Read Fresh Flesh Online

Authors: Todd Russell

Tags: #fiction, #thriller, #horror, #suspense, #supernatural, #novel, #evil, #psychological thriller, #island, #forbidden, #ocean, #scary, #debut novel, #nightmare, #shipwrecked, #ocean beach, #banished, #romance at sea

Fresh Flesh (20 page)

BOOK: Fresh Flesh
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He dragged Bat's body like Butch Smith's;
holding him underneath the arms, naked feet painting a line across
the sand and dirt. As he dragged the bodies, Kyle tried not to
cloud his thoughts with the face of Richard Templin. But the face
kept coming to him, a haunting set of quick snapshots: Templin at
the beach: Templin in the cave. Templin screwing the woman. Templin
running. Templin. TEMPLIN.

Templin.

Templin was responsible for this.

Kyle laid Bat Jackson's body inside the home
the man had built, laid him flat on his back.

When the government had sent Kyle Roberts to
the island this allowed him to create a final collection. The one
masterpiece collection he'd been afraid to create in the woods for
fear of discovery and capture. On the island his collection of
humans was his most favorite.

Kyle Roberts had his own method of burial and
had been burying his men like this for eight years. They had to
have a burial ritual before becoming part of his human
collection.

He would bury his men inside their own
dwelling. If their knife was available—it almost always was—he'd
pin them to the earth with it so they would never be disturbed. If
the dead person's knife wasn't available, Kyle had a healthy supply
of replacements. If their knife was a long blade, Kyle would impale
them through the chest.

However, if it was a shorter one, he would
stick it through their neck. And if, by some strange, unnatural
act, their head was severed in the process—yes, it happened
sometimes—the whole body would be roasted and the surviving men
would have a grand feast.

Bat Jackson, the poor bastard, had never even
taken his knife. It lay on his rock seat. Bat was a brave man and
must have intended to take Templin with his bare hands.

Bless you, Bat.

Kyle picked up the knife, studying the length
of the blade. He switched to viewing the chest and throat of the
body beneath him. He opened Bat's eyelid and showed the dead man
his knife.

"What do you think, Bat? Long enough?" Kyle
inserted the knife into Bat's chest slowly, watching the flesh
separate into wet, squishy folds. Deeper—deeper—deeper. . .

"I think it will make it, Bat."

. . .deeper. . .deeper. . .stop. Ground. Kyle
looked at the two inches of blade that remained. He nodded,
impressed, and pounded the knife into the ground with his fist.

The dead body spasmed with rigor mortis, then
rested. Jumping Bat Jackson had been collected.

Kyle moved out of the camp and cursed the
sun. The intense rays bored holes in his head, as if angry as Kyle
over the terrible injustice of these two murders.

Templin,
Templin
was responsible.

Only Kyle was allowed to kill the convicts.
Templin should have known the rules. He would have known them if
Kyle had forced him to stay on their side of the island and to be
part of their group. There were rules and Templin had violated the
most sacred one: nobody harms but Kyle Roberts. Nobody collects
except Kyle Roberts.

Kyle shook his fist at the boiling sun.
"TEEEEEMMMMMPPPPLLLIIIIINNN!"

Kyle looked around the village and hollered:
"Gomez, Edison, French. Get your asses up and
fight
. Bring
me back the fucking bastard. Do you hear me? He kept a woman from
us. TEMPLIN'S GOT A WOMAN."

Kyle knelt down and pounded the dirt. He
started clawing it, dug in with such fury his fingernails tore
back. Took handfuls of dirt and held them up to the sun.

"Templin did this: Templin's responsible for
this! Hill! Forester! GET UP AND FIGHT HIM. HE'S GOT A WOMAN! A
WOMAN! A WOMAN!"

Gomez, Edison, French, Hill and Forester
didn't speak from their collected spots, pinned and rotting inside
their forts.

Tears rolled in streams from his eyes. At
last Kyle Roberts repeated softly: "A woman."

 

* * *

 

A harsh wind blew some of the dirt from his
now-bleeding fingertips.

After a long time he stood. His moment of
sorrow and rage was over. Now, he knew he must think of a next plan
of attack. He'd never believed it would last as long as it had.
There had been others who tested him on the island. Gomez had been
the first. He was trying to get a gang of Mexicans together and go
form their own camp. Templin had done it, so why not Gomez?

Kyle remembered offering to help Gomez chart
out a good camping spot. And when Gomez was turned Roberts stuck
him in the spine.

When Roberts returned with Gomez head on a
stick he told the other Mexican cons: "There is only one gang and
one camp on this island. If you cross me your head will end up on a
stick too."

Edison challenged Kyle on the spot and
Roberts easily killed him. French, the only other Mexican on the
island, said he didn't want to fight. But later that night, Kyle
Roberts slit French's throat when he slept.

After that there was no more talk about
forming separate gangs. This wasn't normal prison life. This was
their own private wilderness death row and Kyle was both inmate and
warden.

"No," Kyle muttered to himself, disbelieving
that Templin had been allowed island freedom that none of the other
cons had experienced. And how did Templin repay him? A woman washes
ashore and he tried to keep her to himself.

 

* * *

 

Fifteen minutes later, Walkins thrashed
through the ravine toward Roberts. He was still standing in the
middle of the camp surrounded by his human collection. His eyes
were still peering up at the sun. He was still thinking of ways to
enact suitable revenge. Thinking about his opponent.

TEMPLIN.

"Kyle," Walkins said again. Roberts looked
down from the sun and at the approaching figure.

"You better have good news."

"I do." Walkins nodded.

Kyle's eyebrows rose. "Talk to me."

"I ran into Seth while searching for them.
We've got them now. He's been watching them and says they are still
circling, but slowing down. Should we jump them now?"

Kyle made a fist. A smile surfaced on his
wind-blistered lips. "No, not yet."

Walkins looked surprised.

Kyle laughed. "Return to Seth and keep
watching them. Follow them until they camp for the night. When
Templin goes to sleep, he has to sooner or later, come get me. I'll
be here, waiting."

"But wouldn't—"

Problem child.

Walkins must have seen the cold look in
Kyle's eyes. He didn't push.

"When that son of a bitch sleeps, we'll take
the woman. Then we won't have to find him. He'll find us." Kyle
began to laugh.

"I like that." Walkins started laughing
too.

Kyle added, darkly serious: "And when Templin
comes to us, we'll torture him like no man has ever been tortured.
Punishment for his selfish actions and for what he did to Bat and
Butch. C is for Celebration."

Kyle waited excitedly for night to fall.

 

* * *

 

"Richard?" she said.

He looked up. "Yes?"

"You're forgiven."

"For what?"

She smirked. "Come on, you know what I
mean."

"No, I don't really know what you're
talk—"

Her eyes caught his. Fires burned in day
skies.

"Hitting you?" he pointed at his chest,
disbelieving.

"Yes," she said, "few men would have done for
me what you have here. You've saved my life, cheered me up during
the bad times. You've made this situation almost. . .bearable."

He studied her eyes. She hoped that sounded
like a compliment, because it was. The best compliment.

And then they leaned toward each other again.
Closer, closer and instead, Richard reached over and stroked
Jessica's shoulder.

"Thank you, that means a lot," Richard said.
"We better get going. It will be dark soon."

She nodded and they were on their way again.
The ravine opened up like a mouth and swallowed them.

 

* * *

 

When Kyle saw the message written on the dirt
floor his anger toward Templin intensified.

Templin's handiwork. He was taunting him now.
COCKY SON OF A BITCH!

Kyle Roberts hands started to tremble as he
read the message. When he finished, he ran out to the camp and
screamed Templin's name. Screamed warning to Templin that he would
not die, never die, not until every last means of torture was borne
upon him.

He looked down and read it once again,
something boiling inside him as his lips moved:

 

Two presents for your collection, you
sadistic bastard. This isn't about the woman, it's between you and
I. We've been headed for a showdown since the day we got here but
it took Jessica washing ashore to make me realize that fighting YOU
is the only way to escape this island prison. Game on, fucker!

 

He shredded the paper. The words were
engraved on his brain.

COCKY SON OF A BITCH!

Oh, but Templin's time was coming. Oh,
yes.

Soon.

 

CHAPTER 27

 

Night came without conflict.

They had circled the island for several hours
at a brisk pace, keeping close to the shoreline. She watched the
sun slide across the horizon, from overhead, to way off in the
distance, to the spot where it sank into the ocean.

The moon rose.

Tonight a full moon.

She gripped her new weapon, the switchblade,
like a good friend. Richard had offered her Bobby's knife instead
and she politely declined. The thought of using a dead man's knife
felt wrong.

The wrestler, she reminded herself, I killed
Jumping Bat Jackson the wrestler. Killed with the same hands that
once shined with beautifully manicured nails. The same hands that
held her multi-millionaire husband on the covers of countless
magazines, newspapers and yes, even scandal sheets.

And some perverse humor struck her if the
paparazzi could see her now. See her with these same hands that
once spoke of youth and innocence, but now spoke of horrific
surroundings.

She was a killer. The headline: RICH MOGUL'S
WIFE KILLS INSANE WRESTLER ON FISH-STINKING BEACH. And perhaps a
follow-up headline: JUST LOOK AT HER HAIR.

No. She had no choice. It was self-defense.
If she hadn't killed the wrestler, he would have done her
worse.

Surrendered her to Kyle Kollector
Roberts.

She thought of how her life had been
transformed over the last two months. Not transformed, more like
dissembled and destroyed. She was no longer Jessica Stanton, wife
of rich mogul Edward Stanton, and knew she never would be again.
The island had stolen her life like the others. The world probably
believed she was dead. It had changed Jessica, broken down the
plaster walls that money had surrounded her with. Here, she was
forced to show her independence. There was Richard, and he was a
godsend, but he didn't pamper her like the servants back at the
mansion. Jessica had never, in fact, felt more independent than the
day she washed ashore. The irony was that it was liberating.

Before Edward there had been Ron, who was the
'just there' guy; he was boring. But hey, he was a lawyer and
Jessica's mother had been adamant about which profession her spouse
should be in (anything in the six-digit income bracket would
suffice).

She had married Ron right out of college,
which had made her four-year stay an absolute waste. She had
majored in journalism and was interested in TV, radio, or working
as a reporter.

She loved kids but she didn't think she'd
ever get the chance to have any. Ron had been fixed and Edward's
low sperm count couldn't be fixed.

Things between Ron and her crumbled not long
after the newlywed newness wore off. Edward found an interest in
her almost the next day, and in five months their marriage was in
the works. The island was the one missing piece in her jigsaw
puzzle life. Independence. Here, on the island, there were no
helping hands. The island had forced her to face fate in its own
haunting, mysterious way.

Sooner or later she had to recognize herself,
not Edward Stanton's or Ron Nesbit's wife, or even the daughter of
Frank and Elizabeth Snow. The island was responsible for all this,
and probably much more than she understood or imagined. This place
had become her destiny too. Everyone who had come to the island,
she realized with stunning clarity, had been forced to face their
true selves. Was that the punishment the government deemed worse
than death? Recognizing the deepest, darkest part of your inner
being?

And for most of the participants it was.

 

* * *

 

Richard stopped the circling by tugging her
hand. She looked around and saw only darkness. The surrounding
ravine was barely illuminated by the fat, full moon lying up in the
sky.

"Are you ready to get a little sleep?"

"No way," she replied.

"No way?"

"You're the one who needs sleep, Richard. You
didn't get any last night, and with all that's happened today. .
."

"So now you're my mother?"

"I'd like to hear about your mother. You
don't talk about your family."

"We went through that. You are the only one
on the island with any family, Jessica."

"Come on, you must have somebody back there?
Somebody back in the states you'd go see if you could?"

Richard thought about that for a minute.
"Pete Jones."

"Who's that?"

"Good friend in high school. He wasn't at the
party that night I got in trouble. He told me not to go, actually.
I should have gone over to his house and listened to Skynyrd
records instead." Richard circled their surroundings with a
pointing finger. "Freebird, my ass."

They both listened to the waves crashing in
the distance. Both wondered where their three stalkers were. If
they were close, far, or had given up for the night?

BOOK: Fresh Flesh
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