So, if I dream I have you, I have you,
For, all our joys are but fantastical.
It had been a particularly savage winter in the county of Sutherland
at the very north of Scotland. Great blizzards had roared in off the
Atlantic, burying roads and cottages in deep snowdrifts. Patel's, the
local grocery shop in the village of Lochdubh, sold out of nearly
everything, and at one point it was necessary for rescue helicopters to
drop supplies to the beleaguered inhabitants.
And then, at the end of March, the last of the storms roared away, to be followed by balmy breezes and blue skies. The air was full of the sound of rasping saws and the thump of hammers as the inhabitants of Lochdubh, as if they had awakened from a long sleep, got to work repairing storm damage.
The police station was comparatively sheltered below the brow of a hill and had escaped the worst of the ravages of winter. Police Constable Hamish Macbeth found that the only thing in need of repair was the roof of the hen house.
Archie Macleod, one of the local fishermen, went to call on Hamish and found the lanky policeman with the flaming red hair up on top of a ladder, busily hammering nails into the roof of the hen house.
"Fine day, Hamish," he called.
Glad of any diversion from work, Hamish climbed down the ladder. "I was just about to put the kettle on, Archie. Fancy a cup of tea?"
"Aye, that would be grand."
Archie followed Hamish into the kitchen and sat at the table while Hamish put an old blackened kettle on the wood-burning stove.
"Got much damage, Archie?"
"Tiles off the roof. But herself is up there doing the repairs."
Hamish's hazel eyes glinted with amusement. "Didn't feel like helping her, did you?"
"Och, no. The womenfolk are best left on their own. How have you been doing?"
"Very quiet. There's one thing about a bad winter," said Hamish over his shoulder as he took a pair of mugs down from a cupboard. "It stops the villains driving up from the south to look for easy pickings in the cottages."
"Aye, and it keeps folks sweet as well. Nothing like the blitz spirit. How did that newcomer survive the winter, or did herself take off for the south?"
The newcomer was Effie Garrard. Hamish had called on her last summer when she first arrived, and had been sure she would not stay long. He put her down as one of those romantic dreamers who sometimes relocate to the Highlands, looking for what they always describe as "the quality of life."
"I sent gamekeeper Henry up to see her last month, and he said the place was all shut up."
The kettle started to boil. As he filled the teapot, Hamish thought uneasily about Effie. He should really have called on her himself. What if the poor woman had been lying there dead inside when Henry called?
"Tell you what, Archie. I'll take a run up there and chust see if the woman's all right." The sudden sibilance of Hamish's highland accent betrayed that he was feeling guilty.
That afternoon, Hamish got into the police Land Rover, fighting off the attempts of his dog, Lugs, and his cat, Sonsie, to get into it as well. "I'll take you two out for a walk later," he called.
Copyright © 2006 by Marion Chesney
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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