With the sun partway overhead, the beach had become a flurry of activity, like a knocked-over anthill. Teri had crews searching the nearby treeline for coconuts and bananas, and anything else edible. Another group was looking for fresh water, another exploring the coastline to the east to see if they could find…anything. Other groups were working on shelter, or entertaining the group of children, or any of the dozens of other things that need to be done.
Only Thomas and Hortense weren’t part of group, as Stephen continued to ‘perfect’ the makeshift cage he had created for the Red Midget the night before. At the moment, it looked like Thomas was actually trying to fasten some sort of water delivery device to the top of the cage… and it looked horrifyingly like a hamster feeder. Inside the cage, Red was spilling his guts, trying to give Thomas every scrap of information he could about his dealings with the Hacker. Anything to get a reprieve from the cramped cage. Hornet, Ivy and others had tried to convince Stephen to leave Red alone, but there was just too much else to do for them to try and soften the hardened heart of the CSWA owner.
Red’s information had been spotty at best. He maintained that he didn’t know who the Hacker was, just that he had been recruited to get revenge on Thomas and had been part of setting up the whole scheme on the Cruise Liner. He had no information on the Hacker’s motive or whereabouts…or why he wanted to get them off the ship – that part had been as much a surprise to him as to them all.
Having failed to sway Thomas’ mind with his useless information about the Hacker, Red reverted to a “remember the good old days” approach, trying to appeal to Thomas’s memories of their years alone together on an island like this one. Those stories just made Thomas purse his lips further and work even more furiously on making the cage more and more sound – even going as far as to find a way to put the whole thing on makeshift wheels found from various luggage on the beach. That led to Hortense pulling the cage-cum-cart around the beach as Thomas finally took a break for water and foot. He refused to leave the cage… so the cage had to come with him.
JA’s exploration team came back and reported on a nearby cave to the east that could be used as a more permanent shelter. It was clear of any large animals and could at least be used to keep the children out of the heat of the day. Plus, it was near a small lagoon that looked like it might be a good water source. None of them had drunk the water, of course, but it appeared to be fresh and could be boiled to make it safe.
As JA and his team continued to report on what they had found, Red began launching into some story to Thomas. Shortly after their plane crash years ago, they had found a cave shortly after being marooned on their island. Thomas had argued that he had found the cave and made Red live on the beach, as far away as he could. Red had made a small shelter for himself – apparently eventually Thomas had found the cave uncomfortable and had been forced to ask Red for help with creating a shelter of his own. The story seemed to run interminably, a whole history of their first few weeks on the island – the cave this, the lagoon that, blah blah blah the cove blah blah blah.
“What did you say?,” JA asked Red, interrupting his own report.
“I was just talking about the day we explored and found the cove to the east. A lot of great crab-hunting there, at least once Mr. Squeamish here figured out that we were going to have to actually ‘hunt’ if we wanted to eat. Sometimes I wish I had never showed him how to use that rock,” Red responded, rubbing the back of his head in remembrance.
“You said a cove to the east? And it was past the cave that you originally found? And a freshwater lagoon?”
“Yep. We got around the lagoon and found the cove, shaped like a half-moon. You could look out to sandbar and see the gulls sitting out there. It’s funny, actually, we got so comfortable there that we never explored to the west. If we had, we would’ve found the…”
“Like a half-moon? Um, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think we’re on the same island,” JA said.
“What!?,” they all responded at once, except Thomas, still oblivious.
“The cave, the lagoon, the cove, they’re all in exactly the same area that Red here explained, down to the detail of sandbar and the seagulls. I could take him down there and we could make sure…”
”NO!,” Thomas exploded, “The little traitor stays with me.”
“Stephen, you can’t just keep him in a box forever,” Teri interjected. “We need to see if this is the same place. If it is…. How did the two of you get off the island anyway?”
“Like I was saying, if we had just explored to the west at first, we would’ve found out much earlier…”
Red trailed off as Joey Melton yelled a big “Look what I found!” down the beach from the west.