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The Vengeance

February 27, 2014

The Vengeance

By Ananda Liyanage | Foremost Books

 

Selected Chapter

North Yorkshire

England

Arriving in London on Etihad Airways flight EY 011 and landing at the unearthly time of 0645 hours at Heathrow on a gray and foggy day, Sandani an attractive brunette in her early thirties cleared immigration and customs at terminal four in thirty minutes. She had had a long flight leaving Colombo at 1830 hours the previous day with a stopover of five hours in Abu Dhabi. However she did not feel excessively tired as she had flown first class with sufficient space to stretch her legs and the comfort of a good reclining seat. The atmosphere outside the terminal was in keeping with her mood, gray and gloomy. She supposed that the aircraft had landed on instruments as the visibility was almost zero when she looked outside as they came in to land.

In order to get to her destination Hutton Rudby she had to get to Kings Cross which was the mainline station in London for the north of England and Scotland. She hurried to take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station on the west side of London. The journey from Heathrow took about thirty minutes travelling through the suburbs of west London. The temperature was around twelve degrees Celsius, and it was now raining and windy. The fog had disappeared.

The journey was dreary with little to see but suburban houses, traffic jams, some green parks marked for football, tube stations packed with commuters on their way to work and brown leaves falling on wet roads. It was a cold wet unwelcome arrival to England. Although the train carriage was modern, with on board television, and filled with overseas travellers it was very quiet as people rarely talked to each other on English trains.

The train terminated at Paddington, and she moved off with many other passengers to the underground to catch a circle line train for the journey across London from Paddington station to Kings Cross station, which took another thirty minutes. She had to stand because although tube trains were frequent, they were generally full. She was glad of her single piece of luggage.After a short walk from the underground station at Kings Cross she arrived at the mainline station. To get to Hutton Rudby in north Yorkshire she had to make a three hour journey by train to Darlington. Darlington was situated on the main line for Newcastle and Edinburgh in Scotland. Trains departed every hour. She preferred to travel this long leg in comfort and despite the price, purchased a one way single first class ticket.

The journey out passed through the suburbs of London and she passed the Emirates football stadium, the new home of the Arsenal football team. Within no time the train arrived at its first stop, Stevenage. A two minute stop saw the train lighten considerably and she had a chance to sit back and enjoy the journey.

Her mind wondered over the events that had taken place over the last few months which were the reason why she was on this train and travelling to Hutton Rudby today. Sandani had met her ex husband Kevin while researching in the British Museum two and a half years ago. She was at that time already the proud author of two monographs. She was researching what was to have been her first full length book.

The two monographs were based on research work she had done on two subjects: the arrival and deposit of the Dantha Dathuwa in Lanka and the arrival and the planting of the Bo tree in Lanka respectively. Her present research had commenced after a remark made by a reporter on the subject of her second monograph. She had married Kevin the summer following the year of their meeting. At that time she was hoping to finish the book in another year. However after two and a half years it was still not finished. She now had enough data to finish it and resolved she would do so in another six months.

The rain had stopped and the sun appeared. Suddenly she could see the green country side of England. Sheep and cows were grazing in the many fields. The hedgerows keeping the cattle apart was now turning brown and losing their lush green summer colour in the late autumn coldness. The next town they passed through was Peterborough.

In 1850 the opening of the Great Northern Railway’s main line from London to York had transformed Peterborough from a market town to an industrial centre. Lord Exeter the renowned British politician had opposed the railway passing through Stamford, so Peterborough, situated between the two main terminals at London and Doncaster benefitted by it.

The train next stopped at Grantham, a typical English market town. She did not see much of this fine old town as the train stopped very briefly, for just a few minutes before moving on once again into the countryside. She could see farms with horses and fisherman at small ponds enjoying some late autumn sport. They were dressed for a long cold day in the open. She involuntarily drew her rug tighter around her. She would have dozed off because she did not notice the train passing through the two market towns in Nottinghamshire Newark-on-Trent, generally shortened to Newark, and Retford.

At Doncaster the train took the right fork leading to York. The straight track led to Leeds. Doncaster was well known for its race course and its racing events. She had been in the train for over an hour and felt the pangs of hunger. She made her way to the buffet car where she had preference in view of her first class ticket and ordered cheese sandwiches and a cup of tea. She was surprised to note that it was a bag of Ceylon tea but was annoyed at the price tag.

It was in the buffet car that she saw the man. He was a tall man, handsome in his own way, in dark clothes. His complexion was dark and he had unruly hair. He limped rather heavily on his right foot as he walked in. She had the premonition that she had seen him or known him before but could not place where it had been however hard she tried. The man looked at her and abruptly looked away. She realised that maybe he did not want to be recognised. However it confirmed her suspicion that he knew her. She forgot the encounter quickly.

Returning to her seat she observed the fascination that the English had for knocking a small ball around several greens called ‘golf’ which was evident by the large number of golf courses springing up. Even in this cold weather she could see golfers, in woolly hats and warm jackets, ready to combat anything the weather threw up. After just over two and quarter hours, the train arrived at the medieval city of York. York is situated at equal distance from London to Edinburgh. York sits on the Rivers Ouse and Foss.

The train stopped in the city centre. The city itself was founded in 1st century. The cathedral is magnificently set amongst old 12th century houses and streets and is completely surrounded by walls that date back to Roman times in the 1st century. York is steeped in history. The Battle of Fulford took place at the village of Fulford, near York in 1066, when King Harald III of Norway and his English ally, fought and defeated the northern Earls. The Battle of Fulford did not yield a huge gain or loss to either side, but fits into the important chain of events of the English autumn of 1066. The English losses were not decisive and the Norwegians retained a sizeable army and prepared for an attack on York.

The most prominent site in York is that of York Minster a famous Church of England cathedral. In the 19th century York became the home to the Great North East Railways who made the city its home base. With the emergence of tourism as a major industry, the historic core of York became one of the city’s major assets. The existing tourist attractions were supplemented by the establishment of the National Railway Museum in York in 1975. The opening of the University of York in 1963 added to the prosperity of the city. The fast and frequent railway service, which brings York within two hours journey time of London, has resulted in a number of companies opening offices in the city.

As the train left York the countryside gradually changed. Whilst the fields were still very green, the hills of the north Yorkshire Moors which covers a vast area of Yorkshire began to appear. Farmers mostly rear sheep which are left to roam around the hills and mountains as very little crops grew in this area. Whilst the next stop she knew was Darlington which was still fifteen minutes away, she observed etched into the hillside at Kilburn some ten kilometres away a huge shape of a white horse. This had mysteriously appeared in medieval times and is still a site of marvel.

Finally the train arrived at Darlington. Having alighted she took a taxi to Hutton Rudby which would take around thirty minutes. The taxi passed Darlington and went by the Durham Tees Valley airport. The area around the airport was sparcely populated. However at the next village of Yarm, the traffic was heavy, mainly because of the inadequacy of parking requirements.

The taxi crossed the old bridge across the river Tees and passed through Yarm in ten minutes. Leaving Yarm the taxi travelled slightly uphill for about a mile and continued along narrow roads and on to Hutton Rudby. Just before it arrived at Hutton Rudby it passed through the small village of Crathorne. Lord Crathorne still resided in the area, his family having historical owned almost all the land in the surrounding countryside through many generations.

Hutton Rudby nestles in the lee of the north Yorkshire Moors and Cleveland hills. In autumn the wonderful red, yellow and brown leaves of the trees mix with evergreen foliage to give a most beautiful colour which at best lasts no longer than a few weeks. Once the winds and rain arrive, the leaves fall quickly and cover the roads making driving and even walking hazardous.

Hutton Rudby is a village of about 1500 inhabitants was at the edge of the north Yorkshire Moors. The north Yorkshire Moors is a national park. The moors are one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in England. It covers an area of nearly 1500 square kilometres but has a population of only about 25,000. On this autumn day the village green was surrounded by huge trees and the colours were magnificent. Beyond the trees stood terraced houses well maintained with smoke pouring from their chimney stacks. All this reminded Sandani Mudunkotuwa of the very first time she was here.

The taxi passed the village hall and went down the hill by an imposing 12th century church surrounded by grave stones and up the hill for about hundred yards and she had arrived.

The question was had she arrived home?

 

*                      *                      *                      *

 

Sandani had begun to use her maiden name after the separation. She had been Sandani Peters before. She paid the taxi and thanked the driver with a smile and a handsome tip. He acknowledged it with the raise of his hand to his cap. The short walk to the front door seemed longer today. When she knocked it was immediately opened as if her arrival had been seen and framed in the doorway was Mrs Peters. She was a stout woman with much humour which made her a very likable person. Sandani wondered whether she would be likeable today due to her unannounced arrival. Their parting two years ago had not been that friendly.

She stopped a few paces away and looked directly at her former mother-in-law. After staring at her for a while as if not believing what she saw Mrs Peters opened her arms without saying a word. Sandani flew into the open arms which immediately closed around her. She felt what she always felt in her mother-in-laws arms the warmth her own mother had not given her, having abandoned her as a child in preference to another man.

It was a little while later when the cold began to seep under her garments and she involuntary shivered that Mrs Peters said in her gruff voice,

“How inconsiderate of me to keep you outside the door on a day such as this”

Sandani said,

“Thank you Mrs Peters”

The immediate response was,

“I am always mom to you”

She repeated,

“Thank you mom”

They moved indoors to the spacious living room and Mrs Peters had gone off to prepare some snacks and tea for Sandani saying that she must be famished travelling continuously for over twenty four hours.

 

*                      *                      *                      *

 

Sandani went over to the mantelpiece while Mrs Peters was busy in the kitchen and looked at the familiar faces. There were photographs of four generations of Kevin’s ancestors. His great grandfather, his grandfather and his father all stared down at her from the mantelpiece. They were from welsh stock. It was Kevin’s great grandfather who had moved to north Yorkshire and settled there at the turn of the 20th century. Kevin had been born and raised in Yorkshire but remained a loyal Welshman cheering the Welsh rugby team when they played England. He was still considered a foreigner by the English.

A photograph of Kevin stood at the extreme right with his arms around her at the edge of the north Yorkshire Moors which was his most loved place on all earth. It was a very picturesque place with a giant Ash in the foreground. She took down the picture and unknowingly a tear rolled down her cheeks and fell on the photograph. She heard a voice behind her say,

“He never wanted that photograph removed”

“Where is he now?”

She asked unashamedly turning her face to Mrs Peters with wet cheeks.

“Where but at the place in the photograph”

As she hurried out of the door forgetting the food and the tea but only pulling on her cardigan which she had removed upon entering the house she heard Mrs Peters say after her,

“He is in a wheelchair with Nurse Jones who looks after him. She knows you. She is from the village”

 

*                      *                      *                      *

 

As she walked and ran intermittently the eight hundred meters from the house to the edge of the moors her breath became irregular and her fair complexion assumed a rosy hue. She stopped when she saw a man on a wheelchair facing away from her and a nurse seated on a nearby bench. She slowed her run to a walk. The nurse stood up at her approach and as she came closer recognised her. She kept her finger to her lips in the universal sign of silence.

She walked up to the wheelchair. The man in the wheelchair wore thick woollen garments and had a rug on his lap. He felt the presence of someone behind him but incorrectly assumed that it was the nurse. After a while he said,

“Nora, I want you to wheel me to this place every evening whatever the weather”

Not expecting and not receiving a reply he went on,

“This place has so many sweet memories for me, as a child, as a teenager and as an adult. No other place on this whole earth is comparable to this place. Everything of value in my life has a bearing to this place. This was the place I proposed to the only women I loved and still do”

Sandani remembered that he had walked her down to this place on her first visit to see his mother and he had proposed marriage to her at this place. For the second time in an hour Sandani felt her vision blur as tears formed in her eyes. They rolled down her cheeks and fell on Kevin’s shoulder. At first he thought it was a rain drop but when he realised it was too irregular for rain he turned back for the first time after she had come up behind him.

It was a very emotional reunion. Kevin upon recognising Sandani tried to stand up. Both Sandani and the nurse rushed to stop him over exerting himself as the doctor had ordered. Sandani came to the front of the wheelchair and knelt in front of Kevin to be on the same level as him. He took her face in his hands stared long and hard before kissing her very tenderly. She responded by kissing any part of him that she could reach.

They then realised that all their actions were observed by the nurse and dismissed her for the day saying that Sandani would wheel him back to the house. They thereafter talked of their feelings for each other Sandani kneeling in front of Kevin who sat in the wheelchair. They talked of the causes for their estrangement and events that had led to their reunion, of the horrors of those turbulent weeks and how love has prevailed over disaster.

 

*                      *                      *                      *

 

After the tearful reunion Sandani wheeled him back to the house. Seated in the living room they continued talking to each other for a considerable time. At the noonday meal Mrs Peters was tactfully absent allowing them to be with each other. It was after the meal that Sandani casually mentioned the man she had seen in the buffet car in the train. Kevin immediately asked for a fuller description of the man and she provided as much as she could remember by that brief encounter.

After the meal he made a call which she knew was to his office and spoke for a considerable time with someone. He spoke first and thereafter listened. He nodded in agreement several times before speaking once again. He thereafter concluded the conversation. She did not overhear what he said as she was on the other side of the living room but knew that it was important due to the grim expression he had when he finished the conversation. However his grimness quickly vanished in her company.

It was after tea that Mrs Peters joined them again. In the meantime Sandani settled herself as a house guest. After her husband’s death five years ago Mrs Peters had taken over the responsibilities of the head of the family. Till then she had more or less been a housewife.

During the evening at least three times Kevin wheeled his chair over to the curtained window and keeping to a side peered out at the gloom. The last time he asked Sandani from the window to switch off the lights as he peeped outside. That was when Sandani asked whether there was anything wrong. He answered cryptically,

“I was wondering if a ghost had come back from the past”

Kevin had cautioned both Sandani and Mrs Peters later, without attributing any reason for it,

“I want you to lock and bolt the doors of the house tonight. Check that the windows are also locked. Do not open it under any circumstance unless I say so”

He asked Sandani to wheel him to his room later. Once inside he went up to his working table and extracted something from the drawer which he kept on his lap covered by the rug. Sandani saw that it was the semi automatic pistol that was issued to all undercover agents of the secret service. Sandani knew that it was a Walther PPK as he had shown it to her and explained its workings. She also knew that he was an excellent shot which gave her confidence in facing whatever threat he foresaw.

The Walther PPK was manufactured by Carl Walther of Germany and was adopted by the secret service as the official issue for their undercover agents. Its calibre was 9 mm and the magazine held 7 rounds. Its weight at 0.568 kilograms and overall length at 155 millimetres ideally suited it for the purpose of its concealment when wearing civilian clothes in undercover operations. In spite of the restriction of size and weight it had an awesome muzzle velocity of 280 meters per second.

Mrs Peters informed Sandani that Kevin would have to be wheelchair bound for the next three months. That was what the doctors had said. It was necessary to protect his spine from further damage. The doctors had said that the damage to his spine caused by the motor car accident which was detected later had very nearly caused a state of paralysis. He would have to protect it with a brace during this period.

Kevin’s mobile phone rang later in the night while they were still talking. He listened without speaking. Sandani noticed him relax immediately after he answered the phone. It was then that Mrs Peters said,

“I am the only person who does not know the events of those turbulent weeks. Why don’t you tell me if it is not a violation of the official secrecy act?”

Sandani answered,

“The events of those weeks have their origin in what took place over two and a half years ago”

“So why don’t you tell me the whole story if you are not too tired. I have nothing better to do tonight and besides I love stories”.

Sandani cautioned her,

“The events in question sometimes borders on the mystical. I know that you do not strictly believe such occurrences but will have to accept them as there is no alternative explanation available”

Mrs Peters nodded her consent and Sandani began the narration starting from the day that she started her research which led to her meeting Kevin. Kevin joined her and they told the story filling the gaps of what they did not know with what they had heard or assumed.

Contd.

© Ananda Liyanage, 2011

ISBN: 978-955-1509-06-4

 

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