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PAUL EDMUND NORMAN

DAYLIGHTS: FOURTEEN

Thompson sat in his car at the top of the hill looking down in the direction of the village. Away to the East he could just see, at the horizon, the line which denoted the sea. On a clear day you could actually see the pale blue of the sea. Today it was overcast, raining, dreary, depressing, almost a Turneresque landscape. And yet it was not such a bad place to live. His patch covered most of North Norfolk, including the coastal regions. There was not that much crime, certainly not that much serious crime. Murders and assaults were few and far between, and that had something to do with the fact that the people of North Norfolk accepted change less rapidly than elsewhere. In many respects, life was unchanged from thirty or so years ago, and in some respects, he thought, that was a good thing.

Today he had a murdered girl and an armed American ex-serviceman on the loose. All in the day's work. How could he know there was worse to come? All the same, he did know. The sense of dread that had accompanied his waking moments was still lurking there, in his mind, just below the surface. Though he was reluctant to admit it, the suggestion that Karen Carter had been the victim of a ritual killing had lodged firmly in his mind. He wanted to dismiss it. He wanted to tell himself that sort of thing simply did not happen up here in Norfolk. There had been reports, there had been suggestions that missing cats and puppies had been taken for use as sacrifices, and he knew perfectly well that there were one or two groups around who did that sort of thing.

Sad people on drugs or alcohol, acting out ridiculous charades to get their kicks, believing that by worshipping the devil and acting out stupid rituals they would gain some kind of evil power over others. Sad, evil people.

The collection of houses that constituted Sharringford should have been visible, a couple of miles away, both on a clear day and on a day like today, with the grey, dreary rain.

He should have been able to see the tower of the old ruined church and beyond it, the school. He should have been able to make out the roofs of one or two of the houses, even though the trees obscured most of them. He should certainly have been able to pick out the small parade of shops. He could see none of these. Instead, what he saw reminded him of a scene from one of those nineteen-sixties' horror films, where the castle or the chateau is shrouded in mist. God! What was he thinking of?

Thompson started the car and left it running along with his thoughts. The radio interrupted both.

'Mike, it's Ted. We have received a photograph of the American. Short, blond hair. He's wanted for rape and assault, possibly murder in the States, and he's been linked with one or two rapes over here. Never anything firm to pin on him. I've circulated the photograph. Ken will show you a copy. Oh, and we had a strange call from Joanna Robertson.'

'Do I know her?'

'Lives in Sharringford. It was a very bad line. Said she wanted some assistance, but when I called her back she said she could hang on for a while, but we should send someone as soon as we had someone free.'

'She didn't say what the problem was?'

'She might have done, the line was too bad. I tried to call her back '

'Do it, then,' Thompson said brusquely. 'As soon as the men have finished down by the river, get them out searching for this American. What's his name?'

'Hartford. Frank Hartford.'

'Can we get the helicopter up?'

'I doubt it, not in this weather, Mike.'

'I think we need to find Mr Hartford as soon as we can, before he strikes again.'

'You think he may have murdered the girl?'

'We're looking for a man with short blond hair, Ted.'

He could almost see the older man blush.

'Right.'

'Surely they've finished at the SOC, Ted, get them moving!'

'Right. If Mrs Robertson should ring again, what shall I tell her? We really are stretched this morning. There's been a bad pile-up on the A47 near Dereham, and another at the Hardwick roundabout. We're unlikely to get any help from City just yet. And Amy and Robbie have been called out to an accident.'

'That's your problem, Ted. If the woman said it wasn't urgent, if she didn't say what the problem was, it can wait. I want this Yank found, and fast. That's the priority. I think she would have said if she had an intruder, or if someone had raped her or something, don't you?'

'Armed response unit?' MacAuley asked, ignoring Thompson's sarcasm.

'No need for that yet. Let's find him first. Where was he seen last?'

'War Memorial in Muncaster.'

'When?'

'Yesterday evening, late. I've got Andrews checking all the B and B's in the surrounding area. Shouldn't take him too long.'

Thompson nodded to himself. He put the car in gear and started off.

Gateway is published by Paul Edmund Norman on the first day of each month. Hosting is by Flying Porcupine at www.flyingporcupine.com - and web design by Gateway. Submitting to Gateway: Basically, all you need do is e-mail it along and I'll consider it - it can be any length, if it's very long I'll serialise it, if it's medium-length I'll put it in as a novella, if it's a short story or a feature article it will go in as it comes. Payment is zero, I'm afraid, as I don't make any money from Gateway, I do it all for fun! For Advertising rates in Gateway please contact me at Should you be kind enough to want to send me books to review, please contact me by e-mail and I will gladly forward you my home address. Meanwhile, here's how to contact me:

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