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Authors: Chet Williamson

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BOOK: Siege of Stone
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"Aye, Inspector," Tom stammered. "A wee bit cold, though."

"And what've you got there, Tom?" The inspector shined her light on the box he was holding. "An old box? And what's in it?"

"Oh, just an auld cloot, that's all."

"Mmm-hmm. Let's have a look." Tom opened the box, and held it toward her so she could see. She shined her light on it, then turned it off. "A strange old cloth, though, Tom—you've got to admit that. Aren't many cloths that glow in the dark, are there?"

Tom looked down. He had always had a light on the cloth before, but now that it was in darkness, he saw that it was indeed glowing dimly, with the same pale yellow color. He was so startled he almost dropped it, and the first thing that came into his mind was the childish fancy that it might be a fairy cloth.

"And what's that lining the box, Tom?"

"I think it's lead, Inspector."

Molly Fraser looked at the bit of lead lying on the ground. "Sealed with lead, too, was it?" Tom nodded. "You know what lead does, Tom?" He looked at her dully. "For one thing, it doesn't allow radioactivity to pass through it," she said. "Now you've got something glowing there in a box that's lined and sealed with lead, Tom. What might that lead you to think?"

His eyes grew wide and he slammed the box lid shut, set it quickly on the ground, and backed away from it. "Do you . . . do you think I'm all right?" he asked her, thinking of all the horror stories of what large doses of radiation could do.

"Don't know, Tom. Did you handle it?"

"Well, I . . . I took it out, shook it, opened it up—you don't think . . ."

She shrugged. "You might have taken a pretty strong dose, Tom. I suggest you have the doc take a look at you. I'd better take that box with me. And you'd better fill in that hole. You're on private ground here, you know. At least I assume you know, otherwise you'd have been here during daylight. Am I right?"

"Uh, yes, ma'am . . . Inspector."

"Now I won't cite you, Tom, but I will confiscate that box, and whatever else you've found out here. So come on, carry it over to my car."

Tom picked up the box gingerly and held it at arm's length during the long walk to the Inspector's little English Ford. There, he put it in the boot, and handed over the coins and tools he had found. "Give you a lift back to your car, Tom?"

He looked skittishly at the closed boot lid and shook his head. "No thanks, mum. I'm fine."

"All right then. Stay off private land from now on, you hear? Next time you'll visit the magistrate."

 

M
olly Fraser put her car into gear and pulled out onto the one-lane road. Between her threat and the radiation scare, she doubted Tom Kerr would be digging the castle's land anytime soon.

She had been out tonight, driving the lonely roads of the Gairloch peninsula, for the usual reasons. She couldn't rest, and figured she might as well tend to her flock as sit in her cottage and stew. Ninety-nine nights out of a hundred, she found nothing amiss, but when she had seen a quick flicker of light far across the fields, she'd known something was afoot. The old caretaker of Castle Dirk never would have been abroad at midnight.

Sure enough, Young Tom Kerr was scavenging again, this time on private property. At least he hadn't been on any land held by the National Trust. Then she would have had to hobble him for sure.

She had already caught a few people hunting for treasure over at the Mellangaun Stones, on the eastern side of the peninsula. When she'd found them, they hadn't uncovered a thing except for some modern coins and ginger beer can tabs. Still, she'd had to arrest them.

No worries about the Stones now, though. There was an archeological bunch up from Edinburgh University doing a full dig all around the stone circle, and about time, too, Molly thought. Though not as impressive as Callanish, the Mellangaun Stones still had the power to awe. The stones, like those at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, were sharp edged, alarmingly vertical stone teeth, canines as opposed to the ground-down molars of most stone circles.

It was to these university nobs that she would take the box in the morning, along with the tools and coins. Mr. Scobie of Castle Dirk had no claim upon them, for they were now archeological treasures, property of the government. She wondered what they would say about the cloth. It probably wasn't at all dangerous, as she had led Tom Kerr to believe. She knew that all things luminescent gave off some sort of radioactivity, but most at very low levels. Still, why had the thing been sealed in lead?

It might, she thought, be something that her old bosses in MI5 might be interested in. Then she dismissed the thought. After all, she had come on her drive to forget MI5. God, it was hard enough. Nearly fifteen years she had spent in the British Security Service, coming in under Sir John Jones and leaving with relief after Mrs. Rimington's tenure as director-general had ended.

The game had changed too much for Molly's taste. The great majority of the service's resources were spent combating counterterrorism. The divisions in which Molly had gained her expertise, counterespionage and countersubversion, had become, with the downfall of Soviet communism, poor relatives. Although an official statement from MI5 in 1993 said, ". . . the old threat no longer exists, but it is equally true that spying continues," you'd never have known it from Molly's assignments.

In 1996, when Stephen Lander took over from Mrs. Rimington, the writing was on the wall. Lander had previously been MI5's director of Irish counterterrorism, and had every intention of expanding his war against the IRA and its splinter groups, using every MI5 resource available to him.

Molly Fraser did not share his passion. Although she was appalled by the renewed spate of IRA bombings that had so incensed Lander, her heart was in espionage. When they asked her to go undercover, using her gift for dialects and her red-cheeked cherubic face to pose as Irish and work her way into a cell, she declined, and then turned in her resignation.

Though Molly did not approve the tactics of the IRA, neither could she bring herself to fight against them. There was more kinship between her and them than language, however; they'd had their country stolen as well.

Ten years before she might have done it, but those ten years had been spent in the pursuit of, among other things, history, the history of not only the Irish and the English, but the Scottish as well. Though she had known the history of her homeland, she had learned it from an English perspective. When she looked at it from a purely Scottish point of view, it became a scenario in which one country had used its superior military strength and numbers to first conquer and then subdue a proud and noble land, then allied itself with the greediest natives by promising wealth for those few in return for obeisance from all.

Over the years, she had learned how England had used the Scots. They had used the technological brilliance of the finest Scottish minds, and sent their English dullards to Scottish universities; they had formed Scottish regiments of the bravest soldiers in the empire, and then marched them into cannons' mouths or set them upon native peoples in Africa and Asia, allowing the conquered to conquer, but only for their English masters; they had taken the resources of the North Sea, and allowed only a small portion of those billions from suboceanic black gold to filter back to Scotland.

The more she read and the more she learned, the louder the songs of English betrayal and domination rang in her ears: Falkirk, Glencoe, Culloden, the highland clearances. True, they had happened centuries before, but present-day Scots were still living with the results of their ancestors' defeats and deprivations. If she, as a Scot, felt this resentment, how much greater anger then would the Irish feel, with England's far more recent injustices toward them?

So she had resigned. The director of counterespionage had offered to clear her way into MI6, the foreign intelligence service, but Molly had politely declined. She had had enough of the government. She did accept his offer, however, to assist her in finding the police job that she sought in her native Scotland.

As luck would have it, there was a chief inspector's opening in the Gairloch district on Scotland's northwestern shore, not far from her hometown of Torridon. The pay wasn't much, but with her MI5 pension she didn't need much. The director had provided her with an unbreakable r
ésumé
, which included police experience in London and Australia, as well as exemplary letters of recommendation from several highly placed police officials in London and Sydney.

In the three years she had been living in Gairloch, she had come to love the job and the people. There were hardly any acts of violence except for the occasional pub brawl, and few major larcenies. The primary crimes were petty thefts and vandalism, most of which she and her two deputy inspectors were able to solve readily enough.

Her mother and father still lived in Torridon, and she spent many of the weekends she wasn't working with them, helping around their house. The modest needs of her love life were met by Alan Keith, a fifty-year-old widower who owned a gift shop in Gairloch, and whom she dined with, and afterward circumspectly slept with, every few weeks. All in all, it was a pretty boring life, and extremely satisfying, although every now and then Molly hoped for just a little excitement.

Maybe, she thought, the glowing cloth in the boot would provide a little interest.

 

T
he first ghost was seen the next day. At six o'clock in the morning, the driver of a delivery truck on his way to Melvaig ran off the B8021 and got stuck in a ditch. When the tow truck arrived to pull him out and the garageman asked what had caused him to slide off the road, the driver said that he had seen a glowing white shape floating above the roadway, like a man without a face.

It didn't take long for the story to spread down to Gairloch, where the young people laughed at it and the older ones frowned. A ghost made more sense, thought the elders, than blaming it on drink at the crack of dawn.

They were proved right quickly enough. A crofter came into the pub in town that evening, anxious to tell his tale. He claimed he had been looking for a lost ewe, and was driving her back from the steep gully in which he had found her, when he heard a sound like the wail of a woman, and when he looked behind him, he saw, only a few feet away, but a foot or two in the air, the figure of a woman in a long white dress. She had a face like something out of a nightmare, all smooth and almost featureless, and her arms were reaching out for him.

When he finally got over his shock and knew that he could move, he left that ewe in his dust, but she came running along behind him until they had both outdistanced that bogle. And the funny thing was, he finished, it was broad daylight, the sun shining, for a change, as bright as you please.

The crofter was believed, since his description pretty well matched the truck driver's, and the crofter hadn't been in town to hear the driver's story. But what kind of ghost, the drinkers wondered, would show itself in daylight?

That night, four people discovered that the ghost or ghosts had no exclusivity on sunshine, nor did they seem to be limited to certain places. A fisherman on Loch Ewe, bringing his dory in at dusk, saw a luminescent humanoid shape fifty feet in the air above the waters of the loch. It too had no discernible face, but the fisherman continued to watch instead of flee, and swore that he saw the shape rise higher into the air until it vanished. "Soared up like an angel," he said. "I wasnae a bit afraid of it."

A hiker and his wife from Glasgow who were planning to spend the night on the gentle summit of Cnoc Breac changed their minds when a throbbing sound awakened them shortly after midnight, and more gleaming shapes than they could count seemed to be standing all around them before they vanished into the trees. When they told their story later, the husband said they looked like ghosts, but the wife held out for aliens, "Like in that
Close Encounters
, wee fellas."

And in Kenley House, her Gairloch bed and breakfast, Mrs. Ross was helping a young English boy's parents to clean up him and her carpet after he'd wakened in the middle of the night and thrown up the lovely salmon, brown potatoes, and carrots she had cooked them for supper, along with three helpings of raisin pudding. She was taking the sodden paper towels out to the rubbish can in the alley, when two shapes appeared on either side of her, "Burning like hell's fires," she said later. She screamed, and fainted dead away, for the first time in her life. When she came to, the only detail she could remember was that "They didn't have faces . . . not proper faces, anyway."

Chapter 5
 

W
hen Chief Inspector Fraser heard the next morning about the multiple hauntings, her first thought was to attribute it to a hoax. So she and Ian and Kevin, her Deputy Inspectors, set out to visit some of the locals who specialized in such shenanigans, but found all of them sincerely puzzled about what had happened.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
8.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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