Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The River Boat chapter 4 cont.

"You had enough?" Dan asked. George remained silent. Dan seized George by the chin, fingers sinking into the flesh, and swung his head back and forth. “Ah, I believe that's a no!”
Dan pummeled George in the face until it was a mass of blood. Clare screamed for him to stop but to no avail. Dan continued to pummel George in the face. Dan stopped then reached over and put his thumb on the bullet wound and pressed down. George's screaming reverberated and echoed from both sides of the river. Fortunately for him he lost consciousness.

Getting up, Dan then turned to Clare. Seizing her by the shoulders he squeezed until she went down on her knees and cried out for him to stop. "Bitch!", he screamed, spittle flying in her face. Pulling her back up by the hair he cuffed her twice across the face, then pushed her backward with such force that the chair she landed in broke apart under her. Blood ran out of her nose. Clutching her by the hair with his left hand, he stood her up against the wall and struck her on the lower jaw with his right fist. Switching hands he struck her on the other side with his left fist. Clare closed her eyes and wished she would lose consciousness like George. The next blow was to the stomach. Clare doubled over with pain and fought to catch her breath. Jerking her back up by the hair he picked her up and raised her over his head and threw her against the wall over the kitchen counter.

Clare lay on the counter with all the kitchen paraphernalia that had been hanging on a wall rack scattered everywhere about her. At Clare's head,

Natty screamed and cried. She had been sitting there since
supper, too fear-filled to cry out or move. Natty leaned over and
put her arms around Clare's head and cried, "Cla, Cla, I lav Cla, Cla het."
Dan pulled out a chair and sat down facing Sandy at the helm. Picking up his discarded bottle he tilted it to his mouth and held it there till it was empty.

"OK, kid, unless you want to try some thing funny too, do it now, so I can fix that, too, like I did the others, or you can go
fix them up some. I'll take over at the helm.” Taking another
bottle from his duffel bag Dan walked a little unsteadily to the
Sandy didn't know who to start with. She went to check on Ray, she needed his help. Sandy checked his pulse, it was normal. She then checked the back of his head. There was some swelling and blood had coagulated from a small tear in the scalp but there was no indication of severe damage.

As she went to the kitchen to get a wet cloth she glanced at Clare and had to gulp hard to keep from retching. The man on the floor did not seem to be in much better shape. Sandy folded up a tea cloth and ran cold water over it. She tried to take Natty with her but she only cried louder, “Cla het, Cla het”, she held Clare's battered head; the eyes stared blankly at the ceiling.
Tears rolled down Sandy's cheeks. This was the first adult she had come to trust since before her mother's trauma. How many more people in their lives will this beast destroy, Sandy thought, looking at the back of Dan's head
wishing she had a gun.
Ray felt a dull ache at the back of his head and a stinging to his cheeks. A faint voice came to him like from a great distance, there was another stinging on his cheeks then he felt something cold on his forehead.
"Please, Ray wake up," Sandy said over and over slapping his cheeks, applying cold compresses and massaging his temples. Ray opened his eyes.

"Thank God you're awake, Sandy said excitedly. Are you alright?"
"Where is he?", Ray asked, raising up on his elbows.

"Forget about him, I need your help. There's a man on the floor that's badly beaten up and Clare, I don't even know if she's alive. Natty is holding her crying and she doesn't want to leave her."
Dan's voice shouted, "Shut up!"

There was a loud crash then silence. Ray was on his feet, the room spun around him and there was a flash of pain at the back of his head, he struggled to stay up saying, “If he hurts her, I swear to God I'll kill him.”
Sandy helped him to the kitchen. Natty sat in the same position holding Clare's head. She trembled with fear.
"What did he do?”, Ray asked Natty. Natty just sat and trembled. “It's OK Sprite, he won't hurt you, I promise you that."

Dan laughed, "Don't make promises you may not be able to keep son."
Ray just stared at him but didn't say anything. He would be smart this time. He would keep his mouth shut and wait for the right time. The right time would come.

“Sandy, I think Clare is going to need CPR. Clear a place on the floor, hurry!
Ray worked on Clare for the better part of an hour before he got normal breathing and pulse rate. “She's out of danger for now,” he informed Sandy. Let's go look at the man.”

Sandy breathed in relief. Her friend was going to make it, thanks to her brother. She knew CPR but she was not sure she could have performed under this stress as well as her brother did.
George had a broken nose, possibly four broken ribs, a bruised abdomen, back, and legs but the bullet wound was the most pressing.
"Put some water on the stove to boil and find the skinning knife. It should be among that stuff on the counter."
Dan was somewhat amused at his son's knowledge of medicine. "Where did you learn all that stuff?", Dan asked.
"School," was Ray's only response. He was determined not to waste words with this man. It had only gained him threats on his life and bodily harm thus far. If he made himself as inconspicuous as possible it would give him a better chance to watch his every move and to be ready. A chance would arise soon, especially If he continued drinking the way he was, Ray thought. Sharpness of the mind to become sluggish with the accelerated
consumption of alcohol. Dan turned off the engine and stepped away from the helm.

"OK listen up the both of you. If you thought you would wait until I pass out or fall asleep then beat my brains in, think again. I have a plan, at first I thought about bumping you all off and be done with it, but I changed my mind."
"I've been thinking, if the cops were looking for you we'd have been swamped by cops back there at Helena. So this river boat is probably the safest place to be for the time being, but if they do come around I'll need someone to talk to them and if every thing starts to go screwy I can also use the rest of you as hostages. So this will be the sleeping arrangements from now on.

“Son, when you are done taking that bullet out of that pimp I want you and Sandy to take the pimp and his whore down below.” He pointed to Clare and George. “When that is done, you, Sandy and the brat over there go down below as well, and if the brat starts to squalling I'm going to start plug- ging holes in the floor with this here,” as he patted the gun.

Dan smiled and added, “Now I can have a good night's sleep without worrying about getting my throat slit."
Ray groped around for the lone light bulb that hung down from the ceiling. With the trap door closed the gasoline fumes were overwhelming. He stumbled around in bilge water half way up to his knees until his hand finally brushed against the light. He crossed his fingers and hoped it would work. As he was pulling the chain, the light sputtered dimly then brightened. It was a wonder any of the ancient wiring in the river boat still worked.
"Ray, Clare is having difficulty breathing again!" Sandy called out.

"It's no surprise. I think she has a collapsed lung and the air in here is not going to help. What did that S.O.B. hit her with anyway?" Ray asked.

"His fists, he just kept hitting her and hitting her," Sandy lowered her head into her two hands.
The platform near the engine was only wide enough to accommodate two.
Ray had placed George and Clare side by side on the platform, Natty slept between Clare's legs. She would not leave Clare. Maybe she thought it was

their mum come back, Ray mused. He and Sandy sat at the edge of the plat- form with their feet in the bilge water. Ray put his hand on her back consolingly.

"Sandy, I know she had become a good friend to both of us but we have to face the fact that we have to get through this on our own. No knight in shining armor is going to come to our rescue. We have to do this just like we started out to do.”

“It seems that every time we get close to someone, we lose them. All the more reason why we have to depend on our own selves. If we let ourselves get close to any one, it only ends in us getting hurt.”

“As for that up there I promise you I'm going to take him out with my own two hands," Ray squeezed his two hands into tight fists.

“I would sooner be down here in the fumes for ever then to lay eyes on that creature up there once more," Sandy revealed, meekly.

Ray got up and began to look for some thing he could use for a weapon. Minus the tool box that Dan had not missed spotting and had ordered Ray to bring up to him on deck, there was not much at hand. All he could find was an old rusty spike on a shelf that had been built for a work bench to do repairs on the motor. Ray pocketed the spike.

"Ray! Quick! I think Clare is coming around!," Sandy called out. Ray splashed back through the bilge water to the platform.

"Clare! Do you hear me, Ray asked fearfully. If you can't talk, blink your eyes once for yes and twice for no." Clare moved her lips but no sound came. She felt like a heavy leaden weight rested on her chest, making it difficult to talk and breathe. With some difficulty she blinked her eyes once. Ray bent down over her and kissed her on the forehead and lifted her head up gently with his right hand.

"Welcome back to the living." he said softly to her with a smile.
Natty had awakened to Clare's movements. "Lav Cla, lav Cla" Natty expressed ecstatically when she realized Clare was awake.

"There is a kid that's been keeping vigil on you since the start. We couldn't separate her from you if her life depended on it," Ray told her.

"We all missed you," Sandy revealed through her tears.
Clare spread her arms out to embrace them and whispered, "I love you guys like you were my own. I would do anything for your welfare and happiness. This I want you to believe. I'm not talking from a social workers perspec- tive but from the heart of a human being. You don't deserve the hell that
man up there has been putting you through," Clare said in a wheezing whis- per, then coughed. Ray set her head back down on the makeshift pillow
he had made with his shirt.

“Take it easy and don't try to talk, I think you may have a lung that came very near to collapsing. Try to rest as best you can, OK?” Ray urged.

Clare nodded her head in response and whispered, "You'll make a good doctor some day, Dr. Everett. How's George?"

"He's OK, don't worry about him. He has no serious internal damage. He may have a few aches and pains fore a few months to come but he'll make it through alright," Ray assured her.
"Want Cla, want Cla" Natty stood reaching out with her hands for Clare.

Sandy picked up Natty and set her between Clare and George. Natty immed- iately put her little arm around Clare's neck.

Clare whispered, "I love you sweetheart," as she placed her arm around Natty's waist.
"Lav Cla," Natty responded then went to sleep with her little arm still around Clare's neck.
Dan woke up to a pounding at the hatch. It was five thirty in the morning, his head ached and his stomach felt like he had eaten something rotten.

"Who ever you are, it had better be a good reason to wake me up, or you're going to think the previous beatings were a manicure in comparison to what you're going to get." He could hear a muffled voice under the hatch but could not make out the words that were being said.

"OK, OK just hold your bloody horses." Pushing the refrigerator off the hatch, Dan Opened it. Below, staring up at him was Ray's distressed face.

"The woman down there is dying, she needs fresh air, she has a collapsed lung and can't breath the stale air down here much longer.

"What makes you think that I give a damn about her?," Dan asked, grimacing to a wave of nausea.
"One less hostage, another murder rap and the prospect of two life senten- ces, if that means anything to you anymore. As it stands, if you get caught you can claim that you killed mum in a fit of anger while intoxicated; that way you might stand a chance of getting off with manslaughter during a fit of insanity while under the influence of alcohol."

"Are you going to tell me you are going through for law as well as medicine?," Dan growled, then thought his son knew all along that he had killed his mother.
He had not fooled them at all that night he took her away slung over his shoulder. When he was through with them he would not be able to let them them go, they would have to be silenced, for good!
"No, but think about it,” Ray responded.

Dan thought about this, scratching his stubble. Then he turned to Ray
in the hatch way.

"What will keep you from slitting my throat if I go back to sleep?," Dan asked skeptically.
"You can put the both of us outside on the front deck and lock the door. That way you can keep an eye on us and be perfectly safe inside. She needs all the oxygen she can get into her lungs."

"What's to keep you from swimming to shore?," Dan asked, wiping his shaky hand across his mouth. He needed a drink. His stomach was killing him and he wanted this to be done with.

"I can't swim,” Ray informed him. “Anyway what would prevent you from kill- ing my two sisters if I did try to swim to shore?"

"OK. Get her up on deck and fast, before I change my mind." Dan dropped the hatch back against the refrigerator and turned to his duffel bag. The neat little stacks of money still laid at the bottom of the bag. Dan stared at it in wonderment and thought, this will make it all worth it.

Taking a bottle out he zipped up the duffel bag and turned back towards the hatch. Ray carried Clare out with Sandy's help then came back inside to get blankets.

Back out on the deck he placed Clare as comfortably as he could on two of the blankets and wrapped her with the third. She seemed to be breathing easier. Dan stood at the helm scrutinizing him like an insect in a test tube, Ray thought. At least out here he couldn't hear his foul mouth.

It was another cool morning and the fresh air felt good after being cooped up in those fumes overnight. It had started to drizzle and Ray placed the patio table umbrella over Clare to keep her dry.

Ray absentmindedly fingered the rusty spike in his pocket trying to formulate a plan. Sandy gave Natty a bath and put her to bed in her crib with a bottle. She had instantly gone to sleep, the bottle forgotten rolled out of her hands. Sandy bent over the crib's railing and kissed her little sister on the forehead.

At one point through the night Clare's breathing had gone distressingly bad and they had to remove Natty so Clare could breath more easily. Poor Sprite, she was up most of the night crying for Clare. Just prior to her last attack Clare had motioned to Sandy to bring Natty to her.
Sandy had placed her once again as best she could between her and George, so Clare could put her arm around her to reassure her that she was there.

Sandy did not know how Natty would react when she awakened to find that

Clare was gone. George remained below, Dan had refused to help her bring him up and she had to make periodic trips below to check on him. He seemed to be breathing and resting reasonably well but he still had not regained consciousness.

Dan was back on the bottle and she made her self scarce staying out of sight, coming only when he called for her. She had been only called upon

twice thus far, Once to fix him a sandwich (she had wished she had poison readily at hand,) and one other time to get him a bottle in his duffel bag.

That was when she discovered all the money. Was this worth human lives? Was this all he had ever cared for?, she thought.

"OK, kid, you can take over for a while. I need to take a rest." "One word of warning: If you try anything funny, this here gun will be pointed right at the little brats head. Your brother better not try anything either. I can see the cabin door quite well from the bedroom. I've got two guns and I can use them just as well with either hand."
Sandy took over at the helm and turned the radio on softly to break the ominous silence. The news informed her that there was a manhunt in the

Helena area. The crash site of the speed boat had not turned up any trace of a body or the money. They believed that the suspect jumped ship before the crash. They suspected he had managed to swim to shore and that he had made his way into the wooded area on the east side of the river. Since nothing had yet turned up at any of the check points on both the water ways and roadways they consider him to still be at large in the woods. They went on to give a warning for everyone to keep their boats chained up and to be sure not to leave any keys in their car or to leave any vehicles unlocked. They concluded with a description of the suspect and gave out a warning to motorists not to pick up any one that remotely fit that description.

In a couple of hours they would be in Memphis and here they were still looking for him around Helena, Sandy thought with disappointment.

Sandy laid her head on her hands in pantomime of sleep to Ray who watched his sisters every move. Ray stuck his thumb up in response. Going to the
other side of the umbrella that covered Clare, Ray, took a tube of lipstick he had taken from a drawer in his mothers dresser when he had gone for the blankets and wrote in big letters, “CALL POLICE.”
To Ray's frustration, what few boats that came close enough to read the massage, seemed to pay no attention or they acted indifferently to the plea. Some people turned their heads the other way after reading the sign.
A heavy downpour quickly obliterated the lipstick writing. The only hope they had now was that some one would have a change of heart. Natty cried and Dan yelled for Sandy.
Sandy shut off the motor and let the river boat drift and rushed to the
bedroom fearing the worst.

"What happened?," Sandy asked in alarm.

"The brat just woke up crying like a banshee! I don't know. Who's steering the boat?," he asked uneasily.
"No one," Sandy responded, lifting Natty up from the crib. There was a loud thump and the whole structure of the riverboat groaned and creaked then came to a dead stop.

Dan, who had run out to take control at the helm flew head long into the control booth. There were crashing sounds all over the vessel as loose obj-ects fell to the floor. Ray had seen it coming and had flattened himself next to Clare holding on to her. They had slid along the deck right up to the railing at the bow, then all motion had stopped. They had hit bottom about twenty feet from shore.

Still a little to far for the dog paddle, he thought. Even if he could get to shore he would have to forget about it. He just couldn't leave the fate of the ones he loved in the hands of that raving maniac. Plus, he had a score to settle.
Clare stirred and opened her eyes. "What happened?," she asked in a distressed half-whisper.
"Welcome back to the living once more,” Ray said smiling. “As to what happened, I think were slightly beached for the time being," he told her.

Clare sat up, winced, and closed her eyes, saying, "Did you get the license number of that truck that just ran me over?"

Ray laughed and said, "Now those are good signs that you are among the living: pain and a sense of humor."
Ray tensed, there was a crashing followed by sounds of screaming and crying inside. Ray bolted for the door.
"Ray don't be a fool! He'll kill you!" Clare tried to shout after him.
Ray threw himself at the door. There was aloud crack and it swung inward with a bang. Ray staggered in. Sandy was on the floor next to the bedroom door. Blood ran down from her nose and one of her eyes had begun to blacken. Dan stood a short distance away holding the gun.
"Ray please don't be stupid, everything's alright, I just fell when we ran aground." Natty was in the bedroom screaming “San, Cla! San, Cla! over and over again.
"Go get that bitch on the deck. That brat won't shut up unless she sees her,” Dan demanded, “or else...”
He raised the gun to Sandy's head. “Four hostages will do quite well."
Ray took a step forward. The gun in Dan's hand clicked.

"Oh! brave boy here want's to try his luck again I see, By all means go for it. By the time you get to me, your sister's brains will be splattered all over the floor."

Ray raised his hands and said, “OK, cool it, I'm gone." Dan raised his left hand, waved daintily with his fingers and said, “Byeee" in a girl-like voice, smiling.

Ray was burning up inside when he helped Clare to her feet. "Don't be a fool Ray, I can see it in your face that you're in a seething rage, and the angrier you get the more of a kick he gets out of it. If he starts to think you are a threat it could get us all killed. He is unstable, and any little thing or outside pressure could make him go over the edge.” “I have seen

many of his kind in my work, when they are that sick, killing is just a release from fear and anger or retribution for their pain and suffering," Clare explained.

"What you are saying is that when he thinks we are no longer of use to him, and he's hurting he's going to kill us anyway, as a sort of revenge for all the wrong he thinks that's been done to him.

Clare put her hand on his shoulder and said, "You have the picture. Let's go before he starts thinking that we are conspiring against him. Paranoia runs high in the level of insanity he has reached, especially when he drink to excess like he does. He could even reach the point where he starts

shooting at imaginary things. If he does, don't you think for one minute that he is not aware of reality as well. He just confuse the two. All we can do now is lay low and stay out of his way and hope some one contacts the police."
"You were conscious when I wrote that message on the umbrella?," Ray asked surprised.

"Of course. Sometimes the best way to study a situation is to fake oblivion. I promise you I won't let either one of you down, you can trust me. I love you kids and I would give my life to protect you and your sisters." “I didn't lie when I said I would go to bat for you kids, When this is over I promise I will go to the highest supreme court to keep you together."

"I believe you, but I still want to find my uncle first," Ray replied.
Ray took Clare straight to the bedroom avoiding looking in the direction where Dan stood. Dan flapped his arms and clucked like a chicken, then laughed dementedly. Ray gritted his teeth and clenched and unclenched his fists. Clare picked up Natty who promptly wrapped her arms around her neck and buried her little face in her chest and sobbed.
"If he doesn't call for you, just stay here and cool off. If you try to confront him in a fit of anger all you're going to accomplish is get your self killed and I think he would welcome any excuse to do just that. He's been trying to goad you into it,can't you see that? Maybe deep down inside he fears you."

"You get in there with the rest of the fowl. I need time to think about what I'm going to do about this.'
There was the explosion of a gun and Sandy stumbled into the bedroom terror

stricken. The door was slammed with such force the room shook. Sandy sat on the floor against the closet crying.
"What did he do to you?," Ray asked, simmering with hate.
"Nothing, I just fell when we ran aground," Sandy mumbled in response.

"You don't get a black eye and a bloody nose from nothing, and the scream- ing, crashing and crying didn't occur until the boat had already come to a stop. He'll pay for this, I promise you he'll pay," Ray said between clenched teeth clutching the foot of the bed with both hands.

Clare did her best to massage Ray's shoulders to release the tension. She feared that he would burst through the door any second and get him self shot.

Her mind drifted to George. That poor man got himself beaten to an inch of his life. He must have really cared for her and these children. If he hadn't have cared she wouldn't be here now and God knows what would have become of these children. In her book he was a knight in shining armor, a hero, even though he had failed to save them from the villain. A thought came to her that sent a cold shiver through her; what if he was at this very minute, lying dead below their feet, a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning?

She had to go to him but she knew that the beast on the other side of the door would probably not think twice about shooting her just for disturbing him about the matter.

No, if she were to be of any use to the injured man below deck she would have to be patient and wait for the beast on the other side of the door to come to a more lucid state of mind.

She closed her eyes and began humming a favorite tune she knew. It wasn't long after that Sandy began to put the words to the song. The sound of Sandy's angelic voice brought tears to her eyes. Natty jumped off the bed to join her older sister on the

floor and sang with a halfhearted “Ya, ya, ya.”
At length Ray's corded hands relaxed their grip on the bed frame. Releasing his hold on the bed frame he let his hands slide to his lap. Getting up he
sat on the floor next to his two sisters and began humming along in unison with their song. Clare resumed her singing.

At the end of the song the entire river boat was in silence. It was as though the singing had cast out all the demons that had possessed the Missy for the past two days.

Clare prayed like she had never prayed before, asking God to spare the children and that she would be willing to sacrifice herself for their safety. She regretted only one thing in her life, that she had not had the privilege and the joy to have children of her own. She was one of those unfortunate women that would never know the joy of child bearing.

Natty had crawled back up onto the bed and lay with her head on Clares lap and was soon asleep, sucking on her thumb. Tears came to Clare's eyes once more while she patted the child's soft, golden hair.
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