Today I’m sharing a chapter from my reluctant readers’ novella ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’. This was written for teenagers who can read but don’t. Rufus’s grandma has disappeared at the same time some mysterious ‘beast’ is killing pets and farm animals, ripping them to pieces bloodily. There’s talk in the town that it is the mythical Greaty Beast of Camel come back to terrify them.
Rufus’s friend Naimh has also disappeared in Camel Wood and the forest ranger, Jack is going in, armed and ready, in search of the two missing women:
Jack stopped a couple of hundred yards short of the police barrier. There was a crowd of reporters and a couple of TV vans, their antennae beaming the latest details back to their studios. With a grim smile he reversed his jeep than turned and drove back down the Strand Road. A mile further on he turned down a track, stopped, unlocked the gate across it and drove through. He was about to lock it behind him but then thought a quick escape might be needed.
He did not know what lay ahead, he did not know what was lurking deep within Camel Wood but the rips on the back of the boy’s coat had alarmed him.
There had been spots of rain on his windscreen as he had sped along Strand Road, now his wipers were full on clearing the water from the glass. Above him the tall conifers were waving backwards and forwards as if trying to flag him down to stop. The sky had become a curious green yellow colour and the light had a dense opaque quality. This was not the weather for anyone to be out in the wood.
He pulled over and jumped out. He took his waterproofs from the boot and unlocked and opened his gun case. He loaded the shotgun he took from it and slipped a handful of spare cartridges into each pocket. He wasn’t worried by the moaning sounds from among the trees, they were the normal noises of a forest in the wind but there was a curious low humming groan like a beast in pain.
He wondered about a girl out there alone… wondered if she was still alive.
He had no doubt that Ruby was dead. He knew her slightly, had met her early mornings out in the wood. She was tall and unsmiling but had been friendly enough. More than once she had given him a bag of fungi she had collected, he’d had a good breakfast thanks to Ruby Redmayne.
He stopped, his hands tightening on his gun; there was a distant howl, as spine chilling as a lone wolf baying at the moon. But there were no wolves in Camel Wood, it must be a police dog.
There was a shrieking noise now adding to the tumult of the storm. Jack had been in the woods in all seasons and in all weathers but never had he heard such sounds. The hairs on the back of his neck rose as he felt someone watching him through the driving rain. He spun round, cocking his gun, his finger on the trigger and almost shot Rufus.
“Bloody hell, lad!” he yelled. “I bloody nearly shot you! What the hell are you doing here! Trying to get yourself killed?”
“We need to find Naimh!” the boy said. He was wearing a hooded raincoat which Jack recognized as his own. It had been tossed in the back of the jeep. That’s where Rufus had hidden himself.
“No we don’t, I do. You get back in the jeep, you lock the doors and the windows, you keep your head down and you stay there until I get back.”
“Do as I say.”
“Or? Look, mister, either you take me with you so you know where I am or you set off and I follow you.”
Jack stared through the sheeting rain at the boy who stood before him.
“OK, lad, but you do exactly as I say, I don’t want to blow your head off by mistake.”
“I’ve been thinking. I think I know where they are. Come on I’ll show you.”
Jack grabbed Rufus’s arm.
“You know where they are?”
“In the Old Fort” Rufus turned abruptly and began to trot into the forest.
Astounded, Jack was slow to follow and then had to run to catch him.
“The Old Fort doesn’t exist, it’s just a fairy tale!” he grabbed at the boy’s arm but his hands slipped on the wet sleeve and Rufus dashed away from him.
Jack ran too. And as he ran he kept glancing back, trying to see through the lashing branches and the tossed leaves, tried to make out through the streaming rain exactly what seemed to be following them.
© Lois Elsden 2018
The Story of Rufus Redmayne is not yet available on Amazon but if you are interested in buying one (or a set if you’re a teacher!) you can message me here. My other two novels for reluctant readers, ‘Run, Blue, Run!’ and ‘Screaming King Billy’ are on Amazon (but sets are available from me here – at a special friends’ price – mates’ rates!)