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.

Chapter6 (v.1) - Chapter Four (part two)

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: August 23, 2007

Reads: 241

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: August 23, 2007

A A A

A A A

Darren reached Ely a little after two o'clock, finding a car park close to the main street where the offices of Henley & Son were situated. As he left the confines of the car park, he was surprised to find himself thinking that the place exuded character and a warm charm; it seemed to stand defiant in the face of the isolated wilderness he'd just driven through. As if to emphasise as much he noticed the leaden skies had begun to lighten from the west and the heavy rain relent into a drizzle.

He found the solicitor's office at the foot of the hill on Main Street, just before the bend leading down to the river. It's wide, double fronted windows seemed to provide it with the air of an estate agent rather than a solicitor, and only the name Henley & Son, solicitors, in large blue print on the door told him otherwise.

The dismal conditions seemed to have deterred people from taking to the city's streets and likewise the solicitor's office was empty apart from a receptionist, who sat primly with her spectacles perched on the end of a sharp nose, glancing up as he walked in. Darren introduced himself and wondered whether he suffered from excessive body odour by the way she blinked when he approached the desk.

‘Oh yes, Mr. Henley is expecting you,' she muttered, pivoting round in her swivel chair and pressing a button on her intercom, ‘please go through.'

Darren took the few steps leading through the reception area to a small corridor, at the end of which was open door. ‘Come in Mr. Goldwater,' a small looking, portly man with a round and reddened face beckoned from behind a walnut desk, ‘a foul day for your journey I'm afraid,' he stretched his hand out to meet Darren's, forming a limp handshake suggesting formality rather than greeting. ‘Do sit down,' he said, offering an easy chair on the near side of his desk while he opened a drawer, taking out a file. The faint smile Henley had displayed disappeared immediately he flicked through the folder. He took from it a small cellophane bag containing a set of keys and dangled them from his fingertips as though he thought they might contain the remnants of The Plague.

‘I have to tell you Mr.Goldwater, that Old Bridge Farm might not be all that you were expecting,' Henley said, in the manner of someone whose job it was to convey disappointing news. He placed his fists under his chin and regarded Darren thoughtfully, as if expecting that disappointment to be prematurely reflected on the curly haired man's face. ‘You see Mr.Goldwater, the deceased was something of a recluse, and the bungalow you have inherited is, for want of a more apt description, in a tumbledown state. You might find it a costly enterprise to renovate.'

Henley reclined in his high backed chair, ‘I wouldn't imagine it would provide adequate accommodation unless you invested; apart from that it wouldn't have much of a resale-able value, now would it?'

Darren swallowed to conceal his rising resentment. He didn't like solicitors; he felt they were the one species you could generalise on with a degree of certainty. They charged exorbitant rates, judged themselves to be above the level of common understanding, and above all he'd yet to meet one who didn't speak as though he had a plum in his mouth. It was as if the profession demanded it.

‘You will find Bramble Dyke between Ely and Littleport, I believe it is signposted,' Henley said, his face set as though it had been moulded in a plaster cast of contempt for people who existed in lower levels than himself.

Darren took the keys, smiling faintly before assuming Henley's now austere stare. "Well," he thought, "if I do renovate the place and put it on the market there won't be any takings for supercilious old bastards like you."

Although the rain had relented and the sky opened out into a faint yellow haze, darkness was already beginning to close in as Darren left Ely, bound for Bramble Dyke. He'd found the journey boring and that had probably exacerbated his feeling of tiredness, but no doubt a string of events had all conspired to produce such lethargy. The solicitor's haughty attitude hadn't helped, it had infuriated him but in simple truth he knew it didn't take much to do that. Among the things that aroused his emotions were needless exhibitions of pomposity, they created in him an anger that sometimes defied his accustomed laid back nature. He had been known to erupt on occasions and afterwards he found himself cross for allowing his blood to boil over on account of things he knew he should simply let fly over his head.

Petulance was one of those things, however much he fought to stop himself succumbing to it. Take Goldie, her exhibitions of temper were fired by petulance, there was neither rhyme or reason behind her ravings, purely childish motivations aimed at provoking him to respond in similar fashion. And of course it worked, it always did.

Well not any more sunshine, not any more.

His foot was hard on the accelerator and the signpost seemed to rear right up as though it would strike him in the face. He had to slam heavily on the brake and ram the gear change firmly into reverse to check that it actually signified the turn for Bramble Dyke.

It was a dangerous manoeuvre, reversing at speed on any road, but at least this one was flat and straight, and the road behind had been clear. He glanced to the left, sure enough the sign had indicated Bramble Dyke, he should have trusted his intuition but just recently he had been less inclined to do that. But in any case there it was, nearly at journey's end, and now Darren wondered just how accurate Mr. Pompous Henley's description of the bungalow had been.

He turned right onto a road that seemed to become narrower the further he progressed along it. There were deep dykes on either side and beyond them extensive fields of now familiar black earth, seeming to blend in only too readily with the rapidly approaching night sky. The only respite from the pervading darkness was provided by the occasional, forlorn looking willow tree, its squat trunks and bare branches stubbornly set forward as if in deliberate resistance to the strong wind. It was a wintry, unwelcoming landscape overlooked by a sky now turning violet, and despite his problems there, Darren found he was increasingly questioning his judgement about leaving the leafy suburbs of Nottingham.

Just as he thought the straight road would go on forever he saw a sharp bend up ahead and slackened his speed appreciably. Why on earth the bend had to be so sharp when they had all this vast expanse of land to play with was beyond him, though once he was around it he was in for something of a surprise.

The road broadened with the arc of the bend and he found himself in something of a high street as his passage straightened out again. He passed a petrol station to his right, and then a general store come post office, followed by a small green with a couple of bench seats, at the back of which, lay a butcher's shop and a greengrocer.

Darren wondered briefly why he'd seen no sign of the community until he'd turned the bend; it had all seemed to appear as if by magic, but when he recalled that the road had been dipping all the while, he marked the reason down to the lie of the land

Reddish brown terraced cottages were appearing on both sides of him now, late nineteenth century he supposed as he neared some crossroads. But where did he go from here? He noticed a small pub on the far right hand side of the crossroads, its thick white walls standing out amidst the gathering gloom.

The lights were on inside and he could see a few silhouettes outlined against them. He swung the Jeep into the car park and clambering out, wandered inside. It was a quaint pub, in what he had to admit on first impressions, seemed an agreeable village. There was a small lounge bar on the left hand side that seemed empty, and a larger public bar to the right. The lounge looked as though it was hardly larger than the average living room, though equally as comfortable, with three or four sets of high backed chairs and highly polished dark tables.

Darren made for the basic, rectangular public area, where fur farmhand types were gathered around a pool table, smoking and laughing in unison. They all glanced up as he walked in and for a second Darren felt like a gunslinger entering a saloon in an old time western movie. Only he had no gun, and these folks weren't hostile, or so he hoped. All he wanted were directions, not a shoot out.

‘Bastard of a day,' Darren said, looking the nearest of the four in the eye, youngish, early twenties he supposed, longish fair hair, check shirt and jeans, broadly built with no noticeable fat.

‘Aye,' the man said, turning to his colleagues with a look that seemed to Darren to say, "we've got a right jerk here."

‘I'm after some directions,' Darren said straightening, his introductory smile fading, ‘I'm looking for Three Mile Drove, if any of you blokes can help me.'

The eyes of all four men seemed to interlock together as if he'd asked for some secret or perhaps unspeakable destination, reviled or perhaps sacrosanct, he wasn't sure which but instinctively felt he'd struck an unwelcome chord.

‘Three Mile Drove eh?' What seemed to be the eldest of the four, a wizened man with a stoop that might have overstated his age, looked at him through narrowing eyes, ‘Not often somebody asks for Three Mile Drove...'

‘Maybe not, but that's what I asked for,' Darren said in a voice while not unfriendly, nonetheless betrayed irritation. The man's remarks seemed to have been made purely for him to explain his reasons for wanting to go there. He wasn't going to do that, somehow his instincts stopped him from doing so.

There was an uncomfortable pause, before the oldest man sighed, ‘Turn out of the car park to your right,' he said, his thick, rustic accent noticeably lower in tone, ‘carry on straight, if you ignore the private roads you'll come to a right turn on a bend just about a mile on, that'll be Three Mile Drove.'

The man immediately turned his back on Darren as he finished speaking and the four men stood looking at each other though nobody spoke. He found it eerie, had to admit that. It seemed as though they were communicating by telepathy, though he knew even thinking as much was nonsense.

Now, feeling disturbed and agitated by the attitude of the four rustics he was off balance and pre-occupied as he walked into the narrow corridor separating the two bars. He'd thought that the lounge bar was empty and hadn't expected to see the athletic looking dark haired woman who marched quickly out of it. He stumbled clumsily into her, feeling a transient, but warm rush of blood as his body brushed against her and he felt the firmness of her breasts.

He halted abruptly and became so rigid that he might have been a statue but for the blazing crimson cheeks that he willed unsuccessfully to turn to their normal colour. ‘I'm sorry love, clumsy of me,' he said, shaking himself free of the plaster cast that seemed suddenly to have developed around him.

‘One two many is it?' she asked, her fine brows arching.

‘Hardly,' Darren said, reflecting ironically that for once it wasn't. ‘I was after directions, actually.'

There was a smile on the woman's face, not a big one, more of a tease he thought. ‘I suppose I'll get over the shock of being barged in the chest by a total stranger, but just remember if you're coming again that there are two bars, and they meet at this point.'

‘Yeah,' Darren said sheepishly, while admiring the attractive full face and intelligent looking eyes.

As they made their way out into the car park he could see that she had great legs, great shape, great hair and great -

‘And did you get the directions you were wanting?' the woman asked glancing back and annoyingly interrupting his personal observations.

‘I was looking for Three Mile Drove,' Darren said, trying his best not to ogle the woman but accepting he'd already lost the battle. He saw her look away just as the last word left his mouth, ‘It might be my imagination,' he pressed on, ‘but the blokes at the pool table in there seemed to act strange when I asked the way to the place.' He shrugged, ‘They're probably just a bunch of rustic weirdoes but it did make me feel a bit awkward, is everyone around here as oddball as them?'

He thought he heard her sigh, and as she turned back to him, her face illuminated by the car park floodlight, he thought it had hardened. ‘You're Midlands born and bred I guess from your accent, the first thing you need to know about fenland people is that they're a suspicious lot until they get to know you. They don't take to newcomers easily, that's probably all it is.'

He noticed the way her voice had dropped away as she spoke; it seemed edgy and uncertain. Did everybody turn funny at the mention of Three Mile Drove or was it purely a product of his tired imagination?

‘I've been left a place there; I've just come down to check it out. Old Bridge Farm it's called.'

‘Yes, I know it.' There seemed a sudden expression of surprise as the woman swept slender fingers through her long hair, ‘You'll find it at the bottom of the drove, it's a dead end by the way.' She left him at that point, marching across to the far side of the gravel car park. He watched her go, ‘See you again,' he called out, though in the wind he hadn't any idea whether she'd heard him. In any case she didn't respond.

‘I hope we meet again,' he whispered, then remonstrated within for talking to himself as her silhouette disappeared amidst the gloom.

He found it surprisingly easy to reach Three Mile Drove, despite the gathering darkness. The road was straight and flat, but as he approached the first bend he saw the Drove running directly off to the right. In complete contrast to the road he'd just travelled along this one was narrow and anything but even. He was glad of the luxury of a four-wheel drive as the Jeep cruised along the barren road negotiating crate-sized potholes.

He'd been travelling along it for a couple of minutes, craning his neck for a sign of the dead end when a sharp thud struck the side of the Jeep, for a second he thought it must have been a large piece of the loose gravel which littered the road but he soon realised it was too heavy for that. He swerved, almost ditching the vehicle into one of the deep dykes that lined both sides of the road, before slamming on the brakes so fiercely he feared his seat belt would snap like a paper chain. He unclipped it and leapt out of the cab.

The evening was cold and draughty, looking around he shivered beneath his black silk shirt. A dark crimson sky was laced with a sickly yellow where the sun had set some time earlier. Only the sound of wind rushing through his ears like distant thunder disturbed the silence, and then the most hideous ear-piercing scream he had ever heard shrieked through his ears. In that instant he felt eerily alone. He might have been an impostor on a distant planet, plucked from the hub of civilisation and flung into a vast alien wilderness.

And then, beyond the dyke to his left Darren saw something moving quickly. Something in white, something screaming. Even the most hysterical groupie that plagued the band in its early days couldn't have come within an octave of matching the sound.

Darren flung open the glove compartment of his vehicle and fumbled for his torch. He found it and shone it into the darkness. It focused immediately on a figure fleeing along a track that separated the fields beyond the roadside, fields which were rapidly absorbed by the night sky.

His natural instincts demanded that he gave chase. Gone were his inhibitions, it was pure anger that drove him now. Anger, that somebody apparently conjured up from nowhere, had had the audacity to stone his vehicle, not merely to stone it but hit it with such force that the reinforced plates on the Jeep's left hand side had been dented.

He positively shook with rage as three rapid strides took him to the roadside verge, but in his blind fury he'd forgotten about the dyke that lay hidden, both by the darkness and the tall reeds that bordered it.

There was sudden disorientation and the shock of falling, and then the sensation of cold, flowing water surging through his clothes and into his limbs. His body had slithered out of control, his feet were leading the way all right but they were merely floundering in space as though caught in a vacuum. His head spun as it struck the near wall of the dyke, as writhing in discomfort and confusion he tasted the rich, acrid earth of the bank.

It was probably the rain-sodden softness of the dyke wall that saved him from being concussed and in all probability swept helplessly along the frothing channel, but he'd retained enough sense of awareness to raise his head above the water, as coughing the foul tasting stuff from his lungs he hauled his body free from the furious cascade that could so easily have despatched them to oblivion.

He hung his head, placing his hands on his kneecaps and coughing up the last dregs of water. Forcing himself upright he took a deep breath and turned to look back at the fields, now totally submerged in darkness. There was no prospect now of pursuing the vandal who'd damaged his Jeep, they would be long gone, finding refuge somewhere amidst the large blanket of darkness that had descended on the fens. Besides, his right leg ached rotten and seemed in direct competition with his head to decide which area of pain held ascendancy. He thought he'd probably torn a ligament, and so even if he had possessed x-ray eyesight the chase was up for the time being. But there would come another day no doubt, and right now his anger was such that even if he found he couldn't stand the area, which seemed to him highly likely, then he'd make this little ambush a reason for staying on just so that he could get even. One thing was for sure, he might be a newcomer but he'd be damned if he'd tolerate incidents such as these.

He struggled back into the Jeep, feeling like he'd been for a swim in a rat infested bog, and in all probability that was exactly what he'd done. He felt his wet clothes discharging their contents deep into the costly leather upholster of the Jeep as he wrenched it into gear.

Old Bridge Farm seemed to rear right up at him, at least the rusting iron gates did. Perhaps he'd been travelling too fast, unnerved by the experience he'd just encountered, but the powerful headlights hadn't revealed the gates to him until the last few seconds. Now he had to slam on the brakes hard to avoid blasting his way right through.

He got out, trailing his aching leg behind him and after pushing open the gates, drove tentatively through. He must have travelled about thirty metres when he made out the dark outline of a single storey building laying to his left. He slowed the Jeep to a crawl as its headlights reflected what seemed to be a small farmyard, its surface consisting of broken chunks of concrete leaving small craters full of moss and weed.

As he approached the building, he thought he heard a high-pitched scream fill the air, the same kind of inhuman wail he'd experienced earlier, though this time he shrugged it off. This really was his mind playing tricks, because the yard was bordered by willows on either side, their branches rustling in the ever-increasing wind and seeming to stretch towards him like deformed human limbs. Darren pulled to a halt beside the structure and hauled himself out of the Jeep.

In general keeping with what he'd seen so far, he'd half expected to find the windows broken, the door hanging from its hinges and most of the tiles missing from the roof. It wasn't quite as bad as that, he couldn't be sure about the roof but the windows at the front appeared intact, and the door despite the peeling paintwork was secure.

He turned his key in the lock and as the door creaked reluctantly open he found himself overwhelmed by an odour which stunk to high heaven. It was the sort of smell which suggested to him that there wasn't a flush toilet in the place, and the old man's waste had stagnated within the confines of these walls since his death. That was all he could think of, as, with his soaking shirt held to his face to try and alleviate the smell, he fumbled for the light switch. It was the ancient, circular sort with a small lever at its centre, he found it hard to believe there were any left these days, but as he flicked it down to find that the only light remained supplied by his torch, he turned in disgust with himself.

‘Why the fuck didn't I think of it!' Cursing out loud he slammed his fist against the door jamb. He hadn't considered for a single minute that there wouldn't be any electricity; it was the sort of thing you took for granted these days, but it had been several months since the old man's death and who the hell was there to sort out the bills?

Sweet Fanny Adams.

He ought to have thought of that, just as he ought to have arranged his accommodation beforehand. It was next to useless trying to examine the place in the dark. He'd take a good look at it in the light of day, then he could see what kind of hell-hole he was walking into.

Now he had to do something about accommodation, he wasn't prepared to spend the night in a house that had the pungent smell of a portable bog. He didn't feel comfortable enough in the surroundings to spend the night in the Jeep either, he'd spent many a night in the thing after a gig, but then he was in civilisation, not in a black wilderness and besides, more often than not he was tanked up.

So it had to be overnight accommodation, there were no two ways about it. There was still plenty of time to sort something out, if he got a move on.

Darren slammed the door shut and limped back to his Jeep. Still dripping wet, he searched his holdall in the back. He'd brought a change of clothes and a towel, there might be nowhere for him to wash but at least he'd be more presentable when he asked for accommodation.

He towelled himself down before changing into a faded pair of Levi's and a black denim shirt, then wearily clambered back into the driving seat. He must have dozed for a while because when he next glanced at the Jeep's clock it had just turned eight. Darren was surprised he managed to lapse into a comatose state at all, but then it had been one hell of a day. Now, he'd seek out the nearest available accommodation, take a good bath and go to bed, he'd done enough driving for one day.

* * *


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