He takes the gun from her.
Of course he takes the gun. Vera is athletic, and strong for a woman of her size, but she’s a weakling compared to Philip. She knows how strong he is. She had begun to learn his body last night, had dug her nails into the muscles of his back and grasped his broad shoulders when he pounded into her. Of course he takes the gun from her, because he’s bigger and stronger, and Vera feels more than halfway mad, with just the two of them left on the island and everybody else dead.
He tackles her down into the sand, and flings the gun away from them both. He holds her down, hands around her wrists, his whole body across hers. If she shifts a little, his leg would fall between her thighs.
“I didn’t kill them,” Philip hisses into her ear. “For God’s sake, Vera, use your head. I’m not a liar. I don’t need to lie.”
“Then who?” she demands. “Who?”
“Somebody – somebody must be alive still,” Philip says. He lifts his head, looking back up the beach towards the house. Vera should struggle then, but she doesn’t. His hands are hot and tight around her wrists, his chest pressed up against hers. The sea air has made his hair curl. She wants to believe him. Or perhaps she just wants to lift her head and lick his throat, to see if his skin tastes different here, on the beach, where the water makes everything salty. “Anyone – anyone Armstrong checked,” he says. “You said it yourself, a red herring. If Armstrong was in on it, then the killer turned on him…”
It makes sense, as much as anything makes sense on Soldier Island. Philip looks down at her again, so close she can feel his breath on her face. She wants it to make sense. She doesn’t want it to be him. He’s made her feel so hungry, so alive, that she wants to throw caution to the wind and believe him.
It almost doesn’t seem to matter, now. If it is him, then she’s as good as dead already. She isn’t fool enough to think he would need a gun to kill her. All it would take was those hands, wrapped around her throat.
She shifts, and Philip tenses, a cat prepared to pounce. But Vera isn’t a mouse. She shifts just enough that his leg slips between her thighs, pushing the hem of her skirt higher than is decent. She can’t read his expression, she doesn’t have his instincts. He stares at her, and she looks back, and then he surges against her, mouth at her throat, teeth scraping against her skin and then soothing the sting with his tongue.
“Vera,” he breathes. “My, my, Vera.” He bites her again, lower this time, where shoulder meets neck. Heat pools in her veins and between her legs. There is a murderer still on the island, they are still in danger, but God help her, she believes Philip. He isn’t like her. He isn’t a liar. “Or,” Philip says, pressing his leg higher between her thighs, almost where she wants him, “is it my Vera?”
“I believe you,” she gasps. “I believe – it’s not you, I believe you.”
“But you’re a liar, Vera,” Philip whispers against her skin. “How do I know you won’t just go for the gun again? I don’t think you’d shoot me, not really – but how do I know, hm?”
“I won’t,” she says, a rash promise but one she means. Either he’s not the murderer and she’s safe with him, or he is, and he’ll kill her. Sometimes there’s no use fighting the current. “Philip – Philip –,”
“I think you’d let me have you right here and now,” Philip marvels. “What a liar you are, Vera. Better than the lot of them.” He kisses her, hard enough to bruise her mouth, but she loves it. She loves the weight of him above her and the fact that he still holds her wrists and the sting of his bites on her neck and shoulder. She isn’t capable of much love, but she thinks he’s a kindred spirit, close enough to her own kind that she could love him a little.
“I would,” she says, when he lets her breathe again. She chases his mouth and bites his lower lip, just hard enough for him to feel. His eyes are dark and hungry. She could live like this, she thinks. She could die like this. “I’d let you.” There’s no time for it. The danger is an aphrodisiac, but she doesn’t have a death wish, though the past few days have taken her perilously close. She would let him, but they both know there’s no time.
He lets her up. She’s caked with sand, her back and legs and hair, and the knees of his trousers are no better. He retrieves the gun, and Vera feels a chilling terror creep back under her skin. But he holds it loosely in one hand, not aiming at her, and he holds his other hand out for her to take.
“Stay close beside me,” he says. “We’ll check all the bodies.”
“And when we find them?” she asks. “Whoever it is?”
“Then I’ll shoot the bastard,” Philip tells her, harsh and uncompromising. He is the most dangerous man she has ever met. She doesn’t care, not any longer. She won’t have to lie to him, and she is sometimes so very weary of telling lies. It would be nice to have someone to whom she can speak honestly, without having to pretend, without having to camouflage herself. He sees through the pretence. If they survive this, perhaps there can be more. If.
They start in the basement, work their way up. Philip has the gun and a predatory look. Vera stays close, his hand clasping hers, their fingers entwined. The bodies are already beginning to stink. They have to pause on the stairs, for Vera to retch, but he keeps hold of her hand and stands guard over her. When she’s finished she wipes her mouth on her sleeve. She’s lost her last handkerchief, somewhere between one death and another.
“Alright?” Philip checks. She nods. A lie. Philip knows she’s lying, but he doesn’t argue. “Come on, then,” he says, tugging at her hand a little to get her moving up the stairs to the ground floor.
Wargrave is waiting for them in the dining room, sitting there quite calmly, occasionally sipping at a glass of whisky. He seems surprised to see the two of them. Vera supposes he’d thought one of them dead, or both. It’s his plan, then, his grand design. Ten little soldier boys went out to dine…
Philip shoots. Coldly, without hesitation, he fires the gun and shoots Wargrave, once in the chest and once in the head. Vera cries out and staggers, but Philip has her hand tight and doesn’t let her go anywhere. He wraps his arm around her, still holding the gun, wraps her tightly in his arms and holds her until she stops shuddering. It takes a while. She’s ashamed of herself, but at least she doesn’t cry. Philip says nothing, just holds her, warm and real and alive. He is alive. She is alive. They have survived. Death isn’t for people like them.
“Sit down,” Philip tells her at last. “I’ll get you a brandy. Then we’re going to build a fire, a fucking big fire so there’s no way they won’t see it from the mainland. We’re going to get the hell out of here. Alright, Vera?”
“Straight into police custody,” says Vera. Philip grunts, turns away from her and goes to fetch the brandy. She drinks straight out of the bottle, great gulps of it that burn her throat. It makes her feel better, less like she’s going mad, and it clears away the lingering taste of vomit in her mouth. She’s thinking all the while. Lies. She has to find a lie, a good lie, and make it believable. She can sell anything. She’s been lying all her life, lying that she’s like other people. She’s lied since she realised that she doesn’t feel things like the rest of the world, lied about herself and her actions and her emotions.
She regrets killing Cyril. But not for the reasons she should.
“Tell me,” says Philip. He’s looking at her with that hungry look again, sharp and perceptive, seeing right through her. He comes closer, sliding his hands around her waist. There’s something possessive in it. She doesn’t mind that. His Vera, he’d suggested. Perhaps. “Tell me,” he murmurs, lowering his mouth to her neck, breathing against her skin. “What lie will you give them?”
It’s hard to think. Philip kisses her, suckles at the marks he’s left, and her breathing quickens. There’s a dead body cooling on the other side of the room, but Philip is real and warm and he pushes her against the wall and lifts her skirt.
“Tell me,” he says. “C’mon, Vera. Tell me.”
“I – I’ll tell them there was no choice,” she says, arching up against him. “Wargrave was mad – he was ill – he killed us all, one by one, and it was just us left, and – oh God, Philip.” His hand is between her legs, working his fingers underneath her knickers. She’s already wet; his fingers are slick against the folds of her sex. But he holds his hand still, his eyes glittering at her. He wants to hear it, the lie she’s going to tell the police, the world. The lie she’s going to make them believe. She can make them believe it; she’s done it before. “He was – he was going to kill me,” she pants. “He was going to attack me, like he attacked the others, but you – you had a gun with you, and you shot him – you shot him –,”
He rewards her. Two fingers, pressed into her aching core, and a thumb pressing hard against her clit. She writhes, desperate for more, refusing to beg.
“Go on,” he encourages her. “Tell me how you’ll sell it, Vera. My Vera, my liar…”
“I was so afraid,” she says. He chuckles darkly, and she smirks up at him. “So afraid,” she repeats. “You were so – oh! – so kind to me, so very – you kept me safe – oh, there, there, Philip, I –,”
“Not yet,” he snarls, pulling his hand from her, tugging so hard that the elastic of her knickers snaps. He fumbles with his trousers. Vera tries to help, but he snarls again and distracts her with a kiss, hard and deep, like he wants to taste her and take her and use her up. His trousers are opened at last, his briefs pushed down over his hips. He slams her back against the wall, thrusts against her, cock sliding against her and then into her, hard and messy and perfect.
She comes quickly, slamming her head back against the wall, his fingers plucking and pinching at her clit, his hips working hard and fast. He follows soon, coming with a groan, somehow holding her up so she doesn’t fall. They breathe together. They are breathing, they are alive. Vera has never felt so alive.
“They’ll believe me,” she whispers into his ear. His cock is still in her, softening now. They’re locked together, joined by flesh and murder. “They’ll believe me. They believed me last time. We’ll walk away.”
“Together,” he says. It sounds like a promise. His Vera, she thinks. She could live with that.
“Together,” she agrees. Two little soldier boys, sitting in the sun. One shot the mastermind, and then it was done.