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First pages

Chapter One

“Making Contact”

Can’t seem to make the push.

The waves of the ocean nipping at his toes calmed his frantic mind as it spun deeper within to find the energy to make the jump across the channel. The moon above remained hidden behind dim clouds. The only light that shone came from an occasional star winking into view through the muck in the sky. The British didn’t dare have anything glowing at this hour. An angry buzz of planes filled the distance out across the water. He closed his eyes again.

The receiver must not be in place.

It had happened before and cost them dearly. With a visit from headquarters, the agent repented and found the post without fail. Could there be a slip up?

He closed his eyes tight. His ears drank in the steady motion of the waves as each crest diligently washed ashore, taking granules of sand and bits of debris back out into the deep. Locations and numbers fumbled through his brain as he remembered every scrap of information that he had gathered the past week. Now he had to get it across the gap between England and the continent to further their cause.

A commotion behind him snapped his eyes back open.

A man with a saucer-shaped helmet peered at him behind a lantern of faded orange.

“What’s going on here?” the man asked. He opened his mouth to say something else, but a spasm crossed his face. Dangerous eyes stared at him from the beach as the man grabbed at his throat. He fell forward burying his face deep in the sand. Another convulsion gripped the body and then lay very still.

Where are you?

He concentrated from his prone position in the sand. The water licked at his shoes and up his britches. The smell of salt filled his nostrils and settled his nerves. The numbers and locations funneled through his mind once more and out across the sea. He pushed hard from within his mind reaching his receiver with every ounce of strength he could muster. Although the distance ravaged his concentration, he could still feel the presence at the other end. Hadn’t he trained for months to do so? Didn’t failure mean a blow to his beloved country across the ocean?

A touch, I feel you...

Like a hand reaching from inside of his skull, his thoughts poured out of him into the receiver many miles to the south. As a dam with flood gates, the information he had so carefully gathered shot from his brain to the other end of the conduit.

He knew he had instructions to receive himself, but with the toll on his mind and body he couldn’t, not at that moment. Another day, perhaps. He would try another stretch of coastline and reach out againthis time acting not so much as a receiver, but a gatherer from his contact’s brittle mind.

Although dead, he could feel the form of the body a few feet away from him. His nature extended certain privileges of perception that grew with every use of his unique abilities. Who needed a powerful transmitter of metal and electronics, when he existed? Certainly his handlers would have to admit to his successes, especially as his information paid off for them in the skies above.

The conduit of fresh intelligence would be repeated to a commander of some importance by the receiver. That job finished, the authoritywhoever it happened to bewould convey it to a strategic command for the military, specifically the forces of the air, who would then make quick decisions from his report.

One more night, maybe two, and he would see first hand the results of his labors.

The salty water splashed against the body moving limbs in an ugly dance of death and the beginnings of decay. It didn’t matter now. He had finished his task. The body would be hidden away. What did it matter if anyone found it? He would be gone onto something else. No one suspected. No one would. How could they?

Who in their right mind on the British Isles would believe in thought-transference?

The idea of it made him smile wickedly to himself. They would say something like: “what utter rot, what!” and go about their day. He knew better. His kind was now needed for the fatherland. Brandishes of ancient symbols flashed into his weary mind. He missed home so much. He gazed across the channel in hopes of glimpsing something, anything that would remind him of what he fought for. It wouldn’t be long now. If this succeeded, of which he had no doubt, he would be welcomed home a hero within a matter of weeks.

He raised himself to his feet feeling the wet soak through his soft shoes into his socks. It didn’t bother him. The water helped him focus like no other part of nature could. He watched the waves roll and tumble, cocked his head to something he thought he saw in the darkness, and then disappeared from the coastline.

 

Chapter Two

“Sod It!”

Ewan Michaels slinked into his chair in the corner office with a cup of hot frothing tea in his mitts. The froth came from milk that he had scavenged and made promises for to a farmer friend of his who owned a cow in the city. Thankful the poor creature hadn’t been toasted from the bombs falling from the sky, he whispered a sweet prayer and sipped at his brew. Not one for much ceremony, he skipped the stirring with a dainty spoon and tasted his concoction.

“Cheers,” he said to himself and slurped from the chipped cup that had been passed onto him from some dead and forgotten relative. Having begun the day with this important ritual, Ewan looked for cases piling up on his desk in desperate need of attention. None again today. In fact, not much of anything for the two years he occupied the spot a few paces from the Thames.

He grimaced at the tea swishing in his mouth. “I wonder what he feeds the old gal?” But with a choice between nothing and botched tea, he would choose botched any day of the week.

With a flick of his fingers he turned on the radio and absently listened to the morning news of the day. Reports of early September temperatures followed by minor bits of news items about this and that led the top of the hour. Then through somber tones a voice quickly dealt with the bombs that had fallen from the sky the night before. Ewan listened with some care as he knew things would be somewhat sketchy. One thing about a stiff upper lip and keeping up the old chin meant not admitting to the enemy’s listening ears that there could be trouble.

The real news about the damage came from the streets. One used his eyes to see the destruction brought on the beloved city. Bits of rubble littered the city in piles that stood out like mumps on a baby. Historical monuments, memories, and British pride had been evaporated by the monsters from the skies.

“Bloody pillocks and Visigoths,” he sworealmost to himself.

“Here now, Mister Michaels, we’ll have none of that,” a soft, but forceful voice boomed from the adjacent office.

“Oh, hello, love,” he said.

“Save it for somebody else, Mister Michaels,” she replied. They both smiled at one another. They had used this greeting for the past two years with each other. They had grown used to it like a foot and a broken-in pair of shoes. A day without the usual patter meant something in the universe had fallen to pieces for one of them.

“Tea?” he offered by pointing to the kettle across from his desk.

“I think I might,” she said with a wink. She liked Mister Michaels well enough, but wondered why they had nothing really concrete to do for the past couple of years. Oh, there was the occasional daft report of some kind of monster or were-something-or-other lurking about the streets of London, but nothing of any real importance.

She snapped her fingers. “That reminds me,” she said, going back for her purse in the outer office.

“What reminds you? I didn’t say anything,” Ewan replied.

“I think we might be onto somethingfinally,” she nearly shouted from the other room.

He stood up knocking his chair over backwards. Could it be? “What is it?”

She had her hands behind her back clutching something. “A vampire.”

“A what?” he cried out. Could this really be?

“Just what you’ve been waiting for, Mister Michaels.”

“Where, who, how?” he sputtered. “And what’s that behind your back?”

She tossed him the package she had hidden. He fumbled with it and tore at the brown paper and string. What could it be?

“I think it’s on about page one hundred, or something around there,” she said. She watched with inner glee as her boss ripped the paper she had fixed in place not an hour before.

“A vampire, you say? What evidence have you found?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Tell me, you cheeky woman!”

“A vampire, Mister Michaels, that’s all I can say.”

The volume fell to the floor as he ripped it free from the wrapping. He didn’t bother to examine the cover, but tore into its pages like a madman freed from the asylum. His eager eyes darted from page to page looking for the clue she offered. In his rush he didn’t bother to read a word. And then he pounced upon it and frowned.

“A good one on you, Mister Michaels,” she said, cackling all the way back into her office.

Ewan stared at the crisp paper and the title haunting him in black type. “Vampire, indeed,” he whispered. “I can’t help it that I’m the laughing stock of MI5.” He walked into her office and plopped the book down on her desk. “Sherlock Holmes?”

“The Sussex Vampire, Mister Michaels. Can we put in for a travel requisition right away?”

He opened his mouth to say something spiteful or to proclaim himself a martyr of the unbelieving intelligence community, but he thought better of it. She had had enough of his tirades over the past couple of years. Instead he pounced on her freshly poured cup of steaming tea, and gulped it down.

“Mister Michaels!”

“Lola!”

“That’s Miss Bruce to you, sir!”

Lola tried to take the edge off the confrontation by laughing, but she knew the damage had been done. At that moment the post slipped through the metal-lined slot and fell onto the floor.

“Oh, sod it,” Ewan exclaimed.

“Excuse me, I’m sure, Mister Michaels,” Lola said, frustrated with his anger.

He smiled and grabbed the stack from the floor. “No. Sod It! The newspaper I subscribe to and from time to time make a contribution to.”

“Of course,” she answered back, not believing him. She knew about the horrible newspaper he referred to, but didn’t believe it had miraculously arrived at that moment. He opened it up to the front page revealing some half-shark half-man drawing with a horrid caption underneath.

“Were-sharks in the Thames again, Miss Bruce,” Ewan said with a far away look as he buried himself in the paper.

“I’m sorry, Mister Michaels,” she said without him hearing her. She knew how sensitive he could be about his work (or lack thereof) and she regretted ever stopping in the small book shop to find a copy of Conan Doyle’s later Holmes’ stories, but she couldn’t help herself. With the bombing continuing every night, the issued blackouts, and the lack of work for their office, she had to shake things up some. “I should never have done it, Mister Michaels. I sincerely apologize.” Again, he hadn’t heard, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to go into the other room and face him.

Two years ago she had been secretary to an officer in the army, but he had retired and left her without a post. With the thought of being without work, she trudged home on the eve of his retirement to mope about her lack of prospects. Waiting at her door stood a strange sight. A man dressed in a ratty trench coat stained with everything imaginable held the door open for her as she unlocked it. Her recruitment to MI5 [z] had begun.

The man in the trench coat, with half-folded fedora in gripped in his fist, explained his dire situation. He had been recruited for a bizarre assignment under the guiding hand of MI5, Britain’s domestic spy agency. With some hesitation he told her he concern of one of its more flamboyant, but very powerful agents.

“We’re to be Paranormal Intelligence,” the man she came to know as Ewan Michaels muttered to himself.

She asked him to repeat himself, he did, still without her hearing him. After her initial shock, she laughed, giggled herself to near hysteria, and then calmed like the tide after the storm.

“You’re serious,” she said.

But she needed the work, no matter how daft. Two years had rolled along with little change. Oh, a few things here and there. She got Mister Michaels to get rid of the trenchcoat and start combing his hair. He even shaved on a semi-regular basis now. Their rapport with one another had become that of grateful boss and gratified employee.

After two months of no activity, she cautiously asked just what they were supposed to be doing. He had folded his Sod It! and tried not to roll his eyes at her.

“It’s like this, Miss Bruce,” he explained in his most pleasant tone. “We are like a sleeper in our own country.”

“A what?”

“Oh, hush-hush lingo. A sleeper is an intelligence agent sent to another country and waits to be activated into…action. They sometimes wait years.”

“A spy?” she asked.

She smiled to herself as she recalled how he had immediately shushed her and sat her down to explain a thing or two. She discovered quickly that the word spy nearly outraged her queer employer.

Two years and still not much to call work. One could only file the same empty folders so many times a week.

She heard Mister Michaels fidget and bang around in his office, which could only mean one thing: his first pipe of the day. His habits had become so well known to her that she could set her watch by himand had on more than one occasion. She settled into her work, which meant another lonesome day of nothing.

In his office, Ewan frantically searched for a match. “Blast, blast, and double-triple blast!” The double-triple blasted everything in the vicinity and somehow vindicated his wounded pride. He tried to stare through the flimsy wall that separated him from Miss Bruce to offer his newest scowl of the day.

Oh well, she didn’t mean it, I suppose. He found a match, lit his corncob pipe that an uncle had made for him, and puffed like a mad train on its way north out of London.

“Now what about this were-shark swimming in the Thames,” he said as he flipped back through the pages of his favorite paranormal paper.

And then something occurred that hadn’t in almost two years: a man walked through the door of MI5 [z]. Not just any man, either. Colonel Nathaniel Jansen burst through as if he owned the place, which he practically did, and planted a wet kiss on Miss Bruce’s face.

“Hello, love of my life,” he shouted.

“Hello, Colonel,” was all she could say in return.

“Ewe, where are you?” the Colonel exploded with renewed reverie. He grabbed Lola by the waist and shuffled a waltz straight into Ewan’s office.

“Nattie, how are you?” Ewan said, wanting to shake his old mate’s hand, but not wanting to interrupt the dance.

“Oh, you know, watching our country being bled by the Huns, and all that rot,” the Colonel said. He ended the steps with a bow to his partner, who returned it and stepped back into her part of the office. Jansen shut the door behind her.

“How are you Nattie?” Ewan asked.

Jansen’s face fell a mile. “It’s awful out there, Ewe. What they’re doing to us is a crime against humanity.” He plopped into a chair and ran his pinky through his mustache that framed his upper lip. “We’re chewing each other to bits up there in the sky.”

“We’ll see it through,” Ewan offered weakly. He didn’t know what to say. Along with his fellow countrymen he shared the same kind of fright. “What happens if the Germans cross the channel?” he asked.

The Colonel hurrumphed and threw an absent-minded hand in the air. “That won’t happen.”

“Surely this is just the beginning.”

“This is the battle for our country, old boy,” the Colonel said, “failure is not an option.”

Ewan smiled. “You and Churchill.” He walked over and offered a spot of tea from the pot, which Colonel Jansen refused. He returned to his chair. “So here we are, Nattie.” It still sounded odd now that his old classmate had become a Colonel, but he couldn’t help himself.

“When did I visit you last, Ewe?”

Ewan shrugged and tried to recall. “Over a year ago.”

“What? Really? What have you been doing during that time?”

Ewan waved around the room magnanimously. “This is it. And I’ve been gathering what scraps I can about the Nazi mysticism you wanted me to.”

The Colonel winked. “That busy? Must do something about that.”

“I wish you would. I’m beginning to wonder about the wisdom of even creating the laughingstock of MI5.” Ewan looked distraught, but hid it with that strange, bitter grin that characterized him to all of his friends from his school days.

“Get your coat then, Ewe, we’re off.”

 

Chapter Three

“All in the Timing”

He folded along the edge of the paper bringing the ends together in perfect symmetrical balance. He stuffed the letter into the envelope and sent it to be posted. Another boring day in the office, he thought sadly. And with such a success last night, too. With scanning eyes, he looked around at the others in the office. Busy, all of them, hoping salvation from the fierce fighting from the Luftwaffe.

The dragons from the skies.

One to truly love and admire Wagner’s work, like every good German should, he thought of gold-plated fire-breathers swooping down from the boiling clouds consuming every British citizen in sight. The thought had threads to his playful imagination as a child, but the memory still lingered. He knew the difference between the stark reality of war and the romanticized version fed to Germany throughout the past few years. He knew what real war would be like. Not some Wagnerian symphony crashing and booming for certain victory.

These British could, and would, fight to the bitter end. They knew how to fight in the skies, but for how long?

He stared at a document long enough to memorize airfield positions and numbers scrawled in steady type from margin to margin. His memory would be put to the test, yet again, to see just how much accurate information it could hold. The prospect of another night on the coastline excited him.

“Daniel?” a strawberry blonde called to him from across the office.

“Yes, Judy?”

“I have another stack that needs to go down the hall,” she said.

He detected the flirtation, but wouldn’t reciprocate. It’s not that he didn’t want to. In fact, he found her extremely attractive and somewhat of a conquest to his way of thinking. And during his sleeper years, as he called them, he would have done so without hesitation and enjoyed every single moment. But with the storing of valuable data as his priority, he found that he could not be distracted. He had attempted to live in both worlds, that of pleasure and his business of gathering intelligence for the fatherland.

If he had the typical spying equipment such as cameras, invisible ink, and other nonsense, he would have walked in both worlds eagerly. Thought-transference could not take the distractions.

Why do you look at me like that, Heinrich?

The blossoms were in full bloom that May. His mother’s voice sounded so pretty, but her mouth didn’t move. She picked the flowers with his sister. He did so as well, but soon found himself sitting at the base of a tree staring at his mother. Her gray-streaked hair flew in the last spring breeze with reckless abandon. Her fingers deftly cut the stems and arranged the beautifully colored flowers in his sister’s basket.

A normal day, he thought. But not that day.

What is it, Heinrich? What is wrong with you, son?

Again the words flowed into his mind, but her mouth didn’t move. It frightened him. He opened his mouth to say something, but his mind filled with images, words, visions of terrible things. It overwhelmed him.

That first day led to others. Years passed with him hearing the constant trickle of voices in his head. And then he directed his own voice outward and the world suddenly changed. His gift couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Daniel, yoo-hoo,” Judy said. “Are you dreaming?”

He laughed quietly and grabbed the stack of papers. “Afraid so, Judy. I was thinking of other days.”

“Don’t we all?”

He shuffled through the door and took his time walking down the hallway. He thumbed through the papers as fast as he could, committing to memory those things that seemed to stand out to him. The work here had taught him what to grab and what to discard. As he approached the doorway, the knob twisted. He caught it in time, shut the folder, and painted on his innocent Daniel act. It worked every time.

“Hello, Daniel,” a man said, “just going to spend a penny.”

Daniel chuckled. British slang had been a nightmare. Spend a penny=go to the bathroom. “Don’t wash away,” he joked.

The man vanished from view. He thumbed through the documents one last time and then walked into the office.

Dragons in the sky, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

“The Body”

As Ewan and the Colonel strolled out into the gray morning they both noticed the strange pause that held its grip across the city. Weary faces greeted them without a word of “how are you” or “good morning.” Wounds of rubble remained opened and oozed from its fragile skin that had been ripped apart by the Luftwaffe. Morale could use a boost and the RAF with its Spitfires and Hurricanes wreaked havoc for the Germans up in the skies to do just that: raise the spirits of the British.

The Colonel pointed to a pile of concrete and bricks at the far end of the street. “A sad pity, that.”

Ewan agreed without saying anything. The man next to him, his schoolboy friend, had the codename of Greenmantle. A hats off to John Buchan’s novel of the same name it represented Ewan’s lifeline to the world of espionage in MI5. Although he hadn’t been housed with the rest of his comrades, he felt part of something much bigger than himself.

The Colonel patted his shoulder. “I haven’t been down here in so long. I wanted to see just how bad it had gotten.” He shook his head and walked away to his own private emotions about the city he loved so well. Ewan sympathized, but underneath his raging curiosity had about run out of patience with Greenmantle. The rubble seemed dead all around him in layers of the ages past. One of the oldest cities on the earth had taken a beatingand most likely would again that very night. His own emotions grabbed at him, but he found the courage to stuff them within himself. Wait on the Colonel, he chided his impatient brain.

“Are we in a hurry, Colonel?” he asked after a time that he thought fitting for his friend’s grief. In public he always called Nattie Colonel. He never failed in that respect. As a matter of fact, Nattiethe Colonelhad recommended they not mention their past history unless in private. Friends of friends and all that getting jobs in the government went hand in fist, and in any other situation and probably wouldn’t have mattered; however, Greenmantle had recruited him for much different work.

The Colonel took one last look at the neighborhood near Ewan’s office and shrugged off whatever he carried within himself. He waved in the air with a carefree hand. A dark colored car shot along the street and stopped just in front of them both.

“Let’s go for a ride, Ewan. What do you say?”

“Whatever you wish, Colonel.”

Greenmantle waved them in and they were off.

“Should I know where were going?” Ewan asked, unprepared for the answer.

“How about Dover?” the Colonel asked with a wink. He set his attention on the driver in front of him. “Dover, Roger. You know where.”

“Yes, sir.”

I should think that maybe I ought to talk to you this way.

The voice nearly rattled him out of his seat as Nattie hadn’t done that in over a year.

Is it that bad?

Could be. You’ll see.

For the next thirty minutes they sat in total silence almost unnerving the young man behind the wheel. He had never seen two of his passengers sit in complete quiet before. Not even small talk escaped either man’s lips. He focused his attention on the road and left the city of London for Dover.

In the back seat the two school friends shared a wealth of information letting their minds do the talking. Something they stumbled onto as school chums that had changed both of their lives. As the Colonel fed Ewan information on the case they were about to investigate via thought-transference, Ewan let part of his mind drift back to those days when life seemed so full and ever-surprising from one moment to the next.

In his younger days, he had enjoyed the company of his brothers and sister, along with his parents. The discoveries he made in the countryside out in East Anglia were wondrous and too many to remember from day to day. Just like all the other boys in the area he worked, did the family chores set aside for him, and played to his hearts content. He especially loved bicycling with his father on weekends and the menial chores around the house that helped his mother. Family grounded him. His siblingsalthough fiercely competitive for their parents’ love and affectioncherished him and nourished his life from day to day.

And then, as with many things in life, it went sour.

When it happened, he immediately thought of Joan of Arc and looked for the angels’ wings in the trees.

The voices whispered through his head, softly at first, then almost screaming. He saw one of the priests from the village walk by him.

What are you doing there, lazy boy?

The words exploded into his mind as if conjured from nothingness. The funny thing, though, the voice of the priest authored them, only etched in his brain.

“Hello, Ewan, how are you today?” the priest’s actual voice said.

He opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t. And he had forgotten why he was there in the first place. Something about getting some butter for his mother, or some such errand, but it evaporated when the voices same rushing into his brain. He said something unintelligible and disappeared further into the woods away from the village. The voices followed him wherever he went.

You’re a receiver.

He would learn that word later, but for now he thought God punished him for thinking ugly thoughts about the neighbor girl down the road.

Hello, are you paying attention to anything I’ve said, Ewan?

Greenmantle interrupting his thoughts. “Sorry, Colonel. I was reminiscing.”

The driver turned his head as if checking his ears to make sure he hadn’t gone deaf. The drive to Dover couldn’t be over soon enough.

This is why we created MI5 [z] in the first place, Ewan.

The Colonel droned on and on about that and filled him in on what scant information he had about what lay before them in Dover. He let memory fade and focused on what Nattie had to say.

In Dover a man lay dead, apparently hidden in a swath of trees just out of sight of the ocean by a few paces. A relative of the man had searched frantically earlier in the morning just after first light. After several stops the man found the air raid warden out on his back in a grove of thick trees. Letting logic take over, the man didn’t touch anything, found a constable, and got out of the way. Too many suspicions arose during times of war, and this one with some justification.

The constable, one John Mayfair, being of sound mind and on Greenmantle’s payroll saw the signs of something completely out of place and radioed for assistance. The Colonel ordered the place guarded until he arrived with his expertmeaning Ewan.

Cause of death?

You’ll see.

A dead man in Dover. I don’t understand the relevance.

Neither do I. Better to be safe than dead, though, right?

Another one of Nattie’s favorite sayings. Even as mates in the school he used it to describe great challenges against them in a cricket match or amongst the ladies of the town.

“Better to be safe than dead, Ewe, old mate o’ mine,” he would say. “We play this one for keeps.”

“It’s only cricket, Nattie.”

“Only Cricket!” he would thunder and clod his mate on the arm. “Never!”

It didn’t make much sense, but Greenmantle, er...Nattie, er...the Colonel had the prerogative of being somewhat mad. After his banishment from the family home as a devil’s son, he found a place of comfort far away with other young children facing similar predicaments as himself. Within a week he discovered Nattie’s voice blaring into his already crowded mind. The other voices lingered, but muted underneath the rattle of his new friend’s prattle.

Nattie had been labeled a sender, he a receiver. Together they could pass invaluable information, but only on a one-way trip. That soon changed as their minds grew accustomed to one another. But as Ewan’s abilities grew rapidly into a perception that had rarely been seen, Nattie’s floundered about and leveled off. During the last two years of his stay at the special school that boasted no name, Nattie’s talents faded into only being able to communicate through thought-transference to Ewan. With that in mind and the optimism of being able to shield that from the regular public, Nattie left and joined the military, leaving his mate far behind.

Just wait until you see the body. Then we’ll see what we’ve got.

All right. I will.

My head, Ewe, let’s break off.

The Colonel removed a handkerchief from his back pants pocket to wipe at his sweaty brow. The weather hadn’t been the cause. The strain of maintaining extended contact did it every time. He held the hanky to his lips for a moment before returning it to his pocket. After that the ride fell into watching the landscape slip into view and then out again, trailing off behind them.

Ewan settled back against the seat resting his head back to soak up the gray rays of sunshine just now splintering through the tangled wad of clouds. The breeze cooled his face, but he hardly noticed. His enthusiasm peaked after waiting for so long in that cramped office would have to be patient for another half-hour or so.

He muttered: “So many voices out there.”

“What’s that, sir?” the driver asked.

“Voices.”

The driver scrunched his face. “Oh.” Why he got all the mad ones, he would never know.

*

Ernst. We go again after midnight.

He wouldn’t hear a response, but he knew the message had been received. He also knew that Ernst would never let him down. Fear of death does that to a person.

Be prepared as you were last night.

The sunlight warmed his face through the glass. A flush of a toilet swished beside him. He had decided that maybe he should spend a penny as well and focus his thoughts. The calculations of airfield locations and fighter numbers swarmed in his head. He zipped his pants and washed up before he left.

After midnight.

*

“Well, sir, there he is,” the constable, John Mayfair, said with some authority. It sounded to Ewan as if the man had digested too many Holmes stories, or those by Edgar Wallace. But almost every constable and policeman he met had.

“Well, Ewe?” the Colonel asked.

“A moment, Colonel.”

“Of course, take your time.” He didn’t mean that and Ewan knew it, but he sensed his friend’s growing anxietyjust like his own.

He pulled back a bush and stepped into the circle of grass the body lay in. First note: no tracks, or path, or any other physical evidence that the dead man had been moved here. It was as if he had landed out of the sky. Having already thought of that, Ewan squatted next to the ground to see if there had been an impact from a great height. No such luck. The body had been carefully laid out like a baby in a crib.

“Would you mind awfully, constable?” he asked. The hovering lawman mumbled an apology and stepped back. Ewan dug for his corncob pipe and stuffed it full with some no-name mix he purchased down the street from his office. Before he could find his matches, one flamed to life in front of his face.

 


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Bret Jones is the Director of Theatre at Wichita State University, Wichita, KS. He is a novelist, filmmaker, and playwright. He has five published plays, has produced four films and three web series, and has two mystery novel series with Cozy Cat Press. He lives in Goddard, KS with his wife and three children.


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