Harry’s eyes settled on the gift shop corner of the museum over to the right of the door they had come in through. “I bet they sell them in there,” he said, “come on.” And took Lia’s hand to lead her over.
There were shelves around the walls with various books about the local area and folk mythology from around the world. By the till was a rotating stand covered in magnets and bookmarks. As Harry spun it round to face them, they saw that hanging down the third side were about 35 necklaces that looked identical to the one Lia held in her hand. Some had names attached on a small silver extension underneath the gem and others were plain as hers was.
“Ah!” Lia exclaimed, comparing the necklace she had found to the ones hanging. They were cleaner and newer, having not spent days or possibly weeks/months living in a field, but they were undoubtedly the same.
“Wait, did you think we had stumbled upon the necklace of a real life witch?” Harry’s eyes sparkled as he grinned at Lia and pointed a finger at her.
“Well…” Lia instantly blushed, wondering if that’s what she had thought, “No… but…”
“Oh babe, I’m so sorry,” Harry teased, good naturedly, “I should have just whisked us out of here to seek her out by a lake. I was too straightforward. Hang on, pretend you can’t see the necklaces and we’ll go on a literal witch hunt.”
She batted at his coat half heartedly, laughing hard at his mockery and her feeling of silliness at having momentarily wondered if she had indeed found a spooky souvenir that belonged to a witch. She didn’t even believe in witches and magic for goodness sake! How had she managed to have that half moment? Life truly had turned upside down!
“Stop bullying me.” She mock pouted at Harry, “Come on - let’s get back to Flo Rida. That’s my new nickname for Florence by the way. She’ll be wondering if we’ve abandoned her.”
Still laughing and taking the piss out of each other they wandered back out to the camper van. Florence didn’t seem to have been particularly worried about them; as they opened the door to the interior she merely raised her head and looked at them, wagging furiously but making no attempt to jump off the sofa seat and go to them. She clearly hadn’t slept well over night either.
Harry drove them back to the campsite and they parked back where they had been the night before and decided to treat themselves to a little self-indulgent nap. Lia pulled her laptop out of her rucksack and they put a film on to ignore while they dozed.
As the credit music roused Lia from her nap, well over an hour later, Lia stretched like a cat on the little bed. “I haven’t had a nap in years!” She yawned.
“I have one nearly every day,” Harry said, he was lying on his back looking more relaxed than Lia had seen him in a long time. As he spoke he pressed his palm up against Lia’s and seemed almost to be comparing their hands. His palm was bigger than hers but her fingers were longer, and slimmer. She let him play with her hands.
“Every day?” She said, twisting round.
“Yeah. Work was so boring. The first time I was just tired and I really had to close my eyes for twenty minutes because I was barely focusing on the screen. And I slept for like, half an hour, and no one seemed to notice at work at all. I just said I’d been working on a project when I apologised for a reply taking a while. No one questioned it at all. So then… I just started doing it more often and for longer. I pretty much slept for a full hour every afternoon. To be honest, I’d started to wonder if I wanted to maybe have someone notice. If I’d got told off, or fired, or whatever, it would have been proof I was necessary at the job. When you can literally be unconscious and not have anyone notice… it’s not very fulfilling.”
“I don’t think I’d get away with that at work.” Lia mused, scrunching her fingers and forcing harry’s fingers down to match hers, “Viv’s nice and everything but I think if she just found me curled up under the non-fiction for an hour a day she would want to have words.”
“Yeah, you’re lucky.” Harry pulled his fingers away and back under the duvet.
“Maybe you should be job hunting?” Lia said, turning over to properly face him. “What do you want to be doing that you wouldn’t want to just nap through?”
“What that would pay the same as I’m on now?” He sighed.
“Well, not necessarily. We’d have to have enough coming in to stay afloat, but we don’t need you to be on exactly as much as now.”
“But if I take a pay cut, we take a huge step back don’t we?” He said, still staring at the increasingly dark ceiling.
“Step back from what?” She was propped up on her elbow now, looking at him intently.
“From all the next steps… you know… maybe paying for a wedding or whatnot?”
“Oh shit who you got to buy a wedding for?!” Lia sprang her eyebrows up in mock surprise and grinned stupidly at him.
“So you wouldn’t want to get married then?” He turned onto his side to face her and she sensed that he wasn’t playing around.
“Harry.” She bought herself time with his name, “Honestly?” He nodded. “I wasn’t feeling so great about us before this.” She gesticulated into the air to signify their trip away being “this”. “I wasn’t feeling so great about it all. Clammy, remember? Suddenly, I feel like you’re back and I hadn’t even properly processed that you’d been away. So… so if you want to change jobs and it keeps you here then I think I can forego a big party and a white dress.”
The silence that followed was big.
“What do you want to do for dinner?” Harry said eventually and Lia laughed out loud. “I can’t choose a new job on an empty stomach.” Harry protested, “We can talk and eat.”
“We still failed to go to a supermarket.” Lia pointed out, “I blame Flo Jo.” Florence didn’t move at all, still dozing at their feet.
“We have some bread, or those pot noodles?” Harry craned his neck at the kitchen portion of the van. “Or…” he said, just as Lia also said it, “Yeah, let’s go back to the pub.”
“We can hand in the necklace just in case any local is absolutely forlorn at the loss of their souvenir.”
“God I bet every single kid who lives round here has had to go there on a school trip at some point and either has that necklace or a pencil sharpener from there.”
They clambered off the bed and began to change into slightly more presentable outfits. Lia brushed her hair and peered at her make up bag before deciding she couldn’t be bothered. There wasn’t a mascara in the world that could erase the “I slept under a van last night” look.
She shrugged, still contemplating the necklace, “Yeah well, you never know. And if no one claims it I can always just fling it back into the grass and see if it makes its way back to the pixie of the loch or wherever.”
“I can’t believe you thought for a second there was going to…” Harry started again and Lia threw a pillow at him.
“I obviously didn’t really think there was going to be, I was just pointing out… Oh shut up! I know there’s no such thing as witches.”
They locked up the van, being careful to take both sets of keys and carry them in separate pockets for maximum chance of not having to live a repeat of the night before.
“There’s no lights on.” Harry said, flicking the torch light momentarily up onto the side of the restaurant.
Lia groaned, “Oh no, don’t tell me they’re not open! I’m starving!”
As they came round the side of the building, however, there were plenty of cars in the car park and about ten people milling about around their cars or near the door. There wasn’t a light in sight on the front of the building either.
“What’s going on?” Harry asked someone stood leaning on a bonnet and removing their phone from their ear.
“They don’t seem to be open,” the man replied, “we just turned up for a drink but Paul seems to be AWOL.” Lia guessed that Paul must be the Liverpudlian landlord’s name. “Tried his mobile but no answer.”
“Were they definitely meant to be open?” Lia asked, shivering slightly in the cold breeze.
“Always are. Only shuts when he has to, does Paul. Plus that couple over there had a reservation for the window table, and Joe, the new bar guy is stood shivering his nuts off because he was on the rota and can’t get in.”
“Wouldn’t a chef have been in early?” Harry asked.
“Yeah, that’s a good point.” The man said, straightening up and pushing himself off the bonnet, “Larry, wouldn’t Dean have been in by now?”
A man, Larry presumably, looked up and wandered over. “Yeah, that’s a good point. Where’s Dean?”
Lia and Harry hung back unsure what to do, “Shall we just go back to the van?” Lia said quietly, “Maybe he’s not very well? We can just have those pot noodles.”
“Maybe the witch got him?” Harry joked and Lia swatted ineffectually at his coat and then leant in for a kiss. “Let’s give it a minute. Maybe he was having a nap too and that banging will wake him up.”
They watched a group of four people wander round the back of the pub to see if they could discover Paul.
“It’s a nice community, isn’t it?” Harry said cheerily, “Like, if a pub was shut near us we’d just drive off and find a new one. It’s nice that they know him well enough to know this is weird and they stick around to work it out. Maybe we should move here?”
Lia frowned, “Harry, I love you, and I really want to find a way for you to be happy again, but there is a limit and that limit is this idea. No.”
Harry laughed loudly, “Fair enough. Well, maybe we just need to make more friends round our way.”
“Even if they do open tonight, it’s not going to do my rumbly tummy much good if there’s no chef.” Lia mused, rubbing her empty stomach and wishing that the museum gift shop had stocked sandwiches alongside the witch necklaces.
“Good point.” Harry conceded, “Yeah, come on, let’s trudge back. We can open that bottle of wine and then we won’t notice that those pot noodles are gross.” They turned to go and as they took their second or third step, lights flicked on in the pub and a cheer went up from the punters in the car park.
“Oh!” Lia said, “Oh well that’s good, shall we stay for one? Might as well make it worth his while opening?” Harry nodded and they went to the cluster of people stood by the front door. There was a scraping sound as the bolt was pulled within and then the door opened to reveal the man they assumed was Larry. A small cheer went up from the customers waiting but it dampened quickly when they caught the look on his face.
“He’d dead.” Larry said, looking from face to face in shock.
“What do you mean dead?” Someone said, pushing forward to the front of the small group.
“I mean we found him… there’s blood everywhere. He’s dead. He’ll never speak again.”
“Blood?” Said another voice, shocked and scared at once.
Lia looked at Harry in alarm. What on earth was going on?
“There was a knife.” Larry muttered, “Paul… Paul is dead. I think he was killed by someone?”
So! There’s been a murder!
You dreadful people killed poor Paul!
SO, what happens next, and as we’ve had such a dreadful outcome here with a mysterious option I’m going to let you straight up choose…