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Ragwort Cove

by TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY 4 months ago in Short Story
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by Tanika Smith-Wheatley

Cover art and story by Tanika Smith-Wheatley

Every place has its stories, and every place has it’s secrets, but…

Ragwort Cove

Claims them all, forever, silenced……

I loved this place already; the stately old cream manor almost completely covered in Ivy, was set back from the road among an even older Maple grove now with Autumn leaves, a stunning golden shade at the moment - beyond, lay the vast lavender farm; cut back right now, but even before winter is over, so I’m told, the field will be transforming into perfumed rows of purple splendor – and beyond that, were more undulating fields which have been used for a variety of flowers in the past; but which, as I have been advised by my new local lawyer, who had contacted me about this amazing inheritance (which had once belonged to a pirate who had supposedly hidden treasure somewhere in the bay which was impossible to access from the land or the sea due to the sharp rocks and unrelenting waves, and who had also told me how many treasure hunters had lost their lives while searching for it) should be used as a vineyard, or to grow wheat - but since I’m allergic to the later; (and the lawyer informs me that the farm manager has vineyard experience) I decided that when the staff return from their holidays, we’ll start planting grape vines – and at the end of the farm, over hilly rocks, that’s where the land suddenly drops away in dramatic, broken cliffs and rocks to the deep, dark, menacing sea below…

Since lavender farming is seasonal, the staff use this unproductive time to take their holidays – which suited me perfectly right now; as I needed the time to sell my apartment and move in, and I wanted to take advantage of settling in and enjoying the place as my new home alone for a-while, instead of my new life busy having to learn about running a farm straight away – that I’d even inherited a piece of golden and purple paradise in the Cornish countryside by the sea was overwhelming; firstly, I believed that my ancestors were from the other side of the country, and after having spent most of my life living in apartments and working in offices in London, I’d never dreamed I’d ever end up owning a pretty property in the beautiful South West – my little studio condo was sold as soon as it was put on the market, so I rushed down here earlier than anticipated - for I was eager to feel my feet on my very own piece of earth…

Of course; my first day here was spent arranging my own furniture with the furnishings that came with the house, and re-arranging it all until I was satisfied everything was in its rightful place (the lounge door creaked and I made a mental note to oil it tomorrow) until finally (it was late), I lit the huge open fire (which took awhile, from my inexperience) and sat back with a glass of Sparkling Shiraz, feeling elated and lucky, and wondering at how one’s life can change so much in so short a time – I’d never had an open-fire; and I deeply breathed in the intoxicating aroma of pine-wood (from a convenient chopped and stacked pile out back - the manager knew I’d be moving in soon and realized I’d be needing it, with Winter on its way) burning, among the older musky smell of a large lounging room which had withstood a couple of centuries of people coming and going - and imagining that soon I would be drinking my own wine, from my very own vineyard…

The next day (I woke late), after enjoying a complete cooked English brunch (juice, cereal and tea was a city worker’s fast breakfast) in the conservatory (a modern addition by the ancestor that lived here before me) that was larger than my whole city apartment had been, I decided to explore my property – the other farm buildings can wait their inspection; and the yard could do with a bit of cleaning up, but apart from some Morning Glory determinedly clinging to the back porch, the place wasn’t too weedy, but it was full of fallen twigs and boughs from the trees - but right now, the Autumn sun felt caressingly warm on my face, and I couldn’t resist the urge to walk - I’d planned to survey the fields; and enjoy the views from the higher ground towards the sea - but before I realized it; as I came over a rise, I was looking at the wide cerulean ocean spread out before me – having lived in close proximity of the city; for a moment I wondered if I was rich enough to build a house on the cliff-top – my very own cliffs – fancy waking up to the dazzling blue horizon every day – but only for a moment – as I neared; I noticed that the cliffs were hazardously jagged and pierced, and there was no soft sandy beach below – far, far below - and it would be a treacherous climb down, I, would never attempt it.. Unmercifully, the deafening waves were crashing and lashing below at the rocks as if determined to break away and claim as much of the land as it possibly can – what had the lawyer said this bay was called? Ragwort Cove, I remembered – even the name of it sounded disparaging and I shivered as I looked down at the destructive torrent far below my feet, and realized I’d rather live in my serene manor among the tranquil trees and meadows, after all…

It must have taken approximately thirty minutes to get to the cliff top; and I could tell from the slant of the sun to the east, that it would be about 5pm or more, and I knew that I had to return now, if I wanted to get back before dusk – stumbling through rough and still virtually unknown terrain in the dark could be risky – and no-one knew I was here yet; no-one would suspect I might be lying injured somewhere (the enormity of this land I’d inherited suddenly dawned on me), and no-one would think they should come looking for me. I was all alone; and I had to be very careful, especially when out walking – I’d always wanted to have a dog; but living in the city, it would have been cruel keeping a pet in a small apartment – but now at long last; I can look forward to sharing country walks with a fluffy friend, and decided that would have to be one of the first things to get, to share my new country life with – a failed marriage left me preferring to be alone; and a pet at last, should complete this, my new beginning…

A breeze stirred up and I put my hands in my jacket pockets to keep them warm, and I smiled as I felt my mobile in one of them – I even took it out to check if it was still working; I often forget to charge it, but it was, and I almost laughed out loud at my silly fears and told myself that the vastness of the countryside was getting to me, and my overactive imagination - that I would get used to this new life, and soon forget about being surrounded by people in their far too close work stations in offices, by people all crammed in the commuters, by neighbors living beside you, beneath you, and above you in your apartment building, and in neighboring apartment buildings also – yes; I thought as I ambled back over the rise towards the house, it wouldn’t take long to get used to a fragrant fresh breeze, as opposed to putrefying city smells…

That’s when I saw it – a vehicle pulling into my drive and making towards my new home – and I only noticed it from such a distance, because the sun was setting, and the Ute had its lights on already - who knew I was here? I thought to myself as I started to run downhill, knowing I was still about fifteen minutes away, even if I sprinted as fast as I could, but I hadn’t run since I was a child, so it’d probably be a rather slow, and stumbling process...

All sorts of things went through my mind as I raced for the house I’d only just moved into – had I locked it? Yes, living in the city had taught me to double check everything was turned off and locked before leaving – perhaps it was my lawyer, checking on me; but even he did not know I was here already and anyway, he drove a shiny black Porsche and I couldn’t even imagine him and his expensive Italian designer attire in such a (even from here I could see) grimy and battered vehicle – perhaps the farm manager had forgotten something? But his flight would have left for the Riviera by now – in fact, all the staff would be in different countries already – a neighbor perhaps, who may have noticed the removal van yesterday, or the lights on last night? But the house couldn’t be seen clearly from the road, for the density of the trees - if I hadn’t been up on the hill; I probably wouldn’t have noticed the lights of the vehicle entering my property either; and the neighboring houses are too far away to be viewed; nor, could I remember seeing any other surrounding farm-lights yesterday evening – perhaps someone was lost and just needed directions? I kept telling myself; but not quite convincingly, and I had only a few meters left to go when I froze – for a light suddenly had been switched on inside – in my lounge – where I had enjoyed relaxing beside my very first open-fire with a glass of wine the night before…

Instinct warned me to keep quiet and hidden; so on tip toes, I slipped into the dense Morning Glory – my mistake; this close to the lovely blue flowers, I wanted to sneeze – pinching my nose actually stopped the sneeze, this time, I sighed with relief, for that rarely works – I briefly wondered if dialing emergencies worked so far out in the countryside; remembered my phone was alright when I checked it a few moments ago up on the rise, and I took the phone out of my pocket - but before I had a chance to dial, a notification informed me that the battery now needed charging; that there was only 1% of power left – I gulped, and told myself that 1% should be enough for one call, I also told myself to remain calm, and concentrate – but just as I’d started dialing, the phone turned itself off in my hand – I cursed under my breath for forgetting to charge the thing while moving in and unpacking, and dropped the now useless device back into my pocket…

What should I do now? It must be one of the staff I told myself; but if so, what was he; or she; doing in my home? Surely they do not have keys to the main house? Or if they do, would they actually live there instead of their own rooms? In the owner’s absence, it’s a bit cheeky, but maybe they’d be tempted to? Live in luxurious comfort than (I realized I hadn’t even looked at the other buildings yet) most likely tiny squalor? And if their rooms were so unpleasant, perhaps I should do something to rectify the problem? Telling myself it was someone who lived and worked here; I decided it best to confront the person and later on have the locks changed – I could have entered the back way, but following my instincts again, I decided to go around to the front door – and for the second time that evening, I froze – for the door had not simply been unlocked; it had been forced in, my home had been broken into…

So, I thought to myself; even in the country, you get thieves - and I made a mental note to do something about security, if I survived this night – I was not going to hide in fear while my beautiful new property was being ransacked, I was going to fight for the house I already loved dearly – now I was glad I hadn’t cleaned up the yard earlier; as I picked up a piece of a broken branch and grasping it tightly between both hands, I walked into my house, and quietly approached the lounge – the lounge door was not open wide, but it was ajar – still; I had to push it to enter and in total silence, the creaking (oh; why didn’t I oil the hinges earlier as I’d intended) alerted the intruder of my presence, so there was nothing for it now, but to rush in, brandishing my only weapon before me…

I don’t know who was more surprised; he’d moved the floor rug aside (that came with the house and which I liked so much that I had left it in its place while I’d been re-arranging the furnishings) and he had pulled open a trap-door there that I did not even know existed, and he had been about to climb down some kind of in-built ladder – for a moment, we both stared at each other in surprise; then with what seemed like lightning speed, he grabbed a hand-gun from his back waist-band and pointed it at me – I was only a couple of meters away from him and instead of whacking the intruder with the broken branch as I’d intended; at the sight of the gun I panicked, and threw the branch at him – with a gun in his hand he wasn’t expecting me to fight back and that was all I needed to momentarily break his concentration; I took that moment to run from the room as fast as I could go – I knew he’d come after me, and I ran down the hall into the kitchen – while there, I grabbed the biggest knife I’d left on the wooden island work-bench in the middle of the room (I hadn’t yet cleaned up after my brunch), and stood behind the door – as he followed and was about to enter the kitchen, I rammed the door into him with all my strength – for a moment, it was silent – then the door slowly opened again, while he was falling towards the floor – as he fell, his head hit the island bench so hard that the bench went rolling and crashed into the sink opposite – as he hit the floor, the gun fell from his hand and slid out of his reach – instinct had taken over fear now, and I quickly kicked the gun even further from the intruder’s reach and before he had a chance to get up again; I ran after the gun, picked it up, and faced my intruder with his gun in one hand and the knife in the other, ready to use either…

But since he’d hit the floor, he hadn’t moved – at first I thought he was bluffing, so I would think I was safe, and move closer to check him out – I did move closer, but all the while keeping the knife and gun pointed at his head, and ready to use – that’s when I realized with some amazement (I’d never been in a predicament like this), that I was actually ready to use either, if I had to, for the sake of my new property and its contents - for even I knew; I would have been safer to have kept hidden in the Morning Glory outside – although it was not too dark yet; I reached out and turned the kitchen light on, and that’s when I noticed he had not moved at all, since his fall, so maybe he wasn’t bluffing – I inched closer; and closer, until I was close enough to notice his head was lying at a twisted angle, and his eyes were staring blindly up at me – the door must have dazed him, and the fall on the island bench as he went down must have broken his neck…

I was amazed at my own resolve as I calmly put the knife back on the bench, then wiped the gun with a tea-towel so it wouldn’t have any fingerprints on it, and placed it into one of the kitchen drawers – I had no intention of calling the police; my cell had died, but there was a land-line in the hall - I had an ex ‘wife-beating’ husband that I’d been hiding from, and I thought that this inheritance had come along just at the right time of my life, and there was no way I was going to be on the news, exposing where I was – I dragged the kitchen floor rug that he’d landed on (all the rooms had their own piece of carpet) and pulled it with him on it out to his vehicle outside and managed to haul it (it’s amazing how strong one could be when required) and its dire contents into the back of the Ute - the keys were still in the ignition and following the track I’d walked earlier, I drove to the edge of the cliffs – the sun was sinking into the ocean when I climbed out of the vehicle, released the brake, and pushed the nightmare that had invaded my lovely new life, into the sea – I watched as the vehicle crashed onto the jagged rocks below, splattering pieces of the old vehicle in every direction, I watched as the hungry waves lashed out for all in its reach and bit by bit, take it all to its dark, murky depths below…

It was quite dark by the time I got back to the house, luckily, the full moon provided me with enough light to maneuver the rough terrain without slipping and stumbling too much - I knew it must have been an ‘inside job’; that only the staff would have known when the place should have been empty, that only someone who had worked there may have known about the secret basement – which turned out to be full of treasure, by the way – the lost treasure the lawyer had told me about; the treasure that was supposed to have been hidden in precarious rocky caves in the even more precarious cove, the treasure that had claimed so many lives in that treacherous area, and now, yet another life - so I had not only inherited a large property, I was also wealthy, beyond my hopes and dreams – as if the lovely house rewarded me for protecting it, and its belongings – I did not publicize the find; the jewelry, except for one heart shaped locket with a faded old photo of a sad young woman inside, something about that girl reminded me of myself, so I decided to wear it around my neck, but the rest, I promptly put into a bank safe in London, the banker presuming it must have been part of my inheritance, which I supposed was true, and I kept the remaining larger pieces of assorted treasures such as golden chalices and exotic statuettes, in the basement - now padlocked, intending to donate it all to museums later, when I was old and no longer afraid of a previous, cruel husband finding me - and I waited for the workers to return – the one that would be surprised to find the house had not been broken into and robbed, would be the ‘insider partner’ to watch out for - I’d had the front door repaired; I’d oiled the creaking lounge door, a security camera system had been installed and connected to my devices, and I now had a pet also – a beautiful large Golden Retriever that I named Pirate, was the latest addition to the new life, home and treasure that I loved and had managed to protect, all on my own…

So the day came; at the beginning of spring, when they (six of them) returned to work – a variety of ages, both male and female, all seemingly refreshed, and seemingly eager to get back to their jobs again the very next morning - all arrived in a 4 wheel people-mover which belonged to the manager, who must have picked them up at a pre-destined rendezvous – he pulled up right beside the side verandah where I was sitting with Pirate, enjoying the afternoon sun – he was a handsome, strong young man, who introduced himself and the others to me, and I smiled and welcomed them back as if nothing untoward had happened in their absence – I asked courteously about their various vacations, and listened, and laughed with them – without, I hoped, showing how suspicious I was of my employees, and I made sure they all heard how I’d moved in earlier than planned, a lot earlier…

As the others took their luggage from the vehicle and started settling back in their lodgings, my young manager lingered in my presence a little longer – it was obvious he was used to females of all ages (I was older than him) fawning and falling for him and I could tell his ego was a little put out at my polite manner, but obvious disinterest – if my home hadn’t been invaded so disturbingly, I may have admired his physical charms a bit more than I did, but after having survived a bad marriage, admiration is all it would have been, for me anyway, for this young man, only admiration, from afar – from very afar – but he was in no hurry to unpack, so I poured him a glass of the fresh lemonade that I’d been enjoying, and invited him to sit a moment; hopefully, to find out more about these people I was about to share my world with – I didn’t get a chance to ask him about any of them though, for the very first thing he asked was if everything was alright while they’d been away, and when I answered ‘of course’, he asked if everything was fine when I moved in, and if the place was found to be in order, undisturbed – I answered very much so, and I thanked him for having the winter’s fire-wood waiting for me, that it was a very thoughtful gesture – I watched his expression when I informed him that the front door had required mending and noticed an eyebrow raise ever so slightly - then I suggested we take a drive around the property while he tell me all about the beautiful farm that I’d inherited – he could not hide his delight (the jerk thought I wanted to be alone with him), and in his eagerness to be alone with me, he even offered we go in his vehicle, saying his was handy, and saving me having to get my car out of the garage – perfect, I thought; I asked him to wait while I grabbed a jacket, which I did, but I also took the gun from the kitchen drawer - Pirate wanted to join us, but I told him to stay put, to look after the house while I was out, that I wouldn’t be long…

The others were singing and drinking in their community lounge-room (the party before their first day of work, the manager explained), I don’t think they even noticed us drive off – I verbally admired the sea-view as we drove over the rise and so with a grin (he thought I was feeling romantic), he made for the cliff-top – I giggled flirtatiously as I jumped out of the vehicle and he almost fell out in his eagerness to help me – but it wasn’t a playful girl he found when he came around to my side of the vehicle, it was an angry woman waiting for him, with a gun in her hands – I must have looked as though I’d never held a gun before, for he lunged at me – he was right; and I hesitated awkwardly, instead of pulling the trigger straight away, and when I did fire the gun, the force made me stagger backwards, the bullet going off into the sky - but the movement of my staggering back as he reached me caused him to loose his balance, and he fell past me, and slipped over the edge – I swung around and almost watched in disbelief as he looked back at me as he fell - I’ll never forget the look on his face as he realized he was not shot, but he was falling to his death anyway, and as if in slow motion, the body twisting in a last effort to grab onto pieces of the jutting rocks of the cliffside - and he did manage to, but the weight of his falling body was too much for his hold and he continued on down with some tufts of grass between his fingers, his eyes looking up at me in bewildered shock – it would have only been a few seconds, but it seemed to take forever before he plunged onto the sharp rocks and tearing waves below – his vehicle, still with his belongings in it (and the gun) followed soon after, and with a sense of déjà vu, I looked up just in time to see what I believed to be the only witness, the sun, setting into its sea-bed for the night – damn – I had a long walk back in the dark, again…

I interrupted the party to say that the manager had received an urgent phone call to tend to some kind of personal emergency and had left; and that they would have to decide by experience, who should take his place, and how I would need their help to show me how to run the farm the next day…

Within days; we were working well, I was learning fast, and I knew I had a good team – they were happy as they worked also; although the oldest woman seemed quiet – her name was Ruth, she did the cooking and cleaning of all the buildings, including the main house, but she was so old, that I helped her as best as I could, as well as working on the farm, in an attempt to make her workload a little easier.

I had almost forgotten about the attempted robbery and the bodies at the bottom of Ragwort Cove, until one day, while having a coffee break with Ruth in the conservatory, to my astonishment; she asked me, “did anything unusual happen when you first moved into the place?”

I felt my face pale as I asked, “like what?”

“Oh, there are rumors of a hidden treasure, and it’s not often that the place is completely deserted,” the old woman paused to take a breath, “the perfect time for any…potential thieves…”

I laughed. “Treasure? But most places around here have legends of buried Pirate’s treasures…”

“Mmmm, they do,” Ruth looked at the locket around my neck, “but this treasure, is…different…”

My hand involuntarily clasped the locket, “Different?”

She looked out the windows towards the cliffs, “do you know the story of Ragwort Cove?”

I shook my head, “no, except for the pirate treasure that has never been found, and lives have been lost looking for it…”

“I was young,” she continued, “when I was looking for work, when your old great uncle owned the place and hired me to help run the house, but he was cruel to his wife; his - much younger wife…I tried all I could to keep him calm, not anger him, but…” she paused, “but I was just a girl…and he was so…tall, and strong, and…” her voice trailed off…

“And?”

She shook her head as though that might shake out the bad memories. “He said that he killed her, and threw her body over the cliffs…but no one believed him…he was a bit of a pompous bragger, so the locals just laughed at him behind his back, they all knew that he was a wife-beater, so they presumed that she had had enough, and had run away…”

I unfastened the locket, opened it up, and showed the photo to the old woman. “Is this her?”

The old woman nodded her head. “Yes…”

I continued, “and is this the treasure that you were talking about?”

As the housekeeper, she would have known about the basement, and maybe even about its contents. But she looked me straight in the eyes. “Yes…”

Both of us knew about the treasure in the basement. This was her way of saying that she cared more for her long lifestyle in this home, and not tor the treasure downstairs, and it was her way of saying that the treasure story was only about the heart-shaped locket, the only thing that I had decided to bring out of the basement, and wear.

I relaxed back into my chair and smiled. “I think we need something stronger than coffee,” I went to get out of my chair, but she was faster than me. “I’ll get it,” Ruth said, and left the room. I sighed. Pirate, who had been sitting at my feet, looked up at me. “I think Ragwort’s problems are over”, I told him. He put his head down again, but whimpered as he did so, as if he doubted it.

Ruth returned with a Sparkling Shiraz and two wine glasses. When she poured our drinks, I raised my glass. So did she. “Cheers!” We both said in unison, as we ‘clinked’ our glasses together.

A little later on, as Ruth was leaving, she turned back to me. “Oh, and…I know that you got rid of that young…” did her voice falter? “Manager…”

I almost choked on my drink. But before I could reply, she added, “nothing much happens around here that I don’t know about…”

I sighed outwardly with relief. After our little conversation, for a moment, I thought that I had killed an innocent kid. “So; I’m guessing that he was the real treasure hunter?”

“Not only that, he was claiming he was the real heir, that poor girl’s grandson. Their grandson. He’d obviously heard about her running away, he didn’t know that she was at the bottom of the cove, but there was no way that we could deny it in court without admitting that she was dead…”

I smiled at her. “I want you to move into the house, there are lots of empty rooms in this big old lonely, empty home…” I thought that sounded better than saying that she deserved better lodgings on the lifelong home that she loved, protected, and had kept all of its innermost secrets.

Her little smile told me that it was a deal.

“Move in tomorrow,” I ordered, and she nodded, as she left.

Before replacing the locket around my neck, I took another look at the photo. The young girl no longer looked sad. She actually looked happy. Smiling. I shook my head, and looked at my dog. “Pirate, my imagination is running away with me,” I told him, as I poured some more wine into my glass. He looked up at me and responded by happily wagging his tail.

The next day, I took Pirate for a walk up over the rise, and to the clifftops of Ragwort Cove. I sat on the edge of the cliffs, and looked down towards the lashing waves far below us. With torrential waves like that, I wasn’t surprised to not see any fragments of any vehicle wreckages, or bodies, below us. The sea had claimed the criminals and swept them far from our shore. I unclasped the locket, opened it up, and peered at the girl’s photo inside. I thought of the portrait of my great uncle in the hallway, the relative that I had never met, or even knew about, until recently. I thought about his handsome face, and to my sudden dismay, to the resemblance to the young man who had claimed to be his real heir. I talked out loud to the girl in the photo. “Did you manage to leave, and have a son, then grandson? Are you still alive somewhere?”

I myself had had a cruel husband, who bragged about killing me, after I managed to escape, as if controlling men couldn’t live with the fact that their wives managed to run away – they’d rather face jail, than that – but of course; without any bodies, or evidence, they weren’t charged - but if she had escaped, like me, she wouldn’t have wanted to be found; “or are you sleeping down there in the dark depths below me…” Suddenly, as if the photo answered, I knew the truth…

When we returned home, Ruth was making dinner in the kitchen. “Did you enjoy your walk?” She asked me.

“Yes, it’s quite a nice day outside…”

“You went to the cove?”

“Yes…”

She looked at my locket. “You didn’t return it to her?”

I unclasped the locket, and fastened it around her neck. “I just did…”

She paled.

“As I was sitting on the clifftop, I realized how much that young manager looked like my great uncle. And as I was looking at the photo in the locket, I saw her little smile – your, little smile…”

Tears were streaming down her face. “I didn’t know I was pregnant, when I left. My son and his wife were killed in a car accident, leaving me to bring up my grandson. I tried to keep the truth from him, but he was curious, and did his own research – when he found out that we could be rich instead of poor, he wanted to come here, claim his rights – I tried to stop him, but I couldn’t – so we came together – instead of being happy to have a grandson, his grandfather was still angry at me for leaving, and attached me – my grandson killed his grandfather, defending me. To save my grandson, we…”

“Threw the grandfather over the cliff…”

“We thought that we could resume our lives here, as if I’d never left, but…”

“But another inheritor was found, me…it must have been a shock, to have me suddenly turn up…”

“I told my grandson that there was nothing that we could do, without bringing up the past, and investigations maybe leading to us being incarcerated for killing my husband – but he wanted to throw you over the cliff as well, I tried to stop him, there has been enough killing because of this place…such a mess…how many more relatives are going to turn up that we’ll have to…” her voice cracked, “throw over the cliff…”

I drew her into my arms. “No more. I have no children. You are living in your house again. The workers know that I think that you deserve to live in the house for the rest of your life – they presume that I’m doing that because you’re old - knowing that it really is your house, can be our secret…”

She nodded.

I went on, “I’d planned to, but I didn’t kill your grandson, he lunged at me, lost his balance, and went over the cliff - an accident…”

She nodded again. And sighed. “I know – I knew what he was going to do, and went there too, to try to the end, to change his mind – I saw what happened…”

“I didn’t hear any other vehicles in the vicinity?”

“No. I hid in the back of his vehicle…”

“But - I pushed it over the cliff!”

“I slipped out while you were peering over the cliff, watching him fall. I hid in the long grasses…”

“But – you were here, when I returned..”

“I’ve lived here since I was a young bride, I know all the shortcuts, even in the dark…”

“I’m – I’m so very sorry…”

“So am I,” she whispered, “but it was his greed, his lust for riches, that killed him…”

She grabbed a bottle of Sparkling Shiraz, and I grabbed a couple of glasses – we made our way to the conservatory, with Pirate on our heels.

She expertly flipped the cork, and filled the glasses.

“To the future,” she said.

“To surviving,” I said, as we clinked our glasses together, “and to you, my great aunt…”

“Shhhh,” she smiled at me, “the workers…”

“Are all partying in their lodgings,” I replied, “what are they celebrating anyway?”

“Oh, didn’t you know? This is Ragwort’s anniversary. Ragwort Cove is 500 years old…”

“That old? Blimey! I wonder how many other secrets this place has…”

She smiled as she sipped her drink.

Me. “You know more, don’t you?”

She. “Are you tired?”

Me. “No…”

“Good…” she fingered her locket, “get comfortable, my grand-niece, it’s going to be a long night…”

A few days later, while catching up on the latest news on my tablet, I decided to check my surveillance cameras, which I was still not in the habit of doing – that’s when I saw Ruth going down into the basement – I ran after her, to find her sitting on the bare floor, in the middle of the treasures.

I joined her. “What are you doing?”

“Well, if we can’t display them in our world, we have to periodically come down and enjoy them in their world…”

“I had the basement padlocked…”

“I told you, not much…”

I interrupted her, “happens here without you knowing about it…”

“I’m the housekeeper, so of course I found the key…”

“Of course…”

We laughed.

“But…” she started, “it is a shame to keep everything down here…”

I picked up a golden chalice. “I suppose we can use some of these…”

“And put a few statues in the hallway, and lounge…”

“Just a few…”

“Yea, just a few…”

We laughed some more…”

From outside, Pirate started barking, then wailed, then – nothing. I jumped up, and ran for the stairs – halfway up though, the trapdoor banged shut, and the rug pulled over it, covering the light streaming in from around its edges.

Hey!” I called, “we’re down here!” But as I reached the top and tried to lift the trapdoor, someone dragged something heavy over it. “Hey!” I kept hammering at the trapdoor, then realizing what was happening, my next “hey” came out as a hopeless whimper.

Fingering around in the dark, I went back down to the old woman. “Is there another way out of the basement?”

“No…”

My eyes were adjusting to the dark, and I ran around frantically looking, anyway. “There must be…”

“No…”

“And no lights, either?”

“No…”

I went back to her, “what have you done?”

“There is one more secret that I didn’t tell you, my grandson, has a wife…a pregnant wife…”

“And to get me down here, you are willing to die as well?”

She nodded. “He was my grandson…!”

She was watching me, still on the floor in the middle of our treasure.

I still had my phone in my pocket, recently charged, but…I was hiding from a cruel husband – and, I had killed two men, how could I prove that it was in self defense – and, I’d rather die among my riches, than in jail, or at the hand of a cruel husband…

I joined her, and put the phone torch light on. “I don’t suppose you thought to bring some of that Shiraz down here?”

“Grab a couple of those golden chalices…”

Yes, Ragwort Cove had its stories, and kept its secrets... in deathly silence… 

Short Story

About the author

TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY

When I was a young child, I would wake up in the night screaming because of nightmares. As time went on, I realized that I was looking forward to my dreams. They were much more exciting than my real life. So now, I write about my dreams...

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