I place my hands on the warm brick and slate, closing my eyes against the sun. It’s an unseasonably hot day in April. I’m in mid-Wales and the weather isn’t supposed to be like this. I have dressed for rain, for wind and a dank, brooding atmosphere. I had wanted and wished for omen-filled clouds.
I for one need dark, miserable days in which to channel my muse. Crime novels based in dark, satanic mills and laissez-faire Victorian Britain don’t flourish well in heat waves. All these scantily-clad tourists, the mountain bikers, the squealing children and yapping dogs – they’re all just a waste of my energy.
I force myself to channel the darkest recesses of my mind. This is definitely the place where the murder had taken place. I can feel it in my bones, despite the cheerful weather. This building has an aura; it is leaching out of the crumbling walls and releasing its long-buried story into me. I breathe in, then out; long, slow breaths. I cannot waste this opportunity, even if the weather is spoiling my plans. My affinity with buildings, my unarguable ability to read the past in our surroundings – it is my life’s passion, not to mention my ticket to paying the mortgage each month. Here lie the remains of the infamous Gravely Mill. Nobody knows of its existence – I am the first.
God, what now? More bloody tourists. What the hell are they doing here?
They appear from behind the ruins of the waterwheel in his and hers matching sunhats and shades. The worst kind of holidaymaker – they’ll be asking me to take their photo next…
“Yes, my sweet?”
Oh God, how sickly, how inappropriate.
I hide behind a wall. Surely, they won’t be long? A couple of snaps, and then they’ll be gone. Please, let it be so.
“This is it. Look, here in the guidebook: ‘Gravely Mill Children’s Extravaganza was built by Sir Andrew Morton-Childs in 1836. He was the first – and little-known -philanthropist to believe that all children needed time in which to play and to let their imaginations run wild. He created a safe haven where children who worked in his factories could put on plays, dress up, and enjoy themselves. This is where the famous playwright Julius Ward – a former child worker at the mill – set his first crime-based play ‘The Murder of Alice Soames’. Some still believe it to be fact, but it is pure fiction, a creation of what Mr Ward himself described as an overactive childish imagination.’”
I imagine voodoo dolls of the couple, and picture myself thrusting pins viciously into their podgy bodies as they amble away.
There had been no murder. The building is full of lies.