This blog was a serialisation of my novella Vampire Farmer. As from the publishing date 17th April 2018 you can still read the first few chapters here.
Penny Farthing - widow of an MI5 agent - becomes embroiled in a series of strange goings on in what looks like a sleepy North Yorkshire village.
Ben Jackson isn't the brightest pebble on the beach. He's been visiting his doctor and now thinks he's a vampire. How will he find enough blood to maintain a constant supply?
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Friday, 29 December 2017
Vampire Farmer - Penny Farthing Mystery - Chapter One
Ellen Dean has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, (electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to the publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
‘No, Madge, I don’t think you’re losing the plot,’ Penny Farthing, an elegant fifty something, started twisting an auburn curl around her forefinger, something she did when in deep thought. ‘You can tell me all about it when I see you. No doubt there will be a logical explanation.’ Penny smiled into the phone, nodded her head. ‘Yes, I agree your new vicar does sound rather odd.’ She scanned the hallway while her old friendMadge bent her ear. Too big for me now, she thoughtflopping down onto the sofa beside the telephone table. Fleeting visions of past Christmases flashed through her mind as the comforting smell of lavender furniture polish changed to the nostalgic smell of Christmas. A glowing fir tree filled one corner, gifts stacked beneath. The fire blazed. She and Rod were standing together, holding hands, gazing at one another. She could almost feel his warm breath on her face. The sun broke through the clouds bringing the soft yellow walls to life, the vision disappeared, Penny was back to the present.This house was Rod’s legacy, he had loved it as much as she did, she couldn’t imagine not living here.
‘Penny,’ Madge paused, ‘you still there?’
Penny sighed, gathered her thoughts. ‘You know I’ve always admired your sharp mind, you see things others don’t. If you’ve noticed strange goings on with your vicar it’s worth my packing a case and paying you a visit.’
‘I heard you sigh. You ok?’
‘I was thinking about Rod. It’s nearly a year since he died.’ She shook her head, wiped away a tear with a handkerchief she always kept in her pocket.
‘I know, dear.’
‘It feels like yesterday.’
‘Rod would not want you to lock yourself away in such a huge house. He’d want you to get on with your life. Do something for yourself.’
‘You’re right, he would, which is exactly why I’m coming to see you. Besides,’ she chuckled, ‘you know how much I enjoy detective work and someone has to keep you out of trouble.’ Another sigh. ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’ve been thinking of putting the house on the market. Grade 11 Georgian Mansions with two acre gardens seldom come up for sale in Windsor. I’m sitting on millions so the estate agent tells me.’
‘You must do what you think best. Taking some time away from the place will help you decide. I should think the running costs are hefty.’
‘It’s a money pit.’
‘You could always do B&B?’
‘Not possible I’m afraid. Because of the sensitive work we were both involved with. A good idea though.’
‘What a shame.’Melodious chimes from Penny’s house travelled along the phone line. ‘It’s been a while since I’ve heard Big Ben,’ Madge said.
‘I’m thinking about selling the clock to help fix the roof.’
‘Good grief Pennyyou can’t sell the clock. Rod bought it for you as an Anniversary present. It’s unique.’
‘He did. He said it would always look after me.’
‘An odd thing to say.’
‘I thought so too. I suppose he meant I’d always have the correct time but that’s rather silly. It is worth a small fortune though. It’s an eighteenth century John Taylor. Has all the bells and whistles.’
‘Don’t sell it Penny, it’s beautiful. I know how much it means to you.’
‘We’ll see.If there’s another way to raise the money, I’ll keep it.’
‘Fingers crossed for you.’
‘Thanks.’ Penny brightened. ‘North Yorkshire is one of my favourite places and has some of the best night skies so I may get in some star gazing. I’m bringing my new telescope.’
‘It might come in useful for more than star gazing. There’s skullduggery afoot here.’
‘Won’t be long, Ma. I’m off to see Doctor Walton.’ Ben Jackson looked in the hall mirror and straightened his cap.
‘All right, son,’ his mother Kitty called from the kitchen where she searched the cupboards for some cough medicine. She couldn’t find any. ‘Bring a cough bottle lad, and something for this cold.’
‘Will do,’ Ben called back as he left and hurried across the farmyard. He climbed into his old green Land Rover, reached into the glove compartment for his shades and put them on before starting the engine. Bloody sun. Why the hell was it so bright all of a sudden he fumed as he bumped along the farm track towards Allenbury, a quaint village in the North Yorkshire Dales only a ten minute drive away from Jacksons Farm. I must get around to filling in these pot holes he thought as the vehicle bounced over a particularly deep rut, a wave of nausea swept over him.
He knocked on the door of Doctor Walton’s consulting room. ‘Come in,’ a deep voice invited.
‘Ey up, doctor,’ Ben closed the door behind him.
Doctor Neil Walton had completed his medical training at a hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he’d cultivated his Geordie accent and gone to great lengths to perfect it; or so he believed. He always looked smart in his grey flannels and brogues, teamed with a crisp white shirt so he could wear different coloured ties. His short brown hair curled at the hairline.
‘Take a seat, Ben,’ the doctor pointed to the chair by the side of his desk while he pressed a key on his computer.
‘Good job I’m not a bailiff.’ Ben sat, took his cloth cap off and shoved it in his pocket.
The doctor swung round in his swivel chair to face Ben. ‘Or, you would take the lot, boom boom.’
‘Quite the comedian, Doctor.’
‘What can I do for you, Ben? This has to be a first. We only see you in the surgery once in a blue moon.’ He checked out Ben’s sunglasses. ‘You can take your shades off now.’
‘That’s just it, Doc, I can’t.’
‘Can’t stand the light. But, I’ve come about my skin.’ Ben showed the doctor his hands.
‘Ouch! They must be sore. Have you any sores like these anywhere else on your body?’
‘Aye. All over, they are.’
‘I think you’d better take off your clothes and let me have a look. Use the gown on the bed. Strip off and pop it on.’ He pulled on his surgical gloves.
Doctor Walton studied the skin lesions. ‘We’ll do some blood and urine tests.’
‘What is it, Doc?’
‘We take a sample of blood and a sample of urine…’
Ben interrupted, ‘Not the tests, Doctor. I mean what’s wrong with me?’
‘I’d rather wait until we get the results back before I commit to a diagnosis.’ Doctor Walton adjusted his tie.
‘What an odd looking motif on your tie.’
‘It’s the Eye of Horus.’
‘It’s not a person, Ben. Horus is the all seeing eye. Look it up on the internet,’ Doctor Walton suggested. ‘Get dressed, go straight to Nurse Dawn, and we’ll get the samples off today. The results should be back in a few days.’
Ben dressed and went to find Dawn. He’d known her since childhood and liked her calming way. She was a lot shorter than him, and had aged well. Married with a family, she still had a good head of black hair. Ben admired it.
While his blood was being taken he started to worry, but, at the same time, he felt a fraud. Why did they need to take blood? ‘You thirsty lass?’ he attempted a joke.
‘Are you a vampire?’
‘You could say that. The blood joke’s been done to death, Mister Jackson,’ Dawn handed him a small plastic bottle. ‘Can you pee into this pot for me?’
Hell, maybe he shouldn’t have bothered coming here after all and just got himself some Calamine Lotion from the chemist. ‘You must be joking, I’ll never hit that,’ he held the bottle up to her, ‘it’s too small.’
‘There’s a bigger pot in the toilet. Pee into the big one first, then transfer it into the small bottle.’
‘I see. I’m not used to these things.’
Ben came out of the toilet with his little bottle. ‘Good stuff is that,’ he said as he handed it to her.
‘Call the surgery in a couple of days. The test results should be back. Then we’ll make you an appointment to see Doctor again. There’s just one more thing today, Ben,’ Dawn hesitated. ‘Doctor Walton rang through about doing another test so we also need a stool sample. Can you drop one in tomorrow?’ Dawn studied the urine sample.
‘We haven’t got any stools at the moment, took them to auction a few weeks ago.’
‘Not that type of stool. It’s a poo sample we need.’ Dawn shook her head. ‘You never change Ben Jackson, always on the ball. Remember to collect your prescription before you leave.’
‘I will. I can’t wait to use the cream Doc’s given me. Maybe I’ll get some relief. This itching is bad.’ He took the pot she handed him, coughing to cover his embarrassment. These procedures were way out of his comfort zone. He collected his prescription and dashed out of the surgery towards the butchers.
Malcolm Reed, Mal to his friends, stopped slicing ham at the sound of the doorbell and looked over his shoulder.
‘Ey up,’ the butcher greeted Ben. ‘Not often we see you shopping. Where’s Kitty and Don today…she’s never trusted you with the shopping list?’ Mal teased.
Ben shook his head, ‘Cheeky begger.’ He handed Kitty’s list over the counter. ‘They’re not getting out much at the minute. Arthritis playing them both up now the weather is changing. And, Ma has a touch of flu as well. Exhausted, she is. Doing too much, as usual.’
Mal busied about getting Ben’s order together then lined it up like soldiers on the counter. ‘Say hello from me,’ he said while washing his hands in the sink. ‘Now then, what’s with the shades? You trying to keep up with the latest fashion?’
‘Not me.’ Ben put the meat into a carrier bag he’d pulled out of his pocket. ‘Sun’s strong today. And you need talk,’ he raised an eyebrow, ‘what’s with the moustache?’ He underlined his nose with his finger. ‘Trying to impress somebody?’
Mal winked. ‘Now that would be telling.’
As Ben opened the shop door to leave the Reverend Marjorie Dore stepped in. ‘Hello, Madge. Lovely to see you.’
‘Ben! Fancy seeing you this morning. Would you believe I’d planned to phone you later today?’
Ben looked into her merry grey eyes and his stomach flipped. ‘Good news, I hope.’
‘You’ll have to wait and see. I’m in a hurry now.’
‘Well, don’t you keep me waiting too long Reverend.’ Ben winked, turned to speak to Mal but his words froze when he saw the thunderous expression on the butcher’s face. Instead he pulled the door shut behind him wondering what had caused such a reaction. Then it dawned on him: Mal must be sweet on Madge. The thought troubled Ben, a lot.
Hurrying into the Pharmacy he bought an assortment of cough and cold remedies so his mother had a choice. Back in the Land Rover, shopping secured on the back seat, he relaxed and looked at the colourful world about him. He loved autumn, the changing colours, tainted today by his need to wear sunglasses. He drove out of Allenbury towards the churchyard. The vicar, busying about sweeping up leaves from the path, raised his hand and flagged Ben down.
For a second Ben was tempted to ignore him. It would have been easy to drive past, but instead slowed to a halt and rolled down the window. ‘Now then, vicar.’
Without any preamble the vicar launched into an attack. ‘Your parents didn’t attend church last Sunday. Why? Are they away?’
How bloody dare he be so rude, arrogant git! Ben clenched his jaw. His parents hardly ever missed church. If they did, it was due to illness or taking a rare short break and Ben knew they always let the vicar know. If they were ill, the previous vicar would pay them a visit. That’s how it worked. This man had visited the farm only once. Ben wasn’t a church goer but, when the previous vicar had needed odd jobs doing around the church, Ben would be there like a shot. It was a sad day when he’d moved on. He didn’t like this weedy looking new fellow, six months in and Bencouldn’t get his measure at all. And if this was how the Reverend Phileas Toogood was going to treat his parents then he’d just made a major mistake:he would get nothing from Ben.
‘Has it ever occurred to you their arthritis might be playing them up? Besides,’ he added, ‘Ma has a chill. And I know for a fact Ma left a message on your answer machine, but I don’t suppose it crossed your mind to pay them a visit or even phone them back?’ Ben paused: there was no response from the vicar. Anger flared through him. ‘I think you would do well to walk in your predecessors shoes, but you might find they’re too big for you!’
Ben drove off in a flurry of dust and leaves. He could see the vicar through his rear view mirror standing in the middle of the road mouth agape, scratching his head. Ben’s anger disappeared as fast as it had arrived, he laughed out loud. He really shouldn’t have been so rude. It was so out of character, but that weedy little bugger with bushy black eyebrows had needed telling. He decided he wouldn’t say a word about it to his parents, but he couldn’t wait to tell Madge.
Ten minutes later Ben burst in through the kitchen door, ‘I’m home. I’ll put the meat in the freezer.’ The phone rang. ‘I’ll get it,’ he called, glanced down at this feet. ‘Oh no, I’ve still got my wellingtons on. Ma will kill me if she sees them,’ he muttered.
With the phone tight to his ear Ben listened, then said, ‘Yes, see you tonight.’ He replaced the receiver, rushed back to the doorway and kicked his wellingtons off. Being a farmer he just about lived in wellies and, a pair of pink ones had caught his eye in a shop window as he’d driven through the village today. He might buy them, he’d thought when he saw them, simply to irritate his Dad, play a joke on him.
‘I’ll make a meal before I go to rehearsals tonight,’ Ben shouted through to his parents so he could be heard above the noise of the television game show they were watching.
‘All right, lad,’ his mother shouted back. Her voice hoarse from her chill.
Ben busied about in the kitchen singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and danced around the table as he prepared their evening meal. He was surprisingly light on his feet.
‘Food’s ready,’ Ben yelled lifting a steaming Shepherds Pie out of the oven. ‘Come and get it.’
‘My, that looks good. Smells good too,’ Kitty took the seat nearest to the Aga.
‘Thanks, Ma.’ Ben started to dish up. ‘Did you take the medicine I brought you?’
‘I did. And I think it’s helping me already. Thanks, son.’ Kitty smiled at Ben, Don sat down at the table.
‘Your mother taught you well.’ There was almost a touch of praise in Don’s tone, then he frowned, glared at his son, ‘Another parcel arrived for you today. What the hell you want all them toy aeroplanes for I don’t know. You’re an adult, for God’s sake.’
‘Parcel’s in your room, son,’ Kitty reached out and patted Ben’s hand. She turned to Don. ‘You know perfectly well they are not toys.’
‘Thanks.’ Ben gave his father a sly sideways glance. I’m definitely going to get those pink wellies to milk the cows in, he thought, just to spite you, you miserable old bugger. He turned to his mother, ‘Carrots, Ma?’
Kitty and Don sat either side of the kitchen table both too tired to drink the tea Ben had prepared for them before he left for the Players rehearsal. Don spoke first. ‘I wish our Ben wouldn’t play with toys.’
‘Leave the lad alone. He’s not bothering anybody.’
‘He spends a fortune on them model planes.’ His clenched fist banged the table. ‘Where does he get the money from, Kitty? He’s not making much from the farm.’
‘I’ve been thinking the same thing.’
Don looked surprised. ‘You have? I thought it was only me who was wondering.’
‘I have a theory. He’s been going to the post office a lot lately. I think he must be selling his model planes when they’re all put together and painted. He does a proper job of them. They look professional.’
‘Thank God. He can do with getting rid of some. He has hundreds of the bloody things. When he sets them engines running it makes me nervous, the house sounds like a wasp’s nest, it does.
‘Well, I don’t know for sure.’
‘I tell you, he’s not normal. What he needs is a wife and family.’
‘Shhh!’ Kitty flapped a tea towel at him. ‘There are worse things he could be doing, and if he hears you saying things like that, he’ll be right upset.’
‘Our lad’s got a lot on his plate, Don. The harvest’s almost ready to bring in, he’s starting full rehearsals as the director with the Allenbury Players and on top of that we don’t know what the test results will show that damned Doctor Walton arranged. We need to keep things steady, don’t we?’
‘We do, Kitty, you’re right. You must have something up your sleeve?’
‘To keep things calm, why don’t you suggest he asks Ted to come and give a hand on the farm, full-time, for the next few weeks, at least until the play’s over? He can live-in. Coming from you he’ll see you do care about him.’
‘Good idea. I’ll have word.’ Don frowned. ‘Could it be history repeating itself?’
‘Talk about sitting on a time bomb!’
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