Beyond Hope – at Widmouth Quay

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my book ‘Beyond Hope’. In this novel Thomas is involved in several different investigations as well as his genealogical ones; here he is helping David, a man he has a very complicated relationship with, to rescue Emma, David’s true love. Emma has become involved with a very dangerous man, married him and is now in a precarious position and wants to leave. Thomas, his brother Paul and David  are waiting on a little beach – Emma and her gangster husband live at Widmouth Quay, the abandoned harbour on the other side of a small river.

Hollis led us as he had before; it seemed even darker than last time and now the rain was torrential. Paul cursed quietly as he stumbled and then we were down on the beach. The sea was wild and even in the dark I could see the white crests of the waves.
We waited by the ruined hut or whatever it was; there were faint lights on the quay and then I heard the sound of a motor. A boat negotiated its way in, its engine revving or whatever boat engines do as it struggled against river and tide, then it purred as it hit calm water. There were shouts of greeting and Hollis stood straight, away from the wall as if ready.
He must have the night vision of a cat because suddenly he moved swiftly forward and there was a small figure running towards him… Emma!
She flung herself at him and he swept her into an embrace. Thank goodness, now we could go… No doubt Paul was wondering why I’d needed him, but then Emma broke away and there was a short exchange of words and she turned and ran back towards the rickety little footbridge. Had she changed her mind about leaving Apakidze? Hollis ran after her and Paul and I stood waiting, he probably thinking as I was that this was all a bit of a waste of time.
We moved away from the shelter of the ruined hut and staggered as the force of the gale hit us, the rain sheeting down. The bridge was broken and in a dangerous state, a parlous state… parlous where does that word come from, is it French?  There was no handrail and spray seemed to shoot up through the walkway.
Suddenly I saw Emma on the bridge, a small figure battling against the wind; behind her there were lights and the occasional voice carried to us… from whoever was loading or unloading whatever it was from the boat which had chugged into the little harbour.
And then I was running towards the bridge, Paul with me because there were two tiny people with Emma… my God! Children! Emma had children… Before I had my own family I’m not sure I would have instantly recognised or realised what they were, who they were, although I think I would have still run to help….
The words I’d read about Widmouth Quay, the rip current, the tragic drowning of a mother and two children flashed in my mind but Paul was ahead and scooped up the kids, one under each arm and ran back towards the dunes…
Emma was struggling with bags and Hollis grabbed them. I took one so he could help her, but blow me she turned and went back… and there were figures I could see on the other side and shouting!
Fuck! Come on Emma!
There was the noise of another boat and a searchlight suddenly swept across the little harbour, although we were still in darkness.
Emma leapt from the end of the pier onto the beach… but maybe it wasn’t her because there was a second woman on the bridge… What the hell was going on? Two kids, two people? Someone pursued her onto the bridge and grabbed her and she was screaming and he was yelling and there was chaos by the harbour and blue flashing lights were descending to the sound of sirens, down the wiggledy windy road.
I yelled come on, come on! screaming at Hollis who was on the bridge too.  I yelled at Emma or the other to wait by the hut, to go there, wait there. I’ve never heard a gun fired in real life, I’m not sure many of us have, only on TV or in films but I knew someone was shooting, maybe at me!
I was so shocked that I stood there when maybe I should have thrown myself to the ground and even as I stood, almost frozen, Hollis dropped as if in slow motion and then so stupidly I jumped onto the bridge too and it seemed to sway beneath my feet… I ran to the woman as the man grabbed her, and the sweeping beam of the launch played over us.
There was the sound of voices over a loud hailer…
The woman fell sideways, like a stone into the water beneath and then the man raised his arm… Fuck! He’s going to shoot me and I yelled and jumped sideways into the boiling river.
It wasn’t deep and I fell painfully onto the stony bottom and was tumbled along by the surging water, trying to swim with it, grabbing for the woman. The powerful incoming tide and the rush of the outgoing river surged over me and I was coughing and spluttering, struggling for breath, trying to keep my head above water. I was swimming as hard as I could, hampered by clothes and shoes, dragged along by the sucking sea. The dark shape of the woman was terribly still, rolled in the powerful tide, a dark blob, no flailing arm, no cries for help…
Afterwards I was retrospectively terrified by what I’d done…. swimming here at any time would be criminally stupid but in the dark on an incoming tide and the river in flood, rip tide, rip current, drowned mother and children….
I grabbed the clothing of the inert woman as we were rolled over in the water and I admit it was at this point that sense took over from instinct and I realised my perilous situation… thoughts of Kylie flashed in my mind like a kaleidoscope montage … I can’t drown, I can’t! and I fought my way back to the shore against the strong and relentless pull of the rip.
I don’t know how I managed it but I swam as I never had before and suddenly I was out of it and the tide was dragging me into the shore. I felt as if I couldn’t go on much longer, at the end of my strength, and then I connected painfully with the sand.
Someone grabbed me by the shoulders and heaved me out, still clinging to the unmoving body…. Hollis… Thank god! In the back of my mind I’d thought him dead, lying in a heap on the derelict bridge. I managed to get to my knees, coughing and choking, almost vomiting.
And then there was a shape behind Hollis and an arm went up and I shoved Hollis over and then the man was looking at me yelling in a language I only guessed to be Georgian.
My hand connected with something and I have no idea how I did it but I grabbed a huge piece of driftwood stuff and hurled it at him. He went down and I scrambling on hands and knees, suddenly in a real rage and I rocked into him and started punching him in the face… I was so angry! He’d tried to shoot me! Tried to kill me!
Hollis dragged me off and Paul was there, hoisting me to my feet. Hollis was bending over the woman and even though it was pitch black where we were, the night brilliant with lights over by the harbour, headlights, searchlights, flashlights, blue lights, I knew she was dead…. Emma… we’d gone through all this….
Hollis dragged her off the tideline and up the beach…. but Paul was pulling my arm and we stumbled through the sheeting rain and battling against the wild onshore tempest, struggling our way up into the dunes and back to the car where the weeping woman and screaming children waited.

If you want to find out what led David and Thomas to this – and what happened next, here is the link:


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