She had one green eye and one blue. The ball struck her in the socket beneath the green, leaving a red eye leaking blood directly below. Both eyes at the moment of death still sparkled, till death worked its predictable mystery. She fell against the tree, her face scraping its crocodile trunk. No one had heard the shot, or if they had would mark it down for a crow or a rabbit shot at dusk. And nothing else but a crow had watched the proceedings. Safe in the bowers of a neighbouring oak, it watched with a knowing eye, black and oily, while its black beak croaked.
‘Get the shovels,’ my father seemed to croak in turn as he beat away the smoke from his gun.
That which she’d given me so willingly, and I’d enjoyed, still coursed through my veins as I did as I was told. I was soon digging alongside my father, who wanted the hole deep. I dug as in a fevered trance for what must have been an hour or more. Only now did the full misery of what was done come to me as I stared at the hole and what we’d laid in it, red hood and all. My father had no compassion, no more thought of killing her than he would a toad. He was deftly emptying dirt onto her bare breasts and loins; her nakedness must be hidden even in death.
‘You must put all this behind you,’ he was saying amid his grunts, his exertions that left his sweat pungent on the evening air.
An owl hooted as I answered him: ‘It won’t do, father. I see it plainly what you’ve done, what I allowed you to do. God forgive me.’
‘Yes, God forgive you!’ He turned on me savagely. ‘Women are a curse boy, can’t you see? You were lost when you did that unspeakable thing. She’d bewitched you with her evil body. You need to be made clean again, only I – your father – can help you do it. It’s my duty, and by God it shall be done!’
He meant through prayer. In the madness of his self-righteous passion he was on his knees before me, the sweat glistening on his forehead, his shirt sodden as on a drowned man washed upon the shore. He hadn’t waited for me to join him; he was up on his feet again, quickly filling-in the hole, stamping the earth flat with his top-boots.
My eighteenth-century crime thriller, An Uncommon Attorney, is available on Amazon and from Rowanvale Books.