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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

I step into the night, appreciating the quality of the darkness, the velvet black as it folds me into itself. Any light from the Folly makes very little impact upon it, though the kitchen is aglow – and also one of the upstairs windows, the room the soon-to-be-married couple are occupying. Well, I know what’s keeping them up. We heard the rhythmic shudder of the bed against the floorboards.

I won’t use the torch yet. It will make me stupid in the darkness. I stand here, listening intently. All I can make out at first is the slam of the water on the rocks and an unfamiliar, susurrating sound which I finally identify as the marquee, the fabric rustling in the gentle breeze some fifty yards away.

And then the other noise begins again. I’m better able to recognise it, now. It’s the sound of someone sobbing. Man or woman, though, it’s impossible to tell. I turn in its direction and as I do I think I catch a shimmer of movement out of the corner of my eye, in the direction of the outbuildings behind the Folly. I don’t know how I saw it, it being so dark. But it is hardwired into us, I think, into our animal selves. Our eyes are alert to any disturbance, any change in the pattern of the darkness.

It might have been a bat. Sometimes in the early evening you can see them flit above in the twilight, so quick you’re not sure you’ve seen them. But I think it was bigger. I’m sure it was a person, the same person who sits weeping cloaked in darkness. Even when I came here all those years ago, even though the island was inhabited then, there were ghost stories. The grieving women mourning their husbands, brutally slain. The voices from the bog, denied their proper burial. At the time we scared ourselves silly with them. And in spite of myself I feel it now, the sensation of my skin shrinking over my bones.

‘Hello?’ I call. The sound stops, abruptly. When there is no answer I click my torch on. I swing the beam this way and that.

The beam catches on something as I move it in a slow arc. I train it on the same spot, and guide it up the figure that stares back at me. The beam marks out the dark wild hair, the gleaming eyes. Like a being straight from folklore – the Pooka: the phantom goblin, portent of impending doom.

In spite of myself I take a step back, the torch beam wavering. But gradually, recognition dawns. It’s only the best man, slumped against the wall of one of the outbuildings.

‘Who’s there?’ His voice sounds slurred and hoarse.

‘It’s me,’ I say. ‘Aoife.’

‘Oh, Aoife. Come to tell me it’s time for lights out? Time to get into bed like a good little boy?’ He gives me a crooked grin. But it’s a half-hearted affair, and I think those are tear tracks that catch in the beam.