Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Friday, 29 March 2013

Truly Supernatural

I'd like to begin this post with a confession ... I have only recently discovered Supernatural Tales. Some time back, I stumbled across David Longhorn's excellent collection of short stories, The Ptolemaic System. Having read that in one sitting, I could not find anything else by this author; but, once I found out he edited a thrice-yearly collection of ghostly tales, I had to have a look. Needless to say, it is just my thing; full of great writers, both well-known and less-well-known, and exuding a traditional quality borne of sensitive editing.

So, once I had read Supernatural Tales issue #23, I thought I would make my opinions known in the form of a review.

Supernatural Tales #23

My first thought was that it sported great cover art. And, not long after, that Iain Rowan's The Singing caught me and wouldn't let me go from the first line. Very much along the lines of the traditional folk tale – the remote community beset by strange happenings, seemingly misunderstood by its god-fearing inhabitants – Rowan adds powerful doses of jealousy and revenge. The villagers are at the mercy of the sea and the weather, certainly: but is that all? Timeless.
By contrast, Ilona by Tina Rath brings the reader back to the modern world with a bump. We are invited to share the thankless experiences of an illegal immigrant trying to make ends meet cleaning the floors in a hospital. I'll admit it had me going, assuming a simple tale of Ilona's victimisation, but the conclusion wasn't quite what I had been expecting.  
A Moment of Your Time by Katherine Haynes, is a more ambitious affair, linking several situations and protagonists with the unexpected results of participating in a shopping-centre survey (one of my most dreaded scenarios, it must be said, even without the unfortunate consequences. Avoid eye contact at any cost!) A great idea for a short story. As the reader is in no doubt about the connection, the atmosphere and detail are relied upon to propel the narrative, and they succeed. The urban feel made me think of Archway by Nicholas Royle.
Gemma Farrow takes us back to the elemental with her contribution, Screech. Caleb can't understand his partner's sense of impending doom during her pregnancy: “'I dream of babies being taken,' she whispered, leaning back against the headboard." Their differing takes on the situation, and Caleb's slow realisation that her concerns may be genuine, unsettle the reader. The morphing of the doctor into The Fallow, and the shocking denouement, force both Caleb and the reader to confront their worst fears.
Last Testament by Craig D.B. Patton is an enigmatic tale concerning both ghosts and misunderstanding. The secrets of the protagonist's brother-in-law, a recently-deceased artist, are gradually revealed through other-worldly connections with his computer. Long-standing deceptions and conflict, both in art and in life, have to be confronted ... head on.
James Everington has clearly been influenced by the classic tale The Monkey's Paw, and it could be said that The Second Wish is something of a tribute. Fraiser has returned to his family home to arrange its sale, in the process finding out he may have been affected more profoundly by his formative years than he was aware. He 'snuggles' in his childhood bed (or has he returned to the womb?) and leafs through Macabre Tales for Children, opening it at that very tale by W.W. Jacobs. He recalls how reading it had spooked him as a child, and his imagination takes him on a journey forcing him to confront his past. This is a typically tense and involving example of Everington's writing. I enjoyed the confusion between the Doctor and the Lawyer, blurring reality and making the reader think twice about how reliable Fraiser's mindset is. Also, the seagulls on the roof reminded me of A Roman Question by Robert Aickman ... which can only be a good thing! 
The Tempest Glass by Daniel Mills is the final story in Supernatural Tales #23; therefore it ends very strongly. We follow the tribulations of the Reverend Danforth: a singular character, who never quite finds resolution, but who is all the more fascinating for that. His battle with his own faith, challenged by the strange titular object, leads to flight and, ultimately, to tragedy. Was his exile self-imposed?
In summary, this collection asks a of of questions, and gives just the right amount of answers. I like my short fiction dark and unresolved, and am satisfied. These are ghostly tales of the highest order, and are to be savoured. Long live Supernatural Tales.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Ghost and A Phantom

A couple of crackers from Charles Baudelaire for you today. The first is a somewhat light-hearted poem about someone, perhaps a jilted lover, returning from the dead to do some haunting. The Ghost is easy to read and quite punchy, giving a hint of darkness from the start; I'm not entirely sure I like the sound of 'brown-eyed' angels, but I don't know why. The ending is suitably abrupt, and it always leaves me wondering what might happen next.
Both of these pieces were first published in Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal (Flowers of evil) in 1861.

Le Revenant (The Ghost)
by Charles Baudelaire

Softly as brown-eyed Angels rove
I will return to thy alcove,
And glide upon the night to thee,
Treading the shadows silently.

And I will give to thee, my own,
Kisses as icy as the moon,
And the caresses of a snake
Cold gliding in the thorny brake.

And when returns the livid morn
Thou shalt find all my place forlorn
And chilly, till the falling night.

Others would rule by tenderness
Over thy life and youthfulness,
But I would conquer thee by fright!

Here is a link to The Ghost being read.

Next is A Phantom, which is a much darker piece and more atmospheric. Very much a work of contrasts, there is a certain shock value to some of it (boiling and eating his own heart!) which I think lends it a modern feel.
It's interesting how much of Baudelaire's reputation was built originally on work other than poetry (he published much of his early poems under noms-de-plumes, for no obvious reason). At one time he was best known for his translations of Edgar Allen Poe, about which he was most painstaking, often going to great lengths to find the correct terms, such as mixing with "dock-workers" for slang.

Un Fantome (A Phantom)
by Charles Baudelaire

I. The Blackness

In vaults of fathomless obscurity
Where Destiny has sentenced me for life;
Where cheerful rosy beams may never shine;
Where, living with that sullen hostess, Night,

I am an artist that a mocking God
Condemns, alas! to paint the gloom itself;
Where like a cook with ghoulish appetite
I boil and devour my own heart,

Sometimes there sprawls, and stretches out, and glows
A splendid ghost, of a surpassing charm,
And when this vision growing in my sight

In oriental languor, like a dream,
Is fully formed, I know the phantom's name:
Yes, it is She! though black, yet full of light.

II. The Perfume

During your lifetime, reader, have you breathed,
Slow-savouring to the point of dizziness,
That grain of incense which fills up a church,
Or the pervasive musk of a sachet?

Magical charm, in which the past restored
Intoxicates us with its presence here!
So from the body of his well-beloved
The lover plucks remembrance's bright bloom.

Out of the phantom's dense, resilient locks,
Living sachet, censer of the alcove,
Would rise an alien and tawny scent,

And all her clothes, of muslin or of plush,
Redolent as they were with her pure youth,
Released the soft perfume of thickest fur.

III. The Frame

Just as the frame adds to the painter's art,
Although the brush itself be highly praised,
A something that is captivating, strange,
Setting it off from all in nature else,

So jewels and metals, gildings, furnishings
Exactly fit her rich and rare appeal;
Nothing offends her perfect clarity,
And all would seem a frame for her display.

And one could say at times that she believed
Everything loved her, in that she would bathe
Freely, voluptuously, her nudity

In kisses of the linen and the silk,
And with each charming movement, slow or quick,
Display a cunning monkey's childlike grace.

IV. The Portrait

Disease and Death make only dust and ash
Of all the fire that blazed so bright for us.
Of those great eyes so tender and so warm,
Of this mouth where my heart has drowned itself,

Of kisses puissant as a healing balm,
Of transports more intense than flaring light,
What now remains? Appalling, o my soul!
Only a fading sketch in three pale tones,

Like me, dying away in solitude,
And which Time, that maleficent old man,
Each day rubs over with his churlish wing ...

Time, you black murderer of Life and Art,
You'll never kill her in my memory -
Not She, who was my pleasure and my pride!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Source of the Lea: the conclusion

No need to wait any longer with baited breath: here is the conclusion to The Source of the Lea. I'm sure you have not been able to sleep worrying about Pocock's fate ... well, find out below. If you need to catch up, here is part one, here is part two, and here is part three.

The Source of the Lea part four
Trouble was, Fowler, I didn't see her again that week, or even that term. By the summer holidays, I reckoned she must have moved away, so I tried to put it all behind me. As the holidays wore on, though, I found I just couldn't get my mind off her. I managed to lose the few school friends I'd ever made.
My old man wasn't well at the time, so I biked it over to see him on the last Saturday of the holidays. It was a bit sticky that day, and as I pedalled up to Five Springs, the sweat dripped into my eyes. Wiping my brow, I didn't see a figure stepping onto the path in front of me until it was too late. I swerved, and took a nasty tumble onto a patch of dirt by the corner of the flats. Standing up and brushing myself down, I somehow knew who it would be. Judy stood there, studying me with an amused look in her eyes. I realised just how deep brown her eyes really were.
I wanted to ask her what had happened over by the river bank all those months ago, and where she had been since. But I couldn't find the words.
"Hello," was all she said. I was still tongue-tied. Then she did something that changed my life forever, and not for the better. She reached out and took my hand. You see, Fowler, I hadn't had much experience with girls. In fact, that was the very first time I held a girl's hand. Her skin was so soft. My bike quite forgotten, she led me across the car park towards the Spinney.
"I'm going to show you something very special," she said. All I could do was look at her. I thought how she'd grown up since I'd last seen her. Like she'd become a woman and me still a child. "The real source of the river is just over here, through the trees." Well, I would have followed her to the ends of the earth. Maybe I did at that.
We took the old path into the Spinney, but soon left it behind, wading through thick undergrowth. The trees closed in, blocking out the light. The going wasn't easy, huge stinging nettles blocking our way. I couldn't keep hold of her hand any more, and suddenly she was out of my sight. I panicked and crashed around, finally falling through some bushes into a clearing, landing painfully on my knees.
The place seemed all wrong. I don't know how, Fowler, but everything was a bit weird. Like I was still looking through those grimy windows with dad's binoculars. The trees seemed too high, their trunks too smooth, their shapes just not right. There was something about the shadows.
And yet everything looked somehow familiar.
There was no sign of Judy.
Across the clearing, the mouth of a huge concrete drain emerged from the chalky ground. A trickle of brown water ran from under its rusty grille and disappeared. There was movement from the gloom inside.
Judy appeared, ducking to get through a gap in the grille, and everything made sense again. She tilted her head, and without thinking I followed her into the tunnel. I hardly noticed the graffiti, the rubbish we had to stumble through in the dark, or the freezing cold air coming from deep inside. Rounding a curve into complete darkness, she took my hand again. I felt happiness like I'd never known before.
"We're very near now," she said. We stopped for a moment. "This is where it all begins. This river. Your life. You can choose the direction you want to take, just like the river does. Which way do you want to go?" As she spoke, I could tell her face was getting closer to mine, and her breath was like flowers.
Then she kissed me. Softly on the lips. In the darkness. That was the moment I knew she had me forever, that surely nothing would ever compare with that instant. As things turned out, I was right.
Her hand slipped from mine as she walked on, but she'd left a burning impression on me the way the sun does on your eyes long after you close them. I followed her deeper and deeper into the tunnel. It was slowly getting lighter. The walls were opening out, and I could see shapes at last. We came to some kind of underground lake.
The true source? I was flabbergasted.
I could see endlessly in all directions. Lights flickered from great distance both above and below the surface of the water, which glowed a cold, lifeless blue. As my eyes adjusted, I looked out across the water. A sailing boat was some way off, heading towards us. In the far distance I could see more boats. We stood on an old wooden jetty.
Turning to me, Judy smiled. I felt frightened for the first time. Glancing at that impossible lake, I could make out shapes under the surface, dark things moving swiftly. Thinking of what I'd seen by the river bank, I jerked away from the water's edge. The boat was getting closer now. I could make out a group of shadowy figures aboard, huddled together.
I don't mind saying, right then, there was no way I wanted to find out where it might take us!
Mesmerised, I hadn't seen her reaching out for my shaking hand. She so nearly touched it. I felt the warmth from her skin for the very last time. Had she made contact right then, would my life have turned out for the better? Or far, far worse? Don't s'pose I'll ever know. I turned and ran.
My mind was a blank, but somehow I made it back onto familiar ground. Grabbing my bike, I raced to dad's flat, surprised to find out I wasn't even late.
Pocock exhaled noisily, collapsing into his armchair. It made me realise how energised he had become as he had told his story. Peering at me through rheumy eyes, he expected some kind of reaction, but I really didn't know what to make of it. Least of all what to say. At that moment I doubted his story. Later, I had cause to revise my opinion.
"You know, Fowler, I've tried loads of times to find that clearing again. It seemed so close to Five Springs, but also a lifetime away.
"I've never got over her. I feel like my life has been put on hold. The truth of it is, the rest of my life might never even happen. Each time I pull myself together, I catch a glimpse of her, maybe at the shops, or as she gets on a bus. She's always just a bit too far away. But you see, Fowler, I hope to meet her again, and I wonder what might have happened had I let her take me with her onto that boat."
I shuddered at the thought. Then something else occurred to me.
"So you thought it was her I may have seen when I entered the scout hut at the reunion?"
"Yes!" His eyes widened. "You said you hadn't, but did you really?" I thought briefly about telling him what he wanted to hear, but I couldn't do it. I shook my head slowly.
It struck me how late it must be. Thanking him for his hospitality, I shook his clammy hand.
"Look, Fowler, I know there's no time tonight, but I'd love to hear all about you. Your lovely wife. Your kids." He tried a smile. "Promise you'll come back?"
I assured him I would. He seemed inordinately pleased.
At that, he descended into torpor. I let myself out.
His story played on my mind. I did feel sorry for him, but I just couldn't bring myself to return to that filthy, damp house. I assured myself I would visit him when my work took me back to the area.
I wasn't surprised, however, to hear of Pocock's demise.
Steve O'Brien, another of the school friends I had barely recognised at the reunion, called me at work to break the news. I must have given him a business card. He said he had seen us chatting in the scout hall, and had thought I might want to know. Apparently, Pocock had been found dead one morning, sitting in his armchair. O'Brien added that there were some irregularities about the circumstances.
Contacting the authorities to see if I could be of any assistance, I found out that I may have been the very last person to speak to poor Pocock. He hadn't been found for some time. Luckily, it hasn't been necessary for me to give the full details of the remarkable tale he related to me that night. For, despite his body being found in his living room, the cause of his death was attributed to drowning.
The polite, pleasantly-spoken police officer on the phone told me, in the strictest confidence, that his lungs had turned out to be full of river water.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

O What is that Sound

Here is the latest in my series of creepy poems, O What is that Sound by W. H. Auden. It is of course a very well-known war poem, and not 'supernatural' as such; but I find it has a compellingly eerie atmosphere. What do you think?

O What is That Sound
W. H. Auden

O what is that sound which so thrills the ear
Down in the valley drumming, drumming?
Only the scarlet soldiers, dear,
The soldiers coming.
O what is that light I see flashing so clear
Over the distance brightly, brightly?
Only the sun on their weapons, dear,
As they step lightly.
O what are they doing with all that gear,
What are they doing this morning, this morning?
Only the usual manoeuvres, dear,
Or perhaps a warning.
O why have they left the road down there,
Why are they suddenly wheeling, wheeling?
Perhaps a change in the orders, dear.
Why are you kneeling?
O haven’t they stopped for the doctor’s care,
Haven’t they reined their horses, their horses?
Why, they are none of them wounded, dear,
None of these forces.
O is it the parson they want, with white hair,
Is it the parson, is it, is it?
No, they are passing his gateway, dear,
Without a visit.
O it must be the farmer who lives so near.
It must be the farmer so cunning, so cunning?
They have passed the farmyard already, dear,
And now they are running.
O where are you going? Stay with me here!
Were the vows you swore deceiving, deceiving?
No, I promised to love you, dear,
But I must be leaving.
O it’s broken the lock and splintered the door,
O it’s the gate where they’re turning, turning;
Their boots are heavy on the floor
And their eyes are burning.

Powerful, don't you think? I wish I could write with anything approaching that kind of authority. The repetition of words and the number of syllables in each stanza create the feeling of boots marching, getting inexorably closer. The poem's strong rhythm builds the tension almost unbearably.
It's interesting to note that he first two lines of every stanza except the last features the woman speaking, the second voice being the man. However, the voices can be switched, producing a different meaning to the poem; Auden doesn't specify who is speaking what lines.

Here is a link to W.H. Auden reading this poem himself, well worth a listen.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Review: Dark World by Tim Parker Russell

How do I justice to a spanking new book of strange tales such as this? There are few better prospects. Of course no collection can consist entirely of winners, but as I put this book down I felt the balance was very much on the positive side. So, as you asked, here goes with my inevitably biased and flawed view.
The editor begins strongly with his choice of a Reggie Oliver story, Come into My Parlour. Anyone familiar with his stories of theatrical life will recognise the sure-footed writing style and heavy atmosphere, here brought closer to (a rather cold and draughty) home. Aunt Harriet would be enough to strike terror into any young boy's heart; and, as the tale reveals itself with a creeping sense of dread, the reader is tempted to fear the worst. Whether that worst actually comes to pass or not is the crux of the story. Was there in fact a terrible legacy?
There is also some kind of legacy in Cristopher Fowler's singular Mistake at the Monsoon Palace, but the reader is left guessing, in the very best sense. This tale brings India alive in a most vivid fashion, asking more questions than it answers; is Marion in control of her destiny, or does her driver, Shere, have more influence than it would seem? The ending hits just the right note of uncertainty.
The Swinger by Rhys Hughes is the tale of an unsatisfied ghost (can you guess the means of its demise by the title?) and the writer who becomes rather too intrigued by the resulting legend. A convincing dream-like quality is created, perhaps demanding a little touch too much suspension of disbelief; but hey, it's a weird tale, and most enjoyable nonetheless.
A more traditional approach comes from Mark Valentine's An Incomplete Apocalypse. Hugo Winwick follows a carrot dangled before him for publication in a certain august journal, and his investigations lead him to view a manuscript ... with apocalyptic results. Fans of a certain MR James will be satisfied.
An entertaining anthology needs contrast, and that is provided by Corinna Underwood's The Arndale Pass. Much shorter than the other stories included, it weaves a tale of deception and obsession powerfully within a few pages, the reader feeling that not a word is wasted. Its change of pace works well if the collection is read in one sitting, which I could not help but do. (In any case, any strange story apparently named after a shopping centre in my home town must be worth reading, surely.)
I am a fan of Rosalie Parker, and I find her restrained, atmospheric tales of Yorkshire ring true. Oracle is no exception. Imbued with welcome warmth when least expected, and deceptively simple, it opens up upon re-reading.
Which brings me to The House on North Congress Street by Jason A. Wyckoff. This to me is the collection's 'slow burner'. Undoubtedly it takes a while to get going, and this reader was reminded of the wordy style of writers such as Margery Lawrence. Duly, the atmosphere intensifies, and the encounter under the bed was genuinely creepy.
I'm all in favour of strange happenings within a mundane setting, so I enjoyed Ninth Rotation by Stephen Holman. I can relate to Earl's frustration with his pupils and the systems in place at the school. The boy who appears to him is a good metaphor for all that may be wrong in his life, and the reader is carried along through the school day, ending up with what may very well be something like revenge.
The choice of final story is, as it should be, a strong one. Steve Rasnic Tem rarely disappoints and Wheatfield With Crows is a cracker, combining strong characterisation with a great setting; and a suitably strange ending for such a satisfying anthology.
If you are an aficionado of the strange and uncanny short story, you will find the only thing missing from Dark World is ... more of the same.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Source of the Lea part three

Here is part three of The Source of the Lea. I posted part two in February here.

The Source of the Lea part three
One afternoon, she spoke to me for the first time.
I was walking home from school along the edge of the football pitches. I could hear girls laughing and shouting from the main road, on the other side of that big hedge. With a shock I realised they were calling my name. Teasing me. At the end of the hedge, they were all around me, dancing and singing. I didn't know what to do. Suddenly she was standing right next to me, the others running off towards the shops. She didn't look at me, just stared at the ground in front of her feet.
"Hello," was all she said. My heart jumped.
"Hello," I returned uncertainly. "How do you know my name?"
She didn't reply.
"Well then, what's your name?" It was all I could think of to say.
But just then the other girls came running back, and they all skipped away together. I was about to call after her when she paused, half turning.
"You know my name," she said and smiled. Not at me but at one of the smaller girls who was pulling her away. They all laughed as they ran off. I was left standing there, thinking that she'd never even looked at me.
At last we'd spoken, but I still knew almost nothing about her. I'd already tried to find out what her name was from the kids I knew in her year, without any luck. So I reckoned there was nothing for it but to invent my own name for her. I was thinking this over one evening that week, watching TV with mum. Some detective show or other. At the end, the credits were rolling, and there in the list was one I reckoned might suit: Judy Thompson. I tried it out in my mind, and decided right there and then it was perfect. At least until I found out the truth.
The next day after school, I was on an errand down our local shop. She was there, flitting between the aisles, laughing with her friends. I tried to keep an eye on her, and as I got to the till the girls were only separated from me by old Mr Batley. Unfortunately, he wanted to chat, and I ended up helping him home with his shopping too. But not before an image of her was fixed in my mind. She was leaving the shop, and she hadn't even looked in my direction. She wore faded blue jeans with a patch on one of her back pockets. D'you remember the trend back then? Patches with your name on them. Hers said "Judy".
He broke off. I wasn't at all sure where this tale was leading, and as far as I could tell he had related nothing much out of the ordinary so far. Always assuming Pocock was remembering straight, of course. I certainly could not bring to mind the girl he was so obsessed about.
He took a filthy handkerchief from his trouser pocket, wiped his eyes, then blew his nose. Finishing off his can of beer noisily, he resumed.
I didn't see her again until that Sunday, when I took dad's binoculars up to the roof, this time on my own. It was warm, but cloudy and drizzling. I didn't think the girls would come out in that weather. Scanning the empty playground, I was about to give up when they appeared, wandering slowly towards the swings. Judy carried a large black umbrella. In the dull weather, and through the window spotted with rain and grime, it was hard to see properly.
They were arguing. Circling each other, pushing and shoving, maybe fighting over the umbrella. For a moment I stopped looking, breathing hard on the lenses of the binoculars and rubbing them with the edge of my T-shirt. By the time I'd found them again, they were over by the river bank. Judy was being chased, larking about.
The rain got worse. It looked to me like the umbrella had been left on the edge of the river, by a dark, shadowy area in the reeds and thistles. Judy ran towards it, and as I jerked the binoculars across to see, there was a sudden short, sharp movement. My blood ran cold.
Then I noticed two things. First, one of the smaller girls, still over by the swings, was holding the umbrella. Second, I couldn't see Judy any more.
Had I missed something? The girls were just milling around, chatting. Surely if something bad had happened, they would have done something. Wouldn't they? Feeling faint, my hands shaking, I stashed the binoculars out of sight and made my way down in the lift. Bursting out as the doors parted, bumping into some older kids, I ignored their threats as I ran from the flats. It was pouring, and I was sopping before I got through the Spinney to the park. It felt like such a long way across the football pitches. I got there at last, breathing hard, sweat in my eyes, legs like lead. The girls sat on the swings trying to share the umbrella.
I stood in front of them, feeling foolish. They wouldn't even talk to me. Angry now, I stormed off towards the river. There was a gap in the foliage right on the bank, near where I thought the umbrella had been. It looked like something had crashed through the undergrowth, leaving a trail of destruction. The water beyond flowed strongly. Deep brown and shining.

I had some explaining to do when I got back to my old man's flat, soaked through and miserable. Pretending to be ill, I buzzed off home early. Mum was doing a spring clean, and I happened to glance at a pile of newspapers she was throwing out. On top was the local rag. The headline jumped out at me: "Witnesses fuel 'river croc' tale".
I grabbed it when she wasn't looking, scarpering up to my room. The gist of the article was that ducks and stuff were disappearing mysteriously, and that there might be a crocodile living in the river. Do you remember the big stink at the time, Fowler? I think that article must've been the start of it all, and it only got worse from there.
I didn't get much shuteye that night. Whenever I dropped off, I dreamt of dark, shadowy things lunging at me unexpectedly.
Next day, my head was still spinning. I left for school early, taking the longer way round by the river. I wanted to take a closer look, to convince myself nothing bad had happened. It didn't work out like that.
Crossing the waste ground by the park, I could see things were going on over by the river. The whole area was bordered by red and white tape, and there were panda cars parked on the main road, lights flashing. People stared and pointed.
I must have stood there open-mouthed for ages. I felt sick. Turning in a panic, I raced from the park. Somehow I found my way to school, late for the first time ever. All I could hope for was that I'd see her there, and everything would be back to normal.
No such luck. By the end of the day I was fit to burst. Running all the way home, by the time I unlocked our front door, I couldn't stop myself from crying. Mum hugged me and I calmed down enough to tell her I thought I'd seen something really, really bad, and that the police might want to talk to me. She held me tight until I'd poured out the whole story.
"Oh darling," she said, "they did find the remains of a 14-year-old girl ..." My world fell apart. "But the police are sure the body had been in the river for at least six months."

The climax will be coming soon. Don't miss it!