The Glens of Stone – Episode 71

Monday dawned and for once Thomas McLean was in fairly good spirits. Weeks of patience had brought reward and matters were drawing to a close.

He felt no remorse about Jean Forbes’s death. The girl had served her purpose and would only have proved a liability. From her frightened protestations he felt sure she hadn’t told anyone about their secret liaison but, that said, he couldn’t take chances.

This meeting tonight. He had to be there, but it would be dangerous if he were spotted. It was to commence at seven, the girl had said, which meant he would have to get there earlier. Much earlier.

Accordingly he found himself alone in the kirkyard at five o’clock. The gate was open and the kirk doors unlocked. Entering by the front door, McLean climbed up the stone steps to the gallery above. There it was dark but dry, though he frowned at the sound of little scampering feet that greeted his arrival. He hoped it was mice. He couldn’t abide rats.

Carefully lowering himself to the floor, he made himself as comfortable as possible. A two-hour wait loomed, but he wasn’t worried. What were a few hours compared with the years he’d waited so far?

Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, he settled down.

*  *  *  *

Ewan arrived promptly at six o’clock. As he dismounted from his horse at the gates he saw the faint flicker of candlelight through the chancel window.

Striding through the dark kirkyard, he reached the heavy door and entered the shadowy building. An ornate pulpit loomed above his head to the left and he mounted its wooden steps to take his place at the lectern.

Below, he saw the tiers of boxed pews, while at eye level were deserted galleries. From his position he was satisfied he could see almost every nook and cranny in the old kirk.

As he leaned against the pulpit rail he heard the door open. Two figures entered hesitantly.

“Major Ogilvie?”

“Yes,” Ewan replied and the two men advanced.

“Privates Johnson and Bell, sir,” the taller of the two said. “Reporting as ordered.”

“Good,” Ewan said. “You’ve been given a list of those you’ve to admit?”

“Aye, sir,” the soldiers chorused.

“See to it that none save those enter. I want you both at the kirkyard gate and no nearer, understood?”


“To your posts, then,” Ewan commanded, “but first ensure no-one is skulking in the galleries.”

Knowing he had almost an hour before the others arrived, he sat on the narrow seat within the pulpit and studied his notes as best he could in the dim light.

As he sat he was aware of his men searching the gallery areas and heard their muttered curses as they stumbled on the stepped tiers, unable to see in the gloom. Private Bell had emerged into the small gallery to his right.

“All secure there, Bell?” Ewan asked.

He saw the man scan the pews and nod.

“Good,” he murmured and resumed reading his orders.

Outside, McLean waited patiently. Hearing Ogilvie’s orders to search the galleries, he had sped down the steps and hurried into the gloomy kirkyard.

After some time the two guards emerged and walked towards the far gates, ready to take up their positions. Confident they would not see him, he sidled back to the entrance and quietly let himself inside again.

As he edged into the gallery he saw Ogilvie was still in the pulpit. Crawling on hands and knees to keep out of sight, McLean crouched and waited.

As he lay there he made sure he still had his knife and, for the umpteenth time, checked his pistol was charged and cocked. Not long now, he thought, stretching himself fully on the dusty floor; not long at all.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.