Serial Saturday – [Horror] Die,Blossom, Bloom #17

Been a strange week, this week. Building work started on my house, resulting in a £50k extension of my mortgage, which ALSO coincided with being given notice of redundancy at work. But, on the plus side, I’ve written two new short stories, which is positive!

Enough of that, today is Saturday, which means it is time for another instalment in the serialisation of my horror novella, Die, Blossom, Bloom.

Last time we left TED HARRIS, he had just finished disposing of the body of teenager, JORDAN BUTLER-THOMPSON, and now, in the silence of night, the realisation of what he has done begins to hit him.

Today, Ted has another run-in with GERALDINE BUTLER-THOMPSON, Jordan’s grandmother.

Read the first part HERE and the most recent part HERE. on to today…

The morning confirmed Ted’s suspicions: someone had been digging in his garden; several small depressions suggested soil had been removed.  If it had been Mrs Butler-Thompson, she must have dug with her hands, as he saw no signs of tools the previous evening.

He thought back to Jordan and his discovery of Sissy’s jawbone amongst the fresh compost.  He had a moment of panic as he tried to imagine what she could have found.  He was sure that he would have seen a bone when bringing the compost from the back to the front garden.  You missed at least one bone, there could be more.  He shook his head, and he felt his face prickle with heat as he tried to recall anything that would point to his wife’s death.

He moved into the back garden and picked up his spade.  It would only take one tiny bone.  Glancing at the composter, he debated looking for any other bones, but rejected this idea; he had already removed the obvious ones and instead recommenced his work on the hole.  It needed to be bigger for its purpose, so he dug the spade in and began to shovel soil.

He dug until the sun had climbed overhead.  The hole was now much deeper.  Standing in the hole, the ground level was just above his knees.  Stepping up and out was difficult, and he had to place one hand on the floor to balance himself.  He let the spade fall to the ground and moved back to the front garden.  He positioned the blue and white-striped deckchair facing down the street and lowered himself in.  Did you miss anything?  His mind continued to torture him.

Half an hour later, his heart rate had returned to normal, but he felt the blood rush to his face as he saw Mrs Butler-Thompson.  She was marching up the street with two ladies and a gentleman in tow.  It looked like they were struggling to keep up. They know something, was his first thought.  When the group arrived, the two new women looked flushed.  They stood either side of Mrs Butler-Thompson at the gate.

Ted closed his eyes for a moment and breathed deeply before acknowledging the group.  When he spoke his voice was calm and even.  “Good afternoon ladies,” he said before touching his brow towards the man that had joined them, “and gentleman.  What can I do for you?”

It was the smaller of the new women who spoke up.  In her late fifties, Ted thought she could have been attractive when she was younger. She wore a straw hat and a crocheted shawl around her neck.  Her voice was timid, and she stepped forward as she spoke. “Mister Harris, my name is Marjorie Secombe, and this is Cathy Olhouser.”  She indicated the other woman.  “As you know, the judging for the ‘Haverly in Bloom’ competition will be this weekend.”

“It’s in the diary.” Ted patted the breast pocket on his shirt.  There was no diary in there, but they didn’t know that.

Marjorie continued. “Yes, well.”  She glanced at Mrs Butler-Thompson who nodded at her to continue. “It’s been brought to our attention that you may be using chemicals to treat you plants, and as you know–”

Ted cut her off.  “By Geraldine, I assume?”  It wasn’t in his nature to be antagonistic, but a man could only be pushed so far, and calling the woman by her Christian name was sure to get a rise.  Mrs Butler-Thompson bristled.  The muscles in her jaw tightened as she fought the urge to snap a response.

“Well, yes.  Mrs Butler-Thompson has some concerns that she feels need to be addressed, and as the chair of the Parish Council and Judge of this year’s ‘In Bloom’ competition,” she turned and held an arm out to Cathy, “along with Cathy, of course.”  Cathy tittered, blushing.  Mrs Butler-Thompson cleared her throat.  “Sorry, Geraldine.  Mister Harris, we are sure that everything in your wonderful garden is organic, but we would like – just to make sure, you understand – Jim here,” She turned to the man who stood just behind her, “to take a few samples of the soil for testing purposes.”  She clutched her hands in front of her chest and began to ring them.

Suddenly, the previous night’s visit made sense.  If they thought they were going to find something artificial, they were mistaken. There was still a body in the shed and bones in his composter, but nothing artificial.  Ted thought being evasive was not a solution.  He levered himself out of his chair and stood up. “Front or back?”

“Well–”

“You’re the judges, for goodness sake.  Test them both.”  Mrs Butler-Thompson didn’t turn her head, instead fixing Ted with her stare.

“Fine with me.”  He made a sweeping gesture and cut a bow as he spoke.

Jim stepped into the front garden and knelt down.  He produced his garden testing kit.  Ted put his glasses on and looked at the four coloured jars in cardboard packaging.

“Very professional. Did you buy that from Arthur’s?” The local hardware store was easily the biggest shop in the village.  It stocked everything from nuts and bolts to tyres and rotary clothes dryers. If the kit was bought from round here, there was a good bet it had found a home at Arthur’s.

“No, Amazon actually. I picked it up for under a tenner.” Jim smiled as he looked up at Ted.

“Mr Booner, if you please.” Mrs Butler-Thompson spoke sharply. Jim bent his head and began collecting soil.  The process took a few minutes, and as he shook the test tube, he looked up and spoke to the watching women.

“You do understand ladies, that this test will only give limited results.  If you want more detailed analysis, you’re going to have to get over to the university.”

“Just tell us what it shows, Jim.”  Marjorie Secombe smiled as she spoke.

“Well, it’s green.” He held the little tube up to the light. “That tells me the soil is a little heavy in lime.”

“And what does that mean?” Marjorie said.

“It means the soil PH is above 7 or so.”  Jim shrugged. “It doesn’t tell me what chemicals he did or didn’t use.  Sorry.” Jim stood and gathered his testing kit. “Do you still want me to test the back garden?”

“Yes.”  Mrs Butler-Thompson pushed open the gate and walked in to the garden.  The others followed her round the side of the house.  Ted stepped ahead of the group and stood with his back to the large compost bin.  He was sure they could see his chest moving up and down in time with his rapidly climbing pulse.

When they were all in the back garden, the group stood on the patio, looking at the large hole and piles of earth Ted had been digging.  “A new project?” Marjorie said.

“Yes,” Ted replied, offering nothing further.  He felt short of breath again.

“Some sort of pond?”

“Something like that, yes.” Ted was weary.  He didn’t think he had any fight left in him.

“Test the compost.” Mrs Butler-Thompson wasted no time in directing Jim to the large green compost bin.  “Step aside please, Mister Harris.”

Jim stepped past Ted, knelt, and pulled a handful of compost from the little door at the bottom of the bin. Reflexively, Ted held his breath as he watched the black earth tumble out.  Jim produced his testing kit and sampled the compost.  He held the green liquid up to the women.  “Same results,” he said.  “Sorry for the inconvenience, Ted.”

Ted breathed out.  “No problem.  I’m sure you’re only doing what you have to.”  He shot a glance at Mrs Butler-Thompson, then walked back towards the front garden, arms stretched, ushering the little group away from the composter.

“What’s that?”  Mrs Butler-Thompson walked past the outstretched arms and leant down to pick something up from the spilled compost. She arose with what looked like a tiny fragment of bone between her thumb and index finger.  She turned around and held it up to the others.

Ted stepped closer and looked at the bone.  His stomach lurched.  It looked like part of a finger to him.  “I don’t know.  Maybe part of a bird?”  He shrugged.

Mrs Butler-Thompson looked at him, then at the bone again.  After examining it for a moment, she looked back at Ted.  “What do you think, Mister Booner?”  Without turning, she held the bone out, which Jim Took from her. He held it in between his thumb and index finger.  Bringing it towards his eyes, he scrutinized the tiny piece of bone.

“Well,” he sounded unsure, “I guess it could be a bird.  A big one, though.”

“Are you certain?” She took the fragment back off him.

“Not really.  I suppose it could be some other animal, a hedgehog, fox or squirrel, perhaps?”

“Hmm.”  She looked at Ted and frowned, before pocketing the bone and dusting her hands off.

The group made their way back to the front garden and turned to Ted.  “Thank you for your assistance, Mister Harris.”  Marjorie offered her hand, which Ted shook.  Jim made a short salute, touching his forehead with his first two fingers, and the group left the garden.

Ted waited a minute or so before lowering himself back into his chair.  His racing heart began to slow, and he closed his eyes.  He was starting to drift into an exhausted sleep when he heard someone clear their throat.  He looked up to see Mrs Butler-Thompson standing over him.  She bent down so her head was level with his. She lowered her voice and spoke with a hiss.

“I know what that bone was, Mister Harris.”  Ted felt her spit on his face as she spoke his name.  “Was that my Jordan?”  Ted remained seated but sat upright.  He clenched his jaw, but remained silent.  “Because if it was,” she said, standing up and breathing deeply, “if it was, you’ll have more to worry about than the bloody ‘Haverly in Bloom’ competition.”  Her voice remained low.  Ted could not remember her ever cursing before.  The tingling sensation in his face was back.   “And that hole’s not for a pond, is it?”  It was barely a question.  “I’ll be back this evening to give you a chance to explain yourself. If you don’t tell me what I want to hear, it will be Constable Barnes and not the Parish Council that’ll be visiting you tomorrow.”  She turned and left Ted staring after her as she walked off.

Ted went into the back garden and picked up his spade.  Slamming it into the earth he continued digging his hole.   A glance at his watch told him he needed to pick up the pace.

 

We are fast approaching the conclusion, so stay with me until next time!

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