Lost Dog 8
Richard waited until the house was silent then got out of bed. If he walked down the stairs he was sure Morwenna and her companion would hear him. He’d have to leave through the bedroom window.
He pulled off the bed sheets and tied the under and over sheet together. Then he fed the improvised rope through the window until the end reached the ground, tying the opposite end round the radiator pipe in his room. Once he’d made certain it was secure he pushed open the window to its full extent and prepared to make his escape.
It was difficult to hold the makeshift rope. He sat on the window ledge positioning himself before slowly turning and grabbing hold of the ledge. As his weight shifted and his legs scrambled to find purchase he managed to transfer his hands to the improvised rope and begin his slow, tortuous descent.
He landed safely and hurried in the darkness towards his car. But the car had gone. It was no longer where he’d parked when he arrived. It had been either stolen or moved. The track leading towards the dog kennels was wide enough for a vehicle to negotiate. Had Richard's car been hidden in one of the barns ?
He walked quickly, passing the two barns he’d been in with the youth, then the one containing his mother's art work. He stopped and tried the door but
Morwenna had secured the padlock before she helped him towards the house. He thought about his mother's art works stored in the barn and considered going back to the house in order to search for the padlock key. But Richard knew it was an outrageous thought. He moved swiftly on.
There were three more barns, each a similar size to the one housing the art
works. All were locked. None had windows he could look through in order to determine their contents. He continued beyond the buildings and through a broad landscaped garden. It seemed, in the darkness, to follow some sort of geometrical pattern, gradually tapering into a narrow corridor that led to an old stone arch. Richard walked beneath the arch and was confronted by a stone building. At first glance he thought it was a medieval church. As he neared it he was able to see, in the moonlight, a symbol above the door - the same inverted Celtic cross that Morwenna wore on her brooch. The door, as he expected, was locked. But he could see that the building had tall, almond-shaped windows on either side. He peered through one but it was too dark to see what was inside.
Richard heard the sound of voices. He looked in the direction of Morwenna's house and saw flashes of torchlight.
He ran behind the small stone building into a tangled knot of bushes and trees. The earth was soft beneath his feet and he had to crouch down to avoid a thick canopy of branches and twigs. He remained still and looked behind him - the lights were brighter, nearer, the voices more pronounced.
Richard ran for his life.
It took him several hours to reach his mother’s cottage. He arrived through a combination of walking, running and, finally, an early morning bus. He double locked the front and bolted the kitchen door. He was certain they would come after him. All he could do was wait and plan how he would respond.
He slept – another deep sleep, this time devoid of any dreams. When he woke he felt refreshed and began to plan the day ahead. He needed somehow to recover his car. He was sure it had been put into one of the barns. He would need to phone Morwenna and demand its return. Her number wasn't listed so he called the art college. The receptionist said she was not allowed to give out any personal phone numbers but she could pass on a message. Richard said he'd rather call by and speak to Morwenna in person. The receptionist said that would not be possible - Morwenna was currently on a twelve month sabbatical. Richard hung up.
For the next two days, in order to salve his anxiety, he worked on his mother’s cottage, scraping old wallpaper off the walls. He knew he had to decide whether he should return to Morwenna's house. The only other option was to call the police and Richard didn't want to do that. Prompting a police enquiry might lead to him looking foolish. Morwenna would simply say that he was a friend who had stayed the night and had left his car on her property. All Richard had to do, she would say, was come and collect it.
Late one afternoon his phone rang. He answered and the line went dead.
Was this the signal ? He began to prepare for their arrival, although he had no notion of who ‘they’ were. Perhaps it would be the man who entered the spare room with Morwenna, or else other associates of Morwenna's who he knew nothing about.
He placed weapons in strategic places - a knife hidden in the garden, a rope
tucked beside the rubbish bin. He had no evidence that he was in danger, that Morwenna or others might want to do him harm, but his instinct was that Morwenna wasn't all that she seemed. She was hiding something and he had no idea what it might be.
His phone rang again. He answered it and again the line went dead. Then it rang a third time and the connection remained. "Who are you ?" he said.
"What do you want ?" They, whoever 'they' were, hung up.
Darkness came. He changed his clothes and filled a small rucksack with
emergency items. Then he re-located to an upstairs bedroom where he could better view the front of the cottage. If he had to escape again he wanted to be fully prepared.
Close to midnight, sitting near the window, with all the lights in the house
turned off, he heard voices outside. He made his way downstairs to the kitchen door and prepared to confront Morwenna and her associates. As he did so he heard a tremendous crash - the sound of a brick shattering his front window.
Richard remained in the kitchen and waited. If the perpetrators broke in to the cottage through the broken window he planned to flee into the garden. Would he have the courage to stab his enemies if they spilled out of the house in search of him ? He would be well placed to attack them. He was unused to physical violence but felt prepared for whatever came his way.
By the time Richard eased his way to the front of the cottage the perpetrators had already run off into the night. They’d also left a calling card on the front step – a dead crow, freshly killed. Richard picked up the carcass and examined it. The dead bird meant something, contained a warning, but a warning about what ?
The following day Richard called his brother. He told him about the smashed window and about the dead bird he’d discovered on his doorstep. He also told Peter about Morwenna. “I don’t know why, but I feel there seems to be some kind of vendetta.”
Peter was unusually sympathetic. “That’s how I felt” he said “in the days after the atrocity. I kept asking the question: Why me ? Why us ? What did those people hope to gain by committing murder and maiming Jackie ? Our lives too were ordinary, uneventful. Jackie’s a good person – she didn’t deserve to end up like this.”
Peter faltered. Richard tried to fill the uncomfortable silence. “Look, Peter,
maybe I shouldn’t be loading this stuff onto you...”
“It’s OK. Sometimes I need to feel sorry for myself, need to unleash a bit of
anger. If somebody is targeting you, you need to stay strong, that’s the first
thing. They want you to capitulate – you must never give in to their demands. Second, use every available means at your disposal to record their actions – date, hour, everything. Memory isn’t perfect. There will come a time when you will need to present your evidence with confidence.”
Peter faltered again. His voice broke and he began to shed tears. Richard had inadvertently opened up his brother’s deep wounds, the sense of discrimination and injustice that had festered for years. Now Richard was the one who felt guilty, for what were his problems compared to those endured by Peter and Jackie day after day ?
“I’m sorry” Peter said, regaining his composure. “You were asking me for
“It’s OK” Richard said. “Talking with you has been a help”.
Peter said: “Do you know what it really feels like, Richard ? Sometimes it
feels as though something or someone - the Devil perhaps - has singled out our family. It’s as if we’ve been cursed.”
Part 9 here: