19. Dark Shadows

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Back at the camp, Nita clutched the stained red sleeve to her chest, stared out over the sea, and murmured words in a language full of soft consonants that I hadn't heard before.

I placed a hand on her back.

She gazed at the textile, then at me. "Maybe it's not his, right? It might belong to somebody else. Someone else from the plane, right?"

No words came to me.

"We don't know," Chris said. He stood some steps apart, arms crossed, gray eyes studying Nita.

When he noticed me watching him, his pale eyebrows skipped up as if to say, see, I've told you.

He had said that there was a common reason behind these events. I agreed, they left a dark trail—the trail of someone's or something's malicious intent.

He had said there was a terrorist among us. I wondered, not sold on the idea. All I had seen were some scars.

When we had arrived, we had been seven, plus the dead body washed up on the island's shore. Minus three, this left five.

Farid and Bruna sat in the shade of the shrubs, talking in subdued voices. I gave Chris a shrug, then I turned his back on him walked over to join the others.

They watched my approach. He leaned against a trunk, his face lacking expression, as always. She had her knees pulled up against her body. Her arms rested on top of them, and her chin perched on her wrists. Her eyes reflected the shades of the sea as they followed my movements.

I sat down beside Farid. "What the hell is going on here?"

If anyone knew, it would be the two of them.

"Doesn't Chris have any theories?" Bruna asked.

"He thinks the incidents are... connected," I replied. "There must be a common cause." I didn't say that he thought the cause was a terrorist among us.

Or two terrorists.

"And what do you think?" Bruna tilted her head forward to watch me with Farid between us.

"Chris has a point. It's like..." I searched for words to explain what was sitting at the back of my head. "It's like one of these things they used to have in newspapers. Numbered dots on a blank piece of paper, and you have to connect them with a pencil to find a picture, an image. It feels as if we have connected some of the dots, and they start to form a picture. I don't see it yet, though."

Neither Bruna nor Farid answered.

The birds in the shrubs screeched their perpetual indignation.

I looked at the place where I had left Chris and Nita, wondering if the nurse had calmed down a bit.

They weren't there.

Shit. I really hated this place.

"Where are they now?" I asked. "Chris and Nita."

"Search me," Bruna replied. "Or them." She huffed.

I stood and walked to the edge of the plateau to gain a better view of the beach. Farid followed me.

The wind had picked up, and the waves hit the rocks with white-crested violence.

"There." Farid pointed towards the shore, below and to the south of us.

Chris and Nita were standing on a slab of rock reaching out into the sea, about one or two hundred yards away from us. They had their backs towards us.

"Shouldn't we join them?" I didn't like the idea of Nita being alone with Chris, not in her state. He had the subtlety of a bull terrier.

"I think they'll do fine without us," he said.

Chris pointed his arm at something ahead of them, then both of them went to explore. They disappeared behind the rock they had stood on.

"I'm not so sure," I said. "Chris isn't the right company for her right now."

"He's a pain. But I think he'll take care of her. There's—"

Chris re-emerged, leaping onto the rock, stopping there, and waving his arms at us.

The acoustic barrage of the waves almost drowned his shouts.

"Something must be wrong." Not waiting for Farid's reply, I left the plateau to descend towards them.

As I reached the water, I heard footsteps behind me. Both Farid and Bruna were at my heels.

We ran towards the tongue of basalt and scaled it. Before we reached him, Chris motioned us to hurry, turned back, and disappeared on the other side.

When we gained the top of the rock and saw him again, he was standing in a small bay below us, an arm on Nita's shoulder. The woman was at the water's edge, hands on her cheeks, and staring at something washed up onto the pebbles.

A body, face down, but the brown hair and shirt left no doubt. It was Yves.

The torn, red shirt left his shoulder and one side exposed. A ghastly wound ran down from his neck all the way to one arm—a series of ragged gashes as if something had chewed into flesh and bone.

Dead.

Silent sobs shook Nita's body.

Chris turned her around. "Let's go. There's nothing we can do here." He pushed her away from the waterline, back onto the basalt. He led her up the rock and then sat her down, facing away from us. She sagged like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

Yves' skin and flesh were pale, washed clean by the water.

Chris joined us again. "Damn," he whispered.

"What's eating into human flesh like that?" I asked. Gagging, I turned my face away.

Bruna tugged at her ponytail. "Maybe he drowned while swimming, and then some fish started gnawing on him."

Chris squatted down and turned the body to its side.

Yves lips where almost as white as his skin.

Bile rose into my throat, and my stomach convulsed. I turned away from the water and bit my teeth, looking at the shrubs along the island's shoreline.

The shadows between them had never been darker.


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