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Jul 22, 2009

It was dark by the time Thomas Black got home that night. He had lingered in the workshop, putting final details on cabinetry and tables. He had needed the time to be alone, and to digest Theo's words. He was disturbed by her account of the Whitcome tragedy, and by what he had learned about that family's misfortunes, resentment, and growing hatred over the generations from the time of Peter Whitcome. A curse was something that Thomas refused to believe in; it was fantasy, irrational. A man made his own way, good or bad, according to the Blacks. But something about the way Theo had spoken to him, the clarity of her eyes, the intensity of her voice, made him believe that there was danger in the village.

At dinner, he had shared his thoughts with Annette, his wife. "For God's sake love, tell the vicar and the police, and have done with it," she said, irritated that he had been carrying this concern. "Tom, it's not our business. This village is fine; nothing ever happens here. One incident and an old woman's words don't mean anything." She took up the dinner plates and put them in the sink. Leaning against the countertop, she folded her arms and looked at him, half smiling, " Don't tell me you need more adventure in your life. You'd look good in a Sherlock Holmes outfit."  Thomas stood up and pulled her to him, wrapping his rough, muscular arms around her waist. He chuckled, "Ay, and all the clues would lead to my wicked wife!" They kissed, and immediately he felt freer. He knew he would just by touching her. If he was reasonable, she was much more so, and he relied on that.

Later that night, he left the house to tell the police and the vicar what he had heard. He was going to hand over this stupid, complicated mess to the people who could deal with it, or dismiss it. The first place to visit was the Crowlies. He was the local policeman, wiry, efficient, and conservative, not much of a Sherlock Holmes, but suited to village life. Thomas expected the conversation to be short, and that he would be put at ease. If there was any more to be said, Crowlie could talk to Theo, after all, it was nothing to do with him. "I wish I'd been told all of this sooner, Tom," said Crowlie, sitting back in his chair in his home office. "We've had no amount of trouble with the Whitcomes since I can remember: fights, stealing, arson.." he trailed off. "What!" said Thomas, almost in a whisper, a sudden thump of forboding in his stomach. "Look Jim," he continued, "I don't know about any of this or the Whitcomes; this is the first I've heard. And somehow, trying to help, I've got involved. Now, I don't know if what Theo says is true, but I just want the whole thing laid to rest." "Well, don't we all Tom," replied Crowlie. "Ninety-five percent of good folk want the same. Look, I know Theo. She's the last truth teller of what's left of the Whitcomes. She's what's kept them alive, and out of the worst of it. But their generations have gone from bad to worse. The last of them are spoiled, selfish, and senseless." "So, there is danger to the village?" asked Thomas uncomfortably. "There's always danger to the village Tom. Don't be deceived, just because it's quiet and bonny. We're just good at keeping what goes on on the outskirts quiet." There was a long pause. "What has any of this got to do with me, Jim? Why did Theo come to me?" "So you haven't figured that one out yet, Tom," said Crowlie standing up and leaning towards Thomas. "It was a Black who sent Peter Whitcome to his grave."