All may not quite be revealed here but a significant amount is, including a good amount of skin. Goodness.
Chapter 69 – It’s Over
The explosion lifted Sea Cucumber’s stern clear of the water. The ship smashed down, torrents of shattered seawater flew high into the air, plunged down and gushed across the deck. Up near the bows Foxy and Tim had just climbed from the hold. Knocked from their feet, the water washed them across the deck and they fetched up bruisingly hard against the base of the forward cargo crane.
High in the rear superstructure Troy Jarglebaum and Markus Koponen raced down a companionway to the main deck. Jarglebaum’s feet went out from under him, his elbow slammed against an edge and he swore like the world was ending.
‘Sabotage,’ Koponen gasped. ‘Murder and destruction.’
What else could it be? Jarglebaum hauled Koponen to his feet, wincing with the pain from his elbow. ‘Keep moving, Markus.’
Koponen’s hat had gone, his thinning blond hair smeared across his face by wind and sea. ‘Who did this?’ he shouted and clutched the air. ‘Oil? Governments? Why? How? Nobody knew my plans.’
Sea Cucumber’s bows slowly came up, shedding tonnes of water. With ponderous inevitability the stern sank back and she began to settle again. Clouds covered the stars, the wind was rising, a heavy swell pounded the ship’s side with steady, ominous booms. Behind them rolling waves broke across the aft deck. Jarglebaum looked around with a hysterical calmness he knew was a prelude to panic.
‘The hell with this,’ Jarglebaum bawled. ‘Where are the boats?’
Koponen clutched Jarglebaum’s jacket. ‘We must save the ship. The seeds, my work–’
‘No way, José. You pay me to take care of you, and that’s what I’m doing. We’re out of here.’
A huge burst of freezing spray drenched them. Jarglebaum hauled Koponen round to face the stern. ‘Look at her. She’s sinking, it’s too late.’
Koponen’s shoulders sagged. ‘Yes, I see.’
‘Where are the damned lifeboats?’
Koponen pointed up the canting deck. ‘Midships.’
As they slipped and scrambled towards the bow three figures emerged out of the dark.
‘Dolores!’ Koponen cried. ‘Thank God, you’re all safe.’
‘Come with us. Now,’ Jarglebaum bellowed.
Imelda blocked their way.
‘Get a move on!’ Head down against the wind, Jarglebaum pushed forward.
Imelda stepped aside, grabbed his arm and forced it behind his back.
‘Christ, what are you doing?’ Jarglebaum was on tip toe, his slabby cheeks quivered with pain.
Wind driven spume burst across the deck. Electra’s platinum hair broke free of its bonds, lifted by the rising gale into a writhing, silver-white plume above her head. She pulled back her hand and gave Markus Koponen a stinging slap across his face.
Crouched behind the crane Foxy and Tim peered at the five figures through the spray drenched night.
‘Can you see what they’re doing?’ Tim said.
‘They’re arguing, fighting.’
‘Hardly surprising, all things considered.’
Foxy pulled Tim down. ‘Keep out of sight.’
‘We’ve got to get off the ship.’
‘Don’t worry, we will,’ Foxy said. She narrowed her eyes. Something about the fit of the women’s clothing bothered her badly.
Imelda pushed up under Jarglebaum’s elbow. ‘This is too easy. I could lift your arm right out of its socket.’
‘Stop, I’m begging you,’ Jarglebaum gasped. ‘Have pity, I’m an old man.’
‘You’re pathetic.’ Imelda shoved Jarglebaum back into Koponen and both men crashed down on the wet deck. Jarglebaum cried out as he fell and clutched his elbow when he hit the deck but his eyes were triumphant, sly.
Imelda hauled Koponen to his feet. She too slapped him hard.
Koponen’s head rocked back. Blood smeared his lower lip. He looked at Imelda with incomprehension, his voice a broken whisper. ‘You did this. Why?’
Somewhere deep inside Dolores felt unhappy. Koponen had been good to her; now he was going to die. She flung her arms around him and kissed his cheek. ‘So long, baby. Nothing lasts forever. We had some good times but now it’s over.’
‘Dolores.’ Koponen blinked in disbelief. ‘I love you.’
‘I love you too, sweetie, but there’s someone else.’
Koponen’s gesture took in the sinking ship wallowing in the heaving sea. ‘That’s what this is all about? You have a new boyfriend?’
‘It’s not what you think.’
‘Of course not. It never is.’
Jarglebaum lurched to his feet, one arm hung by his side. ‘You’ve done what you came for. Let us get to the boats.’
Imelda smiled a wide, wide smile. ‘Sorry. This is where it ends.’
Jarglebaum hung his head, exhausted, defeated. ‘I told you, Markus. I tried to warn you.’
Something had happened to Dolores’ skin. Every time she moved she tore her costume. For some reason the fit was all wrong. Now she had finally accepted she had finished with Koponen she realised her relationship with her wardrobe would also have to change.
It hardly mattered. The heaving, frigid water was enticing, almost sexual. What she was wore was now little more than a collection of rags, an encumbrance. She shrugged free of her jacket, stepped out of her skirt, and kicked off her shoes to stand proudly nude except for her laddered stockings and suspender belt. Her spray-drenched skin glistened under the faltering ship’s lights.
Red shoes, no knickers, Jarglebaum thought wildly. It really is true.
‘My God,’ Koponen gasped. ‘What’s happened to you?’
Dolores looked down. Although her stomach was a pleasingly flat slab of rippled muscle, the same was now also true of her chest. She considered her once magnificent bosom with a lack of concern that surprised even herself. The extra rows of teeth in her mouth and the wonderful sinuosity of her body more than compensated. The two men did look so very, very edible.
Foxy gripped Tim’s arm as Dolores stood revealed. ‘Shark-women! Those men are in big trouble.’
Despite the dark and the breaking waves Tim could tell there was something wrong with Dolores just from the strange litheness in the way she moved. Her chest was deep, her flanks sleek with unnaturally straight and waistless hips. She turned and under the faltering neon of the ship’s lights Tim saw a saw-tooth row of triangular fins running the length of her spine.
Foxy’s voice was hoarse with shock. ‘Deep Magic, twisted and gone bad. Someone – something has done this to them.’ She looked at Tim from eyes filled with anger and fear. ‘It can’t be… they were supposed to have all died an age ago.’
‘Not human, not mer. Not people.’
‘Tuoni. That was the name Imelda said down in the hold.’ Tim shuddered with the memory of her weird ecstatic dance and words. ‘They want you to be his–’
She pressed her fingers against his lips. ‘Don’t say it. Please. Right now we have to help those men.’
‘How? I can’t fight Imelda.’
‘If we don’t, they are going to die.’
Tim thought fast, he needed something unexpected, from the left-field. He’d met some strange and unusual people in his time, Mrs Woosencraft, Asklepios. What would they do? It felt like it came to him out of nowhere, a gift. Asklepios. He looked up at the crane and the heavy cargo net hanging from the boom high overhead. ‘Do you know how to work this thing?’
‘No. Do you?’
He clutched the diamond pendant through his shirt. ‘Maybe.’
To be continued…