There’s something about a broad that just drives a red-blooded male wild. And there was no question I was red-blooded. In fact, it was pouring out of a hole in my side. And the cause of it was a broad.
My name is Magnon, Cro Magnon, Pea Eye, and I was in real trouble!
She had come to me because she was in trouble and I was the only person she could trust to help her. She was wearing an off-the-shoulder bearskin that really set my pulses racing. If she hadn’t been a potential client I would’ve hauled out my club then and there. But there was such a thing as propriety, and a time for it. And this was the time and the place.
‘Mr Magnon,’ she said, huskily, her canines glinting in the dim light of the cave. ‘Someone is stalking me, and it’s driving me crazy! I don’t feel safe anymore. When I go out to pick bananas or coconuts, I can feel his eyes on me. When I’m making pottery, I can feel his eyes on me. In fact, everywhere I go, I can feel his eyes on me, and I’m scared, because I don’t know what he’s going to do next!’
‘First off, call me Cro. Second, have you seen this creep?’
She shook her head, looking foolish and more than a touch vulnerable. ‘Then how do you know there’s someone following you, and how do you know it’s a he?’
‘When I woke up the other morning, there was a piece of obsidian next to my sleeping skin, and it wasn’t there before I went to sleep.’
‘Mmmm!’ I said, stroking my chin. ‘Anything else?’
‘When I went down to the river for a wash, my bearskin had been moved and a flower put down on top of it!’ She was looking decidedly panicky, and I was beginning to believe her. It sounded like a stalker, alright; one who didn’t have the guts to come straight out and club her. The kind of guy I despised!
‘Okay, here’s how it works. My charge is two clams a day; one clam up front. Do you have it?’
She looked down, shamefacedly. ‘I’m sorry, I have nothing.’ Then she looked at me from under her beetling brow and my heart skipped a beat. What the hell, I was making enough out of Crashamanka to do some Pro Bone work, and this would have to be one of those exceptions.
‘Don’t worry your pretty head about it,’ I said. ‘I’ll do it. What’s your name?’
‘Purtee,’ she said, then leaned forward and grasped my hands. ‘Thank you, Cro, thank you so much! I promise you won’t go unrewarded.’ And she gave me that look again. What was I letting myself in for?
So I started following her around, discreetly, and after an entire day saw no sign of anyone following her. She came to my cave later that day and showed me a red stone. ‘Look what he left me today.’
I was well and truly puzzled. There was no way anyone could have been following her. I’m a really good gumsandal, if I say so myself, and I would have seen if anyone was following her. I took the rock from her and examined it. It wasn’t from this area; I’d never seen anything like it before.
‘Where’d you find this,’ I growled.
‘Next to my sleeping skin, as usual.’
I rolled the rock over in my hand and it seemed to glow. ‘I’m going to set up a surveillance network. If my guys can’t see him, no-one will. Meanwhile, just go about your business as usual.’
After she left, I chiselled out a message and called my carrier pterodactyl. I tied the message to his leg and sent him off, then sat back to wait. It was just beginning to get dark, when five nemicolopteruses flew into my cave and landed awkwardly, folding their wings as they waddled towards by deskrock. Using sign language, I told them what I wanted and they flew back off out of my cave.
Early the next evening they were back, and I was pretty shocked to find out what they told me. It took a while, because they expected to be rewarded with insects every few minutes, but eventually I got the story out of them. There was a guy following her, and he kept out of sight and seemed harmless, but you never knew with these coconutcases, so I put on my veloceraptor-stalker and went out. Now I know where to look, I could follow him myself.
I got a bit of a shock when I laid eyes on him! He was tall, thin, upright and almost hairless. I’d heard about these strangers coming in, and didn’t like the look of the one I was seeing. He was following my client, but to her he was completely invisible.
I was trying to get a bit closer and not watching my step, when an omosaurus lashed out with her tail, and the spike went into my side. She was protecting her babies and I let out an involuntary cry, and the stalker turned and looked right at me. He was weird alright. Pale, hairless skin and blue eyes that seemed to look right through me.
He came over to where I was lying, sweat beading my brow and blood pouring out my side. He squatted and looked at the hole in my side. ‘That looks pretty bad,’ he said. He stood up again. ‘Let me see if I can get a banana leaf to stop the bleeding.’
He had no idea I was following him, or why. He went off into the bush and came out with a banana leaf and some lianas, which he tied around me middle, and the bleeding stopped. Then came the kicker. ‘Why were you following me?’
I didn’t know what to say, Did I tell him the truth and endanger my client, or say nothing and let him leave me here, as prey for any stray compie that happened along? I decided on the truth, leaving out the name of my client. ‘I’m a Pea Eye,’ I said, ‘and you’ve been following one of my clients and leaving stuff behind. I wanted to find out why.’
‘Where I come from, we call them gifts, and we give them to people we like.’
‘Well, why didn’t you just give them to her?’ I asked, the pain making me grit my teeth.
‘Because I didn’t know the local customs, and I really like her.’
‘If you like her so much, why didn’t you club her? That’s what a real man would do.’
He looked at me in wonder. ‘You mean, just go up to her and club her? Just like that?’
‘Yeah! There’s plenty of time for sweet talk afterwards.’ I winced as I tried to sit up straight. ‘Where are from anyway?’
‘From the north of Pangaea. Our people are weird, and they have weird ideas. They drink hot water with leaves in them, and hit stones with a stick. They don’t club women, either. They think it’s wrong.’
‘Wrong!? How can it be wrong? It’s always been done that way!’ The excitement had started up the bleeding again, and the strange guy helped me to me feet.
‘Where’s your cave?’ he asked. I was in too much pain to be suspicious, so I told him where it was and he half-carried me back to my cave, then laid me down on my bearskin. As my head hit the bearskin, I passed out.
When I opened my eyes, Purtee was there with the stalker, and they had some water boiling. She had a sizeable lump on her head and looked fondly at him as he squatted over the fire. I couldn’t imagine what she saw in him; he looked so weird! Still, there was no accounting for taste.
I tried to sit up and groaned with the effort. They both turned to me, concern etched upon their faces. ‘Don’t move!’ he said. ‘You have to give it time to heal.’
‘What’s your name?’ I asked.
‘Olchap,’ he said. I didn’t say anything, but it was a weird name.
After a week or so, I was up and around again, even making wisecracks, so Olchap and Purtee decided I could get along by myself. He was going to move into her cave. Pretty romantic, really. And I could get back to business. My supply of clams was running low, and I needed some paying work.
The work came from a very unexpected quarter. I was sitting at my deskrock when I heard a shuffling sound looked up. It was Joo Leas, red coconut cap at a jaunty angle, but with a miserable expression on his face.
I sat back and felt a twinge in my side. ‘Joo Leas! Haven’t seen you around for a while.’
He asked if he could sit, the pulled up a rock with a heavy sigh. ‘You know, when I got involved with Kameleonise, I didn’t know how bad he was, or how much he craved power. But worst…’ he shook his head ‘…I didn’t realise how persuasive he was.’
I looked at him in disbelief. ‘You mean to tell me you didn’t get rid of him, like I told you?’
He shook his head shamefacedly. ‘He told us that, if we released him, he would go far away, and we would never see him again, so we let him go, and he and Je Fradebe and Anallanall ran away into the forest, and we thought that was the end of it. Till now.’
‘He’s moved back into his free-standing cave, and it’s impossible to get close, even with a disguise. He’s surrounded himself with chimps, and those guys are small, but dangerous.’
I could feel the anger rising inside me: why didn’t people just do as they were told? But here I could kill two archaeopteryxes with one stone. I was going to get rid of this whole mob, once and for all, and take all their ill-gotten gains as my reward. And I was going to take his fancy cave for myself, moving Crashamanka there and having my office in a closed-off section.
I looked up at Joo Leas, a really pathetic sight, then said, ‘Go and find Pee Jin, and tell him I need to see him.’
He looked relieved, then nodded and headed off. This time I was going to supervise the visit to the tarpits. I was determined to trust no-one: if you want a job done properly…
It was later that evening, with the torchlight flickering off the cave walls, when Pee Jin suddenly appeared. ‘Man, you’re good!’
He didn’t even seem to notice that I’d spoken. ‘You wanted to see me?’
‘Yep! Kameleonise and his gang are back in town. I want you to find out anything you can about them.’ I slammed my fist into my palm. ‘This time I have to finish them: once and for all. How much is it going to be?’
‘Two clams now, and two clams when I’ve got all your information.’
I paid him the two clams and he virtually disappeared. It was amazing! I’d never known anyone to move so silently. I suppose that was why he was such a good stool archaeopteryx.
I was in my alcove in Crashamanka, when the zebra skin parted and he was there. Real spooky.
‘What’ve you got for me?’ I asked.
‘Joo Leas is right: they’ve got that place surrounded by chimps and those guys are vicious! There’s no way anyone’s getting in there. He’s also got a new henchape: Gooey de Mantashe. I don’t know how dangerous he is, but he sure gets those chimps excited.'
I paid him his two clams and he left, as silently as he’d arrived. Time to come up with a plan. I sat back and gave the matter a lot of thought, then it hit me. Olchap! He was perfect! Kameleonise didn’t know him and would, hopefully welcome him, and once the chimps relaxed, my gorillas could take care of them, and then some.
I chiselled out a message and sent it to Purtee’s cave, then went and had a drink with the regulars. What was the point of having a place like Crashamanka if you couldn’t enjoy it?
It was late evening when Olchap turned up at Crashamanka, and I could see he was impressed. I don’t think he’d ever heard someone tickling the bamboos the way Skram was doing it. He came over to me, ignoring the stares.
‘You said I could return a favour,’ he said. ‘What favour do I owe you? You owe me your life!’
I shook my head smilingly. ‘And you and Purtee wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for me. Still, this isn’t about favours: it’s about doing the right thing!’ And I told him my plan. At first he looked doubtful, then he began to be more enthusiastic when he saw how much he could make out of it.
‘Okay, I’m in,’ he said.
I got him a beautiful sealskin, real classy, and some crystals to put in his ears. He sure looked different enough for Kameleonise to want to talk to him. I sent him on his way with a warning to be very, very, careful. He touched his nose and nodded. He understood, alright.
I got a nemicolopterus to follow him, then get back to me as soon as Kameleonise had let him past security. He was going to give Kameleonise a gift, something unheard of, and Kameleonise was going to get the fright of his life.
I’d wrapped a hesperonychus inside a large coconut shell covered with crystals, and when he opened it, the hesperonychus would go for his throat. And while the pandemonium ensued, I and my gorillas, plus the disaffected baboons, would make short work of those chimpanzees, before getting rid of these bad guys, once and for all.
The next morning, the nemicolopterus reported to me that Olchap was in the cave. I gathered my gang and we headed for the cave. This was something I was looking forward to. My wound had healed and I was raring to go. Also, Kameleonise was sitting on thousands of clams.
When we got there, it was pandemonium. Kameleonise was running around with the hesperonychus at his throat, the chimps were jumping up and down in excitement, guard duties forgotten. Gooey de Mantashe was walking around, stomach sticking out, shouting orders and Anallanall was trying desperately to get away.
My gorillas and baboons attacked and completely overpowered the chimpanzees, who fled for the jungles. Kamelonise was giving terrified little squeals while the hesperonychus tried to eat his throat. One of my gorillas pulled it off and gave it a piece of meat, and it ran off into the jungle to consume it.
Kameleonise got to his feet, completely shaken, while Anallanall looked around in naked terror. Gooey de Mantashe tried to give orders, but no-one was listening. I called Goodall, my main gorilla, and said, ‘I can trust you to do what I say. You and your best apes take these guys and throw them into the tarpits, no matter what they promise you.’
They picked them up without even bothering to tie them up, and headed for the tarpits.
As their screaming receded into the distance, I turned to Olchap. ‘Well done. That took a lot of guts.’
He smiled modestly. ‘It was nothing, really. Just doing my bit to make Pangaea a better place.’
‘Come back to Crashamanka, I’ll buy you a drink,’ I said.
‘Do you know, I think I will!’ We headed off to Crashamanka and I told the gorillas to bring all the clams and other valuables to Crashamanka, then break down the cave, until it was level with the ground. I wanted nothing left for anyone else with any grand ideas.
I felt really good. I’d finally broken that criminal gang, made some clams, actually a lot of clams, and united two lovers.
Sometimes, there was no life like that of a Pea Eye.