THE MANLY ADVENTURES OF ABNER DEGGENT
The Most Dangerous Blame
Al Bruno III
I sit here at the base of a dying tree in the dark of night waiting for what will either be my salvation or my doom. We have been hunted relentlessly and I know if we are captured there will be no mercy for us. I hold a notepad in one hand, a pen in the other and write by the light of matches gripped in my teeth. I do not know how much time I have left but already most of my mustache has burned away.
First I should introduce myself. I am Ralph Brooks the official biographer of Abner Deggent, world traveler, soldier of fortune and notary public.
Misfortune had left us in a stolen rowboat making our way towards a small island. In truth I did the rowing while Deggent conserved his energy.
It did not take us long to discover the island was crawling with ferocious and atypical wildlife. A lesser man might have fled or died but Abner Deggent considered it a matter of pride that he could snap the neck of any predatory beast.
Three tigers, a wild boar and a suspicious-looking koala bear later we found ourselves staring down the barrel of a gun.
“Strangers?” the armed man said. His voice was cultured, his dress sense was impeccable, and his rifle was aimed directly at my center of mass.
“We’re castaways,” Deggent explained as he stood behind me.
He perused our kills, “And I see you are a fellow sportsman as well. I have the most exotic and beautiful animals in the world shipped here to my private island for the express purpose of hunting them down and killing them.”
With that the man introduced himself as Paul Clifford. He shook hands with Deggent and led us through the forests to his opulent manor. The native servant that met us there was tall and silent. I could feel his eyes lingering on my friend, sizing him up as warriors will. Mr. Clifford insisted we stay as his guests. The native servant brought us to a pair of guest rooms so that we might rest before we took supper with Mr. Clifford. He said that he was eager to introduce us to his wife and children.
Deggent retired to his room but I was too excited by this startling turn of events to relax. I found my way to the manor’s library and browsed the titles. I suddenly heard a door slam somewhere deep in the house. At first I dismissed it but then I heard something else...
It was a sound that was not quite a moan and not quite a cry.
My blood ran cold. Had we blundered into something far more strange than a wealthy eccentric living on a private island with a menagerie of wild animals?
Though they were faint I could hear the cries become increasingly more frantic until they died down. With visions of torture chambers and foul ceremonies dancing through my head I sought out Deggent but found he was not in his room.
I heard another door slam and tried to find the source of the noise but at the sound of fresh groans I retreated to my room and covered my head with a pillow.
Despite that, I heard the terrible sounds once more and I tried to reason out how many poor souls might be trapped here and what might be the source of such terrible wailings.
As you can imagine when the native servant came to fetch me to the dining room I was sick with trepidation but I found Abner Deggent waiting for me there. The sight of him in such good spirits was enough to keep my worries at bay.
Soon enough our hosts joined us and over a sumptuous dinner of poached salmon and broiled koala testicles Mr. Clifford explained that he and his wife had moved to this private and relatively unknown island so that they might shield their two teenage daughters from the depravities of the outside world.
“A toast to protective fathers.” Deggent said. We all joined him.
Mr. Clifford asked, “Tell me gentlemen, do either of you have families?”
Before I could answer Deggent cut me off. He said, “I was married once but that was a long time ago. I think I’m just too much man for one woman.”
I was about to raise a glass in toast to this when the youngest and most nubile of the Clifford daughters burst into tears and ran from the dining room. I had only begun to wonder at this when Clifford’s second oldest daughter gave him and accusing glare and shouted, “You BASTARD!”
She threw her drink, and the glass into Deggent’s face before storming out after her sibling. Mrs. Clifford stode up to Deggent and slapped him in the face, “Cad! Lothario!”
There was something familiar about each of these women’s voices. Especially when they were raised to a shout. I began to realize how Deggent had spent his afternoon.
Our host must have realized this as well. Why else would he clutch his chest and collapse face first into the dessert tray?
We decided that we should leave the premises but the speed at which the Clifford women formed their well armed hunting party was a surprise to both of us.
We spied the native servant walking alone and Deggent told me to wait behind while he dealt with the man. I am sure he meant to tempt the man with some simple bribe but he has been gone for so long...
...finally he returned. The smiling native servant helped us find our way back to the rowboat. Once we were safely out to sea I asked Abner Deggent what kind of a trade he had made with the man but he would not speak of it. He seemed filled with some kind of post-adventure tension.
The poor man wouldn’t even sit down for almost a whole day.