Story Preview: Proper Shucked

Its that time of the month – the time when Ben cheats his way out of doing a proper blog entry by posting a story sample!

 


The pub door slammed open, and Rob stepped inside, wiping the rain from his forehead. He closed the door carefully behind him, and stomped over to the bar, where he sat at one of the well worn stools.

Pint of ale, Beth,” he said quietly.

Beth, a doe-eyed barmaid of perhaps twenty, her blonde hair pulled back into a knot at the nape of her neck, nodded, and went to the pump. Selecting a pint glass from the rail above, she set about drawing the beer from the pipe.

Miserable bloody night out there,” Rob said, as she handed him the drink.

You still came over here though,” she replied, offering him a quick grin.

Couldn’t miss out on seeing my favourite lass now, could I?”

Your favourite lass, eh? Who’re the other then?” she needled.

That weren’t what I meant, lass,” he said quickly.

I bet it weren’t.”

Rob groaned inwardly. Far from a pleasant pint in a warm pub, this was turning into another argument. He liked Beth – a lot – but she didn’t half like to argue.

He glanced around as the door opened again, wind and driving rain sweeping in. He nodded in greeting as old Bill, the town constable, walked in. The policeman’s cap was askew from the rain, and he grimaced as he walked to the bar.

By gum, it’s awful out there,” the copper complained. He nodded to Beth, who began to draw another pint from the taps. Bill grinned at Rob, who smiled, and tapped his glass against the older man’s. As the town blacksmith, Rob made a point to get on with everyone. Given the size of Rob’s muscles, everyone also made a point of getting on with him.

Bill took a long draught of his pint, and sighed gratefully.

Eh, that’s the stuff,” he said happily.

You done for the night, Bill?” Beth asked, leaning on the bar, and – to Rob’s immense delight – revealing a fair amount of bosom beneath her shirt.

Aye. Ain’t ‘nout gonna happen out in this weather.” The policeman sipped on his drink. “Too dark to steal sheep, and too wet to fire hay. There’s summat to be said for it, that’s for certain.” He frowned. “Funny thing though. You ain’t heard of any sheepdogs getting loose, have you?”

Not recently, Bill. Old Gorman up on the hill was asking the same thing.”

Probably seen the same thing I’ve seen then.”

Oh?” Beth asked. Sometimes getting words out of Bill was like squeezing blood from a stone.

Big old hound up on the moors. Probably just the light playing tricks, but the bugger looked as big as a bloody horse. Thought your lad here might have heard something. Dog that big would normally be chained at night.”

Could be from the big house,” Rob suggested. “Been breedin’ dogs for years up there.”

Reckon they might have tried breeding it with a bloody elephant, from the size of it,” Bill grumbled. He downed his pint, and stood. “Well, best be getting home. You heading out, Rob?”

In a few minutes.”

Suit yourself.”

The old policeman got up and headed out the door, briefly letting in the chill of the night. Rob turned back to Beth, and smiled.

So, am I gettin’ a goodnight kiss?”

Bollocks are you, away with you Rob!” But she was smiling as she said it. Rob sighed theatrically, and got to his feet. He slung his coat over his shoulders, and picked up his pint glass. Looking over it’s rim, he grinned at Beth, who rolled her eyes.

Here’s to you, love of mine.”

He downed the remainder of the pint, and placed the glass back on the bar. With a final wink to the blonde barmaid, he turned and headed out into the blustery night.

***

The rain hit him full in the face, like a basket full of ice cold needles. He cursed, and pulled the collar of his coat up a little higher. Jamming his flat cap down onto his head, he started the walk across the village towards his blacksmith’s shop. The gas lanterns hanging from the fronts of the cottages barely gave enough light for him to see the cobbled road ahead. He tramped onwards, the hobnails of his boots clattering on the stones as he headed for the warmth of his forge.

As the blacksmith turned onto the small lane that led to his home, he paused. A small paddock adjoined the lane, where he kept the two horses that pulled his cart when he needed to take items to market. The horses were safely stabled now, but the paddock gate was open – not just open, but hanging loosely on one hinge, swinging in the gusty wind. Rob swore, and walked over to the field entrance, his cap pulled low over his eyes. Of all the times for this to happen, it had to be in a pissing storm!

He reached for the gate, and paused. The wood was splintered, and bowed inwards. Something had hit the gate hard, something big. He glanced up at the paddock, and saw a slumped shape in the middle of the field. He recognised the coat it wore.

Bill? You alright?”

The slumped form didn’t move. Rob walked into the field, the mud squelching around his boots. He knelt by the prone form.

A flash of lightning lit the field, bringing Bill’s bloodied face into stark relief. The policeman’s throat had been torn out. Rob stumbled backwards, falling into the slick mud, the slimy earth squeezing round his fingers.

Jesus!”

And then he heard the growling. He looked up towards the far end of the field, where his stables sat flush against the fence. A hulking, shaggy form was crouched in front of it, it’s claws scraping along the stable door. He could hear the panicked whinny of the horses inside as the huge hound tried to reach them.

Mother of God…” he gasped.

The hound turned to look at him, its eyes like ghastly red searchlights cutting through the night. Slowly, it brought its bulky form around, fixing Rob in its gaze.

Rob ran. He turned and sprinted for the road, the mud of the field sucking at his booted feet. He could hear the dog crashing after him, its huge feet sending clots of mud flying as it skidded after him onto the cobbles, its claws scrabbling for traction.

The blacksmith sprinted for the forge, its dim glow still showing through the rain. He hit the door shoulder first, and fell headlong into the main room of the forge, the smell of hot iron as familiar to him as any he’d ever known. He threw his arms over his head, and waited for the beast to take him. He cowered as he heard it growl.

No pain, no sharp teeth, no claws touched him. Slowly, he rolled over, and stared at the doorway. The huge black hound was staring at him, it’s baleful red eyes fixed on his. Then, with one last, deep-throated growl, it turned and stalked back into the darkness.

Rob curled up, his hands around his knees, and wept in relief.

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