The car wheels crunched on the gravel, but the noise did not seem to draw attention to our arrival. I turned the engine off and picked up my phone to check the email again.
If I’m out, key under flower pot by the seashell.
‘Which one’s ours?’ said Tony.
‘Hopefully not that dilapidated cottage.’ Already I was regretting my spontaneous idea that we should get away from it all for the long weekend. ‘It’s called Owl Barn, I suppose that’s it; smarter than the cottage, but looks like it was a barn once.’
‘Neither building looks like the pictures on the website’ frowned Tony.
I decided not to mention that after I had already booked, I noticed the newest post on the website was October 2011.
‘Come on, let’s see what it looks like inside.’
Along the wall of the barn were numerous plant pots and exotic seashells, the ones nearest the door revealed nothing.
‘We may as well check if anyone’s home at the cottage’ said Tony.
The cottage faced the barn, the small dusty windows gave no clue if anyone was home or looking out of them. We ducked under a creeper covered archway, I let Tony lead the way down the narrow path.
‘Good afternoon, I was just feeding the goats.’
I was startled by the voice and almost bumped into the tall woman standing right behind me. She held out her hand. ‘Mr and Mrs. Conway? I’m Celeste, welcome to the village and welcome to Owl Barn.’
The name didn’t really go with her appearance, I tried to suppress a smile, relieved that at least we were in the right place. ‘Thanks, Merryn and Tony.’
‘…and if you need anything else don’t hesitate to knock.’
‘Thank you, it’s lovely.’
‘What was the name of the pub?’ said Tony.
‘The Haunted Barn, but don’t worry, it doesn’t refer to our barn. They do good meals if you don’t want anything fancy.’
It was a good meal; a country walk round the village, only getting a bit lost, had given us a good appetite and we strolled back ‘home’ looking forward to the weekend. We wondered what the inside of Celeste’s cottage was like, she said they had converted the barn first to fund the renovation of their home, it made sense. We almost missed the narrow turning now it was dark and expected a security light of some sort to come on as we stumbled across the gravel to our door. Something brushed my leg, I grabbed Tony’s arm and caught a flash of white.
‘Sorry… here Angus you naughty boy.’ The pale face of Celeste loomed out of the dark. ‘You enjoyed your meal then? Goodnight.’
Safely indoors I wondered how she knew, but Tony said of course she knew we were going to the pub for a meal.
The country air had sent Tony straight off to sleep, but above his snoring I thought I heard a noise, a crunch on gravel, heavy feet. I looked out of the window; the moon had appeared, but I could see no one. Across at the cottage several upstairs windows glimmered with a faint yellow light. I wondered how many people lived there, family or friends; Celeste had given no indication.
‘Is everything alright?’ A harsh whisper from below the window, was it Celeste or someone else?
Like a naughty child caught out of bed, I backed away and slipped gratefully into bed beside Tony, the alarm clock said 1.30a.m.
‘What’s the matter Merryn?’
‘Sorry, did I wake you, I heard noises, I think Celeste is prowling round.’
He yawned ‘Maybe she lost the cat or…’
Tony was asleep again before he finished the sentence. But for me sleep wouldn’t come. I crept out to the bathroom, then downstairs to fetch a drink of water. Out of the kitchen window I thought I saw movement at one of the lighted windows, then at the end of the cottage a window was flung open and a head popped out; it didn’t look like Celeste. He or she was staring at me. Didn’t anyone go to sleep in that house? I rushed back up the narrow stairs, stubbing my toe.
Hiding under the covers I tried to be rational. It was their home, they could stay up as late as they liked, stroll around in the dark…
I felt myself drifting off, only to be woken by a piercing scream.
‘TONY… did you hear that?’
‘What… what time is it now?’
‘Two thirty, did you hear that scream.’
‘No I was asleep, it was just a fox.’
‘Tony, how could you just go back to sleep, it wasn’t a fox… TONY… there it is again..’
‘Owl’ he mumbled.
I thought morning would never come, but somehow the sun was shining in through the window and there was my long suffering husband standing by the bed with a cup of tea, smiling.
‘So much for our peaceful weekend, do you remember having a nightmare?’
‘It wasn’t, I heard the most awful cries… do you think we should check if everything’s alright at the cottage?’
‘What, just knocking to see if you’ve been murdered? I didn’t hear a sound love. We’ll have that cooked breakfast I promised you then go and walk up that hill we saw yesterday.’
Tony didn’t need to call up the stairs that it was ready, there was a smell of burning bacon. I rushed down.
‘Hey we don’t want to set off the smoke alarm.’
I threw open the door, then staggered back. Whatever sound issued from my throat brought Tony rushing to my side. A dark pool of blood on the doorstep and a trail of gore leading to the cottage, he slammed the door shut, bolted it, then grabbed his phone…
What would you do, who would you call?
Write the next line in the comments and see what happens next week…