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Island of the Sequined Love Nun Chapter 56~57

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56

Escape

Kimi was trying to call up thunder and was having no luck at all. He’d been chanting and waving his arms for half an hour and there still wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

“You’re not holding your arms right,” Sarapul said.

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He was lying under a palm tree, chewing a betel nut and offering constructive criticism to the navigator. Sepie lay nearby watching.

“I am too,” Kimi said. “I’m holding them the same way you do.”

“Maybe it doesn’t work for Filipinos.”

“It’s because I’m shot,” Kimi said. “If I wasn’t shot, I could do this.”

Sarapul scanned the horizon. Not even a bird. “That’s it. It’s because you’re shot.” He spit out a red stream of betel nut juice. “And you’re not holding your arms right.”

Kimi resumed chanting and waving his arms.

“Hey!” Sarapul said.

“What? Did you hear thunder? I knew I could do it.”

“No. Be quiet. Someone is calling you.”

Kimi listened. Someone was calling him, and they were getting closer. He limped down the beach toward the voice and saw Tucker Case coming around the island.

“Hey, boss, what you doin’ out here during the day? The Sorcerer gonna be plenty mad at you.”

Tuck was out of breath. “He is mad. I need your boat, Kimi. And I need you to navigate for me.”

“Not his ship,” Sarapul said. “My ship.”

“The doc is going to kill me if I don’t get off the island. Can I use your boat?”

The old cannibal was silent for a moment, thinking. “Where you go?”

“I don’t know. Guam, Yap, anywhere.”

“Can I come?”

“Yes, yes, if I can use your boat.”

“Okay, we leave five days. Right, Kimi?”

Kimi looked at Tuck. “It not be good sailing for five days.”

“I have to go now, Kimi.”

“Can Sepie come?”

Sepie stepped back, surprised. “You want to take me? Women don’t sail.”

“You come,” Kimi said. “Okay, boss?” he said to Tuck.

Tuck nodded. “Whatever. Sepie, go tell Malink that I need everyone to bring drinking coconuts. Many drinking coconuts with the husks taken off. Bananas, mangoes, papaya, and dried fish if he has any.”

“There is plenty shark meat,” Sepie said.

“I need it now, Sepie. Go. Tell Malink that Vincent demands it.”

Sarapul began to chop at the underbrush in front of the sailing canoe to clear a path to the water. “Put down palm leaf to slide ship on,” he told Tuck. Tuck began to gather long palm fronds and lay them down in a path to the water.

“Kimi, can you go get the things from my pack? There’s things we can use.”

“What about Roberto?”

“Call for him, but go get the stuff. The money too.”

“Okay, boss.”

Ten minutes later Tuck looked up to see Malink leading a line of Shark People through the jungle. All were carrying baskets of food and husked green coconuts.

“You are leaving?”

“Yes, I have to go, Chief.”

“You are taking our ship and our navigator.”

“And our mispel,” Abo added from behind Malink.

“I have to go, Malink. The Sorcerer and the Sky Priestess are going to kill me.”

“But Vincent send you. How they hurt you?”

“They don’t really believe in Vincent. They use him to get you to give up the chosen, Malink. They’re going to start killing off your people

too.”

“They no kill the Chosen. Chosen are for Vincent.”

“No. I told you before. They take out your organs and sell them to be put inside of other people.”

Malink scoffed. “You can no put one man kidney in other man.”

“It was in People magazine. Didn’t you see it? Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Mariel Hemingway, all of them? You didn’t read about it?”

Recognition lit up Malink’s face. “Boob job!”

“Yes,” Tuck said. “Where do you think they get those boobs?”

“Oh, no.”

“Yes.”

“He speaks the truth,” Malink said to the islanders. “It was in People. Put the food in the boat.”

He took Tuck aside. “You will come back?”

“I’ll try.”

“And bring our navigator.”

“I’ll try, Malink. I really will.”

“You try.”

“Tide,” Kimi called. “We go now.”

The center of the canoe was filled with coconuts, fruit, and bundles of dried shark meat wrapped in banana leaves. Kimi directed the men to get on either side of the canoe and push it over the mat of palm fronds to the water. When it was afloat, Tuck lifted Sepie in, then climbed in himself. Kimi, standing on the outrigger platform, started to hoist the sail. It was the shape of a tortilla chip stood on end with a bite taken out at the top. Tuck recognized the pieces of his pack sewn into the nylon patchwork.

“Where is Sarapul?” Kimi said.

“Here!” The old cannibal was running out of the jungle, seeming stronger now than Tuck had ever seen him. He had gone back for his spear, a long shaft of mahogany with a wickedly barbed metal tip. Tuck caught the old man by the forearm and pulled him out of the surf and into the canoe.

The canoe was already fifty yards from the shore. Sarapul took the long oar at the rear and steered it toward the channel as Kimi stood on the outrigger platform and manipulated the sail.

The Shark People stood on the beach looking stunned. A few waved. Malink looked forlorn, Abo heartbroken.

“Thanks,” Tuck shouted over the wave. “Thank you, Malink.”

“You will come back.” Malink said. It was not a question.

Tuck turned to look out to sea, then looked back to see the Shark People wading into the water after them. Behind them he saw a dark figure come out of the jungle.

There was no warning shot or demand to halt. Stripe came out onto the beach and opened up with the Uzi. Tuck pushed Sepie’s head down under the edge of the gunwale just as a line of bullets stitched and splintered the wood. Kimi screamed and Tuck looked up to see a row of red geysers open in his back. He clung to one of the lines for a second, then fell into the sea.

Another scream, this one from Sarapul, the hideous screech of a raging lynx, and the old man went over the side.

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The gunfire stopped and Tuck risked popping his head up to look back to the beach. Stripe was slamming a new clip into the Uzi as he waded after the canoe. The Shark People had fled from the water and disappeared into the jungle or were cowering on the beach, unable to move.

With the sail loose, the canoe had swung around and was being carried by the tide toward the reef. They would miss the channel by only a few feet, but they would miss it and run aground on the reef. Tuck reached up to grab the steering oar just as Stripe let off another burst from the Uzi. At a hundred yards he was spraying a wide pattern, but Tuck heard a couple of bullets thunk into the side of the canoe.

The normally crystal water near the shore was clouded with the sand and silt thrown up by the Shark People’s retreat, so Stripe did not see the dark shape moving through the water toward him. He wanted a shot. He set the Uzi to semiautomatic and unfolded the stock to take careful aim.

Tuck was standing now, leaning hard on the steering oar to bring the canoe around and through the channel. The outrigger scraped over the reef as the canoe approached broadside.

Stripe lined up the sights between Tuck’s shoulder blades, held his breath, let it out, then squeezed the trigger.

Sarapul came out of the water like an angry marlin, spear-first. The metal point entered just under Stripe’s chin and exited his skull at the crown, dragging brain and bone on its evil barb. As Stripe fell back, he emptied the clip into the sky.

The canoe slipped through the channel into the open ocean. Out on the horizon, a small cloud appeared and dropped a mercurial lightning bolt into the sea, followed a few seconds later by Kimi’s thunder.

57

West with the Bat

The Sorcerer stood on the beach over the supine body of Yamata. The spear was still sticking out of the guard’s skull like a gruesome note spindle waiting for a canceled receipt from the Reaper.

“How did this happen?” the Sorcerer asked.

Malink looked at his feet. The Sorcerer seemed more surprised than angry. A day had passed since Sarapul had killed Stripe, and Malink had waited in fear for the time when the Sorcerer would come looking for him. The other guards had torn the village apart looking for Tuck, and Malink had confessed that the pilot had left the island in an old canoe, but he had claimed ignorance of the whereabouts of the guard. Sarapul had been right. They should have pushed the body out to the edge of the reef for the sharks to eat. Actually, that had been Sarapul’s second suggestion for the disposal of the body.

“It look like accident,” Malink said. “Maybe he running and fall on his spear.”

“I want the man who did this, Malink,” the Sorcerer said.

“He is dead.”

“The Filipino did this?”

Malink nodded. The other guards had found Kimi’s body in the village, where the Shark People had been preparing it for burial.

“I don’t think so. The Filipino took four bullets in the back. Whoever did this was very strong. Now you must tell me the truth or Vincent will be angry.”

Malink was not afraid of Vincent’s wrath. He only now realized that all the wrath his people had ever felt from Vincent had come

by way of the Sorcerer and the Sky Priestess. He was afraid of the Sky Priestess.

“The American do this before he leave in the canoe. The guard shoot the girl-man and the American kill the guard.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”

“I am afraid Vincent will be angry.”

“Where did they get a canoe? None of the Shark People know how to build a canoe.”

“It was the girl-man. He know how. He build with Sarapul.”

The Sorcerer balled his fists. “And Sarapul is gone too.”

Malink nodded. “He sail away.”

“Do you know where they were going?”

Malink shook his head. “No. Sarapul is banished. We no talk with him.”

“Where’s the guard’s weapon?”

Malink shrugged.

The Sorcerer turned his back and began walking up the beach. “Have your people bury this man, Malink. Don’t let the other guards see him. And be ready. The Sky Priestess will visit you soon.”

Sarapul crawled out from some nearby ferns and stood at Malink’s side, watching the Sorcerer walk away. “We should have eaten this guy,” he said, kicking Yamata’s body.

“This is very bad,” Malink said.

“He killed my friend.” Sarapul kicked the body again.

“The Sky Priestess will be very angry.” Malink was, once again, feeling the weight of his position.

The old cannibal shrugged. “Can I have my spear back?”

Tuck knew that there was a way to use the hands of a watch in conjunction with the movement of the sun to determine direction, but since he wore a digital watch, it wouldn’t have done him any good even if he knew the method, which he didn’t. He guessed that Guam lay to the west, so he steered for the setting sun, spent the night guessing, and corrected his course to put the sun behind them at sunrise.

He did know how to sail. It was required knowledge for a kid growing up in a wealthy family near San Diego, but celestial navigation was a complete mystery. Sepie was no help at all. Even if she knew anything, she hadn’t said a word since Kimi had been shot.

Tuck forced her to drink the water from a couple of green coconuts, but other than that, she had lain in the bow motionless for twenty-four hours.

He was now looking at his second sunset at sea. He corrected his course and realized that they must have been traveling north most of the day. How far, he couldn’t guess. He steered southwest until the sun lay on the water like a glowing platter, hoping to correct some of the damage.

He really wished that Sepie would come around. He needed some sleep, and he needed some relief from his own thoughts. Thoughts of the Sky Priestess, of the Sorcerer, and of his dead friend Kimi. Despite the navigat-or’s surly manner, he had been a good kid. Tuck, who had been brought up in relative luxury, couldn’t imagine having endured the life that Kimi had lived. And the navigator had never given up. He had lived and died with courage. And he would still be alive if he hadn’t met Tucker Case.

“Fuck!” Tuck said to no one. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and squinted at the gunmetal waves.

There was a flapping noise up by the mast and Tuck adjusted the steering oar to catch the wind. The sail filled again, but the flapping continued for a second before it stopped.

Roberto caught the shroud line that was secured to the outrigger and did an upside-down swinging landing that left him looking to the back of the canoe.

Tuck couldn’t have been happier if it had been an angel hanging from his shroud line.

“Roberto?”

“Yes,” the bat said. He was speaking in his own voice, not Vincent’s. The accent Filipino, not Manhattan.

Tuck almost burst out laughing. His mood swings were so rapid and wide now that he was afraid his sanity might be falling through the chasm. “I didn’t recognize you without your glasses.”

“I no like the light,” Roberto said.

Tuck looked to Sepie, still lying in the bow. “Look, Sepie, it’s Roberto.” The girl did not stir.

“You are very sad about Kimi,” Roberto said.

“Yes,” Tuck said, “I am sad.”

“He tell you he was great navigator and you no believe him.”

Tuck looked away. Something about bats increases shame by a factor of ten.

“You are going the wrong way,” the bat said. “Go that way.”

He pointed with a wing claw. The wind caught his wing and nearly spun him off the shroud line. He braced himself with the other wing claw and pointed again. “I mean that way.”

“You’re shitting me,” Tuck said.

“That way.”

“That’s north. I’m going to Guam. West.”

“That’s west. I am born on Guam.”

“You’re a bat.”

“You ever see a lost bat?”

“No, but I’ve never seen a talking bat either.”

“See?” Roberto said, as if he had made his point. “That way.”

After all the evidence is in – after you’ve run all the facts by everything you know – and you’re still lost, you have to do some things on faith. Tuck steered in the direction Roberto was pointing.

A few minutes later he looked up to see Vincent sitting on the pile of coconuts in the center of the canoe. “Good call, listening to the bat,” Vincent said. “I just wanted you to know that the Shark People are going to build some ladders.”

“Well, that’s a useful bit of information,” Tuck said.

“It will be,” Vincent said. Then he disappeared.

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