by Louise Yates
Chapter 3 of Murphy's Bluff.
Standing close to the edge of the sheer vertical drop carved long ago in the limestone, she looked out over the choppy blue water. Salt filled her lungs and she leant forward inhaling deeply.
‘Careful there Miss,’ a firm hand closed around her arm pulling her back, ‘don’t want to wind up like the Captain.’
She slowly turned; still feeling the salty air wrapped around her in a lovers embrace, and found she was gazing into the warmest brown eyes she had ever had the misfortune to see. Her voice caught like an uncomfortable lump in her throat and she stood, looking into his eyes as her hair was swept around her face sending goose bumps across her flesh and if it wasn’t for her firm belief that men were nothing but trouble and her broken heart was luckily no longer susceptible to their charms she would have believed that this was a sign.
She pulled herself from his grasp. He stepped back to allow her space.
‘What? Did the Captain stand too close to the edge?’ – His eyes are not that nice; his eyes are not that nice- she thought as the question left her mouth. She was glad to be once more in control of her vocal chords and having mixed feelings about being out of his grasp.
‘Nope, it was no accident the day the Captain died. I believe he knew all too well what he was doing. I hope you do not have the desire to follow him,’ he looked past her and peered down to the choppy waters broken against the cliffs, ‘the town won’t be changing its name to honour you so there is really no point to you doing it.’ He gave a small smile.
‘So, you think I have reason to follow the Captain?’
‘I don’t doubt that you probably think you do. All the women in this part of the country seem to have the ‘woe is me’ kind of look about them – never a smile for a simple country lad.’
She gave him a smile, somehow delighting in the ridiculous discussion yet unable to know if she should be smiling or scowling at his blatant assumptions about her life, ‘so you are admitting that you are simple?’
‘Hey, hey!’ he laughed.
‘Well do you wish me to think you simple or just plain rude? What kind of person goes up to a stranger and inquires if they have plans to check out?’
He wagged a finger in her direction, ‘You are definitely the city girl everyone is talking about. Yeah, I’d know a city girl anywhere – damn tricky.’
He turned and began to walk away from her. She watched him go, wondering how many steps it would take for him to turn around and flash a roguish smile before returning. He shook his head as if in answer to her thoughts and continued to walk.
She watched him leave, wishing she had seen him smile.
Those unfamiliar with the normal everyday goings on of the small town, those that had just arrived off the train or one of the seasonal tourist buses would likely have thought that the desire to argue was swept along on the breeze. For it had most certainly settled upon the minds and hearts of Jack Flynn and Ellie Rivers.
In truth, arguing seemed to be a favourite pastime for these neighbours. It seemed to many that they had been bickering for the last 25 years. It was a widely held belief amongst the locals that they would probably be bickering when both in the grave – a belief no doubt fuelled by the knowledge that some fifteen years earlier they had inadvertently purchased neighbouring burial plots, it was also keenly noted that although they both acted hard done by when it was discovered, neither had changed their eternal resting place.
‘Get that blasted mutt of yours to leave my Prince alone!’
‘Daisy is not a mutt! She is a purebred and just as good as your precious Prince, if not better and you bloody well know that.’
‘Bah! That dog of yours is a menace, always emptying her bowels on my front steps and chasing Prince around like a pathetic bitch in heat – really must take after you!’
‘You take that back you old bastard. Just because you are so grouchy and alone and can’t get anyone to play with that old shrivelled thing hanging between your legs,’ she shouted back across the fence.
The two corgis undisturbed by the loud conversation being hurled back and forth trotted along, touching noses through the palings and disturbing the gardens.
Ellie busied herself tending to her roses completely unaware of the mess Daisy was making.
The two lived in a duplex separated from the pub by a narrow path. The one time they ever seemed to see eye to eye was when telling off people who leaned on the fence having a smoke and would then complain when either of the canine occupants bit them. The dogs would nip at anyone they could reach with the full understanding that neither of their owners would ever say a cross word to them for having done so. Luckily, both Jack and Ellie rarely saw the need to venture from their yards and would only be seen out and about when the need arose to purchase more food (Henry from the Grocery store did not approve of the dog’s behaviour so had cancelled deliveries, he couldn’t afford to pay the bag boy hazard pay after all) or the Doc was forcing an appointment on them.
Jack started to whistle while he plucked weeds from around the delphinium and readjust the stakes which supported the summer growth.
‘Oh shut up you old bastard, you know I despise that bloody whistling,’ Ellie tossed the small trowel she was using over the fence and continued to potter around.
The whistling was cut short. Ellie continued to prune her roses, waiting for a dressing-down. None came.
She stood, her tired old legs creaking from the movement, and looked over the fence, half expecting to have a hose thrust in her face. It wouldn’t be the first time.
‘Oh my stars… I’ve killed him,’ she muttered to herself as she saw his legs sticking out from amongst the shrubs as Prince sniffed at his slipper.
Her voice rose into a screech as she hurried past Daisy to the side of the house closest to the pub, ‘Help! Oh, somebody help! The old bugger has fallen. I think he’s up and croaked!’
Those in the pub, long since used to harsh tone in which Ellie usually spoke rushed out at the sound of her alarm.
‘What is it Ellie?’
‘Somebody run for the Doc. Terry, go put that dog inside so he’s out of the way.’
‘I’m not going near that thing Mr Thickett. Ma said if I came home with any more holes torn in me clothes that I’d be out on my ear.’
Doc Havisham came bobbing along with his cane and the local ambulance could be heard with its tinny siren blaring as it made its way along the streets. Jack was starting to regain consciousness as the Doc knelt beside him and groaned when informed that he would have to go into the hospital. Everyone who had come rushing at the commotion trundled back into the pub to continue with their drinks now that the excitement was over. No one noticed Ellie, sitting amongst her roses, holding the trowel she had collected from Jack’s garden. Both dogs lay either side of her, their heads resting in her lap. A sigh escaped her lips and she began to whistle off key, carrying on the tune that had been interrupted.