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Rogue the King

 

 

 

 

 

     “They changed the names of course,” Margo said.

Richard Teasborough pointed to his recorder as a reminder about the interview, and asked, “How long have you lived on Bone Island?”

     Margo’s furrowed hands fluttered in her lap. She crossed her knobby ankles. Thick blue veins trekked up her still-shapely dancer legs, but the ugly blemishes didn’t detract from her beauty and Richard imagined she’d been captivating as an aspiring actress sixty years earlier, when the giant ape took her as his mate.

“Even the King’s. Especially his.” She patted her thinning white hair, which streamed from the middle of her small head like threads from a loom. “And mine. And Mr. Denten’s. And Jack’s.”

     “And you’ve lived here for how long?”

     “Yes,” Margo sighed. “I live here.” She waved her age-spotted hands at the walls of the house the island government provided her. Ceramic figurines on laminated shelves decorated the whitewashed wall. Cats and dogs and farm animals marched, sat, and danced; but there were no apes. Not even monkeys.

     “Do you still see the King?” Richard asked.

     Margo shook her head, her soft blue eyes downcast. “From a distance sometimes. Like the tourists.”

     A horn sounded outside.

     “Now who would that be?” Margo asked, sounding annoyed. She shuffled to the open window. “A limousine!”  She clapped her hands. “I imagine Mr. Mawki sent it.”

     Richard smiled. “Would you like to visit the King today?” he asked.

     “I often take a limo to the palisades,” Margo said in a dreamy voice.

     The husky driver in a trim dark suit doffed his visor-cap, opened the rear door and helped the car’s occupant step out. Adjusting his white coat by pulling it tight, fixing his thin tie so the knot was at his throat, the visitor strutted to the picket fence surrounding Margo’s cabin.

Margo rushed to the door. “Mr. Mawki,” she gushed, and hugged the visitor.

     Richard extended his hand. “We spoke by telephone.”

     “Yes,” Mawki said. “The reporter.”

     Journalist, Richard wanted to say, but refrained. Bone Island officials, he’d discovered, didn’t like criticism. As Minister for Tourism, Mawki obviously relished the respect afforded him by the wealth that tourists brought to his island. Two generations removed from the chanting hordes depicted in the film that fictionalized Margo Kane’s ordeal, Mawki exuded power and grace.

     “I understand,” Mawki said in his deep voice, “that you’d like to visit the King today.” His long body bent at the waist when he bowed to Margo.

     “Do you think he knows I’m coming? Will we see him this time? It’s so very, very disappointing when he doesn’t come out to roar and beat his chest.” Margo giggled and traipsed to the waiting limo.

     Richard sat up front with the driver while Mawki and Margo clung to one another, hand-in-hand, in the spacious rear compartment, and the limo wended its way from the beachside community to Palisades Lookout, the tourist site built where the old village and its wooden wall once stood.

#

      Two uniformed police in spotless white shorts and shirts lounged in lawn chairs and glanced up now and again only when an attractive woman passed. When the limo pulled into a VIP-labeled parking spot and the driver hurried out from behind the wheel to open the rear door, the police shuffled to their feet.

     Buses filling the parking lot spoke of Bone Island’s success. Tourists packed the shoreline hotels and flocked to see the replica of the walled village that gave Rogue to the world. They wandered up the ramp to the Palisades to stand on the ramparts and stare at the thick jungle beyond, hoping to see the lofty trees part, to glimpse Rogue crashing through the forest, coming to stand at the electrified fence, where he’d beat his chest and roar, the huge whites of his eyes shining against his dark fleshy face.

     “I hope we see the King today,” Margo said as Mawki escorted her through the VIP gate and up the stairs to the viewing platform.

A maid in a skimpy skirt and top that showed off creamy brown skin served cold tropical drinks to the crowd. Important island officials, Richard guessed when Mawki greeted them with deference. They, in turn, nodded kindly at Margo, but without the admiration Richard thought she deserved. After all, if it hadn’t been for Margo Kane, Bone Island would have wound up as a test range for the hydrogen bomb back in the 1950s.

     In the jungle, birds fluttered amid the trees and a giant lizard raised its knobby head and screamed. The sound caused several of the birds to fall into its open jaw and some onlookers applauded and cheered. Others gasped.

     Margo pointed at a dais set in a clearing outside the resurrected village wall. A stake with bamboo rings holding loops of rope made from twisted vines stood as a reminder of how the natives appeased King Rogue in a bygone day. “That’s where they tied me up,” she said to Richard.

     Mawki grinned. “It may have been my very own grandfather who carried you out there.”

     In reply, Margo tapped him on the shoulder. A playful slap. Paired with a twinkle in her eye. “You’ve no idea how frightened I was,” she whispered to Richard. “I peed myself.” She laughed. “Yes, I did!”

     A roar elicited a shout from the watching crowd. A black hand rose above the forest’s luxuriant green cover and the top of a dark, hairy head appeared between leafy branches.

     “Rogue! Rogue! Rogue!” exploded from loudspeakers arrayed across the wall, the chant accented by beating drums and stomping feet.

     “There!” Margo screamed, pointing.

     Rogue emerged from the forest. He glared at the platform where virgin sacrifices were once left for his approval. He pounded his chest, mouth wide open, saliva dripping from his long incisors.

     “Does he see me?” Margo asked Mawki. “Do you think he knows I’m here?”

     Richard noted everything he saw and heard, and planned how he’d file his article from the ship on the way back to Australia. By the time he boarded a plane in Melbourne to return to Los Angeles he’d have a new assignment. And Margo, Rogue, Mawki and their story?

     Despite his hopes, this article wouldn’t bring him the fame he’d pursued when he was young and the future beckoned like a loving mate. A few hundred readers might be enchanted by what he wrote. Perhaps a few thousand would feel their ten minutes of reading had been rewarded with some insight into what Margo Kane felt or thought. There might even be a handful that cared enough to write the editor in praise of Richard’s efforts.

     “Does he see me?” Margo asked again. Rogue beat his chest. He roared, his mouth wide open, his tongue like a fire in his deep maw.

     “I’m sure he knows you’re here,” Richard said to be kind to the old woman.

     “How I wish I could feel his touch once more,” Margo said.

     Mawki put his hand on her arm. “You know that’s impossible.”

     “But I’d so much enjoy being with him again.” A tear fell from Margo’s eye and trickled down a wrinkle in her cheek.  

     That, Richard thought, would be a story! A real story. Rogue and Margo Kane: united again. “Why isn’t it possible?” he asked Mawki.

     The Minister for Tourism glared across shook his head slowly, like a father warning a child about his behavior.

     “It’s been so long,” Margo said, sniffing back her tears. “Not since that day in New York City.” She looked out at the jungle and the retreating form of the giant ape. “So long, long ago.”

#

     “My great-uncle, actually,” the disheveled man said, his elbows resting on a coffee stained tabletop. His office chair squeaked as he rolled slightly back and forth. Richard masked his disappointment. He’d flown to this Midwestern town in hopes of finding help. Instead, he’d encountered a dingy building where Keenan Jones ran a small video services company.

     “And you took over his enterprises?” Richard asked.

     “My father was the benefactor of Uncle Carl’s – “ the curly haired man sneered – “notoriety?”

     Denten Studios, which had made the original King Rogue documentary during which Margo Kane was abducted, looked to have fallen into disarray and neglect. 

“Your father?” Richard ventured. “He took over – “

     “He did. But he died a few years back. Killed by a pack of wild boars during one of his docu-drama expeditions. Looking for a real-life Romules.” The man snorted. “You’re with what journal?” he asked.

     “Incredible Horribles.

     “The idiots who drained the Loch?”

     “No. That’s not something we’d do,” Richard said in defense, though there’d been lamentations around their virtual office that they’d missed a chance to hunt down Nessie. The ancient monster was found putting up a fight in three feet of water while a camera crew filmed a squad of mercenaries battling her to submission.

     “I tried to get on that film crew,” Keenan said, a note of chagrin shadowing his long face. He rubbed the stubble on his chin. “To sabotage them or something. You know?”

     Richard nodded, glumly. His last words to Margo had been, “I’m coming back with something for you.”

     Her gushing reply: “Surprise me! I love to be surprised. The King always liked to bring me little treats, little surprises.”

     Keenan stood and gestured at the computers on either side of the room. “Not as exciting as what my dad and uncle used to do, but it pays the bills.”

     Richard started to back out of the narrow room.

     “Of course,” Keenan continued, “I try to get out there with my cameras and gear. Video the animals. The two-legged ones, when I can.” He laughed. “I even got some attention at the Riggly Festival one year.”

     Richard’s ears perked up. He attended that carnival of short odd films and videos every year. Held in a tent in the Mojave Desert, Riggly’s was the premier attraction for true-life dramas focusing on the whimsical and the absurd.

     “Would you like to win first prize some day?” Richard ventured.

     Keenan shrugged and squeezed past Richard and walked out of the room and into the small antechamber leading to the dusty street outside. A tractor-trailer rumbled by, making the building vibrate.

     “Imagine,” Richard said, “filming King Rogue in his natural habitat. United with his true love.”

     Keenan laughed. Sunlight dashed into the small room when he opened the front door. “Want to know why I moved my studio into this backwater?”

     Richard fumbled for something to say. Glory? Fame? Recognition? What would appeal to this middle-aged man who’d settled for much less than what his famous uncle had achieved?

     “Why here?” Richard waved a hand at the empty street with its shuttered stores, the looming Golden Arches by the highway, and the tall trees and wooded slopes of the nearby National Park.

     “Because no one expects much,” Keenan answered. His gray eyes misted over. “I make a living. I sometimes make a film people appreciate. I do weddings. Birthday parties. Whatever.”

     “To pay the bills,” Richard said softly.

     Keenan nodded. “What did you say about Riggly’s?”

     Richard hurried to frame a response.

     But Keenan went on. “If you’ve got some crazy idea about dragging me out of this town, to make a documentary that’ll make me into something more than what I am – “ He stopped and waved his hands in the air, pointing at the empty street and the rundown building and the sign saying “Denten Studios” in bright red letters on a pale green background.

     “Bone Island,” Richard sputtered. “Reunite Margo Kane and King Rogue. For one last embrace before they die.”

     Keenan’s stained and crooked teeth flashed. “Return to Bone Island,” he echoed. “I like the sound of that.”

#

The nautical map meant little to Richard, but Keenan seemed to understand Captain Rantoul’s explanations. They huddled at a flimsy metal table clipped to the deck. Above them, amid the crash of waves, the two deckhands’ bare feet thumped as they ran from one end of the yacht to the other.

     “And you think we can bring the equipment inland here?” Keenan asked.

     Rantoul’s thick jaw cracked when he moved it. “Mind you, it don’t matter to me what you smugglin’. Just make it fast.”

     Richard didn’t debate the captain’s assumption. Who else but smugglers would be looking for a way into the jungle on the far side of Bone Island? Rantoul’s Omigon Moray seemed rugged enough for their task. So far, it had taken them across 500 miles of open sea, to just beyond the reef fronting Bone’s beach-front property.

     The pugnacious Rantoul seemed accustomed to suspicious characters leasing his maritime services. Giving Incredible Horribles’ First Distribution Rights to the eventual docu-drama paid for everything, and Richard dreamt of his byline emblazoned across Horrible’s web site, plus credit as the documentary film’s executive producer. After this, the world of Pop-News would take him seriously.

     “We can put in here, just beyond the rocks.” Keenan tapped the wavy lines close to Bone Island’s cliff wall.

     “One of my boys will run you in on the dinghy,” Rantoul offered.

     “Can he get us past those rocks?” Keenan asked.

     “If he can’t, ain’t none of you coming back.” Rantoul laughed, and Keenan threw back his head, cackling, his hands on his stomach and his shaggy face crimson beneath a week’s growth of facial hair.

#

     Richard set down the heavy tripod and stepped onto the porch.  On the other side of the screen door, Margo raised a thin hand in greeting, her milky eyes slowly moving from Teasborough to Keenan and the old-fashioned camera he’d lugged from the boat.

     “Who is that young man?” Margo called out, and turned on the porch light. Moths swarmed close to the hazy glow.

     “My friend,” Richard said. “Can we come in?”

     “You should’ve sent a messenger,” Margo said. “I’m rather indisposed at present.”

     A whiff of sweet wine touched Richard’s nose. “I’d like a glass of that myself.”

     Margo grinned. “Whatever do you mean?”     When she opened the door, Richard looked back at Keenan and signaled: Follow me.

     “I want to get some establishing shots.” Keenan hoisted the camera to his shoulder. Battery-driven lights bathed the porch and the small yard leading to the sidewalk. He gestured with an impatient wave that Richard should go into the house.

     Margo patted her hair. “Are we making a movie? It’s been so long. I don’t know if I can remember lines anymore.”

     Keenan stumbled across the threshold, grinned when he caught his balance and put down the camera. All of his video equipment, Richard had noticed, was more vintage than modern. No lightweight video-cams. No non-intrusive devices used for on-the-spot TV.

     “And you are?” Margo’s eyes moved from Keenan’s toes to his head, and onto the camera case and the canvas bag slung across one shoulder.

     “This is Mr. Denten’s nephew,” Richard said. The name drew a red flush to the old woman’s sunken cheeks. Suddenly, she threw her arms around Keenan and hugged him.

     “That explains everything!” Margo gushed. “I had no idea. Imagine. Mr. Denten’s still making movies. At our age. You know, he never went anywhere without a camera. Movie. Still. His entire life was film.” She crossed to a wheeled tray with a bucket of ice, decanted brandy, and a bottle of inexpensive white wine.

     “Remember what I said about visiting Rogue once more?” Richard took the glass of wine Margo brought him, and they sat side-by-side on the wicker chairs near the window.

     Keenan set up his tripod and mounted the camera.

     “I asked Mr. Mawki about that,” Margo said. She looked down at her fluttering hands. “He certainly didn’t approve of the idea.”

     “He doesn’t have to know,” Richard said, and reached to pat her withered hands. “It’ll be like before. We’ll sneak into the jungle. Find the King.”

     Margo glanced up. “Actually, I was kidnapped. Carried off.” She shuddered. “It was so awful! You can’t imagine the terror, Mr. Teasborough. I peed myself, you know.” She blushed. “But then the King came and when he roared – well – I can tell you he didn’t please me. Not at first. His breath was something terrible.”

     “This way,” Keenan beckoned, and cast a spotlight onto Margo’s face.

     “I have a boat waiting for us,” Richard said. “We’ve a secret way into the jungle. On the other side of the island.”

     Margo glowed, eyes wide. “I so much love secrets.” She clapped. “Have you spoken to Mr. Mawki about this? What does he say? Will he send a car to fetch me?”

     “We’ll leave this evening,” Richard said. The plan was to sail out to sea and double back on Bone Island in the early morning, silently sailing close to the cliff wall on the opposite end of the island.

     “And Mr. Mawki says it’s okay?”

     Richard squeezed Margo’s hand. “I’m doing this for you. Not Mr. Mawki. For you and the King. Mawki doesn’t have to know.”

     “He’ll disapprove.”

     “Who do you want to please?” Richard asked. “Mr. Mawki or the King?”

     “The King, of course.”

     “Of course,” Richard said, standing. “And yourself, too. You and King Rogue. You’re the only two who matter.”

     “Of course,” Margo exclaimed. “Let me get my walking shoes.”

     They left the house and walked towards the beach, where an inlet had been fashioned with seawalls and an artificial lagoon so pleasure craft could put in to deliver the tourists. Keenan walked backwards, filming from the front.

     Most of the boats rocking in the shallow water were dimly lit, their decks crowded with passengers drinking, laughing, dancing to loud music.

     “I’m going to see the King,” Margo shouted, waving to the tourists, who cheered and applauded when the old lady traipsed across the narrow gangplank and onto Rantoul’s Omigon Moray.

#

     The deckhands deftly maneuvered the rowboat between the rocks and heavy waves. One manned the throttle of the sputtering electric motor jutting from the stern while the other knelt at the bow with an oar. When they reached the beach, they jumped out and pushed the craft to shore, where Keenan alighted with his camera and lights and canvas bag of accessories. Richard stepped into the gurgling surf and then onto the sand, turned and helped Margo alight.

     She gaped at the lofty heights. “I can’t believe I jumped from there. But I did have Mr. Driscoli to help me, and I was such a good swimmer in those days.”

     “Tell Captain Rantoul to expect us tonight,” Richard told the deckhands, and they nodded, grinning, as they slipped into the dinghy and putt-putted back to the Omigon Moray bobbing just beyond the rocks.

Further off, a patrol boat’s outline faded in and out of the haze. Richard wondered if Mawki had discovered that Margo was gone. Did he check in on her every night? Send a police patrol by?

     “The path!” Keenan shouted. “Over here.”

     Cutting through the foliage with a machete was hard work and Richard’s arm was tired after a minute of hacking at the twisted branches and sinewy vines. After several more minutes of battling the vegetation, they came upon a clearing.

     “Out of the rough stuff,” Keenan commented.

     “The natives are very superstitious,” Margo said. “That’s why they took me off the boat, you know. They needed a bride for the King. They thought I was special.”  

     Richard consulted his map. The clearing was marked. He checked his compass.

     “I was so scared,” Margo said. “I peed myself.”

The trail switch-backed left and right, allowing them to climb the mountain’s forested slope. They passed the occasional snake dangling from a tree limb, smiled at the monkeys cavorting in the trees, and crouched in silence when a family of orange-haired apes lumbered noisily through the jungle off to their right.

     The only dinosaurs they saw were long-necked leaf eaters who wallowed in mud where a mountain plateau formed a table top of flat, open terrain. Horned pentacerotops scrounged the grassy plain and brontosaurus chomped leaves and twigs from the tops of the trees. Trampled grass showed where wildlife trekked further up the mountain, probably in search of food.

     An air-whacking thump startled them to a sudden stop.    

“The terror-duck,” Margo squealed. “That’s what I call it.”

     Not a pterodactyl, Richard thought and put his fingers to his lips to silence the old woman. Keenan, camera pointed up, crouched low to the ground. Above them, a helicopter cruised from the top of the mountain.

     “It’s not circling,” Richard said, voicing his thoughts. Maybe the chopper wasn’t looking for them. But why was it out here? With its elongated, fat body, it looked like a troop-carrier as opposed to a police spotter or the nimble, light craft he’d often flown on news assignments.

     In seconds, the chopper was far enough away that its thwack-thump rotors’ signature faded into the general jungle buzz and trill of insects and birds.

     Keenan stood and took shots of the nearby horned dinosaurs. “This stuff’s great for the movie.” He posed Margo sunning herself on a rock with a backdrop of meandering reptiles and other beasts. Finished, he examined the gauges on his camera and said, “I’ve got about an hour left for this battery.”

     “You do have another, right?” Richard asked.

     “Of course. One more.” Keenan gave Margo a hand as she slipped off the rock and bounced on her feet.

     “I didn’t see any of this before,” the old lady said, and continued her chatter, which droned on as they walked. “I passed out you know. It was night, too. And Rogue didn’t just walk. Oh, no. Not the King. He jumped from place to place, knocking down whatever got in his way. I was so scared. I peed myself.”

     A bellow and thumping brought them to a halt.

     “Up there!” Margo screamed. “He’s up there.”

     Keenan scanned the heights with his camera. Richard examined the path ahead. It wound into the mountain, curving upwards at a steep angle. Margo ventured onto the trail and then up it and out of sight when she dipped behind an outcropping of rock.

     “You stay behind me and in front of Keenan,” Richard told her when he caught up.

     “Oh, fudge!” She wagged a finger at him. “You better not slow me down, young man. I’ve waited years for this.” Her eyes twinkled and her faced glowed with a glimmer of youth.

#

     “Who are they?” Keenan asked, sweeping his camera from left to right to take in the scene. Dirty gray jumpsuits swarmed across the King’s hairy body. Soap bubbles floated in the air, bursting while the men scrubbed with long-handled brushes in one place, hosed away the greasy residue in others. A few men, their dark faces streaked with sweat, straddled Rogue’s ears, vacuumed his nose, cleaned his teeth. Standing on the ground and walking around the massive body, a supervisor with a clipboard and an eager assistant, both in white coveralls, inspected their underlings’ work.

     “What’re they doing to my King?” Margo squealed, and started to dart from their hide-away behind the rocks.

     Richard clamped a hand on her wrist. “You don’t want to get caught now, Miss Margo. “

     An off-road four-wheeler rumbled out of the cave. Behind it, a train of attached flatbeds bounced across the rocky surface, threatening to tip out the large fans they carried. When the long train lined up alongside Rogue’s indolent body, the maintenance men finished their scrubbing and rubbing and scurried out of the ape’s fur. The fans whirled to life, making Rogue’s hair twitch in the artificial windstorm.

     Rogue’s bent legs moved. As did his huge arms. And then he sat up, shook himself, and bellowed.  The supervisor in the white jump suit walked across the ape’s dark-soled feet, a pencil poised above the clipboard nestled into the crook of his elbow. His assistant followed, a bulky box dangling by a chain around his neck, his hand on a joystick, which he moved in accordance to commands from the supervisor.

     Rogue yawned. He slapped one side of his chest and then the other. When he stood, he spread his legs, and roared. Birds emerged in clouds of reds and greens from the jungle below. Dinosaurs screeched in reply to Rogue’s call. Richard imagined herds of wild beasts rampaging in fear. The maintenance men applauded and the four-wheeler trundled back into the cave, its train of fans spinning to a stop.

     When the giant ape sat down, legs outstretched and arms at its side, the supervisor and his assistant filed into the cave behind the maintenance crew.

     “I must go to him,” Margo said, and broke away. Richard grabbed at her. Her boots scraped the rocks. He lost his grip on her skirt. He sighed and watched. What choice did he have? She’d come so far.

     “This is great, just great.” Keenan pointed his camera. The lithe, white-haired beauty crashed against Rogue’s black palm. Margo caressed the open fingers. She pleaded to be lifted to his lips.

     Rogue stared straight ahead, eyes unmoving, his face neither contorted with rage nor wrinkled with curiosity.

     Standing, Keenan advanced to the reunion scene. Richard mentally wrote the narrative for the article promised to his magazine. Margo cried. She kissed the ape’s fingertips. She buried her face in the fur around his wrist.

     Two gray-clad workers emerged from the cave, stared at the old woman and then disappeared back inside.  A moment passed before the supervisor and his assistant peeked out from the cave’s interior. Richard expected to be asked a lot of questions. The supervisor chomped on a sandwich and looked from Keenan to Margo. Shaking his head, he turned to his grinning assistant and laughed. Laughter erupted from inside the cave as well.

     Margo walked away from Rogue’s inert body. Tears streamed from her eyes, her tiny hands balling into fists at her sides as she tramped across the gritty rock. “I shouldn’t have come here,” she said to Richard.

     “I’m sorry.”

     Margo turned to Keenan. “Stop that! You’re embarrassing me!”

     Keenan lowered his camera.

     “He does love me, you know,” Margo said, and pressed herself against Richard while he hugged her thin body.

     “Let’s try to get down and back to the beach by dark,” Richard said. “Captain Rantoul will pick us up.”

     “After all these years,” Margo said, weeping. “He couldn’t hold me? He couldn’t touch me? He couldn’t even look at me?”

     Richard held the old lady at arm’s length. Didn’t she understand?

     “I suppose the King always knew best,” Margo said. “That’s why he left New York and came home. That’s why he never wanted to see me again. Like Mr. Mawki said. But I still love him! The smell and the feel and the taste of him.”

     “What did Mawki tell you?” Richard asked.

     Margo sighed. “Ours was a love that could never be.”

     “Is that what Mawki told you?”

     Margo shrugged. “He always warned me. Always said that the King didn’t want to see me. Said I had to be satisfied with viewing him from afar. From the palaisades. Like the tourists.”

     A helicopter thumped the air overhead, and then dropped to the landing pad atop the cave. Mawki and an armed man wearing the white shirt and shorts of the Bone Island police rushed down the steel stairway.

     “I told you never to come here,” Mawki shouted at Margo. He turned on Richard. “What’s wrong with you?”

     Richard cocked his head to one side. Keenan stepped back to take in the scene.

     “Are you okay, Miss Margo?” Mawki asked.

     “Of course, Mr. Mawki. I had a lovely reunion with the King.”

     Mawki glanced at the ape sitting upright on the rocky surface of his old perch high above the jungle. No pterodactyls roamed the skies to threaten him. No TRex roared in the forest below, challenging Rogue to the rights of his throne, the right to be King of the island.

     “What did he say to you?” Mawki whispered to the old woman.

     Margo grinned. “You know he never talks. Just grunts or snorts or roars.” She playfully tapped Mawki’s shoulder.

     “You two…” Mawki said, turning to Richard and then pointing at Keenan. “Stop filming! You are in serious trouble.”

     “Don’t want the world to know?” Richard asked. “Tourist wouldn’t be coming here if they – “

     “Quiet!” Mawki snapped. He leaned close to Richard. “Not in front of Miss Margo.”

     Of course, Richard reminded himself. She still believed in Rogue. Even after what she’d seen. None of it registered. Her love was truly blind. She saw her King, not an automaton controlled by a joystick and scrubbed clean by maintenance men.

“Okay, Mawki. Now what?”

     Mawki glowered at Richard. “Now you are under arrest.”

     Keenan raised his camera. “Can I get a shot of you putting the cuffs on him? For the movie.”

#

     There never was a Return to Bone Island. Richard and Keenan were imprisoned in a one-star hotel and tried a few months later. Convicted of kidnapping, they were sentenced to life imprisonment in the hotel, where they did yard work and general repairs. A year later the hotel shut down for lack of patronage and they were paroled to the confines of the island.

When Margo Kane died, the island’s governing council declared a month of mourning. Its single movie theatre conducted around-the-clock showings of the fictional story of King Rogue. At the end, when the giant ape clung precariously to the top of the Empire State Building and the biplanes buzzed around his ears, the audience jeered and booed. Richard, sitting in the auditorium one night, howled in protest as well; and then, like everyone in the audience, he wept when the King plunged to his death.

 

The End