One thing I learned to do at a very young age, was count, and I count well, even if I say so myself. I could count up to twenty by the time I was fifteen and now I can count up to a hundred, no problem. So counting, as you can gather, was not a problem. Counting the hostile apes surrounding me was a different story altogether.
My name is Magnon, Cro Magnon, Pea Eye, and I was once again in a whole heap of trouble. This time, though, it was over something stupid, and not revenge or crime or anything exotic like that. No. This time I’d opened my mouth in the wrong place.
Granted, the place I’d opened my mouth was Crashamanka, and it did belong to me, but that didn’t seem to overly bother these apes. There were twenty-seven of them, and they were jumping up and down, they were so mad. My gorillas had surrounded me, but there were only five of them, and I didn’t want them to get hurt because of something I’d done, so I told them to back off.
I held up my hand to try and quieten down the apes who were jabbering and jumping up and down excitedly. They calmed down a little, giving me a chance to talk. I drew a deep breath, making sure I’d speak with a calm, authoritative voice. ‘Look guys,’ I said. ‘When I said “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle”, I didn’t mean I was going to sleep with your mothers. It’s just an expression from the north of Pangaea.’
One of the apes separated himself from the mob and moved to stand right in front of me. ‘Then why you say it?’
‘It’s an expression meaning I was surprised, that’s all!’
‘Why you surprised?’
‘When you guys said you work for Anallanall, I was surprised. I thought he was dead!’
He put his head on one side and studied me carefully. ‘Why you think he dead?’ he asked, suspiciously.
I realised I’d have to answer this one carefully, because I had no idea of the situation. ‘I heard he fell in the tar pits.’
He shook his head. ‘Me no hear no story like that. You sure you not say you want sleep with us mothers?’
‘Absolutely!’ I turned my head. ‘Blooey!’ I called and Blooey came slinking out, looking as sexy as only she can, her bearskin just being held up by her big, furry breasts, showing the soft, downy valley only I was ever allowed to see. ‘Why would I want to sleep with anybody, when I’ve got this magnificent creature?’ She smiled, showing a hint of canine, her gently sloping forehead building up to a point where her drag-knot was. And she’s put berry-juice on her lips. If I hadn’t been fearing for my life I would have clubbed her right there.
He studied her intently, then nodded in satisfaction. ‘Bad joke, but still only joke.’ He turned to the rest of the apes. ‘Is fine; only joke!’ And they all relaxed.
‘Drinks on the cave!’ I shouted and a big roar of approval went up. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned to Blooey. ‘That was close. Are you up to a little clubbing right now?’
‘Wait till they’re gone,’ she whispered, then bit my ear. I took out a rabbit-skin and wiped off the blood. She really knew how to get my juices going!
‘Okay Skram,’ I said. ‘Hit it!’ Skram started playing Cavehouse Rock, which was all the rage at the time, with everyone starting to build free-standing caves. With the bamboos setting up a melodic clunking, and the crowd becoming pleasantly rowdy, I started to think.
So Anallanall had escaped after all. I didn’t really think he was going to be much of a problem without Kameleonise, but still, I decided to summon Pee Jin to go out and keep an eye on him. Pee Jin was so good he could sit right next to Anallanall and he wouldn’t know he was there. I chiselled out a quick message and sent it out with a carrier pterodactyl.
I went into my alcove and closed the zebra-skin behind me. Pee Jin would be here soon enough. Skram had started playing Flock around the Auk, a song which made no sense to me, but the crowds, especially the younger ones, loved it! The zebra-skin parted and Pee Jin was there. ‘You wanted to see me?’
He didn’t waste time on small talk. ‘Yeah. I heard Anallanall is still alive. I need you to check it out for me.’
‘Oh, he’s alive, alright, but I didn’t bother you with it, cause he’s not doing anything to harm anyone.’
‘I wish you’d let me know,’ I said, mildly. ‘With guys like him, it doesn’t pay to take your eye off them for a second.’ I steepled my fingers and sat back. ‘So, what’s he doing?’
‘You remember that stupid game Olchap brought here? Well, everybody’s playing it, and paying clams to watch the best guys play.’
‘You mean Click Hit? Where you throw a stone and somebody hits it with a stick? That’s just plain dumb!’
‘To you and me both, but Anallanall is organising events where people pay to watch it, and it’s catching on like wildfire.’
I nodded in the direction of the bar. ‘And those apes inside there? They work for him? Doing what?’
‘They collect the clams from the people who bet on the games.’
‘Bet on the games?!’ I was flabbergasted. ‘What does Olchap have to say about this?’
‘He’s checked it out and he says they aren’t breaking any laws. All they’re doing is having some fun, and some of them make quite a few clams if they bet on the right team.’
‘And if they bet on the wrong team?’
Pee Jin shrugged. ‘Then they lose the money they paid to Anallanall.’ He paused for a moment, then said, ‘Why don’t you come along and watch a game: you’ll see how excited the folks get.’
‘When’s the next game?’ I asked.
‘Tomorrow. I’ll swing by and fetch you and we can go together. But don’t wear your velociraptor-stalker; people will recognise you and we won’t be able to catch them off-guard if they’re doing anything wrong.’
‘Good thinking,’ I said. ‘It’s good for a Pea Eye to have someone like you as his eyes and ears.’ Pee Jin left and I sat back, thinking about the latest developments. Everybody playing Click Hit and paying money to watch it. I wondered if Olchap didn’t have something to do with all of this. Well, I’d find out soon enough.
And I did.
It was early afternoon when Pee Jin showed up at Crashamanka. ‘You ready?’ he asked.
‘Yup!’ I said, and put on a bit of a disguise.
‘Not bad!’ said Pee Jin. ‘Not bad at all!’
I smiled in acknowledgement and we left. The path through the jungle had become a bit overgrown now that they weren’t making folks pay to use it, but it was still perfectly serviceable. We made pretty good time and, when we got there, I was glad I’d worn my disguise, cause Anallanall was there surrounded by a troupe of pretty nasty baboons, and I recognised a lot of them. They had been tasked with getting rid of Kameleonise and hadn’t done it, so there was no chance they wouldn’t recognise me.
The scene was hard to describe, but I’ll do my best. There was a meadow, with hundreds of folks sitting around, watching other folks play Click Hit. There were two sticks in the ground and another two sticks a short distance away. One ape threw a stone and a Cro, standing in front of the sticks, hit the stone and ran to the other side. The Neanderthal on the other side also ran and went to stand where he had been standing. Then the ape threw the stone, he missed it and it hit the sticks behind him and the crowd went wild. He left the meadow and another ape came to take his place.
They were all wearing bright colours on their bearskins and running around all over the place. I counted thirteen folks on the meadow, including the ones hitting the stones. I watched for a while, but it made no sense to me, so I left.
Thing is, I couldn’t see Anallanall doing anything wrong! People were paying him clams to win some clams. If they won, he paid: if they lost, he kept their money. So, all in all, it seemed Olchap was doing a good job and folks were just having a bit of fun.
It was about a week later, when I was sitting in my business cave, when this gorgeous dame walked in. They threw away the amoeba after they made her: she was definitely one of a kind. I studied her as she walked in, delicately swaying her hips, resting one hand on her hip, the other on the floor of the cave. I could see plenty to make my blood rush to my head, but this had to be business and business alone.
‘Oh Mr. Magnon!’ she said beseechingly. ‘I need your help, please!’
‘Call me Cro,’ I said. ‘What do you need help with?’ Poor use of English, I know, but if I’d said, ‘With what do you need help?’ I wouldn’t have sounded like a Pea Eye. Never end a sentence on a preposition, unless you’re a licenced Pea Eye. This warning is for all the children who might be negatively influenced by the glamorous life of a Pea Eye, and want to speak like me.
Back to the story. ‘My husband, Aan See, is being threatened by Anallanall to lose games on purpose, so that he can make more money. He offered him a triceratops-skin coat and lots of clams to lose. But I’m scared if Aan See refuses, he’ll be hurt. Those apes of Anallanall’s are bad news, and he’s really bad. He scares me; even when he smiles.’ She shuddered delicately.
Did I say she got my got my blood up?
I sat back, my hands linked behind my head. I thought it was too good to be true; Anallanall going straight. I would have to trap him in what he was doing, then to thr tar pits with him. I also had to hope that Olchap was still straight and hadn’t been bought by Anallanall.
Well, I’d find out soon enough. ‘Ma’am,’ I said. ‘You don’t have to worry; I’ll sort out this mess for you, and get rid of Anallanall once and for allanall.’ See what I mean about the wisecracking? A Pea Eye can’t live without them, and could even lose his licence if he didn’t have them.
She started weeping, the tears making runnels in the downy fur on her cheeks, and I passed her a rabbit skin to wipe her eyes. She smiled tremulously. ‘Thank you, Cro. I don’t know what the folks around here would do without you.’
I cringed with embarrassment. ‘I’m only doing my job, and it’s a job I’m paid to do, and enjoy.’
‘Oh, but I have no money!’ she said, and I laughed.
‘Don’t you worry! When I’m finished with Anallanall, I’ll have all his money, so there won’t be any need for payment from you.’ She surprised me by throwing her arms around my neck and something definitely happened, with that hot body squeezed against mine. I wouldn’t say I would talk about the first thing that came up, but I was within an inch of clubbing her when I came to my senses.
I gently pushed her away. ‘What’s your name?’ I asked, struggling to speak.
Her voice was also hoarse. ‘Saw See,’ she said, and fluttered her lashes, toying with her drag-knot.
I cleared my throat. ‘I’ll get you and your husband out of this mess, and you’ll be able to live your lives in peace, and he can play his Click Hit in peace.’
She left and I sat down, my emotions in turmoil. This was what I hated about working with broads. They were so damned desirable! Now, I had to think of a way to trap Anallanall and convince his apes that he was bad news. It wasn’t going to be easy.
I put on my velociraptor-stalker and headed towards Crashamanka. I was going to need some discussion with the people I knew I could rely on; like Pee Jin and Blooey. They might caution me, but they always gave me good advice. And Pee Jin could become almost invisible.
When I got to Crashamanka, the place was jumping. A little earthquake; nothing serious. When everything calmed down, Skram started playing Jumpin’Flat Crash, and the folks relaxed and started drinking and enjoying themselves.
I sent off a pterodactyl with a message and stood at the bar-rock, slowly sipping on a fermented pineapple juice and watching the folks enjoying themselves. We had a strict rule in Crashamanka: you could club your partner, but you had to take her outside to conclude your business. Folks mostly stuck to the rules, and my gorillas would take care of those who didn’t.
Pee Jin appeared in the opening and indicated my alcove with his head. I followed him into my alcove and invited him to sit and he rolled a boulder over and sat down tiredly.
‘Are you okay?’ I asked.
He shook his head. ‘I got jumped by some baboons and beaten up. They heard I work for you, so they got rough. I managed to get away, or they would have killed me.’ It was only then that I noticed the bumps on his head and swollen left eye.
‘How does revenge sound?’ I asked.
He looked up at me expectantly. ‘Are you serious?’
‘Do I look like I’m joking?’
He studied me, the shook his head and winced. ‘No, you don’t.’
‘Anallanall is up to his shady business again,’ I said.
‘I thought so! His kind don’t know how to play straight. What’s he doing?’
‘He’s talked one of the Click Hit players losing games on purpose, so the folks lose more money and he makes more.’
‘So what are we going to do?’
‘We’re going to get all the gorillas and surround the meadow, then I’m going to disguise myself as a baboon and get close to Anallanall. I’m going to nab him, the gorillas are going to nab the baboons and with Olchap in charge of the cops, those caves are going to be full of baboons, but Anallanall is going to the tar pits. He was supposed to be there already, but those baboons disobeyed me.’
I studied him. ‘How does that sound?’
‘Too good to be true!’ he said. ‘I’m going to go out and round up the gorillas, and start work. I’ll send you a message as soon as I’m ready.’
The next few days were busy, but my mind constantly went back to Saw See and her husband, Aan See. They were in an ugly mess and, without my help, they wouldn’t get by . I would sort this mess out and, if Aan See wasn’t straight, I’d threaten him good and proper, letting him know what had happened to Kameleonise and what was going to happen to Anallanall.
The big day finally arrived and I put on my baboon disguise and headed out to the meadow where the game was being played. I saw my gorillas, but they were well-hidden, so no-one else could see them.
I had on my baboon disguise, and it was so good that one of my gorillas growled when he saw me. I held up my hand the others told him who I was. I could swear he blushed as they stifled their laughter. I walked to the edge of the meadow and the game was already in full swing. Anallanall was seated in his usual position, surrounded by baboons. Time to test my disguise.
‘You!’ I said to one of the baboons. ‘Why aren’t you watching the crowd? It’s no good watching the game; the players aren’t going to misbehave!’ He looked so shame-faced I almost felt sorry for him, but the important thing was, the disguise worked!
I made my way to Anallanall and stood there for a while, watching the game, and no-one took any notice of me. I saw Pee Jin and waved to him surreptitiously, then pulled out a piece of obsidian and held it to Anallanall’s throat.
‘If you move, or cry out, you’re dead. This is obsidian, and if I decide to use it, you’ll be dead before you hit the ground!’ I whispered fiercely. I felt his body tense. I nicked him gently and the blood flowed quite liberally, but it was all inside his skunk-skin, so it wasn’t visible to his baboons.
As I watched, I saw the baboons disappear, one by one and, with a sudden rush, the gorillas were in the enclosure and overpowered the baboons.
Anallanall said hoarsely, ‘What are you going to do with me?’
‘What those baboons were meant to do last time and didn’t: throw you in the tar pits.’
He stiffened. ‘No! Kill me now!’
‘No, pal, that’s too good for you. Besides, I’m not a murderer.’
Olchap turned up, looking utterly confused. ‘I say, what’s going on here?’ So I told him the whole sorry story, and saw him go from confusion to anger. He turned on Anallanall. ‘I let you run this game because I thought you were honourable! You’re going to the little caves for a long time, friend.’
‘No, he’s not, Olchap,’ I said. ‘His baboons are, but he’s going to the tar pits: he’s caused far too much harm already.’
Olchap looked at me, then glanced at the game going on, the folks completely unaware of the drama. ‘If you throw him in the tar pits, you’re as bad as he is. We have to have proper justice, and that cannot be throwing folks into the tar pits. I’ll put him in the little cave until he’s too old to do anything bad again, but I can’t allow you to take the law into your hands. If you do that, I’ll leave the cops, and they can go back to being what they were. It’s your choice.’
I looked at him long and hard, anger fighting admiration, and finally admiration won. ‘You’re right,’ I said. ‘When the game is finished, you might want question Aan See.’
‘Because this low-life was paying him to lose games, so he could make more clams.’
‘Lose games on purpose? That’s just not Click Hit!’ He was shocked and horrified, and I handed Anallanall over to him, and his cops, real cops, not Kimberlite cops, came and arrested all the baboons who were still alive. My gorillas had taken them down quite hard.
I left there deep in thought and Pee Jin joined me. ‘Still think you made the right decision to put Olchap in charge of the cops?’
I looked at him, then faced forward again, my thoughts in turmoil. Finally I answered. ‘You know, Pee Jin, if we’re ever going to have peace, we’re going to need more folks like Olchap, and fewer like me.’
‘But Analanall deserved to die!’ he protested.
‘That can’t be our decision any longer, Pee Jin. We have to trust in folks like Olchap.’ We walked the rest of the way in silence. When we got to Crashamanka, I turned to him and said, ‘Can I buy you a drink?’
He seemed to consider the question for the longest time, then nodded. ‘Yes, I’d like that.’
Crashamanka was more than just a business to me: it was my home from home, and some very special folks were there, good friends all, and a Cro can never have too many friends.
Especially if he’s a Pea Eye.