Six inches across, shaped like a banana. The cut runs from the woman’s neck, between her breasts, towards her navel. If I wanted I could peel the skin back and reveal her rib-cage. There’s no blood on her skin, no blood on the sand: she’s clean, clean all over, veins visible in her arms and neck. Twice this week I’ve been called out by some wanderer stumbling across another body, but this one, this woman, she’s what I’ve been looking for. Trying to determine where she came from is harder than usual, she’s naked, and if it wasn’t for the banana-shaped cut and the bloated, sea-filled plumpness of her abandoned body, she could be lying here having a snooze. If you look closer, you can see that flecks of red have risen to the skin around her mouth, around her bulging eyes, and the bruises on the neck suggest that she was strangled. She’s been dead for days, skin the colour of bubble gum. We don’t know how she got here: lying like an angel in the sand, one foot in the sea.
“Where she washed up from?” asks the fisherman who found her, and reported her to me, just an hour ago.
“Impossible to say.”
I circle the body, try to gauge where she’s from, how old she is: no more than thirty, her skin is tanned under all that death, she is beautiful, she is, even her glassy eyed stare can’t stop me from admiring the curve of her chin. Her cut breasts are shapely, and her calves look like they were once firm. This was a woman that took care of herself, she worked out, probably dined out, partied, laughed. Yes. She is beautiful. When you’ve done this job as long as me you start to appreciate even the dead.
“Do I get anything?” asks the fisherman, leant on a spade, looking casual. The fisherman already knows the answer.
“I’ll give you fifty pounds.”
“Joking, aren’t you?”
“Aw, I’ll do it for one-twenty.”
I get out my wallet, keeping it close to my chest, and take out the notes. The fisherman straightens up and swings the spade over his shoulder. He takes the money from my hand, shaking his head, grinning.
“You’re lucky, I was gonna just bury her, it’s no luck a woman like that washing up on your beach.” His grin fades. “She’s yours, she’s all yours. If anyone asks questions, it wasn’t old me that found her, alright? You just say you stumbled across her, you walking down the beach and you just saw her, alright?”
One fisherman, or another, they always said something similar.
“Yes, that’s fine.”
The fisherman walks off down the beach, towards the hut in the distance, smoke coming out of the chimney. He counts the notes, and I can hear him chuckling to himself. She’s still here, just dead. Lying here, one hundred and twenty pounds of dead woman. She better be worth it. I grab her legs, pulling one out of the cold ocean, and start walking up the beach, the opposite direction of the fisherman’s hut, dragging her behind me.