Echoes: Subplot

by Tracy Davidson

read it in the correct order

 

PC Oliver Jenkins grumbled under his breath as he made his way out to Henry’s cabin. Why did he always get the worst jobs? Not that there was anything wrong with Henry himself, he was a decent enough bloke, if a little odd. ‘Henry the Hermit’ people called him. No, it was having to traipse through the wilderness to speak to him. How could anyone not have a phone in this day and age?

Oliver paused for a rest. He was going to have a hard job passing his next physical at this rate. But then, being a PC in a quiet rural area like this didn’t give you much chance to get physical. Oliver couldn’t remember the last time he’d had to chase someone. Not unless you counted the time PC Daniels tried to nick his doughnut anyway.

The biggest crime they’d had around here lately was when the vicar’s bike got stolen. Midsomer Murders it was not. Not that Oliver wanted anyone to get murdered of course. For one thing, he hated the sight of blood. And for another, it would only bring the big city cops in, throwing their weight around and showing the locals up. No, investigating petty thefts and breaking up the occasional drunken brawl suited Oliver just fine.

An escaped mental patient was certainly different from the norm. Poor woman. Thought she was a witch apparently. Claimed her daughter was about to give birth to the spawn of Satan, or some such rubbish. She got committed for trying to poison her daughter. Said it was a ‘potion against evil’ rather than poison. Sad, really.

After walking for what felt like ten miles, rather than three, Oliver finally spotted the cabin in the clearing ahead. It was a pretty spot, nice and quiet, but Oliver didn’t think he could live out here. Too isolated. Too far from the nearest pub. Not to mention the nearest woman.

Oliver stepped on a dried twig which made a loud snapping sound. Ahead of him, he saw Henry fling open his front door and rush out, armed with a shotgun. Oliver’s jaw went slack when he realised the barrel was pointing straight at him. Thankfully, Henry lowered it as soon as he saw Oliver. It wasn’t like Henry to be so jumpy. Perhaps he had heard about the escaped mental patient too, despite not being on the grid.

“Hi Henry,” said Oliver, nodding at the shotgun. “Er, is everything OK?”

“Sure Oliver,” said Henry, looking embarrassed. “You can’t be too careful living out here. What can I do for you?”

“Just wondering if you’d seen any strangers out here. We’re looking for a woman in her 40s, fair haired, attractive.”

“Sorry Oliver. Haven’t seen anyone in days,” Henry said.

Reading people was not one of Oliver’s strong points, but even he could tell Henry was lying. Not only that, but Henry looked spooked too. Still, Oliver wasn’t about to accuse an armed man of lying. Especially not this close to knocking off time.

“OK, well, if you do see her, don’t approach her. Just let us know as soon as possible.”

“Sure Oliver, no problem.” And without another word, Henry retreated back into the cabin and shut the door.

And there was another reason not to live in isolation, Oliver thought. It didn’t do your manners much good. He’d come out all this way and didn’t even get offered a cup of tea. If the crazy witch lady did come here, she’d be in good company.

Oliver started to trudge back through the woods. As he got halfway to where he’d left his car, he heard the strangest sound, far off in the distance. A sound Oliver normally found appealing, but this one sent shivers down his spine. A sound that had him running the rest of the way to his car, at a speed that would have impressed the force’s medical officer. It was a baby’s laugh.

 

 

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