In the original edition of Phoenix Island, Charlotte Paul’s ending was obviously designed to set up new characters and plot for a sequel—but one that was never written. The ending was revised for the 35th Anniversary Edition to omit the now-extraneous elements. But for historical interest—and to suggest the direction the author was headed—here is the original ending.—Mark Shepard
Two passengers on the M.V. Gloria’s Santa Claus Cruise (“Christmas on the High Seas—Give Yourself a Gift!”) were standing at the window of the lounge bar on A deck. One was tall and dressed in mod style, while the stocky man at his side wore Traditional Tourist. The campus at Berkeley versus the mattress factory in Milwaukee. Citizens against Nuclear Terror (CANT) versus Crawford-Langley Post of the American Legion.
“Strange shape, that island out there,” the taller man mused. “Like an animal, rising up on its haunches. Know what it’s called?”
The man from Milwaukee shook his head. “According to the map on B deck, it isn’t even there. You been staring at it, too? Maybe we’re thinking the same thoughts.”
“One thought,” the tall man said wistfully, peering through the window. “Escape.”
“I’m with you. Escape to an uncharted island. Miles from regular shipping lanes. Hundreds of miles from smog, overpopulation, violence, inflation.”
“You mean, no plumbing, TV, sewers, PTA? Living by your wits and ingenuity? Start from scratch with a sharp stone, some leaves and vines, grasses and berries. Live off the land.”
“The kids are always talking about that,” the older man said. “When I look at that island out there, and then think about what I’m going back to, they actually begin to make sense. And I don’t even own a copy of the Whole Earth Catalog.”
“But you’re yearning anyway, right? Your own little patch of wilderness, a hundred miles from the nearest McDonald’s. The question is, would you ever really try it? Get rid of your business, pack up the wife and kids and a few tools, and get the hell out?”
Suddenly the stocky man’s voice was dead serious. “I’m supposed to be a practical businessman. Would I give up everything I’ve worked hard to get? The answer is: Yeah, maybe I would. Because I’ve been thinking. What have I got? Government regulations. Foreign imports. Bidding for contracts. Negotiating with unions. Martinis at one p.m. and six p.m., and Alka-Seltzer the rest of the time.” His strong, square face broke into a boyish grin. “Hell, I even hate the country club, and it cost me twenty-five thousand and a name change to get into it.”
The young man in mod clothing pulled nervously on his beard. “Well, I teach math, and in my field all the really new ideas are coming from younger men. That makes it rougher all the time for me . . . But I’d better quit staring at that island. I’m tripping. Escape to nature. A handful of people who are sick of their own special rat races. An island colony . . .”
The older man nodded. “It would be like a ship at sea. Just our gang, isolated from the world, confined together on an island, like passengers on a ship.” His gaze moved from the window, wandered thoughtfully around the lounge, and fastened on a trio standing by the window at the far end of the room. Two men and a girl, in earnest conversation. “Only I’d want to have more say about who was in our colony than I did about the passenger list for this cruise.”
The tall man glanced at the trio and smiled. “Yes, they’re pretty antisocial, aren’t they? Say, they’re really giving our island the once-over. Like people at an auction who know they can top the highest bid. Maybe they’re going to beat us to it.”
The older man’s blue eyes sparked. “Maybe I’m crazy, but just for the hell of it, let’s you and I find one of the officers and ask for a compass bearing, or whatever you call it. Getting the name and location isn’t signing a sales contract.”
With eager steps they hurried out of the lounge bar.
* * *
The antisocial threesome at the far end of the lounge were indeed interested in the strangely shaped island, but only one of them possessed such wealth that he could make the last bid on any object he coveted. He was slim, ruggedly handsome, perfectly at ease with a striking young girl on his arm. In an expensive bush jacket, handmade shoes, and custom-tailored slacks, he looked like an international banker on holiday.
The appearance of wealth was justified. His annual income topped that of the President of the United States by at least a million dollars. The appearance of conservative respectability was questionable, for he was the head of an organization that could never be listed in the Fortune 500.
The second man projected an image much closer to what he was. He was a rugged blond, with large hands and heavily muscled shoulders, and he was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a denim jacket. “Believe me, sir,” he said, forcing his voice to a near whisper. “This is important, or I wouldn’t interrupt.”
The older man said coolly, “Young man, I told you to do the scouting. We’re on vacation. I’ll call you when I need you.”
The blond man knew very well that vacation was a figure of speech. Men like that don’t take vacations. But he would never dream of contradicting someone who could easily be rated as one of the ten most dangerous men in the world. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said, “but I think that’s it! That island over there. It’s a natural. I thought you’d want to take a look.”
“All right, flyboy, all right. I’ll give you one minute flat, no more. And don’t point. It’s not polite.”
The young man stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets. “In the first place, it’s not on any map. It’s unknown, uninhabited. No one there to watch and ask questions.”
Looking out across the water, as the ship continued to approach the still-distant island, the older man said, “And what else? Your time’s half up.”
“In the second place, it’s inside U.S. waters, but it’s in easy reach of Canada. A natural jump-off place, a natural stash. I see it this way: My plane from Canada to this island, speedboat to Wolf Island. Then the local ferry—not the international—from Wolf to the mainland, so no customs.”
The ship was now changing course, and the young man looked at the island desperately as it began to recede in the distance.
The man in the bush jacket barely inclined his head. “All right, you’ve done fine. And you’ve had your minute, plus. Now go play and leave the thinking to me.”
He patted the girl’s hand and his voice softened. “But it’s a sign, all right, sweetie. A dollar sign. Flyboy has something. Maybe we’ll make a purchase. Like adding an island to our collection.”