About The Hollow Ground – Episode 41

Piers, younger and less bulky, abandoned his ladder and jumped to safety, landing spread-eagled on the cobbles of the yard.

All work ceased. By the time Piers had picked himself up, dazed by the impact, the men were pulling Brassey clear of the tumbled load.

Mercy, standing aghast, burst into tears.

“Out of my way, lass,” Piers said hoarsely.

He pushed past the hysterical girl and waded through torrents of sweet-scented crop to where the victim sat shaking in alarm.

“Brassey, man, is all well?”

“Aye, reckon so.”

Brassey pulled a kerchief from his pocket and proceeded to mop his brow.

The men, seeing no real harm was done, retreated to inspect the scattered hay and Mercy, still sobbing, took herself off into the house.

“Fool! That could have ended in tragedy!” Piers cried.

“Tes true,” Brassey replied. “It dunna bear thinking about.”

“Can you stand up, man? Let me give you a hand.”

Visibly shaken, his face drawn and legs rubbery, Brassey allowed himself to be escorted into the quiet of the granary. Piers fetched a stool from the rear of the building.

Brassey subsided gratefully on to it.

“By, that were a near miss. Tes my worst nightmare, being smothered under a load of hay.

“I saw it happen to a fellow once. By the time we’d pulled him free he were a goner.”

He took several gulping breaths, getting his equilibrium back.

“Want some water?” Piers asked him.

“Directly. Got summat to say first. You saved my life today an’ I owe you a favour.

“There’s summat you should know. Mercy overheard a conversation between the missus and yourself. She told me and Noah about it. I dunno if there’s any truth in what were said and I dunna care.”

“Go on,” Piers said cautiously.

“She said as you was guilty of theft. There’s a fellow from your old workplace lodging at the Red Lion. Name’s Goff. He’s seeking you out.”

Piers stared in shocked disbelief.

“I take it Goff now knows where I am.”

“That about sums it up. There’s more. ’Twere us sent Mercy after you earlier.”

“You got her to lure me back here? But I was heading off to Elmtree to sort things out! More fool me for listening to her. I knew all along there was nothing amiss with those hayricks!”

Piers ran a hand through his rumpled hair.

“Where’s Goff now?”

“That’s what I wanted to warn you about. Him’s likely on his way here. Might be best to make yourself scarce, afore he turns up.”

“Aye, it might,” Piers said scathingly, and delivering the hapless man a final glance, he left the granary.

Ignoring the men now engaged in collecting the mass of hay, he seized his belongings from where he had left them and took himself off.

He did not notice Nan’s still figure, watching his retreat from the parlour window.

Aware of the possibility of coming across Goff on the road, Piers took a ploughman’s path down to Salter’s Lane. It occurred to him what a sight he must present, soaked in sweat and peppered from head to foot in hayseed.

It wasn’t the best condition in which to approach anyone in authority, and Piers had designs on dropping off at an inn, the Egerton Arms, where a recently elected police constabulary for the area met. He had some information for them.

A stream ran alongside the path. Dropping his gear on the bank, Piers yanked off his coat and shirt and sluiced himself down thoroughly.

Then, dressing hastily, he smoothed down his hair and continued on his way.

Once on the solid surface of the road, another downhill mile brought him to the inn.

Here he spoke to the constable on duty, handed over his small piece of evidence and left a forwarding address should he need to be contacted.

He then headed off southwards, satisfied that he had done his best to right a terrible wrong.

It was up to the law to do the rest.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.