Hambourne Noirish

Today’s tale carries on from Saturday’s story. As a newcomer to Hambourne, Charlotte could never have imagined that attending a few meetings of Happy Hambourne Creatives would have led to her being a possible murder suspect.

Charlotte felt three pairs of eyes piercing into her soul, surely she wouldn’t be one of the suspects, just because Robert Falstaff had been scathing about her novel languishing on Amazon Kindle and her blog.

There was an awkward pause then Erica suddenly started laughing.

‘Even poor Danny could not have thought of a murder or plot this bizarre.’

Charlotte was a little taken aback that there could be laughter so soon after Robert’s death, but at least the tension was broken and the attention taken off her.

‘Er… you mean Danny from the Happy Creatives group?’

‘Yes, he’s been rather quiet lately, but for years he’s been sending off scripts to the BBC, hoping to be the next Sunday night detective drama. He was always hoping Robert would put a word in for him, with all his supposed connections.’

‘Come on Erica, Mini’ said the third friend ‘time we all went, I don’t want to get a parking ticket.’

Charlotte found herself alone again, she should be going, but with all the morning’s drama she could not recall what she had planned to do after coffee, or was she planning to decide what to do while relaxing at the lovely Hambourne Refectory? She thought about poor Danny, rather a lost little soul she had felt, the couple of times she had seen him at the meetings. She could sympathize and now any hopes they both had of Robert introducing them to ‘someone’ at the BBC or on the literary scene were gone. Life was stranger than fiction, not just a cliché, but supposing it wasn’t. She imagined Danny thinking up a murder plot, wondering if it could realistically be played out and who better to try it out on than a man he resented, envied, even hated?

She stood up abruptly, checked her bag and made swiftly for the door, as if staff and customers might read her dangerous thoughts

Charlotte couldn’t leave those thoughts behind, but she could transfer them to her new heroine. As she walked through Hambourne Abbey’s graveyard the first chapter was already taking shape in her mind.

Recently widowed Lotte Lincoln had moved to the quaint town of Puddleminster looking for peace and quiet, but soon found herself investigating a murder. As a newcomer she had at first enjoyed wandering around exploring, enjoying the fresh frosty air as she strolled through the historic graveyard, popping into the local shops and admiring arts and crafts in the little gallery. But she was also lonely, peace and quiet wasn’t as soothing as she had anticipated, so she had begun to make more of an effort to chat to locals, little thinking this would soon lead to her being embroiled in a murder enquiry.

Charlotte mused upon the drama she could get Lotte involved in as she walked. The victim could be an artist, perhaps a woman so no one would think she had stolen a real life murder, in the unlikely event the novel would be published and actually read by residents of Hambourne. She suddenly found herself near Robert Falstaff’s little road, or she assumed the barricaded lane and heavy police presence indicated this was where he had lived. Now she was there it was impossible to see what was going on and she felt uncomfortable. As she turned to work out which way led to her little flat in the high street she almost bumped into a familiar figure.

‘Oh, em Daniel isn’t it, you probably don’t remember me, new in Hambourne, Charlotte, I went to a few meetings of the Happy Creatives…’

She felt herself rambling on in an effort to be friendly, to assuage her guilt for ever suspecting him of murder. The man looked awkward, then visibly pulled himself together.

‘Yes of course Charlotte, I remember you, that dreadful man making you feel so small, no way to treat newcomers… oh I shouldn’t be speaking ill of the dead.’

‘You heard the news then, of course I hardly knew him. I gather this must be the mu… where Robert lived?’

‘Yes, not exactly the first murder we’ve had, or at least there have been strange events in Hambourne… ‘ he looked up as a police officer approached ‘…anyway, I must be going.’

Danny made a hasty exit and Charlotte wondered why had he come to the crime scene. Her thoughts were interrupted by the policewoman.

‘Good morning, do you live nearby, are you trying to get to your home?’

Charlotte felt herself flushing.

‘No, yes, I mean I’m new in the town, just strolling around and got lost, I’ve got a flat in Hambourne Mews.’

She hadn’t intended to give away where she lived. The policewoman gave her a patronising look.

‘You were heading in the wrong direction, but Hambourne often has visitors flummoxed. So if you are new you probably didn’t know the victim.’

‘No, well only a little.’

Charlotte immediately regretted her words as the officer’s face lit up.

‘Ah, I hope you don’t mind giving me your name and address, we do need to interview everybody who knew him.’

Charlotte felt a mixture of fear and excitement. She might end up a suspect, but it would be interesting research for her novel, to discover what it was like to be interviewed about a crime. Everyone meant they were bound to talk to Daniel as well, she was sure he had been uncomfortable hanging around near police officers…

Saturday Short Story – Hambourne Noir

You may like to read the first tale about Charlotte in this blog.

ttps://tidalscribe.com/2022/08/18/thursday-tiny-tale-2053/

Charlotte found inspiration for her new novel much quicker than she expected, but not in a way she welcomed. News spread fast in Hambourne, but while Charlotte enjoyed listening to local gossip she rarely took it seriously. As a newcomer she had no idea who they were talking about most of the time.

But today, sitting in the Hambourne Abbey Refectory, her favourite coffee stop, she heard shocked whispers at the next table then felt the gaze of the three women fall upon her. One of them she thought she recognised as the timid ‘mouse woman’ from the Hambourne Happy Creatives. She pretended to be absorbed in her phone, though she had no messages.

‘Charlotte isn’t it, you were at the group last week.’

Mouse Woman was addressing her.

‘Yes, yes, er I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.’

‘That’s okay, not many people do and when you’re new it’s hard isn’t it.’

Charlotte was happy to meet her again, she had been friendly and unintimidating at last week’s meeting.

‘Come and join us’ said one of the other women, who did look intimidating.

Charlotte imagined that mouse woman would not have issued the invitation herself, now she looked pleased to have official approval of her new friend. Like being the new girl at school, Charlotte felt pathetically grateful to be admitted to the inner circle.

‘I’m afraid we have heard some dreadful news Charlotte’ said the intimidating lady. ‘I gather you were a friend of the gentleman in question.’

Charlotte thought this unlikely as she didn’t have any friends in Hambourne yet and certainly not of the gentleman variety.

‘Oh I don’t think …’

Mouse Woman could not contain her excitement ‘Robert Falstaff, murdered.’

‘Oh no, are you sure, I mean perhaps it was natural causes, heart attack, not a suicide…’

‘Definitely murder’ said the intimidating woman.

‘Are you sure Erica?’ said Mouse Woman.

‘Yes Mini, he could hardly have stuffed his screwed up manuscripts in his mouth and cut his own hands off.’

There was a collective gasp and Charlotte felt quite sick. Hambourne Noir, what sort of place had she chosen to live? Mini the Mouse, for a moment she stifled a giggle at her appropriate name, Mini now had colour in her cheeks and it was the liveliest Charlotte had seen her. She looked around the café, a few other tables were occupied.

‘It wasn’t on the local news this morning and nobody else appears to be talking about it.’

Erica looked affronted at her doubt. ‘I happen to live a few doors away from Robert. I stepped outside to see what on earth all the commotion was this morning and there was Trudy his cleaning lady sitting on the steps of the ambulance, aluminium blanket round her, just like a TV drama.’

‘Lucky to get an ambulance,’ interrupted Mini ‘with all these strikes and hold ups at A&E, old Mr Reeves had to wait fourteen hours with his hip…’

Erica frowned ‘…so to cut a long story short I went over to see if Trudy was alright and insisted the police officers let her come inside my house and get warm, have a proper cup of tea and be interviewed away from prying eyes.’

‘You’re not supposed to give hot tea for shock’ said Mini.

‘That was hot sweet tea when my mother was with St. John’s, I didn’t put sugar in.’

‘But what did she say?’ The others were all agog.

“The blood will never come out of that Persian rug, Mr. Falstaff would be horrified at the mess.” She kept saying that over and over.’

Charlotte was wondering how long Erica was going to drag out the drama and indignant that this dislikeable woman should be privy to all the action when it was Charlotte who was the writer.

‘So how did you find out what actually happened Erica?’

‘Large drop of brandy in the tea and luckily the WPC, not that they call them that these days, had a call on her radio and went out into the hall to answer so we couldn’t hear. Managed to get the words out of Trudy before the police woman ushered me out of my own sitting room…’ she paused for effect then enacted the cleaning lady’s words. “Blue, his face all blue… and purple, bloated, then I noticed his hands were missing, well not missing, just not attached to his arms, placed neatly on his writing desk can you believe it… trail of blood all over the Persian rug, family heirloom it was, not that he had anyone to pass it on to…”

‘So she said quite a lot then’ said Mini.

‘Oh she was in a state.’

‘But who would have done such a dreadful thing’ said Charlotte. ‘Where is it you live Erica?’ she added, wondering if she could walk home that way and catch a glimpse of the drama scene, not the body obviously, but take in the atmosphere.

‘Well shall we say he wasn’t loved by everyone in Hambourne.’

‘Indeed, he was very nasty to Charlotte at the creative group’ said Mini.

Charlotte felt three pairs of eyes piercing into her soul, surely she wouldn’t be one of the suspects, just because Robert Falstaff had been scathing about her novel languishing on Amazon Kindle and her blog.

Read what happens next in the new blog…

Read tales from the Hambourne Chronicles in this collection.

Friday Flash Fiction 650 – Life Sentence

Hanging’s too good for him, that’s what my grandfather would have said.

‘Have you had enough time to think?’

I blinked and tried to focus on my latest family liaison officer, ‘call me Nessa’. I had already lost two, one to Covid and one to stress, not surprising, talk about a poisoned chalice. Time to think, I had done nothing but think. But decisions? All decisions had been taken from me that night, our lives reduced to forensically sealed bags.

‘I have to ask you this again, I must be sure you understand, you cannot tell anyone where you are going, you cannot contact anyone at all. One slip and someone will find you, not her family, but some low life… We can inform your family that you are fi… okay.’

As if I would want to contact anybody, even if I did have the means. I don’t know where I am, let alone where I am going, though the ends of the earth would not be far enough.

‘Just please tell me Nessa, did he have any message for me? Are you keeping it from me, did anyone hear him say anything?’

‘I’m sorry, he would not open your letter and he had no message for you or the children or any family…’

There wasn’t anything in that letter, no hate or anger, just one word, I almost felt like writing it in blood, WHY? I know what you are thinking, I must have known. I used to think that about the wives of murderers. We were a normal family, not perfect, he wasn’t around much, but we did things together when he was here; the kids miss him and their toys and our home, keep asking. There was his shift work, overtime and going out with his mates, I knew when I married him he needed his own space, to chill out. On the computer at night if he was home, everyone’s husband does that, don’t want to watch soaps on television with their wives, do their hobbies, photography, plan the next holiday, order DIY stuff from Amazon, do the Tesco order.  Okay so occasionally I felt, wondered… but liven up your marriage, nothing wrong with fantasies those on line articles say. I dismissed those thoughts, must be me, just imagining those occasional looks from his colleagues on the rare occasions he took me to a Work Do. And I thought if there was anything they would know, his work colleagues, his superiors. A couple of times there was some sort of trouble at work but nothing came of it.

‘Why didn’t you lot confront him, you had the most evil man in the country serving as a police officer and you did not confront him. Don’t worry, you can’t feel as guilty as me, but I will not bear it alone.’

At least Nessa did me the service of not trying to answer. What I do have to bear alone is giving birth to Satan’s spawn. I have even been tempted to smother them in their sleep.

 An adventure, we’re going to pretend to be a different family and I have reached a decision; I will choose a country that does not have English as its first language, rural life out in the provinces, hopefully few will speak English.  If the children forget and start chatting about the past no one will understand them. They are young and they will forget, we will learn a new language together, refugees do that all the time. Other families must have done this before me, I’m not the only murderer’s wife. But no amount of pretence can change their evil DNA.

Nessa’s speaking ‘What have you told the children?’

We’re going on a big adventure to a new country safe from Covid. Yes I know, pathetic, but what would you have told them if you were in my place?

Friday Flash Fiction – Sunrise

She stared out at the open hills, a view that would have made this the perfect holiday cottage, but this was no holiday, it was a living hell that she could never have imagined days ago.

A safe house, safe from who or what? Him, the press, everyone she did not want to see? How could she ever face anyone again? They would know about him and assume she was the ‘woman in her thirties’ arrested and then released.

She was almost glad to have been arrested, penance for the crime of being married to him. She had committed a worse crime, a sin against nature, giving birth to his children, his evil genes in their every cell, her sweet innocent children tainted for ever.

After a night in foster care they had been reunited and all of them bundled off to some remote part of Wales. They were still asleep, it was only 6 am. What would she tell them, they had only just started back to school, happy to get back to normal life. She couldn’t even pretend they were back to home schooling with no internet and all their school things locked in the crime scene. Not that their home was where the crime had taken place.

Surely any happily married wife would assume her husband was innocent, some awful mistake. But the police seemed so chillingly certain. She asked the family liaison officer to tell it to her straight as each bit of new evidence rolled in. Now it occurred to her that this was all part of a plan. She was a prisoner here and they were just waiting for her to break, give up trying to pretend she knew nothing.

Nothing was all she knew. One always imagines the wife must have known something, how could you live with a murderer and not know. If she had any suspicions it was that he was seeing someone else, his odd working hours the perfect cover. She had once been the someone else. His first wife left him, she had never met the woman, but did she leave him for more than adultery? What would she be thinking now, relief or guilt because she had discovered some aberration and got out quick?

No, their life had been normal, he wasn’t one of those super dads like her friends were married to; every weekend off to the park, baby strapped on their manly chests, toddler in one hand and the lead of the labradoodle in the other. But that didn’t make him a murderer.

Suicide, was that the only bearable way out? Or a new life on the other side of the world, new names, children told nothing, children told to never tell anyone anything; but murderer’s blood would still be in their veins. She could kill them, like that Greek tragedy, the worst punishment she could think of for the man she now hated. For the first time in her life she knew what true hatred was, a hatred so strong she could contemplate killing her own children. But she would be punishing herself, them, their grandparents… her mind was rambling now, his parents, thank goodness they weren’t alive to see this day, Covid had turned out to be a blessing for them. Slaughtering his children would not be a punishment for him, had he ever cared about his wife or children, how could a man that took an innocent life have any feelings?

There would be a support group somewhere, she would ask about it, support for wives and children of murderers the only people she could ever talk to.

The family liaison officer appeared carrying two mugs, young, probably her first case.

‘We need to talk while the children are still asleep, there’s more I need to tell…’

Before the young woman could finish her sentence there was the sound of pattering feet, strange on the wooden staircase.

‘Mummy, Mummy, are we on holiday, what are we going to do today, is Daddy going to come soon?’

Stranger Danger

In one of my previous incarnations I was walking home from the bus stop after a late shift. When I turned the corner and approached our quiet cul-de-sac I was surprised and a little alarmed to see two suspicious characters lurking on either corner, their cigarettes a tiny glow in the dark night. Dressed in black leather jackets they looked like East European gangsters. What could I do except look straight ahead, pretend I hadn’t noticed them and head for my house.

Then a voice said ‘Hi Mum.’

It was my fifteen year old son with his friend, who was waiting to be picked up by his mother. Their leather jackets were the ones the friend’s mother had ordered from her Littlewoods catalogue.

You don’t have to be female for groups of more than one strapping teenager to look threatening. Hanging around with mates and walking aimlessly in town is what teenagers do. Some may show off to their mates by calling out to hapless passers by, most are harmless. Real gangs armed with knives or selling drugs are more likely to be harming other young men.

The males that women have been complaining about recently … and for centuries … are those who don’t just hang about, but call out abusive remarks, follow lone women, slow their cars down or touch them in crowded tube trains. And of course far worse.

For many of us these perpetrators appear to be a totally different species from all the men in our lives. From our dads who made our pet cages to boyfriends, brothers, sons and work mates who fix our cars and washing machines, give us lifts, husbands who are lifelong companions; why would we want to hate men? It is a truth not often acknowledged that many of us preferred men teachers and male bosses. Women are not a united single species any more than men are and what girl hasn’t dreaded working with the bitch in the office or feared the nasty nurse on the maternity ward?

Little girls who have no reason to fear men adore them, batting their eyelids innocently when the firemen come to visit their playgroup, clutching the hand of their friend’s dad. When we visited my friend’s parents once, my little girl said to the mother ‘I like your Daddy!’

I once read an article by a woman who said she was thrilled when her first baby was a boy, because although she couldn’t be a man, at least she had given birth to one. Though it is the man that determines the sex of the baby, some women still feel proud if they manage to present their husband with a son. Perhaps there are simpler reasons why many women are secretly hoping or delighted when they have a boy first; maybe they always wanted a big brother or working with children has endeared them to little boys. Little boys are adorable and though they may hit their younger siblings and the other children at nursery and may not turn out quite as angelic as those choir boys that we all love, they are not often insidiously nasty and spiteful to each other as little girls can be.

Liking men and enjoying their company does not mean we assume they are superior, it just means it would be a dull world if we were all the same. It will be a sad day ( maybe it is already ) when men and women can no longer have a laugh at work, fearful of crossing the ever moving boundaries. When women would rather suffer a back injury than gracefully accept help with something heavy from the chap next door. When girls consider sewing a button on a male friend’s shirt as an insult rather than just being helpful.

But none of this takes away the fear. Why some men see a broken down car and worried female driver, a woman walking home from her late shift at the hospital or a very drunk girl losing her friends and attempting to walk home as an obvious opportunity to rape and murder them remains a complete mystery. It doesn’t feel helpful that crime dramas are so often about young pretty women being kidnapped and murdered, but that is not a cause; terrible crimes were being committed long before cinema and television were invented.

We still have to remember all the times we have walked our dog round the park, chatting to male dog owners who don’t try and molest us or say anything inappropriate. Recall that time your windscreen smashed on a deserted road and the truck driver kindly stopped to help without bundling you into his cab. Remember those times you went on dates with guys who turned out to be very boring or at least not interesting enough to want to see again, but who saw you safely home and accepted your invented polite excuses for not arranging another date and didn’t turn into a stalker.

We shouldn’t have to, but perhaps girls will always have to learn to develop their instincts as to who the bad guys are and sadly that will not always work. But it will be a long time yet before we figure out how a sweet little boy might turn into a monster scarier than our worst nightmares. In the meantime let us stay united as humans who respect and look after each other.

Imagine

This evening, women and men all over the United Kingdom will be lighting candles to remember Sarah Everard, a young woman in her thirties who went missing on 3rd March while walking home in London. She had been kidnapped and murdered. Although we were told this sort of crime by a complete stranger was very rare, women of all ages and parts of society spoke up to say fear and harassment on the streets and anywhere in public is all too common. A national dialogue has started and my guest blogger, Fiona Hallsworth, was moved to write this powerful piece.

Don’t think about my gender, don’t think about your gender. Forget “men vs women”. Just read my story. All of these examples really happened to me, they are just a small sample of many.

Imagine you are 11 years old and at a family party. You play with the other children, oblivious to the two grown ups staring at you. Your mother overhears them laughing and referring to you as “jail bait”. She realises that society’s sexualisation of your young body has already begun.

Imagine you are 13 years old. You notice that EVERY time you walk to school, grown ups slow down and stare at you as they drive past.

Imagine you are 14 and on a school trip to a theme park. The older, bigger, stronger person behind you in the queue pinches your bottom.

Imagine you are 15 and waiting at a bus stop with your friends. A grown up stands next to you and repeatedly says “I am going to rape you.”

Over the next few years, you are taught “the rules”. You must wear modest clothes and not get drunk. You must stick to well lit public places and never walk home alone. If you don’t follow the rules, a bigger, stronger person may grope, rape and/or kill you. It would be YOUR FAULT. You NEVER hear the bigger, stronger people being taught that they should not grope, rape or kill you.

Imagine you are 16 and take a job in a corner shop. It is the beginning of your life long lesson in how to look and smile at the older, bigger, stronger people just enough so that they know you are kind, but not so much that they assume you want to have sex with them.  Many customers repeatedly interrogate you about your ethnic origin. The older, bigger, stronger people stand over you, demanding to know where you are “really from”. You start to understand how they fetishise the way you look and see you as an easy target. A friend insists on driving you home after your shifts, because if you walk home, you might get raped and murdered and it would be YOUR FAULT.

Imagine you are 19 and going for a jog. A person who is bigger and stronger than you deliberately jumps in front of you so that you bump into them. You are scared and run home.

Imagine you are 20 and in a nightclub. Bigger, stronger people repeatedly grab your bottom. One person does it FOUR times. You tell the bouncer but they ignore you.

Imagine you are 22 and going for a jog. A bigger, stronger person takes a photo of you as you jog past. You run home and decide you probably shouldn’t jog in public anymore.

Imagine you are 23 and travelling to and from work. EVERY time you get on a bus or train, somebody stares at you. They look at you like they want to kill you or eat you. If you are wearing shorts, they sit opposite you and stare at your legs until you feel so uncomfortable you have to move seats. Sometimes they try to brush past you on a crowded train, sometimes they take your photo when they think you are not looking.

Over time you learn to select the “right” train carriage that has other people like you on it. Then as the train empties at each stop, you worry that you might not make it home alive. You learn to sit on the bottom deck of the bus so that you can’t get cornered by someone who is bigger and stronger than you.

Imagine you are 24. Someone approaches you in the street and asks you out. As soon as the date starts they try to have sex with you and get angry when you say no and leave. The next day they text you “I don’t want to see you again because you are ugly”. You think it was probably YOUR FAULT as you really should not let people approach you in the street.

Imagine you are 25 years old and walking from a pub to a train station. Three bigger and stronger people approach you. One of them follows you a WHOLE MILE down the road. Luckily you reach the train station and merge into the crowd. As you travel the escalator down into the station, people passing on the opposite escalator stare and shout at you. Sometimes its rude comments, sometimes they just grunt weird sex noises at you.

The next time you walk home, you wonder if you should put your headphones in so that no one will talk to you. Then you remember that if someone attacks you when you are wearing headphones, it will be YOUR FAULT.

Sometimes you have to go home earlier or later than you would like so that a friend can walk you home. Sometimes you have to get a cab that you can’t afford. When you do get a cab, you anxiously check that it is a licensed cab. Because if you get raped and murdered by an unlicensed cab driver, it will be YOUR FAULT.

Imagine you are 26, standing in a pub chatting to friends. Bigger and stronger people keep on walking past you, grabbing you round the waist and brushing their crotch against your bottom. When you say “don’t touch me” they reply “I was just walking past there isn’t enough room!” You notice that they don’t grab and brush when they walk past people who are bigger and stronger than them, even if it is very crowded.

Imagine you are 27 and cycling to and from work. People stare and shout at you as you cycle past. Sometimes it’s rude comments, mainly its just the weird sex noises again. A bigger and stronger cyclist repeatedly overtakes you whilst staring at you, then slows down, forcing you to overtake them. Eventually you decide to stop, get off your bike and call someone. That way, if you do get raped and murdered, someone will know when you went missing. You breath a sigh of relief when the other person cycles off into the distance, but decide that you probably shouldn’t cycle in public anymore. You go home, lock your bike away and instead buy a train ticket that you can’t afford.

Imagine you are 28 and on a bus.  Another person on the bus starts chatting to someone smaller and weaker than them. When they realise the other person is not interested they start shouting and swearing at them. You politely suggest that the bigger person should leave the smaller person alone. They start shouting at you instead.

There are about 20 other bigger, stronger people on the bus. They can’t intervene because if they do, they might get stabbed.  You have to get off at your stop, knowing that the victim and the abuser are both still on the bus. You are haunted by this experience for the rest of your life. You will never know if the victim got home safe. If they didn’t, you know it would be YOUR FAULT.

You are 32 and it is your wedding day. You are fortunate to live in a culture where you can get married when and to whom you choose.  You think about how lucky you are to marry someone who loves you, respects you and does not beat you.  One of the best things about having a partner you love, is that when you walk down the road with them, some of the staring and harassment stops.

Imagine you are 34 and at a family wedding with your partner and child. A family friend you have not met before grabs you where they shouldn’t when they hug you. You keep quiet and tell your partner about it on the way home.

You are now 37 and decide to try jogging again. You put on the “right” clothes that won’t attract attention. People who are bigger and stronger than you shout at you as you jog past. Luckily, by this age, you have learnt to wear headphones, sunglasses and a baseball cap to help you pretend that the shouty people don’t exist.

Imagine you have a career that you love and have studied hard for. Over the 14 years that you work in the NHS, various patients make rude comments about your body, try to grope you, stand in doorways to stop you leaving, or threaten to spank you. Sometimes you have to take a bigger, stronger colleague with you so that you can do your job without being harassed or intimidated.

Imagine you are 38 and a parent. You notice that you seem to be invisible to a lot of people. You have to walk in the road with your small children because the younger, fitter, stronger person ignores you and doesn’t let you pass. Whilst this frustrates you, you are glad that you have reached the “invisible” stage of your life, because at least it means that the staring, harassing, groping and intimidation has stopped. You can’t wait until you become a pensioner, because then you will be really invisible.

You listen to the news. Sarah Everard has been murdered, despite following “the rules”. You cry for the victim and family and lay awake at night worrying. People like you are told to curfew in the evening in case you get murdered.

You try to explain to people that the roots of this violence lie in the predatory behaviour and aggression that you have experienced since you were 11 YEARS OLD.

Bigger, stronger people respond by saying “But we are not all like that!” “We get killed more than you!” You look up violent crime statistics and see that they are correct. Then you wonder why you have spent your life under curfew and following “the rules” when the bigger, stronger people are both the majority of perpetrators and the majority of victims.

You try to explain that, although you have a lot to be grateful for, your quality of life has been dimmed by fear EVERY DAY since you were 13 YEARS OLD. This fear was not created by social media. It began before social media existed. Your bigger, stronger partner and your bigger, stronger siblings have grown up free from this fear.

Some people listen. Some people ignore you. Some people laugh at you and call you rude names. Some people reply “well what do you expect, it’s YOUR FAULT”.

by Fiona Hallsworth

Sunday Salon – Fact or Fiction?

This week I finished reading two short story collections and one novel. The first I reviewed was Sally Cronin’s ‘Life’s Rich Tapestry’. Once again Amazon rejected my review and as usual I have posted my 5 star review on Goodreads and also decided I should put all my book reviews on my Facebook Author Page.

from Janet Gogerty on 13 February 2020

A delightful collection of all sorts to dip into.

We start with the seasons, words carefully chosen, some poems succinct …I stopped to smell the roses… precious time well spent. Then all things human such as ‘From Cave to the Stars’ the first cave drawings onwards to beaming our messages out beyond the stars. The other verses follow mankind’s evolution. Fairies and other Folk takes us somewhere else, starting with the poignant tale of the ugly troll with the sweet nature. The Natural World peacocks, magpies and a murder of crows. Pets, Random Thoughts then 99 Words in a Flash. Telling a story in just 99 words is a skill. A Close Match is a good opener to this section. In the short story selection Brian the dog wins the day and Jack, another old dog, finds a happy ending. Then cats get their turn and love of a cat helps Millicent stand up for herself. Who can resist Speculative Fiction which starts with a family secret? The Wrong Turn is a poignant story, but we are glad Gerald gets his comeuppance in the next tale. A couple of strange stories and then we finish with a poetic tribute to the author’s mother-in-law. A great collection of all sorts to dip into.

 

Sally’s collection made nice light bedtime reading after some of the television programmes I have been watching.
In Wednesday’s blog I wrote about television, because I know some bloggers do not watch it at all and gathering from the comments, others watch programmes or films with various screens and technology without actually tuning in to live television. But it is good to watch something your friends are also following… do you like fact or fiction on television?
This week we finished watching a real life six part ITV crime drama, White House Farm, about the murder of parents, daughter and two young twin grandsons in August 1985. Lots of us remember it being in the news because it was such a tragedy. At first the daughter with mental health issues was thought to have committed the murders and then killed herself, but the story revolves around the doubts that led to the arrest and trial of the surviving son, Jeremy Bamber. To this day he is still protesting his innocence. The leading detective was sure he could have the case neatly sewn up, convinced it was the daughter, while the sergeant, passed over for promotion more than once we gather, is convinced she could not have done it. Modern viewers brought up on CSI and Silent Witness will have been cringing as evidence was cleared away, blood soaked mattresses burnt. Most of us would agree that a young woman who had little idea of how to use a gun could not have shot everyone and beaten up her father. Added to the tensions in the CID office was the interplay in the family. The twins’ father was separated from his wife and the boys lived with him and his girlfriend, as his ex wife had recently been in a mental hospital. He had just taken her and the boys to the farm to stay with their grandparents, never imagining it was a death sentence. Jeremy Bamber had a girlfriend who after a month turned and gave evidence against him. His cousin was equally suspicious because of the way he behaved afterwards. The Bamber son and daughter were adopted, adding another thread; did he feel he didn’t belong, was he the cuckoo in the nest as his cousin suggested?

https://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-releases/itv-announces-details-new-factual-drama-white-house-farm
Coincidentally Chanel Four had a four part drama running parallel and with a similar theme. Deadwater Fell was set in a village in lovely Scottish countryside. After a happy village event introducing the characters, everyone is awoken that night to see the local doctor’s house on fire. His village policeman friend manages to rescue him and drag the wife out, too late. In the darkness and smoke he had discovered the three little girls ( as cute and adorable as the twin boys in the other drama ) were padlocked into their bedroom. At the post mortem it is discovered the children had already been killed with a drug injection. What on earth was going on? The village is grief stricken and then further shocked when the doctor comes out of his coma and pieces together what happened and claimed his wife killed his children, tried to kill him and committed suicide! Amongst all this going on are the complex lives of the leading characters, revealed in flashbacks. The policeman’s ex wife is with someone else, but their boys are with him and his girlfriend and they are undergoing IVF. She was the best friend of the dead woman and worked at the same school with her, but had accidentally had sex with the doctor once – an event she described as controlling sex as he had slammed her face against the patio door!
The policeman begins to suspect his doctor friend; their marriage was not all sweetness and because of ‘what happened after Harriet was born’ he was regularly tranquilizing her, against her will. And then there was the poor grandmother, the doctor’s mother, I felt sorry for her; not only had she lost her grandchildren, but began to suspect her son, perhaps had suspected all along…
It was a good story and we know from the news that whatever writers make up can never be as strange and awful as real life.

https://inews.co.uk/culture/television/deadwater-fell-finale-channel-4-review-david-tennant-cush-jumbo-1382177

liebster-award

Wish You Were Here

I started collecting picture post cards when I was eight and still buy them on holiday to send to the oldest and youngest in the family; people like getting mail through their letter box, including Pete who blogs as beetleypete. When he asked if people still sent postcards bloggers started sending them, as you can see on his blog post.

https://beetleypete.com/2019/08/31/postcards-from-blogging-friends/

‘If anyone else would like to post one to me, you can read my address easily, and your card will be featured in Part Two.
Thanks again to all of you who took the time and trouble to send me a card.’

When we were away in Whitby I bought an extra card and as I sat down to write ( and here’s my confession – I don’t get around to writing postcards till about two weeks after returning ) and saw the piece of paper on which I had written his address lying on the table, it gave me an idea for a dark story. The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent! Thanks to Pete for the idea.

19

Detective Inspector Greaves stepped through the front door, he needed to go no further to see the body. The scene was bloodless, but any impression that the woman had died of natural causes was cast aside when another step revealed a large syringe stuck in the back of her neck. Why would the killer leave the evidence when it could have been the perfect murder?

‘Where’s the husband?’ Greaves asked the uniformed officer.

‘In the kitchen, doing the washing up Sir.’

‘What! Crime scene, evidence… did you stop and think?’

‘No Sir, he said his wife liked to have everything clean and tidy if they were having visitors.’

Further discussion was pointless, he sent the officer outside to keep a little band of neighbours at bay and stepped carefully round the body to make his way to the kitchen, where a middle aged man was vigorously polishing a glass.

‘She always liked to leave the house tidy when we went out, in case anything happened to us while we were out and the police had to break in and…’

‘Mr… Mr. Stanton isn’t it? I need to ask you a few questions… When you came home was the front door locked?’

‘Yes, everything looked normal until I unlocked the door.’

‘And where were you today?’

‘With the chaps, four of us, been away on a three day golf break, they dropped me off first, drove off before I got inside.’

‘So they can confirm that. Did you call your wife while you were away?’

‘Yesterday morning.’

‘Was that the last time you spoke or had any contact, no emails, whatsapp?’

‘Yes, she was fine, enjoying the peace, no sign… who… it doesn’t make sense…’

For the first time the man showed emotion, but shock could do strange things. When Greaves had sat the man in the police car with two officers he returned alone to gain an impression of the home and the lives of these two people. An ordinary house in a quiet road that had never drawn attention to itself before; nothing could be assumed, but on the face of it this was a bizarre senseless murder.

In the dining room he spotted a piece of paper on the polished table; an address, no phone number or email.

Geoff Jones, Cowslip Lane, Tweedley, Norfolk, NR19 2D3.

Greaves checked the address book sitting neatly by the house phone and found no entry for a Geoff Jones or anyone in Norfolk.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Back at the police station Mr. Stanton was safely installed in an interview room, alibis checked, background checked. Inspector Greaves started with the only piece of evidence.

‘Who is Geoff Jones?’

‘Never heard of him.’

‘Has your wife got friends or relatives in Norfolk?’

‘No, she’s never even been to Norfolk.’

‘Mrs. Stanton, was she still working or retired?’

‘Retired, or she reckoned she was still working, did stuff on the computer, goodness knows what, I don’t go on the internet, but she was happy dabbling with her writing, left me in peace to watch what I liked on television.’

‘As routine procedure we will seize… er take your wife’s computer, I assume you have no objections?’

‘Well she won’t be needing it will she… oh God, I can’t believe this is happening…’

At that moment a female officer knocked on the door with a cup of tea, though they were supposed to have equality Greaves was glad to leave her to deal sympathetically with the overwrought husband. He had work to do.

Back in the office he handed out tasks to his small team. ‘Check this address and if it’s genuine get onto Norfolk Police and ask them to send someone round.’

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In Cowslip Lane Geoff Jones was enjoying the evening news; the doorbell took him and the dog by surprise. On the doorstep stood a young man, trying to edge inside out of the torrential rain. He showed a warrant card.

‘Mr. Geoff Jones?’

‘Yes, that’s me, oh god, has something happened to my wife, no they send uniform for that don’t they?’

‘No, just a routine enquiry. Do you know a Mrs. Rita Stanton of Mulberry Close, Sandbourne, Dorset?’

‘Dorset, I don’t know anyone in Dorset.’

‘Are you, er do you live alone?’

‘No, my wife’s away for a few days at her sister’s.’

‘Might she know Mrs. Stanton or anyone in Dorset?’

‘NO, look what is this about?’

Andy’s first day as a detective constable wasn’t going well so far.

‘We’re making enquiries about a murder I’m afraid. Have you been outside the village in the last two days, work, visiting?’

Andy was gratified to see Geoff Jones look distinctly nervous.

‘No, I’m retired, well a writer actually, blogger; all I’ve been up to is taking Rufus on his two hour walks and doing my blogs.’

‘Can anyone confirm that?’

‘I haven’t seen a soul, no one else has been out in this dreadful wet weather, but what on earth has any of this to do with me?’

The young detective felt suspicion creeping into his bones, who would take a dog out for two hours in the torrential rain? As he tried to edge further into the hallway and avoid the very large dog, he got a glimpse into the front room. On every shelf and available surface were propped picture postcards.

‘You must have a lot of friends Mr. Jones, a lot of friends that go on holiday?’

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The next police visit to Geoff’s house was in the morning. This time Andy was accompanied by a search warrant and an inspector from Dorset Police, who had driven up overnight. Fortuitously they met the postman at the door, with a postcard from Dorset. Jones’ computer was taken away, Jones himself was taken away and all the postcards collected up.

6

In the interview room Geoff Jones protested his innocence, though he hadn’t actually been arrested. ‘Blogging friends, I wrote a post about picture post cards and followers kept sending them.’

Greaves left him to stew for a while and went back to the office to see how enquiries were going and stared at the postcard posted in Sandbourne, Dorset.

Wish you Were Here!

Best Wishes from Rita Stanton ( Scribbletide )

 He tried to curb the enthusiasm of the young detective.

‘We may have barged in too quickly, if this poor man is totally innocent we have some explaining to do. The card seems to prove what he told us about his followers. What have you found on the internet?’

‘Jones was telling the truth about the blogging and the post cards, what he didn’t mention was that a while ago he wrote a serialised story about a chap who wanted to commit the perfect murder.’

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction – CSI Highcliffe

‘Is that for next door?’ Eleanor asked the green man who had emerged from the yellow van.

‘No, express delivery for Ms E. Fairfax.’

‘But I haven’t ordered anything, certainly nothing as large as that, is the box heavy?’

‘No, I’ll leave it just inside the front door shall I?’

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Eleanor closed the door and rolled the box down the hall until she found the sender’s address.

EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME

RAINBOW WORLD LTD. OF MILTON KEYNES

She was reluctant to open the box; if she had been in one of her black humour thrillers, the box would be sure to explode. But on the other hand, any of her feisty heroines would have no hesitation. Eleanor fetched a sharp knife from the kitchen and ran it along the taped edges. On top of various packages was a rainbow envelope.

To Aunty Ellie   Happy Birthday   Love Ben

Inside was a gothic card of gold and black.

YOUR PASSPORT TO A NEW EXPERIENCE

CSI HIGHCLIFFE

One of Ben’s jokes no doubt. She pulled out the largest parcel, inside were folds of white fabric…

Eleanor picked up the phone. ‘Ben? Thanks for the present, maybe I’ll wear it to my book launch.’

No, you have to wear it on your birthday when you go for your EXPERIENCE. I know how much you love those CSI programmes, I guess it will be like one of those murder mystery dinners, but without the food. Should give you inspiration for your next novel.

She put the phone down and decided to read the instructions more carefully.

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Saturday morning was bitterly cold, especially at Highcliffe. Eleanor was glad she was half an hour an hour early to warm up with a coffee in the Cliffhanger café. She planned to sneak into the Ladies to put on her forensic suit at the last moment, she looked around at the other customers wondering if any of them were there for the EXPERIENCE.

When she slipped outside she saw a van pulling up, black with gold writing

CSI HIGHCLIFFE

As two men in forensic suits got out, other white suits emerged sheepishly from parked cars. Eleanor was glad she had worn her thermal underwear, the wind was biting after the steamy warmth of the café.

Without any introduction the van driver addressed the shivering group.

‘Okay, report of a body on the beach, we need to start work before the tide comes in.’

Without further ado he strode towards the edge of the cliff and the footpath sign. Eleanor tried to read the expressions on the faces of her six companions, but straggling in single file, struggling to keep up, she had no idea if they were taking this seriously or if they were all friends of her nephew. But even Ben was unlikely to have arranged a prank on this scale.

Dodging a few boulders, they came to an abrupt halt near the water’s edge.

‘It’s so realistic’ squealed a young woman excitedly.

‘Looks like a scene from one of my books’ said Eleanor.

‘Ooh, are you a crime writer, are you on television?’

‘No, Amazon Kindle.’

A loud clearing of the leader’s throat drew their attention to the others, just as one of the men keeled over backwards. Another pushed past the two women and behind a rock to vomit.

‘Happens every time,’ laughed the leader ‘no one expects it to be a real body.’

Eleanor approached with a writer’s curiosity to see how they had created the scene. It was the smell which hit her first. A real body washed up from the sea was very different from Google research. She almost laughed to herself, Ben had been right, this was a unique opportunity and she tried to quell the rising nausea.

‘Cause of death?’ asked the leader brusquely.

‘No evidence of external injuries, due to the extent of decomposition’ Eleanor replied. ‘A post mortem will be needed to determine if the victim drowned or was already dead before he entered the water.’

‘Good, good’ said the man, as his assistant stepped forward with arms outstretched, bearing a large folded item of black vinyl. ‘Now before we put the body in the bag does anybody have back problems, it’s quite a weight to carry back up the cliff.’

‘Yes, me,’ said Eleanor ‘but shouldn’t we call the police?’

‘Not until we’ve ascertained if a crime has taken place. Now, does everybody have a car, or does anyone want a lift in the van to the morgue?’

‘Where’s the body going?’ asked the young woman.

‘In the van of course. Has everybody got their metal case labelled

Part Two, not to be used by children under sixteen.

‘Which case do you mean?’ a pale man asked.

‘The one containing a scalpel and saw.’

 

For more dark tales dip into Times and Tides

Twenty five stories starting with a blind date and ending on Xmas Eve, with no clue as to what you might expect in between. In this third collection of short stories are some real places and experiences plus much that could happen or should never happen.

The Game of Life – When The Rules Are Broken

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Warning – may contain discussion of death.

True cancer stories from my family.

‘…and have you got any other medical problems?’

‘Oh… no’ said the husband.

His wife was glaring at him and mouthing something.

‘Oh… yes, I’ve got leukaemia…’

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‘..apparently one of the volunteers at the centre has had to leave, she’s seriously ill.’

‘Oh Dear…  what’s the matter with her?’

‘Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.’

A moment’s silence… ‘Oh… that’s me.’

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Cyberspouse has had two visits to the oncologist since chemotherapy. One scan showing everything stable and blood tests ‘all in the black’. Another scan is booked before the next check up. Check up means just a chat ‘How are you?’ I don’t know what happens to other patients, but I guess the oncologist has checked results and can see if you are looking fine or not and judge which aches  and pains have any significance.

Life goes on normally with DIY, trips to the rubbish tip, outings and mini breaks and more planned and it’s easy to forget there is anything wrong.

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Photo by Bogdan Glisik on Pexels.com

When the Game of Life goes wrong.

There came news recently that a cousin had committed suicide; something that has never happened in our family before, as far as I know. But shock was not the first reaction because this was a cousin we hardly knew, he had cut himself off from his family, his sister tried to keep up some form of contact, obviously enough to hear the terrible news. I know nothing of his life abroad, what was it that led him to take his life? The only further details to emerge are that his sister is now very angry at what happened before his death. My aunt and uncle are dead, spared this final disappointment with their son’s life. I wonder what people in his life have been left behind.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The saddest news this week is the senseless murder of a young policeman, Andrew Harper. The fact he was married only a month ago and was due to go on honeymoon soon has touched everybody and kept his death in the national news. Anyone can imagine what his family are going through and any police family would be chilled by the reminder that no police officer knows what each shift might hold.

Cyberspouse did his thirty years in the Metropolitan Police, he and his colleagues got their pensions and time to enjoy a new life. Andrew Harper will never have sons and grandsons. If the young get incurably ill it is terrible, but sadly that is the unfairness of life and we have to accept it, but no one has the right to take another life before their allotted time.