Cayo Elina 45
The island was devastated. It looked like a hurricane had blown over most of the trees, if it weren’t for the smoke and ruined buildings Elina would have guessed it had been a natural disaster. All of the fishing boats were sunk and there was no sign of human life as the helicopter buzzed over the low island she had called home such a short time ago.
The voice over the radio was persistent.
“Talk to me, Elina, do you see anyone?” Gus’s voice took on more urgency.
“Do you?” she asked contritely.
A short while later the helicopter was slowing and losing altitude, ‘Apparently he does see someone alive.’ Elina thought to herself.
They landed inland as far as they could without having to put the skids on a downed tree. Georges cursing was incessant as he complained about the cloud of sand obscuring his vision.
One of the marines tugged on Elina’s headset and urged her to stow it and get out of the vehicle. She closed her eyes as she went, keeping her head low, even though she knew she would need a ladder to even come close to the circling death above her.
Elina made her was through the wreckage of several small huts until she stood almost in the town square, which was now a huge divot in the earth half full of water.
“It’s bad.” Gus yelled into her ear.
“But someone survived?” she shouted back.
“Unless the Cubans took the bodies, yeah.”
Elina looked around and didn’t spot any dead among the ruins. Slowly she nodded. “They’ll be inland, by the marsh.”
The island was low to the water and on the west side there was a large inlet where the ocean was slowly being pushed out. The area was marshy and grass strewn and the villagers had used it to hold their supplies and wounded during the major attacks on the island.
The engines of the helicopters started to increase in pitch and both of them turned to watch it lift off. The marines had helpfully dumped the crates out of it onto the beach.
“That’s below the tide line.” Gus said.
Elina made an obscene gesture at George, who was waving goodbye. They saw him shrug his shoulder and tap his wrist in an age old gesture that still hadn’t lost it’s mean despite the coming of cell phones.
“Places to be my ass. So what’d he talk to you about?”
“He wanted the skinny on Perry. He thinks the guy is withholding information from him.” Gus answered as they walked towards the crates.
The sea breeze kicked the sand back down quickly once the helicopter was gone and the two paused a moment to watch the helicopter circle the island once, high above, before it scooted away towards the north.
“Let’s get these moved up and go find the survivors.” Elina said.
It took them almost forty minutes to drag and carry the crates to the lip of what Gus was calling the ‘Town Crater’, they didn’t bother covering them or even trying to conceal them from prying eyes from the sea.
“Why bother?” Elina said when Gus asked about it. “We’ll just have to carry them that much further when the Feist gets here.”
They did find two large crates marked ‘perishable’ and when they lifted the lid of one discovered it was full of food, mostly old plastic bagged military rations. Neither Gus nor Elina cared for the meals much, but they both preferred them to having nothing to eat.
They carried one of the crates with them as they made their way through the butchered palm trees, thinking it might be appreciated when they arrived.
“I kind of thought someone might come out to meet us.” Gus said.
“Maybe they all left?”
“Too many boats were destroyed out there, no way they could all be gone.”
“Maybe most of them died?” Elina said, voicing the fear they were both thinking.
“I just don’t think so…”
“Gus?” called a voice from a tangle of trees ahead of them. “Is that you?”
“And Elina.” Gus called back, “Who is there?”
“Did the helicopter drop you off?”
“Are they coming back for us?”
Slowly a figure slithered out from between the fallen trees. They were carrying a rifle, battered and scored, and probably as an empty threat.
“It’s Calvin!” Elina said with a smile.
“You’re eyes are still good, aren’t they?” he said as he moved fully into view.
“What happened Cal?” Elina asked.
“A rain of fire in the middle of the night. They leveled the buildings, but one of the watchers had spotted a light out to sea and warned us in time.”
“Amateurs.” Snorted Elina, the Cubans had bombed the village off and on over the years, almost always at night and almost always the ship was spotted at a distance by one of the watchers before the first shell landed. The Cubans apparently weren’t too good at operating in complete darkness.
“It was pretty intense, it lasted for hours and it was three of their new ships, two came around on the village side, the other one sailed up behind and started firing about forty minutes later.”
“Anyone get hurt?” Gus asked.
“Some, yeah, but the inlet was almost untouched, just a bomb or two hit the water. One started the rushes on fire and we had a hard time getting them out. Sammy had her baby during the explosions. She wanted to name him ‘Imp’ for coming at such a bad time, but she settled on Thomas Juan Diez. She says she’ll just call him ‘Imp’ instead.”
“No one died?” Elina asked incredulously.
Calvin shook his head, his sandy-colored, shoulder length hair shaking like a mop, “Died? No, I told you we got to the inlet, they didn’t even land anyone on shore, just bombed and bombed us and sailed away.”
“So how are things now?” Elina asked.
“Not too good, we set up water traps with the plastic we salvaged, and we’ve been eating coconuts, but we can’t get much fish from shore. A couple men went out on the north side with a canoe they cobbled together, that helps, but not much. It’s not good. That’s why I was hoping the helicopter was coming back. Maybe it could get Sammy and the baby off at least.”
Elina lifted her end of the crate, “We’ve got a bit of food. Military rations.”
“The whole crate is filled with them?” Calvin asked.
“Yeah. And there’s another near the old town square.”
Calvin shook his head, “We can’t go there, the Cubans shell us whenever they see us.”
“The helicopter was just here, they won’t dare come close so it should be safe for a little while, at least.” Elina said,
“That’s good news too. Rufino can take his canoe out into the ocean, maybe get in a few more hours of fishing before sunset.”
“Yeah, well, I think he might want to stay in, at least until he hears the news we bring.” Gus remarked.
The trio trudged farther back into the brush and marshland, where several more watchers met them, all of whom were happy to see them. No one brought up Gus’s status or inquired about Ramon, at least not until they arrived at the camp.
Jack, along with several others from the council strode up to Elina aggressively and asked, “Where’s Ramon? What did you do with him?”
“Last I saw him, he was alive and well, in Miami.” Gus said, then added, “Enlisted in the Cuban military. As a private, I think. I’m not up on my military uniforms, but I doubt they would trust him higher than that.”
“You lie!” Jack yelled, “You did this to us! You turned them against us!” Jack advanced on Gus, hands clenched into fists.
Elina stepped between the two men, “Back off, Jack. Let us explain what’s going on.”
“Out of my way, woman! He’s been the cause of all our problems and there is more than enough blame to smear you with some too, if you don’t back off.”
Elina put one hand on Jack’s bare chest and leaned in until her face was an inch from his, “I will not back off and those tactics will not work on me or the other council members, so I suggest you take a step back and listen to what I have to tell you.”
“Things have changed, Elina, the old council has been disbanded, you lost your place at it when you didn’t come back.”
“Well, with me and Ramon gone, I don’t think you had enough people to kick anyone off the council. In fact, I don’t even recall that we had a way to kick someone off the council. Where are Julienne and Roslyn? We’ll get this ironed out so you can sit the hell down and shut the hell up.”
The villagers didn’t say anything, but several of them looked towards a dilapidated hut near the shoreline. Elina noticed several of Ramon’s stoolies were in the crowd holding Miami specials or close combat weapons; one had an assault rifle.
Realization came to Elina quickly and her face flushed red, with a measured look she asked some of the crowd, “So when did this happen? A day after we left? Two? How long did Jack wait until he took over and implemented Ramon’s orders?”
“Shut up! You’ll learn your place here, now that things have changed! You’ll…” Jack stopped, puzzled as Elina ignored him and turned to look at Gus, who stared back at her levelly.
Elina didn’t say anything to him, but Gus gave a short shake of his head, then a shrug of his shoulders.
With an exasperated sigh, Jack reached out and grabbed Elina’s shoulder, pulling her around to face him, “Do not turn your back on me when I’m talking to you!”
Almost in slow motion Elina’s hand lashed out and punched Jack in the throat, he fell back, hands clutched around his neck as he struggled to breathe. The man with the assault rifle raised the barrel towards Elina. He let out a cry as Gus, seemingly appearing from thin air, broke his arm and backhanded him to the ground, catching up the rifle as he did so.
With a garbled yell those who has been the most adamant followers of Ramon before he left surged forward to attack the two. The assault rifle moved around in a ring pausing to let loose a bullet every so often, each bullet striking a man carrying a weapon. The vast majority of the villagers fled the scene of the fight, but a few stayed and tripped the attackers, divesting them of their weapons and holding them down to prevent them from joining the attack.
Elina spun in circle of destruction, every blow she landed would have killed a normal man, but left some of these men with only bruises. It quickly became apparent that Gus had only targeted the men with firearms as he spun around; no one left in the attack had a gun. As his last bullet was fired a burly man named Carlos, who had not been carrying a weapon when the combat started, tackled from behind Gus.
“Ole, Carlos!” The men shouted as they gathered around to secure Gus.
Elina spun and launched a kick at Carlos’s head, a super fast blow that might have crushed in his skull had it landed. The foot was deflected as he moved sideways on top of Gus, then he rolled away grappling with the smaller man as they rolled across the flattened marshland grasses.
A man clubbed Elina in the back, landing a blow on her left shoulder with a crunch that indicated broken bones. The tip of his club had broken off a hand span from the top and the men pulled back, anticipating that the fight was over. With some shock and muttered phrases to ward off evil, they watched as Elina stood up straight and thrust her shoulder back into place. She shook her arm out and clenched her fist, then asked, “Who will be first?”
“Stop, Elina.” Spoke a voice. An older man came forward carrying a dropped gun, it was pointed at her stomach.
“Ritchie, I wouldn’t think you would be caught up in this.”
“You weren’t here, I had to choose a side, I chose order over chaos.”
“You chose wrong.”
“I figured you would sort things out when you got back.”
Elina smiled and nodded, Ritchie and several other men and women who had been unarmed with the fight started had picked up the firearms and subtly shifted the weapons to point at Ramon’s group.
“Ritchie! Ramon will kill you for this.” Gasped Jack, as he struggled to rise to his feet.
“I don’t think so, Jack. Why don’t we all calm down and listen to what they have to say?” Ritchie said.
“They will speak lies!” Jack shouted.
Elina spotted Gus, with Carlos behind him, watching his back. The more vulnerable members of the village had pulled back to the edge of the encampment, but all were watching the proceedings with interest.
“We need to leave.” Elina said. “A ship is coming to evacuate us in a few hours. We have to go to Miami, the city is full of living people. We’ll be safe there.”
“We’ll be safe here! Ramon has talked to the Cubans, we’ve got a deal!” Jack yelled.
“Then why did they bomb yous?” Elina asked.
“That was a misunderstanding.” Jack said, his voice quieter.
“That was betrayal.” Gus said, “I spoke with Ramon, in Miami, I didn’t just see him. He wanted out, away from the Cubans.”
“You lie!” Jack yelled.
Spinning to face him, Elina said, “Shut your mouth. If you don’t keep it shut I will take your head off.”
Jack started to respond, but something in Elina’s eyes stopped him cold and the words died on his lips.
“Anyone who wants to stay here can stay here with Jack. The rest of you can wait at the village for the boat to come. There is food there. Someone get Julianne and Roslyn.”
“We’re here, Elina.” Called Roslyn’s voice, the old woman looked worse for the wear, but smiled bashfully at Elina when the woman glanced at her. “The others untied us when the show started. Who is coming for us? Perry?”
“No, some other people, Germans, who owe Perry a favor. Perry is in Miami. He needs our help.”
“He needs our help?” Roslyn asked, emphasizing ‘our’. She let out a dry chuckle and said, “I don’t think we can do much of anything to help him out anymore.”
“Maybe you should let me explain?”
“I think you should. First let’s get these Ramonites moved over to one side so we can keep a better eye on them.”
The group divided into two parts, the majority of the villagers dwarfed the Ramonite minority and kept close watch on them while Elina, with some words from Gus, explained exactly what they could do to help Perry and what he could offer them in exchange.