The Creative Peak
New inspired writing from an independent publisher
New inspired writing from an independent publisher
A snap decision brought Jenny Maltravers to settle in the quiet and picturesque Derbyshire village of Peaklow. She was made welcome by the local people and
looked forward to a long and contented stay. One of first people in the village that she had met died suddenly. Gradually she became deeply embroiled in the local scandal, during which time she realised the peaceful veneer was not all
that it seemed. Could she carry on living her contented and secluded life when terror and intrigue were closing in on her. Was she safe? Was it time to move somewhere else? Was she being targeted ?
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Jenny slowly pulled back the old curtain covering the window in the disused shop. The sound of shouting outside in the street had caught her attention. She could see two men in the Market Square. They were only just across the road so they were clearly visible. Although she had only been in the village for a week she had already met both of them.
Lionel, the taciturn butcher, was standing in the doorway of his shop on the opposite side of the Square. He was red with rage and was shouting abuse at the other man. Lionel waved a large knife that was tinged with the blood of the meat he had been cutting.
The focus for his anger was Tony, a local farmer, who was responding with a long shout of abusive language as he got down from his tractor. He took a pitchfork from the trailer and began to wave it in the direction of Lionel. Tony was also red with rage. Jenny was anxious that this show of anger wasn’t going to develop into violence as Tony was now striding towards the butcher’s shop.
Jenny just heard his words, ‘I’ll park my tractor wherever I want!’ She guessed that Lionel objected to the smell, as the trailer was full of manure. She had found the village so quiet up to now, but this was very much a scene that could turn nasty.
She had no intention of intervening, but thought they might calm down if they realised that someone was watching them. So she pulled her jacket around her and opened the door into the square. With a deliberate movement she slammed it behind her. Both men glanced in her direction, but took no notice. Tony continued to advance towards the butcher’s shop. He was still waving his pitchfork. Lionel had now stepped forward. They were only a few yards apart.
‘Gentlemen!’ shouted Jenny as she went in their direction. She breathed sigh of relief as they both stopped their advance and turned to look at her. She walked steadfastly across the square towards them, but had no idea what she was going to do if they persisted in their aggression. She breathed a sigh of relief as a man she didn’t know came around the corner and walked into the Square.
He bellowed, ‘Tony, Lionel! For goodness sake you are not arguing again! How many more times!’ With his intervention Lionel, glanced at the man, turned and went back into his shop. Tony frowned and walked back to his tractor. The man obviously hadn’t finished. He walked towards Tony and shouted, ‘Get that smelly thing out of the Square. Have some sense man!’
Tony glared at him, but jumped up onto the tractor and pulled away. The man didn’t acknowledge Jenny and, after he was assured that Tony was going, he went into Lionel’s shop. Jenny was relieved that the incident was over, but knew that the anger between Tony and Lionel could explode at any time. What would happen if there was no one else around? It gave her a very anxious feeling, the first since she had moved into the village.
She breathed a sigh of relief as the incident was over. The sun was shining brightly on Market Square, and it warmed her immediately. She had surprised herself when a few months ago she had decided to buy a disused shop on the corner of the Square. As well as the shop itself, there were upstairs rooms and a small parlour at the back. Many years ago it had been knocked through to the cottage next door. She had fallen in love with the shop and the cottage at first sight. It was a seventeenth century home that was small and rustic. As she was on her own, it was perfect. There was currently no man in her life. The two backyards, one behind the shop and the other attached to the cottage had been joined into one. There were a variety of small, local stone outbuildings. Most of which were in a ramshackle state, but any work on them was going to be left for another day.
The sun was pleasantly warming her and she stood to enjoy the view to the distant hills. Despite what she had just witnessed, it was a quiet and idyllic village tucked into the landscape. Whether she would enjoy such a restful and secluded life after the way she had spent the last twenty years, she wasn’t sure, but she was determined to give her new life a good try. There was something that had been nagging her all week since she had been there. None of her friends knew her new address. She couldn’t be bothered with emails and decided to send everyone, who needed to know, a letter through the post.
There was an empty shop next to the butcher’s. It looked like it had been closed for a long time. She went past it and into the small post office. It was more business like than she would have expected in a remote village, but there were a number of local enterprises that attracted tourists, and they all used the post office as their bank. The shop was split into two parts. A small counter with a glass screen provided the security for the business transactions. At the other end was an open counter that was the village newsagents.
‘Good afternoon, Jenny,’ said a woman, who glanced at the clock to make sure that it had gone noon. She was moving between the two counters in the shop.
‘Hello Elizabeth,’ replied Jenny brightly.
‘It has been so busy today,’ replied Elizabeth.
Jenny glanced around the empty shop and gave a small inward smile to herself. With many of her friends in the past, she would have laughed at such a statement, but Elizabeth did not have a sense of humour. She had worked that out when they had first met. Jenny didn’t want to be critical of her, as she had been most welcoming. She looked at Elizabeth, who was wearing a thick cream blouse with a thin brown cardigan over the top. The brown didn’t quite match her thick straight skirt and dark heavy tights. Her shoes could best be described as sensible. Her hair was in a bun. In the first conversation she’d had with Elizabeth, Jenny had been very surprised to find out that they were the same age, forty-four years old. Jenny just hoped she didn’t look the same as Elizabeth, who she had assumed was in her mid fifties.
After they had been talking for about ten minutes, mainly about the caravan site opening for business again after its winter closure, another customer came in. Jenny left and guessed that Elizabeth would have the same conversation all over again.
Jenny hadn’t been walking very much recently so decided to take a stroll down the road to see the caravan site for herself. She turned right past her own shop and cottage. She then walked along the road past the George pub and the church. Many years ago the road had been the main route through the village. The twists and turns in it, coupled with some overhanging buildings meant that, in the end, the council had built a by-pass. It was now a quiet road, although the noise of the traffic from the new main road could still be heard.
Jenny’s extra efforts required in moving in, over the past week, meant that she had slept well, but she knew that it wouldn’t last. The horrors would return. Her only way of dealing with them were either early morning or late night walks. She kept thinking about getting a dog. It then wouldn’t seem strange for her to be out very early or late. Hopefully she would settle into life here and the horrors would gradually dissipate.
She didn’t rush and had a pleasant stroll down the road. She arrived at the edge of the caravan site, which was wedged in between where the old and new main roads joined. It looked smart and well run. In summer it would be completely shielded by trees. The river was nearby and looked extremely tranquil as she stood on the bridge peering into the water.
A glance at her watch told her it was time to get on with some of her afternoon tasks. There was still a lot to do. After a brisk stroll back to Market Square she was panting slightly. As she arrived at her shop it looked so much better. The old curtains, and whitening that had been on the windows, had all gone. Kevin, the builder, was now inside and finishing the painting. It looked very fresh, bright and white, which is exactly what Jenny wanted. She intended going in the back door of her cottage, so she turned into Market Square and nearly bumped into a couple coming the other way.
The man, who had been the one who had intervened earlier between Tony and Lionel, apologised and then said, ‘We have seen you around, have you just moved in?’ He then pointed at the shop and cottage.
‘Yes,’ replied Jenny.
‘Welcome to the village, I’m Nicolas and this is Amanda. We’ll be seeing you around as we live in the big house just down there. It’s where the scaffolding is going up.’
‘Yes, I know the one.’ To Jenny they looked a perfect couple. She was very pretty, with long blonde hair. He was the most handsome man she had seen in the village so far, perhaps with the exception of Kevin, the builder.
They said goodbye and turned in the direction of their house. Jenny went down the side of the shop, past the back walls of her outbuildings and turned into a small gate at the end of her yard. It was next to the only farm gate in Market Square and was a track between the houses and led into a field. Apart from the butcher’s and the post office the rest of the square was made up of small cottages, some of which were former shops that had long since closed and had been converted into living accommodation.
She went in the back door and put the stamps on the kitchen table with the intention of writing tonight to tell her friends where she now lived. A smile crossed her lips as she thought about their faces as they opened the letter and looked at her new address.
She walked through to the shop and said as she went in, ‘Kevin, it looks really good! I’m very pleased with it.’
He was on a step ladder. He carefully balanced his brush on the paint tin and took the two steps down to stand next to her. He also looked around at the completely white interior to the shop and said, ‘It’s come up well. It’s bright and white, exactly what you asked for.’
She looked at him and smiled. He was about average height for a man, but was very good looking. He was always smartly turned out regardless of the work that he was doing. It was obvious that he never left the house in the morning without shaving. His smart, but short black hair always looked immaculate.
Jenny liked Kevin. It had been a bit of luck that several months ago when she had been to visit before buying the house she had met him. He had given her his card. It made her moving very easy, because he had re-decorated and repaired before she arrived.
‘Can I borrow one of your tall step ladders, please?’
‘I’ll do it,’ said Kevin.
Jenny laughed, ‘You don’t even know what I want done yet?’
‘Never mind, what is it?’
‘I want to look at the roofs of the outbuildings?’
Kevin immediately picked up a large pair of steps that were leaning against the wall. With long strides he set out for the yard that was behind the shop.
He put them near the outbuildings and in one movement stepped up three rungs and peered at the roofs.
‘Several tiles missing, can’t see any felt.’
‘Let me have a look.’
He came down from the steps and looked Jenny up and down and said, ‘Do you think that’s wise!’ and there was a broad grin on his face.
‘Don’t be cheeky!’ replied Jenny, ‘and don’t you dare look at the label to see what weight the steps will take.’ He grabbed the steps to make sure they were steady as she climbed them. They both laughed as she came down the steps and said, ‘Look, none of the treads have bowed from my weight!’ He put his arm around her and gave her a hug.
He folded the steps and said, ‘I’ll give you a price, it will be a good one, because I’m not very busy at the moment.’
‘In all honestly Kevin, I was going to do it myself. Not for a while, but during the summer sometime.’
He looked serious, ‘If you do it yourself, promise me you will get a tower scaffold to work from. With any building jobs, safety must come first. I’m serious.’
‘Thanks, Kevin, that’s sensible advice.’
The noise of a tractor distracted them both as it pulled up just behind the end of the yard wall, which was about one metre high. The farmer, Tony, who she had seen arguing in the Square earlier, cut the engine and quietness returned. He waved and called out, ‘Afternoon Jenny.’
She turned to go to the wall to meet him and expected Kevin to come as well, ‘I’ll finish painting in the shop,’ he said and immediately turned to go back inside. Jenny thought it very abrupt, especially as they were fellow villagers and both liked talking.
Jenny said, ‘Good afternoon, Tony.’ He was a small wiry character. His bald head was always covered by a hat of some description. Today it was a standard flat cap. He wore a thick checked shirt and jeans, along with a pair of green Wellington boots.
He said, ‘I can’t stop, I need to check the field next to the caravan site.’
‘What’s wrong with it?’ asked Jenny, who was not sure why a field needed checking.
‘It’s the unusually good weather. If the site is busy I need to see if the field has dried out, because I can use it as a temporary overflow.’
‘Do you own the caravan site?’
‘Yes, I got a good grant to diversify away from standard farming and started it then. It’s going well and worth far more than having sheep or cattle there.’
‘The reason I stopped is to say that I’m lifting a good crop of root vegetables this afternoon. They will be in my farm shop tomorrow morning. You haven’t been to visit us yet. If you could manage to pop up tomorrow, I’ll introduce you to the missus.’
‘I’ll come up early tomorrow morning, thanks for the information.’ Tony had been one of the first people she had met when she moved in because he was always going in and out of the Market Square gate. She liked him. He had lived in the village for generations, but had been very kind and showed no reluctance to welcoming her as a newcomer.