About The Hollow Ground – Episode 48

December dragged on, and then, just before Christmas, when Nan had almost given up all hope of the official investigation bearing fruit, Charlotte arrived.

It was clear from her manner that this was not just a social call.

Flushed from the gallop along frosted lanes, she came barrelling into the house and met Nan in the hallway, about to go out and attend to the chores.

Nan’s hand flew to her chest in alarm.

“Charlotte, what is it? The Quarter Sessions? You have news?”

“I have indeed. You must prepare yourself. Edwin Harrison has been taken into custody on a charge of murder with intent.”

“Edwin Harrison?” Nan fought for breath. “But . . . how can this be?”

“According to Papa – Papa has been home more recently in order to keep up with proceedings. His position counts for much, you understand.”

“Yes, yes. Go on,” Nan said with impatience.

“It has emerged that Harrison’s desire for land was the source. Being a landowner was how he gained a place in society. The more acreage, the higher the status, and greed got the better of him,” Charlotte began.

“Apparently he’d had his eye on Cross Lanes for ages. He had approached Uncle Henry over buying at some point,” she went on. “With the request rejected, he turned to other means of acquiring his goal.”

Nan struggled to take it all in.

“Other means?” She swallowed hard as the implications became clear.

“Wedlock? By coercing Daniel into gaining my hand in marriage?”

“Precisely!” Charlotte declared. “I never did take to Harrison. He had a calculating air about him. Chances are he put that milksop of a son through hell and high water in an attempt to get his own way.

“Praise be you had the good sense to resist.” Charlotte took Nan’s cold hands in hers. “Let’s go into the parlour. There’s more, and it takes some coming to terms with.”

She guided Nan into the room and sat her down by the fire, building up the blaze with logs from the basket on the hearth.

She then went to the cabinet where the crystal flagons of liquor were displayed and poured them each a measure of brandy.

“Here, take this,” she said. “It will steady you.”

Nan sipped the fiery offering, feeling her strength returning.

“You had better tell me what else,” she urged.

Charlotte went to sit with her goblet in the winged chair opposite before replying.

“Well, it has come to light that Harrison paid Tom Dewes handsomely for instigating what happened to Uncle Henry.”

“Dewes?” Nan exclaimed. “Surely not. Papa trusted him. He would never have stooped so low.”

“My papa was of the same mind, but . . .” Charlotte made a wry face. “Dewes was obeying orders. He had no choice in the matter.

“That said, he thought a great deal of Uncle Henry. It was beyond him to perform the act himself, so he found someone to do it for him.”

“Seb Wilkes,” Nan said dully.

Charlotte nodded.

“Now there’s a man with no scruples, provided the rewards were adequate. A rope strung across the path through the wood where the victim rode every day, and voilà! The rider is unhorsed and his mount gallops home riderless.

“It was to Wilkes’s advantage that the fall proved fatal, giving every appearance of an accident. With the deed done, he had a hold over Dewes and resorted to blackmail.

“He’d given Tom and Aggie a dreadful time, pestering with demands for more money,” Charlotte finished.

“Dear goodness!” Nan exclaimed.

“Takes some believing, does it not? The incriminating evidence has not been disclosed, which is the odd thing. It makes one wonder what it was to have had such import.”

“It’s horrible! Poor, poor Papa,” Nan cried brokenly.

Charlotte took Nan’s arm.

“Take heart, Nan. The felons will get their due rewards. It will be the death penalty for all three.

“It won’t bring Uncle Henry back, but his loss is vindicated. The truth is revealed and there’s much to be gained from that.”

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”.