DISCLAIMER: Uber. The characters are fictional and are not based on any persons appearing on PBS.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is sexually explicit. The sex is between two consenting adult women. It takes a while to get to the sex, but it's there.
Some blood and violence; a few lines dealing with attempted sexual abuse.
Animal abuse in two scenes.
Because it takes place in Kenya, there is some dialogue that is in Swahili, but translated into English.
Naughty words where appropriate.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I wish to thank and acknowledge Towandababe for her assistance in story content--with medical information and weaponry, and helping me put into print the action I saw in my head. Thanks for asking all the right questions. Also, she did a great job as my beta reader and editor. And a thank you to Sarah, my other beta reader who helped me define the characters.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Under the Kenyan Sky: A Romance
By Portia Richardson
"Hi." Serena looked up and caught Kate staring at her.
"It was everything I had dreamed." Kate's voice caught in her throat.
"For me, too."
Again, they lay quietly holding each other.
Serena looked up, raising her eyebrows at Kate, smiling. "I don't think my body..."
"No, no. Food. Weren't we going to have lunch?" Kate said, while playing with a few strands of blonde hair on Serena's forehead.
Serena laughed. "Oh, yeah. What happened?"
"You happened. You happened to me."
"Yeah." Serena extricated herself from Kate and sat up. "Let me go out and throw something together. How about chicken sandwiches?"
Kate pulled her back. "Not yet." She hesitated. "I think we need to talk about all this before we..."
Serena didn't want to hear it. Kate wanted no emotional attachment. Well, Serena was already emotionally attached and now she had succumbed to Kate physically. She was lost and she knew it. "We can wait a few minutes. I'll be right back.
"No, I want you to know that..."
"Let's eat. Okay?" Serena pulled away from Kate and rolled out of bed. "We'll talk later," she said as she slipped on her shorts and tank top, slid into her sandals.
Kate watched her. Serena's body was magnificent. "All right, but as soon as you get back. We need to make sure that we're both..."
Serena smiled, turned and stepped out of the tent. She knew Kate was going to remind her about her 'no strings clause.' She didn't want to deal with it yet. She was in love with her and simply had no control over it. So what Kate didn't share those feelings? That didn't mean they'd have to stop this. If Serena could handle it, Kate should be able to. She wasn't going to make any demands on Kate's emotions. She just wanted to be near her, with her, inside of her.
Kate smiled to herself for having been so foolish for so many months. All of those days she could have been making love with Serena. Wasted. Kate placed intertwined fingers behind her head as she thought about the last few hours. She had been with a lot of women over the years, but not one climbed so high with her and never was it like that the first time. Serena was simply remarkable.
She was lost in thought and didn't hear the cowbell at first. She opened her eyes and smiled. "Baby, you don't have to do that. Just come inside," she said seductively as she sat up. The sheet fell to her waist as she waited to greet her.
Lisa Calltreaux barged in pointing a gun. "Don't say a word or I'll shoot you right on the spot."
Kate pulled the sheet up. "What?" she asked in surprise.
"I've seen it all before, remember?"
Kate started to swing her legs over to stand.
Two men entered, one of whom Kate recognized from the horrible video she had taken almost a year ago. He would be going to trial soon, too.
Lisa looked at the men. "Well?"
"The girl's taken care of. Taped up. She won't be screaming out, not that it matters. We're the only ones here. The camp is deserted. She's tied."
"Don't you hurt her!" Kate shouted, the sheet falling into her lap.
Lisa and the men gazed appreciatively at Kate's chest, then Lisa said, "You are in no position to make demands." With the gun still pointing at her, she commanded, "Stand up," then turned to her goons. "Gimme two minutes, then send a flare up letting August know to bring the truck. Go!"
She motioned with the barrel of the gun for Kate to get out of bed. "C'mon. Up and at 'em. We've got things to do."
"I'm not doing anything."
Lisa bent and lifted Kate just above the elbow, bringing her to her feet. "Don't underestimate me, Kate. I " She shook her head. " don't like it. Up, up, up."
Kate stood next to her, but didn't budge. Lisa pressed into her, holding the gun at Kate's temple. "Do I have to dress you?"
Kate held her ground, belligerently crossing her arms. Lisa put her free arm around Kate's shoulders and leaned into her. "Get dressed. Don't make me tell you again." Delicately, Lisa caressed the tendrils of Kate's hair rubbing against her nose. She sniffed. "Umm. Somebody's been naughty. Your hair smells like pussy."
Kate jerked away and Lisa gave her a shove. "Dress! Or I'll go sniff out your precious little friend and give you a hundred reasons to obey."
"All right. My clothes are over there."
Lisa waved the gun in that direction and Kate deliberately chose the khaki pants and a long-sleeved safari shirt folded neatly on the chair rather than what she had been wearing. She dressed quickly. She sat and put on her socks and began lacing and tying her hiking boots. Both women turned at the sound of an approaching truck. Lisa walked to the opening and peeked out. Turning back to Kate, she smiled broadly. "Our ride's here."
Kate Chavez stood and confidently walked toward Lisa who immediately pushed her through the opening. Kate stumbled forward, then righted herself just as the two goons from earlier grabbed her.
"Tie her hands," Lisa said, and then to Kate, "and if you don't behave we'll hogtie you."
"I don't know what you have planned, but you're not getting away with it. I won't let you."
One man stood directly in front of Kate, drew back his arm, then propelled his fist forward and punched her in the gut. She doubled over in pain and only rose to her full height when she heard a muffled cry a few yards away.
It was dark, but the lantern light provided enough illumination for Kate to see Serena sitting on the ground, tied to the leg of the picnic table, her mouth covered with duct tape. Their eyes met, but there was nothing either could do to help the other.
Serena watched in horror as Kate's arms were yanked behind her. She heard her scream out in pain as her wrists were bound by heavy rope. She saw them drag her to the truck and throw her into the back just as she heard Kate yell out to her, "I'll get us out of this."
"Ha! Don't count on it." Lisa stared at Serena, jumped into the passengers' seat, then slammed the door of the SUV. The others got in and the truck sped off into the darkness, leaving Serena struggling in vain to free herself.
Kate had been unceremoniously dumped in the back of the SUV. Her body thrashed against the inside of the vehicle, first one side then the other as the driver sped off the Reserve, taking the southern trail.
On one wild turn, Kate crashed into the side, hitting her arm on a metal notch, some kind of hook. Her shirt ripped and she knew that the hook had taken out a chunk of skin. She was bleeding, but her mind was on the hook itself, not the injury. Rolling slightly she attempted to maneuver her body in front of the hook, then tried lodging the hook between the knots. She missed once, twice, three times. She kept trying. If she could get the hook in between, she might stand a chance at loosening the ties.
She didn't know how much time had passed--a few minutes or half an hour, she had been so concentrated on this one task. Finally, the hook was properly in place, she began to pull, stretching the rope back and forth, creating a larger hole. She felt it starting to give and quickly glanced toward the front at her captors. Kate was confident that she could free herself, but escaping from the truck would be next to impossible with four heavily armed people watching her every move.
"Penny for your thoughts, Kate?" Lisa called to her.
"Well, then I'll tell you what I was thinking."
"Spare me your madness," Kate answered while preoccupied with what would hopefully be a Houdini act.
"No, no, no. This concerns you. I was wondering if I should watch you die or just come in after the deed is done to see your bloody corpse."
"You are seriously demented."
"Yes, it will be bloody." Lisa laughed. "That's a promise I intend to keep."
Kate kept working, nudging the rope. Finally she stretched it enough that it gave completely. After that it was easy to manipulate the hook and get herself untied. She sat as still as possible in the truck, not changing position.
"Sweetie, we're almost home. I have a surprise waiting for you."
One of the goons guffawed.
"And it's big and furry."
Serena didn't know how much time had passed. either. Everything had happened so quickly. She had left Kate's tent to make sandwiches. She bent to look in one of the mini-fridges and when she stood, her mouth had been covered with a hand. Instantly, she knew it wasn't Kate. The hand was rough and large and she sensed it knew brutality.
Within a moment, the hand had been replaced by duct tape. Another man joined the first and tied her feet, then dragged her to the picnic table and secured her around one of the legs with thick rope and the heavy gray tape.
As they tied her, she saw Lisa Calltreaux entering Kate's tent. While she struggled, she heard brief snatches of conversation between the two women. She heard Kate's pleas and Lisa's threats. She saw the flare brighten the night sky. She watched Kate and Lisa step into the common area. Kate was beaten, tied, and thrown into a truck. Now there was nothing.
She blacked out from lack of air and she wasn't sure how long she had been under, but suddenly, she heard a truck, voices, the sound of people running toward her, she felt them tugging at the rope, her lips stung as the tape was pulled away. Through the fog of confusion and terror, she recognized a voice.
"Serena? What the hell happened?" Fear laced Dafton's voice.
Jimiyu cut through the rope and tape with a knife and then Dafton brought her arms around to the front, rubbed circulation back into her aching limbs.
"Kate. They've got Kate, "she said gasping for breath. She tried to get to her feet, but she was simply too weak. "Help me. We've got to find her."
Her long, thin Kenyan friend swept her up into his arms and ran with her to the rented SUV, stretching her out in the backseat. He climbed in behind her as Jimiyu charged toward the truck with a videocamera, two rifles, a handgun and three boxes of ammunition. He had also grabbed a pair of Serena's hiking boots from her tent. He threw everything beside him in the passenger's seat, then jumped in the seat behind the wheel.
"I think," Dafton said while alternately rubbing her arms and legs. She sobbed beside him.
"Lisa Calltreaux," Serena said.
"We were here last night, but Victor called and told us you and Kate were heading back, so we cleared out. We were camping not far from here. Jimiyu saw a flare go up and knew that there was danger."
"When? How long ago? Can we find them? Where they took Kate?" Serena was crying uncontrollably.
"Yes, Serena. We will find her." Jimiyu looked into his rearview mirror at Dafton.
"It's only been about 15 minutes. As soon as we saw the flare, we pulled ourselves together and drove out. We passed Lisa's truck going like a bat out of hell leaving here. Jimiyu raced back."
"Why didn't you follow her? Kate was inside."
"For all we knew, mate, Lisa had shot you and Kate point blank in the head and left you here to die. We only had one truck. We had to make a choice."
Jimiyu was driving as fast as possible as the truck bounced and jumped across the bumpy terrain. Serena finally sat up and looked out, searching for any clue. She looked past the front seat and out of the windshield. She saw tracks, but couldn't tell if they were fresh, if they were coming or going, if it was Lisa's truck. "Are those their tracks?"
"Yes." Jimiyu responded affirmatively, but it was instinct that had taken over. He had no idea about the tire tracks. He could track an animal without questioning his method, but he was just as stumped about this as Serena. He knew he had to keep driving out this way. It was the direction that Lisa had taken and it was the only one out of the Reserve from this side.
"We have to find her."
Dafton stared at Serena. He was panicked and scared, but Serena was far beyond that. Her eyes had a hardness he had never witnessed. Her expressions leapt from fearful to murderous. God, help them all if something dreadful had happened to Kate. He knew Serena would take no prisoners. And he knew that she would never recover.
"Dafton, I need that you check guns. Do you know to load them?" Jimiyu's English was getting sloppy and his eyes bulged from their sockets as he drove on.
"I'll do it." Serena answered adamantly while reaching over to grab a rifle and a box of shells. She leaned back in her seat, placed the shells in the rifle, checked it and snapped the safety in place. Methodically, she did the same to the other rifle, then the handgun, a Glock 9mm. When she had finished the handgun, she stuffed it into the back of her shorts, placing the spare clip in the pocket of her shorts.
They were off the Reserve. The roads were paved, but narrow. Kate couldn't see out, but she felt the difference and heard the sounds. The road was smooth, but branches slapped against the truck on both sides. She had no idea where she was or how long the journey would last. She knew the further she was removed from the familiar, the less chance she had of survival. She had to make a move, but what?
Soon, she was aware that the streets had widened and she heard the sound of other cars. Just as she had decided to create some kind of diversion, the truck came to a sudden stop. She heard doors open, the footsteps of people moving toward the back of the truck. When the door opened, Lisa and her men stood staring at her.
"C'mon sweetie. Let's move out."
Kate didn't move.
Lisa grabbed Kate at the ankles and dragged her across the truck and to the opening. As Kate pretended to struggle to sit up, she kicked the door with her foot as hard as she could. She heard the sound of a skull making contact with metal, then the scream from one of the men who now lay in a fetal position on the ground. Lisa pulled out her gun.
"I'd hate to change my plans, Kate. Don't make me kill you right here. I do have a divine justice planned for you." Lisa looked at the two standing men and said, "Help him up, I'll take her inside.
Quickly Lisa realized that Kate had freed herself from the rope bondage. Kate was fast, but a bullet would be faster and she reminded the filmmaker of this as she marched her in front of a large building. Kate could smell tea and coffee being processed. She was in the factory area of the city where building after building prepared the Kenyan teas and coffees that were the country's leading export.
Inside, the abandoned factory was in poor condition. Windows blown out, dirt and dust on the few pieces of equipment, a musty, dank smell of neglect was thick in the air. One large room and far in the back several smaller rooms, probably old offices. No longer in use, this was the perfect place for a misdeed to be conducted.
"Why are you doing this? You can get out of the country. You wouldn't even be extradited back here. It'll be over."
"As long as you're alive, it won't be over," Lisa said matter-of-factly.
"You think you won't be suspected? They'll come after you for murder."
"I'm not going to kill you. That's not in my plan."
The three men entered the factory. The one who had punched Kate back at the camp now held his sore head. His eyes were glazed over as he leaned on the other guy for support. When he looked up and saw Kate, he straightened and looked dead into her eyes.
"Let me take her out."
"You'll get your chance, but first our sweet Katie has some papers to sign." Lisa maneuvered Kate toward a table and pushed her into the only chair. "No need to read 'em dear. Just sign away."
"In your dreams."
She placed the gun on the opposite side of the table and bent to whisper to Kate. The filmmaker felt Lisa's spittle in her ear as she spoke. "This could save your life, Kate. I don't want to kill you. Not really. I just can't go to jail. If you sign these papers then that'll be the end of it. They say you lied, that you were out to destroy me, that it was all about a misunderstanding."
Kate looked up and whispered back to her in a reasonable and forthright tone. "I can go to a judge and tell 'em that. Why sign?" Kate was in Lisa's head and knew what was coming. She recognized a suicide note when she saw one.
"Because you could tell me you were doing that and then screw me again. I'm not going to spend the next thirty years sitting in an African prison."
"But I could tell them that this was signed under duress. I could still talk. That is..." she paused for affect. "If I'm alive. Which I won't be, will I?"
"Kill me, now. I'm not signing." Kate eyed the gun and wondered if she could get to it before Lisa.
"You goddamn lesbian bitch."
"And you are?"
"One of the last people you'll ever see." Lisa stood tall and stared down at her. Just then, Kate lunged for the gun.
It was in her hand. She kicked the chair out of the way and turned to face her captors. She lowered the gun when she saw three guns aiming at her heart. Lisa laughed hysterically. Kate knew she was defeated.
Even if she died, Serena would live. Serena wouldn't be a part of this. She had been left alive at the camp. She knew how Serena felt about her and if she had been given the chance, Kate would have explained her feelings for the chef. She was glad she hadn't. This would be painful enough.
They had driven off the Reserve and now they sat at a crossroads. There were three possibilities--left, right, or forward. Jimiyu closed his eyes, meditated on the choice. When he opened his eyes again, he was moving forward.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am."
Soon they were on the outskirts of Nairobi and now the choices were becoming innumerable--too many streets, too many pathways that might lead them to Kate or lead them nowhere.
"Jimmy, the building in that video Kate took? The video with the elephants? Do you know where it is?" Serena busily laced up her hiking boots while staring forward.
"That particular building has come down. All of those old factories are set for demolition."
"Is there a certain part of town where the factories are?"
"Yes, it is not far."
"One thing I know about Lisa from Kate is that she's lazy. She'll return to what and where she knows."
Jimiyu agreed and headed toward 'Caffeine Row,' the tea and coffee industry of Nairobi.
Dafton watched her. He had never seen her so single-minded. Everything was done with care and a steadiness he found disconcerting.
Jimiyu was there in minutes. He began driving up and down the streets. It wasn't a large area to cover, but there were alleys, dead ends, and unlit streets to investigate. There was silence in the truck, yet the adrenaline that pumped within the three was thick, almost palpable.
Street after street, nothing. Jimiyu turned into an alley thinking he saw movement, but when he approached, he saw only trash blowing between the buildings. He backed out and moved to the next street.
"We've got to find her."
"I know, I know."
Dafton's eyes were glued to the right, Serena's to the left, Jimiyu's searched in all directions. They each wondered if this was a wild goose chase. Maybe Lisa took her into the city or maybe they never made it out of the Reserve. Maybe Kate was dumped on the road or in some brush that they had already passed.
Serena's heart was pounding. She was finding it difficult to breathe. She had been struggling to stay focused, but as more time passed, she was falling apart. Losing Kate was not a possibility she could live with. She couldn't. Kate was a part of her and she couldn't cope without her. Irrationally, she replayed what had happened less than two hours earlier. Why hadn't she paid attention to her surroundings when she left Kate's tent? Why hadn't she heard the men? She should have lit lanterns immediately. If she had put up more of a struggle, maybe Kate could have been warned. They had to find her. She loved her.
Lisa shoved Kate forward, nudging her on with a gun pointed at her back. "Straight ahead. C'mon." They crossed to the far end of the factory. Lisa pushed a large green button next to one of the office doors and Kate heard the door unlock. Lisa opened it and pushed Kate inside.
The room was just an empty twenty by forty space, a wall with a door, two concrete walls opposite each other and opposite the door, a wall made up of a metal pull up door. The room had probably been part of a loading dock at one time.
Lisa stood in the doorframe, casually holding it open with her foot. "Welcome to your home. Don't think about decorating, you won't be staying long."
"I guess this is goodbye. Kate, sweet, sweet, Kate. Honorable Kate. Animal-loving Kate. I almost hate to have to do this. You were such a good lay. I never told you this, but you could fuck like nobody's business. I sometimes wonder how good it might have been if I had just...I dunno...liked you. Ah, but that was not to be. Now, here we are. I won't stay. I just can't bear to watch. It'll be over before you know it. Since you'll be just a memory, I want you to know what everyone else will about you. When this is all over, your life, your reputation, your dreams will all be destroyed. Gone, gone, gone." Lisa nodded her head. "This is my justice. Everything you took from me, I'm taking back."
"I took nothing from you. What ever has happened to you, you brought on yourself."
"Shut up, will you? Will you do me that favor? See ya."
Lisa yelled out the door to the goon who had been itching to pummel Kate. He entered the room as she held the door open. "Nandi, she's all yours. Do what you want, but don't kill her before dinner." Lisa smiled at Kate.
"I'm not hungry." Kate said.
"I wasn't talking about your dinner," Lisa answered sardonically.
"I'll come around in a few minutes. Leave the front opened for me." Nandi advanced toward Kate.
"No problem," Lisa said. She winked at Kate and closed the door.
"You're gonna wish you'd never met me bitch." He stared at Kate.
Dafton shouted, "Wait! Wait. Back up."
Jimiyu put the truck in reverse and drove back to the intersection.
"Is that the truck we saw leaving the Reserve?" Serena scrambled across Dafton's long legs and hung over his lap looking out of the window.
Jimiyu stared down the street. "I think so."
"That's it. I'm sure. That's the truck," Serena shouted.
Jimiyu began to turn down the street.
"No. Jimmy, we'll go on foot. Park over there." Serena was taking charge.
As they leapt out of the SUV, she tossed both men a rifle. Creeping down the street, staying as close to the building as possible, Serena softly gave orders about their approach. "We don't know anything. I think there are four of them, but it could be a lot more. Let's take our time, do it slow, but do it right. First, we have to find her. We don't want to ambush them and still not have her. We've got to find her first. Agreed?"
Jimiyu and Dafton said yes.
"Okay, we'll circle the building to see what we're dealing with. If you see someone, don't shoot unless you have to. We don't want to attract attention. Try to get away from them without being seen. If you can't, shout my name--not help, not run, just my name. I'll do the same Jimmy. If it comes to that, then we storm the building..."
"Three of us storming the factory? We don't know what's inside." Dafton was absolutely frightened. He had signed on to cook not to be a mercenary.
"Kate's probably inside. Serena turned to him. "I'm in love with her, Daf. Help me save her."
Dafton gulped, then nodded.
As they reached the front of the factory, Serena gave her last order. "Dafton, come with me. Jimmy, we'll meet back here in three minutes. No more than three minutes."
Dafton and Serena moved left, Jimiyu right. Dafton watched as Serena skulked like a panther in the night. There was something that had come alive in her that he had never seen. She was driven, yet elegant in her drive. Her body was sleek and quick.
"Dyke!" Nandi's eyes raged at her.
"Do I scare you? Are you worried about your manhood?"
"No. I'm gonna teach you about men."
"With what?" Kate stared openly at his crotch. "You don't look like you have much to offer in that department."
Nandi stood in front of her and glared. He unbuckled his belt, letting the buckle dangle in front of him. "Bitch, you are mine!"
"That's what you think." Kate reached out and grabbed for the belt, yanking it through the loops and into her hands. She dove at him, knocking him to the floor. They struggled for several minutes, each getting the upper hand at different times. Nandi was straddling her stomach and in an attempt to subdue her, grabbed her shirt collar and pulled Kate forward, then slammed her head into the concrete floor. He did this repeatedly and she screamed out in pain. Wooziness moved front and center and she feared she might blackout, but determination set in. She knew she had to hold on to the belt and that she had to stop his attack. She blinked several times as he continued to bang her head squarely into concrete. With her leg and hip, she managed to throw him off balance. She flipped him over and now she was in control, straddling him. Kate wrapped the belt around his neck and pulled back on it as hard as she could. He gagged, flailing wildly, trying to escape her clutches. Her head ached and she took long deep breaths in order to stay conscious. As she held him with one hand, her other hand had moved to her shirt pocket. Months ago, she had hung this long-sleeved shirt and pants over her chair for just this purpose. She had known the moment Lisa was released from jail that their lives were in jeopardy. She had anticipated an attack from Lisa and tried to prepare as best she could. The shirt's pocket held a small syringe. She unbuttoned the pocket and removed it. With her mouth she popped the orange cap, turned the syringe on him and plunged the needle into his shoulder. "Sleep well, asshole."
Right then, she heard a cranking sound and watched as the large metal door began to lift. She was sitting on top of Nandi, still holding the syringe when she saw first two paws, then the body of a thin cheetah. She shook her head trying to hold back the dark curtain that threatened to fall over her vision. The door stopped when it was about five feet off the ground. A slab of raw meat was thrown into the room and the ravenous cheetah came charging in. Kate stared in disbelief. She stood and dragged Nandi to his feet. The tranquilizer had already started to affect him. He was groggy and moving in slow motion and so was she. Kate knew she had to stay alert, but it was becoming more and more difficult. She held him out as a shield in front of her, while searching his pockets for a gun or key.
"How the hell do we get out of here?" she heard herself speak, her voice slurred and thick.
"It opens automatically in 10 minutes. After dinner." That said, the thug slumped in Kate's arms, his head lolling around like a bobber on a fishing line.
"Ssh. What's that?" Serena whispered.
"I don't know. It came from down there."
Serena and Dafton tried melting into the brick wall of the building. There was a commotion further down which probably meant there were people. She had to make a decision, keep going or turn back. She chose the former.
Serena saw the metal door as it was dropping back into place. She crouched and barely made out the cheetah entering the room. She also thought she saw one, possibly two people inside. A large transport truck was blocking her view of the other side. She put up a hand holding Dafton back and slowly crawled toward the ledge of the dock. The cheetah must have come from the truck; probably held captive until released into the room. She crawled under the truck and slid to the other side. Peeking out, she saw a man walking to the front of the truck, she heard the door open, the truck start, the door open again, and the ignition turned off. Just as she was about to slide out, the man's body fell to the ground his eyes opened, staring blankly at her. His neck was twisted in a bizarre fashion and Serena gasped. She heard footsteps again and then arms reaching for the man, pulling him into a sitting position. Someone squatted in front of the man, only two feet from Serena. She held her breath and waited. The person dropped the man onto the ground, moved around the truck to the other side.
"Serena? Serena?" Dafton whispered.
Slowly, she slithered back the way she had come, crawled out and wedged herself between a concrete wall and the back tire of the transport truck. Dafton had called out to her. He was in danger. Perhaps captured. She pulled the gun from the back of her shorts and hunched over, trying to remove the safety quietly. She closed her eyes as she heard the loud click of the safety removed. Serena stood upright, ready to face the enemy.
Jimiyu and Dafton stared at her and the gun pointed directly at them. "Hey, don't shoot. It's us."
"There's a guy over on the other side. He's dead."
"I know. I killed him," Jimiyu said.
"Are you all right?"
"Fine. We must move quickly. I believe Kate is inside this room." He motioned with his head to the metal door.
"I just saw a cheetah in there."
"I believe they want the cheetah to kill her. He wouldn't try to eat her unless he's been starved." The last part of the statement was meant to reassure, but knowing Lisa Calltreaux's modus operandi, the cheetah would be both angry and starving.
Serena's hand went to her mouth as she gasped. "C'mon. Hurry. We've got to get her out."
As they made their way around the building to the front, Serena thought she'd burst in gun blazing, taking out all she could. Then she thought again, she needed to select her targets carefully, not wanting to accidentally shoot the woman she loved. She patted her shorts' pocket where she'd placed the second clip. She was thankful for the training she'd received years ago in the use of firearms and the practice she had continued at shooting ranges. She was going to save Kate, even if it meant shooting to kill.
The cheetah had moved closer. She watched its nostrils flair and once Kate concentrated on the animal, trying to focus through her haze, she recognized it. It was Diego. He had been starved. His ribs were poking out and his face was drawn, almost hollow. He finished the meat quickly, then glowered savagely at her and Nandi. She knew she was in trouble. She knew the power of his jaws.
The cheetah moved closer, continually sniffing into the air, approaching his prey. Her shirt was covered with dried blood from the injury she had sustained in the truck. She let Nandi drop momentarily as she quickly removed her shirt, wiped the blood still on her arm onto the cloth and wrapped it around Nandi.
The man moaned as he sank further into oblivion. She lifted him to her, dragging him in front as she circled the room with the cheetah. The animal reached out and Kate thrust Nandi toward him. The cheetah sniffed again taking in the smell of the blood. It licked its chops and nudged the still man with his nose. Kate barely held onto him, not wanting to get that close to the hungry cheetah. She was becoming weaker. Her strength was quickly leaving her body. The cheetah growled and she jumped back in surprise, dropping Nandi to the floor. Immediately, the cheetah sprang, mouth open, revealing sharp teeth and fangs. His first bite was into Nandi's arm where Kate had draped her bloody shirt. He ripped the shirt, then Nandi's own shirt, until he reached flesh. She cringed when she heard him bite down and the bone crack between his jaw. Nandi screamed out only for a moment.
The cheetah quickly finished off the flesh on the arm, then ripped open his chest, tore at his pants and began eating fabric and flesh as it became available. Kate watched in horror. She edged away, sliding her hand over the wall, trying to keep herself upright and mobile. She moved toward the metal door, hoping to find a way out. The cheetah growled and reached out for the movement he caught in his peripheral vision. He made contact, ripping at her pants, tearing at her flesh, cutting her leg open. Kate fell to the floor, shrieking, but kicked herself away quickly. The cheetah was too busy with Nandi to pay much attention to her. She would be the second course.
Kate turned away when she saw the cheetah clench Nandi's face in his jaw, bite down and rip it apart. Blood was everywhere and she was beginning to slide in it. Her leg bled profusely and the pain was unimaginable. The wound on her arm had opened up again and that bled. Staying focused was more of a challenge. She blinked when she saw a second cheetah magically appear, then a fourth, then eight more. Her vision was shot and her head throbbed. She wiped her arm across her bare chest. Nandi was now bits of flesh and bone and all the blood was draining from him. The metallic blood smell overwhelmed her. Her leg pulsed and she looked down at that wound. It was gaping open, tissue and muscle exposed. She felt nauseous and threw up. When there was nothing other than spittle left, she tossed that, then had dry heaves. Nandi had said the door would open in ten minutes. Surely it had been that long. What if the door didn't open?
Serena had pushed Jimiyu behind her. Her face was red, her eyes dark and menacing. At the front of the factory, she tried the knob and it turned. She squatted as she slowly turned the knob and pushed the door slightly ajar. She stuck her head inside and looked around quickly. One man and Lisa all the way at the back. She couldn't see around the door. There could be guards as close as two feet. She turned and said to her friends, "I think there's just two of them. I don't know. There should be another guy. Two tied me up and one drove the truck. There's at least a third guy somewhere. Are you ready?" She looked at Dafton who was shaking. "If you can't do this, I understand."
"Then take your safety off."
She stood. "Let's do it." She kicked the door and she, Jimiyu and Dafton went running into the building, racing to the other side. Lisa and August looked up in surprise.
Serena held her Glock on Lisa. Her intent was clear. "Where is she? Don't think I won't use this gun on you!"
Lisa reached for her own gun and Serena shot it out of Lisa's hand, the fractured metal ripping through her flesh, shattering her bones. Lisa screamed in agony as the gun fragments fell to the ground and she grabbed her bleeding hand.
"Where is she?"
August moved his hand behind his back and Dafton blew him away. He dropped to the ground, a shot to his chest. He gasped, then gurgled, then nothing. Dafton stared down at him in disbelief.
Lisa continued screaming. While Serena ran to her, Jimiyu went to Dafton who stood over August. "C'mon. We do not have time." Jimiyu's eyes panned the room, looking for others, looking for Kate.
"Look what you've done, you little cunt." Lisa was on her knees squeezing her hand.
Serena squatted beside her. "Where's Kate?" Her eyes were steely, almost maddening.
"She's having dinner with the cheetah." Lisa motioned to the door. "She should be finished about now." Lisa laughed through teeth that were clenched in pain.
Serena stood. "Guys, over here. She's in here."
The three met at the door and Serena looked down. "Oh my God." A stream of blood poured from underneath the door. She turned the knob and nothing happened. Frantically she glanced around for a key or switch and saw the green button. Serena pushed it and heard the door unlock. "Be careful."
She pushed the door open, just as she heard the metal loading door begin its ascent. Jimiyu stepped around Serena who was now paralyzed in fear. The room was a sea of red. There was blood everywhere. She couldn't make out much of anything else and she was too afraid to focus on finding the person she hoped was in here and prayed wasn't.
Jimiyu began shooting into the opening of the metal door still in motion thinking another man might be hiding on the other side. He was temporarily unconcerned with the cheetah who lazily rested in the middle of the floor lapping up the remains of a person's leg.
Serena stepped across the threshold and moved into the room. She looked at the cheetah. Jimiyu now had his rifle trained on the lethargic, sated animal. She saw the blood, so much blood. Her hand shook and the handgun fell to the floor. Serena stared at the remains of the body, then her eyes closed, her lips quivered, and she broke down. "Kate," she choked out. "Kate."
The filmmaker looked up and for the first time became aware of her surroundings and the people in the room. "Serena?" Her voice was dull and weak.
Serena opened her eyes to face the bloody remains again. She heard her name, then looked toward the automatic door. She saw her. "Kate? My God. Kate!" The filmmaker was awash in blood. Her face and chest covered in it. Her pants leg was soaked through with blood that still flowed from her. Gingerly, she stepped over and around the blood and vomit and made her way to the woman she loved. Once Serena's arms went around her, Kate slid to the ground, slumping over into unconsciousness.
Four days later.
Kate had had surgery and the doctors informed Kate's team that she would make a full recovery; that the beating to her head had caused what they were sure was minor, non-life threatening swelling and the coma was probably temporary, 'just a method her body had chosen to begin to heal.' But how could Serena believe that? Her brother was in his eighteenth year in a persistent vegetative state at that very moment.
Kate had lost a lot of blood, she was weak, but she was a fighter. "We just have to wait," the doctors said repeatedly. "This isn't unusual," they assured Serena. Even Victor, Jack, Jimiyu and Dafton were upbeat about the prognosis. Only Serena saw the flip side of this coin. She had been through it before. She couldn't believe she was going through it again. This time would be different. She had given up on her brother finally, but no matter, she wouldn't desert Kate.
She found herself going through the same motions she had back then. She prayed constantly and tried bargaining with God. Then in a rage, she screamed out that it was pointless. "Why pray to you? You're not merciful. You took my parents, you took my brother. You left me alone and now this." The hospital administration demanded she leave the hospital.
When she returned the next day, calmer, more centered, she began to chat. She talked endlessly about everything all day. She didn't know if Kate heard, but she told her stories about Elliott, Heather, life in London, dancing until 4am at a club with Dafton. She told her dreams and confessed her fears. The next morning, she arrived at the hospital prepared to do the same battle. She talked incessantly about people she had met and celebrities she wished she had. She sat next to Kate and squeezed her hand and whispered that Kate should squeeze back to let her know she could hear her. Kate's hand didn't move. Serena lowered her head and thought back to another time.
On the few days she had been allowed to see her brother alone, she had climbed into his bed and pressed her tiny ten year old body into his, encouraging him to take some life from her, to open his eyes. Now, she did the same with Kate. She stretched out in the bed beside her, damn the world for calling her love wrong, and softly pleaded, "Take enough to come back. Take all of my life if that's what it takes." Still, nothing. Not a flutter of eyelids, not a deepening of breath.
When she showed up at the hospital on the sixth day, she carried dozens of Kate's journals. She pulled the guest chair close to the bed and began to read. She read Kate's stories aloud about life on the Park Reserve, the surreal afternoon she spent with a family of chimpanzees, the night she spent sleeping in the truck, her tires trapped in sludge. She skipped over the journal entries related to Lisa Calltreaux and she skipped the Nigerian journal she had given the filmmaker.
She read from the journals until her throat hurt, then she sat, holding the opened book, watching as the pages wrinkled and puffed from the cascade of tears dropping onto them.
This was where she sat and what she did on that ninth day of Kate's coma.
Kate stirred with a groan and sigh. Filtered light entered the room through blind-covered windows. She blinked several times, allowing her eyes to adjust to the light. Turning her head, she tried to figure out where she was. The room smelled of alcohol and other medicines; the sheets she lay upon white and rough; next to her head, a host of life-preserving machinery. She was in the hospital.
Blinking again, she started to rub the sleep from her eyes and saw the I.V. tube taped to her arm. She shifted and groaned again, then yawned. She closed her eyes, then reopened them in a panic. Frantically, she tried to stretch to feel under the sheet. She had remembered her last conscious thoughts, recalled how badly Lisa, Lisa's men and the cheetah had battered her. It was the memory of the cheetah's violent swipe at her leg that had alarmed her. Her leg had been in bad shape, ripped apart. She had realized almost immediately that if she survived, her leg wouldn't. She'd lose it. Kate stretched again and screamed out in agony. Her hands patted wildly over the sheet trying to feel below her thigh.
"It's not phantom pain. It's real. You've still got everything you came in with." Serena was up and standing next to her. Already she was crying in relief.
"Huh?" Kate looked up at her.
"Good afternoon. Welcome back. You've been missed."
"Whoa. I have a killer headache. How am I?"
"You'll live. They expect a full recovery, though you might feel some aches and pains during the rainy season." Serena grinned and Kate responded in kind.
They were both silent, lost in their individual thoughts for several minutes.
"I saw a man get eaten," she whispered. "I saw his face clawed off and saw him disemboweled and his organs eaten."
"I'm sorry, Kate."
"I don't think I'll ever lose that image."
Serena squeezed her hand.
"Serena, I'm sorry you got dragged into all of this." Kate could barely speak having been non-verbal for several days. "This must be very hard on you."
"This is the easy part."
"I'm so tired."
"Go back to sleep. I'll tell the doctors. We'll get you something for your head."
By the time Serena reached the hospital the next day, all of the guys had been there. They hadn't awakened Serena who was sleeping well for the first night in days.
Kate was sitting up. Her bangs had been trimmed and she smiled broadly when Serena walked in. "Finally."
"Hey." Serena pecked her on the cheek and took a seat beside the bed.
"Daf was by with Jimmy and Victor and Jack were here."
"They told me that the Park police put Diego down. He'd tasted human blood and was now a risk to people's safety on the Reserve."
"They also told me a wild story about your daring rescue. I wanna hear your side of it."
Serena pulled her chair closer and began the tale of how she saved her lover's life. Over an hour later, Kate was still riveted to the story. She watched as Serena's eyes lit up and even though Serena downplayed her actions, Kate knew the guys had been honest about what had happened. Serena had been a mean, lean, fighting machine.
"You see, I couldn't let you die. I had to get you back. I knew this wouldn't have happened if I had just..."
"Ssh. Serena, don't even say that. This didn't have anything to do with what you did or didn't do. Lisa was crazed and this was going to happen whether you were around or not."
"I don't mean to minimize what you did. I thank you, but if you hadn't succeeded, that wouldn't have been your fault."
"I did nothing when those men came into our camp. I had time to call out to you or at least fight them enough to slow them down."
"They would have killed you. You know, if it had been my time to go that would have been it. No matter what you could have done, if it was my time, that's the way it is. Here we say, 'When it is a monkey's day to die, all trees are slippery.' Do you understand that?"
"I hope so. If you hadn't gotten out of the car to pee that day, your parents still would have died, your brother still injured. I think that's the way life is. When your number comes up, there's no way to avoid it and when you're still in the game, you're still in, no matter what. You need to get over thinking you're the one picking and choosing who lives and who dies. It's too awesome a responsibility."
Serena nodded again. Kate put her thumb under Serena's chin and lifted her face so that she could look into her eyes. "Thanks again for saving my life, though."
"Hey, my pleasure."
"Okay, why are all my journals here?"
"I've been reading them to you. You were in a coma for almost ten days. I thought they might push you back over to this side."
"Ah, I see. That explains all the weird dreams I had and this déjà vu feeling I kept getting." Kate bit the inside of her lip. "Did you read all of them? The one you gave me?"
"Not necessarily. Just do you know what's in each one?"
"Yes." Serena blinked nervously.
This time it was Kate who nodded. "Then I guess I should say something. I just don't know what. I'm embarrassed."
"You don't have to say anything."
Kate stared at her hand, finding something utterly fascinating about her fingernails. Finally she took a deep breath and stole a glance at Serena. "I'm so in love with you."
"Don't sound so excited about it." Serena knew already. The Nigerian leather journal she had given Kate shortly after her arrival was dedicated to those feelings. Page after page was written Serena's name, pictures of her that Kate had taken candidly around the camp were taped into the book, hearts were drawn around the pictures. She laughed when she had thumbed through it, that someone like Kate had expressed her feelings in such an oddly juvenile manner. It was adorable.
"It's just that I don't know where that leaves us. You've got this big book to finish. You're planning on leaving the Reserve. I don't wanna be without you, but what choice do I have? Kenya is my home. I won't be happy anywhere else. In spite of all that's happened, I love this place. Where does that leave us?"
Serena shook her head.
Kate shook her head, too. "We were just starting something here. We have the worst timing in history."
Serena couldn't have agreed more. An hour after making love for the first time, she was assaulted, Kate kidnapped and almost killed. "Well, we'll never forget our first time."
"Exactly. We can't get that back, but I want other firsts with you. How do we do that if you're leaving?"
Serena stood up and paced. She returned to the bed and leaned down to kiss Kate's lips. "I love you, too. I'm in love with you, so we have to figure it out. There's got to be a way."
Kate pulled her back down and kissed her passionately.
Serena broke away and exhaled. She grinned and shook her head. "You haven't lost any of your skills."
"Maybe, while you're recuperating, you could travel with me. Just for a while. Kenya would still be our base. I have to go to Brazil next. Have you ever made love in Brazil?"
"That would be a first."
"What about Beijing? Have you ever walked the streets of China in love?"
"The Ukraine? I was wondering if you'd ever held a lover in your arms in the Ukraine."
"I never have done that. "
"Excellent, we're three for three."
"But does that mean we'll be eating Ukrainian food? What do they eat anyway?"
"And what about Rome, Serena? Has a half-Chicana, half-Greek girl ever told you you're her world in Italy?"
"Nope, but that sounds like something I'd like to hear in Rome."
"And have you ever made love in the grass, overlooking the lights of Los Angeles on a summer night?" Kate asked.
Serena eyes shifted from side to side, then smiled guiltily and embarrassed, "Well, yes I have done that."
"Oh." Kate paused to consider. "Well, have you ever met my father in California?"
Serena laughed and pulled Kate to her, holding her head against her chest. "No, never met him."
"We've got enough firsts to keep us busy for a while."
Kate had been under doctor's care at the hospital for almost a month. Physical therapy so far had been painful, yet hopeful. Kate ran the gamut from feeling frustrated with her own body to elation with thoughts of Serena and the promise of all the sweet things love could bring racing through her brain.
Tonight would be her last night in the hospital and then she'd be sprung to return to the Reserve. She was counting the minutes.
Serena had met with Kate's doctors and nurses, spoken for an hour with the physical therapist and had just filled several varieties of medications for Kate. Now, Kate sat up in bed watching as Serena filled the large plastic bowl with warm water. She carried it slowly to the bed and set it on the table.
"Are you ready for your sponge bath, patient Chavez?" Serena smiled.
"Yes, yes I am."
Gently, Serena squeezed water from the sponge onto Kate's bare shoulders, then massaged soap onto them. She rubbed Kate's back, lifted her arm and washed her pit, then the other one. She rubbed more soap onto her body and slid the sponge across her, letting the warm water wash over her.
"You'll get sick of this soon enough."
"I don't think so. I love touching you." Serena returned the sponge to the water to dampen it again. As she moved back to Kate to finish her bath, Kate took her hand, opened it up and the sponge found a home back in the bowl. She brought Serena's hand to her breast and guided her over and around it.
"Oh?" Serena said as she lightly pulled on Kate's nipple, "You're feeling better."
Kate nodded and then let her head loll back as her eyes closed in desire. "Much."
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