Luck of the DevilBy: Meghan March
“It appears that way, Captain.”
The voices roused me from sleep, and I thought I was dreaming. Surely, I had to be, because there was no hot metal beneath me, only scratchy sheets, and it smelled like antiseptic and not shit. My shoulder pain had faded to a dull ache, but my ribs still hurt like a bitch, so maybe it wasn’t a dream.
“Who have you told? Who knows?” The pissed-off, gruff voice made me wonder if whoever found me was as bad or worse than Uncle Ruben.
“Just me, Tony, and the doc, Captain. We heard him and brought him right here, and then I got you.”
Shit. The captain. That couldn’t be good. I forced open my eyes, and blindingly bright light seared my retinas. I winced and slammed them shut.
“Hey, kid. Can you hear us? Open your eyes.” It was the captain’s gruff voice.
“Too bright,” I mumbled, and my raw throat made me pay for both words.
“Fuck. I didn’t think about that. Doc, kill the overhead lights. The kid’s been living in the dark for over a week.”
From behind my closed lids, I could tell when the lights dimmed.
“Try now. Shouldn’t kill you.”
I squinted, and when the brightness didn’t cause me pain, I opened my eyes a little further.
Above me, two men hovered. One wore navy-blue coveralls, and the other had on a white button-down and a navy tie. It didn’t take a genius to figure out which was the captain. He looked older than Uncle Ruben, with his dark beard going gray, but he was tall and broad and didn’t have a hint of my uncle’s beer gut.
“Good to see you’re awake, kid. You want to tell me how the fuck you ended up on my ship?”
“Water,” I croaked out.
“Doc,” the captain barked.
A blond man wearing a white coat came to the side of the bed with a clear plastic cup and held a straw to my lips. “Don’t drink too fast, kid,” he said, but I sucked down the cool, crisp liquid as fast as I could. “Hold up. You’ll puke if you drink too much.” He pulled it away before I was done.
“So, what do we do with him now?” the captain asked the doctor like I wasn’t even there.
“He’s got IV fluids going. He’s massively dehydrated, as you’d expect. His shoulder was dislocated, but I relocated it while he was out. Kinder that way. His torso is covered with healing contusions, and if I had to guess, I’d say he likely has bruised or broken ribs.”
“Am I gonna die?” The words felt like they were drawn from my throat by rusty pliers.
The doctor shook his head. “You’re lucky as hell we found you when we did. A few more days without water . . .” He trailed off, but I knew what he was going to say.
I would have died.
“What the fuck do we do with him?” the man in coveralls asked.
“Report him to the authorities in Baltimore,” the captain said. “They’ll have to track down his parents, and we’ll put him on a plane home.”
“No.” I coughed twice, and my ribs protested. “Please. Don’t.”
The captain looked down at me, his brown eyes scanning my face. From the way the man studied me, the remains of Uncle Ruben’s handiwork were still visible.
“Give me one good reason, kid. I could lose my license if I don’t. My whole fucking business.”
“He’ll kill me if you send me back.”
The captain crouched by the side of the cot. “Who will kill you?”
I coughed again, trying to clear my throat. “My uncle. I won’t go back. Fucking ever. I don’t care what you do to me. I’ll never go back there.”
The captain glanced up at the doctor before looking back down at me. “He beat on you a lot?”
My pride reared up, but a voice in my head told me to tell him the truth, at least about this. “As often as he could. He’s a mean drunk.”
“You have no other family?”
“No, sir. My aunt died the day I left. That’s when he busted my shoulder.”
The captain’s dark eyebrows knit together, and white lines appeared in the weathered skin around his eyes and mouth. “How old are you, kid?”
My brain was slowly coming back to life, and something told me if I gave him my real age, he’d get me off this boat faster than I could finish answering his questions.