Un-natural Selection

 

Human interference - how much rope?

 

The growing demands of us, the dominant species currently on the planet with our needs for energy, food and living space, will inevitably impact on the world we inhabit and not least, upon the species that we live the closest too. On this planet for just a dog’s watch and already we have deliberately interfered with life’s natural rhythms. Plants genetically modified and animals domesticated or hybridised to suit our purposes, no matter how whimsical. But in everyday life there is cause and effect and as a species, we cause to operate on a grand scale and should expect the resultant effects, to be equally as considerable. Should we not be surprised at the notion and enormity of global warming, or that rubbing shoulders with black rats and their fleas, made humans die in their millions, or that scavenging bears, taking advantage of Man’s encroachment of their remote forests, would lead to confrontation?

Whatever we do and wherever we do it, we influence and disturb and cannot be sure of the outcomes. Therefore, we should expect that, as with our deliberate meddling, the unintentional interferences, may cause us to create natural anomalies, on the one hand, unremarkable and low impact, but on the other, well… who knows what unacceptable aberrations might we conjure, ominous, threatening, horrifying even…the stuff perhaps, of genuine nightmares!

 

Chapter 1

 

August 5th 2009

 

“Our boy’s dead then?”

The disgruntled doctor, who’d been called out, could pronounce him dead. “As could anyone with half a wit Inspector,” he moaned. “Disconcertingly”, he added, "not only is he dead, but he isn’t all there.”

“Oh great!” It was just getting better and better thought the experienced officer.

However, the doctor could not say with any certainty as to how or when he died. In fact the remains, indeed literally what remained, in that secluded spot would prove to be a mystery for some time to come. The carcass of flesh and bones that was once a living thing had been found by local children, out playing. It had been well hidden, but not deliberately or maliciously. In reality, the only person you could probably blame for this choice of final resting place was the deceased himself; the torso draped over a substantial bough half a metre off the ground and in amongst a particularly large clump of rhododendrons. The sprawling mass of big leathery leaves covering most of this little-used part of Poor Common created a living barrier some three to four metres high in places and its darkened undergrowth had been ideal for the victim’s purposes. However, the reassuring cover it had once afforded him would only serve to delay the find and allow the forces of nature a very welcome slice of the action!

From behind, through the sparser undergrowth, where the victim had originally entered, the body looked like the casualty of a nasty fall that, had you not known it, might just that second have happened; the person perhaps stunned and momentarily winded. But that wasn’t the case here; for the living version of this lifeless shell, had picked this isolated and unused spot well. And should anyone have fought their way through this jungle for a frontal approach, the sight befalling them would leave only the strongest stomachs with any content.

The police, on attending a body, would normally have been keeping an open mind as to what had happened, More often than not, foul play had little to do with it, but on this occasion and despite the lack of any obvious weapon, the Inspector had had few doubts. It was murder, surely? Coincidences were something he found difficult to ignore and there were already too many clinging to this body. Besides which, this untimely demise would now throw up even more questions; not least about the manner of his death, but also regarding the disastrous impact it would have on the harrowing abduction investigation in which the Inspector was already entrenched.

Kidnap and now murder, possibly two of the most emotive crimes the Inspector would ever have to deal with. The pressure would be racking up. And, as if that wasn’t enough! The media and newspapers had their own theories on the abduction and this particular corpse’s involvement, from the absurd to the very plausible. Like the police, they had little or nothing to base them on, but unlike the cops, this didn’t appear to matter just so long as it gained them a wider audience. Whilst this death may have pulled the rug from under both parties, the ever optimistic press would be only momentarily stunned, for when one door closes there are usually plenty more to pry open! The local Ferndown constabulary, on the other hand, had a much narrower and less creative view: This now lifeless form was really the only solid lead they’d had. It would seem like they were on their way back to square one and, as ever, the press would already be there to welcome them!

“Every thing all right Inspector?” the ranger called from the behind the tapes, craning to see.

“And he is?” asked the Inspector, without turning to look.

“Ranger from the country park that oversees this area,” the Detective Sergeant advised his superior and scanning his notebook for a name, added. “He brought the key for the gates. Let our boys in, a Mr Nash.”

The word ranger was all it took to remind the Inspector… his eyes flicking skywards with annoyance. “Him again.” He’d had a brief telephone conversation with Tony Nash, just after the abduction; a warning, his take, apparently on the potential perpetrator. As if! But it was the recent chance meeting with Mr Nash, and the incredible notion he was now suggesting, that had been enough to relegate the so-called Park Ranger…Warden? Whatever! Very swiftly, to near “nutter” status. He’d seemed a straightforward enough chap, the Inspector reflected. Why though should anyone want to stir things up like that? Had he not even considered the impact on the family, let alone the rest of the public at large? The man was a bloody nuisance, he thought wearily; a constant worry like some pestilent wasp at a picnic.

 

On his way back to the station to update his superiors, the Inspector took his time. He was not relishing the thought. Consciously driving within the speed limits, slowing purposefully at junctions and traffic lights, his normally lively Peugeot sluggish as it pulled away under his reluctant instruction. In reality, the journey was but a few miles. Somehow though, he was going to stretch it out. He needed time to think. Deliberately taking a longer route, and glancing over to the right, his eyes were drawn over the open fields, to the copse that hid the solid perimeter wall of Homewood House a few hundred metres away. Distracted for a moment, he reflected on not so recent events at the property.

There had been a suspicious death back in, I suppose…. “April” he concluded to himself. He knew why his mind had so readily grabbed the information, not because of it being recent history but because she too had been found outside, in this instance in her secluded garden. As with the current corpse, the local wildlife had had time to have their fill. They reckoned she had been dead for a couple of weeks, probably longer than this new one, because more of her was missing. This, though, was where the similarity ended. Hers it seemed had been an unfortunate accident with no insidious implications.

As he drove on, the Inspector’s mind flipped reluctantly to the immediate challenge awaiting him back at base. What he could not have comprehended, as he manoeuvred his car, was that answers to the many questions that had been flung his way in recent weeks would all in some way stem from the property he’d just passed. But even if there had been a reason to search it, he would not have found any evidence - nothing tangible, no murder weapon, no incriminating documentation, no specific piece of forensics: it would be as if a barren wasteland. And yet, the clues had been there. He might even have seen them, their relevance at the time disjointed and unconnected to future events. But something had taken place within those walls: A simple act, which for the residents around Poor Common would have long term consequences; natural, basic and commonplace and yet… not exactly normal.

“©” Copyright James Donnelly 2011

Scriblings so far: - Un-natural selection (book) - Holding out for a Hero (book project) - Passport to Sanity (short story) - A virtual miracle (short story) -

The Pool of Peace (short story)