In another reality:
He stood and stared.
seem to be rooted to the balcony, Roxton.’ Veronica mentioned two days previously.
Roxton had no reply for her.
He didn’t really know why he did it. Maybe by standing here, leaning forward with his arms resting on the railing, staring
out at the jungle beyond, he was indulging in a fanciful desire.
If he prevailed, visually surveying the perimeter
at such a great height, the ridiculous could happen. She might actually approach from below, appearing to him from out of
the thick mist of early morning fog, her dark hair disheveled from the light breeze blowing in from the direction of the Inland
Sea. She would look upward, spotting him, and their eyes would meet. She would then call to him, explaining that she could
never leave because it was he and only he that she truly loved ... ‘Craziness, old boy, and you know it.’ Roxton
True, he was a man of great imagination but Lord Roxton was also a realist. Marguerite was back where
she belonged, had been for over a week. Of this, he was certain. If something had happened, if she had died during the transition,
he would know it – would have felt it from the back of his head down to the tips of his toes. She was alive and well
However, having reflected on Marguerite’s outcome, pleased to know what he did, Roxton also felt abandonment.
At night, when he slept, he no longer dreamed of her. The creamy complexion, chocolate colored hair and wide soulful eyes
were but a memory now. There were even times over the past few days when he had to study Summerlee’s portrait of the
woman to remember what she looked like. Challenger and the others admitted that they too no longer had visions, not that theirs
had ever been as strong as Roxton’s.
She was gone and was not going to return, Roxton knew. “Be well, Marguerite.”
Roxton flinched, knowing he had been heard.
Malone hobbled to him
from behind, the damp weather causing the upper portion of his left leg to stiffen. He once told them he had the worst of
both worlds; a missing foot and excruciating pain when the weather turned wet. “You okay?”
gently at the younger man, putting his fears to rest. “Fine. Just doing a little too much thinking.”
understand that.” The journalist put his hands on the railing and bowed his head. “I a …” he began,
unsure whether he should say what he was thinking or not. It had taken him an hour of wrestling with his conscience to get
this far. “Veronica told me Danielle was alive.”
Stiffening, Roxton looked once again out into the jungle,
“She shouldn’t have.” Roxton said, appearing annoyed. “She told me she wouldn’t.”
slipped out unintentionally when we were talking. She didn’t mean to give it away.” Malone assured, “The
only reason I bring it up is … Well, I know Danielle has been through a lot. So have you. And, if you think it might
take someone like her to help you get through the ordeal …” Malone paused when Roxton looked directly at him,
“You might need to talk with someone who can understand, at least marginally, the pain you’re going through. You’ve
both experienced loss, you know.”
“And so have you.” Roxton glanced down at Malone’s foot,
“We all get through it in our own way. Trust me, Ned. Danielle’s type of comfort is not what I need now.”
Then, lightening a little to show there were no hard feelings, Roxton good naturedly said: “Why don’t you join,
Veronica. Last I saw her she was heading to the creek for her morning swim. I’m sure she would like the company.”
be a good idea.” Malone agreed then hesitated before turning to walk to the elevator.
Malone appeared pained to mention it, “You have a trunk in your bedroom, Roxton. It’s locked …” Malone
sighed then pushed on, “I’m a reporter and nosey. Why is it locked, Roxton? What do you have in there?”
think I’m hiding something, Neddy boy? Perhaps a secret treasure?”
The shame and curiosity on Malone’s
face was considerable, “I’m sorry, Roxton. I shouldn’t …”
“Never mind.” Roxton
interrupted with a smile, “If you must know, I have some of our more powerful weapons stored in the trunk. Firearms
and dino-sized crossbows that never really worked but,” It was Roxton’s turn to pause, “even more significant
than that is what I have hidden in the *bottom* of the trunk.”
Malone was attentive, “Yes?’
“Children’s books. They were given to me by my brother, William,
when we were boys; a Christmas gift when I was seven and he was ten years old. He signed them. I’ve always kept them
with me. When we go out, when we think we’re on the verge of finding a way home, they are always in my backpack. Good
luck charms, I suppose.”
“And that’s all they are?” Ned pressed.
relented, “I guess in the back of my mind I always believed I’d pass them down to my own children.” He shook
his head, “Sentimental rubbish, really.”
“I don’t think so.” Malone encouraged sincerely
then added, “But then, you *are* talking to a writer with a vivid imagination.”
Both men chuckled.
one day …” Roxton began but was suddenly distracted when he heard a scream and rifle shot coming from somewhere
“Veronica!” Malone shouted and ran to the elevator.
“No,” Roxton was on his heels,
“She didn’t take a gun with her.”
“Don’t move!” Veronica shouted,
rounding on the Phytosaur, her knife pulled. She waved it about, attempting to get the beast’s attention as it loomed
over its intended prey.
The rifle was laying several meters in front of the other woman, just out of reach. “Don’t
just stand there, greeting the son of a bitch, throw your dagger at it!” she chastised, laying flat on her back, powerless.
I throw it we have no weapon!” Veronica responded. “Let me distract it so you can …”
*boom* came from Veronica’s right. She was relieved to see both Challenger and Summerlee approaching just over the rise
near the creek where she had been bathing and where Veronica first spotted the newcomer.
The Phytosaur screamed its
rage and pain then unceremoniously fell on its side, dead.
“Are you all right?” Summerlee called to Veronica.
she replied, “Good shot, George.”
Challenger nodded his appreciation at being thanked then, holstering
his weapon, said: “Arthur and I thought we heard a shot …”
“You did.” Marguerite Krux,
clad in jodhpurs and her dark hat, got to her feet then bent over to pick up her rifle.
smiled and walked toward the woman, “How did you get back here?”
“Hold it, hold it!” Marguerite
lifted her hands in a push away gesture, fearful the older man was going to do something outlandish, like embrace her. “I’ve
been talking to your little jungle friend here and …”
“Professor,” Veronica placed a hand on
his shoulder, “She’s not who we think she is.”
“You’re not Marguerite Krux?” Challenger
“Yes, I am.” The woman said, “However, from what Veronica here has told me, I’m
not the lady you and the rest of your friends knew.” Marguerite’s expression appeared dubious, as if she did not
quite believe her.
“We heard a shot!” Malone and Roxton rushed to the clearing, their weapons raised.
spotted the woman and suddenly felt paralyzed. He didn’t realize he was still training his rifle on Marguerite until
Malone put pressure on his wrist, miming him to lower the weapon. For Roxton the woman seemed to move in slow motion, her
gestures smooth and fluid as she tugged off her dark hat and brushed a small portion of her long, dark hair off her right
“I had hoped to go on this expedition with you, Professor Challenger, four years ago.” She explained,
“But circumstances prevented me from getting to the Zoological Society in time to offer my assistance. Then, by the
time I was able to track you down; you had already received the backing of the society and Mr. Malone’s newspaper.”
would you want to lend financial aid to this expedition?” Summerlee asked.
“A fascination for adventure?”
she offered with a nearly sardonic sound in her voice. Inexplicably, her eyes raked over the silent and motionless Lord Roxton.
She had heard about him back in England and, from the description in the London Times, knew who he was the moment she spotted
him. Their description, however, did not truly do him justice. “Among other things I’m a gemologist.” Marguerite
said, “And I’ve always had an interest in the unknown.”
“You came here by yourself?”
Roxton abruptly broke his silence, somewhat distrustfully. She might look like Marguerite and sound like her but there was
something different about this woman. She was cool and strangely indecipherable.
Malone gave his friend a double-take
and might have laughed if the situation wasn’t serious. A week ago wasn’t *he*, the skeptical journalist, the
man who saw a wickedness which did not exist?
“No, not by myself.” Marguerite blinked and averted her eyes.
The woman’s tone grew low and her expression became dour. “I started out with fifteen men, ten of them natives,
in the Amazon but the savages took care of at least six of them before we made it to the mountain passage that led us to the
“You know a way out of The Lost World?” Malone asked, excited.
she said then added: “I lost five more of my men during a cave in. That route is gone, buried under a ton of rock. By
the time we made it to the plateau, over a week ago, I was down to four companions but then …” For the first time
a quiver was heard in Marguerite’s voice. She looked at Roxton, whose expression was softening, then directly at Challenger.
“Well, let’s just say between dinosaurs, ape men and jungle illnesses … I’m the only one left.”
dead?” Summerlee could see the woman was attempting to remain strong. What human being could not be moved by what she
had been through? He reached forward, like a sympathetic grandfather, and touched the side of her cheek. “My dear, why
don’t you come with us, get something to eat, and relax – possibly for the first time since you’ve come
to this God forsaken plateau.”
Marguerite stared at the older man for a moment. She admired him. He was a bit
of a too trusting old fool but also tough. To survive here for so long he would have to be. “Thank you.” Marguerite
smiled mildly. She then looked over her shoulder. “I have some equipment buried near the base of that large mountain
over there,” she waved a hand in the direction indicated. “If we can get it …”
will be time for that later.” Veronica said, “We better get going. “Phytosaurs travel in packs of three.
This one’s companions are probably somewhere close and we don’t want to be around when they find their dead friend.”
like an excellent idea to me.” Marguerite heaved a sigh and followed her new companions. She then looked about, curious.
“So, do you live in caves? Huts?”
Challenger said, “No, not quite. You’ll have to see it to
believe it.” He spoke mysteriously and listened as the others chuckled.
Marguerite, unsure, decided the men were
all a bit loony. She looked to Veronica – “Don’t suppose you know where a girl can get a hot bath around
here, do you?”
Veronica smiled out of the corner of her mouth. “I’m sure we can work something out.”
It was going to be nice having another female in the treehouse.
Marguerite again looked up at Lord Roxton as he stepped
up beside her. She knew he had been giving her side glances, obviously interested although he would not say so; at least not
this early in the game. There was something about him that was disquieting yet also very attractive. She had been around handsome
men before so it wasn’t his looks or even his attitude which, from all appearances, was self assured and tough; perhaps
too much so. He could be insufferable if not brought down a peg or two. Marguerite just got a baffling but pleasurable vibe
from the man and wondered idly if it was one sided.
“See something you like?” Roxton asked, his voice low
and nearly gravel-like. He had detected Marguerite’s gaze and was not displeased. He recalled what a woman once told
him about not being disappointed if the Marguerite of his world did not take to him straight away or even pushed him away.
The woman was hiding something, he was certain, and it would be interesting stripping away her layers, both figuratively and
one day physically, to find out what exactly lay beneath.
“Just admiring something, Lord Roxton.” Marguerite
Oh?” Feeling the need to metaphorically dance, Roxton rested the rifle on his shoulder and
smiled devilishly down at the woman. “And what would that be?”
Moving quickly ahead of the hunter, Marguerite
called over her shoulder. “Nice hair cut!”
For the first time in weeks, Lord John Roxton laughed.
would so enjoy getting to know this woman!