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It was the 6th day of December and the moon shone brightly over the glade, the stars its perfect compliment. The night was misty and the lights of the nearest town barely visible from the house. She placed her hand on her hip - it was still there and she would need it soon.

The clock showed 10:24, the appointed time. She stood up, buckled her boots and headed out into the night - the glade the perfect meeting place, open yet private - no-one could hide there not even with this myst. She stood, waited and was met by 3 others. They were ready.

The four of them looked similar, dressed the same with the same equipment - the perfect team. They had rehearsed this for weeks, months, and finally it was time. They began the journey to their destination, women of the myst. Their training was about to pay off - big time.
The town was abnormally lacking in night life. The pub, normally a haven for the unemployed and teenagers of the town, barely making a sound audible from the outside. As usual there was little traffic, a factor they had relied upon and, fortunately, there was a car parked outside the pub which could serve them well should they need it. A light came on and across the road an old lady drew her bedroom curtains - bed time had come for her.

The pub door opened with a creek and the 4 of them walked in. She walked up to the bar, ordered a Bloody Mary, and watched her cohorts sit at a nearby table. A gentleman to her right gave her the once over but before he could say anything the barman had returned with her liquor. She walked to join her friends, eagerly watching all around. The 5 minute walk into town had been worth it, even this empty the people of the town made her life easy.

She downed her drink, the tomato juice unnoticeably staining her lips for the presence of her lipstick hid it well. They glanced up at the barman and agreed, this would be the night.
She awoke, the sunlight shining through the window - a line across her face. It felt clean, the sun always did to her, now it was her turn.

The water began to run and she flinched as the cold water ran down her breasts - the heater wasn't yet on but there was no time, a cold shower it would be. She placed her hand on her hip - it wasn't there but this was the only place it couldn't go, far too dangerous. The radio in her room reported the news of a car, now abandoned, that had been found in the nearby marshes not far from the glade. She laughed, if only they could understand, perhaps one day they would. The water became warm but it didn't matter, she was done.

She dried off and took a tartan skirt from the wardrobe. She never liked tartan but sometimes it was a requirement, afterall today it was expected. The town did this every year around this time, some religious cult no doubt made it tradition years ago but now no-one knew why. She finished dressing and touched her hip once more, again it was with her - she could walk out in the world. She smiled as she passed a few dog walkers, the grey, matted fur of the dog reminded her of something - something she didn't like - she thought of something else. Memories of the night before swam around her head and she was glad they had done it, it was all falling in to place and not too soon either. Tomorrow would be a new day and that meant work, work was never a good thing but, like the tartan skirt, a requirement. Sighing she walked into the old grocers shop, bought some items and walked out again. Tartan everywhere but worst of all was that one man, one man in all the town, was not wearing it - that was unfortunate.

Her shopping safely packed away at home she returned to the town to join in the celebrations, afterall, it was a public holiday. As she walked back down the lane she could hear the music and there was an air of enjoyment about the place. The dancing had begun, she surveyed the scene - they were there too but all wearing different tartan and not together, good. A young gentleman approached her. She'd seen him around, lived above the butchers she thought. She danced with him, she did like dancing it was just a pity about the tartan. The music grew louder and faster, the violinist's elbow barely visible for its speed. It wasn't long before the night before was just a pleasant memory and something to plan for. Tonight they would continue.
The cult had affected the town for another year but today was a new day - a new day meant work and work was something she did not like. The dressed in her cream suit, a pale blue shirt accompanying it to meet the company's branding and dress guidelines. She hated what she was wearing but it was for work, not fun.

She arrived at work, a small solicitors office in the centre of town. The man from above the butcher's shop had smiled at her as she had walked, unusually she smiled back. Maybe a smile for things to come - she certainly didn't feel happy.

She was PA to one of the younger solicitors, he had done some work for her a few years back - quite a number of years now. Having turned 18 she was offered the job, almost a privilege of circumstance (if you could call it that). She was good at her job but nonetheless it bored her and there was no-one to talk to. Today she was reading a letter, the letter she'd been expecting for a few weeks - Mrs Lane, 54 applying for divorce against her vile husband. It had been no secret he'd been sleeping around and rumour had it he had a lot more money than Mrs Lane had been led to believe. She wondered how much she would get.

The office was not busy so she turned on the radio. News of the war in the east, again, did not enthuse her any further. The local radio station was full of its usual dross so a national station it would be. Again news but this time somewhat more interesting - police had arrested a man on suspicion of all sorts of things but for legal reasons they were not able to name him or his crimes. She liked a mystery.

Eight hours and she was free of these clothes, this office. The evening could not come soon enough!
They met again, same place, same time and headed back to the pub. It was busy, the usual inhabitants back to their routine. They walked on by, a small, late night, coffee house their destination. She never had liked coffee but they did and tonight she felt good - it was her treat to them. They sat at a table, the smell of the freshly brewing coffee filling her nose. Another memory jumped at her, another she didn't like. They were becoming more frequent but there was nothing she could do. The town doctor had presribed drugs - they didn't work. The butcher's wife suggested aromatherapy - that didn't work. She was stuck with these memories for a time yet, not long

There was a commotion further up the road, the louts had decided to take their disagreement outside. Over a girl no doubt but she didn't care. She touched her hip and felt safe - the louts wouldn't come here, coffee and civilised behaviour something clearly not in their nature.

They settled the bill several hours later and walked back up the road. They began to work, unnoticed and unwatched. Soon they would be able to work without secrecy, they just simply wouldn't be visible. They worked quickly, mumbling to each other as they went. The place was a state but hardly their concern. It fitted perfectly and they were done, for now at least. They parted and she made her way back across the glade. Not long now.
There was a smell of coffee and newly baked muffins cooling on the side. The birds were chirping away, the middle of summer, teaching their chicks like a human adult would teach its children. There was a crash, a shattering of pottery, and the coffee cup hit the ground its ivory china broken and stained brown. There was another crash, a shriek, the mixing bowl was broken too but stained red, red with blood. A young girl was running, running as fast as she could but she was scooped up and bundled away into a car. It was raining and the wheels screeched on the road. It felt like the girl had been driven for hours, the boot now hot, the air stiffling. They had been stationary for ages, perhaps days before they found the girl - pale, frightened, alone.

As the girl was brought back to her home the people around her could tell she had no idea what had happened - none of them would tell her, not for years. The girl was left with a young couple and the police went about their business. They carried the body out from the house, smelling of coffee and uncovered. The girl screamed again and the couple turned her face away.

No child should see that.
The phone rang and she answered. Work was busy today and she didn't much care for it, afterall it wasn't fun. Mrs Lane was on the other end, chasing a response to her last letter. Apparantly, her husband had been up to no good and, finding she was filing for divorce, was desperately trying to pass his wealth and assets on to his new partner. Mrs Lane pressed the need for speed and hung up, clearly not impressed with the response she had received - some people just won't listen when you tell them it's in the post!

Today she was only at work for half a day - she had plenty of annual leave to use and she decided to take some. Two o'clock struck and she left work, headed for home the ravens flying overhead. Ravens were comforting to her, guardians to the spirit world was what her mother had said and she had no reason to disbelieve her.

She arrived home and they were ready to begin discusions, a meal was prepared so they ate. It was never clear how they got in when she wasn't there but she thought that a broken lock on the back door might have something to do with it. Problem was, everytime she locked the back door it was fine.

The plan was set and due to be entering its penultimate phase, all the background work was in place and only the delicate work remained. She touched her hip and it was still there, reassuring and yet seemingly invisible - she never understood how no-one could notice it. Mind you, she wasn't complaining.
They headed down the road to the theatre, tonight was their night off or so she led them to believe. The theatre was packed and it was awkward finding their seats. A man bumped into her hip and he turned to her, this could not be good news. He smiled at her - the man she had danced with - and went on.

The show began, a play about a man to have lost his wife to a psycopathic, schizofrenic daughter. A comedy in theory though she didn't find it very funny, in fact only one of them found it funny, the newest to their group. The audience was disorganised and almost disinterested - it seemed a complete flop.

The end of the show could not have come soon enough and as people slowly left, unimpressed with the performance, they held back. It wasn't worth risking leaving too early, even for them that was unfasionable. Tonight they dressed differently, the way they dressed when they weren't working but were not trying to fit in either.

They left and tonight there was no moon, a full moon having filled the sky the night before. The stars were clear to be seen and the sky a dark colour. Possibly the best thing about this town was the lack of streetlamps - they hated the light polution of the cities. The pub was empty again which didn't make no sense, they'd never known it to be this quiet. The door opened with a squeak and they chose a table. It wasn't long before last orders but they should be ok. A bottle of red later the pub closed, they parted and she reflected on the day. Not the way she had hoped but even with a low quality performance at the end it had beaten a day at the office.

The house was colder than normal and the back door was open, she'd locked it earlier and couldn't understand it. Looking around nothing was taken, disturbed and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She locked the door with a click and went to bed - thankfully that was warm.
The steam rose off the muffins, recently taken from the oven, brewing coffee adding to their aroma. The rain was falling outside making its own aroma, the smell of rain on recently cut grass always a head turner. The birds didn't seem to care that it was raining and they went about thei business as usual, feeding their chicks and enjoying the rain.

There was a crash, a shattering of pottery and he looked behind him for the sound. There was a scream and a man turned, grabbed a girl, and ran out of the open front door. He followed but could not keep up with a car, no matter how hard her tried or how much he wished - the girl was gone.

Returning to the house he found the woman, dead - it made him sick and he ran for the phone.

Had he not been there the police would never have known but being a child they didn't believe him. He kept phoning the emergency number, its familiarity ever increasing till finally they came and saw the body - they began their search for the girl.
She woke with a start - there had been someone else at the house, the house of her nightmares but she didn't know him and it was strange. She dressed in the bathroom, waking up late gave her no time for a shower and she went downstairs, touching her hip to make it all ok.

She went into the kitchen, poured milk upon her cereal and walked into the living room to the sofa to eat.

Good morning!

She turned, startled, and dropped the bowl the white droplets of its milk slowly disappearing into the carpet like the coffee in her nightmares would have done had there been a carpet in that kitchen. She put her hand to her hip and then pointed at him, her unexpected guest.

It was the man from above the butchers, behind him the backdoor open again.

They had known each other for years and all his time in the town she had not recognised him. He began to recount a story of doom and gloom, how an aunt of his had been murdered. She sat and listened, this wasn't possible.

A phone call later and she was ill, not expected in to work. He continued to explain, she was touched by his tale - aided by the tea she had brewed - he had never liked coffee either. Matthew, that was his, name she remembered, seemed to know everything she was seeing yet he couldn't but the details were just so perfect. There was no-one else in her nightmare, not until last night, and she was sure her mind had invented him just to make her less lonely.

Matthew left and placed his door key on the table - she didn't know why she had a key to the backdoor but he had returned it now so that was alright. She went back to bed and tried to remember, remember anything else she could of that nightmare.
The image faded in and out of existence, clarity and then obscurity, and at the best of times she could only make out his figure, never his face. He was a tallish man, 5'10", with dark hair. Dressed for work as normal. It didn't matter how she squinted she couldn't make out his face - if only she could get closer.

The continued to watch the small screen - the technology worked but the camera was too far away. They would have to go back and change that but there weren't too many places they could place it - they thought they'd made the right choice.

Now there was another choice to make, do they dare risk it? The operation was not complicated but still there was risk involved and at this stage they didn't know if they could afford it. Nonetheless, to get this done properly they needed more information and with so many people being 5'11" there was much room for error.

They would go back and move it, risk or no risk it needed to be done. Typically things were quiet Saturday nights - the young population of the village being attracted to the clubs in the nearby city of Ledgley and the older folk tended to stay out for shorter periods. It was possible to not be seen by anybody not much after 10:00 but that was still too early for them to work.

They parted and she began to pack her things, ready for tonight's venture. She could still feel it against her hip and she prayed it would never be of use. Matthew was, no doubt, in Ledgley by now, an IT consultant for a large company, strange he should come to the town at this time.

The day grew old and the moon rose over an open field, the stars its companion in solitude. They would meet again soon.
They met again at the glade, no mist to hide them this time but they trusted no-one was watching. The moon dimly lit their faces and they ran through what they would do, timing was crucial and there was no margin for error - none.

They set off for the town, the old road winding gently to the right. A twig broke to their right and they stopped, looked around and continued. Another and then another and they decided.

They began to run but not forward, to their right. The moon high and the mist missing they had no need for torches and it was clear someone else was there. By the speed they were doing it had to be a fairly young person but whether they would catch him it was unsure, assuming it was male.

They split, running this way and that, fastest runners to the outside and on her signal began to move back in to the center dodging the braches and tree stumps on the way. They were in the thickest part of the woods now and there was no way they could have lost him. A confrontation later and they were ready to continue, their cover was restored - Matthew had been on a night time walk (or so he said) and it was agreed he would go back by a different route so as to not arrive with them.

The blood was pounding in her ears, adrenaline running and she fell, caught by one of the others, tears streaming down her face highlighted by the moonlight. Mascara running down her face she uttered words of cancelation - not tonight.
They took her home and lay her in her bed. They'd never seen her like this - not even when she was at her weakest she had never been this bad. They wondered if they could ever finish if she was going to be like this.

They watched for a while as she laid there, tears still running down her face, years since she'd even been close to this state. Surely she'd cry herself to sleep soon, she always had done before.

This time, after a few hours, she sat bolt upright - her friends asleep around her. Quietly moving downstairs she thought about what had just happened, how she had reacted, how the others were affected, and contemplated if she had lost the respect of the others. It was unlikely - they knew the whole story after all but she couldn't help wondering.

The fridge hummed, into life having been disturbed for milk, and another of life's mysteries came to her - does the light stay on after the door was shut, a mystery of her childhood. She screamed, grabbing her head for the pain, the milk falling to the floor. It began again, the perpetual crying and all because of a childhood memory.

It was all a because of a memory, a memory she could do without, a memory she'd soon give resolution to.
It was the last conversation she had had with her mother - the small things that puzzle a five year old's mind: does the fridge light go out when the door was closed - the conundrum that had caused her to break down again.

As they collected her, a heap on the kitchen floor, she thought, albeit only for a second, that they understood. They couldn't, how could they - they'd never been hurt this way. They packed her back into bed, the morning was still young, the sun barely up, she needed rest.

They went downstairs, she knew what they were going to speak of. It was true they were worried for her but at the same time they were scared for themselves, get this wrong could result in a massive problem for all of them and make no difference to anything else at all. They all needed this to work and failure was not an option, it was success or abortion - those were the only choices.

They decided to wait and see how the next few days went, if she broke down like this again they would have to talk to her, convince her, order her to stop - not because they outranked her but because they were her friends. She lay there wondering what they had decided - it wouldn't be hard to work out, after all they had worked together on various tasks for years. OK, in their childhood they were only school pranks, team games, school challenges, nothing on this scale but the point was valid - they each knew how the others thought and could second guess each other with no problem.

She closed her eyes to sleep, sleep and hope this wouldn't happen again - the trauma would soon end.
A few hours passed and she opened her eyes, the sun not present this morning, only rain. She touched her cheeks and realised that her tears of the night before, by comparison, were a worthy opponent for the rain of the morning. She dressed in midnight blue, she always thought there was something poetic in its name and she liked the dress bought for her by her foster father not two months previously. The dress was a formal ball gown - she needed something to cheer her up and the dress made her feel like someone else, without problems.

The bottom of her dress floated over stairs and she touched her hip - not with her this time but a risk she would take for the sake of the dress.

The toaster popped and she collected her toast, spreading the chocolate spread thinly. She switched the screen back on - he was dusting, cleaning the pub and closer to the lens she could clearly see his face, innocent yet so guilty. She laughed as he went gaily about his business, unaware of the events unfolding. The pub was empty, not yet setup for lunch, but looked inviting - she would do lunch there today.

A few hours pottering around the house and she went out, taking the car so as not to ruin her dress. Arriving at the pub she chose a table, sat, and waited to be served. She hadn't relied on being served by this gentleman but ordered anyway. Minutes later her steak arrived, she cut it and the blood trickled out of well done steak, forming a sea on her plate. She picked up the plate and walked to the bar, the plate falling from her hand as she walked and she fell to her knees once more. Rushing towards her they came, scooped her up and the tears hit her carrier's arm. They took her keys and drove her back home - the decision was made.
After an hour she settled, the man that had served her had recognised her and was all to happy to make her feel uncomfortable the blood of the rare steak bringing back memories that she couldn't handle. Memories of her mother's blood staining the mixing bowl. She needed to be free of this and there was only one way she could do that, they needed to continue.

They came to her, the look on their faces all too telling. She knew what they had decided but listened anyway. Due to her instability they wanted her to wait, too risky, they could all get caught. She nodded in agreement, they smiled with reassurance and went off again.

There was no way she could leave it - this would only get worse, worse until she couldn't leave the house anymore - she would do it alone. She ate, needing her strength restored, showered and changed out of the dress. Its power had not worked this time and as much as it made her feel like someone else it could never give her someone else's memories.

Darkness fell and she set off on foot - a car would only give away her location. She touched her hip as she walked down the path and was ready this time - she was in control. The path was uneven as ever and the mist had fallen as she had hoped, the glade now thick with mist and fog. Town was somewhat clearer and as she walked past the town hall it's clock proudly showed midnight, well near enough.

She let herself into the pub, a lock picker since school and something her foster family had talked her out of practicing. She saw him clearing away the glasses, her father, murderer of her mother and causer of so much pain.

The door slammed and he didn't look round - he knew who she was. It had taken him a long time but he knew. The blonde hair that was once hers, once her mothers, was long gone and now she wore smooth black hair which he admitted suited her better. Unfortunately, she was too dangerous and even after many years apart she was still his daughter.

She ran him into a wall, he seemed weak and breathed heavily. Uttering words of condolence for her loss and words of disgust for her actions he gained the upper hand - their positions reversed. He continued to gloat about his stunt in the pub earlier that day - passing the chef the wrong instructions had worked perfectly, better than he'd hoped.

She poured years of hatred out, speaking every insult under the sun - he was a murderer in cold blood and no justification would clear him. The hands grew tighter around her neck and gasping for breath she spat at him, her saliva running down his face.

The shock had served its purpose and in that moment she drew the gun from her hip and fired the shot that would save her life - only a skin wound but he recoiled, yelling in pain and disbelief.

She kicked him, glared at him, and explained all the pain he had caused. Pointing the gun at his head as she stood over him she explained how she had no regrets - he should die for his crime.

The door burst open and they stood around her, the gun shot having alerted them to her position. He dived for her, wrestling for the gun another bang and the police, followed by Matthew, entered the room pulling them apart.

Her friends ran.

The Norland Post

31st December 2006
Artist impression of Melissa Vans
Artist impression
Police yesterday arrested a woman for attempted murder in the small county pub at Norland. When Ledgley police at the scene following an anonymous tip of they found the woman holding a gun over the victim's head.

The arrested woman was Ms Melissa Vans of Out Street, Norland - her victim believed to be her father. Little is known of the victim herself though police have announced they are now investigating a murder from some years ago of a woman believed to be Ms Vans mother.
It is not presently clear if Ledgley police will be charging Ms Vans with attempted murder as her victim is strongly implicated as the murderer of Ms Vans' mother. A psychiatric nurse was called to investigate Ms Vans following reports that she was dilusional - an inside source has informed the Post.

Ms Vans' mother, Caroline Vans, originally from Ledgley, was murdered while Ms Vans was a child - a long unsolved case. A particularly brutal murder committed in the presence or Ms Vans and her cousin, presently untraced. Ledgley police are interested in any information on Caroline's murder and there may be a reward for information that leads to successful conviction.

Upon inspection of the family home (pictured right) police found surveilance equipment showing the pub where Mr Vans had worked. It is belived that Ms Vans had been watching her father for some time before making her move. The complexity of the operation suggests a group working toward a common goal but as yet no persons have been arrested as accessories. Police are interested in 3 young women witnessed running from scene.

Continued on page 5...
Portrait of the Vans' family home
Portrait of the Vans' family home

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