Authors: Andrew Butcher
Tags: #Mystery, #Romance, #Fantasy
Table of Contents
A Death Displaced
LANSIN ISLAND SERIES
By Andrew Butcher
A Death Displaced
Copyright © by Andrew Butcher 2012
All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance whatsoever to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
It felt so real.
Was it actually happening? His senses alleged yes, his mind suspected no.
Maybe it’s an out-of-body experience,
he considered, but realised it was more likely a daydream. While he struggled to understand, his thoughts tumbled out of reach …
He walked towards his workplace, Creaky Crystals, in the lower grounds of Amiton town centre, his winklepickers tip-tapping on murky cobbles. The chill and dampness in the air left no doubt it was early morning.
A red-headed girl spun circles near the fountain feature and fell into his path, causing him to side step. He apologised for the near collision and carried on his way, as the girl scurried off to her mother setting up a stall for business.
Halloween decorations filled the shop windows, an array of ghouls, pumpkins, witches, and vampires. ‘Happy Halloween’ was found in orange, black, purple, and white; and in one gruesome display, a blood-red dripping font.
To one side, a lady was re-arranging her window layout in preparation for opening. She caught his eyes and gave a friendly nod, which he reciprocated, waving to her.
The morning was as peaceful as a cat asleep, and quiescent like a tortoise bathing in the sun.
On approach to Creaky Crystals, he spotted a seagull perched in front of the store. No other birds flocked overhead. The only one in sight was this solitary seagull, squatted like it was waiting for the shop to open.
Nothing was strange about seagulls in Amiton of course, but this one fixedly stared, directly at him. It was so still that the eeriness of it made his bones fidget.
The screeching of tyres came from above. He stopped walking. His gaze shot to the upper grounds. The seagull reacted instantly, smoothly jumping into flight as if it knew the harsh cries were coming.
There was no way to see the commotion from where he stood. The 50ft wall separating the upper and lower grounds had zigzag steps up the side and a low wall along the top to protect people from falling.
Echoes. The sounds of metal scraping, twisting, crunching. Police sirens wailed in the distance. He couldn’t see at this angle, but he imagined that a car had crashed at high speed, flipped, and had begun to roll.
With a thud, something finally came into view: a woman. The car must have hit her hard. She was vaulted over the wall a great distance and fell to the lower grounds. He saw her hit the cobbles. Did he hear her skull crack open, her neck breaking, or both?
He snapped out of it.
. He opened his eyes and had to blink a few times. That was too real, too disturbing. It would teach him a lesson for trying to meditate at work.
He’d always been interested in meditation, out-of-body experiences, and anything (and
) spiritual. But that was probably because it had surrounded him his whole life. He didn’t even know what he was trying to accomplish this time.
Usually he tried to visualise his dream future, meet some kind of deity, or ask his ‘higher self’ for guidance, but this time he just had a disturbingly realistic daydream.
I really am screwed up, imagining a woman fall to her death
He didn’t actually think he was screwed up; he was just Nicolas Jack Crystan, or Nick for short, and what could he think of his life? He was twenty-four, had no future plans, always strived for enlightenment (whatever
was), attended therapy sessions, and worked in a crystal shop.
‘Excuse me …’ whined a lady with a scrunched-up face.
Nick’s work place was located in the corner of The Fallend in the lower grounds, snug against the wall. The Fallend was one large shopping street with a high wall and steps at the end leading to the upper grounds.
‘Hi, how can I help?’ He sat behind the counter and tried to portray alert-and-ready-to-serve the best he could.
‘Oh, so you
working, not just taking a nap?’ She smiled sardonically, her sarcasm potent and ugly.
‘Sorry, it’s been a quiet day, what can I do for you?’ He couldn’t help observe her choice of clothing. She looked like a witch in a kids’ school play, minus the green face paint, but plus an absurd amount of jewellery. What concerned Nick was when he realised she was serious in her selection of garments.
‘Do you sell any other wands?’ she asked with a widening of her eyes. ‘I don’t like the ones on display. They don’t feel right.’
‘They are all we have in stock, sorry.’
‘You’re not going to check out the back for me?’ She retracted her head, creating a double chin.
‘I know what stock we have, and there are no more wands.’
‘Can you go and check anyway? In case you’ve missed some.’
‘No … Sorry. I’d be wasting your time.’
‘I’m not in a hurry.’
, this woman was relentless.
‘Trust me, there’s no more stock out the back,’ he said with finality.
He caught his reflection in the shop window and ruffled his brown hair, then let it settle looking stylishly dishevelled. With an uneasy feeling, he realised he was staring at the spot where he imagined the woman hit the ground: directly out the front of the store.
‘Just so you know. The other tourist shops around here have a wider range of items. Why is your store so limited?’ She seemed to ask with genuine interest.
Please get a life.
‘I’m sorry to hear that but my manager is happy with our range of products. If you’re not happy, then feel free to buy from those other shops you mentioned,’ he replied, more antagonising than intended.
She huffed, declaring, ‘I will shop elsewhere!’ then stormed out.
, slight guilt. He hadn’t meant to upset the lady, but she was rude from the start of the conversation, and Nick was getting sick and tired of all the witch wannabes waddling around Amiton. It was something he couldn’t avoid, due to the history of Lansin Island and the fact that he worked in a tourist shop aimed at those interested in its dark past.
Amiton was the largest town on the island, and was where all the tourists jumped off the ferry and decided to shop. Nick liked the customers interested in witchcraft and the island’s history, but not the witch wannabes who researched Wicca on the internet, read an article on some naff website, then declared themselves High Priestess of this, that, and the other. Some would shove their views down his throat and threaten to hex him when his customer service skills sucked, which was most of the time.
‘Nicolas.’ Her voice was delicate, yet held great authority.
‘Yes, Mora,’ said Nick, spinning to address her.
She was a short plump lady in her late forties with a calm demeanour, cropped chocolate hair, and green eyes. Her complexion was so yellowy-white that if she lay with her eyes closed you’d think she was dead, or at least severely ill.
‘That lady didn’t seem too impressed with you.’
‘Yeah, I suggested she shops elsewhere.’
‘You sent a customer away?’
‘She was rude to me.’
‘Okay, Nicolas, but I’d prefer it if your pride didn’t affect our profits in the future.’ It was almost impossible to take offence to anything Mora said. Nick knew she was a careful thinker and spoke only her mind. He liked that about her.
‘I forgot to mention … she didn’t like your wands and she said our store is limited compared to the others in Amiton.’
Mora’s jaw dropped. After a moment of composing herself, she came out with, ‘Stuff her, then. The grumpy sod can shop elsewhere!’
Laughing with his manager, Nick couldn’t help think,
Oh, so it’s fine for your pride to affect profits!
But he wasn’t truly annoyed.
‘Nicolas,’ Mora dawdled off and stood by the table with divination and tarot cards stacked on top. ‘I think more items have been stolen.’ She shook her head, compressing her lips.
‘I don’t remember selling any of these today, though I could swear there were more here this morning.’
Shrugging his shoulders, Nick wished he knew what to say. Mora toddled back over to him rather solemnly then said, ‘Never mind. Will you keep an eye out for me? Look out for suspicious customers.’
‘Of course.’ He gave an enthusiastic nod.
‘You can get going if you want. It’s not so busy. I’ll lock up and get the cleaning done.’ She scanned the store, and then returned her eyes to him. ‘And don’t worry; I’ll pay you for the whole shift.’ After a sweet smile, she took his place behind the glass counter.
In comparison to Mora, Nick felt like a giant. She was maybe five feet tall. He noticed the height difference more when she sat down. It didn't bother him much when other staff members were about, but when it was just the two of them, he felt almost obliged to slouch his posture to appear shorter.
‘Thank you, Mora. I’ll see you on Friday.’ He scuttled out the back, grabbed his jacket, and then hurried out of the store, waving to Mora on his exit.
Two full time colleagues, Janet and Alan, had worked nine to five and had already left. As a part-timer, Nick was meant to work twelve to six and help close up. He checked the time on his mobile: Twenty past five.