CONTENTS of the front PAGE:

THE WATCHER (Periodical)

BELIEVE ME! (Novel)

THE BLADE (Novel)

THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (Overview of the Order)

 

Welcome to my periodical "The Watcher".  Please enjoy it as it is being written!

I intend to regularly update "The Watcher" as the novel is being written to create interest in my work.  The novel is a murder/mystery/thriller, set in Victorian England at a time before PTSD was recognised. A young boy runs off to sea... becomes a man... gets mixed up with an Irish gang...

     

 

 

COPYRIGHT

 

NOTE:  THE WATCHER: All rights reserved: Martin R Jackson  ©2017 & ©2018  If any of this work is found as printed or electronic matter other than with express permission from Martin R Jackson or his agent/s, whether in the form of a novel or academic sample, it is STOLEN property. EXTRACTS MAY BE USED for Publicity & Marketing purposes.

 

THE WATCHER has not been proof-read or edited, anomalies will be addressed as I move on. Also, as the work progresses, earlier chapters will be removed to make for easier reading.  If you enjoy: Tweet!  or: PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS on the GET IN TOUCH page...  

On this site}  All rights are reserved Martin R Jackson  © 2017 & 2018

No part of this literature may be transmitted, stored or reproduced without the consent of the copyright holder with the exception of excerpts used for reviews. This includes "The Watcher", "Believe Me!" & "The Blade". The "About the Author" section may be used. 

WARNING: All the novels below may contain a small amount of violence, mild adult themes and language to reflect reality. AGE suitability 16 years +

 

 

 

 

UPDATED 24/06/2018

I was lifted from my feet, blown over by a huge gust of heat. Everything went silent for a few seconds apart from my ears which were ringing like a chapel bell. Clouds of choking sulphurous dust hung in the air and I could taste blood in my mouth where the guard had driven my lip onto my teeth splitting it. Without delay, figures swarmed through the debris and smoke, immediately laying into the turnkeys and clouting them with clubs. One of the perpetrators grabbed Danny, only to find I was shackled to him.

‘He’s chained up to this other bleddy cove, so he is!’

‘…The screws’ll have a key!’

A guard cowered into the corner bruised and bleeding, shielding his face with his arms. ‘No-no-no we ain’t, the guv locked 'em up – he’s got the key!’ he bawled.

‘Aye! That’s true! That’s true! They were going in the box together; the gaffer’s got the keys!’ His colleague, the one who’d assaulted me, had also shied away with his hands on his head. The boot was now on the other foot.

‘COME ON! COME ON!’ A forceful Irish voice blurted anxiously. ‘Quickly now, grab ’em both – don’t feck about – let’s be gone, lads!’

In that split second I saw my chance of revenge. Revenge for the harsh treatment both I and Danny had consistently endured from the bullying guard; the sort of revenge that could probably earn me credit with the Irish gang.

Prior to the explosion the guard had been sneering like my grandfather, but that had suddenly turned to a look of trepidation; a look of alarm. I clasped my hands together and took a powerful swing at the bastard, chains and all. It was as though I was hitting Grandfather Quenelle. The man’s mouth burst open spraying out blood and teeth on the floor.

Before I could comment or admire my handiwork, I realised I was being yanked by the chain and jostled to a hole where the door had once stood firm. Danny O’Dowd was half-a-pace in front. We were so close I caught his heels a couple of times with the toes of my boots as we stumbled through a small mound of rubble until we were finally out.

No sooner had that happened than a carriage was pulled across the doorway, the horse stamping and whinnying distress. The animal was set loose and it bolted off down the road scattering bystanders in its path. A couple of rescuers, if I could call them that, sat on their mounts with guns at the ready. Two more had already taken off hastily, their job done. The riders had their faces covered, one with a distinctive blue and white spotted neckerchief. He was wearing a scruffy bowler hat and brandished a revolver; another appeared to be wielding a blunderbuss.

‘Up there, Danny – up ye go, lad!’ A burly Irishman made a foothold with his hands and Danny manage to mount the horse in an ungainly fashion with the chain stretching my arm to breaking point.

‘Help him up, Seamus he’s cushty – he’s a good lad!’

‘I’m doin’ my fuckin’ best, Danny boy!’ he bellowed as the mount started kicking up a fuss and moving around.

I was muddled, spat more blood out from my mouth, and in those few moments of confusion, all rational thoughts deserted me. The only thing that sprang to mind was Danny’s loathing of being addressed as “Danny-boy”, and I put it down to the extreme stress the man was under; he had everything to lose and couldn’t afford any delay, I supposed.

But why was my mind engaging with such trivia? Why-the-hell was I thinking such trifling things when my own life was in such danger?

He interlinked his fingers again and beckoned with a vicious scowl and flick of his head.

‘WAKE UP yer dilo fecker… on the feckin’ hoss wi’ya…!’

UPDATED 26/06/2018

A few folk had gathered across the street and were becoming far too inquisitive. One of the riders pointed his pistol at them and they ducked as he fired a warning shot over their heads!

CRACK! Ying! The bullet ricocheted off a building…

His horse reared a little as he brought it back under control, then before I realised, I found I was mounted behind Danny and we were picking up speed. I heard another loud explosion behind and turned my head to see clouds of smoke with a shower of debris raining and fluttering down where the carriage had been standing! Through the haze I could see people running for cover; dogs were barking, women screaming!

Within seconds we were clear and away with not a sign of the peelers, the clatter of hooves on cobbles echoed against tenements, foot travellers and hawkers alike scattered like dead leaves in the wind. On we went, the streets getting narrower until I felt I could almost touch the walls either side of us. As our mount slowed I became aware of an awful stench more than equal to that of Newgate Prison, and at a steady trot we entered a ramshackle yard. A dog started barking then a rider in front quickly dismounted, dragged the gate shut behind us and barred it with a hefty plank of timber before standing fiddling with his gun, possibly as a threat, I surmised.

I was well and truly trapped in a decrepit yard surrounded by high walls and buildings not to mention an overflowing cesspit that stank to high heavens. The gang of brigands made it clear they despised my presence.

‘So now – who the feck are ye, eh…?’ One of the men demanded in a broad Irish accent as he dismounted and pulled down his scarf. ‘Gerroff the bleddy hoss then, lads,’ he demanded with a flourish of his revolver.

Danny O’Dowd answered for me. ‘Leave off, Paddy. He’s a mate from that steamer, Yarmouth Bluebell, banged up along with m’self for morder, barratry and stuff.’ His accent was much thicker now he was amongst his peers. We slipped off the horse together due to the restriction of the chain and stood side-by-side in the filth of the vile surroundings.

The man turned to me. ‘Hah, hah, hah – ye’ll be owing us for breaking ye out and savin’ yer life then, so ye will,’ he joked. ‘So what do we charge fer that, I ask!’ He then seemed to consider the situation before turning serious. ‘I don’t know what the commander will make of it though, I’m sure,’ he added with a shake of his head.

‘Seeing him tonight, Paddy,’ one of the others said tethering his horse to an iron ring on the wall.

‘We’ll sure be doing that, Seamus – tell him the good news and ask him what to do with this bleddy fella, eh,’ Paddy replied.

‘Don’t want him knowing any of our business, that we don’t, Paddy. What do you reckon, Mick?’

‘No… not at all, and I can soon make sure o’ that.’ The man who’d pulled the gate shut behind us turned and gave me a long, hard glower before slowly raising a handgun from somewhere under his long coat whilst making a big, big show of it. He waved it about.

‘Hold on, what’re yer after doin’ Mick…?’ Danny froze. 

‘Doin’ all of us a favour, that’s what I’m after doin’,’ he snarled. He stuck the gun hard on my temple, cocked the mechanism, and at that very moment I knew my life expectancy had reduced dramatically. 

UPDATED 28/06/2018

Probably down to seconds at the very most! I agonised.

Danny, who’d been standing to the other side of me, immediately ducked out of alignment with the gun, holding his shackled hands out flat defensively. I took that as a very bad sign as he was obviously familiar with the man’s disposition. ‘WHOA! Enough o’ that shite, Mick, he’s a good lad and a good sailor – we could probably use him to move that cargo!’ He retorted.

‘Enough about that fecker, Danny, ye shut yer mouth up now!’ The barrel of the pistol remained pressed hard against my skull for what seemed an eternity.

‘Please, mister…’ I whimpered.

Mick, as I’d found him to be called, relaxed, de-cocked the hammer and slowly withdrew the weapon. He remained on the spot, and said nothing whilst staring at me as though he had other ideas; staring as though he was choosing the exact spot to blow a hole in my head. He still held the revolver, dangling slack by his side at arm’s length.

‘A cushty-mush, a good seaman, ye say?’ Paddy asked, appearing unruffled by the incident as though it was an everyday occurrence. He rubbed his unkempt bearded chin and kicked at the filth on the yard with the toe of his boot apparently deep in thought. ‘Well…?’

‘Yes, he is that, and just as I’m tellin’ ye – a bleddy good one at that,’ he said. ‘And a cat’lic…’ he added anxiously.

The very words seemed to furiously bounce the one called Mick into action again. Up sprang the gun at arm’s length, and straight to my temple with seemingly more pressure than before! His ice-cold eyes flitted between the spot he’d carefully selected on my head and Danny O’Dowd’s eyes. They were wide with alarm.

‘Cat’lic ye reckon, eh! We’ll soon see ’bout that! Won’t we? Eh? Won’t we, Englishman?’ He cocked the trigger again his arm stiff and straight as a die.

‘Steady, Mick, hold yer bleed’n temper, man!’ Paddy had woken from his thoughts. ‘And let me tell yer, ye’ll be clearin’ up any feckin’ mess, d’ya hear me?’ He didn’t seem much bothered either way so long as he wasn’t expected to tidy away a body.

My body!

‘Cat’lic,’ Mick repeated, twisting the gun as if grinding the barrel into my skull. ‘So, in the situation ye now find y’self, it’d be wise for ye to say a few words o’ redemption afore ye meet the man upstairs, don’t yer think?’

I knew I was finished and made an effort to cross myself but the chains restricted my feeble attempt. I was at a loss to know what prayer he meant – the Lord’s Prayer or that Hail Mary Salutation that Bristow had spoken of!

“Your freedom, and possibly your life are dependent upon it…” Morgan’s words haunted me – he had been so right!

‘Go on lad wilya, I’m waitin’ on ye…’ He demanded. His strong accent chilled me to the bone, the irises of his eyes flicking and jumping around excitedly. 

‘MAGUIRE! Fer fuck’s sake, man, calm down!’ Danny cried out.

‘I’m waitin’ – I’m waitin’ to hear him say it…!’

I guessed that he’d wanted to hear something a protestant wouldn’t normally know, and concluded he must mean that Hail Mary passage that Bristow had made so much of. Before I could speak, he pushed even harder with the gun, his action stealing the very words from my mouth.

‘Cat’lic my arse – he hasn’t a…’ 

‘…Hail Mary, full of grace,’ I interjected with trembling voice. ‘Our Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou amongst women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.’  

On the word “Amen”, all except Mick Maguire crossed themselves. He didn’t, he just pulled the trigger.

UPDATED 01/07/2018

Chapter 20

 

 

 

 

 

Paddy Riley stood shocked. Seamus was not. Being Mick’s brother, he knew him all too well. He distinctly remembered the day when he’d first become convinced his younger brother was somewhat mentally deranged. It had been around fifteen years since, back in their homeland of Ireland.

They had been out trout-tickling to supplement their meagre diet and all was going well until trouble raised its ugly head. The ugly head of Mick Maguire!

Seamus had just dispatched a brown three-pounder tossed to him by his younger brother and was just in the process of hiding it carefully in the bushes on the riverbank when the serenity of twilight and the sound of gently tumbling water had been violently broken.

They’d been discovered!

His brother, Michael, had been standing barefoot in the rapidly running shallows, dangling his hand under the edge of a large boulder tickling another beauty, when the gamekeeper jumped from the hedgerow swearing, shouting, and swinging his blackthorn shillelagh!

‘Got ye yer thievin’ beggars – out o’ the bleddy water lad – at the double!’

The fledgling delinquent, Mick Maguire was having none of it, considering the noble brownie had been hard earnt and was now theirs. He could almost taste it. Moreover, he’d just been distracted from winning another prize specimen by the unwelcome intruder.

‘Feck off,’ he replied, whilst oddly appearing to obey the command by quickly making his way towards the riverbank.

Seamus, as was his habit, had made no reply and stood there speechless in the realisation he’d been caught red-handed. The problem had indeed been the colour red that had initiated the ensuing mêlée. But it had been the gamekeeper’s reference to Mick’s unruly mop of red hair that had undoubtedly elicited the savagery.

‘Come on yer bleddy ginger-knob – let’s be havin’ yer!’ he had shouted.

The young Maguire had pounced at him like a rampant tiger, ferociously latching his teeth into the man’s most obvious protuberance. It had been his large, bulbous nose, an ample portion of which the lad spat on the muddy pathway before the keeper had a chance of putting his cudgel to use. The youngster beat him to it and battered the man unconscious.

And that was the reason Seamus, at the age of sixteen, had absconded from his village taking his easily identifiable fourteen year old brother with him; the brother with the flame red hair and temper to match. They’d managed to secure employment down a mine where very few questions had been asked. They were down below in the dark most of the daylight hours, no one identifying them. Michael only lasted a few weeks before his temper lost him his job, but Seamus persevered and learned the skill of using gunpowder. Small amounts of the compound had been regularly purloined which enabled them to supplement Seamus’s income by blowing the odd safe or two on their trips to Liverpool. There they had met a man who called himself Brady, a man most interested in the skills Seamus had to offer. Brady held the conviction that the younger brother’s attributes could also come in more than handy helping run his docklands surety scheme. Cargo would go missing, but for a regular “emolument on a percentage basis”, as Brady had put it, matters would miraculously improve. No shipment losses, no fires, no broken legs. 

He must’ve seen something of himself in him, Seamus had reasoned. It hadn’t been long before Seamus discovered that Conall Brady had much the same traits as his own brother Mick; traits of extremely uncontrollable and remorseless violence.

 

And then here his younger brother was again, proudly displaying that violent instability – enjoying putting a gun to an innocent man’s head – enjoying the utter terror he was administering.

Enjoying the moment immensely!

Just like he’d heard how Brady had enjoyed spiking a pimp’s foot with a blade the week before when he’d turned up at the Crown, with the filly wearing the fancy bonnet.

UPDATE: 05/07/2018 FORMAT ERROR by WEBPAGE HOST

 service in process...

 PLEASE NOTE: Changes to website can no longer support copy/paste from author's Word format.  Please follow @montyjaxon1 TWITTER, new webpage to be announced shortly.  "THE WATCHER" will be continued; sorry for any inconvenience. Martin R Jackson, author.

The story so far (detailed manuscript moved)

 

 

Prologue (1 & 2)

Young James Meredith Asher suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to mental and sexual assaults from his grandfather. His grandfather is found dead at the bottom of a well in the back garden; the inquest returns accidental death. Written in third person.

 

Chapter 1

The narrative changes to first person omniscient (James M Asher) for effect.

James Meredith Asher joins the crew of a small paddle steamer, the captain of which is a drunkard. The steamship is involved in an accident due to an anomalous whistle-signal by James. The captain goes AWOL.

Chapter 2

Bainbridge, the ship’s engineer, tries to blackmail James and the first officer Danny O’Dowd.

Chapter 3

Danny and James arrange to meet Frank Bainbridge at nine o’ clock the following morning to pay his demand but he is found dead, hanging from the tangled rigging of the stricken steamship in drydock. It was thought an accident.

Chapter 4 

A Maritime Board of Trade Inquiry is held. Danny and James are taken into custody charged with barratry after the steamship’s captain makes an unexpected appearance and points an accusing finger. They are committed for trial at the Old Bailey.

Chapter 5

Whilst being transported to Newgate there is an explosion and an attempt made by a Fenian gang to rescue Danny O'Dowd from custody. The plan goes wrong, Danny is thrown from a horse but escapes on foot. James is left behind to answer for it.

Chapter 6

James is thrown in Newgate, head shaven, then taken to see the governor.  There is another man there who threatens him saying James will be hung for killing a peeler. His name is William Morgan. Morgan promises to free James on a promise that he works for him.

Chapter 7

Sworn in as an agent of the Special Irish Branch, James Meredith Asher returns to the cell where he meets the recaptured Danny O’Dowd.

Chapter 8

Danny O’Dowd describes his escape attempt, whilst James tries to ingratiate himself with him. He tries to find where he was heading and the names of the gang. Danny is taken from the cell for a good hiding… 

Chapter 9

The gang arrive back at the yard “Hennessey & Son, Saddle, Bridle & Shoes” in the Old Nichol. Seamus relays the bad news to the commander. They had failed to spring Danny from the gaol.

Chapter 10

James Asher and Danny O'Dowd languish in Newgate. A lawyer brings food, James finds out the man's true identity... it is William Morgan! 

Chapter 11

The commander calls a meeting at the Crown Inn, where he discusses breaking Danny O'Dowd from gaol.

Chapter 12

William Melville, alias Morgan, of the Special Irish Branch, drafts in a young lady agent to gain the Republican Commander's confidence and thus spy on him. Dolly Malone is in great danger.

Chapter 13 

Brady (if that’s his real name) meets Dorothy at the Viaduct Gin Palace. Demands she helps him to release Danny. He skewers a pimp in the foot & robs him… But where does he take her?

Chapter 14

Dolly Malone is led away to his lodgings by Conall Brady, the commander of the republican gang. Her minder loses track of her.

Chapter 15

Morgan visits James again in prison, posing as an attorney at law. He brings more provisions to help James befriend Danny O'Dowd... he says they might avoid the trial... 

Chapter 16 

George Parry (alias Malone) is searching for Dorothy… she is at the Crown Inn, but can Dolly escape Brady’s clutches? He makes a pass at her...

Chapter 17

Dolly finds there's to be a gaol-break and needs to report to Morgan. George catches sight of Dolly leaving the Crown. He realises she's making her way home and needs to arrive there before her. Brady puts Dolly in a cab telling her he will see her before work on Monday... he has a present for her...

Chapter 18

Morgan meets George Parry at eleven o’ clock in the Jamaica Coffee House, St. Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, & reports the gaol-break plan. Morgan has a dilemma. If he reports Dorothy’s evidence regarding the murder to Inspector Neame, the man would go bull-at-a gate to apprehend Brady and his plan would go awry. Brady promises Dolly a gift, but also decides he must eliminate her…

Chapter 19

 

The Irish brigands spring Danny O’Dowd from Newgate Prison, James is chained to him and they are forced to drag him along too. One violent member of the gang wants to eliminate James and holds a gun to his head… pulls the trigger…

As promised... another peek at the PROLOGUE...

Prologue I

 

June 1879,

Saxmorgen, in the County of Norfolk,

England.

 

Guthrie Quenelle was found dead at the bottom of a thirty foot well when grandson James Meredith Asher was fourteen. James’s mother, Annie Asher, and Grandmother, Mrs Nellie Quenelle, had avoided the well since Sunday afternoon, but neighbours had become suspicious when the water had developed a foul taste. Upon investigation, the twisted and bloated corpse of the preacher was found wedged at the bottom. Gossipers had nudged and whispered when the policeman arrived but the little family remained steadfast in their silence. Had it been an accident, or was there more to it?

Assumptions and suspicions were rife.

James was particularly quiet about the matter when questioned – quiet to the point of being mute. His vacant gaze had wandered straight past the constable to focus upon a lone bird of prey high in the sky behind him, soaring freely on a thermal before his glazed eyes swept across to the huddle of chinwaggers further down the lane. The rancorous gossips with nothing better to do.

He was unable to focus.

The policeman’s mouth was working overtime but to James no words were coming out.  His mother stood to the side of the garden path nervously wringing her hands on her apron as if drying them. Her mouth was also moving, but James heard nothing apart from the immortal rantings of his dead grandfather echoing around in his head.

‘…A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs, eleven-thirteen; READ it and HEED it, boy!’

THUMP!

The old man had slammed the bible down on the bleached white table top, slammed it down and unbuckled his belt making a point of pulling it from his waistband slowly whilst piercing him with his eyes. James had managed to erase the pain of the thrashing by gritting his teeth and allowing hatred to consume him.

‘A trustworthy person does WHAT?

‘Does WHAT?

‘Does WHAT?’

Down, down and down had come the thick hide belt; the belt the preacher had made with his own righteous hands.

‘Enough, Guthrie, enough…’ Nellie Quenelle had held her head in her hands and pleaded.

‘Silence woman, SILENCE – the good Lord disciplines those he loves!’

WHACK…! WHACK…! WHACK…!

It had been the welts and bruising that had alerted the school mistress and brought the parish constable to the door on that occasion. But that was long ago, when James was only eight years of age.

 

Guthrie Quenelle had been a holier-than-thou Methodist lay preacher until his impromptu demise. There was no love in his preaching; only thunder, hell-fire and damnation, most of it being directed at his family, particularly his grandson. His anger had been set as deep and permanent as the wizened lines in his sallow face. In Guthrie’s mind, James should never have been born. Life had played a dastardly hideous trick upon the worthy man of God; the man who freely gave his time to the Good Lord every Sunday – the man who took in the heavily pregnant Annie Asher when she had nowhere to go.

 

‘Are yer harking to me, boy?’ The constable put his hand on James’s shoulder and shook him gently. The boy suddenly came to his senses and winced in pain. He gasped for breath in panicky bursts then looked nervously at his mother who continued to wring her hands on her apron; a look of fear contorting her face.

‘Come on, speak, boy – are yer harking?’ he repeated, louder this time.

‘…Errm, y-y-yes, s-sir.’ He looked down at the worn porch step where he was standing and rubbed his shoulder as the tall officer of the law stooped to put his whiskery face level with his. James clutched the door jamb to steady his giddiness; a violent migraine had sprung from nowhere. 

‘So, what have yer ta tell me? And don’t you try’n sell me a dog, boy! I want the straight John Bull, such as how yer grandpapa ended up down yon well, sonny Jim!’ He tipped his head towards the old well. The throng of onlookers had crept closer; the constable was waiting, his helmet strap cutting across the front of his chin. It wavered as he spoke.

Silence…

The young man had frozen again as his memory flashed back to the glowering face of his grandfather, deeply lined, snarling, his huge wild eyes stretched as wide and white as pot saucers.

‘…A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs, eleven-thirteen; READ it and HEED it, boy!

He could still hear the slam of the bible upon the table top booming around in his head. The skin of his backside prickled.

 

*

 

The inquest was held at the Barley Mow Public House. A futile attempt had been made to quell the stench of Guthrie Quenelle’s corpse by scattering dried lavender and crushed cloves around. He was laid out on a long table in an open lean-to next to the urinal in the rear courtyard. Untapped wooden barrels of ale stood to the side where lighted candles had been jammed in bottles on top, each one having trickles of tallow glistening in the eerie light. Then of course, there was the noise of the flies, swarms of them.

Lay Preacher Guthrie Quenelle would have died again had he known where the inquest was being held. He had practiced total abstinence from both alcohol and tobacco all his goodly life, but in a short time, tobacco smoke would be most necessarily plentiful and welcome.

 

Expediency and speed due to the rapidity of decomposition were the order of the day. To that effect, the Right Honourable Albert Stickney, JP, the Acting Deputy Coroner, had forthwith summoned twenty four local “able men of good report” to the tap room of the Barley Mow, to be there by “ten o’clock ante meridiem, of the morrow, prompt.” He had no formal qualifications of any kind, except for the fact that he lived in the manor house, owned over five-hundred acres of arable, and liked to be important. The official County Coroner had been suffering influenza, together with the lingering effects of medication; a more than ample dosage of malt of the forty-percent kind. The learned man had taken a distinct turn for the worse when hearing of the deceased’s condition.    

At a quarter before ten of the day, twenty four pints of ale stood squarely upon one end of the bar top awaiting the all-male panel from which the Right Honourable Albert Stickney was to choose his jury. He had tethered his grey mare to an iron ring in the back courtyard where it brayed and snorted discomfort at the odour drifting in the wind. Stickney strode briskly through the rear door and quickly shut it behind him. He took up position at a corner table already occupied by a thin bony man with a small wooden writing slope and a large bible. After removing his tall-crowned bowler and placing it carefully to the side, he rapped the table top with a riding crop drawing the attention of those present.

Rap, rap, rap

He stroked his large moustache with the back of his forefinger then broke into speech.

Arrgh, errm – good morning – good morning; the ale’s on the parish, gentlemen – a little refreshment for you kindly turning out at such short notice.’ He pointed his crop towards the bar. Smoke swirled. Jostling and a murmur went around as eager hands reached for the pots of hoppy liquor.

‘Hear me gentlemen… your attention, thank you… thank you. I will be calling twelve of you as jurors. Now, who of you had cause to know the deceased, Guthrie Quenelle? Show of hands please…’ The mixed assembly looked from one to the other as arms slowly rose in the air.

Albert Stickney had no real regard for the correct procedure in these matters and concluded that those who actually knew the deceased would best serve his purpose of deciding how the death should be recorded. It certainly had been violent and unexpected. Had the preacher’s demise been an unfortunate accident, or was foul play involved? He recognised the inconvenience should the verdict be self-murder. In the case of suicide, assets would revert to the crown leaving the little family penniless and reliant on the parish.

He pondered for a short while

…Or the workhouse, which would be worse still for both the family and the boy, heaven forbid…

He quickly snapped out of his thoughts and scanned the hodgepodge of odd faces. Then, with all the best of intentions he pointed at twelve men and dismissed the others, ordering Joseph Hargreaves, the publican, to “replenish their jars” for the inconvenience of missing the jury fee of a florin. There was a scuffle of hob-nailed boots on flagstones as the kind gesture was eagerly accepted.

‘And I’ll be taking a large brandy if you would be so kind, Joseph…’

Joseph Hargreaves had been standing behind the bar next to his till – white apron stretched around his distended belly, his arms folded and sideburns bristling. Despite the circumstances, he displayed a broad grin across his ruddy face, pleased for the extra cash to be made from the grim assembly. Upon hearing the words he jumped to, and after pouring Stickney’s tipple, started pulling more ale and marking up on a slate. The general hubbub increased and the air thickened with tobacco smoke.

Rap, rap, rap

The riding crop sounded on the table again.

‘Oh, and yes… gentlemen, gentlemen, your attention please. I’ve instructed Joseph here to provide a luncheon of mutton and pickles around midday – I assume we should be all but done by then…’ He paused and turned to the man next to him who was busy fiddling with the lid of his writing slope.

The man, with spider-like arms and permanently hunched shoulders, shook his head. ‘I would have it more in the realms of mid-afternoon, sir. We must remove ourselves to the scene of the incident to properly appraise the circumstances.’ The writing box lid was now open and he was sifting through papers.

‘Thank you, Mr Scrivener… we’d better get on with the matter post-haste then. So, off you go – read it, my good fellow, if you would please.’ He put his hand under the clerk’s arm and coaxed him to his feet.

The man cleared his throat and spoke out in a brittle voice that was sharp but nervous. ‘Victoria, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, I hereby give notice that you men are duly summoned as Jurors at this inquest into the death of Guthrie Quenelle, formerly of this parish.’ He quickly sat down. 

Turning to his prospective jurors, the Right Honourable Stickney gave instructions. ‘So, if each of you in turn could kindly place your hand upon this Holy Bible and be sworn in, you can then sign, or make your mark in the register with my man Mr Scrivener, here.’ The snipe-nosed clerk quickly spun a document round to face the room and placed an inkpot and pen next to it. All went quiet. The publican smiled as he continued pulling the ebony handle of his new-fashioned pump with a gentle whoosh, whoosh, whoosh…   

 

The jury of twelve men trudged along the dry rutted lane towards Primrose Cottage, a distance of half-a-mile from the Barley Mow Public House. Albert Stickney JP, and the clerk with top hat and silver-knobbed cane, took up the front leading the babbling group. Wisps of grey smoke curled from smokers who had decided to keep their baccy lit after suffering the hostile odour from their obligatory viewing of the corpse. Every few minutes or so, the leaders would pause slightly, thus allowing Jimmy Wardle with his gammy leg to catch up. The requirement of them now was to view the well where the deceased had met his demise.

Things were getting better by the minute. There was a gentle breeze bringing fresh fragrances from the June hedgerows, a continuous chirrup of a skylark high above, and the promise of a mutton luncheon not to mention the two-bob stipend. They gabbled along, the banter loosened by the beverage quaffed at the more-than-suitable venue.

They paused again and the steady tramp of boots stopped. The momentary silence amplified the sound of bees foraging in the dog roses reminding Albert Stickney of the flies back at the courtyard. Progress was slow. He would have to move more quickly, so started off again with a much greater spring to his step.

 

Three old flint and brick cottages stood in a row, the one to the far end having the curtains drawn shut. The front door was also shut, and bolted. It had a wreath of laurel in the shape of a cross hanging in the centre with a black crepe cloth to deaden the knocker underneath. A white silk ribbon with black edging fluttered in the gentle breeze holding it in place. A garden path led from the front door and down the side of the cottage to a backyard. A huge rambling rose cascaded from the gable end with legion after legion of buds just starting to burst into flower. The troop of jurymen tramped single file past the wooden ash-pit privy and mustered around a shared well situated at the bottom of the garden belonging to the middle cottage. The structure was a little over three feet in diameter surrounded by a round brick wall of about twenty-four inches in height. An oak frame supported a tilted pan-tiled roof and a stout timber roller with an iron handle. A rope was attached to a wooden pail by a rusty hook dangling in the mouth of the void.

‘Now, gentlemen of the jury – my man Scrivener here has brought along a plumb bob and twine to demonstrate the depth of the well and the water within it. Stand back if you please… thank you, thank you – let the dog see the rabbit, gentlemen.’ The Right Honourable Albert Stickney waved his riding crop ushering the group to one side. There was a blabber of mutterings as the group repositioned to allow the clerk access, followed by a clatter as Jimmy Wardle dropped his walking stick.

The clerk said nothing, just removed his topper passing it with his cane to a juryman and with shoulders still hunched, came forward, leaned over the side, and slowly released the crude measuring device down the borehole. After a short while, the twine began to slacken indicating the bottom. ‘That’s about it, I believe, sir,’ he mumbled, his voice resonating down the hollow shaft like a distant roll of thunder. A slipknot was then tied as a marker before he gently hoisted the plumb bob hand over hand to the top.

Stickney took the twine and measured off by stretching a length at a time from his extended hand to his nose. ‘I calculate it to be ten yards, or thereabouts, plus one and a half of wet.’ He gathered it together and placed it on the wall of the well.

The clerk had produced a notebook and pencil and quietly noted the measurements. Having finished, he pocketed the book, looked up and waited for further instructions. The Acting Deputy Coroner was lamely twisting the bucket handle back and forth with a pondering look on his face. The contraption made a loud squeaking noise. He shook his head and tightened his lips.

‘I just wonder,’ he said quietly before raising his voice to the group. ‘Can we take the bucket and its fixings from the well and unwind the rope so the mechanism might be fully examined, Mr Scrivener?’

The request was directed at the clerk who instantly concluded there was no “we” about it at all. Stickney meant him. He begrudgingly removed his black drape coat and passed it to the juryman already clutching his topper and cane. He then proceeded to struggle with the command though the pail was quite empty. His struggle was even more so when reassembling the contraption. The onlookers remained, just onlookers.

‘That all seems fine, Mr Scrivener, so can we now lower the bucket and draw water?’

The slightly built man looked dumbfounded, removed a handkerchief from his waistcoat pocket and proceeded to dab his forehead. If his forebears could see him now they would be disgusted, they had all been honourable clerks, his father a clerk to the Court of Assizes. He cleared his throat. To his fortune, one of the jurymen, a brawny fellow who recognised Scrivener was not really up to the task, stood forward and took over. Soon, the pail was at the wellhead swaying slightly and laden three-quarters to the brim.

‘Can we see the water, please?’ the Right Honourable Stickney asked to the puzzlement of the jury.

What is he up to now? Looking for evidence of something in the water? Jimmy Wardle scratched his head.

The volunteer leaned over, grasped the pail with one burly hand whilst steadying the winch handle with the other. The bucket dropped slightly as he pulled it to the side, grasping it now with both hands. The winch handle kicked back half a turn as he let go.

‘Did you observe the recoil of the pump handle, gentlemen? Several of the group nodded.

‘Aye,’ someone in the gathering said.

‘Quite a jolt, eh,’ Jimmy Wardle agreed.

‘…Anyway, let me tell you about the witness. We have a neighbour who saw the boy, young James Meredith Asher standing by this well on the Sunday after chapel. They did not see the deceased however. The witness saw the boy through the window of this middle cottage here. By all accounts, he stood there for quite a while.’ Stickney pointed his riding crop to the window, ‘watching…’ he said.

‘A good view of the well, as you can see, gentlemen – it’s perhaps something or perhaps nothing, eh.’

It was a fact the witness had seen young James. It was also a fact that Albert Stickney and his cohort had now seen the well. However, what no one had seen at all was the axle shaft at the side of the old broken handcart. The cart propped next to the ash-pit privy; the heavy iron axle, with traces of skin and hair embedded in the rust.


 

Prologue II

 

 

 

 

 

The witnesses had been settled into the small snug of the Barley Mow Public House where they all sat in silence politely avoiding Mrs Nellie Quenelle, her face hidden behind her black veil. Had her face been uncovered, they would have found neither tears wetting her cheek nor smile bending her lip. She maintained a face of granite.

He had gotten what he was asking for and good riddance, she thought.

Although a fine warm day, Nellie was wearing a black twilled bombazine cloak over a black crepe dress trimmed with black lace and a multitude of jet buttons in a straight row down the front. Black, black, and black – nothing but black, apart from the starched white cuffs of her ballooned sleeves that she constantly fiddled with. She knew she would be expected to wear full mourning dress for at least two years. At such short notice, everything apart from her shoes had been borrowed and would have to be returned as soon as they could be replaced by a carriage journey to town. Her shoes were the product of her husband’s own hand and had been kept perfect without scuff or stain. She had dared do no other.

Many thoughts were running through her head. To make ends meet, she could possibly take in a lodger and she could “go and do” for the big house, a prosperous local family of good standing, but that would be hard for a woman of her sixty years. And then there was James, just about to be signed as an apprentice to Guthrie now he had reached the age of fourteen. The guild had already sent the indentures but now they would have to be returned unsigned.

All for the best – and a blessed escape for the boy, she thought.  

Annie Asher was also dressed in black, albeit in clothes of a far cheaper nature. She was thinking much the same; thinking about finances and young James. But apart from that, she was glad the preacher had gone, and glad they had taken the dead body feet first away from Primrose Cottage. She could not bear the thought of that dead face looking back at where he had lived.

His soul would’ve known which path to take from the spirit world and return to haunt us with his wickedness. Or, worse still, his ghost could have looked back and beckon another member of our family to join him…

Annie Asher shuddered.

Apart from all that, she was thankful he could no longer chastise and bully poor James, although he would now have to turn a penny of his own accord instead of being Guthrie Quenelle’s unpaid slave in his workshop. The workshop, where he had been forced to suffer unimaginable violence all in the old man’s warped idea of righteousness. She looked at James; he was staring into nothingness, his leg fidgeting and jumping like a bobbin on a loom.  

 

A jug of the landlord’s own special sherbet concoction of lemon, sugar and soda powder stood upon a small round table in the corner covered by a crisp white towel. Half a dozen or so tumblers stood above upon a windowsill where a shaft of light hazed by smoke beamed into the dim room. Joseph had told them to drink it quickly because the fizz soon went, but the tumblers remained unused. James had not eaten that day. He could not face food. His stomach was swirming and grew worse when he looked up at the landlord’s sherbet drink; he had tasted it once before at a fair on the village green. Men had been auctioning horses and there were strangers about. That was the time mamma had bought him a penny chapbook from a pedlar and his grandfather had took exception, tossing the “dreadful” on the fireback when they had arrived home.

‘These so called books are frivolous visions created of an idle mind, ’tis the devil’s workshop, the devil’s workshop I say… The Bible is all…’ James could still hear the vitriolic rantings as he sat between his grandmamma and mother Annie.

The devil’s workshop…

The very thought of the word “devil” reminded him of the commotion the previous evening and the crowd of people in the back garden. He was reminded of the man who arrived with a pony and cart and climbed down the well with a rope before heaving it back up with the help of several others. The first thing to appear was the head of the corpse with the dark sunken eyes and blue twisted face of his grandfather. James had looked away but couldn’t help but chuckle; he could not imagine where that had come from.

The laugh…

When he slipped back behind the curtains again, the man was tipping a whole sack of something that looked like salt into the well. Then off he had gone with his pony and cart with the bobby-peeler sitting next to him. James’s mother said they had been off to see Doctor Arbuthnot and to come away from the window. Later, he sneaked another look, and there was a priest, not from the chapel but from a different church. He was wearing a hat with a huge brim and a cassock that reached all the way to the ground. The priest had been walking around the well swinging something around on a chain and singing a prayer:

‘We cry without ceasing, O Lord our father,’ the verses giddily ringing around and around dizzying his thoughts when he closed his eyes. Words like “divine goodness”, and something about “beseeching the Good Lord to sanctify this well of water with his heavenly blessing”.

Neighbours had been watching with gloomy looks on their faces and hands clasped together in prayer. The priest appeared to be asking God for the well to be made pure in every way. Then there was that frightening reference to the devil and about driving away from the well any sign of him or his influences.

Then he had sung words about people who would be drawing water from the well, and that they should possess good health and strength, and, “give praise and gratitude to the good Lord, the Sanctifier, Preserver and Redeemer of all things”. He had finished by chanting a verse he regularly heard and sang every chapel day.

‘…Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’ The priest was carrying a bible…

James suddenly started from his lurid daydream, awakened by the parish constable who could almost have been reading his mind.

‘We’ll all be a swearing upon the good book when we gets summoned up there, boy,’ he remarked. He was sitting opposite with their neighbour and had attempted to slice through the uneasy atmosphere.

The good book… The BIBLE…! James shivered.

 

The witnesses were to be called one by one to the hearing that had now been moved to a convenient assembly room upstairs normally used for family gatherings and lodge meetings. Tables and chairs had been moved together in the centre of the room for the jury. The Right Honourable Albert Stickney JP, and clerk, Amos Scrivener with his cherished writing slope, sat at a small gateleg table positioned at the head of the room. Stickney’s tool of trade was now a gavel.

Witnesses would be summoned by the youngest juror, eager to please and the quickest amongst them. He sat nearest the door which he could approach in a spritely fashion and keep matters moving swiftly.

The gavel crashed down three times.

BANG! BANG! BANG…!

The Acting Deputy Coroner reminded the jury that they were still sworn in then appointed one of them as the foreman. He also reminded them that they had been assembled to establish whether or not there had been any suspicions surrounding the death of the man identified as Guthrie Quenelle.

‘We are here to determine the cause of death. Whether it be a natural visitation of God, a non-intentional accident, or a wilful and wanton disregard for life – be it self-murder, manslaughter, or, the foul and most unnatural murder by another person. It may be that you will be undecided, not being able to unanimously agree. But I will have to say, should there be any suspicion in the slightest of any other than natural causes or accident, our findings will be taken and tried by the Quarter Sessions. And, I must make it quite clear to you that this inquest does not hold the power to convict or point fingers, but only to decide the cause of death.’

Stickney turned to the clerk and whispered over the back of his hand. ‘I reckon I’ve made that clear enough, eh?’ The man nodded and stroked back his greasy hair.

Down came the gavel again.

BANG…!

‘Please call, Constable Jeremiah Halfpenny.’

This was swiftly done, the name repeated loudly down the staircase. Within a minute the man had been sworn in and stood there in full uniform, notebook in hand.

He read directly from his notes which had been written in a manner he thought appropriate.

‘On Thursday last, I was called upon to attend the cottages on Long Furrow Lane, where residents did tell me there was a dead body at the bottom of their well. When finding the bucket would not tip and fill correctly, and finding that there was a foul taste to the water, a lantern was lowered into the said well. A partly submerged corpse was then observed by them. I investigated and found this to be true. I then did call upon Mr Bartholomew Skinner, wellmaster and general engineer, to recover the body. The same was identified by Missus Nellie Quenelle of Primrose Cottage, to be that of ’er ’usband, Guthrie Quenelle, also of Primrose Cottage. I did then accompany Mr Bartholomew Skinner with ’is cart and take the body of the deceased to Doctor Arbuthnot for examination. This ’e did carry out in the rear yard to ’is premises and did then furnish a report which ’e did swear to be true, and duly put ’is signature and seal to it.

‘I did later return for statements from Missus Nellie Quenelle, Anne Asher and ’er son James Meredith Asher, also of Primrose Cottage. I was informed by Missus Quenelle that she ’ad not seen ’er husband since Chapel Sunday last, which ’e had conducted with much vigour and enthusiasm.’ He finished reading from the book and closed it.

‘You questioned the boy…’ Stickney looked enquiringly at the clerk, who fumbled, then passed over a leaf of paper. ‘Errm… James Meredith Asher?’

‘Correct sir – that would be ’im.’

‘He was seen standing near to the well on the Sunday, and for some considerable time, so I understand. What did he have to say about that, constable?’

‘Seemed to be totally confused, somewhat demented, ’e did.  The boy was struggling to get a solitary word out of ’is mouth… some sort of mental seizure if yer asking me. Don’t think ’e dare say boo to a goose – real timid ’e be, sir.’

‘We’ll soon see about that. Thank you constable, you may withdraw to the rear of this room but there is standing room only.’

‘Sir…’ He nodded and obeyed. 

‘I’m now calling Mr Amos Scrivener, clerk, to read out the signed report of Robert Arbuthnot, physician, who examined the body of the deceased… On with it then please if you would, Mr Scrivener…’ Stickney nudged him into action with his elbow then took a sip of brandy.

The small man stood up to a scraping of chair legs on the bare oak boards and commenced reading from a thick paper sheet. It bore the signs of being folded many times and having been sealed with a red blob of sealing wax. The report was supported by a statement of truth which was duly read out. The fabric of the testimony concluded that in his opinion all the injuries could have been sustained by tumbling head first down the well, apart from the slipped flesh on the torso. This, he construed, had been caused by an early onset of putrefaction coupled with constriction of the rope used to winch the body up the shaft. “A most unpleasant job for the man who was called to do it,” Arbuthnot had added.

Both Mrs Quenelle and Mrs Asher were then questioned in turn. They both confirmed that Guthrie was a reticent individual accustomed to periods of solitude when he would disappear for a few days, later saying he had been to “prayer meetings” or to “purchase hides and skins” for his shoemaking. He did not take kindly to prying questions and those close to him had learned to hold their tongues.

 

James Meredith Asher was the last witness to be called. The frightened lad was ushered to the front of the temporary court. From the silence of the snug, he had heard the gavel crash down and his full name called.

BANG! BANG! BANG…!

‘Calling James Meredith Asher…’ The voice was just like an echo bouncing around inside his head; Meredith Asher… Asher… ASHER…

He had been hearing the clomping of boots upon the old oak boards above, hearing the muffled utterings and assertions of the Right Honourable Albert Stickney JP, hearing the repeated bangs of the gavel, but all he was hearing now was a constant ringing in his ears. And then suddenly there right in front of him was one of the largest Holy Bibles he had ever seen! Mouths were moving and saying things he could not perceive, tobacco smoke was swirling and smarting his eyes; acid was rising in his throat.

And then thoughts of his grandfather burst into his head… READ it and HEED it, boy! THUMP!

 

*

 

‘The lad is a gibbering idiot. All we can draw from his testimony, which amounts to absolutely nothing, is that he’s a gibbering idiot!’ The Right Honourable Albert Stickney declared. ‘And, may I venture to add, the constable has already avowed the response to his questioning was very much the same.’

The clerk looked up. ‘There being nothing of use in his testimony, might I strike it from the record, sir?’ His pen hovered as he looked at the boy. A baggy white shirt, old but crisply ironed with a grey neckerchief tucked inside. A black silk band had been stitched into the fabric of the left arm; he was shaking.

‘Aye, Mr Scrivener, I suggest he’s wholly incompetent at giving sworn evidence. He’s somewhat mentally disabled, it’s more like a trial by ordeal – as much for me as it is for the boy, delirious as he is.’ Stickney hammered down his gavel.

BANG!

‘Witness dismissed!’ he bellowed, to the relief of young James.

By now the attentiveness of the jurymen was much to be desired. The hops had made them lethargic. Albert Stickney began to sum up, beginning with the physician’s evidence.

‘All the injuries could have been sustained by tumbling head first down the well,’ he emphasised. ‘From down there he drew his dying breath, possibly whilst unconscious, thus taking water into his lungs, just as the doctor had found and reported. That is perfectly indicative of drowning.’

Then he spoke of the wellhead mechanism, the weight of the wooden pail when laden with water and the recoil of the handle which had no means of locking it whilst removing the heavy vessel.

‘Could the deceased have been dragged down the well by the weight of the pail as he leaned over and removed it from the hook? Could he have stumbled; overbalanced I ask you? Or, could indeed Guthrie Quenelle have had the misfortune to have been cracked on the head by the jumping back of the handle thus causing him to topple into the well whilst unconscious? The wall height of the said well is only a matter of twenty-four inches or so…  

‘…I must also remind you of the seriousness of self-murder, which I myself think a most unlikely action from a man of God, a preacher, a clean-living man with no apparent enemies!’ He pursed his lips and twitched.

The sanctimonious old bastard, he thought.

BANG!

Down came the gavel.

‘I’ll give you good men of the jury a few minutes to deliberate on the matter, and your foreman will indicate when you have reached a verdict.’ Stickney rocked back in his chair, slipped his half-hunter pocket watch from his waistcoat pocket, and eyed it. The time was two o’clock, and he was not the only one eager to have Quenelle’s stinking corpse removed and put six feet under the sweet daisies. He took another sip.

The jurymen’s heads moved, muttered and mumbled for the whole of two minutes before the foreman raised his hand.

BANG!

Down came the gavel. ‘You have come to a verdict Mr foreman?’

‘Yes we have, sir…’

‘Give me that verdict…’

‘We find the cause of Guthrie Quenelle’s death most likely accidental, sir.’

‘Only “most likely accidental”…? Can the jury be more specific?’ His tone was authoritative.

The foreman turned to the jury. Time was getting on. There was a round of whisperings and nods then he again turned to the Acting Deputy Coroner and replied in a much weaker voice this time.

‘Accidental death, sir.’

BANG! BANG! BANG…!

Down came the gavel hard and fast, barely as the man had finished announcing the jury’s verdict.

‘Hear me, hear me: I declare the inquest into the death of Guthrie Quenelle, part-time preacher, and cordwainer of this parish has returned a verdict of accidental death. Thank you jurymen for your most valued time, you’re now dismissed. You may collect your stipend from my man here…’

He gave the clerk a nudge. ‘A florin apiece, Mr Scrivener, if you would be so kind.’ There was now a jump in his voice and he could not resist banging the gavel down again.

BANG!  

How wrong the verdict was…

BELIEVE ME!

Back cover blurb:

When Ben McVeigh moves to Norfolk to escape the high maintenance memory of Sally Peters he has little idea that the silence of the place will soon be broken in a most unexpected way.

He is contacted by the legal department of a large multinational energy company, “Genélan” with a request to recover a badly damaged Mercedes from an old barn in a village about ten miles or so away from his home. Ben is tasked with examining the car and supplying an engineer’s report with secrecy being the order of the day.

But soon the mystery of the crashed Merc will include the discovery of an old chart and a silver box and the way will be open for Ben McVeigh to embark on an investigation involving sunken islands, the Knights Templar, missing treasure and foreign agents, not to mention the discovery of a new soulmate. 

 

 

Believe Me! The Lost Treasure of the Templars...  a taster, try it out!

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

At first he was convinced things would be alright; comfortable, relaxed and free from the rowdy hassle of the city. He was almost enjoying the quiet seclusion of North Norfolk, so different from his native Nottingham.

Almost enjoying it, but not entirely...

Something was missing. Although he had formed an excellent relationship with next-door neighbours Jackie and Jonathan Stone, he found that loneliness had sharp teeth and bit hard, particularly when the door of his cottage was shut of an evening.

A prisoner! The explosion of silence – deafening!

The occasional muted bump of a door or muffled laughter from next door only went to remind him of his isolation. Others were having fun, but definitely not him! No female interaction, no hugs, no intimacy – no sex! The only thing available to Ben McVeigh was imagination, or the occasional girlie magazine. And that made him feel guilty, dirty even.

Before finally deciding to move to Norfolk he had been in a steady relationship. She almost became a fixture, his fiancée, but as things worked out, a most embarrassing incident finally put paid to that; embarrassing in one respect, but in reality most fortunate for Ben. It had been a lucky escape from a life hanging on the frail tenterhooks of infidelity. On her part that is. Ben was as sound as a pound.

Sally Peters had been high maintenance. It required more than a few peanuts to rock her cradle, a whole Carter load if truth be known. She had been a butterfly, flitting about with no apparent direction until briefly settling on her latest fad: another point of interest – another conquest – another man of the moment…

Ben had politely concluded she was a free spirit, incapable of monogamy or full commitment. That’s how she was; he knew she couldn’t help it. However, his opinion of her now was not so polite, especially when primordial instinct raised its raging head. He would fantasise about Sally, and the times when they had laid together consumed by animal impulse – the nitty-gritty requirement of existence itself.

The essential but uncontrollable urge of the beastie!

It had been that unfortunate incident with the Hiatt handcuffs that finally convinced him to break their relationship.


 

 

 

Chapter 1

Spring 2007, Norfolk

 

 

The appointed rendezvous was the old Norfield Quarry. This had been abandoned over two decades earlier when aggregate abstraction had become unprofitable. Larger, more modern equipment and progressive management had given competitors a serious financial advantage over the small family-run business. Lack of investment, too many family members extracting more from their bank than the terrain finally put paid to the operation. “Norfield Aggregates Ltd” was no more. The shareholders had long since imposed their lethargy on more profitable endeavours elsewhere.

The lone rider pulled alongside the gates to the disused quarry, cocked his leg over, and dismounted his machine. He pulled the bike onto its stand, removed his gauntlets placing them on the seat; the engine patiently idling, awaiting instructions, rocking rhythmically. Rickety gates secured the entrance, fabricated from old scaffold tubes welded together and in-filled with heavy steel mesh; the sort used to reinforce concrete. The whole lot was in an advanced state of corrosion, any protective coating long gone. A white sign displaying faded red lettering: “NO ENTRY, DEEP WATER”, hung haphazardly to the left of the structure. A heavy chain in the centre secured the gates together. The rider was a “prospect”: a prospective candidate, recruit, initiate into a secret biker organisation.

This’s it; looks deserted though…

He pulled the chain through the steel mesh creating a heavy clanking as he gained access to the padlock fastening the chain. A shower of flaking rust fell to the sandy track peppering the stinking-nanny weeds that had sprung up on the otherwise barren ground. As advised, the padlock key was in situ and only required turning to release the mechanism. This done, he pulled the gate open just enough to allow him to push his bike through, then shut it turning the key as instructed, tossing it into a rain-barrel at the side of an old corrugated iron shed to the left of the gateway. The barrel was full to the brim. Plop – The key had gone! He was now inside, his exit blocked!

No friggin turning back now…

The rider donned his gloves, remounted his machine and negotiated the bumpy track leading around a rocky outcrop until he reached a harsh, desolate clearing. The topography was almost extra-terrestrial, the whole area storm-grey in colour, pock-marked by bottomless pits of cobalt blue water. The recruit hoped the intense colour was due to the reflection of the cloudless deep-blue sky, but had concern it might be the result of some toxic mineral leaching in.

An old earth-moving machine lay abandoned and rusting on a flat bed of shingle next to one of the larger watery craters. It bore the only sign of life, a lone black crow standing atop, preening feebly under a raised wing. Trees, bushes and vegetation were noticeably absent.

It looks deserted… No bugger about!

The rider paused at the rim of the largest pit, balancing his motorbike with one booted leg propping the idling machine; his other foot covered the gear selector in preparation. He raised his visor and with gauntleted hand shielded his eyes from the early morning sun. He surveyed the panorama; wisps of haze rose from the dark pool – malevolent phantoms expectant of a sinister happening. The crow took flight.

The prospect was just speculating what vile things lay at the very bottom of the deep water when a low humming noise similar to swarming bees became apparent. Louder, closer, and lower the noise came until fluctuations in the tone revealed individual thumping sounds of high-powered bike engines. Each machine sounded like a jack-hammer echoing around the scarred craters as the riders negotiated the undulated terrain. The engines cut simultaneously at exactly the appointed time – silence, apart from the pathetic throb of the recruit’s bike. He pulled his gauntlet back and nervously looked at his watch.

It’s true then that they’re sticklers for time…

A pack of black leather-clad riders on black motorcycles lined up on the far rim of the crater, arms outstretched clenching ape-hanger bars. Their dark glossy machines and chromium accessories reflected the bright, sunny vista transforming the riders into a string of incandescent cormorants hanging their wings to dry. A rider in the centre of the group stood out from the others. He sat proudly on a gold-plated Harley, the burnished metal blazing in the morning sun – a magnificent alpha on shimmering steed.

He was positioned slightly forward of the others and extended his left arm in a form of salute to the recruit. The biker slowly looked to his right and then to his left. His mirror-style visor remained down, face totally hidden, but as he turned his head, silver “SS” symbols could be seen either side of his storm-trooper helmet.

Satan’s Soldiers!

A forked woolly beard protruded from below the head-protection gear and moved gently in the light breeze.  He lowered his left arm, bending and crossing it across loops of gold chains dangling on his chest. He punched a clenched fist to his heart. All was done with a stiff, orderly movement. The prospective recruit shuddered.

Up shit-creek without a paddlereckon I’ve backed up the wrong alley here…


 

 Available at Austin Macauley book publishers & Amazon.com 

THE BLADE

Back cover blurb:

When Ben McVeigh moves to Norfolk to escape the greedy tentacles of femme-fatale Sally Peters, he has no idea he will soon be pursued by a splinter group of the Mukhabarat, a Middle-Eastern military intelligence secret service. They are intent on recovering an ancient Arab blade that has fallen into the possession of Ben's neighbour, Jonathan Stone.

 

The two young men become fugitives from the law after the body of an attractive young girl is found behind Ben's cottage.  Stephan Robert Thornhill, a police inspector known as "Bostik Bobby", knows he can make the charges stick no matter what, but why does he need to?  What connection does the blade have with the Knights Templar?  How did it possibly change the course of history?  It leads Ben and Jonathan on a desperate battle to prove their innocence, and to a surprising revelation for a young acquaintance. 

Lulu Bookstore, Barnes & Noble etc... ISBN 978-1-4834-7393-2 (sc) ISBN978-1-4834-7392-5 (e)

http://lulu.com/spotlight/The_Blade

Order direct from publisher...

Prologue 

 

‘I’m sure he’s got ADHD! Never listens to anything I say; in cloud cuckoo-land I reckon – then starts this here hyper-thingamajig.’

‘Well, that is the nature of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,’ she said.

‘Do you reckon there’s anything I can do about it?’

‘No, I think you’ll just have to accept that’s how he is, Sir,’ she said.

‘So you can’t recommend any sort of therapy, then?’

‘You’re talking about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy,’ she said. She giggled.

‘Yeah – I’ve tried talking to him, tried changing the way he thinks… you know, paint word pictures, slowly but surely catch his attention, but he doesn’t seem to know what I’m saying; definitely aloof in a world of his own I’m afraid!’

She giggled. 

‘I don’t think talking would do any good whatsoever in this case, but you could try altering his diet, Sir,’ she said. 

‘…His diet?  He certainly is a very faddy eater!’

‘Yes, it’s a fact that food colourings, additives, sugar, can cause problems – he may be intolerant to something in his food; poor nutrition can cause all sorts of complications,’ she said.

‘So, could a change of diet also control his symptoms of OCD?  He seems to have that as well…’  

‘Obsessive – Compulsive Disorder you say; what makes you think that, Sir,’ she said.

He kept a straight face. She did not. She giggled. 

‘Yeah, just between you and me, he has this repetitive thingy – some sort of ritual, I reckon. No matter what I say or do, I don’t seem to be able to stop him fidgeting; rapidly rocking his head backwards and forwards with his tongue sticking out!’

She giggled. She picked up a folder… The patient’s name…?

She suddenly, became aware her colleagues had made a simple error of identification. Sir Wilfred Scarlett was the large Maine-Coon ginger tomcat. The man… was just a man! 

Better tell my staff it’s the cat who’s called Sir – they keep on addressing this chav as Sir Wilfred…! 

‘Anyway, it’s not a ritual – he’s doing what we call “grooming” if you ask me. And about the flea problem, just put this preparation on the back of the cat’s neck – not your own…’  She tittered.

‘Okay, m’dear – but I call it playing-the-harp…’

This guy’s crazy…

‘Is that about everything Mr… errm?’ She slid the folder across her desk, traced the print at the top of the page with her forefinger; ‘Mr… errm, Ben McVeigh?’

 

*

 

Abednego McVeigh hated his name. To him it was a source of humiliation; he preferred to be known simply as Ben. His father had bestowed the odd name on him in recognition of a distant ancestor – a legendary Nottinghamshire prize fighter known as “Bendigo”, a corruption of “Abednego”. His father had been a consummate devotee of pugilism. Unfortunately, most of Ben’s close friends had been quite aware of his real name. When speaking of him but certainly not to him, would refer to him as “Bendy”. The nick-name was a million miles from reality because once Ben McVeigh had mentally deliberated, his mind was set in granite and it could not be moved.

 

Cocks on sticks, hard, sticky, sweet, vibrant candy lollies shaped like cockerels, he remembered them well. Mushy peas cooked on an open brazier with lashings of mint sauce and hotdogs and burgers, their meaty derivations just that little more dubious. Goose Fair, Ben recollected; that hotchpotch confusion of stalls and roundabouts crowned by the big wheel and helter-skelter. Thoughts came flooding back as he twiddled the little bronze token in his pocket.   

The fair, held once a year in October went back around seven-hundred years or so – originally a market for selling fattened geese herded from the surrounding areas. As times changed, it had become a huge fairground site operated by travelling showmen, gypsies… and thieves.

Ben, and his pal Twinkle, had begun their merry jaunt at The Hall of Mirrors. Nothing was as it seemed. Cheeky boyish faces taking on comical shapes, hoots of laughter and glee. Their joviality had been short lived, however, replaced by the extreme opposite… terror. It was the ride on the Waltzer. Giddily spinning, bucking and tossing about as swarthy roughnecks, slapped the carriages and collected fares. It was that one ride that had kicked off Ben McVeigh’s dislike of tattoos. He had passed over a twenty pound note, but the heavily tattooed low-life failed to return any change. That was it! Ben’s loud protestations alerted the stall owner, who instantly materialised and sacked the man on the spot. The roustabout, wearing a heavily stained string vest, had arms like totem poles – covered in tattoos to such an extent that no bare skin could be seen from his “love-hate” knuckles to the “cut here” dotted line across his carotid. The large peak of his frayed baseball cap hid the upper part of his gnarled face, looking much like something belonging on a rubbish tip. The cap that is…

The worthy showman, who had sacked the man, had offered profound apologies. He returned all Ben’s money and gave him a consoling gift of a strange coin before returning swiftly to his punters. The roughneck remained unobserved in the shadows. Ben had not seen him lurking behind the cock-on-a-stick stall waiting for revenge until… 

…BENDY – WATCH OUT!!!’ His school pal Twinkle suddenly screamed at the top of his voice. 

The cry had been lost in the din and racket of the fair as his young pal grabbed his arm hauling him in the direction of the exit two hundred yards away. The thug, although having teeth black to the core, was obviously agile and only a few feet behind as the two young lads clawed, scrambled and slid through the crowded fairground; a mud bath from a recent shower of rain. 

A drum solo pounded inside Ben’s heaving chest as he ran for his life… coloured flashing lights, diesel smells from large static generators intermingling with hot dogs, burgers, fried onions and rancid hot fat… 

Smoky, rancid hot fat –Gonna be SICK…!

Must get away – run for it – faster – FASTER…!

He looked back and saw that the thug had overtaken his pal and was hell-bent on catching his prey. God that’s me! – He’s after KILLING ME…!

Ben’s head was spinning. Faster – faster – FASTER!  Each carousel played a different tune competing against its rival. Louder – louder – LOUDER…! A cacophony of jumbled melodies crashing into his head…

Mind swimming, cheeks on fire, legs turning to lead, and pain in his stomach – out of breath – stitch.

Rancid hot FAT…! 

The deafening commotion: discordant sound of hurdy-gurdy punch-card music, the inane shrieking laugh of an automaton clown – the ting of lead pellets hitting tin men – the metallic slap of them tumbling back… dead. 

Louder – louder – louder – LOUDER! 

A hand from behind spun him round… ‘HEY… you all right, son?’ 

He turned to see, to his relief, a policeman. Fortunately the roughneck had disappeared along with his tattoos, frayed cap and snarling mouth of decaying teeth, the nasty experience only returning in nightmares. Although held every year on his doorstep, he would never again go to Goose Fair as a youngster, or would he know the significance of the showman’s mysterious little bronze gift for many years later.

But that was years ago, must get over it, even my dentist’s got tatts… be the vicar next… Huh, Rev Hallett, as if…! He thought, as he gave the little coin in his pocket another twiddle.

 

 

*

 

He had been in his early twenties before returning to the event – a couple of local lads tagging along. They dared him to have-a-go in Ron Taylor’s Boxing Booth. He had floored his opponent in the first round with a left hook to the Habsburg – the stunned gypsy had not known what day to get up. They gathered him from the canvas like a jellyfish – his bloody nose a shipwrecked rudder guiding him beyond oblivion, as he was stretchered through the curtains. His working week had been put on more than temporary hold by Mr Ben McVeigh! 

After the experience with the roughneck, and with pressure from his father, Ben, had joined a local gym and taken up boxing. The intention had been to get hardened up a touch, and it had worked. The only thing that bothered him nowadays was loneliness. Loneliness caused by his relocation to Norfolk. That had all started, and finished, with his altercation with Sally Peters. Over her cuffing him to the bed… stark-naked!  To his horror, his mother had burst in on him accompanied by Sally’s mother – she seemed to have enjoyed the experience. He had managed to push that fiasco to the back of his mind, but now, Sally had taken things further – her latest vindictive stunt had pitched Ben McVeigh into utter humiliation, leaving him the laughing stock of Hogsthorpe.

Spite, that’s what it was…! Pure bloody-minded spite! He had concluded.


 

Chapter 1

 

 

December 2006, Norfolk, England.

 

Ben had moved to Spring Cottage earlier in the summer, intent on escaping his femme-fatale, Sally Peters. The Cottage was ancient, like most other vernacular dwellings in the village of Hogsthorpe, North Norfolk. The main construction was of random rubble, a fabrication of flints and baked red clays, roughly held together with lime mortar – so roughly, that Ben thought it unlikely the builders had possessed neither plumb-line nor level. In sleepy Hogsthorpe, he thought he was well away from tattooed gum-chewers, thugs in tatty baseball caps, and… Sally Peters.

Wrong…!

Now it seemed her sordid tentacles had no bounds. She had discovered his hideaway. How, he had no idea.  

The incident had been unforgettable for the locals, particularly his new neighbours, Jonathan and Jackie Stone. They had lived next door in April Cottage for a couple of years since inheriting it from Jonathan’s grandmother. Initially, the debacle had convinced them and the locals that Ben was a sexually depraved pervert; debauched – a degenerate townie! They began to worry who actually had moved in next door.

 Ben could not even hazard a guess where Sally had obtained his new address, but obtain it she most certainly had. And the scheduling had been absolute perfection. Saturday morning, Christmas carol practice – the innocent angelic tones of the choir drifting from the church hall, “A Virgin Unspotted” just fading out, then a couple of clicks from the choirmaster’s batten summoning the chirpy upbeat of “Good King Wenceslas” to break out across the pastoral landscape. Reverend Hallett, a pleasant smile on his face, had dismounted his pedal-cycle and was graciously chatting to a lady parishioner before the twice-a-day village bus entered the scene. All was flawlessly timed. 

‘Heavens above – in my parish of all places – I can’t believe what I’m seeing! God help us, has the man no shame?’ The vicar exclaimed. He attempted to cover the parishioner’s eyes with the palm of his hand as he studied the incident with growing shock.

…And curiosity. 

For the next few months, everyone had kept their distance, sniggering and nudging behind Ben’s back. He was beginning to wish he had never come to the village at all. Sally Peters had almost won; struck a mortally vicious blow, and he knew it was her. The postcard had arrived the following week.

It was not until later, that an incident at the local pub brought Ben, and his next-door neighbour, Jonathan, together. Then after, the word had spread like wildfire that Ben was a sound chap – an okay guy with the misfortune to get involved with a city cow. Well, that might have been what was meant when whispered by the village elders through loose dentures…

 

He had been sitting alone at the bar having a pint. The pub was about half full, couples dining and mates imbibing the hops after a hard day. A couple of louts had ordered toad-in-the-hole from the slightly-built, attractive barmaid, and were getting more agitated by each passing minute as they waited for their gastronomic delight. Comments were getting more frequent, louder and more vulgar, the senseless tirade directed towards the poor defenceless girl. A silence started creeping over the place.

‘Where’s that tart? Hey you, it’s about bloody time we got our toad-in-the-hole ain’t it? We’re bloody sick of waiting. Tell that bloody cock-jockey in the kitchen to get his finger out!’

Ben had interjected: ‘Okay, okay pal, wind your neck in, it’s worth waiting for – all cooked from fresh, mate.’ He noticed the heavy tattoos on the back of the man’s hands – his hackles started rising…

Then the tirade: ‘What’s it gorra do with you yer nonce?  You wanna keep yer feckin’ nose out before I spread the fecker across yer face,’ the man snarled as he gesticulated in the air with his fist before converting it to a two-finger salute.

‘You’d better calm down a tad before I get cheffy to put a toad in your hole!’ Ben was riled. 

The clacking of knives and forks on porcelain suddenly dropped deathly quiet. All eating stopped. The barmaid was stunned into silence; Jonathan Stone looked on, backing further away towards the safety of the gent’s urinal… 

The lout exploded from his stool with such force, that it toppled backwards and clattered to the stone floor. He leaped towards Ben’s table and grabbed his coat lapels dragging his face towards him. It was less than a foot away. He belched sulphur, pushed Ben back into his seat and took a swing. It missed. Ben ducked, sprang from his seat and managed to catch the next punch in his palm; the table went over… ‘I think you’re just about to leave, tosser!’ He growled, twisting the man’s wrist behind his back and restraining him in a headlock. The lout’s colleague rose from the table preparing to engage. ‘Yer feckin…’ his words were silenced by Ben, who slammed his right heel backwards into the man’s gonads. He screamed; Ben smirked.   

Bring it on…

The yob went gorilla trying to free himself, as his mate hopped about clutching his crotch. By that time, Chef Gérard had opened the door from the kitchen and was timidly peering through, cleaver in hand. Jonathan Stone’s eyes were on stalks peering around the urinal door. Ben’s shocked audience was frozen silent as they watched him kick the door open and eject the drunkard – a persuasive shiny brogue up his jacksie. The man’s squeal when crashing down on the flagstones outside indicated considerable injury; his arm had remained twisted behind his back on landing. The lout would not return, his legs transporting him at great speed with right arm dangling like a marionette with a snapped string. The other man shot from the establishment as though the first course had been Senna-pod soup!

Ben returned to a round of applause. ‘Floor show over folks…’ He called, briskly sweeping his hands together as though dusting away dirt. He righted the furniture, turned and winked at the barmaid, ‘I hear you’ve an excellent toad-in-the-hole on this evening. I also understand the waiting time is only a couple of minutes or so, would that be correct, sweetheart?’ Ben stood there with a grin. He looked across the room. ‘Neighbour, would you like to join me – my treat?’ He called over to Jonathan, who was still positioned halfway through the door to the gents’. The inoffensive, bashful artist-come-writer, Jonathan Stone, was trapped; he could not refuse. With comforting cleaver in hand, Chef Gérard retreated to the safety of the kitchen to put the final touches to his perfect toad-in-the-hole.  

That was the time villagers started altering their opinion of Ben McVeigh, and understanding it might be prudent to keep on the right side of him. Even Chef Gérard had taken a fancy. And, to her grave misfortune, the pretty stripling of a barmaid, Jessica, was also beginning to like him; like him very much…


 

Chapter 2 

 

The chill of a cold winter evening had persuaded Jonathan to light a fire in Ben McVeigh’s multi-burner to warm the place up – a friendly gesture to a good neighbour he had now grown to know well. A handful of kindling, couple of well-seasoned split logs and good shovel of smokeless cobbles.

Lighter… He patted his pockets. Matches…? He looked along the hearth and saw that Ben had left his lighter next to the scuttle. He lit the tinder and pulled the damper out. Job done…

Ben’s profession of consulting automotive engineer had taken him over to Nottingham, to re-examine the wreckage of a car for Gascoigne, Scargill and Bond, Solicitors. He was to be expected back later in the evening. The solicitors had previously engaged him to carry out a full inspection and supply a written report regarding the damage and possible cause of the accident. It now seemed that the case was going to Crown Court and he needed to be sure of himself.

Jonathan picked up a magazine, flicked through it, and waited for the fire to take hold; racy… he thought. Hogged-up in Hogsthorpe, poor chap, he mused. He was brought suddenly to his senses when he heard the sound of a car pulling into the drive, so quickly tucked it behind the cushion where he had found it… very quickly. Spicy one that…

Jonathan poked the fire, and turned his attention to the surroundings: the main oak ceiling beam hung with an old coach horn, a brass-handled dress sword with ornate handle bearing the letters “VR” and various horse brasses. A large oil painting hung over the fireplace strangely depicting a ferocious looking bull incongruously surrounded by gentle lambs. Each side of the bull-and-lamb painting hung old cap-lock pistols and a flintlock blunderbuss. Jonathan was running his fingers against the cold barrel of the blunderbuss just as the back door opened. Ben, had returned home earlier than had been expected, he caught his neighbour standing there admiring the old gun. It had obviously caught his attention after attending to the stove, or so it had appeared.     

 ‘Hi Ben, you have a good journey, boy?’ Jonathan asked as he casually stroked the wooden stock of the gun.

‘Yeah, not much traffic – well not until I got to the Lynn by-pass anyway. Flaming snarl up with road works; blokes leaning on shovels watching others doing nothing, and a one-armed plod directing traffic round an RTA!’ He replied.

‘I was just admiring your old flintlock blunderbuss…’ He fibbed. A saucy mag that one – I wonder what happened to that other thing… He picked up the poker and proceeded to casually poke the fire.

‘Got the gun from Newark Antique Market last year,’ Ben replied. ‘Reckon it’s an East-India Company gun… possibly an anti-boarding gun. They reckon that by the mid seventeenth century it was the largest and richest private company in the world. They’d over forty five thousand staff and probably a couple of hundred or more ships including warships and private soldiers. All that to bring us curry, my friend… they made a fortune in spices before going into gold, silver, silk and stuff!’ he blabbed on to a not-much-interested Jonathan Stone – his mind was elsewhere. ‘And opium – the black spice of China…’ He sharpened his words attempting to draw his attention. Jonathan closed the stove door, placed the poker to the side and rubbed his hands.

‘China, you say… talking about China, I’ve just had a funny experience with some bone china,’ he mumbled recalling the previous Sunday. Dare I let him know what a plonker I’ve been? 

‘What’s that then, Jonno?’ Ben had picked up his unease.

Jonathan awkwardly started to describe his latest exploit at a Sunday market at Ruston Creek, just a few miles away.

Ben listened intently, ‘speak up – you’re not in the confessional, mate.’

‘Well Ben, reckon I’ve been a bit of a bloody fool really,’ Jonathan grunted, with a nervous stroke of his dark shoulder-length hair. ‘Real wazzock, truth be known.’

Ben grinned broadly, ‘already know that, Jonno, but what’s suddenly convinced you?’ He laughed and reached for a large stoppered flask containing home-brew. He loosened the cap; it fizzed gently. ‘A little drop…?’ Summat’s bothering him to be sure… 

‘…Oh, well, go on then – twist my arm,’ Jonathan replied. He settled down in an armchair. 

‘Here we go, mate,’ Ben reached to the shelf opposite the fireplace, took two pewter tankards and started to fill them. He passed him one, filled to the brim.

Jonathan continued in a matter-of-fact manner. ‘You know that old Crown Derby tea service, the one on my Welsh dresser?  Well it was all wrong; incomplete – could only ever display five cups and saucers – one of the cups got smashed back in gran’s day when Samson, her cat, knocked it off the ruddy shelf!  Forever getting into places it shouldn’t. Could never get on with the thing – forever having to knock it out of the chair when I wanted a sit down, then ended up with heat-bumps all over my ass, well that’s what I thought they were until I found they were ruddy flea-bites…’

He’s blethering, come on Jonno… what’re you trying to tell me?

Jonathan subconsciously scratched his rear. 

‘Bloody cottage, ended up infested…’

‘Not using that stuff you put on the back of their necks that’s your trouble… gets rid of worms and all.’ Ben made a point of staring at Jonathan’s backside where he had scratched it.

‘Watch it Ben,’ he chortled.

‘Jonno – get on with it – fess up – what’ve you gone and done?’

‘Getting back to China, Jackie spotted a cup and saucer on the market; really good nick – exact pattern, and I thought we’d struck lucky. The trader offered a reasonable deal, and really chuffed, I brought it home. But, when we got back, I found we’d been turned over. Nothin’ of much value mind you, just gran’s old China. Reckon it must’ve been earlier that morning. I’d left a window open a bit – just to clear the condensation and air the place – the dresser’s just opposite the window as you know.’ 

‘…Down to solo tea parties then, mate, eh!’

‘Look you here, boy, things seemed to sort themselves out – well in a fashion, anyways. This ale’s a bit strong, Ben…’ Christ…more like barley friggin wine...

Ben kept topping Jonathan’s tankard up. He did not like the idea of burglars in Hogsthorpe – he thought he had left that well behind in Nottingham. ‘You say that things were sorted “in a fashion”… what do you mean by that?’

‘Yeah, eventually sorted in a way that benefits me, Ben, well I reckon so, anyway,’ Jonathan muttered. 

‘How’s that…?’ He doesn’t seem so sure…

‘Well it went like this. Goes to the Ruston Creek market again early last Sunday whilst Jackie did breakfast, and there was another Derby cup and saucer on the same stall. Dealer told me she’d three more besides if I wanted ’em, making four in all.’

‘So you managed to make the set up to five again then, Jonno. No better off – still one short, then.’

‘Yes and no! That’s when the whole ruddy thing started to stink a bit. Well, rather a lot really. I began to realise we’d more than likely bought our own cup and saucer the week before. What’s more, a small mark in the bottom of one of the cups confirmed it. You see, whoever the burglar was, must’ve pinched the friggin gear and whipped it straight round to the market, getting rid before anyone wised up the stuff was nicked!’

‘God’s strewth, what did you do about that then? I hope you grassed her up.’

‘I didn’t have the heart.’

‘What are yer like, Jonno – you big softy…’ 

‘No harm done anyway,’ he replied. ‘In the end I got all my money and the stuff back, and more besides. The trader said she’d bought it in good faith half an hour earlier from a young woman. One she described as being spotty and wearing a baseball cap.’

‘Could’ve guessed – a bloody baseball cap, tatts and chewing gum, I’ll bet. But what do you mean by “more besides”?’ 

‘Well it was like this – the stall holder was in tears; dead upset – begged and pleaded with me not to report it. She promised to give me a fancy dagger – a nice old antique jobby I’d been looking at; said it was compensation.’ 

‘And?’ questioned Ben. 

‘Well I took her up on it, but then started to wonder if the dagger was nicked as well!’ 

Ben made a tutting noise. ‘You walked right into that one… get it back to her sharpish; handle first if you know what I mean. If you don’t, you could feel the sharp-end of the law and get done for receiving, Jonno… qui facit per alium facit per se!’ 

‘…Per what?  What’s all that crap about, Ben?’

‘A principle in law, m’duck; it means that somebody who acts through others acts through himself and in the case of a thief, is just as guilty – or more so. Just think about it, if there wasn’t anybody receiving nicked goods then the thief wouldn’t have a bloody job!’ Ben shook his head and threw an unsettling glance at Jonathan.

‘So you reckon I’d best get it back to her then?’

‘…As I said, sharpish, my friend…’            

‘Well, seeing its Sunday tomorrow, I’d better pop down the market, have a word – see what’s going off, boy. Fancy tagging along, Ben? I could do with a bit of moral support and all that; perhaps nip for a pint or so after if you feel like it.’

‘It’d be a bit of a change I suppose, get me out of the cottage wouldn’t it now,’ Ben replied, uncertain what he was letting himself in for.

‘Reckon it’d be best nipping over in my Land Rover, it’ll save shunting motors about first thing in the morning – just park your motor so I can get mine out in the morning, boy,’ Jonathan continued in his soft Norfolk drawl.

‘Yeah, sensible… they’ve forecast rain – the field could be a quagmire.’ Ben thought it was indeed a good idea to go in Jonathan’s four-by-four. His own ride was a rebuilt Austin Healey 3,000 – a brawny thoroughbred packing plenty of grunt, but very low slung.  

With that, Jonathan, drained his tankard and made his apologies for leaving. ‘Must skidaggle, Jackie’ll wonder where I’ve got to, and if we’re booting tomorrow…’

‘Okay mate, nine o’ clock sharp then, cheers for now…’

‘Oh, and by the way, you’re getting a bit short on smokeless cobbles,’ Jonathan advised as he was going through the door.

‘Tar, Jonno, I’ll order some first thing Monday – good night, and see you first thing tomorrow.’

He stumbled round to April Cottage, hazarding trailing brambles, to find the rickety interconnecting gate. The heavy curtains to Spring Cottage prevented any illumination to the back yard, and apart from masses of silvery pinpricks above, it was as black as the inside of a sweep’s wallet. Ben was just thinking how early it had got dark since putting the clocks back earlier in the month, when he heard muffled cursing, followed by breaking twigs. He laughed and realised what had happened. The words, ‘blessed cat’ were the clue.

On arriving home earlier, Ben, had observed Sir Wilfred strutting around the gardens swanking his huge racoon-like tail to any local feline interested in combat or bawling contest. He quietly lifted the latch and allowed the animal in, opened a tin of tuna, which was most gratefully received, and poured a single-malt nightcap. Ben stood warming in front of the wood-burning stove, deep in contemplation. A fancy ancient dagger, on a ramshackle market… what’s that all about, I wonder…? Best he gets rid.

 

Chapter 3

 

 

 

 Elliott Judd was a strange character, both in looks and actions. He was a loner, preferring to keep his own counsel. Anyway, he did not need anyone else and considered he never really did. He was born in Norwich in the late eighties, after his mother fled from North Halsham, three months pregnant, not daring to tell. Without lease or rent book, she had squatted in a disused office above a dry cleaning and laundrette business and was only known by her first name, May. No one knew her surname. May would help out in the laundrette on a casual basis, cash-in-hand, when the Iranian proprietor had to go out on his very frequent “business trips”. He had considered her a good front, having a local accent and being good at keeping herself to herself. That was until the natural course of events resulted in a patron of the laundrette ringing the emergency services for assistance when May went into labour. She had collapsed on the floor, and being on her own, had instructed the ambulance crew to lock the shop and post the keys through the letter box, thinking she was lucky that the one remaining customer of the day had just finished his laundry.

May had been trapped in her lonely tenure less flat, hoping that one day she would return to North Halsham, to her kith and kin, apparently the same young girl who had left to do her own thing. She would have the child adopted into a good Christian family, she thought, and in the meantime keep in touch with her lover and her own family by weekly letters, which after a while dwindled to monthly, eventually petering out as depression set in. 

Looking out of her bedsit window, she would see and hear the banter of revellers entering the Cross Keys pub across the road; hear them being merry and making fun. Others would just hang around outside the main door, indulging their ciggy addiction, glass in hand saving their drink from being nicked or spiked in their absence. She would observe the movement of young lovers walking arm-in-arm, older folk drawn by habit, men with pool cues and then eventually she would see the lights go out, as the publican closed and locked up. She would observe all this whilst subconsciously rubbing the small silver trinket on the chain around her neck. It was ornate, embellished with swirling circular designs and had been given to her by her lover, who had promised to replace it with a ring. But of course, by now, his letters were just a memory.   

Next door to the Cross Keys stood a stone built pseudo-gothic styled building which had originally been a bank. This had been taken over by a company called May, Judd & Matheson, Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths. Clients entering those premises usually had a completely different look on their faces to those of the pub: timid expectation, sorrowful distress, or plain indifference, and when leaving: anger, condemnation, or disgust. May had often wondered if this had been due to their actual circumstance, or whether the fee had been disproportionate to the outcome. She thought possibly there had been no outcome at all, apart from a hefty bill. Nevertheless it had comforted her a little, thinking that her Christian name, and by God she was a Christian, was there on the opposite side of the road emblazoned in gold copperplate script. It directly faced her window, “May”, it declared! “…May, Judd & Matheson!” This gave her strength and fortitude, a sign from God. May, you are not going to have an abortion, it would be murder!    

 On May’s admission to hospital, and her wish to preserve anonymity, she gave her name as May Judd, considering it a sign from the Almighty. She passed away shortly after a complicated delivery exacerbated by the total lack of pre-natal care, medical history and undiagnosed preeclampsia. The only thing of value she had left behind for her new-born was the small silver trinket – a gift from the child’s father who by now was history. The surgeon overseeing the birth, and saving Judd’s life (but losing his mother’s) was called Doctor Jane Elliott. So the staff called the child Elliott, this being duly registered as Judd’s first name. Like all names, the bearer has no choice in the matter and is reliant on those who go before to bestow upon them something sensible.

It could have been worse, Judd had thought, when told of his origins. It could have been Jane… ha, ha, Jane… what a fucking thought! But who the fuck am I really…? I must be somebody. Fact is… nobody, can be nobody…

 

Elliott Judd was fostered to a family named Pratt, and he certainly did not want to be known as that. He would remain Judd. The Pratt’s were a large family, made up of adopted and fostered youngsters all older than him. Mrs Pratt was the wrong side of forty when she had accepted Elliott, for what was supposed to be a short term arrangement, until he could be adopted. She had taken him in at fourteen days of age, but he was soon conveniently forgotten by the authorities. He became a mere name in a miss-mash forest of paperwork, and eventually, a fading ghost number drifting somewhere in the digital ether. 

Frances Pratt loved children but could not have any of her own. She therefore pandered to her feelings by filling her house to the gunnels with little souls, whether well-behaved or otherwise. She found it impossible to turn any homeless youngster away. However, the overcrowded conditions meant little time could be individually afforded to each child. Elliott, in his early teens, had likened Mrs Pratt’s situation to a case he had seen on the television, where the RSPCA and police had raided some old biddie’s house overrun with dogs. Although there had been genuine love, and good principled intentions, the place had ended up a shithole and the animals starving.

Mr Pratt had more important things to do, and conveniently kept out of the way being “very busy”. He was absolutely not a father figure, but a completely different bottle of crabs. Many folk have a huge territorial range – some the whole globe: London, Paris, New York. Not so Henry Pratt, not even Bognor or Blackpool. After losing his driving license for the second time, his range had shrunk to about three hundred yards or so – to the Duke’s Head and back, walking or staggering depending on the direction. He thought himself a cool dude, but had not worn specs when looking in the mirror: Crumpled heavy-metal T-shirt augmented by silver medallions on long chains around his neck. Unkempt hair and straggly beard; a real he-man he thought – well it was cheaper than buying razorblades, all the more money to spend on ale. And, anyway, water happens to be exceedingly wet and uncomfortable. Altogether, his appearance was similar to something that had crawled from a Glastonbury hedge-bottom a couple of weeks after the event.

Henry Pratt considered his luck had changed for the better when his mother passed over leaving him a small cottage which he immediately converted to cash. No doing-it-up to achieve full potential; just instant liquidation. This allowed him the wherewithal to buy each member of the Pratt household a present at Christmas. Elliott was a young lad of nine years, so he deemed a colouring book and crayons would be a kind and fitting gesture. All for a princely sum of £1.95; crap quality for that sort of money, he thought. He bought his dear wife Frances, a hair drier from a pub yard sale, commanding her to sharpen herself up a bit. The remainder of his windfall was gratefully digested and splashed up the Adamant glazed pot urinal of the Duke’s Head.

He was a good ten years older than his wife and did not love children but loved himself, along with copious amounts of ale; ‘enough to float the Titanic,’ the local landlord had remarked when out of earshot. Henry Pratt, found that the monetary benefits of fostering and adoption, allowed him to indulge his passion quite admirably, as his windfall rapidly shrank. From his favourite stool at the bar, he would give his piss-soaked judgments to anyone who would listen, or continually scowl at the occupant who had the rare opportunity to find the seat vacant. His demise came at the early age of fifty eight, when his place at the bar was taken by a younger candidate for the after-hours lock in. Henry Pratt had been confident that the Landlord loved and admired him because he had always laughed at his jokes, listened to his wisdom, and… taken his money.

Mrs Frances Pratt decided she had better attend the funeral. Then, after the despatch of Mr Henry Pratt from this world, and with the waifs and strays off-hand apart from Elliott, Mrs Frances Pratt, or Nan, as she was affectionately known to her adopted brood, moved to the east coast of North Norfolk. Elliott Judd tagged along.

 

Elliott Judd definitely was strange. He had tried his chance at about everything from garage hand to window cleaning, but nothing really suited apart from bar work. A nice warm and dry inside job; excellent. Inside job in more ways than one… ha! He thought. He found he could slip the odd tip into his pocket, and drink his many mistakes. The only down side was, he did not hold onto the job long at any one particular pub, and nowadays pubs were closing and making way for wine bars and restaurants by the minute. Wine bars? Elliott didn’t know the difference between a Cabernet Sauvignon and a cabinet maker’s shellac – but what he did know was the need for spare cash, so he decided that his future endeavours would be aimed precisely at… anything to keep the wolves from the door!

Judd was thick-set, round faced, and strangely devoid of any hair. Even his eyebrows and lashes framing his steel grey eyes were missing. Judd could not understand why this was; whether it was due to a hormonal disorder or some sort of alopecia he had not a clue. He believed his doctor to be positively hostile. The only time he had consulted him with regard to his condition, began with: ‘do you smoke – how many? Do you drink – how much? You’re a little over-weight – you’re possibly at risk of diabetes – what’s your diet like?  Does anything like this run in the family?’

What family? What fucking family? Him and every fucker else are okay. Family this – family that – family home, dog-and-cat! Why does my head keep buzzing with that filthy fuckin’ name…? BASTARD!

Who am I…? What am I…?

Judd’s mind ran berserk. In his view, it was the quack who was the bastard, and any minute now, he was going to ask if his dog had mange. Judd firmly made up his mind to give up on medical advice, resolving to wear baseball caps, ones with exceptionally large peaks, pulling them well down over the upper part of his face. A cap comforted him, not only keeping his naked head warm, but snug in the fact that no one could see his facethe face of the misfit underneath.  

Regrettably, the baseball cap did nothing to hide a most hideous scar on his upper lip, which, owing to his misfortunate condition, could not be veiled by a moustache. The scar, together with the missing tooth, was the consequence of him losing balance when the lavatory chain he was pulling came apart. He had been rat-arsed drunk, relying too much on the rusty chain for support, when it parted company with the cistern lever. It resulted in his front teeth and upper lip smacking heavily on the encrusted porcelain of a public house toilet bowl. He may have fared better had he closed the lid before pulling the chain, like his Nan had continually demanded, or indeed if he had used the stand-up urinal for a piss like anyone else, but Elliott Judd was a very private individual. Very private indeed… 

I don’t like the fuckers looking at me – what does Nan know anyway? She’s a prat – ha, ha, with a capitol P!

Elliott Judd’s pudgy, snow-white and hairless forearms bore fuzzy blue-black tattoos of the self-inflicted kind. There was nothing of the Picasso about them. Most landlords demanded he covered up with long-sleeved shirts when at work, and made him wear a first-aid plaster on the back of his right hand to hide a particularly offensive, crude doodle. There had been no need for this with his new dodge. Fingerless gloves were just the thing for a temporary market tallyman…


 

 

 

THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

 

 

Who were they?

They were “The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon” more commonly known as “The Knights Templar”.

This religious order of Monkish Knights was set up by Hugh de Payens with permission from King Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, to protect pilgrims travelling through Outremer (the Crusader states) to the temple mount in Jerusalem. This had been the location of King Solomon’s Temple, considered to be “The Holy of Holies” by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The Knightly Order started in the early 12th century around 1120AD and initially consisted of eight Knights who had sworn an oath to fight to the death to protect Christians on pilgrimage. Whilst billeted at the mount, it is believed they conducted excavations and recovered treasures from the site of the old temple including the Holy Grail, the Menorah seven-branch candelabra of solid gold and the Ark of the Covenant. It is a fact they were brilliant miners, stone-masons and craftsmen, not only teaching the members of their fraternity techniques of combat, but also skills of trade and commerce.

 

They became rich…

They were considered to be working for Christ and thus were allowed to carry large amounts of money over vast distances free of taxation. They attracted membership from the nobility who gave up their wealth to the Order when joining the growing brotherhood. At a cost, pilgrims and travellers could deposit money in one location, carry a coded promissory note and cash it in at their destination. As a consequence, the order became the richest organisation in the world and in effect the world’s first bankers. Their wealth however, had not gone unnoticed.

 

Friday the 13th, unlucky for some… Lost Treasure & Murder!

King Philip IV of France, known as Philip the Fair borrowed heavily from them and on Friday the 13th of October 1307, had the Knights simultaneously arrested on false charges of heresy, spitting on the cross and sodomy. He was after negating his debt. When greedy Phil went to seize the Templar’s treasure it had gone, money relics and all! The Templar Fleet had departed from La Rochelle the previous evening, believed to be headed by the flagship Templo Del Halcón – a Spanish vessel under the command of Sir Gerard de Villiers. It is said the ships did not fly the normal Templar ensign of black and white chequers, or a cross on their sails as was the usual custom. They feared being recognised, so instead, raised the skull-and-crossbones to identify each other.

 

The curse…

Although it has been recently stated that the Vatican had exonerated the Brotherhood [Vatican Secret Archives – “Processus Contra Templario” – 4th Oct 2007] King Philip continued to keep the senior members incarcerated at Chateau de Gisors until 1314 when he burned them at the stake. He was obviously torturing them for the whereabouts of both their assets and the Templars who had escaped. Sir Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master issued a curse whilst burning to death. He said that King Philip and Pope Clement V would answer to God in heaven before a year and a day was out. And they most certainly did!

 

Disbanded, or were they…?

The “Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon” was formally disbanded by Papal Bull in 1312. They were banned throughout Christendom and their lands taken and given to the Knights Hospitaller. One place they were NOT outlawed however – was Scotland…

 

Necessity for secrecy…

It was necessary for the Knights Templar to use secret codes for security. This allowed promissory notes issued by them to be authenticated, just like cheques and credit-cards are today, for after all, they were bankers. Meetings were also conducted in secret due to the sensitive nature of dealing in money and their engagements in military action. Apart from that, the Knights were not secretive about their membership of the organisation, but were proud “peacocks” to the point of indicating the fact by wearing a huge red cross emblazoned on their mantle. Friday the 13th of October 1307 changed all that. The organisation became an underground movement, many disappearing to Scotland where the order was not banned. In other parts of Europe the Order was very secretive and became the foundation of Freemasonry. Meetings were mostly conducted in secret with no written minutes, the participants relying solely on memorising ritual, secret passwords and handshakes. These rituals are known as the “Scottish Rites” and have been practiced through to the present day.

 

Nowadays, masons meet in secret to organise charitable work – it is a global none-profit organisation and has collected millions for good causes.

 

THE THIRD CRUSADE & the Lionheart’s Adversary…

 

Saladin…

We know him as Sultan Saladin; his full name was Sala Ad-din Yusuf Ibn Ayyb. He was the leader of the Islamic forces that had seized Jerusalem in 1187 to the dismay of Pope Gregory VIII. The Pope then ordered the 3rd Crusade which began in 1189. The militaries of King Richard Coeur de Lion of England, King Philip II of France, together with Emperor Barbarossa of Germany, joined forces with the Knights Templar and the Pope’s forces to form a large Christian army. In 1190, Barbarossa, an old man of around seventy years, drowned whilst trying to cross a river in Asia Minor. He was on his way to the Crusade and his troops, seeing this as a bad omen, lost motivation and returned home. Duke Leopold V also took his army, but was ridiculed due to his high consumption of alcohol and left Outremer (Holy Lands) in 1191. It appears the Lionheart was the main instigator. 

King Philip of France also returned home taking most of his men, but the Lionheart fought on, and so creating quite an impression on Saladin after taking Acre and Jaffa. The unbearable heat and arduous conditions took their toll. King Richard and the majority of his forces became weak too and ill to fight. Almost at the point of taking Jerusalem they abandoned the final push appealing to Saladin for water. Saladin could not refuse as his religion swore him to help the needy. Richard and Saladin made a truce, with Christians again being allowed safe passage of pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the proviso they were unarmed.  

 

King Richard’s Captor

The Kidnapper, Duke Leopold of Austria…

Robert de Sablé, at the time, the Grand Master of the Templars, assisted Richard Coeur de Lion to travel incognito back to England disguised as a Knights Templar but unfortunately Richard was captured by who was now his arch enemy Duke Leopold V of Austria. Richard and his men had previously goaded the Duke and referred to him as “the sponge”. This was a reference to his portly shape and ability to soak-up wine; he was continually drunk! Richard was eventually released after payment of a massive ransom, something like 150,000 marks. It virtually bankrupted England; the populace being severely taxed to collect what was a colossal sum at the time. Richard the Lionheart eventually arrived back home in 1194 leaving dear Leopold to his grog!

 

Threat of Excommunication…

The Pope threatened to excommunicate Duke Leopold for imprisoning Richard, a Crusader whom in effect had been working for the Catholic Church to recover the Holy Lands. For absolution, Leopold promised to give the money back, but England has never received a penny from Austria to this day!

 

 

Ode to the Templars

  

Take up the sword with Coeur de Lion,

Rosy robe and axe of iron;

There’s Holy work that must be done –

So blow the horn, beat the drum,

And rout the foe from God’s Kingdom.

 

Those noble knights with every breath –

On oath do battle to the death,

In hostile lands so strange and far,

Ye ever valiant Knights Templar;

Ye Knights Templar chevalier.

 

Take up the sword with Coeur de Lion!

Rosy robe and axe of iron;

There’s Holy work that must be done –

So blow the horn, beat the drum,

And take us to Jerusalem! 

 Martin R Jackson 2017

"Believe Me!" The  Lost Treasure of the Templars... What it's all about...

When Ben McVeigh moves to Norfolk to escape the high maintenance memory of Sally Peters he has little idea that the silence of the place will soon be broken in a most unexpected way.

He is contacted by the legal department of a large multinational energy company, “Genélan” with a request to recover a badly damaged Mercedes from an old barn in a village about ten miles or so away from his home. Ben is tasked with examining the car and supplying an engineer’s report with secrecy being the order of the day.

 

But soon the mystery of the crashed Merc will include the discovery of an old chart and a silver box and the way will be open for Ben McVeigh to embark on an investigation involving sunken islands, the Knights Templar, missing treasure and foreign agents, not to mention the discovery of a new soulmate.  

"Believe Me!" The Lost Treasure of the Templars...

"Soyez Firm": my family (Foljambe) motto...

Ben McVeigh embarks on a dangerous mission to find the Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar. He finds an ancient chart in a crashed Mercedes and is pursued by the "Satan's Soldiers" biker gang, not to mention a dangerous Russian agent.

 

1. Friday 13th of October 1307, the treasure disappears.

2. Around 1350 an island off the east coast of England is inundated by the sea and artefacts, including the remains of a Knight are quickly removed to safety.

3. A monk wrote that "the island provoked the vengeance of God upon itself" - The island of Ravenser Odd, off the east coast of England, was known for piracy!

4. The Templars flew the skull-and-crossbones to recognise each other!

5. Did the Fitz Marmaduke family leave clues to the whereabouts of the treasure? It did NOT end up buried on Oak Island...

 

A must-read for devotees of allegory, symbols, and mystique... 

 

     Extracts from Prologue... 

"Before finally deciding to move to Norfolk he had been in a steady relationship. She almost became a fixture, his fiancée, but as things worked out, a most embarrassing incident finally put paid to that; embarrassing in one respect, but in reality most fortunate for Ben. It had been a lucky escape from a life hanging on the frail tenterhooks of infidelity. "

 

"He would fantasise about Sally, and the times when they had laid together consumed by animal impulse – the nitty-gritty requirement of existence itself.

The essential but uncontrollable urge of the beastie!"

 

Chapter 14...

“‘So tell me, how can a failsafe-system be rigged?’

‘Err well – it was to do with the hydraulics. Definitely tampered with,’ Ben said removing a hand from his pocket and nervously scratching the crown of his head.

‘Can you be sure of that, Ben?’ Jonathan’s puzzled look was turning to one of shock.

‘Definitely…’

 

Plunging his hand back in his trouser pocket he grasped his lucky coin again. ‘In its designed state, yes of course it’s failsafe. But I’ve looked at the photos closely – over and over again, and I keep coming to the same conclusion, Jonno. Remember? I took pictures of the contents of the glovebox and that old silver box stuffed behind the dash…”

 

 

Believe Me! The Lost Treasure of the Templars. 

Published by:

Austin Macauley Publishers, 25, Canada Square, Canary Wharf, LONDON.

Copyright: Martin R Jackson

ISBN 9781786931450 (paperback)

ISBN 9781786931467 (hardback)

ISBN 9781786931474 (ebook)

 

Copywrite: Martin R Jackson 2017.

Contract offer for film/television available.

"The Blade" Ben McVeigh & the Templar Poignard...

Fast moving murder mystery 347 pages

Ben McVeigh moves to Norfolk to escape the greedy tentacles of femme-fatale Sally Peters. At first, his neighbours thought him to be some sort of degenerate townie of low morals... Sally had found his new address!  

 

Ben and his neighbour Jonno become fugitives from the law, chased by Inspector Stefan Robert Thornhill, known as "Bostik Bobby" - He knows he can make the charges stick no matter what, but why does he have to?

 

1. Did the dagger found on a car boot sale change the course of history? 

2. What did the blade have to do with Saladin?

3.  Why were they being chased by the Mukhabarat, a Middle-Eastern military secret service?

4. Who murdered the beautiful girl found in Ben McVeigh's coal bunker?

 

 

 

Extract Chapter 26...

"‘Secondly: Quis ut Deus which translates to, “Who is like God”. This inscription is adjacent to the black eye; the left eye; sinister, – represented by the black diamond! This Latin phrase is depicted on Archangel Michael’s battle shield. Archangel Michael, the leader of the angels who defeated the dragon; yes the devil himself – and his fallen angels! The devil is often depicted as a serpent…’"

The narrative involves car and boat chases, Templar rituals and Crusader history. A "must-read" for devotees of allegory, symbols, and mystique... 

 

"The Blade" Ben McVeigh & the Templar Poignard.

First published by Lulu bookpublishing, USA. Now available from Amazon & Barnes & Noble.

Copyright: Martin R Jackson 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4834-7393-2 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4834-7392-5 (e)

 

"The Watcher" ... in the process of being written - copyright MRJ