They both listened, but the men seemed to have stopped talking.
"I'm going to go see," she said. She was up the companionway before he could stop her. The men were still quiet, so he thought Mandy was too late anyway -- the other man had probably left. He squirted some toilet bowl cleaner into the bowl and began to scrub -- let Mandy get in trouble for not working.
He heard a loud thud and wondered if his dumb sister had tripped. He listened and could hear quick footsteps -- too heavy to be Amanda's. His dad running? He thought he heard her yelp. He stepped out of the head, listened. Hell, maybe she did fall.
He started toward the companionway just as she came stumbling down the ladder. Her face was white, and she was clutching her throat. A bright red wash of blood covered her hands, her arms, the entire front of her body.
Her eyes were wide and terrified, pleading with him. Her mouth formed some unspoken word just before she collapsed in a heap at the foot of the ladder. As she fell, her hand came away from her throat, and he was sprayed with her warm blood.
"Mandy!" he screamed.
There was a cut on her neck -- blood continued to spray from it in smaller and smaller spurts.
"Dad!" he yelled. "Dad! Help!"
He heard hurried steps and looked up, expecting to see his father.
A pirate stood at the top of the ladder.
The man who looked down at him was wearing a black eye patch over his left eye and carried a glinting piece of steel -- though it was a small knife, not a cutlass -- and the man's dark clothes were modern.
Seth turned and ran in blind panic toward the bow. But there was no escape except through the hatch, and no shelter -- except the small head. He dodged into it, turning to close the door on his attacker just as the knife came slashing. He raised his hands in defense, and the knife cut across his fingers. Screaming in pain, he whirled and threw his back against the door, catching the attacker's arm. The attacker shoved hard, moving one step in. Seth ground his heel into the man's foot. The man gave a grunt of pain and pulled the foot back even as he slashed with the knife, cutting across the front of Seth's neck. Only as he reached up with bloodied hands to cover the wound did Seth catch his own reflection in the mirror. Realizing that this was how the man had aimed the blow, Seth jammed his shoulder against the man's arm, pinning it to the wall, then hit the light switch. He felt dizzy, but forced himself to stay on his feet. With a fumbling grasp, he used his less injured left hand to pick up the open plastic bottle of toilet bowl cleaner on the sink counter. He put it up to where the man's good eye was peering in -- and squeezed the plastic bottle between the wall and his palm.
He didn't think any of the chemical had hit the man -- who must have seen it coming, because he jerked back, cutting Seth's shoulder as he pulled the knife arm from beneath him. Free of this obstruction, the door slammed shut and Seth's weight held it closed. Seth dropped the cleaner even as he struggled with the lock, his fingers slippery and barely functioning. He managed to grab a towel, to hold it against his neck, but soon he could not stand. The pain was intense, and he felt himself weakening, his own blood warm and sticky and dampening his shirt. He wedged himself between the hull and the door, even as the attacker began slamming against it.
The door shook beneath the blows. It would give, Seth thought. He tried to yell, but found he couldn't make a sound.
The pounding stopped. The small room swam before him. Seth bent forward, trying to fight the feeling of faintness. No sooner had he moved than the wood where he had rested his head splintered inward with a bang -- split by a small ax. The attacker must have taken it from their camping gear. The man yanked the ax from the wood. Seth tried to drag himself away from the door before the second blow came, but found he could not. He brought his hands back to the towel at his throat, wondering if the ax's third blow would slice into his back.
Copyright © 2001 by Jan Burke
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