In Dame Marie, sleeping villagers walk in the dead of night - they return without memory, naked and soaking from the sea...when they return at all...
Laurent examines the tree. "Could it have been blown out to sea in a storm and then washed back ashore?" he wonders aloud.
What's more interesting is that beyond the gully, there is a tumble of boulders that marks the end of the cove. Chunks of coral in all shapes and sizes, resting every which way, and seeming to form pockets, tunnels, fissures, crevices, and even maybe some small, dark caves.
""Let's go take a look over there, suggests Laurent, pointing to the end of the cove.
Towards the end of the caves, where they were more rock than coral, a great crack zigzags through the rock face. Nothing is visible in the darkness and it is too small to climb through. On the ground nearby there is a layer of fine brown particulate matter and a distinctive but indescribable smell, ammonia-like but more organic and fleshy, like rotting fish.
Laurent takes a thorough look inside the caves.
Looking over the fissure and the detritus on the floor, Laurent thinks it is probably bat guano, suggesting the hole in the rock leads to another cave beyond. It's about half a metre across and then narrows, too narrow for him to get any further in. It slopes sharply down and the sun catches something within the crack, reflecting the light, balanced on a little ridge of rock. He leans in and with some stretching manages to retrieve it, it looks like a brooch. He holds it up to Florence, the burnished gold metal is familiar to them both from last night. The shape is bizarre, like a bloated fish but with legs underneath the body, and a short lure dangling in front of the mouth. The workmanship is exquisite but it has an unpleasant look to it.
While Florence studies the brooch Laurent steps back and looks at the cave floor. In the soft sand there are many footprints, the few distinct ones are of different sizes, both men and women, or maybe children. Some barefoot and some wearing shoes. While he studies the floor he notices the sand is disturbed around a large stone, with something poking out underneath. Crouching down he rolls away the stone and sees there are clothes buried, under the rock. Digging into the soft sand he draws out a pair of khaki trousers and a shabby green shirt, beneath them he digs out a pair of sandals.
Over his shoulder Florence sees something that catches her attention. Where the sand has been disturbed by Laurent there is more fabric visible, something blue. Florence rushes over and pulls on the fabric, uncovering a large piece of clothing. She shakes the sand off, it is a blue karabela dress with white lacing, just like the one Marise was wearing last night.
With the commotion caused by Florence pulling out the dress Laurent notices something falling to the floor. A silver pin, it looks like a cheap name badge like they sell in Le Cap, probably dropped by some kid while they were having a party. Finishes with the brooch, Florence takes the pin from Laurent and holds it up to the sunlight, looking more closely, turning it over and peering at the back of it. This isn't a cheap trinket, it's sterling silver and would have cost a lot of money. And there's a name engraved on it, 'Alice'.
Florence feels light headed, she hears the seagulls crying overhead, there's something about their cry, almost like a voice, the voice of Badessy perhaps... And another sound, a high pitched tinkling, coming from the direction of the fissure in the rock.
Florence looks aghast between the clothing and the cave. "Marise must have come here with... what were they doing in that cave? And without clothes. There must be another way in, somehow."
The brooch fills her with distaste as she associates it with the changes in her daughter. Unless Laurent stops her she takes M. Labas's advice and throws it into the sea.
Looking at the pin, she says, "Alice is the name of George Benson's wife, non?"
And when the tinkling starts, she looks at the cave in terror. "Laurent, get away from there!"
Laurent backs away from the cave. "Oui, that's his wife's name," he says. "I wonder if the clothes I found belong to the American we met last night."
Florence flings the golden brooch into the sea and watches it disappear under the water. She feels oddly reassured by the action. Turning back to look at the crack in the rock the tinkling sound abruptly stops and the seagulls go silent.
There's something about the cave, it's like the moth and the flame, although this moth senses the danger and can't resist. Florence finds herself fascinated by the dark recess in the rock wall, but she's getting some nasty vibes as well. Tilting her head, it's like a crooked smile, like the cave is smiling at her, like it knows something that she doesn't. Florence pulls herself together and backs further away, this place isn't right, it's like...it's like some kind of time bomb that might go off at any minute.
"Agreed," says Laurent, feeiing more than a little nervous.
Looking out to sea, over towards the old pirate island of Ile du Vent they can see a boat, but it's too far off to identify.
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