Island, p.9
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       Island, p.9
 

           Richard Laymon

  Back to a subject I can write about with a certain amount of pleasure - the wardrobe.

  Kimberly has continued to wear Keith’s bright and flowery Hawaiian shirt most of the time. She never buttons it. The shirt is always open, often blowing behind her in the breeze, giving me a wonderful view, whenever I look, of her bare brown skin and her skimpy white bikini.

  Connie wears her own skimpy bikini. Hers is orange. But she keeps her T-shirt on nearly all the time. The T-shirt is white, large and loose. Sometimes, it hangs off one shoulder or the other. It covers her all the way down to about mid-thigh, like a short dress. The material is so thin that you can see through it.

  Thelma has continued to wear the same ...

  Thelma.

  I guess I’d better stop wasting time, and get to what went wrong.

  I’m not real eager to do that.

  Procrastination, thy name is Rupert.

  ‘We’d better get on with it,’ as Billie said last night by the fire.

  We had been doing some procrastinating, ourselves.

  ‘Is everyone about ready?’ she asked.

  Kimberly didn’t say a thing, just made a single nod with her head.

  ‘Are we really gonna go ahead with this?’ Connie asked.

  ‘Unless you have a better idea,’ Billie told her.

  Connie wrinkled her nose.

  ‘He hasn’t left us any choice,’ Kimberly said. ‘It’s him or us.’

  ‘Are you two really gonna kill him?’

  ‘If we can,’ Billie said.

  ‘You’ve got the knife,’ Kimberly said to her.

  Billie had Andrew’s Swiss Army knife on her hip. The thick plastic handle was tucked down the waistband of her bikini pants, all the blades and tools folded in.

  ‘Do you want to be the one to use it?’ Kimberly asked.

  The two women stared at each other, the firelight flickering in their eyes.

  ‘You want to, don’t you?’ Billie said.

  ‘Yes.’

  They were not exactly beating around the bush.

  ‘Okay,’ Billie said. She pulled the knife out, leaned sideways and passed it to Kimberly.

  Kimberly shut her hand around it, and pressed her fist against her belly.

  Billie glanced from me to Connie. ‘Do either of you have any questions?’

  ‘Guess not,’ Connie said.

  ‘I’m ready,’ I said. ‘Just don’t let him kill me, okay?’

  Kimberly got to her feet.

  So did Billie. ‘Good luck, you two,’ she told us. ‘Make it look good.’

  ‘We will,’ I promised. ‘You be careful out there.’

  Side by side, carrying their spears, they walked away from the fire. I was facing the fire (and Connie on its other side) so I had to look over my shoulder to watch them. They went to the stream - the usual routine - drank from it and brushed their teeth (using fingers). Then they wandered over to the rocky area at the north side of our beach. As they started to climb, Connie snapped, ‘Quit watching. Jerk.’

  ‘I can’t see anything,’ I said.

  ‘Not that you aren’t trying.’

  I faced front - to be on the lookout in case Connie chose to throw her spear at me. ‘I’m not into watching ladies take a leak,’ I explained. ‘Maybe you are, but...’

  ‘Fuck you.’

  ‘Give it a rest, okay? Why don’t you just sit quietly and try to work on your vocabulary?’

  ‘What a wit.’

  I looked back over my shoulder, but couldn’t spot Billie or Kimberly.

  ‘This is such a treat for you,’ Connie said.

  ‘Really.’

  ‘A dream come true.’

  ‘Right.’

  ‘Trapped on an island with a band of women.’

  ‘And a maniac who wants to kill me. It’s a blast. Why don’t we save all this for our big fight scene, okay?’

  She didn’t come back with a crack, so maybe she liked the idea.

  After a while, Billie and Kimberly reappeared. They climbed down from the rocks and came across the beach. After crossing the stream, Billie waved and said to us, ‘Night, now.’

  ‘See you in the morning, people,’ Kimberly said.

  They split up and went to their own sleeping nests - beds, as Billie calls them. Billie lay down alone. Kimberly, a few yards away, eased down into her place beside Thelma.

  From where I sat, not much could be seen of them. They weren’t completely beyond the glow from the fire, but the light that reached them was pretty dim and murky. Just the way we wanted things.

  ‘Let’s wait a little while,’ I said to Connie.

  ‘Your wish is my command.’

  I sighed.

  ‘What?’ she asked.

  ‘Nothing.’

  ‘Yeah, sure.’

  ‘Okay. First off, we’re in a real mess. You know? People have died ...’

  ‘Tell me about it,’ she muttered.

  ‘I just think that, under the circumstances, it’d be nice if we didn’t have to fight among ourselves. I mean, my God, it’s pretty weird to be bickering with each other about a load of insignificant crap when there’s a guy out there killing us off. I know you’re upset and scared, but that doesn’t give you any excuse to go around making everyone miserable.’

  She showed me her teeth. ‘Do I make you miserable?’

  ‘You make me want to smack you silly.’

  ‘Well, two can play that game.’

  ‘Why the hell did you even ask me to come on this damn trip? All you’ve done the whole time is dump on me.’

  ‘Maybe I like to dump on you,’ she said.

  ‘Sure.’

  ‘You’re such a fucking loser.’

  ‘Why did you ask me to come? I don’t get it. Did you just want to show your family what a loser you’ve got for a boyfriend? That doesn’t exactly make sense. Not that I ever exactly expect you to make a whole lot of sense, but...’

  ‘Up yours.’

  ‘Why am I here? Why did you invite me? You needed someone your own age to pick on?’

  She sneered at me. ‘What was I supposed to do, come by myself? I figured, better you than no one.’

  ‘Oh, thanks a heap.’

  ‘Well, you asked. Besides, I used to think I liked you.’

  That one actually sort of hurt.

  ‘I thought I loved you, she said.

  That one stunned me so much I wondered if it was a lie.

  ‘If you loved me,’ I said, ‘you had a funny way of showing it.’

  ‘What, because I wouldn’t jump into bed with you?’

  ‘No!’

  ‘I happen to be very particular about who I jump into bed with, buddy. It’s a very select few, as a matter of fact. I have to be one hundred per cent sure of a guy ... and I had my doubts about you from the start. Thank God I didn’t give in. But maybe you’ll have more luck with my mom ... or Kimberly. It’s so disgustingly obvious that you’d rather fuck one of them ...’

  ‘Knock it off,’ I said. ‘Man! Your father got his head chopped in half this morning; how in hell can you be talking like this?’

  ‘Maybe it’s time for a little honesty, that’s how. Why go around lying and being a phoney about everything if we’re all gonna get killed anyway? You know? Screw it. From now on, I say what I think.’

  ‘You mean, you haven’t been? Could’ve fooled me. But you know what? I don’t see more honesty here; all I see is that you’re getting more energetic in your nastiness.’

  ‘Fuck you.’

  ‘That’s original.’

  That was apparently the final straw.

  Or she just figured it was time to start the show.

  She started it by twisting her face so she looked like a maniac. Then she hissed through her teeth and she leaped at me. Didn’t bother to go around the fire - sprang over it, instead. I didn’t even have time to stand up before she crashed down on top of me and slammed me backward into the sand.

  She seemed to
be all knees and elbows and fists.

  Next thing I knew, she was sitting on my stomach. The knees and elbows no longer jabbed into me, but her fists kept smacking me in the face.

  I put up my arms to block them.

  And gasped things like, ‘Stop it! Shit! That hurts! Hey!’ I knew better than to think she was simply trying to make our fight look good for Wesley; she was trying to inflict damage on me.

  And succeeding.

  I’ve got a thing about hitting girls.

  The thing is, I don’t do it.

  If you aren’t some kind of a pervert or shit, you’ve got a deep-down revulsion when it comes to hurting a female.

  So even though Connie was pounding me pretty well, I couldn’t bring myself to slug her. I tried to defend myself by blocking her blows. Then I managed to catch hold of her arms. She lurched and twisted.

  ‘Stop it!’ I gasped.

  She kept trying to jerk her arms free, so I bucked and threw her off me. We rolled, and I got on top of her. I sat across her hips and leaned forward and pinned her arms down. She wouldn’t stop squirming, though. Afraid she might throw me off, I stretched her arms up past her head and put as much weight on her as I could. We were belly to belly, chest to chest, face to face.

  Pretty soon, she quit struggling. She lay under me, gasping for air.

  We were so tight together that I could feel the pounding of her heart. I also felt the push of her breasts against my chest. And her breath on my lips.

  ‘Get off,’ she said.

  I stayed.

  She was between my legs, and our groins were pressed together. She had sort of a mound down there that pushed against me.

  ‘Get off, damn it!’

  I’d never been this close to her before, never had so much actual contact. It started having an effect on me.

  ‘Oh, terrific,’ she muttered.

  She’d noticed.

  ‘Get off me, for Godsake. We’re supposed to be fighting.

  Leave it to you ...‘

  ‘Sorry.’ I let go of her wrists and shoved against the sand and started to push myself up.

  ‘Get it over with,’ she said.

  ‘What?’

  ‘What do you mean, what? Slug me, knock me out.’

  ‘Shouldn’t we get on our feet first?’

  ‘What, so I get a chance to fall down? I’m already down.

  Go ahead and do it.‘

  ‘This isn’t the right way. It won’t look right.’

  ‘Okay,’ she said. And her right arm shot up. She punched the side of my face so hard that I toppled over sideways. I flopped onto my back. She stood up.

  This how you want it?‘ she asked.

  ‘Yeah,’ I said.

  She wasn’t playing the game I expected, but at least she was on her feet, up where Wesley could get a good view of her. When I tried to stand, she rushed in and kicked me over. On my second try, I blocked her kick and staggered up.

  More like it.

  We started circling each other, hunched over, hands out like a couple of disarmed knife-fighters. She made a lunge as if to grab me. I leaped out of reach.

  Suddenly, she pulled her T-shirt off. She tossed it to the sand. ‘This better?’ she asked.

  I couldn’t believe she’d done it. Miss Prude. Up till then, she hadn’t even taken off the shirt to go swimming. She had a tan, though. She must’ve gone without it sometime, just not in front of me.

  She didn’t look bad.

  ‘Think I’ve got his attention now?’ she asked.

  ‘Probably.’

  ‘Yeah? Just probably?’

  Her right hand darted out.

  Slapped my face.

  Not a hard slap. It didn’t hurt as much as her punches, but it stung my ego. It was a humiliating taunt, just as she’d meant it to be.

  I pressed a hand to my face.

  She slapped the back of my hand, then pranced backward.

  ‘They’re on the move,‘ she said.

  ‘Huh?’

  ‘Your girlfriends. Remember? The plan?’

  I started to turn my head.

  Connie stopped me. Stopped me dead by crossing her arms and grabbing the front of her bikini top with both hands and tugging it up. Her breasts seemed to spring out from under it. And there they were, right in front of me. Loose all of a sudden, they jiggled. They lifted and nearly went away, turning into small slopes, as she raised her arms and shucked the bikini top off over her head. When she put her arms down, her breasts came back out.

  They looked so naked. They weren’t tanned at all, but had a pinkish hue from the firelight. The nipples looked big and dark.

  ‘Think he’s distracted now?’ she asked.

  I didn’t even try to answer.

  Letting out a huff of laughter, she tossed her orange top aside with one hand and slapped my face with the other. Before I could do anything about the slap, she leaped out of range.

  We went back to circling each other.

  She was wonderful to watch - the way she was bent over with her arms out, naked except for the waistband and meager orange front panel of her bikini pants, her skin ruddy and shimmering in the firelight, her hair golden - and how her prancing, lurching movements made her breasts bounce and bob.

  For me, it was like something in a wild dream.

  For Wesley, it must’ve been pretty exciting, too.

  The absolute perfect diversion, just so long as the guy you’re trying to distract isn’t dead, blind or gay.

  If our campfire was in view of Wesley’s hiding place, his eyes were glued to Connie. Not a shadow of a doubt about that.

  Connie darted in and slapped me again.

  I didn’t mind.

  It was a good, sharp smack, but the view was stunning.

  ‘Do it now,’ Connie said, circling again.

  ‘What?’

  ‘Knock me out.’

  I shook my head. ‘Too soon.’

  ‘Isn’t. They’re there.’

  ‘Are you sure?’

  ‘Damn it, Rupert! Quit stalling.’

  ‘I can’t hit you.’

  ‘It’s pretend, remember? My Christ, this was your plan in the first place. Let’s do it! I’ll come in at you.’

  ‘I don’t ...’

  ‘Now!’

  ‘Okay, okay.’

  She charged straight toward me, arms out as if she wanted to give me a bear hug.

  I threw a roundhouse in the general direction of her chin.

  She ran right into it.

  Honest. I never intended my fist to connect with her. It was an accident. Really and truly.

  But what a punch! The blow snapped her head sideways. Her cheeks flopped, her lips almost jumped off her face, and a glittering banner of spit flew toward the fire. Her legs kept coming, but the rest of her body stopped fast and started on its way down. Her back struck the sand, whup! Her breasts flattened as if mashed against her chest by invisible hands. An instant later, they were springing up. Then her legs landed.

  She lay sprawled on the beach, motionless.

  Scared, I hurried over to her and dropped to my knees. Her eyes were shut. Her mouth drooped open. My punch had taken her out, no question about that. She was breathing, though. I could see the rise and fall of her chest, so I hadn’t killed her.

  I looked around.

  Thelma appeared to be asleep. Kimberly and Billie were nowhere to be seen, but they might be watching me. Wesley was probably watching, too. So I didn’t allow myself to spend much time enjoying the view of Connie. Also, I kept my hands to myself.

  On my feet, I went over to my place by the fire and picked up my ‘tomahawk.’ The weapon, made by Kimberly, consisted of a sturdy, Y-shaped limb with a rock at the forked end. The rock was wedged in and strapped secure with strips of denim cut from some jeans that had been salvaged after the explosion.

  I looked back at Connie. She was still sprawled on her back. I grimaced. I’d really nailed her. Which made me feel guilty, but sec
retly pleased. Also, I felt sort of pleased about my self-control; I’d wanted to feel her up so badly it hurt, but hadn’t done it. What restraint! I deserved a medal.

  Actually, restraint didn’t have much to do with it. I was just afraid her mom might see me. I sure wouldn’t want Billie to know what a horny degenerate I really am.

  Anyway, I gave Connie one last, long look. Then I turned away and headed for the darkness beyond the firelight.

  The Ambush

  Thelma lay on her bed of rags where she belonged. Curled on her side, she slept with an arm under her head for a pillow.

  Kimberly and Billie had left human-shaped mounds of sand covered with scraps of cloth at the places where they usually slept. A pretty lame trick, really. The sort of thing a kid might do before he sneaks out his window at night.

  In fact, our entire ambush plan seemed to be made of lame, childish tricks.

  Tricks that didn’t stand much chance of fooling a reasonably intelligent adult.

  (In spite of the opinions of Andrew and some others in our group, Wesley isn’t stupid.)

  As I walked away from the firelight, I got a terrible feeling that we hadn’t even come close to outsmarting him. He hadn’t been distracted by Connie. He’d watched Billie and Kimberly sneak to the fake latrine. Maybe he’d already silently killed them both.

  About halfway between the fire and the latrine, I stopped walking. The area ahead looked so damn dark. I needed time for my eyes to adjust.

  That’s what I told myself, anyway.

  Actually, I stopped because I was suddenly scared to keep going. I wanted to be back at the fire, safe in its light, with Connie. (Even out cold, she’d be better company than nobody.)

  I couldn’t turn back, though. I’d look like a chicken.

  So I forced myself to start moving again. It seemed to take forever, but finally I reached the latrine.

  From the side, I saw the dim shape of someone low down in the darkness between its walls. There seemed to be only one person. I couldn’t tell who it was. Or whether it was a woman.

  I stood there, staring.

  The person hiding in the latrine didn’t make a sound.

  I told myself: This has to be Billie or Kimberly.

  Unless it’s Wesley.

  The way the body kept so still, I thought it might be one of the gals, but dead.

  I started to feel like running away.

  Which, of course, would’ve blown everything.

 
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