Powderfinger by Keller Yeats

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Chapter 9

They should have been doing double Math this morning, but that idea had just been too much to handle. So, they had decided to skip school and take a walk down the canal towpath instead. If they were caught it would mean weeks of detention, but missing double Mathematics, was worth the risk. The weather, had been unseasonably clement for the past ten days and there didn’t appear to be a break in the meteorological conditions for the foreseeable future and anyway, what damage could one day of missed lessons do at this time of year. For these two, a day spent out in the sunshine and the fresh air, was probably of more benefit to both of them, than spending another 7 hours, in a stiflingly classroom, breathing in stale air. This skipping off school thing, was never going to become a regular event, but today was different.

Martin Blaylock and Sara Prestige, were the best of friends but no more than that. He was brilliant at Physics, Math and Chemistry, while she was top of her class in Biology, Chemistry and curiously enough, Math. Sara, had a more than passing interest in Industrial History but both she and her parents, saw little hope for a bright future down that particular road. Martin, on the other hand, had some ideas about going to Cambridge University, then going on to Stanford, or Berkeley in The States, to pursue a career in Astro Physics. Martin could see himself, sitting on a mountain top in Chile, gazing at the Universe, while listening to a fine selection of his father’s classical music. Whenever, he considered this dream scenario, he could never escape the vision of his pretentious, self inflating father, incandescent with rage, screaming at his mother, in abject frustration.

“My God Vivian, your son, has taken Mahler, to South America!” This image, held great appeal for Martin. O.K, so it was perhaps, a little high brow but also, it was quite delicious. Sara, on the other hand, hadn’t got a clue what she was going to do but she knew, that she didn’t want any children to “hold her back”. Sara, only had to take a look at her Aunt Gwen, to see the end product of that path. Gwen, at one time, had a glittering future before her but the introduction of a couple of unplanned children, invited an unknown element into her rose garden and it had destroyed all of her budding flowers. Now, it was simply too late for Aunt Gwen, who had spent the entirety of her productive life, tending to the needs of her children and an alcoholic husband. No, Sara was going to be her own woman, who required, neither children, nor a man, to clutter up her life.

He was a beautiful dreamer, while she was a realist and that unlikely combination, led them to become the firmest of friends. He, the dedicated and hopeful scientist and she, the brilliant dilettante. Both of their respective parents, held high hopes for them but had chosen different routes to that end. Martin’s parents believed that their son was destined to achieve greatness whilst he was still at Infant’s School. It became apparent to them and his teachers, that he was a cut above the other kids, when it came to the brains department. Seeing as how his parents had both struggled so hard, during their school years, to come away, at sixteen, with only three “O” levels and two CSE’s between them, they considered Martin’s intelligence, had nothing to do with them. So they left his education to the professionals and allowed him to develop naturally.

Sara, on the contrary, was pushed and bullied at every step of the way. Her over ambitious mother and father ruled their house and her studies with metaphorical rod’s of iron. Sara, had become a little cut adrift, when her only real female friend of similar intellect, Talula Prior, had been sent to Bodelwyddan Academy for Girls, a rather posh Private Boarding School in North Wales and they had lost touch. Kenneth, her Father, wanted his daughter to forge a stellar career in The City and go on to marry a millionaire.

Joyce, her Mother, was happy with the millionaire part but envisaged a position within the caring professions, perhaps a top surgeon, or something similar.

However, for now, parental pretensions could wait for another day. Today Martin and Sara, were going to “wag it” and investigate the possibilities, that the canal side had to offer to a pair of fifteen year old friends.

“How do you fancy having some Fish and Chips in Barton for Dinner?” said Martin.

“Don’t you mean, Cucumber Sandwiches, with no crusts and a rather large piece of Victoria Sponge Cake?” she replied, putting on a voice that sounded like her Mother.

“Well, O.K. yah and perhaps a cup of Lap Sang Souchong to wash it down. What. What,” responded Martin, in an equally upper crust voice. They both dissolved into gales of laughter, as he bent down and picked up a roundish pebble to throw into the still water.

“I bet you some fish and chips you can’t skip it five times,” offered Sara.

“Bet you I can,” said Martin instantly. “Count them and weep,” he added as he released his original selection of rock and chose another, flatter one.

“Five remember,” she said again, as he motioned to throw his chosen stone into the water. “One, two, three, four,” she counted out loud. There was no five, as the skipping stone veered off course and hit the concrete edge of the canal and promptly sank. “Told you! You can buy the Fish and Chips, I don’t mind.” She said triumphantly.

Sara, had planned this route down the towpath when she heard about the impending redevelopment of this area from the Local Natural History Newsletter. The piece, that she had seen in the school library, had drawn her attention with the headline: “Wildlife concerns as Marina gets go ahead.” It was the first that she had heard of it, even though reports of the Marina project had been in the papers, on and off, for a couple of years. Despite all the conjecture and several debates with the Council and The Developers, the protesters in the local Historical Society and several of the environmental trusts, had got nowhere, with their objections. Their concerns would be ’catered for’ in the final developed site, which was due to go ahead anytime. So, she had been the instigator of the whole skipping off exercise, which would enable her, just to see the area and The Bridges, unspoiled, for one last time and to share it with her best friend.

Martin, had never questioned her about this stroll along the canal bank to Barton, he was just content to be spending the whole day with Sara, whom he thought of, as the best friend that anybody could wish for. He could talk to her all day and enjoy every minute of their time together and revel, in every syllable of their discourse. Sara, was normally a mine of useful information and she always seemed interested, in whatever he had to say, especially if it concerned matters appertaining to Space, The Universe and Everything.

“Wow, look at that,” he said, pointing upwards from the towpath, as they approached the ornate walls of The Balaclava Bridge.

“You really do have to see this one, from up there,” said Sara, as she motioned towards the main span, “My Dad, always used to tell us kids, blood curdling stories, about this massive Cavalry charge, that took place over there, at Balaclava. The bugger, would tell us, about all the heads, arms and legs, that the great iron cannon balls, would rip away from the Hussar’s bodies when they were hit. Of course, it was always delivered, in great detail, with nothing undersold.” She hadn’t finished yet and continued, after taking a well earned breath of fresh air. “No, in my dads world, the blood flowed freely and the screams of the dying, could be clearly heard for many long miles.” Martin, loved it when she talked like this and urged her to continue with her tale. Sara, as usual, obliged him. She continued, “My Father, was full of that kind of stuff. He used to bring my Mother and me, up here occasionally, on a Sunday afternoon and regale us with his worldly wisdom. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have got this ridiculous love of history.”

Martin looked at her and simply smiled. “You know, they rode straight into the face, of The Russian guns but they still won the battle, despite the losses they took,” she added. Martin, was riveted, as Sara continued, once again. “You know they say, that the old Lord Gildabrooke, lost his son during this engagement and I believe and this bridge, was constructed as his memorial.” Martin, was now looking at the ramp, which Sara, was effortlessly bounding up. “Come on up and have a gander at this, it’ll just blow you away,” she called back down the cobbled ramp, as she reached the top. Without any thought, Martin set off up the cobbled ramp way and quickly caught Sara, who was standing still and just gazing across the span of the great bridge, while raising her phone, to capture an image of the valour, gallantry and death, that was galloping over the span.

On both sides, there was a detailed stone frieze, portraying war horses, their eyes bulging and their mouths twisted, into demented, slavering visions of the underworld, with their hideous snarling teeth accompanied by flecks of saliva, they looked as if they had come straight from Hell itself. Then, there were The Hussars. With their Sabre’s drawn, galloping heedlessly towards the Russian guns and the hail of fire coming from their positions. The Stone carvers, had excelled themselves with this one.

“Impressive,” Martin said in a hushed reverential tone, “I’ve never seen this place before,” he continued. “I’ve never even heard about it, wow!” He was standing, in the midst of one the enemies volley’s, that was caught in a moment of time and frozen forever, in carved stone. Not far away, one of the snarling mounts, had been hit, along with it’s rider and they were both forever falling. One Hussar, had been arched backwards by a musket ball, having hit him, in the chest and on the other side of the crossing, a horse and it’s rider, were both disintegrating, as a cannonball destroyed them both.

“Wait until you see this from over there,” Sara said, took his hand and proceeded to lead him over the span. Martin, blindly followed her, only pausing to look at the stricken and arched cavalryman, who was never going to make it, across the bridge. As they walked slowly across the span, a veritable stampede of equine flesh, rendered in Granite, crossed in the opposite direction, heading for the merciless guns.

“O.K. Now, stop and turn around,” commanded Sara, as they reached the other side of the elevated walkway and they both reversed their view of the frieze. Now, they were seeing The Charge of the Light Brigade, from the viewpoint of The Hussars. The steeds, were seen from the rear. Tails were seen to be swishing and flecks of foam, issued from their mouths. From the other side, the volley’s seemed to continue and the cannonballs seemed to be heading straight for them, even though they were frozen in that instant.

“This, is fantastic,”commented Martin, as he walked back over the footway, towards the stricken rider and gently brushed his palm a few times, over the horses rump.

“Come on then,” called Sara. “Anybody would think that you’d never seen, one of the hidden wonders of the world, before.”

That snapped him out of his Victorian dreamscape but he simply couldn’t resist, turning to have one last look at this wonderful bridge top. Almost unbidden, the words came flowing out of his mouth. “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward. All in the valley of death, rode the six hundred,” As he finished those few lines of Tennyson’s classic poem, Martin sighed mournfully.

Then, Sara added, “Cannon to the right of them, cannon to their left.....” Then she too fell silent, turned away and headed off back down the ramp seeking the tranquility of the towpath, beneath her feet. “Move it, soldier,” barked Sara, “I’ve got more to show you yet, just wait ’till you see The Ravens Gate.”

Martin, though intrigued by her last statement, was still walking on the bloody fields of Balaclava for the moment. “When was that battle?” He asked. “Any idea?”

Sara, knew this one, her dad had told her so often, that she was hardly likely to ever forget. “1854.” She answered tersely but he was, as ever, totally impressed with her knowledge of things historical and just tagged on behind her.

As the friends, made their way towards the shining, almost etherial structure, that was The Quaker Crossing. Sara, turned and informed him. “After W.W.I, people reported seeing silent ghostly figures, crossing over this bridge and then fading away, but if you ask me, that was just a metaphor that fit the times.”

As they approached it’s ramparts, the Limestone from which it was hewn, appeared to glow in the sunshine. Though, having previously seen the amazing artwork, that was undertaken, in the construction of Balaclava Bridge, this sedate and elegant span, received a simple comment of “Cool.” This was a whole new experience for him and seeing this, Sara, filled in whatever details she could, for his benefit.

“It was constructed by the Quakers so their brethren could reach the meeting hall without having to pay a toll at Balaclava Bridge” she casually added, as they passed under its cathedral like arch and slowly made their way towards Barton. “The kids round here call Balaclava, ’Echo Bridge’ because if you shout underneath it the echo's can be heard up on the main road.”

Ahead, lay the brooding presence of Joel Battersby’s Gothic-Baroque interpretation, of the Bridge of Sighs. Dark and ominous, in its malevolent bearing, the bridge just sweated, in the heat of the day. This unusually warm autumn weather, made their progress quite slow and Sara for her part, tried to take in as many of the details as she possibly could, committing them to photographic memory, before it became gentrified, in any future redevelopment.

“Jesus, I wish I had a better camera,” she said, exasperatedly but continued to document the passing of an industrial age, with her phone.

Once they cleared the claustrophobic, airless space, that the area below Quaker Crossing had become, Sara turned to take a few more pictures of the etherial Quaker Crossing. Satisfied, she turned to follow Martin, off down the waterway, to 'The Ravens Gate' on to Jenkins’ Walkway and then some dinner in Barton. No sooner, had she turned, than she walked straight into Martin’s back.

“Fuck me, Sara look at that.” He was looking off down the canal, his eyes transfixed by the ominous, replica of some classical bridge on The Grand Canal, or whatever it was, that was rising up before him.

“May I present, for your inspection, Mr. Joel Battersby’s dark masterpiece, The ‘Ravens Gate Bridge’.” Sara waved her arm with a flourish towards the bridge. Martin, was almost struck dumb, by the vision that he was confronting.

“Christ, how the fuck did we get to Middle Earth so fast?” and he followed that with a heartfelt, “Impressive.” Sara, knew what he meant. The first time she had come down here, stepped out from under The Quaker Crossing, back into the light and had seen, 'The Gate,' for the first time. It truly was a thing of wonder. They picked up their pace and swiftly reached the bridge. Sara, strode confidently onto the ramp, that allowed access to the main body of the bridge and Martin followed suit.

“My dad reckons, that when this bridge, was put up, in 1755, it must have gleamed in the sunlight. All this black and sickly yellow came from pollution from the tar works.”

Martin, hardly heard a word of what she said, he was fascinated by the dark interior of the bridge itself. There were three windows on each side of the span and the central one each side was large 3-part bow window giving clear views along the canal. It seemed they should have provided enough illumination to light its concourse, but strangely very little penetrated the interior of the canopy, despite the windows and a hole rent in its roof at the centre of the span. On its wrought iron gate, a flock of large frozen metal birds, captured in the moment of flight reached for the sky as they moved inside. The air, within the black box, became almost stroboscopic, as Sara took shot after shot, down the dark tunnel, her auto flash trying to get some illumination onto the subject matter.

As his eyes, grew more accustomed to the brilliant bursts of light, he was gradually able to make some sense of what he saw. “Could you raise the viewer and give us a look at the roof,” called Martin and Sara obliged. Previously, they had both been more concerned, with where they placed their feet. The floor, was littered with all kinds of debris.

Rusted lumps of metal, discarded nuts and bolts, bottles, fast food wrappers and various drinks cans. Obstacles, were everywhere, threatening a twisted ankle, or worse, with every step forward, so naturally, they had both been paying scant attention to the corona of the illuminated vision. “Did you see that?” He enquired, with a start.

“What,” replied Sara, who had still been looking at her feet, trying to avoid stepping on some pieces of broken glass, that were lying in the middle of the pathway.

“Keep it pointing upwards and the next time it flashes, look at the roof.” Almost instantly, the unit fired again and the entire edifice, lit up.

“Fucking hell,” they said in unison, as the immensity of this structure hit them. It was as if, they were inside the belly of some great creature. The roof, appeared to be held aloft by a series of evenly spaced black ribs, similar to those, of a great whale, or some other Leviathan. They extended, down the sides of the parapet and culminated, at the base of the cluttered walkway.

“It’s no wonder, my Dad calls this place, “The Beast,” said Sara, quietly and strangely, she felt that she was beginning to understand another facet, of her father’s character, one that she had not fully appreciated, before she had undertaken this jaunt, with Martin.

“There sure were some weird dudes, hanging around back then,” he muttered, as the darkness, was again, dispelled by a blinding flash of light, which enabled him make his way, over to one of the smashed metal window frames. “Look at all this black stuff,” Martin ran his finger along one of the broken metal window frames and held up his stained fingers.

“It’s the Tar, that built up over years,” responded Sara, “I think it’s been like this for ages,” she said, quietly.

Martin, was lost in the past, “can you imagine, walking through this bleak tunnel every day, on your way to work. Jesus, it must have felt like you were being swallowed by the place, you were consumed at the beginning of your stint, in there,” he looked towards the gate with the metal birds, as he spoke the words, “only to be shit back out, at the conclusion of every day.”

Sara, just silently stood and looked at him, lost within her own mental picture of men struggling, to see the light of day and being relentlessly held down, by Joe Battersby’s twisted mind and his equally heavy iron hand. “It was a form of psychological torture, I suppose,” she said to no-one in particular. Beyond the reaching birds, lay the deserted remains of the old works, shimmering in the increasing heat of the day and Martin noticed, that she had become a little more subdued, ever since she’d mentioned her father.

“It seems, that Old Joel Battersby, wanted to break his workers spirit, if you ask me,” remarked Martin. They fell silent as they gazed out over the old works, slowly becoming aware of feelings of rising anxiety, that seemed to be emanating from within this bleak space. “This place, feels all wrong to me, I think we should go,” he urged and she almost instantly, agreed with him. Without questioning Sara’s response, for a single moment, he led the way, swiftly back down through the entry portal and off the Gothic monstrosity, Sara clicking her phone to provide light. Once both of his feet, were back on solid ground,

Martin stopped and turned to face her. “Jesus Sara, did you feel it too?” he enquired.

“That feeling, that we weren’t alone in there?” She looked, straight into his eyes and silently nodded, just the once. “Come on, let’s go.” She said and promptly set off, along the towpath. As they cleared the enormous black barge, that was moored by the bridge, Sara took just one more snap of the Orc-ish Ravens Gate Bridge and then turned her attention, to the stone built Jenkins’ Walkway span and slowly, moved towards it. “If my Parents, ever find out about today, I’m dead. I’ll be grounded, for ever.”

For some reason, the words had chilled Martin’s soul. This meant, that it was possible, he would never see Sara outside school again and he wasn’t too sure that he was ready for that day just yet.

For their part, Sara’s parents considered that Martin, was a bad influence on their daughter and were just waiting for her to grow up and become a little more “responsible.” Well, they would have to wait a little longer, their daughter, was having a great time, with that dreadful boy. Right now, Sara simply, didn’t care. She was fully aware, that it wouldn’t be long before the “Mocks” started, the winter, was just around the corner, with its long, cold nights and endless bouts of revision. So, she was making the most, of what she knew could well be, one of the last chances to rebel, before the real work began. Martin, was just slowly walking along the towpath, gawping back at the stained construction, that was ‘Ravens Gate’. 'What a fucking monster,' he thought. Sara, looked back at the bridge and offered Martin, another insight into its history.

“It was the first of the real bridges to be built and the others tried to match or eclipse it but I don’t think any of them quite managed it. I mean look at it, I bet there’s a few darkly imagined demons in there.” Martin, was nodding his head in agreement and wondering, if he would dare to pass through those dark iron gates, should the sun be setting?

The black barge that they were just passing, with it’s skeletal crane and wrecking ball, just hanging there, waiting, sent a slight chill down his spine. “Jeez Sara, thats one freaky bridge.”

She looked at him and affectionately grinned, “Christ Marty, you’re as daft as they come. Its just a fancy bridge that needs a good washing.” Marty smiled back a little nervously. She continued, “A pretentious old sod, called Joel Battersby, put that thing up, a few hundred years ago and it looks like that,” she tilted her head, as she said, “That” and then carried on, “simply because it crosses a canal and he wanted everyone to know he had been to Venice.” Martin, gave the structure another look, over his shoulder as she was speaking and then, he also cast his eyes forward towards the old crossing at Jenkins Hollow.

The air was starting to really warm up, so Sara slipped off her school jumper and draped it around her shoulders, to keep it safe and he followed suit but chose the more manly option, of tying it round his waist. As she moved on down the bank, for the first time ever, Martin noticed just how curvy Sara had become. He had never seen her in that light, previously he had always simply viewed her as another of his mates, but things were starting to change, on every level. To distract himself from her swaying backside below the sweater, he diverted his mind by trying to discern, exactly what those large black birds, which he supposed were Ravens, found so interesting up ahead by Jenkins’ Hollow. They were very busy with whatever it was they had found to scavenge, so they paid only scant attention, as he and Sara approached. Unlike him, she was not concentrating on the circling birds.

“See that bridge?“ she said, casually nodding toward the narrow old stone structure, that was spanning the canal, in front of them, “well, you remember, that I said, that the big black thing down there, was the first real bridge, well, this was the first crossing.” She pointed to the rough hewn structure and smiling at his puzzled face added, “Jenkins’ Walkway. They say it was put together by Stone Trolls,” and in her very best spooky voice, “but nobody really knows.” Martin, politely gave a muted laugh but he was now looking through the mass of dark birds, at something that looked like a rucksack, lying just to one side of the Hollow.

“What’s that?” he said pointing to the object. Sara, who was always more irreverent than Martin answered,

“It looks like a dead body to me” and she feigned shock and horror, like some silent movie starlet and closed with, “Oh sir, surely you wouldn’t let any harm befall little old me, would you gentle sir?”

Martin, upped his pace, in order to reach the object more rapidly and maybe scare the birds away with a little bluster. She lazily tagged along after him, more interested in the old bridge and the abandoned greenhouses, on the opposite bank than in his perceived prize that lay ahead. As they drew closer to the birds, a rather large specimen, which Sara thought must be the “capo de capo,” gave a loud “caw” and nearly all the others, stopped what they were doing, turned and peered at Martin, who was rapidly approaching their position. There on the bank, lay what on closer inspection, appeared to be an equipment bag of some kind. This was too good to be true, the bag seemed to be almost new and he could see what he thought must be some tripod legs sticking out of the top,

“Sara, come take a look at this,” his excitement was palpable, as he began to loosen the zip, which kept the contents of the kit bag, securely inside. “I reckon that it’s some kind of photographers stuff.” In his rush to reach the bag, he had put some distance between himself and Sara.

“What,” she said, trying to catch up. She was aware, that he had said something but she wasn’t exactly clear, when it came to the precise words. When she reached his position, he was still talking, “Fucking hell, there’s a load of expensive lenses in here” and he pulled out a large, long, black holder, that had Nikon, written on it. “There’s some really fancy shit here, let’s take a look and see what else there is, to be found” and he delved deep inside the rucksack to investigate further. “Shit, look at this, the straps are broken.” Martin, looked around the general area, for any indication as to the identity, of the equipment’s owner but he saw nothing, except the birds. Then, satisfied that nobody was watching, he plunged his hand, back into the broken kit bag and withdrew a long black case, that had the letters T and F, embossed into it’s lid. “Fucking hell, this is some serious shit,” he said under his breath, as he opened the lid of the lens case. Further investigation of his prize, revealed a plethora of very expensive photographers equipment, that somebody was definitely going to miss.

A mere ten feet further on, the birds simply ignored him and carried on with their own business. These crows, were going to defend whatever it was, that they had found and they were standing their ground. Sara, had always had a ridiculous fear of birds, which she was fully aware, was groundless and rather pathetic but it could do no harm to allow Martin to scare them away, before she got much closer. Now, having rooted through the kit bag, and loaded some of the usable contents into his bulging pockets, he set about scaring the Ravens off, so that Sara could come and take a look at the bootie that the mystery knapsack had provided. “Arrrh. Arrrh. Arrrh,” he called, as if he was the biggest crow in the world and dramatically waved his arms about, imitating a gigantic pair of wings.

This unexpected show of dominance was too much for the birds, who took flight and left their prize, only to regather further along the old disused and broken fencing, that still encircled the depression, that was all that remained, of Mr. Jenkins’ old mine workings. The sudden panic that the Ravens exhibited, startled Sara and she watched them leave, en mass to take up their new position twenty yards further away. Then, confident that they were safely out of range and all danger of pecking receded, she looked back at Marty commenting, “nice trick, I never would have thought of that.” The words came out in a stuttering fashion and then her voice simply tailed off and just faded away, as her gaze alighted on the gruesome sight that lay, just beyond where Martin, was standing. Silently, rooted to the spot, they both stared in horror at the ravaged remains of a human being, lying helplessly on the crest of The Hollow, partly hidden by a few reeds. There was dried blood and bird shit everywhere, which only added to the revolting spectacle, that was unfolding, before their very eyes. One large Raven, had stood its ground and was still pecking at the dead flesh before it.

Nauseated, Martin was disgusted by the sight of the bird, devouring its meal in front of him and again desperately called out, “Caw,” “Caw,” waving an arm and stamping a foot, in the hope of putting an end to this revolting spectacle. This second scare, forced the huge crow’s hand, but as it was leaving, it lurched forward and fastened its curved black beak onto the corpse’s one remaining eye ball and wrenched it out of its socket with a squelching, popping sound, then flew off to join it’s brethren on the fence and begin devouring its prize. As it pecked into the unseeing eye ball, a thick goo started to spill from it and Martin retched. Sara, on the other hand remained silent but all the colour had drained from her face and she suddenly let out a bone chilling scream, which seemed to last for ever.

Startled by the unearthly sound, the crows launched from the derelict fence and for a brief moment, they appeared to fill the sky. In the confusion of flapping wings and wailing caws, he turned, and without thinking, encased her in his arms and gripped her tight. He held on to her, as if that would make it go away and she buried her head in his chest, so that she wouldn’t have to view it again, until she had accommodated the full horror of the corpse. They stood locked together motionless in a moment of disbelief and even though it was absolutely silent he could still hear her terrified scream in his ears. They stood, entwined together, as time stood still and their hearts raced.

Slowly, over the next few minutes their breathing calmed sufficiently and the veins in Martin’s neck returned to something resembling normality but he did not notice a slackening of Sara’s hold and inside himself, he felt no desire to release her, so he simply clung on.

She broke the spell. “Is that a telephoto lens in your pocket, or have you finally realised, that I’m a hot chick?” Martin, burst into laughter and still wheezing, he added,

“Option two, if that’s alright with you” and quickly added, “See, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it” , then, loosening his hold, they dissolved into gales of laughter. In that moment, a boundary had been crossed, two friends became lovers in the face of unimaginable horror.

He put his hands on each side of her face, drew her back towards him and kissed her onthe lips. Sara, willingly responded and then plots were hatched.

They realised that nobody had previously walked down the towpath, or the equipment that was currently filling Martins’ pockets, would surely have been stolen, the body would have been discovered and The Police, would be all over the scene by now.

“Must get rid of that bag,” he thought and considered there was nothing that could possibly connect him to the receptacle. Quickly, he removed the last items from the dead woman’s kit bag, weighed it down with a loose brick and tossed it into the canal were it quickly took on water and rapidly sank below the surface. Then looking at Sara he said, “I’ll call the Police, anonymously, when we’re well away from here.”

Sara nodded and Martin, smiled back at her. He, patted his bulging pockets and said, “She won’t be needing these anymore, so why let Mr. Plod have them?” On regaining, some control, of both his senses and his composure, Martin, eased Sara away from the horror and attempting to make some kind of amends, he weakly added, “Sorry Lady but it’s just Finders Keepers and I’m the one who found.”

The Fish and Chip lunch at Barton, was quickly forgotten, they didn’t much feel like that any more and anyway, they had better things to do with their time. He placed his arm, around her shoulder and she in turn, placed her hand around his waist and thus, locked together, they turned and made their way back towards the bridges they had passed, earlier in the morning.

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