Warning: This is not a young-adult novel. It contains violence, adult situations, language, and strong sexuality.
ISBN-13: 978-0615623092 (MacRyan)
Keywords: Loch Ness, Scotland, England, Boston, Nessie
Publication date: March 31st, 2012
BISAC: Fiction / Fairy Tales, Folklore & Mythology
Available in paperback (6"x9") for $12.50
(why this is more expensive than Poem y Granite is a mystery to me, but Amazon sets the minimum price, not me! Get the ebook, it's a lot cheaper, and unlike with Poem y Granite, there are no images or illustrations in the paperback)
ebook for $0.99
For Joanne Ross, a Boston teacher on an exchange in England, the chance to cruise the Caledonian Canal in Scotland for the summer seems like a great 'get away from it all' opportunity. So why does she find herself inviting Loz Garet, a fellow exchanger, to come along with her? Has this teacher learned nothing from sharing a house with him for the last year?
As they boat into Loch Ness, on the north-eastern end of the canal, night falls and tension rises. Events continue to confuse and disturb her, and Joanne finds herself with two more people on her boat.
Becoming ever more fascinated with the deeply beautiful Loch Ness, and watching the complex web of shallow interactions between her guests, Joanne is forced to wonder who or what the real monster is here.
Stranger, In the Night
The Caledonian Canal, conjoining Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness, offers the eye some of the most beautiful scenery in the British Isles. The earthy waters shimmer coolly under the impassive gaze of mountainous hills tinged purple, gray and brown in a way few artists can capture. The hills are cloven by huge glens rendered in lush, variegated green. Such riches endow destitute poets; such a scale spawns boisterous highland songs.
That first morning on the canal, Joanne woke with rainbows in her eyes. She'd forgotten to close the curtains last night and the sun teased water droplets on the windows, making them blush a different hue for every hour she'd slept. Bare-assed, but unembarrassed, she idly wondered how many early morning strollers had seen the scandalous schoolmistress sprawled across her bed.
Hastily, she decided to get dressed.
She was anxious to be on her way, but when the boat was in motion, she wanted to stop at every new sight and take pictures. She changed the batteries in her camera and the mem-chip several times.
In preparing what Loz had called 'the highland game plan', they decided it was wisest to shoot for the far end of the canal right away and spend the rest of their vacation returning. They would always be heading home then and could gauge their time better. They were supposed to have 'set sail' (or whatever it was one set in a mechanically powered boat) after coffee, but Loz had extra cream and Joanne, rendered defenseless by the empty vessel she held, indulged him.
He slid himself down her body and her shorts down to her ankles, hesitantly tonguing her into submission before she even thought of protesting his molesting (somehow, she didn't seem so sore when so moist). Loz told her to put the mug down, and as she laid it in the sink, he laid her from behind well before she expected it, canted forward, eyes closed, mouth open.
Afterward, he volunteered first watch yet again, and the journey commenced. Loz treated the boat like he would a woman, which is to say that he handled her cautiously to begin with. When he mastered her, he took it for granted that she was his to do with as he pleased. Joanne watched for a while and after she made breakfast, she tried her hand whilst Loz ate.
This is fun! she thought.
After feeling so low and pessimistic the night before, she now found herself in excellent spirits. They were here at last on the canal! The boat was a dream, they were moving, the weather was perfect and this was a lifestyle she could get cosy with. Now all she had to resolve was how to continue her teaching profession and combine it with being a boat person.
There was no one more endearing than Joanne in this mood. Consequently Loz was up, too; no good for her! Joanne's mute submission to his sweet roll after coffee had excited him big time. Halting for a condom each time was a nuisance, but she would erotically roll it on, and Loz almost felt that it was worth it.
Watching her now, her supple form ill-disguised by that skimpy outfit, he felt she looked like an ideal partner to dance the sailor's hornpipe. Even tiny breasts looked terrific, bra-less and shrink-wrapped, and Joanne wasn't tiny; in fact, she was just swell. Her breasts were brazen, shameless in their effrontery, and her scanty panties frequently threw him a curve as they stretched and swayed.
She'd forgotten to put on shorts after their early morning enter-lewd and Loz just couldn't get the encounter of out his head. Joanne's ass muscles had flexed and moved and he'd convinced himself that his knead was satisfying her breasts. He hurriedly finished his scrambled eggs so he could take the plate below and grab a condom. In the cockpit again, he maneuvered close behind her, ready to dock.
Joanne laughed sexily at his antics, but kept her eyes on the water. "And what might you be up to, Loz? I had crème de men right after breakfast! You want to get fresh again already?" she asked without turning, adding ambiguously, "Frankly, you're wanton too soon for me!"
"You don't think I can talk you into it?" he said, snuggling up close. The sight of her unfettered bosoms swaying beneath flimsy fabric was more than he could stand, but it was just what he could handle. The cockpit was partially enclosed and looking around, Loz could see no judging jury to make him lose her appeal. He pressed his case and loosed velvet breasts, making her nipples, now free to witness, stand.
"You're hardening up nicely." he said.
"I was just thinking the same!" Joanne replied, and turned her head for the kiss she felt she'd earned. She could feel his firm flesh pressing against her and it was hard to concentrate on steering the boat. Fortunately they'd already left the first leg of the canal proper and entered Loch Lochy. The shore was far enough away not to be a serious hazard and she pushed back against him, swaying her hips like a lazy hula dancer.
Exploring, her lover was pleased to discover her ample lubrication. She started and stopped, sucking in a small, sharp breath when he explored further. He thought she was loving it, and he slid down her panties just enough to expose the twin cupolas of her tight rear.
Joanne's hand quickly checked for a condom as he entered, though she knew this manifest lack of trust irritated him. Sensitive to his, she turned her feeling into a fondle, exciting him more. This was what a good relationship was all about, he thought; his wish in her well....
Joanne was trying to aim the boat's prow and simultaneously accommodate Loz at her stern. She wasn't exactly into this as passionately as he to begin with, but as he penetrated her body it also entered her mind that right then, that sex right now was less soar and more sore.
Until Edinburgh, she hadn't been intimate since before the abortion; not with a partner, that is. Now she actually felt ready and she hadn't thrown precaution to the wind, why was she forced to accept that simultaneously giving in and putting out made her smart in places where she'd rather be numb?
Moving like a snake, enjoying the sensation of his hot breath brushing her hair, she tried to let the thrill overcome the discomfort, but Loz was to harsh what plain is to marsh. Most girls enjoy a little sexual surliness now and then, just like guys do, but there's a significant difference between rapture and rupture, and Loz was thrusting Joanne too far over the line.
More than anything, she enjoyed a lethargic approach to lovemaking. She wanted to hunt like a wolf, but when she found her lover, she didn't want to wolf him down; she wanted to savor him like a formal meal, leisurely embarking upon each course with sensual anticipation. The climax to such a feast was unpredictable; it might immerse her comfortably like a warm, soapy bath, or it might fill her like water quenches a parched victim of the Sahara. She longed for a guy who could offer all the options, and she hadn't ever doubted that she would never meet him.
In her present condition, a delicate approach was crucial. When Loz pulled her hair, twisting her head to reach the warmth of her mouth, she groaned, "Gently, Loz; gently, lover!"
Her soft, wet lips were pulpy and responded lustily to his kisses. She seemed drugged, as though addicted to shooting him up. Her body seemed limp and weak. She rolled her head lazily as stifled moans began to escape her, some even from pleasure. She twisted awkwardly so she could repeatedly taste his panting mouth and watch him through heavy, half closed eyes. She could feel his hot breath inside her, filling her chest. There was unchaste passion in her shadow-like motions though she chased him, trying to stretch every kiss to eternity.
In her mind, she welcomed each impassioned lunge, but somewhere, lost in her pants, he began to feel like a snagging zipper. Loz was so into his own need that he was oblivious of hers; the pleasure she'd thought she'd begun to feel was eroded until intercourse became, in her, coarse. She knew she couldn't continue; she also knew her generous lubrication meant that Loz, enjoying seconds, would take minutes on end. She had to dissolve this union abruptly.
She let her free hand drop to the loose sack of his testicles. Tenderly, cruelly, she began to tickle and stroke them with three of her fingers whilst her thumb and forefinger squeezed gently and rhythmically at the base of his penis.
In about ten seconds, Loz was gasping hotly in her ear. Joanne continued to fondle him carefully until he finished, then she circled a thumb and forefinger snugly around the root of his penis and scrotum. There was no way she was going to let him pull out suddenly. Only when she figured he'd shriveled sufficiently, did she let him loose. With a sigh of relief, of release, she made him take the helm so she could 'clean up' and she hastened below to dispose of the condom.
Cleaning up involved delicately mopping her damn spillway and gently smearing some medicinal lotion on the most tender parts. She figured she may as well crack a beer, too, and she lay supine on the bunk sipping as she continued her smear campaign, resting a little until she felt easier.
"This has got to stop," she swore softly, "at least for a little while!"
She resolved to make deft use of her hands and mouth until her natural receptacle could recover. She'd only drunk a third of the beer and had just finished doctoring herself when she heard Loz calling, "Joanne? Hey, Joanne!"
With a slight groan, she dressed properly and climbed gingerly to the cockpit, to see what it was he evidently wanted to show her.
He wanted to show her how angry he was. "Where the hell have you been? It doesn't take this long to clean up, I know that!"
Joanne smiled. "Just taking care of ladies' business, Sweets, that's all!"
"Right!" Loz said. He snatched the beer can out of her hand and drunk half its contents in one pull. "You're supposed to be at the helm so I can take a nap, and where are you? In back, swilling beer! It's your turn here, or did you conveniently forget that part of the arrangement?"
Joanne frowned. She had the horrible feeling he wasn't faking annoyance. In fact, she sensed impending friction which would make her internal problems seem like a sleigh ride; even one ill-contoured word would have a ratio of one too many. This was her vacation and she was damned if she was going to have it spoiled with a fight. To forestall any possible argument, she leaned over and kissed him, trying to give him one square on his lips, but he wouldn't turn, and when she stretched further, he pulled away.
"Jo, not while I'm trying to drive this thing. Do you want us to hit the bank?"
Joanne snatched the beer back from him and walked away. "No, I have plenty of money," she said sarcastically. Silence poured over them and began to set.
After a few seconds, Loz turned and said, "Well, are you going to pilot this thing, or not?"
"Yeah, I'll take my turn of the wheel."
They traded and Loz disappeared inside.
"I'll take my turn of the wheel, all right as long as you remember what comes around when you're next ready to go a round!" she said quietly.
Joanne heard him use the toilet. A smile snuck out of her as she thought of him waiting desperately at the wheel, his bladder the size of a football, whilst she reclined downstairs with her beer.
She'd forgotten how often guys have to go after sex. They're like dogs; their minds get so much into their rut when they smell a bitch in heat that they completely forget about other bodily functions like urinating, sleeping, breathing..... She stopped there, having satisfactorily accounted for all male post-orgasmic behavior (eating is part of the foreplay, she'd decided), and she giggled delightedly. She
took another sip from her beer.
Loz returned, beer in hand. "What the hell is up your ass this morning?" he said.
Joanne glanced at him, a half smile askew on her lips. "You might be, if I stay this sore!" she joked. She hoped it would break some ice.
Loz had an obscure look on his face, but he sidestepped with a pugnacious, "Is that why you were so unresponsive? You're sore at me? What'd I do?"
Joanne laughed from the belly. "No, Loz, I'm not sore at you, I'm sore from you! It's been a long time for me, and you're very demanding; you've gotta take it easy, okay? And I was not unresponsive for Christ's sake! I was trying to steer the boat, remember?"
She turned and looked at him sharply. "Do you remember, Loz? Do you remember how I accommodated you and you didn't return the favor when our positions were reversed? I'm not trying to start an argument, all I'm saying is that I can't handle so much of you!"
Loz looked at her, trying to figure her out. She was so damn frustrating! Eventually his mind caught up. With a conceited grin, he said, "I'm that big, huh?"
"No, you're not that big! It's not the size, it's the frequency!"
For a second she froze; that was probably entirely the wrong thing to say to Loz. Quickly, she went on, "Loz, I'm not saying I want to stop doing it! My God! But we're gonna have to put the brakes on until my linings repair!"
She paused, realizing she wasn't getting her point across. She tried to spell it out. "It's been a long time, Loz; you have to go easy until I get used to it again, until we can both really get into it, huh? You know what I'm saying?" Loz was mute. "Well say something, please!"
"I thought I'd been easy on you. I've been restraining myself because you keep saying you want it gentle. Lovey-dovey isn't my style, but I've been doing it for you, putting my own pleasure second, and now you're trying to say I'm too rough? If I get any gentler, we won't be fucking at all."
That was too much. Joanne couldn't navigate the loch and carry on an emotional conversation like this at the same time. She turned the boat into shore and dropped anchor a few yards out. Loz watched her wordlessly. She fixed him with a long-suffering look that contained half a smile. When he didn't react, she turned to look across the beautifully uncomplicated loch.
After a minute or so, when she'd collected some thoughts, she turned to face him again. "Okay, let's sort this out without turning it into a fight, 'cos I'm on vacation and the last person I want to fight with is you, all right? All I'm saying is I'm sore. It's been a long time; I'm not used to screwing like this and until I get used to it, you're gonna have to take it easy on me, or at least on my insides! That's the bottom line."
She crossed the deck and sat next to him. He looked like he was in school, being chewed out for having dirty shoes or something. She put an arm around him and leaned her head on his shoulder.
She realized she was coming off even more forcefully than he had just now, and continued gently, "When I'm back to par, then we can get big time passionate if it trips your trigger! I'm willing, believe me, but I'm physically incapable right now. I don't want is to quit sex! That's why I'm suggesting we explore alternatives. It might even be fun!" She paused lengthily. "Am I making any impression on you at all?"
Loz nodded. He looked like a whipped puppy. Joanne eyed him with high hopes and a low heart. She'd never wanted this, but damn it, if you can't talk straight in a relationship, you're in the wrong relationship. She had no time for lies, deceit, and bullshit artists. Loz was staring across the loch and Joanne followed his gaze. After a few seconds she sighed and said without looking at him, "I love ya, Loz; let's not fight, huh? especially not on my vacation."
She went inside quickly for another beer. Damn, maybe she had screwed up. She felt better that she'd been able to speak her mind, but worse at what it might cost. Conflict just really gnawed on Joanne's nerves. And what kind of love was 'I love ya'? How was he going to react now she'd used those particular words? Or would he not even notice it? Was her rapid exit her way of avoiding finding out?
Maybe she should take the beer for an omen: it wasn't so cool anymore. She grabbed a can anyway and cracked it; it tasted spectacular. She turned and Loz was right behind her. He grabbed her and pulled her close. In a mock French accent he said, "And which disgusting perversion does madame wish to indulge in tonight?"
The old Joanne was back at once. She said, "We'll talk about that later! Right now, we got some sailing to do!" She pecked him on the nose and climbed up into the cockpit.
Loz called, "Hey, why don't we take a break and sunbathe for a while? The weather is awesome. I know we said we should make waves, but it won't do any harm if we break the outward trip into two days, will it?
Joanne called back, "You're right! If this weather is going to be unpredictable, we should take it as it comes, I guess."
They needed no persuading to sunbathe right where they were. Later, they moved up the canal far enough to buy some supplies, including pizza and ice cream, and Loz stocked up on, believe it or not, Tartan beer! Sadly, the beer itself wasn't tartan, just brown as usual. They spent the next few hours eating, drinking, and soaking up the sunshine which had spilled all over the deck.
Inevitably, the sun started down like a potato chip into avocado dip and the air cooled. It was early evening and finally, they decided they'd better find a good mooring for the night. They motored past Killanin and Lagan, and were into Loch Oich, which seemed tiny after Loch Lochy.
Joanne kept on cruising, idly contrasting what she was doing now with what she'd done as a teenager in Boston. The two activities had the same name, but they were (almost literally) a world apart. Mildly chastising herself for daydreaming, she tried to quit reminiscing and concentrate on the present because the headway they'd made that day was pathetic. She felt obliged to pick up some mileage. They had selected a spot just south of Loch Ness to overnight, but she figured they wouldn't be close even by nightfall at this rate.
As the evening aged, the sky began to cloud over just as it had the day before. Joanne couldn't get used to it being so light for as late as it was. She kept reminding herself that she was farther north than she'd ever been in her life, and it was misguided to 'expect' things.
Further support for this theory came from the weather; she was sure it would rain and since Loz was taking a nap, she wondered if she could get the cockpit cover up by herself, but the rain didn't come. A wet, clingy mist stopped by instead. It looked like it could use a good meal, thin as it was, but it sharply curtailed her horizons. She felt like the captain of the Flying Dutchman, suspended in time and space in a surreal world where anything might happen.
When darkness came, Loz was sleeping his orgy off below and, unaware she'd missed the mooring, Joanne was still navigating half blindly when it was almost too dark to see the towpath. Shades of last night! She knew how foolish it was to keep moving, and wanted to stop dead where they were, rather than risk hitting something in the dark. On the other hand, she wanted to moor properly so they weren't a hazard to themselves or to others.
Uncomfortably aware that it might be illegal even to run the boat after dark, she pressed on, but she was hardly in a position right then to read up on it. Perversely, she found an old Gloria Gaynor song running through her mind with the words changed appropriately. Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris would probably kick her pilfering ass had they known:
I should have changed that stupid loch
I should have made you leave the quay
If I'd've known for just one second that you'd fog around with me
Go on now, I find you boring
Just turn around now
'Cos you really mist my mooring...
Fort Augustus, built close to an old monastery at the southern tip of the Great Loch, is not exactly a metropolis; in the night, in the mist, with her insignificant boat lights reflecting off the fog, a tired and nervous Joanne, focused tightly on the water, was oblivious of the few faint and twinkling lights passing her by. By the time she realized she was no longer in the canal, she was in the dark, adrift on Loch Ness over two hundred metres of ice-cold, pitch-black water.
Loz would go ballistic if he found out! Trying not to panic, she turned the boat to port intending to find the loch shore and tie up to a tree or something. It would be insane to try to re-enter the canal. The question was how to get inshore safely when she couldn't even see it. By alternately engaging the engine and letting the boat drift, she nudged the Spume northwards, ready to slip into reverse
in a second.
Alerted by the altering rhythm of the engine, Loz woke up. He was completely disoriented. He was alone, it was dark, and the boat was moving. He shivered. Piece by piece, it fell into place and he charged out of the cabin angrily. When he first saw Joanne, his heart jumped. She looked like she'd suddenly turned gray, and it scared the hell out of him until he realized her hair was coated with mist. This false alarm made him angrier still.
"What the fuck is going on?" he shouted.
Joanne, already nervous, jumped in her skin at the sound of his voice. She became so pissed off with his supercilious tone, that she bawled right back at him. "Don't you fucking shout at me! You've been in a god-damned drunken stupor all evening, so don't start with that tone when I'm up here alone, doing all the god-damned work!" She dropped the engine into neutral.
Loz's response came back disturbingly gently until the last half-dozen words, which he bellowed. "Would you mind telling me just exactly what the fuck it is you're doing?"
"In case you hadn't noticed, we're in the middle of a loch. I'm taking the boat in so we can moor for the night and get some sleep. Now this is hard enough without your contribution. Can you understand that?"
"I can't believe you've done this!"
Joanne turned on him. "And where for Piss-Christ's sake have you been for half a day?" she shouted.
Loz was angry enough to ignore that. "I suppose the fact that we can't see the shore, don't know how far it is or even exactly where it is, and have no idea what's underneath us has no bearing at all, does it?"
"That was more than one fact," Joanne observed, engaging the engine again.
Loz was on the verge of the edge. "Do you know what kind of fucking predicament we're in?" he shouted.
Joanne, deliberately sounding like his mother might, said, "Yes, but someone will soon hear your voice and shout directions, don't worry!"
"I doubt it will be him!"
"We could fucking drown out here!"
"I wish you would!"
Loz gave vent to an exasperated, "My God!"
Joanne was ready to bust him in the mouth. If she were a guy, she would have literally decked him long before then. She slipped the engine into neutral and trying to control her considerable temper said, "Look! insincere appeals to the deities of our forefathers will do me less good right now than keeping your fucking eyes open and watching for the shore. We'll see where it is when we get closer. As far as depth is concerned, we'll just have to be careful, that's all. This is not the fucking Glass Bottomed Boat!"
Loz had just about lost it now. He hit his forehead with the heel of his hand, his voice jumped from tenor to alto, and he shouted, "We'll just have to be careful? I suppose when a fucking tree comes up through the hull, we'll know we've gone too far, huh? We may write off a fifteen fucking thousand dollar boat, but that's life on the waves! That's fabulous! That's really fucking sound thinking! Well I'll just go back to sleep and hope I float safely into shore when we go down!"
"Yeah, hitting something submerged would be a real drag!" Joanne laughed. It was the safest option when the alternative was murder.
"Have you lost your fucking marbles?"
"Worse things happen at sea, Loz!"
She had just engaged the engine again when she noted that he was about to launch into her, so she cut it and turned on him so quickly that he stopped dead without even closing his mouth. "That's it, Loz! That's fucking it! You can stop right there, because I am not going to take any more shit from you. Do you understand me?
She half turned away and then spun back on him, her voice low with threat. "Frankly, I'm beginning to care very little if I do sink this fucking boat so long as you're on it, because I'm pretty fucking tired of you sleeping away and letting me take the responsibility. You did it last night and you've done it again tonight, and that's the last fucking time. Are you with me on this? We're supposed to be fifty-fifty on this trip and you need to pull your weight. Now I have a very viable option for you; either back off, or you leave this god-damned fucking boat for good. I came here to get away from hassle, not bring it along with me. Okay? Okay, Loz? Have you got that straight?"
Loz said nothing. Their faces were a metre apart, jaundiced by the yellow light of the cockpit as well as by each other. The silence dragged on.
Eventually it was Joanne who broke and turned away. Her voice seemed to have broken, too. "Loz, I'm sorry, but that's the way I feel. My nerves are bad enough as it is, and I don't need you, of all people, making things worse. I'm in a mess, I know, and I'm trying to sort it out; a little help would be appreciated. If you can't offer that, then please go below and leave me alone."
Loz turned away. Joanne waited, but when it looked like he was going to do nothing, she engaged the engine and resumed her original plan. After a minute, Loz spoke. "If you're going to do this, then go in backwards. At least the propeller will give some protection to the hull. Just turn the boat while I get the broom from below. You go in backwards, but slow, and I'll try to feel for depth with the broom. We may as well make the best of a bad job."
Joanne forced her lips into a smile and with dedicated effort, managed to squeeze a thoroughly resentful "Thank you," from them.
Loz went below without a smile or another word. He signaled her from aft when he was ready, and she reversed as slowly as the boat would go. They hadn't been at this for a minute when Joanne switched off the engine and stood listening intently.
"Now what?" Loz called, still simmering.
"Ssh!" she said softly, "I think I hear a boat!" In the stillness, she thought she could feel faint tendrils of rain on her face, but she wasn't sure if it was that or the mist pooling. It may have been sweat.
Loz secured the broom and edged around the side of the rear saloon housing to reach the cockpit. "What?" he asked.
Joanne shushed him again. "There's a boat! Listen!"
"Well, whoop-te-doo!" Loz said sarcastically. "Let's river dance!"
Joanne shushed him harshly, and he refrained from further comment. They both strained their ears and in the darkness, they could hear the firm, regular stroke of someone rowing a boat toward them. It was moving fast, and they both pictured some brawny Scot at the oars, racing home through the night with contraband whiskey in his lap. Perhaps that's why neither of them even considered calling out. It was already eerie enough and getting worse by the minute.
They strained their inefficient eyes into the deep blackness that was night on the loch. They could hear the sounds distinctly, but they could see nothing save the mist and its reflection in the water; they couldn't even fix exactly where the noise was coming from. It simply started faintly and grew louder, and though the rapid paddling of water seemed disturbingly close, nothing appeared in the grayness.
It's no secret that sounds carry a long way across open water and in the dead of night aural perception is further enhanced, but even so, this experience was becoming distinctly odd. There was something chilling in being out there in total darkness and almost, but not quite, perfect silence; the ethereal sounds of a rowboat were raising the sensation to a new height. Whatever it was that was disturbing the water seemed to be almost on top of them, but there was still nothing to see. They were spooked.
Suddenly, a wild commotion in the water made their skins crawl, and a wave kicked hard against the side of the Spume. They grabbed each other in panic at first, but more practically sought the boat rails as the vessel vigorously rolled away from the wave. It rocked back and forth for minutes before friction with the water, in support of Newton's First Law of Motion, brought it to rest.
"Jesus Christ what the fuck was that? Did we hit something?" Loz said, his voice shaking.
"I think something hit us, but God knows what it was. Jesus, that was scary!" Joanne said, glancing at him. She didn't want to take her eyes from the water, but she was intrigued by his tone. He was frightened! "What the hell was that? Are there 'gators in here or something?" she asked. Joanne had seen 'gators in the wild Florida. They were not her favorite beasts. There was something primitive about them that made her feel like she was very far from the twenty-first century, where humans dominated. It was a very uncomfortable feeling, that of being prey. It made her feel like praying.
Loz laughed at her fear, but it was a laugh born of and borne by fear itself. "No, stupid, this is Scotland. 'Gators would freeze to death the first winter they were here. It must be a seal or a fish, or something pretty big. I don't know!"
Joanne took that and ran with it. "Oh sure, that was a fucking fish, sure it was. A giant fish! Peter Benchley is probably out here taking notes too, right?"
"Well maybe it was Jacques fucking Cousteau then! I don't know! I'm not particularly in a mood for discussing the relative dimensions of freshwater fauna; all I want to do is get to bed, but because of you, we're stuck out here on the biggest god-damned loch in Scotland and something nearly tips the boat over! Now do you see the point I was trying to make earlier, Joanne? Now do you think you might get us into shore, before we fucking die?"
"Don't start again!" Joanne warned, but before she could say more, Loz had returned to the stern.
He almost slipped as he negotiated the narrow walkway round the side of the cabin. Joanne found that so funny, but thought it politic to keep her amusement tightly to herself right then.
She engaged the engine one more time and reversed the boat with a little more gusto than she'd employed hitherto. Before two more minutes had passed they thought they were coming into sight of the shore and Loz began probing more enthusiastically with his broom.
With no warning, there came the most sinister hiss rushing at him from his right, and he looked up as something hit the boat and scraped under it. He almost lost the broom, but managed to hold onto both it and his balance. Joanne cut the engine at once. Neither of them saw a thing.
"Goddamn-it we grounded!" Loz cursed, but both of them were fully aware that the shore, apparent in the mist now that they were looking for it with the acuity of panic, was still some way off. The boat was still rocking and drifting freely towards it.
Loz was confused. "Are we drifting?" he asked.
"Yes!" Joanne called, her voice shrill with annoyance, but not panicked.
"Jesus fucking H. Christ!" Loz exclaimed, and dropped down again on his belly to poke the water ineffectually with his broom handle. "We sure as hell hit something out there! Now do you see the kind of trouble we could have been in? That could have holed us, and then you know where we'd be?"
"At least we'd be fucking moored to something! Will you stow it, for Christ's sake?"
Loz jumped, startled to discover that he'd been brushed by an overhanging branch, and he cursed vilely.
Joanne laughed, but stopped abruptly when she remembered how angry he was. She took the mooring rope from the front of the boat and tied it to a stout tree branch which conveniently reached out to her like a helping hand. Loz did the same at the rear; then he came forward and adjusted Joanne's rope because he felt she hadn't allowed enough slack. He was lucky she didn't hang him with it.
"Thank God-almighty for that!" he said, fixing Joanne with a malevolent stare.
Joanne ignored his observation. With a cynical smile on her face, she took the rope he'd tied and held it up. "Since when has Ness been tidal, Loz? We need all this slack?" Loz ignored her now, and she let it go, both her point and the rope; it wouldn't do any harm. She switched off and secured the control panel before going below.
As she brushed past him, he shook his head at her. "I don't fucking know about you anymore!"
"Maybe you never did fucking know about me, Loz," she snapped angrily, and in her mind added, 'How 'bout that, you son'bitch'!
In the stern, she stripped quickly and wrapped a warm, dry towel around her hair before flopping into the bunk. She covered herself well and rolled to one edge, keeping her back to the side where Loz would lay. Just try any shenanigans tonight, lover boy! she thought vindictively, and I'll introduce you to a lock you won't forget!
Loz wasn't about to. Joanne learned how pissed off he was when she heard him getting into one of the bunks up front. She sat up and switched off the light; for a minute she stared into darkness which was total, feeling angry and humiliated, and very much alone. She settled down with difficulty. It was a long time before she could sleep.
Outside, everything was silent again. An owl hooted somewhere across the loch, but that was all the noise there was, save for the cold water familiarly lapping at the hull of the boat as if tasting it before dining.
Saurus came out of my love for Scotland and the big Loch. I've only been to Scotland a few times and to the Ness area only once, but it’s so easy to fall in love there. I've never sailed the Loch, but I'd love to do that at some point.
With regard to Nessie: I have no belief in a Loch Ness monster or any other kind of monster, ghost, spirit or whatever. The evidence simply doesn’t support it, but it makes a great story. I've seen several movies or TV shows about it, and read at least one other novel (the name of which escapes me, so it obviously wasn't very memorable!). In addition to that, I've read a lot of the material about it by both people who believe and those who reject it.
My take, as ever, was going to be a different story, something which hasn’t (to my knowledge at least!) been done before, but as often happens, the story that came out of the end of this creative pipeline wasn't what I'd imagined going in!
The 'monster' was originally going to be the most ordinary common-or-garden Nessie, with the differences in the story coming from the behaviors of the main four characters. It was only after I’d written the first draft that it occurred to me that I could make a few changes to this and really take it to a new level; having two 'monsters' gave me a great playground in which to have some real fun.
The main character is Joanne Ross, and her personal experiences are where we hang the most, but the other three featured on the cover figure strongly. Joanne is really someone who, were she real, I'd like to meet and hang out with. I think she'd be a good and loyal friend and a fun person to know. She presents a confident and strong exterior, but underneath that, she's somewhat fragile and a bit gullible, which is in contrast to her rational scientific persona.
Jim Bridgers is molded a bit after myself as I was when I was maybe 18 and really quite naïve about life.
Cora Graigh is an enigma; she's not someone I would trust or be drawn to. She's too much eye candy and not enough substance. Or at least that's how she appears as we start to know her, but of course, we learn there’s a lot more to her and to her relationship with Jim, and in this, Jim's blindness to the important things in his life is revealed. Their relationship reminded me a bit of the advice that Bill Harding urged upon his estranged wife Jo in the movie Twister when he told her she should look at what's right in front of her (which was, of course, him). Except that in the Cora-Jim relationship, those rôles are reversed.
Loz Garet is a piece of work. He's not someone I want to know or to hang out with, but there are people just like him, I'm sorry to say. I'm not someone who buys that absurd generalisation that every guy is a closet rapist, but some guys are bad inside and in ways which are not easy to see beforehand, and that bad stuff will come out of them when circumstances facilitate it. The same applies to girls as well, but they tend to exhibit less violent outcomes than do guys. This is why it was interesting to compare and contrast Cora's other side to Loz's in this novel.
I had to get the four characters together on the boat. I had to get Jo with Loz, which wasn't too hard, and then I had to estrange them somewhat which, given Loz, wasn't hard either(!). That left Jo open to inviting Jim onto the boat, rooted in her fascination with what happened to them in chapter 10 and with his explanation of it. Once he was on board, there was immediate tension with Loz, and because Jim was on board, Cora was able to get involved with no further effort on my part and of course, as soon as she showed up, Loz lost focus on Jo, moron that he was.
Not that Cora didn't have much more to offer than meets the eye, but for me, Jo had infinitely more than did Cora, although the latter would be a fun person to go out and have a few drinks and a laugh or two with. I love the way that Cora toys with everyone except Jim, making obscure comments and sly observations like she knows some secret that they don't. Which of course she does....
Had she been a perfectly ordinary girl, she would have been foolish in the extreme to get involved with Loz, but Cora is a tough girl, and feeling distanced from Jim and having, shall we say, a relaxed moral code, she had no qualms about jumping in. Too late did she discern who the real Loz was, but she exacted her revenge in an unexpected way when pushed far too far.
And that's all in the way of spoilers you're going to get on this novel!