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‘Sensible shoes would have been a good idea,’ thought Holly as she crunched up the long gravel drive which led to the cottage. She had left her car at the bottom of the drive, it seemed the right thing to do at the time, but with the cold, buffeting wind pulling at her clothes, now she wasn’t so sure.

She took her mind off this by looking around the small estate. It looked like the house had two or three acres of land; there were a few out buildings scattered around, and an old car outside a garage. It could once have been a small-holding, or a market garden business. 

She was now close to the old slate-roof cottage, behind which, a few hundred metres away, was the cliff edge. Holly could hear the distant rumble of the waves above the wind.

She stopped at the front door and thought about her new client. Rosemary Cromwell - an elderly lady living alone, no serious health problems - but her isolation up here on the cliff top meant that Social Services had flagged her up as maybe needing help.

Holly was quite new at the job, so she was eager to make a good impression. She knocked on the old weather-beaten door. After a long pause, there came a voice.

“Who is it?”

 “I’m Holly Carter, a carer from Social Services. Did you get our letter?”

“Yes, I did, but I don’t need any help thank you.” The voice was firm and disarming. Holly persisted.

“I am sure you don’t, but we need to keep our records up to date. I just want to ask a few questions.”

There were grumblings and shuffling from the other side of the door, then finally it opened.

“This is not convenient, you know; I am very busy.” The voice came from a tall sharp featured lady, her grey hair brushed back into a ponytail. A long sensible cardigan covered a pleated skirt, over thick stockings. She was certainly dressed for the weather.

Holly was struggling to think what this retired lady could be very busy at, but she carried on.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you, I’m replacing Joan Wilson, who is reducing her client list as she will be retiring soon. I’m just here to get acquainted,” Holly said through a smile.

“Nice is such a limp word and that Mrs. Wilson was such a busybody… Oh come in if you must.”

‘This is going to be fun’ thought Holly.

The lady led Holly into the living room. It was old and timeless, lots of oak beams and solid wooden furniture. Holly liked to have a quick and discreet look around, to get an idea how her clients lived. This seemed simple and tidy but could do with dusting.

Rosemary lowered herself onto a high wing-backed chair, her hands neatly folded in her lap. Holly had to make do with a stool. 

“You’re very young, how experienced are you?” said the lady, with a piercing look.

“I’ve been with the department for about 6 months… Would you like to see my qualifications?”

“That won’t be necessary.”

“May I call you Rosemary?” There was an awkward silence, “or would you prefer Miss Cromwell?”


“Actually, it’s Mrs Cromwell.”

“Oh, it says here.” 

“I don’t care what it says there… Oh that Wilson woman! I kept telling her, but she never got it corrected. My husband died over 10 years ago, so she never met him. There must be a death certificate somewhere.” She was getting agitated.

“Don’t worry Mrs Cromwell, I will sort it out when I get back to the office. “Any relation to Oliver?!” Holly said, trying to lighten the mood. This was met with a look of disdain. ‘Tough crowd,’ she thought. 

Holly tried to stay focused. “Now, I get the feeling that you’re very self-reliant.”

“Correct,” came the reply.                                                                 

“Just so we know more about your general health, I have a few checks I need to do.”

“I thought you said you just wanted to get acquainted?”

“Well yes I do, but I still need to do some health checks.”

  Rosemary sighed, but she could see the girl was struggling.

“Oh, very well, I don’t want you to get into trouble.”

“Thank you so much,” said Holly, as she fumbled in her bag.                                                                                          

Holly went through the list, checking her eyes, looking in her ears, examining her feet, checking her weight, and ticking off things as she went.

“Do you mind if I take your blood pressure?” Rosemary stiffened, then started to roll up her left sleeve.

Holly baulked for a moment. She had spotted a large red scar covering about a third of Rosemary’s forearm.

“That must have been nasty?” She said calmly.

“Oh that,” said Rosemary, “I burnt myself on a kettle years ago. It doesn’t bother me now.”  

Holly blew up the arm band and checked the blood pressure.

“OK, that all seems fine. Just a few more questions. Any problems getting up in the morning?”


“Getting washed and dressed?”




“How about food - do you have someone who does your shopping for you?”

“No, I am self-sufficient. I go into Morton once a week to see my sister and buy my groceries.”

“Who will take you?”

“I go by myself.”

“But the bus stop must be long…?”

“I drive myself.” Rosemary interrupted.

Holly looked shocked, “Not that old car in the field?”

“Yes of course. There’s nothing wrong with it.” Rosemary was getting agitated again.

“But it must be over 20 years old? It’s a Talbot, isn’t it? Who will look after it for you?”

“My husband was a good mechanic; he left the car in perfect working order for me.”

But that was over 10 years ago, surely it needs a service or some…?”


“I’ve told you! My husband did everything for the car, I just drove it.” 

“You really need a reliable car, you know.”

Rosemary stood up “I keep telling you, I don’t need to worry about anything, my husband did it all.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t saying…” 

“I'm sorry, I really think It’s time for you to go. You are overstepping the mark, young lady, and if you don’t go, I will make a complaint.”

Holly could see she had outstayed her welcome, she hurriedly started shoving things in her bag as Rosemary moved towards the front door. As she fumbled, she dropped her                                                                     

mobile phone. Picking it up, she noticed she had several missed calls. Holly liked to put her phone on silent so as not to disturb her client meetings. She shoved it in her pocket, got up and went to the door.

“I’m sorry if I upset you, I get a bit carried away sometimes.” Holly said sheepishly.

“Apology accepted,” said Rosemary with a stern gaze.                                                                           

Holly scuttled out onto the gravel path and pulled the phone out of her pocket. She couldn’t believe how many missed calls she had had. Then she grimaced, as she realised, she had not turned it off silent mode from the day before.

Most of the calls were from her boss, Mr Frost.

Mr Frost’s phone started ringing. Holly braced herself.

“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been ringing you since yesterday evening!” 

“I’m really sorry Mr Frost, I left….”

“Never mind, have you been to Miss Cromwell’s yet?”

“Well yes, we have just finished.”

“Damn!” Mr Frost Exclaimed. “I needed you to come to a case meeting before you went.”

“What about?”

“Not over the phone, come back to the office now please and we will sort this out.”

“What about my next call?”

“Debbie will reschedule it for you.” 

Holly trudged back down the gravel drive to her car. ‘Not going too well today is it?’ she thought to herself.

As she walked, she found herself looking at the old car. She stopped and suddenly felt compelled to take a closer look. She walked across the grass, not taking her eyes off it.

When she reached it, she started walking around it. She saw the name ‘That was it, Talbot Sunbeam’ She said to herself; its paintwork was dull from all the weathering and she could see the tyres were perishing. However, it didn’t look like a dumped car. She could see how the grass around it had been flattened where it had been moved, so there must be some truth in what Rosemary was saying. Her curiosity got the better of her and she reached out to try the door handle.

“What are you doing?!”

Holly jumped and spun round. There was Rosemary Cromwell, her grey ponytail flying in the wind as she rang a hanky nervously through her fingers.

“I’m sorry. I just wanted a look - it must be a classic by now.”

“Do I need to call the police to make you leave?”

              “No, no I’m going. Goodbye.” Holly almost ran down to her car and was gone.


Holly sat down in the chair in front of Mr Frost’s desk. Poor Mr Frost was looking as stressed as ever, with piles of paperwork everywhere and not enough hours in the day. All the budget cuts had left him short staffed.

He looked up, “Now Holly, did you get the email about Miss Cromwell’s case?”                                                                        

“Well, err…no, sir.”

 “What?! Debbie! Did you email those case notes to Holly Carter?”

“Yes sir,” came a disembodied voice from the adjoining office.

Mr Frost turned back to Holly with an accusing look.

“Oh, hang on,” came the voice again, “I think I sent them to Joan Wilson instead.”                                                                      

“Debbie!” Mr Frost ran his fingers through his thinning hair in frustration. “OK, let’s start again. How did you find Miss Cromwell?”

            “Well, she’s in fairly good health, but she told me she is Mrs. A widow.”                                                                               

            “Oh, not this again, we went through this with Debbie. She has never been married; she’s fantasising.”                                                                 

           “What? Are you sure? Why would she tell me she was a widow?”

           “Because she is in the early stages of dementia,” said Mr Frost, “that’s why we needed to have a meeting before your visit.”

Suddenly a lot of things fell into place for Holly. She had thought something was not right but could not put her finger on it.

“So, I am afraid you are going to have to go back again and do a dementia assessment - you know how to do that don’t you?”

             “Oh yes, but I don’t know how she is going to take that, especially after today.”

             “After today, what?” said Mr Frost with raised eyebrows.

             “No, no it's OK, but can you send her a letter making another appointment? It will give her some warning.”

             “Did you hear that, Debbie?”

             “Yes, Mr Frost. I will sort it.”                                                                             

             “Ok Holly. You know that Miss Cromwell’s conditions are going to get worse and soon she won’t be able to live on her own, so try and get her used to the idea.”

             “Yes, Mr Frost, I’ve got it covered”.

              Two days later Holly was back at Rosemary Cromwell’s cottage. This time she parked about halfway up the drive. She got out of the car and made her way up to the house. She pulled her coat closed against the wind and looked around. Everything looked the same; the old car was still there, but she thought she ought to stay off that subject and keep it business-like, but friendly.

She reached the door, knocked, and called out.

             “Hello Mi…. Rosemary, it’s Holly Carter.”   

             “Why are you here again? I don’t want to see you again.”

There was already a trace of panic in her voice, this was going to be tricky.

“Look, I’m very sorry, Rosemary, but I forgot to ask you some questions the other day. I promise I won’t keep you long. We did send a letter.”

“But you just upset me last time and why are you calling me Rosemary?”

“Because it’s your name. A lovely name. I was hoping we could be friends.”

“You’re just trying to get around me. I don’t trust you - go away!”

“I thought you didn’t want me to get into trouble. I really need to ask you these questions.”


“Go away! You people are all the same. You just want to put me in a home or something.”

“No honestly, I just want to...”                                                                        

“Go away! Go away!” screamed Rosemary.                                                                           

This wasn’t going well. Holly needed some advice.                                                     

She pulled out her mobile and started to dial Mr Frost, but the wind was a problem, so she walked down to her car, got in and finished dialling.

“Hello Mr Frost, Miss Cromwell won’t let me in and I can tell by her voice that she is not going to listen to reason.”                                                                       

Mr Frost sighed, “This doesn’t sound good, we might have to force an entry.”

“That must be a last resort,” said Holly.                                                                           

“Yes, it is, but the dementia might be more advanced than we thought and we don’t want her hurting herself. Look, for now, go back and tell her you’re leaving. That might calm her down. Then we need help from a specialist.”                                                                             

“OK, see you back at the office.” Holly got out of the car and started back up the drive, rehearsing what she would say.

As she walked, she sensed something wasn’t right. She looked around. ‘My god, the car - it’s gone!’

A knot of fear tightened in her stomach, she started to run as fast as she could across the grass to the spot where it had been. Once there, she looked around for tracks in the dew-covered field. When she saw them, her worst fears were realised - they headed straight for the cliff. Holly ran for all she was worth to the edge, where she stopped dead.

She looked down into the churning waters at the bottom of the cliff, and there - for a few brief seconds - she saw the roof of the hatchback. As Holly stared in disbelief, it slipped beneath the waves.

She heard herself scream and then started sobbing uncontrollably.

It seemed hours before the police came. In all that time she did not move from the spot - or stop staring at the sea - as if hoping the car would suddenly reappear. 

Holly was jolted back to reality by a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turned to see a WPC beside her. Holly heard herself describing what happened, like she was describing a bad dream. 

“There's nothing you could have done,” said the officer sympathetically.

‘Oh, how wrong you are’ thought Holly.

“We have called the Coast Guard,” the WPC continued, “but they say with the currents in these waters, the car could have drifted a long way before it hit the bottom. It all depends how quickly it fills with water. They will send some divers down to look for it though.”

“Can I go home please?” said Holly, feeling totally drained - and so cold she couldn’t stop shivering.

“Yes, that's fine” said the WPC, “we have your address, so we will come round and get a written statement in due course.”

Holly drove home in a trance. What was she going to do now? Six months in the job and she had already killed a patient. At that moment, all she wanted to do was give it all up.



Holly Carter drove through the picturesque streets of Morton trying to find an address.                                                                      

‘Well this sat-nav has a lot of uses around here,’ she thought.                                                                          

Then there it was. Acorn Road. She turned it down and looked for her new client’s house.                                                 

The front door of the small house opened and the elderly lady with rosy cheeks and a friendly smile welcomed Holly in.

“Hello Mrs Fletcher, it’s good to meet you.”

“Hello dear, please come in and call me Doris, would you like a cup of tea?”                                                                       

“If it’s no trouble.” Holly smiled.

“No bother, I can still look after myself, but it’s nice to get visits from you SS ladies.”


“Social Services” said Doris, “but calling you the SS sounds a bit sinister doesn’t it.” She laughed as she went into the kitchen.

Holly sighed, ‘this one was going to be easy,’ she thought to herself, she had had enough miserable and grumpy ones to last her a lifetime, the nice ones made it all worth it.

Holly made herself comfortable on the floral sofa in the neat and cosy living room. It was all lace doilies and family photos.                                                                         

Holly opened her trusty bag, took out Doris’s notes and started going through them. Joan  Wilson had left them in reasonable shape, so this should be routine.

Doris had had a stroke about a year ago, but with the help of her family, she was making a good recovery, but Social Services thought a few visits from a carer would help. 

As she scanned the pages, something jumped out at her.

‘Doris Fletcher, nee Cromwell.’

Doris came out of the kitchen, the tea tray rattling in her hands.

“Are you Rosemary Cromwell sister?” said Holly.

Doris smiled. “I wondered when you would spot that. As soon as I opened the front door, I Knew it was you, I recognised you from the inquest and I must admit, for the last 2 years I have been hoping that you would be my carer after Joan finally retired, so we could have a chat.”

“Yes of course, I thought I had seen you somewhere before.”

“Well, I didn’t want to introduce myself then, I could see what you were going through and you had your family around you.”

“It was hell I can tell you. The guilt almost broke me, I nearly gave this up you know. Then I thought, no, if I give up it will ruin the rest of my life.” Holly’s voice had a sense of triumph in it.

“Good girl, that’s what I like to hear.” Then Dory's tone changed. “I just wish you had known Rose before dementia, she was a lovely lady.”

“I am sure she was. She had me fooled for a while though, I didn’t realise it was the dementia making her say those strange things.”

“Oh, you mean about her being married.”

“Not only that, it was the car, did she come here once a week in that 20-year-old car?”

“Yes, she did.”

“I was just worried about her driving such an old car.”

“Well a few years ago that would not have worried me. There was more to Rose than meets the eyes.”




“Odd that she would invent a husband though.” Holly continued, “Why do you think she did that?”

Doris looked thoughtful for a while “It might have been jealousy.”


“Yes, you see I had a husband and children. Rose was an attractive lady, but never seemed interested in men, I never thought it bothered her, but perhaps deep inside she envied me.” Doris went quiet and thoughtful for a while and then suddenly said.

“So that was how it worked out, I had the family, and she had the brains.”                                                                     

“Brains?” said Holly.

“Yes brains, in fact she was a genius. An unsung genius in fact, which is the way Rose wanted it.”

“A genius, how come?” Was the only thing Holly could think of to say.                                                                         

Doris laughed. “I think that’s what our parents thought, they did not know what to make of her. While I was playing with my dolls, Rose wanted a Meccano set. At school, she wanted                                                                  

to do physics and chemistry, cookery and needle work left her cold. She went on to university and got a good degree in chemical engineering. I can tell you; I came from an old-fashioned family and that was too much for them.”

“Wow, what did she do with her degree?”                                                                     

“Well after a long search, fighting male prejudices all the way, she finally got her dream job at a government research establishment. Rose was the only woman on the team and by all accounts, one of the brightest ones there.”

“What was she doing there?”

Doris sighed, “To be honest, it didn’t go well, you see my sister was a maverick, she wanted to do pure research, not what the ministry wanted her to do. They did audits, which led to a reprimand and then there was the accident. One man died and others were injured, including Rose.”

Holly saw Doris stroke her left forearm and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up.

“That was the last straw, the ministry men went in and shut the place down. Rose was not responsible for the man's death, but they found mis-appropriation of funds, unauthorised work and theft of equipment. So Rose was sacked, which was virtually unheard of in the government. It was all hushed up of course. Rose was livid, she said ‘If the government doesn't want what I have done, then no one can have it.’

“So, she hid a lot of the things she had been working on.” There was a long pause while Holly sat there with her mouth open, “In fact I have some of it here.”

“Some…some what do you have here.”

Doris continued “In the cupboard under the stairs, there’s an old briefcase, take a look if you like, it’s just gathering dust.”

“Do you mind, really?”

“Of course dear, it is no use to me, or poor Rose.” Doris said thoughtfully.

Holly went over to the cupboard and opened it. As her eyes got used to the gloom, she saw the case in the corner.

Holly opened the well-worn brown briefcase and took out a bundle of papers and folders.


She started pulling out the sheets one at a time. They were covered with maths formulas and lots of notes written in a kind of technical shorthand that only the writer would understand.                                                                           

Holly was blotting out Doris, as she nattered away in the sitting room, this was too interesting.

She then pulled out a dark red folder, on the front was a sticker which said ‘Confidential’. 

Holly was starting to feel a bit guilty, as if she was reading someone's private letters. She hesitated, then opened the folder anyway.                                                                      

At the top of the first page, handwritten in capitals, it said. ‘COLD FUSION’ followed by a question mark.



                                                                       Chapter 3


‘It was the closest thing to flying without wings and an engine’ Mark used to tell his friends. He had been in love with scuba diving since he was introduced to it by his dad as a teenager. The feeling of freedom and weightlessness was intoxicating.                                                                    

Today he was engaged in a hobby he liked to think he had invented. Underwater metal detecting.

It used to be something he did on dry land. Trouble was, an awful lot of other people did it too and Mark started to think that every square inch of the countryside had been scanned.                                                                         

So he had the brain wave to combine his 2 hobbies. So here he was, skimming along the sea bed, a couple of hundred metres out to sea. His metal detector was brushing the sea bed, rising little puffs of sand as it went.

His reasoning was simple. Hundreds of ships over hundreds of years had sailed these waters, there must be lots of stuff buried here.

His haul so far today was unimpressive, 2 ships nails a sack hook and an old key. Still it was early yet and he had about half an hour before he would need a fresh air tank.

He rounded a rocky outcrop and noticed a large sea weed bed on his left. It was kelp, which grew 2 or 3 meters high. It should be avoided, especially as he was on his own. If you weren’t careful, you could get disoriented in there, get tangled in it, or injure yourself on something you didn’t see.

However, as he cruised by, something caught his eye. Within the kelp bed, something was glinting. It was a sunny day and from the surface a few meters above, shafts of light were piercing the water and reflecting off something.

Mark stopped and watched with rising curiosity. The waving kelp was making the light flicker and sometimes disappear, but there was definitely something there.

He could come back another day with someone else, it was too dangerous to go in alone. But the flickering light was drawing him in and his curiosity got the better of him.

Mark dropped the metal detector so he had both hands free, then he slowly pushed his way into the kelp. It felt slimy to touch and flapped against his face as the currents pushed it around.


He could see how divers could become disorientated and could feel a panic starting to rise within him, when suddenly the kelp was gone.                                                                  

Mark was in a clearing and there in front of him was a car. It was buried up to the top of its wheels in the sand, the sea water was eating holes in the body work and some of the windows were smashed.                                                                          

He started to think of how it could have gotten there. Maybe someone parked it on the beach and it got washed away, or perhaps joy riders just dumped it there.

He was swimming closer to the car, wondering what he should do about it, when he stopped dead. 

There in the driver's seat, sunbeams dancing on its naked bones, was a skeleton.                                                                           

Mark felt a knot of panic in his stomach, but he couldn’t take his eyes off it. Shreds of its rotting clothes were waving around its shoulders and a small fish darted out of its mouth. 

Something drew him even closer; it was like he was compelled to touch the car.

As he reached out, he found himself following the stare from Rosemary’s hollow eyes, through the windscreen and onto the bonnet.                                                                         

He gently laid his hand on the metal work and despite the cold sea water, it was slightly warm to the touch and as he pressed, he was suddenly aware of a subtle rhythmic vibration from the engine.

                                                                                                                                    THE END               


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