“See, my darling? I told you the island was awesome. Quite a sight, eh?”
Susan Cooney, a wealthy American businesswoman, had to agree.
“Why, Adam,” she said, “ it ‘s even more fantastic than I imagined.”
Recently married after a whirlwind romance, the couple were among a group of twenty excited tourists on a fishing boat approaching Skellig Michael, an imposing rocky island in the Atlantic, eleven miles off the coast of Kerry. The boat bobbed alongside a narrow stone jetty and the passengers on board looked up at the sea birds flocking noisily on the ledges and crevices of the spectacular craggy pinnacles that rose up out of the sea, towering seven hundred feet above them.
As they made their way ashore, Adam Cooney was relieved that the boat crew hadn’t recognised him from a previous visit he’d made to the island on his own a few days before. He’d persuaded his wife that it would be a good idea for them both to wear hooded wet weather jackets and dark sunglasses. She’d agreed it would be better for them to enjoy their holiday in peace. That would have been more difficult if she’d been recognised as the former Susan Grady, the beautiful and fabulously rich property millionaire, owner of the Grade One chain of luxury hotels, her inheritance following her father’s death in a car crash just a few short months ago.
“Careful honey, the steps look a little slippery,” Adam said, as he took his wife’s hand and guided her up from the jetty, aware that some of the crew of Casey’s fishing boat were watching, their attention attracted by the flash of his wife’s long flowing blonde hair, after a gust of wind blew back the hood of her jacket.
“She’s a looker,” Paddy Casey said quietly, jabbing one of his crew with his elbow.
Adam and his wife had been the last to get off the boat. Ahead of them, the rest of the tourists began to climb the six hundred steps that led to the precipitous ledge on which monks had built a settlement in the sixth century. They hadn’t gone very far when Adam, climbing behind his wife, stopped suddenly.
“Damn, what an idiot,” he said.
“What’s the matter?” asked Susan, turning round.
“Have you got the camera?”
“No, I thought you had it.”
“I must have left it on the boat. You go ahead and I’ll catch you up.”
“But it’s very steep, Adam. And there’s no guard rail. It makes me a little nervous. I’ll sit here and wait for you.”
Susan watched him make his way down until he disappeared from view. She looked back up at the steps, as they wound their way around the rocky slopes, and glimpsed the tail end of the group, who’d been on the boat, making their way up the vertiginous sides of the island, leaving her alone.
“You’re very lucky,” one of Casey’s crew said to Adam as he helped him aboard. “We’d have been away in another few minutes.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Adam, “I just forgot the camera. I must have left it over there. I won’t be a jiffy.”
Adam crouched down at the far end of the boat, with his back to the fisherman, and splayed out his hands as if he was searching under the bench. He took the camera out of his inside jacket pocket and pitched it under the bench so that it was half covered by the flaps of an old plastic seat cover. He stood up and turned around. He shouted, “I can’t find it.”
The fisherman stopped what he was doing and joined Adam on the boat.
“Are you sure you had it with you?” he said and crouched down to search under the other benches. Adam moved away to the other side of the boat and the fisherman, on his hands and knees, gradually worked his way back to where Adam had been. Suddenly he shouted.
“Oh now, you’re luck’s in again. I can just see it here.” He picked up the camera and handed it to Adam.
“You’ve got better eyes than me,” Adam said, slipping the camera back into his pocket. “Thanks, you’ve saved the day. Better catch up with my wife. Hope she’s not gone too far up on her own.”
“Oh, I hope so too. Watch your step there, you have to be very careful. Tis a sheer drop in places. Don’t forget, we’re back for you at five o’clock, so that gives you another couple of hours.”
Adam began to make his way back up the steps. When he reached Susan, she was sitting in the same place.
“Well, did you find it?” she said, a note of irritation in her voice.
“What?” said Adam.
“The camera, dummy, what else?”
“Don’t call me dummy. Yes, I found it.”
“All right, all right, there’s no need to get nasty.”
“You’re not talking to one of your minions now, you know.”
“No, I know. Look, I’m just fed up with sitting here, that’s all.”
Susan stood up and started climbing the steps ahead of Adam. Neither of them spoke. Susan stopped and waited for Adam to join her on a section of the path which took them close to the edge above a sheer drop down to the sea. She turned, reaching out for Adam’s hand to guide her. She felt him cup her fingers, as if they were about to dance. Suddenly he shook her and loosened his grip.
“Adam,” she screamed and grabbed his other hand. He laughed and pulled her back from the edge, turning her round to face the sea. Adam slid his arms around Susan’s waist and nuzzled her cheek.
“My darling,” he said, “you didn’t think I’d let you fall, did you?”
“Oh you scared me, you bastard,” she said, wriggling her back against him.
He felt her relax into him.
“Look at the gannets,” Adam said, gently moving both of them forward.
His arms slowly slipped from her waist and he gave her a violent shove in her back. Her cries as she fell were drowned out by the squawks and chatter of thousands of sea birds.
Mike Kilbane asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work