Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 38
Lin held her breath. She slowly turned her head to look up at Sam. He side-stepped along the top of the car and made his way toward the back, the gun trained on a spot in the water. His aim shifted quickly to another spot, then back to the first. She saw his jaw slacken, then his face firm up.
“Myra, get out of that nest.”
“Not without the babies.”
“I don’t have time to argue. Girlfriend, you’re closest, get to the ladder and get up here. Now!”
Sam’s voice was strong and commanding, but Lin could sense an undertone of fear in what he said. Sam had spent a great deal of time hunting. What could possibly have him spooked?
“Slow down!” Sam snapped at Girlfriend. “Walk slowly. No sudden movements. Myra, get the hell out of that nest and do it now.”
Lin heard something crack from inside the nest. One of the hatchlings must be breaking further out of its shell. Whatever had spooked Sam must be coming to the call of the hatchlings. Sam switched his aim from three or four different points.
“Tiger Lily, start toward the car. Lin, Myra, hold up.”
Myra worked her way out of the nest and stood next to Lin. Something squeaked from inside of Myra’s blouse.
“You didn’t!” Lin said accusingly.
“I couldn’t just leave them all there. They’ll die.”
“Myra, I think something has arrived to eat them. Think! Just like in the wild, animals smell hatchlings and come to feed. With no parents around, these ones are doomed. You’ve got to put that thing back.”
“But I’ve already got its smell on me.”
The things head poked out of Myra’s blouse. Its mess had gotten all over her, as well as the pungent reek. Even if she did put it back, the smell was all over her and anything hunting them would find her.
Girlfriend had made her way to the ladder and slowly climbed up. Tiger Lily tip-toed her way across the short distance from the nest to the car.
Lin took one small step toward the car, and the world changed. She couldn’t exactly explain it at first, but everything moved in slow motion. The water exploded near Tiger Lily. First a tiny head came out of the water, long and reptilian, followed by a rounded body the size of a large dog, with really long, skinny legs and short arms. It rushed Tiger Lily and grabbed her arm, even before she had a chance to react. Its long teeth drew blood the instant they came in contact with skin, causing her to scream. Loud and piercing. Lin made a lurch to help, but the beady eyes, deep blue in color, stared at her as if to say “you’re next.” Lin couldn’t move.
The thing dragged Tiger Lily toward the water with powerful jerks of its neck. Tiger Lily fell to the ground and tried to pull back, but with each tug, her arm bled more and her screams grew louder.
Sam fired and the beast dropped dead next to Tiger Lily, her arm still in the thing’s mouth. Lin rushed over to help, but a second beast leapt from the water and stood on its fallen comrade, hissing at Lin saying “Keep away from my food.” Lin scanned the ground for anything to use as a weapon, but every last twig was inside the nest. The bare ground provided nothing to use as a weapon.
Lin spun on Myra, the little hadrosaur’s head poking out of her blouse.
“Give it!” Lin demanded and grabbed the baby from Myra’s blouse. Myra fought to keep it, but Lin’s grasp caught her by surprise, and in a moment she had the baby. It made her sick to think about what she was about to do, but it was either a baby dinosaur that was slated to die anyway, or Tiger Lily, who shouldn’t be here in the first place. She put the baby over her head and tossed it at the dinosaur.
It ducked and let the baby fly over its head. The baby landed with a wet thud near the water’s edge. Another long-necked dinosaur grabbed the baby from the shore.
Another gunshot rang out and the second beast fell.
“Gun jammed. Get up here now!”
Girlfriend had climbed back down the ladder and both she and Lin rushed to Tiger Lily’s side.
“Are you alright?” Lin asked, while Girlfriend worked to free Tiger Lily’s arm from the beast’s jaws.
Sam fired into the water and something splashed away. “Myra! Get the hell out of that nest and get up here. Now!”
Lin didn’t look to see what that was all about. Tiger Lily had turned a frightened shade of white and had lost a good deal of blood. The thing had caught her by the forearm, but the lacerations didn’t look deep enough to have done any serious damage. She’d have some wicked scars to talk about, though.
Once her arm was free of the teeth, Lin took off her shirt, a vintage Metallica t-shirt wasn’t as important as Tiger Lily, and wrapped it around Tiger Lily’s arm. Her breathing had gone shallow and her skin felt clammy. She was in shock. They needed to get her inside, and quickly. Maybe Girlfriend could stitch up the worst of the cuts in Tiger Lily’s arm.
Tiger Lily barely helped as Girlfriend and Lin pushed and pulled her up the ladder. As soon as he could reach down, Sam grabbed Tiger Lily’s good arm and pulled her up with one heave.
“I would have come down to help, but I picked off two more. I don’t think they can get up here.”
Lin’s ears barely registered what he said and her mind couldn’t process it. She hadn’t even heard the gun fire after the second shot. How many had there been? And how had they snuck up so quickly? Myra hadn’t mentioned anything like this that she might have read in the notes. Information like that would be vital before being stupid enough to go and look at dinosaurs in their stupid nest.
Lin wanted to give Myra a piece of her mind, but the woman was nowhere to be seen. She hadn’t helped with Tiger Lily. She just ran and hid. Lin wanted to be mad at her, but if it had been Myra who’d been grabbed, she probably would have let them take her. She felt guilty for being mad.
“Let’s get her inside. There’s a first aid kit and we’ve got to get her bandaged up fast,” Sam said.
Lin looked back at the nest. Two more of the beasts were in the nest, making short work of the babies and the rest of the eggs. She wanted to be sick. She’d seen snakes on the Discovery Channel eating eggs, but this was different. It was brutal. The cracking of shells and the sound of helpless squeaks as they ate.
Lin turned away as Sam disappeared with Tiger Lily over his shoulder, her blood dripping from her limp arm wrapped in the shirt and staining his shirt.
“Let’s go,” Girlfriend said. I think there’s a jacket or something you can put on.
Lin looked down at her bare chest, her small breasts covered in Tiger Lily’s blood. She crossed her arms over her chest and suddenly felt embarrassed. Sam had seen her. But had he really? No, she couldn’t think like that. Sam was a good man and they were in a crisis. She felt so stupid.
“Come on,” Girlfriend nudged her. We need to do whatever we can for Tiger Lily. I’m sure I brought an extra shirt too.”
“I brought an extra. I guess I just didn’t think…”
“You don’t need to explain. I was about to do the same thing. Let’s get inside. I don’t think they can get up here, but better not to chance it.”
Lin nodded. She choked back a cry. She’d have time to cry later. For now, there was a situation to deal with.