Bones On The Beach
The gentle waves seemed at odds with the macabre bones they washed over. The skull grinning up from the disassembled pile was the only indication that these were human remains.
I was shocked and excited in equal measure. As a new reporter on the local paper for a forgotten stretch of the Norfolk coast, this had to be the story of the year. Not much had happened here since the Vikings found somewhere else to go on holiday.
These bones had not been here early yesterday when I came for my jog. I wanted to keep them to myself for a while, but I reluctantly called the police. I wanted the scene roped off before the local dogs ran away with my story.
Ten minutes later my opposite number from C.I.D. turned up, the only officer willing to come out just before the end of night duty. The other reason he arrived alone; I had called him on his personal phone. DC Jason Roberts was my flat mate, we liked to help each other.
He was impressed with my find.
‘Watcha Andy, at last something to get our teeth into.’
He quickly taped off the tiny cove as the first dog walker hove into sight.
‘Reckon it’s a bit late to call out the lifeboat’ he chuckled.
‘Coastguard cliff top rescue more like, this is no sailor.’
He followed my glance up to the fresh orange gash in the green, scrubby cliff face. England was a little smaller this morning.
‘Hmm… you’re right; these bones have been washed, but not washed up. This chap fell down the cliff, but I don’t think it was the fall that killed him.’
‘That’s old Miss Tyler’s garden above us’ I said. ‘Hope she looks before she lets the dog out. I did my first story on her; she used to live on the other side of the road. Twenty years ago she acquired a sea view, ten years ago the road disappeared; she said it was lucky she had a long front garden. She still grows vegetables there, uses the old air raid shelter for her chickens.’
‘Well it looks like they are homeless now.’ Jason pointed to the arc of rusty corrugated iron caught on a bush half way down the cliff. ‘All that rain we had last night, the bad winter; there was bound to be another fall soon. I’d better phone the council as well, if I had a big bag with me I wouldn’t wait for CSI; we’d better move before we’re buried along with the bones.’
We strode quickly towards two dog walkers and Jason showed them his warrant card before they were near enough to see the bones. Mrs. Dog Walker protested that she always walked along to The Point and Bubbles liked her routine.
Jason replied politely ‘Well I’m afraid Bubbles will have to change her routine, I reckon the council will have to permanently fence off this section.’
Jason rang his colleagues and I rushed home to shower, swig down some coffee and dress in respectable young reporter’s clothes. Old people always get up early so Miss Tyler should be ready to receive a visitor.
She remembered me, she had loved my article. Miss Tyler had refused to let the council move her. They were offering her free accommodation, as she was unlikely to be able to sell her bungalow to buy a retirement flat, but this was the house she had been born in. The chickens had been lucky, donated to a young couple who wanted to start a small holding. The washing line was still standing and there was still room for the deck chair. The bungalow bore testament to her love of the sea; lobster pots and coils of rope guarded the porch and sea shells adorned the entrance. Her little sitting room was decorated with driftwood sculpture and paintings from the once famous artists’ colony.
She assured me again that she would be gone before her home, but her sparrow like agility and blooming health made that seem unlikely.
‘Everyone thinks the Norfolk coast faces east, but the coastline is so irregular we face North; there’s nothing between me and the North Pole. I am not going into one of those sheltered shoe boxes.’
I didn’t blame her, but we had already done that story. I needed a new story that would fit the bones. A photo on the mantelpiece caught my eye; a young man in R.A.F. uniform.
‘Was that your brother?’ I asked casually.
‘No, I’m an only child; that was my young man. I didn’t put him up there till after Father died. He didn’t approve.’
‘Is that why you never married?’ I asked, in what I hoped was a caring voice.
‘I lost him’ she said sadly.
‘I’m so sorry; of course, a lot of air crew were killed.’
‘No I mean I literally lost him, he went AWOL. He was on leave, we got engaged, Father was furious, said I was too young and he was an outsider.’
‘No, cockney. I went to meet him on his last day before he was due back on base, he never turned up; we had the military police round. I didn’t blame him, he was brave enough to admit he was more terrified each time they went on a mission. Father said he had shown his true colours, I was better off without him, but I still wonder what happened to him.’
‘Perhaps… I don’t want to raise your hopes; if you gave me his name I could trace relatives…’
‘Oh yes, you young people are so good on the Interweb.’
I said farewell just as a council busybody bustled up.
After searching for information by modern and traditional methods, a story was emerging. He had indeed gone missing, never been seen since. There was a niece; would she be willing to provide a DNA sample? First I had to wait till the bones had been dated. Could I really go and tell Miss Tyler that her father had murdered her fiancé and buried him under the air raid shelter?
It might turn out they were the bones of a Viking; then I would have to think of a different story.
By Janet Gogerty
Bones On the Beach is one of the stories in my first anthology ‘Dark and Milk’,
27 stories – some light, some very dark.
I have been writing manically for nearly nine years. My short stories have been published on paper, in audio and lurk in all sorts of places on the internet. My four novels and two anthologies have been published on Amazon Kindle. I am also a Blogger.
Find out more at my website www.ccsidewriter.co.uk