I'm currently working on a whodunnit, which starts more like a 'who got done'. Read chapter 1 below. If you're keen to read more, please fill out the contact form and I'll invite you along as I write more.
The incident, part 1
When terrible things happen to ordinary people, they can give rise to monsters.
It’s in the pool. Bobbing gently. Up and down. Up and down. The back of its coat, inflated like a balloon, presses above the surface resembling a swimming buoy. I hoped it would sink more quickly. I could get closer and push it down with my boot, forcing out the trapped air. But I mustn’t touch it. I mustn’t leave even the most microscopic part of myself behind.
The wind picks up, whipping strands of damp hair around my face. I’ve stayed too long. The chirp of a cheeky robin draws my attention for a moment, and I look up for the first time since I’ve been here. I’m surrounded by ancient red and orange trees swaying gently in the wind, accentuated by the dull greys of the sky. Each gust releases a leafy waterfall of colours so bright I can almost taste them. I look down at my feet again, they’ve sunken into a soggy carpet of autumn’s-end mulch.
I recognise a variety of shapes beneath me – most of them common to the area – oval Beech foliage along with Horse Chestnut and the double-sided-undulating Oak that mirrors the surrounding hills. I spot a lone Japanese Maple leaf, resembling a chicken’s foot cut at the metatarsus. I squint a little through the distance to identify its source – the wispy leaf has travelled a fair way to its final position. It’s almost out of place. Hard chestnut spikes push out from mulch. Like tiny hedgehogs.
Finally, the coat gives way and large bubbles break the surface with slow plops. It drops slightly. Smaller bubbles escape from its head. Then it drifts down further, slowly. Very. Slowly.
Somewhere far away, an engine hums. I listen cautiously as it grows louder and then disappears into the pitter-patter of the droplets. It’s probably headed to The White Hart, the only public establishment for miles. A pub frequented by groups of fox hunters who’ve found tenuous loopholes around hunting laws. They’re particularly lively after Sunday morning chases, downing local ales and chatting enthusiastically about their achievements (as though the foxes had any chance against them). They blend together with crimson and navy coats, heavy consonants and droning cackles. By now The White Hart will be alive with animated tales. They’ll be slapping each other’s backs and comparing their bloody stories, before heading home to play the consummate gentleman at the head of their table.
The rain gathers momentum, bashing the trees and creating a fresh layer of multicolours on the ground. Ground that’s ripe for capturing footprints and other things best not left behind.
I sniff hard and rub my nose with the back of my gloved wrist. I push my hair away from my eyes and have a good look at my surroundings. Everything seems different. The house is further away than I remember. And the garden seems far bigger. Its climbing frame, once red, is now matted pink, desolate in the far-right corner; abandoned by the shrieks of excitable children. ‘Will it ever bring joy to anyone again?’ I ask myself. And then wonder if, in fact, if it ever had.
Ring ring. The sound of my mobile phone pulls me out of my thoughts. Her name runs across the screen.
“Why are you ringing me now?” I hiss.
“You need to get out of there. She’s on the way.”
“10 minutes or so. I’m sorry, I couldn’t keep her longer. Please. Get out of there!”
I turn and take two quick steps, glancing back to see my impressions in the ground. In an instant the saturated earth swallows my footprints. A stroke of luck. I prance, as light-footed as possible in my heavy boots, towards the house. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Nine steps. Nine tiny puddles behind me.
The hum of another engine begins to grow in the distance. This one is more likely to be coming my way. Between deep breaths, I listen to it get louder and louder, desperately hoping it’s yet another White Hart patron. The hum starts to slow and grows even louder, forcing my heart to speed up. Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen.
Clunk. Screech. The electric gate begins to open. I’d thought about disconnecting the motor earlier but hadn’t expected to be round long enough to make it worth the time and evidence trail. Twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-thee, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight.
The humming grows louder and then cuts completely. Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three. The silver Land Rover settles on the driveway.
I tuck myself into the shadow along the side of the house. I can’t see her, or the Land Rover. I’m certain I cannot be seen either. I wait. Nothing happens. Several minutes pass. There is no movement. Not from me, not from her. We seem to be in the middle of a subconscious standoff.
The wind and rain soften. A rustle of dry, brown leaves swirl around my ankles as if to ease me out of their shelter. Then the air grows still making space for the sounds of my own mortality to echo through my skull. The pounding of my heart thuds painfully, along with the spasms of my lungs and the sound of blood rushing through my veins. A whole symphony takes over my head. Do-doof. Do-doof. Shoof-shoof-shoof-shoof. Haah. Haah. Haah. Haah.
I force myself out of my head and think about the body in the pool. It should be sinking at a pace by now. Maybe he’s settled at the bottom of the pool – where he’ll stay before methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and other gasses force him back to the surface again, or until someone pulls him out. The latter being far more probable.
Finally, I hear the Land Rover door open and snap closed again. I press my back into the cold of the wall, wishing I could push myself right through the bricks. I take a gulp of air and hold my breath in an attempt to control the short breaths going into my mouth uncontrollably. Haah-haah-haah-haah. My world is spinning slightly. I plant my feet into the ground and focus on remaining conscious and alert.
Her heels scrape against the concrete drive as she stands before walking towards the front door. Click, click click click, scrape, click, click, scrape, scrape. There should be approximately 15 steps from her car to the front door. I realise I’m holding my breath as I count her ninth step. I drop my shoulders and shake them slightly, then I unfurl my hands, rub them and then relax them at my sides. It won’t be long. In a couple of minutes, I’ll be able to nip out the open gate. No one will know I was here. I wipe my wet nose with the back of my glove and rub both eyes a bit. It won’t be long.
Ring ring my phone shrieks! I shove my shaking hands into my pocket searching for the horrendous noisemaker. I tug at it and manage to get it out. It slides from my left hand to my right – and then out of my grip entirely. The phone flies forward with a sobering clack.
The ringing stops.
The clicking stops too.