Friday 18 – Sunday 20 May 2012
Parson’s Wood had always been a hive of activity during most of the year. It was home to a number of strategically placed hides in which avid ornithologists could stash themselves away in reasonable comfort and watch the local species go about their daily lives. Over time, it had also gained a reputation as being the one place in Blackfriar’s Dell where amorous teenagers, university students, and any other interested party could seek a bit of privacy. It was a particularly dense wood for the region, and many a visitor had found themselves lost. It was not a wood for the novice explorer.
It was, however, a wood that hid many secrets, and that was precisely why Lord Carlisle was insistent that Parson’s Wood was a part of the Carlisle estate. Generations of Carlisle before him had buried their secrets within Parson’s Wood; some of them riches, some knowledge and history, and Richard was sure that more than a few Carlisle ancestors may have buried a body or two. More recently though, Parson’s Wood held Richard and Emma’s secret, and were it to get out, the Carlisle name would be mud, and he and Emma would spend the rest of their days incarcerated at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
Always one to cover his bases, Richard waited impatiently at hide number four. He had intended that the meeting be short and amicable as all of the previous encounters had been. The final payment was concealed in the non-descript black backpack that was uncomfortably hooked over his left shoulder. He heard the footsteps approaching from the east, and turned in that direction. His contact cautiously approached, hands in pockets, head down, suspicion written all over the body language.
‘Good, you’re on time,’ Richard spoke quietly. He had no desire for anyone else who might be out in the woods at this time of day to hear the conversation. He took the backpack from his shoulder and held it out to the approaching figure. The gesture seemed to quicken the step of the receiver.
‘Thank you for what you’ve done for my family. That should well and truly cover it,’ he pointed to the backpack now in the hands of the person opposite him. All he got was a single nod in reply.
‘The money also buys your silence. Agreed?’ Richard asked. Again, a single nod was the reply.
‘I’d say it’s been a pleasure doing business with you, but this sort of business is always dirty and never a pleasure. So, I’ll simply say goodbye,’ Richard waited for some kind of reply, got none, and turned and went on his way. He headed back through the woods, retracing his steps, satisfied that the whole dirty little affair was over and done with. The arguments would stop, the underhanded dealings would stop, life would return to normal.
In his own little world, thinking of his newly serene life, Lord Richard Carlisle was oblivious to the figure stealthily stalking him through the woods, makeshift club in hand. Both were startled when Richard’s cell phone chimed. He stopped, and fumbled in his jacket pocket for the phone, finally grasping it in his left hand, and tapping the screen to answer the call.
‘Darling, yes, I’m on my way back,’ he paused, listening to his caller, ‘I needed to get out for a walk, Emma. I’m almost home. We’ll discuss it. Simon James doesn’t know anything. It’s all conjecture, and he’s baiting you to get a rise.’
Fearing that someone else might stumble through the woods and discover the impending scene, the figure behind Richard Carlisle willed him to end the call. As if on command, Carlisle bid his wife goodbye, promising to be home within minutes. He didn’t have time to either replace his phone in the jacket pocket or take a step before the assailant took two steps forward and raised the heavy tree branch, and brought it swiftly down on Richard’s head. Lord Richard Carlisle slumped to the ground with a dull thud, the autumn leaves on the ground muffling the sound.
For good measure, the murderer thumped Carlisle’s head three more times. It was, after all, better to be safe than sorry, and it was imperative that Richard was dead. These hits were unnecessary; Richard Carlisle had expired after the first, the force of which was so great that skull and tree branch had penetrated his brain.
The attacker dropped that branch next to the corpse, bent down and checked for a pulse. There was nothing to feel around Carlisle’s carotid artery. Removing the blood splattered leather gloves, Carlisle’s murderer shoved them deep into the inside breast pocket of their black, quilted jacket, and headed back through Parson’s Wood, passing hide four along the way, and back to Westwind farm.
A small fire in the remains of the barn would take care of the gloves, clothing and shoes, and no one would be any the wiser.
. . . To be continued . . .