On this page I will be putting the prologues from each of my books
So, here goes…
His gut told him something was wrong. Eleven-years of experience screamed at him to call for back up, the Ambulance service and the coroner; but something stopped him and he looked again at the small house, trying to find the reason for his hesitation.
The terraced house reeked of death. Everything from the closed curtains of the front room to the hint of a light he could see through the thin fabric; a light he suspected wouldn’t still be on if everything were okay inside. Glancing across at his waiting partner he could see that Darren sensed it too. Their insistent knocking on the front door had elicited no response from the occupants he knew were inside
Shaking himself slightly, he turned back to the woman who stood next to him. She was watching him closely, waiting. Clearing his throat, he continued asking for details: “So, when was the last time you saw Mr Ryder and his daughter?”
She didn’t answer him straight away, her attention had shifted to the house. He saw her shudder and draw her coat closer around her neck; he knew it wasn’t because of the cool March breeze that ruffled her skirt. She sensed it too, something bad had happened.
“Mrs Williams?” He spoke a little more harshly than he intended, but it got her attention.
“Oh yes…As I told the officer on the ‘phone, the walls are very thin you know and, well, I know I should have telephoned sooner, but I didn’t, you know how it is…?”
Sadly, he did, but he kept his expression as passive as possible and waited.
“Anyway, I haven’t seen the girl for the last two mornings, she leaves the house at the same time as my son. D’ya know it was her thirteenth birthday the other day? No party, no friends call round…poor girl. Not since her mother died a few years back, terrible that.” She slowly shook her head, her eyes glazed over as she stared into space. He tried to wait patiently, he could see how this was affecting her and he felt a stab of remorse for the woman, but time was ticking away…
“She’s a strange girl.” She continued, “Quiet, never speaks to anyone, and always keeps herself to herself. I asked my son, Robert, he’s in the year above her, if he’d seen her today, but, no one has seen or heard anything since early yesterday morning…Oh dear I’m rambling. Well, I heard a lot of shouting, not unusual with teenagers I know, but, this was… different.”
“Different?” He glanced towards the silent house. Darren was knocking loudly on the front window; he began to lose his patience while she tried to find the right words.
“Yes. I can’t explain it, it…just…was. I heard a lot of banging and a loud crash, like something breaking. I heard a scream, then, I’m positive I heard her begging, you know, ‘please don’t’ and all that… turned my stomach I can tell you. Then a strange noise, like …whimpering. I thought I heard moaning and crying; I think it was Bronwen crying and then silence. At first I thought nothing of it, just another argument between them. I hear a lot of shouting… from him anyway. But, I began to think about it and I couldn’t sleep thinking about it, perhaps she’d had an accident or something. I don’t like to gossip but, there has been talk of bruises and the silence, I’m sure they’re in the house … but it’s so quiet …Ya’ know?”
At this, he looked across at Darren who had walked into the small garden. Their eyes met and he nodded, it was time to investigate, to find what they both knew they’d find. He turned to thank the neighbour; he was anxious to leave, to get it over with, but he could see her urge to tell him more, she licked her lips and stepped closer to him.
Seeing she had his attention again she quickly continued. ” My son and others have sometimes mentioned bruising on her arms which she’s covered up, and her legs; she was in the park a few weeks ago, on her own as usual. Well, some boys started teasing her and lifted her skirt, in a playful way you understand, but, well …. you hear so many bad things these days, I just ….”
“Yes, yes I see. So no-one has seen or heard Mr Ryder or his daughter Bronwen, since yesterday morning?” Putting his notebook away he nodded to his partner who hadn’t moved from the path, but now slowly walked towards the back of the house. Turning back to the waiting neighbour he tried to keep his voice as calm as possible.
“Right, well thanks, we’ll check it out. If you would like to wait at your house…” Taking a deep breath to calm his growing nerves he followed his friend. He didn’t want to finish the sentence by saying that he would probably need to take a statement later on after they found what he suspected. She was a witness, possibly the only witness to a death.
Taking another deep breath he steadied himself as he peered through the window and the letterbox; noting the letters delivered that morning strewn on the floor. He noticed the general neglect of the house, peeled paint, dirty windows, rubbish piled in the front garden, overgrown with weeds; he was focusing on anything to get his mind ready; a child involved in crime was always a heart-breaker. If it was true it sounded as if this one had been abused for a while, and he felt a surge of fury towards the neighbours. Why did they always wait?
Hearing a shout he ran around to the back where he found Darren pushing up a window that was unlocked; another bad sign.
The smell hit them immediately and they turned away gagging, trying to breathe in lungfuls of fresh air. They stopped abruptly as the sounds of a child’s whimpering reached them and they turned as one towards the open window.
The dawn mist hung softly in the air, tinged with the promise of gold as the sun’s fingers gently touched the earth. The small group walked confidently, but, silently towards the house, their weapons hung loosely by their sides; they didn’t expect a fight. The decision had been made, the order given; what was the point of fighting it?
The small wooden door was shut. The animal skin hanging over it gently flapped in the slight breeze. The leader, Halldor, stopped and listened, but there was no sound from within. Glancing upwards, he noticed that no smoke rose from the small hole in the roof; something was wrong. He stepped forward and forced the door open, stepping into the gloom; the others swiftly followed.
His cry broke the silence, followed by the smashing of pottery as he unleashed his fury at being defied. The man charged out of the house, and quickly scanned the surrounding area, looking for signs of their betrayal. The others gathered around him. Hatred burned on each man’s face as they realised justice had been torn away from them. Their weapons no longer remained idle, they gripped them tightly. The intensity of their rage transferring to the wooden handles and along the shaft to the sharp, cold metal of their axes and swords.
Each man, waiting impatiently for their chief to give the order, willing it, unable to keep their feet from moving, they had to go and they had to go now. They had to find them or may Odin forgive them if anyone else should meet with them; there would be no peace now until blood had been spilt.
Finally, their chief gave the order and with it came their voices. They roared their consent and their bodies gave way to the roar of blood in their veins. They moved as one in the only direction their quarry could have fled, the river, towards the sea.
The young girl watched the men disappear among the trees and wiped away her tear. They hadn’t seen her and that would be in her favour, but she could not have stopped herself from watching. Everyone knew what had to happen, but it did not lessen her grief for the family. After all, she had known them all her twelve years and had shared many meals with them. She had sat beside the woman on untold occasions in the great hall whilst listening to the stories. She had sung with them, laughed with them and had shared the fear that was only whispered these last few days.
But, she was no fool. She had listened and understood what had to happen in order to save their village. One, sickly child for a chance to survive was hardly worth her tears; yet, she couldn’t stop them. If the sickness continued, how many would be carried away to the dark world where no honour was found.
She had heard the whispers of some who believed that this was a curse from the gods. They were angry because Halldor had allowed the priest to come into their village and talk of his god. She slammed her fist against the door-post; she despised this new god that had brought so much unrest amongst her people. This one, true god, who loved all of his children …Was he loving now?
He sounded impotent against her gods and she cursed him for interfering in their lives. She closed her eyes for a moment, her head resting against the wooden door-frame. She felt hot against the cool morning air and knew that she had been cursed too. She had hours, perhaps a day before the sickness took a firm hold and then she would be fighting for her life; she was ready. She felt the stirring of the world as it came awake and said a swift prayer to the Goddess Freya before turning away and crept back to her bed.
Where Rivers Meet
The sun had left its warmth on the day. A slither of golden light streamed along the line of slate roofs, while the rest of the small cottages lay in semi-darkness from the shadow of the mountain. The pubs were busy with people laughing and smoking outside, standing in the road, knowing the traffic would be minimal at that time of day. The café and the shops were closing late as the summer punters began to make their way home; the village was settling down after another long, hot day of tourists and the villagers could relax.
The dark, grey stone of the buildings seemed to shimmer. Even the small stone bridge looked alive as the rays bounced off the grey walls to the shallow water beneath. Darkness was still a while away, but for the few birds singing their last song of the day, it was still. The cries of the children had vanished, the whole place was, for just that moment, frozen and no one else existed.
My blue cardigan dragged along the path, barely remembered as it hung between my thumb and finger. I vaguely acknowledged a cry from the pub ‘that I should get home quickly, or Nan would be worried’, but I was busily picking through the day I’d just had; Pirates and princesses. The den had taken up most of the morning, and then exhausted we had quickly eaten our packed lunches only to resume our play which had taken up the rest of the afternoon. Swimming and sword fighting, climbing and swinging on the tattered rope the adults said was a severe health and safety risk.
It was Dafydd who had finally voiced what we’d all secretly been thinking; it was time to go home and have tea, slump in front of the TV and go to bed. Refreshed we would all meet up tomorrow.
The walk back to the village took less than half an hour, because we’d played an impromptu game of tick on the way, arriving back on the bridge breathless, glowing and even hungrier than before. Waving goodbye, with a few of the boys playfully punching each other in the arms, we’d made a date for meeting tomorrow and scattered like rabbits in a field, each to our own homes; or as the case of Chris and his sister Annie, to their holiday cottage. My Nan’s cottage was one of the last on the outskirts of the village. My stomach growled loudly, my Nan always had something delicious cooking in her oven, I could hardly wait and my mouth watered.
Nan baked pies and cakes for the locals to buy from her back door and many a wedding, christening or funeral had been graced by her cooking; she was famous. Well, famous in this small area of Wales anyway and that was good enough for her.
I glanced up at the sky and smiled, the whole summer stretched before me; autumn was very far away. So was my family home in Chester where my younger brother, Ben and Mum and Dad were happily going about their lives without me.
I didn’t care. I loved it here in Beddgelert and waited impatiently for the summer holidays when my family would drive up and leave me with Nanna. Every summer I came to stay while my parents had a long holiday of their own. When Ben had been born, I’d expected him to ruin the holidays by coming too, but, thankfully, so far, he had preferred to go abroad with Mum and Dad. This year they had asked if I’d wanted to go with them; I’d flatly refused.
The four weeks I spent in Wales were the best of my life and I dreamt of living there permanently. Nan never demanded I wash or brush my teeth. Nan never told me off for being dirty or noisy and never asked me where I was going or when I’d be home. She had no reason to; everyone in the village knew where we were anyway and kept an eye open for any trouble. The villagers looked after their own and it seemed, I had become one of them and this pleased me greatly. It had inspired me to learn the welsh language and each year, I became more and more confident in using it; the locals called me ‘Abigail cariad’, meaning ‘darling Abigail‘.
I gazed down at the water and smiled. This was heaven, if only I could be there forever, how lucky the other children were. The water glistened like tiny diamonds, almost blinding me as the last rays of the sun bounced upwards. It shimmered and I closed my eyes against it for a moment and turned away.
He stood on the opposite side of the river. He was watching me, his hands in the pockets of his black trousers. He wore a white shirt, open at the neck and his sleeves rolled up and he wore braces, his eyes met mine and he smiled at me. I found myself smiling back before remembering the golden rule, ‘don’t talk to strangers’, and guessed that also included smiling and I quickly turned away embarrassed and began walking away towards Nan’s cottage.
I could see her outside bringing in some washing and she waved when she saw me. Waving back, I stopped abruptly; something was wrong? Turning round, I glanced back across the river, a cool breeze brought goose-bumps to my skin and I remembered my cardigan and I clung to it as I stared across the water; the silence was intense. The very air seemed to be holding its breath as I looked to where he had stood only seconds before; even the birds had stopped singing, the smiling young man was nowhere to be seen.
I dream that I was flying like a great bird. I couldn’t turn my head; I didn’t need to. I trusted my instincts and followed them without question. I could hear the sound of the wind as my wings spread out, caressing the warm and potent air that allowed me to soar closer toward the sun. I was free and happy and knew that I was loved. I had no cares to worry about. I was young and vibrant and full of life with my world stretching out before me. This feeling of freedom was new. I was merely a fledgling, protected by my parents with their barrier of devotion that kept all harm out of my reach. I was alive, truly alive and the dark was long gone
All at once I felt the blistering heat against my skin. I had climbed too high and without warning the sun was burning me, causing me to shrink away from it, as I enveloped my face and body with my wings to protect myself. Thus I fell towards earth; no longer caressing the sky but plummeting to my doom. I knew that there was no-one to catch me and nothing to break my fall. I would die alone.
I woke with a shudder and the bed jolted as though I’d landed upon it. I curled up in a ball and wept. I was abandoned. All hope was lost in my ability, and fear had taken hold. I had fallen.
Diary of Margery Blake
There is no prologue for this book as it is a diary. It captures the world of a 19th century woman in her own words as she is forced into a union with a man she loathes and her daily routine of abuse to give him a son. She witnesses the horrors of womanhood during this period as different classes create their own problems as her life entwines around the lives of others she must endure. It is honest, brutal and courageous showing the misery women had to face without rights and who’s opinions men did not give credit to, believing women were merely feeble minded children bearers.