It took Janine 25 minutes to come back up, she saw him and went to sit with him. ‘There were more than a few times I went looking for you because I cared enough.’
‘I do care, that’s why I’m here but Nikki put her foot down and said that if I was going to have other men’s women in my arms, she was leaving me, gone like that.’
Janine actually smiled. ‘Ouch, straight for the jugular, eh. Think you’ve got a livewire this time, Hugh.’
‘What’s the issue with Laurence?’
‘It’s not Laurence, it’s everything.
‘Top PA in the land, loving and loved by her boss, loved by us, the lady who got things done. Now this island. We’ve lost too.’
‘Yes but you’re patriarch and matriarch. Look, I’m grateful I was sent here and not elsewhere but I needed to see an old face, talk to you.’
‘Janine, you want me to hold you, kiss you, I want to hold you, kiss you, I’m forbidden, on pain of my marriage. It’s not the first time apparently.’
‘Would you hold Sophie?’
‘It’s a fair question but I’m not sure now. Julia was one bridge too far I understand.’
‘I heard, I was overseas. Hugh, you threatened your marriage badly with that girl.’
He breathed out. ‘Janine, I was in bed with you not long ago – that was what sent Nikki over the top.’
‘I do know why – does she include herself in that?’
‘Yes, she says if either of us does.’
In the mid-afternoon, Nikki wanted to be shown the Pool. She could have just walked there but she wanted to be shown. Fine.
They stood in what would be the first basin and he pointed to the end of the second. ‘We need to put two boulders over there, fill the gaps with rubble -’
‘Bits of rock.’
‘Ah. Take me somewhere and make love to me.’
‘Wher- hang on, I know just the place.’
They went back up the track to Moran’s, turned left and through to the Grotto. To one side of the Grotto was a semi-path up, it could be done, he could help her from below as she went up.
When they got up to the top, there were Nick and Susannah going at it hammer and tongs. They went to go back down but Susannah called out, ‘No, stay here, unless you’re shy.’
‘We’ll need to talk first,’ he said.
Nikki looked at him anxiously, came straight up to him the way she did, put two hands on his shoulders, looked into his eyes and said, ‘This is too important. Let’s find a place and let’s get this talked through.’
There actually was a place which didn’t impinge on ‘Sophie’s field’. It was between what would become the Pool and the field itself, it was a grove and for some reason, no one seemed to use it much. When the Pool was finally built – and it was close to that now, they’d have to find elsewhere.
On the way through now, Nikki ran in and grabbed their bed cover, ripping it off the bed, not taking and folding it – he loved that in her and she saw his smile, so she’d keep that in her repertoire.
They walked down to their grove, laid out the cover, actually matting, and she asked, ‘Right, what’s wrong?’
‘I’ve been thinking this one through. You and I make unusual love. Most men, I think, start wining, dining and kissing, moving to the next part … but with us, if it’s on, you give signals and we always start with you sitting up on me -’
‘Your thing gives me the signal – I wait until you’re straining to really get into me and then I start. You seem to like that.’
‘I do, it’s like an overture. Do you know the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only -’
‘Rien Que Pour Vos Yeux. And you’re going to tell me there are two things which must be for his eyes only – her nudité and the sex she gives. Yes, I am well aware. But I’m also aware that you will try things if I want.’
‘Do you want Nick to see you making love or to see your beautiful body?’
She gave a nervous laugh. ‘All right, I see where this is going. As a woman, yes, it’s nice if men find me beautiful, same for any woman. We work hard to keep our face and bodies like that, we’d like some return on the investment.
‘Nikki, we had this talk about fidelity, going near other women – it works the same way for men and you too. You told me you’d leave me if I went near another woman.’
‘I’m talking about only you and me making love but our friends are not far away, also making love.’
‘You want Nick to see you doing that?’
She sighed and realized that this was undermining what she’d demanded of him. ‘Bebe, this is difficult to explain. Yes I demanded no woman in your bed, you in no woman’s bed. Yes. What we do together we haven’t discussed because we’ve just … done it. We’re very sexual people. There are also cultural differences – our country apparently is a bit more relaxed than yours on these things.
You see, when this Pool opens, people will swim and I suspect they will also make love in there. I can see there might be two or three couples at some point. Do we immediately go somewhere else and stay out of sight? I’ll do this if you want, for your eyes only – I really will do this because I don’t wish to lose you.’
‘Do you want to have sex with other men too while we’re all there in the Pool?’
‘I’m not strong enough to stop if that starts, I don’t believe anyone is. I think that once your mentality has no problem with something like that, then that’s the marriage gone – in reality it’s long gone before then. I’ve never done it, Bebe and though there’s always that curiosity, no, let’s not do that please. And I know you fear Nick and yes, the thought has crossed my mind but I’ve also seen the results of it – they are very damaging results. So no, not that.’
‘So what have we decided?’
‘I’ll be guided by you but remember that I need some limits on what I do – just not asphyxiating limits.’
‘Let’s not join in their sex, their pace is different to ours – but if you don’t mind us being near them or some distance away, then that’s more relaxed – it depends on who.’
‘You’ll do that?’
Everyone thought the Pool a grand idea and it was coming on in leaps and bounds.
The whole crew mucked in, the boulders were brought on short rollers hewn from the branches of trees and it had taken four days so far. The cement was brought and mixed, gravel from the hewing of bits of rock filled it out and the wall at the end was slowly formed.
Filling the pool was not an issue in one way because it was the rainy period in these parts and the basin had been slippery anyway. They didn’t want it to fill until the cement had dried but as Adam pointed out, it was going to take weeks that way, and that was an issue.
At his suggestion, they’d laid a bit of conduit – another item brought on the supplies sub – through some of the rubble and cemented around it, at basin floor level and created a plug for the near end. The plug wasn’t perfect and water would seep out, as it was replenished by the rain and Sophie suggested they make brooms from the natural brush to sweep the basin floor every two days, they could then discard them and get new ones. But to fill it, they laid tarpaulins between trees and caught the maximum rain possible – all over the forest.
August 13th, 2011
The day of the dedication of the Pool arrived and though it had been a wettish summer, there’d also been the warm sun, so spirits were high.
They’d driven six pegs into the rock above the ledge for robes or saris and as they had no towels per se, these garments would be the distant early warning of who was in the Pool at any time.
This would preclude the need for underwear so, if Couple A came to the Pool and saw the robes of Couple D, then they could decide whether to stay or not – maybe they wouldn’t but if Couple C were there, they might not worry about being naked.
It would work itself out. Nikki looked hard at Hugh when this was said in Moran’s and he smiled back at her.
In the deeper parts, the Pool was up to the waist but the regulation of the plug was tricky – to allow out just about the amount coming in from precipitation and to keep it all fresh, particularly as they’d expect some or most might make love in there.
They began eating and drinking poolside but decided it was too much of a problem cleaning up, with Moran’s not so far away, so they gave away eating at the Pool.
Nick and Susannah were almost always there, as Nikki had suspected, Laurence and Janine tended to go over to the Court, Sam liked being with Sophie on the clifftop or in her field, Adam and Lisa seemed to like reading and doing other things in their hut, Laurence liked his walkway too, Mandy and Ray pretty well stayed in their hut, although Mandy’s job was in Moran’s, Nikki liked Louis Quatorze and the Grotto, Hugh didn’t mind where, people had great privacy if they wanted it.
Today, they were half expecting Nick and Susannah but no one had arrived so they put their robes on the peg and slipped into the water, doing a few strokes, turned and thought this was all very nice.
She looked very nice herself up to the thighs in the water, it was too much for him, he waded over and just took her.
Suddenly: ‘Hi,’ greeted a very naked Sophie, taking in Hugh and him taking her in. ‘Lovely to see you both here. Don’t mind me, you carry on.’
‘You know we can’t,’ said Nikki.
‘Yes you can, otherwise the whole idea of the Pool does not work. You knew that if you did it in the Pool, there was always a good chance other people would be here. Seems to me you have two choices – do it in the Pool as Nick and Susannah do – or do it privately somewhere else.’
And as they could have guessed, who should arrive now and slip into the water but a naked Nick and Susannah who saw the three of them and waded over. So, that took care of the naked bit – everyone had now seen all bits of everyone and that left one question, didn’t it?
Nick put paid to any of that speculation by taking Susannah around the convex bend, out of sight.
‘Fine, fine,’ said Hugh, ‘circumstances have sorted it out for us, but we were discussing sex, Sophie, and what happens if we start down that road with someone not our partner, if we brought you into it now for example.’ He was trying to keep his eyes off her breasts.
‘Did I suggest that? Let me tell you about that.’ And if anyone could have told them, it was Sophie. ‘What happened to me was different because it was forced. So my views on it are my own. OK, it’s like this. I believe there are things called portals, portals that evil gets through and often you start with something that doesn’t look all that bad, just a bit risque and it seems all right. Then you try something a little bit different, again it seems all right. Not just sex – anything. But let’s talk sex. Slowly, you start to need this new thing and the old one which was perfectly good – you’re no longer happy with. You both try to make it enough for you but inside your heads, it’s not.
I’ve seen you two make love in the distance and you’re crazy, the two of you – don’t worry, I didn’t keep watching because it made me feel badly about my situation. You experiment all the time – why would you want an even bigger thrill than that? That sounds greedy to me.
Hugh could make love to both of us now, Nikki, and you will remember me talking about it in that northern house, so it’s obviously a fantasy of mine but if we did – there’s only one way it can go after that. Think of Rory and Julia. I believe in this karma or divine retribution or whatever it is.
I think when it’s no longer about love – that’s when you must walk away. I think each of us loves the other two but to have three-way sex, that is about sex, not love. Love is in the other person’s arms and whispering all these nice things.’
There was a lull.
‘I wish Sam would come here now,’ said Sophie.
Hugh was about to suggest she could go and find him but it was obvious she didn’t want to leave this convivial scene.
Now they were saved by Sam appearing, he took in the scene, was delighted, slipped in and waded over, Sophie turned, delighted, and it was like two spacecraft docking. Hugh and Nikki followed suit.
Nick and Susannah heard commotion and now waded around the bend, most surprised. Not so long ago, Mr. Jensen had shown reticence at doing it nearby – now it seemed it was on.
‘Nick, Susannah,’ said Nikki, pulling Hugh out for now but as she spoke, she seemed to forget she was holding onto the offending item, which people started looking at, ‘we had to talk it through after disturbing you, we did talk it through, we and Sophie talked it through now. As long as it stays couples and it’s only these six now, Hugh and I are comfortable with that. Question is – are you comfortable with us?’
The others grinned, Nikki looked at her man and they were amused at how she now put him back in, the rest of him naturally following it, Adam and Lisa now arrived, saw what was going on, turned and went straight back up to their hut in shock.
‘Oh dear,’ said Nick, ‘methinks we’re in bother.’
‘We can go to the field,’ offered Sophie.
‘That’s your place.’
‘You’re invited, but let’s go quickly and not by the walkway – come this way.’
‘Hang on, we’ll just get our robes.’
They balanced on that rock wall for two metres, not wishing to say anything about the sheer drop on the outside – never mind.
They were now in the field and Sophie knew the perfect place with a view.
And it was, it was magnificent looking down to the right of the trees to the angry bay below and over to the rounded point – there was wildlife about too. They looked at each other and there were questioning looks.
Before they began, Hugh said, ‘Sophie will tell you what she told us before anything starts.’
They were amazed, listening to Sophie, Sam was a little bit taken aback – he’d banked on her being into more than one and wasn’t sure about all this now. Nikki saw that and said, ‘We make love with our partners. I want to know I’ll be safe here doing that, that no one else will try to go inside me. I don’t think Nick would touch me but Sam might if it was suggested.’
Susannah now spoke. ‘Sam would join a six way orgy, I might if it was on, Nick wouldn’t and yet he’s the one every woman here wants, Hugh wants Sophie and me too.’
‘I want every woman here,’ Nick set the record straight.
Susannah looked at him, nodding. ‘Ok, so let’s get real, guys, let’s not talk bullshit, we’re really talking here about survival. We can’t start the group thing because we can’t stop it and it breaks us up, Sophie’s not wrong. Call me sexist but I think there’s a huge difference between me grasping a man’s tadger, outside I mean, and him putting something into me, even fingers. I think it’s a different act, it’s far more invasive. You can disagree but to me, the woman is different. You ladies agree or disagree?
‘Agree,’ they each said.
‘Also, said Susannah, ‘me taking one of you guys in my mouth – that would be the equivalent of his fingers in me. What I’m saying is there are some lines we can’t cross. Um, I don’t know where I’m going with this.’
‘I think we just agreed,’ smiled Nick, ‘that we stick to our own partners but we’re Ok doing it near the others. So, do we get this show rolling or not?’
It was all fairly regulation for a good half hour, various couples using different variations – Nikki’s and Hugh’s caused some glances and comments, particularly the soixante-neuf, Sam’s heavy thrusting occasioned some comment but the tadger the ladies liked was Nick’s and they couldn’t explain why – it was not huge and he was the most orthodox and softest of the men.
The incident which suddenly ended the whole thing was when Nikki got up to move to another place on the grass, Hugh had only just come out, he went to follow her but she’d stepped over Susannah and as he stepped over, he dripped all over her, some hitting her cheeks, she immediately reached up for his equipment and pulled him down to her face to start an oral cleanup – a moment of madness.
Nick pulled out, went straight over to Nikki who was still sitting up on the grass, she saw Nick’s piece come at her lips and at the last second sealed them, Susannah instantly asked Sam and Hugh to take her at either end, Nick withdrew, they all sat sullenly in the grass.
‘Phew,’ said Nick, ‘how quickly it disintegrates. Nikki, I’m sorry, Hugh ditto.’
‘It’s OK,’ said Hugh. Nikki was definitely in two minds but then said, ‘It was wrong.’
At the head of the field, Mandy and Adam looked down at the gathering and wondered if they’d descended into some pagan world they knew not of. Adam stayed at the top of the field but Mandy was walking down, stomping down more like, they saw her and put on their robes.
Mandy indicated with a gesture that she’d like to speak with Hugh alone. He got up and met her halfway.
‘Hugh, you had a Chapel built. Are you a Christian?’
‘I subscribe but I’m not a very good one.’
‘Then you’d understand when I say that this is Sodom and Gomorrah and that privileged spot in heaven might not be reserved for you after all. I don’t believe you can now run off to your God and say, ‘Oh, I’ve sinned,’ and keep doing this.’
‘You’re right, Mandy.’ He put out his hand and she involuntarily accepted it as a matter of form before realizing she shouldn’t, plus some semen had now transferred to her hand. She looked hard at him, then made her way back to Adam. The two walked back up the track, deep in conversation, Hugh returned to five people who had been watching the whole thing closely.
‘Did you apologize?’ asked Susannah.
‘I’m the patriarch at least for today, with responsibility for the whole island. I said she was right.’
‘And was she satisfied?’
‘No, that type never is. I’m going to speak to her.’
‘You’re the last one to do that, Susannah, I know your type of ‘speaking to’. No, I’m the go-between. I can soak up abuse better.’
Nikki and Hugh were now alone in the field, Sue and Nick had gone to the Pool, Sophie and Sam had gone for a wander.
‘If I’d allowed him in, would you have joined Sam?’
‘Not sure, think I’d shout your name and hope you’d stop. If you didn’t, I would probably have gone back up to the hut and because of your previous threat to me, I’d definitely move out of our hut. I mean only if you’d let me get all the way up to the hut without chasing me. Would you have chased me?’
‘Were you thinking of allowing him in?
‘No, but not for the reason you would like, Bebe. I didn’t want Susannah in me. Also, Sophie would have reported everything to you. Also, I’m the matriarch, also I didn’t want to give Adam and Mandy the satisfaction. If I have enough of these sorts of reasons at hand, then I can stop. What did Mandy actually say?’
He told her verbatim.
‘Well of all the -’
‘She’s right, Nikki, she’s right in general, how it looks to all of them. On the other hand, we haven’t done anything with the others, although each couple now know how the others do it.’
‘Mandy’s outrage just seems a bit artificiel – what’s that in English?’
‘Artificial, but better is ‘contrived’ – it means deliberately put on. Wonder what her prime motive is – to split us, to have me demoted?’
‘And why Adam? Where are their partners? How about you ask Ray, very casually, where Mandy is and I’ll ask Lisa, quite independently, where Adam is. Let’s go up now and do it.’
They did that and got the reply in each case that the partner had just gone for a wander.
When they got back to Moran’s, via their hut and a quick change, Laurence was in there, with a plate of comestibles and drinks on one table. He sat behind the table.
‘Eat first, you two.’
They sat down and tucked in, it was welcome, they each had a wine. They went over and washed the boards they used as plates and stacked them to dry. The cutlery also went in its rack.
‘All right, Laurence, speak,’ said Nikki.
‘I’m not sure what precisely happened today. Six people disappeared and nobody could find them.’
‘We were in the field,’ said Hugh. ‘Let’s go for a wander, Laurence – you, Nikki and I, to the walkway where we’ll not be overheard by little ears, then we’ll tell you all.’
They turned off Moran’s light and made their way to the point near the lookout which was a fair way from anyone listening.
Hugh began. ‘There was certainly a lot of sex today but it was with our partners.’
‘Sophie is your partner?’
‘Laurence,’ said Nikki. ‘Hugh has just defended my honour but I really must speak to you now. There are people we do not trust – Adam and Mandy – and then there are people who would not understand – possibly Raymond – and unless I can be guaranteed this goes no further, I’m not speaking.’
‘Easiest thing in the world to promise – I have many people’s secrets, no one else gets to hear.’
‘All right. We were in the Pool and we made love, the two of us. Sophie came up and that was the question of nakedness over with because now we had all seen everything. Sophie has her own view about relations.’
Nikki proceeded to outline this view – the portals, never being satisfied and so on. ‘So we were in that situation when Sue and Nick came back round from the end of the Pool and then Sam arrived, looking for Sophie.’
She looked to Hugh to continue.
‘Sophie and Sam made love, we did too, Sue and Nick did their thing a short distance away. However, we realized that someone else had come to the Pool and then hurriedly left. We went to the field via the end wall -’
‘But that’s dangerous.’
‘Not if you lean in. So, over in the field, the question did arise of … you know … group relations and Sophie’s philosophy was put again, all agreed, though maybe Sam was a little miffed, I don’t know. Either way, we … er … made love with our partners but I’m the first to admit that that would have looked bad from the head of the field, where there just happened to be Adam and Mandy.’
‘Laurence, why are Adam and Mandy always together?’ asked Nikki. ‘We tried an experiment just now.’ She mentioned the details. ‘Guess what their partners said?’
‘I get the idea.’
‘And who got you to give us the third degree?’ asked Hugh.
‘Point made, point taken.’
‘Laurence,’ continued Nikki, ‘we don’t trust those two – their sentiment d’indignation seems too much to us, it’s so carefully … er … contrived.’
Laurence thought that one through. First and foremost, he was the military leader on the island, responsible for its orderly running … and he took that responsibility seriously … and the patriarch and matriarch were advisors. This was the spirit in which he took this information now. Yet he still had a question.
‘You’re saying, the two of you, that there were relations only between couples?’
‘Yes,’ said Nikki, ‘until the end when there was an incident involving male-on-male anger. It was over in seconds.’
‘Mandy thinks there was more going on than that.’
‘There was not. Ask each of the six in turn, alone.’
‘The main issue,’ said Hugh, ‘is Mandy trying to make something of it.’
‘She actually wants a court-martial,’ said Laurence.
‘Laurence, how on earth did the PM include those two on this island – this I’m wondering.’
‘I’m also wondering. You do know Mandy was in Moran’s, or rather just behind it, listening to the conversation just now.’
‘That’s why we’re standing here,’ said Nikki.
In their hut, she asked him, ‘Well, what did you think of it as an exercise?’
‘Don’t think I’d recommend it as an activity. In the Pool was nice but that deliberate move to the field and then all those others nearby, it was a bit too mechanical for me. You were looking around too, so I was a bit miffed. You liked it, did you?’
‘It was different but no, I don’t think I will again – I agree about the looking around – just my curiosity and it was more at Sam than Nick – he pumps hard, it was fascinating how he kept that going. If I had to choose, I’d still take you as an all-rounder, that’s true by the way.’
‘I’d put you first, Sophie second, Sue third. Sophie’s a very beautiful woman in the classical sense, but she takes a lot more work as a lover. You’re so instant.’
Towards the end of August, Janine swarmed up their eastern rope ladder and breathlessly announced, ‘Company!’
Adam immediately went for Hugh and they ran to the lookout. Laurence, who’d been snoozing, now came swiftly along the walkway, still buttoning up his shirt.
‘How many?’ asked Hugh.
‘One. It’s a girl,’ announced Adam.
‘No signs of others?’
‘Not as far as I can see – she walked round from the point.’
‘Early twenties, dark haired, not Caucasian, looks Asian but also not Asian, something else.’
‘What’s she doing in the Atlantic?’
‘Bit far-fetched, no?’
‘Hasn’t the whole story over the past months been equally far-fetched?’
‘For what purpose?’
‘To infiltrate us, starting with when we go down to the beach to rescue her.’
‘You mean we should leave her down there to starve?’
‘Yep, that’s exactly what I mean. Did she look distressed?’
‘From what I saw, no.’
‘Adam, she would have starved by now if she was on the level – think how remote our island is. We need to observe, that’s all. When we feel absolutely certain she’s above board, we’ll take the appropriate measures and deal with her.’
‘I agree,’ said Laurence. ‘Her behaviour – grief, self-assuredness, fear – they’ll say a lot. Where did you say she was now, Janine?’
‘Last I saw, she was below on the eastern beach, just near the trees.’
‘Well, let’s have a look at her then,’ concluded Nikki, who’d just arrived.
They couldn’t glimpse her from the Command post but Janine found a point from the walkway where two could observe at one time. Nikki and Sophie had second glimpse, looked at each other and smiled, backing away to allow some of the others to look.
They let Hugh and Sam have next look and those two didn’t want to give anyone else a turn until Mandy and Susannah insisted – they stepped back up the walkway red-faced.
Eventually, everyone had seen.
The girl below was stark naked except for a garland around her crown like a halo. Sitting on the beach, hands behind her in the sand, she was showing no signs of distress whatever. Instead, she was, if it could be believed, sun-tanning in the last of the weak sun.
Hugh went and sat in Moran’s, his eyes narrowed, thinking it out. A new report came in that she’d gone off on a trek in the direction of the southern bulge of the island. She was fit, athletic and seemed well fed. It would be interesting to observe how long it took her before she attempted to come up the ridge to the Citadel.
It would be interesting to see if she went back to sea this night, suggesting a reconnaissance report. Or else she’d rendezvous somewhere else on the island.
Reports were now coming in thick and fast.
She was indeed seeking a way up to the heights – not a bad test of their defences and that would necessitate her scaling the rock face. As the intruder had no equipment and as the rock could only be moved aside from behind, she was in a quandary.
Then she had a brilliant idea and Mandy saw her climb one of the indigenous trees and quite agile she was too. She dug her toes into crevices in the bark and clawed the trunk with her two hands on either side, sort of shuffling up until she’d reached a branch.
Now she sat on the branch to get her breath and could see over the rock to the next barrier. They knew from experience that she couldn’t quite see the Citadel from here, as the rock face curved round but Mandy knew that if she made it through the second barrier, it would be the end of the ballgame.
Nor could Mandy move from her observation post – any movement would now be picked up by the girl. Adam, observing her from a distant tree, noted that she’d frozen and he did the same himself.
The girl seemed to have made a decision and was going to try the rock. Bit by bit, she first let herself down from the tree, then scoured the rock for possible hand and footholds. She went to the only possible spot which would give her a sporting chance of going over the top and began the gruelling process of climbing.
She almost made it too but then could go no further. They were relieved and vindicated.
Realizing it had defeated her, she laboriously made her way back down the rock face until, with a last little jump, she landed on her feet on the hard path, then made her way downhill and, some twenty to twenty-five minutes later, rounded the eastern side of the hill and began to traverse in the direction of the rope ladder points.
She did stop at one of the ladder points, thought carefully, didn’t look up but moved along and stopped at the next one. Again, she never looked up and Adam concluded that she was either not very observant or else she was as sharp as a tack.
The question of ‘taking her out’ occupied Hugh’s and Laurence’s minds inside the lookout. They were contemplating taking out the newcomer.
‘Take her out and there are two considerations,’ Hugh murmured, stating the obvious. ‘If she’s innocent, we’d have killed a human being in cold blood. On the other hand, if she’s one of them, she’ll be expected to report and if she doesn’t, that will look suspicious.’
Laurence replied, ‘On the other hand, if we don’t take her out and she discovers us, then we have to make a series of rapid decisions, as things unfold.’
Hugh thought about it. ‘We’ll observe some more.’ Then he returned to the other topic, ‘Why is she Polynesian?’
‘She might be Indian Ocean – perhaps from Mauritius or Madagascar.’
‘Whatever. The point is, she’s not from the Atlantic, where we are. Plus, she’s attired for a tropical island and it’s going to be damned cold for her tonight.’
‘She’s very compact, Hugh. Despite that angelic face, she strikes me as a hard nut.’
The girl now went further down towards the beach – a long descent along the only track and now they could move freely up above. Mandy and Adam returned to the Command post and reported and Janine was now in place observing, with Sam as the relay.
It was reported by semaphore that she was heading for the sea. Decision time. All eyes went to Hugh. He indicated for everyone to wait.
‘The girl’s gone into the water,’ was the report.
Next came, ‘She’s washing the dust and debris off herself.’
Then, a little later, ‘She’s come back to the beach.’
What was puzzling everyone was the nonchalant way she was behaving – no thought of shelter, of danger or of sustenance. She was also fit and he felt, probably highly trained. The body language of agents was always different.
Suddenly he asked Mandy an outrageous question. ‘Could she be concealing a weapon?’
‘Hugh, she’s naked.’ Then she admitted, ‘Yes, it’s possible.’
‘Front or back?’
Mandy went bright red but still answered the question. ‘It would take great muscle control, virtually the whole time, in the front. The way she was climbing, I can’t see it.’
‘So, it could be as a suppository?’
‘Yes, possible. But why not just wear something and then it would be much easier?’
‘This way, it allays our suspicion, doesn’t it? That would mean we’re dealing with a dangerous person, to whom personal discomfort is as nothing, compared to her mission, someone who’s trained her muscles to a fine edge. Next question, Mandy. Why is she in such pristine condition, if she’s just travelled across the ocean and been shipwrecked on this island? It’s a great pity we didn’t see her emerge from the ocean.’
They were silent, thinking.
He asked Mandy to ask Sam to take a pod out together but to stay submerged, round the north-west of the island until the signal to take out her mother ship came. Adam would take over as Janine’s relay for now.
‘Now a report came in, even as Sam and Mandy were scurrying down to the pods, that the girl had indeed extracted something from her behind. She seemed to have shaken whatever it was and held it to her ear, as if it was a watch which had stopped.
Then she’d replaced it and lain on the sand, on her front, for some time, then sat up, clutching a stalk of one of the shrubs, keenly checking herself up and down, as if making sure that all was in order with her.
Satisfied, she now got up and walked up the path again to the cliff face, near the rope ladder point. Now she seemed to be gathering some bracken and such like and appeared to be making a bed of sorts.
She was gathering loose wood which they’d never touched, wanting to keep the area as natural as possible and she was making herself a lean-to.
Resourceful, Hugh nodded.
It became clear that she’d taken care of her accommodation, with absolutely zero fear of any predator, but what of food?
The question was answered very quickly. She began plaiting long fronds of sword grass into a seamless rope, then worked a piece of torn-off bark onto the rope towards the centre.
Aha – a sling shot.
She stood patiently under a clump of trees, looked up and yes, there would had been birds somewhere round there. Janine saw her put a little stone in the bark holder, she tensed and waited. Suddenly she gave a high pitched screech, ‘Yi-ee,’ some birds took fright and the slingshot whipped the stone into the upper branches.
Cursing in a language Janine couldn’t recognize, she made ready again. The birds, which must have been either incredibly stupid, very trusting or both, returned to their trees and the process began again. This time she hit one and it dropped to the ground.
She placed it in her ‘hut’ and went further afield to try again.
There were two more hits and she brought the birds back to the hut, making her way back to the sea with a stick, breaking the remains of twigs off until she had a handy weapon.
Now she waded to the little rocky outcrops near the point and waited, water lapping at her knees.
Her spear was raised and she was motionless.
Suddenly she struck and came up with what looked like a flathead. Wading across to a rock, she bashed the fish’s head on the jagged edge, pulled it off the stick and returned to her position. She took one more fish then strode to shore, up the beach, up the path and back to her little hut.
Now she did a reconnaissance, to see if there’d been any disturbance near her hut. Satisfied, she dismantled her slingshot, took the bark and put it near her stick. Now she gathered dried grass, twigs and such like; it was clear what she intended.
Thus Janine reported and Hugh now felt the girl was indeed an agent and not just a native – she wasn’t primitive enough to tear the birds and fish open and just eat them. It was a risk for her to light a fire and yet she seemed to have it in mind to do so.
Hugh took over the observation, to the protests of Laurence and Adam, who’d also selflessly volunteered to keep the next watch. The girl was building some sort of container in the earth about half a metre long, twenty centimetres wide by twenty centimetres high. Into this she placed grass, twigs, sticks and finally a couple of larger pieces of wood.
Next the bark was put in and the twirling stick routine started – patiently, patiently, until the first wisp of smoke emerged. She bent down to blow it, keeping her eyes circling for signs of danger.
Quickly she built up the fire and then broke the coals down as soon as they were created.
Some big pieces of wood had been kept to one side and two were now laid longitudinally in the ‘oven’, the birds and fish were placed on these, the oven was covered with the other pieces of wood and now she sat back and smiled for the first time, revealing an attractive, pearly smile.
Laurence reported, by degrees, that she’d left the food in the oven, knowing that the heat would naturally dissipate.
Forty minutes later, she lifted one of the covering pieces of wood, pushed the end of another stick in and lifted out one of the birds. This she placed on top of the oven and proceeded to use a stone to slit the end of the skin and then pulled at it until it came away.
Lifting the meat from the bone, she had a filling supper, then found more wood to put across the oven. Satisfied, she now sat, looking down the path towards the beach, hands clasped around her knees.
There’d been no savagery. You could have called the bashing of the fish on the rock savage but actually, it had been quite humane. She could have flung them on the sand to die a slow death. Ditto with the birds.
For the first time, he became unsure this person was a foe. Somehow, she was too calm and secure. If she’d been a turned or traumatized automaton, her body language would surely have been different. But no, he couldn’t trust his instincts on this one – she still had to be foe.
One thing she was, though, was a pain in their collective necks.
They couldn’t move about normally, the night would heighten any sounds of movement, plus they couldn’t use any light. All the men were snorers in varying degrees as well, therefore there would be precious little sleep for them.
No, she was clearly a nuisance.
Night fell and her behaviour would now become more interesting. It was almost impossible to make her out down below but Sophie had the notion that she’d placed the ferns and other padding over the fireplace area and had moved her lean-to over there as well. She was going to sleep there, where the earth might still be a little warm.
Sophie couldn’t understand her nakedness, as she was clearly no savage. Why did she not at least put something on for the cold of the night and the days were not all that warm either? Looking out to sea, in the vain hope that a submarine light would show through the clear water, there was nothing of note.
If anyone could have laid claim to being closest in temperament to the intruder, it was herself and yet she was in awe of the resourcefulness of the castaway. She detected no movement of any kind down below, in the half light of the moon, and in fact, in the evening quiet, she thought she detected the girl sleeping.
More than puzzling.
It was time to change watch – they’d accepted they’d have to observe her 24/7 and the change would have to be silent. There was a certain amount of forest noise, creaking trees in the breeze, the call of night birds, the wind itself, the lapping waves far off and yet they still had to be careful.
This was their training – to increase vigilance the more tired and the more blaise they became.
Adam took over the watch and was asked to look for any movement anywhere, of any kind. She could easily slip away and start snooping, right under Adam’s nose.
The sun rose about 06:50 and the nightwatchman, Laurence, could report to Hugh, who now took over, that she’d gone nowhere for three hours, that she’d woken, had gone to the sea to wash, had then returned, dismantled her bed, taken a fish from the oven, eaten it and then, most amazingly, had actually cleaned her teeth with a blade of sword grass she’d torn into strips.
Now Hugh was privy to a most amazing thing.
She went some distance from her little camp, carrying the pieces of her hut with her and reconstructed it against the rock in such a way that observers from where Hugh might be could not see her.
Maybe she’d wanted some sort of barrier between her camp and this place. Maybe she was actually modest.
Either way, she hadn’t completely covered the view and Hugh could make out what she was doing, without actually seeing the graphic detail. What she did was squat down and slip the thing again from her posterior, she answered the call of nature, wiped herself clean with some grass, then replaced whatever it was she’d had in her hand.
She went over to a clump of grass, cleaned her hands, went to the rock face and the next he saw, she was lifting a piece of bark to her lips – she’d collected moisture during the night.
They decided to observe until late morning.
Around midday, with no warning, she turned in the direction of the Citadel and called out in a loud, clear voice, in reasonable English, ‘Help me, peas.’
The company in the lookout froze and stared at one another. This was a direct challenge. She put the challenge beyond doubt when she called out again, in a lilting voice, ‘Peas, I need help.’
Was she simply trying it on or did she know, for certain, that they were there? Everyone looked at the other and all shook their heads. No, the girl was going to have to do better than that.
She did. She called out, ‘You good people – you not hurt me two days. Fink you need this.’
Then, reaching inside herself, she extracted a little capsule – seemingly made of plastic, with a screw-on cap. She held it up, did not gesticulate at all but just kept her head and waited.
She’d won the day.
Hugh’s eyes asked the question and once again, Sophie volunteered. She’d appear from the southern bulge and traverse the hill, then try to draw the girl away to the deserted native village and hear what she had to say.
Sophie disappeared and reappeared from the south thirty five minutes later, the naked savage again. The girl never reacted but waited until she was close, then nodded.
‘Come to my hut,’ said Sophie and turned south again.
‘Stop. Your hut there,’ she swept an arm towards the Citadel.
‘No, no, I come from the village. Follow me.’
Again the girl said, ‘Stop.’
Sophie paused and waited for the girl to explain. ‘I know your hut there, more than four of you, ladder here,’ she indicated exactly, ‘and here.’
The girl recognized immediately that Sophie was now in her most dangerous mode but she wasn’t the least bit fazed. ‘You want go native village? Orright, you go, but it not where you live.’
Too late, Sophie paused, undecided.
It was a critical mistake, the girl immediately picked up on it and smiled. For the first time, Sophie had been outwitted and yet she could still counterattack. ‘Who are you, where are you from, why are you naked, why did you have a capsule up your bum, where are the people who brought you by boat and what do you want from me?’
‘Many question. You pretty girl – pretty body,’ and at that, she went up to Sophie, running one hand along her curves. ‘You need capsoo.’
She handed it across, and Sophie wasn’t at all sure she wanted to touch anything extracted from an orifice but still, she took it and opened it, holding it away from her. When it didn’t explode, to the girl’s amusement, Sophie became bolder and extracted the contents. It was microfiche wrapped in clear cellophane.
‘Where’s your transmitter then?’ she asked the girl. ‘You communicated with your ship.’
The girl was genuinely astonished. ‘Why you ask? You know I came raft.’ They didn’t know. ‘You know raft north side. What ship you say?’
If this was an act, it was a mighty good one and Sophie had seen some in her time. She began to believe her and that was dangerous – was she becoming soft in her old age? ‘You know very well – the enemy.’
‘Yeah, yeah, they bomb our island – boom – all gone.’ There were tears in her eyes. ‘Three of us fish, three girl. We diving girl –’
‘You’re a highly trained agent. I’ve been observing you.’
‘Of corr, I toll you – microfiche for you. You agent too. Hard body.’ Miri ran her hand approvingly down Sophie’s chest.