14. CURSE OF THE WOODS

14. CURSE OF THE WOODS

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE BODY IN THE STREAM - 14

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Well,” asked Rosie next morning when she was back in the office and Bob Short was hanging his coat up. There had been a sudden overnight change in the weather and there was a chill in the air that hadn’t been in evidence yesterday, “did those books of your dad’s unearth anything?”

Not much,” he replied ruefully, “just that an old woman way back when the cottage must have been almost new is said to have placed a curse on it before she was hanged as a witch. Apparently she was in league with the devil over a matter of curing certain ills being suffered by her neighbours. People believed in curses back then, you know, and some still do. It made me think, ma’am, the old chocolate box image of rural England is besmirched by women being tortured or executed because idiots thought there were witches round every corner.”

I couldn’t agree more constable,” replied Rosie. Bob Short was called Constable when there were other officers around, and Bob when there weren’t.

I wonder if all the idealists who’d like to return to a perfect olde England world realise the implications if that were to happen?” muttered the constable, “I mean, youngsters watching their mother dragged off to the nearest gallows, minus their finger nails and weeping, to be hanged as a witch just because she knew a cure for toothache?”

The ups and downs of ye olden times,” sighed Rosie, “we weren’t there so we can’t know the whole truth. But to today. I need to find those two kids. They’ve got to be somewhere, probably within spitting distance of the cottage, and we’ve just got to make sure they’re all right. It’s my number one priority, and I’ve been given a lead by my own sweet daughter. Apparently there’s some kind of caravan near the cottage.”

I saw that, ma’am,” said Constable Strauss, “behind a sort of thicket, and a grubby, tatty old thing it is too. I took it as a store-room or a van being used as a shed. Didn’t look inhabitable.”

Why wasn’t I told?” demanded Rosie, and when Strauss looked crestfallen she said, “never mind. We can’t all think of everything because that’s my job and I really ought to have asked where Ted Baker lived because he sure as anything didn’t live in the cottage, and an old caravan that’s grubby on the outside doesn’t have to be uninhabitable on the inside. You should see my own van after a severe winter. The paint-work’s smeared with all sorts of crap out of the air and the rain, and, believe it or not, dust that’s blown from as far away as Africa.”

Rosie Baur owned a caravan which she towed behind her Xtrail when she fancied taking off for a break away from home. It was frequently a source of amusement in the Copper’s Nark when it was discovered that her preferred site was of the naturist kind. But then, she was a beautiful woman who wouldn’t look out of place if she was out of her clothes.

Shall I go and take a look at it, ma’am?” asked Bob Short.

We both will,” decided Rosie, “come on, put that jacket of yours back on, Constable, and while we’re away, Constable Strauss, check online to see if there’s any trace of a caravan in the woods. We may need directions if the one you saw isn’t the one we want! Use Google Earth. That might help.”

Yes, ma’am,” replied the uniformed Richard Strauss.

Well, Bob, this might be fun,” she said to her constable as she set off towards the lane leading off the main road, “the useful thing about having kids of your own is it doesn’t take them long to become a mine of information, and Jill, that’s one half of my twin set, has actually been in conversation with our corpse when it was alive and washing its face in the stream.”

That puts paid to any suggestion that they’ve totally isolated themselves from British society,” muttered Bob.

It does. But then, it’s not in human nature to become totally isolated. She, we were told, spends quite a long time down by that stream, and it’s probably where she satisfied her very human instinct for companionship, maybe without her sister knowing anything about it. Mr Butcher obviously enjoys her company for reasons of his own and my Jill wouldn’t have forced herself to talk to the woman. Then there’s the two children, the ones we looked upon as twins until we were told differently. They were out and about in a school uniform that may have been out of date but, to their eyes if nobody else’s, made them look the part if they were spotted.”

I see,” frowned Bob, “and the other Miss Denton? Does she get out and about as well, do you think?”

Rosie pulled off the main road and onto the lane that led to the cottage.

She may, or she may not. She writes, and I’ve glanced at some of the stuff she writes about. The bit I looked at is mainly a highly romanticised account of a woman in her own position, isolated through choice, who falls in love with the gardener.”

You mean, Lady Chatterly meets real life?” asked Bob.

Something like that. Woah! What have we here?”

Someone had gone to great pains to prevent any vehicle from passing any further by spreading branches and even whole but rather small trees across the road. They certainly, decided Rosie, hadn’t fallen like that accidentally. Someone had gone to great pains to block the lane, and had Rosie been on her own she would have been stumped and probably had to reverse back onto the main road. But there were two of them and she was by no means a weakling.

Come on, Bob, we’ll get this shifted in no time,” she grunted.

It was while she was heaving away at a fairly substantial branch that she noticed the way a track seemed to lead off the already difficult lane they were on, and meandered iff into the deepest part of the ancient woodland. It was barely evident, but she was sure she could make out the imprint of shoes in it where rain had formed a puddle that had since dried up.

Now what might that be?” she asked, aloud even though she was talking to herself.

Looks like someone’s been that way, ma’ … Rosie,” said Bob, “I’ll take a look.”

He made his way cautiously along the trace of the track, noting how it wove around trees until it disappeared from sight, but always going in the direction of the cottage they were on their way to. So he returned to Rosie and told her that it might be worth exploring if they drew a blank elsewhere.

Might not be able to drive there, though,” he said.

She grinned at him. “There’s no might not about it,” she said, “I’m not having my paintwork scratched forcing our way down something as almost not there as that! If we have to we go on foot or not at all.”

With the blockage largely cleared away they climbed back into her car and she carefully resumed driving to the cottage.

The place looked the same as it had the day before, dreary with the charcoal remains of yesterday’s bonfire making the area look even grimmer than it had. But outside the door and looking every bit the witch of centuries earlier, hands on hips and scowl on face, stood Beverley Denton.

You can get your filthy selves off here,” she bawled when they’d left the car, “this is my land and you haven’t got any rights to be here!”

Rosie stepped towards her. “Wrong on two points,” she said, firmly, sounding to Bob most unlike the Rosie of moments earlier, “we have every right under British law, and this is not your land, and anyway, how come you left that nice cosy cell I had you put in?”

Beverley Denton seemed to waver for a moment, then “I’ll set my man onto you, you filthy scum, and I curse you like of old!” she hissed, “just you wait and see if I don’t!”

© Peter Rogerson. 05.04.20




© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on April 5, 2020
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Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

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