THE NEWLY WEDS
Part 1 of 2
Barry Paice hammered a piton into Crag Lamore’s volcanic overhang and it echoed down the dusk-filled valley. Here, the wall veered sharply, protruding out into the Scottish winds again. He unslung the hundred-foot nylon rope and banged a karabiner into the outcrop and fed the rope sling through its spring-loaded gate, testing it.
He looked down. ‘Sadie!’ he bawled, lank black hair blowing into his screwed up eyes. ‘It’ll soon be dark, we’ll bivouac above this buttress!’
His wife waved acknowledgement.
Once on the shelf, he made fast, lowering the rope sling. Gingerly, she clambered after him. He was really proud of her: she’d done very well. This wasn’t his ideal choice for a honeymoon activity, but she’d insisted that she wanted to learn alongside him. ‘Learn everything about you, darling,’ she’d whispered.
Now, as she breathlessly joined him, he kissed her flushed cheek and stroked the long glistening blonde ponytail down her back. Her sparkling hazel eyes widened, alight with her achievement.
Ahead on the scree slope was a tent. A man and a woman stood outside it.
Abruptly, Sadie gasped. ‘My God, that’s Jasper!’
‘Your ex husband?’ Barry said.
‘That’s a damned big coincidence.’
‘I know. What do we say?’
He shrugged. ‘Just be civil.’ He chuckled. ‘Maybe that’s his new wife.’
‘Maybe,’ she said and they walked to meet the pair.
Barry said, ‘You know Sadie, my wife, I believe.’
‘Yes,’ Jasper grunted into his grey-flecked beard. Weathered face crinkling lopsidedly, he embraced the auburn-haired young woman beside him. ‘This is Lynne, my girlfriend.’
Lynne was slim, almost petite, her brown eyes strangely withdrawn, evasive.
‘Bygones be bygones, Sadie?’ Jasper said, extending a hand.
Sadie nodded. ‘Very well. Friends, Jass.’ They shook.
Jasper Balfour was quite a character, jovial and knowledgeable and, surprisingly, the shared supper went down well.
Night fell. The full moon glowed. ‘Barry, old son,’ barked Jasper, beard bristling, ‘how about us climbing the peak tomorrow together, eh?’
Barry glanced at Sadie and she smiled vaguely and nodded. ‘All right,’ he said.
Some time later, Jasper rose. ‘Sadie, do you fancy a chat? We’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do, eh?’
‘Is that okay, Barry?’ she asked.
‘Of course, go ahead,’ he said. ‘I’m going to turn in anyway, I’m knackered.’
‘Me too,’ Lynne said.
Later, Sadie woke Barry as she slid into the sleeping bag beside him. She felt warm.
‘Talk about much?’ he murmured.
‘Oh, just what we’ve been doing since the divorce, that’s all.’
‘Not comparing notes, I hope?’
Her body stiffened for a second against his then relaxed. ‘Yes, of course,’ she said in a sultry tone. ‘And you won hands down,’ she said, meeting the action to the words.
‘Hm, I like that,’ he whispered and their lips met in the darkness.
Early next morning the foursome set out after breakfast and crossed a grey defile without too much trouble.
While waiting for Sadie, Barry noticed that Lynne was finding handholds with ease. She was above, in the lead on the vertical rock face. Jasper was traversing virtually at her feet.
Fumbling for a hold, Jasper’s hand knocked Lynne’s foot from its crevice.
Barry gasped. Lynne’s yell of alarm echoed. Sparks flew from her boots and metal implements as the gneiss screeched under her. Amazingly, she fell without dislodging Jasper.
With measured haste, Barry belayed the rope round his waist and a needle of rock by the ledge mere seconds before Lynne slithered screaming into his arms. She hit him with such force that he stumbled backwards, her bloody hands and torn cheek pressed against his face. His hands clamped onto her and the nylon rope tautened and held. Near the edge, he sank to his knees with her in his arms.
‘Is she all right?’ Jasper called.
‘I think so!’ Barry replied. Lynne’s ripped jacket spewed white material as he quickly unfastened it to assess her injuries.
Her eyes were wide open, staring. Cradling her skinned palms against her chest, she moaned. Auburn hair fell in disarray.
Barry unstrapped his pack, took out a flask and gave her a swig of brandy.
She gulped it gratefully. ‘I – I think my arm’s broken,’ she whispered.
Tenderly, Barry checked. ‘No, it’s sprained – and your cuts are superficial. You were lucky.’ He quickly improvised a sling for her left arm. ‘Everything’s all right.’
Small dribbles of blood streamed over her scratched cheek. Even though she was now safe, her eyes held alarm, not pain. She glanced fearfully at Jasper who was slowly descending towards them. Then Lynne’s eyes darted at Sadie who hurriedly scrambled up. She whispered, ‘Everything’s not all right.’
Dabbing her torn palms with a lint pad, he eyed her sceptically.
‘Believe me,’ she pleaded, clasping his anorak. ‘Jasper meant to kill me up there.’
He shook his head.
‘Honestly,’ she said, bravely regaining her feet. ‘They want us both dead.’
To be continued next week!
Previously published in 2 parts in TV Choice, 2010.
Copyright Nik Morton, 2014
If you liked this story, you might like my collection of crime tales, Spanish Eye, published by Crooked Cat, which features 22 cases from Leon Cazador, private eye, ‘in his own words’. He is also featured in the story ‘Processionary Penitents’ in the Crooked Cat Collection of twenty tales, Crooked Cats’ Tales.
Spanish Eye, released by Crooked Cat Publishing is available as a paperback and as an e-book.