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All For Love


Dani J Caile

All For Love


Dani J Caile


ISBN: 9780463986356

Published in the United States of America with international distribution.

Version 2.0


Copyright © Dani J Caile 2016

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

In the sleepy village of Fickleton, there is but one obsession, a young Venus named Evelyn Sands, adored, loved, cherished. But then, one day she is taken from them...

Table of Contents

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Other titles by Dani J Caile…

Part One

Whispers rippled over the mossy rocks as the water flowed by. Warblers battled it out to sing their repeating yet hypnotising, screeching melodies. The sky was amass with laden bees and dying, desperate butterflies searching for pollen from flowers all abloom. And two fishermen stinking of booze were in their wreck of a boat. Tied to an old forgotten gillnet stake.

Have you noticed...?” began Nigel, yawning and slowly stretching, making his dirty camouflage jacket creak. Horris, snoring only a moment ago, opened one eye from his early morning nap and glared from under his fish hook cap. Have you...?” started Nigel again, without the yawn.

No, I haven’t, not yet, no,” replied Horris. He kicked a crumpled beer can across the bottom of the boat as he repositioned his dead leg.

...that chocolate bars these days are smaller?” Nigel held up an empty though chocolatey wrapper. It matched the crackling pile around their cold feet, a perfect example from the binge the night before, forgotten and discarded plastic skins of momentary pleasure. A green dragonfly hovered by and gave the shown item a glance before flying off. They weigh exactly the same but...” continued Nigel, stopping only to swat a lone mosquito.

What the hell are you going on about now, Nigel, eh?” Horris moved his weight, hoping it would bring blood to the leg. Are you saying that after all this time you’ve come up with a conspiracy theory for chocolate bars?”

Oh, yes, as the years have passed, chocolate factories across the globe have...”

...surreptitiously recalibrated their machines, yeah, right, Nigel.”

Millimetre by millimetre, milligram by milligram, they have decreased the size of their delicious products.”

You, as with all of your nincompoop idiotic asinine paperthin theories, are full of shit,” sighed Horris, shaking his head in dismay.

Coming from THE bull master, that’s a compliment.”

You’re welcome, now shut up and fish, dickhead.”

“I haven’t finished yet…and they increase the weight of their…”

“Of their packaging, oh stop it, you’re upsetting the fish,” yawned Horris.

“Stop interrupting me, please. Now, they increase the weight of their packaging so that their loyal sugar toothed consumers continue on with their cocoa driven lives. Sad little lives, completely unaware of this villainous atrocity.” Nigel dropped the hallowed empty wrapper into the boat along with the rest of the rubbish, losing it from his sight, and glanced over the side. "They're not biting this morning, are they?" he said, tapping the surface with a finger.

Horris adjusted his hat to cover what hair protruded from his fringe and continued napping. “Not really.” A kingfisher whizzed by, sending a cool breeze across his sleeping body. “Had better luck the other Friday.”

They sat there trying to remember that Friday, Horris at a loss for any other stories or points he could score off his friend. In the stalemate, he checked his rod hanging over the side without a twitch, wondering if he’d ever had such a lousy fishing night as this.

“And we pay more for less,” added Nigel, munching.

“I don’t know about the fish but you’ve definitely pissed me…what are you eating?” asked Horris, knowing they had no more food. His fishing partner was munching on something but he was sure there were no crisps, chocolate bars or ham and cheese sandwiches left in the boat. The pork scratchings, his favourite and unfortunately hard to get hold of in the village, were the first to be scoffed by Nigel, the git.

Eating?” munched Nigel, adjusting his seating, moving the boat and splashing water.

I thought we'd eaten everything, eh?”

Yes, we had," replied Nigel, chewing, crunching. Horris watched as his fishing partner dipped a hand into the water and brought something out, something small.

Are you eating raw fish, then?” he asked.

No, I’m, err, I’m eating peanuts, dry roasted peanuts,” replied Nigel.

How can you be eating peanuts, dry roasted peanuts from the river?”

Err, with my hand?” Horris continued to watch Nigel crunching and munching away at peanuts, dry roasted peanuts, he collected from the water beside the boat. He shifted his hat back over his balding patch. Trying not to rock the boat or trip over cans and rubbish separating himself from Nigel, Horris took a look over the side.

Since when do peanuts, dry roasted peanuts at that, come from water?”

Ours not to reason why, ours but to grab and eat,” swallowed Nigel. Horris looked up and down the river. There was a thin perfect line of peanuts slowly floating along the surface of the meandering river, moving with the flow. They’re not very salty or spicy, though, but they hit the spot.”

What is going on with these peanuts?” wondered Horris, snatching a few. While he tasted a particularly hot, spicy one, he noticed he was sitting in silence. Nigel’s face. Usually red, Nigel’s face had turned a bluey white shade of pale.

Are you okay, Nigel?” Horris asked. Nigel lifted his hand, water dripping into the river. A thin, white wrist was in his grip. The unexpected sight spooked Horris and he almost capsized the boat, making Nigel drop the arm and dive his hand back down. When Nigel had brought it back into view, they saw a bracelet with a pendant. It had the initials ‘ES’. They looked at each other, Horris realising the significance of their find; in that moment, time stood still, no sounds, no actions.

Am I holding...Eve...Evelyn’s hand?”

Wha…what are you talking about…you…that can’t be…just can’t…” stammered Horris, mortified. Nigel loosened his grip and the hand sank back into the water. Evelyn? No, can’t...” Horris froze, his mind racing through the implications, the shock, confusion, then shook the boat as he dived in to retrieve her. Moments felt like hours as he fumbled in the water, searching. His hand brushed a texture similar to a fish and he grabbed it, the weight pulling him down until he kicked harder. When he put his head above water and seized the boat’s side with the other hand, his eyes, watery, cleared to an image on the riverbank. Nigel had greeted the visitor, a man on horseback, and Horris heard the salutations coming to an end as water ran from his ears.

Hello Horris, I believe it’s a little early to go for a dip,” said Archie, out for his morning ride on Bess. Archie was an old busybody from the village, one of the regulars, born and bred in these parts, a local. Nigel and Horris were known as outsiders’, moving here in their childhood.

Nothing better than a swim in the morning to wake the senses!” The water was ice-cold, he had two choices, hang onto the arm and freeze or let go and jump back into the boat. He decided to hold.

“But Horris, you’ll frighten all the fish away with your thrashing and splashing around out there,” replied Archie. After his initial greeting, Nigel had turned to stone, a stupid grin on his face.

“They’re sleeping anyway, Archie, I’m trying to wake them up a bit!” he shouted back. With the added weight, the boat leaned.

“Are you sure you didn’t lose something, I can see you holding…”

“Yes, yes, okay, Archie, we can’t fool you, can we, huh?” laughed Horris, his teeth chattering and body stretching as both arms strained with the grip. “We caught a big one in our net but it went overboard,” he finished, smiling.

“You seem to be in trouble, looks like you need a hand,” said Archie, dismounting.

“No, we’re okay, really!” screeched Nigel, breaking his silence and surprising all parties. Archie paused in his dismount and Horris nodded to the old man.

“Really, we’ve got it, Archie, I’m just taking a refreshing break.” Horris was losing what feeling he did have before in his legs. Another few minutes in the cold water and he’d have a bad case of pneumonia.

“Okay, well, so you know, I’ll be doing my usual, and if you get into trouble just holler.” Archie sat back and took the reins. Bess gave a loud snort, bowing her head, ready for the rest of the walk along the river. Horris had never seen her move anything faster than a trot, but then she was getting on in horse years, some said over thirty.

“Bye, Archie!” waved Horris, sinking into the water. He grabbed the boat, making Nigel lose his balance. Luckily, Archie and Bess had begun their saunter, missing the little mishap, as Nigel regained his balance and took Horris’s wet shoulders.

“Pull me out, quick, dammit!” shrieked Horris, now holding onto the arm with both hands. The boat rocked from side to side as Nigel used his weight to drag Horris and Evelyn in. The friends fell among the crushed cans and empty crisp packets while the cold, white, dead body slivered into position. Sitting up, they sat there and stared at the motionless mass of flesh they once knew so well. She was dressed in a dyed kaleidoscope t-shirt and blue jeans skirt. Her long blonde hair, dishevelled and unkempt, reflected the morning sun, as always. Even in death there was a hidden secret of beauty radiating from her, a beauty which earned her adoration, respect.

“What are we going to do, Horris?” asked Nigel, checking his pockets.

“Why is it always me who has to come up with the answers, eh?” replied Horris, shaking from the cold and the shock.

“Because I’m the dumbass!”

Horris’s teeth rattled together as he took off his sodden jacket and trousers, knowing full well he’d be better off without them, feeling the morning sun.

“This ain’t the time for any hanky panky, Horris!”

He stood up and smacked Nigel with his wet hat, unfortunately catching him on the cheek with a large fish hook and drawing blood.

“Hey, watch it, eh, you dick,” moaned Nigel, wiping his face clean.

“Sorry, it wasn’t on purpose, honest.” Horris tugged on all his clothes to give them a chance to dry. Nigel pressed a tissue on his wound. A bleeding moaner, a half-naked guy and a corpse. If anyone was looking, it would take a hell of a lot of explaining to clear the situation. But the real problem wasn’t that they now had a cold, lifeless body in their boat, it was who it was, Evelyn.

“Really, Horris, what the hell are we going…?”

“Shut up, I’m thinking,” he interrupted, searching his frozen, numb brain for answers.

Evelyn was the one, the girl every guy wanted, yearned for, wished for, to laugh with, lay with, dance with, kiss, hold, cherish as his own. To see her like this was…crushing. Who would dare do such a thing, to take the most wonderful, purest soul of the whole village? There was absolutely no way of knowing how the locals would react. This news would shatter the calm tranquillity that the place was known for. Young boys would go to drink, to drugs. Grown men would disappear into depression and chronic anxiety, their wives suffocating in misery and despair, wearing black and pacing through the streets, groaning.

In fact, if he thought about it, all the men, and boys, in Fickleton looked up to Evelyn. She was the village goddess. The finest example of beauty, style and finesse nature had ever given the god-awful piss-pan of a place. Even the women respected her, holding her up as the epitome of perfection, virtuous beauty.

They needed a plan of action, and looking at the state of Nigel, he had to make it. Nigel had a tissue stuck to his face.

“Okay, the way I see it is that we’ve found a dead body in the river, and not just any body, but Evelyn… holy shit…Evelyn.”

“Why her, why… what are we going…?”

“Stop it with the whining, Nigel, it’s not winning you any points,” snapped Harris, scratching his balding patch. Thirty two and he already showed signs of his family’s wonderful heritage. He couldn’t wait for the excruciatingly painful hemorrhoids and disabling degenerative disc disease.

“I guess you get to show your superb analytical skills and above average intelligence now, huh, Horris?” grumbled Nigel, ripping off the tissue and yelping.

“I wish,” he replied, still thinking. His little white brain cells couldn’t work against the sight before him, the poor girl. “We’ve got to get off this boat for starters, we can’t sit here all day.”

“Great thinking, Sherlock, then let’s find the oars.” They dug under all the plastic and metal, sliding out the oars and placing them in their worn rowlocks. A few cans went overboard as they sat down on either side of the centre thwart and began rowing. The boat hit the riverbank with force. Evelyn flew out, sliding along the grass. They watched, hands on oars and mouths wide open as she continued on until her head hit a tree. A wasp’s nest fell off a branch and landed in her crutch, causing an angry swarm to appear.

“That went well, thank fuck she’s already dead.” They scrambled off the boat, Horris leaving Nigel to drag it on land as he ran to Evelyn. The wasps didn’t allow him to get close. One more step and he found trouble. Realising he was only dressed in his wet underwear, Horris made a quick getaway, sprinting past an unsuspecting Nigel. The enraged wasps, seeing another enemy in their sights, split up and attacked, causing both to turn and jump into the river.

“Shit, it’s bloody cold, Horris!” screamed Nigel, desperately swatting wasps from above.

“You get used to it after a while!” he shouted, doing breast stroke. The wasps were incessant, never leaving their prey, demanding blood from their misfortune and rage. Horris submerged. From below, he watched the wasps give up.

Nigel had less luck, his camouflage jacket filling up with air. The wasps had a field day on him until he grabbed a stick floating nearby and fought back. He then took his jacket and swiped it over the swarm, drowning them. Horris swam back and helped Nigel get onto his feet, cold and wet. It was Nigel’s turn to undress, hanging his clothes on a bush but shaking off the dead insects.

Evelyn wasn’t fairing too well, what with being dead and bitten by wasps. Her slimy, white skin was now full of wasps trying to make some mark but sadly and frustratingly unable to. Their nest sat between her legs like a melon.

“We have to do something about them wasps, Horris,” pointed Nigel, shaking. Horris took the stick from Nigel and crept towards Evelyn’s body, and with one clean practiced stroke, swiped the nest away from the place. With a few more forceful swipes of the stick, the remainder of the wasps flew off.

“Cool, hole in one.”

“Now, are we going to stop fooling around and deal with this?” asked Horris, standing in his vest.

[back to TOC]

Part Two

“Good weather for it, eh,” stated Carlson. Being the fattest regular in the Queen’s Head, his place was on the old engraved bench by the window. No other seat near the toilet could take his weight, or his constant flatulence problem. Archie had taken his usual stool by the fireplace, the wood spitting sparks into the dark, cosy room. Dave was at the bar, John next to him and Horris sipped his beer in the corner, next to the dartboard. They all looked out of the window at Nigel, standing under a sunshade in the pouring rain frying fish on the grill.

“Horris, tell me again why Nigel is grilling fish in the rain?” asked John, downing his third beer.

“We had a…large catch down by the river,” choked Horris, drooling his beer. He wiped his chin and smiled confidently. He was waiting for a good time to inform Roger, the landlord, about what was in his fridge freezer. Making room by frying fish seemed like a fantastic idea at the time but then the heavens opened up, as they do.

“What’s that he’s frying?” Archie stood up with his pint and moved to the window, examining the fish on the grill too closely. “I’ll be blowed sideways, didn’t know there were plaice in the river.”

Beer came out of Horris’s nose, which made him cough and almost drop his glass.

“Steady on, you don’t want to lose that beer, it would be such a waste,” interrupted Roger, coming back from the can.

“Sorry, Roger, won’t do it again.” Horris cleaned up and took time to compose himself for Archie’s next inquiry. There was always a ‘next inquiry’ with Archie, he could never let things lie, much less dead dogs.

“There’s plaice in the river?” It was Carlson this time who took the bait, a much easier dupe to convince, especially if you rabbited on and on. His brain would seize up and he’d continue drinking. A typical reaction from all those present today.

“That’s right, they come up with the tide in the spawning season and a few of them are stranded, unable to return.” Horris waited for his words of wisdom to hit base with the locals around the small room, and the slow nod finally came, all in agreement. The lie had been swallowed, hook, line and sinker, for the moment, anyway. It was all plausible, as the evidence of a pathetic looking ragged small-spotted catshark encased in a glass display above the bar proved.

“Hey, I’ve got some plaice in the freezer out back, shall I get them out?” asked Roger, putting down his towel and grabbing the shed keys. Horris caught Roger’s attention and out of sight gave a subtle shake of his head. The landlord paused and cottoned on that there was something amiss with this fish grill. He winked. “Oh, just remembered, Masie wanted that for later on in the month.” The tightness in Horris’s chest relaxed. After Roger filled everyone’s glasses, he gestured Horris over to the bar and making sure no one was listening, began what Horris dreaded.

“What the hell are you doing with my fish, Horris?” whispered Roger.

The interrogation was on, but Horris knew that if he could keep it simple, all would be well.

“We kinda borrowed the space in the freezer.” Definitely a good start. Roger, a man of the world and sometimes a woman in his high heels and dress on Saturday nights, was always ready to help anyone out. “We thought you wouldn’t mind,” said Horris, sweating.

“Why did you think I wouldn’t mind?”

“Because you Roger, are a respected, outstanding and esteemed member of the community, and we’ll also pay for all the fish fried.”

“Oh, okay. So, tell me, what did you put in my freezer, a body?” They laughed, Horris a little longer. His strained smile gave way to a worrying grin. Roger’s face lost some colour, eyes wide. “Boys, me and Horris are going to put on some barrels, you keep an eye on Nigel, alright?” They all nodded and concentrated on the scene outside, with Nigel frying and sneezing.

Before Horris and Roger left the room, the front door flung open and in came a soaking umbrella with Mrs Mullingworth behind. She was the village piano teacher and susceptible to gin and tonic. Shaking the umbrella on the floor and making John’s dog moan, she spoke.

“I say! Have any one of you rotten scondrels seen the Evelyn girl recently? She missed a piano lesson yesterday!” Mrs Mullingworth had a habit of speaking with exclamations. One mention of Evelyn and the place lit up, smiles all around. Nigel’s plight was forgotten. A quiet conversation started up between Dave and John, finishing with a giggle. “You there, you scallywag, have you seen her?” She poked Carlson in his round belly with the end of her wet umbrella, causing ripples around his midsection, making Archie laugh.

“No, Daphne, I haven’t seen her for…two days, four hours and…twenty five minutes.” Carlson smiled at Mrs Mullingworth who gave a grunt because she hated it when someone called her by her chosen name.

“Well, Roger, when she pops in again, because I know she will, tell her I’m looking for her!”

Roger saluted the old girl in true fashion. “Don’t you worry your frilly little skirt, Mrs Mullingworth, I’ll tell her when I see her, okay?” he smirked. With one more poke to Carlson’s belly, she was off, closing the door. The men turned to each other and spoke enthusiastically, asking what they knew about Evelyn’s whereabouts but all coming to a blank.

“I last saw her down at the Isletons’ place with their boy, prancing about on a tractor, having way too much fun.”

“I saw her three days ago at Miss Thicket’s, posting a letter and choosing birthday cards with her grandma: such a nice dress.”

“I haven’t seen her this week,” sighed Archie. The rest of the men went over to comfort poor Archie, patting him on the back and laughing, making goodwill sounds and gestures his way.

“Now’s the time to go, Roger.” Horris motioned the landlord to the back.

“Yeah, sure, right, okay,” said Roger, preoccupied.

Leaving the men to talk, Horris and Roger made their way through the hall and out to the yard. The light of the day was fading and the rain came down, beating on the roof of the shed, accompanying Nigel’s singing. Why he was singing was anybody’s guess, Horris wasn’t going to ask him. Roger found the rusty lock and turned the key, the door creaking and bending as he opened it. Flicking on the light, he walked in. Horris knew the next few seconds were crucial to their future, the whole village’s future, ultimately their survival. How was Roger going to react to this?

“So, Horris, what did you leave in my freezer?” asked Roger. “What monster fish did you drench up from the depths this time?” They stood before the large freezer, long enough to hold a six foot catfish with room to spare. A nervous Horris felt droplets of sweat falling down his neck and back. His throat went dry and he coughed.

“You going to tell me or is it a surprise?” asked Roger, holding the lid. Horris looked at Roger and at first shook his head, then nodded, then finally shrugged his shoulders as even he was confused.

“Okay, then, let’s go for the surprise, eh?” Lifting the lid, he popped his head in. With his arms outstretched holding up the heavy lid, Roger stood over the freezer like a statue and gave a long sigh. For a moment he stayed in that same position, until he carefully closed the freezer, iced air escaping downwards, and dropped his shoulders.

“What are we going to do?” Roger’s question was the same Horris and Nigel had asked back at the river, a question which had no clear answer, no possible solution. “Have you…have you told Dobson yet?” he asked, making eye contact with Horris, showing the sadness and regret which were mirrored in both their hearts.

“Not yet, I guess that’s next, yeah?”

“Of course it is, but I don’t think he or anybody’s going to be too happy about it.”

“Maybe that’s the greatest understatement of the year, Roger, everyone worships her.”

They stood there in silence, gazing at the closed freezer, Evelyn’s resting place.

“We’d better get back,” said Roger, flicking off the light and allowing Horris to leave the shed first. There were screams from the front, outside…Nigel. Horris ran around to the front, the rain coming down in buckets. He stopped short of Nigel and the grill, what was left of it. Bess, tired of being rained on in the street, stood under the sunshade, happy, content.

“Help me!” Nigel, however, was lying on his back with a ton of fried fish across his front and the grill, ruined, in pieces beside him, sizzling away. Roger caught up with Horris and put his hands on hips.

“You’re going to pay for that!” Swearing at Nigel, Roger picked him up and threw him inside. Horris started collecting the fish but Roger motioned him to stop. “Leave those damn fish in the street, no one round here eats that crap, anyways, that’s why I have it!” he cursed.

“You’ve got a point there,” replied Horris. They all crashed through the door to be greeted by a full pub unaware of the calamity outside, all speaking together. Listening, Horris noticed the topic of the night was Evelyn, who else? Their faces beamed, glasses clinked, laughter filled the air. Life really did revolve around her, what was going to happen? Horris spotted Dobson, the village constabulary, off duty, sitting at the bar. Roger saw him, too. Putting a dripping Nigel down on a stool next to the roaring fire, irritating Archie, bonus, Horris got close enough to eavesdrop.

“Evening Dobson, and how was your day, sir, eh?” Roger took down Dobson’s beer mug from behind the bar and filled it full.

“Oh, it’ll get a lot better once the first one’s down me.” Dobson had been a policeman in the little village since Horris could remember. Other than the odd poaching incident, natural death and tractor accident with animals and people to deal with, Dobson’s life was quiet. Nothing big.

“Can I have a quick word with you?” Horris watched Roger take Dobson aside and have a short but heated whispered conversation, Dobson’s face moving from one emotion to another. Didn’t look good. When Roger had finished, Dobson stared ahead, emotionless, until he leaned over the bar, belly straining his belt, and grabbed a half-full bottle of whiskey. He patted Roger on the shoulder, who dropped his head, and led him away to the small quiet table in the corner. The regulars in the pub were completely oblivious to the two men sharing the bottle, one swig at a time, as they talked and laughed together. But Horris, and now Nigel, weren’t. They were transfixed on the little get-together.

“What now?” Nigel stood beside Horris, his clothes dripping on the carpet, though he’d surely had enough of Archie and his stories of the amazing multi-coloured fornicating sheep. Hearing about them a hundred times was a drag. Looking back, Archie had found another victim.

“While you grilled with Bess, I told Roger.” They looked over at the two drinkers, their poker faces blank.

“Archie should’ve shown her the whip a long time ago, bloody horse.”

“They don’t look very happy, do they, those two?”

A laugh erupted from the main crowd. After some guffawing, it calmed down and Horris and Nigel sat at a table.

“We find her in the river, carry her here, dump her in Roger’s freezer…you think anyone would be happy about that?” Horris had known Nigel for ages, he’d got used to his ways, eased into his character, considered him a friend, but sometimes…sometimes…

“I think Roger just told Dobson about… about… about what’s in the freezer and that is the result.” So, this was the way grown men reacted to bad news, well, perhaps yes if they also had some strong personal connection towards the recently deceased. And it had to have been recent because the last time Horris saw Evelyn was only the night before in the pub, drinking a beer. Whatever happened, it must’ve been last night some time, after she’d left. “Nigel, what happened last night, anything special, other than us going night-fishing?” His friend put his arms on the table, leaving wet patches wherever he moved his sleeves.

“Not that I know of, no,” replied Nigel.

“I saw… ‘you know who’ last night, had a beer, nothing else. Sh… they left but didn’t say where sh… they were going,” whispered Horris.

“What was that, Horris, what did you say?” asked Carlson, walking past to the toilet.

“Nothing, Carlson.” He smiled as the man-blubber moved on. When the toilet door closed, it was safe for Horris to speak. “I think there might be a real chance of foul play here.” They both looked around the room, making sure no one heard Horris’s last deadly statement.

“You think?” said Nigel, back to facing Horris.

“If that’s the case, then we’re in deep trouble, knowing what we know… if it isn’t, then there’s bad times ahead. I’d prefer the latter, though that won’t be easy to get through.” Nigel sat there, nodding, and scratching his chin vigourously. “What’s the matter with you, you got an allergy or something?”

“I think Bess has fleas, she’s old and haggard enough for them.”

“That’s almost blasphemy, Nigel.” A dull thud sounded above the noise in the pub, pausing the jollity for a mere second until those inside resumed play. Horris found the source: Dobson’s head hitting the table.

“Can’t hold his drink.” Nigel stood up, reached over the bar for a towel and dried his hair, sitting back down as he said, “So, what?”

“It can’t go on like this, it’ll get ugly soon so we need to do something about… the freezer thing before anyone points fingers…” They sat there in contemplation, drinking their beer when Horris spotted the Doc over at the other wall discussing something with Dave, probably his warts again.

“I tell you, Doc, you’ve gotta prescribe me some again, it did wonders…” With Dave, if it wasn’t about warts, it was about his ingrown toenails.

“Doc’s the answer… we’ve got to start somewhere, before someone else does.” Horris waved to catch the Doc’s attention. He was happy to excuse himself from Dave.

“Hello boys, nice to see you,” smiled the Doc, shaking their hands and happily sitting down, leaving Dave to ponder the fate of his infamous warts.

“Doc, we’ve got a question.” A serious expression passed over the Doc’s face, his hands clasped together, fingers entwined and eyebrows trying to meet in the middle.

“Oh really, what might that be, then?” he replied with a frown.

“Well, it’s basically a hypothetical question. We got to thinking while fishing last night and…”

“That’s what happens, boredom brings a wondering mind.”

“Yes, well, we were thinking, hypothetically like… if we found, say… a body in the water, not that we did, of course…” Horris shifted his weight to the side and coughed, he’d never been a good liar.

“Of course not, of course. Nigel, I haven’t heard much from your dear old aunt recently, how is her rheumatoid arthritis, doing alright?” asked the Doc, smiling.

“Err, yeah, she’s not so bad but yeah.” He was always popping over to his aunt to check up on her, sometimes leaving the best of a good pint. Nigel was heavily family-oriented, what with losing his parents. He’d lived in the care of his aunt since he was nine. His parents had left on a train for the city, waving goodbye to him. Thing is, they never bothered to come back or leave an address. Horris tried to catch Doc’s attention.

“So, Doc, what do you think, eh?” asked Horris.

“Sorry Horris, what do I think about what?”

“If we found, hypothetically, a body in the water…a dead body, how would we, and this being the question…” continued Horris, sweating.

“Horris, you could have made something of yourself, you know,” said the Doc, butting in.

“Thanks, Doc, that really helps. Now, if we found a body in the river… water, how could we tell if it was an accident or foul play?”

“Oh, right, well, it’s not so difficult, Horris. An accident would mean no signs of injury. Unless, of course, the person had bumped their head before going in. Or thinking about it while going in, but detailed forensics would show whether any weapon or instrument was used on the body or not.”

Horris didn’t remember if he’d seen any ‘signs of injury’ on Evelyn, he was more preoccupied with hiding her.

“I say though, that’s a pretty morose ‘hypothetical question’ to be thinking about all alone on a boat, fishing, in the night.”

They all chuckled and drank some of their beers, smiling amongst themselves and wiping away their froth with Horris trying to reply.

“Ah, the ‘dead’ of night and all,” he said. The Doc slowly pointed at him and laughed.

“You’re a one, aren’t you, Horris, eh?”

“I certainly most am, Doc,” Horris said, laughing with him, trying to think of a way to excuse himself.

“Did you hear about the Evelyn girl the other night, my, that must’ve been a right old rigmarole, what with the Isletons being like they are. That girl, she’s a siren among our womenfolk, a jewel among the rocks. When deoxyribonucleic acid got to her, it decided on perfection, natural beauty at its best, eh?”

“Yes, Doc, we’re surely blessed here,” replied Horris. The knowledge that this perfect creation was now resting, dead, frozen among Roger’s fish fingers and sausages in the freezer out the back didn’t help. “I must’ve missed that bit of news, Doc, what happened, something earth shattering?” he asked. Nigel choked on his last gulp of beer, Horris hit his back.

“‘Earth shattering’, oh, now, now, Horris, tut-tut.” The Doc smiled, lifted his beer in salute and left their table, much to the amazement of Horris.

“Holy crap, that was the shortest conversation I’ve ever heard from the Doc. Usually he stays for hours,” said Nigel.

[back to TOC]

Part Three

They opened the freezer. There she was, the flower of Fickleton, the Venus of the valley. The perfect example of the miracle of nature, the beauty, the exquisiteness, on ice.

“Right, can you see anything, a mark, a cut, bruise, bump, redness, blood or any sign of struggle?” Horris stood back from the open freezer, the sight was beginning to get to him. When she was alive he couldn’t get anywhere near Evelyn, she had too many admirers. Now he’d had… time with her, he began to feel a greater attraction, even as a frozen popsicle.

“Are you telling me that I’ve got to do the dirty work?” Nigel had taken a step back, too, arms crossed and unwilling to move. “No way!”

“Who pulled her out of the river after someone else let go, eh?” shouted Horris, who was also unwilling to touch Evelyn.

“Oh yes, it’s always me, isn’t it, I’m the one to blame, I’m the one who did all this, I’m the one in the wrong, eh?”

“You said it, now, check her for any injuries.” Horris pushed Nigel back to the open freezer.

“Do I have to?” Since they first met they had fought for dominance, but Horris was stronger, or maybe Nigel was weaker, did it really matter?

“Someone has to, and it’s not going to be me,” stated Horris, taking another step back, shaking his head. He tried hard not to remember those times in the past when he’d had a chance, and a slim chance at that, to be with her.

“Okay, okay, I’m on it.” Nigel stepped back to the freezer and began looking over the body, tentatively at first but growing in confidence as he continued. “I can’t find anything obvious but there is a red mark on her…”

Horris flew right over, curiosity beating him.

“Where is the red mark, where?” he wheezed, unable to completely hide his emotions.

“On… on the side of her head, over here, see?” pointed Nigel, There it was, a mark. Horris carefully leaned across and took a closer look at the area, some hair was missing and there was a definite indent.

“Yes, I see it, but who’s to tell whether she banged it on a rock somewhere or someone hit her over the head.” Seeing as he was this close, he gave her a look over, and there was nothing out of order, save for her being dead, that is. Then he spotted her hand, not the one he’d held in the river. This one was like a fist, as though in her last moments she’d held this hand position deliberately. “Why do you think she’d do that, keep her hand closed like that?”

“I don’t know, do you think it matters, seeing as she’s dead and all?” said Nigel, moving over to the door and checking outside. Horris wondered why anyone would keep their hand in that position if they were dying or in serious danger. He came to the same conclusion each time he thought about it, and so began to break open her closed hand. Every broken finger made him cringe a little more. With one last crack, the hand was open, and out dropped a…

“Nigel, where in the hell can you get dry roasted peanuts in the village?”

“As far as I know, absolutely nowhere. That’s why I was eating them out of the river, Horris, they’re a rare thing in these here parts.”

Nigel was right, Horris had seen salted peanuts, unsalted, tons of crisps, except crinkle-cut, and pork scratchings, but dry roasted peanuts, no.

“Then where did they come from, eh?”

“I don’t know, but they were still nice wet.”

Horris didn’t like to do much, he had a menial job in the village council, taking minutes and making tea, nothing special. As the Doc had mentioned, he could’ve gone far, if he’d bothered to learn, but he hadn’t and so here he was. Trying to find where to get dry roasted. “I can ask John. Isn’t he the one who sometimes delivers things to Ted’s shop and the odd thing for Roger?” he asked, closing the lid. He felt some relief when the freezer vacuumed shut, his eyes were beginning to hurt from looking down at Evelyn, knowing she was void of life. And when this was all common knowledge, what then?

“You can ask him yourself, his dog tried to bite me the other week, it’s bloody lethal,” said Nigel, opening the door.

“It’s a guard dog, Nigel, just doing its job, especially if someone was trying to ‘borrow’ its owner’s bicycle from outside the pub,” replied Horris, following.

“Well, it’s a long way to…my aunt’s from there, I was feeling tired,” he said.

“I thought it was the seven pints of beer you put in your big gut.”

Nigel went to reply but was bowled over by a huge arm and fell into the mud beside the path, a huge arm owned by… Dobson. Horris was caught in the shed as the large silhouette of the big muscular policeman stood in the doorway, blocking the only way for escape.

“What have we got here, then?” The cliché line from the drunken man’s lips sunk deep into Horris’s soul. What made matters worse, it looked like Dobson was ready for action, with a truncheon in one hand and a fist in the other.

“Hello, Constable Dobson, has… has Roger filled you in on our little predicament here?” Horris asked, moving away slowly.

“He most cer… certainly has, yes,” Dobson replied, looming into the shed.

“So, err, what do you think, err, we could do about it, what’s our first step in dealing with this catastrophe?” Horris tried to sidestep around the walking tower of a man, without much success. Although drunk, Dobson was powerful, and could break him like a twig. Nigel had got up out of the mud and crept inside, staying back.

“I think… I think I know exactly what to do,” he slurred, clenching his fist, grunting.

Nigel was quick enough, grabbing the shovel and slamming into the side of Dobson’s face, making him turn so Horris could escape.

“Go, go!” Horris got to the door as Dobson recovered.

“You little bleeders, I’m going to rip your fucking hearts out when I catch you!” Horris and Nigel ran down the street and dodged into an alley. They stood, catching their breath for a moment, Horris wondering what happened.

“Looks like Dobson had it in for us back there,” said Nigel, stating the damn obvious.

“What the hell happened, what did Roger tell him, that we killed Evelyn or something?” said Horris, panting.

“Well, did you tell Roger we found her in the river this morning?”

Horris thought back to when Roger had discovered what was in his freezer and what exactly was said between them.

“Oh shit, I didn’t say much, I know, I was anxious, I presumed he knew what had happened, hell…” paused Horris. “Did he go and tell Dobson that we killed Evelyn or what?”

“I think he did just that, my old mate. We are in the deepest shit ever.”

“No, no, surely, when they’re both sobered up we can explain the situation and get it straightened out and…” Horris was forgetting that Evelyn was the heart of this place, everyone put her up on a pedestal, she was their princess. Right now, in Dobson’s eyes, they had done something bad, so very bad. “No, we don’t know what Roger told him but it wasn’t good and he’s after our blood for whatever reason that is.”

“Shoot the messenger?”

“Maybe that was it, maybe he’s enraged.” He wished it was, then they could straighten it. But the fire in Dobson’s eyes, strong though dulled by drink, showed something much more, something from the depths. “We’ve got to find out, Nigel, we’ve got to find out why she was in that river and who killed her, like now. Before Dobson tells the whole goddamn village whatever it is he believes to be true and sets the whole place against us.

“I’m with you on that one, old buddy.”

Without another word, they were off, down the alley and through the backstreet, heading for John’s place, a little semi-detached on the edge of the village. John, like many around the place, was an odd job man, though he mainly did deliveries because he had a big white van. What he also had was a big dog, calm when out but aggressive when guarding. Extremely aggressive. Like four postmen and two gasmen aggressive. They sat against the side wall, out of sight but able to see the whole street to the pub.

“We wait for John to come back home and hope that Dobson hasn’t told anyone yet,” said Horris. “Hell, dry roasted peanuts, that’s all we’ve got.”

They didn’t have to wait for long, closing time had gone and folk trudged out of the pub. John walked towards them with his dog, Felix.

“Oh hell, I need to go take a piss,” said Nigel, jumping up and running around the back.

“What, right now, right just this moment?” Horris watched as Felix strained at his master’s grip, noticing the movement and reacting. John was staggering around, being dragged by his dog and stopping only to check his left shoe for something Horris couldn’t see and wasn’t so important. When they were twenty yards out, Horris stood up, showing himself and surprising John a little.

“What the fuck, Horris, what the hell are you doing skulking around at my place?” shouted John, looking around for the noise. He realised it was himself and shushed.

“Sorry John, didn’t mean to alarm you or nothing, I just want to ask you a question, that’s all.”

John, spinning around with Felix on the leash, tried to shush the dog, who growled at the shadows where Nigel was peeing.

“Mmm, can’t it wait until tomorrow, I’m a little preoccu… preoccupied at this time…?” He slurred off, almost losing his balance but Felix pushed him upright.

“Got to know now, John, like, right now. Kind of an emergency, so to speak.”

“What emergency can I help you with at this time of…the morning?” John lost his fight with gravity, too many spins with Felix, and plopped to the street, sitting on the pavement’s edge. Horris went over to sit next to him but the dog showed his teeth, making him stay standing.

“It’s about peanuts, John, dry roasted peanuts.”

The drunk guy looked up at Horris with one eye, and burped so loud and foul, Felix, his own dog, turned its head and whimpered.

“Peanuts, dry roasted peanuts… you what?”

“Where can I get dry roasted peanuts?”

“Well, at this time of night, absol… absolutely nowhere, and when it’s not…wow, look at the stars, it makes you feel so insignifi…”

“Yes, the stars, John, but how about the peanuts, specifically dry roasted?”

John fell onto Felix, who gave out a howl and pulled himself out.

“Damn bloody dog, after all I’ve done…” John grabbed Felix, using him as a pillow.

“That’s better… remind me you need bathing.”

Horris wasn’t getting anywhere with John and Nigel had done one of his disappearing acts, now no longer peeing around the back.

“John, I need to know where to get dry roasted peanuts.” He sat on the opposite side of the pavement’s edge from Felix. “It’s a matter of life… ‘over’ death,” explained Horris, with some poetic license.

“Oh, well, if you put it that way I can tell you.” John got up and patted Felix kindly. “Cris… crisps, you can get, crinkle cut, tricky, pork scratchings, of course, and peanuts, easy, but dry roasted peanuts…” John motioned to Horris to help him get up, and with only one unfriendly growl, Felix allowed him to come close enough.

“Dry roasted are like gold dust in these parts.” Standing up, he walked over to his home, with Felix pulling. “However,” he said, “I did get my hands on a packet a few weeks ago, and sold it to that lucky bugger…”

Nigel came out of the shadows from nowhere and Felix went crazy. John had one place to go and that was straight down. With his master on the floor and being attacked from two sides, Felix barked on.

“What the hell did you do that for, Nigel, he was about to tell us who bought the damn peanuts!” shouted Horris. Felix’s barking was loud, echoing through the village.

“Sorry, I had a little trouble peeing.”

“What kind of trouble can you bloody have with peeing?” he asked. “No, don’t tell me, I’m sure it’s best if I don’t know,” said Horris, halting Nigel’s reply which was in the making. “Let’s get out of here, it’s not safe.”

As they ran back behind the houses and out to the forest, Horris thought of the options, which weren’t many with Dobson on their tail.

“We don’t have many choices, Nigel. We’ve got to move Evelyn from there.”

“No way! As soon as we go near that freezer, Dobson will catch us!” Nigel was adamant, running further away. “You go do it!”

Horris struggled to catch up with Nigel, grabbing him by the shoulder and tackled him to the floor.

“If you don’t help, I’ll… I’ll say it was you, all you, not me, you!”

“You wouldn’t do that, you wouldn’t do that to me, to anyone, you’re too… nice.”

“Look, Nigel, I’ve got a feeling that we shouldn’t leave her on ice like that, it’s not right.”

“Hell no, but Horris, she don’t stink. Take her out of that freezer and pow!”

There was that, but Horris knew they had to put Evelyn somewhere else, before Dobson showed her to everyone.

“Leave her in there, she’s safe.”

Horris started to see that Nigel didn’t get the whole thing, Evelyn being dead.

“Nigel, take the body away and no one will believe Dobson when he tells them she’s dead, it’s the last thing they want to believe, anyway.”

Nigel gave up the struggle, nodding in agreement, and Horris let him stand. The thing was, where else could they take a thawing stinking dead body? They crept as quietly as possible through the streets back to the pub and waited to hear or see any activity, namely from Roger or Dobson.

“I can’t hear anything,” whispered Nigel.

“I can now, you,” poked Horris. “And where did Dobson go, he was right here.”

It was deserted, the pub’s lights were out and the door of the shed was open, the way they had left it. Horris was relieved because if Dobson or Roger had told anybody, there would be a loud ugly posse on the streets, looking for them, wanting blood.

“Can you go and scout around, make sure it’s alright, Nigel?” asked Horris.

“Oh yeah, ‘let’s go back to the pub, knowing full well they’re waiting for us somewhere’ and yeah, ‘Nigel, go check the place’. Wasn’t born yesterday, mate.”

“Oh go on, Nigel, you know you’re better at all this creeping around stuff, what with that uncle of yours,” he pleaded.

“There’s nothing wrong with Uncle Bill… nothing a lobotomy can’t cure, anyways. It’s not his fault, not at all, he has some insanely weird neighbours.”

“They weren’t the ones wearing a gorilla suit while watering the plants in the garden.’

‘Guess not.”

“Or using a World War Two American flame thrower to light the grill.”

“Actually I thought that was cool, until he set fire to the leylandii round the back and got the Fire Brigade out.” Nigel’s Uncle Bill was nuts, no doubt about it, and when growing up, Nigel had to hide from his insane crazy arse. Over the years, Nigel got good at it, the camouflage, the sneaking around… Horris learnt never to play paintball with Nigel, a king creeper.

“So, go use some of those skills of yours and see what’s going on because something’s not right with this picture.”

Nigel crept away, leaving Horris in the dark to think about what to do and where to put Evelyn until they could figure out what happened. By the time Nigel came back, Horris had most, well, some, okay, a few of the answers they needed to proceed.

“Well, Nigel, what’s going on out there?”

“Dobson is sleeping it off on the garden furniture around the side, holding onto a shovel with both hands. Roger is slumped over the same table he was drinking at, with lights out and the place empty.”

“Good, because I think I know exactly where we can take Evelyn to.”

[back to TOC]

Part Four

“I still think it would’ve been easier with the wheelbarrow,” complained Nigel.

“What, and leave a trail behind? They’d find her in five minutes flat, you dick.” They carefully placed her down beside the pool. The Skidges’ disused trout farm pools were the perfect place to store Evelyn, cool, deep and above all, empty, with no visitors.

“Good place for her, but are you sure there aren’t any fish in there, Horris?” Nigel searched the black water.

“Pretty sure, maybe there’s some frog spawn in there but it’s not the season for it,” replied Horris, not one hundred percent. They’d made good time, carrying her here together. It was strange to have held her like this, Nigel with the feet, Horris with the shoulders, looking into her lifeless eyes, still mesmerizing in death. He was, of course, infatuated with her when alive, as was everyone else. But now he felt much closer than he’d ever been to her in life, her carer, her protector, her hunter for true justice. Someone had taken her precious, cherished life and he wanted to know who.

Being only ten years her senior he thought there was a chance. But the rivalry and expectations were intense. Evelyn always chose ‘her guy’ after careful consideration. Horris was never in the running, he was out of her league.

“Well, we’ll know soon enough, because if there are fish in there, then bye-bye…”

“Stop it, Nigel, she’s going to be alright up here, I swear, and it’s only for a little while,” said Horris, hoping. The Skidges’ had gone out of business years ago and had left the area to go into the city, leaving the place deserted.

“Let’s drop her in and see what happens, then.” Holding a rope which was tied under her arms and with weights on her feet, they slid Evelyn into the murky water. In a few moments, she disappeared, water taking her away from their sight once more, with only the end of the rope to tie up tight. Once done, they stood back, looking down at the still water, an abyss below.

“No one’s going to find her here, unless they wonder what this orange rope is attached to,” said Horris looking at Nigel. “Why couldn’t you have picked up a fluorescent yellow rope while you were at it, or maybe a neon sign or two, eh?”

“It is fluorescent,” replied Nigel.

“Are you crazy?” screamed Horris, hiding the rope under some soil. Adding some weeds from around the place, Horris covered the area so the rope couldn’t be seen, unless someone tripped over it. With the amount of loafers around here, that was an immense possibility.

“What do we do now, then, Sherlock, eh?”

Horris surveyed the area below the hill, spotting the Isletons’ farm, a large holding mainly used for sheep.

“Didn’t the Doc mention the Isletons’ son, Chad?”

“Sure did.”

Without another word, with the sun coming up in the east, they trudged down the hill towards the farm, Horris wondering how to play this.

“Do we knock on their door?”

“Last person to do that was Briggs.”

“And look at him, the poor guy.”

Briggs had gone to the farm to settle an old land dispute. Two months in hospital with concussion, a collapsed lung, a broken collarbone and both legs broken in three places gave him an answer.

“We weigh up all our options and choose the best running scenario.”

“Hide like frightened mice?”

Horris nodded and they went into stealth mode, moving from tree to tree, bush to bush, sheep to sheep. It took a while to get within observation range, able to see into the main farmyard, with chickens scampering about and… they had forgotten the dog.

“Crap, their sheepdog, Fanny, she’ll spot us!”

“Easy, Nigel, I think we’re downwind so if we don’t make too much noise, we should be okay.” Horris turned to Fanny wagging her tail. “Hello there, old girl, how are you doing…damn, Nigel, I think the game’s up already,” he said, dejected.

“How do you mean… oh, bugger, we’re toast.”

“Get off my land!” shouted Old Man Isleton, shotgun in hand. Horris and Nigel froze, and Fanny took up an offensive stance, growling. Isleton grinned his infamous toothless smile and held up his shotgun, aiming first at Horris and then Nigel.

“Mister Isleton, good morning, sorry to disturb you…is… is your son Chad up?”

“Chad, why, yes, of course, he’s somewhere…” The shotgun slowly hung down from his grip as he thought about his son’s whereabouts. “Wherever he is, I’m sure he’s up, maybe even lucky if what I saw last evening was anything to go by, ha!”

“Sorry, Mister Isleton, I don’t get your drift…”

“Call me Walter, please,” he said, stroking Fanny. They stood still as man and dog walked past to the farmhouse, Old Man Isleton resting his shotgun at the front door. “Come in, boys!”

Step by step they made their way to the door, watching for any movement, ready to run anytime.

“Don’t be shy, boys, come in!” he repeated. “I don’t bite, but Fanny, who knows…”

Horris was first through the door, and the scene which presented itself inside took him completely by surprise… a typical farmhouse kitchen.

“Sit down, sit down and make yourself a drink,” gestured Old Man Isleton.

They sat around a large wooden table and poured some tea from an old crusted teapot placed in the centre, adding sugar as needed. Old Man Isleton faced them from across the table, rocking in his chair, smiling at them and smoking an old wooden pipe.

“So, what has Chad done now, boys? Has he taken from Miss Wingrove’s cherry tree without her permission again?” he asked, smoke clouds obscuring his face.

“Not that I know of… sir,” replied Horris, tea in hand and Adam’s apple in mouth, nervousness getting the better of him. “We were hoping you’d tell us,” he said, smiling.

“Boys, I know you’re into fishing but maybe not sea-faring, travelling on the crest of a wave… you ever heard of sirens?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard sirens, a police car came through the place a month ago, nearly got…” started Nigel.

Old Man Isleton slammed his cup down hard. “Do you think I’m stupid, lad, well, do ya, eh?” he grimaced.

“Sorry, just a joke, yeah, keep your hair on, alright?” said Nigel, rudely. Old Man Isleton got up and made himself a sandwich, and came back with a grunt.

“Yeah, whatever.” He took a bite and spat crumbs. “Well, sirens, those exquisite creatures, imagine their song, their beauty, luring you, enticing you, sending you to your death. Their song calls you from inside, a love, an affection you've never or never will again hear in your sad, insignificant lives.”

This old guy had hidden dimensions.

“I think we’re blessed here, to have someone like her in our community. Someone who is a miracle among miracles, and we are the true witnesses that nature got it right.” He continued with the sandwich. “We live to see her, take in every breath when we are around her and wait for the moment she is… there.”

Horris, sitting on the sideline, knew he was correct. No other girl could match her style, beauty.

“Without her and her ways, we would never have known perfection on this magnitude, would never have felt the way we do.”

If he knew she was dead…

“And my son is probably with her right now,” beamed Old Man Isleton.

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