All around him, Linden heard gulls. They looked blurry in the distance. The flapping of their wings and shrill calls echoed over the rocky shoals of della Pietra and across the strait between his island. It sounded as though they were laughing at him. Taunting him.
“Stop,” rasped the old man, who then coughed.
As if they heard his complaint yet chose to ignore him, the birds continued to heckle as they swirled in the sky.
“Stop!” Linden said more firmly, hoping to hold onto his power as long as he still had it; had breath in his breast. Before his empire crumbled into the sea.
But still, the birds didn’t listen. They broke open shells on the rocks, and pecked and scavenged whatever was left behind, and upon whatever washed onto the island. And the rapture of their voices grew as well, sounding less sarcastic and more sinister. Then he imagined that they flew from their nests in the crags and over his villa. Swooping overhead now that they had transformed into vultures. Ravenous to feed on his corpse when he’d passed. Or perhaps before; feasting on his face, ripping him open with their talons as he screamed in terror.
Linden Murray flailed his arms wildly at the imaginary birds, as they began to swarm above his body. Birds he realised he had only dreamt when he heard the lofty voice of his P.A Helen Muster.
“Mr. Murray?” her voice said, sounding to Linden as if she spoke through a tin can. He looked to his side and saw her hazy yet beautiful ebony form leaning over to rouse him.
“Mr. Murray?” Helen repeated, lightly shaking him now.
Suddenly the bubble around him popped, and the world became crisp and clear. Helen’s cleavage was easy to see, and the bird calls were now much further away.
Linden wheezed a little, and then cleared his throat before answering, “Yes, what is it?” He sounded terse even though he’d just emerged from a nightmare.
“The ship has landed, Mr. Murray. Your guests should be turning up in the next ten minutes.”
Nodding slightly Linden said, “Very good, Helen. Be sure to show them to their rooms when they arrive.”
He boasted a massive ivory smile, and Helen sneered out of disgust. Linden spotted the contempt in her eyes. Before she walked away, he spanked her, making her flinch. Then he squeezed her buttocks, and watched her tremble as he massaged one of the cheeks over her tight silk skirt. Until he slipped a pair of fingers underneath the fabric, and massaged her bare skin. Then she gasped and nearly jumped three feet backwards. The cripple’s hand still formed a claw.
“Now get out of here, sweet tits,” Linden clucked.
The old man ogled her rear end as she stormed away; his mouth a-watering to her sway. Literally. But once she rounded a corner, he strained to turn his neck and face forward, out to the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile the doctor looked on, extreme revulsion spread upon his face. He stood inside the billionaire’s room preparing to administer a cocktail of drugs to the old man. Something to prolong his life. And it seemed to be an effective treatment. Whether the medicine would last was a different story.
Yes, Mr. Murray seemed to be recovering. His slurred speech had lessened, his cataracts had altogether disappeared, and it was the first week in which he hadn’t experience syncope. However, his other symptoms were progressing. His muscular dystrophy was worsening, and his lungs and heart were still failing.
“Doctor!” Linden called out, though not in distress.
The tall and awkward Philip Warthering stepped out onto the marble tiled balcony, and the light of the fading sunset. He held a translucent pink liquid in his right hand, and rested the other on the back of his patient’s wheelchair.
“I take it you’re ready Mr. Murray?” Philip asked in his professional manner.
“I am,” he said bravely, as the doctor stabbed him; injecting his medicine.
Philip inquired, “Helen told me that your ex-wife would be coming. Did she say if she’d be flying?”
“Helen said?” said Linden suspiciously.
“Miss Muster,” the doctor corrected.
Linden answered, “Yes, Tassia is coming,” saying her name as if it stung him to do so. “But I’m sure she’ll make an entrance. Maybe she’ll dive from a plane without a chute. Or better yet, launch herself over the ocean from a cannon.”
“No love left then?”
With a glare Linden looked up at Philip and answered viciously, “I know you’ve only been here a month, doctor, but you should know the bitch is a thief, and a greedy whore.” Then he said knowingly, “I’m surprised Helen didn’t tell you that.”
“But I expect,” said Linden smiling again, “it will be interesting to see her meeting my fiancée for the first time.”
Linden pictured the two women fighting over his affections, while Philip imagined they would be the best of friends. One, Iryna, soon to be trapped in a loveless marriage with the man, and the other, Tassia, having survived two with the miserable bastard.
“I suspect,” old Linden Murray continued, “that you’ll want a blood sample tonight? As usual.”
“Yes, after dinner.”
The old man chuckled, and proceeded to insult Philip, “Taking my blood to your lab like the vampire you are. Spinning it in your… centrifuge. I’m curious doctor. On your little sexcapades with Miss Muster, do you drizzle my blood on your bodies like hot wax to get off? or do you just knock back vials of the red stuff to get hard?”
Philip leered, and held back his wrath but didn’t answer. He just walked away as Linden Murray cackled, and turned the same corner Helen did. And then the old man shouted out to the doctor, “Did you think I didn’t know? Ha! Even when I was blind I could see it! When I was blind!”