The woman lay on her back on the pebble foreshore at the foot of
Houns-tout Cliff, staring at the cloudless sky above, her pale blond hair
drying into a frizz of tight curls in the hot sun. A smear of sand across her
abdomen gave the impression of wispy clothing, but the brown circles
of her nipples and the hair sprouting at her crotch told anyone who
cared to look that she was naked. One arm curved languidly around her
head while the other rested palm-up on the sea-washed pebbles, the
fingers curling in the tiny wavelets that bubbled over them as the tide
rose; her legs, opened shamelessly in relaxation, seemed to invite the
sun's warmth to penetrate directly into her body.
Above her loomed the grim shale escarpment of Houns-tout Cliff,
irregularly striped with the hardy vegetation that clung to its ledges. So
often shrouded in mist and rain during the autumn and winter, it looked
benign in the brilliant summer sunlight. A mile away to the west, on the
Dorset Coast Path that hugged the clifftops to Weymouth, a party of
hikers approached at a leisurely, pace, pausing every now and then to
watch cormorants and shags plummet into the sea like tiny guided missiles.
To the east, on the path to Swanage, a single male walker passed
the Norman chapel on St. Alban's Head on his way to the rock-girt crucible
of Chapman's Pool, whose clear blue waters made an attractive anchorage
when the wind was light and offshore. Because of the steep
hills that surround it, pedestrian visitors to its beaches were rare, but at
lunchtime on a fine weekend upwards of ten boats rode at anchor there,
bobbing in staggered formation as the gentle swells passed under each
A single boat, a thirty-two-foot Princess, had already nosed in
through the entrance channel, and the rattle of its anchor chain over
its idling engines carried clearly on the air. Not far behind, the bow of
a Fairline Squadron carved through the race off St. Alban's Head, giving
the yachts that wallowed lazily in the light winds a wide berth in
its progress toward the bay. It was a quarter past ten on one of the
hottest Sundays of the year, but out of sight around Egmont Point the
naked sunbather appeared oblivious to both the shimmering heat and
the increasing likelihood of company.
The Spender brothers, Paul and Daniel, had spotted the nudist as
they rounded the Point with their fishing rods, and they were now
perched precariously on an unstable ledge some hundred feet above
her and to her right. They took turns looking at her through their father's
expensive binoculars, which they had smuggled out of the
rented holiday cottage in a bundle of T-shirts, rods, and tackle. It was
the middle weekend of their two weeks' holiday, and as far as the
elder brother was concerned, fishing had only ever been a pretext.
This remote part of the Isle of Purbeck held little attraction for
an awakening adolescent, having few inhabitants, fewer distractions,
and no sandy beaches. His intention had always been to spy on
bikini-clad women draped over the expensive motor cruisers in
"Mum said we weren't to climb the cliffs because they're dangerous,"
whispered Danny, the virtuous ten-year-old, less interested than
his brother in the sight of bare flesh.
"She'd kill us if she knew we were looking at a nudie."
"You're just scared because you've never seen one before."
"Neither've you," muttered the younger boy indignantly. "Anyway,
she's a dirty person. I bet loads of people can see her."
Paul, the elder by two years, treated this remark with the scorn it
deservedthey hadn't passed a soul on their way around Chapman's
Pool. Instead, he concentrated on the wonderfully accessible body
below. He couldn't see much of the woman's face because she was lying
with her feet pointing toward them, but the magnification of the lenses
was so powerful that he could see every other detail of her. He was too
ignorant of the naked female form to question the bruises that blotched
her skin, but he knew afterward that he wouldn't have questioned them
anyway, even if he'd known what they meant. He had fantasized about
something like this happeningdiscovering a quiescent, unmoving
woman who allowed him to explore her at his leisure, if only through
binoculars. He found the soft flow of her breasts unbearably erotic
and dwelled at length on her nipples, wondering what it would be like
to touch them and what would happen if he did. Lovingly he traversed
the length of her midriff, pausing on the dimple of her belly button,
before returning to what interested him most, her opened legs and
what lay between them. He crawled forward on his elbows, writhing
"What are you doing?" demanded Danny suspiciously, crawling up
beside him. "Are you being dirty?"
"`Course not." He gave the boy a savage thump on the arm. "That's
all you ever think about, isn't it? Being dirty. You'd better watch it,
penis-brain, or I'll tell Dad on you."
In the inevitable fight that followeda grunting, red-faced brawl of
hooked arms and kicking feetthe Zeiss binoculars slipped from the
elder brother's grasp and clattered down the slope, dislodging an
avalanche of shale in the process. The boys, united in terror of what
their father was going to say, abandoned the fight to wriggle back from
the brink and stare in dismay after the binoculars.
"It's your fault if they're broken," hissed the ten-year-old. "You're the
one who dropped them."
But for once his brother didn't rise to the bait. He was more interested
in the body's continued immobility. With an awful sense of foreboding
it dawned on him that he'd been masturbating over a dead