18 Aug


moorland photo: BleakWilderness.jpg


“You mean … all these bones?” stammered Angelina, her face white and horrified.

“Bones? There are no bones!” growled Blinky, seeping the chamber with his blind eyes, “just the playthings of a child’s imagination! I would come down here, down the very steps we have just come down, and I would harangue my foe until they screamed for mercy…”

“And this mausoleum of death?” asked Royston weakly. “You didn’t cause this?”

Blinky was about to reply when a shuffling of footsteps and an officious cough told them that someone new was on the scene. Who else could possibly have a reason to be in this blasted wasteland was beyond Royston’s understanding, but clearly someone was there.

“Hello, hello, hello,” came a man’s voice just behind them, “didn’t you read the signs? No admittance!”

“What?” blurted Blinky, “I was always allowed down here! As a boy, I mean, years ago … my parents locked me in down here, to play while they went to the pub…”

“Locked you in? You poor little sod,” growled the stranger. “But it’s not allowed any more so you’ve got to get out.”

“It’s horrible,” shivered Angelina, “All those bones, all those poor people… did you kill them, Mr Curmudgeon?”

The stranger laughed before Blinky could reply. “He’d have to be bloody old if he’d had a hand in the business!” he boomed, “these are the remnants of a mass grave we found quite recently while clearing part of the site, and they’ve been put here for the experts to write and waffle about!”

“Mass grave?” asked Angelina, shivering even more. “What mass grave?”

“This castle, miss, was a Civil War stronghold,” said the man, “but first, I’ve got to get you up these stairs and on the other side of that there door! It shouldn’t have been opened, you know, it was supposed to be kept fast shut!”

“I want to go back up,” whispered Angelina, “it’s horrible down here…”

They turned round, Blinky with some difficulty, slipping and sliding on ancient worn steps that were invisible to his sightless eyes. Eventually they found themselves back in the depressing, blasted world of the moorland landscape with its piles of crumbling stones and weathered arches. Royston looked around him, and shook his head. There was a notice on the door, small, faded ink but forbidding entrance, not the sort of notice that a stranger might be expected to see unless he looked hard for it.

“Nasty place,” growled the stranger, who they could now see wore a uniform of sorts, a peaked hat and blue serge slightly crumpled suit. “Now then, what are you doing here, may I ask?”

“I came as a child … it was my favourite playground…” whispered Blinky. “I thought we’d be safe here… what scoundrel would come to this foul place if he wanted to do his foe great harm? What evil scum would even think of it? So I came for safety, for me and my sighted friends are under attack…”

“It’s no longer open to the public, and I see no desperadoes attacking you!” began the uniformed man, his peaked cap glinting as the least ray of sunlight touched it before vanishing into the gloom from whence it had come.

“I saw no notice to that effect,” began Royston.

The other shook his head. “It’s probably blown away,” he muttered. “The site’s unsafe and so badly degraded that renovation isn’t possible. They decided to keep it as a tourist site, you know, people stop in their cars, take a few photos of groups of old stones, and move on. So it’s being made safe enough for that. And when they were preparing the car-park they came upon those fellows down there. They’ve been under the ground since the 1640s when there was one hell of a skirmish round here, and a great number of men were slaughtered in bloody battle all those years ago. Terrible, it must have been. Anyway, the powers that be decided that the dungeon you spotted them in could be used as a sort of temporary charnel house until the history wallahs have done their bit.”

“I used to play make-believe games down there when I was in short pants,” whispered Blinky. “I wanted to see it again, but I can’t see anything any more – so I suppose it doesn’t really matter.”

“Is that why you brought us here, to relive mad moments in a wretched childhood?” demanded Angelina, “because if it is you’ve certainly abused your position!”

“No: no: it seemed a safe place to me,” replied Blinky. “I remember, so long ago, you know, the games I played – and there was never anyone around. And down in the dungeon, sometimes locked in for my own safety, for hours on end until I was scared of my own shadow – but it did me good. I was left with a candle and only once did it burn down before they came for me…”

The site warden or whoever he was told them he would leave them, but they really ought to find somewhere else to pass the time. Royston agreed, and he and Angelina guided Blinky back to the car.

“I know it can drive itself, but if you don’t mind I’ll take the controls,” he said, firmly. He really hadn’t enjoyed racing along at seventy miles an hour in a car with nobody touching the steering wheel.

Surprisingly, Blinky agreed, and he sat alone in the back whilst Angelina joined Royston in the front seat.

“We’re going back home,” decided Royston. “If 221c was being shot at I want to see what evidence there is – the bullets, the kind of weapon that might have been used. And I want to follow up on that young policeman who was murdered – what’s his name? Tiny. Tiny Bloxam.”

“But we must be safe…” wavered the Inspector, sounding more like the child he’d once been than the man he was today. “Tiny Bloxam wasn’t safe,” he added.

“I think it all comes back to the loupe,” put in Angelina.

“You mean, it’s as simple as a group of criminals wanting it because of its huge value?” suggested Royston.

She shook her head. “It had a huge value,” she conceded, “until it was stolen. Then its only value is in the gold it’s made of. As an artefact, nobody in their right mind will want to buy it because what can they do with it? Lock it in a safe? Keep it as a secret treasure? Crooks even find famous works of art difficult to dispose of because of their fame, and a work of art can be displayed, however privately, and enjoyed. But a golden trinket? One that doesn’t even look Egyptian? With a lens in it that we didn’t realise the ancient Egyptians knew how to grind? It could have been made anywhen – even yesterday – so no crook’s going to want to show it off because he’d probably find himself the laughing stock of the underworld!”

“So what do you think?” asked Royston.

“I think there’s another game afoot, noting to do with the loupe. I don’t know what it is, but young Tiny didn’t get killed for nothing. If I had to guess I’d think drugs. Narcotics. But on a big scale. And Tiny got wind of it and was taken out as a consequence.”

A snoring sound from the back seat told its own story. Blinky Curmudgeon had been awake for long enough, and so gone to sleep.

“Tiny was only a junior copper,” sighed Royston. “He can’t have known much about anything.”

“Yes, I know. But two things may have happened at our open day. Remember, that’s when the golden eyeglass was left for me to find. And for some reason a young constable, for no good reason, seems to have turned up for tea and cakes with us. No, he wasn’t in our target clientèle. We were expecting older people with personal problems needing spouses investigating, that kind of thing. At a rough guess I’d say he accidentally stumbled on something that led him to the open day, and that’s why he was shot. One or maybe more of the other guests must have seem him as a danger to them and taken him out before he could rock their boat.”

“You seem quite positive, Angelina.”

The snoring from the back seat became louder and she smiled at him. “I am,” she said quietly. “It’s my job to be positive. But it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy life too!”

And to his sudden shock she rubbed his thigh with a firm hand. The way the car swerved at the contact might have caused an accident, but didn’t if only because the road ahead was clear.

“Now just slow down and let me … think,” she whispered. “I know what cheers men up, and the feel of something firm in my grasp does help me concentrate…”

Royston sighed, and to be quite certain he wouldn’t inadvertently collide with another user of the road, he pulled into a lay-by and sighed.

“Let’s wait until we get home,” he whispered, and she kissed him.

© Peter Rogerson 18.08.14



  1. pambrittain August 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    Okay, fine. He’s not mad, but why do I think that cavern will still be in the picture? Is it drugs, the loupe or something else? I know. You tell me when you find out.

    • Peter Rogerson August 19, 2014 at 8:14 am #

      I certainly will. At the moment I haven’t got the goggiest, but I prefer it this way.

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