فصل 02

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فصل 02

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Chapter two

Blood on the Ground

At breakfast that morning, only Sally and her father are at the table.

“Where’s Mr Dalton?” asks Sally when Mrs Larkin comes from the kitchen.

“Oh, he was up very early,” she replies. “He had to catch a ferry to France. He needed to be in Paris for a meeting this morning.”

“Why didn’t he fly?” asks the inspector.

“He needed his car with him,” replies Mrs Larkin quickly, and her cheeks begin to redden. “Now, what can I get you for breakfast?”

“A full English breakfast for me,” says the inspector. “Could I have a fried egg, please?”

“And for me, two poached eggs on toast, please,” says Sally. When Mrs Larkin returns to the kitchen, they both look at each other.

“It’s strange that Mr Dalton left so early for the ferry. If he needed his car in Paris, he could have gone on the Eurotunnel train with it,” says the inspector.

“Perhaps he likes to drive,” Sally replies. “He left early. I heard his car in the yard when it was still dark. It woke me.”

“I didn’t hear that,” says her father, “but I did hear something else.”

He then tells her about the shot that he heard in the night. “Really?’’ gasps Sally. “You don’t think that had anything to do with Mr Dalton leaving early, do you?”

“I hope not,” answers her father.

“And Mr Larkin said it was poachers?” Sally continues. “That’s terrible. I hate to think that people go around with guns and kill poor animals in the middle of the night. The world would be a better place without guns.”

They stop talking as Mrs Larkin returns from the kitchen. She places a plate in front of the inspector.

“Here’s your full English breakfast, David,” she says. “And here are your poached eggs on toast, Sally. I hope they’re not too hard,” she adds as she puts a plate in front of Sally.

“That smells delicious,” says the inspector as he looks at his plate full of food: two eggs, bacon, mushrooms, beans and fried bread.

“I’ll need a long walk after this,” he continues. “After a week here, I’ll be fat. Your cooking is really excellent, Brenda.”

She smiles and goes back into the kitchen.

A few seconds later she appears again with a pot of tea. She places it on the table and then leaves them alone.

DI Rush and Sally eat their breakfast. They discuss how they will spend their day. It is a beautiful morning with a blue sky and warm sunshine. They decide to visit Canterbury, as they have never been there. They would both like to see the famous cathedral.

When Mrs Larkin returns to clear the table, they talk with her about Canterbury. Finally, DI Rush asks where Mr Larkin is.

“He had to leave early as well,” she replies. “He’s gone up to London to see someone about some business.”

Before he can ask anything else, Mrs Larkin hurries off into the kitchen.

Sally and her father go upstairs to their rooms and pack a small rucksack each. Sally goes out into the yard and sees her father near the barn door. As she walks towards him, she slips. She looks down and sees a small pool of red liquid. She bends down to look at it, and her father comes over to her.

“What is it, Dad?” she asks. “It looks like blood to me.”

Her father puts his finger into the liquid and examines it. “I think you’re right,” he says. “What’s a pool of blood doing here in the yard?”

“Brutus caught a rabbit this morning and brought it into the yard,” says Mrs Larkin.

She is standing behind them with a bucket of water.

“I’m sorry that you had to see that,” she continues. “I was going to clean it up earlier, but I was busy in the kitchen.”

She pours the water onto the blood to wash it away. When she is happy that all of the blood has disappeared, she goes back into the house.

Sally and her father stand in silence. They look at each other and he shrugs his shoulders.

“I thought they locked Brutus in the backyard,” Sally says. “That’s what Mrs Larkin said yesterday,” agrees her father.

“Perhaps the poachers are not the only killers around here after dark. I don’t like to think that Brutus is walking about freely at night.”

“Oh, don’t think about it, then,” says Sally. “Let’s go and have a nice day in Canterbury.”

They spend a pleasant day in Canterbury. They visit the castle and the cathedral, and they have lunch at one of the cafes in the town centre. They also look around the shops, before they return to their car and drive back to Littlestone Farm.

On their return, Mr Larkin is standing at the door of the house.

“Did you have a good time in Canterbury?” he asks.

“Yes, we did, thanks,” replies DI Rush. “How was London?”

“Too busy and too noisy,” Larkin laughs.

“Did you drive there?” asks the DI.

“Yes,” Larkin answers cautiously. “Why?”

“It’s just that your van was still in the barn this morning,” answers the DI.

The smile disappears from Larkin’s face and his cold, blue eyes turn towards DI Rush.

“I walked to the end of the lane and a friend took me in his car,” he says after a moment.

“Oh, right,” replies DI Rush.

“Any more questions?” he asks sharply.

“No, Alan,” answers the inspector. “None at all.”

Larkin turns and disappears into the house.

Sally and the inspector look at each other, before they follow him through the door. They go upstairs to their rooms to wash before the evening meal.

Tonight they are the only two at the table. While they eat, Sally and the inspector discuss their day in Canterbury, but both of them are thinking about the strange things that have happened since they arrived at Littlestone Farm. Mrs Larkin serves their food but doesn’t say much this evening. Mr Larkin is nowhere to be seen.

After the meal, Sally watches TV again, while her father reads his book. When they go upstairs, they both go into Sally’s room.

“Something’s not right here,” says DI Rush after she has closed the door. “I think I’ll stay awake tonight and see if anything happens.”

“Oh, Dad,” says Sally. “You’re not at work now. Just go to bed.”

“Sorry, Sally,” he replies. “I have a suspicious mind. I just want to see if anything happens during the night here.”

“Well, be careful, Dad,” Sally warns. “There are obviously people out there at night with guns.”

“Don’t worry. I can take care of myself,” says her father before he goes to his room.

He takes off his shoes and lies on the bed. He sets his alarm clock for 2 a.m. and then closes his eyes.

He only seems to have slept for seconds when the alarm wakes him. After he stops the alarm, he lies for a few minutes on the bed. Then he gets up, goes to the open window and looks out. The yard is completely dark and there is no sound at all.

He sits by the window and the hours go by. The only sounds he hears are a dog barking somewhere and also an owl in the wood. When it starts to become light, he undresses and gets into bed, where he soon falls asleep.

At breakfast the next morning, he tells Sally about his night. “Perhaps you are too suspicious, Dad,” she says. “I think it’s the fact that you’re a policeman that makes you suspect everyone. Don’t you think?”

“You could be right,” her father agrees. “I think that I should leave my work behind for a week and just enjoy my holiday. The weather is beautiful and the food is great.”

“And, of course, the company is wonderful,” Sally adds and she laughs.

“Indeed it is,” agrees her father and he laughs, too.

They spend the day in Ramsgate on the coast. It is some distance away, but DI Rush had a holiday there when he was a teenager and wants to go back. He finds that he cannot really remember much. Everything is more modern now. However, they have a pleasant day. They do all the things that DI Rush used to do when he was a teenager , on holiday. They walk by the sea, eat fish and chips and go to the fairground. They go on the rides, and at one of the stalls, DI Rush wins a bar of chocolate by throwing darts. They have both eaten enough, so he puts it in his pocket for later.

For Sally it is a new experience. She has spent all her holidays in Spain or France. She has never had a holiday on the coast in England.

When they arrive back at Littlestone Farm, Mr Larkin is in the barn. The doors are open, and they can see him in the back of his van. He has a bucket and a cloth. He looks up as they get out of the car. They are both laughing.

“You’ve obviously had a good day,” he says. “It must be nice to have no work to do.”

“It is very nice indeed,” replies DI Rush. “Are you going out with the van this evening, Alan?”

“No,” Larkin answers sharply. “I just thought that I should clean it out. Then it will be ready when I need it again.”

He turns away and begins to clean the floor.

DI Rush looks at Sally and shrugs his shoulders. They walk across the yard and into the house. Mrs Larkin is obviously in the kitchen, and the smell of the evening meal fills the hall.

“It smells like roast lamb,” says Sally. “The meals here really are delicious.”

“I can hardly believe that you used to be a vegetarian,” her father laughs.

Apparently, they are still the only guests at the house. While they eat their evening meal, they talk together. They also speak to Mrs Larkin when she appears from the kitchen to serve the food. They tell her about their visit to Ramsgate and DI Rush’s holiday there years ago. When they have eaten, they decide to sit in the garden to drink their coffee. It is a beautiful evening, and they watch the sun disappear behind the wood.

“Two days gone already,” says Sally. “I can’t believe how quickly the time goes by.”

“Yes, it will soon be time to pack our cases,” replies her father.

“Well, Mrs Larkin is okay, and I really like her meals,” says Sally, “but I’m not sure about Mr Larkin. Sometimes I think he is okay, and at other times I feel that there’s something suspicious about him.”

“I think that we both agree on that,” the inspector laughs. Then he continues more seriously. “You know what I said this morning, about forgetting police work for a week. Well, I still think Mr Larkin is doing something illegal. I think I might stay awake again tonight.”

“Well, I think that you should go to sleep tonight. You have been yawning all day today,” says Sally.

They go inside and watch television together for an hour. Then they go up to their rooms.

“Are you really going to stay awake tonight, Dad?” Sally asks, as she goes into her room.

“I don’t know,” replies her father. “As you said, I should really sleep tonight. I might set my alarm and just get up for a short time to see if anything is happening.”

Sally smiles. She knows that her father will get up during the night. He has been a detective for too many years now. If he thinks there is something suspicious going on, then he will not be able to get a good night’s sleep.

“Good night, Dad,” she smiles. “Sleep well.”

At 2 a.m. DI Rush is waiting by his open window. He sits there for thirty minutes, and once again the only sounds that he hears are the barking of the dog and the call of the owl. He is about to go back to bed when he hears someone swear quietly. He puts his head out of the window, but everything is quiet again. With his head out of the window, he can see that there is a light on in the barn. Perhaps Larkin is working on his van, he thinks. However, there is no sound at all. He thinks for a few seconds and then decides to go and see what is happening in the barn. Probably Larkin didn’t switch the light off, the inspector tells himself.

He goes quietly down the stairs. The house is dark and silent. He is just about to open the door and go out into the yard, when he hears a deep growl behind him. The hair on the back of his neck stands up. The inspector does not move his body but slowly turns his head.

In the darkness he can see the shape of Brutus. The Rottweiler is standing in the hall behind him. Brutus growls again and takes a step towards him.

“Good dog,” says the inspector quietly. “Nice dog.”

Although it is dark, he can see that the dog is ready to jump at him. He puts his hand in his pocket to see if he has anything to protect himself with. His fingers touch the bar of chocolate that he won at the fairground. Quickly, he breaks a piece from the bar and throws it to the dog.

“Good dog, do you like chocolate?” he says.

In the darkness, he can see the dog take the chocolate from the floor and swallow it quickly. His hand is trembling as he throws another piece to it, and then another. While the dog is eating the chocolate, DI Rush opens the door and escapes into the yard. He quickly closes the door behind him and stands still for a moment. He breathes deeply and waits a few minutes until his heart is beating more slowly.

Perhaps I should have stayed in bed, he tells himself. How can I go back into the house now? Brutus will be waiting for me. If there is nothing in the barn, I will have to sleep in there until the Larkins get up. And then I will have to explain why I was out in the yard in the middle of the night.

Nevertheless, DI Rush wants to find out what goes on in the barn.

In the yard there is only his car. The light is still on in the barn. He stands for a moment and listens. He can now hear noises which come from the barn. It sounds like voices - like someone talking, but very quietly.

He walks across the yard and goes to the side of the barn, where there is a window. With his hand he cleans the years of dirt from the glass until it is cleaner and he can see through it. Then, he puts his face against the window and looks into the barn.

At first he can only see Larkin’s van. Then he sees someone moving in the corner of the barn. As they walk into the light, he gasps.

“So that’s Larkin’s secret,” he says to himself, and he takes out his mobile phone to call the police.

At that moment, he hears a deep growl behind him. Before he can do anything, something hits him on the back of the head, and he falls to the ground unconscious.

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