He was glad he had when Ben, perhaps upset on his behalf about the resurrection, so to speak, of Stefan, immediately picked up the pencil and began adding random, angry scribbles. “I agree with Squeezy. I’ve already said this—you can’t just make arbitrary connections between things! This is all crap. If you could, why not—I don’t know—Look, you could draw…” He sketched a second connection from Hextor House, leaving at the same offset as the other two and took the pencil to the very western edge of the map. “Wow! Look! Fuck me! The Tamar! How creepy is that?” Then he scrawled again from the chapel grounds, at the same trajectory and took that to the top of the map. “Oh, my God. Okehampton! Well, that proves everything.” He looked up, triumphant. “If this thing, whatever this is, was really happening to us, which it’s not, then this—” He stabbed his pencil down where the lines he’d drawn intersected and then stopped so abruptly it was as if he’d been slapped.

On the map was a distinct star—a five-pointed star. Ben licked his lips. “No! This is more than crap. If it’s true then…” He squinted at the place where his new, long jottings joined. “That would be somewhere of significance, too. It’s not. It’s just a dumb village.”

Nikolas glanced down and his pulse beat unevenly, just once.

It was Tipton St Mary.

Tim produced a pencil from his pocket and using the edge of his phone drew the line. As Nikolas had predicted, it ran straight without deviation from Hextor House to the bog, right through the unnamed tor where the baby had lain. Now, with two lines on the map, they had something that resembled a Christian cross fallen to one side. Nikolas could almost see the figure of Christ kneeling, trying desperately to pick it up and carry it to his death.

Extremely carefully, with penmanship he’d learnt many decades ago in a schoolroom very far removed from his life now, Nikolas drew a circle around the five-pointed star and rubbed away Ben’s angry additions.


The silence in the kitchen almost hurt his ears. Nikolas was relieved when the puppy wriggled in his basket and whined, his paws scrabbling in a wild, chasing dream. Radulf stirred then and came to his side, the familiar paw on his thigh.

Nikolas relaxed. Ben’s foot was still on his.

Now Radulf was by his side.

What was there to fear from a pentagram joining these places in their lives?

His Fateful Heap of Days, Book 8 in the More Heat Than the Sun series, is set on Dartmoor, a wild tract of land in southern England. When Ben and Nikolas find a mutilated body buried in a shallow grave, their quest to find the killers leads them to discover that Dartmoor is a place of ancient secrets. The book originally had some maps to illustrate the process of discovery, which had to be taken out in the formatting stage. 

“Have you actually been to this bog?”

“Once or twice.” Nikolas felt Ben’s foot now connect with his and remain upon it, as the import of that short reply reverberated between them.

“Is there a strange stump? An old tree?”

Nikolas swallowed. “I believe there is, yes.”

“That’s Jayne Drovere. Drover. Jayne Drover. Remember? The witch who murdered Ben’s ancestor and was punished by being calcified? Well, in legend that is. Not for real, of course. I told you she was somewhere still on Dartmoor. That’s where. Drover Tor. According to local legend she guards the portal for the dead…the bog, I suppose.”

Tim hesitated for a moment, frowned at something he could apparently see on the map, took up the pencil and then drew a line from the top of the wonky x, Ben’s cottage, to this new place, the bog. It didn’t take a mathematician to immediately spot that this additional line made a triangle, and that two of its angles were identical.


Nikolas knew it was an isosceles triangle, but realised in the nick of time that this was one of those pieces of information that might be better kept to himself.

 

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