~~~

Gina and the recruits reached the upper landing of the hub with weapons drawn. The large, dimly lit former headquarters of Mother seemed vacant until the loud alarm suddenly went silent.

With her hand axe in one hand, the Balato in the other, Gina signaled everyone to hold at the landing.

From beneath them, they could hear what was left of the patrols being slaughtered. Desperate sounds of fighting and screams echoed across the hub. Many of the recruits believed the ghosts of this unnerving, dead space had all assembled below to take their revenge against the living.

Gina looked back into their confused and terrified faces.

The recruits shifted nervously behind her, staring at each other and then back to Gina, waiting for her to tell them what to do… or wake them from this nightmare.

Even the three remaining Ama-Eskua recruits looked uncertain as Gilo and Kyle took up defensive fighting positions on either side of their leader with Julianne guarding her back and staring up and around at the shadows as if everything and anything might attack them in the next few moments.

Gina stopped at the upper rail, looked down into the hub, and tried to process what only her ears could tell her since she could not see a single Ama-Eskua warrior below.

Where the fuck are they?

When the screams finally ceased. The hub went silent.

“They know we’re here,” Julianne whispered.

Gina gripped her hand axe so tight her hand started to go numb. “What are they waiting for?” she whispered back.

Kyle raised his spear and whispered, “They’re not waiting. They’re already moving to surround us.”

Gilo, with his sword up, added, “We have the advantage of higher ground. They will be going for the stairs… or they will draw us toward them. Either way, we are too tightly packed on this landing… and they know it.”

Gina nodded, the lack of any sound below causing her to second guess everything. Should they attack? Retreat? Drop their weapons and give in to the fear?

“There’s too many places to hide in here,” Julianne started. “They will strike us hard and fast and attempt to scatter us throughout the hub. If that happens, they can pick us off from the shadows.”

She thought of the KAR, formerly the Kill Room. That was the one place they all understood. They had trained hard in that large space. If they could draw the Ama-Eskua back there, they could stay together and maybe survive the next few minutes.

“We need to get back to the KAR,” Gina told her. “Maybe we have the numbers… and they know it.”

“Agreed,” she said. “That might be all we have.”

Gina signaled the recruits to fall back to the KAR. They all slowly retreated off the landing.

From all around them, they heard large footfalls on metal.

“They’re coming up the stairs!” Kyle said, whirling his spear around toward the closest staircase while walking backwards off the landing.

Gilo and Julianne stood right next to him, forming a line in front of Gina and to protect the rear.

“Fall back to the KAR… fast!” Gina called out, forcing the recruits to move. “Ring Formation!” she added.

They all raced out of the hub and toward the KAR.

Gina and the Ama-Eskua recruits were the last to exit the door off the landing. They all caught a glimpse of the enemy as several dark shapes came together at the other end of the landing. They merged into one large shadow… and… stopped.

Holy fuck! Gina thought. There’s so many of them! “Let’s move!” she ordered. “Hurry!”

“What are they doing?” Kyle asked Julianne as they turned to sprint back to the KAR. “That’s not an Ama-Eskua move. They don’t form… ranks.”

Julianne had no response.

Even Gilo seemed confused by the odd battle tactic. “They’re acting like a pack… moving as one.”

Gina didn’t hear them. Her only concern was getting everyone back to the KAR.

They were the last to reach the northern door and sprinted inside.

“They’re not following!” Julianne yelled as she was the last to reach the large lit space.

The recruits were already forming two large circles at the center of the gymnasium-sized room—one inside the other—a battle formation they’d practiced often for the purpose of fighting against a surrounding enemy. This was called the Ring Formation, something Julianne had suggested when they had discussed possible battle tactics of the Shadow Dead. They had all agreed that those traitors preferred to use the darkness to surround an enemy… a stolen, misused Ama-Eskua tactic.

In addition, every recruit was now carrying a pre-staged Balato in their non-weapon hand. This was Gina’s suggestion. They could use the pain sticks defensively to block or even stun the enemy, in place of a shield, while still striking with their primary weapons.

Gina felt a moment of pride in the recruits for remembering their training and not giving in to fear and falling apart. She was also grateful for the lighting. Of all the rooms in the training facility, the KAR was still the most lit up… which meant fewer shadows.

“Get ready!” Gina barked as she joined the inner circle with Julianne, Gilo and Kyle. Even they were now wielding Balatos in their support hands.

The objective of the Ring Formation was to keep a surrounding enemy in front while the first ring acted like a shield for the second. While the Ama-Eskua attacked the outer ring, the inner ring could strike from between the first rank. If the first ring was breached, the inner ring could step forward to form a new outer ring while the outer ring stepped back to become the new inner ring, regroup, and then start again. This was a move used to tire out the enemy, even an enemy with superior numbers. As fighters fell, the rings would grow smaller, but they could keep the advantage of holding the enemy out front and stay in the fight for as long as the rings held.

Gina quickly assessed their numbers. Forty-eight. Twenty-four per ring. That’s all we’ve got. She already had to assume that the six recruits on patrol in the hub were dead. She had no idea how many Ama-Eskua warriors the Order might send at them, or from where. Julianne believed the number would be low, and that the Order’s honor would dictate fewer warriors to defeat an inferior enemy. Gina hoped that Julianne’s assessment was correct.

Everyone in the KAR stood still as stone. The slightest sound was amplified.

Gina had been prepared for this. Ama-Eskua warriors were trained to use psychological warfare to unhinge an enemy. Such tactics included unnerving silence and painstakingly long lulls in fights to get the enemy to lower their guards.

But not this time.

“I hear them,” Gilo whispered to her right. “They’ve exited the hub.”

Gina tensed up and signaled the recruits with hand gestures to stand by. She looked over at Julianne to her left. She wore a pained face. “What is it?” she whispered.

Julianne gave her a strange look. “Something is ‘off’ about this attack. The others agree. The Ama-Eskua do not fight like a pack.”

“What do you mean ‘a pack’?” Gina said.

“That’s what Gilo said.”

She turned to the young warrior recruit. “It’s how they appeared on that landing,” he said. “It looked… unusual.”

Gina nodded as she struggled with something that started to unnerve her.

No time, she concluded, forcing the thoughts away. She needed to stay focused.

They could all hear them now. The enemy was entering the final hallway in front of the KAR.

All the recruits tensed up, staring into each other’s faces for perhaps the last time.

And then there was a new sound.

“What is that?” Kyle whispered.

Gilo and Julianne looked equally confused.

Gina heard it, too, and nearly dropped her weapons on the floor as recognition set in.

Rat-a-tat-a tat

~~~

“…Unless Gina’s locked up in some dungeon, which I don’t believe is the case, she might have some limited freedom on this island. She might know where Toby is… Toby’s body.”

The others paused, looking confused.

Meredith pulled them in close… and told them her plan.

Most of it.

“Remember what I told you about the dolls when I was child at that orphanage? How I found that secret room with the patients strapped into beds?”

They all nodded.

“One of them was Toby. The real Toby, Doctor Forrester’s brain-dead brother. He was much older, but it was still him. I believe the entity pretending to be Toby is using Forrester’s brother as a tether to this world. I also believe that without this tether, the Toby we’ve come to know will not be able to reach out into our world from the other side.”

“You mean from Elsewhere,” Stephen said.

Meredith smiled at him. “Yes. From Elsewhere.” She gazed into all their faces and sighed. “Part of what we need to do is find that tether and disconnect Toby from it.”

“You mean, kill the real Toby,” Megan said, with no emotion.

“I believe Forrester’s brother is long gone, or, at least, what made him alive is long gone. What remains is the memories, or dreams, or whatever it is that Dr. Forrester tapped into, that allows that monster who calls himself Toby to keep a foothold in our world. He still needs me to cross.”

“So, Toby is using the brain-dead Toby to affect our world,” Stephen started, “just like you’re using another brain-dead girl’s body to remain in our world?”

Meredith frowned. “Her name was Michelle.”

“Of course,” Stephen said. “Sorry.”

“That’s okay. You are correct. It’s very similar to what Forrester and Finch did, transferring my… entire consciousness… into Michelle’s body. Don’t ask me how Forrester did that, I still don’t know. The only difference now is that Toby can’t use brain-dead Toby the way Forrester used Michelle. That Elsewhere secret died with Forrester… and for good reason. But he’s still connected to our world through her brother, and he won’t need that body for much longer once he gets to me.” She stopped for a moment. “Perhaps that is the urgency I’m sensing? Maybe something’s wrong with Toby’s body? Maybe, after all this time, the tether is finally failing?”

“Or maybe the real Toby is fighting back,” Megan said.

Meredith gave her a questioning look. “What do you mean by that, Megan?”

“Maybe Forrester succeeded in what she originally intended to do? Wasn’t she trying to bring back her brother in the first place?”

Meredith considered this, staring at the young half-dead for a long time. She sighed heavily and finally said, “Megan, I hope you’re wrong. Because if not…” She looked down at the strange old flesh that had been her body for so long. “If you’re not… then I’ve a lot more to answer for.”

They all left it at that.

“So, that’s why I need all of you to find Gina,” Meredith continued, bringing them back on track. “She may know where Toby’s body is, or at least know how to find it. And if we break that connection, and sever Toby’s tether to our world, perhaps I can finish this for good.”

“What does that mean?” Logan said.

“It means she’s going to Elsewhere,” Megan finished. She stared at the old medium. “She’s going to let Toby find her… and bring her back.”

“You can’t do that!” Stephen said. “That’s just what that monster wants!”

Meredith nodded sadly. “Yes. It is. But it won’t be like before. Toby will believe he has recaptured that frightened little girl he manipulated a long time ago. And that will be my advantage. He will also be blind to our world without his precious tether. I believe that will actually scare him… a little.”

“If we find that body,” Stephen corrected.

“Yes,” Meredith agreed. “There is that.” She took a deep breath and finished. “You all need to trust me now. This may look like I’m giving Toby what he wants, but I assure you, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have a chance to stop him. And I’m telling you all now… I do. But I can only do it… over there. I need this. I need to do this. Toby used a very naïve little girl to do some very horrible things. I released The Lions into our world. I know it isn’t my fault, not directly, but I am still responsible. This is my battle to fight… and I am ready to fight it now. But I need your help to get there. Will you help me do this?”

With much reluctance, they all nodded…

…Stephen was lost in thought, staring into the ship’s wake as the last of the sunlight caused the water to shimmer, reflecting the evening sky above. His thoughts had drifted back to their last conversation in the boathouse. That was when they’d all decided to help Meredith jump right back into the monster’s mouth. Although the plan had been modified since reuniting with Meredith’s evil sister from the past, the end result was still the same.

I can’t believe we’re letting her do this, he thought. If she fails… and Toby succeeds… He shook off the dire thoughts. Now was not the time for doubt. They had their own job to do.

Stephen and Logan stood on the aft deck of the Carrie-Anne watching Captain Carl bark orders down toward the bow at his two-man crew from just outside the pilot house. They were currently getting ready to drop anchor, but the waves were making operations difficult… and the crew distracted.

The big preacher stared at the setting sun just ahead of them. The sky was getting dark fast as the bottom of the clouds near the horizon started to ignite into majestic hues of red and gold. He turned to Stephen and said, “Another thirty minutes of light at most. If we don’t make a move soon, we’ll have the night to contend with as well as the captain’s crew. We might not even be able to dock.”

“I know,” Stephen said, staring over the aft lifeline and into the rolling waves. “I’m just trying to think of a way to approach the captain and present our case. Like Meredith said, he does seem reasonable. We already know he isn’t a part of Mother. We just need an angle, something to entice the man into helping us get to Gina.”

Logan shook his head and laughed. “Little brother, you and Meredith are far too trusting. This man is a shrewd businessman beneath all that jovial, indifferent talk. If he thinks we’re asking him to do anything that would jeopardize his arrangement with that witch, Clementine, and the sweet deal he already has with Mother, then I’m sure he’ll just throw us overboard.”

“You might be right,” Stephen agreed. “But we should try to talk to him first.”

Logan nodded. “I’m all for keeping the peace. But I think I have a back-up plan to make the reasonable Captain Carl more… cooperative… should he laugh you right out of his pilot house.”

Stephen frowned. “What are you up to?”

Logan smiled and pointed toward twenty fifty-five-gallon tarped containers, stacked two drums high and strapped up toward the front of the aft deck, just beneath the pilot house steps, to the left of the cabin door. “This pirate might me more motivated to help us… if he believed his precious ship were in danger. While you’re talking to the man, I’ll sneak down into that cabin and have a look around.”

“What do you hope to find down there? Weapons?”

Logan smiled. “We’ll just see what the Good Lord provides.”

Stephen’s glanced at one of the drums. The word PETROL was stenciled on the side.

~~~

They were out of time.

Before Gina could prepare herself, or the others, for the horrors coming toward them, the north doors to the KAR slammed open. Several dark, disfigured shapes dressed in former Ama-Eskua warrior armor burst through the doorway and howled at the them. They had elongated limbs with claws instead of fingers. Grotesque upper bodies with bones penetrating rotting flesh were partially covered by armor intended for human beings, making these mangled monsters look like they’d been dressed in Halloween costumes that no longer fit. Blood red eyes stared at the recruits with savage hunger behind cracked helmets—razors for teeth gnawed at the inside parts of the face shields as the creatures screamed in frustration within their light metal trappings.

Julianne locked eyes with Gina. For the first time, Gina saw fear in the young Ama-Eskua recruit’s eyes. “What… what are these things?”

Gina gave her a fierce look. “Keep it together,” she ordered. “The face of the enemy has changed.” She then raised her voice toward the others, noticing her recruits starting to fall apart and disperse, breaking the outer ring. “Hold your positions! Defend yourselves! These aren’t Ama-Eskua… not anymore! They’re a variation of the dead—a hybrid—part man, part beast, that we call Nightwalkers! I’ve faced their kind before. They don’t like the light, and this is the best lit place in this entire fucking facility!”

The creatures charged toward them on all fours, like a pack of ravenous wolves. Some moved very quickly while others struggled sluggishly, their movements restricted by armor or their misshapen bodies. The overhead lighting at the center of the KAR was not bright enough to stop them, but it was enough to annoy the beasts and slow down their charge. As the first animal-man hybrids cleared the doorway, more came in from the hall.

The recruits raised their weapons.

Gina raised her hand axe, focused on the closest monster, and let a savage sound escape her mouth to dispel the fear—a war cry from one savage to another to let the monsters know that they were not the only beasts in the large space.

Gina’s ferocity was infectious as the recruits took up the war cry and howled back at the monsters, causing them to slow down and stare at their strange prey with confusion. The Nightwalkers could smell the blood, but it was the fear they normally sensed which drove them into a frenzy for the hunt. But this time their prey did not act like wounded animals in a trap, but more like smaller animals backed into a corner—and just as deadly as the hunters.

Gina picked up on this immediately. “They’re just animals!” she shouted. “They’re confused! Use it! USE IT!”

As the first of the Nightwalkers reached the outer ring, recruits raised their Balatos to deflect clawed arms while stabbing, chopping and slicing with whatever weapons they held in the other to hold the ring in place.

Other red-eyed beasts were quickly surrounding them, looking for any vulnerability in the ring to strike.

“They may not be human,” Gilo shouted toward Gina, “but they still act like Shadow Dead, surrounding the enemy to come in quick for the kill!”

The irony did not escape her. While the Shadow Dead were men and women disguised and behaving as beasts… these things were beasts disguised as warriors of the Order. But the end result was still the same. They were dealing with animals either way. And animals, wild or otherwise, could be intimidated by stronger or more cunning creatures.

She was scanning the Nightwalkers toward the back of the KAR as they moved around the outer ring while the others attacked the ring directly to distract and throw the recruits into confusion. “Hold the ring!” she shouted. “Hold it no matter what! All they want is an opening or to force us out of the light!”

Gina, Gilo, Julianne and Kyle led the inner ring, reinforcing the outer ring by stepping in between the gaps with fierce strikes to the heads of the savages.

The Nightwalkers howled in pain and slashed at the faces of the recruits. Several in the outer ring went down. Recruits from the inner ring stepped up to take their places. Every time a recruit went down, the Nightwalkers would drag their dying bodies back to the darkest parts of the KAR and devour them alive. The screams of each recruit, ripped apart and fed on, just made the Nightwalkers more violent as they fought each other for the remains.

Gina refused to look at each recruit knocked down and dragged off. They were all finished if they couldn’t hold the rings. Heroics would get them all killed. Gina lunged forward and hacked at the claw of a beast trying to claim a young girl. The beast stepped back, howling in pain. The girl fell to her knees, gripping her torn throat. Another recruit quickly took her place as the young girl fell forward on her face. A different Nightwalker came in quick and snatched a long lock of hair on the dying girl’s head and dragged her body back to the shadows along a wall to feed on her warm flesh, leaving a crimson trail into the dark.

The red-headed savage felt nothing as their numbers dwindled—the rings getting smaller and smaller. She just screamed at the monsters, hacking away at them in between the gaps, tuning out the horrifying sounds of the slain… and the sounds of feasting along the walls of the KAR.

Kyle whirled his spear around and jammed it into the eye of a beast.

Julianne came in low with her sword and hacked off the same monster’s left leg, causing it to fall back.

Gilo was forced to step forward into a gap in the outer ring as the head of a recruit fell right off his shoulders, leaving an opening for a second Nightwalker to charge in and bite into the arm of a second recruit. The young Ama-Eskua recruit came in low then thrust his sword upward into the chin of the disfigured brute. He pulled his sword out, slicing the monster’s face in half, and then quickly thrust his sword into the throat of another monster. Gilo retracted his sword and whirled around to slice off the clawed arm of another beast.

Gina tried to grab the recruit who had been bitten in the arm, but another beast snatched him back into the darkness where three more beasts started to tear the young man apart.

The Nightwalkers were going down but so were the recruits.

There were now twenty recruits, including Gilo, who held the outer ring, while fifteen more maintained the inner ring.

The Nightwalkers still outnumbered them three to one.

Julianne, her clean greys soaked in black blood, turned to Gina. “We’re holding… barely. But they have the advantage. They can wear us out and pick us off at their leisure. We need a better position, preferably a choke point.”

Gina, her face and hair covered in blood, held up her bloody axe and stared up at the lights. “Without those, there’s nothing to stop them from one massive charge. The lights are the only thing they fear.”

Gilo stepped back within the inner circle as another recruit took his place. He, too, was a bloody mess. “On the south side of the facility, there’s spotlights surrounding the hangers around the helicopter pad. That’s where Lady Clementine’s group that came in with you are stationed. The security force will have guns… and we could use the help… as well as the light.”

“She never mentioned that to me,” Gina said.

Gilo just shrugged his shoulders.

There’s a whole lot that old bitch failed to mention, she thought, considering the faces of their new enemy.

Gina turned to Julianne. “Could we make it there? If we haul ass?”

Julianne’s face was stone. “No… not all of us. These things are far too fast. The rest of the light in the facility is too dim. They’ll overtake us before we make it to the mess hall.”

“What the hell are they doing?” Kyle yelled from behind him.

They all turned.

The Nightwalkers were no longer attacking. They were standing in a circle of their own, at the back of the KAR. Some were feeding, but the rest were staring up toward the lights… and howling.

Then something flew across the air above them, striking the base of one the florescent lights, causing it to shake and shimmer.

“They’re going for the lights!” Gina shouted.

“These things are smart enough for that?” Kyle was shocked. “I thought they were just dead animals!”

Something hit the ceiling then fell at Julianne’s feet.

It was a bloody human leg bone.

She and Gina shared a horrified look.

The Nightwalkers were throwing more bones now. Some threw them at the lights while others threw them at the recruits on the outer ring. The sight of their fallen brothers and sister’s bones being used against them started to unnerve the recruits.

Another bone stuck a bulb above causing it to spark and go out.

This made the monsters roar as one. They jumped around and hissed at the recruits.

“We’re out of time,” Julianne said.

Gina stared up at the lights. We’re so fucked!

“Get them out of here, Gina,” Julianne said. “Kyle, Gilo and I… we’ll hold them back long enough to give you a lead.”

“Fuck that!” she said.

Another bone struck the lights above. Causing one fixture to shake violently.

“We can handle them together,” Julianne assured her. She looked over at Kyle and Gilo who nodded in return. She looked back to Gina and smiled. “They won’t know what fucking hit them, Gina.”

Gina shook her head, then said, “Alright. But you three come right after us. No bullshit hero stuff. Understand?”

All three of them nodded.

Just then, something big struck the central light fixture above them causing a bright flash, and sparks. All the lights went out.

The KAR went pitch black.

~~~

“Absolutely not,” Captain Carl said, standing behind the helm in the pilot house. He lit up his pipe and took a long drag. “Don’t get me wrong, Stephen, as far as passengers go, you all have been easy… up until now. My orders are to standby until the Red Lady finishes whatever she’s doing and then come back for a pick-up. I don’t get paid to make decisions or get involved. I just do what I’m told until the job is done.”

“So, she told you to wait… right here… in this spot?” Stephen said.

Carl laughed. “Well… no… not specifically… but I’m fairly certain she wasn’t wanting me to taxi folks all around this damn island.”

Stephen raised his hands submissively and pushed. “We’re not asking for your crew to get involved, Captain. All we’re asking is that while we’re waiting out here anyway, what’s the harm in taking us around the island to pick up a friend… a friend of Lady Clementine, too, I’ll add. You wouldn’t even have to step foot off this ship. Logan and I will go get our friend… and come right back. I’m sure Lady Clementine would appreciate the extra effort in making sure Gina was safe. Perhaps she’ll even up your commission for all the extra effort.”

“And should the two of you get yourselves into trouble… and I’m sure that will be the case… what would I do then? Just leave you both on the island?”

Stephen nodded. “Yes. If we take too long to get back, although I can’t imagine why,” Stephen lied, “then you can just leave us and head back here in time to pick up the Red Lady.”

Captain Carl scrutinized Stephen with his one good eye. “And when she asks me where the two of you ended up… what should I say then, hmm? That I dropped you off on the island without her permission?”

“If it comes down to it, you could just say we swam back to shore.”

“Either way, I look incompetent. Incompetence is a good way to lose a payday. No, I’m sorry, Stephen, but we’ll be staying right here until it’s time to pick up the Red Lady. Those are my instructions… and that’s what
we’re going to do.”

Stephen started to protest.

“Now,” Carl interrupted. “If you would be so kind as to leave my pilot house and go down on deck where you were told to wait. Don’t come back up here again or I won’t be so nice.”

Stephen sighed. “Does it even matter to you that a woman is in danger? That you could do something very small to help and possibly save her life?”

“Nope. I’m not in the business of saving lives, Stephen. If I were, I’d probably be dead by now. That’s what saving lives amounts to in today’s world.”

Stephen shook his head and gave up. “Megan was right about you.”

Captain Carl laughed. “Yeah, that young lady with the gray eyes understands me more than you do… apparently. Now, if there’s nothing else… get the hell off my bridge.”

Stephen exited the pilot house and joined Logan back aft.

The big preacher, standing with his hands behind his back, glanced into Stephen’s face and smiled. “Judging by your sour expression, I can only assume that your conversation with the captain went very well.”

“Shut up,” Stephen said. “The man’s impossible. All he knows is profits and self-preservation. Time for Plan B. Did you find what you needed?”

Logan made sure Stephen was blocking Captain Carl’s view from the pilot house and then showed him what was in his hands. “No weapons, of course. But I felt fairly certain I would find an emergency kit.”

Stephen looked down and saw the loaded flare gun. “Shit, Logan, you even know how to use that thing?”

“I read the directions, little brother” Logan said with a mischievous wink. “Besides, the whole point is that I won’t have to use it.”

Stephen let out a heavy sigh. “Even if this works and we get Carl to take us to Gina, there will be nothing to keep him docked. We’ll be going there to rescue Gina… in need of a rescue ourselves.”

Logan shrugged his shoulders. “I can only do so much with a flare gun.” He looked up at the pilot house. “Think he’s watching us right now?”

“I’m sure of it.”

“Get ready.”

Stephen looked confused. “‘Get ready’? Get ready for what?”

Logan smiled. “Just follow my lead. Be sure you let the captain know how heartbroken I am about leaving my wife on this island.”

“You’re… wife?”

“Yeah… something like that. Just let the man know how much Gina means to me… you can tell him we’re newlyweds.”

“No. I’m not going to say that.”

“Just… roll with it and tell him how desperate I am to get my beloved wife back. Love can make a man very… unstable… at times, as I’m sure our captain will appreciate.”

“I don’t like this plan.”

Logan laughed lightly. “Ye of little faith.”

“Shit.” Stephen shook his head. “So, what now?”

Logan raised his voice. “What do you mean he won’t take us!” The big preacher took a step back and gave Stephen an enraged look. “That’s some bullshit! I’m only on this damn boat to get my wife home!”

“Oh, okay,” Stephen whispered. “I guess we’re starting.” He reluctantly jumped into the part. Stephen raised his arms to calm the preacher down. “Keep your voice down!” He looked deliberately up toward the pilot house, then back to Logan. “I tried to talk to the man, but he won’t listen!”

“That’s bullshit!” Logan started waving the flare gun into the air as he walked past Stephen and stood in front of the petrol containers. “You tell that damn captain to get his ass down here… NOW!” He pointed the flare gun at the petrol.

Stephen just stood there.

Logan gave him a look and repeated, “NOW!”

“Shit!” Stephen hissed, feeling like he’d missed his cue. He got his feet moving and started up the stairs.

“What the hell is going on back here?” Captain Carl shouted down from the rail just outside the pilot house.

“You tell him, Stephen!” Logan shouted. “Make damn sure he understands this time!”

Carl gave Logan a blank stare, then glared at Stephen who stopped half-way up the stairs. “You’ve got to be shitting me, right?”

Stephen sighed. “It’s his wife.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Gina… the woman on the island.”

Captain Carl raised an eyebrow and then pointed to Logan. “Gina is… his wife?”

“Yes.”

“And… tell me again what that has to do with your tattooed friend aiming a flare gun at my fuel?”

Stephen shook his head. “I tried to talk to him. The only reason Logan’s here was that he found out his wife… Gina… is on this island. After I told him you wouldn’t take us… he… well… he lost his shit.”

“Really?” Captain Carl looked amused. He took a hit off his pipe. “So, if I don’t take him to be reunited with his wife, am I to assume that your big friend intends to blow us all the hell up?”

“Looks that way.”

“I mean it!” Logan shouted up. “Take me to Gina or I’ll fucking do it!”

Captain Carl never lost his amused expression. He pointed his pipe at Stephen. “This was his plan wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stephen said. “I’m… surprised that he’s reacting this way. I didn’t think he’d go nuts like this.”

“Doesn’t make much sense to blow up my ship, himself included, if he’s really that determined to see his wife again. Perhaps you two should’ve rehearsed this a few more times.”

Stephen was getting irked by the captain. He took a step toward the pilot house, looked down at Logan, then back to the captain. He lowered his voice and said, “I didn’t mention this before because… well… it’s complicated.”

“‘Complicated’?”

“Yeah,” Stephen explained. “You see… Gina… Logan’s wife… well… she-”

“Oh, come on, man!” Captain Carl said. “Spit it out. Tell me… she had an affair… and that’s why hubby down there is so irate. Hell, I’d understand that, might even lose my shit, too, threatening to blow up things. But you haven’t given me anything.”

This is ridiculous. Stephen’s shoulders fell. “Okay… you win. Gina and I… we… I mean-”

Captain Carl busted up laughing. He pointed to Logan then to Stephen and said, “Are you trying to tell me that you and Gina did the nasty behind that man’s back… and that’s why he’s trying to find her?”

Stephen didn’t know how to respond. “Yeah… sure.”

Captain Carl took another hit off his pipe. “So… he brought you along to tell him where you’d stashed his wife. And now that he’s got you both here, your big angry friend with the flare gun intends on confronting both of you. Is that about it?”

Stephen gave the captain a crooked smile. “You don’t believe any of this, do you?”

“I might if you sell it better.”

Stephen stared down at Logan.

Logan looked confused.

“Alright,” Stephen told the captain. “I’m not here because I want to be. Logan dragged me along to tell him where his wife was hiding. The moment he finds her on that island, it will confirm his suspicions that we had an affair. The only reason he hasn’t killed me yet is because he still doesn’t know if Gina’s here. But once he finds her, he’ll force the truth out of her… and then probably bury us both on this damn island.”

Captain Carl stood up, clapped, and laughed. “Bravo! Much better! You should’ve opened with that line of bull… especially if you want me to believe your crazy friend is enraged enough to blow us all the fuck up to get to Gina.” He looked down at Logan and finished with Stephen. “Now… go down there and tell your friend to lower that flare gun or I will order my deck hands to blow a hole through his head.” Captain Carl waved his pipe into the air.

On cue, both red-headed siblings stepped out from the port and starboard bridge wings, armed with assault rifles. They both charged their weapons and aimed them at Logan’s head.

“Alright!” Stephen said, raising his hands. He looked down at Logan. “He’s not buying it Logan! Just put the damn flare gun down!”

Logan, spotting the armed gunmen, smiled, and turned to Captain Carl, refusing to lower the flare gun. “You think this is all some big damn joke, don’t you?”

The captain shrugged his shoulders. “This poor excuse of a ruse… yes… definitely.”

Logan nodded. He turned to Stephen. “Tell this asshole who I am?”

Stephen looked confused. “He’s a preacher,” he told Carl. “That is the truth.”

“No, Stephen,” Logan corrected. The look he gave him was stone. “Tell him… who I used to be.”

Stephen understood. He gave Carl a grave look. “Before Logan gave his life to God… he was the leader of a racist biker gang.”

Captain Carl look shocked. He turned to Logan and said, “How does one go from being the leader of a hate group to a man of the cloth? Though, that would explain the colorful tattoos on your arms.”

Logan ignored him. He said to Stephen, making sure the prick captain could hear, “Now that he knows what I’m capable of… and that I’m also a man of conviction… tell him I intend to blow up his special lady if he delays us any further in getting to our special lady. Tell him, I’ve made me peace with God a long time ago… and if it’s my time to die… then so be it.”

Stephen turned to Carl. “You get all that.”

Captain Carl stared at the big preacher, then took another drag off his pipe. “I could just shoot you where you stand, preacher.”

Logan made sure Carl could clearly see his finger on the flare gun trigger. “Yeah, you could. But that won’t stop my finger from jerking this trigger.”

“He’s serious,” Stephen said. “No bullshit this time. No stories.”

“And what about you?” Carl said. “Is this ‘special lady’ worth the two of you dying for?”

Stephen didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely. Gina would do it for me.”

Captain Carl shared a look with the siblings, who stared back questionably. Carl took another drag off his pipe and smiled at Stephen. “My, oh, my… this is a much better bluff. Assuming, of course, that flare gun does anything at all. How do you even know it will ignite the petrol?”

“Do you know that it won’t?” Stephen countered.

Logan started praying.

“What’s he doing now?” the captain asked.

Stephen smiled and said, “He’s probably asking God for forgiveness… for what you’re about to make him do. And all this over a damn ride to the island. Tell me, captain, are you prepared to risk everything that matters to you by keeping us from someone we deeply care about?”

Captain Carl stared from Logan to Stephen, then turned to the siblings who waited for instructions. He took a long drag off his pipe this time as he carefully considered his next move.

~~~

Next Episode 54-10

Previous Episode 54-8

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 54-9: Treachery” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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