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PESTLE AND MORTAR

Annie, an elderly widowed woman, has all her night fears realised when she’s abducted by Adam, a psychotic stalker.

The mind games he plays and his lust for perverted thrills has her living a nightmare, fearing for her life.

Who can help her escape this devilish fortress or will it come down to her own ingenuity?

Will time run out before the police and a young psychic solve the puzzle of missing women within their community?

In Store Price: $AU24.95 
Online Price:   $AU23.95

ISBN: 978-1-921406-82-9 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 214
Genre: Fiction
/Crime

Cover design: Clive Dalkins

 

Author: Carol Gibson
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

The author is a retired school teacher, aged sixty seven, who has always had a love for books, writing and the English language.

She enjoys writing poetry and short stories, as the activity gives her pleasure and is an exciting challenge.

Pestle and Mortar is her first novel.

Night Fears

 

Night has fallen and I’m all alone

Myself, the cat, and a mobile phone

 

The darkness is hunting, on the prowl

The night demons stir, emit a growl

 

By day the tree is just a tree

But now it’s clothed in mystery

 

I close the curtain filled with dread

Sense the presence; the walking dead

 

My breath is held, my chest bones ache

Then tiny flat gasps I take

 

My eyes shift crazily, side to side

What was that noise, the shape I spied?

 

I cannot move, I know it’s there

I can’t cry out, I do not dare

 

I stare to the side, think of a place

Where I can hide, a little space

 

I inch my finger, touch the phone

Someone whispers, “You’re all alone.”

 

                                                            Carol Gibson

 

Chapter 1 

 

S

he had always hated the dark. It changed shape and form and crept inside your soul. Outside as a child she could hide in it and feel safe, but once inside a building it became the hunter. It prowled at the windows, crept through the house, making her heart freeze. With the kids in the neighbourhood she’d play ‘Moonlight, Starlight, Jackie isn’t out tonight’ for hours on the outside lawn. She’d disappear into the darkness, happy to lie hidden in the grapevines on under her father’s dahlia bushes while ‘Jackie’ tried to hunt them down. It was thrilling, and she loved it, especially when she was last to be found. She could use every part of the old rambley yard to hide. Then they’d have to go inside to bed.

Night fears would begin. The old floorboards would creak, the pull up blind would rattle, she would be sure she could hear someone coming for her. Sometimes she would nearly pass out holding her breath. She’d call to her sister sleeping in the bed on the other side of the room.

“I’m scared! Someone’s on the veranda.” Angrily her sister would insist, “Go to sleep, Annie. You’re always sure there’s someone there. Shut up and let me sleep.” Annie would persist in her pleas.

“Let me sleep in your bed. I’m scared.” Heather, her eldest sister, would give in eventually, knowing this could go on for hours unless Annie got her way.

“Alright then, but only at the bottom of the bed.”

By now Annie would be totally convinced he was in the room, listening, and going to grab her. She’d drop out of the bed onto the carpet, and slither across the floor like a snake and slide quickly into Heather’s bed.

“Now shut up,” Heather would cry.

Secure now, Annie would sleep, knowing her mother would find out in the morning that she’d been terrified once again by Night Fears.

Her mother would try. She would turn on lights the next night to show that everything was the same by day as by night. Only the sun had set. But it wasn’t so. She knew.

 

Now she was a mother herself. An old mother whose time had been and gone. She’d raised three children, loved grandchildren and lived what most considered a happy life. In their golden years, Carl and her had retired to Mandurah, and bought an old fibro house in the seaside area at Falcon. It was a holiday home changed to residential, and Annie and Carl finished it off. Carl painted and fixed rough carpentry until the place took on a new appearance, then Annie put in her homely touch.

She loved arts and crafts, so cross-stitch and long-stitch decorated the walls, photos were highlighted on one wall in the television room at the rear of the house. Everywhere through the house were favourite treasures either given as gifts or found at garage sales. People settled into the house as if it was their own and seemed to relax immediately. Adults and children alike loved wandering through looking at things, touching pottery pieces from the local ‘House of Dunnies’, admiring the art gallery feel of the house.

 

Now Carl was gone. She wasn’t afraid of Death. Only violence. To die softly would be her dream, but she didn’t think it would be so. Her imagination was too strong, and shadows haunted her. If only she had died before Carl. Then she wouldn’t be alone facing the night fears.

“What was that?” she’d cry to Carl in the depths of the night.

“Go to sleep Annie, it’s only the blind rattling in the wind.”

Perhaps it was. But what if it wasn’t? Could someone be standing right now outside the bedroom window peering through the slats? Annie would lie very still listening to the creaks of the old house settle after a day’s activities. She’d hear the fridge clunking in the kitchen, the clock ticking in the spare bedroom, straining to hear if there were any foot beats.

“I can’t close my eyes,” she’d think. “I’ll get up and pee.” Her body wouldn’t move, and then thankfully, Carl would stir and push himself out of bed, to relieve himself. Quickly she would follow while the light was on, then spoon her body to Carl’s and drift back into sleep, until the light of day.

 

Now there was no warm body to cuddle up to. Carl’s massive heart attack had struck swiftly and cruelly. He’d gone like a candle snuffed in the wind, and she was alone. The children rallied around to put things in order.

“You can’t stay by yourself at Mandurah, Mum. You can sell out and Clive and I will build a Granny Flat at the back of us.” Her daughter, Kym, had always wanted her to live with them. They’d adapted the house, due to efforts of her husband, Clive, who would attempt anything, to accommodate their two gorgeous children. Kym was a homebody, very much like her mother, and the house was cosy and warm, full of personality and knick-knacks. Annie was very close to this family and knew they genuinely wanted her.

So did her son and daughter-in-law on a farm in Meekatharra. Previously they’d offered for both Carl and Annie to up roots and live in their Granny Flat, already established, at the rear of the farm, and though they considered it, they knew they would miss the water. Annie may fear the night but she had no fear of water. She was Carl’s favourite deckie and could crab and fish equally well as him, and they enjoyed the friendly competition between them.

Besides using the boat on the Peel Estuary, they loved to rod fish off the rocks at the Dawesville Cut. They would gut and fillet the catch, present it neatly on meat trays saved and washed, and give it out to neighbours or Senior Citizens, dying for fresh fish straight from the ocean. With Carl gone, she hadn’t been fishing for ages, and missed it.

She wouldn’t shift to Meekatharra now, as the Granny Flat was too far removed from the main house, and the night dreads would surely come visiting. Her daughter, Kym, knew her fears. She knew Annie would be feeling stuck. Annie couldn’t even pretend to herself. Once the dark descended rational thinking flew out of her head. Even renting closer to her daughter was no solution as she’d still be alone in a strange house.

“Stay with us in the house until the flat is ready,” begged Kym. Knowing the size of the house, complete with two small children and a full time job, Kym would be taking on too much. Reluctantly Annie refused and faced the torture of months alone in the house at Falcon, Mandurah.

 

Wednesday morning she dressed to do her shopping. She backed out the automatic Toyota, the car she would never drive while Carl was alive. He constantly urged her to, even making her do a few trial runs around the block, but she preferred the manual, the Toyota truck. Her sister had been killed in a power steered automatic and she’d shut down completely. She needed to be in control. A manual only goes when you want it to.

Shopping was pleasant, as they all knew her, and of course they’d all loved Carl. He was loud, flirtatious and full of camaraderie. Great wails of laughter would follow him around as he teased and jollied all the staff. Annie backed him up and could hold her own with repartee. Now they sympathised with her and asked how she was coping.

“Fine,” she said. Never mind it was sometimes boringly dull. No crabbing on the beautiful waters, no casting a line into the Cut, and no one to bounce off. Carl and she had always talked, and agreed or disagreed depending on their moods. She filled up the spaces with more gardening and cross-stitching, but it wasn’t the same. She loved being a fisherwoman and sharing the catch.

Unlocking the fly wire door and then the carved door to her home, she thought she heard the phone ring.

Never mind, one-o-one would pick up and save the message. She packed away all the groceries, methodically as usual. Everything had a place and there was a place for everything. At least Carl and she agreed on that. ‘Ying and Yang’ the kids often called them, but it worked. They respected each others’ space and the marriage had been good. As she made herself a black tea, putting the milk in last, something she couldn’t get Carl to do, she checked the phone. It was a message from her middle son, Grant, to give him a ring.

Sipping the tea, she dialled and waited. Grant answered on the fifth ring and after inquiring how she was, explained the proposition he and his wife, Alicia, had come up with. His job in communications took him around the world and away from home for long periods of time, so they thought it would be nice if Annie considered living with them until the Granny Flat was completed. Grant lived in Cottesloe, in a strata title unit, as this suited their mode of living. It had two bedrooms, one of which Annie could use, as Grant and Alicia had no children. They enjoyed their lifestyle and were happy for Annie to be part of it. It meant more exercising for Annie as they religiously walked and trained, but it would also mean more social interaction as they dined out frequently.

They discussed it between them, then Alicia sealed it by coming to the phone and saying, “Please come, Annie. I could do with the company when Grant’s away.” Annie graciously accepted and they agreed on one week’s preparation time for both parties.

“It will give us both time to pack and prepare and for you to say goodbye to your friends and neighbours,” said Grant. “We’ll all get together as a family and work out what to do with the Mandurah home and organise your finances.”

Annie breathed a sigh of relief. Only one more week of night anxieties. It would be a blessing to stop checking the solid long bolts Carl had put in the doorframes.

 

He’d drilled holes in the wooden frames and used large bolts to push across the wooden doors. He was so proud of them. “Cheapest security system on the block,” he’d boast. “Nobody can get past these.” It was true. Every window in the house slid shut and a piece of dowel wood in the slot prevented them being forced open. Even the front windows had large slatted shutters that attached close to the glass and were man proof. Carl had always slept like a baby, totally secure in the knowledge of safety inside the house.

 

Not so Annie. If someone tried to open the doors she would’ve stopped breathing, or if someone succeeded in getting in, where would she hide? She thought of places. In the large cupboard behind all the clothes. In the bathroom; in the shower recess. She could fit in the large cabinet in the laundry. Perhaps quickly make the bed and hide under it, so they would think no one was at home.

She made it through the nights now, waking and sleeping, dreaming and tossing and praying for morning. She possibly lost half the night bathed in sweat, listening for every strange sound or noise. It seemed morning would never arrive, then she’d awake and realise that finally sleep had won. Another night over.

Finding cigarette butts in her garden didn’t help. Each morning as she hosed her prized Camellia bush she’d spy it there. A new one each time, as she always picked up and binned the old one. Always the same brand smoked right down to the filter. Was someone standing in her garden staring at her window? She was convinced you couldn’t see through the slats and lace curtains, but was someone trying? Another fear to add to the list.

One night she was woken by the noise of a possum in the roof. At least when her heart kicked in again, she convinced herself it was a possum. She thought she could hear its claws as it crawled along. That was one night she’d rather forget. Her eyes were bruised and red raw next morning from forcing them open. She would have to look in the yellow pages and pay someone to remove the squatter possum, as it was a large area up there and would make a lovely winter home for a family of possums. Urine stains on the ceiling were no joke.

 

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