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Authors: Rosen Trevithick

Pompomberry House

BOOK: Pompomberry House
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Pompomberry House

By Rosen Trevithick

Edition 1.0.5

Copyright © Rosen Trevithick 2012

All rights reserved worldwide.

No part of this book may be copied or sold.

http://www.rosentrevithick.co.uk

Prologue

You, too, might struggle to throw a six-foot charity worker
over Waterloo Bridge. But it probably wouldn’t be because of your Prada heels.

The chase began just after Delilah had slurped the remains
of her mojito through a straw, savouring the last hint of mint amongst the
melting ice, and had stepped out onto the street. The January chill kept others
indoors and provided a cloak of anonymity for her killer. Coupled with the
dark, rainy night, Delilah didn’t stand a chance.

She looked at the Rolex on her smooth, slender, porcelain
wrist, and noted, with expletives like “Bother!” and “Blooming Nora!” that the
tube had stopped for the night. London buses didn’t even cross her mind, as she
readily recalled the number of her preferred taxi company.

Suddenly, she was aware of a figure in the darkness, and her
heart lurched. She told herself that it was probably just a harmless drunk.
Nevertheless, she didn’t feel like staying put. She began walking away, towards
Waterloo Bridge. Her fingers combed the interior of her designer handbag. Where
was her phone?

She was dressed in a maroon Christian Dior dress, which had
come in a box almost as pretty as she was.

‘Click click’ went the heels of her open-toe, silver Prada
shoes. In the darkness, her petal pink nail varnish blended in with her toes. “What
a waste!” she thought, and resolved to wear a darker shade tomorrow. Thank
goodness she always left an extra half-hour before work for such emergencies.
Poor Delilah had no idea that by tomorrow she would be lying at the bottom of
the Thames, being nibbled by fish that couldn’t tell the difference between
petal and turquoise.

‘Click click’ came the echo. It sounded like two pairs of
shoes, but at twenty-four Delilah understood about echoes in the night. She
wasn’t the spokesperson for Save the Elderly for nothing. It was a role that
required diligence, wit and knowledge.

A shadow stretched before her; there
were
two pairs
of shoes. Somebody was following her. Delilah quickened her pace, ‘Click-click,
click-click’.

She didn’t care much for the elderly. Her nanna was all
right, but generally old people seemed to smell and talk too slowly for her
liking. In fact, they were too slow in general. She believed that the less time
you had left, the faster you should live. She was baffled by the number of elderly
folks sitting in their chairs, day after day, whilst their ages and life
expectancies converged. Couldn’t they get a life and go ... skydiving
or something?

Why was Waterloo so quiet? If only somebody was around —
anybody! She would run to them and start a conversation until the shadow had
passed.

Despite her distaste for the elderly, her belief that Save
the Elderly deserved to win the grant was unwavering. She was determined that
her charity would triumph in the competition over clearly lesser causes such as
End World Hunger and Stop Sex Trafficking
.

She pictured the award scene. In her mind’s eye, she stood
on a podium wearing her green Gucci dress. The runners-up stood on either side,
wearing their green Gucci expressions, as she was handed a giant cheque.
Millions of people were cheering her on, thanking her for securing a better
deal for the elderly. She was a national hero. It would be the one occasion
when Delilah wouldn’t mind being surrounded by old people. Their gratitude
would emphasise her empathetic nature and their ripened faces would make her
look even more youthful and pretty.

Delilah wished that her follower would leave her alone.
Stalking was
so
2009. She needed to be calling a cab, not hurrying
across Waterloo Bridge. Where
was
her phone? Perhaps it had slipped down
between the pages of
Vogue
. Should a black cab present itself, would it
be worth hopping in? She was reluctant, after last time. She felt sure the
driver had had only one arm and that his decision to drive despite this was
irresponsibly dangerous.

Yes, it was easy to see why somebody might want to kill a
woman like Delilah. However, in actual fact, her killer was not irked by her
prejudices, her hypocrisy or her vanity; the killer had a different motive
altogether.

Delilah found herself getting out of breath. Her quickened
pace had now taken her to the centre of Waterloo Bridge, giving her only one realistic
escape route — straight ahead.

Her pursuer broke into a run and Delilah suddenly realised
what two pairs of clicks meant — her follower was a woman. The knowledge that her
stalker was probably less than eighty kilos would have provided most people
with some comfort, but not Delilah. Delilah knew the effect she had on other
women — the exact opposite of the effect she had on men — women
hated
her.

Suddenly, she felt arms grab her from behind. They were
slender and youthful like her own. She recognised a bracelet on her assailant’s
arm, familiar only because it was Chanel.

Delilah could feel that the other lady was very tall, as she
was, and certainly stronger. She lifted Delilah clean off the ground. Delilah
kicked and struggled, and, for a moment, thought she was winning the fight. But
then, with another burst of energy, her assailant lifted her again. Delilah’s
centre of gravity rose above the top of the railings. If she wasn’t careful,
she might ...

Her attacker shoved her with great force. Delilah pivoted
around the topmost bar, lingering for a moment before she began to drop.
Instinctively, she reached out and managed to grab onto the railings. But it
was a precarious grip. She knew then that she was going to fall into the
Thames!

As she dangled by one arm, the metal rasped the palm of her
hand and she felt herself slipping.

She looked up desperately, and for the first time she faced
her killer. “
You?
” she gasped. She couldn’t believe it.

The killer’s blue eyes peered down at Delilah, through
Armani glasses. Delilah recognised the spokeswoman for End World Hunger

the competition! The killer’s pink lips formed a gentle smile, the kind she
might use when accepting the charity grant. She replied, using the same dulcet,
airy tone that Delilah had heard her use on television. “It’s nothing personal.
I’m doing this for Africa.”

Chapter 1

“If you can’t be of good character, write a good character,”
exhorted the witticism beneath the directions. I heard brambles scrape my
bonnet as I veered into the rightmost hedge.
Better pull in.

Blistering barnacles!
There was a thud. My yellow
Nissan Micra hit something hard and then everything went dark, or perhaps
everything went dark and then my car hit something. It happened so fast that it’s
hard to retell without an element of guesswork.

At first, I thought I’d hit something large, like a cow or,
worse still, a person. Bravely, I forced open my eyes. There was something on
my windscreen — something big.
Oh heck!
I’ve killed something big.

When I looked closely, I realised that it was a bird — the
biggest feathered creature I’d ever seen, but a bird none the less. It was
nearly completely white, but with some rather frightful patches of scarlet
where blood drenched its feathers. Its wings spanned my windscreen, almost
completely shutting out the light. It looked a lot like a seagull, but far too
large.

Guilt crept in. I hated killing animals on the road. It was
bad enough when it happened by accident, but this was even worse. If only I
hadn’t been reading the directions ...

Yet as I was agonising over this, I saw something move. Surely,
the blood-soaked bird wasn’t alive?

I watched, in disbelief, as a wing peeled itself off the
windscreen. The bird hopped around for a few moments, on a wobbly yellow leg,
before peeling off its other wing, which it closely inspected.

Delighted, I willed it to fly away. However, just as I was
mentally repeating ‘Fly my pretty, fly!’, something happened that chilled me to
the core — the bird gave me an evil glare!

 Those orange-rimmed grey eyeballs drove into my soul. I
never knew that a creature without eyebrows could convey so much hatred.

When finally it turned, flexed its wings and flew off, I
found that I’d been holding my breath. I looked down at my crumpled printout. My
hands were shaking so much that I could barely read it.
Pull yourself
together, Dee!

Ordinarily I would have been amused by the idea that a grown
woman could be frightened by a look from a bird. However, that malevolent birdy
look of death had spooked me.

Part of me wanted to turn around and go straight back home
to London, and perhaps if this hadn’t been a single-track road, I might have
attempted it. However, after everything I’d been through lately, I needed this
trip. I couldn’t let a bird with hostility issues stand in my way.

‘You won’t find Pompomberry House with any satnav,’
explained paragraph one, before launching into a description of the island. It actually
sounded charming, like the perfect place for a writers’ weekend. A tidal isle
thrown off the north coast of Cornwall, just large enough to accommodate one
house and tiny cove.

It was well known that Cornish seagulls (if that
thing
could be described as a seagull) had an attitude problem, but I’d never heard
of them actually hurting anybody. I had to put this fowl encounter behind me. After
all, what was it going to do? Steal my pasty?

‘Find Strawberry Meadow’ said paragraph two. There were
fields everywhere and none of them marked. How was I supposed to know which
were used for growing strawberries? It was February!

One Cornish hedge looks much like another when you’re sitting
behind the wheel of a car, wondering whether you’re going around in circles. I
had to be somewhere near the sea, I could smell the salty air, like a newly
opened jar of olives.

Eventually, I caught sight of a small cluster of houses.
Perhaps a kind native would help me find my way. However, as I approached, I
realised that this tiny housing estate
was
Strawberry Meadow. How
ludicrous that the only patch of land not used for farming was known as the
Meadow.

Still, now that I’d found a key landmark, I could move on to
paragraph three: untying the boat. Wait —
boat
?

Despite the garbled nature of the instructions, I finally
found myself rolling my car into the grit area otherwise known as the car park
for Pompomberry House. Here I was to abandon my vehicle, because the remainder
of the journey could only be completed on foot, or by boat, depending on the
mood of the tide.

 A wave of excitement spread over me, like the tingling
feeling of discovering a new sweet shop, but with fresher, healthier overtones.

I grabbed my turquoise polka-dot case and laptop rucksack
then promptly stepped backwards into a puddle. I cursed as I felt the icy water
seeping through my leather boot.

Still, it wasn’t a day for sulking. It was a day for moving
forward. Today, I was a free woman, doing free-woman things. Having not been
single for over ten years, I wasn’t quite sure what free-woman things were, but
I was pretty sure that thirty-two was not too old to find out. I felt a pang as
I thought of
him
, but immediately forced him out of my mind. This
weekend was the first weekend of the rest of my life.

I took one last look at the boot, full of tools and bicycle
paraphernalia. I liked mountain biking, but that was something we did together.
This weekend was about
me
— me and my dreams.

I could see a small flight of steps leading down from the
car park, out of the area boxed in by tall hedges. Excitedly, I trundled toward
them.

A vast, richly coloured seascape painted itself before my
eyes. The navy ocean stretched between headlands, like a satin scarf littered
with silver sequins. The clear, winter’s day allowed me to see for miles. And
miles of sea I saw.

Eventually, my eyes settled on the little island down below.
It was smaller than I had expected, with its one house taking up most of the
island. It was surrounded by water.

Even from here, I could tell that Pompomberry House had seen
better days. Its walls were made from indestructible granite, but its window
frames and roof were weathered. At least two of the windows were boarded up. I
shuddered as I imagined the sash windows rattling in the wind as in a Gothic
tale — yes, perfect for a writers’ weekend.

Delighted, I climbed down the stone steps. They were narrow
and steep, not ideal for cases with wheels, but there was no other way.

I wondered if I was going to be the last to arrive. Who was
here already? Had I signed up for the trip sooner, I might have had a chance to
find out a bit about my fellow writers. However, somebody called Jan Harper had
cancelled at the last minute and I had impulsively offered to take her place. I
had no idea who else was on the guest list. They would be people from the forum
of course, but the forum has four hundred members.

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