During my recent break I enjoyed some writing time, and conjured up a story around the following DeviantArt image. I loved this pastoral scene so thought I’d write it with a little sting in its tail.
It’s 1,150 words, about 7 minutes.
At the red light, Simon’s new, flexon glasses felt heavy. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he noted his surroundings. What a mess! Empty fag packets, sweet wrappers from yesterday’s kiddie outing. One of the little bastards – that would have been Tommy, he was sure – had even disposed of a blob of half-spent bubble gum in his drinks holder.
He shouldn’t have sugared them up, but what better state to return them to his ex-wife? After all, it had been his access weekend, the grotto had been fun, then the treats afterwards had rounded off the perfect Sunday. If there happened to be consequences… so what? It couldn’t happen to a nicer woman, he chuckled. BITCH!
In truth, the vehicle would have been untidy even without the litter, simply because… what was the point cleaning it? As long as there was space in the ashtrays… Seemingly on its last legs – do cars have legs? – he needed something newer. Nursing it through last year’s MOT, with that bloody steering problem, had been steep enough! But when he then discovered that it needed welding, too…
But this wasn’t a new thought. Simon had thought this for the last two years, yet by some fluke of good fortune this decade-old Mazda had limped on, refusing to die, passing almost squeaklessly through 150,000 miles in the meantime. And besides, the child support was crippling him already, without adding car repayments. TWAT! he cursed his ex- again, all this was her fault. And that sodding liberal judge. Maybe that promotion would finally come through this year? Morticia – everybody’s nickname for his boss – had dangled it long enough, hoping to extort even longer hours from her haggard junior.
The light changed, and Simon checked the mirror as he slipped the car into first. He caught a tired face looking back. Those vivacious blue eyes seemed drained, and his once-creamy-blond hair –the ultimate babe magnet – was rapidly losing colour. He stole another peek at the napkin, held on the steering wheel by a nicotine-stained finger. It had been the only thing to hand when Morticia’s call had disturbed his Bacon McMuffin, and he had used it to scribble makeshift directions.
Morticia. Everybody’s favourite boss. Why did she have it in for him? Okay, he had been late a few times. Maybe his head had been fuzzy once or twice, but… it was all right for her, with her doting husband and 2.4 sodding children. She should try living in the real world for a change. A world of exes, of divorces, of family courts, of having to fight just to spend time with his own offspring.
Should be just up here on the right. But although Morticia’s directions had been impeccable, Simon almost missed the concealed entrance, as the low winter sun shone directly into his eyes. Prima Valley Country Park, he recognised the name she’d relayed, and as he waited for a pause in the oncoming traffic to make his turn, he unwrapped an extra-strong mint. This witch already hated him – the last thing he needed was that she should smell something and make things worse.
Parked, he stretched, drank a long swig of bottled water which had been in the car god-knows-how-long, and inhaled deeply, wincing as the cool air attacked his lungs. His head throbbed, too. Having the children was fine, but a scotch or two – or half a bottle – after they’d gone certainly helped the wind down. As Simon breathed out more gently, he unwrapped another mint, noticing few other cars at this time on a Monday morning. But even around here, you couldn’t be too careful. He prodded the clicker and heard a satisfying “clunk” as the locks engaged.
Now, what did she say? Simon studied the napkin once more, trying to decipher his own writing. This must be the pathway she means.
As the car park suggested, there were few people around this early. Three dog-walkers, a cyclist… A couple holding hands. Unusual, given the hour. A lovers’ pre-work tryst, Simon supposed, as they meandered past, oblivious to everything except each other.
Just five minutes up here, he checked the napkin once more as he cocooned himself further into his collar. The air was definitely becoming cooler despite this promising start to the day. Skirting a path-wide puddle as he approached a lazy, left-hand curve, his feet crunched as his cheap, plastic-soled shoes stepped on autumn’s rotten husks, hardened by last night’s frost.
As he followed the bend, it came into view. The first thing to strike him was the guard.
Fucking hell, winced Simon, involuntarily recoiling from the man, whose hi-vis yellow jacket assaulted Simon’s senses, causing his head to throb even more. The man lifted some tape as Simon approached a plain white tent, hastily erected where the grass met an enormous rhododendron.
“Si”, greeted the man’s voice as he stamped his feet.
“Hiya, Charlie. How’s it goin’? Drew the short straw, did ya? I wish I’d a known, I’d have worn me Ray-bans!”
“Is that you, Simon?”, came a shrill voice from inside the tent. Without waiting for a response, she fired the second barrel. “You took your bloody time. I called almost an hour ago.” Morticia’s slight figure, immaculate in a pin-striped grey trouser suit, appeared in the doorframe.
“Still, now that you finally got here, let’s crack on. Come and see this.”
Simon stepped forward, blasted again by the bright floodlight as he entered the tent. Kneeling in front of him, a hooded woman dressed in an entirely-white jumpsuit prodded carefully around the corpse of a naked, mud-caked young man.
Forensics, thought Simon, before his masculinity took over. Nice arse. I’d poke that.
The woman knelt up and faced the pair. Simon knew her vaguely. Thirty-something, horny as…, lush raven hair underneath that hood, and a pair of tits he could suck on all night. But another frigid one. Simon barely wiped the smirk, narrowly avoiding the chief’s glare. He couldn’t help it. These people always reminded him of life-size condoms!
She visibly recoiled as she recognised Simon.
“Marie, you know Simon Clarkson, don’t you? He’s my DS and he’ll be running with this one.”
A rhetorical question. Had she answered, Marie might have revealed how much she loathed this odious letch, how she felt objectified whenever their paths had crossed previously. But Marie remained professional.
“Seven bodies, so far. Could be more. We’re still finding them. First discovered by a dog, apparently, owner called it in. Five women, two men. Gut feel, each is the same MO. All vics were bound then garrotted. Clean cuts, like steel wire. Precise. Absence of blood indicates that the bodies were then brought here, post mortem.”
Simon heaved a deep breath and motioned for the woman to pause for a moment, while he recovered from the bomb that had just exploded. Fuck me, this is gonna be a long day.