Well, here we are. The chapter where the unconfessed but very clear love and sweetness shared by our two leads gets flushed down the toilet. :(
This was a very difficult chapter to plan out and write. It was a major effort to sit down and divine/surmise understandable human motivations behind the behavior of the key characters in this scene, especially Ann, and then mold them to very out-of-the-way, stressful circumstances. And now try expanding it beyond canon material at that!
Not only have I been doing a delicate dance to ensure that this chapter sounded belivable, I've also been kept quite busy with other matters as my life has become ever more complicated-including finding a wonderful girlfriend! :) Anyhow, I'm sorry this took so darn long!
"'...but how did two so well adapted to understand each other end?'
'Ah, well! you see, they ended as all great passions do end-by a misunderstanding. For some reason one suspects the other of treason; they don't come to an explanation through pride, and quarrel and part from sheer obstinacy.'" A Passion in the Desert, by Honore de Balzac, 1830.
"These are the wounds that never heal." My War With The Ospreys, by John Steinbeck, 1957.
Beware the rage of the patient man-Arabic Proverb.
"You! You're another shit-talking punk to me/ You're living inspiration for what I never wanna be/ And I see, you've been blinded by what you believe/ And now back up and sit and I'll show the act you need to be/ I am realizing, that everybody's lost their simple ways/ And now that it's here, I see it all so clearly/ I've come face to face with the enemy, oh the enemy!" The Enemy, Godsmack, 2007.
And here we go again, Ann thought with a despondent bitterness as she flew down the smooth stone path leading towards the sunlight, the shore, and the whalers lazing there at anchor. Just like she'd been forced to run out on Simba, she was being forced to run out on Kong-except this time Jack, not Scar, was the betrayer as well.
As their feet slapped against the stone again and again, her mind was a whirlpool of emotions and thoughts, many adjacent to one another yet mutually exclusive. They were the thoughts of a woman who didn't know what to think in this desperate, chaotic, situation.
Fury was a major theme. She was furious at Carl for playing with her life and Jack's by not having the drawbridge down and the gate open, using them as just another means to a conniving end. She was even more furious at the producer for orchestrating this disgraceful attempt to capture the magnificent, grand gruff beast that even now was pursuing them, and subjecting Kong to such distress.
She was furious at the Venture's surviving crew for not even acknowledging her and Jack when they'd come through the door, offering no comfort or chivalry, expressing no delight at all that she was safe and sound! No, their minds and hearts were just too infected by greed and the promise of money instead-and the impulse to conquer what was wild and beautiful.
And as much as she knew she shouldn't, as much as a part of her hated feeling this way towards him, Ann was suddenly very sore at the man she warmly called her Jack of Hearts. She felt immensely frustrated and let down and betrayed.
He'd been a part of this scheme the whole time, she realized. Oh, maybe Carl hadn't executed it in quite the same way that Jack had expected. But it didn't change the fact that, disgustingly, Jack had still chosen to play his role of leading Kong into the trap in this admittedly clever kill-two-birds-with-one-stone plan. It wouldn't have surprised her if he'd helped draft the strategy himself. Sickened, Ann couldn't believe her flame would stoop so low.
But was it really that surprising? Jack had known Carl for at least eight years, but had only known her for six weeks before the savages and Kong had gotten her. It only made sense that when the chips were down, he'd display more loyalty towards his pal, especially in a situation where she wasn't around to prick at his morals.
He probably also hated Kong, deep down, and therefore deeply liked the idea of punishing the ape for snatching her away from him, for brutalizing her, traumatizing her and making her scream.
She supposed she couldn't really blame him. Kong had made Jack sweat for her, be beside himself with terror that the ape would kill her at any moment, killed the good, noble Mr. Hayes before his eyes, and then dumped him off a log into a horrible chasm where the fella had had to fight for his life against huge bugs.
In that light, the idea of Kong getting the other end of the stick would obviously appeal to the writer.
She'd been betrayed by a man she'd deeply trusted, and not for the first time.
She and Jack were just feet away from the top of that one last flight of centuries-old steps, carved out of the subsiding basalt. The goal was within reach, the longboats just 60 feet away!
"Move it, move it!" Jack commanded fiercely, hurrying her down the stairs at a frantic pace. Ann did her best to stay in lockstep, windmilling with her free right arm as they descended. Only now did she begin to realize that there were other sailors right behind her and Jack, running with the desperation of hunted animals.
One thing she was very aware of however was that hell was by no means finished with breaking loose yet. And it was plain to all that the primary force behind this storm of destructive havoc had now entered the lava tube, the titanic ape grimly, ponderously drawing nearer. Fast.
As they rushed out into the open morning sunlight, she risked a wild glance over her right shoulder. Kong's implacable, determined bulk was no more than 150 yards behind them, the ape walking on his hind legs.
Jack pressed at her shoulders, and her head flashed back to the boats. As she did, Ann then heard the explosive barks of a pair of rifles behind her, then a shouted, inarticulate cry of shock and pain, accompanied by the sound of flesh thudding into stone.
It made her heart sink in her chest. With the ape's size and muscles, she supposed a shot from an ordinary rifle did about as much physical damage to him as a shot from a pellet gun, or maybe a .22, would do to a professional bodybuilder. Still, she was horrified at the idea that Kong was being harmed, and that two more men were now either mortally wounded or dead.
Why hadn't they done the smart thing, told Carl to go to hell, spirited her and Jack out of this ghastly place, left Kong unmolested, and fled to the open sea and the civilized world? Now it had gotten out of their hands, and more fellas were needlessly paying the price.
In a flash she and Jack were standing right at the prows of the longboats. That they were actually there at all, together and alive, was a miracle in no uncertain terms, barely believable. The surviving sailors behind and just in front of her piled into the boats with the headlong swiftness of prairie dogs diving into their burrows on seeing a coyote rushing at them.
A big part of Ann Darrow had no problem in the least with the idea of following their example, you bet your bottom dollar. But another part of her made her hesitate before stepping inside. Was it wise to do this?
In Kong's eyes, she knew it now seemed to him like not only Jack, but all the men were hurting her, kidnapping her against her will. He'd been wounded by the grappling hooks and bullets as well, stoking his rage even further.
Most importantly of all, she knew too well that Kong wasn't going to somehow magically stay on dry land just because there was suddenly a stretch of water between him and her. His actions at the jungle river had made that clear. And if the water here was too shallow for the Venture, it would not be any problem for him to wade out to these boats.
She began to turn. Ann had no real idea exactly how she was going to persuade a house-sized, 25-foot tall, wounded and hyper-protective gorilla to calm down and leave peaceably-and without her in tow, of course-, but she did know that she was the only person who had the power to do it, and that it was the only option. She had to ensure that he was safe in the same way he had.
But Jack had other plans, and a second after she turned in Kong's direction, steeling herself before moving towards him, the playwright's hands crashed into her breastbone, pushing her back against the prow. At the same moment, she felt Bruce's arms grasp her waist in a steely embrace, pulling her over the bow and into the boat.
No! Don't do this, you two! Her mind screamed.
She fought both of them like a trapped bobcat, tugging against Bruce's strength as she wrestled with Jack, his hands like vises on her upper arms.
"Stay back!" he sharply commanded her.
Equally frustrated, never taking her eyes off the approaching Kong, she protested, "It's me he wants! Please! I can put a stop to this!"
Indifferent, Jack shouted over her head to Bruce, "Hold on to her!"
And indeed, as Ann wildly grappled with Jack, she then helplessly felt her co-star's grip around her abdomen pulling her down and back. At that moment, even though she was looking directly at the writer's horrid scars, Ann didn't know which man she detested more.
And yet, at the last second, she suddenly tried to pull Jack into the lifeboat with her at the realization he was about to leave and turn away. She knew that when Kong plunged into these shallows, the playwright's best hope for survival was to be in this boat alongside her, shielded by her arms and body.
He'd never bothered to tell her that he loved her, had made her run out on Simba and Mufasa, leave them to die, was refusing to lift a finger in Kong's defense or at least let her do it, and was almost certainly enmeshed in the plot to capture the great ape. But Ann still couldn't bear to see him dead.
"Please! No!" she begged as he fought, trying to pull back.
And then to her astonished shock and disgust, Jack did a very cruel thing.
"Goddamnit!" he snapped in frustration before very deliberately shifting his right thumb to the inside of her left elbow. Being a doctor's son, he knew just where to strike, and sharply pressed down right on her "funny bone," or ulnar nerve.
A quivering, phosphorus flash of pain raced up Ann's arm, and she jerked back with an agonized little cry as Baxter pulled her completely into the boat. You son of a bitch!
Fighting against the movie icon, a mixture of wild, heartbroken fury and agony gritted her teeth and drew tears from her eyes as she thrashed in his arms. How could he do that, purposely hurt her?
Fine, she thought as he turned away. You do something like that to me Mr. Driscoll, than you can just go to hell. Get yourself killed by Kong for all I care!
Then the chaos increased tenfold. More sailors piled into the boats, and now Englehorn himself was there at the bow of hers, pushing it off the shore as he commanded to its crew, "Get her out of here!" before leaping in himself.
Jimmy shouted "Come on!" and Ann turned her head to see that he was still on the stone, facing down Kong with a Tommy gun, prepared to sell his life to avenge Hayes.
Jack was alongside him in a flash, urging him, "Jimmy, don't be crazy!" in a harried voice.
She saw Englehorn's broad back before her as the captain took up his position, and everyone except her and Bruce began to row backwards like the devil was coming for them. She didn't doubt they would've happily sold their souls for an Evinrude motor right now.
"Let me go!" she weakly pleaded, her silvery voice ineffectually sliding through the salt air.
Then, from around the bend in the tunnel, walking upright, the ebony colossus that was Kong appeared, his eyes glinting with rage and muscles straining as he shoved aside a 30-foot tall pillar of crumbling black basalt to clear his path.
Until now, she'd seen no trace of Carl since Jack had dragged her from the village, and a devilish part of Ann had hoped dearly that the producer had been killed in all the hoo-hah. But no.
To her somewhat crestfallen amazement, she suddenly saw his rotund form leaping down the stairs like a pack of wolves were after his blood. Not dead, never dead, no matter what sort of scrape he got himself-and other, less willing people-into.
It was complete chaos.
His voice more desperate and terrified and frantic than she'd ever heard it, Englehorn shot a glance over his shoulder, bellowing "Row! Row goddamnit!"
She saw Carl leap into the other longboat.
She saw Apirana, the Maori sailor who, two months ago had assured her that the savages had not parted Jack's soul from his body, standing on a pinnacle of stone in an unbelievable, if suicidal, display of bravery. His rifle barked twice as Kong came alongside him, focused on the boats. Angered, Kong grabbed Apirana and decapitated him with a shearing bite, blood welling over his teeth before he flung the jerking body to the side.
Wasting no time, the great ape then promptly did a cannonball into the sea, water bursting 15 feet into the air.
"Go back," Ann whispered-urged-prayed-pleaded, for everyone's sake.
Then Jimmy began firing, Ann watching helplessly as bullets perforated Kong's flesh, hearing Jack desperately shout "Jimmy, no!"
With that deceptive speed, Kong was rushing, and then suddenly towering above the nearer longboat like some titanic statue in an Ancient Egyptian temple.
It was all done so quickly Ann had no time to scream, much less command him to stop.
Raising his left arm, Kong brought down a monstrous, pony-sized black fist on the longboat's bow like a gargantuan mallet. Wood splintered and the occupants-including Jack-screamed in pure terror as the impact tilted the boat downward at a sixty degree angle, sending Carl bouncing out the back and into the drink.
As semi-terrestrial knuckle walkers that must support a lot of their mass on the bones of their hands and wrists, a gorilla's ability to manipulate and grasp objects is somewhat crude and clumsy when compared to chimpanzees or humans. They also have a curious phobia about touching new objects with their hands, or at least not until some time has passed first.
Yet Kong showed no hesitation or signs of fumbling as he then clutched the longboat's prow in his massive hands and flung it away to the right, men and all, with the expertise of an Olympic hammer thrower. The entire boat detonated against the volcanic rock and burst apart with an almighty, hideous sound of cracking wood as broken planks and flailing men plummeted into the water like stones.
Knowing one of those men was Jack, Ann could only give a strangled, inarticulate gasp of horror. Equally aghast, Englehorn and the other men sharing the boat with her winced back in supreme, terrified shock and expectation, knowing they were next.
Just like she'd done from the side of the gorge in the seconds after the wildebeest bull had torn the playwright from the ledge and back into the stampede, Ann jerked up into a crouch, desperately raking the surface with her eyes for any sign of him.
One by one, the suddenly floating sailors all surfaced. Then, like panicked otters, they immediately and sensibly dove beneath the waves to prevent being grabbed and shredded like Apirana just had, using the cover to swim out even farther or hide under the floating pieces of the boat they'd been sitting in just moments before.
So she had little problem noticing that Jack and a semiconscious Jimmy were still at the surface. After getting his bearings and spitting out water in a parody of a fountain statue, Jack leapt into white knight mode again on noticing Jimmy's distress, swimming to the youth and supporting his body as he backstroked away to a safer place, exactly like he'd done with her in the river.
Ann was deeply grateful to see that her fella and good friend/sometimes dance partner were both alive and okay.
A more pressing matter took control of her attention in the next second though, for then Kong, having neutralized what he perceived as a threat, turned in her direction and began to wade forward, implacable and colossal. Ann could feel the abject terror of the men sharing the longboat with her, half-mad with the helpless anticipation of what Kong was going to do to them.
Drawing in her breath, Ann willed herself to cultivate as neutral of a demeanor as she could, to persuade the ape that this wasn't what it seemed like, to settle down and let her leave. She began to shout "Kon-", but the words withered in her throat as she noticed Englehorn picking up and raising a massive spring-loaded harpoon.
Fresh horror welled up within her and she fiercely yanked the German's arm back, crying "No, no, leave him alone!" tears leaking from her eyes.
Unmoved, Englehorn almost casually shoved her away with an arm like an iron column, commanding Baxter, "Pull her back!" which the actor did.
Exhaustion was settling into Ann's slim frame now. The emotional strain, the tension of sneaking through the jungle, the frantic running and swimming, the futile struggling with Jack and now Bruce-they were all taking their toll on what fight she had left in her, and fast.
All she could manage to do now was helplessly watch and weep in anguish as Englehorn pressed the trigger, and the harpoon dart leapt through the air, a gigantic steel arrow, to bury itself in the huge ape's flesh just above his right knee.
Kong staggered at the impact, uttering a shocked, agonized roar as he sunk to his knees. She could almost feel his pain herself in her own leg, and certainly in her heart. Yet he grimly continued to wade toward them on all fours, slowed down, but not beaten.
Over Englehorn's right shoulder she noticed Carl crawling out up of the water and onto the rocks between them and the crippled titan, breathing heavily as seawater drizzled from his clothes. At first she thought he was simply trying to get to safety. But then she realized he was clutching a brown object to his chest.
Before she could dope out exactly what it was, Englehorn began to load a second harpoon dart.
"Wait!" Carl desperately shouted at the Fritz as he stood erect, hair plastered against his skull.
Equally desperate, Ann made one last, terminal plea as she weakly tugged at the back of Englehorn's shirt as he aimed right at Kong's chest, sobbing "No! No! No! Please no!" Now that Carl was standing, Ann saw that the brown object was a bottle of chloroform, and she knew very well what he intended to do with it.
Englehorn's finger was tensing on the trigger. Carl was adopting a Lou Gehrig stance atop the rock as Kong drew alongside him. And for the life of her, Ann Darrow couldn't say which man she preferred to see succeed, whose intent for Kong would be the kindest. Either way, this could only end in pain and tears now.
Carl flung the bottle as Kong lumbered by. It was a perfect shot, shattering on Kong's jutting brow in a burst of brown glass and choking vapors. The massive ape jerked back, grunting and moaning in pain and bewilderment as he clumsily scrubbed at his stinging eyes, coughing on the fumes.
As raw despair and grief overtook her, Ann felt the muscles of her legs give way, and she collapsed forward, into the bow. Now the tears flowed freely as she watched Kong try to do what he did best. Fight. Fight to stay erect. Fight to reach her side. Fight against the effects of the chloroform as the drug overtook his hulking black and gray body.
Then, still moaning and whuffing, a study in bewilderment, he slowly collapsed forward into the shallow water, just in front of the longboat. As he did so, he beseechingly reached out to her, his only friend, with a great leathery hand, chuffing softly. At the same moment, he raised his head one final time, and the expression in those wise copper eyes pierced her heart like a dagger.
It was a look of abject, helpless confusion, of uncomprehending betrayal, the gaze of a forsaken, humiliated creature. It said as plainly as words, "I thought you enjoyed what you and I had together?" Or maybe it was just a simple "I tried."
The anguish incinerating her from within was too much for even the strongest woman to bear, and Ann clenched her eyes shut, quivering and weeping as she turned away. A profound, limitless guilt enveloped her. She'd failed Kong, failed to protect him like he'd so bravely protected her, to stop this from happening to him. And while she'd managed to find the strength to keep her gaze on Jack as he'd desperately battled Nduli, letting the playwright know that she believed in and supported and loved him, she didn't even have the guts to meet Kong's eyes as he slipped into unconsciousness, averting her face like a coward.
Out of the corner of her vision, blurred by hot tears, she saw the ape close his eyes, and rest his deep head on the rocks just before his colossal form slumped in the water.
Jack... she suddenly thought miserably.
Slowly turning to her left, she spied him bobbing in the swells, hanging onto a jutting rock with one hand while supporting a senseless Jimmy (who was now beginning to blink), with his other arm.
Those jade eyes, green as the kelp fronds surrounding him, were already fixed on her. Like Kong's, incomprehension and hurt and a despondent betrayal swirled within them.
As much as a part of her resisted, a dreadful switch was flipped in Ann's head then, and she gave him a cold, accusing, disappointed stare.
She heard and saw Carl walk over to where Kong's great head now lay, halting just feet from fangs that could shred the biggest, meanest grizzly bear that ever lived in mere seconds. A great shaft of morning sun illuminating him like a spotlight, his expression was sublime as he proudly declared to what was left of the Venture's occupants, "The whole world'll pay to see this. We're millionaires boys! I'll share it with all of ya. In a few months, his name'll be up on Broadway. 'Kong! The 8th Wonder of the World!" he snapped ecstatically.
At that moment, Ann Eunice Darrow passionately hated the entire race of men, and found herself crying again.
"Go to hell Carl," Englehorn snarled bitterly in response.
"Yeah, Den-ham, I wouldn't start crowing right after I just caused a huge, God-awful disaster," Bruce hissed, glaring.
"Hey, I wouldn't call it a disaster," Carl protested, holding up his hands. "We got the big ape in the end, didn't we?" he pointed out, gesturing at their prize. "And I wasn't the one who caused all the hoo-ha, he was. I mean, did you see me smashi-"
"Enough!" Englehorn bellowed explosively, the producer cowering back in response.
Floating and rocking in the chilly waves, Jack was only half-listening as he supported Jimmy's body. His focus was solely on Ann, his angel who had become a she-devil.
He felt stunned and devastated and crushed beyond what even his literary talents could've expressed. It was like the wind had been knocked out of his lungs and he couldn't get it back again. How could she? Choosing a dumb animal over him, after all he'd risked and done for her?
"I am this close," the captain said, voice low and dangerous as he held his left thumb and forefinger a centimeter apart, "to having you shackled below deck and provisioned with only bread and water for the rest of the voyage while you sit in your own refuse...and I still may yet! Now you keep your forked tongue in your mouth and stay the hell away from me while we clean up the mess your scheme has made. Is that clear?"
"As crystal," Carl replied meekly, lips drawn back as he fidgeted.
"Good," Englehorn snarled balefully. "Anyone who's hurt or going to be in the way of moving the ape might as well come get in the lifeboat now to return to the ship," he announced, "since I'm-"
Suddenly, Jack felt Jimmy's body weakly jerk in his arms and cough, spitting out water. Head flashing around at the sound, Englehorn wasted no time in bringing the whaler alongside the playwright.
"Here, take him," Jack said, gently pushing a coughing, disoriented Jimmy forward and up as crewmember Chad Babbitt grabbed the youth under his shoulders and pulled him into the boat. With assistance from Bruno, he then jerked himself over the edge and slid inside near the middle, shivering from a growing ire and the water's chill.
As soon as he got his bearings, he looked up at Ann, sitting at the bow.
"Ann, how could you. Why are you..."
He was cut off when Ann raised her head and looked at him. It was a gaze of such resentment, such tearful wretchedness, so soaked with disappointment and accusation. He immediately knew he had to zip it and back down if he wasn't to send her over the edge. The sailors seemed to know it too, looking at her warily, uncomfortably, like she was a wacko. Perhaps she was.
Fine. He wouldn't voice his pain just yet. At least not until they reached the ship.
Mercifully, Jimmy provided a badly needed distraction then as he sat up, spluttering.
"How you doing Jim?" Jack asked, unable to keep his voice from cracking.
"You okay buddy?" Frank put in.
"Yeah, I think so," Jimmy coughed. "Swallowed quite a bit of seawater though. Thank you for saving me Mr. Driscoll," he gratefully added. "I owe you one."
"No, it's the other way around, and I just repaid it. Least I could do after you saved me in the gorge," Jack replied, forcing a weak smile. "We're even now."
"Yeah, we're both lucky devils, aren't we?" Jimmy limply grinned. Switching gears then, the young man nervously inquired, "Speaking of which, what happened to that damn monster?" sitting up and looking around as Ann flinched like she'd been slapped. "Oh, there he is."
"Yeah," Chad nodded. "Denham got him good with the chloroform, and in the nick of time too. He'll never be harming anyone again."
An expression of smug pleasure and relief flowed across the young man's features, and he nodded.
Three more crewmen hauled themselves into the whaler before Englehorn ordered everyone to row back to the moored steamer, where Jack knew he, Ann, and anyone else who wasn't needed would be dumped off.
And now, from the direction of the village, several more crewmen were now lurching into view. Some of them had sensibly chosen to hide wherever they could as the ape had rampaged, and had now surmised it was safe to show their noses. Others, limping, bleeding, and their eyes glazed by pain, were wounded, but still able to walk. They'd need rest and medical care as soon as possible, and the only place for that was back on the ship.
Noticing Kong's form sprawled in the craggy shallows, the new arrivals shied like horses, some swiftly beginning to backpedal or exclaim "Oh God!"
"It's alright, he's drugged-finally," Englehorn assured them. "All of you who are in good shape, take care of the injured as best you can until I come back in a few minutes. I'm bringing the others back to the Venture," he commanded, jerking his head in the steamer's direction.
The rowers pushed water with the oars then, and the boat began to slide backward, into the dazzling tropical sunlight.
The coastline of Skull Island, that hellish, insane speck of jungle and crumbling volcanic rock which seemed to stink of death and malice, was slipping away from the playwright at last. He wanted to feel jubilant and overjoyed, to spitefully yell "Good goddamn riddance!" at it and its demonic inhabitants, to cheer and laugh. And a small fragment of him did feel that way, very much so.
But mostly, he instead felt a burning, immeasurable injustice and agony. He tried to meet Ann's gaze, to at least gain a better idea of what the ingrate was feeling, but she steadfastly refused to even give him a brief sideways glance, hunched in the bow like a downtrodden monkey.
After going in reverse for about 40 yards, the crewmen at the oars about-faced and swung the boat around, stroking towards the Venture.
The rest of the ride was spent in an awkward, pregnant silence. No one dared say a word, all either deeply uneasy or contemptuous about Ann's inexplicable attachment and loyalty towards the great beast. Or they were just plain shaken by what'd nearly happened to them.
The actress seemed like she was semi-comatose.
The playwright felt like he was being torn to ribbons inside.
Why? How could she do this to him, after he'd nearly gotten himself killed several times trying to protect and reclaim her? Didn't she care, for Christ's sake?
The Venture's pitted black and red hull expanded before them, and never had Jack been so grateful to see the cluttered, seedy, capable old vessel again. Within minutes, they'd sidled up alongside it.
The faces of two crewmen, Saiful and Fabian, peered over the railing at them. Jack saw Saiful's dark Malay face twist in horror as Fabian's thick Dutch voice demanded in astonished shock, "Great Jesus Captain, you only brought one lifeboat back! What happened to the other?"
"Well, I not think any of them come back ever from that Allah-cursed island, not after the great roaring we hear now," Saiful told the Dutch sailor.
"Never mind that just now," Englehorn snapped. "Just pull us up."
His voice contained a tone of grim, melancholic, disgust. Jack wondered if it was as much at himself as Carl or Ann.
After it had creaked up the ropes and was hovering alongside the deck, Ann was the first to step out of the boat. Although unhurt, her movements were mechanical and sluggishly uncoordinated, like those of a sloth. Her trim frame, watering eyes, short stature, half-cupped hands, and stringy, bedraggled hair further completed the pathetic illusion quite effectively.
Noticing, Saiful tenderly inquired, "You all right, Memsahib Darrow?"
"She's not right in the head, I can say that much," Chad spitefully grunted.
All the other sailors and Bruce nodded stonily in response, gazing at the addled actress with eyes that no longer contained affection and good humor, but now regarded her as something alien and repellent.
"Don't waste your sympathy on her Saiful," Jimmy's youthful voice harshly sneered, vibrating with anger. "She's an ungrateful wench with more loyalty for a huge murdering ape then her own kind!"
Jack had to nod miserably in agreement. He too, stepped out of the lifeboat in a half-caring fashion, mind stunned and raw and disconnected, his shadow trailing behind him like a broken wing.
Ann visibly cringed, wincing at both Jimmy's scathing words and the sound of the playwright's deformed dress shoes hitting the deck. It was excruciating to see.
"Really?" Fabian said, his accented voice filled with disbelief and bafflement as his gaze swept from Jimmy, to Ann, and then back to Jimmy again. "Is that true mam? Are you really that addled in the head?"
Leaping on the opportunity to defend her actions, Ann shot back, "No, I'm not! But your pals don't know Kong as I got to know him, for the mag-"
Then Frank's face twisted and reddened in supreme fury, and he surged forward at Ann like a charging lion-Oh, Mufasa!- bellowing, "That's enough, you treacherous wackaloon!"
Ann tensed for the expected blow, and Jack found himself automatically, uncertainly gliding closer toward her side, even as a petty segment of the writer grinned gleefully at the idea of the actress being dealt a physical punishment.
But Frank stayed his hamlike hand, and Ann managed to stay firm, even as he pointed to the man off his right side and roared in her face, "How heartless and cruel and faithless can you be? Don't you have any loyalty to this man, who tortured his body and risked his life Jesus knows how many times just to save your hide?"
"Well, what about Kong!" Ann snapped back. "He fought and killed three enormous dinosaurs who also wanted to kill me!"
"Now she refers to it by name like a pet," Bruno audibly muttered scornfully in his thick Czech accent, rolling his blue eyes.
Jimmy gave a harsh, bitter laugh, snorting "That is the biggest bowl of applesauce I've ever heard. We're honestly supposed to believe that huge vicious killer ape actually cared about you? Enough to want to protect you?"
"We heard you like screaming like a gutshot rabbit in his grasp." Chad put in. "Kidnapped by a monster!"
"It's true!" Ann fervently countered, her shining blue eyes darting back and forth. "Jack knows this already. I told him about how Kong saved me before we even got to the beach. Tell them Jack!" she pleaded, turning in his direction.
Everyone's gaze was on him. Struggling against the waves of pain and ire roiling in his own chest, the playwright shrugged helplessly, hands outward as he affirmed, "I wasn't there to witness it, but yes, that's what Ann told me Kong did for her sake back in the jungle, and I have no reason to disbelieve her."
"Then if no one else saw it happen, she's just spouting plain horseshit in my eyes," Cromwell, a British sailor, dismissed contemptuously. The others nodded stonily.
"You should be goddamn grateful we decided to follow Jack's lead and came for you, instead of fighting to protect some savage demon that just murdered some of our friends-and we've already lost too many," Frank growled in rage.
"I am you idiots, but-"
"SHUT your Christ-damned mouth, you ape-loving slut!" Frank bellowed, the palm of his right hand smashing into her breastbone and knocking her slender frame back across the deck.
Despite everything-perhaps it was just sheer instinctive chivalry at play-Jack lunged forward at Frank, shouting, "You keep your damn hands off of her!" At the same time though, a grinning, wicked little gremlin within his skull was silently cheering, pleased to see this ungrateful bitch get hers.
Meanwhile, with that gymnast's poise, Ann managed to catch herself in a clumsy squat before tumbling to the planking, and righted herself, trim arms held out in a posture of defense. Frank was drawing his arm back again, eyebrows and lips twisted with rage. He meant to clothesline her this time.
As the playwright got ready to face the daunting prospect of sliding in between them and either deflecting or taking the sailor's blow before...well, whatever he meant to do, a tall yet stocky shape charged across the deck even faster, feet pounding like drums.
Expertly, Englehorn knocked Ann aside with his torso and clamped on to Frank's right arm as it flew at him, wrenching the crewman off balance. The German then grimly backhanded Frank in the jaw, knocking him sprawling on his back.
Slowly, as everyone looked on in astonishment, Frank got to his feet, clutching his lower jaw, shocked blue eyes searching the captain's cold ones for any understanding.
"Captain," he said shakily, "what in the hell was th-"
"Unbecoming conduct for a crewmember is the answer, Mr. Sperry," Englehorn barked back before giving his subordinate a savage kick in the shin. "And most people would consider striking an unarmed woman to fall under that category!"
"But Captain, begging your pardon, she just interfered with the ape's capture, endangered everyone's life, shows absolutely no-"
"You do not need to remind me of Miss Darrow's outrageous and spiteful actions," Englehorn snapped, momentarily casting his glacial gaze behind him and on the vaudeville actress, who withered slightly in response. "But all the same, she is distressed, like all of us, and I expect honorable behavior from my crew towards passengers, especially women."
"Well it's not bloody honorable for her to be standing up for a savage killer after we've all paid dearly to get her out of its clutches," Cromwell replied, staring daggers at the nervous, yet resolute woman before him.
"I thought that was all he was too, but then I realized-" Ann tearfully began, but then Englehorn cut her off.
"You see? She's mad, the poor woman," he indicated with a breed of sympathy. "And can one really be too angry at someone who can't help their madness?"
"I'm sorry!" Ann hissed indignantly. "How dare you ever call me crazy," she tearfully droned. "I just wanted to get off this island, while you and your money-hungry henchmen had to set a trap for-"
With a terrible, steely deliberate slowness, Englehorn turned on his heel and transfixed her with a paralyzing gaze that would've done one of the Aquilasuchus proud. It was a stare of tranquil, barely contained fury and domination and it brought Ann up short as Rudi Englehorn, his voice like a buggy whip, droned, "Do NOT try my patience, Fraulein Darrow. On your account, Mr. Hayes, one of my best friends, my right hand man, and an outstanding first mate is dead. So are too many of my crew. Friends, partners, colleagues all."
" Now," he continued, "if you continue to protest or interfere with my efforts to salvage at least something from this utter train wreck of a voyage, or simply behave like an unreasonable human being in any way Fraulein Ann Darrow, I will have you chained to the wall of your cabin for a fortnight at best. I already have one lunatic to deal with, and am in no mood for another. Is that clear!"
"But Captain, sir, please think about what's wisest in the long ru-"
"DON'T. TRY. ME." Englehorn gnarled dangerously. "Do you understand that, du dumm henne!"
Completely cowed, and knowing she was beaten in every field, Ann simply nodded pathetically, tears leaking down her shell-pink cheeks.
"Good," Englehorn spat curtly. Turning to face Jack, he coolly commanded, "Mr. Driscoll, please see your woman back to her cabin. In fact, I'd suggest clearing out your own things from the hold and find yourself a cabin as well. What's left of my crew and I are going to be plenty busy as it is, and the less people in our way, the better."
Mechanically, fighting the tears, Jack nodded and turned, walking towards the woman who'd just stuck a knife in his heart. "Come on Ann," he solicited, voice clipped as he passed her, extending his hand.
Although she reluctantly began to plod towards the hatch with him, the actress made a point of refusing the gesture. It sliced his soul in two.
Like a girl throwing a tantrum, Ann shoved at Jack's chest with both her hands as the playwright struggled to force the door wider and enter, to confront and reason with this female Benedict Arnold. Bracing his feet against the carpet, he strained, gaining ground even as Ann yelled, "Out! Get out! Get out of my room, you traitor!"
Grimly, Jack placed his hand on her chest and forced her back as he pushed the door open even further with his left elbow, snapping in shock, "Traitor? How the hell am I the traitor! All I did was fight to rescue you!"
He pushed again against Ann's lesser mass and weight, driving her back even further from the doorway. As she struggled to brace herself for another sustained shove, her feet got caught up in the legs of the toppled wicker chair, and she stumbled, nearly falling.
This gave Jack the opportunity he needed, and he lunged into the ransacked room, slamming the door shut behind him and placing his body between her and the handle.
Now that there was some sort of privacy, just the two of them together to get to grips with this, it felt like a type of permission was suddenly granted to Jack Driscoll, a freedom to release and feel his emotions. And he made use of it.
Regaining her balance, Ann seemed to resign herself to the fact that he wasn't going anywhere, focusing on putting the chair upright and under the vanity, then putting her cloche hat and the other larger items that had gotten strewn about when that filthy vile native had overpowered her two days before (in their reality, Jack had to remind himself) in their proper places.
The sight of it, and more importantly, the knowledge that Ann was doing these cleanup activities to avoid having to pay attention to him made his blood boil all the hotter, and he pointed at her possessions with a sweeping gesture, voice explosive in the confined space as he shouted, "Yeah, you see that! That's the same awful sight I saw just after I slipped in another man's blood and realized those crazy sons of bitches had snatched you away to do Christ knows what with you, and that I had to do whatever it took to see you safe again!"
"You know how that felt?" he demanded, voice cracking. "Like being told I was being sent on a one-way trip to Hell! And I did take a trip into it! For you!"
Ann's concentration only sharpened as she picked up the pace of her cleaning. The sight was supremely infuriating.
"Look at me! You look at me when I'm speaking to you goddamn it!" Jack trumpeted.
Sulkily, Ann plucked the sheets back onto the mattress and raised her furrowed eyes back to him, standing erect and crossing her arms.
"That's right," Jack said stonily. "You look at me Ann. Look at these scars I got from a crazy leopard who slashed me to within an inch of my life. Look at the bloodstain on this carpet from where a good man died trying to stop you from being snatched away!"
"But does that mean a damn thing to you? Obviously not, since you clearly value a relationship with a sa-"
"And you value it too little!" Ann tearfully spat back. "I know damn well Kong's not tame Jack, but he was good and noble, just like Mufasa!"
Frustrated and stung by the agonizing, raw memories of the lion king's demise, the playwright replied, " Now don't you dare start comparing the two of them! Mufasa was an intelligent creature Ann! He could talk, understand speech, be reasoned with, trusted not to harm me or run off with you again the first chance he got! Kong can't!"
"You don't know how wrong you are about that last statement, Mr. Driscoll," Ann said coolly.
"Wrong? Wrong! Are you off your rocker?" he shouted in her face. "Did you want to get yourself killed or recaptured, you twit?"
"I could easily have gotten everything under control if you hadn't interfered!" she snapped back. "He wouldn't have hurt me!"
"If you honestly believe that, then you're even more of a lunatic then I thought you were," Jack snorted.
"Don't you dare call me crazy! You know full well I'm not!"
"Yeah, well, you sure acted like it back there! I mean, what the hell is your problem? Don't you have any loyalty to your own kind for Christ's sake? To me?" he croaked.
"Of course I do! That's one of the reasons I was trying to calm him down!"
"Calm him down? Calm him down," the writer scoffed. "Ann, listen to yourself! He's a huge, unpredictable, violent beast the size of a house! You honestly think you can prevent him from doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants!"
"Don't call him a beast!" Ann lashed back, stung. "He's a magnificent, noble animal, smart as you or I."
Sighing in frustration, Jack replied, "Look here! I know he saved your life, and I appreciate that in more ways than one. And I didn't want to see him get captured either."
"Why do I not believe you?"
"But you're treating him like he's your best-what I mean is-you seem to view him as like-like some pet."
"That's better than seeing him as just a vicious beast and an enemy to be shackled in chains," Ann said tearfully, her watering blue eyes filled with disappointment and accusation.
Suddenly, Jack understood with a sickening shock.
"Mother of Christ, you think I had something to do with Kong's capture, don't you?"
"Think? I know you did!" she yelled. "How could you?" she sobbed. "How could you go along with that pig Carl!"
"Ann, it's not true. I swear I had no clue that he planned to catch the ape. I give you my word on that!"
"Why should I believe you? I bet you're secretly delighted to see Kong shackled in chains, after what he did to you and the other men, how he made me scream and be scared."
"Oh bullshit," the writer snorted. "When did I ever say or show that I hated that ape or wanted him to suffer punishment? My only concern has been with saving your thankless damn hide, getting you back on this ship, and getting the hell out."
"I thought you were the one," Ann piteously sniffed. "I thought you'd always stand by me, always be loyal. But you're just like all the other men I've adored, faithless as a stag!"
"Ann Darrow, you're making a huge mistake," Jack pleaded, his heart sinking. "Jumping to conclusions."
"Don't even speak to me, you lying traitor!"
His ire mounting even higher, Jack shouted, "Goddamn it Ann, get it into your fool head that I didn't do it! Hell, if it makes you happy, I swear on my very soul and the lives of my parents that I played no part in this!"
"Oh come on! Did you think I was an idiot Mr. Driscoll?" the actress snapped. "Did you think I wouldn't dope it out in the end? I know you've been plotting with Carl all about this, figuring out a way to get back at Kong and get something really spectacular out of this journey!"
"Ann, I didn't even see him in the flesh until he attacked us at the chasm! And from that point on I was much too preoccupied with more urgent matters. You know, fighting for my life against nightmare horrors, pulling myself up vines, running myself ragged through a green hell all alone- all to save your skin!" he snapped bitterly.
"But you wouldn't let me help Kong, Mufasa, or Simba when they were in trouble! You dragged me away and left those poor lions to die at the gorge, and now the same thing with Kong! Some big heart you have!"
"You don't understand. It was out of our hands!"
"You're the one who doesn't understand," Ann sobbed angrily. "Even worse, you didn't care. Well, I don't care either."
"I do care you ungrateful, rassing-frassing blockhead! It's just that I care about your well-being way more than any animal, no matter how intelligent, and would rather not see Scar kill you or Kong kidnap you a second time after all the hell and stress I've been through!"
"I was a fool to ever develop feelings for you," Ann moaned. "I should've known better than to get sucked in."
"Ann, listen to me darling-"
"I am NOT your darling, you cowardly weasel!"
"And I am not your enemy!" Jack yelled, bull-throated, causing Ann to momentarily wince in fear. "You want to make me a villain, rake me across the coals after all I've done for you, up to and including almost dying a horrific death multiple times, fine! But at least have the guts and the brains to admit that the fault lies with Carl and Englehorn for planning Kong's capture, and not with someone who cares about your happiness and safety above all else! I never did anything but save your life and be good to you!"
"Just leave me alone! I hate you all!"
And then Jack Driscoll did something truly despicable in his injured rage.
Cocking back his right arm, teeth bared in fury, he roared "You goddamn twit!" and slapped her across the face.
It was an awful, sharp sound, like the one a blind produces when suddenly rolled up, and it seemed to not only fill the entire galley, but fill the entire world.
The force of the blow not only made Ann's head snap to the left in a toss of flaxen curls, it staggered the actress to the point where her legs gave way underneath her and she sunk to her knees on the carpet.
Jack's rage was instantly replaced by the nauseating realization of the line he'd just crossed, one from which there was no turning back. Something twisted deep inside him. Ann gaped up at him in stupefied shock and fear, holding her hand to her reddening cheek.
He'd never, ever struck her in anger before! She clearly didn't seem to know what to do.
Horrified, Jack found his voice first.
"Oh Jesus Ann, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do-"
A flash of fury sprung up in her great blue eyes, mingled with terror of him.
"You!" she shrieked, a harpy's cry as the actress sprung upright like a bedraggled gymnast. "You hit me, you son of a bitch!"
And indeed, Jack Driscoll certainly felt very much like a son of a bitch at that moment.
Numb and stupefied by what he'd done, the playwright put up little resistance as Ann, driven by rage and animal fear, flew at him. She kicked him in the shin, pounded on his chest, slapped at his angular face as he parried her blows with his own wide hands, being driven back as she screamed-sobbed, "Get out you bastard! How could you? I'll teach you to hurt me! I never want to see you again!"
Hurriedly twisting the doorknob behind him, Jack desperately babbled, "I'm sorry Ann! Jesus help me, I didn't mean to!"
"Too late for that!" she spat, forcing him through the doorway and stumbling, into the hallway. "Any boyfriend of mine ever strikes me, he can go fly a kite! Oh, and count yourself damn lucky that there aren't any cops around for me to call Mr. Driscoll!" she coldly added before slamming the door in his face and locking it in the same motion.
"Ann, I'm sorry, I lost control! My God, forgive me!"
"I was beginning to forgive you, accept that you truly had no part to play in capturing Kong," she snarled through the wooden panel, "but I'll never forgive you for dragging me away, and I certainly won't ever forgive you for this!"
"Okay, but I'm still sorry!" the mortified playwright groaned, shuddering with shame and guilt.
"You can apologize until the end of time Mr. Driscoll, and I'll still never accept it! Now scram you cad!"
There was no going back, and Jack gave a weary, defeated sigh. What was done was done.
"So that's how it's going to be between us, huh?"
"That's how it's gonna be," Ann sniped bitterly. "Now take a hint, you knife-nosed bagel dog, and buzz off! FOREVER!"
Seething with self-loathing and despondent frustration, Jack Driscoll turned on his heel and paced down the hallway.
Let her weep and sulk and hate me, a petty little voice in the writer scoffed as a way of comforting himself. She's an ungrateful, addle-brained harlot who values a giant, savage ape over her own kind, over a rightful human relationship between me and her! She fully deserved that slap, he decided with a shaky, pompous satisfaction. It felt good. Hell, I should've hit her even harder for doing this to me and the Venture's crew!
And if she hates me, wants to be alone, than fine! Just don't think about her or even acknowledge her presence for the rest of this miserable damn voyage. Remember, don't think about her.
The fury and resentment that had welled up inside Jack towards Rafiki for sending him and Ann back to the jungles of this diabolical island had never truly dissipated. It had just subsided, smoldered, like the magma chamber underneath a volcano.
Now, the knowledge of the complete disaster that had just occurred, and all because of that ugly baboon's insistence on sending them back to square one, only amplified it further. Ultimately, Ann had been ripped away from him forever because of that damn monkey!
Still, Rafiki had been just doing his job, Jack grudgingly admitted. He was doing what he had to do, not out of selfishness or malice. Besides, there was nothing he could do to punish the mandrill witch doctor anyhow.
There was one individual however, who he could strike back at, who had set this whole sordid business in motion. His brain was lit on fire by the memory.
He'd been had, been betrayed, been turned on four times now! It was more than any other man that Jack knew of had ever experienced. Certainly, it was more than any man could endure without finally losing control.
Over the past several hours, the playwright had felt a kaleidoscope of intense, raw emotions. Anxiety. Hope. Confusion. Terror. Reluctance. Love. Protectiveness. Determination. And rage.
Now, rage was his universe, and it was rage of a terrible new dimension. Carmine filled the edges of his vision. His aquiline face was tinted a deep, sticky red, and every tendon stood out like a whip. If a rabbit, duck, toad, or other small animal had somehow had the misfortune to show up then, Jack would not have hesitated to gleefully slaughter it in cold blood with just his bare hands and feet.
Normally, the playwright would've dealt with any impulses of rage by writing a violent scene, cursing until he felt better, calling a pal and ranting to them about the injustice, or on rare occasions, destroying an inanimate object.
This time though, he didn't allow the rage to abate. It fed on itself, evolved, was directed towards a purpose, a goal.
Grimly, he literally stalked down the ship's hall in the direction of Carl's quarters. He meant not only to punish, but to kill.
Yep, Jack has lost it, and things are going to get mighty nasty for Carl in Part 2...
Du dumm henne means "You stupid hen!" in German.
Ann kind of did get worked over in this chapter, and I'll be honest when I say I wanted to do the same thing after watching this scene for the 1st few times, or at least chew her out like nobody's business. Does that make me an evil person? I don't think so.
Finally, I really enjoyed putting all those 30's era insults in here!