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Adam and Eve and Bite Me

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‘Well, old son. It doesn’t look like Carruthers is here,’ Biggles, sweat stained and weary, regarded the beautiful tropical scenery with a jaundiced eye. ‘Let’s get back to the Embassy and see what Travers wants us to do next. I need to fill the old girl up before we do any more island hopping, anyway.’

Algy wiped a filthy hand down the side of his shorts before reaching for a cigarette.

‘I’m not sure that he’s had time to get here yet,’ he disagreed. ‘Why don’t I stay here whilst you fill up and return. It’s only a few miles out of your way to pick me up from here tomorrow rather than fly directly to the next area to be searched. Then again, if he’s lying low, he might show his face thinking that we’ve both gone and the island is his own again or arrive thinking no one is here.’

Biggles shrugged. ‘I suppose you might as well stay. As you say, it pays to be thorough and I’d hate to miss him by hours. Let me throw a couple of cans of dickey out so you won’t starve. Anything else you want?’

 

Algy watched the seaplane out of sight, then, carrying the provisions Biggles had left for him, made his way to a clearing in the lush forest where a small waterfall tinkled down a low cliff into a sparkling pool of water. Lianas fell vividly down the sides, covering much of the water-smoothed rock, with huge blossoms twining through to form a perch for the screeching birds and chattering monkeys. Algy noticed its sylvan attractions in an abstract sort of way, but his real attraction to the waterfall was the prospect of standing under its cool water until he was fresh and clean.

Keeping to the inside edge of the forest for no reason other than the sun was still hot and there was a modicum of shade given by the trees, Algy made his way to within a few yards of the waterfall, where, on a rock he remembered from their earlier exploration of the island, he laid his provisions, then, stripping off his clothes and picking up his bar of soap, stepped out from the forest edge to enjoy his long, cleansing shower under the waterfall.

He was utterly astonished to see a figure, also naked and holding a bar of soap, stepping simultaneously out from behind a particularly thick patch of lianas beside the waterfall, just forward and to the right of his own position. The angle was such that the man – and thank goodness it was a man, Algy thought, aware of his unclothed state –hadn’t seen him, although, as soon as either moved the man would no doubt become instantly aware of his presence. Algy’s second thought was that there was something familiar about the man, and as soon as he took a step forward, favouring one leg slightly, Algy realised who it was, unlikely though it was to meet him in this remote place. Wondering if this was the Carruthers they were searching for or if he was waiting for him, Algy reached back with his foot, attempting to silently regain the forest edge from where he could process this revelation and observe, only to put his foot on a desiccated frond which promptly snapped. Von Stalhein, whipped round, raising the hand holding the soap as though it was a gun.

‘You’re going to shoot me with a bar of Lifebuoy?’ Algy asked, raising his eyebrows. ‘I haven’t been hit by a bar of soap since I was a schoolboy and we squirted them at each other in the bath after rugger.’
Von Stalhein mastered himself, looking Algy up and down.

‘Come to make yourself beautiful for Bigglesworth?’ he sneered. ‘It will take more than soap. Or does he like dirty nails and rough edges?’

‘You can ask him yourself shortly,’ Algy shrugged, ‘He’s always interested in what you are doing. What are you doing, anyway? Apart from being a snake in this particular paradise?’

‘Why should I be doing anything except enjoying the scenery?’ von Stalhein asked softly. ‘I’m fond of nature in the raw.’ His eyes met Algy’s mockingly. ‘But perhaps I should withdraw and leave you to your own devices?’
He turned to leave.

‘Oh no, you don’t.’ Algy grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. ‘Not until I know what you are up to.’

‘So much interest in me, Lacey. Forgive me. I’m not used to it.’

‘Biggles will want to know,’ Algy returned, shortly.

 

Von Stalhein appeared to have reached an impasse. It was obvious that he wished to be elsewhere, and equally obvious that he didn’t want Algy to follow him. Armed only with a bar of soap, he didn’t have many options. Algy watched him consider the possibilities as he considered his own, a barefoot chase through the forest appealing to him as little as it did to von Stalhein.

If Algy hadn’t been watching so closely, he’d have missed the slight telegraphing of his intent, but he caught it and was able to lean away from the worst of the blow aimed at his face. Whatever von Stalhein was up to, he obviously didn’t want Algy interfering. Algy responded by jabbing him in the stomach but was too off balance to get any real weight behind his punch. Von Stalhein closed with him, grappling to gain the advantage afforded by his superior height.

‘This would be more pleasurable, Lacey, if it was taking place after you had bathed,’ he suggested.

Enraged, Algy hacked at the back of his ankle with his foot, tripping him, but von Stalhein pulled him down with him. They rolled over a couple of times on the tiny beach surrounding the pool, Algy ending up on the bottom. He had a small pebble sticking onto his back, his face against von Stalhein’s shoulder, and ridiculously, still had hold of his bar of soap. He felt his adversary shift his weight slightly, preparatory to reaching out, presumably for a rock to hit him with. Determined to prevent this, Algy wrapped his legs around von Stalhein’s legs and dropped his soap, gripping his assailant’s upper arms tightly only to find that the hand which had held the soap was too slippery to retain a firm grip. Lacking any other option, he bit hard into von Stalhein’s shoulder, hoping that he’d flinch enough that he could buck him off.

‘Are you trying to eat me or seduce me?’ von Stalhein grunted. ‘If the latter, then you need to work on your technique. It’s bad form to bite so hard without your partner’s consent. Or does Bigglesworth like it?’

Algy made an incoherent noise but didn’t let go. They were in another stalemate where neither could easily move without losing advantage. Once more it was von Stalhein who broke it, ripping the arm insecurely held by Algy’s soapy hand free and jabbing Algy with the flat of his hand under his ribs. Algy convulsed as von Stalhein rolled lithely free and to his feet, but managed to fling out his hand to catch at his opponent’s ankle and pull sharply. He was lucky, managing to trip him once more.

Von Stalhein lay still. Algy, rolling to his own feet, rubbing his side ruefully, saw that his head had connected with a stone. For a moment, he worried that he’d killed him, but then he saw the slight rise and fall of his chest and was reassured. Moving quickly, Algy pulled a couple of lianas free from the rock von Stalhein had emerged from behind. They concealed a small cave. Algy saw at a glance that it was empty bar a few possessions such a man might need when camping for a day or two. Hurrying back to von Stalhein’s prone form, he secured his ankles and wrists with the lianas, then reassured he was secure and probably alone, sluiced himself quickly clean under the waterfall before fetching his clothes, rinsing them out, then dressing in his still wet shorts. Von Stalhein wriggled to watch the latter part of Algy’s actions in sardonic silence.

‘Concealing your charms from me, Lacey?’ he enquired. ‘After what we’ve just shared.’

Algy sighed and took his newly rinsed shirt over to him, folding it in a pad to hold against his bloody head, helping him to sit up. It was going to be a long night waiting for Biggles’ return. Although, on the plus side, he was looking forward to telling Biggles that von Stalhein wanted to know how hard he liked to be bitten.