Having completed the BRON series, and now that the ‘dig' has closed, I felt quite bereft and so started FLASH BLACK, a stand-alone novel. I was captivated by a little village in Oxfordshire, where I happened to attend a meeting, but moved it to Dorset, which revels in dozens of quirkily-named places, and created Purton Tendril. I rely heavily on my satnav, whom I have christened Sabrina. She appears as one of the characters in the story and leads Sarah astray – five centuries astray, in fact. I hope readers enjoy this new story.
ISBN 978-1-78003-811-7, price £8.99
"Several men slithered down the bank, carrying a stretcher, a woman with them.
The woman knelt over the girl. "So, what have you been getting up to now?" she asked, feeling her forehead and cheeks.
"She fell off the bridge," Sarah explained.
"And what were you doing, climbing on the parapet?" the girl's mother asked in exasperation, then turned to Sarah. "I'm much obliged to you," she said, straightening up. "She's more trouble than all her brothers put together, this one! Help me up, will you?"
Sarah helped her unsteadily to her feet then the men carefully lifted the girl on to the stretcher and began to climb the bank.
"Is that your shawl?" the girl's mother asked Sarah, who nodded, all the while wondering how it came about that she had been wearing a shawl round her shoulders.
"If you're staying in the village, I'll give it back to you once I've washed it."
"Oh, but I'm not…"
Her words went unheeded as the group struggled up the slope, Jack with them, and disappeared along the path.
A knot of curious women and children was still gathered at the top of the bank. Sarah looked about for her shoes and slipped them on then climbed up towards the onlookers, somewhat hampered by her skirt, which was soaking wet and clinging round her legs. Skirt? Wasn't I wearing trousers?
I am fascinated by these new village complexes that are springing up in southern counties offering, if you believe the brochures, ‘a great new way of living’ to the discerning purchasers of their luxury homes. Peter and Alison buy into the dream but Alison has the feeling she is being watched – and who is showing lights in the wood at night? The young couple discover to their cost that perfection comes at a price and Hunterswick Green is not at all what it seems…
They sat companionably for another half an hour when Peter suggested that they went inside as it was now too cold and dark to do anything else.
Simon stood, the nearly empty bottle in one hand and his glass in the other.
"Hey!" he said. "There they are again, those lights."
Peter also stood and looked across to the wood.
"Are you sure, Simon?"
"Quite sure. Yes, there they are, always in the same place."
"I saw them that time. Remember what we agreed?"
"That we'd go and investigate?"
"Yes, are you still up for it?"
"I don't feel as good about it now as I did in full daylight. Jean wouldn't let me go if she knew."
"Then don't tell her. I've an idea. Why don't you knock Alan up? Get him to come with us. Three's better'n two. Tell him to bring a cricket bat or poker or something, just in case. I'll pick up a lump of wood as I go past the log pile."
"He may not come."
"Go and ask him anyway. Catch me up."
"Are you going over there on your own?"
"Why not? It's probably only some snivelling little peeping Tom. We'll give him a fright."
"How are you going to get over the wire fence?"
"Climb over. You can do the same. I won't go far into the trees, just up to where the light from the street lamp reaches, so you'll catch me up easily. Don't forget to bring a torch."
If he had been in a sensible state of mind, Peter would never have ventured into the wood without the back-up of Simon and Alan but the row with Alison and the whiskey inside him left him feeling motivated and reckless.
He set off at a good pace, reached the boundary fence in a few seconds and found no difficulty in climbing over.
He walked as quietly as he could, though the fallen leaves crackled underfoot and he occasionally stepped on a twig that broke beneath his weight. When he reached the limit of the light from the street lamp, he paused in the shadows.
He knew it would take a few minutes before Simon and Alan joined him but they were taking longer than anticipated and he hadn't the patience to wait so decided to continue but more cautiously.
Storm clouds had covered the moon and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness as the trees grew closer together and thicker in girth. He crept from tree to tree, pausing at each trunk to peer round it and listen for any noise. There were no lights to be seen now but he thought he heard voices. His grip on the log in his hand tightened.
He ventured a little further, further still, bending double to decrease his outline. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness and he found he was on the edge of a small clearing and could just make out the rise of the Iron Age hill fort several metres ahead. There was no sound now but he felt without seeing anything that he wasn't alone. A shadow moved.
"Who's there?" he called out, gripping the log. "I know somebody's there."
The snap! as someone stepped on a twig made him swing round, log raised in defence. He was conscious of a swishing sound and remembered no more until he opened his eyes to find a bright light blinding him.
"Peter! Thank God! You've come round."
"Yes and Alan's with me."
"What happened?" He tried to struggle up.
"Lie still," Alan said.
"You must have fallen over something and knocked yourself out," Simon surmised.
"No way! Just look at that cut and bruise!" Alan exclaimed, the beam from his torch highlighting Peter's injuries. "Someone's given him a hefty wallop on the head."
See Review by New London Writers: https://newlondonwriters.com/2016/05/15/hunterswick-green-by-iris-lloyd