Sunday 21 – Friday 26 December 2014
The mist had only just begun to lift as the coroner’s vehicle slowly rolled down Carol Castledene’s driveway.
‘That makes two,’ the police constable said to himself. ‘Two dead bodies, one heavy mist, and absolutely no suspects.’
‘Talking to yourself again, Nigel?’ William Wilkinshaw called out as he strode towards PC Norton. Nigel looked around and discovered that he was indeed alone.
‘Actually, I was talking to the new junior PC, but it seems he’s disappeared. Where the bloody hell is he? Anyway, what can I do for you William?’ Norton closed his pocketbook and slipped it into his jacket, stashing his tiny pencil in the same pocket.
‘You can tell me what’s going on here.’ Wilkinshaw stepped closer to the police constable. He towered over Norton, and the policeman was forced to look up at Wilkinshaw.
‘I can’t do that, William. You know that. You’re not a member of the constabulary,’ Norton sheepishly replied. After all these years, Nigel Norton was still terrified of what William Wilkinshaw might be capable of.
‘Nigel, Nigel, Nigel . . . that’s never stopped you before. You know how these things work. They’ve always worked the same way. I need constabulary assistance. You provide it. Unless, of course, you want me to have a chat with the Chief Constable about some of the other not so constabulary-like deeds you’ve undertaken.’
Norton sighed heavily, the weight of yet another questionable favour settled heavily upon his shoulders. ‘What? What do you want?’
‘If you do this right, keep your mouth shut, this will be the last one for a while.’
Having surrendered to Wilkinshaw’s will, Nigel nodded.
‘I need you to let me into Carol’s home so that I can have a gander in her safe.’
‘Is this for you or your mum?’ Nigel asked.
‘Mostly my mother, but I’ll benefit as well.’
Nigel looked around, making sure that the coroner’s vehicle was completely gone, and that his junior PC was nowhere in sight.
‘Alright,’ Nigel whispered, ‘but only because Fenella has been like a mother to me too. But I’m staying out here.’
‘Perfect. You keep an eye out for your little constabulary friend,’ Wilkinshaw replied, and then slipped away into the Castledene ancestral home.
Nigel wandered back and forth outside the front door, waiting for William to re-emerge. After being hyper vigilant for close to thirty minutes, the on-edge PC Nigel Norton was relieved when Wilkinshaw casually wandered out of the house, still shoving wads of paper into his pockets.
‘What’s all that then?’ the constable enquired, pointing at the papers that Wilkinshaw was handling.
‘Not really any of your business, is it?’ Wilkinshaw sneered. ‘However, if it’ll help to shut you up, I’ll tell you. These are the last documents to be held in the possession of the Castledene family, in fact, possibly the last documents in existence that prove the link between the Castledenes and the Wilkinshaws. And with them back in our hands, there’s little to prove that we have had anything to do with the demise of the Castledenes or Matthew bloody Jenkins.’
Nigel looked horrified. ‘Your family had Matthew Jenkins killed?’
‘No, Nigel, I killed him. Surely you realised that when you examined his body.’
His face etched with consternation, the constable thought back to the evidence he’d gathered from both the scene of Jenkins’ death and Jenkins’ home. Had he missed something? There was nothing he’d uncovered that pointed to William Wilkinshaw’s involvement.
‘I can see you’re wondering, Nigel. So, between you and me, I beat his head in to a bloody pulp just the way he did to my little brother.’
‘There was no evidence implicating Matthew Jenkins in the involvement of Charles’ death. The coroner ruled it a tragic accident,’ Norton replied.
‘You honestly believe that a ten year old boy’s head just accidentally gets smashed in so he’s unrecognisable?’ William snapped. ‘You know as well as I do, as well as mother does, that Jenkins did it. He was the only one anywhere near Charles when he died. He was the only one who ended up covered in blood, and it was not from trying to save Charles’ life. It was splatter. The sort that happens when you bludgeon someone to death, Nigel.’
‘And what did Carol Castledene do to deserve her fate?’ PC Norton asked, although he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.
‘Ah, well, Carol’s only fault was that she was a Castledene. Think back to all of the stories we were told as children, Nigel, about the Castledenes and the Wilkinshaws. The old legend about Jonathon murdering his family, about young Callum’s body never being found, about Richard Wilkinshaw and Delwyn Castledene allegedly having an affair . . . about Callum not being Jonathon’s son. It was about realigning the balance, and it was a mission, if you will, passed down the generations from Callum Castledene, or rather Callum Wilkinshaw.’
* * * * *
Strangler’s Cove Parish Records, February 14, 1763
Richard Wilkinshaw sat with me today, his heart heavy with grief and despair. The Castledene tragedy has saddened everyone in Strangler’s Cove. The fact that young Callum’s body has not been found is of concern to all. Where could Jonathon possibly have hidden the body of his youngest son? Sheriff Wilkinshaw is considering moving his family away from the village to escape the accusations against his wife. No one in the village has seen her since the murders, and she refuses to accept my visits to her home. Wilkinshaw is not the same man. His manner is different, but I expect that witnessing the carnage that Jonathon Castledene left behind would change a man.
Strangler’s Cove Parish Records, February 28, 1763
This entry is by way of a confession. I have information that I wish I were not made privy to. I called upon the Wilkinshaws, this being their last day in Strangler’s Cove, Richard having made good upon his threat to leave to protect his wife’s reputation. I called around soon after morning meal to find Amelia alone with the children, Richard having been called to Moredale Farm to settle a disagreement between Moredale and one of his neighbours. I stood peering in the kitchen window for a moment as I gathered my courage to confront Mrs. Wilkinshaw. It was then that I saw him, clear as day. In front of me, with my very own eyes I spied Callum Castledene playing under the kitchen bench with the youngest of the Wilkinshaw cubs.
She did try to hide the boy when I announced my presence, but it was little too late. I implored her to tell me how the boy had come to be with her. She defended against my enquiries until Richard arrived home. He told me that he knew Callum was his son. He had confession the indiscretion to his wife when he’d learned of Castledene’s treatment of the children from Abby Orman. When Delwyn saw Jonathon’s increasing rage and maltreatment of the children, she urged Richard to tell his wife and take the child away from Castledene’s brutality, and raise him as a Wilkinshaw.
Amelia confessed that she harboured ill will towards Delwyn for taking her husband, but could not, in all good conscience, the child to continue to be brutalised by Castledene. She pleaded with Richard to bring the child home where they would raise him with love in a stable and safe environment. With his wife’s blessing and Delwyn’s help, Richard stole the child away the night before Castledene killed them all. Richard carries guilt now that it was this action that led Castledene to take the lives of his wife and children.
They mystery of Callum Castledene’s disappearance now solved, I felt it necessary to compel Wilkinshaw to take his family far away from Strangler’s Cove. What will become of them, I do not know.
* * * * *
‘And it was in that moment that the Castledenes and Wilkinshaws became inextricably linked.’
‘So,’ Nigel whispered, ‘at some point your ancestors returned to Strangler’s Cove.’
‘After Callum’s death, the family returned. Apparently, Callum had instilled in every member of the Wilkinshaw family that the Castledenes were evil and it was the Wilkinshaw mission to rid the world of them.’
‘But Carol Castledene . . . how? I mean, if Jonathon murdered his family . . . ’
William slapped his hand upon Nigel’s shoulder and directed him down the driveway. He answered as they headed off towards Ravenbridge Pub.
‘Carol was a descendant of Jonathon’s brother, Michael. In her desperate need to restore the mill, she’d begun researching the Castledene line. Somewhere amongst the parish records there was written evidence that Callum had been taken by the Sheriff of Strangler’s Cove at the time of the murders. One Richard Wilkinshaw, Callum’s biological father. She was trying to blackmail my mother into financing the mill restoration. She had to be stopped. And she was a Castledene after all.’
. . . The end . . .