Nick decided he would catch an early train the next morning, the trip to Colchester would only take a couple of hours, giving him time to sit on the train and work on his book. When he arrived, Nick made his way to the main entrance of the station, he headed for the customer service desk and asked about his rented car, the attendant fished around in the piles of papers on her desk before producing a white envelope and a form,
“Please fill this is, I will need two forms of identification” she instructed in a rather bored tone. Nick filed out the form, showered her his driving licence and passport, which she photocopied, then opened the envelope and took out his keys. He wandered out into the parking lot and found a little red Fiat waiting for him,
“What, no Rolls” he joked to himself
Colchester was England’s original capital city, the Romans had first built roads here which the city had worked hard to maintain, Nick was finding driving over the cobbled roads very difficult, and the road signs to Horksley were not very helpful. Finally he pulled out of the town and onto a country road, nothing but long fields of hey as far as the eye could see, the occasional little shop or house, perhaps a farm or church.
Nick was driving down a long, straight road that seemed to stretch on forever, when a small sign indicating ‘Little Horksely 1m, Greater Horksley 5m’ appeared on his left, Nick slowed down and just noticed a tiny side road appear between two fields. He turned the car into the road and drove on.
After a couple of minutes he passed a cross road with a little grass island in its centre, an old wooden sign stood with three arrows pointing in different directions, one indicated the way back to Colchester, the other Greater Horksely and the third Little Horksley, apparently only half a mile left. Across the road from him, Nick saw the side of a massive white bard with grey lead roof. He waited for a moment, staring into what he presumed was a farm yard. A girl walked across the yard, wearing a cut off tee-shirt and tight fitting jeans, she was wheeling a barrow full of what Nick was sure was manure of some description, she suddenly stopped and looked up at him, her blonde hair blew gently in the summer breeze, she was very pretty, Nick suddenly realised he was staring and put the car into gear to carry on, as he drove off though, he was sure he caught her smiling.
A very short time later, as the sign had promised, Nick found himself in a tiny village of old stone houses and on his left, a small pub named, The Black Boar. Nick saw a small sign by the pub’s drive way showing the way to the car park, he drove down the drive and saw six spaces, three had “Overnight” painted across them, the other three, “Visitors”. Nick parked in the overnight bay and got out. It felt good to stretch his legs again, he felt like he’d been sitting down all day, Nick lit a cigarette and wandered back out to the front of the pub.
Nick sat down on a picnic bench that was sitting outside the pub, he stretched his feet out and looked up and down the road, there were a few people walking around town, he watched an old woman walk into what was sign posted as the ‘Post Office’, a young man with two children were walking hand in hand towards a swing and slide in their very large front garden, then a couple of older men in flat caps walked past Nick, nodding politely then going into the Boar.
Nick did notice one thing about all the people he had seen, they all looked exhausted, not just tired, but the bags under their eyes, even the children in their front garden, were the blackest he had ever seen. Nick was utterly lost in his chain of thought when suddenly,
“Get you a drink, sir?”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you” it was a woman, very large with rosy cheeks and curly black hair, she beamed at him with a very warming, friendly smile, but again he noted the huge bags under her eyes,
“Oh, that’s OK, errr, yes I’ll have a lemonade please, and a coffee If you do it”
“Course my dear, anything else?”
“Well, a room if you have one?”
“We do have one, but I’m afraid it’s been reserved”
“Oh, damn” Nick replied, genuinely concerned now as he had no idea if there would be anywhere else to stay,
“Yeah, some Doctor or something from London, sounds a bit old and stuffy to me, one of them one’s who likes hanging out in haunted houses”
“That’s me, is the room reserved for Nick Jessop, by any chance?”
“Oh yes, that’s right, but you’re a youngen?”
“Last time I checked” Nick laughed,
“Well I never, I always thought them ghost chasers was silly old men with nothing better to do?”
“No, we can be young with nothing better to do too”
“Well, I’ll go getcha your drinks, then I’ll show you to your room, dear” she turned to walk away, then stopped and turned back, “My names Mary, by the way, Mary Cunnings, pleased to meet you, mister Jessop”
“You to, Mary, and thank you”
After Mary had disappeared back inside, Nick giggled to himself,
“Another Mary, huh, well, maybe she’ll be good luck too”
Nick drank his lemonade quickly, then settled back to enjoy his coffee and another cigarette. It was early afternoon, just after one, Nick decided to go up to his room, shower and have a nap, then he’d go down to the bar that night and have a nose about, chat with some locals, buy a few beers and see what shakes loose. Inside, the pub was typically English, old wood decor, brass hangings and a highly polished yard glass hung above the back bar. Mary was waiting for him, Nick took a quick look around, besides himself and the two old men who’d walked past him earlier, the pub was deserted,
“Oh you wait till tonight” Mary said, “place’ll be full of people then”
“Can’t wait, can I go up to my room, I think I’m going to have a nap before diner”
“Do you want me to wake you before hand?”
“Well, follow me Mister Jessop”
“Just Nick, please”
Mary pointed the way ahead, a small flight of stairs which seemed incredibly narrow, he wondered how Mary squeezed her way up them at all. At the top of the stairs, Mary walked to the first door they saw, “This is the bathroom, I wake early and If you’ll be working all night, we shouldn’t have a cue problem, should we”
“Sounds fine to me” Nick replied
Mary then opened the door opposite the bathroom and showed Nick in,
“This is the room, I hope everything is to your liking, I’ll come give you a knock at about seven then, sleep well” and with that, Mary left and shut the door behind her.
Nick took a look round, it was very comfortable, a squashy double bed, large wardrobe and heated towel rail, even a TV and kettle, Nick undressed and went to the bathroom for a quick shower, when he returned, Nick took out his laptop and a floppy disk to continue writing, he turned the laptop on, fed in the disk, loaded the file, and fell asleep.