Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Seal Wife *11


He glanced at Andrew as he climbed in and decided to ignore him. Once they had taken off and were flying over the glittering harbour town, Stuart introduced everyone again. “Gordon – Trappey, this is Arkie, she’s the consulting anthropologist with Immigration.”

Arkie reached over to shake his free hand. “Pleased to meet you Gordon,” she drawled.

His stomach lurched. Scandinavian. What a voice! She purred like a beautiful engine. He glanced quickly down to her long, folded legs and those heels.

“This is my brother, as you must know,” said Andrew. Arkie nodded at him, a complicit smile twitching her lips. “Arkie asked me yesterday if I wanted to go for a ride,” he explained to the suits. “I don’t know how kosher that is but seeing as my brother’s at the helm ...”

Stuart happily raised his eyebrows at Andrew. Cowie ignored him and went back to his notes, marking sheets of paper one by one.

“So. Who are these guys?” Trappey asked.

“We think they’re fishermen,” Stuart said. “Definitely illegals. We need to ascertain whether or not they are fishing and if so, what they are targeting. We think they’re Indo’s but they could be anyone who just bought the tub off the Indonesians.”

“They could be asylum seekers,” said Cowie.

“This far south? Nuts.”

“Queue jumpers,” said his brother. “They should wait their turn like every other poor bastard.”

“It’s never that simple, Andrew,” Arkie said gently. Trappey didn’t mind who she spoke to or what she said, so long as he could hear her voice. “Some people are desperate. Anyway,” she glanced at Stuart, “it’s not illegal to claim asylum.”

Andrew nodded sagely and Trappey knew he hadn’t slept with her yet.

He flew in an arc around the arriving coast, lowering altitude to take in the cliffs where a fine spray from the Southern Ocean misted the heath lands. Here the cliffs were limestone and rather than wearing the headlands into balding granite outcrops, the sea pushed and crushed the softer stone until walls rose straight up from the ocean.  The sea glowed ultra marine blue but he knew that on their return, when the wind blew up and grey clouds rolled in from the south, that the sea would change to a gun barrel grey chop. It was that time of year.

They moved from the cliffs to a long stretch of white beach with reefs breaking the calm water away from the swell. A tribe of dolphins surged around inside the reef where the sandy bottom turned the water turquoise. Their urgent moves made them look like they were hunting.  There would be a school of pilchards down there, or perhaps some herring. He’d been hired by the Land and Sea mob once to track a school of herring that the dolphins pushed along the coast for twenty miles, the tight knot of fish gathering in tonnage all the while, like some diabolical ball of piscine fluff, until the dolphins pushed the school into a shallow corner of the harbour and fell upon them in an orgy of gluttony. He was reminded of kelpies with sheep, or hunting dogs. They behaved in the same way.

He tried to shake away his hangover but he knew he was left with it for the rest of the day. His lungs ached, front and back, and sometimes the tips of his fingers twitched and felt numb and tingly. It was a two week bender now and he was getting embarrassed tipping bottles straight into the recycling bin. He put them in cardboard boxes first and dropped them in carefully, so the neighbours wouldn’t hear the ringing of glass. No visible vessels of his addictions – except himself. The house was constantly being cleared out of bottles and yet there were always more and the ashtrays kept filling. He could hardly keep up with himself. Sometimes the hangover was the best part because he didn’t have to think too clearly, just sit in his own muck and feel the amorphous glob of his guilt in some vague kind of way. A not so merry, merry go round.

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