Get In Its Way (Part 2)
And Syd, the foreman, brought his family and friends on a week-long picnic to Bathala. The work force hadn’t seen their wives for months. It was like biting the fruit of the forbidden tree on a stranded little island. The girls took room numbers 34, 35 and 36 facing west. The boys lodged in 9 and 10 on the opposite side of the island facing the wind. Some guys of the work force ran to peek on the girls while they undressed.
Five guys pinned to the windows and watched them. It was getting close to sunset. The girls decided to take a swim on their private beach. Six girls picked their towels and stepped out of the bungalow. Five guys ran for cover. Shaft, skinny to his bones, jumped on Friday and held him right around his neck. Friday had to carry him on piggyback to his escape. He dropped into the sunflowers on the tennis court and began to laugh.
Later that night after dinner these guys nested few steps away from the girls. Friday picked a bucket, hung on the countertop tap and released the keg. He carried the bucket to the beach spot. They dipped mugs into it and drank beer.
Syd crowd sat in the swing garden in front of the bar. A pit dug in the sand enclosed with a masonry ring pew and poison bulb plants around.
Friday came up with an idea to scare them. He asked Shaft to veil in a blanket and cross the beach. He looked like a klan in a glory white robe.
One of the visitors noticed this shimmery white ghost walking in the moonlight on the edge of water. One guy cried, “Who’s there?” And this iridescent entity hastened steps to move faster. Syd stamped his feet on the ground to scare the creature. He followed knowing someone was playing a trick on them.
Shaft wrapped in the shawl couldn’t see who was behind or how fast he was catching up. He began to run. Shaft disappeared into the trees and later joined Friday crowd protesting, “I can’t do this. I’m scared to death.”
An hour later, the white creature popped up on the beach again. Syd followed creeping behind covertly in the bushes. Somehow that thing gathered speed and disappeared into the trees. He walked around the island and still failed to notice the small crowd hiding under the bushes.
Friday crowd discussed how to mate a girl in the picnic bunch. An oily thin guy seated there talking without a drink cautioned, “Don’t get in their way.” His name was Theyo.
Next morning Theyo climbed down the beach in his briefs carrying a toddy bottle. Lubna was bathing naked in the morning sun. He called, “Massage service!” And she cried, “I’ll wear a massage.”
Lubna was a short thin girl with round buttocks and slender legs. She wore a thick girdle made of fine gold around lower hips. It could weigh some three kilos. She got her genitals pierced and bore golden clit-rings. She also wore the traditional silver girdle wound sevenfold on her waist. She got a design portrayed of henna under her right rib to the left thigh around the back and front.
She said, “This girdle is handcraft four hundred years old. I inherited from my grandparents. I don’t ever remove it from my body.”
Theyo had an opportunity to take a close look at the most distinctive craftsmanship. It was about 3” wide, 36” long and tangible thick. As he got done with her yet another woman dropped for a sand massage. He was hot in demand on the beach.
That night Friday switched off the generator set when all fell asleep. For whatever purpose he picked the double key to enter room 36 where Lubna and two other girls were sleeping. He pulled his sarong over his head and crossed to the beach bungalows.
Meanwhile another guy with a gunny sack over his head climbed the open-air bath wall and entered the room. It could be no one else but Shaft with his spirited intention to rape a girl. He was so close to the thirteen year old girl, Syd’s own daughter, when the door opened and Friday slipped in. It gave him a fright. He lay next to the girl breathing heavily under the gunny sack. In this large spherical room there was no place to hide. Only mattresses spread on low wooden deck. A flash of light could disclose his presence.
As Friday moved on tiptoe holding the sarong around his face, Shaft crawled back towards the door. He grabbed the knob and threw out in a single swing that banged the door shut. Three girls woke up at once and screamed. Friday ran away.
Occupants in rooms 35 and 34 woke up. There were no lights but the outside was fairly alright in the gleam of moonlight. They scrammed on the beach and reached the guys in rooms 9 and 10.
Shortly the generator fired and lights came on. Nobody knew what happened there. Certainly someone tried to enter the girls. There was a gunny sack inside the room. Syd believed whoever it was he was after the girls’ jewellery.
Syd called Halaveli on the radio. There was no telephone connection. He tried to reach any island or a boat on the sea. There was no answer. It was two o’clock in the morning and Ari Atoll was sleeping.
Next day some members of the force gathered in room 30 for a drink and to keep an eye on the naked crowd. Theyo was down on the beach massaging a leg.
Friday said seriously, “Someone tried to enter the girls last night.”
Shaft asked, “Who was it?”
“Who could it be? It was you.”
“I swear I didn’t.”
They sat on the floor leaning against the wall in a relaxed manner. Sliced a big watermelon picked from the abundant grove. The Vodka still left in the middle of the airy room. Nobody touched it. Actually it was placed there to fool boozers. Now the trick had grown old as the content of water in the bottle.
Suddenly Friday jerked to see the white shawl wandering on the beach through the sea lettuces in the sunlight. They all saw it. At one moment it crossed just few yards from the door. Something was fishy about it that they decided to leave the room.
At Halaveli by noon one important incident was coming to a close when finally Nadal received Syd’s call on the radio. He sent a boat but it was too late.
That morning room numbers 14, 15 and 16 did not show up for breakfast and instead another six faces showed and they were served. It seemed these tourists switched rooms with Ellaidoo clients for a few days on their excursion trip. Though they were Italians these two islands belonged to two different tour operators and owners, different prices. Some repercussions could be unbearable. They were allowed to stay until the end of the day and return to their islands.
Last night the island staffs were watching the German boxer who arrived for a two-week vacation with a beautiful girl to do diving. An Italian rep was secretly dating this girl. And someone tipped the German. Nadal suspected either Abe or Tutu. So the boxer lied to her that he was going for diving and stayed back. He caught her red-handed mating with Fabrizio in his guest room. As the evening set Fabrizio was drunk and carrying a knife as he claimed for self-defence. There was a brief confrontation at the bar. The German asked him to step on to the beach and he would punch him.
The house was full of Italians. There were two other German couples and they remained hushed. The Italians hid the girl somewhere because he could cause her harm. Nadal permitted the boxer to look everywhere but not to enter any guest room without his notice. So he walked around the island looking for Else. Nadal set the staff after him. The boxer thought that the girl was taken to the red yacht.
And fortunately the Lankawe barman who was anxiously stepping in and out of the cabaret dressing room revealed her hiding spot to the German. He could read on his face she was right there. He picked her up and slapped her face. Nadal got eyes even to watch the guest rooms. There was no further harm. So nobody was listening to the radio as matters unfurled so dissolute in Bathala.
This couple was supposed to get married. But that ended their relationship. They took boat transfer and flew home. Two months later Else arrived to work at Halaveli with Fabrizio.
Lubna was widowed and left with no kids. Her husband died a year ago. He was up on the ninth floor of a building under construction. He kicked a brick that hardly moved. It naturally registered its weight in his memory. He turned to pick some blocks from a brick pile. He was on the edge of the slab standing back on to the elevator hole. He leaned down and grabbed a brick applying some force to lift. In a miscalculated error it came pretty light in his hands to shoot him off. He lost balance and toppled over holding to the piece of brick. He dropped a 100 feet and hit the pit killing instantly. He missed a step. Those up there reiterated. In truth he lifted a silicone block that weighed ten times less than a concrete brick and that made him toss over.
Lubna turned thirty-seven. Two weeks after the trip to Bathala, one evening, she came out of her lodge combing her long hair after shower. She was wearing a blue gown; motherly-type dress also known as national dress. Standing on the steps she glanced up and down the road. There was a white car parked by the junction under the street light, headlights on.
Abruptly, that car raced towards her. Someone jumped out and grabbed her. She screamed and people rushed out. She was dumped into the backseat. Her feet stuck out and door swung open as the car sped towards the main street.
The guy who grabbed her eventually managed to slam the door. Two guys forced to pin her down to the backseat. Third one was the driver. The other guy covered her mouth and held her by the wrists. The guy who grabbed lifted her gown. A typical mid-aged woman wore no underwear. She kicked her legs exposing full-frontal. She wore gold clit-rings and bracelets too. The car turned to bumpy roads and reached the reclaimed area in south-west coast of the capital. Hit a mound of sand and stopped.
Meanwhile, outside her lodge they gathered to ask many questions. Her relative landlady said, “It must be her boyfriend picking her for a date.”
The cabin light switched on. Her face wrapped in a towel. Her arms and legs tied. With some difficulty they managed to undo the weighty belt on her waist. Nothing else was removed. The silver girdle and other gold ornaments remained on her body. They dumped her to the wet soil and fled the area.
Down on the shore two girls were washing pots in the old-fashion way. It was dark and the lights of the city appeared dimly. Hundreds of boats moored in the water and mostly out of lights. The girls heard someone groan after the car pulled off. They saw the beams of its headlights bumping on the walls of sand mounds. They looked for a sign when they climbed from the beach but only vaguely.
Lubna was sighted very early in the morning by passing boat crew. She was unhurt but lost the weight of gold.
By noon she regained strength and after several attempts reached a friendly cop. Sergeant Mody was a very busy young officer, twenty-four years old. He came after an hour and picked her on his bike to the spot. He took photographs of the tyre marks in thick and wet grainy soil excavated from the lagoon. It was hard to notice prints.
Later back in the lodge they talked. Lubna got a long list of acquaintances most of whom she did not know a name or an address. She told about the picnic to Bathala that her Uncle Syd arranged.
She produced the only photo in her possession of the golden girdle. A B&W print of her topless mother wearing the girdle and it was taken somewhere in the 50s before she got married.
Mody obtained details, weight and dimensions. Lubna said, “It has 222 flat-tube gold beads in two rows. Each piece bears an intricate design of a sunflower. It’s all I inherit. I couldn’t separate it from my body. I wear it all the time.”
“Of course,” he drew a sketch of it.
Mody called Corporal Valid and assigned him to look for the white car and enquire around the lodge and the reclaimed area.
Nadal got a call from Syd’s wife requesting to bring him to the phone urgently. He sent the speedboat to fetch him from Bathala. Syd called back and his wife asked him to expect a call.
An hour later, Corporal Valid returned on the phone, “Did anyone leave the island?”
Syd replied, “Nobody left, nobody is missing.”
“Did anyone climb the island?”
“Of course, we had supply delivery, staff from Halaveli and Maya.”
“Keep me informed if anyone leaves the island. Send me a list of names and details of employees and contract workers.”
Syd told Nadal about the missing girdle.
“Well, Tutu is in Malé,” Nadal said jokingly.
Manager Tutu took up and down trips too often nobody would suspect. For Cpl Valid it was a dead end. He lurked around the shore that night and came across the pot-washing girls. All he could tell it was likely a taxi cab. In a day or two everyone in Bathala learnt about the missing girdle. Syd stupidly told someone.