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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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’.
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
“So you have made contact with this woman Victoria
Houseman?” Karpenco demanded before he was even halfway to
“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
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.”
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
“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.