Shacklady Chapter 7 excerpt:
Nick put his hand out in Wendy’s direction and smiled at her. “His present please,” he requested. Wendy dutifully produced the piece of neatly folded tissue paper that Nick had secreted in her shoulder bag and he waved it towards Alan’s nose.
“You see the power of these little monsters,” he invited Wendy to observe and waived them in front of Alan’s nose again, as if to prove the point.
“Oh come on, stop taking the piss,” the puppy dog gasped and grabbed for the succulent shellfish. Nick, now content with his taunting, gave way easily and let him have his ‘present’ without further hinderance, adding the packet of chips as a side offering. Alan cosseted the little bag of Cockles in his eager hands and pressed them, close to his chest. “My precious,” he croaked in a passable impersonation of Andy Sircus, then almost reverently opened the package and began to eat with the little wooden fork provided.
“I pity the fool who tries to remove them from him,” sighed Nick and shook his head in an act of self contrition. “Once The Dreaded Turnbull Cockle Junkie gets hold of them, there is no escape, or shares for that matter,” he added, while beginning to laugh again. “He blames his Father’s terrible liking for Newcastle Brown Ale, because whenever the old bugger got in late from one his meetings, he always had a bag of Atlantic Harvest Cockles in one of his pockets. O.K, so they’re delicious, if you like that kind of thing, I understand that but I’ll bet half of that famous, ‘just caught’ flavour, was the dye from the always damp sachet, slowly leaching into the product and doing God knows what to our DNA,” he said, leaving the question unanswered. Wendy just chuckled and moved to sit down.
“You see that Cockle in the ashtray,” Nick wickedly posed, “That’s your Father, that is,” he said and shook with silent laughter.
“Newman and Badiel, if I’m not mistaken,” Alan said and turned his head to look directly at her. “History Today, I believe and when he stops laughing, you can tell him that I’m officially refusing to rise to his obvious bait.” Proclaimed Alan and dove straight back into his, ‘cockle and chips’ research.
Foiled, Nick decided to be an adult about this and asked Alan what he’d been up to, while they were out enjoying themselves.
“You could have come with us, if you’d wanted to,” Wendy chimed in, attempting for some obscure reason, to make him feel better.
“Don’t worry you're pointed little head’s about my sad and lonely life,” Alan chipped back, obviously taking the piss and looking to elucidate some sense of guilt and sympathy in Nick.
“Go on then,” he demanded. “Spill the beans.”
“Only, if you’re nice to me,” taunted Alan, barely holding back the laugh that was fighting to escape from his broadly grinning mouth.
Nick just looked at him, pointed and said the magic word.
“O.K, I give in,” he chuckled and stuffed the last few cockles in his mouth and chewed.“Mmmm……, Ladies and Gentlemen, sit back and be amazed, by the so far sketchy story of Silas Shacklady and his tragic and terrible, road to ruin.”
“Hurrah,” said Nick and clapped his hands together, like an excited seal. “Yes and before you ask, we are I take it, all sitting comfortably, so just get on with it.”
“Right then, here goes nothing,” he began.
“It seems that Silas discovered Mynyth Duul, was in fact a hill of pure Green Slate, not coal as Gerry had thought and there was no mention of gold either, well, not so far anyway,” Alan explained. “Silas, it seems, then convinced some rather rich investment bankers, to back his speculative mining enterprise. Everything went smoothly, at first. The slate seam was high quality but narrowed quickly and led deeper and deeper, becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to extract.” He paused, looking at the screen to check his facts. “Anyway by 1899, things had reached an unsustainable level of expenditure and as the century turned, his backers informed his accountants that they were withdrawing from the agreement. Silas was incandescent at this news, for some reason he’d become convinced there was a ‘Motherload,’ just a bit deeper. So, he carried on digging, deep within the Snowdonia drumlins. It seems, he used his own money until that also ran out. Eventually, he was declared bankrupt and the bailiff's were called in. It seems this was when the cave in happened that trapped over two hundred men and Silas himself.”
“Wow! That must have devastated the local area?” Nick interjected.
“Pretty much,” replied Alan. “Guess that’s why the ruins of these cottages came to be. Though as yet we’ve only really checked out the first few metres of tunnel so who knows where the cave in is.”
“That’s why we’re here, is it not,” Nick said, looking from Wendy to Alan and smiling.
“Well, yes and no. I suppose that you could look at it that way, if you liked but I did just want to welcome you to this place. I didn’t expect the mine thing but hey, it is serendipitous,” he acknowledged, then fell silent, leaving Nick and Wendy plenty of space to consider their options and more to the point, their next moves.
“However, there is something else that freaked me out and it’s something that you should be aware of. The best way that I can describe it is, ‘The curse of Shubin.’”
“Oh wow, over two hundred guys get walled in and there’s a curse too?” Nick sarcastically commented, “So, who the feck’s this Shubin character anyway?”
“OK then, you can read what’s on the screen if you want to find out,” Alan dismissively commented, sat back in his seat and stretched his legs. “Oooh yeah, that really gets to the tightness,” he wheezed and took his hands from behind his head. Getting Nick to shut up when he was in this mood, was a skill that had taken many years to master.
“Can you send this info to my computer?”
“It’s as good as sent,” declared Alan who clicked around for a few seconds. “Warning, it’s not exactly what I’d choose to call ‘info,’ it’s more like Dark History, mixed with myth and legend. It’s what I usually to refer to, as ‘Spooky Mythery’.”
“Mmmm, interesting,” mumbled Nick.
“This is starting to sound exciting already,” Wendy beamed. “I can hardly wait.”
“Be careful, what you wish for,” commented Alan. “Oh and by the way, Nix, in reference to your previous question, Shubin, it seems, is an oft malignant shadow.”