The Telegram: Chapter 2

The Telegram is my dual narrative historical fiction serial set in both the 1940s and 2008. You can read the previous chapters here.

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Yorkshire, England – July 2008

It was the sound of rocks, crashing and bouncing. It reverberated around the whole valley and then came to an abrupt stop. A great plume of dust rose up ahead.

By the time Lilian caught up with her granddaughter, she found Scarlett on her knees, scrabbling frantically at the pile of stones that was blocking the cave entrance.

“Issac!”

Lilian felt a familiar shifting in the pit of her stomach. Her husband Derrick had had a theory about fear.

“It’s like bacteria,” he’d told her as she assisted him with surgery during his first week at Chesbrook Hall. “Let in even a little and it can infect your whole body.”

It hadn’t been her first amputation, but it had been her first civilian. Only a few years older than Issac, their young patient had been sleeping in his Coventry home when the Jerries flew over. As he fought the anaesthesia, his eyes had sought hers, wide with panic, before fluttering into darkness.

A sharp bark from Apollo brought her back to the present. He scrambled up the mound ahead, burrowing furiously.

“Gran?”

Lilian jumped as the voice seemed to come from under her feet. A head suddenly popped out the ground near Apollo’s tail. The dog gave a delighted bark, licking the grimy face that was grinning up at them.

Scarlett gave an exclamation of disgust and wiped her hands on her shorts before holding up a piece of broken council tape that had barricaded the cave entrance.

“Can’t you read?”

“Guess what I found, Gran?” Issac said, characteristically ignoring his sister as he wriggled out of the landslide.

“Careful!” Lilian called in alarm as pebbles slithered down.

Issac emerged, triumphantly holding up a leather satchel. At twelve, he was still young enough to desire her approval.

“What have you got there?” Lilian asked, quickly scanning his body for cuts but he appeared unscathed.

“Mail.” Issac opened it to show her.

The bag was indeed full of faded telegrams. She pulled out the closest one. Blowing off the dust, she could just make out the postmark.

8 November 1941.

Lilian felt the blood rush to her head. She dropped the telegram and sat down heavily on a rock. The landscape blurred around her.

“Gran?” Scarlett knelt beside her.

Lilian took a deep breath, suddenly aware of the very fine drizzle that was dampening her hair.

“Let’s get you home,” Scarlett said gently, taking her arm.

Lilian shook her head. “First we’re going to the police.”

They both stared at her.

“November 1941,” Lilian murmured. “Your Great Auntie Enid and I were out walking when we found him – just down there.” She gestured behind her.

“Who?”

“The body of the telegram boy. What you have there is lost evidence from a sixty-seven-year-old murder investigation.”

Scarlett’s mouth fell open.

“Did they catch the murderer?” said Issac eagerly.

Lilian looked towards Chesbrook Hall, which was fast disappearing from view in the mist.

“Well, they thought they did.”

***

Chapter 3 to follow next week.

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