The warm gravel scrunched beneath the tyres of the Taxi, as it pulled up outside the entrance to the Nightclub. Before it stopped, she took a look at the meter and counted out the payment due for her ride that evening. Debra Foxx had planned this Friday night celebration, in the "Cackling” or “Gagging Goose,” as it was colloquially known, over a month ago when she’d passed her driving test, at the first attempt. “The Goose,” had been an old working men’s drinking hole, now transformed into a sleazy club with a late night bar and a rather large dance floor.
Debra exited the vehicle without further delay. She quickly paid the driver for his services and strode off toward the flashing lights and tasteless neon sign, depicting an erotic dancer engaged in some lascivious behaviour with a walking cane. Even though it had been there since the transformation, this was the first time Debra had noticed the glowing billboard and she was a bit puzzled by it’s inference. To allay her suspicions, or confirm her worst fears, she felt the need to enquire of the nonplussed Doorkeeper, was “The ‘Gagging’ Goose, now a Gay Bar, or perhaps a Strip Club?” The doorkeeper looked at her, laughed loudly and passed some facetious remark, which she didn’t quite catch, as the music drew her hypnotically towards the entrance of the main dancehall. Within a few seconds, his comments had dissolved entirely from her conscious mind as the swing doors opened and the increased volume of dance music combined with the noise of revellers totally overwhelmed the doorkeeper’s tongue in cheek, repartee.
Over at St. Joseph’s Probation Hostel, Nick Swann, was repelling all borders. The inmates were in deadly pursuit of the much sought after, ‘Late Pass.’ This was the worst part of a Friday night’s stint, for whoever was on hostel duty. To complicate matters, this weekend there were two twenty-first birthday parties amongst the ‘guests’. Through a simple twist of fate, Michael Niles and Jamie Aldred had been thrown together at St. Joseph’s, both sharing the same birthday. “Maybe certain day’s and dates are just cursed,” mumbled Nick, under his breath and casually wondered, if you enquired, would you discover that a higher percentage of lads, born on this or that date, grew up to be criminals?
“O.K, let’s get on with it. Who wants a ‘Late Pass?’” With those magical words, the mass of surly youths, sprang into life. “Oh, come on Guy’s, I can’t let you all have one.” The clammer continued unabated. Nick, was losing control of the unruly mob. “Enough!” he roared, slamming his palms down hard on the desk. To a man, the baying horde fell silent. Upon seeing the rather dramatic, yet calming effect his actions had engendered, he swiftly reinforced control.
“That’s quite enough gentlemen. Now, who’s going to a birthday party and who wants a pass?” He stressed the word, ‘enough,’ so that they would all understand this simple message. The number of hands that remained sticking up into the air, was still somewhat disconcerting but he felt there was little more he could do about the situation. Seventeen times, he signed the piece of paper that released the lads from his custody, informing The Police, that they could call the number provided to clarify that this particular hostel resident had permission to be out at this late hour.
In reality, Nick just wanted them all out of the office, so he could drink his coffee and eat his evening meal, in peace. However, they were not leaving quickly enough for his liking, so he decide to encourage them to show a little more urgency. He walked over to the door and upon opening it, said in his most authoritative voice,
“So, O.K you lot, off you go and try not to get yourself’s arrested before bedtime. I’ll see you all back here......later.”
A mumbled set of derisory comments could be heard, as the inmates flooded out of the office and quickly made their way up the stairs to their rooms, to ready themselves for the evening ahead. Jamie Aldred and his crowd, informed Nick, that they were going to The Black Dog and were “Going to get bladdered,” while Mike Niles, stated that he and his friends, had planned a real night out, in ’The Goose.’ It was a touch more expensive but then again, you’re only twenty-one, once.
Debra, was the last of the guests to arrive. As she walked through the doors, she could see them all waiting for her and happily accepted their congratulations, on her driving test success. She felt slightly embarrassed, but you couldn’t blame them for this display of enthusiasm. They had all struggled through lesson after lesson, while Debra had passed her driving test at the first attempt, after only eleven, two hour sessions with an instructor. There was a deal of submerged jealousy amongst the group but this was not the time, or place to reveal it and anyway, they were all out to have a good time and Debra was footing the bill. At the same time as they were warmly slapping her on the back, like a bunch of blokes on a building site, she had a glass of pink champagne thrust into her hand. Jenny Steel, one of the secretaries at work and probably her best friend in that environment, had been holding on to it for a little too long. So, the drink had suffered a touch but at that precise moment, Debra didn’t care one bit. It was pink, alcoholic, still slightly bubbly and mercifully, so far her friends night out was going extremely well. She couldn’t have wished for more, the feelings of personal satisfaction flooded over her as she embraced the moment.
“To driving!” she cried, lifting her glass in the air. There was a clinking of glasses and they all downed their champagne in one. Ren started to splutter and doubled up coughing and giggling at the same time as the bubbles shot down her throat. Laughing, Jane slapped her on the back,
“The girlie can ne tek it!” she pronounced in her thickest Scottish brogue.
Gradually, the group of friends moved closer to the dance floor in preparation for a hot time. The evening soon dissolved into an incoherent whirlwind of dancing, drinking and laughing. The dancing part had been great fun but the straying hands of the assembled drunken men was a little hard to take. Once upon a time, Debra would have considered a place to be a little tame, if that kind of attention had been lacking, but nowadays, at the ripe old age of twenty-six, she found such behaviour crass and boorish. The girls had downed several bottles of pink champagne and despite Ren having spent some time being sick in the women’s powder room, the evening was decreed a “Blast” by all. They had all danced and laughed so much they had needed several trips to the powder room to wipe away the tears, mop up the streaky make up and make clothing adjustments.
Near closing time, much worse for wear, Debra found herself on the entrance steps saying a rather dubious “Goodnight and good luck” to Jenny, who departed ‘The Goose’ arm in arm with Mr. Hardacre, an old ex boyfriend, in the taxi Debra had booked for their return home. After waving them goodbye she threaded her way back inside through the departing throng of Mike Niles birthday revelers, deflecting straying hands and brushing off their drunken lewd comments. Her aim was to find her other two friends, Jane and Ren to arrange a lift home to Barton, in their taxi instead. Inside, it was hot and sweaty. As she crossed the dance floor, Debra could feel a tiny bead of sweat beginning to make it’s way down her forehead, halting for a moment between her eyes and causing her face to tingle. She brushed it away with the back of her hand. The music blared out, the bass made the floor vibrate and the air move in time to the tune as she made her way over the polished wooden dance floor to the last place she had seen her friends, but they had vanished.
She looked around and noticed an old school friend, Scott, nearby. She caught his eye, and attempting to overcome the volume, gesticulated to ask had he seen her friends. Scott looked bemused, she tried again, he looked even more bemused, so she made her way over to him and shouted her question into his ear. Without saying anything, he just nodded and pointed towards the exit. She smiled thanks and rushed to the door, almost falling outside. There, just in the process of turning the corner at the bottom of the road was a taxi. Squinting, she could just make out the shapes of her friends in the back seat, as it sped up. Debra’s shoulders sagged and she slumped forward as she watched her friends vanishing up the road, their cab crested the small hill that led down to Barton and disappeared.
“Oh shit!” she sighed, and made her way back inside to collect her coat, in preparation for her lonely journey home. Quickly gathering her stuff, Debra made her way outside again and headed for the main road.
After being inside ‘The Goose’ for so long, the cool of the night air with it’s gentle refreshing breeze lifted her spirits and her head cleared a little. She considered her options, which were on reflection, pretty stark. She could wait indefinitely for a late night bus, which would most likely be populated with every kind of pervert that she could imagine. Alternately, she could hope that a taxi may somehow appear on the rank but at this late juncture this was most unlikely. Another option, was to walk home along the main bus route. This would take about two hours, but there was the remote possibility she might be able to hop a bus, if one appeared when she was near a stop, or possibly, even hail a returning cabbie. On reflection, she realised that the cabbie options, were more like wishing on a star. ‘The Goose,’ was always the last place to close and the rest of the area, was dead at this late hour. None of these spurious options appealed. She drew in the cool air and considered, there was always the fourth option. She could take the direct route home as “the Crow flies” along the canal towpath. It was a lonely, often dark and isolated route, but one she knew well. It would only take about an hour and there was a clear full moon tonight. Debra considered her desire to get home, have a cup of hot chocolate and then sink into the arms of Morpheus, versus the inherently amorphous risks that the canal bank offered.
By now, she was starting to attract unwanted attention from drunken males exiting “The Goose.” A decision needed to be made. She moved to check out the towpath. Having negotiated the steps down to the water’s edge, she stopped and looked back along the still waterway, for any signs of danger. Satisfied there was nothing, Debra turned and stood, hands on hips to steady herself, as she surveyed the long straight waterway that stretched off into the distance before her. She observed nothing of any consequence, even the sound of the lessening traffic on the roadway above her was, for a few brief moments, silent. Down on the towpath, the only discernible movement was the gentle breeze that had been blowing all night long, and now it ruffled a few loose strands of her long hair. Debra, quickly swept them aside and zipped up her black leather jacket against the chill of the early autumn night, before shoving her hands in her pockets and decisively setting off down by the water’s edge, for home.
A strange heavy air of serenity, was engendered by the low wisps of mist that clung to the dark water and the clear, cold starry sky above. It washed over Debra and she smiled to herself as she strode on into the darkness. After she had taken a few steps, Debra instinctively stopped and glanced back over her shoulder, just to check again for signs of danger behind. You just couldn’t be too careful these days. “Ye Gods, I sound like my bloody mother,” she reckoned. Then followed that with, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” another one of her mothers favourite sayings. In the clear moonlight, she could easily see that there was nothing moving back down the walkway. Turning back, all that Debra could see ahead was the faint glow given off by the lights of Barton, a village of about three thousand souls and a renowned brewery, Barton Ales, which for the past two hundred and thirty-eight years had been the producers of “Old Oddity,” a celebrated multiple award winning beer. Reassured that there were no bogeymen on the banks behind or ahead, waiting to mug, molest or rape her during her journey homeward, she dropped her gaze and looked at the gravel covered path, took a deep breath and assuredly set off again towards home.
Debra noticed the sounds of the traffic on the main road, faded with each step that she took along the path, until, after about fifty metres, it vanished altogether. The night was now silent. All she could hear was the crunching of her trainers on the gravel and the steady rhythm of her breathing. It was a good job that she had brought a change of footwear, she thought, along with water, essential if you suspected you were going to be doing a lot of sweaty dancing. During the evening’s revelries she had quietly slipped away to the “Powder room,” because her heels were killing her so it was time to drop all the pretence and go for comfort. The painful stiletto’s came off and the well worn in Nike’s slipped on in their stead. She loved dancing but, as every girl knows, high heels are not the best option for impromptu dance marathons. The club D.J had been hot tonight, one great track followed another and she had the time of her life. In her teens she had been quite a “Raver” so having comfortable feet was something that she put great store in and right now, scrunching along the towpath, she was very happy that she had acquired those snippets of knowledge. Ahead of her, lighting her way, was a full moon, which hung in an indigo sky reflecting mournfully onto the still water of the canal. Once beyond the reach of the hubbub created by the town going about it’s late night business, she began to appreciate the calm sedate nature of her surroundings. There wasa comforting tranquillity, that accompanied walking down the canal bank at this late hour.
It had been a good night, better than expected but she didn’t think, that these days “The Gagging Goose,” was really her kind of place. This quiet walk home was exactly what Debra needed. A little time to herself and lots of space around her, after the jostling of the club. She was passing under one of the pedestrian access bridges that had, over the years, been strategically placed for public convenience. They were a good marker of the distance that she had already walked and how far there was, still to go. Debra Foxx, had been fully conversant with this stretch of the canal since she was a child. The distances involved in getting from A to B were hard wired into her brain, not through study but repetition. Some of the spans had retained their given names, but a couple had, over the years due to some popular colloquialism, or a piece of catchy slang terminology, had their names ‘localised.’
The one that she was walking under right now, had in 1899, originally been dedicated as, The Balaclava Bridge, to commemorate yet another excursion into a foreign land that had not ended too well. Debra was unaware of this fact, she had always know it as “Echo Bridge” due to it’s strange alignment of the brickwork and canal, which meant there was always an echo underneath the structure. In her youth all the children used to love to go down to “Echo Bridge” and shout obscenities, which to great public outrage, could be clearly heard for a considerable distance. In later years, nobody went down there to vocally express their defiance, they just painted graffiti on the walls of the span instead. There, in day-glow Lime Green for anyone to see, was the triumphant statement some poor heartbroken lad had written in his moment of lust and anguish; “Brenda Izza Slag.” Next to it in a much neater script somebody had written “What a Dickhead,” and just to add insult to injury, a third party had added “Yup, and his name’s, Dave Riley.” Debra chuckled to herself as she passed through the span and set off towards “Quaker Crossing,” the next footbridge on her way home.
She had gone no more than ten paces, when she heard something splash in the dark water behind her. “What the fuck!” Debra stopped suddenly and spun round to answer her own question. Reeling a bit, then steadying herself, she peered into the darkness but observed nothing, not even a ripple on the still water. Reassured that her impromptu investigation yielded “Nada,” Debra thrust her hands deeper into her pockets, turned and strode on towards the ghostly Quaker Crossing.
As a youngster, she had always been told this place was haunted. It was said, mostly by grandma’s and old men, that on clear nights under a full moon, at certain times of the year, you may chance to see spectral figures of mourning women, slowly crossing, with heads bowed and palms upturned to heaven, as if carrying the weight of the world. These figures, were never mentioned before the First World War, when the country had been plunged into a state of collective grief for all the husbands, sons and brothers, that had fallen. So, like all good children, she had passed quickly underneath it, with her fingers tightly crossed. Debra, was wondering if it was still a requirement for a twenty-six year old to adhere to the superstitions of the prepubescent, but then she would do it anyway because “you just never know” with these things.
Nowadays, beyond Quaker Crossing and for the next mile or so, there were several passable reproductions of Victorian gas lights to illuminate her way. She slightly upped her pace, to reach and get past “Quaker,” more rapidly. Fingers tightly crossed, she quickly came upon the rather elegant architectural form that was The Quaker Crossing. It had been built out of pale Limestone and it shimmered slightly on nights like this. The crystals catching the soft light of a full moon and glistening in the lonely, pale glow. To this day, it was still a favourite spot for lovers to meet, as they had been doing for almost a century, but tonight the walkway was deserted and the silence still held sway.
As she walked under the curvature of the span, Debra crossed her fingers even more tightly and looked straight ahead to the sodium lit stretch of the towpath that was still to come. No sooner had she stepped beyond the span into the yellow glow of the first lamp than she was greeted by the sound of something much larger and heavier than last time, landing in the water not far behind her. Debra stopped short, senses on alert.
“Fuck me, what was that!” She was really scared this time, she did not dare to look back. Listening intently, she also became aware, that there was another, almost imperceptible sound, which was coming from further down the towpath. This new auditory intrusion, sounded like somebody dragging something along the rough ground, behind them. As the ominous scraping sound drew nearer in the darkness, illogical feelings of dread started to torment her mind. It was clear that she couldn’t stay like this, barely breathing, standing motionless in the middle of the path, like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. She was exposed, illuminated by the light and a long way from any help.
Clenching her fists and gritting her teeth, she plucked up all her courage, turned and through squinted eyes, looked back at the canal water under the bridge. Nothing, no ripples, no missile. She quickly scanned the towpath, again nothing. Next, the bridge came under her increasingly frightened scrutiny. Some idiot, must be throwing stuff off it just to freak her out, she thought and gave a long look at its boardwalk, again. Debra, could see nothing and just like last time, there was indeed nothing and no one to be seen. Still, the cold sound of something scraping along the bank side was easy to decipher in the empty silence. Also, she could not dismiss the fact, that this had been the sound of a much larger projectile hitting the water. Surely there had to be some signs of it, ripples that could be seen even in the darkness? 'Someone’s taking the piss,' she concluded and screwing up her courage, called out
“Fuck off will you, this shit don’t work on me” and then, as an afterthought, “You really need to get out more and get a life, you stupid motherfucker.” Happy with that repost, Debra set off walking again and silently congratulated herself, on her show of bravado.
However, inside, she was beginning to grow increasingly alarmed. Here, in the soft glow of the lights, she was feeling vulnerable and the scrapping sound of something approaching, was still there in her ears. Whatever it was, came from the general area of “Echo Bridge” and the longer she listened, the closer it got. She drew in a deep breath and walking more quickly now, she pressed on for home. There was only one and a bit miles to go. At this rate, with no further spooky interruptions from any more idiots, she would be home, sitting in her favourite chair, enjoying a nice warm mug of drinking chocolate within the hour. Her feet made a reassuringly crunching noise on the gravel as she walked on and Debra joined in and counted, as she paced. 'One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four,' she silently mused as she approached the next span.
The “Raven’s Gate Bridge” and it’s accompanying Basin, was originally an old mooring position for the tar barges which used to come over from Partington, to pick up their cargoes of the hot sticky goo, used in the making of the early road system. In olden times, this area of town was often hidden under a pawl of acrid smoke, that emanated from the “Raven’s Gate” Tar Works and those dark, bitumen soaked clouds had stained the bridge and its gates, a sickly shade of sulphurous yellow. Nothing escaped the cloud. The workers at the basin, were daily stained black by the tar and soot. By midmorning, the menthol nature of the bitumen had made their noses run which they would wipe away with the back of their sleeves, making their noses appear like black beaks. Back in those days unhealthy working conditions were commonplace. It was noted, that after you had worked there for two, or three years, you started to perspire a yellow sweat, that stained the skin permanently, no matter how often you washed off the black sticky tar. The blackened and beaked workers, would flood to and fro across the works bridge, passing silently through it’s ornate cast iron gates, looking like the ravens that adorned them. Hence the workers and locals alike, referred to the whole place as, “The Raven’s Gate.”
This bridge was actually called The Joel Battersby Bridge. The Mr. Battersby in question, was the original owner of the tar works and this bridge was a monument to his pretension. No lovers had ever canoodled around these smelly and grimy edifices. Young love would never blossom here. Negotiating the basin area, Debra approached this span with a certain amount of trepidation. She wondered what would happen this time. Jesus, if the missile had gone from a small pebble, to something that sounded like a half brick, the next piece of masonry would have to be pretty damned large, to keep up the escalation. Well, she thought, if they dared to try that one again, she would fire off such a mouthful, that their ears would set on fire.
As she passed under “The Raven’s Gate” span, her senses were on full alert, but nothing happened. There was not a sound. Neither splashing, nor scraping. Debra, stopped to listen more intently. She was sceptical, surely it couldn’t be so easy to rid herself of “The Splasher,” or “The Scraper” with it’s even more unnerving sound of some unknown and unseen thing, scratching it’s way, ever closer to her position? Perhaps, she had been jumping to conclusions. Perhaps, her imagination had been getting the better of her common sense. Her fear began to subside as the silence flooded over her. Debra, relaxed a little and once again she began to appreciate, just how peaceful the canal bank was at this late hour. It seemed that sound was carried for a great distance by the water and she was beginning to think that maybe she had overreacted to the sounds of the night.
Debra took a deep cool breath, relaxed her shoulders and did a full scan of her surroundings. All was still, all was silent. She forced those feelings of fear to the back of her mind. With that she clapped her hands together and stepped out from beneath the protective span of the “Raven’s Gate” and strode off towards the Jenkins’ Walkway. From there it was only a short distance to the incline that would lead her up to the main road and home. Even though the evenings revelries had been an unmitigated success and it certainly appeared, that every one of her guests had enjoyed themselves, the situation she now found herself in, was one that she vowed she would not be repeating. 'You’re too old for this kind of shit, kid. Perhaps ten years ago, but not now.' The scrunching of her trainers on the path and her steady breathing, was all Debra could hear, as she made her way down the softly illuminated towpath, towards the old Jerkins’ Hollow Walkway. Only a couple of hundred yards, or so to go now and she again increased her pace along the path.
Suddenly, there was a noise behind her. Alerted, she stopped, trying to gauge the location of this new, metallic scraping sound. It was similar to the scary, dissolute scratchings of earlier. Again, it seemed like the creator of the eerie sound, was a fair way behind but getting closer. ’No worries’, she told herself, she would be up the incline and well onto the main road before the person following reached her position. Instinctively, Debra surreptitiously glanced behind trying to see who it was, that was pursuing her. Attempting to look without being observed doing it, was proving to be of little practical use, she still had no vision of who it was moving along the towpath behind her. The scraping sounds, approaching from the rear, were getting louder and now the fear was again rising in her chest. It could be a rapist, the “Splasher” or simply a mugger out looking for some easy pickings. Debra, didn’t know the answer to her own question, but she did know she was getting very frightened and she was too scared to turn and face her tormentor.
This jaunt in the moonlight, down the canal, had not been a smart move. She was feeling very vulnerable. Debra chastised herself, as her blood chilled. She should have waited for the bus, or even tried to hail a cab and now, anything could happen. She glanced back again into the darkness. Nothing, but the creepy sound kept on getting closer and with the proximity narrowing, the volume of this unknown scrapping grew in her ears. With growing alarm she realised her instincts had been right all along, there was something on the path with her! Something malevolent. A sudden feeling of dread overwhelmed her and she started to run. It was only a matter of covering a hundred yards, perhaps a little more to Jenkins Walkway and then another hundred and she would be on the up ramp. From there, it was just a few more paces to the main road and she would be safe from whatever it was, behind her.
As she ran, so the ominous cacophony following her, increased it’s pace. The distance between Debra and her would-be unseen assailant was closing fast. A flood of abject panic started to overwhelm her, it caused her to carelessly trip on an unseen stone and she stumbled forwards on the uneven surface, but did not fall. Debra, somehow regained her balance and her headlong flight continued unabated towards the cobbled incline and salvation. Behind her, came the weird scraping sound of her pursuer, forming a curious kind of harmony with the beating of her own heart. Her unseen tormenter, was gaining ground, quickly she continued her desperate flight along the towpath, towards Jenkins’ Walkway. The muscles in her legs, were burning and her breathing, was becoming ragged from all the effort. Yet still, the sounds of her assailants pursuit along the gravel, grew louder with each passing second and she could run no faster. It was then, with a sickening realisation, she knew ’it’ was going to catch her before she could make her escape.
The pounding of her own blood coursing through her temples, grew louder and louder in her ears and just as Debra took one last great gulp of air, to get her to the span of Jenkins’ Walkway, she felt a huge thump in her back, from a powerful blow. The burning pain was excruciating and Debra, let out a muffled scream as she felt the intense agony flowing through her stricken body, but she did not fall to the ground. Something was preventing it, holding her up. As she writhed and wriggled in her burning torture, Debra vaguely realised that she was suspended above the ground. As her feet kicked at the thin air seeking some purchase, she looked down towards the hard ground in puzzlement. Protruding from her chest, she saw the four white spikes, that had pierced her body from the rear and were now sticking out through her chest. Then, almost instantaneously from the left side, something reached out and slit her throat, cleanly and swiftly. Just as Debra Foxx died, she thought that she saw the four white blades, that were piercing her chest, holding her aloft, disappear. She screamed silently, one last time to the heavens, at what she could see, out of the corner of her eye standing there on the towpath grinning mercilessly, before it released its hold and let her riven body fall to the ground, like a discarded rag doll.
Her murderous assailant, then effortlessly rolled her lifeless body into the water, with a soft “splosh.” As the ripples died down, the water once more resumed it’s previous peaceful condition, as if nothing had ever disturbed it’s tranquility and an enveloping silence returned to the darkness along the canal bank.
The next morning, Alice Mayer, a single 65 year old woman took her usual walk with “Winston,” her beloved five year old Labrador. There was a fine early morning mist lingering in the hollows as she passed halfway along the 5 mile or so, distance down the canal bank to Wilmington Lock and back again. As she strode onward, stick stabbing at the ground as she went, slightly ahead, on her right and set back, St Joseph’s Hostel came into view.
Inside, at this time of day Nick Swann was doing his usual “get the lad’s up routine,” having carefully counted back in, all the drunken birthday revelers from last night. The smell of breakfast coming from the kitchen made his stomach gurgle with anticipation and his urging increased accordingly.
“Come on guy’s, get your asses out of those beds! Things to do, people to see. You know the routine MOVE IT!” With that he headed quickly downstairs towards the increasingly aromatic dining room. Bacon, eggs, tomatoes, toast and a fine cup of coffee was a much welcome feast if small compensation for a Friday overnight, twenty-four hour shift. With luck it would be a quiet day, the lads would be out for most of it and he fervently hoped he could hand over to Larry at six in the evening without incident.
Meanwhile, on the canal bank, as she drew level with the Hostel, Alice was way ahead of her dog. “Come along Winnie, keep up!” Alice cried and patted her hip a couple of times to encourage him, but when he didn’t appear at her side quickly, she turned and looked back to see where he was. Winston, was pawing at something that was floating in the water and excitedly wagging his tail. “What have you found, boy?” she called out to him, but Winston was far too interested in his discovery, to pay much attention to his owner.
Alice, was non too pleased with this display of indifference to her commands and turned back towards her dog. Winston was still a good way back and far more interested in the object he had found in the canal, than her urgings to “Come” and be at her side. She called out to him again, “Here Winston,” and clapped her hands together loudly, hoping that this would attract his attention, but it was met with the same ignorant result. Alice was getting annoyed and she began walking purposefully back down the bank, stick jabbing hard at the pathway, intending to admonish poor Winston.
“Leave it,” she barked, as she approached the spot where her dog was messing around in the water. Finally, he took some notice of her.
As she drew close to the object in the water, her view of it became clearer. Alice’s heart started to beat a little faster, as recognition of Winston’s “toy,” slowly dawned on her.
“No, surely it couldn’t be!” she exclaimed. With each step that drew her closer to Winston’s find, the more horrible the details of this floating bunch of rags became. Winston, on the other hand, thought that this was all a game and immediately jumped into the water and proceeded, to try and “fetch” the object. Initially, Alice spotted some strands of something or other, that appeared to be long dark hair and then, to her horror, a pale hand which was attached to an even paler arm, flopped languidly above the surface. Winston, had by now, sunk his teeth deep into the flesh and was clinging intently onto the body, by what seemed to be the wrist, attempting to retrieve it for his owners approval.
“No! Winston, leave it!” She desperately cried out to him. On hearing the distress in her voice, he let go of his prize, which silently floated a little closer to Alice. As the corpse in the water, slowly drifted towards her, the truly gruesome appearance of Winston’s bundleof rags, became ever more apparent.
Her minds eye, instinctively knew what the nature of Winston’s play thing was but the rational mind of Alice Mayer, did not wish to believe it.
“My God” she spluttered, “It’s a woman.” Something inside her was screaming, “Run away” but she knew she had to use her phone and call the police. She was paralysed and fascinated simultaneously. No matter how hard she tried, Alice couldn’t stop staring, transfixed by the floating corpse, which in turn, seemed to reciprocate, by holding her utterly motionless with its fixed gaze.
She had, despite popular conceptions, never seen a dead body before. As she was trying and failing, to calm her rising panic and revulsion, Winston struggled to extricate himself from the water. Slowly, she became aware of another, higher pitched sound that was indeed drawing closer and it was getting louder and louder in her mind. As the extremely pale and slightly bloated body of Debra Foxx, gently collided with the cement wall of the canal bank, with a sickening thud directly below her feet, Alice just stared down into it’s dead screaming eyes, that were in turn, looking straight back at her and just howled like a lost dog. She simply couldn’t stop shrieking. Over and over again, she screamed and a distant but puzzled passer by, on the opposite roadway, looked at her as if she was mad and then hurried away from this apparently insane woman.
Eventually, she managed to regain enough control of her shaking limbs, to retrieve her phone from the pocket of her jacket and shakily dial 999 to alert the police of her ghastly find. The Police officer who took her call, told her to stay where she was and,
“They would be there momentarily.” Alice, was barely in a state to do much else and simply sat down heavily on some convenient pile of fallen bricks, left by the recent demolition of an old shed in Jenkins’ Hollow, as preparation for the new development of the area. Her legs, felt like they were made of rubber and her body of lead. By the time, that the officers of the law, reached the spot, “Winston,” was back in the water, this time in the nearby pool of Jenkins Hollow, chasing the ducks, that were in turn, easily paddling out of his reach. Alice, on the other hand, was blankly staring off, into some private distance, her back firmly to the corpse, as the tears rolled unheeded, down her face.