Jun

2

By Melissa

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Categories: News

CRYPTOZOICA EXCERPT

Over the pounding of the creature’s footfalls and their own hearts, they heard the snap-and-crack of gunfire. The Majungasaur’s charge slowed and it turned to bite at the place on its thigh where a bullet struck. From somewhere in the forest, Crowe and Mouzi shouted wordlessly, trying to draw the animal’s attention. It lurched to a halt and snarled, then licked at the bullet wound with a black, slimy tongue.

Kavanaugh and Honoré raced through a cluster of ferns, slapping the fronds aside–and nearly pitched into empty space. They dug in their heels, grabbing one another, rocking to clumsy stops. Directly in front of them the lip of a gully sloped downward for twenty feet. At the bottom of it spread a very smooth and invitingly open space of dark green.

Panting, sweat stinging his eyes, Kavanaugh said, “Maybe we can lose that goddamn thing down there.”

Too winded to respond, her breasts rising and pressing against her perspiration-soaked shirt, Honoré shook her head. Bending over, she picked up a rock and tossed it down to the floor of the gully. It splashed against the green expanse and sank from view.

Swallowing hard, hands resting on her knees, she husked out, “Quagmire.”

“Bad for us and old Stinky.” Kavanaugh drew his Bren Ten from its clip-on holster at his waist.

Honoré stared at him uncomprehendingly through the tangled screen of her hair. She started to speak, coughed, turned her head, spat, and asked, “You mean to lure it down there?”

Kavanaugh nodded. “I don’t think we’ll be able to get away from it for very long. Listen—“

They heard the tramp of heavy feet, the crash of undergrowth and deep-throated, snuffling grunts.

“It’s hunting us, sniffing us out,” Kavanaugh continued, dropping his voice to barely a whisper. “Even if we sneak past it and hook back up with the others, it’ll get wind of our scents and stalk us wherever we go.”

“How can you be so sure of that? When did you become an expert on carnotaur behavior?”

Kavanaugh drew in a breath, common sense and pragmatism overwhelming the residue of panic. “I’m not, but I’ve been around this part of the world on enough hunting parties and expeditions to get a good idea of predator psychology. Do you know how Komodo dragons hunt?”

“No.”

“Like Stinky, they rely mainly on scent and what’s known as a ‘Jacobosen’s organ’, a vomeronasal sense. That means, with a favorable wind, they can sniff out prey up to six miles away. They’re stalkers by nature, they take all the time they need. They’re patient…they don’t mind waiting. In fact, they’ve been known to get ahead of their prey and then charge out from ambush. Stinky apparently has an issue with one of us—and I’m betting it’s me.”

Honoré straightened up, raking her hair out of her eyes. “Majungasaurs and Komodo dragons aren’t motivated by personal vendettas, Jack.”

“Maybe not…but maybe whatever—or whoever—is nudging Stinky along has one.”

Honoré blinked at him in confusion. “Are you proposing that this attack was planned?”

“And the kamikaze dive of the Quetzalcoatlus and maybe even the Sarcosuchus.”

“I think you’ve been out here in the tropics so long, you’ve let your imagination run rancid. There was blood in the water, remember, and McQuay’s wound had begun bleeding again, too. You said yourself that the Stinko—Majungasaur—hunted around the river banks.”

“Yeah, but I never heard of one camouflaging itself before.”

“That was probably due to foraging at the shoreline and it just picked up a covering of detritus by accident. I’m sure that wasn’t a deliberate act.”

“I wish I could be. What’s that old saying: ‘once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action’?”

“That applies to mobsters in Chicago, not carnotaurs.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Kavanaugh replied impatiently “What does matter is we’re going to have to take action if we plan to stay alive on this island long enough to get off it—unless you just enjoy running around screaming like an extra in a Japanese monster movie.”

“No,” she stated stolidly. “I do not.”

“All right, then. Let’s go do something about it. How many bullets does that cannon you’re packing have in it?”

Expertly, Honoré popped open the cylinder, spun it, slapped it back into place and announced, “Two.”

“Let me handle the musketry, then.”

As silently as they could, they retraced their steps, alert for any sounds, but they heard nothing but the inquisitive cheep of birds. They entered a small glade and looked all around.

Worriedly, Honoré said, “Perhaps it decided to give up on us and go after Captain Crowe, Mouzi and Bai Suzhen.”

Kavanaugh nodded as if he considered the possibility, and turned slowly around, on the verge of calling out for Crowe. He had just opened his mouth when the Majungasaur crashed through the foliage, running at full speed with its head low, jaws wide in an unmistakable posture of attack.

Honoré cried out incredulously, “It was laying in wait for us–!”.

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