Welcome to the first of the two short stories this weekend from What’s in a Name – Volume 1. And this week we have reached the letter ‘I’… the first story is a reminder that you don’t really know some people at all….
Isobel -Hiding in Plain Sight
Isobel Smith looked out of the window of her thatched cottage at the small garden that fronted the narrow lane. She would have to rake up those leaves soon. They would start to blow around the house in the blustery wind that came off the sea most days.The issue was finding the time between the autumnal downpours that plagued the coast at this time of year. She chuckled to herself as she contemplated this activity and wondered when she had become such a sissy.. after all it was only rain and not likely to kill her.
It was Halloween, and when Isobel had been into the post office in the village the other day, the post mistress, Agnes Flanagan, had reminded her that the handful of children left in this small outpost on Finigan’s Hook, would be trick or treating tonight. Agnes had suggested that she buy a couple of packs of the fun size chocolate to fill the buckets that accompanied the costumed tricksters, and good-naturedly, Isobel had popped the bags into her shopping basket.
Her life here was vastly different from the one she had left behind. A high flyer, Isobel had definitely raised the glass ceiling as far as women in her profession were concerned. She had been in demand around the globe and had a reputation of being able to resolve complex and seemingly impossible issues decisively and cleanly. She could have lived anywhere in the world on the proceeds from her long career, but with an instinct honed in the cut and thrust of her chosen profession, Isobel knew that a quiet, out of the way retreat would be the perfect spot to settle. She kept a low profile, avoiding the quiz night at the pub and did not venture onto social media, preferring instead to walk the coastal path every morning and watch re-runs of Midsomer Murders every afternoon.
She didn’t lack for company however as she had recently adopted a three-legged black cat called Lucky. He had a squint which meant he never quite met her eye, but in her career she had found that was also the case with people she had come into contact with. As she contemplated the leaf raking task and the upcoming trick or treating, Lucky jumped up onto the back of the sofa at her side and sidled up for a stroke to his arched back.
Later that afternoon, Isobel gave some thought to another problem that Agnes had divulged when she was in the shop this week. Agnes was oblivious to the fact that she was renowned as the village gossip and cheerfully dispensed everyone’s personal business to all who would listen. Isobel would normally filter out these minor snippets and nod knowingly from time to time, but something caught her attention.
‘Well you know, there have been six cats gone missing in the last month and everyone is terrified about letting them out at night.’
Isobel had paused and looked up from examining a new line of cat food on display.
‘Do they have any idea what is taking the pets?’ Placing her hand firmly on the post office counter, Isobel looked pointedly at Agnes.
‘Well…. I don’t like to speak ill of people… but there is talk that it is Patrick Feeney up to his old tricks.’
With Lucky’s safety to consider, Isobel was not going to let the matter drop there, and she eased the rest of the story from the obliging postmistress.
Apparently, Patrick Feeney was a vicious thug who had terrorised the children in the small village primary school before going to the secondary school in the nearest big town. He had been shipped off to a young offender’s institute at age 15 after being caught breaking into the village pub one night. There had been talk at the same time of cats going missing and wildlife being found mutilated and left outside homes in the village. Those disturbing and hideous activities had stopped when Patrick was away serving his sentence for burglary, but had resumed again very shortly after his release.
Isobel’s thoughts had returned frequently to the matter over the last few days. As she heard his rich and throaty purr, and felt Lucky’s bravely beating heart, she decided that nothing was going to happen to her only true companion.
That night the children of the village dressed as spiders, skeletons and witches and knocked on the doors of the cottages that surrounded the square and lined the lane to the beach. They were accompanied by their parents, but when they knocked on her door, Isobel could sense that there was an element of watchfulness and fear to the adults vigilance. She dispensed the various fun sized chocolate bars into the proffered buckets and the noisy group moved onto the next cottage down the lane; laughing excitedly and comparing their hauls.
Locking the front door behind her, Isobel headed off in the opposite direction to the revellers. She left Lucky looking out of the brightly lit window; no doubt surprised by his owner’s rare excursion into the night. Swiftly and with purpose, Isobel walked across the square and headed down the lane that led to the farmland to the north of the village. The road also passed the house owned by the widow Feeney and her recently returned son Patrick. Despite the cold wind, Isobel tucked herself into a small break in the hedge on the village side of the cottage, and with hands in pockets waited patiently.
The next morning the villagers woke to a bright and sunny day and discovered, as they went about their daily business, police cars and an incident van parked in the square.
Knowing that the person to question was to be found behind the counter of the post office, a crowd gathered and shot questions at a delighted Agnes.
‘Shush will you ever let me say my piece,’ she admonished the agitated group.
‘It would seem that Mr. Kavanagh was walking his dog Betty along the beach this morning and found a body.’ Pausing for effect, she pronounced authoritively. ‘I hear tell it is that rogue Patrick Feeney who must have fallen during the night when out on the prowl.’
Over the coming weeks there was a great deal of speculation about the demise of this detested and feared member of the community. Everyone commiserated with Patrick’s mother, who to be fair seemed to be relieved by the incident and she began to thrive as she became the centre of attention in the village. She had been so mortified by her son’s previous behaviour, she had imposed isolation on herself; even to the extent of shopping in the next village down the coast.
As Isobel was a relative newcomer she was not questioned by the police or her neighbours about the event. She therefore did not disclose her observations of the dead man on the night in question; which would have confirmed that he was indeed guilty of crimes against the domestic animals in the area. Nor did she feel it necessary to detail her actions following those observations.
However, one lucky tabby cat had been returned home to scurry through a cat flap and lick its sore ear with a likely determination never to leave its fireside again.
Over the next few years Isobel was taken into the heart of the village, and those who sought her expertise never discovered her sanctuary. But, in high places and low dives around the world, many wondered what had happened to the highest paid and most successful assassin of all time.
©Sally Cronin 2015
I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally
You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/