This had to be their base camp, but where the hell were they? I slumped down onto a large flat rock and put my head in my hands. I was wrecked.
All the stuff they needed for their work was here – binoculars, notebooks, radio-tracking equipment, lights, daysacks. So why had they left their gear unattended like this? They couldn’t be out working.
James was busy rummaging in a raffia basket. He pulled out a couple of snackbars and threw one over to me. Three rocks held up a big cooking pot that looked like a cauldron. The fire underneath was lit. James found a jerry-can that was full. We both drank down a load of warm water. It tasted of metal but it was okay. It helped. I walked over and nudged the lid off the cauldron. Steam and good smells rose from it. It looked ready to eat so surely they should be here.
James gave me a manly slap on the back. ‘Cheer up Alex! At least there’ll be some decent food now.’ He kinda rubbed my back too. He’s not usually so friendly but I was so tired I didn’t suspect anything. Not at first. I peered into the cooking pot. ‘Looks like its lunchtime!’ James smiled.
There was the sound of crunching leaves and Claude finally arrived in camp too.
‘At last, we are ‘ere!’ She’d tied her long black hair in a knot to stop it sticking to the back of her neck. ‘I am so ’ot. I really need a shower.’
I expect all three of us stank of stale armpits. Claude headed straight for the jerry-can to quench her thirst.
Something moved on my left shoulder blade.
‘What have you put on me, James?’
It was small but it was heavy – surprisingly heavy.
Then, as Claude slowed her drinking, I saw her eyes on my back. ‘Alex – do you know...?’
‘Yes. What is it?’
‘Oh don’t spoil the game! Guess right, Alex, and I’ll take it off.’
I was hoping it was only some kind of lizard, although James knew that a reptile wouldn’t spook me.
‘Go on. Guess, Alex.’
How could he? After all I’d done for him! I looked to Claude for help but she was actually laughing. I hated her. I hated them both.
Then she casually said, ‘You must be gentle with it Alex. The bite of these mygales is very painful. People die sometimes.’
I craned my neck around but couldn’t see it. I could almost feel the hairy great legs. ‘Get it off, James.’
‘But Claude says I shouldn’t upset it.’ He taunted.
‘Get it off me!’ I tried to make my voice threatening without upsetting the spider.
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw something that filled me with cold aching dread. I didn’t want to move but ever so carefully I turned so that I could take in the details better. A freshly sharpened knife was lying open on a rough table near the fire. The knife wasn’t theirs. It wasn’t even the sort of knife they would use. It was a large flick-knife and it was stained with dark-coloured stuff.
James looked at what I was looking at and said, ‘Hey – cool knife.’
He’s such an idiot.