|A Barrel Of Rum (standard:mystery, 1071 words)|
|Author: Brian Cross||Added: Nov 26 2005||Views/Reads: 2508/1402||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|On a hot, humid summer day, a walk across Suffolk heathland presents unexpected hazards|
A BARREL OF RUM The heat had been building up all morning and my tiny room in the inn's attic was stifling; I felt I was breathing in soup. I headed downstairs needing air but outside it was almost as still and stale, just a flutter of a breeze. Standing surveying the greying shroud of the heavens I thought I heard thunder rumble. But I needed to walk, needed to think. My personal problems close to getting out of hand I'd come to this country backwater for a break. At the crossroads I took the lane towards Thorpeness, my brow already clammy from the oppressive heat. The trunk road carried most of the traffic but unusually not a car passed me by. The only vehicles that did being the horse-drawn variety novelty rides aren't unusual in these parts but I remember thinking some convention must be taking place. I reckoned that getting trodden on by a horse wasn't much less painful than being clipped by a car and so I took the sensible option, I headed off road, into the heath land, following a narrow twisting track which wound between purple heather and bracken; the air was thick and still, and it seemed to me that the only sound carried on the limp breeze was the occasional rustle of coarse grass. I'd progressed about a mile towards the coast when I came across the sheet of paper. It was entwined in bracken and like a blot on a landscape that was spotlessly clean. Litterbugs seemed scarce so I felt a sense of responsibility in retrieving the waste only I hadn't reckoned on what I'd find THIS DAY 1st JULY 1735 A reward of ONE HUNDRED POUNDS is hereby offered for information leading to the capture of smugglers terrorising this district and the forfeit of their contraband. Contact the undersigned Signed J.Tabbs for H.M. Customs Preventatives. I frowned, looked across the heath, puzzled at how the reward poster could have ended up entangled in the bracken from the museum in Aldeburgh perhaps? But who'd drop it here? And it could hardly have blown three miles. There was something else though the parchment seemed new, the ink hardly dry I prodded it tentatively with my forefinger and it left a slight stain. Part of the convention perhaps, I recalled the column of chaises that had galloped past me some kind of festival that I hadn't heard about? Yes of course, what else could it be? One hundred pounds friend a fair reward I'd say ah but smuggling is the scourge of our times, aye so it is.' I spun in shock at the deep voice, I could have sworn there wasn't a soul in sight but he stood before me, a portly man dressed in boots, breeches and a yellow waistcoat. I'm sorry,' I said, you startled me I'm afraid I don't follow.' Parson Prendergast my man,' he looked me up and down as though I were an oddity, from my clean-shaven chin, checked cotton shirt to my stonewash jeans and then swiped the back of his hand across his nose. Of course you understand, I don't abide by your clothes but you hardly look a dimwit smugglers, my man. They're running amok we must stamp them out we must stamp their evil out!' His voice rose as I became aware of a developing rumble, but deriving from the ground rather than the skies. I realised I'd been standing on a broad parched track and along it like Click here to read the rest of this story (64 more lines)
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