The shadows lengthened across the fens. Not a soul moved on the street. The windows were all dark.
Jesus, Courtney! Where are you?
“I’ll check inside,” I remembered her saying, finding the door to the Sedge Hotel open. “Someone will know directions.”
Women. Always so keen to ask for directions. We had fallen out over it, driving in furious silence, with me cursing the satnav. Then, suddenly, we were in Deeping St Jude, with a nearly empty tank and no phone signal. Not on any map, but sagging brick cottages, a dilapidated hotel and a church steeple like a preacher’s hectoring finger.
Still no Courtney. How long has it been?
I saw a pale girl in a dirty frock leave the old almshouse.
I lowered the window and called out.
“Which direction is the B1454?” No answer, so: “King’s Lynn? Anywhere?”
She approached the car and I noticed her leathery cheeks and bruised lips. No beauties in rural East Anglia.
“Take me with you,” she said – no, hissed.
“I don’t think your mother would like that.”
“She’s not coming back, your woman. Take me instead!”
Her little hand grabbed my collar. I struggled, but her grip was too tight. I flicked the switch and the window rose, pinning her thin wrist. Terror made me pitiless. I drove forward, with the horrible imp running beside, her fingers trapped in the door.
That’s when I saw them: faces, in every window; eyes like cold lamps, unkind and covetous.
I put my foot down. The girl fell away and Deeping St Jude disappeared from my rear view mirror.
When the car sputtered to a halt, I walked through the evening until I found a proper road. A pickup truck stopped for me and I insisted the old driver search for my girlfriend. We trundled back down the lane until it emerged near Burnham Market. We returned, to my waiting car. No village.
“Do you recall the name,” asked the old man “of your missing lady friend?”
But I couldn’t remember who or what I’d been looking for.
He hooked a chain to tow my car.
“I don’t like to be on these lanes at night,” he grumbled, as we pulled away. “Too close to Deeping St Jude for my liking.”
I nodded, reflecting on the odd names they give these funny little places, while I calculated the size of my breakdown bill.
I've written a series of tales for the eerie Deeping St Jude. There's no shortage of endless lanes beside sunken fields in East Anglia. The villages often have these double-barrelled names, ending in the local church. St Jude, or Judas Thaddaeus, is the patron saint of lost causes - but I wonder if the church in Deeping St Jude isn't named after the other, more notorious Judas...
The Daily Ghost
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