Island, p.29
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       Island, p.29

           Richard Laymon
 

  He raped Erin.

  While he did it, Thelma went nuts on the bottom as if she was the one getting screwed.

  Then it was over.

  They unpiled. Thelma and Wesley took Erin by her arms, helped her up, and walked her out of the room.

  I sank down against the wall under the window, shaky and exhausted. Dazed by what I’d seen.

  I wished I hadn’t watched.

  Also, though, I wished I could get to see it all again.

  I know, sick.

  The thing is, you don’t get a chance to see something like that every day.

  Like a car accident.

  Only better.

  Never mind. I know I shouldn’t have watched. I should’ve risked my life to stop it. But I didn’t. How come?

  a. I’m a miserable, horny pervert.

  b. I didn’t even know the girl.

  c. Thelma and/or Wesley would’ve killed me.

  d. I owe my allegiance to Kimberly, Billie and Connie, not to some stranger.

  e. All of the above.

  After The Game

  After they left the room, I didn’t know where they might be. I figured they would probably return pretty soon, though, if only to gather their clothes and put out the candles and lamps. You don’t leave flames untended, not for long. Not unless you want to burn down your house.

  I could burn the place down!

  Standing up, I peered through the window.

  Nobody’d come back into the room, yet.

  All I needed to do was remove the window screen (or slit it with my razor), climb in and spread around some kerosine, toss a candle ...

  And maybe burn up Kimberly, Billie and Connie - not to mention Erin and her sister, Alice.

  As far as I knew, they might all be locked inside the house, somewhere.

  Maybe others, too.

  I couldn’t take any sort of action until I knew where they were being kept.

  I’d missed a great opportunity to find them, I realized. While Wesley and Thelma were busy brutalizing Erin in the dance room, I should have gone exploring. I probably could’ve searched the whole house - with no danger of being caught. Instead, I’d just planted myself at the window and gotten my kicks watching the show.

  I’d blown it.

  Maybe I’d blown my single, best chance to find and save my women.

  All because I’m a low-life, horny pervert.

  On the other hand ... I didn’t know in advance that they’d be spending an hour or more messing with that girl. If I hadn’t stayed and watched, maybe I would’ve been in the house when they got done. I might’ve bumped smack into them and gotten myself nailed.

  Being a low-life, horny pervert might’ve saved my life.

  Might’ve saved my women, too, since there was nobody to rescue them except me.

  You just never know.

  Maybe it was a good thing that I stayed and watched.

  While I stood outside the window, peering in and thinking about all that stuff, Thelma came back into the room. She was still naked, but no longer bloody. Apparently, she’d gone off somewhere to wash up.

  She hurried about, crouching to pick up what they’d left behind: her robe, Wesley’s pants and belt, Erin’s kilt and blouse and knee socks. Clutching them to her bosom, she circled the room and blew out the candles and lamp flames.

  When she finished, the room was dark except for faint light from the doorway - and its reflection in the mirror. The mirror showed her backside as she hurried down the hall. Then she disappeared.

  I decided to climb in through the window and try to catch up with her.

  The only safe way to play: keep my eyes on Thelma and Wesley. So long as I never let them out of my sight, they wouldn’t be able to take me by surprise.

  Also, they were sure to lead me to my women. (Unless my women were dead, which I couldn’t allow myself to believe.)

  The window screen was attached to the sill by small hook-and-eye catches. A simple flip of two hooks, and the screen should swing out for me.

  But the hooks were on the inside.

  At the bottom of the screen, just above one of the hooks, I sliced a small flap with my razor, I pushed against it with the tip of my forefinger. The flap lifted inward. I inserted my finger to the second knuckle and shoved the hook sideways. It was tight in the steel eye. But it suddenly popped out.

  I started to work on the screen above the other catch. When the flap was made, I put away my razor. Then I poked my finger in. I shoved at the hook. It slipped free.

  The screen went loose at the bottom.

  I stuck my index fingers into both the flaps.

  I started easing the screen toward me. It came easily.

  But all of a sudden, a door banged shut somewhere to my right - in the direction of the front of the house. The sound, though not very loud, startled the hell out of me. I jumped. I felt as if I’d gotten zapped by lightning - a hot current sizzling through my heart and every vein and artery.

  I damn near fell down.

  Somehow, though, I kept my hold on the screen. I eased it gently back into place, in spite of my quaking hands. Then I let myself collapse.

  I lay on the ground, head up, eyes on the grounds by the front of the mansion. I no longer sizzled from the sudden fright, but my heart wouldn’t slow down. It whammed like a madman. I had a hard time catching my breath, too. I was a wreck.

  Nobody walked into view.

  I heard voices, though. Probably Wesley and Thelma, but the sounds were soft and masked by a thousand jungle noises. I didn’t have a clue about what was being said.

  After a few seconds, the voices faded out completely.

  I pushed myself off the ground and ran alongside the house. Glancing around the comer of the veranda, I found my quarry; Wesley and Thelma, walking Erin toward the jungle.

  They had their backs to me.

  Thelma’s right hand clutched Erin by the arm. She carried a flaming torch in her left hand. It lit the three of them with an aura of shimmering gold.

  Thelma wore shoes, and nothing else. Erin wore nothing at all. Wesley, holding her by the right arm, wore his knife belt, a bandage on his right buttock, and high-top sneakers.

  Erin limped along between her two captors. She’d been cleaned so that she no longer looked as if she’d been rolling in blood. But I could see a mad pattern of stripes on her back and buttocks.

  Her head hung. She looked hugely weary.

  They led her away from the mansion, following a dirt pathway that curved to the left and vanished into the jungle.

  I watched until they vanished into the jungle. When all I could see was the haze of Thelma’s torchlight, I broke cover. I dashed past the side of the veranda and across the front lawn (book bag whapping against my back), and didn’t slow down until I came to the dirt path.

  Crouching low, I crept forward. With bushes in the way, I could no longer see the glow of Thelma’s torch. But she and the others couldn’t have gone far. They had to be just a short distance ahead.

  I snuck around a curve in the path.

  And found them.

  Found them on the path, no more than fifty feet in front of me.

  Loading Erin into a cage.

  A cage the size of a small room, bars on all sides, bars across the top, a door of bars in front.

  At the fading edges of the torchlight, I could just barely see a second cage. A space the width of a sidewalk separated it, from Erin’s cage - enough distance to stop the prisoners from reaching each other, touching.

  A girl stood in the second cage, her face pressed between two of the bars. She was poorly lit. She looked too small, though, to be any of my women.

  I guessed she might be Alice, Erin’s sister.

  Wesley shoved Erin through the door of the first cage, then swung it shut and locked it with a key.

  He had a whole bunch of keys. They hung on a ring the size of a bracelet. After locking Erin in her cage, he slipped the key-ring over his right wrist.<
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  I figured he and Thelma might turn around soon, to start back, so I scurried off the path and crawled in among the bushes and tree trunks. I’d just gotten myself turned around when they came down the path.

  I couldn’t see them, so they couldn’t see me, either.

  I saw the glow of the torch, though. It drifted slowly by, no more than six feet in front of me but high off the ground.

  Wesley and Thelma weren’t talking. I couldn’t hear their footsteps, either. All I heard was the soft jangle of the keys.

  The light moved on and vanished. The jangle faded away.

  I didn’t move.

  What if it was a trick? Maybe Wesley stayed behind to spring a trap on me. He could’ve given the key-ring to Thelma.

  Don’t be ridiculous, I told myself. They almost certainly think I’m dead, and they sure don’t know I’ve tracked them down.

  Unless they do.

  Unless they spotted me somehow. Somewhere. When I followed them over here to the cages. When I spied on them through the window. Or earlier. Maybe they’d even spotted me before dark.

  No.

  They don’t know I’m here. They think I’m dead. Wesley didn’t stay behind to jump me. He and Thelma are on their way back to the mansion.

  Probably.

  I sure hoped so.

  I couldn’t see myself staying put all night, hiding there in the bushes on the off-chance that Wesley might be waiting to jump me at the cages.

  So I crawled out.

  On hands and knees, I looked both ways - up and down the path.

  No sign of anybody.

  I couldn’t see the light of Thelma’s torch, either.

  Nor could I see the cages. They’d been eaten by the darkness.

  Getting to my feet but staying low, I hurried down the path to where it opened with a view of the front lawn and mansion. Thelma and Wesley had almost reached the veranda.

  As I watched, Thelma stepped over to a bucket by the side of the veranda stairs. She swept her torch down and plunged its blazing end into the bucket.

  No more light.

  At least it seemed that way for a few seconds. But then I saw - or thought I saw - Wesley and Thelma climb the veranda stairs. Vague, moving blurs, not quite as dark as the darkness that gave them shape.

  One small, pale bit was slightly more distinct than the rest. I figured it must be the bandage on Wesley’s ass.

  All traces vanished at the top of the stairs, killed by the shadows from the veranda’s roof.

  Then a door bammed.

  They’d gone inside the mansion.

  I hoped.

  Waiting no longer, I turned around and rushed up the path toward the cages.

  Caged Birds

  In the absence of Thelma’s torchlight, I couldn’t see the path. I couldn’t see anything at all except for a few different shades of darkness that were flecked, here and there, with dabs of white from the moon.

  I remembered Andrew’s cigarette lighter. I could feel it in the right front pocket of my shorts, along with the straight razor and Billie’s sunblock. They bumped and brushed against my thigh as I walked.

  I dug the lighter out. Got my thumb ready to flick it. Then changed my mind.

  In the darkness, I was almost invisible.

  I like being invisible.

  You’re so safe and powerful when nobody can see you.

  I slipped the lighter down inside my pocket, then made my way slowly forward, watching and listening.

  Soon, I heard voices. Girl voices, softly spoken, coming from ahead and over to my right. I crept toward them. When I was near enough to understand the words, I crouched down and listened.

  ‘Don’t be dumb,’ one girl said. ‘We aren’t old enough.’

  ‘You’re the dumb one.’ This sounded like Erin’s voice, though it seemed more lively than the other times I’d heard it. ‘It isn’t how old you are, it’s whether you’re having periods yet.’

  ‘Who says so?’

  ‘Dad.’

  ‘How come he didn’t tell me?’

  ‘Maybe you never asked.’

  ‘Mom never said so.’

  ‘Mom never said anything about anything. Not that sort of stuff. That’s how come I asked Dad.’

  ‘You asked him when you can start having babies?’

  ‘Sure.’

  ‘How come?’

  ‘Just wondered.’

  ‘So if you already know, how come you’re asking me?’

  Erin didn’t answer at first. When she spoke again, she sounded more like the timid kid I’d heard in the room with Thelma and Wesley. ‘It’s just... do you think he’s gonna make us have babies?’

  ‘Jeez, don’t ask me.’

  ‘That’s what’s gonna happen, I think. You know?’

  ‘I honestly don’t think you can have a baby till you’re eighteen.’

  ‘Eighteen? You’re nuts. You don’t have to be any eighteen.’

  ‘Do, too.’

  ‘Ask Connie.’

  Connie!

  My heart gave a quick lurch.

  ‘No way. Are you kidding? I’m not gonna wake her up just to ask her some dumb question. She’d kill me.’

  ‘Would not.’

  ‘I’m not gonna.’

  ‘Well anyway, I happen to know for a fact you don’t have to be any eighteen. You only gotta be old enough to be having your periods, because that means you’ve got eggs going. Once that’s happening, you can have all the babies you want.’

  ‘No. Huh-uh. You’ve gotta be eighteen.’

  ‘You’re out of your mind.’

  ‘Am not. I read it someplace.’

  ‘Eighteen must’ve meant something else.’

  ‘Like what?’

  ‘How should I know? I didn’t read it. I just think we’re all gonna end up having babies if we keep letting Wesley screw us.’

  ‘Who’s letting him?’

  ‘He’s doing it anyway, isn’t he? I mean, how many times have you ever stopped him?’

  Alice didn’t answer.

  For a little while, neither of them spoke. Then Erin said, ‘I wonder how many times it takes.’

  ‘For what?’

  ‘You know. To make you pregnant.’

  ‘You tell me. You know everything.’

  ‘I don’t know that,’ Erin admitted. ‘I wonder if you have to do it, like, twenty times or something.’

  ‘I wouldn’t know. You should’ve asked Dad.’

  ‘Very funny. But don’t you think we’d maybe be pregnant by now if it only took once or twice or something?’

  Alice sighed. ‘I guess so.’

  ‘But we aren’t, right? He did us both the day he showed up for the first time. Then he got me twice more before he went away. So that makes a total of three, all the way back then.‘

  ‘Twice for me,’ Alice said.

  ‘But we had our periods since then, so obviously it wasn’t enough. So how many does it take?’

  ‘Who knows?’

  ‘At least it’s not us all the time, now that he’s got everyone else.’

  Everyone else!

  I couldn’t keep silent any longer. ‘Excuse me,’ I said. They both gasped.

  ‘It’s okay,’ I told them. ‘Don’t be scared. I’m a friend. I’m here to rescue you.’

  Erin said, ‘Rupert?’

  I couldn’t believe my ears.

  ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘You know who I am?’

  ‘Just a guess. They told us all about you. Where are you? I can’t see you.’

  I crept closer. No moonlight, at all, made it down to where the cages were. I could see nothing. Not the cages, not the girls, not even my own hands. It was like being shut up at night in a closet.

  Reaching out with one hand, I touched bars. ‘I’m at your cage.’

  ‘I can’t see you,’ Erin said.

  ‘I can’t see you, either,’ I said.

  ‘Are you sure?’ Alice asked. ‘You can’t see either one of us?’<
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  ‘If we can’t see each other or him,’ Erin said, ‘how is he supposed to be able to see us?’

  ‘It’s possible. It all depends.’

  ‘Alice is just worried ’cause we don’t have much on.‘

  ‘That’s okay. I can’t see a thing.’

  ‘She’s Alice, by the way. I’m Erin. We’re Alice and Erin Sherman. We’re fourteen, and we’re twins.’

  ‘Identical twins?’ I asked.

  ‘No,’ Alice said.

  ‘Yes,’ said Erin.

  ‘We are not.’

  ‘In the technical sense, we are. Only we just don’t look exactly alike, that’s all. Alice thinks she’s prettier than me.’

  ‘Liar.’

  ‘But I’m actually the pretty one,’ Erin said. I imagined her smiling as she said that.

  ‘You’re so full of crap,’ Alice said, ‘it’s not even funny.’

  I started moving sideways, following the bars. They felt warm in my hands. They were at least an inch thick. The gaps between them seemed to be about four inches across.

  ‘What’re you doing?’ Erin asked. ‘Rupert?’

  ‘I’ll get between your cages so we won’t have to talk so loud.’

  ‘Have you been here long?’ she asked.

  I blushed, but nobody could see it. ‘No,’ I lied. ‘Just got here.’

  ‘Everyone thinks you’re dead.’

  ‘The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,’ I explained - Mark Twain had said it first.

  ‘Boy, this is great,’ Erin said. ‘You being alive.’

  ‘And not in a cage,’ added Alice.

  I found the comer of Erin’s cage, and crawled around it. To make sure I was between the cages, I stretched out my arms. I touched bars to my right and left. So I sat down and crossed my legs. ‘Okay,’ I said.

  From both sides came quiet sounds - rustling, sliding, breathing, a couple of small moans - as the girls moved in closer. The moans had come from my right, from Erin. After the beating she’d taken in the room, it probably hurt her a lot to move.

  ‘Are you there?’ she asked.

  As quietly as I could, I slid myself toward Erin’s cage. I stopped when my upper arm touched a bar.

  ‘Can you get us out of here?’ Alice asked.

  ‘I sure hope so. One way or another. Is there any way to open these things without a key?’

 
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