Login   Sign Up 


Locusts and Honey

by Phelim 

Posted: 17 June 2004
Word Count: 2125
Summary: While I rewrite a major chunk of "Death By Chocolate" here is something more psychological.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Locusts and Honey

Every October, around the weekend that the clocks go back, the city of Lancaster has its great bonfire night and firework display. Where as most places celebrate it later and remember Guy Fawkes failed attempt to destroy Parliament, Lancaster does it differently. It is said that the fireworks celebrate the capture of the city by the Scots centuries before. Whatever the reason, each October finds Castle Hill, the walk way round the castle and the area around the Priory Church of St Mary filled with both natives, resident students and visitors.

This particluar night was no exception. The fireworks lit up the sky with their explosions. The local radio station was doing the customary outside broadcast. Fast food vendors were making a tidy profit. Street entertainers juggled clubs, fire, rings, diablos, balls and anything else they could to captivate the children. Yet in the atmosphere of celebration there was an undercurrent of fear. Last month, almost exactly four weeks before, the body of a girl had been found. She was not the first corpse to have spoiled the tranquility of the city. Somewhere amongst the spectators was a ripper. Each girl had been sexually assaulted and then, in some form of perversion of religious symbolism, staked out in the shape of a cross. Then they had been strangled. Finally, as if sacrificed to some ancient deity, a knife cut across their abdomen.

Tonight though, people hoped there was safety in numbers. Girlfriends went about in groups, often dressed more for the night club than a cold October evening. Parents kept as close a watch as possible on their daughters. Then, as the echo of the last firework faded, people started to make their way home across the city. Negotiating the one way system, whether on foot or by car, people headed for the safe space behind their front door. Students headed back to their campuses. Some went on to the pubs and nightclubs throughout Lancaster, but most left the dark, the cold, and the rain for the companionship of the television.

At home the Reverend George Oaklea sat reading the Evening News. He had little time for the pagan frivolities of the night. He had more important things to occupy his time. One, a young girl named Sandra, was over due. She had started coming to him for counselling. George suspected that Sandra was caught up in the fireworks and worldly festivities. Well not for much longer.

The doorbell rung. George Oaklea folded the newspaper and set it down on the coffee table. The face of the new lady mayor smiled up at him as he left the room. Beyond the drawing room door the front door openned, letting in the cold from outside. George re-entered the room, followed by a young teenage girl. Picking up the newspaper, George settled himself in his chair. Sandra sat down opposite him, and relaxed as he smiled. As the logs flickered in the fireplace, Sandra settled into the comforting atmosphere.

Chapter 1
Inspector David Hartley ran from the police station across the road. As usual he was late, and, as usual, it was raining. Neither was an uncommon occurance. Being a police officer, David was used to getting to church as and when his work schedule allowed. He was also used to getting wet. With Lancaster being on the Atlantic coast rain was the average weather condition. Already the shops had Christmas decorations up. Not that there was a chance of a white Christmas, the air was too wet. David had worked in Lancaster for over twenty years and could not remember snow at Christmas. Not that snow was on his mind. The Church service had started and David needed space away from the station.

It helped that he was a member of St Thomas's. Even if he couldn't get to church on a Sunday, David could still open his office window and listen to the worship drift across the road. Today David had made time for the service. For an hour and a half, David could, he hoped, sit and just be a member of the congregation. Taking a book from the welcomer he slipped up the left hand stairs. Arriving on the balcony he found a seat next to the door. While he could see the tops of nearly everyone's heads they could not see him. Neither could he be seen from the main doors. Other than to the vicar he was, thankfully, invisible.

Being hidden on the balcony had another benefit. No one would stop him as he left to ask about work. With a jolt, David realised it was a communion service. Normally he would take communion, but today? David needed it, but also needed the quiet. Turning to the hymn that had just been announced, David quietly followed the words and let the worship flow over him.

In a pew near the front, Martina Hartley stood, enjoying the worship. With the sixth sense that women possess due to marriage and parenthood, Martina glanced round for her husband. Seeing his figure up behind her, Martina turned and stared solidly down at the words before her. It had been too many weeks since they had sat together in church. Too many weeks since they had enjoyed a meal together.

Martina blinked back a tear. A tear, not just for herself, but the relatives of the "Lancaster Ripper's" victims. The title had been chosen by the press for its emotional impact. Their daughter Abigail was the same age as the victims, and was going through her "rebellious" phase. David was in charge of the case. And now another girl had gone missing. One the press had pounced on. The daughter of the new lady mayor.

The service moved on, into the time of communion. The sermon had been unheard. The intercessions were the usual list, including one that the young girl who was missing would be found safe. Even though they were seated seperatly, and both had said a heart felt "amen", David and Martina had been too touched by police work to feel the hope of the congregation. Deep down both Inspector and Mrs Hartley feared the worst.

As with every other Sunday, Churches were open for business. Across the city from St Thomas's, the Priory Church of St Mary was also part way through the service of Holy Communion. To the outsider the differences between the two congregations would have been surprising. The congregation of St Mary's were more what people would have expected. Here people wore their "Sunday Best" of hats, suits and jewellry. Here also was an organ and traditional hymns as oppossed to the worship band and choruses of St Thomas's. In the front pew, chain glistening in the Autumn light that streamed through the Stained Glass, sat the mayor. As yet she was not in mourning but, with the disapperance of her daughter, Mrs Cynthia Anderson was dressed in a deep navy blue. So deep that to the casual observer the dress suit was black.

As the sidesmen made their way down the aisle, directing people towards the communion rails, two police officers entered at the back of the building. To Constable Andrew Roundtree the language and rituals of the Church were a foreign language. Even so, he bowed his head as a mark of respect as the prayers were recited. Down the front he could see the chain of office of the mayor. This was not going to be easy.

In marked contrast to the liturgy of either the two Anglican churches, the congregation that hired the school hall appeared much freer. At the moment when the two police officers had entered the church building, the Reverend George Oaklea was speaking. He had been on stage for a number of minutes, and was capable of carrying on all day. A charismatic man with an indescript Southern accent, Revd Oaklea held his audience. Sat in front of him, drinking in every word he said, was a row of teenage girls. Amongst them was Abigail Hartley, David Hartley's daughter.

As the final prayer of blessing was pronounced, David Hartley started to move. Descending the stairs, he was out of the door before people had really started moving. As he turned the corner of the church to cross the road back to the police station, a uniformed officer came towards him. From the way she walked David knew it was not good news.

"I was just coming to find you sir." The young police constable was looking slightly embarrased. "Chief's orders."

David felt as if an icy hand had gripped his stomach. This type of news never got easier.

"Superintendant Davidson wants to see you immediately."

With a brief glance to check for traffic, David crossed the road and entered the station. Within minutes he was at his bosses door.

"You wanted to see me ma'am." David knew what was going to be said.

Superintendant Rachel Davidson looked down at her desk, as if putting off the inevitable. "The body of a young girl has been found. This time in the grounds of the Ashton Memorial.

"Constable Roundtree has gone to find the mayor, for identification purposes. I want you to get there immediately and take charge."

As David left the office and headed to the carpark, he was not surprised at the choice of Roundtree. He had been a youth worker and so had a manner about him that many more experienced officers lacked. May be that was what having been on the streets did for you.

Openning the door of the Volvo, David saw a reporter from the Lancaster Metro walk across the car park entrance. Starting the car he edged out onto the one way system. The congregation were now heading home for their Sunday lunch. "Thank God," he thought "for microwaves."

After following the one way system, David turned left towards the Ashton. If it was a weekday it would have been quicker to walk, and Sunday's weren't much better. In spite of the traffic he was soon at the park. The police officer at the gate acknowledged him and pointed the way to the trees where the body had been found. This was obvious, as scene of crime officers in their white overalls stood out amongst the green foliage. Still the officer was only doing his job.

The seargent accompanied him as he walked towards the tape cordoning off the area. "The victim was found this morning at 10 am."

David raises a mental eyebrow over the lateness of time. The park was usually much busier by then. Being so close to the University College of St Martin, it was also a favourite late night haunt for students. After spending their loans on cheap lager from the Social Bar or Junior Common Room, many came up to the Ashton for some laughs.

"A couple out jogging had nipped up to the Temple for the view and spotted a hand coming out from under a Rhododendrum bush. After a quick look they ran to the nearest phone and called us."

The Temple was a small folly on a seperate path from the rest of the park and, like everywhere else, was one mass of Rhododenrums. The body could have been their for days.

Arriving at the tape the officer turned to go back to his sentry duty.

"Has anyone gone to see if any of the student's saw anything last night?"

The seargent was slow to reply. "No sir. I doubt many of them will be up."

Inspector Hartley privately agreed, even those who went to church prefered the evening services. "Even so, better get a team down there."

Turning he went under the tape that was being held up for him. "Who's in charge here?"

The young woman bit her lip. It was so tempting to say "You are sir." But now was not the time for such sarcasm. Instead she said simply "Seargent O'Connel sir. She's waiting for you up the top."

Briget O'Connel had heard the inspector's voice and was coming down to meet him. Her red hair matched her temper in the way that her Belfast accent matched her surname. "The body's this way sir.

"A teenager I'd guess. Staked out like.... well here we are."

Inspector David Hartley stared down at yet another body. Like the others arms and legs were tied out. Slight bruising round the neck suggested physical violence, possible strangulation. Across the abdomen a large incision had been made. The modus operandi was the same. Turning, he looked across the city. Somewhere amongst the residents was a killer. This was the fourth time he had struck. And people were frightened and getting desperate for something to happen.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Friday at 14:50 on 20 June 2004  Report this post
Hi Phelim, love the title.

I get this feeling this is going to be extremely gruesome. Very good prologue, you’ve managed to create a wonderful chilling October evening. I really felt the coldness, considering we’re in June, that's pretty good going.

‘This particular night was no exception’ – I felt a day/date here would make the prologue stronger, it's not just any old Bonfire night.

‘The face of the new lady mayor smiled up at him as he left the room’ – is the major on the newspaper? I had to think about that one.

Inspector David Hartley – I like the fact he goes to church and that he and his wife have problems. Not sitting together in church, tut, tut. Also they have a teenage daughter to worry about. Sandra – I’m interested to know who she is and why she needs counselling by Reverend George Oaklea. Lots of character conflict already.

Ohhh, Grisly details at the end - takes us back to the prologue. It’s all very intriguing. I’m intrigued.

Good stuff,
All the best with this,

Dee at 17:06 on 20 June 2004  Report this post

Phelim, you had me from the word Lancaster!

I am addicted to the place. I used to live in the area and, even though it’s years since I left, I still have to go back every couple of months for a quick fix. In fact I was there last Saturday and will probably be going again in a couple of weeks. Much of what I write is set in and around Lancaster.

I enjoyed reading this. (funnily enough, one of the novels I’m working on is about a serial killer in the area… but there’s no resemblance to this!)

I liked the combination of police work and personal relationships. It makes a good mix. I can’t fault the quality of the writing, apart from once where I think you used ‘their’ when it should be ‘there’.

But back to Lancaster… I’m confused about how well you know the place… and, to be honest, I don’t know how relevant this is to anyone who doesn’t know the city. I didn’t know there was a church opposite the police station – but I’m willing to accept there is one… I wouldn’t say that Williamson Park is near St Martin’s college and from my experience, people in the area refer to ‘Williamson Park’ or ‘the Park’ or ‘the memorial’ rather than ‘the Ashton’.

What I’m saying is – I go there regularly. If you need any research doing, just let me know. Any excuse! I like the way this tale is developing already!


Phelim at 10:32 on 21 June 2004  Report this post
Dee thank you for your comments.

I know Lancaster reasonably well as I actualy went to St Martin's College and trained as a youth and community worker. In my second year I lived in Duke Street, first year on campus.

Is the police station (or a major police station) just off Penny Street? If so the church opposite is St Thomas's C of E. I know that because they have to pay a large fee concerning terrorist attacks. As you look from the main carpark of the police station the large wall on the otherside of the road is St T's.

Thanks for the comments on Williamson Park. There is actually a back way out of St Martin's campus (plus there used to be a gap in the fence) that exits near the car park beneath the Temple. I used to use this when I went to meetings at Lancaster Farms. I have lost my map of the city and need to get another one. I will use you though for research questions. Such as what weekend is the big bonfire and fireworks in October. I have a note that its the weekend the clocks go back, but I could be wrong. I do so need to go back.

Dawn - pleased to have chilled you. The title is a Biblical quote and will become self-explanatory. I will make the comment about the mayor's picture more obvious.

But as you can immagine, this is actually hard to write. You'll see why soon.

Thanks both of you again.


Dee at 18:19 on 21 June 2004  Report this post
Phelim, you’ve obviously seen parts of Lancaster I haven’t! But I was never a student there ;)

The police station is opposite Dalton Square. I know the church you mean in Penny Street and I’ve got an awful feeling it’s been demolished recently. Sorry to scare you! The thing is – most people won’t give a damn about these details. It’s entirely up to you as the writer whether you worry about it. Who was it said ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’?

I’m a bit obsessive about factual details so don’t let me put you off but, if you’re the same, I’m planning to go over there soon so I’ll check out the church for you.

As for the bonfire, I wasn’t aware of it (but I was in a job so demanding my social life was below zero…) I’m sure you could get the date from Lancaster council’s website.


Phelim at 15:37 on 22 June 2004  Report this post
Dee Just been to the web, haven't found the date/weekend of the bonfire. St T's, the church on the corner of Penny Street/Marton Street is still there. But found Dalton Square. Yes I am working at the right area. Thanks for the name. Must get another map.


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .