It was a clear sunny afternoon on the day that the pope dropped in for a visit. While drenched in sweat after a long run along the board walk adjacent to my beautiful beachfront mansion, I felt that the day was too exquisite to waste indoors and opted for some gardening instead.
As I manoeuvred around the rows of snow peas, corn and lettuce to pluck the remaining ripened roma tomatoes in the greenhouse, I was rocked by the sound of a rather large explosion overhead. I all but tumbled from the greenhouse, tripping over a clumsily left hose lying in the doorway. Once I reached the grass I squinted against the afternoon sun and glimpsed the flaming wreckage of a plane careening towards the earth. It looked pretty close too; must have been flying pretty low, and must have been a tourist flyover.
As gravity enticed the flaming remnants of the fuselage back towards the earth, I caught a glimpse of what was distinctly the tail section of a Cessna; it was definitely a tourist flyover. I took the mobile phone from my pocket and dialled ‘triple o’, quickly explaining the emergency, requesting fire and ambulance to rush to the area. I said that the explosion had occurred over quay extending from the private beach attached to my property, so any survivors were likely to land in the water.
It was at that point that I noticed two dark green parachutes floating well behind the plume of black smoke which had only just begun to dissipate. Something was wrong though; I tracked their course and could see that, unless something intervened, they were likely to land in the water close to the headland. That was a dangerous area, riddled with sharp granite rocks, shallow reefs and the accompanying undercurrents, and worst of all; it was riddled with tiger sharks. Instinct prevailed, I ran towards my private jetty to attempt a rescue.
Reaching the end of the jetty I frantically tugged at the sad excuse of a mooring knot holding my thirty foot cruising boat to the jetty. No luck, I had tied it the night before, after twelve too many glasses of wine and sixteen too many shots of chartreuse.. Once my omnipresent divers’ knife had sliced through the rope, I dove over the titanium gunwale, landing expertly on the drivers’ seat on the left side of the boat and turned the key.
The twin 120 horse power outboard motors responded instantly and roared to life. Engaging the drive shaft, I throttled forward, peeling away from the jetty at break neck speed. I reached the compartment in front of the steering wheel and pulled out my ray-ban sunglasses and removed a stack of CDs. I quickly selected the perfect disc and pushed it into the player. The theme song to ‘Baywatch’ chimed on, igniting within me the much needed motivation I needed to execute such a daring rescue.
Looking up through the windscreen, I could see that the green chutes were closing quickly on the ocean and rocks ahead; I would loose sight of them soon. I was closing the distance fast, though not fast enough. I pressed the small red button on the top of the throttle and a canister of nitrous-oxide injected its contents into the engine. I was instantly forced backwards into the cushioning of the seat at the craft accelerated from 50knotts to somewhere around 200.
The boat hurtled towards the headland at an inconceivable speed. I banked incrementally to angle in towards where I thought the now hidden parachutists should be. I watched the two chutes splash lightly into the ocean less than twenty metres from the granite rocks of the headland. I could see that both chutes were each carrying two people.
The boat was now only a few hundred in front of the rocks ahead, so I disengaged the turbo, and then throttled back the engine when the small LCD display showing the depth sent out an alarm tone. The reef was coming up quickly.
“Thank God”, one of them yelled, “someone has come to save us”. “Can you swim over”, I yelled, and the two closest began kicking over towards the boat. Using a pole secured under the gunwale to extend my reach, I helped the first pair to the boat and helped them aboard. Everything from their ubiquitous attire (albeit waterlogged) and general bulky frame suggested that they were security personnel. Of course, the holstered firearms in their coats registered as a dead giveaway. Once they were on deck, I used my trusty knife to disconnect the tandem couplings keeping them together and helped them to their feet so they could help bring the others aboard.
“I’m sorry to do this to you mate”, I held the knife to the chest of the guy closest to me, prodding him slightly, “throw your weapons overboard or get back in the water”. The other guy began to protest. “I don’t know who you guys are, and to be honest, I don’t give a fuck, toss your weapons or get back in the fucking water”, they both complied with mild apprehension. “There’s a good boy”, I said condescendingly to the behemoth, then placed my knife back in its sheath, “give us a hand with the others”.
“Swim”, I shouted to the other pair from the decking off the boat’s stern. I could see the reef and rocks mere centimetres below the hull of the boat, there was no way I could get any closer and they were at least triple the distance I could reach with the pole. “He’s unconscious”, shouted one of them, “and my legs are tangled around the chute cord”. I glanced at the two security personnel, their drawn out faces were already registering with shock as their bodies suffered withdrawal from the surges of adrenalin. “Damn it”, I exclaimed in resignation, slipped on the rubber reef shoes that were sprawled on the floor in the small cabin at the front of the craft, then dove shallowly into the warm water.
The second I hit the water, pain erupted down my side as a lance of coral gouged into my side under my ribs. A deep red cloud of blood filled the water.
Tiger sharks aren’t interested in humans in the same way as other sharks. While all sharks are exited by the promise of an easy meal that the smell of blood entices, not all will attack once they find the bloody culprit. Tiger sharks, on the other hand, will indiscriminately attack several times in quick succession as soon as they see the movement in the water, each bite tearing away a chunk of flesh, or an arm or leg. By the time they realise they don’t like the taste of the human flesh and swim away, you’ve bled to death and the rest of the ocean is feasting. In many ways, they are the most dangerous shark in the ocean.
Stifling the searing throb in my side, I kicked over to the other two, clamped onto their harness and kicked back towards the boat. Their combined weight, coupled with the mild current and the subsequent numbness overtaking my limbs as blood bubbled from my wound was forcing my head under the water for longer with each kick.
A few more kicks…I could see the boat through the fog of red clouding the water. With my head under the water, I wasn’t able to hear the men on the boat yelling and by the time I reached the side of the boat, both men had drawn their weapons and had begun firing absently behind us with another pair of firearms. “What the hell are you doing?” I yelled at the men through the barrage of small arms fire. “Sharks”, they replied, “they’re everywhere”. One of the men dropped their firearm and helped the two in the water into the boat as I gripped onto the rear decking.
The tear in my side was preventing me from lifting my bodyweight out of the water. Adrenalin surged through my body when I felt something rub hard against my leg. Oh fuck, I knew I had to get out of the water immediately. A hand found its way to my upper arm and I kicked for dear life, but just as my head cleared the side of the boat, the grip on my arm slipped and plunged again. As I fell back towards the water, I managed to hook a finger onto the railing. I breather through the pain as tendons and ligaments strained to hold my finger in place. Hands quickly gripped around my wrist, then my arm and I was thrown into the boat.
I landed heavily on the unconscious older man lying on the decking. He groaned as I rolled off him. I pulled myself up onto the driver’s seat and sat in place for a while as I caught my breath. Eventually I reached for the first aid kit under the seat and rummaged about for some bandaging. The wound wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had first thought, though it would probably require some stitches. In my periphery, I could see the three conscious men crowded over the other man, trying to bring him around. I tapped one of the security looking guys on the shoulder and gave him a bandage to wrap around my side which he promptly fixed in place.
Finally I stood up and walked towards the unconscious man sprawled on the decking. It was then that I noticed that the unconscious guy was quite old and was wearing the garb of a catholic priest or bishop, though white, with gold trim. Could it be?
To be continued… tomorrow!