The Ghost and the Angel
Everywhere my body tingles. Everywhere but my thigh and shoulder; in those places it burns. But its the good kind of pain, its like the sensation one gets when scratching an itch. Its the familiar feeling of my cells regenerating, of my red blood cells reproducing, of my body self-healing.
This is my first waking sensation, and with it comes the obvious knowledge that I have been injured.
My second is that I am not alone.
I sense the presence of someone else beside me before I even open my eyes, and my body tenses, the hairs rising on the back of my neck, in response. When my eyes do snap open, my mind on high alert and my body ready to react, I realize that the person beside me is not an enemy. That in itself, is such an unfamiliar experience that for a moment I am frozen, staring down at the form laying beside me.
It is Marta.
She is asleep, curled up against my side with one arm thrown over her head, and the other resting on my chest, while her dark hair, loose and tangled, is splayed about her like a halo.
Close physical contact is still new to me, especially with a woman, so for a time I cant move, cant breathe, as I stare down at her.
Let's face it, she's gorgeous—especially like this, with her hair all wild and her body relaxed and vulnerable—and I cant help but feel some emotion as she lies beside me. Let's just call it Protectiveness.
I cant help but analyze how vulnerable she is right now, curled up asleep beside me. How she trusts me to protect and take care of her.
And I would. Will. Do.
Hell, if someone burst in the room right now I would die before I let them touch her. And even as I am thinking that I'm kicking myself for being so distractible, for by this time I should have analyzed where we are, what our situation is, what escape routes and exits there are, and whether or not we will be needing to use them any time soon.
Snapping out of it, I do just that.
We are in a small wooden cabin which, judging by its appearance and by the way I feel movement under me, lies on a boat.
As my instincts first told me, the cabin is empty except for Marta and I, and just outside a porthole, I can see the glimmer of stars. There is one door, which I see is unlocked, and the one porthole window that I already mentioned, facing out over the water. Though I strain my ears, and all I can hear is Marta's even breathing and the waves gently bumping against the hull of the boat; which is good because it means, for the moment, I am the only one awake and active, and that eliminates any immediate threat.
Thinking back, I try to recall the events leading up to the moment.
I remember the motorcycle chase in Manila, the crash, and Marta on the pavement beside me. I must have passed out after that because everything else is blank.
No, not everything.
Dimly I remember hearing Marta's voice: "Will you help us?" "Please?"
I assume that whoever she was talking to had agreed—a local fisherman, no doubt, judging by the fact that we were on a boat—and that she must feel that we were relatively safe as she had felt secure enough to fall asleep.
Beside me, I think, but quickly block that thought.
I trusted her instincts. For the moment, we were safe.
Next I turned my thoughts upon my own condition.
As I already mentioned, my body was tingling, which meant that I had been injured at some time and that my body was doing damage control. Looking down I saw my own skin gleaming through a square of missing fabric in my jeans. In the center of the square, exactly where I felt the burning sensation, there was a neat row of fresh stitches, and my mind flashed back to when I had gotten shot in the thigh.
Well, check that off the list.
Next, I became aware that my jacket and shirt had been removed and were lying folded at my feet, leaving my chest bare. Once more, where I feel the burning sensation, this time on my shoulder, I feel a line of fresh stitches.
She must have somehow carried me here, and stitched up my wounds before finally dropping from exhaustion beside me on the bed. Which just leaves........
There. On the table beside me, in a small glass, is the bloodied bullet that was previously lodged in my thigh.
Oh, Marta. Thank you.
Once more I looked down at her peaceful form, my eyes following a small strand of hair across her face that gently fluttered every time she softly breathed out from between slightly parted lips.
As I watched her, my heart felt another surge of.......Protectiveness?
No, the word didn't seem to fit now.
I needed to move. Get out. Gage our situation not just on the inside the cabin. I needed know every inch of this boat we were on: the crew, supplies, location, escape routes, everything.
Moving with as slight movements as possible, I gently lifted Marta's arm off my chest and scooted off the bed.
Rising, I tested out my leg. It hurt and the tingling in that area tripled, but it was steady beneath me and I knew that I could walk, even run on it if I had to.
I changed into the only pants I had that were still intact which happened to be a pair of cargo pants, before walking to the door.
With my hand on the latch, I hesitated, before returning to the bedside and gently covering Marta with a blanket. She stirred slightly at the weight, before sighing contentedly and burrowing her face into the soft fabric.
I allowed myself the pleasure of a small smile, before exiting the cabin, closing the door noiselessly behind me.
It was a beautiful tropical night outside. A slight breeze was blowing, while calm waves gently rocked the boat under a cloudless starry sky and a bright full moon. But now was not the time to stop and smell the roses—I had a job to complete first, and wouldn't be at ease till it was done.
Years of training had taught me to be invisible, to not exist, to leave no trace behind me, and to walk among thousands without warranting a second glance or a passing thought. Years of training had taught me to be a ghost, and that night, I was one.
Slowly, methodically, I covered every inch of the double-decker fishing boat we were on, memorizing and mapping it out in my head. Slowly, methodically, I traversed the bowels of the boat until all its few secrets were revealed to me—until I knew.
I knew that if I needed a gun, I would find a Walther P22 pistol hidden under the shelf in the control room. I knew that the best place to hide, should we be boarded, would be under the false floor in the water heater closet. I knew that the boat was stocked with enough supplies to last us a week. I knew that our current location was somewhere near Roxas. And I knew that the boat belonged to a Lauro Barengas, a local fisherman with a wife and two kids who lived in Zamboanga.
The crew consisted merely of Lauro, his small son, and another man whose name I did not know but made an educated guess that he was Lauro's brother. The sight of the gold watch on Lauro's wrist, the same that I had stolen off of the security guard back at the lab and had been previously wearing before I passed out, did not escape me when I went through the cabin holding the snoring crew. For a moment, I was puzzled by this, but then decided on the conclusion that Marta must have given it to him.
I had to hand it to her: intentional or not, she couldn't have picked a better place. Lauro was a family man, with modest to low means, which meant that his sympathy could be easily played upon and his tongue kept silent and content with the right amount of incentive pay. His brother I was less sure about, as I knew next to nothing about him, but he seemed an honest fellow and I wasn't very concerned. Still, I would make a point to strike up a conversation with him in the morning. The boat itself as a mode of transportation was ideal in our situation as it was inconspicuous and made us a harder target to find. After all, what's one boat on the ocean among thousands? But most importantly, we were moving, at a constant rate, away from Manila.
The task I had set out for myself completed, I moved silently back to the cabin given to Marta and I. Pausing at the door, I listened. Marta's steady breathing could still be heard inside.
Maybe it was the fact that my leg was beginning to tingle again, or maybe it was the effect of the pristine tropical night outside, in any case, I didn't want to return to the dark cabin. So, turning away from the door and walking to the railing, I leaned my weight up against it and looked out at the starry horizon.
I don't know how long I stood there, allowing my mind to be blissfully blank as I tried to spy out constellations I knew and make up ones of my own, when I sensed someone behind me. Don't ask me how, but as soon as I became aware of that someone behind me, I knew, without turning, that it was Marta. I wish I could say that it was because of something clever, like I sensed the change in the air patterns around me, or smelled the shampoo in her hair, but that's just not the truth. The truth is that I just knew instinctually that it was her. And it was that instinctual recognition that saved her from my usual instinctual reaction to slam her bodily into the wall and press a knife to her throat.
"I don't know how you do it," she says behind me, confirming what I already knew.
"Do what?" I ask, calmly turning to face her. She stands about four feet away from me, her hands slowly moving up and down over her arms in a stimulating motion, while her eyes are watching my face with a curious expression in them. Her skin, made pale in the moonlight, gleams like ivory in the night, and her dark hair falls about her shoulders in tangled curls, making her look like some ethereal angel under the stars.
"Know its me," she explains. "I wasn't making a sound; I know because I was trying not to."
I gave a dry laugh. "That might not be the smartest thing to do."
She smiled and looked down at her feet. "You didn't answer my question," she responded, looking up at me again with a shy glance.
I shrugged. "I don't know, I just do. How did you know that I did?"
Now it was her turn to shrug, and she came to stand beside me at the railing. "Your back tensed," she said simply. I felt a slight pang and wondered how she might interpret that. I suddenly felt a need to please her. "I'll make something of you yet," I said with a grin, bumping her with my shoulder. She smiled at the complement, for that's what I meant it to be, and we both looked out over the water and up at the stars.
"How's the leg?" she asked after a moment of silence. "The leg" was currently tingling so much it was all I could do to keep it from twitching spastically, while the steady burn actually felt like fire was licking my flesh—it hadn't taken the night's work very well. "It's um, its healing." I said, noncommittally.
Sometimes I think healing naturally is better, but that thought always vanishes when three days later I'm moving around like nothing happened.
My tone and hesitation made her look up sharply and analyze my face. One glance and she knew.
She breathed a laugh. "I bet!"
After all, she was the doctor.
"Thank you," I say suddenly serious. "For what you did. You saved both of our lives, and—" I duck my head demanding that she look into my eyes, "you took care of me."
She dropped her eyes to her hands on the rail, embarrassed at the gratitude I let her see in mine.
"You would have done the same for me," she replied softly. Its true, but it still doesn't dim how thankful I am to her.
"What happened after I passed out?" I asked, and she began to tell me everything that occurred, with me interrupting occasionally to grill her on details.
".......... I fell asleep after I stitched you up, and the rest you know." She said it so simply, so humbly, as if it was nothing.
You spent two hours fishing a bullet out of my thigh and sewing me up, even though you were ready to drop from exhaustion, I think.
"Did you give Lauro the watch?" I asked suddenly.
She started at the fact that I knew his name as she had not told me yet.
"Yes! How did you—", but she stopped herself, at looked at me sharply as realization dawned. "You went through the boat, didn't you?"
I said nothing and looked out over the water.
"You cant just go looking through peoples lives like that!" She cried, her voice accusing.
"I needed to know that they were safe! That we were safe!" I responded, feeling defensive. "And they are—we are. It's good—you did good." I nodded to prove a point, and once more looked out over the water. Beside me, I could hear her sigh as she ran a hand through her hair. "I'm sorry," she said softly, bumping into me, "you're right. It's just........what do we do now?"
That is the question of the day, and one that has been nagging at the back of my mind. The truth is: I don't know, and that could very well get us killed.
stay together," I say, and take her hand.