Anna watched the neon pink jacket ebb and flow with the crashing tide 300 feet below the clifftop. The waves pounded the rocks and the wind howled deafeningly in her ears. Strands of hair clung to her face, damp from the sea spray and the mist. She was no longer afraid to look down, fear would no longer invade her life now that Katarina was dead, dead, and gone forever.
Katarina had arrived on the island on the previous day. When she disembarked from the ferry, she knew that she had passed the point of no return, she had put the wheels in motion, and she was determined and intent on carrying out her plan. When questioned by the gardai the other guests at the island guesthouse said that she had seemed to be a pretty and pleasant girl, though she kept herself to herself. Later at breakfast they spoke about the tragic accident of the previous evening. Only one ventured to comment that she “seemed to be in good form”, hinting at the unasked question which enveloped the breakfast table.
While the guests pondered Katarina’s fate, Pawel was boarding the morning ferry for the mainland. People stood aside to allow him to board, intimidated by his sheer bulk and his garish tattoos. He had no difficulty in finding a seat as passengers chose to stand at the coffee bar or move to the cold upper deck rather than avail of the vacant seat beside him. Pawel was accustomed to this reaction, and he saw it as further affirmation of his dark skills.
As the ferry set sail he thought of Katarina, his quarry, the girl that he had been sent to hunt down. He had a moment of regret that she had deprived him of the pleasure of a kill. Though he rarely had feelings for anyone, he had a momentary feeling of hatred for her, because she had jumped. She had taken destiny into her own hands, and she had robbed him of his control over her. Still, the feeling passed with the consolation that he would still get paid for a job that had a satisfactory outcome.
Katarina had hoped that she would evade him by leaving the mainland. On the previous day he had driven her to Galway and given her the address of her next client, a well known and respected local politician. Pawel dropped her off at the end of the street and watched her ascend the steps of number 23. He waited until she had grasped the brass lion head and knocked on the elegant yellow Georgian front door. He drove away secure in the knowledge that she would ensure another satisfied client, just as she had done repeatedly on a daily basis for the past 6 months. Anyhow, with no money and no contacts she had no choice, nor did the stupid cow have the brains to try to leave. He smiled smugly as he realized that she had recently stopped asking for drugs before she visited clients, maybe she was actually beginning to enjoy her work. Satisfied with that thought, he considered the fillet steak and glass of chateau- neuf- du- pape that he would have at the waterfront restaurant. He would have at least a couple of hours of relaxation before she would text him for collection and drop off to her afternoon client.
The text never came. By the time that Pawel began to get edgy Katarina was boarding a ferry for the crossing to the island. She sat at the window and gazed out at the wide expansive sea, her dark hair obscuring her pretty, sallow face, as usual. She began to feel an emotion which she had rarely experienced since she was a little girl in her grandmother’s little farm in the Slovakian countryside….freedom. She didn’t dare let it take hold of her as it was quickly followed by a sense of dread. She knew for certain that he would follow her, it was only a matter of limited time. She had left him a clue, a ticket stub for the ferry, placed under the passenger seat of the car. It would be the breadcrumb that would lead him to the island. She needed him to come so that she could end this for once and for all…on her terms.
She disembarked from the ferry and inhaled the heady scent of impending freedom. She was glad to see the approaching Atlantic mist, as the chill gave her a reason to put on her pink neon rain jacket. For once in her life, she needed to be noticed. She needed to stand out and be remembered among the sea of day trippers who disembarked alongside her.
She made her way to the little guesthouse and met her convivial hostess. She smiled and nodded niceties at another couple and a young man travelling alone. She needed to create the impression that she was a typical guest enjoying an overnight stay on the island, planning to visit the sights on the following day. Nobody would have guessed the burden which she carried and the dark plan which was put in motion. Katarina wandered into the library and cast her eyes over the array of books which had travelled from many lands, fueling dreams, and providing company to many guests who had passed through this lovely place. She smiled as her gaze paused on the title of the book which caught her attention, ‘Unfinished Business’, “how apt” she thought “later this evening I will have finished the business which I came here to complete”. She held the book close and started towards the stairs. Again, she met her friendly hostess and though she was ravenously hungry she declined the offer of tea and warm apple tart with cream, despite the scent of sweet stickiness which wafted from the kitchen in an effort to tempt her in. Company and conversation were luxuries which she could not enjoy right now. She went to her room and put the final pieces of her plan in place. The end was in sight, she would soon escape this world forever.
She packed her little rucksack with the necessary supplies, an apple, a bottle of water and her little wool purse with the money which she had secretly gathered over the past few months. She slid her narrow finger inside the lining and freed her beloved passport. It seemed like a lifetime ago since she sneaked it from Pawel’s hiding place that morning while he slept. She held it close and slipped it inside her new travelling companion, the book from the guesthouse library. Then she placed the mobile phone in the outside pocket of the rucksack, checking the photos for a final time. She shivered as she saw Pawel’s cruel face on screen, then she swiped to the clear shot of his car and finally the elegant yellow door of number 23.
As dusk approached, she made her way to the hallway of the guesthouse, quickly waving at the lady of the house. Her stomach grumbled and there was a twinge in her heart at the thought of the warmth and comfort which she was leaving behind…if only she were brave enough to share her secret. But it was too late now, the wheels were in motion and Katarina’s life was to end, for once and for all.
As she climbed the rocky path towards the cliff, she thought of her childhood dreams of becoming a dancer, then she recalled her first meeting with Pawel and the offer of an exciting and better life in a new country. Thoughts of her naivety and how she had allowed herself to be tricked into this dark and seedy lifestyle fueled her anger and increased her speed up the rough stony incline. From the kitchen window of the guesthouse the flash of her pink jacket could be seen progressing determinedly up the pathway in the distance, despite the descending mist.
Katarina reached the top. The limestone cliff top levelled out and darkened in patches with the falling mist and sea spray. She could hear the waves crashing below, they were calling to her, the waves which would bring her freedom. She slowly walked towards the cliff edge and placed her rucksack on a lichen covered ledge to the side where it was sure to be found and its secrets revealed. On the wild and windy clifftop, she could sense the spirits who had danced there in life and death for centuries before. They gave her a sense of tranquillity and calm; they gave her the strength to complete the final step. She knew that the journey was finally over.
Katarina got on her hands and knees and crawled to the cliff edge, she needed to see the final destination. She inched slowly along the limestone rocks, her fingers gripping the rough surface beneath. She could hear the deafening crash and pounding of the waves below and she felt that she could no longer breathe. Her fingers finally gripped the edge and she pulled herself the final few inches until she could see over the side. Fear gave way to exhilaration at the sight of the wild ocean 300 feet below. She smiled as the vista beneath her confirmed that freedom was only a breath away.
She inched back from the cliff edge and steadied herself, her head swimming before she stood.
She slowly unzipped her jacket and took it off. She held it in front of her and shrieked with delight as the wind, fueled by the spirits of her ancestors sent it billowing down alongside the cliff face to its final destination on the waves below.
Katarina was dead….dead and gone forever! Anna was going home.