Here’s the thing…
Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.
I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.
But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.
Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.
The beach, and a body
I had expected to find the rocks we were slowly and carefully chambering over to be smooth, worn down by the constant washing over by the waves.
They were, to a certain extent, but there were places where the jagged edges were as sharp as a knife, and I had more than one cut on my hand.
Even with the stiff breeze coming in off the water, it was still hot, laborious work and it took over an hour to reach the first part of Sandy Beach, a thin strip below the rock line, and soaring behind it, a rocky cliff face that would required rock climb training to scale, and then notwithstanding a lot of safety gear.
It didn’t surprise me that Nadia was an expert rock climber. She was built like a finely tuned cat, as lithe and graceful moving across the hazards.
At times she held my hand, keeping me from falling off, or worse, into danger, and certain injury. At times, I didn’t want to let go.
Then on the windswept beach, she looked every bit the conqueror, hair blowing in the breeze, completely ignoring the conditions. She belonged here, I didn’t.
The beach stretched for 200 yards or so and was, at times, up to 50 feet wide. Nothing had walked on this beach since the last tide, but more than likely, not for a long time because it was inaccessible from the shoreline unless you were a rock climber
But it was private land, and a fading sign, with Ormistons fading name at the bottom, told anyone who came ashore that trespassers would be prosecuted.
And, I thought. If they survived the reefs, at this tide semi-exposed and covered the whole of the distance. No boat could get through.
That also meant it was highly unlikely that the pirate had landed here, but we did a sweep with the metal detectors. I had my hopes built up where my detector started making a lot of noise, but it was only a cupboard door with a metal hinge that had set it off, a bit of flotsam washed ashore.
We were both disappointed, then lamenting our luck or lack of it, we started heading towards the neck stretch of sand, barely discernable in the distance, but not before another hazardous trek across the rocks.
It took half an hour carefully picking our across the rocks before it was good to be on the sand again. I helped her down from the rock perch and took a moment to rest.
“Did you see something further up the beach, just before you jumped?”
I had, but I thought it was the carcass of a beached fish. Perhaps a dolphin that had been savaged by sharks. Or just a lump of kelp, of which some was scattered along the Highgate line.
“It might be just kelp. Or more flotsam. I’m sure we’ll soon find out.”
We also had to keep an eye on the tide, having started out just ashore or so before low tide, giving ourselves sufficient time to search and get back.
This part of the shoreline was longer, and closer to the edge of the property line, accessible only by climbing the rocks that jutted out into the sea, not exactly the easiest of tasks. In fact, it served as a deterrent, and as far as Nadia was aware, no one had ever scaled that cliff face.
The object on the ground was no closer to being identified from a distance, but now, closer, it looked to me like it might be a body, my first thought, another of the Cossatino’s hit jobs, the shore being so remote it would never be discovered.
“That’s a body,” I heard the panic in her tone, right behind me.
We both dropped the detectors and ran, discovering as we came up to it, that we were both right.
It was covered from head to toe in black, including a balaclava covering the face. It was impossible to tell what sex it was, lying front down with the head tilted to one side as if the ocean had washed it ashore.
The fact there were no tears in the clothing told me, I’d there were reefs out there, the body had not been washed ashore. Just how did it get there.
These were all momentary thoughts because there was a more urgent thing to be done
“Help me roll it over,” I said.
She took the bottom half and I the top and gently lifted it just enough to turn it over onto the back, then I slowly pulled the balaclava off.
As soon as I saw the face, bruised and swollen, I knew who it was.
Nadia shrieked, then said, “What the hell is he doing here?”
The missing Boggs.
I could tell by the look on her face she was assuming her family had something to do with him being here.
But, all that aside, I tried not to panic, or let my surprise or shock take over, letting the medical training I’d received during a stint with the local fire station take over, first checking to see if he had a pulse.
It was faint, but there. That meant we needed medical help. And fast. I pulled my phone out and checked for a signal. Then, with maps, got our location. There was something familiar about the numbers, but their significance eluded me. There were bigger problems to worry about.
Then I dialed 911, and when they answered, described the situation, gave them the location, and with a few other instructions to me from the dispatcher, I went back to Boggs.
By this time Nadia was beside him, wiping his face gently with tissues she must have had in her pocket. I tried not to give her the impression I blamed her family for his situation, simply because that might not be the case.
The last time I saw him he had a rope and his mother had said he was an experienced climber. And with his proximity to the cliff face, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together.
I checked his pulse again and listened closely to his breathing, shallow with a slight rattle. I unzipped his jacket and lifted his shirt, and could see the discoloration from bruising. It was possible he slipped, or lost his footing, and crashed against an outcrop, knocking himself out, or falling to the ground with the same effect. A closer inspection showed the bare minimum of climbing equipment set up, and now, looking closer at the cliff face, I could see the rope dangling, but stopping short by about 20 feet.
Nadia didn’t speak, but I could see she was scared.
I touched her on the shoulder and she jumped.
“It’s not your fault,” I said.
“But it could be…”
“I don’t think so. He looks like he tried coming down the side of the cliff and slipped or fell. I think he may have collapsed here, but the tide has removed any foot or drag marks so it’s hard to tell what happened.”
“Why not go the way we did?”
“He might not know about it or considered it too far. Or the climbing fanatic in him took over. I have to say, I never knew he was a climber, in fact, there’s probably a lot I don’t know. Maybe if I’d spent more time with him this mightn’t have happened.”
While waiting I called Boggs mother and relayed what had happened, where he’d been taken and the prognosis, which was good. He was in no danger of dying, though had he not been found, that would have been a different story. Then I called the sheriff’s office to let them know, but he had already had the news passed on, and I said I would drip in and answer any questions they might have. I guess Boggs might have to explain why he was trespassing.
Not long after that, I turned to look back towards the way we’d just come in response to the sound of a helicopter. If it was, that was a remarkably quick response time. When it came closer I could see it was one of the Coast Guards’ distinctive red Sikorski’s, which was surprising.
The helicopter veered inland and the sound of the approach was somewhat muffled. I had thought they might come on on a sea approach, but then it occurred to me it might be an opportunity to fly over the Cossatino kingdom, having a legitimate excuse to do so. Then it crossed the cliff line with a roar, and hovered while the pilot assessed a landing spot.
I could see several people at the side door making preparations as the pilot brought it down, gently landing on the sand. As soon as it touched down two men jumped out, one, I assumed, a medic.
“You were quick.”
It had been less than a half-hour since I called.
“We just wrapped up at another accident. What do we have here?”
I went through all the things I’d done and ended by showing him the chest bruising.
His was a more thorough check and confirmed what I’d discovered, no broken bones, possible cracked ribs, or sprains to both ankles, indicating he had fallen a short distance.
A stretcher was brought over, and they carefully put Boggs on it, then took him to the helicopter, the whole operation taking no more than ten minutes. I declined the offer of going back with him, there being space only for one other passenger. He gave me the name of the hospital they would be taking him to, and I watched the helicopter leave.
The whole time Nadia had kept her distance, and, I’d noticed, glanced up the cliff. Did she think the arrival of a helicopter on their beach would summon a posse of Cossatinos? That thought had also occurred to me, especially where there were signs, now somewhat faded, that said trespassers would be shot on sight.
I looked too.
And saw something I had not expected to see.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022