Wikipedia commons - Scottish mountains
THE NEWLY WEDS
Part 2 of 2:
Story so far: Barry Paice is mountain climbing with his new wife Sadie when they encounter her ex-husband Jasper climbing with his girlfriend Lynne. Lynne is saved from a fatal fall by Barry and she reveals that Jasper and Sadie want them both dead… Now read on.
Barry didn’t believe Lynne. It was too far-fetched! Yet it seemed to be stretching coincidence too far, meeting Sadie’s ex on a mountainside.
The soft iron clinker of Jasper’s boot rasped on the rock behind them.
Barry swung round.
Eyes shining, Jasper advanced on him, piton hammer raised threateningly.
‘Oh, God,’ Lynne moaned. She stood, nursing her injured arm in its sling, her eyes staring. Sadie clambered towards Lynne, a vicious piton hammer in her hand.
Out of the corner of his eye, Barry glimpsed Jasper lunge forward. Barry ducked and lost his foothold and stumbled to one knee.
The piton clanged against rock and Jasper kicked out. The metal toecap caught Barry on his shoulder, jarring his frame. He spun away his heart lurched as he slipped over the edge.
The rope round his waist pulled, and the sudden arrest of his fall winded him. He hung suspended at the end of the nylon rope.
Jasper leaned over the edge and grinned. ‘Sorry about this, Barry, old son. It’s nothing personal, only business!’ He sounded rather sad about it. ‘We want your money – and the insurance, of course – so we’ve arranged this little climbing tragedy.’
We? Barry’s mind raced as his scrabbling feet found a slender rocky rib for purchase. He thrust himself up on the ridge, he grabbed at Jasper’s nearest leg and held on tight as he fell back.
‘Don’t!’ The sudden wrench unbalanced Jasper and he flew over Barry’s head, arms flailing helplessly. His wail bounced off the mountainside.
Heaving in great gulps of air, Barry pulled on the rope and spotted Sadie. Behind her was the slumped shape of Lynne. And now she was heading up the ledge for him.
He redoubled his efforts to pull himself up, hand over hand on the taut rope.
Suddenly, Sadie kicked out and her sole’s iron muggers broke the fingers on his left hand and grazed across his chin. For a fraction of a second he blacked out with the excruciating pain. He came too as he was cast down again on the end of the rope. His heart hammered while his body slammed into the rock wall, ribs bruised or broken.
Hazily blinking up at Sadie’s scowling face, he couldn’t believe she was his wife. The delightful bow of her mouth widened into an ugly shape. She bawled, ‘Murderer!’
She stamped her boot down on the rope and he felt it vibrate, twisting him round in mid air.
‘Jasper was better than you!’ she shouted. ‘Every time – even last night!’
Surely this wasn’t the woman he’d courted and just married?
‘I hated you touching me!’ she screamed. ‘The whole romance was a farce, all planned!’ She laughed dementedly.
His chest ached but not merely with the bruising he’d sustained in his fall.
She hurled the piton hammer and it hit his shoulder, its point slicing into the anorak then twisting out into space.
Desperately now, he tried to stop spinning and kicked out, and attempted to snatch a toe-hold.
His heart sank as the section of rope above made a cracking sound. She must be using another piton or a knife to sever it. Sweat streamed into his eyes. He blinked and clamped his feet on the rope and hauled with his one good hand, but he had a long way to go.
Sadie’s sudden scream seemed to curdle his blood. He looked up.
She slumped forward, her head and shoulders looming over the edge, then she toppled and plunged past him, a piton lodged in her back.
Praying the partially severed rope would hold, he hauled himself up with only one hand.
Gasping for air and wheezing from pain, he edged over the rocky ledge and scrabbled to his knees, cradling his broken fingers in his lap.
Ashen faced, Lynne moved to him and knelt by his side. Her eyes filled with tears, she said, her voice rasping, ‘They were never divorced.’
‘They’ve done this before.’
‘What, Sadie and Jasper?’
Lynne nodded. ‘They’ve used different names and take turns to find a new spouse. Then their loved one meets with an accident shortly after the honeymoon.’
‘Couldn’t the police arrest them?’
She shook her head. ‘Never any evidence of wrongdoing. The accidents never appeared suspicious. I was to get the evidence this trip…’
He stared. ‘My God.’ He retrieved his bag and offered the flask.She smiled weakly and drank. ‘You know,’ she mused, ‘this insurance investigation job’s getting tougher.’
* * * *
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.