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Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
C.H. Booth Library - Newtown FIC STRONG (Text to phone) 34014080703524 Adult Fiction Available -
Silas Bronson Library - Waterbury MYS FIC STRONG, T (Text to phone) 34005083096544 Adult Mystery Available -
Thompson Public Library Strong (Text to phone) 34038118711175 Adult Mystery Available -

Record details

Subject: Witchcraft > Scotland > Highlands > Fiction.
Highlands (Scotland) > Fiction.
Genre: Psychological fiction.

Syndetic Solutions - Excerpt for ISBN Number 0385333153
The Death Pit
The Death Pit
by Strong, Tony
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The Death Pit

The woman who stepped shivering off the train onto Platform Two of Inverness railway station was in her late twenties. Her hair--a mop of black ringlets, disheveled by sleep--had been pulled back roughly and stuffed through an elastic tie. The suitcases and backpack she was maneuvering onto the platform were evidently heavy: her arms shook as she picked them up and staggered toward the ticket barrier. A small knot of people had gathered there, some holding cards on which were scribbled the names of those they were meeting, and she scanned them slowly. "Therese Williams?" She turned. The question had come from a man of about forty-five or so, wearing jeans and a rain slicker. "Yes. You must be Mr. McCulloch." "Magnus, please." He offered his hand, and she put down the cases to shake it. "And most people call me Terry." She spoke politely enough, but her handshake, he noticed, was listless and brief, as if she did not care to touch him for longer than was absolutely necessary. "Pleased to meet you, Terry. Here, let me." He took one of the cases and swore jovially in a soft Scottish accent. "Jesus! Feels like you've packed an entire wardrobe in here." "They're books," she said flatly. "For my research." "Oh, of course. Anyway, the car's out here." Slightly taken aback by the coolness of her manner, he led her to an old Land Rover parked on a double yellow just outside the station. Rain pattered softly on the metal roof. She shivered again. "Hop in, won't you?" he said, noticing. "I'll see to these." He started to hump her luggage into the back of the Land Rover. "My coat's in one of the suitcases. I wasn't expecting--it wasn't raining in London." "Oh, this isn't rain, lassie," he said cheerfully. "This is Highland mist." She said nothing, picking up the second suitcase herself and hoisting it with some difficulty next to the first. He grabbed the backpack and was about to swing it in when she stopped him. "Careful. That's got my laptop in it." "Rightio," he said. She winced as it landed with only slightly less force than the suitcases on the wet floor of the Land Rover. As they put their seat belts on, he took the opportunity to take a closer look at her. A pretty enough little thing, but painfully thin. Only the faint curve of her breasts, defined by the strap of the seat belt, gave a hint of sensuousness to the angular body. And, if first impressions were anything to go by, as quiet as a mouse. A shame: he'd been looking forward to some adult company, and this ice maiden didn't look as if she was going to be much fun. He turned the key and pulled out into the traffic. "Good journey?" he asked conversationally. "It was fine." In fact she had found being in a sleeping compartment with so many other bodies only feet away, privy to their dream-murmurs and their snores, their mutterings and--in the case of one young couple--their muffled lovemaking, strange and slightly unsettling. It brought back memories of school dormitories, and something more as well--some atavistic recollection of precivilized cave dwelling. Or perhaps it was just that sleeper trains reminded her of wartime films. She'd even woken in the middle of the night and found that they were at Crewe, a name somehow deeply redolent of old black-and-white movies. She had not in any case been sleeping well since her illness--she still couldn't bring herself to give it the blunt and somewhat melodramatic term her doctor used--and at Crewe someone had got on with a baby, which had cried intermittently for the rest of the journey. For the rest of the night Terry had lain awake, as she so often did these days, not angry or restless but simply numb, her eyes open but staring sightlessly at the ceiling. "I've got some news on the publication side," she said. "A magazine called Slant is definitely interested in a series of pieces on Catherine." " Slant. Slant . . . Don't think I've come across that." "It's an academic magazine specializing in lesbian studies. It's got quite a small circulation." "Really?" She felt him take his eyes off the road to glance at her. Was it her imagination, or was he suppressing a smile? But all he said was, "Babcock's a small place, Terry, but you'll find us a pretty broad-minded lot. We take people pretty much as we find them." "What if they don't want to be found?" she murmured, half to herself. "I'm sorry?" "Nothing." A sudden downpour pelted the Land Rover with raindrops the size of gobstoppers. The stubby little windshield wipers were soon rendered completely useless, and visibility shrank to a few yards. They were beyond the outskirts of Inverness now, the granite houses giving way to open countryside. Magnus didn't slow down. Terry--who knew perfectly well that to criticize a man's driving was tantamount to criticizing his performance in bed, but who had a rather well-developed sense of her own safety--decided she might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. "Could we slow down a bit until the storm's over?" she asked. He glanced at the sky. "This isn't a storm. It's a shower." "Slow down," she snapped. "For Christ's sake, lassie," he muttered, "I'm only doing forty." But he reduced the Land Rover's speed a little. "Thank you." They drove in silence for a few minutes. "I don't mean to be rude," she said carefully, "but I would also prefer it if you didn't call me lassie." He said nothing, though the Land Rover's speed increased again. "This has nothing to do with feminism," Terry went on. "It's simply that, to me, Lassie is the name of a small and rather repellent sheepdog." Right, Magnus thought. Two can play at this game. "You know, you're not the first English visitor we've had up here," he said conversationally. "Oh, yes?" she said indifferently. "Have you ever heard of the Iron Lords, Ms. Williams?" She shrugged. "No." "They were Englishmen who came up to smelt iron in the nineteenth century. They weren't allowed to chop down the oak forests in England for their furnaces, so they came and used ours. We had mountains of oak--literally: the mountains were covered with the stuff--but of course no one in London was going to worry about preserving them." Some response seemed to be required of her. "I thought Scottish hills were covered in heather." "They are now, Ms. Williams. They are now. But three hundred years ago they were covered in forests. Beautiful oak forests that had been there since the beginning of time. There weren't any forests in the valleys, of course, because that was where the farmers had their crofts." He paused expectantly. "And what happened to the crofts?" she asked dutifully. "The English landlords cleared them for sheep," Magnus said. "These were the same Englishmen who invented the kilt, incidentally. Not a lot of people know this, but that famous article of our national dress was actually provided by our oppressors, because they were too fucking mean to sew trousers for their workers." Terry was rapidly getting a very bad feeling about this conversation. "Oh, and then there was Queen Victoria. Another polite English visitor. She fell in love with the whole mist-and-mountain bullshit that Walter Scott dreamed up. You have heard of Walter Scott, I take it?" "Of course. A hugely popular nineteenth-century Romantic novelist. Ivanhoe, Rob Roy . . ." "The fact that it was fiction didn't seem to matter to her," Magnus went on, ignoring her. "She decided to buy a castle and live the fantasy for herself. Only when she got here, she found the place a little more civilized than she'd been led to expect. So she built a castle, the way she thought the Scots ought to have built them if they'd read the old stories, and decreed that everyone on her estate should wear clan tartans, just like the savages in her favorite books. And where the Queen led, all the other English landlords followed. Imagine: it's like an American president building a wooden fort in Mayfair and deciding that from now on all Londoners have to wear woad. This isn't a country, Ms. Williams, it's a fucking theme park. Scott Land, with two T's, as in Walter fucking Scott. So before you come up here with your English condescension, just remember that we've had a lot of practice at being condescended to, eh? About five hundred years' worth." There was a brief silence. "What makes you think I'm being condescending?" she said, puzzled. "Well . . . let's just say you seem less than delighted to be here," he said dryly. "I see." She rubbed her hand over her face. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to appear rude. It's just that . . ." She struggled to explain but couldn't find the words. How could you describe a feeling of complete indifference to every human being, whatever their sex or nationality? "I didn't sleep very well on the train," she offered at last. Excerpted from The Death Pit by Tony Strong All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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