Part Eleven of my Free Serial

Breaking Ground is a Darkeningstone novella – it's a standalone book: a bonus story. I'm presenting it here in weekly parts. Each part on this site is tagged ‘breaking ground' so you can find all the published episodes easily. I'll add a link at the end of this episode. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 10

2007

Mr. Drew narrowed his eyes against the weak winter sunlight and turned to gaze across the Common.  He felt the familiar tingle along his spine as old memories stirred.  He bit his lower lip.  I shouldn’t come here, he thought.  But he had to exercise the dog somewhere, and the Common was convenient.  At least, that was what he told himself.

He cleared his throat.  Time to get moving.  Otherwise, his knee would start playing up again.  But first, he had to find his damned dog.  He licked his dry lips and whistled as loudly as he could.  He waited, listening for an answering bark.  Nothing.  He shook his head.  The cold crept into his toes.  He stamped his feet.  I never used to feel the cold, he thought.  For a moment, he pictured himself sitting in his cosy armchair by the fire, a hot cup of tea in his hand and the pick of the Boxing Day films on the telly.  But it was no good daydreaming.  The picture wouldn’t be complete without Frank curled up by his feet.

He raised his hands to his mouth.  “Frank.  Come here, boy.”  He turned his head, listening.  Nothing.  He’d have to go and find him.  He picked out the place where he’d last seen Frank galloping into the distance, then he took a deep breath and strode out across the Common.  “I’ll wallop that blooming dog,” he muttered.  But he knew he wouldn’t do any such thing.  Frank was a big dog, like all German shepherds, but he was still young, not much more than a puppy.  And he still had that endless energy, that excitement at every scent, every stranger.  He’ll learn, he thought.  He’ll settle down.  Eventually.

He paused and scanned the horizon.  Away to his left there was a patch of woodland, and to his right, a clump of hawthorn.  Frank could be charging around in either.  He pursed his lips and turned, hoping for some clue.  There.  A couple of people mooching about in the distance.  A man and his boy, no doubt out for a walk.  He set off toward them.  Perhaps they’d seen Frank.

By the time he was close enough for conversation, the boy had wandered away, his head down, intent on studying the ground.

He nodded at the man.  “You haven’t seen a dog, have you?”

The man shook his head.  “Sorry.  But that doesn’t mean much.  We’ve been concentrating.”  He smiled and added, “We’re looking for lost treasure.”

Mr. Drew looked the man up and down.  Was he pulling his leg?  “Is that right?” he said.

The man gestured toward his son.  “Trying out the new metal detector.”

So that was it.  He looked at the boy more closely, this time noticing the black rod of the metal detector as the boy swept it carefully from side to side.  Mr. Drew shuddered.  A sudden chill swept across his skin.  “You haven’t…” he hesitated.  “You haven’t found any then?”

The man tilted his head.  “Treasure?  No.”  He rummaged in his pocket and held out his arm.  “Just this,” he said, and opened his hand.

Mr. Drew stared at the altimeter’s metal face.  He took a deep breath.  It could’ve been worse.  Much worse.  He looked the man in the eye.  “It crashed,” he said.  “In the war.”

The man looked doubtful.  “In the war?  What, shot down?  ‘Round here?”

Mr. Drew lowered his eyes.  “No,” he said.  “Just an accident.  A stupid, senseless accident.”

The man studied Mr. Drew for a moment.  “If you don’t mind me asking,” he said, “how do you know?”

“How do you think?”

The man’s eyes were wide.  “Oh, my god,” he said.  “You were in it, weren’t you?  You survived.  Wait – I’ve got to tell Jake.”  He started to turn away.

Suddenly, Mr. Drew grabbed his arm and stopped him in his tracks.  “No,” he growled.  “You’re wrong.”

The man stared at him.  “What?”

Mr. Drew released the man’s arm and stepped back.  “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to…”

“Look, if I’ve offended you or something, I’m sorry but-”

“It’s not that,” he said, shaking his head.  “It’s just…he was a friend of mine.”

“Oh.”  The man looked down at the metal disc in his hand.  “I see.”  He looked back at Mr. Drew.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “This must seem…disrespectful.”

Mr. Drew nodded.  He looked away, into the distance.  He could see the tangled wreckage, smell the bitter smoke.  “Yes,” he said.  “Yes, it does.”  And he turned on his heel and walked away.

From the trees in the distance, he heard a loud bark.

—-

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