running on down the valley to Blanche Pierre. Somewhere he had visited at other times to do nothing but sit and listen to the water.
He heard its light roar long before he saw it, and attuned his ears to the sound as though it were a beacon. But as he made his way down at an angle to the slope he heard a short cry followed by a loud splash. Someone had found his pool. Someone was
his pool! He strode forward angrily,rounded a copice of trees and stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of Juliette Casterleigh, naked beneath the waterfall.
He might have run forward then. He might have run forward and knelt and kissed where the waterfall kissed her now. On her stomach and breasts, on her lips. But it was all he could do to breathe. Desire dried his tongue and he felt every muscle in his stomach tighten. Shining, silvery water glistened on her skin. She threw her long, black hair back and glittering drops of water rained out in an arc. Her cupped hands sluiced water up her legs, over her stomach and onto her breasts whose nipples, stiff with cold, dripped shiny droplets back into the darker water which swirled at her feet. The waterfall cascaded down on her and she reached up with her arms to embrace it, opened her mouth to taste it, arched her back to feel it tingle down her spine, between her buttocks and on the backs of her legs. She stood as if fixed by the gazes from either side of the pool, the father and the son. As she took the cold kiss of the waterfall on her body John Lemprière’s eye was caught by a faint birthmark on her upper arm, but before he could make out what it was, she had turned.
Skin of alabaster, eyes of jet, the girl’s body swung from son to father. On the other side of the pool Charles Lemprière had seen all his son had seen. All but one detail. White flesh in the black water and the dark glitter of water-drops as they skated from her skin. And when she turned, he saw those drops scatter about her like a silver noose rising out of the pool. He saw the black triangle between her legs, and her breasts and her eyes which were blacker yet and the breath caught in his throat. And as her body turned for him, he saw the mark, the imperfection his son had glimpsed a moment before and not recognised. But the father recognised it and he knew it as a sign he dreaded above all others, burning into him as once it would have been burnt into her. A broken circle, the signature of all he had fought against. And he knew then that his patient, faceless adversaries had bested him, that all his efforts, and his father’s, and his father’s before him had again come to nothing. The account against him would be settled now and his life was forfeit to it. They had found him. For a moment he knelt as if entranced by the recognition of defeat, and then he rose, the protest welling in his throat, to scream mindlessly.
‘No, no! Not now! Not here!’
Then he heard the pack. He stopped dead, the words dying in his throat as he realised,
had been their prey from the beginning, from the very first. But the time for any kind of thought was past.
The dogs broke cover forty yards downstream, moving fast and low over the ground. He turned to the naked girl who now watched him from the pool. Her black eyes glittering, sinking into him. He told himself not to run, to face whatever might come. But run he did, flailing wildly at theferns and bushes in his way, while on the other side of the pool, under cover of the overhanging trees, a pair of legs tried to run, and could not. A pair of hands tried to claw their way out of the emerging nightmare, and could not. A voice tried to scream, and heard only the screams of his father.
The sun burnt down from above, blinding the fleeing man. The first dog hurled itself at him, Melampus, its teeth met in his calf, the first cry of pain, the first blood, Ichnobates, clawing at his ribs, the tunic shreds, white flesh, Pamphagus sinking yellow teeth in his wrist, raised in futile …