Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Well Head Cottage

So, Do you remember Jean Duncan from The Girl in the Water?

Here she is again.

Chapter 1 

Jean Duncan took a deep breath, reached out, and unlocked the door to Well Head Cottage. When Diana Turnbull, had offered it to her for a few weeks, she had hesitated. Jean and James had been coming here for years and took their last holiday, just months before his death, in what had become a favourite place for walking, and getting away from his stressful job but where she could, if she felt like it, still work on her writing. She had thought that maybe the memories would be too painful. But, it would give her a chance to hide, out of the way, after the court cases that she had just endured. She could avoid the publicity surrounding her part in the capture of a gang of people traffickers, and the death of two young women refugees. It had been horrible and it would be good to get away from it all.

She had pushed aside her worries and accepted. There had been dozens of things just like this to face in the years since Jim died and she had learned that the best, no, the only way to deal with them was head on. There was work to do on her new novel, and she loved the cottage, so why not?

Lesley, had agreed to come, but then last-minute drama at her job had interfered. So, here she was, alone, about to step into her past, just a little bit.

It was warm in the narrow hallway, and the olfactory memory hit her like a gust of wind. Old wood, sun warmed dust, and the faint undertone of damp, and disinfectant. The local woman who looked after the place had obviously been, there was the hint of furniture polish in the mix of scents. She always left fruit from her orchards, and usually cheese and eggs from the farm shop, in the kitchen.

Jean let the atmosphere wash over her. She remembered the last time, Jim thumping about, bringing in their bags, shouting from the kitchen about getting to the pub in time for dinner, and then turning on the tap because he always had to run the water, ‘to clear the pipes’ even though he knew Mrs Smart from the farm had used the kitchen not long before.

Jean smiled, she could remember him now without the sharp stab of pain, and he would have wanted her to smile.

She went back outside. It was beginning to get dark. There was a chill in the air, but the smell of loam, and the feel of autumn was magical. She stood for a moment gazing at the purpling sky, the Welsh mountains looming grey in the distance. She enjoyed the quiet, with just the evening rustlings in the garden around her.

She was glad she had come.

Once the car was parked on the hard standing at the side of the little house, she carried her bags back inside, and dumped them in the hallway.

She had brought her sister’s case with her so that, when she came up at the weekend she could travel on the train with no luggage. She would give, Lesley the big double bedroom and take the twin at the back for herself. Some memories were still tinged with sadness and she didn’t want to feel sad.

The cottage was warm and clean, but she was surprised that there were no supplies in the fridge. It wasn’t that she had arranged it, just that it was usual. Milk, eggs, usually cheese and some veggies. Obviously, things had changed in the last couple of years. Still, she had food in a box in the car and some milk from home, which would still be fresh.  It was a tiny disappointment nothing more, and in the morning, she would go over to Hawks Farm, say hello to Doris Smart, and buy what she needed. The apples were there though, in a bowl on the kitchen table. She didn’t want apples, she wanted a big glass of red wine, something easy to eat, like, cheese on toast, and to sit and bask in the peace and quiet.

Tomorrow would be soon enough to start work. So, for this evening, she had music and a novel.  She lit candles, drank brandy, and allowed her nerves to unravel and let all the upset and distress drift away. Sitting on the settee, a blanket over her legs, warm and cosy, she could have stayed just there, just like that, forever.

The explosion of gun fire froze her in place for a moment, the glass half way to her lips. Then instinct jerked her from her seat and sent her scurrying into the corner. She had dropped the brandy glass and as she stood with her back against the wall, her heart pounding and all her nerve endings jumping with shock, she watched the amber liquid soaking into the sheepskin of the fireside rug.

There was a second sharp crack, a shout, and a flash of light, the beam of a torch, sweeping past the window. Jean was terrified. She had been involved in a shooting, too short a time ago, the pain and fear came rushing back, vague and unformed, tumbling emotions. Her mind was racing, trying to understand. Wild panic caused her to whimper into the gloom. There was the tramp of feet on the gravel drive, the rustle of bushes and just once the bark of a dog.

What the hell was going on?

 

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The Legacy

Chapters 1 to the final chapter have been removed for safe keeping. Just in case this ever does make it to publication. The final chapter will be available for another couple of days.

When I started it I didn’t intend it to but it’s grown a life of its own so we’ll see. If anyone is interested in reading just leave a comment and I will send you a pdf of the missing chapters to get ou up to date.

Cheers.

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The magic name changing WIP

Okay – Trevor, became Kevin and he has now become Mark. – Bear with. I’m a writer.

Chapter 7

Carol stood beside the little table in the hall, tears had tracked down her cheeks, dripped from the end of her chin and darkened the front of her pyjama top. In her hand the little notebook that they used for telephone messages and shopping lists quivered. She took in a deep breath and turned away.

She had feared that this might happen. Even though her friend had seemed stronger, seemed to be recovering, the darkness was still there as a shadow in the back of her eyes.

She went through to the dining room and booted up her laptop. She began to enter words into the address bar. She hadn’t told Flora what she had done, in the past, how she had thought she might help. It had never come to anything and she didn’t know whether the address would still be in the list.

Yes, there it was. An investigator locally. She had laughed on first seeing it. Why would a private detective set up in Ramstone? It was silly, but maybe it wasn’t really. This Simon Fulton may have his base in Ramstone but he could be everywhere, he was anywhere it was reasonable for him to travel to. She lifted the receiver.

“Simon Fulton.”

“Oh, hello. I thought I’d get your reception.” She glanced at her watch. Oh, God, I’m sorry it’s too early, I didn’t realise it was only seven.”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Who am I speaking to?”

“My name is Carol, Carol Price. I need your help.”

“Okay.”

“My friend has disappeared. She’s run away. We live together and all I have is a note from her. It tells me not to look for her and that she’ll come back when she’s sorted everything out.”

“Right. So, she’s just gone away for a while. I don’t see how I can help to be honest. I don’t really do searches for missing people, at least I haven’t up to now. But, seems to me that she’s just gone off to do something and when it’s done she’ll be back. I don’t see why you need me. Maybe you should just give her space, let her handle her business. Is she your girlfriend?” At his end Simon was standing in front of the window, rubbing at the sleep in his eyes and sipping his morning coffee. He had known there had always been a risk that he would be asked to search for missing partners, and indeed he had fielded several just such calls, even some for runaway children. He didn’t want the task with the associated heartbreak and betrayal that might accompany it. There were many other organisations much better equipped than he was. He didn’t want to be rude and as he was about to read out the number of the Salvation Army that he had stuck on his notice board for just these calls he heard the woman at the other end begin to sob.

“Please don’t be upset Carol. How long has she been missing?”

“She must have gone sometime during the night.”

“Well, you know, maybe she’ll be back very soon.”

“No, no you don’t understand. It’s dangerous, she could put herself in great danger. She’s not my girlfriend no, but I love her. Please, I need to find her quickly. I know you’re thinking I’m over reacting, that’s why I can’t go to the police, but you don’t know what’s happened. She’s fragile, just starting to get better, at least I thought she was. For a while now she’s been dealing with stuff and there’s Mark ?”

“Mark ?”

“Yes, he was her boyfriend. He vanished. They thought she’d killed him. Of course, she didn’t, but she always thought nobody believed her. Well, they didn’t not for a while and now she says she’s got to try and find him.  Please help me Mr Fulton.”

She sounded so desperate, frantic, he didn’t have the heart to turn her down. “Look, why don’t you come and see me? Are you local, where are you calling from?”

“Near Bradford, I can come there. I know Ramstone, a bit anyway. Where are you?”

“My office is in Stonebridge Road, off Bradford Road.”

“I’ll find it, I’ll use my Satnav. Do I need an appointment?” Simon smiled to himself, he had no other jobs, had nothing since the work he’d done for Charlie Clegg.

“I can fit you in this morning. Just come along when you’re ready. I’m in the office all morning as it happens.”

“Oh that’s brilliant. Thank you so much. I’ll come straight away. Thank you.”

As he clicked off the phone and swigged back the last of his coffee his forehead wrinkled in thought. This woman wasn’t even really missing was she, she had simply gone away for a while. He realised then that he hadn’t even asked for the girl’s name. He peered out into the grey morning. Gloria was away in Salford, looking at flats in a new development, he had no work, nothing planned. It would be good to pretend for a while that he was what his business card and website said he was. He would reassure this woman and maybe sometime in the future she would remember and tell someone who truly needed him that he was one of the good guys.

He went down to the office, it was tidy as always. There was no reason for it to be anything else, he pulled out a legal pad and wrote her name at the top of the page. He’d make it look as though he knew what he was doing. It was good practice at least and when all was said and done, she had called him so for this morning at least, he had a client.

 

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Chapter 4

So, something is happening with this. I have realised that I can actually make it into Book 3 of The Truth series – Quite exciting.

Chapter 4 

Carol sat on the settee beside her friend who, by now, had regained some of her composure. “Look, I know you’re upset, well of course you are, but you have to be rational about this. You should have thrown it away ages ago. I don’t know why you kept it.”

“I didn’t know what to do. For a long time his stuff was just there in his wardrobe, in the drawers. I couldn’t bear to look at them until that day. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was when the police had finally decided that I’d had nothing to do with whatever had happened. That Inspector, Carter, do you remember?” Carol nodded, “Well, he came to Mum’s, all smiles and sympathy to say I definitely wasn’t a suspect and did I need any victim support counselling. I was so angry. I needed help at the beginning, when it happened, when my life fell apart, that’s when I needed counselling, not weeks and weeks later when they had made it all worse by not believing a word I said. None of them believed that I couldn’t remember.” She shook her head and grabbing a tissue from the box on the side table she blew her nose. “Anyway, more than anything else I was angry. I was furious with the police, and his mum and dad because of the way that they’d behaved. Right from the start they blamed me, oh they never said anything up front, but I know they blamed me. We’d never got on. Well, I went back to the house that day. I was torn up with rage at the way I’d been treated, fuming and crying and then fuming again and in the end, all the anger focused on him. Trevor was the cause of it. I hated him, for what he’d done. No worry about whether he’d been killed, no sadness just anger. I blamed him for all of it. That was when I filled the case. I just dragged all his stuff out and shoved it in there and then carted it through to the spare room and stuck it in the corner.”

“Okay, I see that. And you’ve never opened it since?”

“No. Well I never really stayed there properly. Just a night now and then if me and mum had been cleaning or if they needed the spare room at home and I had no choice. Now and then I would look at it and wonder whether to throw it out. I was scared of doing it because for a long time I half expected the police to come back. It took ages for me to accept that it was all over. Well, you know that, you were with me through it, you kept me going.” They leaned together into a warm hug.

“I didn’t open it, just left it there in the corner, I blanked it. It was as if I couldn’t see it anymore. Then when I was sorting stuff to move out, well… … I wish I’d just thrown it all out, back then, months ago. I wish I’d never seen any of it again. I thought I was so much stronger by now, that I’d be fine. I truly believed I was getting over it and look. All come back – whoosh.”

“No, it hasn’t. You are strong. Look, what we’ll do – we’ll just take it to the tip tomorrow. I’ll go into work late. We’ll go as soon as it opens. You’ve seen now that it’s just his stuff and it’s all too difficult so we’ll just take it to the tip, fling it in the skip and then we’ll forget all about it.”

 

***

Flora didn’t sleep, although they had talked through her worries, Carol had tried to reassure her and calm her nerves but still the image of the suitcase and the articles inside wouldn’t leave her. She lay in the cosy darkness of her bedroom and went over it all again and again. Her therapist had told her not to hide from it, that she should face her fears, that if she did that maybe, in time the memory of the night he disappeared would come back and at last she would be able to shed some light on the mystery.

After a couple of hours yoga breathing, listening to relaxing music and the other “tricks”, to still the clamour in her mind, she threw back the covers. The nearest clothes were her soft sports pants and sweat shirt, she dragged them on over the T shirt that she used for sleeping in. The house was cooling, the heating had turned off. They had a light burning in the hall and the drapes were open so that the glow from a full moon smeared silver across the polished surfaces and deepened the shadows.

From the cupboard in the hall she dragged out a bag with shoulder straps. Back in the bedroom she stuffed in some underwear and toiletries and a couple of changes of clothes. She ran back into the hallway and pulled out her thick coat and a woollen hat, she slipped her feet into her favourite boots.

Stopping beside the little table in the hall she wrote a note on the shopping list pad. She grabbed her handbag and then as a second thought opened it, took out her purse and stuffed it into the front pocket of the travel bag discarding the rest. With a quick glance around she pulled open the door and stepped into the chill of the early hours.

She closed the gate behind her and looked to her left and right, unsure which way to turn her nerve almost failed her. This was not necessary; she could go back. Live here with Carol, move on and push the thought of Kevin into a box in the back of her mind. She could learn to live with the empty place that she carried. She hadn’t loved him any more. Their relationship had been finished. Maybe in the end she could learn to pretend that they had simply parted the way out of date lovers do. She looked down at her hand on the slick metal of the gate. All she needed to do was to push it inwards, slide back into the house and climb back into her warm bed, and carry on living the lie.

She turned to the left because that was the way the moon had laid a path and she strode away.

 

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Chapter 3

They poured another glass of red wine, pushed back the coffee table to make a space in the middle of the lounge floor and Carol carried it through.

It hadn’t benefitted from sitting in the corner of the damp garage and the handle came away as she had lifted it. She wrapped her arms as far around it as she could manage and, resting it against her front she staggered back into the house. “It’s huge is this. Why on earth did you buy one this size? You could never check it in on a flight, the weight of the case on its own would take you into excess baggage land.”

“Oh I know. Actually, it was never really used as a suitcase. Kevin had it in his flat at Uni, he used it for storage because it fit under his bed. It was a cheap one bought specifically for that and we just carried on.”

“Is it locked?”

“No. The locks have never worked as far as I know and it didn’t matter.” Carol stood aside, her hands on her hips, looking down at the big, old brown case.

“So do you want me to do it, or are you going to?”

Flora moved nearer, “Here, I’ll do it” on her knees she bent forward and with her thumbs, clicked open the small metal fasteners. She took a deep breath and then grasped the edges of the lid and with a flourish she threw it backwards.

For a moment, she was quiet looking down and then she stood, stiffly, her eyes fixed on the suitcase. She shook her head and then backed away into the corner of the room. She crouched in the corner and began to whimper.

“What! What! Christ, what’s the matter?” Carol ran to her friend and enfolded her, “Ssssh, sssh. It’s okay, it’s okay. Flo, I’ve got you. It’s all okay. I’ll take it away. Don’t cry I’ll just take it away. I told you not to didn’t I? I told you not to.” Flora was shaking her head now, tears soaking the front of Carol’s jumper. Her whole body was trembling and her streaming eyes were wide with distress. “Hush, come on now, come on. Just breathe. It’s all okay.” Carol had held her often in the throes of the panic attacks that were so much a part of life for the first weeks after Kevin had vanished. She had thought that was over and now here was Flora, gulping for breath, shaking and sobbing, her fingers digging painfully into Carols arm.

“I can’t, I just can’t.” From where they were, crouching in the corner Carol turned and peered across at the case. From what she could see there was nothing to explain this reaction. She had expected it to be difficult but this total, over the top panic had her nonplussed.

“It’s okay love. It’s just his clothes, some of his stuff. It’s okay, there’s nothing to be frightened off, it’s just stuff.”

“It’s his stuff, God Carol it’s all his stuff. Look, his football medals, the trophy from that daft golf tournament he went to. It’s his life, not just his stuff?”

“I know, I know.” As she rubbed at her back Carol urged her up from the floor. Look come on, get on the settee, have a drink of your wine. Breathe, just breathe. Calm down now Flo. Just calm down.”. She reached out with her foot, slid it underneath the lid and flipped it back over the top, hiding the contents of the case.

Flora took a big gulp of the wine and struggled to gain control.  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry Carol. It was just such a shock. I’m okay. I am, I’m okay now. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be silly, don’t apologise. It was forced to be difficult.”

“No, no you don’t understand. I wanted him to go, do you see? I wanted us to split up. That row was just the last. There’d been so many and I wanted him to. But, not like that, I just wanted him gone, but not like that.”

“Of course not. I know, I know. Look, you just need to get rid of it, but it’s okay we’ll do it together and then you can forget all about it.”

“No, no I can’t. I won’t ever be able to, I’ll never be free of him. If he’d gone. Like I told him that night. I told him to get lost, sometimes I can remember bits of that row and I know I said that to him. ‘Get lost you loser.’ I said that to him. But I didn’t mean this. I didn’t mean any of it to happen the way it did.”

“Well, of course not. Look we knew, Waleed and me, we knew things were bad between you but I know you would never have wished him any harm. Don’t go back there again, back into the darkness. You’ve fought so hard to move on. Don’t go back.”

“I was so angry. I just threw his stuff in. I didn’t fold it. I didn’t wrap it up properly. I didn’t do any of that, I just stuffed it all in.”

“It doesn’t matter, look it’s all going on the tip, so it’s not important. Listen to me, listen. Even if he did come back, and let’s be honest if he was going to it would have happened by now. Wherever he’s gone he’s not going to need this stuff. It’s rubbish, it’s finished.”

“I don’t feel as though it’s ever going to be finished though. I was feeling so strong, so happy here and now it’s all come back.”

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