Wicked Deceptions - Amy Cecil

Prologue

Norfolk, England

September, 1919

Only the dead have seen the end of a war.

~Plato

I take a sip of my tea, but my hand shakes when I return my cup to the saucer. It has been raining for hours. I look at the fireplace in my small farmhouse as concern washes over me. The fire’s embers are dwindling, and I have no more firewood in the house. To keep the fire burning, I would have to venture out to the woodshed next to the barn at the back of my property. I get up from my chair and walk to the back window.

“Bloody hell, will this rain ever end?” I ask myself out loud. It doesn’t take but a quick glance to know the rain is heavy and appears it will never end. The thunder and lightning are relentless, with loud, earth-shaking rumbles followed by quick, jagged jolts of lightening, causing me to quickly move away from the window. I hate storms!

There are few things in this world I am afraid of, but thunderstorms are one of them. And this is not a recent fear. When I was a child and the sky grew dark with storm clouds, I would run to the outhouse and hide until the storm passed. It wasn’t the most pleasant place to hide out, but it had one major advantage: no windows. The outhouse worked perfectly for many years, until it was struck by lightning with me inside. Thankfully, I was not harmed, but after that evening, my fear grew even more, and to make matters worse, I had no place to hide.

I look back out the window. It occurs to me that I need to check my property for flooding or damage. The heavy rain has gone on far too long. As I glance out into the darkness with a little more focus, I notice a pool of water next to the barn. Damn, the stream looks as if it is backed up, I think to myself. The stable housing my beloved horses and hay for the winter is located on the banks of a stream that runs through my land. When I decided to build the barn there, my neighboring farmers warned me about building it so close to the stream. They were concerned that during a storm such as this, the water would rise and flood my barn. While the horses would be fine if water got inside, my hay rationings would not. But the stubborn man I am argued that the barn was far enough away it would not be a problem and built the barn there anyway. I wanted my horses to be close to the stream, which encompassed my pasture. And in all the years I have been here, I’ve never had a problem, until now.

I hesitate for a moment and watch the water slowly rise around my barn. I’m sure something is blocking the drain in the culvert, causing the water to rise on the embankment. As much as I hate to admit it, this problem is not going away on its own, especially if it continues to rain. I curse the weather again as I pull on my Wellingtons and raise the collar of my rain slicker. I am not happy about venturing out during this horrible storm, but if I don’t fix the problem now, it could be worse by the time the storm subsides. If I can’t find the source of the blockage, there is a real fear of water ruining my autumn harvest. If that happens, money would be tight for the winter months ahead.

I make my way out to the barn, trudging through the swampy grass, my Wellingtons squishing in the mud. The sound of rain pellets echoing off my slicker is like explosions going off all around me. Once I finally reach the barn, nearly slipping in the mud as I enter, I grab a shovel and proceed to go find the source of the backup.

Because of the heavy rain and darkness, my visibility is compromised. I can’t readily see the source and decide to start digging at the base of the culvert where it appears to have more water building up. I begin to dig, hoping my efforts will remove enough of the blockage to allow the water to flow through freely. My shovel pushes through leaves and debris as I scoop it up and place it on the bank of the creek. When I place the shovel back into the area around the culvert,

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