The sudden silence shrieked a warning more clearly than an angry howler monkey and three intrepid explorers dropped to the ground, narrowly avoiding yet another trap. The spiked tree trunk swung over their heads and Val swore.
Kate spared him a glance. “Missing that shirt yet, Val?”
Val leapt as the trunk passed over and slashed the rough rope supporting one end. His feet touched the ground and the spike studded death trap crashed through the jungle.
Mud smeared Val’s skin and leaf debris peppered his bare shoulders. He grinned. “Not in the least.” He tossed his unsheathed machete from hand to hand.
Kate scowled at him. She had yet to kick any monkeys with her cool boots and her clothes contained an interesting mixture of mud, leaves, and the occasional rock. Perhaps Val hadn’t worn a shirt so that it would not get ruined. Nope, that would be attributing thought to the action. Kate dusted herself off the best she could. Maybe Val’s muscles were actually intimidating the island. Felix, who had somehow avoided the worst of the mud, as usual, clasped both their shoulders. “With this many traps, there has got to be something here.” At Kate’s glare, Felix tilted his head. He considered a moment, taking in the stubborn set of Kate’s jaw and the slight tick at her forehead. “We’ve been out here awhile maybe we should all have a snack.”
Startled into a blink, Kate thought for a moment, and then drew the somewhat squished banana bread out of her belt pouch. She handed a slice to each of the men, and kept the last for herself. The three stood back to back munching bread and watching the jungle as the raucous calling of birds, monkeys, and unidentified large mammals filled the silence. Mel’s banana bread tasted of sunshine, butter, and hugs. Well, and sugar, but that goes without saying. Kate licked the last of the crumbs from the bandanna. She sighed and her shoulders relaxed.
Felix looked her over. “Feel better?”
Kate reviewed the recent action. “That was an awesome leap, Val.” Humor returned to her dark eyes as she admitted, “So I may have been a little hungry.”
Val shook his head and turned to start slashing his way through the tangled vines and underbrush. “Any bets on whether or not the traps were set by cannibalistic natives, pygmies, or ancient fanatics?”
“Not cannibals. They would have swarmed already,” Felix said. “I mean, we aren’t inconspicuous.”
“Pygmies would have set that tree trap to crush our knee caps, not our midsections,” Kate mused.
“And ancient fanatics would not have used rope. I mean, if they had, it would not have lasted that long. Which means we get to face something new.” Felix grinned.
Val slashed through a thick mat of vines and brought the group face to face with monkeys. A baker’s dozen of knee height shrieking primates, beady eyes all fixed on the blonde captain with wide green eyes, his brown haired bedraggled first mate, and the towering six foot machete wielding buccaneer.
“I’ve got this.”
Felix and Val exchanged a look. Val shrugged and sheathed his machetes. Felix bowed to Kate and gestured her forward. The monkey’s screamed a challenge. Kate threw her hands above her head and screamed right back. Ululating a war cry, Kate charged, not bothering to pull her pistols. After all, she had cool boots. Monkey’s swarmed around the first mate and went flying out in a ring after her circle kick. Hair was pulled, fur flew, and some boots were made to kick monkeys. The monkeys fled. Kate stood in the middle of the clearing grinning like a maniac.
“It’s moments like this, that remind me why she’s my first mate,” Felix said.
“Would’ve been over sooner if she’d still been hungry,” Val replied.
“That is only to be done in dire emergencies.” Felix watched Kate tie a bandanna around her head.
Kate walked back to her friends. “Well,” she sang, “I feel much better.”
“Well enough to handle mud?” Val asked.
“Mud, cannibal pygmies, and whatever else this charming rock can throw at us.” Kate tossed back. She swaggered to the other side of the clearing and looked back just as an ominous rumble sounded over the isle.
Felix and Val sauntered over the crushed leaves and ferns of the clearing. “That,” Felix said, “sounded like fun.”
“Onward!” Kate and Val chorused. They started winding their way through the jungle when something occurred to Kate.
“Felix,” she asked.
“What are we looking for?”
“No idea,” Felix replied cheerfully.
“What?” Val and Kate responded in shock.
“It’s not like the map came with a title or anything.” Felix decided, that good mood or no, now was the time to press forward and have his loyal crew follow.
“Figures,” Kate muttered.
Val just shook his head. There’d be something there. That was the captain’s luck.