Three Mile Drove

Three Mile Drove Three Mile Drove

Status: Finished

Genre: Horror

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Horror

Summary

A faded rock musician inherits a smallholding in the English fens and finds himself plunged into a hidden world of kidnap, inbreeding and ultimately murder.

Summary

A faded rock musician inherits a smallholding in the English fens and finds himself plunged into a hidden world of kidnap, inbreeding and ultimately murder.

Chapter10 (v.1) - Chapter Seven

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 03, 2008

Reads: 231

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 03, 2008

A A A

A A A

Chapter Seven

A strong wind had lifted the clouds by the time Darren left the Fox and Hounds to meet Tim McPherson. Walking to his car he felt as though he was viewing things from afar, traces of his nightmare continued sweeping around his mind like the gusty aftermath of a powerful storm.

He drove through the village noting the queue that had formed outside the post office. It seemed to consist mainly of elderly people but even so, he thought, if you lived in a small village like this you would know at what point in time the queue dwindled. So why did they do it? But it was a question in any case that he wasn’t qualified to answer, he just wouldn’t have the patience to stand, breathing down the neck of someone, who when viewed from the rear might have been a lifeless sculpture. In any case, life was slipping by while you were static, in moron mode. Speaking for himself he’d leave it until later, he’d have done a little basic research, nothing too mind boggling, he’d have found out at what time the queue dwindled, so he could walk straight in. Simple really. He shook his head, grateful at least that other people’s peculiarities had momentarily taken his mind off his nightmare, then drove on.

He was a couple of hundred yards away when he spotted McPherson; such was the unerring straightness and flatness of the region you could probably spot a rabbit at that distance. As he got closer Darren could see that he was gazing across land to the rear of Three Mile Drove, his hands hidden in the pockets of his fawn anorak, his medium length fair hair blowing fiercely in the wind.

Darren parked his Jeep behind McPherson’s blue Rover, pulling in onto an earth bank just before a left bend in the road from where Three Mile Drove lead off to the right. His leg still stiff from his fall the evening before, he hobbled painfully across the small junction to where McPherson stood. The policeman turned on his approach and must have seen him grimace, ‘That bad eh?’

Darren blew his cheeks out and sighed, ‘No, not really, it could have been worse. I thought yesterday I might have torn a ligament, but I think it’s just stiff. It’ll be okay.’

‘Sleep well?’ McPherson asked.

Darren looked at him in surprise, that McPherson should even pose the question prompted him to wonder whether the man had some sort of sixth sense. But of course, that was wildly imaginative; McPherson was merely going through the ritual of pleasantries.

‘Not bad,’ he muttered, choosing not to comment on the fact that he’d suffered the worst nightmare of his life. In actual fact, the accommodation provided had been of a reasonable standard and his room had been comfortable, a cosy refuge from the stresses he suffered earlier. It was probably just unfortunate that his overburdened mind had chosen to discharge its mental waste amidst the cosy surroundings of the place.

Deeply preoccupied with his thoughts, Darren had been gazing across the farmland, beyond which, carried on the wind he could just hear the distant rumble of traffic on the A10. He turned to find McPherson with his back to him, looking out across the fields to the rear of Three Mile Drove in much the same vein as before, only this time he was observing the area through a pair of field glasses.

Darren drew alongside of McPherson who was some four inches taller in stature, and in direct contrast to Darren’s stocky frame, dark curly hair and broad face, the policeman was long-legged with smooth youthful features which had Darren fingering the lines around his eyes in envy.

‘There’s something damned strange going on out there,’ McPherson said, having lowered the binoculars to his side, ‘and what happened to you last night was just a small part of it. I’m not playing the incident down mind you, Darren.’ He paused, as if assessing Darren’s current state and finding him wanting, ‘Do you feel fit enough to take a stroll or shall we drive? It’s just that I’d rather not announce our presence if at all possible.’

Darren shrugged and pulled his leather jacket around him to counter the strong wind, ‘No I’m easy. I’ll have to drive down afterwards to assess this bloody place I’ve inherited, but sure, if it helps, we’ll stroll down to where I think the rock was thrown.’

‘You see, I’m investigating the disappearance of a young child,’ McPherson confided as they walked into the drove and experienced the full strength of the wind blowing straight at them, ‘and to be honest I’m getting nowhere.’ He paused for a moment, turning his back to the wind, then cupped his hands and lit a cigarette that had been on his lips and remained unlit since he’d arrived to meet Darren. He swung back round, lifting his head and blowing the smoke high into the air, where it was immediately dissolved by the wind. ‘What scares me Darren is that pretty soon the case will be downgraded and earmarked as one of countless, unexplained disappearances. It won’t matter that it was a young child, at some stage the authority will just draw the line.’ Darren saw McPherson’s cynical smile, ‘You know, budgets and all that?’

Darren nodded as if he knew, though he didn’t really. He wasn’t very well up on budgets, it wasn’t something a rock musician really considered, when all said and done, though in layman’s terms he’d some idea of how infuriating the cost factor must become to a policeman committed to solving a serious crime, as McPherson surely was.

‘The thing is,’ McPherson said, ‘there was a reported sighting here in this very road. I was prepared to pour scorn on it at first, I mean this place is a virtual wilderness, as close to the great outback as you can get when all said and done.’ McPherson paused, flicked ash from his cigarette and watched it being swept high into the air, ‘I might not have found the missing kid, but Jesus Christ, I called at a house just along the way from here and came across these four other kids, so deformed you’d have wondered whether they were human or just plaster moulds discarded from the set of a Frankenstein movie. I’d never seen anything like it. Not just that, mind you, they were standing amidst the most foul load of crap and bones you’d ever seen. I tell you, the smell alone was bad enough, it made you want to vomit before you’d even set foot in the place.’ McPherson took another drag of his cigarette and flung it into the dyke, causing Darren to wonder why he’d lit it in the first place.

‘When I turned my back they were gone,’ McPherson said, shoving his hands deeply into the pockets of his unzipped anorak, ‘God alone knows where they came from or went to. My first suspicions were that the bones were human and I’d stumbled on some kind of primitive savagery that had its roots in the past. My imagination was running overtime, I half expected to find that the bones were those of the missing girl.’ He gave a quick laugh, though it wasn’t a humorous one, there was irony in it. ‘The bones were animal remains, as if somebody had been living off the carcasses and just left the bones. But that’s primitive enough, wouldn’t you say?’ But McPherson wasn’t waiting for Darren to agree with him, ‘So bloody primitive it makes you cringe. But that’s not the point,’ he said, suddenly looking at Darren with a new intensity, ‘I’ve got it into my head, animal bones or not, that there’s some kind of link between these kids and the missing child. It’s just instinct, plain instinct, but an experienced copper relies on it Darren. I haven’t a bloody thing to go on and I couldn’t pull those kids in if I found them, what harm have they done? The house is derelict and abandoned, not on the electoral role of course. So that’s it, where did the kids come from? That’s what beats me.’ Mcpherson sunk his foot into a pot-hole full of water and cursed as the water splashed his trousers, ‘There’s another thing, I’m getting ridiculed over what I saw, even the village parson thinks it’s wild exaggeration. He puts it down to stress,’ McPherson smiled to himself, ‘lucky enough I’ve never been one to suffer from the modern day disease.’

They approached a house on the left, the one Darren had noticed the previous evening. Its walls, speckled with dirt, took on a curious polka dot effect in the morning sunlight, but it still retained the essence of a respectable dwelling. He got the impression it wouldn’t take a great deal of work to return it to its former glory, unlike the ramshackle place that had fallen his way at the foot of the drove. He thought that if he had inherited this place then he might have stayed, despite the boring flatness and the remote austerity it portrayed, and despite the weird people.

‘That must have been a nice place, who lives there?’ he found himself asking, although he thought that McPherson probably had no idea.

‘An old man, Jacob Tomblin,’ McPherson said, having to shout to make himself heard above the wind, ‘his wife died a couple of years back, so I gather. He farms much of the land around Three Mile Drove, or at least he used to. I understand that these days the farming is run by his son and daughter-in-law, Shaun and Sandra Tomblin. They live a mile or so further along, though you won’t see their place, it lies back from the road, sideways on and is sheltered by a large line of trees which stretch right out across the fens. Now they’re an evasive sort, they keep themselves to themselves. I’m told they don’t do much socialising, nor do they involve themselves in anyone else’s business. Some say that’s the best way.’ McPherson cupped his right hand beneath his chin and rubbed it. ‘I called on them after I visited the derelict house I told you about, because their house is fairly close to the place, a couple of hundred metres I guess. I got no response but I spoke to Jacob later. Old Jacob told me they’d all had their hands tied with the sugar beet, they would have been too busy to have noticed anything that you couldn’t extract from the earth.’ He turned to Darren, ‘I think I’ll pay them another call on the off chance mind you. They just might have seen something and not thought to report it.’

They were past Jacob Tomblin’s house now and to his left and right, the land was as flat as Darren could see. Racing clouds rushed frequently across the sun, creating fleeting shadows that seemed to merge eerily with the rich, dark earth.

The wind seemed to blow with ever increasing force, directly into them as though intentionally attempting to impede their progress. ‘It must be murder here in the winter, when it really gets rough I mean,’ Darren said, aware of having to shout to make himself heard.

Darren thought he might have heard McPherson laugh, when he looked up there was certainly a smile on his face, ‘It can be tough in summer too.’ He glanced across the fens then nodded to him, ‘That flat soil can get so dry that it blows off the surface like dust. You can certainly find yourself in the equivalent of a sandstorm! Kind of makes you want to stay, doesn’t it?’

Darren gave a smile which quickly waned, ‘At the moment everything is pointing the other way. Did you have a good night then, by the way?’

He didn’t know what sparked him or what made him bring the subject up, but the words had suddenly erupted from his mouth as though they’d been vomited from his stomach. Darren gave a mischievous smile he’d hoped had cloaked his embarrassment at the impromptu question.

He saw McPherson look across at him and frown, ‘Eh, in what way?’

‘You and that very smart lady of yours,’

‘Smart lady of mine?’ McPherson looked puzzled, then his blue eyes sparkled briefly with humour as he twigged on, recalling the evening before and how he’d first met Darren in the pub, ‘Oh you must mean Claire, she’s not my lady I’m afraid, though like a few others around here I might wish that she was.’ McPherson paused and gave Darren what seemed to be a long questioning look. Darren found himself squirming with embarrassment at the unexplainable relief he thought must surely be showing on his face at the policeman’s revelation. He wanted to ask more about the woman and he was certain by McPherson’s prolonged look that he was being goaded into doing so. For that very reason he let the matter drop.

‘No, I’d had a long day,’ McPherson continued, finally breaking a long silence, ‘I left the pub not much after you did actually. I think Claire had some kind of function to attend at the women’s institute.’

‘I see, it was just first impressions that was all,’ Darren said with a deliberately bland air, he still self-conscious, as if McPherson was somehow playing on his discomfort.

In the distance a single, forlorn willow caught his eye. As they approached he thought it resembled a gaunt old man, with its two remaining branches stretching out across the road like tough, sinewy arms, defying the world, taking on all-comers. He saw that there was an old dilapidated house standing behind the tree, the dyke and an overgrown hedge.

‘From a distance that tree looked human,’ Darren said, gazing up at it, ‘like some kind of giant you see in old time horror films, the way its trunk seems to bulge at the top to form a head, the way its branches seem to lean forward into the road as if they’re pointing. It’s really weird.’

‘Yeah, mind you it’s twilight that I reckon the old willow looks really spooky, Claire calls it The Old Man of The Fens.’

McPherson broke off as Darren glanced up at the mention of her name, leading him across narrow planks of rotting timber that formed a flimsy bridge across the dyke. Darren followed him, a wary eye on the turbulent channel of frothing water that had tormented his sleep during the night. The makeshift construction creaked alarmingly underfoot, it took only a few paces to reach the other side but it might have been a hundred as far as he was concerned.

As they struggled through the wet undergrowth that might have once been a perfectly respectable front garden, McPherson paused, his eyes firmly fixed on the front door, slamming back and forth against the rotted wooden frame. He was sure that when he’d last left the property, he’d secured it to the best of his ability.

He shrugged, lit a cigarette and went inside, Darren following. They recoiled from the stench which immediately hit them, and although McPherson had previous experience of what to expect, he nonetheless gasped at the mixture of human sweat, excrement, and another odour, cannabis was the first thing that sprung to mind, but he couldn’t be sure of that. But he was sure of one thing, somebody had been in here very recently, and smoking something a lot stronger than a cigarette. He didn’t need that much as evidence of occupation however, because there were embers of a fire in the grate.

‘This isn’t the way we left it,’ McPherson muttered, not so much at Darren, more to himself. ‘Someone’s been back here, that’s obvious enough. But why, where’s the sense? I don’t understand it.’

He glanced back at Darren and climbed the stairs. Darren, with a sleeve of his coat held to his nose to help combat the smell, could only shake his head. This place was getting weirder by the minute.

The two bedrooms to McPherson’s left were as bare as the rest of the house, the only noticeable features being the thick grey covering of dust that lay like a blanket across the floorboards, and cobwebs that hung from every corner. But in the tiny box-room to the right, a room so claustrophobic you could hardly swing yourself around in, he found a worn, faded blue mattress, and laying in an untidy heap upon it one single, threadbare blanket. Lying on the floor beside it was a torn cotton cushion that must have served as a pillow. The discovery caused McPherson to stop in his tracks and Darren, following closely behind had to divert quickly to his left to avoid colliding with him. In so doing, his leg shifted the mattress to the side, and beneath it was something, which caused McPherson’s eyes to widen markedly.

It was just a tiny article of clothing. But to McPherson it meant a great deal. For what Darren’s clumsiness had revealed was a heavily soiled, but clearly distinguishable, white ankle sock.


© Copyright 2018 Brian Cross. All rights reserved.

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