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Towards Yesterday

James King

Copyright2017 James King

Published at Smashwords by James King

Towards Yesterday deals with a dream, a tragic dream which brings together four people, a pianist,a singer, a model and her Italian gangster husband. David Henderson, his singer, Beth, and Anna, the model come together in the beautiful Cornish village of St. Agnes to where Anna arrives fleeing from the brutality of her husband. Spontaneous dreams and memories of past lives stretching from Roman Britain to the present day form the background to a tale of humour, tragedy and wonderful happiness set in Cornwall and Milan, Italy.


Prologue: Britain circa AD 50

On a large slab of granite a young Roman soldier lay on his back, tightly held down by four men dressed in rough brown cloaks, their faces hidden from him by cowls. The young man still wore the uniform he had been wearing when he had been discovered, but, whereas then it had been shining and polished, now it was smeared with mud and excrement from the cowshed where he had been held prisoner during the night. The muscles of his limbs bulged as he strained to escape from the iron grip with which he was held, but there were too many of them, and even though he was strong and well used to fighting against many odds, their combined strength and determination were too much for him. After a while he became still, suddenly seized by a grip of fear so icy that all his body seemed to freeze solid and he became incapable of movement.

The sun hung low in the east casting long, deep shadows from the ring of roughly hewn grey stones and the tall trees that surrounded them so that most of the glade was still quite dark. Except for the marks caused by the men who had marched over it dragging the prisoners with them, the grass smoothly glistened with dew, bright with the promise of life and the wonder of another new day. The stones that surrounded the men in a huge circle had been standing there for longer than the memory of the tribe; some said from the dawn of time itself, built by the gods of old for reasons long forgotten. However, even though the origins of these stones were now lost in the mists surrounding their history, whoever had put them there must have been beings of awesome power and knowledge, for even now anyone who had any awareness of the secret powers of creation could feel and resonate to the strange forces which surrounded these ancient rocks. These days their use was reserved for special times of celebration, ceremonies of initiation and offerings to Gods. On rare occasions they were used for punishment on those who had committed the most grievous crimes.

Today was one of those rare and terrible days.

To one side of the slab a young girl was kneeling, sobbing, her face streaked with dirt and blood and tears, her head pulled back by two brown-robed priests so that she was forced to look up at the young soldier. Suddenly she cried out, “No!” as a tall hook-nosed priest walked slowly towards them carrying the ceremonial sword. He reached the slab, stopped and turned to look first at the Roman soldier and then at the girl. His face completely impassive, he showed no sign at all of the terrible thing he was about to do.

The girl shuddered and moaned, “No, father, no,” but she knew what he had to do, and she knew also that there was no escape for any of them from the horror that was about to happen. He looked at the girl, his eyes without any pity, his face as hard as the sacred pillars which surrounded them.

“You were warned,” he said, “We told you what would happen if you continued with this liaison, with this,” he hesitated, “this treachery.” He shook his head and, staring directly into the girl’s eyes, he lifted the long knife and plunged it into the soldier’s stomach. It was a cruel, calculated blow designed to cause pain more than to kill. The boy screamed once, and his body arched in agony as the priest withdrew the knife. The girl knew what was coming next and cried out in terror, struggling fiercely as the men holding her picked her up and dropped her face down on top of the young soldier. As she lay on him she raised her head and looked down at his face, now twisted in agony. It was a face she felt she had known forever, a face she had loved before the Gods had created the world, a face she would love till the end of eternity.

And she wept for his suffering, for her fear of the inevitable and, most of all, she wept for what could have been, the happiness that might have been theirs, but never would be, in this life.

His eyes opened slowly and looked past her as if he were blind, or perhaps staring at the billowing clouds, dark in the shadow of the sleepy dawning sun. Then, as if he were just waking from a terrible dream, his eyes focused on her and, as he suddenly recognised her, the lines of pain in his face smoothed away, his eyes shone with his love for her and he smiled. And with his smile she felt her fear and her sadness drain away.

Very briefly, their lips met for the last time, and they sank deeply into a sweet, tender kiss. So soft, so deep was it that they hardly heard the cry of despair and fury that roared out of the priest as he struck once more.

The sword pierced both their hearts almost simultaneously.

Chapter 1

Cornwall, 1990

David Henderson woke earlier than he had expected to, driven up amid the sound of raindrops falling onto the roof of his cottage. It seemed to him that he had spent the night in the depths of a bottomless black pit, and now, as if gently pushed by an unseen force he was emerging from darkness into light, from nothing into something.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered. “What the…?” He opened his eyes and then immediately closed them. He felt strongly that there was an event that he should remember, a happening that had had great importance for him. A feeling also came to him that it had been the source of a terror he could not face, pain he could not bear. He tried to recall it, to understand what it was he had been experiencing, but nothing substantial appeared, only a faint trace of the echo of an evil shout of triumph.

He lay for some time on his back, not moving, trying to reassemble the scattered parts of his consciousness. The fear that had been his first waking experience for as long as he could remember stretched down from his shoulders to his buttocks and tingled along the backs of his legs. Normally his response to it would be to leap up through it, out of the bed, and into whatever the day was to bring, pushing it down, squashing it in a frenzy of nervous activity.

Until now he had never really even consciously acknowledged its existence, so much had it become a part of himself, his everyday life. Today, however, without knowing why, he found himself lying on his back with his eyes closed, inspecting the feeling.

Nervous tension had been so much a part of his life as a musician that he took it for granted, perhaps even welcomed it, for it gave him an edge, energised his performance and kept his mind concentrated on the job in hand, stopped him playing the cracks instead of the keys. For some people at work a mistake can be ignored or glossed over. A wrongly typed word can be changed without any repercussions, but when there is an excitable, demanding singer depending on a perfect accompaniment, and there is an audience not famed for its generosity towards apparent incompetence, mistakes, even when they very rarely happen, are not received well at all.

He lay in the warmth of the bed listening to the branches of the hawthorn tree outside the bedroom window randomly swishing in the cold westerly wind that had been blowing fiercely for two days now. He curled sensuously into a ball and savoured the delicious contrast between the cosiness of his bed and the potential discomfort that awaited him on the other side of his front door. He was puzzled, for there appeared to be no reason at all for the dreadful feeling that seemed to surround him. He owed no money to anybody. There were no potentially demanding gigs on his immediate horizon. In fact, when he thought carefully about his life, he had no reason to be concerned about anything at all; he should have expected to be totally at ease. And yet he wasn’t.

Charlie, a small, brown mongrel bitch, lay on the bed on the side which his wife, Tina, used to occupy until her death a little over two and a half years ago. The dog stirred, grunted as if slightly irritated at being woken and turned to look back at David over her shoulder.

“Okay, Charlie, you can go back to sleep. Sorry I woke you.” He reached over and gently stroked her.

Her head dropped back heavily onto the bed and she started almost immediately to snore quietly.

David smiled at the dog, closed his eyes and returned to the darkness and his fear. He tried again to analyse the feeling, but again failed to understand what was at the root of it. He rolled over away from Charlie, but the darkness had the same emptiness on that side too.

Suddenly he had the impression in his mind of someone gently smiling at him.

God, what on earth was that?

He quickly turned over again onto his back and listened once more to the rain beating its irregular rhythm on the roof.

There was of course Beth.

But what the hell had she got to do with it?

He grimaced as the memory returned. He’d failed again last night. They’d been out together on a gig, which, as usual, had gone well. With her voice, a mixture of Barbara Streisand and Karen Carpenter, and his exciting yet sensitive playing, they couldn’t help but be an overwhelming success wherever they went. Afterwards they’d gone back to her house, on the cliffs overlooking the sea just outside St. Agnes, for a nightcap and to wind down. They’d kissed good night. This had happened more and more lately, and the kisses had been lingering longer, more reluctant to end. He had an increasingly strong impression that she wanted him to go further, but each time he had found himself overcome by fear. No, that was an understatement. He had been terrified, for God’s sake! He’d mumbled a nervous “good night” and had run out into the damp night air.

On the way home, shouting curses into the darkness, he had driven faster than he should along the narrow, misty Cornish lanes, swerving dangerously to avoid the odd badger digging for worms on the roadside. At his cottage he’d let Charlie out and had stood motionless in the garden, shivering in the cold night air, trying to work out what was happening to him. The dog frantically ran about as if searching for something in the bushes, squatted down, looking at David as if to make sure he wasn’t going to leave her before she had finished, and then excitedly continued her search.

The fear of sex had been a problem to him since his first real girl friend when he was sixteen. He had met her in the local park. She’d been feeding bread to some ducks and he’d made a silly joke that made her laugh. They’d talked and found they both liked the Beatles. That night he took her to the pictures and a week later they went dancing in a crowded, very noisy club in the centre of town. On the way home they passed through the park where they had first met and lay on the grass shuddering with excited anticipation. It was his first real sexual encounter and he found he delighted in the velvet smooth texture of her body, but when finally she said, “Alright, go on. But be careful, mind,” he was suddenly so overcome by fear that he found himself unable to continue. She sat up and spat at him spitefully, “What’s the matter? Aren’t I good enough for you?” And when, in his embarrassed confusion, he wasn’t able to answer, she stood up and shouted, “You’re bloody useless. Call yourself a man! You must be queer!” She had flounced away waving her panties and shouting, “Bloody useless! What a ponce!”

David had remained on the ground, shrivelling.

He never saw her again.

But now, he was forty. He’d been a married man, for God’s sake! It shouldn’t still be happening, surely?

When he was seventeen he finally lost his virginity to a girl he’d known since he was six. He’d been terrified again and that plus his inexperience had made him clumsy and of course very quick, so he wasn’t surprised when she said to him quite brazenly, “Was that your first time, then?” He’d shamefacedly admitted that it had been, but all she had done was smile and say, “Wow! I’ve had my first virgin!” She’d looked quite proud of the fact, too.

He hadn’t seen her ever again, either.

This morning he lay for a long time trying hard to relax using techniques that Beth had taught him. Breathing deeply he first of all tensed up and then relaxed each muscle, starting with his toes and slowly working his way up to his head. As he did this he concentrated his attention on a spot just in front of the space between his eyebrows. To begin with all he could see was an impenetrable darkness, but as he gradually became more at ease, pictures started to appear before his eyes, as if someone had switched on a television set in the darkness. Faces, scenes, shapes in perfect clarity and brilliant colours came rapidly, one after the other, and disappeared into the blackness. He had experienced them for as long as he could remember, back into his childhood, but even so, they had never ceased to amaze him, the more so when he found out that none of his friends ever saw anything with their eyes closed. Except, that is, for Beth. It was one of the things that had helped to build a bond between them.

Of course there had been the music. They both enjoyed the same composers and performers, had the same approach to musical arrangements, but the secret of their successful partnership lay in something much deeper. They had only been together as a team for just over a year, so the bond between them was not the result of a long period of intimate growth. It had started to develop strongly almost immediately they had met.

A year and a bit ago, ten months after his wife’s death, David had been at a loose end. The summer season was over. The mid-week gigs in the county had dried up and he was on the point of packing up and going back into the international circuit, when he’d gone to a party at a café in St. Agnes. It was his watering hole, and he frequented it practically every day, a neat, clean little place, serving the best food in the district. The owners were two gays, former entertainers and every year at the end of the summer season they would give a party for their friends and regular customers. Two years before, David had been there with his wife and thus dreaded returning to it this year, alone. However, during the time he had been in Cornwall the friendship between him and the owners of the café, Anthony and Ben, had become something very special, so, not wanting to disappoint them, he had gone to the party.

For weeks leading up to it Anthony had been talking incessantly about his ‘little get-together’, constantly reminding David about it, insisting that he come. It was only a few moments after his arrival that David had had the distinct impression that he had been ‘set up.’

He had arrived rather late so the room was already crowded and noisy with voices and music, but immediately he had opened the door and hesitantly walked in Anthony had pushed his way through the crowd, calling to him, “Dear boy! Welcome! Take off your coat and come with me. There’s someone I want you to meet.” Taking his arm Anthony had led him over to a rather large, mother earth figure, dressed in a bright, loose, colourful ankle-length dress. Her arms were covered in bangles and a heavy Celtic cross hung on a gold chain between ample breasts. Her hair was long and dark and tightly curled. David found himself looking down into a pair of brilliant brown eyes shining with laughter and energy.

“This is Beth, dear boy. She sings like an angel, and she’s looking for someone to play with. Beth-David.”

They had all laughed as the two of them had shaken hands, and Anthony had immediately turned away leaving them looking at each other’s blushing face.

“Oh, and by the way. She’s got the gift,” Anthony called out to them in a casual way as he disappeared into the crowd.

David looked at her. “The gift?”

“I’m psychic. Like he is.”

She had a smooth, deep musical voice, and although she was definitely not the type of woman he would have normally looked at twice, David felt himself attracted to her. He then experienced a tingling down his spine.

“So you are”, he said.

“I don’t understand.” She smiled and gently shook her head.

“Whenever I meet a psychic I get a wonderful tingling down my spine. It never fails.”

“So you’re psychic too.” It wasn’t a question.

“I wouldn’t go as far as to say that. I’ve experienced psychic phenomena, off and on, all my life, but it’s been too irregular for me to call myself a psychic.”

“Well, you are, whether you like it or not.” Her gaze was cool and very direct. She seemed to look right into him.

It was only then he realised that they were still holding hands. David hurriedly took his hand away from hers and, embarrassed, they both laughed.

There followed a few awkward moments until he said, “You’re a medium, as well, aren’t you?” he asked, unconsciously running a hand through his thick, black hair.

“Mmm.” She absentmindedly nodded her head, and continued looking directly up at his thin, dark face, as if searching for an answer to an unspoken question.

At that moment, as they were looking at each other, wondering awkwardly what to say next, Anthony returned,

“Dear boy, you haven’t got a drink. Come with me and I’ll fix you up.” He firmly took David’s arm and began to steer him away. David turned to Beth to excuse himself, but saw by the amused expression on her face that there was no need to say anything, so he shrugged and allowed Anthony to drag him away to the bar. As they pushed through the crowd Anthony shouted to him over his shoulder, “Well, what do you think?”

“What about?”

“Don’t be coy! Beth, of course.”

They reached the bar.

“Interesting. There’s something there. I don’t know what yet, but there’s something.”

“Good. I’m glad you felt it. It means you’re coming on fine.”

Anthony handed him a large fruit juice. “You two are going to do a lot for each other.”

He smiled as David screwed up his face and said, “No way. She’s not my type.”

“Oh yes, she is. You just haven’t realised it yet.”

He didn’t see much of her at all for the rest of the evening, but all the next day he found his thoughts returning to her again and again. At six o’clock he’d just fed Charlie her evening meal when the phone rang.

It was Beth.

“Hello, Beth here. I hope you don’t mind my calling you, but Anthony gave me your number. He said you wouldn’t get too angry.”

He felt the delightful tingling moving again down his spine. (I think I’ll be having words with Anthony).

“Oh, that’s okay, Beth. I’m glad you rang. What can I do for you?”

She waited for a moment as if embarrassed and then said, “I’ve been hearing great things about the way you play.” She spoke matter-of-factly, and David had the impression that no flattery was intended.

“That’s good to know”, he said. “From anyone in particular?”

“No. Just generally, you know. Everybody says so.”

David remained silent and turned to watch Charlie eat her meal.

“Well,” she hesitated and he heard her take a deep breath. “I’ve been looking for someone to work with, someone who doesn’t just play notes, someone who knows what the spaces in between them mean as well.”

“You mean, a musician,” David said drily.

“Yeah. That’s it, I guess.” She laughed.

“And you want for us to have a get together to see if we can make music?”

“Yes.” Emphatically.

He hesitated, torn between his inherent desire for independence and an increasing desire to get to know more about this intriguing woman. “Well, I normally work on my own these days. Not that I hate working with other musos, it’s just that the money’s better on my own. You understand?”

She laughed. “Sure, I understand, but when they hear how much better we are together, you’ll be able to ask for more. Right?”

David hesitated. He’d never worked with a girl before. Sure, he’d accompanied many in cabaret, but this would be different.

“Well, I don’t know,” he said doubtfully, “musicians working together get to know each other more closely than most married people do. And look what problems they have! That’s one of the main reasons that so many groups break up.”

“I know you think it could be difficult, but it won’t be. You’ll see. I swear to you, you’ll never ever regret it.” She spoke very softly and David again felt the feeling run down his back.

“Is that a prediction?” he asked smiling.

“I just know it will be right,” she answered with conviction.

“Okay,” he said finally, “we’ll give it a shot. Come round here tomorrow afternoon and you can sing me some songs. Will three o” clock suit you?”

“That’ll be just fine. I’ll have about woken up by then,” she answered smiling.

And now, as he lay on his bed watching the pictures dance before his eyes, he thought of how he had felt the first time she had sung for him, and how his delight at her voice had transferred itself to his fingers, so that he had started to play with an even greater degree of excitement and delicate sensitivity than he normally did. The session had lasted until late in the evening, when, finally, they had both looked at each other and smiled. They had known without saying anything that what they had together was something very special.

Downstairs, in the small, untidy living room, the telephone rang demanding his attention. Hurriedly and with a growing excitement, for he had the feeling of who it would be, he rushed down the creaky old stairs, followed at a much slower rate by a sleepy, irate Charlie.

He was right. It was Beth.

“Hi, David. How are you feeling?”

“Hi, Beth. Okay, you know.”

“The hell you are.”

She chuckled, a low, friendly, I-know-exactly-how-shitty-you-really-feel-type-chuckle.

David said nothing.

“Look, I thought we could have a lovely walk along Perranporth beach. Charlie can stretch her legs and we can have a nice talk about this and that.”

He looked out of the dining room window at the garden sodden with water. “It’s raining,” he said, disappointed, for the thought of a walk along the beach with Beth had immediately filled him with a surge of delight.

“I know it is. I’ve heard the rain banging on my roof for most of the night, but I can see down the coast from my window, and in about twenty minutes it’ll have stopped raining and the sun will come out. It’s gorgeous already down St. Ives.”

David felt himself, again, becoming excited. “Okay, then. Give me half an hour and I’ll pick you up.”

She hesitated for a moment, “Three-quarters.”


Chapter 2

There was a bustle of activity on the beach, even though it was only late March and a cold sou’westerly was blowing so briskly that it tossed the white horses on the waves into a jittery froth. At least a dozen dogs raced in a dozen directions eagerly searching for something to do, for the tide had washed away from the sand all the smells worth sniffing. Their owners hurried after them, vainly calling, but the sounds of their names were lost in the power of the wind. Four or five joggers joylessly bobbed their tedious way along the edge of the water, hopping away now and again as an over-ambitious wave threatened to swamp their trainers. About a dozen or so heads rode the waves waiting for that special wave that would carry the lucky ones on a ten second trip into the land of surfing bliss.

“Ever tried that, Beth?” David nodded in the direction of the surfers.

“Never felt the urge. And you?”

David shook his head. “No, thank you.” He looked at the sea. “The last time I went into a pool of water that big the temperature in it was 85. In the Caribbean. As far as the sea here is concerned I’d only go in there if I were seriously looking for a lethal dose of hypothermia.”

They walked on in silence for a while enjoying the sight of the vast length of slightly off-golden sand that stretched away for three miles to Ligger Point.

As Beth had promised, the rain clouds had moved on and were, by now, damping down the uplands of Bodmin Moor. The sky was blue but any heat delivered by the miserly sun was lost in the breeze.

They walked briskly, both to get warm and to keep up with Charlie, who had dashed ahead to try to persuade a handsome retriever that she was going to play an important part in his life.

“I’ve been getting a bit concerned about you, David.” Beth was being her usual direct self.

“Oh? Why’s that?” David felt a sinking sensation in his abdomen.

“You’ve not been yourself lately.”

“In what way?”

“Oh, you’ve been withdrawn, and your playing has been a bit erratic.”

David’s head quickly turned towards her.

“Erratic?” He frowned defensively.

“Oh it’s nothing bad, you know. The punters won’t have clocked anything, but I have. I know that there’s something bothering you.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Erratic! I’m playing exactly how I always play. I’m not erratic!”

“Okay! Sorry I spoke. You’re not erratic. You’re perfect!

David began to feel the anger rising within him.

“No, I’m bloody well not perfect. I never have been.”

He stopped and glared at her. “What’s all this about?”

“Look, I’m not attacking your musical abilities. I’m just saying that there’s something not right. It’s nothing to do with the music, but the music is suffering because of it.”

Beth looked down at her feet and then took hold of his arm. “You must have felt it. You can’t feel as bad as you so obviously have been feeling without knowing it!”

David pulled his arm away from her and turned to look out to sea, where a few would-be surfers were heroically attempting to swim away from the shore into the foaming waves.

After watching them for a few moments he sighed heavily and then shrugged his shoulders. Turning back to Beth he admitted reluctantly, “Well. It could be that I’ve not been sleeping well lately.”

“Do you know why?”

He shook his head. “No idea.”
“Have you had any bad dreams?”

“No, I can’t remember a thing when I wake. But first thing in the morning I feel as though I’ve been on the rack, my body hurts so.”

“Maybe you have,” she whispered.

“What was that?” David asked, screwing up his face.

She shook her head. “Nothing. It’s not important,” she muttered.

They started to walk on again.

“Does it last?” Beth asked, frowning in thought.

“What, the pain? No. It only lasts a moment or two. But the fear goes on for a long time.”

“Is this a new thing?”

“The fear? No, I’ve had fear as long as I can remember, but, you know, you just feel it and carry on with your life. At least, that’s what I’ve always done. But the bad feeling on waking is quite new, and it’s getting stronger.”

“What kind of a bad feeling? What have you got to feel bad about?”

“I feel as though something really terrible has happened during the night, something that makes me feel quite guilty. And it’s a feeling that there’s some really serious pain involved with it somewhere. That, plus the fear, makes for a really unpleasant start to the day sometimes, I can tell you.”

They watched as Charlie tried to entice the retriever by running in circles around him. The retriever, however, was not impressed and ignoring her ran back to his master. Charlie, completely unabashed by her failure to win him, decided that perhaps a small Jack Russell, happily playing ball with its mistress, would be a source of greater entertainment, and ran to join it.

“Listen,” said Beth. “My psychic antennae have been probing around for a bit now about this.”

As he heard her, David, without knowing why, immediately felt awkward. Without thinking of the consequences he attempted to cover up his embarrassment by saying, “And have you picked up anything from the great broadcasting station in the astral belt?”

Beth smiled and shook her head. “You know, sometimes you’re a bit of an arse-hole about this sort of thing.”

“What do you mean?” David said, “I was only joking.”

“The point is, this isn’t a joke. It’s bloody serious. I’m trying my best to help you and all you can do is act the fool.”

She stopped and turned away from him to hide the tears that had sprung to her eyes.

The empty feeling that tugged at his stomach made David realise how thoughtless he had been. “Oh, I’m sorry Beth,” he said putting his hand on her shoulder. “I really am.”

They were silent and David acknowledged to himself, as he had several times before, the confusion he felt about psychic matters. It was a confusion he didn’t quite understand, for he had, on many occasions during his life, personally experienced clairvoyance and clairaudience, so he knew that he was a psychic. And yet he still had a level of doubt in him, which caused him to feel awkward when confronted with talk about psychic awareness. He smiled as he remembered awakening one morning to find a tall figure standing by his bed. Later, looking back on the event, he was surprised not to have been frightened, but instead of fear he had found himself basking in a warm, totally peaceful glow. He had been lying on his front with his face turned towards the figure and had immediately thought, “If I close my eyes and then open them maybe he will have disappeared.”

So he did just that, but the vision, still and peaceful, had remained standing there as he re-opened his eyes. The feeling of being utterly safe and secure was still with him. Again he shut his eyes and opened them and still the figure stayed there, but now it was bending over as if to inspect him more closely. Again he closed his eyes and opened them. Whatever it was towered above him, about six feet tall, in an orange gown with a hood over what would have been its head. David had tried to make out a face but all he could see was a dark shadow where the face should have been.

Again he closed his eyes, but this time when he reopened them the figure was no longer there. The feeling of peace had remained with him for a minute or two and then faded.

He’d asked Anthony if he had any ideas about it.

“He was just checking on you,” he’d said with an annoying, enigmatic smile.

“What do you mean, ‘checking’,“ David exploded in frustration. “Who the hell’s ‘he’? And why was he dressed in that orange gown?”

“I don’t know who he was. That’s up to you to find out.” Anthony was infuriating sometimes the way he by-passed questions. “And as for the orange gown, you provided that.”

“I did! How? Why?”

“Because you couldn’t have accepted him as he really was. That’s why.” And with that Anthony had laughed and hurried back into the kitchen leaving David none the wiser and completely bemused as he sipped his coffee.

A cold gust of wind brought David’s mind back to the beach at Perranporth. Beth was still facing away from him, her hair blowing freely in the wind, her usual long dress swept back against his legs. He took her elbow and gently turned her round to face him.

“Look, I’m deadly serious now, and I’m sorry I played the fool. What is it you were going to say?”

She sighed and wiped her face with the back of her hands.

Hesitantly, as if she expected him to ridicule her, she said, “I was going to say that I have the strong impression that you’ve got something on the way out.”

“What do you mean, ‘something on the way out’? The way out of where?” David was starting to sound irritated so Beth put her arm around his waist and gently squeezed him.

“Something happened in your past,” she said. “Something you’ve buried away and didn’t want to look at is trying to make its way up into your awareness.”

David scratched his head, “But nothing bad’s happened to me that I’m aware of,” he said, frowning in concentration.

“Precisely.” She stopped and turned him to face her. She smiled and went on, ““That you’re aware of”.”

“Oh, come off it,” he snorted. “If anything as horrible as what I’m obviously experiencing at night had happened when I was a kid, I’d certainly remember it. Wouldn’t I?”

“Not necessarily,” she said, and they carried on walking. “If it was bad enough you’d definitely want to keep it hidden from yourself.”

Still frowning David kicked at a pebble and stopped, perplexed. “Why the hell would I want to do that?” he asked.

“Because part of you doesn’t want the terrible experience of going through it all again.”

“But my childhood was quite uneventful.”

She took his hand and they slowly walked on, followed now by a sadder and wiser Charlie, having uncovered the dark side of the Jack Russell.

“I didn’t say it was necessarily to do with this life, David.”

He stopped and turned to look at her.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that whatever it is that is bothering you could be a memory of a nasty experience in another life.”

He laughed. “Like, I was Napoleon, or something, and feeling bad about all the wicked things I did to Josephine.”

“You’re doing it again, David.


“Being bloody stupid, David.”

“Sorry.” He gently squeezed her hand and gave her a rueful smile.

They followed Charlie as she ran over to a pile of rocks and sat in a pool of sea water left by the receding tide.

“The kind of problem I’m thinking of, when it occurs, is usually the result of a traumatic death in some life or other,” Beth said. “When the memory of one of those starts to surface, then all the difficulties surrounding the event may come into your conscious awareness.” She bent down to pick up a piece of wood and threw it for Charlie to chase. “Unfortunately that can include the physical difficulties.”

“I don’t think I like the sound of that,” he said, screwing up his face.

“It can be unpleasant, believe me,” Beth said in a quiet voice.

David turned his head and stared at her. “Have you had any happen to you?” he asked.

Beth raised her eyebrows and nodded. “I’m afraid so,” she said.

She stopped and looked down at the curious patterns in the sand.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have said, ‘I’m afraid so’,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Because it implies that what happens when you have a release is a bad thing.”

“And isn’t it?” he asked.

“Well it may, or may not be.”

“Oh, great!” David smiled at her. “Depending on what?”

“On how you look at it. Which means, very often, on whether you know what is happening.” Beth sighed, thinking that perhaps she was going into this a bit deeper than she had intended. “You see, what comes out can be very unpleasant indeed, and if you don’t know what is going on the results can be quite shattering,” she explained.

David chuckled. “That’s nice to know,” he said.

“Fortunately the only people I’ve met who’ve undergone a spontaneous release and experienced a past-life memory have been people, like yourself, somewhat psychic and in possession of some knowledge. When it happens to those who know about it they usually welcome it, knowing that they’ll be better off with it out”.

“Are they better off with it out?”

“Oh, yes, definitely.”

She bent down again and pulled the stick from Charlie’s mouth. “Does she ever get tired of this game?”

“Never. You have a job for life.”

“Oh, to be so simply satisfied and entertained. Last time, Charlie,” and she hurled it into the distance.


“Well, what?”

“What happened to you?”

“Oh, I’ve had a lot of them come out.” She smiled and then went on, “Once I experienced a time when I was a young woman in a tribe in the far North of America. I’d got myself pregnant, out of wedlock. It was against the rules of that particular society and they threw me out.”

“Where did you go?”

“Unfortunately, it was winter. I wandered for hours in a raging blizzard. Then I sheltered in a cave and quite expected to die there, but some hunters from another tribe found me and they took me in.”

“So, all’s well that ends well.”

“No, I’m afraid not.” She shook her head. “The journey had been too much for me and I died in great pain giving birth to the child. It too died. Far too premature.”

“Did you suffer pain when you remembered it?”

“No, not really. The problem for me was the guilt about sex before marriage. That I did feel. That’s been a real bummer for me most of my life.”

David stopped and looked at her, his mouth wide open.

“What’s the matter, David?”


He turned and called Charlie who was on the point of chasing another object of her desire.

“When you remembered this event, did it make any difference to your guilt?” he asked as he bent down to put the dog on a lead.

“Sure. It went.”

“Just like that. No pills, no electric shock treatment, no psychiatrists.”

“Yes, just like that.”

They turned and started to walk back the way they had come.

“Have you had any others? Have you had any other memories?” David found himself getting quite excited.

“Yes, quite a number, as a matter of fact.”

“And did each of them result in you getting rid of a problem of some sort?”

“Almost always.”

“Shit! This is amazing.”

Beth smiled. “You may think so, but, believe me, it’s nothing compared to what is going to come to you.”

David again felt the sinking feeling in his stomach.

“What do you mean?” He walked away and turned back towards her. “You’re getting me really worried now.” He laughed nervously and turned away, not wanting to show just how concerned he was.

Beth reached forward and held his elbow.

“Listen. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Even though it may be a little unpleasant, it’ll be nothing you can’t handle.”

When he didn’t turn round she put her arms around him and gave him a hug from behind. “Honest. You’ll be fine, and, besides, you’ll get heaps of help.”

He turned his head so that his lips were just an inch away from hers.

“From whom?”

“They’re all around you, David. So close. And, my God but they’re strong. I’ve felt them ever since I met you.”

She gently turned him to face her. “And then, there’ll be me. I’ll be with you.”

“So, I’ve nothing to fear, eh?”

“Nothing,” and she pulled him to her in a tender hug.

But she lied, for she knew, having seen with her ‘gift’ that what lay before him would test him more thoroughly, more savagely than he could ever have imagined.

That night, he lay in his bed unable to sleep because of the noise of the storm crashing against the trees outside his window. Suddenly a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky filling the room with light and making Charlie shiver with fear. David remembered the magnificent storms he had witnessed in Switzerland and with that memory there came another.

Nineteen years earlier he had left the fast growing chaos that was Beirut and had gone to work the nightclubs and casinos of Northern Italy and Switzerland with an Italian band. The work was hard and the hours long, but he was young and still thirsty for experience and adventure.

One of the biggest problems they always had was the difficulty of finding digs, especially in Milan, where potential landladies seemed to be deeply suspicious of musicians. Whether it was their reputation for loose, loud living, or whether too many promises, and hearts, had been broken, he never did find out. But about a month after their arrival in the region, when it seemed to them that the difficulties were so great that they would have to concentrate solely on the Swiss, it suddenly occurred to all of them that the solution would be to live in Switzerland and commute each night to Milan.

They had had no problems at all with accommodation in Switzerland and established a base in Melano, a small village nestling between the wooded sides of Monte Generoso and the shores of Lago di Lugano. It was an ideal location, not only beautiful, but just a short drive away from Lugano, Mendrisio and Chiasso on the Italian border. The people in the village were friendly, especially the landlady, as long as the rent was paid on time. From there they were able to commute into Milan and the outlying districts easily and swiftly, either by car or by train.

They had been working the area for a year, when they got a contract to play a club just over the border into Italy. The strange thing, as far as David was concerned, was that this was not the first time that they had commuted nightly to Italy for a month, nor was it their first appearance at this nightclub, where they were welcomed and very well liked. So there didn’t appear to be any reason for what happened.

Each night as David approached the customs sheds to cross over the border into Italy he experienced a nervous reaction. At first he thought it was the normal apprehension he felt whenever he was faced with authority and paid no attention to it, for it was only slight. But as the days passed by he found the unease growing bit by bit until it had turned into fear. By the end of the second week he was so terrified as he approached Italy that he seriously considered not going to work. From that point on, however, the fear lessened gradually each night until, by the end of the month’s contract he was back to normal.

The other strange occurrence, for which he had no explanation either, happened each night as he returned home to Melano. He found himself experiencing a feeling of relief the nearer he got to the Italian/Swiss border. It was as if he were escaping from something powerfully dreadful and its level seemed to match the intensity of the unease and fear he had felt when he had entered Italy eight long hours before. It too had grown in strength and depth so that, whilst he felt the terror on the journey in, he experienced a most wonderful relief, growing to an almost indescribable bliss, on the way out.

One particular, very special morning, travelling back on the train, at about five o’clock, along the edge of the lake, with the rays of the early morning sun cutting through a slight mist and glowing with ethereal light on the steep sides of the hills, he was filled with a joy that was so great that it appeared to extend beyond the limits of his body. It seemed to him that he swelled with relief and the wonder of life, so that the whole valley shone, not just with the light of the sun, but also with his delight.

At the time he could find no explanation for what he had experienced, and afterwards, perhaps because of the difficulties and insecurities of the life on the move, the memories of what had happened had been driven into the back roads of his mind where they had lain buried until now, brought back into his awareness by the sound of the storm, nineteen years later in Cornwall.

Or could it be that what happened so long ago were part of what Beth had spoken of? Were they to do with this awful memory she said could be on the way out? Did something dreadful happen sometime in Italy?

David felt his hands start to perspire and the muscles over his stomach begin to form into a knot.

Why is it that I can remember so easily the fear, and feel it, but it’s so damned difficult to experience again that wonderful feeling I had experienced coming back into Switzerland?

He breathed deeply, and with this question lying heavy in his mind, slipped into a troubled sleep.

Chapter 3

Windsor, England.

Anna Taverna stood at the top of a broad staircase that swept in an imposing semi-circle down away from her into a richly decorated room full of expensively dressed, well-groomed people. She paused, deliberately, for effect, knowing that most of those present had already ceased their conversations when they had noticed her appearance on the brightly lit landing. Slowly, taking the utmost care not to look down at anyone in particular, she started to walk down the soft, thick carpet that covered the stairs, her beautiful face a mask of disinterested disdain, the product of years on the catwalks of the world of haute couture.

Well, at least the bastard won’t be able to complain about this one. This is exactly what he married me for.

No sign of the pain she felt, nor the terrible fear that churned in her stomach showed through the mask she presented to those present. For, all she allowed them to see was the perfect form of the perfect woman, dressed in the perfect dress created by Gucci and bought especially for this evening.

At the foot of the stairs she stopped and turned her head slowly to look in the direction of her husband, so that her shiny sleek hair flowed in a gentle wave over her right shoulder.

“Ah! At last,” he cried out, “my God, but you look wonderful!” For a moment she was fooled into thinking that he was truly pleased to see her as he quickly walked towards her, his handsome dark Italian face smiling as if in loving welcome. But as she looked deep into his eyes she could see that, behind the facade, what he was really saying was, “Where the hell have you been? We’ve been waiting for you, you bitch. Just wait till I get you alone”

He reached her, took her hand in a show of gentle familiarity and there began a long series of introductions that put enormous demands on her self-control and her extensive abilities as a hostess. For, Anna had an ability, one which some would call a gift, others, a curse, to feel, to sense the personality, the essence of the character of anyone with whom she shook hands. She had had it all her life and it had only failed her once, with, for her, tragic consequences. It had failed her when she met Antonio Taverna, the man who was to be her husband. Many times she had crawled into her bed, her body aching from the beating she had received from him, her ears ringing and her head reeling as a result of the verbal attacks she had suffered, and she had wondered why her senses had failed her that fateful day when he first entered her life.

They hadn’t failed her tonight as she met the guests. Most of them had had very little effect on her, but with some she had touched a level of evil that had made her feel quite nauseous. These, she realised, had all been, without exception, ‘associates’ of her husband.

Later, as she sat at her dressing table preparing herself for bed, she stared at the face in the mirror. The flawless beauty remained, but she could see the signs of the strain of the last few years.

There was a time when you were able to laugh, when life was fun and you hadn’t yet learned the meaning of real fear.

She wiped away the tears from under her eyes and slowly, ever so carefully, peeled the dress away from her shoulders to expose the bruise beneath her ribs where Antonio had punched her. Of course he had waited until everybody had left before he had started screaming incoherently at her, his normally handsome face twisted by ugly hatred. In the end he had lashed out at her with a vicious, controlled blow in her side that flung her on to the bed where she lay in agony as he stood over her and laughed, revelling in the intoxicating feeling of power.

She had met bullies before, but had never had to endure the agonies of the helplessness she felt at the hands of Antonio. At her school in Switzerland there had been several of the nuns who had vented the frustrations that accompanied their calling on the girls, particularly on those who failed to show the respect they demanded for their religion.

Anna had been born into a Catholic family and had received the usual indoctrination from a variety of priests and nuns and schoolteachers. Most of them had found their senses of Christian compassion, tolerance and understanding tested to the limits by her refusal to accept even the basic teachings of the faith. No matter how hard they tried, their efforts were always met with a wall of incomprehension. For Anna it was as if they were speaking in a foreign language that she had never heard before. She just could not even begin to understand the concepts they were trying to hammer into her.

Sister Maria, a small, withered, middle-aged nun became her main tormentor. Taking Anna’s failure to agree to her teachings as a personal insult she would beat her without mercy or pity, much as Antonio did now.

When Antonio left her, lying on her bed breathing as shallowly as she could to lessen the pain in her side, there flashed into her mind the memory of her lying on the floor in the school hall, also floating in a sea of pain. Sister Maria was standing over her shouting an incoherent babble about Jesus loving the world so much that he died for all her sins.

Anna had looked up at the ugly face of hatred and managed to gasp out, “What sins? There’s no such thing as sin. Don’t you know?”

Faced with such a level of blasphemy she had never met before, Sister Maria lost her self-control yet again and started to kick out at Anna, whilst screaming, “You devil! You wicked, sinful, evil devil! You’ll suffer hell and damnation for all eternity!”

It was only the timely arrival of several other nuns, who, with difficulty managed to drag Sister Maria away, that saved Anna from serious damage.

Later that day, lying on the hardness of her bed, she had wondered just what it was that made certain individuals, like Sister Maria, lose all control and lash out at those they were supposed to support and help. She had had cause to ponder on this question many times throughout the long, painful days she spent at this school, but no answer had come to her.

Now, years later, the answer came to her in a flash of inspiration.

They hate themselves, that’s why,

And with that thought she managed, at last, to see sister Maria as the poor sick, frightened woman that she had been.

But Antonio was not the same. Although she could see how much he hated himself, in no way could she think of him with the same understanding as she had done with that poor unfortunate nun.

Maria was a victim herself of her position, her upbringing, her indoctrination, her fear.

And so is he.

But he enjoys it!

Lying on the bed Anna felt herself drifting into unconsciousness, but, before she fell into the darkness, a terrible foreboding sprang into her mind.

I’ve got to get away, away from this maniac before he kills me. He will do, one day, I know.

That night she had the dream again. It was a dream she had had many times in her life, always during a time of crisis. As ever it left her feeling weak, helpless and overcome with a profound grief, as if she had lost the most precious thing she had ever known in her life.

In it she found herself in a meadow surrounded by tall, dark trees. She was being held down and then felt herself lifted onto a man’s body. She looked into his beautiful face and felt a mixture of sadness and regret, which was then pushed aside by an overwhelming surge of love. He was obviously in pain but nevertheless smiled at her. They kissed, briefly, lovingly, without passion, but with the greatest tenderness. It was at this point that Anna always awoke, but just before she opened her eyes she could see in vivid detail a scene that seemed now very familiar to her. A young girl was lying on top of a man on a huge slab of granite. They were encircled by a ring of men dressed in dark robes. One of the men stood apart from the rest. His head hung down and in his right hand he held a large sword. They were all still, as if frozen in the horror of the moment.

Anna opened her eyes and felt the warm tears flowing down her cheeks and on to her neck. There was a pain in her side and the memory of the previous evening rushed into her head.

Slowly she eased herself out of the bed, showered, carefully sat before her mirror and applied her make-up. Then she dressed in a sweat shirt and jeans and went downstairs into the kitchen. Gerhard, one of her husband’s ‘associates’, stood by the toaster. He was dressed in torn jeans and a vest designed to show off his heavily muscled, sunburned torso. His eyes were insolent, joyless and mean.

“Is my husband around?” Anna asked.

Gerhard’s head moved very slightly and his mouth twisted in an ugly sneer.

“By that do you mean he’s not in?” Anna felt herself becoming exasperated.

“He has gone to London, on business.” Gerhard’s English was good, but still thickly coated with a German accent. It made him seem so much more insolent and menacing than the other members of staff.

“Have you finished here? I’d like to get some breakfast.” Her anger and despair made her sound more positive than she felt.

Gerhard stared so hard at her, with such malevolence, that she was forced to look away. Without saying another word he took his toast, slowly buttered it and walked out of the kitchen.

Christ, I can’t stand any more of this atmosphere. I’ve got to get away!

Frantically she rushed through into the living room, breathed a sigh of relief when she found that none of her husband’s men were in there, and hastily dialled her friend Sylvia.

Like all Anna’s friends Sylvia had at first been delighted when Anna married Antonio. He was handsome, highly educated, well connected and apparently very rich, and the couple were obviously deeply in love. Only later as she slowly got to know Antonio a little better, did doubts come into Sylvia’s mind about him. There were hints, stories, nothing substantial, but put together with what she noticed about him - such as expressions on his face when his guard was down, the change in the tone of his voice when, one day, visiting Anna, she overheard him, by accident, talking on the phone - all these things and more had made her become more and more concerned about him and the effect he was having on her friend Anna. Over the past three years she had seen the change that marriage to Antonio had brought about in Anna.

At one time she and Anna had been like very close sisters. Each knew the other’s most intimate secrets. It was a closeness that had grown over the years they had spent together at school in Switzerland, and later, even though they had gone into different professions, Sylvia into journalism and Anna into modelling, they had always managed to keep in close touch. However, after Anna’s marriage Sylvia slowly became aware of a subtle change in her friend. She noticed how Anna, normally exuberant and spontaneously joyful, outgoing and gregarious, became gradually more and more withdrawn, sad and unusually quiet.

“Sylvia! Anna here. How are you?” There was no hint in her voice of the despair and fear she was feeling.

“Darling! Fine! Just being chased around by the most hideous monsters in the sick Principality of Hackdom. You know how it is. Each thinks he’s God’s gift to the world of journalism and womankind. How are you? When can we meet? How are things at home?”

“Fine. I just wondered if I could take you up on that offer you made of the cottage in Cornwall? I’m feeling the need to get away from it all for a few days.”

“Sure. Be my guest. I gave you a set of keys last time we met, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did.”

“I’ll let David know you’re coming and he’ll open up things for you.”


“Yeh, David. David Henderson. He lives opposite. Keeps an eye on the place for me. You’ll like him. A great guy, tall, dark-haired, slim, quite good-looking, musician, travelled a lot. You’ll have a lot in common, I know. Oh and by the way, remember I told you the keys I gave you don’t include the garage key. You’ll have to get it from him.”

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