EXCERPTS FROM BOOKS


SOULFATE THE TRILOGY



THE EYE OF ERASMUS 

The 30th October was a beautiful autumn day, remarkably warm for the time of the year. A weak sun appeared through rain filled clouds. Augustine heavy with an overdue child stopped walking and supported the baby with both hands around her stomach. For most of the morning there had been constant movement. Maybe at last she could bring this infant into the world she thought contentedly. Gently with her right hand she caressed the child and he seemed to settle. She had borne six daughters and this time she was convinced the child was a boy.
It had not been an easy pregnancy and on many occasions she had taken to her bed, more by necessity than choice. Augustine had already chosen the name. Her husband just smiled and gave in to his wife’s whims.
Tiring now she sat down on one of the rocks and removing her shoes with difficulty allowed the gentle movement of the waves to cool her feet. Her mind wandered back to summers past, growing up with her sister Grendell. They were both fascinated by the seashore and spent endless days playing on these rocks when the tide was out. Sadly she was no longer around and she missed her dreadfully. The previous year she had been hanged as a witch. Grendell had been trying to help a new baby boy who had trouble breathing. Her potions had always worked before but this time she was unsuccessful and the boy had died. A rejected admirer spitefully accused her of being a witch, the word had spread and magnified. Dragged from her home in the middle of the night she had been hanged from the oak tree in the centre of the village. Augustine although over wrought on hearing this rushed out to retrieve her body. With the help of a passing stranger who took pity on her she wrapped Grendell in a sheet and took her away on an old cart she had pulled herself. In doing so she had lost the baby she was unaware of growing inside her.
With a deep sigh she struggled to put on her shoes and pulled herself up slowly with the aid of a nearby rock. She then made her way back to the cottage sad in heart for her sister.
At one thirty in the morning of the 31st October the storm broke with earnest. The full moon at times covered by the darkest clouds competed with the fork lightening which ravaged the sky accompanied by heavy rolls of thunder. The fifty-foot waves crashed mercilessly against the rocks surrounding the small cove. Nothing was spared by the cruelty of the sea. Boats high up on the beach assumed to be out of harms way were lifted up by the waves then dashed against the rocks and splintered into driftwood. This would be collected for kindling at the earliest opportunity to top up fires needed in the winter months. One person’s loss was another man's salvation.
At nineteen minutes past two exactly a thunderbolt struck the roof of Augustine’s cottage.
Erasmus in an act of defiance to the weather entered the world...  ©tkg Nov 2017

SHASTA THE ENCHANTED GARDEN 

Thinking back to all that had happened, she realised it was only two weeks ago that she had arrived in Shasta village as Willow James. She was a vibrant young schoolgirl and the highlight of her life was arranging or planning sleepovers with friends. They would spend half the night giggling over schoolboy heroes and comparing them to unobtainable pop stars.
She had now discovered that not only was she Willow James in this life, but previously she had been Shasta a legendary folk heroine of this village. She had learnt from her aunt that Shasta was a magical village, where the sun shone all day but a gentle rain fell at night to enable the plants to drink. Also that she had the gift of second sight. During her time here she had aged ten years and matured into a beautiful young woman ready to accept her awaiting heritage.
At the bottom of her aunt's garden was a gate hidden from sight by fruit bushes and trees. This led through to faery cove. The faeries were all named after flowers from her aunts garden and they were the prettiest little people that she had ever seen. They lived in toadstools in a faery kingdom at the base of a tree and Shasta could visit at any time providing she first drank from the well in the garden to decrease her size... ©tkg Nov 2017 


SHASTA VILLAGE

It had been a beautiful hot summer’s day and the young woman sat atop her brightly coloured caravan enjoying the last rays of the early evening sunshine and the beginning of a welcome light breeze. The reins of her piebald horse were lying loosely across her foot beneath her dress and he seemed to reflect her happiness as he trotted slowly along the country lane. The sun, still very warm was gradually sinking in the sky behind the trees but every so often, it appeared through the thin branches.
Listening to the birds singing in the trees the woman was at one with the elements. The hedgerows along the lane gave cover to the birds, which talked to her as she passed by.
“Good morning mistress” they seemed to be saying.
“Good morning to you pied wagtails and sparrows” she responded in kind.
Approaching a fork in the road, she instinctively encouraged the horse to the right. Suddenly she reined the horse in and decided on impulse to go left. As the young woman slowly made her way along the leafy lane, she was aware that she was approaching a village. It looked completely neglected, and from every grass verge and garden, weeds ran rampantly.
How awful that there should be such neglect she reflected. No flowers were growing at all. As she passed the villagers their heads were hung low as if in despair.
“Good evening Sir” she called to one but the only response was a low grunt of derision. As she reached the middle of the village, she reined in her horse, and got into the back of the wagon. Picking up a black cooking pot, she set it down outside balancing it on its three legs. Inside she placed some dried seedpods and fresh herbs. Then collecting a few twigs from nearby she proceeded to light a fire under the pot.
Out of curiosity the villagers began to gather round and their confidence grew as their numbers began to increase.
The villagers, sitting in a semi circle with their smocks coming over the knees of their britches seemed to be affected by the hypnotic pungent aroma coming from the pot and they started to smile. Nodding their heads in approval they were content to watch.
As the vigil progressed through the night, the sky began to lighten into a new dawn. The woman held up her hand commanding attention.
“My friends each of you will take one seed from the pot. When you open it, you will see two seeds. Plant one in the hedgerow and the other in each garden. Every one will be different and this should be done at sunset tonight”. The following morning in each garden and every hedgerow a new flower had grown where the weeds had been. The villagers were so happy to see so many pretty flowers they asked if they could name the village after her. Smiling she agreed and the village became known as Shasta... ©tkg Nov 2017


~o0o~


A RUSSIAN GIFT OF LOVE 


The dry leaves crunched underfoot as Vicky Houseman walked
through the woods.
The sun on her face was warm, but inspiration for the new
storyline was just not happening. She scooped up a few pinecones
for use as Christmas decorations. Ivy from her garden and faery
lights (lots of them) would complete the right look for her. Being
a true Wiccan, she used her own version of traditional
decorations. It wasn’t something she shared with her colleagues;
it was a personal choice.
This year Vicky was spending Christmas alone. She’d had
many invitations, but had gently turned them down. Oh, the joy of
staying in her trackys all day, or even her pj’s if she wanted.
Vicky smiled at the thought.
As she retraced her steps back to the car, the first threatened flakes of snow started falling downy soft, adorning her brown hair as they settled feather light upon her shoulders. Her cottage was only minutes away, but she was glad now she had been lazy. She placed her haul of decorations on the back seat and
clambered in. Starting the engine to generate some warmth, she
stared out at the dusting of snow as she reflected on her life, her
grey eyes thoughtful.
Although she was a published author, it was also a
convenient cover for her day job. She was a DCI at Sandford
Police Station Special Branch Section, vetted to the highest
standard, and dealt daily with anti-terrorism. Most of the work
was intelligence led, and she was responsible for leading a team
of hardened Police Officers. Her relentless work ethic had been
recognized by her colleagues and she held the respect of her team,
because ‘she got the job done, regardless’.
Frequently she worked from home, which suited her nicely.
It aided her cover and her writing was a welcome escape from the
crazy world of espionage.
She looked forward to few days away from it all. It would be
just her and her new story.
Coming back to the present, she put the car in gear and drove
towards home. With a full week still to go, she rather hoped the
snow would lie heavily and stay until all the celebrations were
over.
Pulling up outside her cottage, she noted that the guy next
door was just going on shift. He did many unsociable stints as a
fire fighter. Par for the course, she mused. She understood the call
to duty.
Nick had moved in a few weeks ago. Not the best of timing,
she thought, with Christmas round the corner. They had managed
a few words of introduction, and Vicky had taken in the good
looks, brown hair and twinkling hazel eyes, and a wicked smile.
She did have trouble placing his slight accent. He spoke
English perfectly, but there was definitely an accent. She had never seen
him in uniform, surmising he changed when he got to work. Vicky didn't share  the dream, of being carried over a shoulder in rescue by a gorgeous hero. To her, he was just a man doing a very worthwhile job.
Getting out of her car, Vicky waved, made a quick comment
about the weather and then hurried inside to stoke up the cheery
embers of the open fire she had left. Adding a couple of logs and
a bit of coal, she replaced the guard again. The fire obediently
sparked back into life, sending a warm glow around the room.
Looking outside at the now heavy snowfall, she was glad to
be toasting herself in front of the flames. Nature could enjoy itself
outside as it pleased. She had already put the garden to bed until
the spring.
Hopefully, though, her neighbour made it to work safely.
And then she put him out of mind.
A hint of the new story was finally beginning to form. Many
times she had relied on memory, only to have it fail her; thus,
grabbing her tape recorder she began to make some notes.
She heated some thick homemade soup and then roughly
ripped apart crusty bread. Not her best effort at bread making, she
admitted, but it was palatable. Too many times she had to survive
on a rushed meal and indigestion from the Police canteen. When
she had the chance she unwound by cooking from scratch.
Sitting in front of the fire on a pile of cushions, she pulled
forward the purpose built tray and tucked into the meal.
Switching on the TV, she watched the weather report.
Many roads up North have been closed due to heavy
snowfall and it’s now falling in the South …
As they panned the cameras around the country, it looked as
if everywhere was tucked up under a large fluffy white fleece.
She flipped the TV off and gazed out of the window.
Tell me about it, Vicky thought, seeing only white. Well, the
freezer is stocked up, and I have the central heating if the logs
run out.
She loaded up the dishwasher and settled down again. She
would have a glass of wine later, but for now she wanted to get
some work done. With anticipation she referred to her recorded
notes, then opened a new document on her laptop and started
typing. Eventually her legs, curled up underneath her, began to
cramp and, putting the laptop on the side of the sofa, she stretched
and walked over to the wine rack. Selecting a Merlot, Vicky
unscrewed the top and poured a glass. Throwing another couple
of logs on the fire, she settled back down and re-read what she
had written.
The characters had begun to introduce themselves and she
started to do a bit of backfill. She liked where it was headed.
Already the ending was in her mind, and the working title for
the moment was ‘Glasnost’.

Chapter Two
Nickoli Morozov (Nick to his friends) was not on this occasion
going to work; instead, he walked into an unobtrusive building
and took the lift to the top floor.
He had an urgent summons from his superior.
At least six years had passed since the last time he was here,
and he had been horribly hauled over the coals that time. He had
also been threatened with Siberia if he slipped up again.
Sweating at the mere thought, he took out his pass card and
swiped it, allowing him entrance into the sealed office. The room
was like any other usual office, with filing cabinets, a desk, and
seating for visitors.
Behind the desk at the far end of the room sat his boss.
Grigori Karpenco. He lived up to his name- ever watchful.
Always uneasy in his presence, Nickoli tried to show an outer
calm.
“So you have made contact with this woman Victoria
Houseman?” Karpenco demanded before he was even halfway to
the desk.
“Yes, Comrade, I have moved into the cottage next door and
have introduced myself. My established cover has always been as
a fire fighter, and there is no reason for her to think anything
different,” he said, hoping to sound convincing.
“Our research shows she is extremely shrewd and is highly
respected by her team. Do not under estimate her, Nickoli, and
remember this, we are watching you also. You have been here ten
years forming your identity whilst under deep cover. Your
mission hasn’t changed. You will establish a relationship with
this woman. Make love to her if necessary, but do whatever it
takes and then you will eliminate her. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Comrade, completely understood.”
“You will not report back here until the job is done. Now go
… and, Nickoli, remember, you have been a sleeper in this
country for a long time. I wouldn’t want to hear of any mixed
loyalties.”
Hard eyes fixed on him, causing him to shiver.
“Comrade, I have not forgotten what this woman has done.
The mission will be completed as directed.”
“Go!”
Leaving the office, he was glad to be on the other side of the
door and realised he was sweating profusely. He hoped it hadn’t
been too obvious. Grigori Karpenco had a reputation for
ruthlessness and Nickoli was going to play this one by the book.
Or he’d never sweat again. Siberia would become his new home.
The next step was to get closer to Victoria Houseman.
Christmas was coming up, and he knew she was single. He
had made it his job to find out. Luckily for him, the cottage next
door to her came up for rent.
He was in the perfect position.
Pressing an intercom button, Grigori Karpenco summoned his
secretary, a thin looking man with a permanent scared look.
Grigori’s preference was for male staff, he had no interest in
women now. His former wife had done her duty by him and
produced a son. These days his lovers were men of his choosing.
“Here is the folder, return it and ensure Nickoli is watched
closely from now on. I have a feeling about him.”
“Yes, Comrade General.”
“Oh, and Yegor …”
“Yes, Comrade General.”
With a lecherous smile, Grigori added, “Tonight, and don’t
be late.”
“Yes, Comrade General,” Yegor said quietly as he left the
room, clutching Nickoli’s file.
Yegor’s shoulders seemed to shrink beyond the door. The only
sound was the hideous laughter he left behind. Yegor hated the
man, but if he didn’t perform to the General’s liking Siberia was
apparently his other choice. What was it with this man and
Siberia? If he wasn’t careful, he’d have Nickoli for a neighbour.
He had no intention of facing the cold Siberian front now, or at 
any other time in the future, so he set the wheels in motion for
Nickoli to be watched, day and night.
Now, what was he going to wear tonight to please the
General? Yegor mentally went through his secret wardrobe of
dressing up apparel and smiled.
Yes, just the thing, he thought.

~o0o~



Ghosts of Timeless Cottage

Today just couldn’t get any worse for Carolina. Her efficiency had gone straight down the toilet. It wasn’t her fault and this morning she seemed to be wearing ‘The buck stops here’ tee shirt. The newly elected Minister, the Rt Hon Jonathon Taylor, constantly upset her carefully maintained schedules. For the last six months most of the female staff had drooled over him and his good looks. Carolina on the other hand was completely indifferent. Her efficiency was a priority. She was responsible for everything; from running his diary, to ensuring his wife and mistress didn’t meet. Somehow the fates were on her side with the latter.
This morning he had pushed her to the limit. He had come in late and completely thrown out her schedule, which he had known about in advance. His diary read,

09:00 Meeting with the media including a TV interview
10:20 Meeting with the Permanent Under-Secretary of State
11:10 Meeting with the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minster

…And so it went on. At 10:00am he wandered past her desk and into his office. The lame excuse 
he used being,
“Oh, I was picked up late by my driver. Sorry about that ”
Carolina had heard that one before. It was double talk for, ‘I was still in bed with the latest 
mistress and lost track of time.’
“So, what have I missed oh guardian of my diary?”
He smiled at her, already knowing the answer. Carolina was not in the mood for his funny quips this morning. She was angry, and it came across. Slowly and deliberately she read out the missed appointment with the media and TV interview, not forgetting the excuses she had put in place for him. Once again covering his arse. ‘He’d been called away urgently and sent his apologies’ etc.
“You’re a gem Carolina. Where would I be without you and your efficiency?”
“Probably sacked eventually,” she responded caustically now past caring.
“Your next meeting is at 10:20 with the Permanent Under Secretary.”
He huffed at that one. Had he prepared for it? No! Fortunately, Carolina had, and gave him all the notes he needed. He had the grace to look chastised this time and gave mumbled thanks.
Within the hour, she had managed to get her schedule back on track. The biggest bouquet of flowers 
from Covent Garden now stood on her desk with a hand-written note.

Will try and do better next time, and could you buy my wife something unusual for her birthday 
tomorrow.You know her favourite shops and you can charge it to my account. While you’re at it, 
could you get a trinket for my favourite woman of the moment?
He’d finished with a flourishing signature and a smiley emoticon.
Carolina smiled in spite of herself at the handwritten note, but was also left wondering if the grief was worth the £40,000 salary. She had a very small mortgage thanks to the job, and a perfect flat in the centre of London overlooking the Thames. However, the daily stress of this current Minister was driving her nuts. She couldn’t deny his charismatic charm, but she was getting fed up with constantly 
covering his arse. How did he hold down the job for goodness sake?
Carolina decided to go to the park for lunch. She needed the fresh air, time to think and to clear her 
head. Frequently she fed her sandwiches to the ducks, but today she ate them all as she pondered 
her quandary. Should she seek a transfer to another department? She had always loved the job she
was doing. It was just this current Minister that was throwing her mind into turmoil. There was no 
denying he was a looker, but she usually didn’t mix business with pleasure.
Oh, if she could just sit and write all day, she mused. Unbeknown to her colleagues, she had many successful novels to her name under a pseudonym to maintain anonymity. Ok, if she was honest, 
her job paid good money, but the writing world was precarious. You were only as good as your last
 book, her publisher had once told her, but these days they were chasing her for the next one, and 
seeing the pound signs in front of their eyes.
She loved the world of romance and fantasy, and her books were mostly of that genre. She often 
dreamt about sailing the high seas with the likes of Johnny Depp, and would happily be his mistress 
as in Pirates of the Caribbean. It was light relief and escapism from her current job. She was an 
attractive woman; she knew that because she had been told often enough. Her long black raven hair framed her porcelain face, whilst the long, natural lashes, teased anyone who tried to look into her 
bright blue eyes.
Neither was she short of offers for dinner dates. However, her preference was to indulge herself in her writing and fantasy worlds. Sighing, Carolina walked back to her office, stopping only to admire the powerhouse known as the Houses of Parliament. Yes, she actually worked in there and sometimes had 
to pinch herself as a reminder. There was also the prestige which she enjoyed. Carolina wasn’t greedy, 
but did love her current life style and who could blame her. In just a couple of hours she would be back 
at her luxurious flat, which meant total relaxation with that lovely view. Oh! It was to die for.
Then she remembered the hand-written note with her flowers.
Oh blast! She murmured under her breath. His trust in her was phenomenal. Never checking receipts. 
Oh, just charge it Carolina…!Fortunately for him, she was a completely honest individual right through. 
It just wasn’t worth being any other way.Carolina hailed down a passing cab to take her to Tiffany’s in Bond Street, which she usually used for these occasions. She hurriedly bought a couple of suitable 
trinkets for his wife and mistress.  They didn’t appeal to her, but his wife and mistress would love them. They were a snip at just under £800 in total. She picked up a suitable birthday card and returned to the office.
“You are an absolute treasure with exquisite taste, Carolina, and thank you. My women will love these.” Jonathon gushed.
Carolina decided against responding, and went back to her desk, to carry on earning her £40 grand.

***
A steaming hot shower always worked for Carolina when she got home. It cleansed her of all the 
bullshit that went on within the work environment. Mostly she stayed out of it, but occasionally it impacted on her department. Then there was the usual gossip as to who was knocking off this 
secretary, or minister, not forgetting who was the last to leave the bar and whether they had been 
sober or not. She dressed in her favourite tracksuit, before cooking Spaghetti Bolognese. Then 
sipping her favourite wine, she walked over to the small bijou balcony of her flat, to watch the activity 
on the River Thames. The bridge had just lifted to allow a large boat entry. In the distance she could 
hear the sound of the Bow Bells. She adored being by water and thought back to the agent’s words 
on her first viewing of the flat.
“Floor to ceiling windows ensures the flat is bathed with natural light. Residents enjoy full access to the private gardens. Underground parking and storage can be directly rented from the Corporation of 
London. Included within the service charge is background heating, refuse collection from your door, window cleaning and building insurance. A cleaner can be included at a small extra charge to the owner. Excellent transport links and Moorgate, St. Paul's and Barbican Tube station are moments away.”
It truly was a view to die for. Just then the telephone rang bringing her back to the present.
“Hello Carolina speaking.”
“Carolina it’s Mary, your aunt Jane’s neighbour. I got your number from her list on the kitchen wall. I’m afraid I have a bit of bad news.” Mary let Carolina digest that bit first.
“She’s had a bit of a fall, and is in hospital at the moment. I’m visiting her every day but she’s 
really quite poorly.”
Oh no! Not dear aunt Jane. It wasn’t possible. She was so agile and carefree.
“Your aunt has told me all about you and your job in London. I can keep you updated, if it will save you coming down here at the moment. I promise I will let you know if anything changes.”
“I would much prefer to come down Mary, but if you’re sure she’s not too bad I’ll come down at the weekend to see her.”
“That will be fine. I’ll tell her tomorrow when I visit.”
Carolina sorted out the details including visiting times with Mary and agreed to meet her at the hospital on Saturday, just two days away. Aunt Jane was invincible and would be up and about before she knew it.
A phone call was made to the hospital asking for a message to be passed on, stating that she would be down to visit her aunt on Saturday, and to give aunt Jane her love. There was nothing more she could 
do at the moment and she dished up her meal. The magnificent view from her balcony was forgotten 
now.
On Saturday morning, Carolina did without her regular lay in, in favour of an early drive to Hastings in East Sussex. The hospital was well signposted once she reached Hastings, and she maintained good 
time. Parking was another matter. Most of the spaces had already been taken up with staff and other visitors. As Carolina walked through the vast entrance, the clinical odours of the hospital played havoc with her nose, but she tried to ignore them. Reaching the women’s surgical ward, enquiries were made after her aunt.
“You must be Carolina,” said a woman approaching her in a starched blue uniform with a ward sister’s 
hat clipped to her hair.
“Would you like to join me in my office? It’s a bit more comfortable in there, and we can have a chat about your aunt.”
“How is she?” Carolina enquired as the ward sister held open a door.
“Would you like to sit here my dear?” indicating a soft plush chair in the bright, and less than clinical 
office seemingly ignoring her enquiry completely.
The sister settled herself behind her desk, and forming a steeple with her fingers, looked at Carolina. It was never easy trying to gauge the best way to break the news. Many times she had been the bearer of bad news. It never got any easier regardless of what anyone said.
“I’m afraid the news is not good my dear.” She waited for a reaction. “I’m afraid your aunt died 
just a short while ago.” She waited again for a moment or two. “Her age was against her you see. The broken bones had been contributory to it.”
Carolina was devastated. No, it wasn’t possible. Not her lovely aunt Jane. Why was life so unfair? Then she began to chastise herself for putting her job first and not coming immediately. At least she could 
have held her hand and said goodbye to her. A box of tissues was passed over to her which she made 
use of.
“I’m so sorry, my dear. We ensured she was in no pain. She just slipped quietly away.”
That was so typical of aunt Jane, never one to make a fuss thought Carolina. The ward sister was talking again.
“Her friend Mary came with a gentleman to visit this morning, but they were also too late I’m afraid. 
The gentleman seemed very close to her?”
She was querying something, but Carolina knew nothing about any special men in her aunt’s life. 
Probably someone from the Darby and Joan club she surmised.
“Can I get you a drink of something, my dear, water, tea, coffee, or something a bit stronger? I have a small bottle of brandy here for such situations if you would prefer?”
Carolina thanked her but rejected everything. She wanted to see her aunt, if it was allowed. Then she changed her mind and opted for the brandy. She sipped it slowly as she hadn’t eaten and was driving later. It burnt her throat, but it also gave her courage to see her aunt for the last time. There were no living relatives apart from her, which meant the funeral arrangements would be down to her.
“I’ll get a nurse to take you along to the Chapel of Rest as soon as you’re ready.”
She then left her to come to terms with the news. The Chapel of Rest was silent, and very peaceful 
when she walked in. Carolina sat in one of the pews gathering her courage. She could see her aunt 
quite clearly and suddenly felt the urge to go up and touch her, mostly to reassure herself that she was really gone. Slightly shaking, she went up to her aunt and gazed down on her. The hair was perfect as always and she looked sound asleep. Part of her hoped that her aunt would suddenly start snoring. 
Then the nightmare would just be a dream. Carolina touched her face; it was stone cold. Feeling her 
eyes welling up, Carolina dropped a kiss on her aunts’ forehead, said her goodbye and walked out to 
the car. She felt awful leaving her there, but there was nothing she could do. Sitting in the driving seat, Carolina welled up again as she thought about her aunts’ life…
Jane had lived a very long, full life. Eighty years old, and she still had all her marbles, with an eye for the men in the twice-weekly Darby and Joan club. Her hair was always immaculate, and she dressed to kill. Well maybe more like a bit of over age flirting, but life was for living and she lived it to the full. She also loved a small tipple of brandy every night, but an extra glass over her quota, had left her unsteady on 
her feet and caused the nasty fall down the stairs after a trip to the bathroom.
Fortunately, Mary had been there and called the emergency services. She was also able to confirm the circumstances when questioned.
Carolina drove back to London and was offered compassionate leave from work. She knew the temporary replacement Francis Strong by reputation only. Not a woman to try and take advantage of by all counts. Francis apparently lived up to the surname. It wasn’t the best choice in her opinion, but she was all they could spare at short notice. Hopefully she would be immune to the charismatic Jonathan Taylor, and keep him in some sort of order. However, whether she did or not, was the least of her worries at the moment. She would make her aunt’s cottage her temporary home, until everything was finalised.
Carolina was starving by now and made herself a quick meal before loading her car up with essentials. The sensible thing would have been to spend the night at the flat, and then go down the following morning, but she felt an urgency to get down there, and eventually arrived just before nine o’clock.
Within her aunt’s effects there was a key to the cottage, which she had slipped on her key fob. The cottage seemed sort of lonely somehow, when she walked in and for comfort, slept in her aunt’s 
perfectly made bed. It was the best night’s sleep she had had for weeks. Maybe it was the sea air, but 
she also felt her aunt was close by.
The following morning, Carolina unpacked a few things and tried to settle. She had no idea how long the formalities would take before the funeral could be arranged, but the solicitors had taken over most of the arrangements for her. Everyone it seemed wanted to lend her a hand.
As Carolina wandered from room to room of the seventeenth century cottage, childhood memories came flooding back. She was Hastings born and bred. Just like the proverbial stick of rock, her name seemed 
to be imbedded through it. Her parents had named her after one of her paternal ancestors, and at no 
time had anyone ever shortened it. Education had been in the local convent by nuns, after winning a scholarship. Hah! That had certainly been an experience. One she had no wish to recall at any time. Her thoughts drifted away from her regimented childhood and back to the present. How her life had 
changed when finally, she had moved to the high life of the metropolis. Her parents had taken up permanent residence abroad in their holiday villa in Italy at the same time.
Suddenly her aunt’s words came back to her, bringing her back to the present… It’s steeped in its own history and secrets my dear. Once everything was settled, Carolina was determined to research into 
it all. Although classed as a small end of terrace house, they had always referred to it as the cottage. 
So full of memories and her resolve was strengthened.I won’t change anything aunt Jane I promise she murmured to the cottage and it creaked as if in acknowledgement.
The three up, and two down, included the modern bathroom and kitchen diner with a range. An old-fashioned type with a fire at the side, which she intended to light at every opportunity when it got chilly, and of course to set the atmosphere, which had always been enjoyed by her aunt. With the exception of mid-summer, aunt Jane rarely let it go out.
The property had always been her favourite place, and if truth were known, another reason she spent a lot of time with aunt Jane. She was still devastated, but she just knew this would be the ideal place to continue her writing.
She turned to look out of her aunt’s bedroom window, and gazed at the old 1903 Victorian lift in all its magnificence. Standing tall and proud it transported visitors to and from the east hill. Each season, 
the hill was covered with gorse and heather. The beautiful panoramic views from the hill spread from 
the outskirts of Hastings to the sea. To her right she could just make out the Tamarisk Steps, which 
were set at the top of a small hill. Easy walking distance from the old town and the beach. Carolina 
had timed the walk to the beach. It took ten minutes with the wind behind her.
She took her empty coffee cup back to the kitchen. Although it was windowless, it didn’t bother her. It would be cosy in the winter, and of course it went without saying, that the door would be open constantly in the summer as she hated to be shut in. Outside the kitchen door was a very bland courtyard, which could soon be cheered up with a few tubs of colourful flowers plus a swing seat. A wall separated her courtyard from the other properties. It was tall enough for privacy, but not too tall as to be anti-social. Carolina wanted to interact with the neighbours. Some of the other properties would probably be described as being quaint. The words, modernisation and small dolls houses, sprung to her mind 
causing her to smile. At the front of the property was a quiet road ideal for parking, with several steps leading up to the front door. The outside was painted cream with a big sun plaque on the wall by the
side of the door to welcome visitors.

***
Finally, the formalities of the funeral were over. Carolina felt drained, but equally elated. Many of aunt Jane’s friends from the Darby and Joan club had attended and spoke very warmly of her. She finally had a proper chance to talk to Mary, and they revisited the full circumstances of the fall. Eventually they 
stopped talking about it when the tears began to fall. Mary loved her equally as much as her niece,
and would miss her just as much. Carolina promised to keep in touch.
The will had been read and the solicitor informed her that her aunt Jane had actually left her the 
cottage in Hastings, along with a considerable sum of money, much to Carolina’s surprise. On balance, 
she would rather have had her beloved aunt Jane still around to visit.
It had now been a couple of months since her aunt’s death and winter was finally coming to an end. Spring was just around the corner if you looked hard enough. Carolina had spent many happy 
weekends in the cottage, and loved every moment. It gave her solace from the pressures of her job 
and the drive down from London wasn’t too bad. Her office replacement Francis had kept the Rt. Honourable Jonathon in check while she’d been away. He was surprisingly conciliatory when she took up her post again, admitting he missed their work relationship. Probably missing all the arse covering I did for you, thought Carolina. 
Carolina began to live for the weekends. She could relax and switch off, spending many happy hours taking long walks along the beach. The sea had always held a special place in her heart. Her writers’ imagination had her sailing on an old-fashioned schooner, buffeted by the waves and foam. During her teen years she had frequently stood on the crumbling harbour, allowing the sea spray to soak her hair 
and face. Now she could do it every time she visited if the mood took her.
The kitchen range had taken longer than she had expected to get the hang of, but once she got used to its quirky foibles she became quite adept at preparing and cooking meals on it. The bonus was the small 
fire at the side of the range. It took the edge off the cool evenings, by giving a cosy warmth around the kitchen. She also discovered that her writing was flowing very easily when she was here. It was during one of these moments that she came to a momentous decision. Carolina was enjoying a leisurely bath. She carefully picked up the bottle of Merlot in her soapy hands and topped up her glass, then added 
more hot water to the large deep bath. The scented tea lights were now beginning to relax her after 
the toils of the day, and what a day it had been. Carolina laid back in the hot water and raised the 
glass to her lips. Closing her eyes, she thought about her aunt Jane and gave a silent toast to her. 
Dear aunt Jane with her qwerky ways and mismatched soft furnishings. She could hear her aunts’ 
familiar words now and grinned. ‘It’s done me this long, so it can see me out.’
Sadly, it had seen her out but now it all belonged to Carolina. She intended to keep it just the same in memory of her aunt. I’ll leave you a little something in my will dear. You’re the only one that has ever bothered about me.She had expected a piece of jewellery or something similar, but certainly not this; a property, plus a large sum of money, meant early retirement. The thought of just writing for the rest of her life filled her with pleasure. Her aunt must have sure been canny over the years to amass a quarter of a million pounds. Some of it had been through investment apparently, which gave some very large returns. She also had her own savings as well from her salary and book sales. 
Carolina opened her eyes and sipped at the wine. She loved the size of the bathroom conversion, which was an unused bedroom originally. The modernisation had been done very tastefully, in keeping with 
the age of the cottage.
Moving here had been done in a rush, but she hadn’t had any doubts. Her flat in London, and the hectic life held no thrill for her any more. A couple of times the Rt. Honourable Jonathon Taylor had made a 
pass at her. There was no denying he was an attractive, albeit married man, but he drove her to distraction working for him.
“You’ll be back, you’ll miss the buzz and the high life.” He said, and some of her colleagues agreed.
She felt it was with a slight hint of jealousy in some cases. The flat had gone on the market. Eventually it had been sold to another work colleague. Amazingly, he had given her more than the asking price in a cash transaction to ensure he didn’t lose it. The prestige of living in that location was persuasion 
enough, and he could easily afford it. Carolina agreed to include the furniture in the price, simply 
because her very expensive, ultra-modern furniture, would have been out of place in the cottage and 
she intended to keep her silent promise to her aunt. Apart from a few bits and pieces, including books 
and her precious laptop, she had everything she would need already there.
Would she miss the highflying PA job in government? Would she be lonely living here by herself? Time 
will tell, but she felt more excited by this move, than she had felt in a long time. This cottage had 
always felt very special to her and of course Hastings was steeped in smuggling history. She was going 
to enjoy researching that. Who knows it could be the storyline for her next book.
Carolina stepped out of the bath and closed the open window, shutting out the salty air. Her body was wrapped in a large fluffy towel, as the bath water drained off, then she slipped into her CE 
monogrammed, white dressing gown, and towelling slippers, before making her way downstairs. As she reached the curve of the wide landing which accommodated her larger, tall plants, she was convinced 
she heard a soft chuckle, but put it down to house settling noises. The two glasses of merlot consumed
in the bath was probably another reason for hearing weird noises. She placed the bottle and glass on 
the table, and then checked that the kitchen and front doors were both locked before retiring to bed. Carolina was sleeping deeply now, as the history of the cottage continued to be made. Sitting in the 
soft bedroom chair under the window, the invisible occupant of the property watched over her protectively.

***