Thursday, November 27, 2008

Billy Bad Boy

Billy Bad Boy
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 2389

Frankie gathered up the supplies scattered around the rocky ledge, saving anything not damaged in the fall. He was the supervisor for a small group of people with intellectual disability and this was the fifth annual camp for them. Lying on the sharp rocky ledge, battered and bleeding was Tom, the youngest of the group of eight. Frankie pulled the zip up on the sleeping bag, covering Tim and securing him in place with ropes and tent pegs. It would have to do until he could get the rest of the group back to the ranger’s station and return with professional assistance. By the look of Tom’s head injury, Frankie thought there would be no chance of him regaining consciousness before he returned with medical help.

He took one more look around the ledge, regretting that there was no way he could carry Tom back up by himself. Frankie grabbed hold of the thick nylon rope and began the slow and painful ascent back up the cliff face to the hysteric group of scared campers.

“How is he bossman?” Danny Freidman asked.

“Not good, Danny.”

“Why he no come up with you?” Nicole Betterford asked.

“We have to hike back to the ranger’s office. They will be able to help get Tom back up to the top of the cliff.”

Jimmy Strong walked up to Frankie, pat him on the back, and smiled.

“I can carry him back up, Frankie”

Frankie looked up at Jimmy; he was six foot seven tall and built like an ox.

Frankie had no doubt that Jimmy could physically carry the weight by himself in one hand but there was no way he would risk his life to retrieve the unconscious body of their companion.

“I know you can, Jimmy. But it is not safe. We need to get the professionals to help us now.”

“Maybe, Billybadboy help.” Billy Jones said. “Billybadboy thinks Tom be scared down there, all by hisself.”

Frankie did not want to tell them their friend was unconscious and probably suffering from a near fatal head injury, and wouldn’t feel scared about anything anymore. However, he needed them to keep it together until he got them back to safety.

“He won’t be scared, Billy. But we need to go and get help now.”

“Maybe Billybadboy stay here, just case he calls out for you.”

“No, Billy.” Frankie said, patting Billy on the shoulder as a father would to his son. “We all need to stay together now. The sooner we leave, the sooner we can get help for Tom.”

Jimmy cracked his knuckles and pushed his chest out then said, “You heard what the boss said, we gotta go now.”

“Grab your backpacks but leave everything else. We need to get to the ranger quickly so don’t worry about putting your tents down or packing up. Just make sure you have your water bottles and enough food for lunch and dinner.”

“Maybe Billybadboy go and give Tom his bag, case he gets hungry.”

Frankie stopped Billy before he could walk close to the edge of the cliff and fall over it to.

“I left everything Tom needs down there, Billy.”

“Look, Tom’s hiding in his sleeping bag.” Trish yelled from the edge of the cliff.
Everyone turned around, startled by Trish’s loud shrill tone when she called to them. She was standing right on the edge of the cliff, peering over the edge at the ledge Tom’s body lay on.

“Get back from there, Trish.” Frankie yelled.

“It’s okay, boss. I’m sa…” Trish ended her sentence in a scream as the rocky ground beneath her feet crumbled, sending her over the edge.

Nicole screamed, waving her arms in a fury of panic and horror. The oldest of the group, Beth Patterson, fell to the ground, fainting from the tension and shock.
Frankie ran to the cliff’s edge, dropping to the ground as he reached it and crawling like a crazed lizard the rest of the way so he did not fall over the ledge himself. He could not see Trish on the ledge Tom fell to. He knew that that she had gone passed it, plummeting to the river below, and her death.

“Trish!” yelled her best friend Sally Anderson.

Sally ran toward the ledge and Frankie grabbed at her from the ground to stop her toppling over. He managed to get hold of her right arm as she stumbled past him. Pain shot up his shoulder when it stretched to its limits, as she fell over the edge and would have plummeted to her death to if he had not grabbed her. Frankie gritted his teeth together, the searing hot pain shooting down his arm from the weight of Sally’s heavyset frame. It felt as though his arm was being torn from its socket, stretching beyond its natural limits. A thick, muscular arm shot past his head and grabbed hold of Sally’s shoulders, pulling her up the cliff and over Frankie’s head. He let go before his arm was flung back with Sally, spinning around to see the towering form of Jimmy, holding Sally in his tree trunk thick arms.

“You okay, boss?” He asked.

“Yes, thank you Jimmy.”

“Trish, I want Trish.” Sally cried.

Frankie looked at the scared and terrified faces of the group. He trembled, felt vomit build up in the back of his throat but chocked it back. He had to stay strong for the group or someone else would get hurt.

“Where’s Billy!” Frankie said.

Frankie surveyed the campsite and could not see Billy anywhere. He hoped that Billy was in one of the tents, gathering his belongings, but knew better. Although Billy was thirty-two, he had the mind of a twelve-year-old boy. Billy had the reckless nature and bravado of a child who had not yet experienced the horror and disappointment of adulthood. He would most likely be looking for a way to climb down to the ledge and save his friend Tom.

“Jimmy, I need you to help me find Billy.”

Jimmy walked towards the campsite and put Sally down on a canvas chair next to Nicole and Beth. Beth had come round and was sitting up rubbing her head where she bumped it when she fainted. A small trickle of scarlet blood ran down her forehead and dripped off onto her top. She wiped it with her right hand and fainted again. One less to worry about for the time being, Frankie thought to himself.

“We are going to look for Billy.” Frankie said to Sally and Nicole. “I need you to look after Beth, okay.”

Nicole nodded and put her arm around Sally, rubbing her arm as a caring sister would. Once out of sight, the tragic events were out of Nicole’s mind. She had a limited memory and felt calm again now there was no apparent danger in her sight.

“”We’ll be okay, won’t we, Sally.”

Sally rocked back and forward in the canvas chair. She did not have the luxury of a limited memory and shook with shock. Frankie decided that he would be able to have a quick look with Jimmy around the area surrounding the campsite for Billy before he would have to take the girls back to the ranger’s station.

“Let’s go.” Frankie said to Jimmy, and they headed into the pine trees surrounding the campsite.

The morning sun rose on the horizon, seeping into the forest with a river of golden light. Dew drizzled off the leaves and branches as Jimmy and Frankie brushed past. Frankie looked around as they walked, hoping to see tell tale signs of disturbed dew on branches from Billy. Seeing no signs of Billy’s track, Frankie assumed they were travelling in the wrong direction.

“Let’s go back and check the other direction, Jimmy.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

They headed back towards the campsite; saw Nicole in between Sally and Beth, stroking their heads like one would pat a pet lovingly. Frankie was feeling better about leaving the girls there for the time being and picked up his pace to try and find Billy before he hurt himself.

“Let’s try over near the right side of the cliff. Maybe he was looking for a way to get down and help his friend.”

“Look here, boss.” Jimmy said.

“What have you got, Jimmy?”

“Bear poo.”

“Ain’t no bears in Australia, Jimmy. It is probably possum or kangaroo poo.”

Frankie sighed. For a minute, he felt like he was searching for the lost man with another person of the same capacity as himself. Jimmy could act like a highly intelligent man sometimes then a minute later display the attributes of a ten year old. A lathe almost scalped Jimmy when he was an apprentice, leaving him with permanent brain damage and an IQ of sixty-eight. At times, Frankie thought Jimmy got a faint glimpse of the life he used to live as a bright, attractive young man. He would stare blankly into space, not hearing anything that happened around him or responding to any of his five senses. Then, just as suddenly as he spaced out, he would be in the land of the living again and carry on as though nothing occurred in the preceding minutes.

“I thought you’d found him, for a minute there Jimmy.”

“’fraid not, boss.”

“Okay, let’s keep looking.”

Jimmy followed Frankie into the forest on the other side of the campsite. They scoured the trees and foliage for signs of disturbance; broken branches, marks on the dew or footprints. Each step they took was a track that they could not go back over if they missed anything. Their movements left a trail on the damp leaves like that of a giant snail trail, covering anything they missed on their way past.

The rising sun began to warm the forest and evaporate the dew, making the chance of finding a trail even harder. Frankie and Jimmy’s clothes were saturated from the moisture and the heat of the day starting up began to dry them out. If Billy came this way, he would be waterlogged to, so his hay fever would not be such a problem until later in the day. It appeared to Frankie that the odds were stacked against him in finding poor Billy.

“Better go back soon, boss.”

“I think we might have to, Jimmy. Get the girls back and get a search party out for Billy.”

Jimmy followed Frankie back to the campsite. Nicole, Sally and Beth were huddled together inside Beth’s tent when the two men arrived back to the tent, as they were sitting in the safety of a cocoon.

“You okay, Beth.” Frankie asked.

Beth shook her head.

“We should start walking back to the ranger’s office before it starts getting too hot. That way there will still be some daylight left for the emergency services to look for Billy.”

Jimmy helped the women up and they began the four-hour hike back to the main road, and safety of the ranger’s office.

The well worn dirt track winding in and out of the trees seemed to take twice and long and hard to maneuver as the trip out to the campsite. They were full of excitement and anticipation during the walk out and the backpacks and gear did not seem to bother any of them. Now, the light day backpacks they carried their water and food in, seemed to weigh them down like bags of concrete. Frankie knew it was their sorrow that weighed them down though. Each step was an effort as no one wanted to leave their friends behind.

By the time, they reached the ranger’s office it was just past lunchtime. The ranger organized a helicopter with the SES to fly back, retrieve Tom from the ledge, and send out a search party for Billy.

Frankie rode back to the campsite in the ranger’s Nissan four-wheel drive, accompanied by Jimmy in the back. Jimmy refused to stay with the medical crew at the ranger’s office.

“I’m gonna help find Billybadboy.” Jimmy said.

“We will find him, Jimmy.”

It only took half an hour to drive back to the campsite and Frankie cursed himself for not driving there with the minivan to start with. The road was too rough for the van and he knew it was not his fault the group hiked there on foot. Over the last five years, the group enjoyed the fellowship of one another during this peaceful walk through the pines. The campsite overlooked the vast forestry and was situated far enough back from the cliff ledge for it to be a safe site for camping. When the Nissan reached the campsite, Frankie couldn’t believe his eyes. The SES helicopter was sitting at the edge of the campsite, with Billy, Tom and Trish being attended to by the medic.

Frankie and Jimmy ran to their three friends, beaming with happiness and confusion.

“Billy, Trish what happened?”

“Maybe, Billybadboy helped Tom and ‘rish.”

The SES helicopter pilot shook his head and patted Billy on the back.

“Dandiest thing I’ve ever seen. This young fella was sitting on the ledge down there like Florence Nightingale, looking after his two friends. Don’t know how he got down there in one piece?”

“But, Trish fell over the edge.” Jimmy said. “We all saw her.”

“Maybe, Billybadboy saw her hanging on near Tom. Maybe, Billybadboy had to help friends.”

Trish lay propped up on a stretcher, oxygen mask covering her bloody and bruised face, right arm in a sling and left leg in an awkward position. She sure looked like she fell off a cliff and had the scars to prove it. Frankie could not understand how she had managed to grab hold of the ledge on her way down the cliff.

“How did you manage to survive?” he asked Trish.

Trish was too doped up on morphine to answer Frankie, but he was just glad no one had died.

Billy put his arm around Frankie and gave him a bear hug.

“Maybe, Billybadboy be second boss at camp next year, boss.”

Frankie smiled and ruffled Billy’s hair.

“Maybe, Billy. Just maybe that ain’t a bad idea.”

The End

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