New Release: Lady in the Woods
This is a new release of short stories for adults, which includes two Inspector Winsford stories and othe crime stories; stories that are observations of people’s lives and some flash fiction. Ideal for a Christmas present and available in paperback and on kindle.
Here’s one of the short stories. Although it’s written as if it’s real life, it is of course entirely fiction, although I did go to churches with various friends, when I was a child. When writing stories you often need a starting point, which of course can be absolutely anything.
I remember, I remember
Three things happened when I was seven years old. It was a chance remark from my sister that brought back those memories.
We were talking about a child who’d gone missing from a village near where we lived.
‘Whenever a child goes missing, I always think of Sandra,’ Katy said.
‘Sandra who?’ I asked.
‘You know Sandra, from your class, who went missing. If I remember, surely you do?’
All the memories came flooding back to when I was seven. They started with the Autumn of 1959. Back then I used to make myself some breakfast and take myself off for the day. Nowadays you’d accuse a parent of being neglectful, but in those days, it was perfectly acceptable for children to be out playing and exploring on their own.
Now it so happened that both my parents were strict atheists, but my aunt and grandparents were devout Christians. I liked the idea of Christianity; of being a member of a group and having a God to call on when you’d got yourself into a mess. I used to go to church on my own and was always made welcome. Then various friends said come along with my family. One of them was Sandra Weston.
‘Meet me outside the church at nine fifteen and we’ll go and find a seat together,’ she said. Now Sandra and I were friendly but we were by no means best friends. She was nice enough with a tendency to copy others, but I thought it would be good to try out a new church with a family. I’d been to a Catholic church, a Church of England one, a Methodist one and a Baptist one. I’m not pretending that I understood any of the differences between the church disciplines. I can still see the church but I can’t remember the denomination it was.
I remember dressing carefully for Church; wearing socks without any holes, a plain skirt and a neat cardigan and I skipped happily along the mile or so of pavement until I came to the church in Oxford Lane. It was a quiet morning, but when I arrived there was literally no-one there. Had Sandra tricked me? I peeked my head around the church door and the vicar saw me.
‘Why hello there. You’re early. Did you remember to put your clock back an hour?’ he asked.
My face must have fallen. ‘Oh, don’t worry about it my dear,’ he said. ‘Come on in,’ and in I went. It was dark in the church compared to the bright daylight outside.
‘I’ll just finish putting out these hymn books and then I’ll take you through to the back and make you some orange juice,’ he smiled.
I really can’t explain why, but I suddenly thought I don’t want to be here with this creepy man. I shuddered inside with fear. You know the saying, the hair stood up on the back of my neck, well I think it really did.
‘No thanks,’ I called. ‘I’ll go and meet my friend and come back later.’ I was out of that church so quickly. I don’t know at what point I started running, but I found myself running all the way home. My parents were totally unimpressed by my little adventure.
‘I do wish you didn’t have such an overactive imagination,’ said mother.
At school on Monday, Sandra asked me why I hadn’t turned up and I made up some excuse. Later I came to regret not meeting her that week and the next Sunday I overslept.
A week later she didn’t come to school. I asked the teacher if she was ill and was told to go and sit down and not ask questions. After two weeks, I asked my mother.
‘Has Sandra moved? She doesn’t come to school any more or is she on some wonderful holiday?’ I remember that mother didn’t look me in the eyes as she told me to go away and lay the table.
The following week I was in bed, diagnosed with glandular fever. I was there forever or that’s what it felt like.
‘If you’re ill enough to be off school, you stay in bed,’ mother said. Of course, I didn’t stay in bed and I didn’t want to be at home any more than she wanted me there. At the back of my mind, I suppose I assumed that Sandra must have been off school with glandular fever, but I hardly ever thought of her again.
Now here was my sister telling me that she’d gone missing. I did some research and discovered that she’d never been found and then I remembered the creepy vicar. As a child I believed my parents when they kept on telling me I had an over large imagination, but as an adult I believe that if we take an instant fear of someone there is usually a reason. I dressed myself smartly and took myself down to the local cop shop and asked if anyone was still looking into the case of Sandra Weston.
I was called into an interview room by Detective Inspector Chester. He listened quietly to my story about my strong fear of the vicar, made a few notes, thanked me for my help and bade me good-bye.
He probably thought I was bonkers. Fancy telling a policeman that you had a bad feeling about someone when you were a child. He was right. I must put it behind me.
Three months later there was a ring on my doorbell and there was Inspector Chester. I invited him in and made him tea.
‘I looked into the background of Reverend Alan Wilson. There were quite a few outstanding complaints about him and he left the church suddenly and emigrated to Australia, so I notified the authorities over there of our interest in him.’
‘I thought you must’ve thought I was mad coming to see you,’ I blurted out.
‘Indeed no. Then I thought what if he’d tried to abuse Miss Weston and she’d struggled? What if it had all gone wrong and he’d killed her? What would he have done with her body, so I went and looked at the burial records for the church in Oxford Lane. I found there was one more grave than there was on the records.’
My blood ran cold. I knew what he was about to say.
‘I’m sorry to tell you that we exhumed the body from that grave and it was that of a child. We’re checking her dental records to see if it’s Sandra Weston, but almost certainly it is.’
‘Will Reverend Wilson be arrested in Australia?’ I asked.
‘He was taken in for questioning and put in a cell overnight. In the morning he was found dead in his cell. I don’t have the full details. You might be disappointed that he was never brought to trial or paid for his crime, but I’d like you to remember that because of you, Sandra’s parents have finally got closure and can grieve properly.’
I thanked Inspector Chester for listening to me and for all his hard work on the case.
Rest in Peace Sandra. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better friend.
My other short stories are:
Pebble on a Beach
If you click on the links they should take you to Amazon UK/USA, so you can see prices for the paperbacks and e-books.
All are available on Kindle Unlimited. Hope you enjoy!