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Island of the Sequined Love Nun Chapter 15~19

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15

The Navigator

Out on the edge of the world, with no place to stay, no way to move on, no job, no life, no friends; hurt, confused, hot, thirsty, and irritated, Tuck was desperate. Desperate for just the momentary satisfaction that might come from attracting an attractive woman. No matter that he couldn’t do anything about the attraction.

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What was she doing out here? Who cares? What a walk!

He quickened his pace, his legs and shoulders protesting against the weight of his pack, and approached within a couple of steps of the blonde.

“Excuse me,” he called.

She turned. Tuck stopped and backed up a step. Something is wrong here. Very, very wrong.

“Oh, baby,” she said, hand to her chest as if trying to catch her breath. “You scare little Kimi. Why you sneakin’ up like that?”

Tuck was dumbfounded. She wasn’t a natural blonde. Her skin was dark and she had the high cheekbones and angular features of a Filipino. Long false eyelashes, bright red lipstick, but lines in the face that were a little too harsh, a jawline that was a little too square. The dress was tight around the chest and there was nothing there but muscle. She wore a huge black medallion at her throat that looked as if it was made of animal fur. She needed a shave.

“I’m sorry,” Tuck said. “I thought you were something – er, someone else.”

Then the medallion turned its head and looked at him. Tuck let out an involuntary scream and jumped back. The medallion was wearing tiny rhinestone sunglasses. It squeaked at Tucker. It was the

biggest bat he had ever seen, hanging there upside down with its wings

folded.

“That’s a bat!”

“Fruit bat, baby. Don’t be scared. This Roberto. He no like the light. He like you, though.” Roberto squeaked again. He had the face of a fox or perhaps a small dog – a shaven Pomeranian with wings. “I’m Kimi. What you name, baby?” Kimi extended his hand limply to shake or perhaps for a kiss.

Tuck took two fingers, keeping his eye on the bat. “Tucker Case. Nice to meet you, Kimi.” He was horrified. Thirty seconds ago he’d been having lustful thoughts about a guy! A guy wearing a fruit bat!

“You look like you need a date. Kimi love you good long time, twenny bucks. Whatever you need, Kimi can do.”

“No, thanks. I don’t need a date. What I need is a boat.”

“Kimi can get boat. You like it in boat? Kimi take you round the world in a boat?” He giggled and patted Roberto’s little upside-down head. “That funny, huh?”

Tucker forced a smile. “No, I need a boat and someone who can pilot it out to an island.”

“You need a boat, Kimi can get boat. Kimi can pilot too.”

“Thanks anyway, but I really…”

Roberto shrieked. Tuck jumped back. Kimi said, “Roberto say he want to go on boat with you. How far is island?”

Tucker couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. He hadn’t really decided he would go by boat. “It’s called Alualu. It’s about two hundred and fifty miles north of here.”

“No problem,” Kimi said without hesitation. “My father was great navigator. He teach me everything. I take you to island and maybe we have party too. You have money?”

Tuck nodded.

“You wait over there in shade. We be right back.” Kimi turned and wiggled away. Tucker tried not to watch him walk. He was feeling sick to his stomach. He walked to a grove of palm trees that grew along the harbor and sat down to wait.

Kimi piloted the eighteen-foot fiberglass skiff out of a shantytown built over the water, across the harbor, to a dock in front of the marina restaurant. Roberto had unfolded his wings and was crawl

ing spiderlike over Kimi’s head and back, looking for a comfortable spot to get out of the light.

Tucker walked to the dock and looked at the boat, then out past the harbor, where waves were crashing on the reef, then back at the little boat. He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but he was sure this wasn’t it. Something bigger, maybe a cabin cruiser, with twin diesels and a big wheelhouse with some radar stuff spinning on the top – a modest but well-stocked wet bar, perhaps.

“I got you boat!” Kimi said. “You give me money now, I go get gas and look at map.”

Tucker didn’t budge. The engine was a forty-horse Yamaha out-board. A rubber tube ran from the motor to a gas tank that took up nearly all the space between the two seats. Tuck guessed it would hold at least a hundred gallons of fuel, maybe more. “Are you sure this thing has the range to make it out there?”

“No problem. Give me money for gas. Five hundred dollar.”

“You’re insane!”

“Gas very expensive here.”

“You’re insane and your bat’s glasses are crooked.”

“I have to pay man for boat. The rest is for pilot. You buy water, flashlight, and two mango, two papaya for Roberto, and two box Pop Tarts for Kimi. Strawberry.”

Tucker felt he was being hustled. “For five hundred dollars you can get your own mangoes and Pop Tarts.”

“Okay, bye-bye.” Kimi said. “Say bye-bye to cheap sweaty American, Roberto.” Kimi moved Roberto onto his shoulders and pulled the cord to start the engine.

Tuck imagined himself stuck on Yap for another two weeks. “No, wait!” He unclipped the flap of his pack and dug inside.

Kimi killed the outboard, turned, and grinned. There was lipstick on his teeth. “Money, please.”

Tuck handed down a stack of bills. He didn’t like it, but he didn’t have a choice. Actually, not having a choice made it a little easier. “Are we going to leave right away?”

“We go through reef before dark so we no smash up and drown. After that it better to go in dark. Go by stars.”

Smash up? “Shouldn’t we call for weather?”

Kimi laughed. “You smell storm? See storm in sky?”

Tuck looked around. Except for a few mushroom-shaped clouds beyond the reef, it was clear. He smelled only tropical flowers on the breeze and something skunky rising up from his armpits. “No.”

“Meet me here in half hour.” Kimi started the motor and putted off across the harbor toward a big tank with the Mobil logo stenciled on the side.

Tuck walked to the store and bought the supplies, then found the telecom center a few doors down and sent a handwritten fax to the doctor on Alualu to let him know that his new pilot was on the way.

He was waiting at the dock when Kimi returned in the skiff, his wig tied down with a red chiffon scarf. Roberto wore a smaller scarf with holes cut for his ears. Strangely, the scarf, in conjunction with the sunglasses, made Roberto look a little like Diana Ross. They say there is a finite number of faces in the world…

Tucker threw the heavy pack into the front of the boat, then climbed in and sat down in front of the enormous gas tank. Kimi threw the transmis-sion lever on the motor, twisted the hand grip, and piloted the skiff out into the harbor toward the reef.

Kimi steered the boat out of the deep green of the harbor to the turquoise water of the channel. Tuck could see the reef, tan and red coral, just a few feet below the surface at the edge of the channel. He spotted small fish darting around great heads of brain coral. They were more like streaks of color than animals, and as one disappeared another appeared in the line of sight. A few long, slender trumpet fish, looking as if they had been forged from silver, swam adjacent to the boat, then turned and cruised into the reef.

They passed the edge of the reef and into the open sea with only a slight bump into the first few swells. Kimi cranked up the motor and the skiff lifted and rode across the tops of the waves, bucking and dropping a gentle six inches, thumping out a drumbeat as counterpoint to the whining out-board. Tucker relaxed and leaned back as Kimi skirted the reef, traveling toward the setting sun until he cleared the island and could make the turn north to Alualu.

For the first time since the crash, Tucker felt good, felt as if he was on his way to something better. He’d made a decision and acted on it and in eighteen hours he would be ready to start his new job. He’d be a pilot again, making good money, flying a great aircraft. And with some healing, he’d be a man again too.

A quarter mile from Yap, Kimi made a gradual turn that put the sun at their left shoulders. Tuck watched the sun bubble into the ocean. Columns of vertical cumulus clouds turned to cones of pink cotton candy, then as the sun became a red wafer on the horizon, they turned candy-apple red, with purple rays reaching out of them

like searchlights. The water was neon over wet asphalt, blood-spattered gunmetal – colors from the cover of a detective novel where heroes drink hard and beauty is always treacherous.

Tucker searched the sky for cumulus clouds that looked like they might have aspirations to become thunderheads. How in the hell were you supposed to see weather from sea level?

Just then a swell lifted the front of the boat and slammed it down. Tuck felt his tailbone bark on the edge of the seat and was just bracing himself when another swell bucked him to the floor of the boat and a sudden gust of wind soaked him with spray.

16

And Now, the Weather Report

The High Priestess sat on the lanai watching the sunset, taking sips from a glass of chilled vodka between bites of a banana. The intercom beeped inside the house and she cocked an ear to the open window.

“Beth, can you come down to my office? This is important.” The Sorcerer was in a panic.

He’s always in a panic, she thought. She put her vodka down on the bamboo table and tossed the banana out into the sand. She padded across the teak deck, through the french doors to the intercom, and laid an elegant finger on the talk button.

“I’m on my way,” she said.

She started toward the back door of the house – a two-room bungalow fashioned from bamboo, teak, and thatch – and caught sight of herself in the full-length mirror. “Shit.” She was naked, of course, and she’d have to cut across the compound to get to the Sorcerer’s office. Life had become a lot more complicated since they had hired the guards.

She stormed into the bedroom and grabbed an oversized 49ers jersey with the sleeves cut off out of her closet, then stepped into some sandals and headed out the back door. She wasn’t really dressed, but it might keep the Sorcerer off her back and the ninjas off her front.

The compound consisted of half a dozen buildings spread over a three-acre clearing covered with white coral gravel and concrete and surrounded by a twelve-foot chain-link fence topped with razor wire. At the front of the compound was a pier and a small beach that led to the only channel through the reef. At the back a new

Learjet sat on a concrete pad, just inside the fence. Outside of the fence, the concrete runway bisected the island. Past the runway lay the jungles, the taro patches, the villages, and the beaches of the Shark People.

The office was a low concrete building with steel doors and a roof covered in solar electric panels that shone red in the setting sunlight. She nodded to the guard by the door, who didn’t move until she passed, then tried to get a glimpse in the side of her jersey. She slammed the door behind her.

“What’s up? You almost done with the satellite dish? My shows are coming on.”

He turned from a computer screen, a piece of fax paper crumpled in his hand. “We’ve hired an idiot.”

“Do you want to be specific or should I assume that one of the ninjas has distinguished himself above the others?”

“The pilot, Beth. He missed the Micro Trader on Yap.”

“Shit!”

“It’s worse.” He held out the fax to her. “It’s from him. He’s chartered a small boat. He says he’ll be here tomorrow.”

She looked over the fax, confused. “That’s sooner than he was going to get here. What’s the problem?”

“This.” The Sorcerer pushed back in his chair and pointed to the computer screen. The image looked like a blender full of green and black paint.

“It looks like a blender full of green paint,” she said. “What is it?”

“That, my dear, is Marie.”

“Sebastian, you’ve been out here too long. I know you like abstract art and all…”

“It’s a satellite picture of typhoon Marie. And she’s a big one.” He pointed to a dot to one side of the screen. “That’s Alualu.”

“So it’s going to miss us.”

“We’ll catch the edge of it. We’ll have to put the jet in the hangar, tie everything down, but it shouldn’t be too bad. The problem is that the eye will pass right over where our pilot is going to be. I can’t believe he went to sea without checking the weather.”

She shrugged. “So we have to get a new pilot. Tucker Case, meet Marie.” She smiled and her eyes shone like desolate stars. Too bad, she thought. The pilot would have been fun.

17

Foul-Weather Friend

Tuck was amazed by what the human body could achieve when pressed to its limits: lift tractors, trek a hundred miles through the tundra after being partially eviscerated by a Kodiak bear, live for months on grubs and water sucked from soak holes, and in this particular case, vomit for two hours straight after having ingested nothing but alcohol and airline peanuts for two days. The stuff coming out of him was pure bile, burning acrid and sour, and with the bull rider pitching of the boat, half of it always ended up down the front of him. And between heaves there was no respite, just constant motion and soaking spray. His stomach muscles twisted into knots.

It started with the swells rising, first a few feet, then to ten. Kimi piloted the boat up the face of each as if climbing a hill; they were dashed by the whitecap, then a sled ride down into a trough where they were faced with the next black wall of water. Roberto climbed down into Kimi’s dress and clung there like a furry tumor. The navigator cried out each time the spray washed over him as Roberto’s wing claws dug into his ribs.

“Tie down you pack. Tie you belt to the boat,” Kimi shouted.

Tuck found a coil of nylon rope and a folding knife in his pack and tied himself and the pack to the front seat. He noticed that the space under the seat was filled with dense Styrofoam. The boat was, theoretically, unsink-able. Good, someone would find their beaten, shark-eaten bodies. He threw a length of rope to Kimi, who secured it around his own waist.

The wind came up as if someone had spooled up a jet engine, going from ten to sixty knots in an instant, dumping gallons of water

into the boat with each wave, drowning out the sound of the outboard.

Kimi screamed an order to Tuck, but it was lost in the wind. Tuck caught one word: “Bail!”

Riding down the face of a wave, he took the time to look around the boat for a container, but found only the gallon of drinking water. He took the folding knife from his pocket and slashed the top off of the jug. He dumped the fresh water, then, with his feet braced against the inside of the bow and his spine against the seat, he began bailing between his legs, taking a full gallon with each scoop, throwing it with the wind. He bailed as if in a “run for your life” sprint and he was winded and aching after only a minute, but he couldn’t seem to get ahead of the storm. The boat was riding lower in the water.

He ventured a glance back to Kimi and saw the navigator had found a coffee can and was braced between the seat and the gas tank, bailing with one hand while steering with the other. His scarf and fallen around his neck and was trailing the blonde wig behind him in the wind. The motor was cranked full-out, and Kimi was trying to keep the boat steered into the waves. If one caught them from the side, they would roll and continue to roll until the storm consumed them.

Tuck slowed his pace and tried to fall into some kind of sustainable rhythm. It began to rain, the drops coming in almost horizontal, and as they topped the next wave Tuck realized that half of the sky had disap-peared. They were only at the edge of the storm. The navigator was screaming at him. The sea, the sky, the boat faded to black. One second he was squinting saltwater out of his eyes and staring at an obsidian wall ahead of the bow, then everything went black. Total sensory overload, total sensory deprivation. He looked around for the stars, the moon, a highlight or shadow somewhere, but there was nothing but wind and wet and cold and ache. He shivered and nearly curled into the fetal position in the bow to wait for death. The navigator’s screaming gave him a bearing.

“We need light!”

Tuck braced himself, then dug into the saturated pack until he came out with two waterproof flashlights. Bless you, Jake Skye.

He hit the sealed switches.

Light. Enough to see that Kimi was steering them parallel to an ominous wall of water. They would be swamped. The navigator slammed the outboard to one side and gunned it. The little boat

whipped around just in time to meet the oncoming wave, ride up and over it. Tucker clung to the boat like a newborn monkey to its mother.

Tuck lashed the lights to the anchor pulley at the bow, one pointed forward, one into the boat, then he resumed bailing.

A monster wave rose up thirty feet and slammed down over them. When Tuck blinked the salt out of his eyes, he saw that the boat was all but a foot full of water. Another wave like that would swamp the motor. Without the motor to steer, they were lost. Bailing wasn’t enough.

We’re going to die, he thought.

Then the noise of the storm was gone.

“No, you’re not,” came the voice, “you fuckin’ mook.” The roar of the wind and the screams of the navigator were gone. There was only the voice. “There’s a tarpaulin in your pack. Lash it over the boat so you don’t take on any more water. Then move to the stern and bail.”

Now there was a picture in Tuck’s mind of what he was to do. There were eyelets on the outside of the gunwales to accommodate the line around the edges of the tarp. He needed only to hook the line around the boat and tie it off back by Kimi, leaving just enough of the boat open for the navigator to steer and him to bail water.

“You got it, ace?”

Tuck could see it and he knew he could do it. “Thanks,” he said. Forget questioning where the voice was coming from. He nodded. The storm roared back over him.

Five minutes later the boat was covered and began to rise in the water as Tuck sat next to the navigator and bailed.

“You steer!” Kimi screamed.

Tucker took the tiller as the navigator let go and tried to rub his hand out of a cramped claw.

Tuck took the boat up the face of a monster wave and the skiff went airborne. With no resistance on the propeller, the motor shrieked and Tuck dumped the throttle to keep it from blowing up. The bow tilted skyward and Kimi grabbed the gunwale just in time to avoid being dumped off the stern. They landed hard and the motor nearly went under. The motor sputtered. Tuck worked the throttle to bring it back to life.

They were already going up the face of another wave, steeper than the last. If the wind caught them at the top, they would flip. Tuck suddenly remembered a surfing move from his youth. The cut

back. There was no way they could continue into the wind and into the waves. Halfway up the face of the wave, he twisted the throttle and threw the motor sideways. It coughed as if expelling a hairball, then roared, sending them across the face of the wave.

“What you doing?” Kimi shouted.

Tuck didn’t answer. He was looking for the pocket, the place where the face of the wave would stay the same. If only the motor could maintain speed.

The wave was creeping up on them, looming above their backs, but then they were high enough for the wind to catch them. Just enough boost. Just enough speed. The boat flattened out on the face of the wave. They were surfing, a thirty-foot wall of water waiting to crush them from behind should Tuck lose the pocket.

Strangely, Tuck felt elated. It was a small victory, maybe even a temporary one, but they were running with the storm and he was in control of something for the first time since the plane crash. He watched the angle of the boat on the face of the wave, gauged its speed, its steepness, and made the adjustments that would keep them alive. The black water seemed to eat up the flashlight beams, but he could see the wave becoming steeper and rising higher as it climbed the ocean shelf toward the hungry reef.

18

Land Ho

The island was little more than a coral cupcake with a guano frosting. Not a hundred yards wide at its widest point and only five feet above sea level at its highest, it served as a resting place for seabirds, a nesting place for turtles, and purchase for forty-eight coconut palms. The foliage and coconuts had all been torn from the palms, and the storm-driven waves breaking on the surrounding reef frothed over the island, beating against the trunks and washing away the precious topsoil. Heavy as they were, some of the palms were being undermined by the sea and would soon wash away.

Of the three travelers, only Roberto knew the island was there. As a young bat, he had stopped there to rest after leaving Guam, his birthplace, on his way to someplace where the mangoes were sweet and the natives did not consider fruit bat a delicacy. But right now he was too busy hiding inside Kimi’s dress, screeching and clawing and generally trying to keep warm, to mention to the navigator that the reason they were suddenly riding the face of an increasingly steep fifty-foot wave was because they were about to crash over a reef.

By the time Tucker Case realized what was happening, they were inside an immense tube of water, surfing inside of the curl of the wave. The flashlights refracted off the green water, illuminating the tube, making it appear as if they were inside a giant seething Coke bottle. Tuck tried to keep the boat pointed toward the narrow circle of blackness where the bottle cap would go, where they would have to go to escape. He’d seen films of surfers shooting the curl on the North Shore of Hawaii. It could be done. He clung to that vision,

even as the wave passed over the reef and collapsed upon them.

The boat rolled once, twice, three times, then tossed end over end and spun just under the surface as the wave frothed over the island. Kimi and Tuck were wound against the boat by their lifelines, beaten against the trunks of the palms, tossed and battered against the boat. For Tucker there was no up, no down, no way to know when he might take a breath of life-giving air or suck seawater and die. He held his breath until he felt as if he would explode, then was slammed between the boat and a tree and he let go.

Roberto’s wing claws cut deep furrows into Kimi’s ribs as he scrambled for air. The navigator had taken a glancing blow across the forehead as the boat rolled over him and was knocked unconscious.

Tuck felt himself pulled away from the boat, spun for a moment, then the pressure of the lifeline around his waist. He could see the lights attached to the boat, still shining, the only visual input in the sensory chaos. The boat had caught on something and he was trailing out behind it. Something bumped against his ribs and he reached for it instinctively, catching a handful of Kimi’s dress. Roberto was clinging to Kimi’s head, growling into the wind.

They had passed through the island and come out on the other side. The boat had caught on the last palm tree before they were swept out to sea again.

Tuck caught his lifeline with one hand, then wrapped his other arm around Kimi’s chest. Slowly, working against the streaming current, more like a river now that the waves had been broken by the reef and the island, he pulled them back to the boat.

The boat was afloat, but barely, held up by the Styrofoam underseats and the air trapped in the gas tank. Only an inch or two of gunwale showed above the water. Tuck crawled in, took one deep breath, then dragged the lifeless navigator in after him. Roberto scrambled on Kimi’s head to escape the sea and was almost taken by the wind. Tucker caught the giant bat by the throat and lifted him from Kimi’s head to his own back, wincing as Roberto’s claws penetrated his shirt. Then he hung the navigator over the side and began pumping the water out of his lungs.

After a few seconds, he flipped him again and administered mouth-tomouth until Kimi coughed and vomited up a stream of seawater. Tuck held his head.

“You okay?”

Kimi nodded as he sucked in painful lungfuls of air. Once he had his breath, he said, “Roberto?”

Tuck pointed to the little dog face that was looking over his shoulder.

Kimi managed a smile. “Roberto! Come.” He took the bat from Tuck’s back and held him to his chest.

They were safe, relatively; sheltered by the island from the monster swells, they had only the wind and the rain to deal with. The tarpaulin was gone. The boat was full of water, but it was afloat. Miraculously, the flashlights were still attached. Tucker could see the tree that had caught them. He fell back into the bow, hooking his armpits over the gunwales, then slipped into a state of exhausted unconsciousness that could almost be called sleep.

19

Water, Water

At first light the coconut palm that had saved them finally gave up and tipped over, releasing the boat to the sea. The outgoing tide carried the skiff and its sleeping passengers through a break in the reef to the open ocean.

Tuck, sitting chest deep in seawater in the bow, was dreaming of being lost in the desert when a flying fish smacked him in the side of the head. Startled, he reached up instinctively, as one might slap at a biting mosquito, and caught the fish in his right hand. He opened his eyes. In his mind he was still in the desert, dying of thirst, and the fact that he was now holding on to something that looked like a trout with wings seemed a cruel surrealist joke. He looked around, saw the boat, Kimi slumped in the back, ocean and sky, and nothing else – there was no land in sight.

He threw the fish at Kimi. It bounced off the navigator’s forehead and into the sea. Kimi screamed and sat up abruptly. Roberto – sunglasses akimbo – poked his head out the neck of Kimi’s dress and screeched at Tucker.

“What you do that for?” Kimi said.

“Nice piece of navigation,” Tuck said. Then he mocked Kimi’s broken English. “You smell storm? You see storm in sky?”

“Oh, you big-time pilot. Why you not check weather? What kind of dumb fuck American try to go two hundred miles in outboard, huh?”

“You told me it was no problem.”

“You paying Kimi big money. Not a problem.”

“Well, it’s a fucking problem now, isn’t it?”

Kimi stroked Roberto’s head to calm him. “Stop yelling. You scare Roberto.”

“I don’t care about Roberto. We’re half-sunk in the middle of the Pacific and we don’t have a motor. I’d say we have a problem.”

Kimi stopped ministering to Roberto and looked up. “No motor?” He turned and looked back at the empty motor board. There were marks where the clamps had raked across it as the motor pulled off in the tumble. He turned back to Tuck and grinned sheepishly. “Whoops.”

“We’re dead,” Tuck said.

Kimi looked back again where the motor should have been, just to make sure that it was still gone. “I ask that man, ‘Is motor on good?’ He say, ‘Oh yes, is clamp on very tight.’ I pay him good money and he lie. Oh, Kimi is very mad.”

Roberto barked in agreement.

“Stop it!” Tucker shouted. Roberto ducked into Kimi’s dress again. “We’ve got to get some of this water out of here. We have no motor. We can’t go anywhere. We’re adrift, lost…”

“Alive,” Kimi interrupted. “I get you out of typhoon alive and you just yell and say bad things. I quit. You get new navigator. Roberto say you mean, nasty, Chevy-driving, milk-drinking, American dog fucker.”

“I don’t drink milk,” Tuck said. Ha! Won that round.

“That what he say.”

“Roberto does not talk!”

“Not to you, dog fucker. You no…” Kimi paused in mid-rant and retrieved the coffee can, which had been tied to the boat with a string, and started furiously scooping water out of the boat. “You right. Now we bail.”

“What?” Tuck looked up to see Kimi was looking, wide-eyed, out to sea. Tuck followed his gaze to a spot twenty yards in front of the boat where a triangular fin was describing slow arcs in the swells.

“Hurry,” Kimi shouted. “He coming in.”

Tucker reached for his pack, causing the bow to dip under the water by a foot. Before he could adjust his weight to counterbalance the boat, the shark came over the gunwale, snapping its jaws like a man-eating puppet.

Tuck stood up to escape the jaws and the bow lurched deeper underwater. The shark slid into the boat as Tuck went backward over the side.

Fear bolted through his body as if the water had been electrified.

He wanted to move in all directions at once. He kicked hard and came up a few feet from the boat to see the shark slide back into the water.

“Get in boat!” Kimi screamed. He was standing with his feet wide, trying to keep the boat from capsizing.

Tuck kicked so hard that he raised out of the water to the waist, then he fell toward the boat, catching the gunwale with one hand. Kimi shifted his weight to counterbalance and Tuck pulled himself in just as something hit his foot. He jerked his foot so hard he nearly went out of the boat on the opposite side, then he twisted in time to see the shark sliding down into the water with his shoe in its mouth.

“Behind you!” Kimi screamed.

Another shark rose up at Tuck’s back. He swung around and punched it on the snout as hard as he could, taking the skin off of his knuckles on the shark’s sandpaper skin. The shark slid away.

The motion in the bow caused the stern to dip underwater and the next attack came at Kimi. He tossed Roberto into the air as the shark came into the boat. Roberto spread his wings and soared into the sky. Kimi reached down and came up with the rubber fuel line.

Tucker looked for anything they could use as a weapon, then remembered the folding knife he had put in his pocket the night before. It was still there.

Kimi was slapping the shark with the rubber hose and backing his way up onto the huge gas tank that made up the midsection of the boat. Tuck opened the knife, then lunged forward at the navigator. “Kimi!”

Kimi reached back and Tuck fit the handle of the knife into his hand. The shark had worked half of its nine-foot body into the boat. Its tail thrashed at the water to power the shark up onto the gas tank. Kimi scrambled backward. Roberto swooped and screeched in the air above.

Kimi’s right foot found purchase on the screw cap of the gas tank and he sat up. Tuck thought he was going to strike the shark with the knife, but instead he cut the gas line and squirted a stream of gas into the shark’s gaping mouth. The shark thrashed and slid off the side of the boat.

Kimi brandished the knife in the air. “Yeah, fuckface, you run away. That not taste so sweet as Kimi, huh?” He fell back onto the gas tank and took a deep breath. “We show that shark who the boss.”

Tuck said, “Kimi, there’s more.” He pointed to set of fins approaching from the stern.

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