FOGGY BOTTOM LODGE,*
(OCT. 31, 1980)
INTERLUDE THE SECOND
Sherman Peabody, the president of the lodge, introduced his two guests to each other as they entered his soundproof office.
"Admiral Harold Buckler, Junior; Office of Naval Intelligence? Mr. Gilbert Alexander Gouverneur III; National Linnaean Society.
The aforementioned men shook hands with each other before sitting down at President Peabody's request.
"We'll start with you, Gil. Did you get a chance to peruse the Liebenkraft diary?"
"And?" his host prompted.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say that some pot-headed Hollywood hack had written a plagiarized hybrid of KING KONG, ALIEN, and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON!"
Admiral Buckler snorted with bemusement. Causing President Peabody to frown.
"I was hoping for a more pragmatic assessment."
"Very well," replied Gouverneur: "It's the same island, alright. I'd stake my life on it!"
The lodge president nodded: "What about you, admiral?"
Buckler's face was absolutely grim.
"The Gunderson journal is no forgery. Our forensic experts confirmed it."
President Peabody shook his head and sighed.
"I was afraid of that! The question now becomes: do we allow the expedition to go forward...or not?"
* * * * *
FEBRUARY 16, 1981
(KEN SCHUYLER'S P.O.V.)
I took one last look at the scene on the VCR's monitor. Tiger-striped jellyfish ephyra swallowing seahorses that resembled verdant specimens of Siokunichthys. Only for some of them to get swallowed up, in turn, by specimens of Fungia scruposa. Almost as if in poetic justice!
"The speedboat's ready, Ken," said Captain Corbett.
I nodded and left the wheelhouse, accompanied by Celeste Saucier. I took the driver's seat while she sat beside me. The wind whipped up by our passage towards the lagoon causing her wavy blonde hair to stream backwards like a golden army banner.
"Golden army banner?" I mentally repeated to myself: "Get a grip, guy. Focus on the task at hand!"
Still, despite my self-reproof, I couldn't help stealing another glance at Celeste. Which turned out to be a mixed blessing as I caught her stealing a similar glance at me! So, I cleared my head with a quick shake and resumed staring straight ahead. Resulting in a chuckle or two being issued by the vocal cords in Celeste's lovely, supple neck.
[Oh, God! Was I going to need a cold shower when we got back to the ship.]
Ten minutes later, we pulled into the shallows of the beach where Celeste had landed her hang glider. So, naturally, she was the first to jump off the boat and wade ashore. While I climbed over the gunwale--in a slower and more dignified fashion--in order to securely bury the boat's anchor above the muddy waterline.
That's why she was the first to notice Lydell Briggs' absence.
"Dell?" she called out through cupped hands: "It's us. Ken and Celeste. We're here to bring you back to the ship. Professor Stewart's orders."
I looked around. Sure enough; Dell was nowhere to be seen. The only other sign we were in the right place (besides the hang glider, itself) was Dell's wet suit lying, in full view, on the sand. It was only when I bent down, to pick up the astronaut-like helmet, that I noticed something else.
An arrow drawn into the sand, with a naval glow stick marking the junction of shaft and arrowhead!
"The arrow's pointing towards the start of that jungle trail," I pointed out: "Dell must've decided to do some exploring while he waited. And he covered the arrow with his helmet to keep it from getting erased by either the wind or passing sea turtle bellies."
Celeste buttoned her light blue shirt and tightened the belt on her white shorts, accordingly.
"We'd better go get him, then."
I nodded and followed her, after placing the dive helmet back on the ground.
The trail was relatively easy to follow for the first several yards. Gradually, however, it began to ascend. With rocks sticking up out of the ground, here and there, in consequence. Finally, after about twenty minutes, I called out to Celeste for a rest break. Although, more for myself than for her. The girl wasn't even gasping!
She smiled at me.
"Getting a little winded?"
I merely nodded (too busy just inhaling).
She chuckled: "Poor baby! Here; let me give you some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."
Before I could even make a half-serious attempt to stop, she had put her arms around my neck and laid a big wet lip-lock on me! I uttered a startled, instinctive "mmmph" for about a microsecond. Then, I just gave in and returned the kiss. My arms wrapping around the small of her back, at the same time.
I don't know exactly how long we stood like that. Yet, I do know we pulled apart in perfect unison...and for the same reason.
A faint cry for help.
"Did you hear that?" I whispered to her.
She nodded. We then looked around, searching for the source of it. Our ears simultaneously straining for a repetition of it. Of course, I'm sure you're all thinking to yourselves:
"You know what they say about getting one's wish!"
In retrospect, I wish that saying had popped into my head, right then and there. But, at that time, I was too distracted by the sight of what--or rather who--was coming down, from much further up that jungle trail, to meet us. It was Dell! Although, not as I clearly remembered him from that morning. You see, he looked much shorter, now. More specifically? He looked about the same size as one of one of those African pygmies much-photographed by NATIONAL LINNAEAN Magazine!
Just under four feet tall, at most.
Liebenkraft diary: See DIARY OF A NAZI ARCHEOLOGIST.
Siokunichthys: the mushroom-coral pipefish.