The Tarot Cards: A Scottish tale of the weird

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Originally posted 2021-02-22 17:00:03.

The Tarot Cards

Rachel Sutherland was thirty-eight years old, and had already brought three children into the world. She pondered this as she looked at her naked body, reflected in the mirror on the wardrobe in her bedroom. Not bad, she thought, not bad at all. She piled up the extravagant mane of thick dark blonde hair that she always wore long, and turned her body from side to side, examining every contour with practised eye.

She was not what anyone would have called skinny; she was rather short, and her body was full and curvaceous, but still firm and shapely. She smiled. She knew plenty of other mothers of her age who had lost their figures completely. She purred like a cat and looked into the deep brown eyes reflected in the mirror. She leaned closer to the glass. Perhaps a few more lines there, perhaps the freckles that dusted her nose were more prominent, but still…

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Satisfied, she dropped her hair, shook her head and began to dress. One must not be smug, she scolded herself mentally. Remember what her grandmother had always said:  ‘Pride cometh before a fall.’ But why should she dread those words? Why should she not be content with what she had – a husband who loved her and never failed to provide, three beautiful children, and the body of a woman ten years younger? It would do for now, she thought, it would do for now.

She finished dressing and left her bedroom. The corridor outside was panelled in pine matchboard, and the rooms each had a number These came from the First World War, when the house had been used as a convalescent home for young officers who had been wounded in the trenches.

It was a warm house and a content one. It had passed down through the generations of Sutherlands, even though the family had decamped to London nearly fifty years before. They had always kept it on, their little retreat buried in the heart of Angus, as a holiday home, a place where they could meet up and be together in peace.

The Sutherlands were close, but in recent years, they had rarely come to this house. Now here they were again, Rachel, and her two sisters Jenny and Felicity.

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There were two years between each of the sisters; Rachel was the eldest, then Jenny, then Felicity. Of course they never called Felicity by that name to her face; she would have huffed like a cat. Since childhood, Rachel’s youngest sister had shunned her given name. Lacking any diminutive that was both feminine and to her taste, she had settled on Felix, and so she had been ever since.

Felix and Rachel were strikingly similar and had often been taken for twins; Felix had the same curvy body, the same golden skin, the same shock of hair. Even when you were close up the resemblance was striking; they had the same high cheekbones, the same fine nose, the same even white teeth. But there was no mistaking the eyes; whereas Rachel’s were a deep chestnut brown full of red and gold, Felix’ eyes were pale blue and shone as if they were lit from behind.

Rachel had always had a twinge of jealousy about her little sister; when they were teenagers, Felix had often purloined Rachel’s clothes, which fitted her like a glove. But somehow, to Rachel’s eyes, Felix managed to make them look –  not better, but sexier. It piqued Rachel, that did, and she was glad to see that now, as her mirror had just confirmed, her body was still as fresh as her sister’s.

Jenny, on the other hand, was tall and saturnine, and didn’t look like her sisters at all. She was slender and elegant; cool, and a little detached. She was married and had two children, but unlike Rachel had decided to return to work and was studying a refresher course.

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Felix had never married. She had had a burning desire to prove herself and had thrown herself at her professional career, with, to her great credit, much success.

It was because of Felix that they were all there, together; Felix had Trouble. The kind of trouble that was spoken of only in hushed tones and in quiet corners and never in front of Felix herself. A trouble which had obliged Felix to spend many months in psychiatric care and an instruction to take things easy for a long while.

In point of fact, Felix, after working flat out all her adult life, having dedicated herself to her career, had had a mental collapse when the man with whom she had been living for several years had simply walked out of her life one day. He said that he wanted a family, children, a ‘real home’ and that he was fed up with a life snatched between late nights and early starts and working weekends.

He left Felix for a much younger woman, hardly more than a teenager. She had been his office secretary and Felix, who had always appeared to the world to have enormous confidence in her attractiveness, not to say her sexual powers, and in her ability to control her destiny, had been totally demolished.

She fell into deep depression. It was as if her whole life had been a stack of cards that had suddenly fallen apart. Nothing – not work, not family, and none of the pleasures of life seemed to mean anything at all to her after her collapse.

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In the end, Felix made several attempts on her own life. She had always been a poor swimmer and had almost succeeded in killing herself when she had thrown herself into the sea near Hastings; only by the fact that her attempt was witnessed and rescue close at hand had catastrophe been avoided.

After months of therapy, however, Felix was pronounced, if not cured, then at least on the mend. Her doctors had suggested to the family that it might be a good idea to take her to a place where she only had good memories, so that she could rebuild the inner strength that she seemed to have lost entirely. However, they cautioned that it was possible that she might relapse, and the family must ensure that she was never left alone long enough to make another attempt at suicide.

Rachel and Jenny sat down together and decided that the best thing to do for their little sister was for all three of them, with their families and cats and dogs, to decamp to the old place in Angus for the summer, just to relax and to…well, just to be. There they could keep an eye on her, and hopefully complete her cure.

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Felix had at first baulked at the idea, but after some protest she agreed. She was pretty used to her big sisters trying to sort out her life for her, and six months before she would have firmly told them no, she would rather spend a holiday in Venice or trekking in the Himalayas. But she was exhausted after her illness and had not the strength to resist the concerted onslaught of two determined sisters. So now here they all were, in the little house in a snug glen not far from Brechin in Angus.

Rachel stepped out of the door of the house and her hair lit up in a blaze under the sun. The balmy morning air was all around her, a gentle breeze stirred the tall beeches that sheltered the house, and collared doves cooed in their branches. Jenny was already out, lounging on a sunbed, her skin even now the dark brown of summer. Rachel could never tan like that; her skin was fair and golden, like Felix, but Jenny could soak up the sun till she became the colour of polished mahogany, with no ill effect, it seemed.

‘I’m going shopping,’ said Rachel. ‘Want to come?’

Her sister sniffed and raised her head a little. ‘Nope, gotta get my ration,’ she said, waving an elegant hand in the direction of the sun. Then, with a wicked twinkle in her eye as she regarded Rachel over the tops of her sunglasses, she added, ‘Bring back some ice-cream, though.’

Jenny was perfectly aware that items such as ice-cream had long since been excised from her sister’s diet.

‘Felix about?’ asked Rachel, after sticking her tongue out at Jenny.

Jenny shook her head and let it fall back on the pillow. ‘Not up yet.’

‘Keep an eye on the kids, then,’ said Rachel, and went to her car.

‘Don’t be late,’ called her sister after her. ‘The boys will be here by one.’

Rachel climbed into her car and drove off towards Brechin.

Junk shops were a great weakness with Rachel; she could not pass one by, and though she never spent a lot of money, she always bought something. So her house had become full of trinkets and strange flotsam from all over the world that had washed up in some gloomy and dusty cavern.

That morning, while walking up the steep High Street in Brechin, her delighted eye fell upon a hand-painted sign she had not seen before. ‘Antiques and Curios,’ it said, and underneath was an arrow pointing along a narrow vennel.

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Without hesitating Rachel plunged into the coolth of the vaulted passage and, following it, came out into a little paved lane between two high walls. A few yards more and there was an open door to her left; she stuck her head into the dim interior and there espied an Aladdin’s Cave, a dusty hoard of the bizarre, the unusual, the useless, the old and the forgotten.

An hour later, already late for lunch, she came out again, her eyes gleaming and her bag fat with the treasure she had struck.

By the time she got back to the house, she found Jenny’s prediction had been correct – the boys, Martin and John, Jenny and Rachel’s respective husbands, had indeed arrived. They had driven up together and, having stopped overnight in the Lake District, had arrived in good time for lunch – and both of them roundly berated Rachel for making them wait for it. But she rose above their ribbing with her usual ease, flirted with Martin, and then cuddled her husband. She even forgot about the junk-shop in Brechin in her excitement.

Lunch was a lively affair, as tended to be the case with the Sutherlands; five adults and five children, together with several dogs, eating lunch at a makeshift trestle table on the lawn.

It was a fine family party and it broke up slowly, everyone feeling content, at about four o’clock. Rachel and Jenny were left sitting together at the table. From the distance came sounds of children and the occasional adult voice advising caution, or encouraging high jinks.

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‘So, what took you, sis,’ asked Jenny at length, her long eyes narrow. ‘Fancy man in Brechin?’

‘That will be right!’ exclaimed Rachel. ‘I found a new junk shop.’

‘You and your junk shops! What rubbish have you dug up this time?’ Junk shops were not in Jenny’s line, but she was reluctantly interested in Rachel’s discoveries. Just occasionally she turned up something that Jenny would have given her eye teeth for, but then Jenny could never have tolerated all that dust and mustiness.

‘Ah-ha! You’ll never guess!’

‘Well then show me,’ hissed Jenny impatiently.

Rachel fetched her bag and fished out the packet which was still bulging there.

‘What is it – a book?’

‘No – better. Look.’

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Rachel unwrapped the package and handed it to Jenny. It was a brown leather-bound box, about seven inches by five. ‘Open it,’ she said.

Jenny took the box from Rachel, her face an expression of mild distaste. ‘What queer leather binding,’ she said. ‘It has a strange texture. What’s inside, I wonder.’ Jenny lifted the top from the box and tipped the contents into her hand. She laughed. ‘What on earth have you got here?’

‘Tarot cards,’ explained Rachel, her eyes flashing with excitement.

‘Tarot cards? You’re not into that sort of thing, are you?’ laughed Jenny. ‘Somehow I’ve never seen you as a dark and mysterious fortune teller. More my line, I should have thought.’ And she made an arch face, fanning out the cards before her.

Rachel laughed too. Most people thought Jenny was cool and aloof, but actually she was the joker of the family, always teasing.

‘I don’t know, though,’ Jenny went on. ‘I can’t see me doing it either. All that incense – it must make so much dust!’

‘Yes, but you’re obsessive,’ laughed Rachel. ‘Look, the cards are hand painted. They must be very old. And the work is – well, it’s really beautiful. At least I think it is.’

‘Weird, more like,’ replied Jenny. ‘Whoever drew these had a screw or two loose. But you’re right, they are old and they must be quite unusual. Probably worth a bob or two.’

‘Unusual? Unique, I’d have thought. I wonder who they belonged to – who painted them.’

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Jenny looked intently at her sister. ‘Well, shall we?’ she asked.

‘Shall we what?’

Jenny leaned forward. ‘Read the cards of course, silly. Don’t you want to know if there’s a tall dark stranger in your future?’

‘Oh, but I don’t know how – ’

Just at that, Jenny’s eldest daughter, Alison, who was eleven, came up. ‘What are those,’ she gasped, her eyes wide. ‘Tarot cards?’

‘Oh, you know about such things, do you,’ asked her mother suspiciously. ‘You watch too much television, my dear.’

‘No, a girl at school has a set. May I see? Oh, they’re nothing like these. These ones are really beautiful. Do you know how to read them, Auntie Rachel?’

‘No I don’t,’ replied her aunt, who was still not sure about being called Auntie. ‘You’re not telling me that you do, are you?’

‘Yes. Well anyway my friend showed me. It’s fun, you’ll see. I’ll show you,’ said the little girl and pouted at her mother, who threw up her hands in mock despair.

Rachel caught her breath. She had not hesitated to buy the cards, but the thought of doing a reading – of seeing what they might have to tell – disturbed her for reasons that she could not place. It suddenly struck her that in some queer way the cards had brought the night out into the sunny afternoon.

‘Isn’t it – isn’t that sacrilegious or something?’ she said.

Jenny scoffed. ‘Rachel! You haven’t seen the inside of a church since the day you were married. Your house is full of old bits of pews and junk from churches. Since when did such things bother you?’

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But Rachel was eyeing the cards, which lay in a stack on the table between her and her sister with an expression of severe distaste. It seemed to her that the air had become chill and that the sun had been veiled; there was something – no, she could not name it – something that, well, horrified her about the cards and all at once she found herself wishing, more fervently than she could ever remember, that for once she had resisted the impulse to buy.

Her voice failed her for a few moments. ‘I’m not sure I want to know – that I want to know the future,’ she said at last, quietly.

‘Oh, Rachel, you don’t actually believe in all that nonsense, do you? Next thing there’ll be fairies at the bottom of the garden. Have another glass of wine and snap out of it. Alison is just dying to show us, aren’t you, sweetie?’

It had occurred to Rachel – despite her nature, as she was not inclined to ponder the profundities of life – that it was possible that something altogether nastier than fairies might be lurking in the shadows at the bottom of the garden, and she shivered at the thought.

Then she shrugged, although a cold, gnawing sensation persisted deep within her, and she smiled at her niece. How mean of her it would be to spoil a little girl’s fun. And Alison was such a delightful child, the image of her mother. So she shook herself and firmly put her silly reservations behind her.

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‘Yes, all right. Go on, then,’ she said.

‘We really don’t have to, Auntie, if you don’t want,’ said Alison, her voice concerned. Rachel reached out and drew the little girl to her, cuddling her and drawing strength from her slender young body.

‘No, darling, you go ahead. You show me how it’s done.’

‘Well, you start like this. You shuffle the cards.’

‘Why me? Why not you?’

‘Because I’m going to do you first, so you have to shuffle the cards, silly. It’s better like that. And anyway, my hands are too small. I’ll drop them.’

In the space of those few moments, the frost had returned to Rachel’s heart at the thought of touching the cards, which now seemed to be emanating an aura of pure malevolence. She was not the sort of person who is easily turned from her course and she was getting angry with herself.

‘Do come on,’ she thought, in the same tone she’d use talking to a recalcitrant horse. ‘You’re being silly. They’re just cards with pictures on. It’s only a game.’ So, shaking herself again, Rachel extended her hand to pick up the cards, even though her every impulse was to turn and run from that place, to burn those cards, tear them up, throw them in the river, whatever, but not to ask them, not to see…

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‘Oh, Rachel, what on earth has got into you today?’ exclaimed Jenny, breaking Rachel’s train of thought, for which the latter was grateful. ‘I’m beginning to think you’re coming down with something. Give me the cards and I’ll go first.’

So saying she reached out and took the pack of cards and began to shuffle them, her impossibly elegant hands making those exquisite motions that were so captivating.

‘Doesn’t she see?’ asked Rachel of herself. ‘Is it really just me?’ Somehow, to her eyes the cards seemed to be giving out a shadow, darkening the world around them, even as a lantern gives out a light that illuminates the darkness.

Rachel watched the cards with mounting horror; but she could no more take her eyes from them than she could do the thing that she wanted to do more than any other; to run and run and run, away from that creeping darkness and horror that now seemed to surround those beautiful hands shuffling the cards.

She listened apprehensively as Alison explained how to cut the cards, and how to lay them out on the table. ‘You put that one here,’ she pointed, ‘And you say, “This is the King who governs all things.” You leave them face down, Mummy, you mustn’t look yet. Now, you take the next and put it to the right and say, “This is the Queen” and then put one on the left and say, ‘This is the Minister”. Then you take the next two and put them above the King and say, “This is Fire and this is Air,” and then you put two underneath and say, “This is Earth and this is Water.” See?’

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At length Jenny had finished and the cards were laid out, face down, on the table in front of her. ‘And now I turn them over?’ she asked.

‘Yes. In the order you laid them out,’ nodded Alison.

A hush that was almost palpable seemed to flow all around them and it was all Rachel could do to stop herself from shaking as she watched her sister flip over the first card. She gasped aloud when she saw it was the XIII of Trumps, Death.

‘Oh, my God!’ she cried.

‘Don’t worry, Auntie,’ exclaimed Alison. ‘It doesn’t really mean death, it just means that there is going to be a change. It’s a very powerful card, especially as the King.’

‘Rachel, love,’ came Jenny’s voice from across the table. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Yes, I’m fine,’ said Rachel, but inside her the pounding horror thumped at her temples. She could hardly bear to watch as her sister turned over the rest of the cards, but no power in the world could have made her drag her eyes away.

‘So, what do they say?’ demanded Jenny when she had finished.

‘Well,’ said Alison, ‘I’m not very good at this part, but there’s going to be a change in your life. See, that’s what this card means. And there’s going to be something else – something to do with water, I think – ’

‘A cruise with a tall dark stranger?’ came a man’s voice, unexpected, from behind. Rachel started and looking up, saw Martin slip up behind his daughter and grab her around the waist.

‘What a proper coven of witches we have here!’ he exclaimed as Alison wriggled in delight. ‘So this is what you get up to when there’s no men about.’

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Jenny pulled out the chair next to her and her husband sat down, his daughter on his knee. Rachel smiled at him. Suddenly the oppressive menace that she had been feeling had been blown away like a puff of smoke by the arrival of this big, bluff, good-natured man who reminded her of a Labrador retriever, totally devoted and loyal to Jenny.

‘Well, shall we do a reading for you, since you’ve caught us in the act?’ asked Jenny.

‘No, thanks,’ came Martin’s reply. ‘I don’t like any of that stuff. It’s as likely to trip you up with trickery and fraud as to tell you something true. I’ll have nothing to do with it. But you go on, if you like.’

‘No, that’s all right,’ said Jenny. ‘I think we’d had enough anyway. But my, you are a dark one – fourteen years married and I never knew you felt that way.’

‘It’s me fey Cornish granny coming out in me,’ laughed Martin. ‘No, it’s nothing, really, it just makes my skin creep a bit.’

Rachel stretched and looked at her watch; whatever the spell that had been laid by the cards was, it had vanished, and in her trademark fashion, she would get on with life now. The table had to be cleared and there was dinner to be thought of. As she did so, her youngest son, Peter, came running up.

‘Look Mummy, I found a frog,’ he cried. Suddenly all attention was turned to him and the Tarot cards lay forgotten on the table.

Rachel rose and began to clear away the last of the lunchtime debris.

‘Where is everyone else?’ she asked, looking around and noticing, for the first time, that several of the company were missing.

‘Felix and John have taken the dogs for a walk. Down by the old quarry, they said. Here, let me help with that,’ said Martin. He caught the look in Rachel’s eye and went on, his voice reassuring. ‘Oh, don’t worry, Rachel, John will make sure she doesn’t – I mean, he’ll take care of her.’

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Rachel nodded and smiled, swallowing this new fear that had mounted within her. She continued to clear away, leaving the Tarot cards as they had been.

It was over an hour later when Rachel came back out of the house; the sun had moved behind the trees and the heat had gone out of the day. In the middle distance, a rumble of thunder presaged a violent break in the weather. She had completely forgotten about the Tarot reading, and the feeling of deep unquiet which had filled her.

Now she realised, clucking herself, that she had left the cards out. She looked up, saw above her the gathering ramparts of cloud and went to the table where the cards were still lying as they had been left.

She was about to sweep them up when something stayed her hand and she looked again at the cards. Instantly all the terror and horror that she had felt before flooded back into her soul and all power to resist was drained from her. Around her the table, the chairs, the lawn and the house, everything, seemed to be consumed by a gathering, impenetrable mirk. Looking at the cards a thought took shape in her mind, a thought that she struggled to suppress but could not, a thought that chilled her deep to her core.

‘This is not Jenny’s reading, it’s mine,’ her mind screamed. It couldn’t be, how could it? Jenny had shuffled the cards. But of course – it all made sense – the shop she had never noticed before, the way she had found the cards moments after she had entered its musty gloom, the way that she had put them down at first only to return and return again before finally buying; the way that she had been filled with the weird horror she had felt earlier – no, those cards might have been shuffled by Jenny, but they were speaking to her. They had sought her out, they had something to say – to her.

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But what did they mean? She knew nothing of Tarot, and Alison knew only what a schoolgirl does; to her it was a parlour game. What were these cards – what were they trying to tell her?

She looked at them, her heart pounding. Here was Lust, showing a woman, naked, riding a mythic lion, her body writhing on the powerful beast, her hand holding a leash about its neck. Rachel was shocked by the image, but she shook herself and looked at the next, Sorrow, which showed terrible blades hacking at a beautiful rose blossom whose petals dropped one by one. But surely they were just pictures; and in any case she could not make sense of them.

She realised that her hands were shaking; she scolded herself for being so silly and forced herself to look at the cards again. Certainly they were fine work, she thought, dissembling to herself as much as she knew how, wondering pointlessly about the unknown artist who had created them, and for whom?

Why, she could see pictures within the pictures, they had depth, they seemed – they seemed so real.

And then, with a feeling of remounting horror that rose chokingly through her body, Rachel realised that in spite of her effort to resist them, before her eyes the images on the cards were changing. They were showing her something.

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‘Great God,’ her mind told her, though she tried hard not to listen, ‘They know I can’t read them so they’re going to show me!’ She struggled to avert her eyes but she could not. She was rooted to the spot, rigid with terror, like a rabbit before a cat.

Rachel slid helplessly down onto a chair. One of her cards had turned into a whirling vortex of deep blue that seemed to drag her in and another, Change, was glowing brightly. It showed a coiled serpent; from its upper loop came an intense light that almost hurt her eyes. Her other cards were changing too. Her Past, the lovers, had transformed from a wedding scene, to a vision of a couple on a bed. She saw a woman, her arms and legs wrapped tightly around the body of a man, her head thrashing from side to side in the moment of her ecstasy, her thick blonde hair like a carpet. But who she was Rachel could not be sure, nor who was the man.

Lust had changed too, subtly – she could see that the woman on the lion’s back was no longer a stylised image, but a real one. She thought at first it was herself; and then she realised that it was not she, but Felix, depicted there, her long hair flowing down the animal’s back, her crystal blue eyes gazing out at Rachel, thick with envy and lust.

Then Rachel looked again at Sorrow, and instead of seeing an image of swords hacking at a rose, she found herself looking into a serene blue-green. Slowly the image expanded until it consumed the cards, the table, the lawn and all other; the greeny blue was everywhere and Rachel began to shiver with a terrible cold that froze her to her bones.

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About her in the blue, shapes began to solidify, great streamers of green rising up towards a bright light high above. And then, most awful of all, Rachel perceived a figure, the body of a woman silhouetted against the sparkling surface of the water high above. She was naked, her skin pale blue, her arms outstretched like a crucifix, her legs entwined by grasping green tendrils of weed, her shock of golden hair like a halo around her head, her eyes closed in death.

Rachel looked closely, her heart pounding, cold sweat starting on her brow, the knot in the pit of her stomach twisting bitterly within her. Who was that woman – who was she? She must know, she must.

And then somehow, as if to answer her, a cool and green light illuminated the face, the eye-closed face, that seemed to be smiling in eternal serenity –

‘My God, it’s Felix!’

Rachel screamed and at the same time a gust of wind flicked over the cards on the table. The dreadful vision instantly disappeared, leaving her alone.

‘Felix! Felix!’ she cried.

Jenny, who heard her scream, came running out of the house.

‘Oh Jenny – I just saw – the cards – they showed me – Oh, but where is Felix?’

‘Why, she’s gone to the old quarry with John and the dogs,’ Jenny blurted out, completely nonplussed. ‘But…’

‘I have to go,’ gasped Rachel. ‘I have to go – Felix is a terrible swimmer, and John simply can’t!’

Rachel, her hair streaming out behind her, ran off up the path towards the quarry. As she ran she yelled out her sister’s name again and again. Behind her, the forgotten Tarot cards were strewn about the table and on the grass. As the first drops of rain fell on them with fat lazy plashes, the inks and watercolour of the designs flowed together until they were spoiled.

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After an age of pounding along a path that seemed to extend itself as she ran along it, breathless gasps racking her, Rachel reached the old quarry. At first she could see no-one. And then John came towards her with a queer look on his face, his head hanging.

‘What’s happened!’ demanded Rachel, distraught. ‘Where is Felix?’

‘Nothing’s happened,’ said John, and glanced back over the water.

‘You’re lying! John, why are you lying? What have you done – where is she? Felix! Oh my God, Felix!’

With that final cry, Rachel dropped her light summer frock and kicked off her sandals. Evading her husband’s attempt to catch her she leapt into the cool clear water of the pool. There was the weed, but where was Felix? There, look, what was that?

She must go down, deeper…But the water was so cold…she had not thought it would be so cold…The deep blue was all around her and even her skin appeared blue…She felt the clammy tendrils of the weed catch at her limbs and then a terrible sob convulsed her body…

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Jenny, who had been following at a more leisurely place, half-amused by her sister’s antics, arrived a few minutes later to find John at the edge of the water, shouting and gesticulating. Felix was approaching from the nearby wood, where the dogs were tied to a stump.

By far the strongest swimmer in the family, Jenny quickly dived in. She found her sister’s naked body, twelve feet down, twining weed about her ankles, her arms outstretched and a look of total serenity on her face; but it was too late. She dragged – not without risk to herself – Rachel’s lifeless husk to the surface and they tried, all of them, to revive her, but without success.

By the time the ambulance arrived, it was obvious that she was dead.

Jenny moved her family into a hotel, unable to stay at the house. After the funeral, she found Felix and John together.

‘John has been such a friend these last few days,’ said Felix, quietly.

Jenny glanced at John but he turned his eyes away. She looked hard at her sister and saw in her blue, blue eyes betrayal and with it, terrible remorse. In a flash she realised what John and Felix had been doing that afternoon; she knew now the reason for the queer look on John’s face. She knew why Felix had suddenly appeared from behind those bushes, all innocence and she knew why the dogs had been tied to the stump of a tree.

The realisation of the enormity of her sister’s offence swept over her. ‘You – you – both of you – you were…you were…My God, how could you!’ she whispered, aghast.

Felix turned her luminescent eyes on her sister. ‘Oh Jenny, don’t be such a prude, please. Don’t bring that up now. Do you think I haven’t cried my floods of tears? I loved Rachel too. You know I almost thought it was funny when she came running up and jumped into that dreadful pool – and then I realised…How was I to know…What could I do…You know I can hardly even keep myself afloat…As if I’d ever swim there!’

‘You little bitch!’ snapped Jenny, cutting her short. She slapped Felix, hard, on the cheek.

She drew back, shaking, her face pale with rage. ‘May you rot in hell! Both of you!’ she hissed, shaking her head, still not able to believe what she had just found out. And then she turned her back on them, the tears streaming down her face.


A month later, by the mutual agreement of the joint owners, Quarry House, near to Brechin in Angus, was put up for sale.books by rod fleming

I  dramatised this story from tragic events that took place at a quarry in Angus called the Border Hole. A group of teenagers had gone swimming in it.

In quarries, which can be deep, the water is usually completely still. In summer the water near the surface may become pleasantly warm enough for swimming, but a metre or so below it remains close to freezing.

Several of the swimming party got into difficulties when they became suddenly chilled; one succumbed and drowned. His body was recovered by divers.

The quarry was later filled in.

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