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Ways Green – a murder mystery. (Work-in-progress)

Winifred heard a noise in the post office. She was just having a quiet cup of tea in the tearoom at the back of the shop.

‘That’s funny,’ she thought, ‘everyone’s on the walk. It must be someone travelling through the village.’ She eased herself slowly out of the chair and limped awkwardly to the front part of her premises. There was no one there. ‘How very strange!’

And that was Winifred Fletcher’s very last thought.
***
Annabelle tottered back into the post office, wearing four inch heels. They had proved to be totally unsuitable for the ramble, but how was a girl to look sexy in walking boots? Somehow she needed to get Ivor to propose. She sighed. Here she was again, last out of the tearooms and first back. That stupid woman Fletcher had put ham next to uncooked chicken in the fridge. It had taken her ages to explain the dangers of bacteria contamination to the old bat and she’d only left when Ivor had called out he was leaving.

‘I detest this pesky rambling,’ she thought as her feet ached. ‘What’s the point of it? Bloody waste of time.’ She was so wound up that she didn’t see the body lying on the floor at first. She was heading straight for the tiny tearoom, where Ivor had promised to meet up with her when he’d finished the tiresome walk. As she walked towards the tearoom she saw a foot sticking out from behind the counter.

‘Oh lore,’ she thought, ‘old Ma Fletcher’s finally croaked it. What shall I do?’ She pulled out her mobile, intending to call Ivor, but as her fingers touched the keys she felt herself tap out 999.

‘Can I have an ambulance, to the Post office at Ways Green? Miss Fletcher is lying dead on the floor.’

The police arrived within five minutes and the ambulance pulled up seconds later. Annabelle had wandered into the tearoom and surprised herself by noticing that the ham plate was empty. The short time period seemed an age but she felt proud of herself, that she’d acted in an adult way and called the authorities. Her self assurance was knocked by Inspector Blake’s question as he knelt down and checked for a pulse in Winifred’s neck.

“Have you touched anything Miss?”

“No, I don’t think I have. Well I opened the door. Nothing else. I just wandered around until you got here. The ham’s gone you know. The ham that was in the fridge.”

Inspector Blake raised his eyebrows. “So you didn’t check whether she was alive?”

“No, she looked dead to me. You don’t lie face down the floor for a kip do you? Anyways she’s about a hundred and eighty. It’s not exactly a surprise, is it?”

“She’s running a post office, Miss. I doubt if she’s more than sixty five. What’s your name?”

“Annabelle Fitzhugh. Miss Fletcher limped and everything. She’s got grey hair and couldn’t be bothered to dye it. I bet she’s older than sixty five.”

“Thank you for your help Miss Fitzhugh. Could I ask you to wait outside? My sergeant will come and take your statement.

Annabelle stepped outside the shop and saw the walkers were beginning to arrive back in twos and threes. Ivor was walking at the front with his cousin Charlene. They looked the perfect couple, with their tall lean bodies and matching blond hair. Charlene looked the picture of health and still managed to look good in those dreadful clumpy boots. Annabelle tottered towards them and seemingly burst into tears, although she was careful not to mess up her make-up.

“Old ma Fletcher’s croaked it and I was the one who found the body,” she said. “It was horrible.”

Ivor put his arms round her and she felt the satisfied sensation that she’d taken him away from Charlene.

Inspector Blake chose that moment to come up to them. “Could I ask you all to wait in ‘The Green Man’ opposite? We’ll need to interview everyone. I’m afraid Miss Fletcher was murdered.”

There was a gasp of horror from the walkers and then they made their way over to the pub. Willy Dunt, the village playboy was walking at the back of the group with Alice Roundbottom. Her two children had slowed them down on the walk, but were very excited at going to the pub, where they were never allowed to go.

“I’ll buy you a meal, “Willy said to the children “I haven’t had a proper meal today and we can all sit together.”

Ivor laughed openly, “I see Willy is trying it on with Alice. He’ll be lucky. She’s Miss Ice knickers.”

“And how do you know?” asked Annabelle.

“Believe me, everyone knows,” he said walking into the pub.

Alice, Willy and the children settled into a corner table and were eating plates of food heaped up with chips. Inspector Blake had set up a temporary office in the back of the pub, enabling the SOCO team to get on with their work.

“Excuse me Inspector. I don’t want to push in, but I’d like to get my children out of the pub. Is it possible for someone to interview me first? Not that I’ve got anything of interest to say.”

“This way then,” said Inspector Blake and showed her to a seat in the back room.

“Tell me what you thought of Miss Fletcher,” he said sitting down opposite her.

“Well, she was always very pleasant to your face, but I can’t say that I really liked her. She gossiped dreadfully and sometimes told you things that you just knew should not have been repeated.”

“I see. Could you give me an example?”

“Well she told me that Sidney and Charlene were at it at the Summer Fete. They’re both single but Sidney is engaged to Felicity. She said Sidney was just after Felicity’s money but that he lusted after Charlene. I didn’t believe it at all. Sidney is a dry old stick; local school teacher. I doubt he’s got it in him.”

“I see what you mean. Thank you for being so open. Can you tell me your movements, and those of anyone else’s, on the walk?”

“Well I left with the main party. Keeping an eye on my two keeps me occupied, so I don’t really notice what other people are doing. Only Willy Dunt – he walked with us all the way round.”

“So he started the walk with you.”

Alice paused. “No, he didn’t actually start with us. I think he started at the front, where he usually walks, but he must have joined us within the first ten minutes.”

“So he doesn’t walk with you every time?”

“No. I was a bit surprised that he joined us. I always end up at the back, but he has been perfectly pleasant. To be quite honest he’s a bit of a lothario He was probably going to try it on.”

“And would he have been successful, Mrs Roundbottom?”

“Just because I’m a single mum, doesn’t mean I’m easy. My nickname is Ice Knickers.” She laughed.

Inspector Blake smiled.

“Would you send in Willy Dunt on your way out please?” said Inspector Blake.

And so the interviews continued.

“Miss Fletcher was a charming old lady. She always had time for everyone,” said Willy…Yes I was walking with Alice and the kids.

“Oh Lore. I don’t know what she was like. She was old and always going on about, ‘you young things’ said Annabelle… “I was wearing these heels. I had to give up on the walk. That’s why I was back early.”

“She was a positive old crow,” said Ivor. “Always telling tales about people. Didn’t matter if they were true or not…At the beginning I walked with Annabelle, but not for long. Then I linked up with Charlene. She was wearing proper boots, not like that silly bitch Annabelle.”

“Well darling, actually she was a wicked old witch,” said Charlene. “Very malicious about people, but of course that’s what made her interesting. People do so love a bit of scandal…No she never said anything nasty about me… I started at the front with mother, but she couldn’t keep up. I ended up walking with Ivor, after the ditzy Annabelle had teetered off in her fashion shoes.”

Eventually the interviews were all done. Inspector Blake came out to talk to the walking party.

He rubbed his brow. “I’ve a good idea where you all were on the walk. Now that you’ve all been interviewed I can tell you that Miss Fletcher was struck on the head, probably by a walking pole, so I would like you to hand your poles over to the Sergeant before you leave. We’ll label them and you should have them back in a few days. There was nothing missing from the Post Office, so the crime was not a robbery, gone wrong.”

“Oh it’s all so terrible,” said Annabelle. Ivor smiled at her indulgently and Charlene shot her a look of irritation.

“Strangely the only thing that seems to be missing is some ham. Annabelle Fitzhugh took it out of Miss Fletcher’s fridge before the walk, when she brought in the milk that was still outside the post office. The ham was sitting on the same shelf as an uncooked chicken so she removed it from the fridge and left it on the side and explained to Miss Fletcher that she mustn’t eat it in case it had been contaminated. She left Miss Fletcher having a cup of tea in the tearoom and the plate of ham was on the side. When we looked there was an empty plate but no ham, so it would seem the killer…”

At that moment Willy Dunt grasped his stomach and threw up all over the maroon pattered carpet. His eyes looked huge in his ashen face as everyone turned to look at him.

This writing task was to write a short story that could be adapted for a soap.

Two sentence story challenge

One of the challenges set at the writing group I attend, was to write a story in two sentences. Below are my attempts. Why don’t you have a go?

The summer sun’s light revealed the deathly secret beneath the river’s surface. Upstream, Marcus Dubois hurled the solitaire ring and blood splattered rock as far as he could, into the fast flowing waters.
***
Marcia Edwards smirked as she passed the mill pond. Her brother was on detention for not doing his homework, and only she knew where it lay, in its watery grave.
***
For the seventh time ‘Princess’ Agnes tied the marriage knot.
Like a butterfly she flittered, but divorces she forgot.

The Case of the Missing Earring – autobiographical

Why is it that you never lose a pair of earrings? It’s always one! Friday 2 March 2012 came and I was due to go to my writing group. I wanted to put on my favourite earrings; a pair of tiny dropped opal earrings, set in gold. I went to my bedside cabinet, where there is a small tray. As I go to bed I take off my earrings and place them in the tray, but when I looked, to my horror, there was only one earring.

I looked on the floor and then went on my hands and knees and felt the soft tufts of carpet hoping to find the minute piece of metal and stone. Then I grappled under the bed, pulling out bags and suitcases and felt along those surfaces. Time was running out. If I wanted to be on time I would have to leave soon.

I stripped the bed back and shook the bed clothes out, but no luck. After all these years of wearing those precious earrings one of them had gone walkabout. Of course they are not valuable in the monetary sense; they were special because my husband had bought them almost twenty years ago and I knew he had put a lot of time and effort in to choose something I liked.

It was a mystery how I could go to bed and place the earrings in the tray and one just jump out and run away, however I needed to leave and so I decided to put on my wedding earrings. They are gold circles that tumble together, much bigger than my favourite ones and a bit more dressy. They also have sentimental value but I wasn’t really in the mood to wear them.

Walking down the stairs I placed the left earring in my ear and tried to place the right one. I just couldn’t manage it whilst walking. There was no use rushing. I stopped in front of the mirror to put the right wedding earring in and then I had to laugh because there in my right ear was the other of my favourite earrings. Happily I ran back upstairs to get the one by my bed. Last night I must have taken one earring out and fallen asleep before taking out the other one. Well I thought – that’s old age for you!

The End and the Beginning

In the week my aunt died I experienced both intense sadness and joy. She was my favourite aunt; always interested in other people, caring, kind and non judgemental. Her death came quite quickly. In the last three weeks of her life I visited her for one day a week, which as she lived two hundred and fifty miles away, was not easy. I’m glad I had that time. She was my confidant and my friend. We always spoke for more than an hour on the phone each week. There was a space in my life after she died. I longed to talk to her.

A few days after she died, my first granddaughter was born. I was overwhelmed. To look at her brought such wonder into my heart. She was so tiny and beautiful. My son and his wife were radiant with love for this little bundle, although they shared my sadness too. My aunt had been looking forward to the new arrival and it made me sad that she never saw her great-great niece.

The funeral came and was a surreal experience. It’s strange how you can know someone so well and find out new things at their funeral. All her art class turned up. I knew she attended these as she often spoke about the people there in our long telephone conversations, but each one came, talked to us and told us a little snippet about their knowledge of her. It was obvious that they were very fond of her.

I had the privilege of doing her eulogy. At first I didn’t think I’d be able to speak. Then I looked across at my new granddaughter. Her first outing was to my Aunt’s funeral. I started to speak. I told the congregation about my Aunt’s achievements, her kindness and mentioned some occasions which many of us shared. It was obvious that she was loved and held dear by all the many people at the service.

For the first two years after she died, every time I thought of her I was engulfed in waves of sadness, but now six years have passed and when I think of her now I just feel her love. Of course I still wish she was here and I’m so glad she was my Aunt. I will always love her.

As for my granddaughter, she and my newer grandchildren are the apples of my eye. They bring all of us laughter, love and happiness. Something tells me that somewhere my Aunt sees and knows them too. I hope so.

A Hard Day’s Night

Hilary stood outside the Odeon, wearing her Mary Quant style dress. It was a very short tent dress, black and gold check and made of light corduroy material. She shivered. There was no point in having a fashionable dress and covering it with a thick coat. Her stomach was churning over. Nick was due any minute. He was older than her by two years and if her dad had known she was meeting him, she would have been grounded for ten years. Nick was very tall, over six foot and he had the bluest eyes she had ever seen.

Her dad thought she was going to see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ for the third time. He was happy to accept her obsession with the Beatles, but couldn’t cope with the idea that his little girl might be interested in boys of the real variety. If he’d known that she was not with her friend, Christine, tonight, he’d have forbidden her leaving the house. As it was he’d not been happy with the length of her skirt and she’d had to put her make-up on after he’d dropped her off.

Then she saw Nick as he turned the corner into the main high street. He waved at her but she noticed he didn’t speed up. He was smart in a leather jacket and tight jeans that had been specially faded to give a casual look. He greeted her with a kiss on the cheek and suggested that they go to this party he knew about in a nearby hall. She felt the warmth of her hand in his and forgot how cold she’d been feeling. It was amazing how being in love changed physical feelings.

The hall looked beautiful to Hilary; it was bright and decorated. Music was blaring out and people were dancing the twist. She felt very awkward and gauche. She had thought she looked fashionable but this crowd were sophisticated, older and she knew nobody but Nick.

“I’ll get you a drink,” Nick said.
“Just an orange juice,”
“Yeah right,” he said, leaving her on her own.

She felt panic rising. She shouldn’t have come. There were none of her friends here and her dress, which she’d spent all her Saturday job money on, was decidedly frumpy.

“Fancy coming out the back, love,” a boy leaned over her.
“No thanks. I’m with Nick.”
The boy, Gary, laughed, “Oh well you’ll be out the back soon enough then.”
“What d’you mean?”
“Oh c’mon love, you must know his reputation.”
“No, I don’t. Anyway we’ve only just met.”
The boy laughed again. “Huh, that won’t make any difference.” He wandered off as Nick returned with the drinks.
“Who were you talking to? Nick asked, handing her a drink.
“Don’t know. He er wanted to dance, but I said I was with you.”
She took a sip. “What’s this? It’s not orange juice.”
“They didn’t have any, so I got you an orange drink instead. If you don’t like it leave it.”
Now she’d annoyed him. “No, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she said taking a sip.”
“Wanna dance?” Nick said, leading her on to the floor. They did the twist and then a smooch dance.
“You read Lady Chatterley?” Nick asked.
“Not exactly. It’s been round school and I’ve read excerpts, but I couldn’t take it home. My dad would kill me if he found it. ”
“You frightened of him then?”
“Well, I don’t deliberately annoy him. He’s quite strict and my mother’s even more so.”
“I’m surprised they let you come out without meeting me then.”
“They don’t actually know. I’m not allowed boyfriends.” said Hilary.

She finished her drink and Nick went off to get her another one. This time she felt fine about being on her own and was swaying to the music when he came back. He smiled at her and she took a big thirsty swig. They danced some more. The lights dimmed and she was aware that Nick was very close and his hands were all over her. She tried to keep standing, but felt unsteady on her feet and then without warning she had to push him away. With her hand over her mouth she ran to the ladies and threw up. There was no-one about to help her and then the door opened. She turned round and saw Nick was there.

“Yuck, now that’s not very enticing. I don’t fancy you in that state. You’d best get yourself home to daddy, love.”

Hilary couldn’t reply as another wave of nausea hit her. She heard the door slam. Tears ran down her cheek and as she finally looked up the sight in the mirror was horrendous. Nick didn’t want to be with her. She had to get back to the Odeon before her dad picked her up and she looked a total mess.

Quietly the door opened again and Gary stood there with a pint glass of water. “I thought you might be needing this, as I saw Nick dancing with Pam and I can guess how much Vodka he put in your drink.”
“Vodka? No wonder I was so ill.”
“Look I know I tried it on earlier, but I don’t get girls smashed and then take advantage. Just drink the water slowly. The best thing you can do now is wash your face, clean yourself up, put some make-up back on and then walk out of this party with your head held high.”

Hilary looked at him carefully and then back at her image in the mirror. He made sense. She washed her face and reapplied her make -up, in between sipping the water. Once she’d brushed her hair and backcombed it again she looked much better.

“My stomach feels rough,” she said.
“Have some toast when you get in,” Gary said. “It’s probably a good job you threw up. At least you won’t be so drunk.”
Hilary glanced at her watch. “I must hurry. My dad’s picking me up from the Odeon in twenty minutes.”
“C’mon then. Head high and smile as if you’re happy. Hold onto my arm,” said Gary
Hilary walked back out into the main hall. The music was too loud and as she looked closely she saw what a tatty place it was.
“Night Nick,” she called as she sauntered out of the door. She turned to Gary when they were outside. “I’m going to run as I daren’t be late.”
“OK, I’ll run with you,” said Gerald.

It was cold, but the fresh air made her feel better. They arrived before her dad. “I’ll stand over there until you get into your dad’s car, just to make sure you’re safe. By the way Psycho is coming back to this cinema next Saturday. D’you fancy going? ”
“If I can bring my friend Christine,” Hilary said.
Gary smiled and started to walk away. “It’s a date” he called.
“Thank you for helping me tonight,” she shouted back as her dad’s car drew up at the curb.

This story is written to support a group of people with Alzheimer’s and was a task set at the writing class I attend. It is based on the sixties.

Death and Life

Death is like a child’s toy.

In the beginning a child is fascinated by it; spends time thinking about it; planning memories and is almost obsessed.

As the years go by the child picks it up infrequently with the fondest of thoughts.

The toy disappears into the bottom of the toybox and is just glimpsed occasionally. Like the mourner, emotions shoot to the surface in a wave, sometimes causing us to hold our breath.

Life is like a three course meal.

Childhood brings a small taste of all the pleasures to come. It brings a promise of what is to follow.

The main course gives the illusion that there’s plenty of time; mountains of wonderful tastes to experience, culminating in the safe knowledge that there’s still more to come.

Autumn days are like a dessert. Endless time with no work and friends and family to see can seem like a treat. But too often such anticipation brings disappointment and then the plate is empty.

This task was to write a list of concrete nouns and then some abstract nouns. Then choose an abstract noun and explain it in terms of some of the concrete ones.

The Sting

Katie slipped her sandals off and ran along the beach. She could feel wet sand on her feet and smell the freshness of the sea. There was no one about, but she could hear the sound of the waves gently tapping the shore.

She walked at the edge of the water until she’d almost reached the end of the cove. A few people were beginning to come onto the beach. Suddenly a sharp pain shot through her foot. Looking down she saw a purple blue jellyfish, which seemed to be panting. Hobbling to the wooden breakwater she sat down. She was almost crying with pain.

A young man, followed by a black and white Collie called Patch, was running towards her.

“Are you hurt?” he called.

“Yes I’ve been stung by a jellyfish, although it feels like I’ve been stabbed.”

“Was it a blue one with purple splodges?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Hmmmm they can be a bit nasty. We don’t usually get those here, but I noticed a few yesterday. I’m going to take you to the hospital.”

Within seconds strong arms had scooped her up and she could feel the warmth of him as he carried her to his car.

“By the way, I’m Steve.”

“Katie,” she replied.

Her foot throbbed. She vaguely thought about being in a car with a stranger. That wasn’t very sensible, but she could feel herself sweating and cold at the same time. Patch looked at her with interest, but she couldn’t respond.

By the time they reached A & E her foot had swollen and she was feeling faint. Steve spoke to the triage nurse and she was taken straight to the doctor who gave her a steroid jab. While she rested n the narrow bed Steve kept her company, popping out to the car now and again to check that Patch was alright. When the swelling eased a little, Katie was allowed to go home. The danger of a further reaction had passed.

As they approached Steve’s car he smiled at her and said, “Did I save your life? Does that get me a date?”

She looked at him and took in what an attractive man he was. Sitting in the car she looked at him with interest.

But it was Patch who took the first kiss by giving Katie a big lick on her face.

The writing task was to write a story which included a jellyfish and was a romance. The restriction was having ten to fifteen minutes.

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