The entire expanse of obsidian sky glittered with countless stars, with one occasionally streaking across in a spark. The ominous roar of the ocean ended in a crash at the rocks beneath them. Viola aimed her Canon at the horizon to catch the waters and the heavens and seated herself beside Tristan on the ledge. Calder stood beside him and analyzed his surroundings. The sky above seemed infinite where they were, completely surrounding them.
"Beautiful. But why did you ask me out here at midnight when I have something to attend to in the morning? Is this a research project?" he asked. She hesitated to answer as Tristan poured a crystal glass of sparkling cider and passed it to her.
"I am doing a time lapse video of the supposed meteor shower," she answered and swirled her drink and reached for an apple in the small basket beside her. "To the Thrice song called 'Kings Upon the Main.'"
"Come sit down and make yourself at home," Tristan said.
Calder crossed his arms securely across his chest. "I prefer to stand, go raibh maith agat."
He stared at the atmosphere above, unable to resist admiring the dense strap of stars known as the Claí Mór na Réaltaí, and the dropping spark of the occasional meteor.
"God is truly amazing," Tristan smiled around him. "I can't help but remember Job 9:9 – 'He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.'"
Suddenly, a gossamer leaf of lime light shimmered and flickered. The trio exchanged glances and raised their eyes back to the sky. Sheer colorful light churned in the black sky. Another ribbon streamed to life and started to ripple. Viola and Tristan pushed to their feet and stared with Calder in awe at the show around them.
"Aurora borealis," Tristan murmured. "The collision of electricity charged particles from the sun's atmosphere and gas in the earth's atmosphere. See, the peridot color is the oxygen particles sixty miles above earth, and the turquoise is nitrogen—"
"Shut up, Tristan, and observe it!" Calder hissed, startled by his own interruption of the knowledgeable mention of facts. An ocean breeze tossed the dark chocolate hair Viola had tied over one shoulder as she reached into her car and returned with a steaming thermos, which she pressed into Calder's hands. He raised it to his nose and breathed in the aroma of coffee.
"Tristan and I sensed you could use it," she said in her clear voice with a trace of amusement that resembled the jingle of silvery bells. "Stay and enjoy this a bit."
He remained, seated between the two companions, and savored the appearance of a peridot curtain with its periodical bursts of turquoise, and the intermittent peppering of meteors. The trio were so intent on the show that were positive they heard the occasional static zap.
When at last the remainder of the colors faded into the darkness, the sun was not long to rise. The mild atmosphere of the night, whose periods of chill were thawed in the theater of one car or another parked close by, had helped to lull them into an artificial sense of timelessness. Calder was alarmed when he sneaked a peek at his watch and rose to abandon his companions for an investigation he had been hired for at the home of a potential mistress.
By the time he reached the street of Darrah Byrne, the first rays of morning sunlight threatened to penetrate the darkness. There were only two potential empty spaces where he could park, and the closer afforded him a clearer view of the stoop of the sand-colored flat. He already hated his own arrival at the home, and he soothed his own discord with another sip of coffee.
"I want to hire you to see if me husband is in an affair," Ruby Elaine Brennan dropped her tone despite the clattering of silverware nearby. She leaned her arms on the scarlet diner table and stared pointedly at Calder with eyes that reminded him of the dawn heavens.
"I appreciate your desire to hire me," he responded as he reached to raise his coffee to his lips. "But your instincts should serve you well, and that is not the sort of investigation I do."
"There are times I consider myself a little too precautious," she admitted and darted her eyes to each side. "All I am asking you to do is affirm or disprove me suspicions. I can even pay you more than you generally require. But please, I love this man. Accusing him wrongly would be inexcusable. But I want to know if he is guilty, so I can act accordingly with divorce papers."
Calder stared at her as he eased back in his seat. "I am not comfortable with these requests."
"I am pleading with you. One photo to prove they are together."
He released his breath. "All right. And the standard rate applies."
"Go raibh maith agat," she straightened eagerly in her seat. "Her name is Darrah Byrne. I have her email address here for you in case you could use it. She corresponds with me husband, Colden Dochartach, online about meeting up on account of his business, and he claims to be traveling to Dublin when he leaves every Thursday morning or so – I suspect to see her."
"You do not have her address."
"No," she eased back against her seat in despair, reaching to draw her blond hair over one shoulder. "I assume that is within your capabilities? She is a colleague of his at McDuff Software Industries."
"All right. I can find her."
And he succeeded. Employee records revealed her address in a crowded area of town, and here he was without a second of sleep to sustain him.
The darkness of the sapphire sky descended into soft pastels at the horizon. The sun was to arise soon. He analyzed his surroundings a second time to ensure he was not to be discovered. There was enough distance between himself and the steps of the flat as to not arouse suspicion, and yet there was still a decent view of the door. Yes, he decided with another sip of coffee, this should do.
He sensed his agitation rising with the sun. There was a chance the man would never show.
But when the atmosphere had completely transformed into that of an early morning, a second car pulled into the other open slot against the sidewalk. Calder stared straight ahead at the slender man with charcoal hair and a black suit with a scarlet tie hastened toward the stairs with a visibly suppressed smile on his lips. The woman who emerged from the flat to meet him was certainly attractive, auburn locks cascading over her shoulders, and she received him with an embrace and a kiss before disappearing back through the door.
The photo of that kiss was all Calder required. He packed away his camera and settled back against his seat and closed his eyes. His driving ability was already scrutinized by anyone who had ever accompanied him in his car, and certainly complete deprivation of sleep would not make him better.
A scream. He jolted awake with widened eyes and scrambled out of his car. The shriek had erupted from the Byrne flat, so he rushed up the brick steps and threw the door open. Darrah Byrne clasped her hands over her cherry lips with tears streaming down her cheeks. Colden Dochartach was sprawled across the kitchen linoleum.
"I happened to be outside, and—"
"He's had a heart attack!"
Calder threw himself down beside the completely still man and began to pump the heels of his clasped hands over his heart. Darrah sobbed as he thrust his palms rhythmically against the chest with waning hope. Eventually, he sat back on his heels and released his breath, complexion pale as cream.