The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)
The wedding night
Someone else out there. The thought has them spooking at shadows, cringing away from shapes in the blackness, which seem to loom up at them and then reveal themselves to be nothing more than tricks of the eye. They move in a tight, close pack, afraid of losing another of their number. Pete is still missing.
They seem to feel the prickle of unknown eyes upon them. They feel clumsier now, more exposed. They trip and stumble over the uneven ground, over hidden tussocks of heather. They try not to think about Pete. They can’t afford to: they have to look out for themselves. Every so often they shout to one another for reassurance more than anything else, their voices like another light held against the night, uncharacteristically caring: ‘All right there, Angus?’ ‘Yeah – you OK, Femi?’ It helps them to keep going. It helps them forget about their mounting fear.
‘Jesus – what’s that?’ Femi sweeps his torch in a wide arc. It illuminates an upright form, rising palely out of the shadows, nearly as tall as a man. And then several similar shapes, some smaller, too.
‘It’s the graveyard,’ Angus calls, softly. They gaze at the Celtic crosses, the crumbling stone forms: an eerie, silent army.
‘Christ,’ Duncan shouts. ‘I thought it was a person.’ For a moment they all thought it: the round shape and thin upright base conspired briefly to seem human. Even now, as they retreat somewhat gingerly, it is hard to shake the feeling of being watched, reproachfully, by the many sentinel forms.
They continue for a time in a new direction.
‘Do you hear that?’ Angus shouts. ‘I think we’ve got too close to the sea now.’
They stop. Somewhere near at hand they are vaguely aware of the crash of water against rock. They can feel the ground shuddering beneath their feet at the impact of it.
‘OK. Right.’ Femi thinks. ‘The graveyard’s behind us, the sea’s here. So I think we need to go – that way.’
They begin to creep away from the sound of the crashing surf.
‘Hey – there’s something there—’
Instantly, they all stop where they are.
‘What did you say, Angus?’
‘I said there’s something there. Look.’
They hold out their torches. The beams they cast tremble on the ground. They are bracing themselves to find a grisly sight. They are surprised, and rather relieved, when the torchlight reflects brightly off the hard gleam of metal.
‘It’s a— what is it?’
Femi, bravest among them, steps forward and picks it up. Turning to them, shielding his eyes from the glare, he lifts it so they can all see. They recognise the object immediately; although it is mangled out of shape, the metal twisted and broken. It is a gold crown.
Earlier that day
I wander round the corners of the marquee. I move between the tables. I pick up half-full glasses, the remains of people’s drinks, and down them. I want to get as drunk as possible.