Part Three - August 15th 1983
‘Hector! Hector!’ A tall silver speckled haired man shouted whilst a golden retriever stood on its hind legs; its front paws resting on the man’s thigh. ‘Hector!’ He called again. ‘Blasted child, where can he be?’
‘Rowan, leave him be, he’s probably off hunting in the woods, you know how he likes to do that!’ An equally tall, slim blond woman rose from a picnic blanket that had been placed on the field adjacent to Brackley Copse. It was three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon in mid-August, The Saint-Sanson family, which included in its entirety, Verity, Rowan, and Hector Saint-Sanson, had decided to embrace the seasonably warm weather with an al fresco lunch in a local field not far from their home in Carfax.
Rowan was feeling agitated, Hector, their eleven-year-old son, and only child had wandered off as he usually does, more than an hour ago. Rowan glanced down at his watch and grimaced, ‘You know I have to be back home at four, Harry’s coming round, he needs my thoughts on the proposed take-over bid, I promised I’d be able to …’ Verity turned Rowan around to face her and she put a finger to his lips,
‘Hush, Hector will turn up, and Harry can wait, you know how rarely we get time to ourselves, let’s make the best of it’ Verity kissed Rowan and then pulled him down to lie with her on the blanket, they explored each other as though for the first time whilst a plane roared past overhead drowning out the somewhat repetitive sound of a song thrush.
Hector wandered away from his parents as soon as he had eaten enough egg and cress sandwiches and cherry cake. He knew that they’d prefer it if he did not stick around. There was nothing he could do that didn’t cause them some degree of annoyance. Since the age of nine he had realised that his parents didn’t really seem to want him, they only had time for each other. He wasn’t sure why this was, perhaps it was his fault, maybe he had done something to turn them against him, he was always being criticised for being noisy, or untidy. Hector’s parents never beat him, they always provided for him, everything he needed he had, everything but their affection.
Hands in pockets, Hector stood looking down at the stream that gurgled ahead of him, he had followed it all around Brackley Copse, like a moat that surrounded a castle, this rivulet completely contained the old wood. The stream wasn’t very deep, and there was some moss covered stones and rocks that stood proud across the water, and he used them as stepping stones to cross into the wood.
Hector wandered around amidst the strangely dead twisted trees, he stopped to examine one particular tree that seemed to tower above the rest. It had many low branches and many that stretched out horizontally, a good climbing tree he thought, and he hauled himself up and over the lowest branch. Soon Hector was high up in the tree lying along one of the horizontal branches, he felt like Robin Hood lying in wait for a party of wealthy Lords.
As Hector lay amusing himself in the tree, his eye caught sight of something almost hidden and shrouded by dense clumps of bramble and fallen logs. It looked like a shack. Hector descended the tree quickly and ran over in the direction of the shack he’d discovered. It was not easy to reach it, and he had to climb over thorny vines and through clumps of nettle higher than he stood. Eventually he found himself standing before a forgotten dwelling. Only minutes ago he had been lying there thinking about Robin Hood and other medieval stories, now it seems he had actually found Robin’s house.
The house, or shack, or whatever you’d call it looked ancient. Its walls were made out of rocks or stones all cemented together. The roof at one time had been constructed from timber poles, now all rotten and replaced with a century of thick bramble. The front of the shack was only two holes for windows, and a large central hole partly filled by the remains of its original wooden door. Hector walked up to the door and peered inside, only darkness greeted him. Hector pushed the remains of the door inwards.
There was as much foliage growing inside as out. As Hector tentatively walked around the hovel, he could feel the crunch of dried twigs, old skeletal rat carcases, and dead beetle chitin under the heels of his shoes. The cobwebs formed a thick blanket that covered the remains of the roof, many hung downwards creating gossamer curtains that Hector parted using a stick he retrieved from the ground. There appeared to be only two rooms in this shack, the main room that Hector believed must have been the main living space on account of an old almost fossilised fire stove, there was even a solitary cooking pot still remaining perched on top of the stove that now housed a population of rats. Hector looked on in disgust as the rats scurried to and fro from out of the loosely hanging stove door.
The other room was just as begrimed, through more thick veils of spider web; Hector discovered the remains of a bedstead, a tiny wooden stool, and a wooden chest. Unable to resist, and in the hope of it containing a hoard of golden coins, Hector pushed open the lid of the chest. What greeted Hector from within sent him reeling backwards until he crashed to the floor bringing with him some of the voluminous webbing that hung around the room. What stared up at him from inside the chest, were many pitchy sockets from an assortment of ancient skulls.
Hector now rather shaken, picked himself up, he brushed the cobwebs off his hair using his hands and hurriedly left the room. He made his way over to the broken doorway and squeezed himself outside. Once outside the shack, the stillness and quietness became obvious to Hector, it was quite overbearing. Then he heard it, a scratching sound one would make if a stick was rubbed against an old washing board. Hector spun around and around trying to see from where the noise came. It seemed to be coming from all around the shack. Hector feeling scared backed away, he kept his eyes firmly on the old shack until something darted between two trees on his right, he stopped treading and turned to see if he could make out what seemed to be stalking him. The scratching continued, this time it sounded from the tree tops above Hector, he looked upwards into the top branches, and then he saw it. A black swirling nebulous cloud, and at its nucleus, a hideous face with matted hair, it squalled as it poured down the trunk of the dead timber towards him.
Dan sat listening to Hector recall his frightening moment that occurred over three decades ago in riveting silence, only once did he move in order to add a fresh shovel of coal to the fire.
‘When I saw that...thing, coming for me, I knew if I did not run, I would die on the spot! Although I was only a kid, I could feel the evil, it was totally malevolent.’ Hector appeared to be visibly shaken; Dan got up and brought them both a tumbler of Scotch.
‘What happened then, I mean obviously you escaped or we would not be having this conversation now!’
‘I ran Dan, ran as fast as my little legs would carry me, I never looked back, but I could feel it like an icy blast of air, only inches from me the whole time, I think I cried as I ran. I saw the stream at the edge of the copse, I ran through it this time, I got soaked, but I kept on running, only when I had made it back to where my parents were, did I stop to catch my breath. They simply ignored how upset I was and packed away the remains of the lunch into the picnic basket. Soon we were back home, and I was being scolded by my mother for ruining my new shoes in the stream.’
‘What was it Hector, did you find out?’ Hector gulped down his scotch and made his way over to the book case, he pulled out a small thin black leather bound book and handed it to Dan. Dan read the title of the book.
‘The Witch of Brackley Copse and other supernatural tales from Carfax’ Dan opened the book and flicked his way through it.
‘I found that book in a junk shop about eight years later, it was written by a local historian in 1923, I think I read it about fifty times, it became a little obsession of mine!’
‘I’m not surprised, not after what you experienced. Do you think it’s still there, has this got something to do with the death of the reporter in Mudders Lane?’
‘I’m beginning to think it has, but if it has, I don’t understand why and how it has left the copse, after so long!’
Dan Taylor lay in his bed, he was holding the book that Hector had lent him, and he was a bit worried about leaving Hector as he seemed a little bit shaken still. Hector insisted that he go home and get a good night’s sleep as they had a lot of work to do the following day.
Dan had tried to call Alice Washington, he wanted her to take a look at the photograph from the printer, he hoped she would be able to get an impression, a feeling of what had once been there, or indeed where it had gone. Alice worked as a medium and was an active contributor to the cases both Dan and Hector took on. Alice was not at home, a voice message simply asked him to leave a message. He told her not to worry, that they were working on a case and would like her help if she could. It was later that he saw she was out of the country; she had left a photo on Facebook in which she was enjoying a glass of wine in a hotel in Hamburg with her partner Erika. Lucky devil, thought Dan.
Dan had decided to go and see the Superphysical gang tomorrow evening before his appointment with the editor of the Carfax Standard; hopefully he could persuade Hector to come with him. Unable to sleep He opened the book and began to read about the legend of the witch.