Marriage never works, divorce always does. Gina had heard that one out of three marriages work. She was just waiting for the third one. She took the guilt and avoided an acrimonious separation. To Genevieve it was like taking a tight shoe off. He always called her Genevieve when they were in company. She hated her name, it sounded like the usual pet names meteorologists give to hurricanes threatening the Florida coast. She left a note saying that he was the perfect husband but clearly it was all her fault and that she could not settle down to another marriage. It was not loves thirty something’s dream. She forced herself not to write a P.S telling the truth. That he was a idle egomaniac with the brains of a mongoose.
Her new home was over one hundred miles from her Lewisham roots. A quaint coaching house that she decided to rent in the Norfolk border village of Hockwold. One thousand pounds a month of unmolested rustic history with no dishwasher, a barn owl in the larder and two feet of mud and Triffids passing itself off as a garden. Gina dropped her suitcases at the crumbling step and let herself in which was not easy as the door had practically rotted away.
The dimensions were awesome. The property was a veritable castle compared to the townhouse she had sold for a song to get her ‘quickie’ settlement. But property out in the sticks proved to be a lot of bricks and mortar for the cash. The living room was the magnitude of the Tundra alone. A giant flint and shale inglenook, beams and eleven inch floorboards. A wrought iron grate that looked too heavy to clear. The fireplace was the only feature that was not sold into utter neglect. It stood like a tombstone to the house that was. Fourteen rooms made home to bantams and woodworm. Chunks of lime plaster hung onto the ceiling as if by magic. It seemed only the thick cobwebs must have stopped the entire roof falling in. Gina blew upwards moving her hair out of vision (a nervous mannerism since youth) as she brushed the flaking walls and dusted her palms. The less than enthusiastic removal men with expressions of uncompromising indifference hoiked her boxes of belongings under protest for lack of a kettle or worse.
Still no electricity.
She called her cat ‘China’ to her arms. A natural reaction when you are unable to make a cup of tea. The tortoise shell companion meowed for food. Her master emptied three tea-chests until she found a tin of the gloop-like substance that only cats would eat. Was it a can opener or a needle in a haystack she needed next? The cats cries were now fraying her nerves as she hunted on all fours for the simplest form of kitchen ware. Plunging her fingers into a bucketful of cutlery she sliced her palm on a bread knife that was left at the perfect angle to produce the most effective injury.
“Ow, the bastard!” She lamented.
She sprung back onto her feet gripping her wrist. Clumsily falling backwards over strategically placed items that were more reinforcements to personal harm, completely surprising a small hen that had made its home on one of her army of pillows.
Gina liked pillows. Her last husband said that the only reason she bought them was to avoid brain damage when having the floor come up and hit her in the face. Usually when refusing to re-cork tequila. She loved his wit. Everything else about him was pretty repulsive. That is what Gordon did. Made her laugh. She was in hysterics when he first disrobed to attempt lovemaking with her. What he lacked in stature he made up for in speed. Having big feet or giant noses was not an acid test in his case. His shoes were like rowing boats and his nose so big he could never sport a mustache as nothing grew in the shade. If his ‘hydraulics’ were based on these parts of the anatomy he would of been built like a stud bullock instead of a mere mountain goat.
Gina had her needs but he knew nothing of her affairs. She was not so much discreet but her husband blissfully unaware that other men might find her remotely attractive. She had a male aupair on the backburner of her reinstalled Aga on more than one occasion and Gordon suspected nothing. She chose men like others hail a taxi. She drank too much and she loved sex and she never ruled out chocolate either. So, what was the point of living with people who thought that doing the Observer crossword and listening to cricket scores was the height of a thinking man’s masturbation. She could not give him a hard on like his airfix models. She would pick men like flowers. She cut them off at their feet swept them up and liberally soaked them with her sex. When they dried up and shriveled to nothing she would bin them. His mobile phone was the only thing he boasted about. Gordon found gratification in his new Nokia. He would go into raptures about it. Imagine men boasting about how tiny something was. The trouble was that he did not know how to press the right buttons for her. He had lost the signal about a day into there marriage. Poor Gordon. He was conceited but it was natures way of disguising the pathetic bit of knotted string between his legs.
“Shit,shit, shit, shit,” she said with emphasis. The tradesmen looking at each other and shrugged.
One said. “Is this what you’re looking for Missus?”
A man had appeared from behind the scullery door. Obviously a local. He thrust out his hand holding the offending object. He was tall and probably a farmer. His clothes looked like a sheepherder’s, brown corduroy trousers with Wellingtons. She thought how very Catherine Cookson he looked as a main character. He was forty-ish and had a Pyrex number nine haircut. A black thick shiny fringe that flopped across one eye. He had traces of blue stubble and fixed blue eyes. Lean and broad he ambled towards her smiling even teeth and dimples. Gina thought the last time she saw a specimen like him was in a T.V commercial for jeans or soft drinks. Tyrone Power had been dead for years but there he was, or at least his double in the flesh, to the rescue.
“ ’ere, let me ‘ave a look at that, is it giving you jip?”
He came closer and took her shredded hand that immediately got lost in his giant palms. His forearms were bustling muscle. She gaped at the tanned deep chest in an open vest held at bay by thick braces. He was tattooed. She usually hated such clumsy etchings. She thought they made the body look like an R.A.C. roadmap. She would make an exception in this case as he was almost a god. He tore his red paisley neckerchief off, Chippendale style and dressed her spilling wound.
“Oh, sorry, I feel extremely foolish, but I suppose if you are going to live in a war-zone you expect casualties. I think its not as bad as it looks…oww!” She flinched with pain that was more for effect than physical trauma. She was enjoying the attention.
“Come on, grab your coat and jump in the truck and we’ll get a couple of stitches in that… carn’t ‘ave you bleedin’ all over moi chickens, can we?” His petrol coloured eyes twinkled and matched the smell of his jacket.
As the Shogun rattled off at speed through very winding uncharted territory in Thetford forest she noticed his large fists wrestling the wheel with unequalled skill. He had another tattoo that intrigued her. On his left upper arm which rippled magnificently was a exquisite Golden Pheasant that she could not take her eyes off. “In love we trust” the words freshly inked.
His name was Jodie and he did a bit of “this’n’that” apparently. His head flicked back his heavy forelock that kept falling back over his face to its original position as she found herself thrown around inside the rusting crate like a rag doll. He told her he was looking for work and so she offered him cash to tend to some urgent repairs that she would agree with the Landlord. His gorgeous eyes gratefully accepted. After all, her hand was out of commission and this would hamper her plans. She hoped it would be just a matter of time before she could offer him a permanent place. Preferably her bed.
Jodie dropped her off back at her ramshackle domicile promising to be there “seven sharp”. She waved her good hand and turned to hack her way to her front door. She jumped with surprise to find a chubby faced man in a dog-collar wearing an expression like he had already made a mistake in his trousers.
“ Forgive me, I am the Reverend Albert Sturgeon, I have an urgent request, may I step inside?” He winced with discomfort.
“Of course, the toilet is down the hall, let me see if we can get this damn, oh excuse me Father, this blessed, I mean, this door open.” She fumbled for the large key on her bunch to get it in the door and refraining from more blasphemy found the exercise in bandages more impossible. Making the task like threading a needle in boxing gloves.
“Let me help you.” The tubby verger leaning across to assist. A strong smell off whisky met her nostrils as he gasped with effort to push the stubborn ‘one hinge only’ door open. Florid and panting he allowed the invalid in. Gina was not dependent on any man but so far she had enlisted two of them inside an hour, merely to exist. She felt as useful as the proverbial one legged idiot at an arse-kicking party.
“The loo doesn’t flush properly but I will fill a bucket, to do it later.” She said pointing the way with a degree of personal embarrassment.”
“No Mrs Blythe, you misunderstand, its not that kind of request I wish to ask.” The priest slurring slightly sat on sack full of her clothes and took his wide-brim off to mop his beaded brow that continued over the rest of his head, hairless and blotchy. He took half focals off and polished the steamed up specs with his knee until he got his breath back.
“Sorry, but I thought, anyway, how do you know me, and what is it you want?”
Gina was curt. God-sent or not, he was clearly inebriated. She hated people obviously drunk when she was not.
The hapless figure composed himself and explained his ungainly visit swigging from a hip-flask at intervals.
“I know all about you from the parishioners down the “Tinker” err…that’s the local hostelry, you understand?”
He was past redemption on the reference to his obvious drink problem. Gina was not too judgmental as she had spent three weeks drying out at a clinic in London when her husband had won custody of the children.
He babbled and sweated, clearly full of anxiety and about to deliver some sorry tidings of such enormity that he fidgeted like a fat poodle with pinworm.
Gina sat down changing her expression dramatically as she realised the import of his message. Listening intently she slid down another unidentifiable sack of clothes in the same manner as honey off a spoon.
“You know, it’s not my duty to warn you away, but I feel I must strongly advise you to seek alternative accommodation…this place is hardly fit for human habitation,” he spluttered, wriggling from side to side precariously. He reeled off a dozen reasons why the new resident ought to leave for health and safety reasons.
Gina was puzzled, as it became glaringly apparent that this clergyman was quite inept at being economical with the truth for the best altruistic reasons.
She was now a little indignant and stood up to pronounce her speech on human rights and how the Catholic church had robbed the poor for long enough in order to get world domination. Particularly annoyed that a church could have some sort of jurisdiction over her living space. Her agnosticism spewed out unchecked in the crudest form. She pounced on the priest with a torrent of outrage.
“How dare you come around to my door with your incriminations. Now, if you don’t mind ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ and as you can see, you are keeping me from my work. So if you will excuse me.” She feigned flicking a duster along a picture rail, as theatre for his interruption.
“Let me say this one thing to you Mrs Blythe. Forgive me for the intrusion. I do hope we can keep talking as I have no wish to offend you after my awkward introduction. Please bear with me for a few moments.” The rotund figure stood up with some difficulty and composed himself holding his hat at chest height, like he was about to perform the last rites.”
Gina stood inches away with an air of defiance and threat, daring the little man to breathe.
“This wood has history. Its called the King’s wood because medieval kings hunted in this forest. Mostly quail or pheasant. Henry the eighth even took sport on these very bridle-ways. Yet, there was an evil that took place here that is an abomination in God’s eyes. An atrocity in any man’s. The bait being the fittest men for the gallows.” The anxious messenger choked on his fear and swigged a hard slug from the whisky flask. He paused and looked hard into Gina’s unconvinced expression.
“Go on, I can check this on the Net so best you keep to Bible stories from the pulpit Father, because I don’t scare very easily.” She goaded. She had run up her flag already.
“ I understand your cynicism but spare me this one thought before I go.” He stepped out onto the cracked doorstep with a low sun lighting the back of his head giving him a less than deserved halo appearance. His ears sticking out like a Chinese lantern.
He put his hat on his head, making his face silhouette strangely.
“This house has history too. Every family that have lived here, have left or disappeared under the most unholy circumstances. Some have gone mysteriously only after a few days. The last family were God-fearing and fine examples of faith and still this house drove them away. This house holds a dastardly secret.” His jowls jiggling anxiously.
“What secret for crying out loud? You mean the bogie man? Or maybe the living dead? Well, Father, with respect, I have seen much mystery in my time and I have never shit myself. Excuse me, but from a religion that propagates stigmata and faith-healing pilgrimages to Lourdes you should chill out a lot more than you do.”
Gina was more than flippant and openly derisory.
“ God will not be mocked and that which a man sows he shall also reap…ahem…Galatians six verse seven…I will not detain you any further Mrs Blythe except on this note and that is…” He paused and screwed the cap on his bottle with an extra twist.
“Four hundred years ago a child was murdered in this house, barely eight years old and as bright as a button. Before this bairn met her end, she watched her Father and Mother die at the hands of a hunted fugitive. The bodies of the parents were found, but the little missy vanished. For one hundred years this once thriving coaching inn was sealed as Satan’s abode. The villagers and their fathers and their fathers, fathers, have seen the legacy of this place destroy peoples lives. Something from Hell dwells here. Mark my words. I will pray for you and hope you make the right decision before its too late. Now, I hope to see you at Church. Take with you His grace and God bless. Goodbye.”
“No hard feelings and thanks, but God gave me a tongue so I can pray for myself, and unless you want to give me a hand decorating, I would prefer you keep your doom and gloom for next week’s sermon.”
Gina dragged the demolished door shut on the stunned onlooker and fell with her back to it staring at the hours of drudgery ahead.
“Bloody Godbotherers! Ghosts and Ghoulies, yea, right. Well at least I won’t be lost for some stimulating company…..cooeee…..is there anybody there? Don’t be shy, we’ve got a lot of work to do. Somebody has got to clear up the mess you made.” She jeered at the returning echoes and laughed.”
She worked with gathering speed and managed a small impression of order and system out of Hiroshima’s aftermath. After three hours of blood sweat and tears there was some semblance of a bedroom to sleep in which no longer looked like cardboard city. She tried the light switch to no avail and lit a candle with her good hand, the trickiest task to date. A partial success, spreading the contents of the rest of the box of matches evenly over her eiderdown.
With no chance of a shower or a bath, she thought she would grab some well deserved slumber and for hygiene reasons take a trip later to the swimming baths in town until the plumber arrived. Typically, in the black hole of the plumbing trade, universally, she hoped it would be within the next two days before she went through ten pounds worth of ‘Hakles’ and running hot and cold water could be taken for-granted again. At this rate she was fast losing the will to live while waiting for the very basics for survival. Her hair was a mass of matted dead plaster. She was practically disabled. She had the ever present threat of typhoid or possibly scurvy and to cap it all, she had the body odour of a vultures crutch. Apart from suicide or voluntary admission to a mission refuge with all the other dregs of human society, she was happy to take the softer option and catch some zeds on her mattress. Seeking out the duvet in a box marked “more bedroom things” had been a welcome find. She had forgotten to eat. Her bulimia would have to wait until she was really hungry.
She fell out of fatigue into the deepest of sleep. Half peeved about the Catholic pastor. Half starved for a plate of garlic pasta. Her dreams were rampant. Usually disjointed and climbing over each other like a demented swarm. There was no way the boozy brethren was going to frighten her off the premises. Phantom or no phantom she had watched Straw Dogs with Dustin Hoffman and Susan George so she had all the credentials for staying, thank you very much. These village folk had better be told setting badgers was the nearest they would get to burning witches and shooting fleeing criminals had evolved now into hare-coursing. Apart from religion, country life was spent by feeding stupid superstition and too much time shagging their own relatives.
Praying to God for a good night’s sleep and the hope of electricity tomorrow she would hook up the computer and get back on line e-mailing to the rest of her managers at the N.E.C at Birmingham. She had to coordinate the “Alternative Science Exhibition” from her laptop. The opening date was a month to go, with no pitches left. Now she could create her home from chicken-poo and from the depths of Norfolk, raise Atlantis, if the folk stopped pestering her with a wet death on a ducking stool.
She looked forward to seeing Dustin Hoffman a little less Jewish and a few inches taller at seven in the morning. Her thoughts continued to reproduce at an astounding rate.
She dreamt that she lived in the same house a century ago. It was a vivid dream in cinema scope and sepia. It was Christmas and the whole room was heaving with well-wishers and a giant wild boar bled copious fat onto a log fire in the decorated fireplace. Kids played on pipe clad oldsters laps, in rocking chairs. A fiddler fiddled. Plates full of bread-stuffing and bacon. Cheese and loaf served to customers and coachmen alike. A liberal smattering of ale sloshed from tankard to tankard leaving Santa type froth on their beards. Dumplings and gingerbread. Jugged hare and plum duff. Baked Apple pie and chestnuts. Combings of snow at the bulls-eye windows and a large cake of heavy trench-coats draped over a groaning hat-stand. All is fine festive fun and then there is a hammering on the door. Suddenly, a man bursts in stripped to the waist and falls to the floor facedown. The partygoers fight back the flurry of snow and stop the proceedings to come to the mans aid. His body is covered in blood.
Gina wakes up. She curses the Reverend Sturgeon for playing his dumb mind-games on her, when she was too exhausted to fight it. He did not have to paint a rosy picture. Her avid imagination had produced a life-like bundle of images that proved to menace her at the point of unconsciousness.
“Bugger it, where’s the cat.”
Gina groped for her dressing gown taking the candle with her down a steep set of bare splintered stairs. She called out.
“China, China, here darling, where are you?” She clung with her good hand to the winding wall and held on gingerly, inching her way earthward. She faltered and promptly dropped the candle which spilled hot wax onto her toes, bouncing to freedom, down two more steps, extinguishing itself on the way.
“Bloody wars, its darker than a lorry load of arseholes down here, where in the black hole Calcutta is that wretched, sodding cat?
Halfway down she listened intently.
She heard a whimpering noise and then it stopped and then a sound of rushing wind. Yet, it was still and only a slight breath of breeze outside, looking at the gentle swing of the jasmine through the porch top window. Like the wind she held her breath too, and with a puzzled frown reached the bottom of the stairs craning her head and stopped again. The shushing sound was a little like the sound of fire consuming dry autumn leaves. Their was a smell of cooking and the sounds and smells got louder and stronger. There was laughter and music now. She started to run down the dusty hall towards the giant lounge which she had closed to thwart the chickens nesting in her wealth of sundries. She cleared her right eardrum. She pinched herself. Gina picked up a broom for self defence purposes. Swallowing hard, she shut her eyes and shouted.
“ Who is there?” Her voice crackled with apprehension. Addressing, what sounded more and more like a large boisterous and oblivious crowd the other side of the door. Gina lifted the broom in a threatening pose. Not exactly her chosen artillery, but if it was a bunch of squatters to deal with, she would have to force eviction with a clean sweep. She pointed her jaw and her under-bite held her top lip. If she was to protect her property from drugged up yobs, she better use the element of surprise. Or perhaps, to politely tell whoever was trespassing, to piss off. As she blew upward her fringe (nerves again) she inched towards the echoing bedlum with less trepidation and more vim. As she turned the door handle a smell of cooking cabbages (or was it brussel sprouts?) reached through as lasers of light hit her frame. The temperature had dropped and her breath was frosting. The noises were distorted and the door was vibrating violently. These intruders were either having sex up against the other side of the door with such gusto the hinges were shaking off, or something else had given it a life of its own. The door resisted of its own volition and jammed shut throwing Gina into a tumbled heap.
“ So you want to play silly buggers do you? I’ll teach you to make yourself at bloody home, you bunch of low life shits.” Shit was Gina’s favourite example of the English language as it summed up her life until now both as an adjective and pro noun. It was a very good one word answer, requiring no explanation or expanding on issues it referred to. She had enough of the substance but could not resist it as part of her vocabulary. “Shit”, rolled off the tongue.
She charged at the door and yelped like a puppy outside a pub as she made contact with three solid inches of pine that gave way under her now crumpled shoulder. The door had stopped shaking and rattling . The noise like a full blown party in the back of a lorry being driven with a squealing gearbox, had stopped. She was face down in a pile of shoes and had rendered one entire side of her body without feelings, other than raw pain. Her neck feeling like a sockfull of marbles and a shoulder to match that would soon fetch more different colours than a Monet. Gina rolled over onto her back, spitting out a chicken feather. She opened eyes that rolled like lottery balls. Nothing. Not a sound.
She sprang up and everything was as she left it before bed. She twirled on her heels in disbelief. The room was more silent than a courtroom usher. Except some feint scratching. Scratching she heard amidst the din earlier. The whimpering sound. She scrabbled on all fours in the direction of the crying sound and found China pawing at a corner of the hearth inside the giant monolith of a fireplace.
She scooped the cat up and puzzled at what had seemed a bizarre chain of events ascended to her makeshift bed. She lay awake. What would Gordon have done? He may have the dress sense of Austin Powers and a face like a bag of spanners, but he was great in a crisis. Once he had saved a neighbour from a shed-fire and rushed the poor man still smouldering to hospital. Gordon gave up smoking too after leaving cigarette ends on the Gazebo.
Half paralysed, she eventually fell asleep.
Jodie spent the next day with her, expertly making much needed repairs. In between hobbling from room to room organising the havoc, Gina seemed to move like she was breaking her body in for someone else. She was sore and moving with the same precision as a projector that had got the 8mm stuck on every other dozen frames. Less fluid than usual which also applied to her lack of booze in the precinct.
“Come on, that’s enough! Show me the pub so we can replace the moisture, Jodie. Our heads won’t fall off if we stop for a bevy, whaddya say? The first round is on me!”
The tight butt in loose corduroys, looked under his arm as he finished screwing the ceiling rose back to its home. She searched the blue eyes with sweat dripping into them and sure enough the dimples agreed. She wished she did not have a body that felt like it had been assembled by an Irish drunken mechanic and he would throw her over his ample shoulders
smothering her with rich velvet kisses. Instead he jumped down and looking at his watch said.
“Do fancy a quick one, then? You can always have me on yer carpet in the morning, if yer like.”
If only he knew how she wanted him by a different interpretation. She was dying for a shag and all he wanted was to get her grippers down.
He was not exactly chatty. He had the conversation of a paper cup. Gina felt the only thing missing was some form of signing. She put it down to shyness and her ignorance to the proper use of silage instead of sign language. She felt sure that she had a couple of pointers on root vegetables to share with him that she had gleaned from a Delia Smith book that had got lost in the move. The trouble was that after eight Martini’s she could not pronounce ‘caramelise’ let alone explain it. She didn’t care, she just wanted her lips on his, and she didn’t care which ones. She wanted him to feel her fingers like a rake on his back and wrap herself around him like a well worn tyre. She was a sexed up exocet with the rocket fuel she had consumed, to the point of a certain plumpness. She pulled him down by the Inglenook and inspected this giant of a man more closely. She would nibble him up one side and down the other like an expensive sushi appetiser. A little salty, but scrummy she thought.
As she lay in the candlelight that threw soft shadows, she enjoyed her own afterglow. She remembered the old saying about people who shirk work because of a hangover. How did it go? ‘No good being a man in the pub and a boy at work’. Jodie may be a boy in the pub but he was a real man ‘on the job’. Magically her aches and pains had gone but she probably wouldn’t sit down for a week. This Adonis had shown her more than three dozen ways to heaven. He was one of God’s athletes between the sheets. Her body melted from the ecstasy into a snug sensuality that brought intense delight. A stray tear fell. A tear that had put in an appearance but for all its short life she could not think why? She found herself actually sobbing out of joy. No man had spent that much attention to detail.
She seemed to sob in the same way you might after passing your driving test. A scary, deep satisfaction and a hard shoulder to cry on. His gentle snoring stopped.
Gina felt that she was not the only one exhibiting emotion in the room. Almost inaudibly at first, she heard tears of sympathy. When she realised that for some inexplicable reason crying was heard. Real crying. Really heard. She wondered where the uninvited backing vocals came from. She stopped her bubbling and listened hard. A short pause and there it was again. A sound that faded in and out just like it was inside a bottle that was unstopped then re-corked. She was drunk. Except she recognised the whimpering sound that she heard among the racket of her phantom partygoers after the weird dream she had. She had blamed China. But this was now more distinctive. More plaintive. Not a grizzle or a wail. A cry like no other. Lamenting and woeful. Like fear and grief.
Gina sat up throwing Jodie’s head off her shoulder. She sat bolt upright like a crash dummy before impact. His head struck the floor and toppled there half empty glasses of shiraz over.
“Listen, can you hear that?” She forced a whisper holding his chin still as he rubbed his head.
“Whaa…?” He said now brutally half awake.
“Shh..just listen…………………………………..like a kid crying……….shuddup…….” Gina dug her fingernails deep in his face not realising her zealousness was soon too disfigure him.
“Oww, watch it.” He wriggled away, more awake and less happy for it.
“Shhh I say ….just listen……the girl ……can you hear her, for crying out loud?” She realised her irony of her last comment and both of them sat stock still.
A few seconds elapsed to a deafening grave-like quiet only broken by a knock at the door.
“That’ll be Trevor, we’s tatering a’morrow gotta a lood of blooks roguin’ at the crack of foive.”
With that the great sex titan of Gina’s life fled out of the door with a whiskered oilslick with an expression like Benny Hill. He that pulled his cap back over his head and inspected Gina’s scantily clad form and said “Bugger my boots….” and then something else, but totally unintelligible, before the two roared off on a tractor with tyres the size of planets. The lingo of Hockwold being a series of grunts and carrot-crunching Esperanto. If Jodie wasn’t so bonkers about sugar-beet, she might have actually pulled last night. Snapping into reality she could not imagine spending more than the odd weekend with a lover who wore carrier bags on his feet inside Wellingtons and touched her nether regions after artificially inseminating livestock and disembowelling pigs. The pub fraternity made her feel as welcome as vaginal thrush anyway.
Now tipsy or sober, she was hearing things in her new home. She was nearer to believing the mealy-mouthed priest may have something after all.
She raced to a tea chest and scrapped around inside with her head down and bottom up. She found the Yellow pages and flipped the pages furiously back and forth until she found what she wanted. She played tug of war with the phone lead until she found it, receiver- less. Her cordless turned up inside the fridge after a full and frantic half hour search. It was a Tuesday afternoon. The number rang out for a joyless minute.
“Hello, is that the Mundford Psychic Research Institute?….Hi….my name is Blythe. Mrs Gina Blythe. I have just moved into a listed building in the region and have to report some strange kind of ….yea, sort of… not so much phenomena, no its probably nothing, but I am new to the area and I live on my own and I’m a little freaked by all this….yes…what ..tonight…I suppose I could …ok…a little after seven…if you really think…..in ….Hockwold…second on the left past the Church, yes, the post office green…Ok…Thanks, bye.”
Gina spend the next two hours waiting and drunk the remaining Chilean wine that looked lonelier than her. She read her situation differently in its cold light and decided that she had probably succeeded in making a real oaf of an idea. If brains were taxable she would no doubt get a rebate. She worked things through rationally. Intelligently.
A) Did she think it was the K.G.B or N.A.T.O she was going to telephone next? And, B) Would she get a prize for being the most neurotic rocking horse shit for brains that ever graced the fens. That was some big prize from what she new of the locals and plenty of stiff competition.
An image of Jodie and his member flashed into her head for the second time that day.
Norfolk’s answer to “who you gonna call” was coming to this little sleepy village. A village that had slept soundly, until she arrived with her city jitters.
Promptly, a team of wall to wall acne with eyes like saucers spilled into her house with enough hardware to start a war and insisting on staying the night. Gina gave them some coffee and flapjack. She bestowed on them all complete artistic licence for the remainder of the night. She was happy to allow them to conduct there experiments under her roof, for three consecutive nights. Four very weird students strapped to a bunch of even weirder equipment. All of them huddled together for hours at a time. Scribbling feverish notes and swathed in scanners and monitors.
On leaving they left a screed of data and asked that if there was any further activity reported to get in touch with them, night or day. Gina had only hidden her embarrassment up until now, for being a little over reactionary. She inched them toward the door as they tried to explain the lack of further manifestations.
“ Mrs Blythe, thanks for your hospitality and patience. This is all good for our research. I can only theorise at this point but I guess you may have a kinetic psychic transmission phenomena at the centre of gravity of your house.”
She was not aware her house had left the ground. Refraining from blurting the obvious like “get a life” Gina inquired.
“Excuse me, a who?…”
“ Transverse psychic magnetic kinetics.” The spindly one with chicken wire on his teeth not worth saving, looked at his hurried notes. Leafing through them like they were fine lace.
“That’s more tic’s than a shooting dog.” She grinned with irreverence.
“Mrs Blythe, you have taking place here, a very rare and perfectly rational explanation for your claims. Our OPC sensors, ahem, that’s ‘oscilloscope primary converters’ have picked up a whole range of kinetic activity and aural captions.”
Gina had spent hundreds of pounds for zero, zero, “fuckall”, blank. She was not a happy chicken like the rest of the unwanted visitors in her house.
“Your the thirtieth person this week who has made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Now listen to me very carefully. There is not an interpreter within fifty miles of here and I will have to make contact with civilisation at some stage. So, if you do not mind, speak plain English.”
She bent down to scoop an armful of takaway pizza cartons the young professors had made a nest with. She had had enough of supernatural geeks, too fond of pepperami deep-pan. Gina felt stupid.
“Listen up, I have to run exhibitions all over the world. That means, I can speak six languages ‘ish’, ok? Seven, if you count bad language. So far, I have never heard more undecipherable verbal dysentery from drunken Irish curblayers, let alone the ‘turnips’ living in this village. Now, you have gone from the sublime to…….”
“Please Mrs Blythe,” the woollen hat interrupted “ in layman’s terms” he went on with a expression holding more gravity than before, “our findings are without bragging,… at the cutting edge of supernatural science and our data diagnoses a surge in magnetic field where you are standing. Atmospheric changes… so dramatic,.. to cause electrostatic. This makes the surroundings conducive to compound sensory activity… or… accelerated quantum physics, if you will. Your house, especially the fireplace is behaving in the same way as a tape recorder.” The lad fought with a lisp and shrapnel in his mouth. This made talking like the ventriliquist was on the dummy’s lap for a change. Apart from a little froth, he coped well with words longer than a docker’s teabreak..
Gina looked like she had eaten something that had disagreed with her and clutched her belly.
“But how… that’s completely potty…I ask you…” She, still incredulous.
The boy continued like he was now able to jam the last part of the jigsaw with some force into place.
“We can only explain the seeming paranormal activity and temperature changes as atmospherics and gravitational, electrical discharges. But, hey, this will blow you away when I tell you that….. according to our calculations….. and geology samples, the old inglenook is made of compounds and base metals that make it a perfect albeit giant clumsy but effective…. recording studio. Equal quantities of carbon, magnesium and lithium crystal coupled with electro-magnetic discharges…. make it possible for it to behave as any regular tape machine for noise.” The lad licked his well guarded buck teeth and stopped at last. Almost lost for very long words.
Gina sat down with a thump like she had been machine gunned.
“A fireplace that doubles for a bed-sized boom box? What do they teach you in that place?….Next you will be telling me my pantry is a personal stereo… for bloody… fat people…do you blokes dream at night ..or what?
The long streak of bacon crouched in front of her and took his pebble glasses off to reveal eyes far smaller. He gave the unabridged version.
“I believe…we believe… your fireplace is a network of crude electro-magnetic statics that under certain conditions transfer or telecommunicate actual audible sound bytes…yeah, you got me… from yesteryear to the present… via high fidelity. Minerals organised in the material mimicking normal bias magnetic tape. It’s a wonderful conundrum. Microelectronics that monitor and tape sound from a basic circuit system that is self- generating and combines all the elements… much the same as a cassette machine. Your grate… has all the ingredients for registering sound waves and storing them for ions of time. It rewinds and fast forwards….. like a copycat pedal on a electric guitar. It’s basic physics. Bye, Mrs Blythe and thanks again.” The slither of a lad piled the rest of the gizmos into his trunk and joined the rest of his budding boffins in a revving campervan.
Gina was not so thankful in the knowledge that she was now expected to share the night with a fireplace that had probably taped her in the throes of multi-orgasm not a few hours before and then would probably play it back to her aging parents on Mother’s day.
The whole thing left her cold. She switched on the central heating that sounded like and overworked sludge pump starting up and climbed upstairs for an early night.
The rental agents had not told her that her house resembled a sound rig, second only to Fat Boy Slim at Knebworth. She did not notice that information on the flyer.
At least she could sleep like a baby safely tucked up and be sure that any intruder could be foiled by her fireplace. It would be more efficient than a CCTV surveillance camera.
“Bollocks… to bloody back to the future, bollocks.” She cursed at wasting five hundred and fifty pounds on four bob-a-job boy scouts who went away leaving her scared shitless.
That night she dreamt the dream again. The house at Christmas. All the gents with their handlebar moustaches. The women in tight crisp bodices and aprons. The faces all ruddy and glowing. Children, with toffee apples skipping around a giant oak table strewn with good pewter. Then the knock…..the half naked man slumped….why…can she see everything in detail apart from his face? She always woke up with her nightdress drenched and her heart thudding on her ribs. The white noise again. She knew it was only psychic physics, quantum-bio-dammit, whatever, but why did she feel so scared to venture downstairs? God knows, it was only a sodding fireplace. A fireplace, that spoke? A fireplace, that sung? A fireplace, Christ knows.. that…wept?
She was a successful hi-powered business executive who had traveled the world and seen at least two of the seven wonders. She had survived a bad marriage, the recession, enough grog to kill ten men and now she was terrorised by her own permanent fixtures. What kind of crap Stephen King film was she in, anyway?
Slipping on slippers. Stepping down steps and bearing her trusty broom she trod towards the familiar noise she mistook for unwanted guests who had wanted to doss.
She told herself.
“Gina, its been explained to you. Its nothing but a logical bit of scientific tom-foolery. It will probably be a sensation in the papers for about ten seconds. You get a few hundred for the story and some freaks in duffel coats poking around for a while. Yesterday’s’ news. Except, I have to get some sleep and that dream always triggers the bloody grate off again. Oh, Christ, what if those kids with degrees in gobshite had watched too many episodes of Quantum Leap instead of sticking to Pokemon? Gina,… what if its a bloody poltergeist, or shit like that? Remember when you saw ‘Carrie’ and crapped yourself at the bit the hand shot out of the ground. Jesus its louder than last time……….. Oh, Gina you silly bitch, go back to London…….. This place is like Transylvania with fucking warts an all. Remember, what the preacher said,………….. he’s pooping his pants and he has bloody God on his side. Oh, God, no…………. That door is moving of its own accord……….Oh Gina, God its cold, I’m frozen up my arse,………… that smell again,………… saurkraut cooking, jeeze it stinks……..”
She was at the door and remembered how it seemed to throw her to the ground, effortlessly. Gina looked around, the noise deafening and the kid crying in the background. Gina was crying to. It was striking terror.
She felt herself urinate involuntarily. She had bitten her lip until her teeth had met.
Flashes of light. Lasers that twisted into fingers of blue danced around the architrave. The door violently shaking and flexing. She looked helplessly around the scullery for something to inspire and defend her. Thoughts of her nightmare and the preacher flocked into her head. The door belched its noxious smell and a giant flash of electrical discharge leapt at Gina pinning her against the dresser. It lifted her up the wall fizzing and clicking all around her. The feeling was like the wall of death at the fairground when the floor fell away with the centrifugal force. She loved that ride. She was not at the fair and she was not having a good time. It was not centrifugal force it was the curse of the man in her bad dream. It was the crying girl. It was a dark secret held here for hundreds of years in this seething sinister house that had now found its scapegoat. Gina was meeting her evil adversary at point blank range.
The unmentionable material had hit the fan. The house was wreaking its powerful vengeance on her for ignoring its many warnings. She was the loss of its patience. This must feel like an out of body experience. As far as near death experiences go this was as near as Gina wished it to be. The fingers of light. Gina screamed but made no sound. The blue twisting light enveloped her pulling her towards the door of her antique cooker and needles of pain shot through her head. Windows blew out in a frenzy. Blue sparks dragged her toward the cooker feet first. The giant Aga threw its front door open with a raging furnace within. Knobs clicked and turned clockwise, unaided. The noise of laughter and crying became distorted and maniacal.
Gina struggled to pull a pan from the sink and smashed it in every direction. The blue force snatched it from her bandaged hand and tossed it around the room in a demonic fandango. Hideous arms of light gripped her thighs tight together, as if she was being roped with electrical barbs, writhing around her. Taking her captive like a colossal octopus of energy. Prising into her flesh. She screamed again in muted silence. The sobbing and laughter in competition with each other. Louder and louder. The gaping inferno burned red hot. She felt the heat on the soles of her feet. She could not bend her legs. The light pulled her closer. Her feet only inches from the furnace. She felt the soles of her feet blister and she fought to break free. The oven door sucked her toes inside. The searing heat, insufferable. The flames touched her raw bare flesh. She let out a scream. No noise came from her mouth. She passed out. She came to, to see her feet aflame. Her nightdress igniting. The agony of her feet turning black with charred flesh and her body fat dripping from the burning bones. She thrashed her body to get free of the fingers of light. She passed out again.
She woke. Her feet were burned away. She flailed wildly, and shouted.
“You crazy bastard house, leave me alone, do you hear? Get the fuck away.” She fell to the floor. Flesh, fell from her shins like that on a over cooked turkey.
The house chose it.
She looked up to see Jodie wearing a worried frown and dabbing her head with a pair of oven gloves.
“Did yer fall over? Yer been out cold for some toim. Oi think it’s a tucha concussion. Never noon a gel loik yer get inna scrapes, loik it.”
Into focus came dimples and that reassuring flop of hair.
She sat up expecting to see an empty space where her feet should be. A couple of smouldering stumps.
She had dreamt the dream. But it had evolved into another dimension. It was abstract somehow. She was there, but somehow not. Like a strange premonition, so real, it was like a preview of what will happen. It was hard to tell which part was real and which was her imagination. Did she hallucinate? Had she been drugged? It felt like it. She remembered everything so clearly. At what point did fact turn to fiction? It was like some torture ritual.
Crippled with fire. To stop her from what? Escaping? A portent or symbolic warning because of her refusal to leave? Or was it because she was now part of the history of the house? Was the bloody fireplace a camcorder too? Could it throw up such images or create its own video game, with her starring in it? Virtual reality, produced, from the mantle piece? Maybe she was finally losing it. Greener than duckweed. Battier than a monkey on a stick.
Her silly back to front kitchen clock said four in the afternoon. She had lost a day somewhere.
Jodie stroked her hair.
“Oh fuck, I think I kind of, fainted. I went to bed and then ……oh, it doesn’t matter, this house will be the death of me……what am I saying…God Almighty… just don’t take any notice of me and pass me a beer out of the fridge…..sorry, Jodie. I’ve got a touch of the screaming abdabs. I feel a bit daft. My dreams night and day are really weird at the moment. They make the X-files look like Postman bleedin’ Pat. Have you come to finish the ‘hoosit’, you were fixing. The doohicky-oojah-thingy, you know, the skylight jams?”
“Now stay sat sitting ‘ere. There, have a drop of Cooka Coola. That grog’ll knock you all oover the shop..there sup up. Bugger, its fair old egg on ya swede. Stack me, yool ‘ave a roit bast’d behoind yer oi’s, you watch!”
The gentle giant soothed her head that felt like a thousand soda syphons let off between her ears. He was right, it was a corker of a skull ache. She was fed up with doing battle with the supernatural for one day and fancied a quiet night in having this lovable redneck nibble her extremities. She loved how he nibbled.
“Do you fancy a bite?” Gina was looking forward to either. She jumped up feeling momentarily like she had risen too fast and suffered the ‘bends’. She snapped the fridge door open revealing some dubious remains that were enjoying a metormorphis but still very lifelike. A giant half consumed pork pie leapt into her hand with a jar of Greek olives. She pulled a very large French loaf from the umbrella stand.
“ How can you enjoy this body of mine, without brunch?…A way to a man’s heart and all that twee bullcrap..blah-de-blah…come on sex on legs, let me make a fuss of you. Call it payment for services already rendered.”
“Oid prefer carsh!” He grinned his dimpley grin.
“You saucy bloody sod, you..” Gina bopped him over the head snapping the panier stick like a carrot. He playfully snatched the loaf from her and chased her around and out of the scullery rugby tackling the squealing victim to the ground. Covered in straw dust they rolled into each others arms as one of her dainty breasts spilled from her shirt and his mouth found the large pink nipple readily.
Her headache soon went.
They rolled around, swapping tonsils. He admired her sensuality. A pert, cellulite free form. For a woman towards forty. He towered above her yielding body. Both of them, tearing at eachother’s clothes.
“Oim spose ta be muckspreadn’ an’ milkin’ ‘amorra.” Wrestling with his braces and his conscience.
She thought briefly of man’s domination over the animal kingdom. How a cow can be milked by machine and man need not be there. Yet, the cow had to be present in whatever the scenario.
“Well you spread your muck right here and I’ll milk you dry, big boy.” She giggled and pouted, teasing him. She reached into his trousers and found something that hard, a cat could not scratch it. She looked into his lagoon-like eyes and her own widened expectantly.
“Doesn’t Mr Wiggles want to go to Snuggleland, den, snookums, eh?” Putting on her babiest voice and tugging hard at his love muscle.
“Oi’ll tell you summit, yoor randier than a cart horse at Tattersalls and dirtier than moi tractor …give us a wriggle ya little tart.”
There was something Gina loved about the country. It had nothing to do with ginger marmalade, church fetes and duck ponds.
Jodie had a way with words. He had been getting away with it too long.
When you are divorced, alone and eligible suitors of her class were several light years travel away, she naturally fantasised about the stray roughtrade. She was no beach-bunny anymore but God had been gracious with what was left of her body after two kids and a backlog of booze. Being horny was like coming home for Gina. She, recently a believer in safe sex. The change of plan after two trips to the clinic stopped her fun for a while. She woke up with some uninvited little guests that were very hard to evict. The story of her life at the moment. From that day on she carried the ‘mice sleeping bags’ everywhere. She could snap on a R.J to a panhandle, quicker than a guy could take it out of the foil.
They were both playing a game of “wheelbarrow”, when China jumped from the skylight emitted a screeching howl. The swooping cat spat in mid air before running its extended claws down the length of Jodie’s bare back. He yelped and Gina on all fours gasped with passion trying to synchronise, what she thought, was his pinnacle of ecstasy. It was not orgasm, but a frenzied feline gouging his flesh, that made him roar. He pulled away from their bodie’s lock.
“Jaaaazus… the baasstaaard cat az fetched me one. Oi’ll skin thuz fukkin’ aloiv iffen oi carch the beggar, so ‘elp meez oi will.” Jodie squirmed with discomfort.
Tugging her knickers on, Gina was surprised at her elderly cat’s schizophrenic behaviour, and watched it hide in the fire place. It scratched inside the hearth grate feverishly and looked back over at its puzzled owner.
“ I’m buggered why she did that, are you alright Jode? Sorry sweetie, let me get some TCP.”
“Don’t fret woman, oiv ad worse. Yoo ain’t be scrarched ‘til yoov ‘ad to work razzar wire. Take ya oiy out it does.” He pulled his shirt and winced as she dabbed on the stinging fluid from an upturned bottle onto a cotton ball.
“Any oold way I bess be orf, nay ‘arm done. I’ll bring moi gundarg next time. ‘Eel ‘ave tha’ moggy fer a snark ‘e will.”
Gina watched her cat frantically paw at the dusty corner of the fireplace. She called after him with some urgency. She had an idea.
“Jody, wait, I need your help tomorrow. Look I will pay you, but you have to do a job for me.”
She pleaded, her face lit up with anticipation.
He squiggled his more ‘holy than righteous’ stocking feet into his muddy cuffed wellies.
“Wassart gel, oim flat on me arse wi’ work. I tole ye.”
“Fifty pounds for a mornings work and bring a sledge hammer, don’t let me down, now, promise me.” Gina pleaded.
“Fifty nicker to do wart.” He said pulling his cap too far over his eyes in that ‘nobby’ country way.
“Never mind, just be here at nine, is it deal?” She rubbed his groin at the open door for better effect. The dimples found their way onto his face. He flicked his fringe back and it fell exactly back to its original position as always and he nodded.
“Roit then, noine ‘tis then.” He jammed back the sticky door, waved and whistled.
That night the dream duplicated again and returned. The house at Christmas. The knock at the door. The man with no face. She woke up crying and with the corner of the duvet tight in her fists under her chin. She swung her legs around onto the ground and hunched on the side of the bed nodding to and fro.
For ten nights on the run the same dream. A festive gathering in an earlier time. Laughing people happy with friends and family. Shrimps with hardboiled eggs and potted ham. Gina remembered every tiny detail. Every carol played by the man in the bowler hat. The myriad of candles in wine bottles. Children with orange and walnuts for stocking fillers. The knock at the door. The knock was loud and deliberate. Everybody knew by that knock, that all was not well. When the door opened,… the man falling forwards, weak, without any more strength to even raise his arms to break the fall…. The silence…. The hidden face. The birch lash marks on his back……..
The curtain fell on the dream and it was like this last sad character that marred that Christmas was still very much a part of the house. In the dream he seemed to deliberately hide himself from her. It was her dream. He could not stop her dreaming. At that point each time. With her insomnia came frustration but at last she knew that it came down to the fireplace. The cats stoic fascination with the monstrous chunk of chimney. The psychic students were pretty intrigued. The sobbing child. But nothing but firebrick and a cast iron canopy.
It was dark she consumed an entire bottle of Fitou while she studied every last detail of this feat of ancient engineering. She walked up and down towards it. Side by side along it. She caressed every stone feature and contour. She ran her light fingers like inquisitive feathers along the sleeper lintel, and the hammered granite. Its marble side that had cracked and flaked with the expansion and contraction of many log fires over many decades. She stooped and looked up the chimney. She stared into an upside down abyss. Gina coughed as she sniffed the sooty damp air. Something did not fit. For all its splendor a fire had not been lit for a considerable amount of years.
The last tenants lived for just three months at Waterwitch house back in the late seventies. The soot had not been added to, for much longer. The breast was sectioned off by a large heavy damper that was set in to the stonework. It had been put out of commission before for what seemed much longer. Surely up until one hundred years ago, this was the only form of heat in the house. That is, until the Aga. Gina had a flashback of that part of the dream where she is forced by some dynamic surge of the supernatural and like an oven at Auchwitz she was being shoved feet first to burn alive. She shuddered.
There must of been a place to keep the wood. There were no outbuildings. That load-bearing chimney breast simply backed onto a paddock. She picked up a her garden spade that she had used to clear chicken-shit off all the floors. Gina leant down and jabbed the rear of the hearth striking the back of the firehearth. Lumps of masonry and crumbling firebrick fell away. It sounded hollow. She took the spade and ran out of the house and climbed a broken wooden fence swathed in ivy. She fell to the other side. She ran around the entire circumference of the house looking for a chimney. She saw none. Then there, before her was a brick extension to the original chimney breast that had been demolished. A small sloping tiled roof on a solid brick lean to. A different brick had been used to close up what was possibly a wooden door. It started to drizzle rain. Gina poked the bricks with all her strength using the corner of the flat of the spade. The soft and old limeplaster came away from the Cambridge white ‘handmades’ like pastry. She worked faster grunting and panting. She cursed and spat as she stabbed at the loosening brick. Light faded as she realised she had forced an aperture just four bricks in diameter and poked them inside the small shed. She pulled another brick out with her hands. Fresh blood oozed through the crepe bandage. She stopped to catch her breath and sitting and half lying on the mud she peered inside the small hole. The pungent air made her gag.
She could see nothing. She ran back inside the house and looked for a torch only to find it out of batteries she would have to wait until morning to continue her search.
She fell asleep on her futon excited with her brick breakthrough. If her hunch was right and she dreamed the dream again. It might give her the vital clue to the bizarre welcome this house bade her the day she moved in. If she knew the secret of the house, she could free the bad karma and she would herald power over her property instead of feeling toyed with. She could relate to her new home. There would be no hard feelings at least between her home and her. She could bond with her dwelling. She did not believe in haunted houses, but she read somewhere that houses have feelings too. A Feng Shui philosophy. A Theory upheld thateach home holds emotion. Comforts those in pain. Gina thought of the old saying “walls have ears”. That cliche had a lot to answer for.
She had been through a emotional meat-grinder and so had her new home. It was time to communicate. After all, isn’t it just part of our tribal instinct. The Aboriginals and the North American Indian, Aztecs and Incas all related to their living environment. Their dwelling became a very spiritual place. Shamens and Druids, to her local pisshead priest cannot function unless, there is peace, in whatever house they choose to live. Gina was not going to be beaten by superstition or blinded by science. Neither was she going to allow an inanimate, sick building intimidate her.
Warts and all.
She spent the night awake sat in her wardrobe with a breadknife in her lap. She would never asleep again without exposing the secret of the house. Right now, she wanted Jodie by her side more than anyone.
At sunup she crept out to the east of the house and scaled the fence this time with a scotch hammer and bolster from her lovers toolbag, that she found scattering its innards in the middle of the scullery floor. It was a bright morning with a heavy dew. She walked towards the brick lean to and knelt down to examine the tiny crude hole she had feebly made the night before. Newer bricks in the side where once a wooden hatch had been. It must be the coal bunker. Gina hammered the mortars joints ineptly, hitting her sore hand the first time she tried.
“Balls, oh well, if at first…..” she cut herself off from a very tired cliché and persevered with zest.
She pulled each brick from its home and tossing them aside and after about half an hour extricated enough to produce a gaping hole some two foot wide.
Her eyes screwed together and she sneezed from the, stale pungency. Not a smell you could describe. Rotting vegetables and human waste? A smell, that jogged her memory. She knew that smell well. Not unlike the odour that met her on the first night of her dream.
She started work as a registered nurse before chemotherapy was an option. She knew the noxious smell of cancer and gangrene. She had a strong stomach and had prepared the dead or “coffin dodgers” as they were unprofessionally, nicknamed. Broken bodies who died in agony. Poor souls who simply lost their fight. Stale urine and reeking fecal matter were an everyday occurrence on her shift. She dealt with vagrants covered in lice. Infected, ulcers and bedsores.
The smell of death was like lily of the valley compared to this.
When she had the solemn task of having to prepare the deceased patients for the morg, or, when she ‘laid them out’ she was told to always open the window. It was a ritual. Some staff thought it held a special spiritual significance. To release the soul. A gesture of respect. More often it was because the dead were so diseased and rancid it was the next best thing for nurses to do than have to wear scuba gear.
The ghastly stench made her heave to expel the stifling fumes and filthy spores from her lungs. She wailed quietly with disgust. She was committed now and past the point of no return. Pausing, her eyes met something that was more than an just an atrocity. It was the most grisly and abysmal spectacle before her. Horror, of all horrors. Gina choked with grief and broke down.
What she beheld made her clutch her chest with her bandaged hand and she wept with bitter tears of sympathy. With pity that seeped from every pore. She shook with emotion. So moved, ironically, she could not move. For there through the dusty dank air was a decaying figure on a skeletal frame. A bent and hunched tiny body of a girl of toddler years. Half preserved in her strange tomb, she was dressed in a long cotton smock or old fashioned nightdress. The fabric had fallen into holes. The fine lace thread through the neckline filthy and with her bones sticking through the shoulders. Her hair was in a bun matted and caked in dirt and dust. Her skull was tipped to one side and her small hands clasped to her mouth. Tight in her fleshless hands, held so delicately, was the corner of a decomposed blanket that she had drawn up to her open mouth. Her knees tucked under her little chin. She had died with some sort of swaddling around her feet and lower legs. The puckered lace edge of her ‘nightie’ singed and charred. A candle holder was by her interwoven feet. She had a piece of coal in her right hand and from what Gina could see had etched a figure on the white brick. It looked like a long-tailed bird. She had taken her time drawing it as she probably took a long time to die. She had left some kind of clue as to her untimely end.
It looked like a sketch of a pheasant.
A rain soaked brown rat scurried out of the hole and flicked its thick long tail in Gina’s face. She shrieked and fell backwards onto the grass with her hands over eyes. Sorrow for this slip of a girl and struck by the manner she met her end burst from her in an explosion of heart rending tearfulness. She had witnessed the secret. The secret of Waterwitch house.
“No, oh, please God have mercy on this little mite, oh, no, no, no, NO, NO!”
She rolled with her face in her hands from side to side and as each hand fell to her side. She realised what she had to do. What she had to do for the dead little girl. For her memory. For her dignity.
She had to tell someone. She opened her streaming eyes and coming into focus was the face in her dream. The face of the man that fell through the door covered in blood. It was Jodie standing over her. Gina picked herself up. He was holding something upside down. Hanging by the tail was a corpse dripping blood. It was China.
Gina gasped and stepped back as he advanced.
His expression was not of humble country charm any more. His blue eyes were black and filled with revenge. They were like walking into a darkened room. Instead of dimples there was rage and hate.
“Its you, you bastard, you fucking sick bastard. They should of grassed you up and watch you swing, you fucking arsehole. You stinking evil bastard. Instead they protected you and you murdered them all. God help you, you shit, you fucking scumbag.”
Gina picked up one of the bricks she had hammered away and threw it aiming for his head as he advanced. He dropped the dead cat and caught the brick with the same hand as if it were a tennis ball. He crushed it to powder, making a slow fist
“You doont knew the power of moi God. So ize gonna shew ya.” He stooped to pick up yet another brick and pursued the stumbling woman in front of him. His step quickened. He blazed at Gina.
“Yooz city fook are all the same. You comes ‘ere with ya fancy clooves. Never bin chained to other blooks an’ made to break rocks, hide in hools, an’ kip in treebranches eatin’ roots an’ berries to stay aloiv. Men hunting yer loik dargs.”
There was a break in his voice.
A catch of remorse from a dead psychopath cut no ice with her.
She was still reversing at speed. If she was auditioning for her own death and there were prizes given for a show of sheer guts, then she had more than a Sainsbury’s abattoire.
“You piece of shit, you did that to her, didn’t you? I’ve shagged some twats in the past, but never a child murderer. Especially a one hundred and fifty year old appa..bloody….rition.”
Gina fell to the floor in uncontrollable laughter.
Her stalker stopped and looked down on who was ridiculing him and his puzzlement turned to violence.
Not before one more jibe from the giggling Gina.
“ Well, there’s a first time for everything. To be honest, Casper our unfriendly ghost here is crap in bed. You weren’t exactly going bump in the night, all night were you?” She jeered with contempt in her eyes.
She was lying of course. The sex was great but she was not in a complimentary mood and insults against his lack of carnal prowess was the only weapon to hand.
“..Tell that to the rest of your mates on the other side, you gobshite.” She looked up, expecting they were her last words. She was right.
The brick came down and burst her skull like a ripe watermelon.
The next day Father Sturgeon heard whistling at the rear of the house. He had celebrated his powerful sermon with few ‘low flyers’ in the Tinker’s Arms.
Jodie was cementing the last brick in the brick hut. He cut the brick in half with the edge of his trowel and looked up to see the inquisitive Pastor who by his swagger was as pissed as a skunk in a trunk.
“ Mornink, ish the lady (hic) of the housh in? He belched and tried to fix his sprung and escaping dogcollar without success.
Jodie flicked back his mop and sliced some mortar from the wheelbarrow on the tip of the brick.
“ Oi believe sheez gorn and left back for the ‘smook’. Upped and boogered off withoot a word, Farther. Left unner cover of darkness and left her clobber an nat too.” Jodie threw the trowel with a flick, like a dart into the muck board. He put his hands on his hips and looked down his nose at the swaying vicar as if to challenge a response.
The vicar scooted around on his heels as if to pan the area and fell against the fresh brickwork pushing two bricks inside the wall. A woman’s bandaged and bloodied hand fell out. It was inches from his purple nose.
“Ere steady Farther, thartz tekken me all mornin’ to fix that ‘an noo yerv busted it tall up. That was very daff verger, carn’t ‘ave you interfurrin’ in my proivate bersiness. Noo can oi?
The vicar grabbed his crucifix and snapped it from around his neck.
“ Get behind me Satan. No, have mercy. Beelzebub… repent…..”
Jodie was smiling and quietly and confidently, he picked up his trowel and grabbed the little mans throat.
“Prince of Darkness…Lucifer…be gone…..I beg you…God the Father, God the Son….
Forgive them Father for he knows not what he does….
CLERGYMAN FOUND DEAD, HUNT FOR WOMAN STARTS TODAY.
The Reverend Albert Sturgeon, aged fifty nine, was found dead in Thetford forest on Friday.
The man was thought to have died while trying to climb out of a rangers compound. His body was found draped over a five foot razor wire fence. The barbs had severed a main artery in his leg and he had bled to death. The coroner submitted his report and Father Sturgeon was found to have six times the limit equivalence of alcohol in his bloodstream allowed for driving. He was clutching a pheasant that had been snared and was still alive. Giving forensic scientists an approx time of death of nine a.m on Friday of last week. It is thought he died trying to rescue the bird from poachers. A woman’s library card was found at the scene. It belonged to a new resident to Hockwold. Mrs Genevieve Blythe, who disappeared the same day as the reported death. Police are asking local people who may know of her whereabouts to contact Thetford constabulary immediately to eliminate this witness from their enquiry. An incident room is being set up at Thetford forest information centre at Santon Downham.