An Incongruous link to Good Friday….?
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“This is getting seriously weird.” Mary brought through a Royal Albert pot of tea and two matching cups and saucers, placing them clumsily on the coffee table in front of the sofa. “Early Grey, Elena, things always go better with Earl Grey.”
Elena wasn’t much in the mood for small talk, she just wanted answers. “What do you think he meant by saying that I feed him?”
Mary flopped down beside her, with a whiff of Chanel 19. “It’s love, isn’t it?”
“Love? But how can it be love?”
Mary poured a little milk into each cup. “I don’t know how, but it is. Love is blind, they say. Never experienced it myself.”
“The problem is that each dream is getting longer, clearer, more real somehow. He even spoke to me, properly this time from his lips, though there weren’t many words. Michael thinks I’m working too hard, but I’m not. I haven’t been able to work for days, I felt quite ill this morning. And I’m getting worried now.”
“About falling to sleep?”
Elena nodded, watching Mary fill up her cup to near the top. “If only I knew who he was, why doesn’t he come out and tell me.”
Mary sat back in the sofa and sighed. “Have you looked at yourself in a mirror in these dreams?”
“I’ve not come across one yet, though I know my hair is a bit lighter than my own, virtually blonde in fact.”
“Then those initials carved in the oak tree, PH, you said?”
“The P could be you, if he sees you as Persephone and the H is Hades. Unless we’re talking about two historical figures.”
“It would be a shot in the dark but I’ll give it a go.”
“You mean, find out all the men in the past whose Christian names begin with H? That would be a very long shot.”
“Not all history, Dear. From what you describe he lived somewhere between 1490 and, say, 1600. And there’s already something bugging me about all this.”
“Bugging you!” Elena reached for her cup of tea.
“Yes, I can’t quite put my finger on it, from what you described about him and that initial H… the number twenty three. I don’t know. We’ll go through to my library in a minute, I should’ve been onto this days ago.”
Mary Allen’s library, in fact her spare room, was an eclectic collection of books, old and new, mainly historical, though there was plenty of biography and fiction too. Elena sat down on the wooden chair and watched her friend peruse the massive selection of titles.
“Maybe we should just stick to the internet,” Elena said, eyeing the grey sky out of the window.
“No, no, Dear. Books are far better, especially my books.”
Elena noticed that Mary was drawn particularly to the Shakespeare section, which included a copy of the First Folio.
“Hm. You know when I said this fellow’s odd behaviour reminded me of Hamlet’s ghost?”
“Yes.” Elena noticed a book that had Pluto in the title, one of Mary’s astrological books. She stood up and pulled it out of the bookcase. “Can I have a look at this?”
“Of course, Dear, jump in. We need to get to the bottom of this.”
Elena recalled that some astrologers talked about Pluto’s mask, from the myth of Hades, who was said to wear a mask which could make him invisible. “Maybe this isn’t all about Neptune and the Moon after all, like we suspected.”
Mary turned to face her, peering over her reading glasses. “Go on.”
Elena held up the book about Pluto. “Perhaps it’s all about drastic change and masks and hidden things.”
“What makes you say this?”
“It might be a hunch but think we can narrow down the search to someone in history born on February 23. I just know that number means something.”
“You may be right, Dear. Let’s get to it then.”
An hour later, after much intensive searching on the internet and through Mary’s book collection, they had found nothing of apparent significance.
“It’s looking as though I’m going to have to wait until tonight to find out more.”
Mary knelt down beside her, putting a consoling hand on hers. “It is all rather exciting though, isn’t it? I know it’s easy for me to say, but you really can’t beat a good mystery.”
As ever, Mary was right on the case. “Is there anything else going on in your birth chart, apart from the Neptune transit?”
Elena nodded, vaguely. “Well, transiting Pluto is coming into opposition with my natal Venus in the fifth house.”
Mary looked concerned. “Ooh, your love life is going to change.”
“Mn, I’ve been thinking that, or it might just mean a kind of creative clear out.”
“Cripes, you’ve lost me there, girl. The fifth house is about children too, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but as I don’t have any, it might be more to do with children of the mind. If I’m honest, Pluto scares the pants off me.”
“Really?” Mary took out some bread from her pocket. “I thought this gentleman didn’t scare you.”
“No, not him, I mean Pluto.” She watched Mary throw pieces of bread towards the ducks who all came waddling over. “Astronomers can classify him as a minor planet now if they like, but as far as I’m concerned, Pluto is still very powerful, a heavy weight.”
Elena flinched, looking across at Mary. She had suddenly sat forward. “The H you saw in your dream last night.”
“Only a guess, a stab in the dark..”
Mary leaned toward her, raising an eyebrow. “Could H stand for Hades?”
Elena was watching a mallard duck scramble awkwardly out of the water, rushing to join the feast. “Hades is the Greek name for Pluto.”
“Hold on, though, it was only an H. It might have stood for Hercules, Henry, Humphrey, Hermione… it might not even have been an H at all.”
Mary was touching her arm now. “What if you were Persephone? The way you described yourself to me in that dream, it sounds a bit like her.”
“I couldn’t get out of that room, but it wasn’t in the underworld, if that’s what you mean. It was a bright, clear and warm day this time.”
“If I remember correctly, Hades can come into this world occasionally, according to one version of the myth.”
Elena pulled the woollen hat over her ears. “But I’ve only ever seen this man in my dreams.”
Mary touched her arm again. “Are you sure about that? Think, girl. Hades spots Persephone in a field of flowers, I believe, falls in love with her instantly.”
Elena laughed out loud. “A field of flowers? In February? Where am I going to find that? Madeira?”
“I’m only recounting the story, Dear… Elena, are you alright? Elena?”
She felt even colder now. A memory from the other day was replaying in her mind, over and over.
“Elena, come on – out with it.”
She sat up. “So, it might be nothing, but on Saturday morning I went to the florist. I wanted some daffodils to brighten the house up, remind me that spring was on its way.”
“As you do.”
“I don’t often go there, but there was a new guy serving, clean cut, clean shaven, but now I think of it, he had that dark hair and those eyes, kind eyes, the sort that make you stop in your tracks. And he was certainly very friendly, in a quiet sort of way.”
Mary swivelled towards her on the bench. “If he was that gorgeous, how could you forget about him, not make the connection to your dreams?”
Elena rubbed her tired eyes. “I know, but I did. Maybe it was the change of context, so I didn’t think it was related. That was real life and we’re talking about dreams, aren’t we?”
“And he had very similar features to the man in the dream.”
“In retrospect, yes.”
“Elena, Dear, you must go back there, to the florist.”
She looked at Mary. “I don’t think so.”
“Why not? Are you scared?”
She had to think about that. “Yes, a bit, if I’m honest. Michael would be furious if he found out.”
“Nonsense! I mean, does he need to know?”
“So what are we saying here? The god Hades works in my local florist? I’ve got more chance of finding Elvis working in the chip shop.”
Mary paused, looking at the river. “It does sound rather bizarre, I have to concede. But even so, it’s all we’ve got right now.”
“You’ll come with me, won’t you?”
Mary took both of Elena’s hands in hers. “Just you try and stop me, girl. I’m loving this retirement. And it’s not every day you have the chance to meet a living god, is it?”
“Mary, please, don’t say that.”
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‘Manifesto’ is due out on amazon and kindle imminently!
Taking a break from crime fiction, Milly Reynolds’ new ebook is an imaginative and quirky take on the state of current affairs as well as the meandering course of history.
Eleanor Cross, a disaffected Tory MP, takes us with her as she rides on the waves of destiny towards the formation of a new political party which will challenge old ideas.
Written as a very loose prose poem, this book sets down the policies that some might put in place if given the chance to take over the country.
Aiming where novella meets prose poem, Milly Reynolds has really pulled out the stops with this unusual new ebook. Both mysterious and funny, contemporary yet timeless, Milly’s head strong heroine, a disaffected MP, is challenged to ride the transformative waves of destiny towards a new future for herself and her country. An imaginative and quirky take on the state of current affairs and the long course of history.
Milly Reynolds’ quirky and quintessentially English crime series ebooks, featuring Detective Inspector Mike Malone, are at last starting to appear on Smashwords.
There are the first two on Smashwords currently, with the others soon to follow, including the two books featuring DI Jack Sallt, the ever-so-dangerous sleuth who is fond of the ladies!
There is also the one-off romantic novel, ‘The Unseen Sky’, which takes place in England and Venice.
There will be nine ebooks in total and others will follow soon.
*Find them here: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MillyReynolds
All of these ebooks are already on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk
A new book by Crime Fiction writer, Milly Reynolds, is due out imminently on Kindle.
It is the second book in the Jack Sallt series, a detective based in Norfolk, England, who has a lot of rough edges, getting him into serious scrapes with enemies, colleagues and loved-ones alike:
Two men are found in a beached boat, one dead, one seriously injured, stretching the resources of an already underfunded police force.
Suspended detective inspector, Jack Sallt, is reluctantly rushed back on duty to face his most perplexing and dangerous case yet, where old foes move in the shadows, threatening violence, controlling him with sensual taunts.
In the tense climax, Jack has to face his relentless enemies head on, risking not only his own life but also those of his colleagues and loved ones.
© copyright Milly Reynolds 2012
Crushing his cigarette beneath his boot, John Bellamy clambered back into his milk-float and started the engine. As the dark January morning wrapped itself around him, he trundled along the lane, rubbing his beard and longing for the quiet, warm summer mornings. It was those mornings that made his job worth while, not these. He liked to see the sun; today, he couldn’t even see the moon as there was so much cloud around.
He continued down the lane towards the Henson’s place, hoping that maybe Rita would give him a cup of tea. He pulled up, got out of his van and picked up her two pints. As he turned towards the house, his boot caught something and he almost tripped and dropped the bottles.
“Bloody hell, that was close.”
As he looked down to give whatever it was a kick into the hedge, the clouds finally moved away from the moon and he found himself staring into the dead eyes of one of Nigel’s sheep. The two bottles slipped from his fingers and shattered, spraying glass and milk all over the severed head that lay at his feet.
The phone rang and I stretched out an arm. Beside me, Fiona stirred and then rolled over, burying her head under the duvet. I picked it up.
“It’s Benton, Sir. One of Nigel Henson’s sheep has lost its head.”
“Benton! It’s…,” I looked at my watch, “it’s quarter-past five. Why on earth would you think that I would be interested in a sheep that is going mad in the lanes? Get one of the cars to go and round it up.”
“You don’t understand, Sir. It’s lost its head. It’s been chopped off.”
I sighed. Poor Nigel. When was he ever going to get any luck? Since I had known him, he had not only had his two pigs murdered, but he had also had one of his cows hanged. At this rate, he soon wouldn’t have
any animals left!
“Give Shepherd a call and tell him I will pick him up in fifteen minutes.”
I put the phone down and swung my legs out of the bed. It was going to be another long day.
As we approached Nigel Henson’s farm, the car headlights illuminated several shards of broken glass.
“Watch out, Sir. You don’t want a puncture.”
“It’s ok, lad. I’ve seen them.”
I stopped the car and we got out, taking care not to step in the split milk. I bent down and studied the severed head that was sitting by the gate.
“Poor thing. No animal deserves to suffer like this. She must have been terrified.”
“Do we know where the rest of her is, Sir?”
“Benton never mentioned that on the phone. Come on, let’s talk to Nigel and John Bellamy.”
As we walked up the path to the farmhouse, I looked around for the body of the dead sheep, just in case our murderer had decided to leave her body on the front lawn. I knocked on the door and Rita opened it, standing aside to let us enter. She had been crying.
Inside the Aga was keeping its heat to itself, the rest of the kitchen was as chilly as a morgue. Two cups of untouched tea were standing, neglected, upon the pine kitchen table, one of them in the hand of John Bellamy. His eyes were fixed on a single drop of milk that has splashed onto the table.
“Never seen anything like it before, Mr Malone,” he whispered. “Terrible, bloody terrible.”
I patted his shoulder and looked around the kitchen.
“Where’s your husband, Rita?”
“He’s checking the flock, and looking for the rest of her. She was expecting twins, that one. We lost three sheep today.”
“Sit down, love. Shepherd will make us all another cup of tea.”
I nodded to Shepherd who busied himself at the kettle.
“What can you tell me, John?” I sat down between Rita and John and took out my trusty notepad.
“Never saw anyone, if that’s what you mean. The lane was quiet as I drove down it. I pulled up at the gate, got down, picked up the milk and my foot caught something. When I looked down, I saw the sheep staring up at me. I dropped the bottles and came straight to the house.”
“Did you hear anything last night, Rita?”
“Nothing. We got up about four-thirty as usual. We heard John pull up and the next thing, he was hammering at the door.”
Shepherd put the tea down on the table and while Rita and John stared at theirs, I picked mine up and took a sip. At that moment, Nigel walked into the kitchen, his wellingtons glistening with dew from the field.
“Morning, Mr Malone. Why me? Tell me, why my animals?” He sat down heavily with anger and sadness perched on either shoulder.
“Are the rest of the animals alright?”
“Seem to be, luckily. They’re not due to lamb yet, a shock could have set them off, but they seem ok?”
“Where’s the rest of her?”
“Can’t find her. I’ve looked everywhere, but there’s no sign. He must have taken her with him.”
“Rita said that you heard nothing strange last night?”
“Not a thing.”
As he descended into silence, I closed my notebook and the satisfying snap that I always enjoy ricocheted around the sombre kitchen and three pairs of eyes looked up questioningly. With some embarrassment, I stuffed my notebook back into the safety of my pocket.
“Shepherd and I’ll have a look around, if that’s ok?”
Nigel nodded and getting to my feet, Shepherd and I left the kitchen.
Shutting the door firmly behind me, I noticed that the chilly January air was actually a few degrees warmer than the Henson’s kitchen. Six o’clock. Sunrise was nearly two hours away. How I longed for fresh spring mornings when everything was green and bursting with life; when lambs were gambolling in the fields. Lambs. Reluctantly, I dragged my mind back to Nigel Henson’s decapitated sheep.
“Come on, lad, let’s see what we can find.”
When we got to the field, the flock was huddled together in the far corner. In the dim torchlight, I could see the reflections of lots of pairs of eyes.
“There seem to be some drag marks here, Sir.”
Shepherd was bending down, examining the ground near the gate. He was right, as usual. In the beam of light, I could distinguish scuff marks.
“But these seem to be heading back into the field, lad.” I traced the lines with my gloved hand. “Look! You can see how the sheep, if that is what it is, is dragged through the gate and then, here, it seems to do a twirl and head back into the field.”
“But, he’s just turning round to shut the gate, Sir. If the sheep was still alive at this point, he wouldn’t put it down, would he?”
“True! So where did he kill it?”
We stood up and shone our torches around. There seemed to be no splashes of blood around our feet, so we slowly made our way back to the farm entrance where John Bellamy had made his grim discovery. As we approached, our torches caught the severed head and its sightless eyes watched us without comment.
“We’d better take it back with us, Sir. We can’t leave it here, can we?”
“No, I suppose not.” My mind quickly ran through the contents of my boot to see if there was something that I could wrap the head in; I knew that Fiona wouldn’t be too happy if I got blood all over the car. I remembered that there should be an orange Sainsbury’s bag in there. It would have to do. “We’ll put the head in the boot when we leave. Now where’s the blood?”
Flashing our torches around, we scoured the ground for any dark patches. There was nothing.
“This is ridiculous. Where on earth did he kill her?” I was lost for an explanation. It had taken us less than five minutes to walk from the field to the farm entrance. We had found no blood. We had walked round and round the severed head. No blood. “Any ideas, lad?”
Shepherd didn’t answer. His gaze was fixed upon Rita Henson’s little fishpond which was nestling in the corner of the front lawn. Surely not! Together, we walked across the lawn and straightaway, our torchlight fell upon indentations on the grass. Someone had walked across here recently. At the edge of the pond, we threw our beams of light across to the other side. The water looked dark, but then again, water always did look dark. I pulled a little plastic specimen bag from my pocket and, opening it, I bent down and scooped up some water. Shepherd bent down next to me and shone his torch onto the bag.
“There could be a pinkish tinge to the water, Sir. Someone certainly walked across to the pond.”
“We’ll have to get the water tested, but unfortunately, I tend to agree with you. He decapitated her here so that all the blood would contaminate the pond.”
“But this still doesn’t tell us where the body is?”
“I’ll go and let Rita know the bad news. Now we know where the murder took place, have a scout around, lad – just in case.”
© copyright Milly Reynolds 2012
Milly Reynolds’ new book, “Tails I Win Heads You Lose”, is out on kindle very soon.
It is another Mike Malone Mystery, a ‘tale’ of strange murders and quirky events in a quiet English location, in deepest Lincolnshire.
Here, by way of an introduction, is the cover!
all content © copyright Milly Reynolds 2012
Lingering smells of vinegar and fish,
red and green smears on an empty plate,
a solitary bone in a serving dish.
The constable pours tea
in a room drenched in sunlight;
an incongruous joke becomes light relief.
At his age a simple case of lights out, it’s said,
something you have to believe.
Only an hour before he stood at the door
complaining of chest pains that
Alka Seltzer would not relieve.
The neighbour walks in wiping her eyes,
tells of a conversation by the fence.
She cups her drink, shakes her head,
unable to make much sense.
Light another round of cigarettes,
though wherever the eyes fall
there are many reasons for regret.
So stand, walk around,
peep through the net curtains where
the ambulance casts its shadow – no sound.
You’re numb with facts that won’t ingest;
a still hot soldering iron, pliers, cut wire,
like something from the Marie Celeste.
poem © copyright David F. Barker 2012
* first published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.com
Another old soldier who never speaks.
Sitting stiffly in braces and polished leather,
his medals left in bric-a-brac drawers
with sovereigns and half crowns,
concealing the nugget –
the tale worth telling from this safe distance.
A story of a corporal who carried
a limp subaltern from no man’s land
to safety through a Belgian quagmire.
Lieutenant Turnbull was a right bastard,
but no point in resentment or fear
when a bullet could tear through your head
at any time. Simply had to do it and get on.
His blank eyes, though still blue,
cannot disguise the bare brown soul,
like the pounded landscape, the kit bag
he carries around everywhere.
Until the lights go out.
© copyright df barker 2012
First published in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.com