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Island of the Sequined Love Nun Chapter 49~50

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49

The Bedside Manner of Cannibals

Tuck slept through most of the day, then woke up with a pot of coffee over a spy novel. He looked at the words and his eyes moved down the pages for half an hour, but when he put it down he had no idea what he had read. His mind was torn by the thought of Beth Curtis showing up at his door.

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Whenever a guard crunched across the gravel compound, Tuck would go to the window to see if it was her. She wouldn’t come here during the day, would she?

He had promised Kimi that he would check on Sepie and meet him at the drinking circle, but now he was already a day late on the promise. What would happen if Beth Curtis came to his bungalow while he was out? She couldn’t tell the doc, could she? What would her excuse be for coming here? Still, Tuck was beginning to think that the doc wasn’t really the one running the show. He was merely skilled labor, and so, probably, was Tucker himself.

Tuck looked at the pages of the spy novel, watched a little Malaysian television (today they were throwing spears at coconuts on top of a pole while the Asian stock market’s tickers scrolled at the bottom of the screen in thin-colored bands), and waited for nightfall. When he could no longer see the guard’s face across the compound, he made a great show of yawning and stretching in front of the window, then turned out the lights, built the dummy in his bed, and slipped out through the bottom of the shower.

He took his usual path behind the clinic, then inched his way up on the far side and peeked around the front. Not ten feet away a guard stood by the door. He ducked quickly around the corner. There was no way into the clinic tonight. He could wait or even try to intimidate the guard, now that he knew they were afraid to shoot

him. Of course, he wasn’t sure they knew they were afraid to shoot him. What if Mato was the only one?

He slid back down the side of the building and through the coconut grove to the beach. The swim had become like walking to the mailbox, and he was past the minefield in less than five minutes. As he rounded the curve of the beach, he saw a light and figures moving around it. The Shark men had brought a kerosene lamp to the drinking circle. How civilized.

Some of the men acknowledged his presence as he moved into the circle, but the old chief only stared into the sand between his feet. There was a stack of magazines at his side.

“What’s going on, guys?”

A panic made its way around the circle to land on Abo, who looked up and said, “Your friend is shot by the guards.”

Tuck waited, but Abo looked away. Tuck jumped in front of Malink. “Chief, is he telling the truth? Did they shoot Kimi? Is he dead?”

“Not dead,” Malink said, shaking his head. “Hurt very bad.”

“Take me to him.”

“He is at Sarapul’s house.”

“Right. I’ll look it up in the guidebook later. Now take me to him.”

Old Malink shook his head. “He going to die.”

“Where is he shot?”

“In the water by the minefield.”

“No, numbnuts. Where on his body?”

Malink held his hand to his side. “I say, ‘Take him to the Sorcerer,’ but Sarapul say, ‘The Sorcerer shoot him.'” Malink then looked Tuck in the eye for the first time. His big brown face was a study in trouble. “Vincent send you. What do I do?”

Tuck could sense a profound embarrassment in the old man. He had just admitted in front of the men in his tribe that he didn’t have a clue. The loss of face was gnawing at him like a hungry sand crab.

Tuck said, “Vincent is pleased with your decision, Malink. Now I must see Kimi.”

One of the young Vincents stood up. Feeling very brave, he said, “I will take you.”

Tuck grabbed his shoulder. “You’re a good man. Lead on.”

The young Vincent seemed to forget to breathe for a moment, as if Tuck had touched him on the shoulders with a sword and welcomed him to a seat at the Round Table, then he came to his

senses and took off into the jungle. Tuck followed close behind, nearly clotheslining himself a couple of times on branches that the young Vincent ran right under. The coral gravel on the path tore at Tuck’s feet as he ran.

When they emerged from the jungle, Tuck could see a light coming out of Sarapul’s hut, which Tuck recognized from his day in the cannibal tree. He turned to young Vincent, who was terrified. He had charged the dragon, but had made the mistake of stopping to think about it.

“Kimi’s with the cannibal?”

Young Vincent nodded rapidly while bouncing from foot to foot, looking like he would wet himself any second.

“Go on,” Tuck said. “Go tell Malink to come here. And have a drink. You’re wigging out.”

Vincent nodded and ran off.

Tuck approached the door slowly, creeping up until he could see the old man crouched over Kimi, trying to pour something into his mouth from a coconut cup.

“Hey,” Tuck said, “how’s he doing?”

Sarapul looked around and gestured for Tuck to enter the house. Tuck had to bend to get through the low door, but once inside the ceiling opened to a fifteen-foot peak. Tuck knelt by Kimi. The navigator’s eyes were closed, and even in the orange light of Sarapul’s oil lamp, he looked pale. He was uncovered and a bandage was wrapped around his middle.

“Did you do this?” Tuck asked Sarapul.

The old cannibal nodded. “They shoot him in water. I pull him in.”

“How many times?”

Sarapu held up a long bent finger.

“Both sides? Did it go through?” Tuck gestured with his fingers on either side of his hip.

“Yes,” Sarapul said.

“Let me see.”

The old cannibal nodded and unwrapped Kimi’s bandage. Tuck rolled the navigator gently on his side. Kimi groaned, but didn’t wake. The bullet had hit him about two inches above the hip and about an inch in. It had passed right though, going in the size of a pencil and exiting the size of a quarter. Tuck was amazed that he hadn’t bled to death. The old cannibal had done a good job.

“Don’t take him to the Sorcerer,” Sarapul said. “The Sorcerer will kill him. He is the only navigator.” The old cannibal was pleading while trying to remain fierce. A sob betrayed him. “He is my friend.”

Tuck studied the wound to give the old cannibal a chance to gather himself. He couldn’t remember any vital organs being in that area. But the wounds would have to be stiched shut. Tuck wasn’t sure he had the stomach for it, but Sarapul was right. He couldn’t take Kimi to Curtis.

“Do you guys have anything you use to kill pain?”

The cannibal looked at him quizzically. Tuck pinched him and he yelped. “Pain. Do you have anything to stop pain?”

“Yes. Don’t do that anymore.”

“No, for Kimi.”

Sarapul nodded and went out into the dark. He returned a few seconds later with a glass jug half-full of milky liquid. He handed it to Tuck. “Kava,” he said. “It make you no ouch.”

Tuck uncapped the bottle and a smell like cooking cabbage assaulted his nostrils. He held his breath and took a big slug of the stuff, suppressed a gag, and swallowed. His mouth was immediately numb. “Wow, this ought to do it. I need a needle and some thread and some hot water. And some alcohol or peroxide if you have it.”

Sarapul nodded. “I put Neosporin on him.”

“You know about that? Why am I doing this?”

Sarapul shrugged and left the house. Evidently, he didn’t keep anything inside but his skinny old ass.

Kimi moaned and Tuck rolled him over. The navigator’s eyes fluttered open.

“Boss, that dog fucker shot me.”

“Curtis? The older white guy?”

“No. Japanese dog fucker.” Kimi drew his finger across his scalp in a line and Tuck knew exactly who he meant.

“What were you doing, Kimi? I told you that I’d check on Sepie and meet you.” Tuck felt a pleasant numbness moving into his limbs. This kava stuff would definitely do the trick.

“You didn’t come. I worry for her.”

“I had to fly.”

“Sarapul say those people very bad. You should come live here, boss.”

“Be quiet. Drink this.” He held the jug to Kimi’s lips and tipped it up. The navigator took a sip and Tuck let him rest before administering another dose.

“That stuff nasty,” Kimi said.

“I’m going to stitch you up.”

The navigator’s eyes went wide. He took the jug from Tuck and gulped from it until Tuck ripped it out of his hands. “It won’t be that bad.”

“Not for you.”

Tuck grinned. “Haven’t you heard? I’ve been sent here by Vincent.”

“That what Sarapul say. He say he don’t believe in Vincent until we come, but now he do.”

“Really?”

Sarapul came through the door with an armload of supplies. “I don’t say that. This dog fucker lies.”

Tuck shook his head. “You guys were made for each other.”

Sarapul set down a sewing kit and a bottle of peroxide, then crouched over the navigator and looked up at Tuck. “Can you fix him?”

Tuck grinned and grabbed the old cannibal by the cheek. “Yum,” Tuck said.

“Sorry,” Sarapul said.

“I’ll fix him,” Tuck said. Silently he asked for help from Vincent.

“I can’t feel my arms,” Kimi said. “My legs, where are my legs? I’m dying.”

Sarapul looked at Tuck. “Good,” he said. “More kava.”

Tuck picked up the jug, now only a quarter full. “This is great stuff.”

“I’m dying,” Kimi said.

Tuck rolled the navigator over on his side. “Kimi, did I tell you I saw Roberto?”

“See, I didn’t eat him,” Sarapul said.

“Where?” Kimi asked.

“He came to my house. He talked to me.”

“You lie. He only speak Filipino.”

“He learned English. Can you feel that?”

“Feel what? I am dying?”

“Good,” Tuck said and he laid his first stitch.

“What Roberto say? He mad at me?”

“No, he said you’re dying.”

“I’m dying, I’m dying,” Kimi wailed.

“Just kidding. He didn’t say that. He said you’re probably dying.” Tuck kept Kimi talking, and before long the navigator was so convinced of his approaching death he didn’t notice that Tucker Case, self-taught incompetent, had completely stitched and dressed his wounds.

50

Don Quixote at the Miniature Golf Course

He was sleeping, dreaming of flying, but not in a plane. He was soaring over the warm Pacific above a pod of hump-back whales. He swooped in close to the waves and one of the whales breached, winked at him with a football-sized eye, and said, “You da man.” Then the whale smiled and blew the dream all to hell, for while Tuck knew himself to indeed “be da man” and while he didn’t mind being told so, he also knew that whales couldn’t smile and that bit of illogic above all the others broke the dream’s back. He woke up. There was music playing in his bungalow.

“Dance with me, Tucker,” she said. “Dance with me in the moonlight.”

The smooth muted horns of “Moonlight Serenade” filled the room from a portable boom box on his coffee table. Beth Curtis, wearing a sequined evening gown and high-heeled sandals, danced an imaginary partner around the room. “Oh, dance with me, Tucker. Please.”

She glided over to the bed and held her hand out to him. He gave her the coconut man’s head, rolled over, and ducked under the sheet. “Go away. I’m tired and you’re insane.”

She sat on the bed with a bounce. “You old stick in the mud.” A pouty voice now. “You never want to have any romance.”

Tuck feigned sleep. Pretty well, he thought.

“I brought champagne and candles. And I made cookies.”

This is me sleeping, Tuck thought. This is exactly how I behave when I sleep.

“I twisted up a joint of skunky green bud the size of your dick.”

“I hope you got help carrying it,” he said, still under the covers.

“I rolled it on the inside of my thigh the way the women in Cuba roll cigars.”

“Don’t tell me how you licked the paper.”

She slapped him on the bottom. “Come on, dance with me.”

He rolled over and pulled the sheet off his face. “You’re not going to go away, are you?”

“Not until you dance with me and have some champagne.”

Tuck looked at his watch. “It’s five in the morning.”

“Haven’t you ever danced till dawn?”

“Not vertically.”

“Oh, you nasty boy.” Coy now, as if anything short of being caught at genocide could make her blush. The song changed to something slow and oily that Tuck didn’t recognize.

“This is such a good song. Let’s dance.” She swooned. She actually swooned. Swooning, Tuck noticed, looked very much like an asthma attack wheezed in slow motion. A rooster crowed, and seven thousand six hundred and fifty-two roosters responded in turn.

“Beth, it’s morning. Please go home.”

“Then you’re not going to dance with me?”

“No.”

“All right, I guess we’ll skip the dancing, but I want you to know that I’m very disappointed.” She stood up, pulled the evening gown over her head, and dropped it to the floor. The sequins sizzled against the floor like a dying rattlesnake. She wore only stockings underneath.

Tuck said, “I don’t think this is such a good idea,” but there was no conviction in his voice and she pushed him back on the bed.

Tuck was staring up at the ceiling, his arm pinned under her neck, silently mouthing his mantra, “After this, I will not bone the crazy woman. After this, I will not bone the crazy woman. After…” Boy, how many times had he said that? Maybe things were getting better, though. In the past it had always been “I will not get drunk and bone the crazy woman.” He had been only sleepy this time.

He tried to worm his arm out from under her, then used the “old snuggle method.” He rolled into her for a hug and when she responded with a sleepy moan and tried to kiss him, the space under her neck opened up and he was free. It worked as well on murdering bitch goddesses as it did on Mary Jean ladies. Better even, Beth

didn’t wear near as much hair spray, which can slow a guy down. God, I’m good.

He rolled out of bed and crept into the bathroom. While he peed, he softly chanted, “Yo, after this, I will not bone the crazy woman.” It had taken on a rap cadence and he was feeling very hip along with the usual self-loathing. His scars made him think of Kimi’s wound, and suddenly he was angry. He padded naked back to the bed and jostled the sleeping icon. “Get up, Beth. Go home.”

And someone pounded on the door. “Mr. Case, tee time in five.”

Tuck clamped his hand over Beth’s mouth, lifted her by her head in a single sweeping move from the bed to the bathroom, where he released her and shut the door. Fred Astaire, had he been a terrorist, would have been proud of the move.

Tuck grabbed his pants off the floor, which is where he kept them, pulled them on, and answered the door. Sebastian Curtis had a driver slung over his shoulder. “You might want to put on a shirt, Mr. Case. You can get burned, even this early.”

“Right,” Tuck said. He was looking at the caddie. Today Stripe carried the clubs. The guard sneered at him. Tuck smiled back. Stripe, like Mato before him, was doing caddie duty unarmed. Time to play a little round for the navigator, he thought. He winked at Stripe.

“I’ll be right there.” Tuck closed the door and went to the bathroom to tell Beth to wait until he’d gone before coming out, but when he opened the door, she was gone.

“Did you know that over ninety percent of all the endangered species are on islands?” the doctor said.

“Nope,” Tuck said. He picked his ball up and put it on the rubberized mat, then turned to Stripe. “Dopey, give me a five iron.”

They were on the fourth hole and had crisscrossed the compound pretending to play golf for an hour. Tuck swung and skidded the ball fifty yards across the gravel. “Heads up, Bashful,” Tuck said as he threw the club back to Stripe.

“Islands are like evolutionary pressure cookers. New species pop up faster and go extinct more quickly. It works the same way with religions.”

“No kidding, Doc?” They still had fifty yards to get to where Sebastian’s first shot lay. Tuck had hit three times.

“The cargo cults have all the same events associated with the great reli-gions: a period of oppression, the rise of a Messiah, a new order, the promise of an endless time of peace and prosperity. But instead of devel-oping over centuries like Christianity or Buddhism, it happens in just a few years. It’s fascinating, like being able to see the hands of the clock move right before your eyes and be a part of it.”

“So you must totally get off when daylight savings time comes around.”

“It was just a metaphor, Mr. Case.”

“Call me Tuck.” They had reached Tuck’s ball and he placed it on the Astro Turf mat. “Sneezy, give me the driver.”

Sebastian cleared his throat. “That looks more like a nine iron to me. You’ve only got fifty yards to the pin.”

“Trust me, Doc. I need a driver for this one.”

Stripe snickered and handed him the driver. Tuck examined it, one of the large-headed alloy models that had become so popular in the States – all metal. Tuck grinned at Stripe. “So, Doc, I guess you shitcanned the Meth-odist thing to watch the clock spin.” Tuck lined up the shot and took a practice swing. The club whooshed through the air.

“Have you ever had faith in anything, Mr. Case?”

Tuck took another practice swing. “Me? Faith? Nope.”

“Not even your own abilities?”

“Nope.” Tuck made a show of lining up the shot again and making sure his hips were loose.

“Then you shouldn’t make jokes about it.”

“Right,” Tuck said. He tensed and put his entire weight behind the club, but instead of hitting the ball, he swung it around like a baseball bat, slamming the head into Stripe’s cheek, shattering the bone with a sickening thwack. The guard’s feet went out from under him and he landed with a crunch in the coral.

“Christ!” Sebastian yelled. He grabbed the club and wrenched it from Tuck’s grasp. “What in the hell are you doing?”

Tuck didn’t answer. He bent over the guard until he was only inches from his face and whispered, “Fore, motherfucker.”

A second later Tuck heard a mechanical click and the guard who had been tending the pin had an Uzi pressed to his ear.

Sebastian Curtis was bent over Stripe, pulling his eyes open to see if his pupils would contract. “Take Mr. Case to his bungalow

and stay with him. Send two men with a stretcher and find Beth. Tell her to – ” Curtis suddenly realized that the guard was only getting about a third of what he said. “Bring my wife.”

“I’ll get back to you on that faith thing, Doc,” Tuck said.

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