HARVEST

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John Haugh, family man. John Haugh, small town police officer. John Haugh, the bringer of justice.

But when a human skull is found in the woods of BARROW FELLS in Lancashire, England, the real John Haugh will slowly unravel, the John Haugh who extends the law to his fists, who locks himself inside his head, who is increasingly unable to separate work from recreation. Then there’s respected garden writer Laura Haugh, who wants nothing more than her old John back, the one she fell in love with, the one who shed a tear the day they married. In this CRIME NOVEL by Robert Weaver, relationships will be tested, psychics will be called upon, nature will be feared, and seeds of the past will be REAPED.

Welcome to BARROW FELLS, a town on the edge of forest and moor, beauty and pain, virtue and vice, marriage and … death?

Some people disappear and they don’t come back – that’s what Laura believes. A disappearance creates another disappearance and you wait and you wait – but perhaps it’s better if they stay gone? Secrets, of course. It’s all about secrets. Everyone has one, everyone buries them, and when it rains it floods and when it floods secrets come bubbling up. With the Lancashire moors providing the backdrop to this HAUNTING MYSTERY of LOVE and HATE, THANATOS and EROS, SEEDS and TREES, Harvest follows the intrepid lives of residents of Barrow Fells while Sergeant John Haugh helps with a murder investigation (or will he hinder it, to keep his past where it belongs?).

Some cases aren’t meant to be solved.
Some secrets aren’t meant to be revealed.
Some lives aren’t meant to be.

By the end of this harvest season, nothing will be the same again.

You reap what you sow.

Physical version coming soon!


John looked up at Rory, a purple plum where her eye was supposed to be, the swelling already noticeable in the dark. She was wearing stockings and a pair of denim shorts and a big fluffy coat. Her hair was washed, he could tell, and it fell softly on her shoulders, cut in a way that made the tips look as sharp as needles.


Chapter 1: The Fading of Empire Dreams

Laura believed she was losing him. When she had told her husband John that she wanted his child, he walked away from her, and last night when she wanted to make love to him he ignored her, as though her essence he found repugnant. But the worst thing was that she somehow felt responsible, as if it were she that had planted in him the seeds of disgust, ugliness, inadequacy. The downstairs light was on and she’d got out of bed to peer down at him dressing in the lamplight. She thought about the day they’d met and the relationship that had developed afterwards. Topics related to family and children and sometimes even intimacy transformed John into another John, one that she barely recognised, but one that Laura believed came to be from the childhood he’d lived, fostered in the foster homes that pulled him in and spat him out.

Laura wondered now after all these years whether she had made the mistake of misplacing herself in a man that didn’t love her back. Like a kerosene fire in her chest, it was a fear that had her questioning whether her John would continue to be the John that made her laugh, the John who made her feel part of the world, the John who had shed a tear the day they married, the John who loved her more than she loved herself. That fear, naturally, was kindled by a deeper, darker fear: if John were to leave her, then perhaps, like a gardener pulling out a plant by its roots, he could take with him the core of the person she had grown to be.

She slinked downstairs and stood looking at the man who resembled her husband. He was fastening his utility belt. The sound of his AP radio still crackled in her mind, the beep it made when he held down the trigger.

He’d be right over. Domestic dispute.

John must have heard her or felt her presence because he turned round and glanced at her face, the worry-lines, the fear.

‘Is it bad?’ Laura asked.

‘I’m sure it’s nothing,’ John said, putting on the blue windbreaker with Police across the back.

‘You haven’t had an early morning call out for a long time.’

‘Nothing to worry about’

‘Is it her?’

‘I’ll be back for breakfast.’

‘She’s got problems, John.’

‘We’ve all got our problems.’

‘She won’t admit she does.’

John picked up the radio and walked to the front door.

‘This isn’t a personal visit, is it?’ she said, the desperation cracking her voice, making her words lash out like a snake’s tongue might.

‘I’m on duty,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you at breakfast.’

‘We have to talk. About us. About last night. About everything.’

‘I love you, Laura.’ Then he’d gone out the door, closing it behind him. Laura knew exactly where he was going. To see Rory Wake.

Someone once told Laura that you can’t have love without hate, and she knew deep inside she could never hate John, not completely.

I love you, Laura.

And that was the problem.

Outside, the neon lights of the pharmacy a few houses down smoked through the mist and against the asphalt like ink in water. The street lamps glowing orange like filthy halos on the footpath. John started the engine of the Hyundai patrol car, turned on the heater, and sat looking out the frosted window. He and Laura lived in the stucco house made of sandstone and roofed with slate, as the architecture in Lancashire offers, which was leased to them free of charge by the county on account of its proximity to the Barrow Fells police station. The balcony on the second floor had hanging pots in which Laura grew flowers that during springtime blossomed red, yellow, white. The bedroom light was on. He could see her silhouette behind the curtains, her form, her figure. Then the light turned off. He should have known that never again would the beautiful flowers bloom.

A mile outside of town, a hectare of undeveloped land stretched out in front of woodlands, interspersed with gorse bushes and scattered with heath. The Tod’s Brook trickled and burbled through the Scots pines that stood jagged against the sky. A couple hours earlier, the night would have been filled with music from the festival by the moorlands.

An oak tree sheltered a cottage whose roof, along the western end, was covered in a blue tarpaulin, and its windows were foggy with cobwebs.

She was sitting on the top step watching John pull into the muddy driveway, the light of the porch pointing out all her imperfections. John cut the engine.

‘He’s gone,’ she said as he approached her. Rory Wake, twenty four years old with a prepaid ticket to the grave. Her boyfriend of four months had been giving her grief, as they all did, because it’s all they ever knew or cared to know. And there were more. When one got bored another one was ready to step into the previous man’s shoes, and the cycle was certain to continue until one snuffed out her candle for good.

‘Where?’ he asked.

‘To bother someone else.’

John felt the wind on his face. He wanted to be back at home wrapped up in blankets. Despite what was happening between him and Laura, he wanted Laura beside him, feeling her warmth and her touch and her fingernails against his skin, to hear her breathe, to smell the soap on her skin, the shampoo in her hair.

John looked up at Rory, a purple plum where her eye was supposed to be, the swelling already noticeable in the dark. She was wearing stockings and a pair of denim shorts and a big fluffy coat. Her hair was washed, he could tell, and it fell softly on her shoulders, cut in a way that made the tips look as sharp as needles.

‘Tell me what happened,’ said John. She then invited him inside and he followed. She looked right at him, her hands fitted on her hips, and said, ‘You still drink coffee, Mr Constable?’

‘It’s Sergeant now,’ he replied. ‘Equal parts coffee and milk.’ Rory took a kettle from the top cupboard and looked into it, made a face at the dust and rat droppings within, maybe a dead cockroach. She washed the kettle in the sink and filled it up and set it to boil on the hob. On the carpet in the living room were an upturned ashtray and a scattering of cigarette butts.

John asked, ‘Is this the last time you’re going to see him?’

‘I sure hope so.’

‘You said the exact same thing last time.’

‘I’m still hoping.’

‘Do I have to go track him down?’

‘I called you after he hit me. Everything were fine and dandy, until he went outside and walked round in the dark, grumbling the way he does when he’s angry or drunk or both. The kinda grumble that makes the wind bugger off. I watched him out the window a while. What was I supposed to do? Stand there waiting for him to come back in and clean my clock? So I turned on TV and lay on the sofa. I figured I could go out doing something more interesting than just being scared. You notice how bad TV is these days? For the life of me I couldn’t find anything good to watch.’

‘Get to it, Rory.’

‘Eventually he came back in and stood in front of the damn TV.’

‘Then he hit you?’

‘I threw the ashtray at him. I told the prick in advance if he didn’t move out the way I’d hurl it at him. I warned him first, John. That’s got to count for something, right? If it means anything, I could smell her on him. I don’t want him coming back this time. He doesn’t make me feel good. He makes me a bad person.’

‘He took all his stuff? Has he ever done that before?’

‘I think he’s had enough of me.’

‘Men don’t get tired of places to sleep and women who feed them.’

‘Well, I ain’t like other women. Maybe I tire men. Maybe I don’t cook too good either.’

John was looking at the shadowed room. The bathroom door was closed. Pillows and blankets lay on the sofa. A bucket half-filled with rain water on the living room floor. Dirty plates and knives and forks and cups and crisp wrappers. An empty ziplock bag, a couple rolled joints, a needle on the coffee table.

‘You could have tidied up,’ said John.

‘What?’ She was pouring hot water into two cups of instant coffee. She handed him one. He nodded at the dark room, light from the kitchen picking out the salient things.

‘Uh-huh. You’re going to bust me, Mr Sergeant?’

‘I could.’

‘Will you?’

‘I just wish you treated me with a bit more respect, is all.’

‘I forgot about it, and I weren’t expecting company. I didn’t wake up thinking, “oh boy can’t wait for Jerry to beat the shit out of me”. They belong to him.’ She’d crossed her arms and was nodding at the drugs on the coffee table. ‘Most anyway. That’s the truth, John. I do respect you.’

‘Where’s Harriet?’

‘God knows. She doesn’t tell me anything. I think she went to the festival. That were twelve hours ago.’

‘She hasn’t been back?’

‘She does everything except what I tell her.’

‘You ever think about getting some help?’

‘I don’t need any. Plus you’re only a phone call away.’

‘Your boyfriend uses you as a punching bag and you’ve got drugs out in the living room. Harriet’s fourteen years old.’

‘And despite all that I’m still looking out for her. Who else is going to? Those foster homes ain’t a place to grow up in. Plus she knows what’s mine and what she shouldn’t touch. She’s smart, even though she does dumb things. Mum will be out of prison soon. She’ll be able to keep an eye on Harriet then.’

‘She’s not here, you are. Tidy up the house, Rory.’

Rory stared at John a while. Her fingernails were painted purple, chipped along the edges. She was one to argue but only until she found her dignity. She said, ‘You’re right. Place is a bloody mess and it’s going to take a couple months at least to get Jerry’s odour out. I’ll clean up the house. I promise.’

‘You have to clean up everything, not just the house. You still playing your guitar?’

‘I look at it every now and again.’

‘Looking at it isn’t going to get you anywhere.’

‘Let’s start with this: when do I have time to do anything for myself? Between working and Harriet there’s only so many minutes in a day.’

‘I remember when you had dreams. You told me you’d never quit, never give up.’

‘Life had other plans. I’m trying to hold together what’s left of my family.’

‘I could talk to Owen. I can get you a spot at the Casket.’

‘That’s kind of you, John, but there’s no way he’d let me play there.’

‘Let me talk to him.’

She had moved closer to him and he hadn’t realised until now that he could smell the perfume she’d put on right before he arrived. ‘If you want to do me a favour you could maybe stay a while longer,’ she said. ‘Rest on the sofa. I’ll make us breakfast. I think I might even have some eggs left to make pancakes.’

‘I can’t stay and you know that.’

‘She must be a great woman. A woman better than me, at least.’

‘Start practising your music. I’ll talk to Owen. It’s not over yet for Rory Wake.’

‘You mean that woman with her sister living out by the woods next to the palm reader? The one got all those men who come and go like she’s running a brothel? That Rory Wake? I don’t think she’s got much left in the tank.’

‘You’ve got to start somewhere. Next stop is London.’

‘You’re a real nice man, John. I hope Laura sees it as much as I do.’

‘You call me again if Jerry shows up.’

‘You think he’ll be back?’

‘As sure as the sun will rise above those trees over there.’

She whistled. ‘I don’t doubt your experience with villains.’

‘Find someone better, Rory. Someone who cares about you, someone you deserve.’

‘I wonder, John, how can a woman be responsible for the sins of her lover?’