Thursday, September 8, 2011

Excerpt. 'Redemption: an Inspector Gilles Maintenon mystery.'

SF-67 pic by Louis.

c2011 (S)

This is an excerpt from my WIP, provisionally entitled, 'Maintenon Gets a Vacation.' Anything in it is subject to change, review and revision.

There was a constant stream of crickets, the chittering of what might have been other crickets, another species perhaps; or maybe some kind of miniature frogs or toads. On the breeze was the occasional cry of a bird, a thin, high piping sound. Yet he could not put a name to the most familiar bird-sounds. Avery marveled at the soft brush of the wind about his upper face. In the city, it was always an annoyance, the ill winds of the City bringing nothing good with it.

But out here it was different. It cleansed a man’s soul, a soul grown sadder if not any the wiser with all the years of police work. Dawson hadn’t been out of the City in years, and yet once he accepted the fact of living rough for a few days, he was quite enjoying the novelty of the experience.

He was more aware of himself, as an animal, an organism, and that somehow his body fit in here better than his mind did. The wind again drummed at his temples. The sound fit perfectly in with this time and place, irrational, random and in harmony with his empty thoughts.

The low, wet, grey cumulus cast a pall of gloomy indifference upon the land as he sat on a public bench, incongruous on some level of human logic, as this was literally the middle of nowhere…there were signs of use, though. A cigar butt, a wrapper from a packet of crisps, if he looked around some he might find a used condom. At the exact psychological and physical distance, he might find where a pint bottle had been tossed by those less open to their inner selves. He sat high on a hill, alone with his thoughts and loving it in some way. Dawson had found peace, and felt no guilt at not sharing it with another.

The vast open vista could be deceiving. Civilization, and with it barbarity, lay
just over the nearest hilltop, most likely. He didn’t have to strain his ears as the reality of lorries, a distant train...very distant. Thare was he sound of men working cheerfully somewhere nearby but out of sight. And the crickets. The crickets had been going strong since spring, and they wouldn’t let up for a moment except for the frozen hell of a long winter on the high moors. After the chill of the evening before, it felt quite warm to Dawson. He had no real sense of hurry. He wasn’t suffering, not in the way that Maintenon had let on about. Admittedly, he was a little younger than Gilles, and wasn’t injured or anything like that. He considered that thought. The isolation was a bit sobering in the sense of objective thinking—what if there was an emergency? He would be very much on his own, just as anyone would be out here.

People had fallen, the occasional person drowned, and someone went missing around here a few years back. It really was a kind of wilderness, compared to ahome, and the fact that you could see nothing for long distances meant nothing in terms of safety. Dawson had never been with the Boy Scouts or anything, but had sufficient confidence in his abilities not to be too worried. In truth, simply being alone for the first time in years, even decades, was hard enough on the psyche. It freed up an awful lot of time for introspection.

It wasn’t always comfortable, he reckoned, but his own self-discovery hadn’t been too bad. Others might have a different experience. There was some personal revelation here, which he really hadn’t expected.

He was a mile, maybe, or it could be five miles from anyone, anyone at all. No one cared, least of all him. The hills didn’t give the impression of much height. That was only until you tried to walk up one and discovered it was real work, and then sat upon one, and discovered that it gave quite a long view around the countryside.

Upon the crags, trudging along the paths of the moorlands, that curious combination of barren prairies and lush glens, each with a seeming life, a logic all its own, had done Avery Dawson a world of good so far. It was a powerful place, a peaceful place, a place with no purpose and perfect enough for all of that. The encroaching noisiness, and busy-ness was all too clear and all too imminent. The air at least was wet, and warm, and clean. The smell of cedars would remain with him a long time. He felt that instinctively. To stand among a small copse of trees, with the sighing of the wind overhead, was to experience the most profound solitude. The smell of cedar would provoke and prolong the memory of these few days and nights of perfect freedom. The notion that there was work to be done, and a killer afoot, was a kind of icing on the cake. He was getting paid to do this.

Dawson finished his pipe and rose with a sense of anticipation. Dark was coming, and he hoped to get to the Manor either tonight or tomorrow at dawn. He didn’t have much to put on his resume, he thought with a grim smile, setting off into the valley once more. Giving his whiskers a rub, he understood that he smelled perfectly in character, and didn't give a damn who knew it.

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