Missing… Without Trace

Taxi

The ring at the door came at 6.30am.  I usually don’t rise before 10.00am, and then only with the help of my morning mug of black coffee or two.  My mouth was dry, and my brain could barely comprehend what he was saying, as I opened my front door, standing in nothing but my shorts.

“There can be no doubt in our minds that a crime has been committed, whether by you or someone else has not been determined at this point.  Circumstantial evidence exists, suggesting you may have had something to do with the mysterious disappearance of Mathew Jarvis, who has been missing these past two months.  Answer’s are required, as to how deep be your connection to Mr Jarvis?” quoted the police officer standing in the porch of Andrew Cairn’s house, waving a search warrant in his face.

Other officer’s systematically searched, or should I say trashed my home, then my taxi, standing in the drive-way.

They hauled me back to Ipswich Police Station, where they continually questioned me about Mathew Jarvis.

As I repeated to them time and time again … I am a self-employed taxi-driver, based in Norwich, but if the price is right, distance is no object.  That’s where I remember Jarvis, he climbed from my cab, and disappeared into East Lane Southwold, on the Suffolk Coastline … Each time my statement falling on deaf ears.

What had apparently started out as the mysterious disappearance of one customer had now reached three, all customers who had the misfortune to travel in my taxi?

Last week, I dropped off a short blonde woman, dressed head to toe in black, in East Lane, Southwold; two days later she was reported missing by her employers … The Chronicle.  But that’s not how the cops put it; they just kept asking me, over and over.  “What did you do with her?”

Another of my customer’s to vaporize into thin air was an estate agent, but for the life of me, I had no recollection of where I had taken him, or what he looked like.  Why should I?  My cab happens to be a convenient mode of transportation, for tourists and business people alike, hundred’s go through my cab on a weekly basis.

I remembered the reporter, for she did not look like one of those seedy individuals, digging up the dirt.  There was something different about her; you expected to see her modelling, as a page three girl.

Still they dragged me down to the police station for questioning, and I had become their number one suspect.  So far, the cops had not manufactured any evidence they could stick me in jail with, but that was not for lack of trying, so I remained free, but for how long?

The way I figured it, if I could find another connection between these three people, the cops would be forced to investigate my claim, and quit sticking to me.  I was getting a stiff neck, constantly looking over my shoulder, to check if my police tail was still there.

In my mind, thoughts rushed back to every place I had been, cross referencing it with my weekly records, in a desperate search for answers.  Until it came to me, I had picked him up, when he had flagged me down, some fifteen miles outside of Southwold, standing beside a white BMW … he had run out of petrol, and would be late for an appointment, he said.  I had taken him to 21 East Lane, Southwold, and that was the last I saw of him.

While I was searching for answers, the police were attempting to build a case against me, and as yet, hadn’t enough to charge me; but they believed foul play, was involved.

According to neighbours of Daniel Ford, the owner of 21 East Lane, Southwold, had not been seen in person for some considerable time.

An Estate Agent, Reporter, and Mathew Jarvis, have all mysteriously disappeared; and the only connection, be the house, and my taxi cab…I am doomed!

Detective Sergeant Marcus Dowelling pulled his car off the main road, and into the drive-way adjoining the home of Daniel Ford.  He stepped from his car, into the overgrown garden.  His legs became immersed up to his knees in the long swaying grasses, as they blew in the gentle breeze.

Dowelling an officer with a long experienced service in the force, sensed things were not right here, long before he reached the door.  In his fifteen years, this was the first case of disappearance of people in this manner.

Three people missing, and their only connections; the house and the taxi cab they travelled in.

As he walked towards the small white house barely visible above the lawn leading to the front door, thoughts rushed into his mind.  “People don’t just disappear without trace.  There has to be a logical reason?”

He gazed at the old white door, with peeling white paint for a moment; then turned the handle, and it swung open with a gentle push.  Dowelling reached under his jacket, and pulled out his trusty truncheon, ready for anything as the door became fully open, coming to a stop at the wall.  Since the occupant Daniel Ford had disappeared, he didn’t expect to find anyone inside, as he moved into the property, but you never know.  The front door remained open; it always pays to be cautious in my line of work – a quick escape if needed.

According to the neighbours of 21 East Lane, little was known of him, other than his name was Daniel Ford, and that he kept to himself.  He had regular habits said one; of going out each day at 10.30am and returning around 16.30pm.  Did he have a job? No one knew.  He never caused any trouble, and now he had simply vanished.

Dowelling figured that the man must have been gone for a long time to have the neighbours call in the police.  The house displayed this; it was drab and colourless, with a faint musty odour.  The lights were out; they did not work as he attempted to switch on the lights, presumably because the electric bill had not been paid in a while.  Close by laid a large box of candles with matches on top.  A fine coating of dust lay across everything.

Out of curiosity, Dowelling lifted the phone receiver on the wall; there was no tone, but that did not surprise him.  “Looks like I won’t be able to call in from the house.”

Looking around this quaint old house, Dowelling discovered a bathroom down a short narrow corridor off to the left, with a kitchen directly opposite.

vintage_typewriter

In the far corner to the rear of the property, stood a small oak desk on which stood a well worn manual typewriter.  Laid out on the table, was the missing reporter’s notebook, and identity card, also the estate agent’s paperwork.  “They had both been here,” Dowelling spoke out loud, fingering his way through the notebooks.

Whatever happened to them, the answers must lay within the confines of these four walls.

On the floor, piled up between the desk and the wall, were two-inch binders, rising from the floor like a tower towards the ceiling.  He ran his fingers across the spines of the binders.  Each one was labelled from volume one to forty, and stuffed full of printed paper.  Our Mr Ford was a writer, and a prolific one at that.

Dowelling removed the binder marked volume one, from off the top of the pile.  He walked over to the opposite side of the room, put his truncheon on the table, and sat down on a cosy looking sofa, underneath the window.  He opened the dark-blue-cover, page one was titled: Introduction.

He turned to the next page, and started to read:  “As of today, March 21, 1988, I begin my life’s work.  This and the ensuing volumes is a saga, the product of my soul and mind.  I hope that this has been worth the effort, but if it was not, I cannot tell.  This is my life, embodied in ink and paper.

“Daniel Ford.”

Dowelling turned the page and began to read the novel, for which Daniel Ford had apparently worked so hard on.  Dowelling figured that if he read the work, he may gain some clue as to what had happened to the author – reporter and estate agent.  “I will read a little bit, and see where it takes me,” he thought.

It began simply, as the words formed a vivid picture of events that had taken place:  As I walked from my office, along the crowded sidewalk at a fairly brisk pace, on my way to a working lunch in the city.

Little did I know that I was due to be assassinated that day: 21st March 2001?  A smallish guy dressed in a dark grey suit, thin faced, with swept back blonde hair, bumped straight into me.  I yelled, staggering back from the unexpected force.  “Sorry,” he muttered, as he disappeared into the crowded streets.

My forearm tingled, as my left leg started to go numb, anxiously I rubbed it, but by now it was useless.

Daniel Howard, young entrepreneur, died from drug overdose, according to the papers.  What a way to go – injected with a drug in a busy road, dead in a matter of minutes.

As I died my last thoughts were – if only I had listened to those around me – warning me that our competitors would not stand by, watching our profits grow and theirs diminish.

Dowelling reached the end of the first paragraph, stopped for a moment, sighing heavily.  Inside he could sense the story pulling him back to the words on the page, with a feeling of wonder and amazement passing through his body.  He just could not understand, why he was able to read this with ease, he mostly read police reports and the paper.  This was different from any other novel he had tried … unsuccessfully … to read.

As Dowelling plunged forth into the next paragraph, it was as though he became part of the story, and the characters came alive, laid bare before him; to explore.

Time passed by quickly, as each page was turned over, from afternoon to evening, until night darkened the room.  He lit candles, placing them on the window sill above his head, as other’s had done before him.

Time continued on, he became so engrossed in the story, as morning dawned he had nearly completed two binders.  Hunger took him out to his car, where he always carried packets of biscuits and canned drinks for stake outs, and returned to the story with them.

Munching slowly away and taking the odd drink, he blazed through the binder with renewed strength, and set it down on a new pile forming on the floor.  He started the third without breaking for a rest.  By dusk, he had progressed through binder’s three to seven, when a knocking sound echoed through the house.

Dowelling, swore at the interruption, as he gathered his thoughts and staggered to the door.  There standing before him, a young uniformed officer, no more than twenty, his right hand resting on his truncheon.

“Sergeant Dowelling, the station was worried when they had not heard from you,” as the officer relaxed his pose.

“I am conducting my own personal investigation into this case,” replied a husky voiced Dowelling.

“What shall I tell them back at the station?”

“Tell them what you like,” replied Dowelling.

As the officer turned to leave, Dowelling slammed the door and hurried back to the story.  Through the night, volumes eight through to fourteen joined the new pile.

The next day was free from interruption, so he managed to progress through to volume twenty one, before he was forced to light up some more candles.

Even with bloodshot eyes, unshaven, crumpled clothing, and his body suffering from lack of sleep, he just couldn’t put the novel down – he just had to read it cover to cover.  He had become completely oblivious to the outside world.  Dowelling found the plot was thicker and more realistic than anything he could ever have imagined, but as his body showed signs of weariness, it took longer for events to register.  As dawn shone through the windows, he gazed at the pile, nine more volumes had been read that past night.

Another day and a half passed by without incidence.  As he came to the end of the final volume, a constant repeating knocking came from the door.

Dowelling looked from the book to the door, and ignored the knocking – hoping they would go away and leave him in peace to finish the last few pages.

It seemed like ages had passed by, when the knocking had been replaced by the hollow thudding sound of a police door ram, a sound he knew well.

As Dowelling read the last paragraph, the last sentence, then the last word … the police burst through the door…

Dowelling was before their eyes one minute, then gone the next, but it was no illusion, he had vanished.  Just as Mathew Jarvis, the estate agent, and the reporter, vanished without trace.

Officer’s looked over the house thoroughly, leaving two on guard, standing watch over the near empty room, whilst other’s returned to the station.

Curiosity got the better of these young officers’s.

“What is so important about these binders?” asked one.

“I only know one way to find out,” said the other.  He pulled out the binder labelled Volume One.  Holding it between them, they began to read the introduction.

“As of today, March 21, 1988, I begin my life’s work.  This and the ensuing volumes is a saga, the product of my soul and mind.”

The two young officers’ gazed at each other, as they returned to the binder, drawn by something inexplicable.  A force of some kind!

Are two more unlikely participants being drawn into this story – only to vanish without trace as other’s have before them!

Fox Hunting… Fox’s Fear

1177

Fox with eyes closed but listening

Deep in the dense undergrowth, there a fox lay on his side, eyes closed but not asleep, his body hardly moving with each shallow breath.  The occasional sound echoed across the dark, dense forest.

His smooth golden-grey fur suddenly trembled he twitched and stirred in uneasy slumber, always on guard.  The ears pivoted towards the entrance to his lair as the message of danger was heading his way.  The fox’s eyes closed as he lay motionless, waiting.

In the distant a barking sound from the hounds was heard, he realised they were closing in, and in a moment he leapt to his feet and bared his teeth in a snarl; soundless because he could hear his own heart beating in fear.

Fox Hunting - Foxes Revenge

Foxes on the hunt

He tried to sniff, but his nose was dry, he could not pick up the scents of the approaching hounds, and he felt the fear in his heart.  Deep within he knew he was dying, but he still intended to run for his life.  Still denying the masters and hounds an easy kill, as he had outsmarted them before!

He heard the high pitched horn and quickly clambered through a tunnel in the undergrowth into a fresh clearing.  As he emerged a bird made him jump, up into the closest tree, but the bird was just mocking him, its noise sending pain through his body.

The fox growled, and took off into the woods away from the bird’s incessant noise.

Within minutes the hound had reached the place where the fox had been, only to hear the squawking of the bird.

The hound sniffed the ground and air, and followed his nose and headed off into the woods in hot pursuit of the fox.

Meanwhile the fox was struggling both physically and mentally with the predicament he was in once again.  His inner voice told him to rest, ready for when the hound appeared, giving him the strength he needed to fight off the hound.

He yearned to obey, but he suffered from a thirst he had never experienced, his mouth was foaming, but the thought of water terrified him.   He drank last evening but it burnt his throat!  Was it the fear that one day it would all be over.

With that thought, he looked around to discover he had taken a circle around the hunters.  Soon he would leave the confines of the circle, and make his escape to freedom once again!

His inner voice told him he was dying.  Why not take on the hound, you can do it!

The fox looking perplexed, thought hard, as it was not long ago he had fought a vixen and won.

As he considered, he heard the sound of panting coming from the hound not far behind him.  His wounds from the previous fight had slowed him down.  Instead of running he turned and waited for the hound to appear.

He only had a few minutes to wait, the hound suddenly stopped in amazement to find the fox waiting for him.

“Come on then, let’s get it over with, you hound,” the fox replied anxiously, “as I intend to kill you.

“The hound stopped and looked and then said, “you will nip me, but that will not kill me!”

Suddenly behind them the first group of horse appeared its hot breath snorting from its nostrils.  The leader of the hunt encouraged his hound to attack shouting Kill it! Kill it!

The hound turned to his master, and questioned whether he should stay back as the fox was acting strangely.  But his master repeated those words again, Kill it! Kill it!

The inner voice of the fox said, give him a nip and that’s all it will take to kill the hound, so while the hound was distracted, the fox sunk his teeth deep into the hounds neck, and blood came gushing out.

The hound howled in agony, and the leader of the hunt was taken aback for a moment, it is unbelievable that a fox had attacked a hound.

The fox was satisfied and stood still, as the hound attacked him, and the inert body of the fox fell from the hound’s jaw.

Then he sensed the rest of the pack was arriving, and he let them tear the fox to shreds.  His opponent should be treated with reverence, not desecrated.

Mystical Times

Haunted Victorian House

For it was in 1863, that the beauty of South Elmham located in the heart of rural Suffolk enchanted the Reverend Henry Markham.  Here, he proceeded to erect a fine Victorian rectory overlooking the village.  Markham having the wealth and support of his family, in his endeavours, rose to become the village squire.  He died in 1895, and his son Edward followed in his footsteps becoming the new vicar of the village, and resided at the rectory until his death in 1928.

Rumours abounded that the rectory must have been haunted.  If so, it says much about the character of the two rectors, when subsequent tenants found life unbearable through the relentless activities of poltergeists.

Edward Markham, made a habit of waiting at the rectory gate, for the passing of the ghostly coach.  The sound of rumbling wheels, clattering of four horse’s hooves, would approach along the road, reach a crescendo at the gate, and gradually fade into the distance.  The phantom coach was not only heard but also seen by the ex-groom of the rectory, who described a blazing carriage with lights careering through the rectory grounds.

A more significant manifestation was that of a Nun, confirmed by many witnesses, over the years, as she walked across the terrace.  The presence of the Nun, added to the belief that the rectory must have been built on the site of a religious house.

In 1939, lightning struck the rectory, destroying the west wing, but it was not re-built until the early 1950’s.  During the summer of 1955, Reverend James Patterson and his family took up residence, amidst much speculation and fear from the villagers, of the previous psychic manifestations as experienced in the old rectory.

There were few minor apparitions in the early years, but it was not until the latter months of 1972, nearly twenty years later, that their worst fears had come to bear.  Poltergeist activities were ripe in the rectory, and experienced by many, for later that year, the Reverend James Patterson was found hanging from the rafters in the churches Bell Tower.

What had driven a man of God to take his own life, and in such a public way?  This led to much uproar by the villager’s, claiming the vicar was bewitched, demanding the church and rectory should be shut.

For it was in the autumn of 1982, the rectory was sold and renovated, no longer a rectory, but a fine looking country farmhouse.  Many villagers have feared for the sanity of those who resided in this dreadful building, with an unsavoury past.

Then in the spring of 1983, a Scottish family the James’s took up residence, with their three children; Michael 9, Benjamin 7, and Christina 8.

Very little was known about them, Peter James worked for the Civil Service, and in the early years, the children attended the local primary school, later they attended boarding school.

Michael, Benjamin and Christina always loved their holidays from boarding school.  On their first day home, they would pump up their bicycle tyres, and ride quickly through the village waving here and there, to many of the villagers.  Never stopping until they reached their destination, the last house at the end of the village, nestled down by the river.  They would dash up the path to an ever-open door.  There she would stand ‘Gran’ wearing a spotless apron; sleeves rolled up from her floury hands, ready to greet them.  She was not their real grandmother, but she had come to be referred as ‘Gran’, ever since she used to help their mother run the house in the early years.  She is like part of the family.  Upon their arrival she would say “how lucky you are, I have just finished baking”, but they knew, she knew, when their school terms finished.  No holiday would start right until the children had visited her, and tasted her home cooking.

Utter shock, rocked the heart of this peaceful village, on a sweltering summer morning in early August 1991.  The ringing sound of gunshots, coming from within the old rectory.

I remember that day well; I had been pruning the roses in my front garden, when I heard shots.  PC Roberts dashed passed minutes later, heading in the same direction, from which the sounds had come from.  I instinctively grabbed my coat, and followed him, in case my services were required, in the capacity of a parish priest.  We both knew where the shots had emanated from, the old rectory.

Inside all was quiet, but in the hall, on the stairs, there was chaos of objects flung about generally creating a scene of disaster.  In the midst of similar destruction in the main room, was the body of Peter James, shot several times in the chest, close by his wife, Samantha, her face had partly been blown away?  Upstairs in the rear bedroom, Christina sprawled across the bed still wearing a pair of earphones, body drenched in blood, from the chest wounds.  Whilst Michael was found sprawled across the landing leading to the west wing, with two wounds in the back, and one in his left leg.

Finally, entering Benjamin’s room PC Roberts expecting to find another body discovered him, sitting on the side of his bed, in what appeared to be a state of shock, covered in blood and holding on his lap his father’s shotgun.

“Well, Benjamin what’s been going on here,” asked the Constable.

There was no reply from Benjamin.

Carefully, the shotgun was removed from Benjamin and wrapped in a sheet, he did not even flinch, just sat their still.

“Father McBride, could you stay with Benjamin while I call for assistance, and please don’t touch anything.”

“Of course.”

The sight that greeted me was terrible, one I will never forget.  I couldn’t believe at that time, Benjamin was responsible for the destruction of this family.  Did he have no sympathy at all for the people who had brought him up, and given him everything a boy could desire?  Apparently not!

Dr Mathew Hoyden, who arrived on the scene a little after 11.30am, was taken back by the scene, of so many bodies.  The first body he examined was that of Samantha James’s lifeless body sprawled across the living room, blood was congealing from the wound, but there was little doubt she was dead.  Because of the location of the wound, forensic experts summarised; her heart had stopped pumping blood, almost immediately, thereby resulting in very little blood splatter on nearby walls and furniture, for such horrific wounds.

Whilst the medical examination continued, and the crime scene photographers carried out their duties.  The police carried out a detailed search of the house, from the attic to the cellar.  Nothing was found to indicate the presence, of an intruder within.

Following the examinations, a senior officer allowed me to perform the ‘last rites ritual’ to each of the victims, before they were removed, from the house.

The horrific murders of Peter James, Samantha his wife, and children Christine and Michael, found murdered in their home, brought an onslaught of ever clambering press, to their doorsteps, in search of a story.  They had convicted Benjamin, in the press as guilty, for he survived unscathed, holding the murder weapon.

“What happened to Benjamin.”

He appeared to be in a state of shock, and was removed firstly to the local hospital, and later to the David Rice Hospital, and remained there whilst police carried out their investigation.

“All the time he remained in hospital, he never uttered a single word, whether he was suffering from shock, no one knew.”

The police could find no evidence of an intruder, and their only suspect was Benjamin – despite overwhelming physical and circumstantial evidence pointing to him.  Still the police found it hard to believe, as I do, that anyone as young as Benjamin, could cold bloodedly murder his own family.

A Social Worker, was present at police interviews of Benjamin, but still he did not utter a word of response to their questions, just shrugged his shoulders occasionally.  As far as they were concerned, it was an open and shut case; and remained in custody at the Malen Secure Unit, until the trial.

The question which was on many peoples lips; was he a murder or an innocent victim?

I like so many of the villagers considered the events of 1972, when the Rev James Patterson took his life, could there be any connection?

Benjamin was brought before a closed session of the Juvenile Court to answer the charges laid upon him.  For the whole of the proceedings, he sat and watched, showing no sign of emotion.

“Had he any idea what was going on Father.”

“I don’t know, but that was a different boy sitting in the courtroom, he had changed.”

Before the trial, Benjamin, had been remanded, to the Malen Secure Unit for assessment; based on their findings, the courts sent him to a Secure Unit on the Welsh Border, with no option of parole.  That was the first time I saw any sort of reaction – he smiled.

“Have you seen him since the trial.”

“Yes, I have, I used to attend the Hospital.  He hasn’t spoken since that day, just paints violent pictures of the victims, in lurid detail.  It’s a sad sight, for one so young.”

Then events took a turn, a historian heard about the murders, turned up to study the site, which had undergone many strange events over the centuries.

The so-called Nun, was lured to England from France, in the 16th century, worked as a maid, murdered, and thrown down the old well, and left to rot.  Believed to have been the apparition seen by many visitors over the years, whose frequent materialisation’s were the basic causes of so much agitation in the spirit world?

Believers in the paranormal believe the theory that in most cases of persistent disturbances, the cause is often a young female.  From available evidence of poltergeist activity, it seems that a young girl, could be physically affected, attracting and energising forces beyond the normal.  Support for this theory, held up at South Elmham, not only from the ghostly Nun but also from a young woman, who worked as a housemaid for the Rev James Patterson.

Violent activity seemed to accompany the skull, following its removal from the well.  When taken to museum experts for detailed examination, a series of accidents took place in quick succession, the skull broke in two, and valuable works of art were damaged.

Paranormal activity once ripe in the area, ceased when the Nun’s skull, buried on holy ground at the local convent.  At last, she was at peace!

Benjamin regained his speech, within days of the burial, but his mind remains a complete blank, since the day of the killings.  Questions have been asked; whether he should be held accountable for these crimes, in light of the discoveries?

As far as our courts are concerned, this mumbo-jumbo evidence would not wash with them, Benjamin, was found guilty of the crimes, with no option of parole, and the sentence stands.

“But is he innocent Father?”

“I think so, but we will never know, unless he regains his memory.  The mystery of the old rectory has been solved, and many lives destroyed in the process.”

“Father, don’t bore the young man with your memories, you’re supposed to rest, you know what the doctor said.”

“I may be old and retired, but let the boy here know all about the events of South Elmham, for next month, it will be his parish.  Better to be forewarned of the events of the past, some villagers still remember, those awful times, no doubt!”

As the young priest left, gazing back at Father Bracks, sitting on the balcony of the retirement home.  Thoughts raced through his mind, should I take on what he had started, visiting Benjamin, maybe one day he will answer that all-important question.

Who pulled the trigger, and why?

Lost Civilisation…

Underwater Dome

Mathew, had just fallen asleep when the pounding on the door begun.  At one o’clock in the morning, he knew it could only be one person.

Mathew’s brother Graham questioned him as he barged past him, and through the open apartment door.  “Don’t you ever answer your phone or read your e-mails?”

Being half asleep, Mathew let the rebuke go.

“Morning Mathew.”

“What?  Oh, yes-sorry.”  Graham made a half hearted apology for his rudeness.  “Goodness Mathew, you do look awful.  Are you ill or something?”

“No just tired.  So what’s so important that you have to drag me out of bed in the middle of the night?”  Mathew stifled a yawn and stretched away some of the sleep remaining nestled in his body.

“This,” Graham said, slapping a large folder against his chest.  “Look at it, then we will talk.”

Mathew took the folder and flicked through the pages, as he did so, much of his tiredness fell away,.  He said nothing, occasionally glanced at his brother Graham, from time to time, as he read the detailed document.  Suddenly, he tossed the folder on an empty chair, and began rifling through the mass of papers that littered his study.  Finally he found what he was looking  for, as his eyes lit up.  A set of computer print-out’s that were nearly identical to those of his brother.

“Snap!” he cried out, waving his own set of figures in the air.  “I have just had four sleepless nights trying to work out, what all these figures mean.”  Mathew was well awake by now, and shared his brother’s obvious excitement.  “Your figures are similar but not identical.  What we need to do now, is get your figures entered on my computer as well.”

“I can do better than that,” as Graham produced a DVD data disk.  “This should save us about ten hours of laborious typing.”

“Great,” proclaimed a relieved Mathew.  “You can load it up while I throw on some clothes, and organise an injection of caffeine.”

Graham cleared a space on Mathew’s desk, pushing all the papers into one stack in the far corner, and loaded the data on to the computer.  Then proceeded to display both sets of figures, side by side on twin screens.

Mathew returned, dressed in an old black and grey tracksuit, carrying two mugs of steaming black and sweet coffee.

“Our figures are very similar,” stated Graham, unable to hide his excitement, as he supped at his coffee.

“So I see,” Mathew stated, looking over Graham’s shoulder.  “But what does it mean?”

“It can mean only one thing, a major astronomical event is set to take place very soon.” Graham was taken aback that his brother had not realised the significance of the find.

Mathew sipped away at his coffee, and pinched away the tiredness that was seeping back into his eyes.  Graham’s enthusiasm and excitement had become quite infectious; but ninety-six hours without sleep, took some shaking off.

“Yes, I agree with you on that,” Mathew replied.  “But what do you think is likely to happen?”

The bubble of Graham’s eagerness began to sink slowly back to Earth.  “I just do not know, but it must be something spectacular,” he sighed in response.  “These figures spell it out.”

Mathew drank more coffee.  “What we could do with right now , is big brother Daniel.”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you, he is on his way, rang him on my way over,” stated Graham.  “He was still at the Scientific Space and Development Centre, and promised he would call in on his way home…spoke about working late, on some special project.”

Mathew smiled in response, as the two scientists studied the array of figures, they both had that thought.  “Do you think this could be?”  Mathew’s words faded away to nothing.

Graham did not speak, but his gape an uncommon expression for an eminent professor, answered the question.

Their thoughts were disrupted by the knock at the door.  “Finally.”  Mathew moved slowly, trying to assimilate the implications of what may or may not be about to happen.  As he opened the door, Professor Daniel King, stood in the doorway, large as life.

“So what’s so important that I have to drive forty kilometres out of my way home, in this torrential rain?” barging his way past Mathew.

”What we are faced with, is two sets of figures nearly identical from two completely different areas of space – how can that be, unless when matched they equal something?”  asked Mathew.  “What we conclude, an important event or discovery is due to take place, soon.”

“Do any of the figures match?” asks Daniel with much interest as he removes his cloak, and acknowledges his brother Graham.

“Some do,” Graham replies.

“Extrapolate the data,” Daniel orders.

Graham obeys his brother, running his fingers across the keyboard, within minutes new sets of figures appear on the screen.

“They be longitude and latitude readings,” injected Mathew, as he pushed past, and entered a series of command lines, showing where these figures relate to.

Bermuda Triangle

Bermuda Triangle Map

The right hand screen, displayed the Bermuda Triangle: stretching from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Bermuda, and then to Miami, Florida.  Believed to be some 14,000 square miles in size, and considered by many as the deadliest waters known to man, as each man looked on.

“Some have suggested over the years that it could be the resting place of Atlantis; myth or fact.” Mathew suggested.  “Or even an access point, to another world?”

“You boy’s have done good, but we need more answers.”  As Daniel moved forward, taking a seat in front of the computer; highlighting the figures and detailed map, proceeded to send a copy by e-mail to his own computer at the Scientific Space and Development Centre.  “I have got access to more information there, and can check with other centres around the world for any unusual data, matching these figures.”

“You will let us know, what you find,” asked Mathew.

“Sure, sure,” Daniel replied, making his way out of the door.

One cold morning , a few months later, Mathew woke to the constant sound of ringing in his ears; slowly groping around until his hand fell upon the phone.  Picking it up, a voice he recognised as that of brother Graham, shouted down the phone in a state of hysteria.  “Turn on channel 25, and see what is on the news, and hurry!”

Moments later the news station channel 25, was telling of a discovery off the Florida Keys.  The Electra aeroplane had been, discovered this day, 12th October 2002, some sixty-five years after it took off with its pilot: Adele Dryden.

According to the flight log, the Electra left Florida, bound for Puerto Rico in 1937, on the first leg of its journey passing through the Bermuda Triangle.  She never reached her destination, both plane, and pilot have been missing.

What stunned Mathew, Graham and millions of television viewers, was that the pilot had not aged; she appeared to be in her mid-thirties.

“For years, any a ship or plane that passed through the Bermuda Triangle, had disappeared without trace.  Now in recent times some of these, have started re-appearing with their crews.  With the help of Professor Daniel King here, of the Scientific Space and Development Centre.  Co-ordinates discovered in space, has led to a major discovery; a seamless sphere some forty-five metres in diameter, at a depth of seventy fathoms, encrusted with a dense covering of sea creatures on the sea bed,” stated the news reporter.

“He stole that information,” shouted Mathew down the phone line.  “He ripped us off; he could never have found it, without us.”

Underwater Station 2

Some two weeks later, divers and deep sea submersibles accessed the sphere, as millions watched the event broadcast live on television around the world.  First impressions, it must have laid down there for thousands of years, according to its outer decayed condition.

Camera’s recorded the first moments, as diver’s cleared away a thick encrustation of sea creatures, to clear a hatch way, to cut access into the sphere.  It was at this point, they detected the sphere, was not constructed from metal, as light burst forth from within.  The waters were being kept back by some form of force-field.

The first divers to walk through the force—field, were amazed that no water seeped in…but what they found within was to amaze the world.

Underwater Station

Inside they found a self-contained space-station with gangplanks and walkways constructed out of glass, and self controlled by its onboard systems.  Deep within the sphere, another watery force-field glowed, through which they found the remains of a medieval city.  Could it be Atlantis?

Legend has it: Some 11,000 years ago, there existed the island of Atlantis, located in the Atlantic Ocean, and protected by Poseidon, God of the Sea.  Who it is, believed, created a dwelling for a mortal woman; Cleito, and fell in love with her.  She lived in the centre of the island, and he protected her using rings of water.

Zeus, watched the immorality of the Atlanteans, with utter disgust.  Atlantis was swallowed up by the sea, in a form of retribution.

So what is the connection between the sphere and the disappearance and re-appearance of planes and boats within the Bermuda Triangle?

Is it a holding station, or stepping stone to another world?

Could this be the lost city of Atlantis, protected by the Bermuda Triangle?

This and many other theories as to the Bermuda Triangle, are likely to remain a mystery, waiting to be solved.

Wallpaper Images

A Planet’s Hopes… Dashed by Disaster!

Space08

Planet of Cirinius

Mathew Sanderson, Captain of the HMS Bounty space ship looked out the window at the golden covered surface of the planet Cirinius, some fifty thousand kilometres below them in the Pegasus system.  After ten years of planning, and some six long months in space, stored in cryogenic chambers, we humans had finally arrived at our chosen planet.

Astronauts: Marcus, the expedition leader, along with Caroline, Phil and Ralph had been launched in their shuttle, our short-range space craft, to orbit the planet, waiting for the signal, that it was safe to land.

“Looks like the relay satellite is working,” commented Phil, seeing the lights on the control panel light up.  Their first major task had been to deploy a communications satellite into the planet’s orbit.

Cirinius was almost twice the size of Earth; the long horizon, mountains and rocks dotted across the snow covered landscape.  With the satellite in orbit, surface communications had been enhanced to cover a larger area, and was able to communicate with Earth, instead of piggy backing its way back using radio waves.

“Good to know everything appears to be working,” Ralph spoke to himself as he uploaded the video feed with NASA, as they came online.

“HMS Bounty,” she spoke without any emotion in her voice, “you are cleared for landing, proceed at your discretion.”

“You would expect more from Earth, this is a momentous achievement after six months in space,” suggested Ralph.

The shuttle’s computers are designed to automate everything, from minor approach adjustments to the final landing.  In the event of computer failure, Ralph the pilot would land it manually.

The entire landing, start to finish was being recorded; sure to be heard millions of times over the next few weeks by space enthusiasts, the world over.  “HMS Bounty, beginning landing sequence.”

The world-wide co-operation in extra terrestrial matters was no longer political sustainable, when thousands upon thousands couldn’t afford to put food on their table.  The planet was in desperate need of space and food, to house and feed Earth’s growing population increase.

America’s suggestion of a new home in space was considered no more than a pipe dream – forcing them to go it alone, with the eyes of the world upon them.

“I see one of the supply ships,” exclaimed Marcus.  “There’s another down by the trees,” he pointed out to his fellow astronauts.

A total of five unmanned cargo ships stocked with food, equipment, water, oxygen and seed stock had been sent ahead of the mission.  All had landed safely on the surface, where they waited the astronaut’s arrival.

“That’s precision flying,” Phil spoke out loud to anyone who would listen.  “Those boys on Earth are good!”

Marcus nodded in agreement.

Planting the flag in the surface of Cirinius was the moment everyone would remember, but in fact the first humans on the planet had but one simple task: to survive.  The hopes of their home world rested firmly on their shoulders.

The crew of HMS Bounty was methodically preparing to take their first steps onto this newly discovered planet.  The main video camera was extended from the underside of the shuttle, where it would film their first steps, and send back the live feed to Earth.

Caroline Joined Phil near the airlock.  “Where’s Marcus?”

“Already in the airlock suiting up, he’s so excited to get out there.”

Inside the airlock, Marcus climbed into his pressure suit and helmet, under the watchful gaze of the empty suits and helmets lined along the wall.  The suits were white in colour with gold visors.  Average temperature on Cirinius, ranged from 25 degrees Fahrenheit during daytime hours to -40 degrees Fahrenheit at night.  Thankfully, the climate controlled suits would compensate, for the changes in temperature.

The order of exit had been predetermined by mission control.  Marcus the expedition leader would be first to step onto the planet’s surface, followed by Caroline, and finally Phil.  Ralph was to remain on board to maintain the link with Earth and monitor the vitals of the astronauts from a safe distance.

That was the way mission control wanted it to happen.

Marcus drew a few deep breaths to test the suits air valves were working, and checked the gauges on his over-sized wrist watch control panel.

Not waiting for Phil and Caroline to join him, he pressed the outer airlock door controls.  He watched and waited for the light to turn from red to green.

Marcus poked his head out, lifts up his gold sun-visor, and gazes in wonder at the deep ice plains which lay before him.  He finally steps down onto the surface.

The suit keeps him warm, as he walks away from the craft.  He surmises to himself, this must be their wintertime.

Some twenty paces later, he comes to a halt, as the indicator alarm on his wrist starts bleeping – a warning, as he crunches the snow beneath his feet to keep them warm.

He hears the hum of pumps and fans of his portable life support backpack get louder and louder, as they strain to supply him with oxygen.

“Marcus,” shouted Phil through the helmet’s radio, “we three are supposed to step down together for the entire world to witness our steps!”

Marcus debated whether to respond, but he turned faced the craft and smiled.  “I just wanted to be the first to step on this planet.”

An angry silence followed.  “We are coming out,” replied Phil.  “You are not hogging all the glory for yourself.”

Marcus could only imagine the furious face that lay hidden behind the sun-visor.  “Don’t come out here, the snow is eating through my space-suit.  Save yourselves.”

Phil gasped in awe.  “Marcus get back inside.”

“I only have minutes before it eats through my air tank pipes.  Shut the door, and save yourselves.”

Phil and Caroline looked in the direction of Marcus, the expedition leader and geologist.  His choice to go out alone had saved them all from certain death.

As their leader, Marcus knew his primary duty was the safety of his team.  “You must leave the surface immediately, and return to the space-craft, there is nothing you can do for me.”

As the sunlight was fading, Marcus watched as Phil and Caroline, closed the door on him and the new planet – once thought of as a new beginning.

We had hoped to transform the surface of the planet Cirinius, melt its ice, plant seeds, and build houses for a new generation of people.  Instead we found a deadly planet, which would kill all those who set foot upon it.  Our mission leader Marcus Clarkson, gave his life, and will always be remembered for his bravery!

Space Wallpaper Image

Broken Copyright

DVD Disks

The police arrived at my door, to be more precise, the cyber division, arrived at my door, at the crack of dawn to me, but actually it was nearer 10.00am, for I had only had a few hours sleep.

When I answered the door, two officers stood before me, one male and one female.  Trying to break the ice, I invited them in and offered them coffee, convinced I had nothing to hide . . . which they refused.

The woman brought out a games DVD, and asked me to identify the work.

“Well yes, it is my work, produced under contract for the Farmley Corporation,” I heard myself say, hands moving over the computer keys.

“We just wanted confirmation that you designed the game,” she said.

Her partner glanced around the room, full of half-assembled computers.

“Oh, I build computers as a side line when I am not designing games,” I replied.

“As you will note on the cover, there were three others responsible for the design of the game.”

“Yes, but where did you get the idea from?”

“Oh, we were given the brief by Farmleys,” I pointed out.

“Can you confirm it is the same game?” she asked.

“Only by playing it,” I replied, sitting in front of my computer.

She smiled, and motioned me to start the game.

I activated the menu.  “This isn’t my game, which I took part in designing,” I said horrified at what I was seeing.

I retrieved my copy, and fired up another computer, straight away you could see the difference, mine was a car chase game, not a military based game, advertising hardware for sale.

“Who made this recording?  Where did you get it?

“You have been very helpful Mr … , holding out their hand for their copy of the disc.

I kept demanding answers from them, until they reached my front door.  Then I slammed the door behind them in dramatic fashion, making my point, and went back inside, frothing at the mouth.

I should never have accepted that contract, from such a large gaming corporation.  For everyone knew they had their own designers.  They just wanted my name… Jason Garrard nothing else.  What a fool I have been.

Copyright of one’s work is supposed to mean something isn’t it!

I rang Hero, one of the other designers, and told him in detail of my visit from the cyber police.

“I’m coming over, I also had a visit late yesterday too.”

Jason and Hero sat opposite each other thinking about their choice of options.

“We could jump one of their chief executives at Farmley’s, give him a chance to explain the whole situation, then we blow the place up,” suggested Jason.

“Very subtle,” replied Hero.  “What we could do is breach their security systems, and find what they are truly about.”

“I like it, and leave them a gift, one that will remind them copyright is meant to mean something,” replied Jason.  “Farmley’s, may own 65% of the world wide games market, but we have to do something, for our reputation, and other’s like us.”

“Hero looked across at him, “I am with you brother.”

Jason spent the evening, stripping down his father’s old army revolver.  He didn’t have any bullets for it, but he didn’t intend shooting anybody, just wanted it for effect.

They should have sensed something was not right when they parked in the companies car-park.

The rear fire door to the offices: open.  It was too easy, Clement Hastings came out, opened his car door, and seconds later I touched the back of his neck, cold as ice.

“Mr Clements,” I murmured into his ear watching his pale frightened eyes follow me in the mirror.  “My name is Jason Garrard and we mean you no harm, we really do need to talk,” as he was pushed up against the car.

“Right, you think using our names and breaking our copyright, then replacing it with another game, and sales catalogue, was entertaining.  Wait till you see what we have in store for you.”

Suddenly the door popped open on the lower level.  “We had better get out of here Jason, let him go.”

“I suggest you contact the police and explain the whole sordid little escapade to them.”

“Farmley’s are going to fry us for this,” Hero said, when the numbness in his throat wore off, and he was able to speak clearly.

“I think we better lie low for a few days, and we better tell the officer from the cyber police division what we did.”

Jason was sitting in his car at the traffic lights, waiting for the lights to change.  He heard a small tinkling of broken glass, as the screen cracked, and observed a crinkling of the screen.

The small calibre projectile had entered just below his neck.  He had expected more pain.

The entry wound itself was slight, hardly a dribble of blood.  Within minutes he felt his life draining from him.

He knew Framley’s were to blame, but he wouldn’t be around to prove it!

The Saint… The Helper…

florence_nightingale_by_renokid

The old man sat crumpled on the ground and sipped something potent from a paper-bagged bottle in his hand. His eyes scanned the dimly lit street. “I tell you, none of us know who she is. But that girl comes around, you know? When the moon is full and there’s a ring around it.” He paused. “Like tonight.” He closed his eyes and licked his lips. The lips moved, R’s rolling like gentle waves when he spoke. His voice came from a place deep within, hard to pinpoint.

“Florence. That’s what I call her. She’s a saint. The Virgin Mary herself, maybe.” He laughed gruffly. “She walks like a cat. Never hear a thing until she’s right up close to you. Right here, see?” He pointed to his scarred chin. “One night, a few years ago, I was settling down over there at the bus stop bench right across from Tony’s old food stand. You remember it? Before the police closed it down? I was trying to get some sleep. It was November, really cold then. I was shivering so much I couldn’t lie still, but I was too tired to move. From nowhere, from the darkness, she carried an old blanket. It was gray, thin wool, the kind you get from the army. But warm, you see? Warm. She gave it to me, put it right on me. Then she lit a candle, a plain white candle. Dripped some wax onto the sidewalk and stuck the candle there. She saved my life that night. That was the first time I ever saw her.”

He pulled the gray, wool blanket close around his brittle neck and shoulders.

“The others, they’ve seen her, too. Everybody who’s seen her on the street says she’s got a different face. Tito, he says she has a mole, right here on her left cheek. Says she’s fair-skinned. Hah! He likes his women pale.” He laughed. “Ya-hoo-hoo! White like a ghost!” The laugh became a cough. “Boy says she has long, straight, black hair,” he continued. “A skinny girl, not too bad-looking. But you know, he’s young. Sees what he wants to see.”

I looked up and down the street. “And you, what do you see?” I asked.

He put down his paper-bagged bottle and rubbed his stubbled face, like two pieces of sandpaper scraping together. His eyes watered slightly as he looked up into the moon. “An angel. An angel with my wife’s face. Ileana. So… beautiful. Not outside, no. Inside. She left me, you know? A long time ago. Took our children. Guess she’d had enough. Enough yelling. Enough losing money on the horses. I was a good man once, you know? But not good enough. She left when I hit her.” His dry hand moved across his stubble. “I would’ve left, too, if I’d been her.”

He was quiet then, his bottle hidden in the soiled, worn bag on the ground. I took it out in plain view. Whiskey, shimmering like coins in the moonlight. I took a turn and watched the moths dance around the streetlights. There were no churches, temples or synagogues. But something tangible electrified the air. Looking down into the dark, littered backalleys, I saw a point of light on the ground, tiny flames. Small trails of candle wax reflected moonlight and disappeared into doorways along the lengths of the buildings.

I eyed my friend, as he sat withering in his remorse, and pointed. “Florence?” I asked tentatively.

The old man looked up, shook his head. “No. That’s us. When there’s a ring around the full moon we light candles where we’ve seen her.” He took a deep, slow breath. “But she only visits the new men now. I’ve been told you only see her once, but I think I was lucky. Maybe she likes me.” He coughed again, tried to sit up.

“One night, I saw her again. The lights were on in a factory a few streets over. Very late. You know what they did there? The company that owns it is big. It has other stores all over. They always hire women: old, young, Filipino, Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese, all kinds of illegal’s.  But never men. Those women, they work all day. I used to watch them sometimes. They’d be really tired when they came out. Hungry, too. Well, that night I saw an ambulance pull up. A woman was bleeding. She was pregnant and started bleeding. And the supervisor didn’t let her go until it was too late. After the ambulance took her away, he sent the other women home and stood there at the doorway, smoking. For a long time nothing happened. He looked like a dragon, smoke coming out of his nose and mouth. He finished a whole pack just standing there. And then I saw her, Florence, dressed in a nurse’s white uniform, the old fashioned kind with the pointy cap. She walked up to him and she spit in his face, something red. She lit her candle and left it there in that spot. Then she disappeared into the alley. There are no exits. It’s a dead end by that factory wall. That supervisor, he didn’t come back to work the next day, or the next. And eventually, the factory closed.

“That was the last time I saw our saint.”

A Night of Horror

deer

I’m driving down a country lane at night in a rainstorm, I can barely make out the lane ahead, when I see off to my right, something twitching horribly.  I don’t know what it is yet but immediately I felt sick; it’s an animal injured up on the lane, still alive, a deer, probably, and I think: at least I’ll stop, at least; I won’t drive past.  And then what?  Kill it?  Drive it somewhere while it’s still alive?  Pick up a dying animal with my bare hands and put it on the seat next to me, have it twitch in agony as I drive along?  I can’t imagine bringing myself to do this.

But I skid to a halt on a muddy bank at the side of the lane, press the footbrake down, stalling the car.  Thinking of the absolute horror of what I will definitely be doing in just a few moments – standing over the mutilated body of an animal, watching it suffer, with nobody to tell me what to do, no formal code of behaviour to comply with.  And the noises!  It will probably be making terrible, ugly sounds.  I feel very sick, almost ready to retch.

I open the door and the wind and rain drive in at me and another car is coming in the other direction, to wards where the animal is.  The other car stops.  I walk up the lane.  Now I can hear the noises as I come up to the car, it’s a deer, but I can’t see it yet.  A window winds down.  A man is driving.  I open discussions.

“Look, I’m going to get a vet.  You get the deer off the lane.  That’s all you have to do.”  The noises are loud, agonized; you can hear the pain.

I’ll come back with the vet.  He lives up the lane there.

But before I run back to my car I feel that I must look over my bonnet, that this is somehow part of the deal.  The sight is so repulsive that it racks me with panic; the deer, is broken parts, of it crushed, other parts moving with a jerky energy, one front paw trembling, the head swivelling, whipping round in the rain.  I run back, trying to think of the car, not the deer.

Now the man is standing in the middle of the lane flagging me down.

I pull up, wind down the window.

“The man said, I’d better not move it.  I might damage the spine.”

I said “Block the lane with your car.  Stay there and wave the other drivers past.

He agrees.  I set off again, driving through the rain.  If the vet is in, I’m saved.  This ordeal will be over in a short time.

Nobody answers the bell when I ring, but the lights are on inside.  I run around the house.  Then I ring the bell again, of course: people leave lights on in their houses to pretend they’re in.  Then I face up to the terrible fact: now I have to do it on my own.

I now run down the drive of the house opposite, press on the bell, hammer on the glass of the door.  A dog barks inside the house.  I press the bell again.  The dog barks.  For a long time nothing.  Then the light comes on and the door opens, held on a chain by a frightened woman, and too large dogs.

“I have to use your phone.  It’s urgent.  There’s…a deer, dying down there in the lane.  I need to call the vet.  So just let me in and I’ll call on your phone.

She really doesn’t want to, but I’m shouting; the force of my shouting is enough to make her open the door.  Stay there she says.  She brings the telephone towards me on a little table, stretching the wire; the rain is pouring into the house.

“But the rain!”

“No! Stay there!” She is certainly frightened, beginning to be angry.  I dial the number of the vet and have to wait while my call is diverted.  The rain is now beginning to soak the woman’s carpet.

She stands, cowering, at the back of the hall.  A man answers. The vet.  I ask him, right out, if he’ll come and pick up a deer.  “No, I can’t.  I’m 15 miles away.  You can bring the deer to me.”  “But I might damage the spine if I pick it up.”

“Just use a coat or something.  Put your jacket under it and just pick it up.”  The vet is calm, practical, by necessity, just thrifty with his compassion.  He gives me slow, detailed directions – I  must drive to the coast, turn west, drive through a village, turn back inland and at a particular roundabout…that’s when it starts getting complicated.  The woman, who now believes I have not come to rob her, hands me a pen.

I run back out into the drive, terrified.  I must now handle the deer, touching the body, drive 15 miles through the rain with the deer twitching and whining, and now, I realise, possibly bleeding, in my car.

“Hello.”  It’s a man with a beard.  “It’s our deer; it has strayed away from its normal habitat.  We’ve taken her in, but she’s dying.  There’s nothing we can do.  Her eyes are glazed.  She can’t move properly.

I gave the man the directions to the vet along the coast, the village, to the roundabout, and shake his hand.  I feel supremely happy, lightheaded with joy.

He trudges off towards horror, anguish, sadness, recrimination, and bewildered tears.

Your thoughts… Likes… Shares most welcomed.

No Witness!

scales-of-justiceThere was much tension in the air, many people fearing to venture from their homes at night, in these dangerous times, ever since the news of a murder in the village of Watton in Norfolk.

Local man, James Watson, who worked at the Horse and Hound Public House as a barman, alongside his other job as a truck driver, was found murdered on the common, in the early hours of Sunday morning 5th July 1954.  According to the police there were no witnesses to the crime, and his truck was discovered a few hours later, empty and abandoned.

Why he was killed has the police baffled, and the greatest fear in the village, is one of their residents could be a killer, but who?

At about eleven o’clock the same morning, a man out walking his dog on the lower cage lane in Stratton, noticed a truck, parked on the verge, doors wide open and unattended, and no one in sight.  The circumstances were strange enough to merit the man calling the police, as there were signs of blood on the door.

Sergeant Maxwell, stationed locally, drove to the spot and discovered a bloodstained jacket and coat.  At the police headquarters in Norwich, Detective Inspector Miles received the information and set out at once, with Detective Constable Helen Lomax, realising they had a brutal murder on their hands.

With the assistance of the local officer on the scene, the two officers examined the area of the dumped truck, where bloodstained garments and a driving licence were found.  Obviously their next stop was to call at the Horse and Hound, where he lived and worked.  The Landlady readily recognised the bloodstained garments, but was overcome at the sight of them.  When she had got over the initial shock, she informed the officers what she knew about James Watson, who worked part time for them, along with part time truck driver at a local haulage contractors, and resided in the flat over the garages.  He was single, 41, not given to heavy drinking or any other excesses as far as she could tell, her husband standing close by, nodded in agreement.

The officers thanked them, for their assistance and left, returning to the site of the abandoned truck.  The cab revealed a scene of violence, with Watson’s personal possessions strewn across the ground, papers and documents abandoned in the desperate physical struggle that must have taken place.  There was no wallet and no money.  It was a case of robbery certainly, but robbery compounded with murder.

It seemed clear to the detectives that Watson had been attacked at some other location, and the truck driven by one of his attackers.  His body had been discovered in the early hours of Sunday morning, dumped in the bushes on the far side of the common, close to the pub.

Forensic experts carried out close examination of the interior, but the only fingerprints found within belonged to Watson.  The vehicle was taken to Norwich, and subjected to all kinds of tests.

News reached me that James had been killed when I called in the pub the next day.  Over the past few years we had eluded the grasp of the law, using the truck as a legitimate business.  For the past few years we had dealt in alcohol and cigarettes in small quantity, but had moved up a league.  James had a customer, but did want me there, as we never saw eye to eye, it should have been sweet as a nut, and he went with armed backup! So what went wrong?

Somebody double-crossed him.  I will find out whom?

My name is Barney; my last name does not matter.  James and I have made a small living and never done any bird for our crimes.

I have a flat in Stratton, a decent car a few smart clothes.  What’s more I have a gun, so no one going to argue with me!  Not if they know what is good for them.

The police had not looked over the flat yet, I slipped in the back way, headed straight for our secret hideaway behind the toilet cistern.  A small hole existed behind some loose tiles; carefully I prised it loose.  Inside were five hundred pounds, and a small revolver.

I had a quick look around the flat but there was nothing here of any use, except for his address book tucked away out of sight with a list of customers behind the picture frame.  I could not let the police discover these, slipped them into my pocket and disappeared.  Left the place as I’d found it and headed out looking for his cousin, who was supposed to be taking my place as back up?

If James was going to pay a minder, it would have been his cousin Michael, he would do anything to earn a few quid.

I found him in his Council Flat, on the Lavengro Estate in Norwich.  When he answered the door, to my pounding my fist upon his door, he did not look too pleased to see me.

“How’s it going Michael?”  I asked pushing my way into his place without much resistance.

“I can’t complain,” he replied.

“So what’s new?”

He just gazed across the room at me, “nothing,”  as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Seen James?”

“Not today.”

“Let’s not waste anymore time, we both know why I’m here.”  I replied as I pulled out my Smith & Weston revolver.

I don’t believe you,” pointing the gun at his head.

“You were with him as back up weren’t you?”

“I didn’t mean anything to happen to him, he is family you know,” the fear was visible on his face as he spoke.

“What happened?”  I demanded shaking the gun at him.

“It wasn’t my idea.”

“Whose was it then?”

“The Old Bill.”

“So what have they got to do with it?”

“I was in trouble with the law.  We had a chat.  I told him about the deal James had going down.”

“I suppose you put me in the frame as well?”

“No.”

“Michael.”

“No, I swear I didn’t.”

“He said he’d just bust him,” Michael stated.  He was shaking with fear.

“The deal went through as it should have, and we were driving back to Watton, where I was to pick up my old banger.  Along the country lane between Watton and Stratton, the car in front of us suddenly pulled out across the road, blocking the way, and another at the rear,” Michael quoted.

“What were they driving.”

“The one in front, drove a light coloured Ford, whilst the other drove an old jeep, I don’t know the colour but it had lights fitted on top, that glared straight into our faces,”  Michael stated.

“What happened next?”  As Barney prodded him with the gun in his ribs.

“They came up to the truck, and started talking to James, and one of them told me to get lost, and that’s the last time I saw James, until you turned up.”

“Who are they?”

“That new DI at Norwich, the bent one.”

“They’re all bent as far as I am concerned.”

“McCormack.”

“I haven’t heard of him.”

“He’s fairly new, recently transferred from the Met, he’s evil.”

“No please, it wasn’t my fault.”

“You little traitor.”

“I never hurt James,” Michael shouted.

“But you let McCormack do it.  So where’s the money now?”

“They more likely have it down the cop shop.”

“Are you joking.”

“Where safer to hide it?”

I realised my future was tied up at Longbridge Road, Police Station, and that meant big trouble.  They have my money, and now James is dead, no one to split it with.  Not that I wouldn’t rather have James here, than this grass of a cousin Michael.

“So what’s shift is he on?” I demanded.

“What?”

“McCormack.  When’s he working?  You’re his informer, you’ve got to know.”

“Nights.  This week he’s working nights.”

“Thanks.”  I said, pushing the gun into his face, pulling off two shots, moving out of the way to avoid any blowback.

I worked out a plan on my way home.  I needed access to the Police Station, on legitimate business.

The next morning just to be on the safe side, I phoned Longbridge Road Police Station, from a public phone.

“C.I.D.”  I said when I got through.

“C.I.D. – Miles,” said the soft voice on the line.

“DI McCormack,” I said.

“Wait.”  The voice disappeared for a few minutes, then came back.  “He’s on after ten tonight.  Any message?”

“No thanks.  I’ll call back later,” and I disconnected the call before his next question.

I hung around the flat all day, and close to ten I drove over to Longbridge Road.  I took my Smith & Weston, and my holdall with me.  I wore my black overcoat over jeans and a jumper, with black driving gloves on my hands.

I went through the front door of the Police Station, up to the desk and said to the constable on duty.

“Excuse me, I was out walking my dog the other night and saw an altercation taking place on the Watton to Stratton road, involving a truck.  I read the driver had been killed in the paper.  I wonder if what I saw can be of any use?”

“Can I have your name sir?”

“Crane, Mathew Crane” I said.

“Would you wait a minute please, sir.”

He went into the back, and I stood studying the wanted posters covering up the cracks in the walls.

“Mr Crane?” an officer spoke as he entered the reception.

“I’m Sergeant Stephens.  Would you please come this way, D I McCormack will see you now.”  I couldn’t have planned it better.  Two rotten apples at the same time, McCormack and Stephen’s, both bent as each other.

I followed him through, carrying my holdall, and up three flights of stairs to a door marked C.I.D. Longbridge Road is only a small station, and at that time of night it seemed pretty well deserted, which suited me. The C.I.D. main office was dimly lit and empty, as I was led through to an adjoining office where a large man was sitting behind a desk, and said.  “This is DI McCormack.”

Sweet as a nut I thought to myself.

McCormack was well built maybe of the same age as myself.  He looked like the type of officer you could trust with your darkest secrets, but I knew better.

“Inspector,” I said.

“Take a seat Mr Crane,” said McCormack.

“Tea?”

“Yes please,” I said as I sat in front of his desk.

“Sergeant.”  With that Stephen’s went off to get the tea.

“So you saw someone having an altercation on the Watton Stratton road, whilst you were out walking your dog.”

“That’s right.”

“Could you identify him.”

“There were two of them, they had blocked the vehicle front and back.  I didn’t get a good look at their faces, but one walked with a slight limp.

McCormack looked at Crane for a moment, but there were slight signs of sweating upon his face.

I quickly unzipped my holdall, and pulled out a revolver, pointing it straight at McCormack.

“What’s this?” he gasped.

“Your worst nightmare.”

“Payback time.”

“For what?” he asked.

“You killed my mate James,” I said.  “And stole my money.”

“I see.”  He was regaining his cool.  “And what gives you that idea.”

“Your little grass Michael told me.”

“So I imagine it was you who shot him.”

“Correct.”

“That wasn’t a very nice thing you did.”

“No more than he deserved, he was your grass and a thief.”

“Did it occur to you he could have been lying.”

“No.  I’d stake my life on it, he was telling the truth.”

“Which is exactly what you’re doing.  You must be a very stupid man to come here after me, and then admit to murder.”

I didn’t bother informing him, he wouldn’t be around to tell anyone.

“Don’t waste my time,” I said.  The longer he kept talking the more chance he had of Stephen’s returning or someone else coming in.

“Just give me the money,” I demanded.

“You don’t really think I’d keep it here do you?”

“Where better and safer,” I said, and I shot him in the arm.  You could barely hear the recoil above the sound of the air conditioning.

He gazed at the wound.

“I’ll keep blowing bits off you until you hand over, what belongs to me,” I said.  “I’ve got plenty more bullets.”

“Alright, alright,” he said.  “Keep calm, it’s over here in the locker.”

“Get it.”  I ordered.  No tricks or you’ll end up like Michael.”

He got up to do as he was told.

“The keys are in my pocket,” he said.

“Pull them out slowly, I’m watching every move you make.”

He did as he was instructed, then inserted the key in the locker keyhole and turned it anti-clockwise.  As he opened the door, Stephen’s entered the room with a tray of tea’s.

“Put them down gently,” pointing the pistol in his direction.

“What goes here?” whilst looking at the gun.

McCormack saw his chance and turned from the open locker with revolver in hand.  He fired and the bullet missed me by inches smashing into the wall.  I fired back twice in quick succession, and he went down, then Stephens got into the act, lobbing the tea in my direction whilst heading for the door.  I shot him twice in the back, he skidded face forward across the carpet and lay still.  When I went over he was dead.

I went to the locker, checked McCormack pulse.  Nothing.  I pushed his lifeless body to one side, and saw the bag sitting on the shelf. I picked it up and stuffed it into my bag, which I had bought with me.

That’s what you get for greed looking down at the two dead officers sprawled across the floor.

On the way out I met the desk constable coming up the stairs.  “Did you hear that crashing noise?” he asked.

“No,” I replied.

“Are the DI and the Sergeant in their office?”

“Yes.”

“One of them should have shown you down.”  He suddenly looked at me in a curious way, that policeman’s look.

He left me no option, so I killed him too. They shouldn’t have killed by lifelong friend and partner James, see.  It wasn’t necessary.

When I was sure he was dead too, I let myself out into the night air of Longbridge Road, and drove home.

 

San-Sebastian’s Secret (2/2)

2538

“No I won’t allow it,” shouted Tengu

Tengu lept from his stool and plunged between Brother Espiris and the desk, scooping up the heavy scalding thing in his robe.  Espiris, caught off balance, grabbed at the boy’s clothing and missed.  Tengu pulled the door open with his free hand, dived through it, and raced away at top speed through the cloisters.

“Brother Espiris,” Father Menem stepped in front of Espiris and put out a hand to restrain him.  The heavier man jerked him aside, and Menem was flung against the wall of the cell like a piece of straw.

Espiris stumbled through the door and shouted, “Tengu! Come back, boy, it’s dangerous!”

Startled monks and novices stopped and stared.  Espiris turned to them savagely.  “Don’t stand there gawping, you lot – follow him!  He’s got something-a dangerous thing.”  He glared at their puzzled faces. “Run, you idiots, catch him!”

The novices reacted first.  Glad of any novelty or excitement, they raced after Tengu, uttering boyish yells.  The monks followed more slowly.  Espiris turned back into the room.

“Father, I’m sorry – we must find him I’m sorry I pushed you – Father.”

He stopped staring.

Father Menem lay at the foot of the wall behind the desk.  He looked like a broken puppet.  His bald head, so like an egg itself, sagged to one side.  There was blood on his temple where it had struck the wall.

“Father!”  Espiris knelt down and lifted the old man gently.  Menem’s head fell back, his unseeing eyes glazing placidly at the ceiling.

“Father!”  Espiris groaned.  “Oh Father, I am sorry! So very sorry!”

He bent his head, until it lay beside the old man’s dropping hand.  It looked almost as if Menem were giving him a blessing.

Father Menem, however, would never bless anyone again.

Tengu raced through the dim, cool cloisters and corridors.  He could hear the pursuit behind him, a chorus of excited voices echoing through the stone building.

The egg in his hand had not knocked again.  It felt heavy and scalding hot, but he didn’t mind that.

He emerged abruptly into the open brightness of the north cloister.  The far side of the cloister had collapsed with age and disuse, and was little more than a pile of rubble.  Beyond the rubble was a short stretch of grass, and then a deep, chasm-like valley, in the depths of which bubbled the south-flowing River Isel.

Tengu clambered over the rubble and crouched on the ground beyond, hidden for the moment by the fallen stones.

It was windier here, and the air was cold and clean.  Across the valley, the mountains of the Zolan soared to heaven.  They looked almost within reach, though the nearest peak must be miles away.

Tengu stared wistfully at the cruel pinnacles of the Zolan.  Among those mountains, dragons had once roamed.  The best thing would be to go there, so the egg could hatch out in the dragon’s home, away from people.  People could not be trusted.  They would try to destroy the egg and what came out of it, through fear.

Tengu doubted if he could reach the mountains.  Climbing hundreds of feet down the sheer cliff, and then up the steep rocky slopes on the far side, seemed impossible.  But he had thought of somewhere closer to hide the egg.

He crawled to the edge of the cliff and looked

There was a series of rungs cut into the cliff-face, a long dis-used route down to the valley floor.  It was narrow and dangerous, and after descending a hundred feet it suddenly ended in mid-air: a rock fall must have carried the rest away.  The novices were forbidden to use it; a few years since, a boy clambering on the lower steps had fallen to his death.  Nevertheless, the more reckless boys still occasionally dared each other to climb down.  Tengu had been dared once, and though he hated heights, he had climbed down for fear of seeming weak.  On the bottom step he had slipped and clung on, facing the cliff, until his nerve returned enough foe he had noticed what a few others had seen: in the rock-face, below the last step, was a narrowly shadowy hole – the entrance to a small cave.

A shout behind him made him turn.  The pursuers had entered the north cloister.  Any moment now, one of them would climb the rubble and see him.

Carefully, he tucked the egg into the hood of his robe behind his neck, leaving both hands free for descent.  Then, gingerly, he started down the vertiginous staircase.

He tried not to look down at the valley, but it seemed to draw his glance.  His eyes played unpleasant tricks on him.  The valley floor seemed to move, to oscillate in a horribly unsettling way.  One moment it seemed as far away as the surface of the moon, the next it looked near enough to touch.  The worn rungs sloped out and downwards, threatening to thrust him out into the abyss.  The wind blew stronger than ever, swirling down the Isel valley, trying to pluck him off the cliff.

He finally came to the last rung.  He could see the black hole some distance below and to one side.  He was disconcerted to see that it was farther away than he had remembered – not just a few feet, but a good nine or ten.

How was he to get down to it?  Peer as he might at the cliff face, he could see no footholds to help him cross that vertical stretch of blank wall.

He crouched there, not knowing what to do, almost weeping with frustration.  His plan was a failure.  He would have to climb back up, surrender the egg to Brother Espiris, and watch him smash it to pulp.

He had lost.  The dragon-haters had one.

He turned his face away from the enticing and unreachable cave, and wiped his damp eyes with his sleeve.  Sniffling, he glanced aside at the cliff face, looking for the best handholds to use in re-ascending the stairs.

It was then he saw it.  Beside him at about waist height, embedded in the cliff face, was an iron spike, of which about six inches was showing.

Tengu stared at the spike, wondering what an earth it was doing there, in the middle of a sheer rock wall.  Then it dawned on him it must be intended as a handhold.  He looked further along the wall, and saw there were five more.  The six spikes formed a downward sloping rectangle, three for hands and three for feet, spanning the gap between the bottom stair and the cave.

Another staircase, he thought.  But what a staircase!  The spikes were half an inch wide at most, with several feet between them, driven into vertical rock above a chasm of empty air.  But if he could follow them, they would bring him to the mouth of the cave.

Tengu examined the spikes.  There was a suspicious brown tinge to them, which might just be dirt, but probably was rust.  They might have rusted all the way through, in which case they would snap like dry twig as soon as he put his weight on them.

There was only one way to find out.

Very slowly, he moved his right foot over onto the nearest spike.

He felt something crumble under his foot, and his toes slipped.  For a few moments he dared not move.

After a while, he summoned up enough courage to test the spike again.  This time it seemed firm enough.  Evidently he had merely disturbed a top coating of rust, which had flaked off.

By slow stages he moved along the spikes, conscious that at any moment they might give way and plunge him to his death.  Thankfully, they seemed firm.  He was about to make the final move, from the spikes to the cave, when some instinct made him look up.

A hundred feet above him, a dark shape in a monk’s hood was silhouetted against the sky.  Tengu could not see its face, but he had a feeling that it was the figure of a man, not a boy.  Espiris, perhaps?

For a moment the cowled figure remained motionless.  Then it picked something up and lifted it above his head.  Fron the object’s size and obvious heaviness, Tengu guessed that it was one of the larger stones from the north cloister’s collection of rubble.

The figure held the stone out over the cliff, directly above Tengu’s head.

Then let it go.

To the end of his days, Tengu never knew how he managed to fling himself from his precarious position on the spikes, into the mouth of the cave.  Somehow he did it, and the rock plunged past him haplessly.  He felt the wind of it as it went by, and moments later hear a smashing sound from somewhere farther down the cliff.

He rolled on the cave-floor a foot from the edge, and lay still.

Softly, but with increasing violence, he began to cry.  It was the shock that made him cry-shock that someone he had known and trusted for years had tried to kill him.

He grew still after a while, lying on the cave floor, his cheeks wet with salt.

Finally he sat up, and dragged himself over to the wall.  He leaned with his back against it and gazed out of the jagged round cave-mouth at the unreachable white peaks of Zolan.

A solid lump digging into his back reminded him why he had come to the cave.  He pulled the dragon’s out of his hood, and cradled it in his lap.  The scalding heat through his clothes was strangely comforting.  He looked round at the interior of the cave.

It was dry, narrow hole, like one end of a tunnel.  It seemed to be completely empty, but in the shadows at the back, he could make out a dark square shape which was as familiar as it was unexpected.

A door.

What an earth was a door doing here, deep in the heart of the cliff?

He got up, leaving the egg by the wall, and went to examine the door.  It was carved of age-blackened oak, iron studded and criss crossed with iron bars and plates.  The iron was coated with rust that crackled under its touch.

On one side was a huge iron ring – evidently the handle.  Eagerly, Tengu siezed it and tried to turn it, thinking as he did so that it was probably rusted fast.

To his surprise, it moved.  A crackling of falling rust accompanied the movement.  After a quarter-turn it stopped, and all his efforts would make it go no further.

Holding the ring steady, Tengu pushed at the door.  There was a feeling of resistance, no doubt from the rusty hinges, but slowly it yielded to his pressure.  When it was half-open, he slipped inside, and stood staring round at the place in which he found himself.

It was some kind of storeroom.  There were empty boxes piled against the walls, dusty and covered with cobwebs.  The room was long and narrow, and dwindled into gloom and shadows at the far end.  To one side, lit by a shaft of sun through the half-open doorway, stood a long table, its surface so thick with white dust that it looked as though it were laid with a tablecloth.

In the middle of the table, under the dust, was a square hammock.  He went over to it and swept away the dust with his fingers, revealing a large book.  The light in the store room was not quite enough to read by, so he picked up the heavy volume and carried it through the open doorway to the mouth of the cave.  Sitting down cross-legged near the windy cave-mouth, with the egg beside him, he gazed in wonder at the open

It was like the illuminated manuscripts produced by the monks.  But this was more richly illustrated than any of the devotional texts in the monastery library.  The creamy vellum pages were vibrant with reds, blues, greens and golds.  In the margins were pictures of long-winged beasts, and figures in rich robes and black, intricate armour.  The men and beasts were fighting each other.  In places their combat sprawled over the text itself.  Crimson blood flowed from the wounds of the dying men, and golden ichor from the bodies of the stricken beasts where the men had driven in their spears.

Tengu stared at the pages in awe.  He had always loved books, especially illuminated ones, and this was the most beautiful he had ever seen.  He ran his fingers caressingly over the painted shapes, smoothing away the last remnants of white dust.

Between the coloured margins were rows of marching letters, black script of the monks since time immemorial.  With some difficulty, the spelling being somewhat archaic, Tengu read from the left-hand page.

In the five hundredth year of the Grace of Eda Emet King of Hosts lead the men of Argour against the dragons of the north.  Fearful, was the battle, raging by day and by night for seven days.  Yet at the end, praise Ecla, the men of Argunor were victorious.  Not one dragon remained alive, and the fields were stained golden with the blood of the slaughtered worms.  So passed the terror of the dragons, and peace came to the lands of men.

Tengu sighed, and gazed hungrily at the beasts in the margin, studying their long, little bodies, the fantastical wings rising out of their backs, the curled serpentine tails, the craggy heads whose high arched nostrils spurted like gouts of flame.  There was a loving care in the draughtsmanship that suggested that the unknown artist had secretly admired the great beasts.  Tengu understood how the artist felt.  If that was what dragons looked like, then he would have admired them too.  They were beautiful, glorious, terrible.

But what was this book.

He turned to the very first page.  There he read,

in a golden and flowing script that was quite unlike the severe black characters of the monkish writing, the following:

The Book of Dragons

A history of the dragonish race of the North, its power and pride, and its final destruction.  Penned in the year 630 of the Grace of Ecla, by Brother Seltus of the Order of the Black Robe.

All praise to Ecla!

Tengu frowned.  The book had been written in 630, and the year was now v1481.  That meant the book was well over eight hundred years old!  And even in those far-off days, the dragons had been thought of as evil.

He had been so sure that Brother Espiris had been wrong, and Father Menem right.  Now it seemed he had been mistaken.  He had gone to all this trouble to save a creature which, if hatched out, would prove to be a monster.

Heavy-hearted, he turned again to the page he had looked at, and reads again the description of the dragon’s final defeat.  Then, idly curious, he turned over the page and saw further words had been added.  They were in golden ink, similar to the script on the title page, but the hand was shakier and more uneven.

I Brother Seltus add these words in the year 671.  For too long I have kept silent, cowed by the threat of  excommunication and burning.  Now I am old, and I fear little that may be done to this withered body.  Nor do I believe the boasts of the priests, that their blessing is the only road to the Mansions of Ecla in the hereafter.

Here the truth, it was not Ecla that cursed the dragons and named them wicked and souless creatures, but bloody-handed kings and the corrupted priests who served them.  First they tried to tame the dragons.  When the dragons would not be tamed, they hunted them for sport.  At last, outnumbered and persecuted, the dragons rose up in war, and were destroyed.

If there be dragons left in the world, may they forgive us.  As it is written in the Tribulations of Ecla: “He that kills without understanding is the darknees, and he that follows him walks in deep shadow.”

Tengu sat back and stared out of the cave-mouth at the distant peaks.

If there be dragons left in the world.  Well, there was one dragon at least.  Maybe it was not too late to partly redress the ancient wrong

A sudden sound made him jump.  It was a hollow knocking, echoing faintly in the half-encloded space.

He looked down at the egg, and gasped.  A crack had opened in the black uneven surface, revealing the eggs golden surface.  Out of the crack streamed a pale golden light, within which a darker shape was stirring.

At that moment there was a scraping noise from outside the cave, and a shadow blotted out the sunlight.  Tengu looked up, startled, and saw a black robe flapping across the cave-mouth, and protruding from the robe, a man’s outstretched hand.

Grunting with effort, Brother Espiris stepped into the cave.

Tengu panicked.  All he could think of was protecting the egg, and he reached out unthinkingly to sieze it.  But he had forgotten to cover his hands with his robe.  His finger’s touched the egg’s surface, and he cried out with pain and snatched them away.

That gave Espiris the moment he needed.  The big man stepped forward, shrugging his loose sleeves forward over his hands, and scooped up the egg.  He blinked at the shaft of golden light from the crack dazzled histhat the gleam shone away from him.

“Now we shall end this business,” he murmured.  Turning, he stepped to the edge of the cave, raising his arms to throw the egg into the abyss.

With a choking scream, Tengu sprang to his feet and flung himself at the monk.  There was a confused moment of threshing arms, legs and tangled robes, and both of them fell in a heap on the floor.  The egg rolled away towards the rear of the cave, bumping along the bottom of the wall, its thin ray of gold rotating like a beam of a lighthouse.

Brother Espiris got up, pulled Tengu to his feet and shook him by his shoulders until his teeth rattled.

“Wretched child!” he said savagely.  “Can’t you see that I am trying to save us all from this thing?  Father Menem is dead.  Brother Angelo is crippled.  How much more evil must it work before it is destroyed?”

Tengu stared up into Espiis’s eyes.  They were bleak and piless as the Zolan itself.

“You tried to kill me with a stone,” he whispered.

The monk’s face twitched a little.  I had to stop you.  When you are older, you will understand that sometimes evil must be done that good may come.

Something inside Tengu seemed to grow dry, like Brother Angelo’s withered vines.  “Where in the Books of Ecla does it say that?” he asked sullenly.

Espiris looked down at his pupil a moment longer.  Then he let go of his shoulders, and pushed him roughly against the wall.  “Stay ther, Tengu, and don’t move.  If you interfere again, I will break your arms.”

Tengu sank to the floor, feeling tears well up inside him.  He fought them down.  At least he would not let Espiris see him cry.

The monk crossed the cave and picked up the egg in his robe.  Then for a moment he stood arrested, looking at the half-open door through which lay the storeroom.

“Interesting,” he murmured.  “There’s an old passageway that starts by the monastery’s outer wall and runs down into the foundations.  It was always thought to lead to a dis-used wine cellar, but perhaps it leads down here.  It’s partly blocked by rubble, but one may be able to force a way through.  When we’ve finished here, we’ll go back that way.  It’ll be safer than those precarious spikes and steps.”

He turned and smiled at Tengu.  Then he walked to the front of the cave and stood looking out.  The afternoon light was fading.  Away to their left, at the head of the Isel valley, the sun would be low in the sky.  A blood red stain was beginning to creep down the snow-covered slopes of the mountains.

Espiris raised the egg infront of him in both robed hands.

“Goodbye, dragon,” he murmured.

Tengu closed his eyes in despair.

There was a cracking noise, and his eyelids flooded with gold.  Brother Espiris screamed.

Wincing, Tengu opened his eyes a fraction.  The cave was blazed in dazzling gold light.  Brother Espiris stood hunched at the entrance, his arms flung across his face.

Slowly the light began to fade.  Tengu peered through the half closed lids, trying to make out what was happening.  Something vast, gold and red like the illuminated pictures in the Book of dragons, was unfolding and shimmering above and around him.After a minute or so, the light had died down enough for him to open his eyes fully.

He gasped at what he saw.

The cave was full of dragon.  No mewing kitten or squat lizzard-cub, but a gothic splendour of wing and body and head and tail, flecked and streaked with a thousand colours, among which red and gold were dominant.  Light poured from its translucent scales like water.

The dragon was standing on one taloned foot, in the act of stepping out from the broken shards of the egg.  Tengu realised with amazement that the huge creature must in some arcane way have been compressed inside the confines of the egg.

The dragon kicked the broken eggshell away, opened its wings as far as the cramped caved would permit, and roared.  The cave walls shook with the sound.  A whimper followed the roar.  Tengu saw Brother Espiris crawling towards the rear of the cave on all fours.  He was feeling his way with his hands, and Tengu realised that the golden light must have blinded him.

The dragon turned its craggy head and looked down at Tengu.

Thank you, little one.

The voice was only in Tengu’s mind, but there was no doubting its source.  He gazed up into the deep yellow eyes, seeing there a thousand years of inherited wisdom, and his throat husked as he voiced the one thing he wanted above all else.

“Please – Take me with you.

“Not yet little one.  Some day, but not yet.

Tengu hung his head.

The dragon bent down and, just for a moment, touched the boy’s forehead with a long hot tongue.  Then it moved away, and Tengu raising his head unwillingly, saw the serpent body poised in the cave-mouth.

dragon-in-flight

The dragon lept into the sinking afternoon light.  Its wings unfurled, so enormous that Tengu gasped in awe.  The gold light of its scales mingled with the red sun, turning the dragon to a bolt of fire.  The great creature circled once, uttered a clanging cry that resounded across the valley, and flapped gracefully away towards the distant peaks of the Zolan.

The voice came back to Tengu, fainter now.  Some day, little one.  Be patient.  Some day.The dragon dwindled to a grain of gold, and was gone.

For a long time Tengu sat and stared towards the mountains, his feelings a strange mixture of desolation, joy and hope.

Sounds from the back of the cave finally roused him.  With a long sigh, he tucked the Book of Dragons under his arm and stood up, and walked to the half-open door, where Brother Espiris was groping to find the way through.  He took the blind monk by the arm, and gently guided him through the doorway into the room beyond.

Wallpaper Dragon Image