If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write - Stephen King, On Writing, p. 147
It simply hung there, swaying slightly in the breeze. A strange thing to see hung over a stile in the middle of nowhere. A plain brown belt, the buckle hooked on a nail sticking out of the stile post.
Her regular Sunday afternoon walk took her through the woods, over the stile and across the open fields beyond. Jack said it gave them time to be alone and she’d come to enjoy it. He always appeared refreshed after whatever he did. It was good for their marriage.
She eyed the belt and grinned. Maybe secret lovers had passed this way. Perhaps the man had been too caught up in the moment, forgetful of his belt when he departed. The idea pleased her. The woods and fields were too often deserted, forgotten. The thought of lovers stretched out in the long grass was comforting. She was glad other feet traversed the faint paths left by animals.
She clambered over the stile and strolled across the field. She trailed her hands through the seed heads, imagining the seeds finding empty patches of ground and hibernating for the winter. Her helping hand would ensure a profusion of new plants next summer.
Through the gap in the fence the next field was a riot of poppies. Their vibrant reds faded to dusky pinks, petals sifted to the ground. It reminded her of tired dancers, their stage finery shed, allowing them to relax, rest their weary feet.
She entered the field and picked a couple of poppy heads. She enjoyed popping them and scattering the seeds. Distracted she almost missed the blouse. A dusky red, like the poppies, it blended in. It lay in the centre of the rabbit run she was following.
A belt she could understand but forgetting your blouse? Curious, she bent and retrieved it. It remained just a discarded blouse. She rolled it up, intending to take it to the trash can at the end of the lane beyond. A thought struck her. The wind had been high yesterday. Was it possible someone’s washing had simply lifted into the air and landed here?
The blouse perhaps, the belt, unlikely. With no answers she headed for the gate and the lane beyond. Draped over the gate lay a pair of jeans. Her mouth hung open and her heart hammered. They were Jack’s, her husband’s. No doubt about it. She recognized the patch she had sewn on to cover the hole in the knee.
She stared at the shirt, then the jeans, remembered the belt. Unreasoning panic overwhelmed her. She pelted into the lane and stopped, eyes wide, unbelieving. Jack’s body lay on the ground, face up, eyes staring into the sky. Beside him lay a second body, a woman. Her blouse was absent. Both had a single bullet hole in the forehead.
Melody collapsed beside her husband and read the note pinned to his chest. ‘I knew what they were doing. Now you do. Were the walks his idea?’