What Pegman Saw : The drowned man of Ram’s Island

Image: Google Streetview

The thing that upset Ma most was not having Uncle Niall’s body.

When family die, there’s a way things go, you know? The women wash and dress the dead fella, lay him in his box on a table in the parlour. There’ll be the uncles with their greased down hair and card collars, gripping pints of plain. There’ll be the aunties with their washed-out faces, fingers crimped round tea not drunk, wake cake not eaten.

But from the day Niall was found floating face down near the hide, the questions started. A poacher with no traps or snares. A smoker with no tobacco pouch, no matches. A married man with his ring finger cut clean off at the knuckle.

Time’s passed and more folk have vanished. Now Ram’s Island’s left to the heron’s and the coots, the mute mouthed salmon.

But as Ma says, ‘Some bastard knows, don’t they?’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, a prompt that uses Google Street View at it’s jumping off point. This week ,we are at Ram’s Island, Northern Island.

Why did that nature lover’s hide prompt me to write a murder mystery? It looks pretty isolated, pretty lonely out in the water, the perfect place for bad things to happen. It could also be the overhanging Brexit negotiations that threaten the peace in Ireland, the recent parcel bombs that have been claimed by the IRA. Whatever inspired this tale, it seems trouble is never far away.

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What Pegman Saw: The failed gardener

Image : Google Street View

The wind brings the scent of Loch Finlaggan and the distant Paps of Jura – tinny water, dying heather, the fuller smell of barnacle geese, now gathering for the winter. Angus scrapes his spade clean, knocks mud from the tines of his fork.

There was a time Moira would come with him, insist on planting sunflowers and cosmos, open faced blooms she said would lure in the bees. He would smile, back bent over his cabbage seedlings.

The wind scorched the feathery fronds of the cosmos, slugs feasted on the sunflowers, biting through the hairy stems, only stumps remaining. Soon Moira stayed at home, leaving the Loch to Angus and the geese.

Perhaps that was when Moira decided to leave, when she realised nothing she planted would flower.

He still grows vegetables but once picked he throws them on the compost heap to rot.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we are in Greenland, though my story is based on the Island of Islay, part of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. There is a link between the two locations, however – the barnacle geese mentioned are Greenland natives but overwinter on the west coast of Scotland. I just followed their flight path to find Angus.

What Pegman Saw : A cold case

‘There are several slash like tattoos on the body, mainly at the joints and the lumber region.’ Doctor Balsano pulled a tissue from her sleeve, dabbed at her dripping nose. ‘I expect to find more once he’s out of the ice.’

The wind cut along the glacier, nipping at Koffler’s fingertips, even through his gloves. ‘Any obvious wounds?’ He stamped his feet, shaking the scree loose, sending it tinkling down the slope.

‘Quite a list actually. A head wound, an incision in the left shoulder, possibly an entry wound. Defensive cuts to the palms of his hands, a broken nose -‘

‘Sounds more like a boxer than a farmer.’ Koffler stared down the valley to the huddle of hikers below, their brightly coloured jackets and hats shimmering against the shale and grubby ice. He grinned. ‘Gave them a shock, huh?’

Balsano shrugged. ‘Murder’s murder, no matter how cold the case.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Mount Everest, Nepal.

The story was inspired by the discovery of Ötzi ‘The Iceman’ by hikers in the Tyrolean Mountains in 1991. At first, the body was assumed to have been an unfortunate mountaineer, until it was realised how very old he was … over 5,300 years old.

Ötzi has 61 tattoos – thought to be attempts at remedying joint pain – and in recent years scientists have learned that he was, indeed, a murder victim.

He has become one of the most studied human beings on the planet.

Take a look here to learn more.

Friday Fictioneers: Little Girl Lost

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

‘You must dry off, or you’ll catch your death.’ The homeless guy beckons me to the fire with stubby, soot black fingers.

Crows feet deep as cuts, weathered skin – he could be in his seventies, or ten years younger, hard to tell. The street does that to you.

The drenching has me shivering and the autumn wind cuts across the river, knife sharp. Hypothermia is a real danger.

‘Thank you,’ I say, giving him my best little-girl-lost smile.

He offers me a blanket that stinks of rats and body odour.

I accept it gratefully, hide the knife in its folds.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

This could be the prequel to An Unforeseen Event, the story I wrote for What Pegman Saw last week.

What Pegman Saw: An unforeseen event

Image : Google Street View

Stickler was talking into a mobile phone and didn’t see her enter the gallery. His hair was a shade greyer, she noticed, his jawline softened by the years.

He looked up at the scuff of her shoes. Those eyes hadn’t changed – Moss once said they held all the emotional depth of polished marble.

With a paper thin smile, Stickler beckoned her over. He muttered into the phone, ‘… the package could not be delivered within the agreed timescale. An unforeseen event occurred that was not factored in to the original calculations.’

An unforeseen event? She could almost feel Moss’s hand in hers, feel the last squeeze.

The phone clicked off. ‘I told you I didn’t want to meet here.’ He looked up. ‘Too many teeth.’

Prouse leaned into him, her lips against his ear. ‘And I told you – sometimes the minnow eats the shark. This is for Moss.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its inspiration. This week we are in Manhattan, in the American Museum of Natural History. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

What Pegman Saw : Gimcracks and Gewgaws

Image: Google Street View

The shop bell sounded.

Quiver stepped through the low doorway, tall frame bunched. The winter sun sagged low in the sky, but the crowded little shop must be dark on the brightest summer day. He ran an eye over a clowder of prowling china cats, carved wooden spoons and printed tea towels.

‘Gimcracks and gewgaws,’ he breathed.

Movement caught his eye. In a display case by the window were globs of amber, the motes of a past age caught in each. He peered closer at one, a clump the colour of boiled honey, a tiny fly caught at its heart. He waited, patient as a stone.

A wing twitched.

‘A conjuring trick,’ said a voice from behind him. ‘But it helps them sell. And the rent must be paid.’

‘Cheap,’ muttered Quiver. He turned to the figure behind the counter, stout and greasy as ever. ‘Hello, Pounce. We must talk.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Tallinn, Estonia. See here to join in, share and read other stories.

Note

Gimcrack and gewgaw mean similar things – gimcrack being something showy but badly made, gewgaw being a showy, trifling thing. So Quiver is really repeating himself here, I just liked the sound of these peculiar words together.

What Pegman Saw : Second smile

Image : Google Street View

Dari and Purl’s first kiss was under those trees, the New Year’s Eve Purl was sixteen. Their last was two or more years later under the same trees, sun blazing down, pricking the sweat from Purl’s skin like she’d been caught in a storm. She was crying that time.

This was where Sunny learned to ride pillion and where he got that scar like a second smile on his chin. Fell off the back of the Honda. Told Dari not to try wheelies.

It’s where we smoked – away from our parents, too far into the maze of tenements for the police to find us, to quiet for the gangs to bother.

It’s where they found Purl the New Year’s Day she would have been nineteen. Lying on her back, staring up through those self same trees, her throat cut like a second smile. And she had a lovely smile.

I wonder where Dari is now.

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Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View. This week, we visit Mumbai. See here to join in.