Above her loomed the grim shale escarpment of Houns-tout Cliff, irregularly striped with the hardy vegetation that clung to its ledges. So often shrouded in mist and rain during the autumn and winter, it looked benign in the brilliant summer sunlight. A mile away to the west, on the Dorset Coast Path that hugged the clifftops to Weymouth, a party of hikers approached at a leisurely pace, pausing every now and then to watch cormorants and shags plummet into the sea like tiny guided missiles. To the east, on the path to Swanage, a single male walker passed the Norman chapel on St. Alban's Head on his way to the rock-girt crucible of Chapman's Pool, whose clear blue waters made an attractive anchorage when the wind was light and offshore. Because of the steep hills that surround it, pedestrian visitors to its beaches were rare, but at lunchtime on a fine weekend upwards of ten boats rode at anchor there, bobbing in staggered formation as the gentle swells passed under each in turn.
A single boat, a thirty-two-foot Princess, had already nosed in through the entrance channel, and the rattle of its anchor chain over its idling engines carried clearly on the air. Not far behind, the bow of a Fairline Squadron carved through the race off St. Alban's Head, giving the yachts that wallowed lazily in the light winds a wide berth in its progress toward the bay. It was a quarter past ten on one of the hottest Sundays of the year, but out of sight around Egmont Point the naked sunbather appeared oblivious to both the shimmering heat and the increasing likelihood of company.
The Spender brothers, Paul and Daniel, had spotted the nudist as they rounded the Point with their fishing rods, and they were now perched precariously on an unstable ledge some hundred feet above her and to her right. They took turns looking at her through their father's expensive binoculars, which they had smuggled out of the rented holiday cottage in a bundle of T-shirts, rods, and tackle. It was the middle weekend of their two weeks' holiday, and as far as the elder brother was concerned, fishing had only ever been a pretext. This remote part of the Isle of Purbeck held little attraction for
an awakening adolescent, having few inhabitants, fewer distractions, and no sandy beaches. His intention had always been to spy on bikini-clad women draped over the expensive motor cruisers in Chapman's Pool.
"Mum said we weren't to climb the cliffs because they're dangerous," whispered Danny, the virtuous ten-year-old, less interested than his brother in the sight of bare flesh.
"She'd kill us if she knew we were looking at a nudie."
"You're just scared because you've never seen one before."
"Neither've you," muttered the younger boy indignantly. "Anyway, she's a dirty person. I bet loads of people can see her."
Paul, the elder by two years, treated this remark with the scorn it deserved_they hadn't passed a soul on their way around Chapman's Pool. Instead, he concentrated on the wonderfully accessible body below. He couldn't see much of the woman's face because she was lying with her feet pointing toward them, but the magnification of the lenses was so powerful that he could see every other detail of her. He was too ignorant of the naked female form to question the bruises that blotched her skin, but he knew afterward that he wouldn't have questioned them anyway, even if he'd known what they meant. He had fantasized about something like this happening_discovering a quiescent, unmoving woman who allowed him to explore her at his leisure, if only through binoculars. He found the soft flow of her breasts unbearably erotic and dwelled at length on her nipples, wondering what it would be like to touch them and what would happen if he did. Lovingly he traversed the length of her midriff, pausing on the dimple of her belly button,
Reprinted from The Breaker Minette Walters by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright 1999 by Minette Walters.
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