A week or so ago, I just put the final words to the draft of a new novel. A murder mystery; after all, that’s what I do, kill people for a living. When I’d finished, after living deep in the book and with these people for a few months, I decided to take a walk to clear my head.
There’s a place, a house that I used to pass every day on my way to school. I just fancied another look at it and a walk in the woods there. It’s no more than 20 minutes’ walk from where I live now. Across the fields, down the ginnel that runs alongside my old school, then along a road that’s still unpaved 40 years on…and I was pretty much there.
Except I wasn’t.
At the top of the hill everyone knows as Little Switzerland, the road was blocked by police tape and a Police Community Support Worker keeping traffic out. All he’d tell me was that there had been an ‘incident.’
There are other ways into the woods, and I was curious now. I still know this area well. The woods cover one side of the valley, with paths on different levels. I took the high path, and even saw someone walking a dog. But the trees were bare, and at the bottom of the hill I could see five police cars. Whatever had happened, it was something big. But I wasn’t going to go closer. Not my affair. It was directly across the street from where I grew up, and where my mother lived until her death. If she’d still been alive, this would have been the best gossip in years.
I did get to take a look at the outside of the house I’d come to see – it was near the top of the hill – then walked home. A question on Twitter provided the answer to what had happened. Two kids on their way to school – my old school – had found a body.
That was bad enough. Horrible for the family of whoever was dead, and traumatic for the kids. But as the story developed, it got worse. He’d been murdered, shot. Supposedly kidnapped and killed; two people are in custody and police are seeking a third.
The reasons will come out in time. But for now, for me at least (and I know this is a selfish view, given the tragedy), it can’t help but be a little surreal. Leaving murder on the page to walk into a crime scene…