stepped in between the bushy walls. They were about as high as my waist. Billie seemed to be standing below me in the hole, her face level with my knees.
‘What am I supposed to do?’ I asked.
‘Pretend you’re taking a whizz.’
Great, I thought.
But I saw the point. After all, the whole charade was for Wesley’s benefit. If I was going to visit the latrine, I should appear to be using it.
So I clamped the tomahawk under my arm, then started going through the motions - as if I’d just stepped up to a urinal.
Of course, I didn’t haul anything out.
‘What happened to Kimberly?’ I whispered.
‘She went off. Thought we ought to split up.’
I looked around, but couldn’t spot Kimberly. The beach between me and the jungle looked gray and desolate. Beyond the line of trees, the jungle was black. Turning my head the other way, I checked on our campsite. The sleeping area looked like a field of dark lumps. Connie was still sprawled on her back near the fire.
‘Do you know where she went?’ I asked.
‘She out of her mind?’
‘She wants you to go there. If Wesley doesn’t attack you here.’
‘If the attack happens here, she’s gonna come in and take him from behind.’
‘I don’t think it’ll happen here,’ I said.
‘Let’s give it some time.’
‘It doesn’t take all that long to ... you know, take a leak.’
‘Stop looking around.’
‘Wesley hasn’t got a stopwatch on you. I’m sure he isn’t keeping track of the time.’
‘I don’t know. I’d be done by now.’
Her arms came up, barely visible in the darkness, and I felt her hands curl softly against my calves. ‘Just stay for a while,’ she whispered. ‘Give him a chance.’
Her hands glided up and down a little, caressing me. ‘How are you holding up?’
‘So far, so good.’
‘I don’t know what we’d do without you.’
‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘I hope you don’t get a chance to find out.’
She patted one of my legs. ‘Wise guy.’
‘How are you doing?’ I asked.
‘Getting along. I’ll fall apart later. After we’ve dealt with Wesley.’
‘Must be awfully hard on you.’
She was silent, and her hands went motionless on my legs. Then she said, ‘I’ve still got Connie.’
‘I saw some of what happened with her over there.’
‘You did?’ Apparently, the low wall of bushes at the front of the latrine wasn’t as thick as I’d thought. I felt my face go hot. ‘What did you see?’ I asked.
‘Oh, her little strip show.’
‘She’s a beautiful girl, isn’t she?’
‘Takes after you,’ I said, which was more flattering to Connie than to Billie, and untrue.
‘Bet she surprised you with that.’
‘She’s got spunk.’
‘She sure knew how to get Wesley’s attention.’
And mine, I thought.
‘She shouldn’t have slapped you, though.’
Billie had seen that, too. My face flamed up again. ‘Like you say, she’s got spunk.’
‘She can be a real bitch, sometimes. But she’s a good kid. Under it all. You probably know that already.’
‘Yeah,’ I said.
Yeah, my ass.
‘You just have to stand up for yourself. Don’t take any crap from her, you know?’
‘Didn’t you see me punch her lights out?’ I asked.
‘It was an accident.’
‘You mean you hit her?’ Billie sounded concerned, but not angry.
‘Weren’t you watching?’ I asked.
‘I must’ve been looking away when that happened. All of a sudden, I looked back again and Connie was on her back. I thought ...’
‘No, it wasn’t any act. I mean, it was supposed to be, but she walked right into my fist. She’s okay, though.’ I looked. Connie was still spread out on the sand. ‘I bet she’s conscious by now. She knows better than to get up.’
‘I’m sorry. It really was an accident. I would never hit her on purpose.’
‘I hope not.’
‘I’d better get going,’ I said. ‘I’ve been here way too long. Wesley’ll know something’s up.’
‘Yeah.’ She squeezed the backs of my legs, then took her hands away. ‘Kimberly’ll be at the regular place. Go slowly and keep your eyes open.’
‘Okay. See you later.’
I stepped backward away from the latrine, hitched up my trunks a bit, then took the tomahawk out from under my arm and started walking toward the jungle.
I got more and more scared. It helped, though, to tell myself that Wesley might not even be there. For all we really knew, he could be miles away. Or maybe the dinghy had gone down with all hands aboard. Maybe he’d fallen off a cliff. Maybe he’d been dropped by an aneurism or a coronary. Maybe he’d run afoul of a man-eating critter, a poisonous snake, a headhunter, or Dr Moreau.
Endless ways he could’ve met a demise.
But I figured that he was probably lurking among the trees, watching my approach and fully intending to lay. me to waste.
The only thing that kept me going was Kimberly.
Wishful thinking aside, she was probably in there lurking among the trees, watching my approach and fully intending to jump the bastard when he made the try for me.
Unless she’d already been jumped by him.
My legs were shaking pretty good, but I kept going.
I was half a dozen strides from the edge of the jungle when the whole deal went to hell.
A shout came from Thelma. ‘HELP!’ she yelled. Then, ‘WHAT’S GOING ON?’
I turned around fast.
She was on her knees beside Connie’s sprawled body, her arms raised and spread out wide as if to show us all the size of her confusion and fear.
She’d spotted me.
I flapped an arm, signaling her to stay put.
But she scurried to her feet and started running straight toward me.
I muttered a curse.
She was ruining everything.
I kept waving her back, but she kept coming, chugging closer, her bosom leading the way, her head thrown back. If her bra had broken during the charge, her leaping breasts would’ve torn open her blouse, whammed her in the face and probably knocked her over backward.
When she came to a halt in front of me, I considered whamming her in the face.
I’d like to have done it with my tomahawk.
But I don’t hit women.
Anyway, she didn’t know she was ruining everything. All she knew was that she’d woken up to find herself alone - and to find Connie unconscious and topless.
Wasn’t Thelma’s fault she went nuts.
Wasn’t her fault she’d wrecked our whole scheme.
Wasn’t her fault I suddenly hated her guts.
She staggered to a halt in front of me and stood there, huffing for breath, her mouth hanging open.
‘What’s ... going on?’ she gasped out.
‘I’ve gotta take a dump,’ I said.
‘I don’t know. You’re ... way over here. Connie’s out cold. What’s the matter with her?’
‘I slugged her.’
‘We had a fight.’
‘A fight? What kind of a fight? How come she’s half-naked ? Did you do that to her?’
‘Where’s Kimberly? Where’s Billie?’
‘I don’t know.’ Not exactly a lie. I wasn’t entirely sure where they were - mainly, I wondered why Billie hadn’t hopped out of the latrine to intercept Thelma.
Suddenly, I was worried about her.
‘Billie!’ I called. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yes.’ Her voice came from the direction of the latrine. It didn’t sound joyful.
‘You might as well come on out.’
A few moments later, Billie crawled out from between the dark, leafy walls. She stood up and walked slowly toward us, shaking her head.
Thelma said to her, ‘What is all this? What were you doing in there?’
‘I was using the facility,’ Billie explained. ‘Is that all right with you?’
Thelma’s mouth fell open. ‘It isn’t supposed to be used till tomorrow!’
‘It has to set. The sand needs time to set.’ She turned to me for support.
‘That’s right,’ I told Billie.
‘None of us were supposed to use it till tomorrow,’ Thelma protested.
‘Now you’ve probably ruined it.’
‘We forgot to tell you,’ I said to Billie. Then I faced Thelma and said, ‘See? I knew better than to use it. That’s why I was heading for the jungle.’
‘By yourself?’ Thelma asked.
‘Who am I supposed to take with me?’
She opened her mouth as if to give me a suggestion, but then she grabbed Billie’s shoulder and shook it. ‘Did you see what he did to your daughter?’
We all looked toward Connie. She was still stretched out in the sand near the fire, but not on her back. While nobody was watching, she must’ve rolled over.
‘Guess she’s okay,’ I said.
‘Rupert attacked her,’ Thelma explained.
‘I did not.’
‘Bull!’ she snapped at me. ‘You tried to tear off her clothes.’
‘Settle down,’ Billie told her. ‘Connie took off her own top.’
‘No, she didn’t. Why would she do that?’ Thelma glared at me. ‘And what did you do with Kimberly?’
‘Then where is she?’
Billie and I shared a glance. She shook her head; I shrugged.
‘If we don’t tell her the truth,’ Billie said, ‘we’ll be making up stories till Hell freezes over.’
‘Yeah. I know. But look, the thing is, I’ve got a little, uh, chore to take care of. Why don’t you two go on back to the fire. See how Connie’s doing, and you can tell Thelma all about our plan. I’ll be back in a few minutes.’
‘Where’s my sister?’ Thelma demanded.
‘I’ll see if I can find her,’ I said. Without waiting for any more trouble, I turned around and headed for the jungle. When I was just about there, I looked back. Billie and Thelma were walking slowly away, side by side. They seemed to be talking, but I couldn’t make out the words.
I was so annoyed and frustrated, thanks to Thelma, that I forgot to be afraid.
A short distance into the trees, I looked back and couldn’t see much of the beach anymore - just a little flicker from our fire.
The bit I’d told Thelma about ‘taking a dump’ had been a fib. I truly did need to pee, though. Right where I stood seemed like as good a place as any.
Nobody seemed to be nearby.
Of course, Wesley or Kimberly might’ve been standing three feet away without being seen. Awfully dark in there.
I told myself, If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
I half believed it, too.
My trunks don’t have a fly. I got clear of them by tugging the crotch up and sideways, which gave me a window of opportunity through the left leg hole. I kept the trunks out of the way with my right hand, and kept the tomahawk in my left.
One more glance around, then I started to go.
It promised to be a long one.
Which didn’t thrill me. I wanted to get it done with and amscray back to the beach.
Also, I wasn’t thrilled by the noise I was making. A loud, papery, splattery sound. Obviously, I was hitting leaves or some other variety of foliage. It’s damn near impossible to take a silent leak in a jungle. I tried swiveling from side to side. The noise changed directions, but not volume.
It was just starting to taper off when I heard someone take a step. At first, I didn’t know it was a footstep. I didn’t know for sure until I heard the second one.
Then came the third, closer to me than the others.
By that time, I had shut down my irrigation project and stowed the equipment.
I switched the tomahawk to my right hand.
Then I stood still and held my breath.
And wished to God I had stayed on the beach where I belonged.
The footsteps stopped.
Maybe two yards away? .
I strained my eyes to see who was there, but all I could make out were different shades of dark gray - and a lot of black.
It’s probably Kimberly, I told myself.
But what if it isn’t?
I knew, really, that it had to be her. She’d heard me and started to come toward me, then stopped, afraid I might be Wesley.
We were both standing there, trying to convince ourselves that the other person wasn’t Wesley.
Suddenly, I had a bad thought.
What if she decides I’m Wesley, and attacks me?
She wouldn’t do that. After all, I was supposed to come out here and act as bait. She was expecting me.
But she also expected Wesley to show up.
It was actually possible that she might goof and kill me by mistake.
Anyway, we couldn’t just stand here all night.
In a quiet voice, I said, ‘Kimberly? It’s me. Rupert.’
The voice came back, ‘Rupert? It’s me. Wesley.’
Close Shaves And Rescues
Wesley, being the asshole that he is, apparently couldn’t resist the chance to scare the hell out of me. If he’d just kept his mouth shut and snuck in closer and used his ax, I’d be a dead boy right now.
But he had to answer me back.
My reactions surprised me.
I didn’t scream and whirl around and make a mad dash for the beach. Which is what I would’ve guessed I’d do, if anyone had asked.
Maybe everyone isn’t like this, but I seem to have at least two different people inside of me: one is timid and plays by the rules; the other is a little nuts - and the nut pops up at odd, unexpected times.
I was standing there, scared half to death even before Wesley answered - my knees shaking, my heart slugging. Then he said, ‘Rupert? It’s me. Wesley.’
Instead of having a panic attack, I heard myself greet the guy. ‘Hey, Wesley, how’s it going?’
‘Having a ball.’
‘Glad to hear it.’
‘What was this supposed to be, tonight? Some sort of trap?’
‘Guess who got caught in it?’
‘You tell me.’
I hoped to God he wasn’t about to say, ‘Kimberly.’ Wesley said, ‘You.’
‘Sure thing,’ I said.
I threw my tomahawk at the sound. Threw it hard. It went smashing through bushes. I didn’t wait for the outcome, but made a one-eighty and ran.
Behind me, Wesley let out a yell. He sounded more angry than hurt.
Then I heard him come charging after me.
I dodged between a couple of tree trunks, rammed my way through
I almost collided with Kimberly.
What a sight! I’ll never forget it as long as I live. She stood only a few strides in front of me, bare and dark except for the white of her bikini. (Not wearing Keith’s Hawaiian shirt, for a change.) Her feet were planted in the sand, legs apart and slightly bent, one foot forward. Her left arm was stretched out toward me, her right arm cocked back near her ear - the spear all set to throw.
‘Hit the deck!’ she commanded me in a quick, loud whisper.
I dived for the sand, pounded against it chest first and slid toward Kimberly’s bare legs. About to plow into them, I threw myself sideways. Did a half-roll and looked up just as she hurled her spear.
It shot straight forward.
Snapping my head around, I kept track of it.
The spear raced toward Wesley as he came charging out of the jungle.
This was the first I’d seen of him since the explosion.
He appeared to be stark naked. His skin gleamed black in the moonlight - some sort of camouflage, I guess, for sneaking around at night. (He hadn’t put the stuff on his backside, I discovered pretty soon.) He held his ax in both hands, raised high over his left shoulder, ready to split me like a log.
His grin was big and white.
The grin went away when he saw Kimberly - and the spear speeding at him.
His mouth opened wide.
He yelled, ‘YAAAH!’ and tried to dodge the spear, giving himself an awkward half-twist to the left in the moments before it struck.
The whittled point of Kimberly’s spear caught him in the chest area. He was a husky guy, and he had pretty good boobs on him. The spear hit him in the left one. He was partly turned away, though, so all it did was poke through one side of his tit and come out the other side, just behind his nipple and maybe half an inch under his skin.
He squealed. Dropping the ax behind him, he grabbed the shaft of the spear with both hands and stumbled and fell to his knees. Though he clutched the spear, he didn’t try to pull it out.
I think he was afraid to pull it out.
Afraid of the pain.
He held on to it the way he did, I think, to keep the weight of the spear from dragging open his wound. If he’d just let go, it probably would have split the front of his boob wide open from one side to the other.
Anyway, I scurried over to where the ax had fallen.
While I did that, Kimberly rushed Wesley and reached for her spear.
Island by Richard Laymon / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes