A short story by Colin Devonshire available to read here or on audio at Anchor.fm.
Denny ducked behind the stone column. He watched as the upturned cross impaled High Priest Drakker’s eyes.
“Both eyes, how the hell?” Denny asked himself.
The jelly and goo splattered the elaborate alter, it was black; the blood didn’t change the cloth’s shade.
“Christ, it is like a kid’s Halloween party,” Denny answered himself as stones flicked behind him pinging off stone walls.
Blonde hair matted with blood, Drakker’s wife raced to the rocky entrance and disappeared. Stones flew as flint zinged from the walls. Screams split the rumble of falling boulders.
Denny came round slowly and painfully. It wedged him at a broken angle, one shoulder dislocated, his head bent at right-angles. Agony surged. He needed to move but didn’t. The pain wouldn’t allow it, even if the rocks would. Time passed, Denny did not know how long. Had he drifted into a dream? Was he dead? He heard people shouting, movement, boots kicking stones.
“Help,” he shouted feebly. It hurt.
“Quiet boys, I think I heard someone.”
The flicking blue and red lights caught the leaves in the dark. Denny was being carried to the ambulance. Unanswered questions bombarded him. At last, he slept through the siren’s wail.
“You timed that well, didn’t you?” Denny’s wife said at his hospital bedside.
“What are you on about?”
“Oh, you’ve forgotten have you? We were to go to the lawyer’s office this morning.”
“I’m sorry I missed it. Instead, I’m here with a broken collarbone, and God knows what else.”
“I understand a divorce impedes your full social life, but I want it sorted.”
“It is not a full social life, it’s work,” said Denny.
“Yeah right, that’s not what the village says,” she mumbled.
“And what do the village know-alls say?”
“That accident was your doing.”
Denny looked her in the eye.
A nurse sidled up to Denny’s bed, “The police are here, they want to speak with you. Is it okay if I bring them in?”
“It looks like they are coming anyway, here they are,” Denny signalled behind the nurse.
A plain-clothed officer walked in with his badge held high, the uniformed female plodded behind.
“Good morning sir, I need to clear up a few things,” said the officer pulling up a chair. The uniform remained to guard the door. The nurse ducked out.
“Not much I can tell you.”
“That is not what they told me. People heard you insulting, the… eh, pagan people.”
“Pagan people? Who told you that?” Denny snorted.
“Never mind who told me. You have been insulting their group for weeks. Next thing, their coven leader killed along with six members, plus their meeting place was destroyed. And guess what? You were there, uninvited, correct? I wonder why?”
“Yes, I was there. How else did I get these injuries? Am I likely to cause the roof to fall in while I’m in the damn place? All I was doing was writing a piece for the paper.”
“I was told you were digging up dirt? Because you don’t believe in their faith.”
“No, I’m not a Satanist, if that’s what you mean.”
“Why were you there?”
“You know very well that I’m a journalist. I was doing a story.”
“How did you cause the roof to fall in?”
The nurse held the door open.
“How are you feeling today?” asked the doctor prodding the bandages.
“Better, thanks. When can I go home?”
“Not just yet, for several reasons. It is not a good idea to rush out, one, you are not well enough. And two, you have an unhappy mob picketing your home.”
“I live on the hill so drive past your house on the way here. They are not a cheerful bunch. I hope they don’t come here!” the doctor glared at Denny.
“What do you want?” Denny asked his wife.
“First, you can sign this. Second, you can get rid of your bunch of mates from outside ‘my’ house.”
Denny looked at the papers she had flung on the bed. The law office logo clear on the top right of the paper threatened him. Denny didn’t need to read further to know what it said.
“I need to get legal advice before I sign anything. And, they are nothing to do with me. I was working.”
“The entire village knows you brought the ceiling down just to get a story. Are you proud of yourself, killing those folk, never mind destroying the only historical site we’ve got?”
“It is not ‘your’ house it is still ours.”
She stalked into the corridor, bumping into a nurse. A tray crashed to the floor.
“The police are here again,” said the nurse, popping her head around the door as she retrieved the tray.
“I will need a statement this time.”
“Because people died, not only were you there, but you are our chief suspect.”
“Is this some kind of sick joke? I was writing an article for The Advertiser, that’s all,” Denny said.
“You were the only non-member of the group present, true or not?”
“How do I know, it is a small village but I don’t know everyone?”
“A get-around journalist like yourself? I assumed everything that goes on around here you know about?” said the detective.
“If you must know I was working on something bigger than births, marriages, and deaths.”
“Especially if you caused the deaths?” snorted the officer.
“Oh, come on. You can’t think I caused the accident for a story?”
“My aunt was there.”
“I’m sorry about that. Maybe she shouldn’t go to Black Magic masses!”
“She died, I’m holding you responsible. You are under arrest. The doctor assures me that there is no way you could leave that bed for a few days. Then, you will accompany me to the station.”
“So, don’t you believe it was a Satanist’s meeting? Do you want proof?” said Denny.
“You have no proof.”
“My laptop and my phone have all the proof I need,” said Denny.
“I don’t think so, your wife has already handed your equipment to me.”
“Have you looked at it?”
“There was nothing there, no article, no photos,” said the police officer.
“You didn’t give me your name card, can I have it, please?” asked Denny.
Denny studied the officer’s rank and name.
“Detective inspector Richards? Now that is interesting,” said Denny.
Denny asked the nurse for a phone.
“Advertiser, how can I help?” the newspaper’s secretary answered.
“Hi, Janice, put me through to Frank please.”
“Oh, it’s you,” said Frank.
“Fine, thank you. What’s wrong with you?” asked Denny.
“Sorry, under stress thanks to you.”
“How do you mean?”
“The police have been here. They wanted your computer and all your notes,” answered Frank.
“No! That’s weeks of work. You didn’t give it to them?”
“What could I do, they thrust warrants at me,” Frank sniggered quietly. “Luckily they don’t know about our back-up system.”
“Yes, every letter typed on company computers is backed-up on the master system.”
“What about my shots?”
“That depends on where you saved them?” asked Frank.
“On my laptop, now at the station thanks to my wife. The officer, was he called Richards?”
“Yes, his aunt died in the accident.”
“He told me,” said Denny.
“Did he also tell you his sister was married to the head priest?” said Frank.
“No, was she also killed?”
“They haven’t found her body. They have finished their search. What does that tell you?” beamed Frank.
The next morning one of the national papers printed an article: “A free local newspaper’s editor, demanded cub-reporter Mr Denny cover a pagan meeting. The newspaper, ‘The Advertiser’, was running a series of articles covering societies and clubs, Denny thought local sun-worshippers, were more than the regular tea and cake club, something very different. At a well-attended meeting, he somehow caused the collapse of the cave’s ceiling. It should be known that they have used the cave for gatherings for over two-hundred years. Local police are trying to determine if this was deliberate. Mr Denny has a history of writing copy insisting the pagans are a Satanist cult.”
Our paper would like to thank Mrs Drakker for supplying the update.
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