FICTION: Cold Spring by Martin Westlake

It hit them as they walked down to the tracks, a hot urban fug heavy with diesel fumes and the thrum of engines.

‘Where did that come from?’ Sonia asked.

‘It’s a hot day, remember?’ Jerry replied.

Let’s hope there’s air conditioning in the train. We’ll be boiled alive if there isn’t.’

‘Ah, Jerry said. Don’t forget the beautiful lake that awaits us.’

The train was already in the station. Their carriage was halfway along the track. They climbed aboard, found their seats and settled down. They took books out of their backpacks – Jerry a guide to the city, Sonia a dog-eared copy of O’Hara’s poems – and started to read. Jerry put down his book and sighed.

‘It’s going to be great,’ he said. ‘I just can’t wait.’

Sonia looked up from her poem and patted his hand.

‘Of course.’

‘You wait till you see it! It’s just so … so idyllic.’

She squeezed his hand and looked at him with a fond smile. Ever the lecturer, ever the expert, she thought; Professor Jeremy Newell – your guide today.

He smiled back at her, took his reading glasses off and smoothed his hair back over his bald pate with another sigh.

‘And it’s only an hour or so away,’ he added.

‘Yes, Jerry,’ she said, turning back to her book.

The train started off on time and clanked out through the soot-black approach tunnels and the rust-brown industrial suburbs, and then they were racing alongside the Hudson, its improbable width broad and placid and specked with an occasional pleasure craft. A conductor passed and clipped their tickets.

‘Ah! Cold Spring,’ he said. ‘Beautiful place.’

‘Yes, it is,’ said Jerry. ‘We’re visiting friends there.’

‘Well, have a nice day.’

‘Thank you,’ they both chimed.

The train racketed under a long cantilevered road bridge.

‘That’s the Tappan Zee,’ said Jerry. ‘The longest bridge in the state.’

Soon afterwards the banks of the river bulged outwards.

‘It’s almost like a lake now,’ said Sonia.

‘They sometimes call it a sunken river,’ said Jerry, then fell into a reflective silence.

‘Visiting friends,’ he murmured…

She smiled. Jerry the romantic.

‘He’ll be waiting at the station, of course,’ said Jerry.

‘Yes, love.’ Sonia put her book down and looked out at the river, which had narrowed suddenly. The train sped under another road bridge and then an ugly grey sprawl appeared on the far bank, all angular turrets and towers. ‘What’s that?’ she asked.

‘West Point.’

‘It’s rather ugly, don’t you think?’

‘It’s granite,’ he said. ‘The local colour. You get used to it.’

You get used to it, she thought to herself, just a little irritated. As far as she knew, Jerry had only been out this way a few times, and yet he spoke about it all with such enthusiastic familiarity.

‘That means we’re almost at Cold Spring,’ he added.

‘I can’t wait to see them,’ said Sonia. ‘It’s been so long.’

They put their books away and stood up.

‘He’ll text us to tell us to get off,’ Jerry said. ‘Ever attentive to detail, is our David.’

The train drew into the station.

‘Cold Spring!’ shouted the conductor.

Jerry looked at his mobile phone and frowned.

‘Strange,’ he said. ‘The last times he texted.’

‘Perhaps he thinks you know where to get off by now?’

‘Yes, yes. You’re right, of course. Come on.’

The sun blazed down on the platform but the heat was less close than in the city. Above them a hawk soared in the clear blue sky.

‘Did I tell you they’ve got wild turkeys on their land?’ he asked.

‘No, Jerry, you did not.’

They put their sunglasses on and walked to the station exit.

‘Last time he was just here, waiting for me,’ he said. ‘In the parking lot. I bet you he’ll be there.’

‘That would be nice of him,’ said Sonia. ‘Did he say he’d pick us up?’

‘No,’ said Jerry, ‘but he always picks his guests up at the station.’

They walked along the tree-lined platform, under the footbridge and out into the parking lot. Three or four cars were parked there but none of them were occupied. Jerry frowned again.

‘Strange,’ he said. ‘I’ll give him a call.’

He got out his mobile and dialled. He had to wait some time before David replied.

‘Hi, David,’ said Jerry. ‘We’re here. In Cold Spring! We’ve arrived!’

Sonia watched as he walked around abstractedly and nodded a few times.

‘Sure, David,’ he said. ‘No problem. We’ll see you up there.’

He put his phone away.

‘He forgot, and he’s busy.’

‘So we’ll take a taxi?’

‘We’ll take a taxi. He must be writing a new show or something.’

They didn’t have to wait long. The driver was friendly and courteous, as only Americans can be, Sonia thought.

‘Where would you like to go, madam, sir?’

‘365 Forest Peak Road, please.’ We’re visiting friends.’

‘Your friends are lucky to be living up there.’

‘You’re right,’ said Jerry. ‘I’ve been up there a few times.’

And don’t I know it, thought Sonia. She caught the driver’s gaze in the rear-view mirror.

‘It’s my first time,’ she said. ‘I’m really looking forward to seeing them again.’

The driver’s eyes switched back to the road. At first, their route took them through the old town, full of tree-lined avenues and old ivy-clad brick houses. It was as though the town had been planted, house by house, in the middle of a verdant wood. But soon the road led them out into the forest proper. Within minutes, they’d seen two deer, grazing by the side of the road. A little further on they drove past the corpse of a third, its guts splayed across the tarmac.

‘There are too many of them,’ the driver said. ‘You have to be careful at night.’

‘Will somebody clear it up?’ asked Sonia.

‘Oh sure. Somebody will come.’

The road climbed and began to twist about itself.

‘This is your friends’ mountain, now,’ the driver explained. ‘Their house is around the back of it.’

The tarmac gave way to gravel.

‘Private road!’ a wooden sign declared in carefully-stencilled lettering. They passed several large properties set back in the trees and glimpsed big, shiny cars on cobblestoned driveways. On the last stretch the taxi had to slow right down. The road surface had deteriorated badly. Wooden guttering, buried diagonally across the track to carry away rain water, had rotted. The gravel had clotted into large dips and bumps.

‘It’s time your friends repaired their road,’ the driver said.

‘Yes,’ said Jerry. ‘I’m sure they’re planning it.’

‘Here you go,’ said the driver. The taxi had halted at the end of the dirt track. Before it stretched a natural lake, surrounded by pine and oak trees. The mirror-still water was a deep, dark blue. Half a dozen ducks paddled away, their wakes spreading behind them. A fish jumped and plopped back into the water.

‘That’s beautiful, truly beautiful,’ said Sonia.

‘I told you,’ said Jerry. He grinned, then turned and paid the driver.

‘You’ve got my number,’ said the driver. ‘For when you want to get back to the station, right?’

‘Thanks’ said Jerry. ‘But our friends will probably take us back down.’

The driver began to say something, then thought better of it and got back into the car. He reversed the taxi into a patch of dirt then steered back along the track. They waved as he drove away, then turned back to the lake.

‘And this is all David’s?’

‘Right,’ said Jerry. ‘All his. His and Marilyn’s, of course.’

‘Where’s the house?’

‘A-ha,’ said Jerry. ‘Follow me.’

Old paving stones had been set in the spongey grass that grew around the banks of the lake. One or two of the stones had sunk into the mud, so that it was difficult to tread on them without dirty water splashing up.

‘It really is time David had his paths repaired,’ Jerry said, leaping over a sunken stone.

After twenty yards the path gave onto a broad grassy slope leading up to a stone terrace and beyond it Sonia saw the house for the first time.

‘Wow!’ she said. ‘Wow, wow, wow!’

‘There’s David,’ said Jerry, waving his arms up and down. He cupped his hands. ‘Hi, David!’ he shouted. ‘We’re here!’

The stooped figure on the terrace turned and waved briefly before carrying on its way.

‘Not exactly an enthusiastic welcome,’ Sonia murmured.

‘Nonsense,’ said Jerry. ‘He’s just treating us as if the place were ours, as if we were at home.’

Sonia had stopped and was gazing up the slope at the house.

‘1920s?’

‘’30s. They call it ‘the Big House’.’

‘It’s very special.’

‘Probably unique,’ said Jerry. ‘They bought it from the initial owner. Lester Clarke, remember? I told you on the flight. Made his fortune out of speakeasies and married a dancer. Wanted something modern.’

‘There seems to be so much glass when you first look and then you see that the glass melds into grey slate. It’s cleverly done.’

‘You wait till you see it up close,’ said Jerry. ‘I can’t wait to sit on their terrace and sip a cold drink and look out at that lake and watch the deer and talk music and show biz with David and Marilyn and then run down the lawn and slip into the water to cool off.’

‘Is that what you did the other times you came?’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Jerry, missing the irony. ‘Come on!’

He grabbed her hand and strode up the slope. He started to sing.

‘We’re off to see the wizard…’

Professor Jeremy Newell, thought Sonia; your guide today.

The stooped figure had re-appeared on the terrace now. It waved again. The lawn ended at a dirt track. A low wall on the far side of the track delimited the ‘garden’, but the grounds had now been abandoned to scrub forest. Jerry and Sonia ran across patches of leaf mould and up a set of stone steps leading to the terrace and advanced on the figure. Jerry was first, his arms outstretched. He crushed David in a bear hug.

‘Woah!’ said David. ‘Steady on, there, Jerry. You’ll break my ribs. I’m not so young anymore, you know.’

Once Jerry had released him, David turned to Sonia, kissed her on both cheeks and gave her a warm hug.

‘It’s good to see you both,’ he said. ‘Welcome to Cold Spring. Welcome to the Big House.’

‘Let me look at you,’ said Jerry, stepping back and looking him up and down. ‘Now, let me see. When was I last here? What was it? Four or five years ago?’

‘Something like that, Jerry,’ said David. ‘Come and sit down and let me fix you guys a drink.’

‘Where’s Marilyn?’ Sonia asked.

‘Oh, she’ll be out shortly. She’s just getting ready.’

David led them to a teak outdoor table. There were mould patches on the timbers.

‘Take a seat,’ he said. A series of easy chairs were lying around. Jerry and Sonia picked two, dusted them down, then drew them up to the table and sat down.

‘Oh, I remember this table,’ said Jerry.

‘What a view, David!’ Sonia exclaimed.

David stared out at the lake.

‘Yes,’ he said softly. ‘It’s special.’

‘Hey!’ Jerry exclaimed. ‘There’s something missing. Where have the cedar trees gone? Weren’t there three cedars of Lebanon down there, with their flat branches reaching out over the grass? I remember sitting in their shade.’

‘Yes,’ said David. ‘Good memory, Jerry. The rain got them – a freezing rain.’

‘A freezing rain?’

David nodded.

‘What a shame,’ said Jerry. ‘They gave the place shape, didn’t they? They framed the view of the lake.’

‘Sure, Jerry. Yes. We had plenty of artists painting that view. But that’s all gone now…’

‘What happened?’

‘Two winters ago. It got fierce cold and then it rained and the rain turned to ice on the branches and they got so heavy they all snapped and fell. We could hear the noise from the house.  It was almost worse than hearing a buzz saw doing the damage. All that creaking and cracking. If trees could howl, that’s what it would sound like.’

The three stared silently out towards the lake for a few moments. Turkeys gobbled in the woods behind the house.

‘Now then,’ said David, rubbing his hands together. ‘What will it be for you two? Is it too early for a glass of wine? A chilled white? Dry?’

‘That would be lovely,’ said Sonia.

‘I’ll just go and fix that, then,’ he said, and shuffled back toward the house. The screen door clapped shut behind him and they could hear him clattering about in the kitchen.

‘Did you see that stain on his jumper?’ Sonia whispered.

Jerry waved a hand to warn her to keep her voice low.

‘Smack bang in the middle,’ he said. ‘What was it? Sauce?’

‘That’s not like David, is it? And did you notice how stooped he is, and how he shuffles about?’

‘Well,’ whispered Jerry, ‘he is nearer eighty than seventy now.’

‘But remember how he used to be! Ramrod straight, polished shoes, always so smart. Do you think he’s been ill?’

‘It’s possible,’ Jerry murmured. ‘But he didn’t say anything to me and we’ve been in fairly regular contact, you know.’

‘Maybe he didn’t want to bother you.’

‘Nonsense. That’s what good friends are for, right?’

‘Well, what’s your explanation, then?’

‘I don’t know. Shhh….’

David walked back out through the screen door, a troubled expression on his face.

‘Hot dang,’ he said. ‘We’re fresh out of white wine. I could have sworn I saw some in the cooler.’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Sonia. ‘Don’t put yourself to any trouble. We’ll have whatever you’ve got, won’t we Jerry?’

‘Sure. We’re not fussy.’

David smiled, reassured.

‘Red wine do you?’

‘Red wine’s fine.’

They watched as he shuffled away again. This time they could not help but see the creased and crumpled trouser legs and the scruffy carpet slippers.

‘Surely Marilyn would never let him wander about like that,’ said Sonia. ‘Maybe she’s not here.’

‘Where would she be?’

‘I don’t know. Maybe they’ve broken up.’

‘What? David and Marilyn? Never! Besides, he said she’s just getting ready.’

Jerry stood up and walked to the terrace wall.

‘This terrace could do with a scrub. They’ll break their necks with all that moss and mould underfoot. I’ll tell David when he comes back.’

A few minutes later the screen door banged and they turned to see David approaching the table carrying a tray with a bottle of whiskey, four tumblers and a jug of water.

‘There you go,’ he said, placing the table carefully on the table. ‘Whiskeys all round.’

He poured out the liquor and handed a glass to Sonia and then one to Jerry. He picked up his own and raised it to them.

‘To Cold Spring and old friends,’ he said.

‘To Cold Spring and old friends,’ they echoed.

Sonia sipped her whiskey then asked ‘Is Marilyn all right?’

David’s head jerked back.

‘What’s that?’ he asked.

‘Marilyn,’ said Sonia. ‘Is she all right?’

‘Yes, of course,’ said David. ‘She’s just getting ready. She’ll be out soon enough.’

‘I tell you what,’ said Jerry

‘What?’

‘We’ll go for a quick swim, that’s what. Sonia and I. By the time we get back from the lake Marilyn will have joined us. What about that?’

‘That sounds an excellent idea,’ said David.

Jerry grabbed Sonia’s hand again. ‘Come on,’ he said. He led her giggling down the stairs and across the dirt track to the lawn. ‘You know that scene in the movies?’ he said.

‘Which one?’

‘The one where the couple walk down towards the water’s edge, stripping off as they go?’

‘I don’t remember it, but it sounds familiar.’

‘Well,’ said Jerry, striding ahead, ‘here you can do it for real.’

He stopped, undid his shirt, took it off, and threw it down.

‘Your turn!’

Sonia looked back at the house. David had disappeared inside again.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Jerry. ‘There’s absolutely nobody else here. Just the wilderness, all about us – and the turkeys.’

‘And David?’

‘He’s gone indoors and, anyway, he could hardly see anything from there, could he?’

Sonia giggled, a sexy, throaty laugh. She pulled her tee-shirt up off over her head and then swung it around on her forefinger.

Jerry kicked his sandals off and started to undo his belt.

Sonia whooped and ran past him, throwing her bra in his face.

Jerry growled and ran after her, shedding his shorts and underpants on the way.

Sonia beat him to the pontoon. She stripped off her panties and dived with another excited whoop. Jerry followed her in. The water was cold and smooth. When Jerry surfaced, Sonia was swimming strongly towards the middle of the lake. He followed her out at his own pace. When he caught up with her she had stopped and was floating on her back.

‘Something has happened to David,’ she said.

‘There’s a neglected air about everything, isn’t there?’

‘Even the pontoon is rotting away.’

‘Maybe he’s gone bust?’

‘I find that hard to believe,’ said Sonia. ‘He surely has several fortunes to lose.’

‘What could it be, then?’

‘And where’s Marilyn? That’s what I want to know.’

Sonia turned over and dived down beneath the surface. Jerry watched her vulva and buttocks flash briefly in the glittering sunlight and felt his body responding as her legs and feet followed them down into the cool, soft depths. He reckoned they might just have time…

‘Mind the terrapins!’ he warned her as she clambered onto the rotten planks at the edge of the pontoon.

‘Ow!’ he heard her screech and watched her fall back into the water. ‘They nipped me!’

She swam out towards him.

‘That hurt,’ she said. ‘There are loads of them. Sunning themselves, the little wretches.’

‘We’ll just climb out onto the bank, then.’

They swam around the pontoon and waded out into a marshy area that gave onto the lawn, their feet sinking in the ooze. The news about the terrapins had put paid to the physical signs of Jerry’s lust.

‘Should we just dry out in the sun?’ Sonia asked.

‘Could do, but there are plenty of towels in the beach cabin,’ he told her. ‘I’ll fetch some.’

He walked across the lawn to the cabin. Its colourful paint had faded and was peeling badly. He had to pull the door hard to open it. The hinges had rusted. He pulled harder and the door swung outwards. A stack of towels was there, on a stool. But animals had been nesting in the towels. The top towel was covered in a thick coat of droppings and dirt-filled cobwebs hung low above them. He dragged the door back and shut it as far as he could.

Sonia was lying on the grass. He lay down beside her.

‘No towels, I’m afraid.’

‘It doesn’t matter, Jerry. The sun will dry us off soon enough.’

He plucked a grass stalk, put it in his mouth and sucked on it, placing his hands behind his head.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said.

Sonia lifted her head and looked down at him.

‘Why?’

‘Well, because it’s just not what I thought it would be. I was so excited to come here again, to bring you here, to show you the Big House.’

‘I’m impatient to see Marilyn. I haven’t seen her since that time they came to London. When was it?’

‘Many years ago now,’ said Jerry. But I promise you, the last time I came here was so idyllic.’

‘It’s still an idyllic spot, Jerry. That’s not the problem. It’s David’s behaviour and the absence of Marilyn. Come on, let’s go back up to the terrace. She should surely be ready by now.’

They got up, brushed each other down and started to gather up their clothes and get dressed.

‘I’ll show you the tennis court,’ Jerry announced.

He walked Sonia past the beach hut and a long, leggy box hedge. Behind the hedge was a familiar tall green-coloured wire mesh fence. But the paint on the poles was flaking and there were holes at the bottom of the mesh, where animals had repeatedly forced themselves through. The clay court was still recognisable, but some of the tacked-down white lines had curled up and the clay was half hidden under rotting piles of leaves and green moss.

‘It’s almost as if David weren’t here,’ Sonia said.

Jerry shook his head sadly and led her back to the lawn and the terrace. As they walked barefoot across the grass both of them remarked on how spongey and close-cropped it was.

‘It’s the deer,’ Jerry realised. ‘The deer are mowing this lawn – not David’s handyman, wherever he might be.’

There was nobody on the terrace. The drinks tray was still on the table, but nobody had used the fourth glass.

Sonia called.

‘David!’

A few seconds later he backed through the screen door, treading carefully. He was leading somebody.

‘Here she is,’ he announced. ‘Here’s our Marilyn.’

Marilyn shuffled slowly forward, her eyes never leaving David’s face. Her hair was still long and still some sort of blonde, but it hung limply, lifelessly straight. There were none of the vivacious flicks of her head that once would set it alive. The sky-blue twinkling eyes were now almost grey and as dull as lead. Her once- proud bearing was now round-shouldered slump.

‘Here she is,’ David repeated. ‘Here’s my beauty.’

He led her over to a straight-backed chair and sat her down. She placed her hands on her knees and stared placidly ahead.

‘Marilyn, my darling.’

She turned to look at David.

‘Sonia and Jerry are here. Isn’t that nice? You remember Sonia and Jerry, don’t you? They’ve come all the way from London to see us. Isn’t that nice?’

‘Hallo,’ said Sonia. She squatted in front of the seated Marilyn and stared up into her face, into her eyes. ‘You remember me, don’t you, Marilyn?’

A frown passed over Marilyn’s face. It lasted just a few seconds, then her face was wreathed in an immense smile.

‘There!’ said David. ‘She remembers you, Sonia. You can see that, can’t you?’

Jerry put his arm over David’s shoulder.

‘I’m so sorry, David. You should have told me.’

‘Told you what?’ David asked.

Jerry looked him in the eyes and held his gaze. He was clearly being sincere.

Marilyn’s smile had disappeared, as suddenly as though somebody had thrown a switch.

‘Should I fix some lunch?’ Sonia asked.

‘Lunch?’ said David. ‘Is it lunchtime? I’d forgotten about that.’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Sonia. ‘I’ll see what there is.’

Jerry stood and watched David fussing around Marilyn, pecking at her clothing with his hands, making sure that everything was straight.

Sonia called him from the kitchen.

‘Jerry!’

He walked into the house with a heavy step. Sonia was standing by an open cupboard door, wringing her hands.

‘There’s nothing,’ she hissed. ‘Just packets of biscuits and dried fruit, and the freezer’s turned into a block of ice.’

Jerry nodded wearily. He walked through to the music room. The grand was open. Scores and sheet music were scattered about on the strings, the keyboard, the stool and the floor. A single sharpened pencil stood in a pot on the top of the piano. It looked as if it had been sharpened, but never used. He put his head around the bedroom door. The floor and the king-sized bed were strewn with clothes. Water was running from a broken toilet flush in the en suite bathroom. He reached into his pocket, found the card the cab driver had given him and took out his mobile phone.

‘What are you doing?’

He turned. Sonia had followed him.

‘Calling that cab.’

‘What?’

‘The cab, Sonia. There’s no point in staying here.’

‘What are you saying? There’s every point’

‘What for, Sonia?’

‘They’re still our friends, aren’t they?’

‘Our friends have gone, Sonia.’

‘Nonsense.’

‘She doesn’t even recognise me. Even David seems to be having a hard time remembering who I am.’

‘But they’re still our friends, Jerry!’

‘Our friends have gone, Sonia.’

‘No, they haven’t.’

‘Sonia, they’re not there anymore – not the David and Marilyn we knew and loved.’

‘Nonsense.’

‘Look, do you think they’d object if we left?’

‘That’s not the point.’

‘There is nothing for us to do here, Sonia. They’re gone.’

‘What an awful thing to say. They’re still here, Jerry. They’re just not like you wanted them to be anymore.’

He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped the back of his neck.

‘Look,’ he said, ‘I just wanted us – I just wanted you – to have a good time.’

‘Well, thanks!’

‘Come on, Sonia! What’s wrong with that?’

‘There’s nothing wrong with that,’ she snapped. ‘But there is something wrong with abandoning your friends. After all, that’s what good friends are for, right?’

‘Abandoning them? We’ve only just arrived, and I bet she doesn’t even remember that we are here. Come on, it’s just too painful for me.’

‘Too painful for you? How selfish can you get? What about David?’

‘What about David?’

‘We can’t just leave him alone like that, can we?’

‘Who just said it was as if he wasn’t here?’

As if, Jerry, but he is still here, isn’t he?’

Jerry frowned.

‘Well, then,’ he said. ‘What should we do?’

‘We should stay for a while and look after them.’

‘Look after them? We didn’t come all the way out from New York City to look after a couple of Alzheimer’s victims, did we?’

‘I can’t believe you said that! At least we could stay for lunch.’

‘Lunch? What? Biscuits, sultanas and a splash of whiskey? Come on, Sonia.’

He started to dial again.

‘Please, Jerry, let’s stay for a short while at least.’

‘All right, then,’ he said, sighing heavily. ‘I’ll ask the driver to come up in an hour.’

‘An hour?’

‘Well just how long do you want to stay in the asylum?’

‘The asylum? Christ, Jerry! How bloody selfish can you be?’

‘Me? Selfish? All I wanted was for you to have good time.’

‘A good time? A good time!’

‘For God’s sake, don’t start bloody crying on me!’

‘I’m not crying!’ Sonia shouted.

‘Excuse me?’ It was David. He shuffled forward. ‘Is everything all right?’

‘Oh, David! Sorry,’ said Sonia, crossing the room. ‘Yes, everything’s all right. Of course it is.’

‘I’m sorry. It’s just that Marilyn doesn’t like shouting.’

‘There’s been no shouting,’ said Jerry, casting an angry glance at Sonia.

‘All right, then,’ said David. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I’d better get back to Marilyn. She was getting quite upset.’

They watched him back out into the main room, turn and walk away. Jerry started to dial again.

‘One hour,’ he said.

The deer corpse was gone, but the bloodstain was still there on the road.

‘It was a quick visit in the end, then,’ said the driver, turning and flashing them a smile at a stop sign. ‘Did you tell your friends about that road?’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Jerry. ‘We told them all right.’

‘Good,’ said the driver. ‘I’m only thinking of their own interests. You could break an axle up there in the winter.’

‘Of course,’ said Jerry.

Sonia gazed out of her window at the forest.

‘Tell me,’ said Jerry. ‘Do they often have visitors?’

‘Well, the nurse goes up there twice a week, but apart from that, sir, not so many these past few years.’

‘I see.’

‘What time’s your train, sir?’

‘Oh, we’ve got plenty of time,’ said Jerry. ‘No need to worry, thank you.’

Sonia saw the driver looking in the rear-view mirror and watched as the two men’s eyes met. She leaned forward.

‘Could you stop the car, please, driver?’

‘Yes, Ma’am.’

The car slowed down and halted. Sonia got out.

‘Sonia! Where are you going?’

‘I’m going back.’

‘You’ll miss the train.’

‘I’ll take another one.’

Jerry shrugged.

‘OK, he said. ‘Suit yourself.’

Sonia watched as the cab coasted around a bend, its brake lights briefly flickering, then she turned and started walking back up the mountain.

Martin Westlake

Storgy picture of Martin Westlake

Martin Westlake is a budding short story writer with a number of published stories and some poetry to his name.

If you enjoyed Cold Spring, leave a comment and let Martin know.

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