Miles Sutherland introducing Caroline Halapati and Lucas Olutopu
with mention of Aiden Parker and Carter (Gil) Gillespie
Evening 25th January, Rapatoka Island
The air had cooled significantly as soon as the storm arrived. Miles gazed out the hospital window as rain lashed against the glass. It was only when lightning lit up the sky that he could see the dark shape of Mystery Island on the other side of the lagoon.
He’d been gone for nearly twelve hours. His companions were probably wondering where he was. Without any means of contacting them though, he couldn’t do much about it. Hopefully Aiden or someone would look after Roofie. His dog had been a quivering mass of nerves back in Haven Falls when the fireworks went off, so chances were he’d hate the storm. Miles winced in sympathy for his mutt as another loud bang of thunder sounded.
“Thank you. You saved my life.” The quiet voice alerted Miles to the fact his patient was finally awake. Her fever had broken, and she’d been asleep ever since he’d given her an injection of morphine.
“You did most of it yourself, letting the maggots remain in the open wound.” Putting concern for his dog from his mind, Miles turned away from the window and crossed over to his patient’s bed. “How do you feel?” He’d managed to get a couple of bags of IV fluid into her, and the catheter was running clear urine into another bag. She did seem easier now.
“A lot better thank you.” She struggled up onto one elbow and held out her hand. “Caroline Halapati.”
“Miles Sutherland.” The pressure of her grip was firm enough. He checked her pulse as he took her blood pressure, her heartbeat was strong and steady now.
“Doctor Miles Sutherland, I presume.”
He grinned. “Doctor Caroline?” He lifted an eyebrow in enquiry. There was an unconscious sense of authority which seemed to come with the job sometimes.
Her mouth twisted wryly. “Nurse, but at times I’ve had to adopt that role. Especially since I came back to Rapatoka to live.”
Miles collected the clean sheets he’d found in a cupboard while she’d been asleep. He hadn’t wanted to wake her by shifting her too much. She only winced slightly as he gently rolled her backwards and forwards, easing the dirty sheet off and putting the new one underneath her at the same time.
“Not many Doctors know how to do that,” she muttered as he settled her back into position.
Memories of doing the same for Darren returned in a rush, and Miles had to turn away, pretending to be absorbed in finding somewhere to put the soiled sheets. Even if no-one here had medical knowledge you’d think they’d at least come in to take care of her. A flash of anger displaced the sadness. Apart from the young man who had assisted him before, he’d only caught glimpses of the other inhabitants of the island through the hospital window. None had set foot inside the building.
Miles found a linen basket and dumped the sheets in before returning to her bedside. “Isn’t there anyone else here who could look after you?”
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes. “Since the resort’s been empty, I’m the only one around here with any medical training.”
“You don’t need medical training to change sheets or wash you.” Miles poured some water into the basin and started sponging her.
She screwed up her eyes as he bathed her face. “Everyone’s been too busy clearing up. I’m not sure how much you’ve seen since you arrived, but the last cyclone hit us pretty hard.”
Fair enough. Even given his limited viewpoint from the hospital window, Miles had seen evidence of the damage: sheets of bent tin and broken branches stacked into separate piles. Cyclones were a fact of life for the islanders. At least the hospital seemed to be well constructed. A few leaks in the ceiling had developed when the rain started, but a couple of well placed basins had taken care of them.
Leaving the splint in place, Miles carefully bathed as much of the exposed area as he could reach. “How did you break your leg?”
She snorted. “It was during the eye of the cyclone. I should have known better. I was down at the far end of the island when it hit, and thought I’d have time to make it back up here before the winds picked up again. I was running past a wall when it collapsed. My foot got trapped in the bricks. As soon as I heard the snap, I knew what had happened.” A shadow passed across her face. “I hit my head pretty hard when I fell, and it was twenty four hours apparently before anyone found me. In the meantime, I was lying in the mud with broken branches and tin flying all round. In a way I was lucky that fly laid some eggs in the open wound.”
“Where was everyone else?”
“Doing what they always do, taking cover and staying there until the cyclone had completely passed. Like I should have been doing.” She gestured impatiently with her hand. “Look, I’d rather forget it if you don’t mind. I need a cup of tea.”
Miles studied her face; there was something she wasn’t telling him. He helped her move into a more upright position, poking in some pillows behind her back for support. Just the knowledge that people were able to travel to and from the island was a relief. He wasn’t stuck here forever.
“Lucas,” she called out as soon as she was upright.
That was the young man’s name. He should have remembered. Miles tuned out as Caroline gave Lucas gobbledygook instructions again. While his charge had been asleep, Miles had inspected the three room building. Whenever he moved to step outside, the young man had barred his way. What he lacked for in inches he certainly made up for in courage, smiling at Miles shyly and saying something that sounded like “Uru-kee”.
Miles could have disposed of him easily, but until his patient was able to look after herself, he wasn’t planning on going anywhere.
The small washroom and kitchenette had provided the essentials. The choice of food and drink had been weird, though. Interspersed with the basics: tins of spam and mackerel and packets of rice and tea were a few luxury items. He hadn’t hesitated to make himself a cuppa, but the presence of caviar and quince paste in the cupboard baffled him.
Caroline studied her leg as he straightened her gown and replaced the covering sheet. “What’s the verdict?”
“You’ll live. The maggots have nearly finished their work and already there are signs that the wound is healing nicely. I’ve given you some antibiotics so that should prevent any further infection at any rate.”
“Thanks, Doc, I do appreciate the home visit.” Her warm brown eyes lit up with merriment.
Miles returned her grin; good to see someone else around here had a sense of humour. “I’d like to get you to a proper hospital though. Is there any chance of getting airlifted out?”
She looked at him as if he was stark raving mad. “From Rapatoka? There’s no airstrip and we’re over 2,000 kilometres from any airport. Helicopters and seaplanes can reach here, but they can’t get back as there are no refuelling facilities. Unless you’d like to conjure up a nice big aircraft carrier just for me.”
He’d arrived by plane though. Miles tucked that anomaly away for the moment; the how wasn’t as important as the fact she’d been able to get away. “But you said something about returning to Rapatoka, so you must have been somewhere else.”
“I spent a number of years in New Zealand.” That explained her fluent English and the accent. Miles looked up as Lucas returned with the tea. He’d tried to talk to him a couple of times, but the young man had just smiled and nodded. He had the feeling the young man understood what he was saying but wasn’t sure whether it was natural shyness or an inability to speak the language.
Lucas handed Caroline the cup, and she dismissed him with a quick wave, gesturing to the linen basket and barking some more instructions. As soon as the young man had extracted the sheets and disappeared she blew on the tea before taking a sip. As she replaced the cup on the chipped saucer she gave a wistful smile. “I fell in love with a Kiwi sailor who arrived on his yacht many years ago. He whisked me back to Auckland where I lived for some time. That’s where I did my training.”
“So ships can land here.” That was the one point Miles wanted cleared up. How to get off this bloody island, away from his memories of similar places.
She laughed and shook her head before taking another sip. “Only those small enough to cross the reef at high tide. There’s a deep water passage through the coral, but it twists and turns like a corkscrew. This must be the most inaccessible place on the planet.”
Her forehead creased as she studied him silently for a moment, sensing his dismay at the news. “How did you get here? I assumed you must have come in by launch from a luxury cruiser. That’s how most of our visitors arrive.”
“Seaplane.” Miles remembered her previous statement. Gideon had muttered something about the one they’d travelled in being unique as its range without refuelling was over 4,000 km. After two long sectors, their previous refuelling stop had been the shortest, but they’d still been in the air for over three hours. Miles tried to do the maths in his head. Given the airspeed he’d noted while sitting in the cockpit, that must have put their last landing about 2,000 km away. Unlike other flying boats and helicopters, there would be enough fuel to get back again or somewhere else. Seems that particular type of seaplane was the only way in and out by air, from a land base at least.
Caroline’s voice broke into his thoughts. “I put the engine noise I heard earlier down to hallucination from my fever. So there’s a plane here… people?” The look of hope on her face was painful.
“Just me and a few other people. The plane dumped us here and left.” Miles turned to look out the window as another jagged arc of lightning flashed down from the sky. A sharp crack of thunder booming soon after provided a suitable emphasis for his words and his mood. How am I ever going to get out of this place?