“I need water.”
The thug shook his head and laughed. Two of them, armed, were walking their charges at first light over to the docks. The compound was a way out of town. But still Cody noticed the slavers did not bother to hide the line of naked men standing in full sight on the dockside .. being loaded on to a rust-bucket of a boat.
To anybody looking, obviously something untoward was happening. But equally obvious no one was looking. Clearly the slavers had bought someone off.
“For fuck’s sake … I need a drink,” Cody insisted.
The slaver snarled. He didn’t take to slaves answering back.
“This is all you’ll get.”
Tarzan froze. At the sight of a cattle prod stuck into Cody’s side, he halted. The thug was trigger-happy with that thing. But the man didn’t squeeze the trigger, just a warning. Cody looked to Tarzan. Tarzan shook his head .. warning him not to try anything.
“Save your strength for when you’ll need it.”
Tarzan’s words last night in their cell. Cody seemed to take his warning. He chose to shut up. Good sign .. learning at last.
“Git out of them clothes.”
Back in the hut, under cover of the guns, their hands had been re-tied in front. Strange … but Tarzan had taken heart from the change. Easier to take a swing at a man .. even with hands tied in front. But their guns were ever present. And this one was free with his slave prod. Before leaving their cell, both of them had got pleasured with a quick burst .. the shock making them yell out .. the thugs making the message clear. The first sign of trouble … what they’d get. When told to present their hands for fresh zip-ties, both had done as told.
“Strip. Every stitch.”
The thug with the prod used it to indicate Tarzan’s animal skins. Strip? Cody looked astonished. But the man jabbed the prod towards him again. Cody swerved away, he’d got the picture. Tarzan turned his eyes to the line of men being loaded on to the boat. Naked too .. the slavers’ cargo being shipped out. Naked as the day they were born. In open sight on the dockside. Slaves, Tarzan and Cody too.
“Not telling yer again.”
Tarzan’s attention was grabbed by a touch on his thigh. A blast from the prod slammed him down on one knee. He yelped out in surprise. And in anger he started to leap to his feet. But his leg gave way. Smirking the thug jabbed it into Tarzan’s neck. Keeping him down.
“Git naked, wild-man.”
With bound hands .. seeing what had happened to Tarzan .. Cody too shucked his pants off. They stood, stark-naked, on the dock watching other men being loaded onto the boat. The pair stood waiting their turn for loading .. guards covering them, one armed with a prod and another with his gun,. But the chance of fighting them off, anyway, was slim with plastic ties zipped around their wrists.
The boss-man from last night had now sauntered over to them. Watching as a longer plastic tie was looped around the pair’s necks. Like a loose collar.
“Been making enquiries, have you?”
He prodded Cody in the chest with undisguised annoyance.
“Friends in the police reported some American brat … still wet behind the ears, they said …..”
It was like he was taunting Cody .. trying to goad him into a false move. Tarzan gave a sigh of relief when Cody just glared back. Tarzan had enough problems on his hands.
“ …. some American brat .. been asking too many questions. Looking for info on local business activities. Something about the use of forced labour.”
The boss shrugged. A man who knew he had bought himself the right friends,
“Of course, the police put the prick right. They gave him the right answer. Not here, nothing like that around here.”
Again he prodded Cody mocking in the chest.
“Seems some people just can’t take No for an answer.”
Angry at the prod, Cody’s bound hands knocked the finger away. Quick as a flash the guy had Cody by the throat. In a rapid deft move, he had Cody slammed hard against the brick wall behind. He leaned in closer .. squeezing. Throttling him.
“You’ll learn soon enough. Motherfucker.”
Still held by the neck, Cody’s bounds hand tried to break the grip on his breathing. But the guy didn’t flinch at Cody’s struggling. He just leaned in .. closing in on the windpipe. His grip was tight. Unexpectedly his leg flashed up. Cody took a hard kick in the nuts. Spluttering, snot snorting out of his nose.
Cody was stuck in the stranglehold, still spluttering as the guy turned to Tarzan.
“You, though, wild-man? Never heard of you myself. But it seems you’re famous. Tarzan, the police called you. Some kinda one man vigilante posse. The jungle wild-man. White-man gone native.”
His look again went the length of Tarzan from head to toe as if he couldn’t imagine a white man in a get-up like this. Tarzan felt uncomfortable at this slow appraisal. Disdainful. But more worrying because Cody was choking. Tarzan’s fists bunched.
”Fighter for justice.”
The man let Cody go. Inwardly Tarzan gave a sigh of relief.
“Chased down a number of successful business operations in your time, they tell me.”
He shoved a choking Cody back against the wall. Dismissively.
“Some of them doing time. Gone down .. long-long time …. thanks to you.”
Tarzan was relieved to hear his friend gasping in air. Heaving wind back into his lungs. Tarzan’s fighting fists relaxed. Cody was slumped back against the wall as he sucked in air. Tarzan felt his blood race. Angry at this unnecessary violence against Cody. Unprovoked. But Tarzan had other issues, him and the slaver. He didn’t flinch, he fixed the head-slaver firm with his eyes. There was a battle going on here. He’d give no sign of intimidation at his predicament.
He could feel the man eyeing him all over. Centring on the power in his shoulders. He read the man’s thoughts. Plenty of hard-working slave-muscle there. Undeterred .. knowing he’d taken revenge on men like this many times before .. Tarzan sensed the strength of his muscular back being greedily assessed. Times before, captured, Tarzan had been made to work himself into the ground for others too. It hadn’t lasted long. Men like these always got careless. Those captors too had regretted their conceit.
The gaze whipped down Tarzan’s front. The solid plates of his chest got a good looking over, the tightness of his waist, the tghtness strength of his belly. He heard the slaver’s thinking … this guy intended to work Tarzan’s strength out of his skin. He’d find himself regretting that thought.
“Well …. Tarzan, is it? That what they used to call you? ….. Seems this is one operation you’ve failed to close down.”
The slaver prodded Tarzan too in the chest. A move to provoke. A gesture that said, ‘Cause I own you, motherfucker.
Tarzan glared back. Unimpressed. Think again, fool!