Scared Writer Syndrome?

Hello.

Tired one day, I nevertheless sat down to write. Over the last two years I’d completed Death Comes To The Dale and Death Returns To The Dale and self-published both. I must admit I like the total control of self-publishing. Everything is my call! A control freak, according to my boss when I actually worked for a living. Anyway, I didn’t feel that I’d finished with the characters I’d created, even though the two books had essentially fulfilled my ambitions. So, after writing and editing I produced the first chapter below, without having any clue as to where the plot might take me. Do I continue or do I just say that all this takes too much out of me and I should stick to driving my Mini and betting on the horses and doing my walks? No idea!

Thanks for reading.

P.A.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Tate was seated in Interview Room 1, his elbows resting heavily on the table in front of him, his head in his hands. He had interviewed many a criminal over the years in this very room, from petty crooks to serial killers but, today, he was on the wrong side of the table. His brain was spinning with the events of the past few hours. Standing to attention only ten feet away was PC Mark Craven, a uniformed officer who Tate knew well. There was a great deal of mutual respect between them but, for the last hour, this had been overwhelmed by complete silence.

The door opened and in walked two men who Tate only vaguely recognised. They sat down opposite him, and one switched on the recording equipment and mumbled into it while his obvious superior set out some paperwork in front of him and nodded to Craven who silently left the interview room. Tate sat back in his chair, folded his arms, and waited.  It was at least a minute before the senior officer spoke.

‘I am Detective Superintendent Dennison and this is Detective Inspector Judd. We have been parachuted in from Northallerton HQ by Superintendent Blair. We would like to treat this initial interview as informally as we can, if that’s alright by you, Alan, although, if you wish, you can be cautioned and have a solicitor present. There is no question of an arrest. We just need all the facts as you see them. Everything that’s happened since Saturday afternoon, say.’

Tate puffed out his cheeks and shook his head slowly.

‘This is a bloody nightmare!’ he exclaimed. ‘And thanks for the sympathy. My wife is dead!’

Dennison and Judd exchanged glances.

‘Alan, you must realise that we have to get through this with you. We clearly have the utmost sympathy but there are questions and anomalies. Let us start from Saturday. Please.’

Dennison’s tone was calm and measured.

At that moment, a nervous PC Helen Warren entered the room, set down three coffees on the table, and left without any eye contact with Tate. Each man picked up their paper cup. Tate drank the whole cup in one go and seemed to be calmer now. He began to talk.

‘On Saturday evening I was here, in my office, finishing paperwork for the CPS that should have been in last week. I finished it around eleven-thirty. Yes, I know, late, but anyway, I got home about midnight. My wife had gone to bed. She goes early sometimes if I’m not back, reads a bit and gets a full night’s sleep. I decided not to disturb her, so I slept in the spare room. I got up about eight on Sunday morning and went downstairs to have breakfast and watch some football.’

‘So, you never saw your wife on Saturday night?’ interrupted Judd who was making notes.

‘No,’ said Tate firmly. ‘Anyway, I made some tea and toast for Anne, and was just about to take it up to her when the phone rang. It was DS Trueman. A call out to a Skipton jeweller. Urgent. I shouted up to Anne but got no reply. I assumed she was still asleep, so I left a note for her on the tray with her breakfast and headed for the jewellers. The shop window had been smashed to hell and over twenty grand’s worth of watches had gone. Too easy. We interviewed the owner, did a complete search, pointless probably, and checked camera footage. No joy. I left Trueman to sort out finger printing and forensics and to file a report and went to the Crown Inn on the High Street for a pub lunch after messaging Anne. We often go there on Sundays. Hell! I waited for her and tried phoning again. No reply. I had a couple of drinks and then went home. Got back about three. The rest you know, Detective Superintendent.’

‘No, we don’t, Alan. Tell us exactly what you found from the time you entered the house, what you saw. I’m sorry, but we need everything, everything before you phoned in, at around 3.30 I believe?’

‘It’s all in the written statement that I gave last night. Do I really have to go through this?’

‘I have your statement here, Alan,’ said Dennison, holding up half a dozen sheets of paper. ‘We’ve been through it very carefully. And we now have the pathologist’s preliminary report and, this morning, we examined the crime scene with Superintendent Blair and DS Trueman. We need your cooperation, Alan.’

Judd began to shift in his seat and looked more than mildly irritated, while Dennison stared into Tate’s eyes, motionless.

‘OK. As I said, I got home about three o’clock. I went through the front door and shouted something like ‘sorry I’m late, how come you didn’t text?’ very loudly. There was no reply and Anne didn’t seem to be anywhere downstairs, so I went upstairs. When I opened her bedroom door I was faced with horror. She was lying naked face down on the double bed with what looked like a large piece of red elastic, maybe an exercise band, tied around her neck, and several stab wounds in her back. She was obviously dead. I just stood there in the middle of the room, staring at her. I was crying inside but I couldn’t shed a single tear. After a few minutes I seemed to come out of some sort of a trance, and I phoned my boss’s home phone number. God knows why! Then, I just waited with Anne, sat in a chair in a corner of the room, until Superintendent Blair and the team arrived. Trueman marched me straight out of the house and, for the last twenty-four hours, I’ve been treated like crap in my own bloody police station.’

‘I understand your anger, Alan, but Superintendent Blair had to protect the crime scene, the integrity of this investigation and, frankly, he wished to protect you. Whoever killed your wife may have wished to kill you, for instance.’

Tate was unconvinced.

‘Well, no bugger’s said anything of worth to me since I was deposited back here. Time of death, forensics, any leads, nothing! Isn’t it time you told me what you’ve found out, Dennison?’

‘That would be unwise, DCI Tate,’ interjected Judd. ‘We are investigating your wife’s murder. Clearly, you cannot be part of the team, nor can anyone else in Skipton police, without our say so, until things clarify. Only Superintendent Blair will be privy to what we find out unless we deem otherwise.’

‘And who the hell are you, Inspector?’ shouted Tate.

‘Inspector Judd and I are running this investigation under the direct orders of the Chief Constable, DCI Tate. We have carte blanche. I can give you some information about your wife’s murder, however. She died sometime between ten o’clock on Saturday night and four o’clock on Sunday morning. She was probably strangled by one of her own exercise bands. We found three more of varying colours, in her wardrobe. The pathologist is certain that she was already dead when she was stabbed in the back. There were eight superficial stab wounds, but no sign of a weapon at the scene.’

‘Then she must have been dead when I arrived home at midnight,’ said Tate with apparent certainty. Neither Judd nor Dennison made comment. Tate started to ask the question he didn’t want to ask.

‘Were there any signs of sexual?’

‘No, Alan. No evidence of sexual activity of any kind.’

Dennison glanced at Judd who nodded.

‘Well, Alan, let me thank you for your cooperation at this difficult time. You cannot, of course, return home yet. Further examination of the house is necessary. Superintendent Blair suggests gardening leave for a period of time while the investigation proceeds. Is there anyone locally who you might stay with, or, perhaps, a convenient hotel? Superintendent Blair is keen to help. But, again, I must caution you that this is our investigation, not yours. Is that clear?’

‘As crystal,’ retorted Tate, ‘and I can stay with my brother Charlie. He lives in Grassington.’

‘Then, for today, our questioning is over,’ said Dennison with a half-smile, glancing at Judd.

‘Just before we call it quits,’ said Judd, ‘I have a final question or two.’

Tate looked warily across at the Detective Inspector.

‘You got back home on Sunday afternoon at three o’clock. Did you go into the kitchen?’

Tate thought hard, picturing himself entering the house.

‘I shouted to Anne, walked through the lounge and, er, looked through the kitchen door. I checked that she wasn’t there and then went upstairs.’

Judd nodded.

‘To her bedroom, you said. You didn’t say ‘our bedroom’. You slept apart?’

‘I snore,’ offered Tate, fidgeting nervously.

‘I wonder who drank the cup of tea and ate the toast,’ said Judd, calmly, staring with intensity into the eyes of DCI Tate. ‘You are sure you left tea and toast on a tray with a note for your wife on Sunday morning?’

Tate’s face showed his confusion.

‘Yes, I’m certain!’ he barked. ‘Surely you found them there, on the worktop, next to the sink?’

Dennison raised his right hand towards his colleague to stop any response.

‘There was an empty tray, Alan, on the worktop, but no teapot, no cup of tea, and no plate and no toast, not even a crumb. And, before you ask, we found no note.’

Tate was visibly shaken.

‘So, are you telling me that my wife was killed in the early hours of Sunday morning, that the murderer was upstairs with my wife’s dead body for the rest of the night, and that they then calmly left the house after I’d gone, after first drinking a cup of tea and eating toast and clearing up in my kitchen?’

‘Is that what you’re telling us, Inspector Tate?’ asked Judd sardonically.

Tate had no idea what to say. He just sat there in silence shaking his head slowly from side to side.

‘No, Alan, this does not seem to make any sense, does it? To be fair, though, what you have told us is completely consistent with your written statement.’

Dennison gestured towards the recording equipment and Judd ended the interview with a few cursory words and a flick of a switch. He pressed a button and PC Craven entered the room.

‘Please escort DCI Tate to Superintendent Blair’s office,’ said Dennison.

He picked up his papers and the two senior officers from North Yorkshire Police Headquarters left to discuss how to proceed with the investigation into the murder of Anne Tate.

Charmed quarks….really….Mike and Bernie

Apparently, physicists have been banging particles into each other again and something strange happened that they can’t explain. So they reckon that there could be an extra force that exists that we know nothing about. Amazing, eh, Mike.

So you believe all this stuff then Bernie?

Of course, Mike, they’re physicists. Scientists. We believe scientists. They prove stuff.

Really Bernie? Maybe. You know all about fundamental particles then Bernie, charmed quarks etcetera?

It’s amazing stuff, Mike, beyond me, but amazing.

Do you think those physicists have actually seen a quark?

Probably not. Very small a quark is I think.

Was that an accidental Yoda impression, Bernie? Anyway, most of this fundamental particle stuff is based on inference. Physicists do experiments, get results and then make inferences about their models of atomic structure, forces and atomic particles. Hence, they decided quarks and bosons exist. They were happy about forces until this week’s dodgy experimental results that suggest another force exists in nature, on top of gravitation, nuclear and electromagnetic. What do you reckon, Bernie?

Strewth, Mike, too baffling for me. I’ll accept what the bright guys say.

What about if they called the extra new force God, Bernie. Would you believe in God because a physicist told you God existed?

You’re making a point here, Mike. Is it clever?

Well, hundreds of years ago, people observed the world, flowers, birds, mountains, beauty, love, etecetera, and clever people inferred the existence of God even though no-one fully understood the concept. Nowadays, physicists observe the world and infer the existence of charmed quarks even though no-one fully understands and, this week, physicists need something else to exist if their model is to work. So, Bernie, what’s the difference between physics and religion?

God knows, Mike!

Precisely, Bernie.

Not to mention the contradiction between quantum mechanics and relativity!

P.A.

Walking On Polanski’s Isle

Walking on Polanski’s isle
Pleasence and his French waif wife
Giant Stander’s finest role
Dying car upon the causeway

Pacing past stark castle rocks
Staring out at North Sea waves
At umpteen birds I cannot name
Now Viking longships making land

Norsemen hundreds hurtling past me
Sacking Priory killing all
Yet Gospels wondrous beauty saved
So hearts and minds they win the war

What a place to die is this
A thousand years of history
Seaward views of permanence
Gateway for Christianity

Trapped within my Cul-de-sac
Mind now clearing on a summer’s day
I must leave across that causeway
Before the tide has turned again

Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, is on the North East coast of England and was a seat of Christianity in Anglo Saxon times, and suffered the first raid by Viking longships in 793AD. I have visited this beautiful place since the age of 13. For me personally it is where, in the mid-sixties, Roman Polanski directed the strange but marvellous Cul-de-sac, starring Jack MacGowran, Lionel Stander, Francoise Dorleac and Donald Pleasance, truly evoking the cut-off nature of the island and the castle’s otherworldly atmosphere.

Thanks for reading.

P.A.

Vaccination issues with Mike and Bernie

You were talking about your vaccination the other day, Bernie. What sort of questions did they ask before you got the jab?

Name, age, address, as you’d expect, and the NHS letter I’d been sent. Some code on it I think. Very friendly. And a completely painless needle. I wasn’t even convinced she’d done it ‘cos I was looking the other way with my eyes shut!

Any side effects?

Slightly dodgy shoulder muscle and felt dog tired the next day. Apart from that, an absolute doddle. I’d recommend it to all my friends! Even you, Mike! Oh, I did have one other question before the jab that confused me a bit.

What was that, Bernie?

She asked me my ethnicity. I looked confused, I guess, so she rephrased it. ‘How do your regard yourself ethnically?’ I think she asked.

And what did you say, Bernie?

Yorkshire, Mike, Yorkshire. She looked stunned. She looked at her crib sheet and told me that Yorkshire wasn’t on her list of ethnic groups. I wasn’t too pleased, really. Anyway, I then offered English and then British. She gave me a ‘more please’ sort of look.

Ah! Did light eventually dawn, Bernie?

Yes, Mike! After a few seconds I said ‘white British’. She nodded and smiled and the nurse then obliged with the needle. Very odd.

Ah, Bernie, you see, you were born in Yorkshire and brought up in Yorkshire. That’s what you are. If pressed, you’re English. If pressed further, you’re British. At least you eventually realised that she needed you to confirm your ethnicity by saying ‘white British’.

Mmm, yes, Mike, but she was a bit lucky. I was going to tell her I’m a Chelsea supporter!

Mike and Bernie Zoom about Scotland

Are you telling me, Mike, that we have to start our Zoom chat with a photo of two proofs of books the wrong way round, just because our sponsor has renamed his sequel to that excellent thriller Death Comes To The Dale as Death Returns To The Dale, now available through Amazon in Kindle and paperback form?

No, Bernie, that would be completely inappropriate, merely a cheap way of advertising, upsetting the combination of reality and surreality that our conversations represent.

Oh! That’s OK then. Today I have a bowl of porridge and a small glass of Glenlivet at my disposal to keep my mind focused. And you, Mike?

Well, oddly, I have half a pint of Heavy, a Tunnocks caramel and two squares of Highland shortbread. What do you think we should talk about, Bernie?

Strangely, Mike, my wife and I watched Mary Queen of Scots on Netflix last night, starring Margot Robbie and that really good actress with the impossible name, Saucer Ronan I think. Excellent film. Maybe a bit slow, but embodying the true nature of our United Kingdom.

Mmm, yes Bernie, though chopping off MQ of S’s head wasn’t perhaps the best start to the Union if you’re Scottish.

Good point, Mike. Has that got anything to do with the Scottish Nationalists having a fight with each other currently? Is it true that Nicola Sturgeon is Alex Salmon’s Prodigy and that she sings Firestarter very loudly to get psyched up against the English. And, why the fish names? Is it a prerequisite for leadership?

Such matters are beyond our ken, Bernie?

Ken who, Mike?

Ken Stewart probably, Bernie.

Ah! MQ of S was a Stuart. It’s just occurred to me. If Alex and Nicola have a big fight and the SNP need a new leader, how’s about Rod Stewart. He’s really Scottish and a brilliant bloke and, although his name isn’t a fish, Rod is pretty close!

And he’s an anglerphile, Bernie!

Eh!

I apologise for M and B’s ramblings today. I think it’s the effect of Zoom, and the accompanying alcohol, perhaps, although, to me, they appeared more sensible when sat in their local pub (pub sign above). Does Zoom befuddle the brain? Whenever I use Zoom I shout a lot and get very tired. VERY!

Thanks for reading.

P.A.

Care Home Visitor

Care Home Visitor

Sat in his high-backed chair
Cosily warm, shielded from cold winter blasts
Grey eyes stare out through the patio window
Anxiously the old soldier watches – please be there
Yearning to catch sight of his only friend in the world beyond his room

Suddenly a darting form appears
With tiny clawed feet clutching a nut stolen from the bird table
The squirrel zigzags across the moss laden lawn
Then stops proud in photographic pose
Puzzling at his own double-glazed reflection – never knowing of his watcher

The old man raises a hand to his friend and smiles
It is enough for him, this enduring daily connection
In the care home he is alone amongst his fellows, memories fading
Tears come to him now, he knows not why
As the visit ends and his comrade scurries away to woodland

I wrote the above poem a few years ago.

Strange how apt it seems in these times.

Thank you for reading.

P.A.

Death Of A Beauty

You stand accused before this court
A loathsome crime of dread
Destroying all you held as dear
When at your feet she bled
No word no look no tears remorse
Can keep your pain at bay
No cry no scream no mercy plea
Will wash her blood away
Your life goes on as life it must
For one who lives with guilt
No chance of beauty fading now
For she whose blood you spilt
An earthly judge has had her say
Unable to foretell
The destiny of God’s free will
Be it heaven be it hell

I have tried to write poems.

I have self-published (for fun).

Some days I like a poem. Some days I don’t.

This one, written in response to a shocking and notorious death, is one I like, today at least.

P.A.

For Holocaust Memorial Day

Badge Of Faith

It was a snowy winter’s day in Wensleydale. A tall young man in a long black overcoat stamped his feet on the huge semi-circular brown bristled welcome mat at the entrance to the village hall. He looked across the hall for the old man in the sleeveless red shirt, the man he hoped was there, the man he’d come to see. He smiled to himself and walked over and sat down at a wooden table, covered in art deco collectables, the buzz of the antiques fair all around. The old man sitting opposite him looked up with tired eyes and spoke first.

‘Well young man. We have met before, have we not? Last time I was here you brought me a Jakob Bengel necklace for which I paid you handsomely I believe. Have you found me another item?’

‘Yes sir, I have. My father and I were doing another house clearance last week. It was for the executors of an old lady, about your age, who died last month. She had no relatives apparently. I found this in an old jewellery box. I thought it might interest you.’

He nervously smiled and removed some folded bubble wrap from his right coat pocket. He set it down on the table and slowly and carefully unfolded it. The old man stared intently down at what was revealed, a slightly soiled piece of yellow cloth, clearly showing a black lined Star of David with the word Jude at its centre. The old man’s face fixed rigidly in shock and then suddenly relaxed. He stared into the young man’s eyes.

‘Do you know what this is, my boy?’

‘Yes sir, I do.’

‘Do you know what it means to me?’

‘Yes sir, I do. I have seen that number on your left arm,’ he said, pointing vaguely across the table.

‘And how much do you want for this abomination?’

The young man removed a small metal ash tray and a cigarette lighter from his other pocket and placed them down on the table. He smiled at the old man, nodded, stood up and walked back across the hall to the doorway. He pulled up his coat collar and stepped out into the snow.

Trump’s last day….Mike n Bernie chat

Hi Bernie. Well, I thought we should Zoom on this special day. Hope you’ve got the small bottle of Prosecco and a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk as I suggested?

Lockdown, Mike. Got neither in the house so I’ve my usual bottle of Speckled Hen and a Mars bar. Special day, Mike? You mean the last day of a universally acclaimed presidency?

Indeed I do. I thought we should assess the last four years. On the scale of one to ten, how has he done?

So, I’m not allowed zero then, Mike?

Certainly not, Bernie. Remember, up until the pandemic, the US economy was doing really well. And he did meet Kim and improve things a bit.

I’ve never watched the Kardashians, Mike. Bit surprised about that though. Still, it takes all sorts. But, yes, I guess he did OK with the economy.

And he did build a partial wall, not a full one though, probably because of cost.

Is that how they got in, Mike?

Who, Bernie? You mean the Mexicans?

I didn’t think they were Mexicans, Mike. Looked more like rednecks to me. Right wingers.

Ah, you’re talking about the Capitol Building! No wall Bernie. Not even adequate fencing. Not even an irate granny on the door to stop them. A complete shambles.

So, do you blame the Donald for incitement?

Of course not. He purposefully or accidentally incites every day, just by being himself. I’ve always thought that, him not actually being a trained professional politician, has meant that all the pretentious trained professional smiling ever so nice politicians have hated him from day one and now is their payback time.

Blimey, Mike, that Prosecco works fast. So, how would you sum up the Trump presidency?

Well, as the Americans would say, it’s the end of an error.

Classic, Mike, classic. It is indeed the end of an era.

Cross purposes methinks, Bernie, as ever. Cheers!

Cheers, Mike!

Everlocked Door

I awoke to a half sleep, dream vanishing in seconds

A face faded into fog, with a smile that beckoned

Was she memory or fantasy, I struggled to know

I trawled through the years for the afterglow

Consciousness leave him, a voice in the distance

Consciousness leave me, my own insistence

But the ticking of the clock though so slight

Ended my journey into this night

With eyes wide open I stared at the wall

A tear and a sadness that could not recall

A name and a place within me still burns

But the face and the perfume no longer returns

Tomorrow I search for that girl once more

Pounding my fist on an everlocked door