Authors: John Creasey
Tags: #The Flood
First published in 1956
Copyright: John Creasey Literary Management Ltd.; House of Stratus 1956-2010
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
The right of John Creasey to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.
This edition published in 2010 by House of Stratus, an imprint of
Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,
Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.
Typeset by House of Stratus.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.
| ||EAN|| ||ISBN|| ||Edition|| |
| ||0755123867|| ||9780755123865|| ||Print|| |
| ||0755128885|| ||9780755128884|| ||Mobi|| |
| ||0755128893|| ||9780755128891|| ||Epub|| |
This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.
John Creasey – Master Storyteller - was born in Surrey, England in 1908 into a poor family in which there were nine children, John Creasey grew up to be a true master story teller and international sensation. His more than 600 crime, mystery and thriller titles have now sold 80 million copies in 25 languages. These include many popular series such as
Gideon of Scotland Yard, The Toff, Dr Palfrey and The Baron
Creasy wrote under many pseudonyms, explaining that booksellers had complained he totally dominated the ‘C’ section in stores. They included:
Gordon Ashe, M E Cooke, Norman Deane, Robert Caine Frazer, Patrick Gill, Michael Halliday, Charles Hogarth, Brian Hope, Colin Hughes, Kyle Hunt, Abel Mann, Peter Manton, J J Marric, Richard Martin, Rodney Mattheson, Anthony Morton and Jeremy York.
Never one to sit still, Creasey had a strong social conscience, and stood for Parliament several times, along with founding the
One Party Alliance
which promoted the idea of government by a coalition of the best minds from across the political spectrum.
He also founded the
British Crime Writers’ Association
, which to this day celebrates outstanding crime writing.
The Mystery Writers of America
bestowed upon him the
for best novel and then in 1969 the ultimate
Grand Master Award
. John Creasey’s stories are as compelling today as ever.
THE FLOODED VILLAGE
“Isn’t it ever going to stop?” René said.
The rain was teeming down out of low, dark clouds. It hissed as it fell; it smacked against the earth and splashed upwards, still hissing. It was running down the path which led to the cottage, hissing and gurgling all the time, and it splashed up against the wall. There was no wind. The torrent just fell, out of that leaden sky; and it seemed to fill their minds, their vision, their lives.
“It’s bound to,” said Charles.
They stood together at the window, Charles and René Hardy since this time yesterday. His arm was round her waist, holding her tightly against him. Unknowingly, she was playing with the new wedding ring, so unfamiliar and so full of hope, excitement and promise. Through the rain, they could see the rocks and the loch, strangely calm except that it was whipped by the rain as if by hail. Waves came sluggishly on to the stony beach, and against the rock which sheltered it. The darkness stretched as far as the eye could see; everywhere.
Yesterday, it had been a glorious day.
This morning, there hadn’t been a cloud in the sky. The weather forecast had been as good as one could ever be in the Western Highlands, and this should have been the fourth day of an early autumn anti-cyclone. They had bathed, lazed, had lunch, and started to get ready for an afternoon bathe when the rain had started, an hour ago. At first, it had been just a heavy drizzle, out of a misty kind of cloud; now it was a steady storm, and they could hear it on the roof as well as outside; see it bouncing off the rocks, and pocking the face of the sea.
“You just can’t be sure of the weather up here,” Charles said, but there was a smiling gleam in his eyes. “Still it serves a purpose – it keeps second-day brides and grooms indoors! Could you guess how we could while away the time?”
René didn’t retort in kind.
“Charles,” she said, “I’m scared.”
“Oh, come, sweetheart—”
“I’ve never seen rain like it,” René said. She stared at it, as if it fascinated her. “It can’t be normal, and —
at it.” She glanced upwards. Charles tightened his grip at her waist, and they listened. It was a constant surge of sound, from the slate roof and from all about them. The path had become a small river, carrying stones and sticks down past the old stone cottage towards the beach and the loch.
“Darling, you needn’t be frightened, you know,” Charles said. “It’s unusual, but I’ve seen rain like it in the tropics. It falls in torrents, but it always stops at last.”
René turned her head to look at him. She was small and quite pretty, in the middle-twenties; her figure had first caught his attention, a pair of grey eyes had held it. She had nice arms and legs, too, a pleasant speaking voice, and light brown wavy hair. She had worked in a London office since leaving school, and meeting a man who had spent ten years in Africa had been an adventure in itself. Their courtship had run more smoothly than most. Charles had no family; René’s mother and father took to him at first sight. There was nothing outstanding about either of them, and they would easily get lost in any crowd, but they suited each other perfectly.
Looking at her now, Charles realised how little he really knew about her.
She was in absolute earnest.
“Charles,” she said, in a quiet voice, “I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but I’d like to get away from here. We could stay in the village for the night. I know I suggested coming up to the Highlands, but. . . honestly, I’m scared.”
He could tell that she was.
He’d had little experience of women, but an inbred understanding warned him that it would be futile and foolish to scoff at her fears. And he was very much in love. He didn’t answer at once, but suddenly gave her a squeeze, then kissed her heartily, and then said: “Come on, then! If we don’t hurry, we won’t get up that path.”
Almost under her breath, René said: “That’s what I’m afraid of,” but his ready acquiescence brightened her eyes, and she hurried ahead of him into the next room. In here a window overlooked the tiny back garden of the cottage, and the face of the rocks. The loch was small, high in the rugged land, and on three sides the rocks rose steep, big craggy cliffs dropping sheer into the still water. On dark days, the loch could look frightening; in sunshine, there was no lovelier spot anywhere.
Water was pouring over the cliff, rather like melting icicles, and the path which ran from the top to the bottom was inches under water.
“What I’m really afraid of,” said René, “is the cliff being undermined, or something, and falling on us.”
“When we’re old and grey, dear, that might happen one day, dear, but it won’t just yet, never fear.” Charles was laughing at her, but she didn’t mind; she was so eager to get away. “How would you like to buy the place?”
She was so startled that she stopped getting clothes out of a drawer.
“Just an idea. It belongs to an old crofter in the village who’s getting past the letting stage, and we could pick it up for two or three hundred pounds. Perfect for holidays, and it’s not everyone who could have a honeymoon venue every year.”
“I don’t know,” René said, doubtfully, “it sounds very cheap, but—”
“We’ll talk about it later,” Charles said.
He sat on the edge of the bed, and watched her, simply because he enjoyed it. She moved very well, and she had an easy efficiency, even when packing just for the night. Once she was uncertain about what she wanted, and stood for a moment with a hand at her forehead, forefinger pressed hard and the top joint bending upwards a little. Charles grinned. She shot a quick, half-laughing, half-vexed glance at him.
“Fool!” She started towards the wash-stand in a corner, for their toothpaste and brushes. It was near the back window.
As she reached it, the unbelievable happened; the rain came down more fiercely, and for a moment the rocks themselves were cut off from sight.
Charles was with René in a stride.
“I can’t help it,” she said. “I just want to get away quickly.” She was shivering, uncontrollably. “I feel as if someone’s walking over my grave all the time.”
“Keep yourself going for a bit,” he begged, “I don’t want to have to carry you up!”
René didn’t speak.
Charles finished packing the case, while she sat down at the old-fashioned dressing-table, with its speckled mirror, and opened the top drawer. There was a kind of restrained panic about her movements which Charles didn’t understand. He was sorry they were going. René had come up here with a coach party, the previous year, and fallen in love with the place. A few weeks before their marriage, they’d come to look round on a glorious sunny day, and found the cottage with a
To Let Furnished
sign up. There and then René had said that they should take it for their honeymoon; three weeks, in September. She had been fascinated, he had been intrigued.
The cottage was nearer the loch than the top of the hundred foot cliff, an old place which hadn’t been lived in, except by holiday-makers, for many years. Built of local granite and with a slate roof, there was nothing much to look at; a long, very low, typically Scottish cottage, with a door through which Charles had to duck to get in or out. The windows were small and odd-shaped, the floors were of stone, the walls a foot thick and more. There was just the living-room, with its main window overlooking the loch, and the bedroom next to it, a kitchen and a scullery.
There were oil lamps, an oil stove, primitive sanitation and a portable radio to keep them in touch with the world. For an idyll, perfect.
René peered at the mirror.
“Never mind powdering your nose if you’re in such a hurry,” said Charles. “I’ll get your mac.” He went into the scullery, and as he did so, had to pass the window overlooking the loch.
He couldn’t even see the loch, the rain was so heavy.
For the first time, he himself felt a little uneasy, but he collected René’s plastic coat and hood, and his own gabardine raincoat from behind the kitchen door. By the time he got back, René was fastening the case and glancing out of the window.
“It’s fantastic,” she said, “we can’t even see the cliff.”
“It’s getting dark,” he told her.
“It’s hours until dark,” René said, almost tartly, “it’s just. . . not natural. I wish I’d never suggested coming.”
“We’ll soon be out,” Charles promised, and took the case. It was on the tip of his tongue to tease, and say that only yesterday he’d carried her over the threshold, but she looked so much on edge. “Mind you don’t get your feet wet!”
He opened the door.
The noise, bad enough until then, became much worse; and rain splashed in savagely. It was like looking at a waterfall, and water which was silvery and fresh, with a curious, almost iridescent light of its own, but– they couldn’t see the edge of the loch or the little dinghy drawn up at the top of the loch only fifty feet away from the front door.
There was a cobbled path to the foot of the cliff.
“Come on,” Charles said. He closed the door, locked it, then slid his arm round René’s waist again and started out. They lowered their heads and went blindly to a corner, then turned it as blindly. Water was rushing down the rocks and along the path; in two steps they were ankle deep. For a second time, Charles felt nervous; frightened, like René. But it was useless to speak, the rain would drown every word. It was a struggle to get farther along, difficult even to breathe.
Suddenly, a dark shape loomed out of the water.
Charles saw it coming, realised what it was, and thrust René to one side. It came, bounding; a huge boulder from the cliff, so close that he thought it would crush him.
It missed by inches, but caught the corner of the suitcase, wrenching it out of his hand. He tried to grab, but it was swept away before he had a chance.
He let go of René’s waist, and tried to pick the case up. His heart was thumping, now; that had nearly had him.
René stood there, bent forward against the rain, and he could feel her terror.
He forced his way towards her again, put his lips close to her ear, and said:
“We – must – go – back.”
He didn’t know whether she heard or not, but another boulder came out of the rain, closer to her than to him. She huddled against him, despairingly. The boulder crashed against the wall of the cottage, making the first sound he had heard except for the rain.
“Must – go – back.”
He gripped her tightly, and somehow they turned round. Water splashed half-way to their knees, muddy now, and carrying small stones past the cottage and down to the invisible loch. Charles did not know how he managed it, but gasping and staggering, he got René back to the front door, unlocked and forced it open, and helped her in. It wasn’t so easy to close the door, he had to put his whole weight against it, because of the pressure of inches of water.
He realised then that the cottage was now an island, and that there would be no chance at all of contact with the village until the rain stopped.
“Better get— dry,” he gasped.
René stood in the doorway of the bedroom, shivering; and terror was in her eyes. It was almost as if she had some kind of second sight, and knew that utter disaster was going to overtake them.
“Mac off!” Charles shouted. “Hurry!”
She began to fumble with the press-fasteners, but couldn’t get the plastic thing off until he helped her. She kept shivering violently. He made her sit down with her back to the window, and took her shoes off, then began to unfasten the suspenders which held her stockings up. She was his wife, and this was their honeymoon, but he gave no thought to that, just rolled the flimsy nylon off, then went to the bed and took two blankets and wrapped them round her.
“Th-th-thank you,” she stammered.
“I’m going to make some tea,” he said, loudly. “Then we’ll light a fire.”
There was no fireplace in the bedroom. He went into the living-room, and glanced at the window. The cottage seemed to be buried under water. He lit a lamp, unsteadily, and the bright yellow glow cheered him up a little. He put a kettle on the oil stove, waited until the flame was burning blue, then went into the little scullery, where stacks of logs and kindling wood were stored.
He carried an armful into the living-room – and stopped abruptly.
Water was trickling from the fireplace towards the door, and more water was coming from beneath the door. It wouldn’t be long before the whole floor was covered. He could hear the rain falling down the chimney, and knew that there wasn’t a chance of lighting a fire; even if he managed to start one, the cottage would be filled with choking smoke. He must forget it. He wished he hadn’t suggested to René—
He returned to her.
She was sitting in exactly the same position, as if she hadn’t moved.
“René, get a grip on yourself!” Charles exploded, suddenly fierce, and almost angry. “It’s no use looking like that! We’re safe enough here.”
René moistened her lips, as if with an effort.
“I— I’m so scared, Charles,” she said.
“There’s no need to be scared! It’s no worse than a tropical storm—”
Charles broke off.
Something crashed against the wall of the cottage; of this room. It made the floor shake, and knocked a small picture down. The glass broke; tinkling. The shaking had hardly stopped before there was another crash.
René screamed: “The cliff’s falling on us!”
“It isn’t,” Charles shouted back, without realising that he had to screech so as to make himself heard. “It’s just a few rocks!”
“Charles!” she cried in desperate panic, “Charles, save me. Oh, please, save me.”
He went to her.
He was as scared as his wife, and she probably realised it. There was no peace from the hissing and the roaring rain; nothing but the rain. Boulders kept crashing against the wall, each sounding louder than the last. Water swirled about the floor, and there was no easing at the window, where the rain fell in heavy, hissing sheets.
They were standing up, with their arms about each other. René wasn’t trembling so much; instead, she was panting. They didn’t speak, or try any reassurance. Just as René had felt the hand of doom, so now did Charles. The remorseless weight of the water and of the rocks and boulders brought down, would be too much for the cottage; unless it stopped they wouldn’t have a chance.