Cayo Elina 7

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Gus didn’t want to be dropped at Flamingo as Ramon had planned, he insisted on being brought up to Miami. He had taken the news of his exile with a head nod and a lack of emotion that characterized him in the village.

“I don’t want to go up to Miami, it would be easier to drop him in Flamingo.” Ramon complained to Jack.

“Just do it. Let’s get done with this business and move on. Flamingo is empty Ramon, as you know, it’s been looted so many times there is nothing left to take. Dropping him would mean he has to travel through a hundred miles of the everglades to reach anywhere he could reasonably be expected to survive at.”

“It just takes up extra fuel it all. Adds eighty miles to my trip.” Ramon said, “Fuel we don’t have much of. Why can’t I just drop him at Key West?”

“Because he wants to go to Miami.” Elina said, tired of the whining, “Key West is cut off by the bridge being out.”

“He could get a boat there.”

“Not likely, not after two years. We already took all the good ones.”

“He would work something out and there aren’t many zombies there either.”

“Speaking of which, did you find the zombie here yet?” Elina asked.

Ramon shook his head, cursed and stomped away from Elina and Jack.

“You’re making things harder.” Jack told her.

“No, he is. I’m tempted to let him go alone with Gus.”

“Do you really think Gus would kill him?”

“Yes. But not before Ramon acted first. The man want’s some of us dead and I am going to tell you now Jack, he killed Mary. Or had it done.”

“What about the zombie?”

“She wasn’t eaten. She was stabbed. When has a zed been known to leave a fresh hill without at least taking some blood?” Zombies grew stronger when they ate living flesh or blood.

“But why? What reason would he have to kill her?”

“He is consolidating power Ramon. She was outspoken, she embarrassed him by challenging his ideas in front of the town. You keep an eye on him and you’ll see.”

“You make it sound like you are going to be around to do that.”

Elina didn’t answer, choosing instead to look out to sea at the incoming waves and few fishing boats that were already out this morning.

“Elina.” Jack said in a warning voice.

“You can stand in his way as he makes his ‘new world’, but don’t blame me when you have a harpoon through your chest too.”

“He isn’t like that…”

“First thing to do is to silence the opposition. He’ll do this with the aid of allies in town. The next step will be to replace the council with his own people, probably by force. You’ve got a penis, so you should be able to stay on. I would bet he wills start making a play to open up a discussion with the Cubans. That would be his style.”

Ramon was marching back with Gus and overheard the last bit of conversation.

“What are you talking about?” he demanded.

“The Cubans.”

“They aren’t so bad. Maybe we shouldn’t be fighting them, maybe we should be trading with them. Perry hasn’t been here in a long time and we can’t be expected to survive on our own.”

Elina cast a knowing glance at Jack, who looked puzzled, he said, “That is something for a later discussion Ramon.” He turned to Gus and continued, “Gus I am sorry it has come to this, but I think the gravity of the situation warrants it. I do hope you survive out there and make it back to us in a year. All will be forgiven then.”

Gus shrugged his shoulders and stared at Jack, as if not really seeing him. “I don’t think we will meet again Jack. Not unless you are very, very careful.” The short man turned and climbed into the boat where his meager possessions were already stowed.

Elina climbed in after him and looked back at the shore, far too few people had come out to see Gus off. ‘Not a good sign for his return. By this time next year Ramon will have consolidated his power.’ She didn’t know how she knew this, but felt it was true.

“See you tomorrow around sunset, Jack.” Ramon called as he climbed into the boat.

“Have a good trip, stay safe and don’t take any chances.”

“We’ll be fine, we have Elina, remember?” Ramon called, with some mild sarcasm in his voice.

“I remember. Good luck.”

Jack pushed them away from the pier and Ramon backed the boat away on the tide. When he was far enough out he turned the engine and angled them away until the bow was pointed towards the open sea. The journey got underway without anyone talking. The sound of the engine wasn’t loud enough to keep them from talking to each other, they just chose not to.

When they were an hour away and drawing close to Key West, Ramon pulled a revolver out from his satchel. Elina and Gus were near the front of the boat, enjoying the salt spray on their faces as the boat bobbed up and down in the gentle sea.

His first shot was between them, to draw their attention. They both turned to look at him with no surprise on their faces at all. Elina smiled.

“What is so funny, mujer?”

“I didn’t think you would actually do it. And if you were going to, I thought you would wait for at least two hours. I owe Gus a favor. He told me you would make your move in the first ninety minutes.”

“Don’t count on returning the favor. You won’t live long enough.”

“Is this the part where you give us a speech? Where you explain how much you hate us and how you are doing the right thing for the village?”

Roman’s face twisted into a frown. He pointed the gun at Elina and pulled the trigger. Elina dove sideways into the water, Ramon didn’t know if he had shot her or not. Gus used the distraction to launch himself the short distance to the older man, his hands bent like claws. Ramon shifted the gun and shot again, the bullet grazed Gus, tearing a long gash through the skin of his belly before cutting through his calf and into the bottom of the boat.  Gus tacked Ramon into the back of the boat and both of the men almost flew out into the water. Ramon’s gun did fly free and landed about twenty paces behind the back of the boat where it disappeared with hardly a sound.

The fight was short and brutal. Ramon had never fought another human who was his equal and this was still true; Gus was far superior to the man. Ramon punched the puny little man in the face three times, hitting him in each eye and slamming him in the jaw. Gus raised one hand back behind him and landed a short blow into Ramon’s stomach. The seat beneath them shattered, and Ramon added his breakfast to the bilge in the bottom of the boat. While he was vomiting Gus stood and kicked him twice more in the ribs, rolling him to one side of the boat and arcing fish and tortillas in a glorious spread captured by the morning rays of the sun.

Gus punched the man one last time in the head, knocking him out and then seemed to try and restrain himself from doing any more damage. His bloodlust faded and he saw the man was face down in the shallow bilge. With a disgusted sigh he pulled Ramon up and laid him over the middle seat of the boat. There was a bailing bucket nearby and he turned it over and sat down on it before taking control of the boat.

Circling back around Gus pulled up to Elina’s bobbing form and helped her over the side.

“Took you long enough.” She said.

“Boats don’t turn on a dime. It’s not a jet ski.” He smiled at her.

“You kill him?”

“No.”

“Why the hell not?”

“It’s not his time.”

“Don’t go all mystical on me now.”

Gus just shook his head and shrugged.

“You okay?” Elina asked, looking at his scabbed over leg.

“Fine. You?”

“He missed. Say is there any chance he got infected too?” Elina asked, worried.

“Probably not. I’d pretty much have to bleed into an open wound and I don’t think I did. It doesn’t pass when his blood gets on me.”

“It looks like you bled a lot.”

“I wasn’t punching him with my chest or leg. The skin on my hands is tough; my hands don’t get torn up when I brawl like normal people do.” Gus said.

“Aw, hell. Now what are we going to do, Gus?”

“We can’t go back.”

“Not with him alive. Not with him dead. I know.”

Alive Ramon would claim Elina and Gus overpowered him, beat him and threatened to kill them before returning home. Dead, he wouldn’t be there to defend himself, but the village would be suspicious of what had happened. Plus Gus was still exiled, getting rid of Ramon wouldn’t change that.

“Better dead, than there to spread lies and carry on his agenda.” Gus commented.

Elina nodded, but made no move towards Ramon. “If you feel that way, why didn’t you finish the job?”

“Lord knows the man probably deserves killing. If he didn’t murder Mary, he ordered it.”

Elina raised one eyebrow.

Gus flushed and straightened the boat out to be parallel with the shore again. “Look, Elina, I’m not a cold blooded killer. I can kill. I have killed, it’s no secret, everyone on your island is a killer, one way or another. That doesn’t mean any of us deserve to be judge, jury and executioner. We have to abide by the rules we make or we might as well go back to being cavemen.”

“Even when the rulers turn you out for no good reason?”

“Sometimes even then.”

They sat alone for a few minutes. “He’s not coming around.”

Gus grunted.

“You didn’t damage him too badly did you? I don’t want to have to deal with a cripple when we get to the mainland.”

“Elina. We have bigger problems.”

“What?”

Gus eyed the bilge water in the bottom of the boat. “We’re sinking.”

“Bull, this tub always had a little leak problem, that’s why we brought the bucket… Oh.” Elina looked more closely at Ramon and the water was rising. “Hand me the bucket.”

Gus raised himself off of it slightly and used his heel to knock it to one side, it rolled over and landed against Ramon’s face. Elina grabbed it and started bailing.

“Where’s the hole?”

“Under Ramon, I think. When he shot at me I think the bullet went through the hull. I was hoping it had gone through the side of the boat or missed. But, well he got a piece of me, in the leg, the angle was right to go through the bottom too.”

Elina bailed for a few minutes, but the water kept rising. “You better head inland Gus or we’re going to be swimming.”

He nodded and turned the boat towards land. “Think we can cut by the Hyatt?”

“You thinking of getting to Sunset Marina?”

Gus nodded, “We should be able to scrounge enough there to fix us up.”

“Kinda risky, Key West…” Elina left the rest unsaid. The zombies had come down on Key West like a ton of bricks. The village had been raiding it pretty steadily, until the Cubans got a foothold there. About three months ago the zombies had landed on the island with both feet. Elina’s group heard the fireworks from the village and tentative investigation in the last few months had found a fairly large, well organized group of zombies running the place.

It had come as a blow to the village, now they were virtually cut off from any small luxuries that they could scavenge before. The Cubans were at least reasonable about letting civilians loot the area, the zombies had chased them off twice already.

“The boat is going to draw attention.” Gus stated. Any noise drew attention.

“We haven’t come this far in, maybe they are all over on the west side?”

Gus snorted by way of reply.

In the bottom of the boat Ramon groaned and started to flail around. Gus and Elina ignored him as he regained consciousness. Eyes wide open Ramon looked towards Gus, then tilted his head to look at Elina.

“So.” He finally said over the hum of the engine. “What are you going to do with me?”

Elina and Gus looked at each other. Gus answered, “What should we do with you? Treat you like you were going to treat us?”

Ramon didn’t answer.

“What were you thinking, Ramon?” Elina asked.

“I was going to get rid of two problems standing in the way of progress.”

“Us?” Elina asked.

“You.” He agreed, “Him, because he is always on your side, you because you won’t break any eggs to make breakfast.”

“Really? Tell me how you came up with that?”

“It’s your island, you led us in fighting off the invaders, you gave us home. All true enough and for that most of us are grateful. But you don’t change anything Elina. You want things to stay the same as they always were. We can’t live that way, times have changed.”

“Seems to me we were living just fine.”

“No toilet paper? No soap? Crammed in together in buildings made of scrap, eating fish and coconuts for every meal?”

“I’m there, Ramon. I don’t get anything better than anyone else.”

“Nothing but telling the council what to do. You’re a dictator over the entire island.”

“You said it yourself, Ramon, times have changed. We can’t expect to live the way we did.”

“No, maybe not, but we can live better than we are. If you would step aside.”

“You could have left. Taken those who wanted to leave with you.”

“Why should I leave? I fought for the cay as hard as you did. The others have too. You got there first, you brought us there, but you don’t own it any more, or less, than we do.”

“Why didn’t you just bring this up in the council?”

“Bah! You don’t even listen now, I shouldn’t have wasted my breath.”

“You think I run the council?” Elina laughed, “Then why are we here? I didn’t want Gus banished.”

“That was a first. There might be hope for them yet. I’m getting out of the water.” Ramon said this last as he was pulling himself up out of the bottom of the boat. His wounds had healed into bruises and he didn’t seem to be any worse off from the beat Gus had given him earlier.

Elina handed him the bucket after he took a seat in the middle of the boat. He looked at it and shrugged his shoulders, seeing immediately that he was in a better position to bail than she was. Taking the pail he began to fight the water coming up through the hole in the hull.

“Where are we headed?”

“Passed the Hyatt. To Sunset.” Gus answered curtly.

“Tide’s going out, we gonna make it without grounding?

“Let’s hope we do.”

“You have quite a punch on you for such a little man.”

Gus didn’t say anything.

“I think I could take you, if you hadn’t caught me by surprise.”

Shaking his head Gus said, “How you can even say I caught you ‘by surprise’ when you had a gun pointed at me is just amazing.”

“I still could take you.”

“Of course, but think about it before you try again, amigo. Think about it long and hard. Because next time you try, and fail, I will kill you.”

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