He noticed that over the years Andrew’s sexual habits had become more predatory. He tended to avoid women he could fall for, he didn’t stick with anyone. Hazel stayed with him longer than anyone. What a beautiful situation – revenge and gratification in one dose. Most of the time Andrew would prefer to follow some girl around the pub, until she was drunk enough to escort home. Trappey watched him do it a lot. Perhaps it all came from that day on the wharf. Maybe he was just like that. Girls said he was attractive. Hazel said so ...
He wanted to climb out of his own brain sometimes. He had to do something, he knew that. He wondered about family secrets and how they so often circled around sex. Something nasty that happened in the wood shed. Maybe one day he should just come out with it to Andrew. Apologise for being such a useless coward. Andrew would probably clout him but it would be a start. Better than being glowered at every day and watching the bastard grow bitter with the women and having those poor girls on Trappey’s doorstep, asking him what was wrong with them.
He radioed into the base and let them know his position. Then he coasted back towards the mountain. As he rounded the great hill with twin peaks, he spotted the inlet gates; two huge granite bosses, moulded into neat squares the way granite does in this sort of country, like the Peruvian stonework in the great temples. They flew over the little pool of the inlet, ringed with orange rocks, the water still, and opaque, tinted by the river.
“You know, one of our ancestors mistook his brother for a seal and shot him,” Andrew told Arkie. “Further along the coast somewhere.”
“You are kidding me.”
“I’m not. His brother was wearing a seal skin and our great grandfather shot him dead. Straight through the neck.”
“He wasn’t wearing the seal skin. He was pegging it out. The gun misfired,” Trappey said. Andrew loved that story but he always told it wrong.
“Straight through the neck. Then he took off in a little boat to get away from the law and he was never seen again.”
“How can he be your great grandfather then, if he was never seen again?”
“He had two sons, babies, before he went away sealing.”
“There they are!” Cowie’s shout blasted into Trappey’s earphones.
At the eastern end of the inlet a wooden Indonesian boat bobbed in the water like something out of a movie set, her gunwales painted bright blue. She’d done a rough voyage.
“Fishermen,” said Stuart, pointing to the winch on the deck. “Sharker.”
Trappey couldn’t see any people, just the thirty footer, but as he turned to do another pass he saw something breaking the surface of the water. With the sun flashing on the skin of the inlet, it was difficult to work out what it was.
This time he flew low over the water. Stuart was on his mobile phone, speaking quickly. Cowie was taking photographs. As they neared the boat, something rose out of the water, someone. Her. There she was, with wet red hair clinging to her like kelp and travelling down her spine. She stood thigh deep in the murky inlet and raised her arms up to the plane, her mouth open like she was singing. Trappey knew her black eyes were upon him.
For a long, long moment there was silence inside the cabin as everyone watched the red headed woman. Entranced, nobody but Trappey realised that the engine had cut out, stalled in the air. Trappey felt her in the hole in his stomach as she sung him down. He felt sorry for the others, for their mothers and their kids. He knew what would happen. Somehow he’d been waiting for this.
The engine started blurting and the sick noise threw the passengers out of their reverie. Then, silence again – except for the whistling of wind against the plane’s body. Trappey looked in the mirror and saw the pasted on faces of Stuart and Cowie staring back at him.
“I’m sorry Andrew,” he said. “I’m so sorry.” Tears tracked down Trappey’s face. Andrew nodded and dropped his head into his lap. Then Arkie started screaming as the inlet flew beneath them, the orange stones rushed them and the water was a blur of silver, the red haired woman far behind.
This is the last episiode of Autopilot in The Seal Wife series. Sorry folk, but Trappey et al get it in the neck. Stay tuned for the next episode:
Pearl and Finn.
Pearl and Finn.