with mention of Aiden Parker and Carter (Gil) Gillespie
Morning 25th January, halfway between Rapatoka and Mystery Islands
Miles moaned and opened his eyes. What the? Two large feet filled his vision. Wet gritty sand rubbed against the side of his face as he moved slightly. Pain ricocheted through this body and the image morphed into a pink and brown blur. He shut his eyes. Ah, that was better; now he could identify the culprits. Left temple, back of the head, both shoulders… Shit, everything hurt. Added to that, he was trussed up like a bloody turkey: hands and feet tied together into a neat bundle, ready for roasting. He tried to roll over and sit up. The world rocked alarmingly and loud incomprehensible yells stung his ears. He stopped moving. The canoe, for that’s what he worked out he was in, lurched forward again, travelling even faster than before.
Damn. Even if he did manage to overturn the flimsy craft, what would that achieve? From the air, the dark blue in the centre of the lagoon suggested the water was bloody deep. He didn’t want to test how deep or whether his Houdini impressions were as good as Roofie’s. With the amount of weight he’d packed on, he wouldn’t need cement shoes to do the job properly.
The unfamiliar phrases shot back and forth over his head repeatedly in time with the rhythmic splash of paddles.
Memory returned. It had been a boat pulled up in the shade, an outrigger of sorts. Good one, Miles, seeing the locals are far from friendly, let’s hope for once the missionaries did come a’calling on their door‐knocking tour of the Pacific all those years ago. He didn’t fancy being “long pig” on the communal barbie.
He fumbled with the cord at his wrists. By the looks of things his captors had woven some fibres together into a makeshift rope. Shouldn’t be too hard to get it off. He flexed his wrists in and out, trying to loosen his bindings. Normally when Darren had tied him up for a little BDSM, getting free was the last thing he wanted to do. Unfortunately these guys didn’t look as if a little spanking was on their minds. Pity, because from the looks of the muscular calves and the size of the feet, the guy sitting on the bench above him was a strong enough bastard to deliver a good whack.
Miles snorted softly under his breath. As soon as he made it back to civilisation he was checking himself in to see a shrink. One minute he was getting all touchy feely, thinking he might have hurt Gil’s feelings by fucking him, now he was conjuring up all sorts of deviant ideas about anonymous sex with guys who were probably more interested in eating him and not in a good way.
He yanked at the cord, rejoicing in the sudden snap. A startled yell greeted him, followed shortly after by a searing pain in his temple, the right one this time, and the world went dark… again.
Miles stared up at the ceiling above him. Patches of black mould stained the areas where paint no longer clung to the surface. The soft, dry mattress beneath him told him he was no longer in the canoe.
His head felt as if he’d just gone ten rounds with Anthony Mundine, or two rounds with Mike Tyson. He wasn’t sure which would have been worse. Both temples felt tender, one where the butt end of a paddle had crashed down on him seconds after he’d managed to free himself and the other where he’d hit his head on the root of a tree after being felled from behind.
A triple whammy. His eyes drifted shut.
“Are you alright?”
The female voice was slightly accented, possibly New Zealand but not quite. At least she spoke English. Miles opened his eyes and carefully turned his head to one side. The woman in the other bed grimaced as she propped herself up on one elbow.
Miles was about to correct her, when he realized she wasn’t talking to him but calling out to someone else. A young man came towards the bed and stood there shyly watching him as she fired a string of incomprehensible words. He was young, fourteen or fifteen maybe? Big dark eyes; long, curly black hair; smooth, mocha‐coloured skin; handsome—perfect jail‐bait, in fact. When she finished, the teenager smiled, nodded and left without speaking. Moments later he returned with a basin of cold water and wet washcloth which he used to dab ineffectually at the swellings on Miles’ head.
Miles grabbed the basin and cloth from his hand and swung his legs off the bed, making the room do a passable impression of the cha cha. Bile rose in his throat for a second as his brain threatened to explode. He lent forward and upended the bowl over his head. As the water trickled through his hair and down his beard, he folded the cloth lengthwise so it could cover both temples and buried his head in the damp material.
By the time the coolness had disappeared he found his world had settled enough to face the music again. Sometimes surviving hard knocks as a rugby prop forward came in handy. His coach had always said his head was as hard as a rock, or had he said he had rocks in his head? Same thing.
The lady on the opposite bed was lying prone again. The edges of her mouth twisted up as if in pain. Shit. He might have felt like death warmed up, she looked like death warmed up. Probably in her early forties, not that much older than he was, but care or life had worn her down. Miles took a deep breath and winced as a familiar smell entered his nostrils.
No, her problem was more serious. A torrent of words reminded him that the young boy she had summoned was still there. Miles didn’t have a clue what he’d said, but a few gestures told the story. The boy pointed to his leg and mimed something snapping in two. The way his gaze darted between the prone figure on the bed and Miles showed he was worried about her.
With good reason. From the smell of things, gangrene had set in.
Miles gingerly looked around and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the bag with its big red cross sitting on the end of his bed. Hopefully nothing inside was broken. Given the way he’d been manhandled, the chances weren’t good.
Should he do anything? These were the people who had kidnapped him. Not too long ago he’d even thought he was in danger of being eaten. The acrid smell from the woman’s bed was starting to turn his stomach, but the worried look on the boy’s face and the way she’d summoned help for him stopped his dithering. One touch on the women’s forehead showed she had a temperature. Not raging, but significant. He threw the cloth and basin at the startled boy and pointed at the woman. Maybe he wasn’t as bad at charades as he thought. The boy ran out of the room and soon after, he heard the sound of running water.
Miles grabbed Darren’s emergency medical kit and rummaged inside. Thank God the morphine ampoules had survived. He quickly prepared the injection site and slid the needle into her arm. As he did, she lifted one eyelid and struggled for a second, pointing to her leg, trying to tell him something. She’d stopped speaking English, though, reverting back to her native language. He shrugged and nodded. Heck, most people would have been screaming by now. This woman was one tough customer.
As he took her pulse, he glanced around. He’d been in hospitals in third world countries enough times to recognise that despite the simplicity and lack of equipment, he was in one now. A couple of stands for IV solutions, some urinals lying around and beds covered in luridly patterned sheets jutting out from each wall. There was no sign of his captors, though. The young man who had returned with the refilled basin was nothing like the big men who’d been in the outrigger with him.
Miles wet the cloth and bathed the woman’s face for a second and gestured for the young man to do the same. As the boy worked, Miles pulled off the sheet covering her and turned his head as the smell of rotting flesh escaped. Just as well the morphine had taken effect. No way would she have been able to bear the pain if she’d been conscious.
The young man flinched, his startled gaze darting to Miles. He tried to give his best ‘I can work miracles smile’ but he’d got out of practice with those. Reassuring people about their ingrown toenails and high blood pressure wasn’t quite the same.
Miles retrieved the basin from the boy’s nerveless fingers and placed it on the bedside table. The young man was shifting from foot to foot as if anxious to be gone. There was no way Miles could fix this alone. He needed help, fast. Miles mimicked paddling and stuck two fingers in the air. A flicker of recognition flashed in the young man’s eyes. Miles repeated the action and then pointed to the bed and shouted, “Now.”
The boy disappeared. Hopefully the message got through. He sighed as he drew back the woman’s traditional hospital gown. Definitely a break in her lower leg, the area had been covered by a loosely applied bandage. It was moving.
As soon as he’d exposed the wound, Miles took a step back and stared at the squirming mass that swarmed in the open wound where the snapped tibia had penetrated the skin. That’s why she wasn’t as sick as he’d expected her to be. He smiled and looked admiringly at the woman on the bed. Apart from a few sections of dead tissue, the maggots were doing a superb job. They couldn’t fix the break though. Someone here knew what they were doing, and he was prepared to bet his bottom dollar, it was the woman herself.
Gil would have been having a fit, wanting to hook her up to IV infusions and checking her vitals every few minutes. If he’d had the young paramedic here, Miles would have been glad of the help, but every minute counted. The leg had to be reset and fast.
A loud commotion at the door made him glance up. The cavalry had arrived. Now he could get a good look at his captors, he didn’t wonder at the pain in his head. Tweedledum and Tweedledee stood before him. Two Pacific Island giants, almost identical. He may be over six foot tall, but these guys made him feel small. Good, they’d brought their paddles.
Miles beckoned to them and they shuffled forward. He wasn’t sure whether they were scared of him, the woman on the bed or the maggots feeding on the necrotic tissue in the wound. Possibly all three.
After tipping out the water, Miles used tweezers to carefully relocate the maggots to the empty bowl, then used some saline to wash the wound. The broken bone was clearly exposed, but the tissue around it was nicely pink, only a few traces of black remained.
After grabbing some bandages, and putting everything else he needed on a sterile sheet on the bed, he pulled one of the waiting men forward. Gripping his shoulder gently but firmly he pointed to the unconscious woman, and showed him where he wanted him to stand. He did the same to the other then barked at them: “Stay”. Their glances kept shifting to the door, and he detected a whiff of alcohol on their breath, but the command seemed to work as well on them as it did Roofie. Good.
Miles gestured to the two men to hold the woman’s shoulders as he had shown them. They did so reluctantly as if they were scared of her which was crazy given the fact she was tiny in comparison to them. As soon as he was sure his patient was as immobile as possible, Miles took hold of her lower leg. Good the pulse in her foot was still present; the artery wasn’t trapped. He made sure they were both looking at him. “Ready,” he warned, “now.”
He pulled the leg toward him and grunted with satisfaction as a quick twist settled the bone into the correct position. Thanks to the flesh that had been eaten away, at least he could see what he was doing. The splintered bones meshed in as well as could be expected barring proper pinning and plates.
His patient regained consciousness briefly during the violent procedure but quickly slipped back under. After snipping away a couple of pieces of dangling flesh, Miles returned a few of the smaller maggots to the wound and covered the wound with some open mesh gauze to ensure the little critters could breath and didn’t escape. Now for a splint. Placing one of the paddles between her legs, he strapped her limbs together above and below the wound.
His captors grabbed the remaining paddle and left as soon as his back was turned. Ideally, he would send her off to a proper hospital now, in the meantime he would have to monitor the situation and ensure her condition didn’t deteriorate. Otherwise he might find himself in that pot.