What an exciting competition and one very difficult to judge but here are the winners details. We hope you enjoy the winning story by Karen Jones.
1st Prize: £500.00 Karen Jones
2nd Prize: £300.00 Kitty Williams
3rd Prize: £200.00 Shane Carter
by Karen Jones
He stood, long trench-coat down past his knees and the collar, turned up against the biting winds. The view across the cove was obscured by the fading light and sand, whipped up, dancing in the air, stung his eyes. Across the cove, somewhere, the answer to his search would be revealed. There would be no more wondering and waiting. Time was running out too. He’d allowed himself this time so to draw a line under the whole episode, to satisfy his conscience and to give him peace of mind.
How long had it been? Ten years? It felt like more. It all had been so different back then. He’d been a somebody, he had commanded respect. As a senior police officer, he’d stuck to the rigid principles of the law and had never deviated from his moral compass. He was a strong leader, at least, he had been until that night when doubts overwhelmed him. In that moment, he’d experienced the strongest sense of conscience.
His stomach rumbled suddenly. Unbidden. A reminder that he had been travelling for hours and hadn’t eaten much that day at all. At the same time, the odour of freshly fried chips and a strong smell of vinegar wafted by. Turning, he saw the small van parked nearby. Judging by the small queue of people patiently waiting, the chips were good.
This little village nestled along the cove had a quaintness about it, he could feel its charm pulling at him, even as the darkness settled like a blanket, lights twinkling along the edge of the coastline as families settled into the evening stillness. He was intruding into the normality of this little fishing village, one that could almost be trapped in time, he imagined that it might not look much different that it had 100 years before. The houses along the front had certainly been built before then and although probably small, they appeared as if hugging each other all along the stretch.
If he hadn’t been on a mission, he could have settled here for a few days, but he wanted to, no, he needed to find out what had happened in the end. He need to know if…….
“How can I help you?”
Lost in his thoughts, he hadn’t realised that he was now at the front of the queue. A large man peered down at him from the van.
“Large portion of chips and don’t spare the salt and vinegar please.” He placed a five pound note on the counter, keeping one fat finger on it to save it from being blown away.
“On holiday? You’ve arrived at the wrong time of year if so. “The man wiped his greasy face with the back of his arm, “Gets bloody cold here in the winter months.”
“So, I see,” He nodded. “I’m just travelling through, need a place to stay though for the night, is there a good Bed and Breakfast?”
The man placed the steaming package of chips on the counter, followed by the change.
“Walk straight down along the front and you’ll see a B and B on your right. Good little place. Tell her I sent you.”
They smelled so good. The urge to dip in was strong but he pocketed his change while his stomach gurgled appreciatively. The next customer brushed impatiently past him and, so he walked in the direction of the bed and breakfast satiating his hunger as he went. The chill from the sea was harsh and it invaded his coat and whistled through the thickness of his jumper, he felt goose bumps ping into action all over as he shivered. Thankfully, the bed and breakfast was not far. With relief, he could see the vacancies light on. As he approached, he noticed the pretty net curtains and blue wooden shutters attached firmly to the wall. The building had a natural charm to it and, right next door, an olde-worlde café. Dare he hope that things might have turned out as they had been planned? Of course, this might not be the property.
He rang the doorbell and a middle-aged woman answered. With hair scraped back off her face, she looked a little tired, but still beautiful. Her smile was welcoming, until she recognised him.
“It can’t be.” She gasped. She looked nervously up and down the sea front as if expecting trouble. “What has happened?”
“Can I come in? I do actually need a room for the night.” He smiled as she stood back to make room and he entered, unbuttoning his coat as the sudden warmth hit him.
She took him into her private sitting room. “Of course, you may have a room, but first, Mr Bennett, please, tell me, why are you here?” She looked worried.
The years rolled back as he sat opposite her and studied her features. She had turned into a good-looking woman. She was now in her 40’s at least, he couldn’t remember her exact age back then, but she’d been in with a bad lot. That’s how he had met her. He’d been watching the house when he realised that she was being put to work, forced to prostitute herself by her lover and pimp. He had been bad news. Violent and involved in drugs and selling weapons. She had been terrified the day he’d arrived and had sported a black eye. They’d arrested him. Backed by a team of highly trained officers, they had ransacked the place, but not before, he had tipped her off to hide the money.
“He is dead.” Bennett broke the silence and saw immediately, relief wash over her face.
“He was killed in a fight in the prison. Lucky really, he was due to be released soon.”
She closed her eyes, overwhelmed by the news, her hands were shaking. Tears rolled down her face and she swallowed hard. “You have come all this way to tell me this?”
“Partly. “He cleared his throat. “I’m retiring from the force, not through choice. I’m er…I’m ill.”
She looked startled…but he held up his hand. “No need to say anything my dear. I suppose I wanted to see for myself that you did manage to turn your life around.”
She nodded. “What you did for me was…so kind. That money, I know you took a risk, but, I did invest it. I brought this place. It was my dream always to do this and I have the café now too.” She smiled. “Mr. Bennett, you changed my life beyond belief. “
He sat back in his chair, nodding happily. He’d done the right thing after all. His search was over.
“If you don’t mind showing me to my room?“ He stood up, feeling a weariness wash over him. “I have an early start back tomorrow and I am really quite exhausted.”
She nodded and led the way. Once he was in his room, he sank gratefully onto the bed. It had all worked out okay. When his time came, he could go without regrets. He closed his eyes and fell into the deepest sleep, relieved but free from guilt at last.