Authors: Robin Roughley
Vanished Beneath- Robin Roughley
Published on Amazon 2015
Author Robin Roughley.
Tom adjusted the huge umbrella before sitting down on the wicker-fishing basket. Rain peppered the surface of the lake as a multitude of perfect circles spiralling outwards towards the reed-covered bank. On the opposite side a solitary bedraggled figure stood by the water's edge, rod in hand, a thin plume of smoke drifted up from the cigarette clamped between his teeth.
'I bet he wished he'd brought an umbrella, Dad.'
Tom smiled down at his son before ruffling his hair. 'That's why it always pays to check the forecast, Johnny; it can save you from a drenching.'
Johnny Hammond grinned up at his dad before taking a bite from his chicken paste sandwich.
'Now, why don't you get my flask and we can sample your brew making skills?'
Johnny wrapped the remains of the sandwich in tin foil before rummaging in the backpack. Pulling out the flask he carefully unscrewed the lid before tentatively pouring the coffee into the plastic cup, his tongue poking out as he concentrated on not spilling the precious liquid. Reaching down Tom lifted the cup from the grass and sniffed appreciatively at the steam that rose into the soggy air.
'What's it like, Dad?'
'Give us chance, son,' he replied before blowing onto the drink. Then he took a sip and grunted in satisfaction. 'Don't tell your mum but it's
than the ones she normally makes,' he whispered.
Johnny beamed with pride before sitting down on a miniature version of his father's basket. 'Do you think we'll catch anything, Dad?'
Tom looked out into the downpour, the rain hissing like cold water on a hot griddle. 'Fish tend not to bite when it's raining, son.'
Johnny frowned in disappointment and watched as his orange float bobbed on the choppy surface.
'Why don't you toss a few more maggots in, see if that helps?' Tom said and smiled as his son shot back to his feet.
Popping the lid from the margarine tub Johnny looked down at the squirming mass of maggots in shivering delight. Dipping his hand into the container, he held out his hand. 'About that many, Dad?'
Tom glanced down, the maggots wriggled on the palm of Johnny's outstretched hand. 'Aye, that should do it.'
The boy moved from the cover of the umbrella, slithering his way down the bank to the water's edge.
'You be careful,' his father warned. 'That's
Johnny nodded gravely and drew back his arm, a few maggots dropped to the ground. Then he snapped out his hand sending them scattering onto the surface of the water before bending down and searching through the grass for the ones that got away.
Tom took another sip from the plastic cup. When he saw the float disappear, he quickly placed the drink on the grass.
'You've got a bite, son!'
Johnny snapped his head up and peered out into the rain.
'Come on, lad, this one's yours.'
Scrabbling back up the bank, Johnny grabbed the rod and started to turn the handle on the reel with relish.
Johnny, you don't want her getting away.'
Johnny nodded in understanding.
His father watched as the carbon rod began to bend. 'This could be a
he said as he stood up and moved to his son's side. 'If it gets too much you let me know, Johnny?'
Johnny tried to heave the rod towards the sky the way his father had shown him, his right hand still turning, the reel making small ratchet like sounds as the boy struggled.
'You're doing well,' his father whispered before licking his lips.
'It's heavy, Dad
! 'Johnny gasped.
When he felt his father's hand on the rod Johnny sighed in relief and handed it over.
Tom Hammond gripped it tight between his work calloused hands surprised at the pull on the line. 'This could be a
The boy hopped from one foot to the other in excitement, oblivious to the rain that turned his hair to rat's tails and soaked into his jacket. 'Go on, Dad, you can do it!'
Tom dragged the rod upwards, watching as the tip curved back towards the water. 'Bloody hell it feels like we've got a whale on the other end!'
Johnny's mouth opened in shock, his dad had used the ‘
'Come on, you bugger!'
Johnny looked up, his father had his teeth gritted, his face wet with rain.
'Go on, Dad
!' The boy repeated excitedly.
Tom glanced down and grinned before heaving back and spinning the reel. 'Here she comes,' he gasped.
Johnny turned and scrabbled back down to the water's edge. Grabbing the keep net, he held it tight the way his father had shown him and waited, his eyes glued to the surface of the water.
Tom moved to the left, his arms aching with the continuous pull, the squeal of the reel increased as he made a final effort to land the catch.
Johnny licked his lips and leant forward, his wellies sinking slowly in the mud.
Tom was still hauling on the line; his head tilted towards the rain-bruised sky, images of his face on the front of
with the huge catch in his arms flitted through his mind.
Little Johnny started to scream and his father snapped his head down in confusion. His son was standing by the water's edge, the keep net slipped from his fingers and disappeared beneath the surface.
When the pale face broke the surface of the water for a second time, Johnny turned and tried to run up the bank but his wellies held tight in the mud.
Tom watched for stretched seconds as the milky face peered up at him.
The sound of terror in Johnny's voice broke through his shock; the boy was looking up at him with terror-stricken eyes, his hands grasping at thin air, tears mingling with the rain that sloshed down his face.
Dropping the rod, Tom dashed down the bank before scooping his son into his arms, both wellies staying lodged in the grey gloop.
Little Johnny Hammond buried his head against his father's shoulder, the sobs shuddering through his body like waves crashing against rock.
'It's alright, Johnny, it's alright,'
he whispered as the ghastly face in the water twisted slowly before sinking back below the surface, long dark hair trailing behind.
Johnny Hammond continued to scream.
'I can't believe you don't keep any wellies in the boot of your car,' Doc Shannon said as he slid his feet into a pair of Hunters.
Lasser sighed as he looked along the rutted waterlogged path that led to the lake. 'Yeah, well, I thought it was meant to be dry today?'
Shannon clunked the door of the old Land Rover closed and shook his head. 'Come on, man, this is Wigan not the Bahamas.'
Lasser didn't bother with a reply, in the distance he could see the familiar shape of PC Spenner by the water's edge. A couple of men stood about twenty feet from the pond, one of them had a young boy in his arms.
'So do you want me to give you a piggy back?' Shannon asked.
'Oh yeah, that would look very professional, you trundling through the mud with me clinging on.'
Shannon sniffed. 'Suit yourself,' he said before splashing his way through the puddle like an overgrown toddler who loves to be out in his shiny wellies.
Lasser tried to pick his way along the edge of the trough; he could feel the rain soaking into his trousers, his shoes already taking on water. Shannon continued to plough his way through the mud, like a Chieftain tank bedecked in a donkey jacket.
Lasser mumbled darkly.
By the time he reached the stretch of water Shannon was talking to Spenner, who had mud patterning the bottom of his trousers, his uniform looked drenched.
'Afternoon, sir,' he shivered as Lasser approached.
'Right, Spenner, what's the story?'
Spenner ran a hand around the collar of his white shirt; Lasser caught a glimpse of the livid scar on his neck from where a nutter had attacked him with a breadknife.
'The bloke with the kid is called Tom Hammond, he was fishing with his son, and according to them they saw a body in the water.'
Lasser looked over towards them and sniffed. 'What about the other guy?'
'Arthur Somes, he was fishing on the opposite bank and saw nothing.'
Lasser flipped up the collar of his jacket in a pathetic attempt to keep the rain at bay. Shannon grinned before pulling a small brolly from inside his jacket, a couple of seconds later he popped it up and held it over his head.
'You think of everything don't you, Doc?' Lasser said with a grimace.
'I try to, Sergeant.'
Lasser turned back to Spenner. 'And do we have any idea if the body was male or female?'
'Well, the boy’s in shock, I mean, he's only eight, poor little sod.'
'What about the father?'
'He says he can't be certain but he thinks he saw long dark hair before the body sank.'
Lasser looked out over the water; he could see a couple of mallards nesting amongst the reeds as a pair of swans glided elegantly by.
'So, what are we doing about organising a search?'
Spenner looked at him blankly. 'Er, nothing as yet, sir. I thought it best to wait until you got here.'
Lasser grunted, more than likely Spenner didn't want to call in the water boys in case it turned out to be a false alarm. 'Right, give me a couple of minutes,' he said before heading over to where the two men were standing.
As he approached, Tom Hammond whispered something to the boy before placing him on the ground. The kid looked up at his father, his arms wrapped tight around his waist as if afraid to let go.
'Good afternoon, my name is Detective Sergeant Lasser.'
Arthur Somes had a soggy roll up clamped between his thin lips, his chin hidden beneath a whiskery beard. 'Ow-do,' he mumbled.
'PC Spenner tells me you've had quite a shock.'
Tom's cheeks inflated and then he sighed heavily. 'You could say that.'
'I saw bugger all I'm afraid,' Arthur said with a sniff. 'But young Johnny here was making a hell of a racket, weren't you, son?'
Johnny looked up wide-eyed and nodded.
'So, you saw a body in the water?' Lasser asked.
Tom looked at Lasser and then flicked his head to the left. When he tried to move away, Johnny tightened his grip. ‘Johnny, you stay here with Arthur, I won't be a minute.'
'Please, Dad, don't leave me!'
Tom peeled his son's arms from his waist. 'I promise I'll only be over there,' he pointed to the left. ‘I need to tell the policeman what we saw.'
Johnny wiped a hand across his shimmering tear-filled eyes, his bottom lip trembling.
'I want to go home
'This won't take long, now be a good lad and wait here with Arthur.'
The old man spat out the stump of the cigarette and grinned down at the boy showing a rack of ghastly teeth.
Lasser sighed when he saw the boy's face curdle and to be honest he didn't blame him, Arthur Somes looked like the kind of nightmare that could crawl out from under your bed in the dead of night.
Tom plucked at Lasser's sleeve and they moved away along the bank, after fifteen feet they stopped, Tom turned and gave his son a small comforting wave.
'Right, there's not much to tell, Johnny got something on the line and naturally we thought it was a fish.'
'But it turned out not to be the case?'
Hammond dragged a hand across his hair before flicking the droplets away. 'I tell you, I nearly shit myself when I saw it.'
'And you're sure it was a body?'
Tom Hammond gave Lasser a hard stare. 'Of course I'm sure, she had long dark hair and her face,' he shuddered. 'It was nightmare stuff, you know what I mean?'
'And Johnny saw it as well?'
'Look, we're not making this up...'
Lasser lifted a hand. 'Of course not,' he paused. 'And you're sure the body was that of a female?'
'I know I told the bloke over there that I wasn't sure, but I'm telling you she had long dark hair.'
Lasser pursed his lips and looked out over the water. 'Do you have any idea how deep it is?'
Tom shrugged. 'Well, if it's anything like the other ponds around here it'll be deep, I mean, most of them are old pit shafts that were flooded when the mines closed down.'
'So, it's no use having a poke around the edge with a stick?'