Cape Wrath
they were told, Barry moving over to Linda, putting an arm around her, Alan finding solace in Nug’s company. One by one, the group drifted out of the cave, making their tired, uneasy way back around the bog-pools towards the encampment. Eventually, only Alan and Nug remained.
    â€œHe was a good lad,” Alan said. “A bit obsessive at times, but a good lad. There was certainly no evil in him.”
    â€œHe didn’t deserve a death like that, that’s for sure,” Nug replied. Then he glanced up. “So what do you think?”
    â€œAbout what?”
    â€œAbout what I told you.”
    Alan gave him a quizzical stare. “I never had you down for the superstitious type.”
    Nug shrugged. “I’m not. It’s just, well, this whole business seems wrong to me.”
    Alan was about to reply, when they heard raised, heated voices from the direction of the tents. They looked at each other, then dashed out of the cave and scurried around the marsh, trying not to muddy themselves any more than they already had, in the process.
    Two minutes later, they were back in the camp. The first person they met was David. He had a pale, vaguely child-like look about him. “You’re not going to believe this,” he blurted out. “The satellite phone’s gone.”
    Alan felt his hair prickle. “What?”
    The others were standing around between the tents, gazing at each other in bewilderment. Professor Mercy stood in the centre, holding the waterproof satchel, which was now open and empty.
    â€œI’ll ask again,” she demanded of them, “is someone playing some kind of joke?”
    â€œIt’s a bloody unfunny one, if they are!” said Nug.
    â€œWhere was it?” Alan asked.
    She threw the empty sack on the floor. “In the satchel, along with my mobile.”
    â€œHas that gone too?”
    Clive nodded grimly. “They both have.”
    â€œThere’s a surprise,” said Alan.
    The Professor glanced sharply up at him. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
    He shrugged and waved it away. “Nothing … I’m just getting paranoid. Look, Craig had a phone, didn’t he?”
    There were a few mumbles in the positive. Uncomfortable glances were then exchanged.
    â€œWell someone had better go and get it,” Linda finally said.
    No-one moved, until Alan lurched off back in the direction of the cave. Dejectedly, Nug went with him.
    Getting Craig back out of his shroud was harder than they expected. First off, the zip on the sleeping bag jammed, then the ground-sheet somehow got twisted and knotted beneath the body, so they actually had to lift and turn his dead-weight over, in order to free it. He slumped back and forth as they moved him, nothing now but clay – cold, ghoulish clay, for his flesh was hideously clammy to touch, and, in the dusky half-light, had turned the colour of bleach.
    For all this, it was a futile endeavour. They went through Craig’s pockets and searched inside his clothes, even going so far as to strip off his sweater and take down his pants … but though they found a wallet and two spare reels of film for his shattered camera, there was no trace of his mobile phone.
    Alan knelt back up, now bathed in chill sweat. “Not here,” he said simply.
    Nug stood. “Obviously he dropped it when he fell.”
    Alan gave him a cynical stare. “Oh, obviously! ”
    â€œI hope you’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking.”
    â€œIt’s bloody convenient, isn’t it?” Alan said.
    Nug shook his head. He clearly didn’t want to believe what his friend was implying.
    Now Alan stood up too. “Nug. No-one’s nicked the sodding satellite phone! You know how expensive that piece of gear is. Don’t you think she’d have gone absolutely fucking berserk if it had really gone missing?”
    â€œAny luck?” Professor Mercy asked

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