Go to the po­lice.” Mad­die sat up and turned away. “Let’s not go through that again”

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - SERIAL - Crash Land is pub­lished by Faber, pa­per­back priced £7.99. dougjohn­stone.co.uk By Doug John­stone

Finn had in­tended to sip his gin but he looked at the glass and it was al­most fin­ished. “What did Claire say?” Mad­die said. “She de­nied ev­ery­thing, said she didn’t know Kevin was dead.” “You be­lieved her?” “She seemed gen­uine.” “She’s a good liar when she needs to be. I found that out the hard way.” Finn won­dered if the same ap­plied to Mad­die. He nar­rowed his eyes. “How did you two be­come friends?” Mad­die drank. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t seem very alike, that’s all.” She looked at him. “You don’t know me and you don’t know her.” “So tell me.”

Mad­die waved a hand at noth­ing. “I don’t know, prox­im­ity, I guess. There’s not ex­actly a lot go­ing on in Strom­ness most nights. We met at the bar in the Royal one night. Kev and Lenny al­ready knew each other, so we all just fell to­gether.”

“Wait,” Finn said. “Lenny is Claire’s hus­band?” “Didn’t I say that al­ready?”

“The same Lenny that Kev was run­ning the sal­vage thing with?”

“Of course.”

“And you never thought to tell me?”

Frowned

Mad­die frowned. “I thought I did.”

“I met him, at their house.” Mad­die fin­ished her drink. “How was he?”

“Ag­gres­sive.”

“Sounds right.”

Finn shook his head. “This is a mess. I still think you should go to the po­lice.”

“And tell them what?”

“The truth.”

Mad­die went to pour an­other drink. She was stand­ing at the win­dow now, the sea view be­hind her. If In­grid or Freya or any­one walked round this side of the house, she’d be vis­i­ble. “They won”t be­lieve me,” Mad­die said. “We’ve been through this.”

Finn handed her his empty glass and watched as she poured him an­other. Her hand was un­steady. How many had she had?

He went to the kitchen and came back with the tonic and ice. He fin­ished the drinks off and they picked them up but didn’t clink this time. The rush of the wind out­side was a faint trem­ble in here, clouds rac­ing east out the win­dow. The hail he’d outrun at Brodgar would be here any minute. “What are we do­ing, Mad­die?” he said. “What do you mean?” Finn waved around at the ce­ramic dol­phins on a shelf, the frilly lamp, the match­ing easy chairs. “What’s the plan? We can’t go on like this.”

He re­alised that she didn’t have the bag of money with her for the first time since they met. She must’ve hid­den it some­where in the house.

“You have to get me off Orkney,” she said. Finn breathed through his nose. “How? You can’t get on a plane.”

“Boat.” She put her glass down and touched her hand to his arm. “They’ll be watch­ing the fer­ries,” Finn said. “And I can’t leave the is­land so I can’t smug­gle you in the car boot.” “Not like that,” she said, stroking his arm.

Finn looked at her hand then her eyes, misty with al­co­hol. “I’ll tell you later,” she said. She took his hand and placed it on her breast. Finn could feel her heart un­der­neath, and her scent filled his nose.

“You can’t just...”

Kissed

She stretched up and kissed him, long, then pulled away and placed a finger on his lips. “I want you,” she said.

He thought of the bod­ies piled up in the hos­pi­tal mor­tu­ary in Kirk­wall, the dead pas­sen­gers and crew. He thought of Kevin ly­ing in a pool of his own blood at home. He thought about Mad­die and the money, the crash and the po­lice and the jour­nal­ist and ev­ery­thing he’d let him­self slide into with­out fight­ing. But he didn’t stop, just kept go­ing, let­ting him­self sink fur­ther into Mad­die.

“You are out of your mind,” he said. He tried to give her a se­ri­ous look but his eyes moved down her body. She was darker-skinned than Amy, more curvy, and her eyes just killed him. “My face is up here,” she said, a de­lib­er­ate echo of their first meet­ing. She kissed him. “Don’t,” he said but he didn’t mean it.

Finn looked round. They’d made it to the Le­wises’ bed­room, just, and fallen on to the flow­ery du­vet. Now here they were, lit­tle or­na­men­tal seals on the bed­side cab­i­net star­ing at them. Finn looked from the or­na­ments to her. “You’re go­ing to take your hus­band’s boat and sail it to main­land Scot­land.” “Yeah.”

“What kind of boat?”

“A wee thing with a cabin and an out­board mo­tor.” “And you’re go­ing to take it across the Pent­land Firth, one of the most dan­ger­ous stretches of wa­ter in Europe, in the mid­dle of win­ter.”

“What else can I do?” Finn shook his head. “Any­thing but that.”

“There isn’t any­thing else. I need your help.” “No way.”

“At least take me there. I can’t get to the boat un­less you drive me. You don’t have to do any­thing else. No one needs to know we’ve been in touch. Just drop me at the boat and I’ll take it from there.”

“Do you have any ex­pe­ri­ence in boats?”

“I’ll work it out.”

“You’ll die on the firth.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“You need maps, GPS, dis­tress flares.” “They’re on the boat, I think.”

“You think?”

“Kev used it all the time for sal­vage and that was at night so it’s ob­vi­ously pos­si­ble.”

“It’s dif­fer­ent tak­ing a boat out in the shel­ter of Scapa Flow if you’re ex­pe­ri­enced.”

“I don’t have any op­tion.”

“Go to the po­lice.” Mad­die sat up and turned away. “Let’s not go through that again.”

Flinched

Finn ran a finger down her spine. He thought of the bones in the tomb up the road, imag­ined a Stone Age man do­ing the same thing to his wife thou­sands of years ago. “You think you can just make me do what­ever you want?” he said.

He felt her body stiffen and she flinched from his touch. She picked her panties off the floor and pulled them on, then her jeans, whipped her blouse over her head and pulled her hair back into a pony­tail. “Is that what you think this is?”

“Isn’t it?” He felt vul­ner­a­ble, ly­ing naked on the bed, now that she was dressed. Mad­die swore at him. She walked out of the room in her bare feet. He threw his clothes on and went af­ter her, found her at the drinks cab­i­net fix­ing an­other gin. “Mad­die.”

He touched her shoul­ders and re­alised she was cry­ing. She whipped round and threw a punch at his chest, then an­other.

Both hits screamed in his body and he felt a pop at his ribcage. His hands went to his sides. “I wish I”d never met you,” she said.

“Come on.”

More to­mor­row.

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