White Rabbits & A Haunted Postbox – Part II
Continuing on from yesterday…
Ned Hawkins shuffles a step to his left, getting another couple of inches closer to the window. His face is pressed against the granite wall and his breathing comes in jagged bursts. He closes his eyes, focussing on just how much he hates Clarence Wherry.
Ned has worked for the Wherrys all his life. First father, now son: both as bad as each other: arrogant, pompous and downright unpleasant to all those they think beneath them. Which is anyone except the Wherrys and the Black Family.
Another herring gull screeches overhead and Ned curses. Why he has to wipe the window he does not understand. This is Black Island. It’s a big rock stuck way out in the Atlantic Ocean. There are seabirds everywhere and they shit on everything. To Ned’s mind there’s about as much point to cleaning windows as polishing coal.
A damp spot hits Ned on the back of the neck. For a moment, he thinks it’s the gull back to add to his torment. Then another wet spot falls on his ear and another on his left hand. Soon a regular pitter-patter is smacking on Ned’s head and shoulders.
That’s another thing about living on a rock in the Atlantic. It rains a lot. Most days it rains at least two or three times. And that’s the summer. Winter can be different: sometimes it rains continuously for months. This is the fourth or fifth shower of the day and it’s a heavy one. Which is another reason Ned doesn’t see the point in wiping bird shit off windows.
For five minutes, Ned stands there, pressed to the wall with water pouring down on him. At first it’s just cold drops stinging where they hit bare skin. But the rain rapidly soaks through the back of his jacket and trousers. As it gets heavier, he also becomes aware that water is running down the wall and over his hands, which are still pressed against the granite. Moments later, it’s flowing along his fingers and on down into his sleeves. Soon, Ned’s clothes are saturated, clinging to his bony limbs in a clammy embrace that just makes him feel even more depressed with life and his thankless existence.
* * *
It’s still a little before midday when the first board member arrives. Clarence watches the old lady glance around suspiciously as she makes her entrance. Keziah Black is Joseph’s younger sister. Now almost seventy, she still seems spry but Clarence has long harboured doubts about her sanity. As a young woman, she was incarcerated in the family home for nearly twenty years. That must have had some effect on her mental state. Although judging by the scandal that led to her being locked up, Clarence thinks she can’t have been the most intelligent of women in the first place.
He smiles to himself as he looks at her now. It’s hard to imagine this wrinkly creature with the staring eyes and the mass of white hair piled on top of her head ever inspiring men to acts of devotion.
Unfortunately, he does not mask his thoughts quickly enough and Keziah spots his expression. ‘Pah! What’s happened to you, Clarence Wherry? Not often anything makes you smile.’
‘Just pleased to see you, Miss Black.’
‘I doubt that.’
But thankfully she doesn’t say anything else and a couple of minutes later the next one arrives: Margaret McAllister, granddaughter of one of Jeremiah’s sisters and the biggest thorn in Clarence’s side. He’s never liked Margaret and over the years has come to loathe her. Partly for her sanctimonious manner. More particularly, though, for the impertinent way she tries to grill him about his plans for the company: as if she knew something about how to run a business.
Margaret is the same age as Clarence, both of them born in 1951. But her starchy manner and frilly, old lady collars make her seem at least ten years his senior. ‘Hello, Keziah. Good morning, Mr Wherry.’
Keziah grunts in response and, although Margaret looks in Clarence’s direction, he turns away before meeting her eye. Shuffling his papers, he makes them rustle and pretends not to hear. Margaret gives a little sniff but nothing more. Clarence smiles to himself and looks forward to when the meeting is over and the surviving members of the Black Family out of his hair for another six months.
He’s also in no mood to make meaningless conversation today. Clarence is waiting: praying for his reprieve. He knows today’s boat has arrived; any post will be ashore. What he doesn’t know is whether the letter he’s been waiting for will have come. Or, if it’ll contain the reply he so desperately needs. Or whether it’ll get to Tower House before he has to give the wrong set of accounts to the board.
* * *
Arthur Judd ducks his head as he enters the little terraced house in Goat Street. The old family home stands in a line of hunched up cottages in the lower part of King’s Port. Until now, Arthur’s not been back to Black Island since he ran away fifteen years earlier. Inside, the house is even smaller than he remembers. It looks gloomy and a slightly shabby too.
He smiles at his younger brother. ‘Nice to see you taking care of the old place.’
To be continued…
As yesterday, I really hope you enjoyed the above. This is the second part of the opening chapter of my new novel, Church of the White Rabbits.
Next section due tomorrow – comments, questions and thoughts welcome.
To read Part 1, click here.