Sarah sits on the balcony, staring out at the Atlantic Ocean, staring out at the empty beach. It’s 2 pm. She’s already drunk most of a bottle of Bodegas Toro Abala that was left behind by departing guests. Her vision’s blurred by the booze and the heat haze on the horizon. Tangier is a ghost, a suggestion, somewhere real and imagined on the faraway African shore. The Levante whips frenzied, razor-sharp rivers of sand scurrying along, parallel to the ocean. It’s 27 degrees, everyone is elsewhere. Everything. A cow and its calf amble into view, striding slowly down the strand. The calf looks an awkward new-born, tangled limbs, falling over itself, information overloaded in the dazzling Tarifa sun.
She watched them for what seems like an age, sipping her wine, marvelling at the scene, thinking about Bray and the teeming mess of seaside life it would be on a day like today. She sees what she assumes to be the first kite of the afternoon, a black and grey windhover high out above the waves. She tries to spot the surfer but there’s nobody there. As it drifts closer to the shore she realises it a bird, a hawk or an eagle maybe? The bird, definitely an eagle she thinks now, is over the beach and she can see how big it is. Now swooping down over the sand she can see the sudden menace in it’s movements, she stumbles to her feet as it screeches, her wineglass smashes to the ground as the winged shadow of death falls across the mother and child.
The mother realises too late and the infant not at all as it’s hoisted into the air, dragged kicking and screaming far out over the sea. The bird struggles with it’s prey, it can’t hold on and eventually it releases. The carcass tumbles towards the surface, there’s a splash and then nothing. The bird spirals away, becoming a dot on the horizon.
The mother looks out to sea, lowing mournfully. The eagle is as the eagle does and life is a short, cruel joke. Nobody’s laughing.
She’s been in the village for four weeks now, waiting for him to arrive. She’d spent the days sitting outside the Café Central, speaking little, keeping herself to herself. She’d had lots of approaches but she rebuffed them one after another. Eventually they gave up. Bridget and her frigid knittin’. He was so easy. It still disturbed her that she had a talent for killing, I mean the first one was an accident but she got over it quickly and people pay a lot of money. A lot of money.
On the second night they went for dinner at La Oca Da Sergio, afterwards they strolled down to the old, crumbling pier. She dared him to take her out beyond the safety barriers and, of course, he did. Under a full moon they kissed, under a full moon he died, foolishly surprised, wide eyed and open-mouthed as she pushed him backwards into the brine.
Her phone rings. She eyes it suspiciously. She wasn’t expecting a call until she go back to Cadiz. She picks it up, says nothing.
Is that Sarah?
Who’s this? But she already knew.
I see a lot of people as I make the rounds
And I hear her name here and there as I go from town to town
And I’ve never gotten used to it, I’ve just learned to turn it off
Either I’m too sensitive or else I’m getting’ soft
“You’ve got some fucking nerve inspector, after the way you left me holding…”
“Look, you’re needed here. I spoke to himself and he’s said ok. You’re coming home.”
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