Authors: Jenni Mills
Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense
In memory of my father, Robert Mills, who flew
and my mother, Sheila Mills, who danced
I sought for ghosts and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
Percy Bysshe Shelley,
Hymn To Intellectual Beauty
Time wounds all heels.
Groucho Marx, John Lennon,
and others, including Margaret Robinson
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Lammas, 2005
Chapter 2 - Autumn Equinox
Part Two -
Chapter 5 - Candlemas
Chapter 6 - 1938
Chapter 8 - 1938
Chapter 10 - 1938
Part Three -
Chapter 12 - 1938
Chapter 14 - 1938
Chapter 16 - 1938
Chapter 18 - 1938
Chapter 20 - 1938
Chapter 22 - 1938
Chapter 24 - September 1938
Part Four -
Chapter 25 - 1939
Chapter 27 - 1940–1941
Part Five -
Chapter 29 - 1941
Chapter 32 - 1941
Chapter 37 - 1941
Chapter 39 - 1941–2
Part Six -
The Sun Stands Still
Chapter 40 - 1942
Chapter 41 - Solstice
Chapter 42 - 1942
Chapter 43 - 1942
Part Seven -
Chapter 47 - 29 August 1942
Chapter 49 - 29 August 1942
Chapter 51 - 29 August 1942
Chapter 56 - 29 August 1942
Part Eight -
Chapter 58 - Lammas, 2006
Chapter 59 - January 1945
Also by Jenni Mills
About the Publisher
‘History, archaeology, it’s all moonshine, really. We’re only guessing.’
Dr Martin Ekwall,
interviewed on BBC Wiltshire Sound
‘Don’t be afraid,’ he says. The Insect King. ‘It’s only a mask.’
Eyes like a fly, elephant’s trunk that’s long, rubbery…
‘It’s only a mask,’ he says again.
‘I know it’s a mask,’ I says, braver than I feel. But there’s masks and masks. I’ve seen masks. I’ve seen what happens in the moonlight in the Manor gardens.
‘Frannie…’ It’s only a whisper, so I’m not sure if it came out of his mouth or out of my head. He’s at me now, pressing himself against me, and I’m feeling all the bits of him, long gropy fingers and the hard poky bits. There’s a glow in the sky, something burning near the railway yards, searchlights over Swindon, the banshee howl of the warning, and the anti-aircraft batteries have started up.
‘Take it off,’ he says.
‘Your flicking robe.’ At least, I think he says robe.
‘A bit nippy for that.’ I’m trying to keep it calm, trying to be funny, pretend I’m in control, because this isn’t what I meant to happen. He gives me a push, quite hard, and I’m up against the stone. It’s cold against my back, like moonlight, and scratching at me like fingers through the thin material of my coat. There’s really nowhere to go now.
I would be afraid, but I won’t let myself. You can’t let them have everything. You can’t let them have your fear. You got to keep a bit of yourself. I’m going to put my bit where it’s safe, a long way away from here.
Beech trees, black against a silver sky. Somewhere else the real moonlight is pouring down. Bombers’ moon. A killing moon. Planes like fat blowflies trekking high above the Marlborough Downs. I take myself away, as far as I can, trying not to feel the burning down there, fingers, hands, other things, feels like there’s lots of them all at once, wanting a piece.
A voice whispering again,
. It’s terrible dark. There’s a smell of rubber, thick and choking. Hard to breathe. An awful slick, oily smell of rubber…
‘I don’t want to do it,’ I said. ‘It’s too dangerous.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. The shots will be fantastic. You’ll love it. Unless you’d like us to use someone else on the series?’
The usual blackmail. If you’re experienced enough to do the job, you can say no. If you’re not quite twenty-five, and desperate to claw a foothold in television, you’ll do anything. I made one last pathetic attempt to get him to change his mind. ‘Seriously, Steve, I’ve never filmed like this before. I’m not properly trained. If this was the BBC, the hazard-assessment form would have it flagged up as a major risk.’
‘There’s a harness, Indy. You’ll be strapped in.’
‘My legs’ll be dangling.’
‘What’s happened to your balls?’
‘My balls, if I had any, would be dangling too.’
So, my legs
dangling. My non-existent testicles are dangling. My bum, perched on the edge of the open helicopter door, has gone entirely numb. Below me is–well, if I were a proper cameraman I’d be better at judging these things, but I’d say a good six or seven hundred feet of nothing. Below that is hard Wiltshire chalk, with a skimpy dressing of ripening barley. The helicopter’s shadow races across it, a tiny black insect dwarfed by the bigger shadows of the clouds.
Steve, crouched behind me, taps me on the shoulder. I turn my head towards him, very, very carefully, in case even this simple movement unbalances me and I go tumbling out to become another shadow on the chalk. He’s saying something, but the wind and the noise of the rotors snatch his voice away. He makes cupping motions with his hands by his ears.
He wants me to put the earphones on so I can hear him–he’s wearing a set with a microphone attached. Like I have, too, only mine are round my neck and not on my ears yet, and to put them on I’m going to have to let go of my death-grip on the door frame.
I send a signal from brain to fingers to unprise themselves. Nothing happens. Fingers know better than brain what’s sensible. They’re going to stay firmly locked onto something solid, thank you very much, until someone hauls me back safely into the interior of the helicopter and there’s no more of this dangling.
Steve taps me on the shoulder again. Maybe if I try just one hand at a time?