Island of the Sequined Love Nun

Chapter 58~59


Malink's Song

"They're flying the new pilot in tomorrow," said Sebastian Curtis. "I told them that Tucker wouldn't fly, so he had to be eliminated. They weren't happy about losing the heart and lungs."

Beth Curtis sat at her vanity, putting on her eye makeup for the appear-ance of the Sky Priestess. The red scarf was draped over the back of the chair. "Did you check the database? Maybe we can send another set of or-gans back with them. I can pick the chosen tonight and keep them in the clinic until tomorrow morning."

"The customer already died," Curtis said.

"Well, I guess he really was sick, then." She laughed, a girlish laugh full of music.

Sebastian loved her laugh. He smiled over her shoulder into the mirror. "I'm glad you're not concerned about Tucker Case. I understand, Beth. Really. I was just jealous."

"Tucker who? Oh, you mean Tucker dead-at-sea Case? 'Bastian, dear, I did what I did for us. I thought it would keep him under control. Write it off as one of life's little missteps. Besides, if he's not dead now, he will be in a day or so."

"He made it here on the open ocean. Through a typhoon."

"And with the navigator. Remember, I've seen him fly. He's dead. That old cannibal is probably munching on his bones right now." She checked her lipstick and winked at him in the mirror. "Showtime, darling."

Malink trudged through the jungle, his shoulders aching from the basket of food he was carrying. Each day he had been taking food to Sarapul's hiding place. It was not that he didn't trust his people, but he did not want to burden any of them with such a weighty secret. The last of them to see the cannibal saw him covered with blood, gasping in the sand. Malink had told them that Sarapul was dead and that Malink had given his body to the sharks. A chief had to carry many secrets, and sometimes he had to lie to his people to spare them pain.

After the third day, Malink was ready to let the cannibal go back to his house on the far side of the island. The guards were no longer searching, and the Sorcerer had stopped asking questions. Perhaps things would go back to the way they were. But maybe that wasn't right either. Malink didn't want to, but he believed the pilot. The Sky Priestess and the Sorcerer were going to hurt his people. He was too old for this. He was too old to fight. And how do you fight machine guns with spears and machetes?

He paused by a giant mahogany tree and put the basket down while he caught his breath. He saw smoke drifting in streams over the ferns and looked in the direction it was coming from. Someone was there, obscured by a tall stand of taro leaves as big as elephant ears.

There was a rustling there. Malink crouched.

"You're not scared, are you, squirt?"

Malink recognized the voice from his childhood and he wasn't scared. But he knew he didn't have to say so. "I am not a squirt. I am old man now."

Vincent swaggered out of the taro. His flight suit and bomber jacket looked exactly as Malink remembered. "You're always gonna be a squirt, kid. You still got that lighter I gave you?"

Malink nodded.

"That was my lucky Zippo, kid. I shoulda hung on to it. Fuck it. Spilt milk." Vincent waved his cigarette in dismissal. "Look, I need you to build some ladders. You know what a ladder is, right?"

"Yes," Malink said.

"Of course you do, smart kid like you. So I am needing you to build, oh, say six ladders, thirty feet long, strong and light. Use bamboo. Are you getting this, kid?"

Malink nodded. He was grinning from ear to ear. Vincent was speaking to him again.

"You're talkin' my ear off, kid. So, anyway, I need you to build these ladders, see, as I am having big plans for you and the Shark People. Large plans, kid. Hugely large. I'm talking about substantial fuckin' plans I am having. Okay?"

Malink nodded.

"Good, build the ladders and stand by for further orders." The flyer began to back away into the taro patch.

"You said you would come back," Malink said. "You said you would come back and bring cargo."

"You don't look like you been shorted on the feedbag, kid. You got your cargo in spades."

"You said you would come back."

Vincent threw up his hands. "So what the fuck's this? Western Union? Don't go screwy on me, kid. I need you." The pilot started to fade, going as translucent as his cigarette smoke.

Malink stepped forward. "The Sky Priestess will tell us orders?"

"The Sky Priestess took a powder fifty years ago, kid. This dame doing the bump and grind on my runway is paste."


"She's a fake, squirt. A boneable feast to be sure, but she's running a game on you."

"She is not Sky Priestess?"

"No, but don't piss her off." With that the pilot faded to nothing.

Malink leaned back against the mahogany tree and looked up through the canopy to the sky. His skin tingled and his breath was coming easy and deep. The ache in his knees was gone. He was light and strong and full, and every birdcall or rustle of leaves or distant crash of a wave seemed part of a great and wonderful song.


Call in the Cavalry

They had missed Guam and Saipan (passing at night) and all the Northern Mariana Islands (drifting in fog) and Johnston Island and all ships at sea (no reason, they just missed). The sunscreen had run out on the seventh day. The drinking coconuts ran out on the fourteenth.

They still had some shark meat that had been smoked and dried, but Tuck couldn't choke down a bite of it without water. They had had nothing to drink for a full day.

They were at sea for three days before Sepie came out of her catatonia, and after a day of sobbing, she started to talk.

"I miss him," she said. "He listen to me. He like me even when I am being mean."

"Me too. I treated him badly sometimes too. He was a good guy. A good friend."

"He love you very much," Sepie said. She was crying again.

Tuck looked down, shielding his face so she couldn't see his eyes. "I'm sorry, Sepie. I know you loved him. I didn't mean to put him in danger. I didn't mean to put you in danger."

She crawled to his end of the canoe and into his arms. He held her there for a long time, rocking her until she stopped crying. He said, "You'll be okay."

"Kimi say he would sail me to America someday. You will take me?"

"Sure. You'll like it there."

"Tell me," she said.

She grilled Tuck about all things American, making him explain everything from television to tampons. Tuck learned about men,

about how simple they were, about how easily they could be manipulated, about how good they could make a woman feel when they were nice, and how much they could hurt a woman by dying. Telling the things that they knew made them each feel smart, and sharing the duties of sailing the boat made them feel safe. It was easier to live in the little world inside the canoe rather than face the vast emptiness of the open ocean. Sepie took to curling into Tuck's chest and sleeping while he steered. Twice Tuck fell asleep in her arms and no one steered the boat for hours. Tuck didn't let it bother him. He had accepted that they were going to die. It seemed so easy now that he wondered why he'd made such an effort to escape it on the island.

Roberto hadn't spoken since the first night. He hung from the lines and pointed with a wing claw when Tuck called to him. When Tuck was still reckoning, he reckoned that they were traveling at an average speed of five knots. At five knots, twenty-four hours a day, for fourteen days, he reckoned that they had traveled well over two thousand miles. Tuck reckoned that they were now sailing though downtown Sacramento. His reckoning wasn't any better than his navigation.

On the fifteenth day Roberto took flight and Tuck watched him until he was nothing but a dot on the horizon, then nothing at all. Tuck didn't blame him. He accepted his own death, but he didn't want to watch Sepie go before him. At sunset he tied off the steering oar, took Sepie in his arms, and lay down in the bottom of the boat to wait.

Sometime later - he couldn't tell how long, but it was still dark - he woke with a parched scream when a tube of mascara dropped out of the sky and hit him in the chest. Sepie sat up and snatched the tube from the bottom of the boat.

"To make you pretty," she said. Her voice cracked on "pretty."

Tuck was too disoriented to recognize what she was holding. He took it from her and squinted at it. "It's mascara."

"Roberto," Sepie said.

Tuck looked around in the sky, but didn't see the bat. It was beginning to get light. "You brought us mascara? We're dying of thirst and you brought us mascara?"

"Kimi teach him," Sepie said.

Tuck didn't think he had the energy left for outrage, but it was coming nonetheless. "You..."

Sepie put a finger to his lips. "Listen."

Tuck listened. He heard nothing. "What?"


Tuck listened. He heard it. He also heard something else, a rhythmic stirring in the water much closer to the canoe . He looked in the direction of the noise and saw something moving over the water toward them.

"Aloha!" came out of the dark, followed by a middle-aged white man in an ocean kayak. "I guess I'm not the only one who likes to get out early," he said.

In their first hour at the Waikiki Beach Hyatt Regency, Sepie flushed the toilet seventy-eight times and consumed two hundred and forty dollars' worth of product from the minibar (five Pepsis and a box of Raisinets).

"You poop in here and it just goes away?"


"In this big bowl?" She pointed.


"You poop?"


"And you push this?"


"And it goes away?"

"That's right."


"To the next room." Plumbing. They hadn't talked about plumbing.

"And they push this and it goes away?"

"Look, Sepie, there's a TV in here. You push this and it changes the picture."

Tuck couldn't be sure because they'd never had sex and because she'd told him about how she could fool a man, but he thought she might have come right then.

He made her promise not to leave the room and left her there flushing and clicking while he went to the police.

The desk sergeant at the Honolulu police department listened patiently and politely and with appropriate concern right up until Tuck said, "I know I look a little ratty, but I've been at sea in an open boat for two weeks." At which point the sergeant held up his hand signifying it was his turn to talk.

"You've been at sea for two weeks?"

"Yes. I escaped by boat."

"So how long ago did these alleged murders happen?"

"I don't know exactly. One about a month ago, one longer."

"And you're just getting around to reporting them now?"

I told you. I was trapped on Alualu. I escaped in a sailing canoe."

"Then," the sergeant said, "Alualu is not a street in Honolulu."

"No. It's an island in Micronesia."

"I can't help you, sir. That's out of our jurisdiction."

"Well, who can help me?"

"Try the FBI."

So Tuck, on the cab ride to the FBI offices, changed his strategy. He'd wait until he got past the front line of defense before spilling his guts. The receptionist was a petite Asian woman of forty who spoke English so precisely that Tuck knew it had to be her second language.

"I'm sure I can help you if you will just tell me what it is that you'd like to report."

"I can't. I have to talk to an agent. I won't be comfortable unless I talk to a real agent."

She looked offended and her speech became even crisper. "Perhaps you can tell me the nature of the crime."

Tuck thought for a moment. What did the FBI always handle on television? Al Capone, Klansmen, bank robberies, and..."Kidnapping," he said. "There's been a kidnapping."

"And who has been kidnapped? Have you filed a missing persons report with the local police?"

Tuck shook his head and stood his ground. "I'll tell an agent."

The receptionist picked up the phone and punched a number. She turned away from him and covered her mouth with her hand as she spoke into the mouthpiece. She hung up and said, "There's an agent on his way."

"Thanks," Tuck said.

A few minutes later a door opened and a dark-haired guy who looked like a mobile mannequin from a Brooks Brothers window

display entered the reception room and extended his hand to Tuck. "Mr. Case, I'm Special Agent Tom Myers. Would you step into my office, please?"

Tuck shook his hand and followed him though the door and down a hallway of identical ten-by-twelve offices with identical metal desks that displayed identical photos of identical families in identical dime-store frames. Myers motioned for Tuck to sit and took the seat behind the desk.

"Now, Rose tells me that you want to report a kidnapping?" Special Agent Myers unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.

"You allowed to do that?" Tuck asked.

"Casual Fridays," the special agent said.

"Oh," Tuck said. "Yes. Kidnapping, multiple murder, and the theft and sale of human organs for transplant."

Myers showed no reaction. "Go on."

And Tuck did. He began with the offer of the job on Alualu and ended with his arrival in Hawaii, leaving out the crash of Mary Jean's jet, the subsequent loss of his pilot's license and pending criminal charges, anything to do with cargo cults, cannibals, transvestites, ghost pilots, talking bats, and genital injuries. As he wrapped up, he thought the edited version sounded pretty credible.

Special Agent Myers had not changed position or expression once in the half hour that Tuck had talked. Tuck thought he saw him blink once, though. Special Agent Myers leaned back in his chair (casual Fridays) and templed his fingers. "Let me ask you something," he said.

"Sure," Tuck said.

"Are you the Tucker Case that got drunk and crashed the pink jet in Seattle a few months ago?"

Tuck could have slapped him. "Yes, but that doesn't have anything to do with this."

"I think it does, Mr. Case. I think it affects the credibility of what is already an incredible story. I think you should leave my office and go about the business of putting your life in order."

"I'm telling you the truth," Tuck said. He was fighting panic. He worked to stay calm. "Why would I make up a story like that? As you pointed out, I've got enough on my plate just rebuilding my life. I'm not so stupid that I'd add charges for filing a false crime report to all the others. If you have to take me into custody, do it. But do something about what's going on out on that island or a lot more people are going to die."

"Even if I believed your story, what would you like me to do?"

And there Tuck lost it." 'Special agent.' Does that mean that you had to take the little bus to the academy?"

"I was at the top of my class." A rise.

"Then act like it."

"What do you want, Mr. Case?"

Tuck jumped up and leaned over the desk. Special Agent Myers rolled back in his chair.

"I want you to stop them. I want covert action and deadly technology. I want Navy SEALS and snipers and spies and laser-guided smart stealth gizmos out the ying-yang. I want surgical strikes and satellite views and a steaming shitload of every sort of Tom Clancy geegaw you got. I want fucking Jack Ryan, James Bond, and a half-dozen Van Damme motherfuck-ers who can jump through their own asses and rip your heart out while it's still beating. I want action, Special Agent Myers. This is evil shit."

"Sit down, Mr. Case."

Tuck sat down. His energy was gone. "Look, I'm giving myself up. Arrest me, throw me in jail, beat me with a rubber hose, do whatever you want to do, but stop what's going on out there."

Special Agent Myers smiled. "I don't believe a word you've told me, but even if I did, even if you had evidence of what you're claiming, I still couldn't do anything. The FBI can only act on domestic matters."

"Then tell someone who handles international matters."

"The CIA only handles matters that affect national security, and frankly, I wouldn't embarrass myself by calling them."

"Fuck it, then. Take me away." Tuck held out his arms to receive handcuffs.

"Go back to your hotel and get some rest, Mr. Case. There are no outstanding warrants for your arrest."

"There aren't?" Tuck felt as if he'd been gut-punched.

"I checked the computer before I brought you in here." Myers stood. "I'll show you out."

After another cab ride and another truncated telling of his story, Tuck was also shown out of the Japanese embassy. He found a pay phone and soon he had been hung up on by both the American Medical Association and the Council of Methodist Missionaries. He found Sepie curled up on the king-size bed, the television still blaring in the bathroom, three minibottles of vodka empty on the floor. Tuck considered raiding the minibar himself, but when he opened it, he

opted for a grapefruit juice instead of gin. Getting hammered wasn't going to take the edge off this time, and at this rate, the money he'd left on deposit at the desk in lieu of a credit card - the money that Sarapul had found in Tuck's pack - would run out in two days.

He sat down on the bed and stroked Sepie's hair. She had put on mascara while he was out and had made a mess of it. Funny, she'd walked into the hotel wearing one of Tuck's shirts - the first time she'd worn a top in her life - looking very much the little girl and now she had on makeup and was passed out drunk. Tuck had a feeling that coming to America was not going to be easy on either of them. He kissed her on the forehead and she moaned and rolled over. "Perfume tomorrow," she said. "You get me some, okay?"

"Okay," Tuck said. "A woman who smells good is a woman who feels good." The phrase rattled off the walls of his brain. He snatched up the phone and punched up information. When the operator came on, he said, "Houston, area code 713..."

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