07 October, 2014

#SpecialFeature :: #ShortStory - The Modelmaker's Wife by Neil Grimmett


Now Presenting:
*** SPECIAL FEATURE - October 2014 ***

The Modelmaker's Wife By Neil Grimmett

They noticed the policeman move into the field - recently renamed 'The Park' - and walk slowly around its edge.
"I wonder who has stolen what now?"  Allun asked, gesturing to the council half of the estate; their source of all trouble.
"Another bicycle, I expect," Jayne provoked, "mingling with all the other rubbish they’ve thrown in the ditch."
Then more police began to arrive. Soon there were five of them. Large blue shapes that appeared to Allun to be shimmering above the ground like part of the heat haze. It made him recall something from when he had been young and lived on the outskirts of a large city. A killer had been at work: a maniac who had mutilated children. On one of their family picnics - hidden away as always from places of public gathering - they had watched in silence as a long snaking line of police, soldiers and volunteers had combed the moors for another victim. Allun could still reach back and touch the fear and expectation that had surrounded everyone during that time through the actions of just one man.
"It must be pretty important," Jayne said, ignoring the garden and staring openly across into the field. Allun let the blades cut slowly so they bruised, then tore, and a clear fluid seeped from the stem.
"A rose is not a rose without the scent," Allun said; but she was too pre-occupied to voice her usual agreement, and seemed oblivious the huge effort the pleasantry had cost him.
Later, after the police had left and the garden duty was over, Allun was working on his latest model, when Jayne came back from one of her many shopping trips and burst straight into his den. This, he knew, meant there was news.
 "Someone attacked a child," she said. Jayne was redder than usual and shorter of breath. He could see that she was desperate for him to be part of what she was feeling. Allun concentrated on the model: A Sunbeam Talbot, blue with almost liquid lines. It was perfect in scale and detail with its blackened windscreens and sealed doors admitting nothing.
"It was one of Maxine Kelly's boys. I've told you about them before; the lady who is raising four of them on her own. The one who keeps them so nice…"
Allun let the car’s wheels turn so gently across his workbench there was not a whisper.
"A man tried to drag the little boy off, but he kept struggling and managed to break free of his evil hands."
The car began to very slowly face Jayne.
"His mother said to me that you could not believe the state of his clothes. And that he was just too upset to give the police much help; so they are going to have to try again tomorrow after he has had a good night's sleep."
The Sunbeam Talbot completed its manoeuvre and would have scream down the tunnels that were her eyes if he was not straining every muscle to hold it back.
*
Allun returned to his den after their meal. He normally did a little work before spending the rest of the evening with Jayne. Now though, he wanted to stay with the polished wooden shelves full of his creations. A history of British cars, he liked to say to Jayne, before the seething masses of unwashed humanity started driving and demanded something more appropriate.
Also, Allun knew she was knitting again. He could hear the tapping of the needles and their relentless message. Every time children came into their lives the steel and wool came out; the drawers got a little fuller. Sometimes that would be enough; sometimes there would be more. He shuddered, recalling the little plastic family she had bought last time 'to seat' in one of his Grand tourers. Allun knew that she could outlast him, and that until he went and watched, as some tiny shape formed between her breasts before twitching and inching onto her lap and then down between her legs, she would not stop.
Later in bed, he sensed that she was laying awake and starting to cry. Little balls of silver swelling from the corners of her eyes before exploding and flowing into some dry hollowness. He pictured what it would be like to be afloat on that sea as the final despair of realizing there would be no rescue became clear. 
*
Jayne was out early the next day and still not back by lunchtime. Allun had made a salad with things from the garden and greenhouse, then baked bread and rolls using their special flour. He had an important sale coming up and should have been busy preparing lists and catalogues.
"I've been to see Maxine Kelly, the boy's mother," Jayne said. 
She was ten and a half minutes late for their dinner and Allun carried on eating.
"The boy managed to give the police a statement this morning. He told them that the man was wearing a mask and gloves but that he felt he recognized him and that it was someone from the estate."
Allun wanted to know how that was feasible and looked across the table to where Jayne had now seated herself.
"The police said how brave and clever he had been. Mrs Kelly was beside herself and still crying when I went round. The Detective Inspector had reminded her of those missing children from a few years back. And how they, or their abductors, had never been found. He even suggested there may be a connection. Can you imagine how that must have made her feel?"
Jayne stirred the food around her plate waiting for him to respond. "I helped her do a few things," she said, when  there was none.
When it was time for him to go on his daily walk Jayne was waiting to see the local news, which was apparently going to report on the incident and make an appeal for help in finding the man. She was seething with her usual silent fury that he would not stay and watch it with her, and had refused to answer his good-bye.
Allun was a short way into his walk, moving along a dark, narrow lane, when a police car passed him. It slowed down and the man in the back seat stared at Allun. He was dressed in plain clothes, but Allun recognized that he was no prisoner. He had a cruel, pock-marked face and kept up his scrutiny until the slope of the road and height of the hedges combined to defeat his curiosity. Allun moved off the road and started to follow an overgrown bridle-path. He heard a car pass behind and knew it was the police car that had quickly returned. Allun could feel those eyes looking out and daring him to turn round and meet them. He moved steadily away.
The bridle-path cut through a small private wood. A damp, lonely place with a sign forbidding entry, and recently proclaiming the place as a 'Nature Reserve', though Allun had never seen any movement of animals, only the huge vines of honeysuckle that choked some trees and hung like cables between others and remained undisturbed. At the end of the wood, through a little swing gate, the path ran free across the top of the hill the whole walk has been gently climbing. In the middle of the open area there were two great stumps, left behind when the elm trees succumbed to disease and had to be felled.
Allun liked to sit on the stumps and look down either side of the hill. A short way further on, the path dipped and entered another larger wood. This one was not private and Allun hardly ever went there. Instead, he ignored any voices that found a way out, or the occasional person who emerged and concentrated on the distant view.
Down below, a world in miniature moved. The drains that reclaimed the land were moist grey scars, and the roads bled continually with a different and unstoppable tide. Allun liked to turn back the clock. At first, to the time when the road would have carried his cars, gently and with grace and class; then back further and further until there was no-one else, and this hill was what it had once been: an island in a primitive swamp.
These things helped, usually.
But now, there was only one thing and one place that had any meaning. And soon he must go there. Soon it had to begin again.
The sun had turned into a perfect blood-red circle by the time he reached the field and began crossing it on his way home. The lights were glowing from the houses and he hoped that Jayne would have started to worry about how long he had been. The earlier discord would have vanished and she would be back in harmony with his song. After they ate, he would go down into the cellar, his den, and do some work. 
It was almost time to begin the next collection.
"The police have been here," Jayne said as soon as he stepped through the door. "They want to see you in person and ask some questions."
"I saw them while I was out walking," Allun said.
Jayne seemed disappointed by his lack of surprise.
"Well, they said they would be back later. They are interviewing all the men. I told them that you go for long walks every day. They asked if we had a dog."
As the night settled in around them Allun could feel Jayne waiting. Every sound drove her scurrying above his head out into the hallway in anticipation. The knock, when it came, was loud and obvious. He heard Jayne rush to its summons. Then, allowed sufficient time to pass, before making certain his den was secure and going to meet them.
The heavy, uniformed policeman was local. Allun had observed him many times out on the estate trying to control the crime that seemed to increase as each new single parent or problem family arrived. He was an incompetent as far as Allun was concerned, who stood by impotently as another old lady was tortured and robbed; or someone's attempt at any improvement had been vandalized. Allun could barely hide his contempt.
The uniformed officer tried to reassure him with a stupid smile. The other man was the one from the back of the car. "Mr Markham," he said, "I am Detective Inspector Edmunds, this is PC Stubbings. Your wife informs me that you do not own a dog." His voice was as cold as his eyes; though Allun had known colder.
"If you are looking for dogs," Allun said, "there are plenty of strays wandering around this estate for you to find."
They stared at each other until Edmunds had to blink and swallow. He then tried to appear lighter, "I was just curious about all these walks, and if you may have seen anyone?" he asked.
Allun shook his head, “Sorry, no-one out of the usual. Only you, today.”
Jayne had enough theories, questions and gossip after that to keep them longer than they had clearly allowed. Allun could sense their relief at being able to leave and that her enthusiasm, if nothing else, may bring them back.
After they had gone Jayne followed him down into the den. "It said on the news," she informed him, "somebody must know who the man is and even live with him. How could any woman hide a man who would do that to a child?" She stood by the door staring into each cabinet at the models, row by row waiting for his answer.
That night in bed she was so tense that Allun felt if he reached out and stroked her she would shatter. He could find nothing to do or say that would make her feel any different. This will pass, he thought. It was nothing to be concerned about, yet.
*
The police were back just before lunch the next day.
"Mr Markham," the Inspector said, "I’ve been informed that you know little Jamie – Jamie Kelly is the boy's name. Do you know him?"
Allun noticed that Stubbings was no longer smiling but was trying to imitate the look of his superior.
"No," said Allun, "I don't. My wife knows him; that is the only connection."
"Just the mother," Jayne said, "and the youngest child. I had never met the older ones, not properly, not until…"
This time Allun could tell the detective seemed determined to ignore Jayne and her possible distractions. "And you are positive that you were not on one of these walks," he asked cutting her off, "at the time of the attempted abduction and did not see anything?"
"I thought I had already explained this," Allun said. "I am sorry that I cannot help you."
"He was wearing a mask," Edmunds continued as if Allun had not spoken. "According to little Jamie it was a woman's stocking pulled down over his attacker’s face."
The detective let his gaze drift down onto Jayne's short legs; he looked longer than was necessary before returning to Allun.
"The boy, little Jamie, thinks he knows the man. A slightly built man. A bit like you, Mr Markham. Did you see anybody that looked a bit like you when you were out on this walk?"
"I have told you I was not out at that time; Jayne confirmed it for you as well. We were busy in the garden all afternoon."
"But you did go. You always go."
"Before it happened though. I go early on the weekend to get back for garden duty."
At the word 'duty' Allun saw a look pass between the two policemen.
"Time, Mr Markham, is the strangest of things. That is what I always find. We can never be too certain of the vagaries of time." He let them all stand there measuring a few seconds before moving to the door. "We had better go and see if the lad can remember anything else. Like shoe type." He looked quickly at Allun's slippered feet. "Or hair colour. And if he is certain about time."
Jayne stood at the door watching them march away, unwilling, it seemed to Allun, to come back into their house and be alone with him. Finally, she moved back into the kitchen, keeping the maximum distance possible between them and without speaking.
*
On his next walk, Allun knew he was being followed. A young, overweight man in a scruffy suit kept a steady twenty or so yards behind and was trying to act as if he were enjoying the stroll. Why didn't they get him a dog? Allun thought, and nearly laughed out loud.
Allun walked as quickly as he could without appearing to be trying to lose the man. He waited until they were both moving along the bridle-path, then suddenly turned and walked back. The man had nowhere to hide and they met face to face and then had to brush against each other as they passed. The man kept his head down and Allun could feel the heat of his body and smell the sweat darkening the cheap material in patches. A few seconds later and the man was back on Allun's heels.
Walking home across the field, Allun imagined what a spectacle they made for the many people he could sense were watching. As he reached his house he looked back through the garden to the little gate, already knowing there would be no-one there.
Later, he was lost among the display cabinets and the perfection of the replicas. Each caught and held in a moment of pristine perfection. He smiled at the subtlety of his alterations; beyond the vision of all others. The smile began to lead him to another place. He quickly decided on work and started to mix some paint.
The door swung open as he was nearing the exact shade. Jayne had been crying again. He sensed it without looking up.
"You have always hated children," she yelled, "and I know why. You are nothing but a baby yourself with all these stupid toys."
Allun watched the paint dry on a piece of glass, he noted that it was still a fraction too dark.
"Detective Inspector Edmunds came back while you were out. He wanted to know if I was sure about the time of your walk when Jamie was assulted. And, I told him honestly, that I am not!"
Tiny bubbles, pinpricks, burst through the new mix. Allun kept so silent he believed he could hear them.
"It is no wonder you are like you are," Jayne shouted, “with the weird parents you had. But you can’t hate all children, just because…”
Allun looked up. He knew that she was just overwrought and needed understanding. "I don't think you should put too much of your trust in that policeman," he offered. “Or that boy’s story. If a man had seriously intended to take him, he’d be gone. Even,‘slight men’ can be terrifyingly strong when they want something badly enough.”
 She rushed from his gaze before he could say more.
He went upstairs late that night. The Jaguar XK 120 was painted and drying. He took one last look at it. "Nobody builds cars like that anymore," he said out loud. Jayne was asleep when he got into bed. Outside, from the field, he heard a high-pitched scream. Something small being caught and dying. The moon was full. Another single, cold, white eye, observing him.
Allun ate his breakfast alone and decided to fix a picture - that Jayne had once embroidered and he had not cared for - to the wall. She arrived home and stood behind him waiting for the drill to stop. Its noise had drowned out the sound of her return and she watched how easily his thin, but steel-wire like arm controlled the drill. It made her afraid but determined to carry on.
"Mrs Kelly ignored me," she told him as the drill slowed and stopped. "I asked her how Jamie was, and she gave me a look of total disgust and walked away. I fled from the shop and everybody was glaring at me."
Allun started the drill again. He let it run and run in the same hole until the noise was unbearable.
He took his walk and knew he was being watched from many places. A police car drove past him and stopped. It moved off and stopped again further on. It carried on doing it until he turned off the road. In one of the hedges that ran alongside the track where cars sometimes parked at night, he noticed a magazine. He knew exactly what it was; there had been many others. In the past he had picked them up and taken them to his tree stumps and sat looking at the large, shining pictures of naked men and women. The starkness and close-up detail of their couplings and organs in contrast to the false expressions on their faces. Sometimes pages were stuck together, and pulled through to the rough white fibres as he tried to part them. Once, he had taken one home. The most shocking and explicit he had ever found, with photographs of women with animals, and men with children. He had put it in a drawer on his desk. The next morning though, it had gone. And she never mentioned it. Now, he hurried by the magazine, aware that it might be a trap for him this time.
As he walked home, there were some children playing in the field with their mothers stood by the entrance gate. When Allun got quite near they began shouting to the children, their faces distorted in panic. He saw them grab their little hands and almost run from the play area. He could see into his garden where Jayne stood watching everything without moving.
The police came back. More questions. The possibility of an identity parade. Edmunds informed him that the only reason he was investigating the case was the possibility of it being connected with much more serious events from the past. As yet unsolved. This time Jayne remained completely silent.
Allun sat in his den, as the voices calling out from inside his models filled his head with their unceasing demands. He knew that nothing would silence them until he checked on the progress of the creations they represented and began the next collection.
It was always the same. And the moment he now lived for; and had been chosen to fulfil. 
But now, this nonsense. It was almost as if someone had sensed his calling, and was intent on interfering. The voices laughed at such a notion, as he saw that fat sweaty policeman trying to follow him; and the detective trying to outstare him. It was too pathetic to consider; but too risky to discard completely.
His ruminations were interrupted as he heard Jayne approaching. He did his best to shut out the voices; especially the one emanating from his naughtiest child, who was making the vilest suggestions about how to deal with this disturbance.
Jayne opened the door without knocking; and he waited for what he sensed was coming next. She stood in the doorway, her suitcase in front of her legs like a shield. "I am going back to my parents’," was all she said.
*
A short while later, just as he was struggling with all of his willpower not to leave and visit his most sacred place, a car pulled up outside. He guessed it was either a taxi returning his contrite wife; or a police car. He didn’t bother to look. It didn’t matter.
But it did help ease the pain and convince him that he must not take any chances which might endanger his mission. She would be back soon enough, and as easily as ever to control. The police would quickly tire of this.
And then it could begin.
The car outside sped away without anyone having got out.
The voices became a cacophony of longing and pleas.
“Soon my children,” he promised. And his models with their secrets inside, began to bleed as they raced around the room in joyous abandon.
*
Jayne was sitting with her closest friend, Maxine Kelly. She normally  loved the chaos of the house and the comings and goings of an endless stream of her children and their friends. But now, there was only one thing on her mind.
Jamie was by the window, peering out as a car pulled up. Jayne saw how much he was enjoying his role in this, and it helped appease her qualms about using him.
“It’s Sean,” Jamie announced. “He’s given me the thumbs-up.”
The women looked relieved as the car sped off.
“He’ll go by again in half-an-hour,” Maxine stated, “and keep doing it until we signal him to stop. So, Jamie, your eyes peeled. Right, Jayne. “Time to fess up!”
Jayne smiled slightly at the expression from inside the covers on their favourite crime and mystery novels. A shared passion that had started their unlikely friendship. And led to this.
She glanced at the shelves full of books, trying to recall a single one as Maxine summoned a real life detective, but could not. Her own story seemed far too important. Too fanciful. And terrible.
*
DI Edmunds listened to the women, with PC Stubbings in attendance. His initial reaction was to have the pair of them charged with wasting police time, give the youngster who’d lied to him so easily the last time he’d been here at him a clip round the ear, and charge the hooligan outside with dangerous driving, before storming off back to his station. 
But then, after Jamie had been sent to his room, and Jayne detailed the years of doubt and anguish, his mood changed, slightly. Especially, when it concluded with her horror at realizing that her husband’s ‘strange’ moods, with his sudden need to attend and stay at modelmakers' shows, coincided exactly with a series of missing children in the area and her terrible blackouts at night when he came home. Edmunds forgot the charges and wondered if he should call a psychiatrist! 
Finally, as they told him the details of this pulp fiction plot to get their serial killer to betray the whereabouts of his victims, the inspector just got up to leave.
“I’m sorry Mrs Markham, but this is all too far fetched. I suggest if your husband is abusing you, make an official complaint. If he has mood swings, maybe you should talk him into seeking medical help. And as for these unfounded accusations…”
“Jayne, show the detective!” Maxine interjected.
Jayne obeyed and took an object wrapped in tissue paper from her handbag.
“Keep in mind, Inspector,” Maxine warned, “if Jayne’s husband is not as far gone as she believes, and he spots this is missing, it will ruin everything. And will endanger her life, and the lives of more children.”
The inspector shook his head in irritation, but waited.
Jayne finished, and still grasping the object in a single layer of paper, placed it on the floor and pushed it towards Edmunds and Stubbings.
“That’s a beauty!” PC Stubbings exclaimed as the cover came off and the model Riley glided to his feet.
Edmunds gave him an angry, contemptuous look. “So what are you saying? He likes to play with toy cars? That’s not a crime, yet!”
“It is a hand built replica, exact, and to scale,” Jayne explained, as she had done a thousand times to family and friends, but for very different reasons. “Allun is one of the leading modelmakers in the country. His replicas are highly collectable and fetch the highest prices. But that one will never be sold. If you look closely, you will see why!”
Edmunds picked up the Riley, surprised by its weight. “I’m no expert,” he said, after a cursory perusal, “but I’d say it looks pretty damn perfect. I can’t see what’s…”
“Look closer,” the women demanded in unison.
DI Edmunds was generally considered to be one of the most observant, intuitative and promising young detectives on the Somerset and Avon force. If he wasn’t seeing or feeling anything, there was nothing. He was just about to say so, when, nearly dropping the car in shock, he did.
“For Christ’s sake, it’s a foot!” he exclaimed.
“Keep looking,” Jayne instructed, clasping Maxine’s hand in relief.
“The accelerator and clutch pedals are tiny feet,” Edmunds told Stubbings who was trying to see into the model. “And the grips on the wooden steering wheel are five knuckles either side.”
“And, Sir,” Stubbings blurted, “if you look into the headlights at a certain angle, they are eyes!”
Maxine joined in. “And I think you will find the leather seats and trim a bit too flesh coloured!”
“But I should only open the bonnet if you have a very strong stomach!” Jayne added, as she watched the boyish excitement of the policemen turn to disgust.
Edmunds placed the car on the small side table. 
“I’ll grant you it is perverse,” he said, wiping his hands on his trousers. “But it is not a crime. I’m sorry, but I still think a doctor would be more appropriate than the police.”
Jayne’s shoulders slumped and her head bowed forward.
Maxine gave her a little shake. “Go on, Sweetheart. Don’t stop now, or he has won.”
Jayne drew in a deep breath and sat upright. 
“When I married Allun, he was a very lonely young man. I was equally lonely, and we clicked. I sensed there was something bad he was hiding about his parents. Especially his father. But I believed if I got him away from them, things would get better.
“And they did for a time. Though he refused categorically to discuss his childhood and the subject of us having children was taboo. Then his father, whom I had only met a few times, but detested and feared, died. Allun reacted terribly. His moods became unpredictable and he became incredibly pernickety about everything. And bitter about everyone.
“Then one day, I hardly recognized who he’d become. He seemed so odd and remote. He could tell I was scared of him. And he was pleased about it. Then, he said he had to go and attend some shows, though he had never done so before and had always claimed to loathe them.
“I was relieved to see him leave and be left alone. Then children started to go missing. Three, while he was away. I never even dreamt it was connected.
“Not the first time.
“He returned after those ‘shows’ and seemed better. But some of the nights after that, he’d start muttering to himself and staring out of the window while he fondled one of his models, not even aware that I was observing him.
“Then I would feel ill and go to bed, though I could never recall how I got there. I’d feel terrible the next day, and keep having strange flashbacks of him coming home covered in oil and stinking as he paraded round the bed with a car in his hand babbling about something. But there was no evidence that anything had happened. There were no dirty clothes and he seemed refreshed and happy.
“It happened on another occasion, a year later. Exactly the same series of events, only this time there were four missing children while he was away. I knew then it was him, but not what I could do, or prove. And he had begun to terrify me.”
“I remember the cases,” Edmunds interjected. “None of them solved. But we still think it was a gang of paedophiles targeting the council estate in this area. Not one man. And there was no evidence to suggest any local connection. Just because he was…”
“I believe,” Jayne’s voice grew in conviction, “that he has a place somewhere. Very well hidden, where there are abandoned or scrapped vintage cars. I think he is taking the little children there and melding them into the models he selects for them. Then he builds a replica of whichever one he has used. That Riley is one of them. It is a keepsake to sate his sick mind until he needs to act again.
“If it hadn’t been for Maxine, I would have thought I was the mad one. But I told her everything, and she believed me. But there was no proof. Nothing we could do, except wait.
“Now his mood has changed again. It is worsening day by day. Darker than the last times, and more frightening. We came up with this plan to bring you here and hold him in check until he might lose some of his control. Now, if you will let me try, I’m sure I can get him to lead you to his lair, though he is normally as sly as a fox. But he is starting to…”
Edmunds glanced at the car. “I’m sorry, but it is all just too unbelievable! A serial killer transmogrifying children into cars! In a hidden scrap yard full of vintage cars that nobody knows about. It really is one for the bookshelf over there!”
“Funny thing, though,” Stubbings spoke up, as his superior began to move. “There was supposed to be such a place.”
Edmunds froze and the women stared.
“There was this eccentric old bachelor, Mr Knight. He owned a lot of the quarries in the West Country and made a fortune. He used to collect vintage cars and had hundreds. Then, when he was seventy he married his eighteen year old secretary. Well, he must have soon found out what she was after!
“Anyway, according to the tale, he got one of his loyalist lorry drivers to move all of the cars, vowing that she would never get her hands on them, at least. And she never did. The lorry driver died before Knight, and both men took the secret to the grave. Some believe he hid them; others, that he had them put in one of his landfills. A lot of folk once searched in vain for that elephants’ graveyard, I can tell you!”
Edmunds stared at the constable as if he’d just joined in the lunacy surrounding him. “Fascinating!” he scoffed. “Time to go, I think.”
Jayne fumbled desperately in her handbag. “I found these in his den.” She held out a container of pills. “They were in a bag that I’d not seen before. Along with what looked like surgeon’s tools, and nothing like what he uses for his models.”
Edmund gave an exasperated sigh but took the pills from her. “Rohypnol,” he read, his expression changing. “Roofies, the ‘date-rape’ drug. Now what would he…”
Stubbing, who’d been looking sheepish after recounting the legend, made a loud heaving sound. He put his large hand in front of his mouth and bolted. The sound of him vomiting filled the room as Edmunds moved over to examine the open-bonneted car.
He stared down into the engine and felt the ice-cold grip of certainty clasp him in its claws.
“Give me one hour, then make your call. I’ll have everything in place by then. If he moves we will track him. And he will not know! Stubbings will remain with you. Maybe one of you could make him a strong, sweet tea!”
The women were embracing as he hurried out.
*
“Oh, Darling,” Jayne sobbed when Allun finally answered the phone, though she’d hardly recognized his voice. “I betrayed you and our precious love.”
He didn’t respond but the deep sound of his breathing filled her with revulsion. Maxine gave her hand an encouraging squeeze.
“I was waiting for the bus when Mrs Kelly came rushing over to me. She begged me to forgive her and asked me to go to her house so she could explain in private.
“She said little Jamie hadn’t been attacked. He’d been playing rough with some of his friends and ripped his clothes and was covered in dirt. He’d made up the whole story so as not to get in trouble. Mrs Kelly blames herself for being so strict about their appearance. You remember I told you how nice she kept them, don’t you, Allun?”
Still no reply. No change in his breathing.
“Well, while I was there, that detective who was so horrid to you called round. He was very rude to Mrs Kelly and said he was returning to Bristol immediately and may well charge her with wasting police time. Then he turned on me. He told me that if it hadn’t been for my strange body language and veiled innuendoes, he would never have bothered you after the first visit.
“He told me that you were owed an apology and wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t lodge an official complaint over it. He gave me the filthiest look before he left.
“So, after I finished having a good cry, I plucked up the courage to call and beg you to forgive me. Will you, Allun, please? I don’t know what came over me. It’s just that I get so upset when I think someone has hurt a child.”
The deep breathing lightened.
Jayne clutched Maxine’s hand tighter. “Well, Mrs Kelly suggested I should stay with her until I was not so distraught, but I am so desperate to see you I want to come now. Can I?” Her nails were digging into her friend’s flesh. “On my way this very instant if you will let me.”
“No!” he commanded. “Not tonight. I need to think. And alone. I have been hurt deeply. But you can come tomorrow. 10.00am precisely. For breakfast. Then I will announce my decision.”
“Oh, thank you, Allun. I’ll count the minutes. You are so…”
The phone went dead.
Stubbings looked on, as Jayne fell into Maxine’s arms and began to sob.
*
The first fingers of dawn light began to reach into Allun’s den and lit-up his work bench. He was seated before it, filthy, scratched and stinking, but so happy his smile was more radiant than the sun. As usual, just to visit the sacred place was enough ease all the torment and anguish and strengthen him for what lay ahead.
Allun recalled when he had originally been guided to it, by what he was certain was his father’s spirit. It had been when he’d discovered the abandoned salt mine, rumoured to be a future site for storing nuclear waste. A shadow had drifted from its depths and led him to the steel fence hidden behind a tangle of vines and protecting the shallow quarry. 
The secret way in had been revealed and he’d known it was an epiphany before entering. Inside, it had been confirmed. And, as he’d moved in a trance between the rusting relics of automotive perfection, he knew his moment had finally arrived. It was his time to transcend. As had his father before him.
He had been summoned that day. As he was being summoned now.
Allun visualized the car he had just uncovered. He juxtaposed it against his completed transformations and pictured it joining them. And then, how beautiful they had looked. Each was his statement of the purest love. He touched the shell that would become the model replication of it, and knew just which little ‘cry wolf’ child would be joining its true version on its eternal journey.
His den door opened with a whisper and nearly brought him back to reality.
He almost imagined it was Jayne standing there, smiling at the state of euphoria he was in; longing to be able to participate in future work together.
Then she bent down and rolled one of his models across the floor towards him.
He stared.
Then was jolted back.
She had dared to put her little plastic family inside it. Mommy, daddy and two children.
Allun reached for his bag and closed his fingers around the largest scalpel as she smirked at him.
Before he could get any further, two large, uniformed policemen stood either side of her. One held a truncheon, the other a canister of CS gas.
Then a hand appeared and placed a toy car on the floor between Jayne’s outstretched legs. It was a tin, clockwork monstrosity. A caricature of a police car with flashing lights and a siren. It whirred over the floor past the other model, shot under his desk and bumped into his bag.
Allun looked up from it as the blue lights pulsed too brightly and the sirens wailed, filling his den. The detective, Edmunds, stood next to Jayne.
“Not a very good model, Mr Markham. But don’t worry, we’ve got the real version outside and its your turn to go for a ride.”
The two uniformed officers reacted quickly as Allun raised the scalpel towards his neck.
But not quickly enough.

THE END

About the Books
A young couple arrive on the Greek island of Crete and begin prying into the execution of a beautiful English woman during the German occupation sixty years before. They enter a labyrinth of forbidden love, betrayals, murder, greed and vendettas, old and new. 
Then they disappear. 
A feisty Scottish woman and an irascible, Zorba-like Greek form a reluctant allegiance in a desperate attempt to find and rescue them. They both have very different motives for their involvement. Their search will take them to hidden rituals, ceremonies, remote gatherings, famous monasteries and villages abandoned after decades of vendettas. To the remote island of Gavdos and finally back to a place that, “Even God does not know exists”. 
They will encounter characters good and evil; some modern and pragmatic, others ancient and magical. 
All the time they are being stalked by the sons of man who seeks to complete the crimes of his father and sate his own greed and insane desire for vengeance. These men are more animal than human and have been raised in the remote mountains for the sole purpose of carrying out the brutal will of their father. 
The mystery of the real, hidden Crete runs deep, and THE THRESHING CIRCLE explores some of the myths and romance while not shying away from its often violent nature. 
By the end choices will have to be made. If such actions are really possible on an island where many Cretans still believe that: “The Cycle of Blood”, can never stop flowing.



The Hoard is a thriller set in the secretive, dangerous world of a Royal Ordnance Factory; a vast, surreal place full of some of the most volatile elements on the planet. 
Thirty years before the main story, the nitration house at the ROF in Bridgwater exploded in a fireball that could be seen for miles around. The entire crew was killed, and the source of the explosion was never found; authorities claimed that the charge in the nitrator had gone critical and that the chargehand was unable to stop a lethal cook-off. But Gunner Wade, the man the nitration crew sent for help that day knows differently: they were murdered; and he was branded a coward. 
Now Byron, the son of one of the victims, enters the sprawling Gormenghast-like compound of the top secret factory to discover the truth about his father's death. But what he finds in the dark heart of this world is a hidden hoard of super-high explosives; illegally produced and drenched in the blood of those killed to conceal its existence. As the threat of discovery mounts, Byron finds himself at the centre of a struggle between good and evil; both to prevent a destructive force from being unleashed again and to bring the sadistic mass murderers who killed his father to justice. He is aided by an unlikely alliance of helpers, including the beautiful widow of a murdered chemist and Gunner Wade. Against them are the original perpetrators and their new legion of evil acolytes. 

Inspired by a massive explosion that killed six men at the real-world ROF Bridgwater facility in 1951 - no cause was ever found - The Hoard is a gripping, grim novel that offers a glimpse into a self-contained apocalyptic landscape scarred both by the birthing of the materiel that fuels war, and the hearts of evil men who would do anything for greed.




About the Author
Neil Grimmett has had over eighty five short stories published. In the
UK by among others: London Magazine, Stand, Panurge, Iron, Ambit, Postscripts Magazine, Pretext etc. Australia, Quadrant, South Africa, New Contrast. Plus stories in the leading journals of Singapore, India, France, Canada, and the USA, where he has appeared in Fiction, The Yale Review, DoubleTake, The southern Humanities Review, Green Mountains Review, Descant, The Southern Review, West Branch and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. He has appeared online in Blackbird, Plum Ruby Review, Tatlin's Tower, Web Del Sol, In Posse Review, m.a.g., Word Riot, Blue Moon Review, 3AM, Gangway, Eclectica, The Cortland Review, Segue, The Dublin Quarterly , Ducts, Sugar Mule, Mysterical E, Thuglit and over thirty others. His stories have also appeared in the anthologies: ENGLAND CALLING, BOOK OF VOICES and Italy’s ISBN’s Top International Stories. He has made the storySouth Million Writers Notable Short Story list for the last three years. In addition, he has won the Write On poetry award, 7 Oppenheim John Downes Awards, 5 major British Arts Council Awards, a Royal Society of Authors award and has been awarded two major grants from the Royal Literary Fund.  He has been signed over the last ten years by twelve of the leading literary agents in both the UK and USA. His current agent is Jon Elek at United Agents.
His first thriller, THE THRESHING CIRCLE, was published on Amazon KDP Select. Followed by the second, THE HOARD.


Giveaway
1 Digital Copy of The Threshing Circle & 1 Digital Copy of The Hoard up for grabs for International Readers!
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