He’s Watching You – Episode 08


JOAN felt profoundly grateful to the two young boys. They had kept the rest from full-blown panic. At last the all-clear sounded and they filed out into the weak sunlight, and she breathed a quick prayer for their safety.

As if all that wasn’t enough, she cut her finger on the school guillotine after the last period, a nasty wound on her finger. She wrapped a handkerchief round the cut but the blood seeped through. She would have to visit the surgery.

Dr Hardwick was the old-fashioned kind of doctor, bluff and down to earth. He wore a heather-coloured tweed suit and thick horn-rimmed spectacles, and a stethoscope hung from his neck. He had what she called a no-nonsense tone to his voice.

“You’d better come to the surgery, Miss Merriel. I’ll take a look.”

A large poster hung on the wall next to a notice warning of the dangers of malaria. It depicted a German with brutal, bloodshot eyes wearing a heavy metal helmet. The words HE’S WATCHING YOU danced off the paper in blazing colours. It was rather unnerving.

“Sit down on the chair. Let’s see what you have been up to.” Carefully he unwrapped the handkerchief, exposing the cut. “Hm, a nasty gash. I’ll put a couple of stitches in that. But first some iodine. It’ll sting.”

It did and Joan screwed up her face.

“How did you do it? Sharpening pencils?”

“No. I caught it on the guillotine.”

“Hm. Dangerous things, I always think. How is the teaching going? Any trouble from the children?”

She smiled.

“I’ve followed the old advice, Doctor – start by being tough and ease off later. They’ve settled down well.”

“And how are you finding village life?”

Joan decided to put out a few feelers.

“Everybody is very unsettled by the war. Two of the boys told me about that unpleasant business from the last war. It must have been horrible for you.”

The doctor raised his eyebrows.

“The old chestnut about spies in our midst, murderers on the loose? It’s all over and done with long ago.”

“But the murderer was never found.”

“True, but the police are fairly certain he did a runner and went abroad. You’ll hear all kinds of tales in the village, Miss Merriel. Even worse after the menfolk have downed a few beers! Ignore the lot. You’ve better ways of spending your time.”

He tossed a paper bandage wrap into the wastepaper basket.

“Well, that’s you sorted out, Miss Merriel. It’ll be a bit painful for a day or two. Take plenty of aspirin and come and see me again in a week.”

“Thank you, Doctor Hardwick. You’ve been very helpful.”

Just as she was about to leave the surgery, he turned to her.

“Miss Merriel, don’t drag up the past. The villagers are very sensitive about it. There are enough dangers all around.” He held her gaze with inscrutable eyes.

“As you will know from this week’s air raids. Stick to your school work.”

She felt like retorting, but something held her back. She couldn’t fathom the doctor at all.

Was he warning her of midnight landings on the beach by German troops? Or was there some other danger in Stonecliff-on- Sea, such as a spy who kept a knife in his pocket? The doctor’s story made everybody over the age of forty, male or female, a potential suspect.

Then Joan shook her head. A female killer? A murderess with a kitchen knife? No, it wasn’t possible. That was the stuff of Mrs Agatha Christie’s books, not real life.

Surely the colonel was right. The assassin would have gone from the village years ago, just as the doctor said.

She left the surgery and turned into the churchyard, taking the track that led back to the school, as she had some marking to finish. But as she walked, she had an unpleasant feeling between her shoulders, as though somebody was watching her.

Taking a deep breath, she turned. Lieutenant Walker was leaning against a tombstone, stick hooked over the surrounding iron railings. He stared at her, his face impassive.

“You’ve hurt yourself, Miss Merriel! I hope Doctor Hardwick has done a good repair job.”

She could feel the anger flaring up in her. He was spying on her movements. Spying, there it was again, that wretched word.

“Look, Lieutenant Walker, I don’t like being stalked.”

He raised his eyebrows.

“That’s a strong word. This is a part of the graveyard where casualties from the first war are buried.” He pointed to an inscription on the tall granite cross. “Look for yourself. I’m just tending the memorial.”

Joan could see the letters in gold: IN MEMORY OF THOSE BRAVE AND FAITHFUL MEN WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR.

“You have to admit it’s an odd coincidence. Wherever I go, you are lurking in the background.”

She had a sudden, appalling thought. Was he the man the doctor had mentioned? He was just old enough. Yes, it was possible.

If he’d been eighteen when the killing took place it would make him in his early forties. The wind that blew through the ancient yew trees suddenly felt cold.

“Just leave me alone, will you.”

She hurried away along the path towards the school and faintly from behind she heard him shout.

“You seem frightened of me, Miss Merriel. I won’t hurt you.”

She was glad of the umbrella in her hand. It would make a good weapon if she were attacked.

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.