The body lay face down in the shallows, lifted grotesquely up onto the rock face by the long swell, then sucked back into the waiting kelp.
He manouvered the boat as close as he dared, worried about the reef that ran diagonally out from the shoreline, but was still not close enough to use the boat hook. He sat back and contemplated the terrain of the island. It was small, perhaps a couple of hectares, and mostly boulders and bare rock scarred with bird dung rising up to scrubby vegetation. Nowhere to land with the swell running in from the north. Maybe from the lee side he could run the boat ashore without harm and walk round. But how the hell was he going to get a water-logged corpse back?
He considered using the radio but the light was fast going and it would be two hours before anyone from the port could make it out. There was nothing else for it but to get into the water. He eased the boat out to about thirty metres and went forward to change the sand anchor for a grapnel, it had to hold while he was in the water or there could be two bodies to be found. The motion changed from an uneasy rolling to a steady bucking as the anchor took hold and he waited some minutes with his hand on the warp to make sure there was no movement off the sea floor. The water looked cold and uninviting.
Stripped down, he buckled his diving knife, uncleated a strong but soft rope and slung it over his head and one arm, rueing the decision to leave his wesuit at home. Again he poised on the stern. Sharks? The darkening water? More the tumbling body now turned face up and appearing to grasp for a handhold.
He dived quickly and the shock of the water brought him to the surface within a few metres. The rope restricted his arm so he set off on a sideways crawl until he felt the waving arms of kelp clutching at his ankles. Treading water he tried to gauge the force of the swells and their backwash off the rocks.
He felt alone and afraid. With death staring upwards close by him he suddenly didn't want any part of it. Perhaps not death but the ignoble way this man had gone like a piece of flotsam on the beach. No trumpets, just a cold deserted shoreline and an uncompromising sea.
Already the swells were beginning to be difficult to judge with the darkening skies so he waited until the body was washed back then lunged forward, grabbed a twist of clothing and kicked hard as he could to get away from the danger zone. He wasn't quick enough. He felt the rising water and to his horror became tangled in clothing and limbs as they were rolled up and then pulled painfully back.
Now he was really scared. He would somehow have to tie a rope around the body while battling the wash. It was difficult enough loosening an end without passing it around the torso so he settled for an arm while more skin was left on the rocks.