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A glance at the green and purple streaked sky told her it was time to leave. The yews were already hazed with twilight,
and the hills draped in amethyst gauze. No point in risking a repeat of last night’s horror. As she turned to leave, her foot
struck something hard and she almost stumbled. Looking down she saw it was a shard of broken masonry. She stooped to examine it:
a piece off an old headstone maybe? In common with many churches, this one had probably been built on the site of an earlier place
of worship. The fragment was too small to yield any significant information, so she cast about for another piece. Instead her
attention was caught by a dark object protruding from the red soil around the grave. She bent to pick it up and her fingers closed
around it. Metal, it had to be made of metal: it felt icy cold to her touch.
Love you, kill you….forever,you…forever
Her head whipped round at the whispered threat and the breath caught in her throat. The words had sounded in her ear – or had they
merely been inside her head? Resembling a pale stone angel guarding a nearby tomb, Jo stood motionless, ears straining for any sound,
arm instinctively raised in a gesture of defence.
Silence beat back from wall and yew and throbbed in her ears. Even the rooks were still. So much for a writer’s over-active
imagination. Jo shrugged and began to scrape at the red earth and rust that encrusted the surface of the object in her hand.
A coin? Her heart beat a little faster. Whatever, it was corroded and very old. The metal appeared to be embossed, but maybe it was
an effect of the corrosion. Perhaps it ought to be handed in. But to whom? The vicar? She supposed there would be a vicarage
somewhere in the valley, but would he be any more knowledgeable than herself on such matters?
It didn’t take an expert however to realise this could be a significant find, and that her handling of it could cause irreparable
damage. The realisation filled her with guilt, but on the other hand it may be of no value – and then she would feel absolute idiot.
No, she would have a proper look at it back at the cottage before speaking with the vicar. Then if it was of historical value,
he could report it to the appropriate authorities. Conscience appeased, Jo slipped it into her pocket and made her way to the gate.
It took some getting used to, the way the temperature plummeted without warning after sundown. In the time it took to walk from the
church to the track that led to Twilight Cottage, the ground was already beginning to harden. Her breath stained the air white as
she hurried with care over the rutted earth. It was darker here than in the lane, the light scarcely penetrated the tangle of branches
and evergreens. An owl screeched and bats fluttered about her head. From time to time she turned and looked nervously over her shoulder. No shadow seemed to be dogging her footsteps tonight. A sigh of relief escaped her as she entered the clearing, and the walls of Twilight Cottage gleamed palely in the gloom.
As she entered, the contrast with Throstle Garth immediately made an impression. The penetrating chill for a start. The fire must
be out: on her approach there had been no smoke curling from the chimney. But this is mega-cold. And dark. In fact the darkness in
the hall was so thick it was a tangible thing, muffling all sound and filling her nostrils and mouth so that she could scarcely
breathe. She reached for the switch to turn the hall light on. Her fingers touched something cold, wet and slimy that moved beneath