“Powderfinger” is a present-day scary horror story set mainly on the
abandoned but soon to be redeveloped, bank of an old canal between
two towns. It centres on an old tar works known as Raven’s Gate. Nick
Swann is a world weary mid-forties widower and Assistant Probation
Warden at St Joseph’s Hostel for young male criminals, situated
overlooking the canal and Raven’s Gate. A woman is brutally killed on
the bank opposite the Hostel on a night when Nick is on duty. Nick
believes his lads had nothing to do with it, though consequently Nick
is suspended for issuing too many late passes at once. Then another
woman is killed and Nick becomes drawn into discovering the culprit.
He works with DCI Findlay and DS Deacon as the murder toll rises.
Together with help from his old friends Alan and Hugo, Nick’s
research uncovers a long series of similar murders in the same area,
stretching back through the centuries. “Powderfinger” as
the killer is dubbed, appears to be some kind of ancient mellifluous,
malevolent, murderous being that attacks anyone it considers to be
disturbing its peace and quiet. Eventually, as the story climaxes,
Findlay, Deacon, Nick and Alan set a trap to lure “Powderfinger”
to his doom and rid the area of this beast once and for all. Yet,
traps can swing both ways.
the second horror novel in the Nick Swann series. This scary story
finds Nick now living in an old stone farmhouse on the lonely and
mysterious shores of Llyn Isaf, in Wales. He becomes intrigued by its
mist-covered lake island, Ynys Y Niwl and its dark, ancient and long
deserted mansion, Wyndwrayth.
and treasures, some of which
draw Nick and his old friend Alan, into dangerous realms. Death
stalks the island and as the dangerous spectral figures of The Millar
of Souls, The Paladin and Gideon reveal themselves, it becomes
increasingly difficult to discern between reality and dreams.
Wendy and her Wolf, Mir embroiled in a struggle not just to maintain
sanity but to stay alive.
Keller Yeats is a writer with a love of history and music. He has written
several published articles about rock music and several unpublished
short stories. He drew upon his years of experience working as a
Probation Warden, for his first published novel, “Powderfinger.”
A horror story with a supernatural twist. “Wyndwrayth” is
his second novel in this Nick Swann researches and investigates
series, with more to come. In addition, he is a published graphic
artist and a qualified, though no longer practicing, jewellery maker
and designer. He now lives together with his wife, a Siberian Husky,
a Welsh Collie and three cats, in a cottage by the sea in Anglesey.
Down on the towpath, the only discernible movement was the gentle breeze that had been blowing
all night long, and now it ruffled a few loose strands of her long hair. Debra, quickly swept them aside
and zipped up her black leather jacket against the chill of the early autumn night, before shoving her
hands in her pockets and decisively setting off down by the water’s edge, for home.
A strange heavy air of serenity, was engendered by the low wisps of mist that clung to the dark
water and the clear, cold starry sky above. It washed over Debra and she smiled to herself as she strode
on into the darkness. After she had taken a few steps, Debra instinctively stopped and glanced back over
her shoulder, just to check again for signs of danger behind. You just couldn’t be too careful these days.
“Ye Gods, I sound like my bloody mother,” she reckoned. Then followed that with, “Every cloud has a
silver lining,” another one of her mothers’ favourite sayings. In the clear moonlight, she could easily see
that there was nothing moving back down the walkway. Turning back, all that Debra could see ahead
was the faint glow given off by the lights of Barton, a village of about three thousand souls and a
renowned brewery, Barton Ales, which for the past two hundred and thirty-eight years had been the
producers of ‘Old Oddity,’ a celebrated multiple award-winning beer. Reassured that there were no
bogeymen on the banks behind or ahead, waiting to mug, molest or rape her during her journey
homeward, she dropped her gaze and looked at the gravel covered path, took a deep breath and
assuredly set off again towards home.
Debra noticed the sounds of the traffic on the main road, faded with each step that she took along
the path, until, after about fifty metres, it vanished altogether. The night was now silent. All she could
hear was the crunching of her trainers on the gravel and the steady rhythm of her breathing. It was a
good job that she had brought a change of footwear, she thought, along with water, essential if you
suspected you were going to be doing a lot of sweaty dancing. During the evening’s revelries she had
quietly slipped away to the “Powder room,” because her heels were killing her so it was time to drop all
the pretense and go for comfort. The painful stilettos came off and the well-worn in Nike’s slipped on in
their stead. She loved dancing but, as every girl knows, high heels are not the best option for impromptu
dance marathons. The club D.J had been hot tonight; one great track followed another and she had the
time of her life. In her teens she had been quite a “Raver” so having comfortable feet was something that
she put great store in and right now, scrunching along the towpath, she was very happy that she had
acquired those snippets of knowledge. Ahead of her, lighting her way, was a full moon, which hung in
an indigo sky reflecting mournfully onto the still water of the canal.
Once beyond the reach of the hubbub created by the town going about its late-night business, she
began to appreciate the calm sedate nature of her surroundings. There was a comforting tranquility, that
accompanied walking down the canal bank at this late hour. It had been a good night, better than
expected but she didn’t think, that these days “The Gagging Goose,” was really her kind of place. This
quiet walk home was exactly what Debra needed. A little time to herself and lots of space around her,
after the jostling of the club. She was passing under one of the pedestrian access bridges that had, over
the years, been strategically placed for public convenience. They were a good marker of the distance that
she had already walked and how far there was, still to go. Debra Foxx, had been fully conversant with
this stretch of the canal since she was a child. The distances involved in getting from A to B were hard
wired into her brain, not through study but repetition. Some of the spans had retained their given names,
but a couple had, over the years due to some popular colloquialism, or a piece of catchy slang
terminology, had their names ‘localised.’
The one that she was walking under right now, had in 1899, originally been dedicated as, The
Balaclava Bridge, to commemorate yet another excursion into a foreign land that had not ended too well.
Debra was unaware of this fact, she had always known it as ‘Echo Bridge’ due to its strange alignment
of the brickwork and canal, which meant there was always an echo underneath the structure. In her
youth all the children used to love to go down to ‘Echo Bridge’ and shout obscenities, which to great
public outrage, could be clearly heard for a considerable distance. In later years, nobody went down
there to vocally express their defiance, they just painted graffiti on the walls of the span instead. There,
in day-glow Lime Green for anyone to see, was the triumphant statement some poor heartbroken lad had
written in his moment of lust and anguish; ‘Brenda Izza Slag.’ Next to it in a much neater script
somebody had written ‘What a Dickhead,’ and just to add insult to injury, a third party had added ‘Yup,
and his name’s, Dave Riley.’ Debra chuckled to herself as she passed through the span and set off
towards ‘Quaker Crossing,’ the next footbridge on her way home.
She had gone no more than ten paces, when she heard something splash in the dark water behind
her. “What the fuck!” Debra stopped suddenly and spun round to answer her own question. Reeling a
bit, then steadying herself, she peered into the darkness but observed nothing, not even a ripple on the
still water. Reassured that her impromptu investigation yielded, “Nada,” Debra thrust her hands deeper
into her pockets, turned and strode on towards the ghostly Quaker Crossing.
As a youngster, she had always been told this place was haunted. It was said, mostly by grandma’s
and old men, that on clear nights under a full moon, at certain times of the year, you may chance to see
spectral figures of mourning women, slowly crossing, with heads bowed and palms upturned to heaven,
as if carrying the weight of the world. These figures, were never mentioned before the First World War,
when the country had been plunged into a state of collective grief for all the husbands, sons and
brothers, that had fallen. So, like all good children, she had passed quickly underneath it, with her
fingers tightly crossed. Debra, was wondering if it was still a requirement for a twenty-six year old to
adhere to the superstitions of the prepubescent, but then she would do it anyway because “you just never
know” with these things.
Nowadays, beyond Quaker Crossing and for the next mile or so, there were several passable
reproductions of Victorian gas lights to illuminate her way. She slightly upped her pace, to reach and get
past “Quaker,” more rapidly. Fingers tightly crossed, she quickly came upon the rather elegant
architectural form that was The Quaker Crossing. It had been built out of pale Limestone and it
shimmered slightly on nights like this. The crystals catching the soft light of a full moon and glistening
in the lonely, pale glow. To this day, it was still a favourite spot for lovers to meet, as they had been
doing for almost a century, but tonight the walkway was deserted and the silence still held sway.
As she walked under the curvature of the span, Debra crossed her fingers even more tightly and
looked straight ahead to the sodium lit stretch of the towpath that was still to come. No sooner had she
stepped beyond the span into the yellow glow of the first lamp than she was greeted by the sound of
something much larger and heavier than last time, landing in the water not far behind her. Debra stopped
short, senses on alert.
‘Fuck me, what was that!’ She was really scared this time, she did not dare to look back. Listening
intently, she also became aware, that there was another, almost imperceptible sound, which was coming
from further down the towpath. This new auditory intrusion, sounded like somebody dragging
something along the rough ground, behind them. As the ominous scraping sound drew nearer in the
darkness, illogical feelings of dread started to torment her mind. It was clear that she couldn’t stay like
this, barely breathing, standing motionless in the middle of the path, like a rabbit caught in the
headlights of an oncoming car. She was exposed, illuminated by the light and a long way from any help.
Clenching her fists and gritting her teeth, she plucked up all her courage, turned and through
squinted eyes, looked back at the canal water under the bridge. Nothing, no ripples, no missile. She
quickly scanned the towpath, again nothing. Next, the bridge came under her increasingly frightened
scrutiny. Some idiot, must be throwing stuff off it just to freak her out, she thought and gave a long look
at its boardwalk, again. Debra, could see nothing and just like last time, there was indeed nothing and no
one to be seen. Still, the cold sound of something scraping along the bank side was easy to decipher in
the empty silence. Also, she could not dismiss the fact, that this had been the sound of a much larger
projectile hitting the water. Surely there had to be some signs of it, ripples that could be seen even in the
darkness? ‘Someone’s taking the piss,’ she concluded and screwing up her courage, called out.
“Fuck off will you, this shit don’t work on me” and then, as an afterthought, “you really need to get
out more and get a life, you stupid motherfucker.” Happy with that repost, Debra set off walking again
and silently congratulated herself, on her show of bravado.
However, inside, she was beginning to grow increasingly alarmed. Here, in the soft glow of the
lights, she was feeling vulnerable and the scrapping sound of something approaching, was still there in
her ears. Whatever it was, came from the general area of ‘Echo Bridge’ and the longer she listened, the
closer it got. She drew in a deep breath and walking more quickly now, she pressed on for home. There
was only one and a bit more miles to go. At this rate, with no further spooky interruptions from any
more idiots, she would be home, sitting in her favourite chair, enjoying a nice warm mug of drinking
chocolate within the hour. Her feet made a reassuringly crunching noise on the gravel as she walked on
and Debra joined in and counted, as she paced.
“One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four,” she mumbled as she approached the next span.
The ‘Raven’s Gate Bridge’ and its accompanying Basin, was originally an old mooring position for
the tar barges which used to come over from Partington, to pick up their cargoes of the hot sticky goo,
used in the making of the early road system. In olden times, this area of town was often hidden under a
pall of acrid smoke, that emanated from the ‘Raven’s Gate Tar Works’ and those dark, bitumen-soaked
clouds had stained the bridge and its gates, a sickly shade of sulfurous yellow. Nothing escaped the
cloud. The workers at the basin, were daily stained black by the tar and soot. By midmorning, the
menthol nature of the bitumen had made their noses run which they would wipe away with the back of
their sleeves, making their noses appear like black beaks. Back in those days unhealthy working
conditions were commonplace. It was noted, that after you had worked there for two, or three years, you
started to perspire a yellow sweat, that stained the skin permanently, no matter how often you washed
off the black sticky tar. The blackened and beaked workers, would flood to and fro across the works
bridge, passing silently through its ornate cast iron gates, looking like the ravens that adorned them.
Hence the workers and locals alike, referred to the whole place as ‘The Raven’s Gate.’
This bridge was actually called The Joel Battersby Bridge. The Mr. Battersby in question, was the
original owner of the tar works and this bridge was a monument to his pretension. No lovers had ever
canoodled around these smelly and grimy edifices. Young love would never blossom here. Negotiating
the basin area, Debra approached this span with a certain amount of trepidation. She wondered what
would happen this time. Jesus, if the missile had gone from a small pebble, to something that sounded
like a half brick, the next piece of masonry would have to be pretty damned large, to keep up the
escalation. Well, she thought, if they dared to try that one again, she would fire off such a mouthful, that
their ears would set on fire.
As she passed under ‘The Raven’s Gate’ span, her senses were on full alert, but nothing happened.
There was not a sound. Neither splashing, nor scraping. Debra, stopped to listen more intently. She was
sceptical, surely it couldn’t be so easy to rid herself of ‘The Splasher,’ or ‘The Scraper’ with it’s even
more unnerving sound of some unknown and unseen thing, scratching its way, ever closer to her
position? Perhaps, she had been jumping to conclusions. Perhaps, her imagination had been getting the
better of her common sense. Her fear began to subside as the silence flooded over her. Debra, relaxed a
little and once again she began to appreciate, just how peaceful the canal bank was at this late hour. It
seemed that sound was carried for a great distance by the water and she was beginning to think that
maybe she had overreacted to the sounds of the night.
Debra took a deep cool breath, relaxed her shoulders and did a full scan of her surroundings. All
was still, all was silent. She forced those feelings of fear to the back of her mind. With that she clapped
her hands together and stepped out from beneath the protective span of the Raven’s Gate and strode off
towards the Jenkins’ Walkway. From there it was only a short distance to the incline that would lead her
up to the main road and home. Even though the evenings revelries had been an unmitigated success and
it certainly appeared, that every one of her guests had enjoyed themselves, the situation she now found
herself in, was one that she vowed she would not be repeating,
“You’re too old for this kind of shit, kid. Perhaps ten years ago, but not now.” The scrunching of
her trainers on the path and her steady breathing, was all Debra could hear, as she made her way down
the softly illuminated towpath, towards the old Jerkins’ Hollow Walkway. Only a couple of hundred
yards, or so to go now and she again increased her pace along the path.
Suddenly, there was a noise behind her. Alerted, she stopped, trying to gauge the location of this
new, metallic scraping sound. It was similar to the scary, dissolute scratchings of earlier. Again, it
seemed like the creator of the eerie sound, was a fair way behind but getting closer. ‘No worries’, she
told herself, she would be up the incline and well onto the main road before the person following
reached her position. Instinctively, Debra surreptitiously glanced behind trying to see who it was, that
was pursuing her. Attempting to look without being observed doing it, was proving to be of little
practical use, she still had no vision of who it was moving along the towpath behind her. The scraping
sounds, approaching from the rear, were getting louder and now the fear was again rising in her chest. It
could be a rapist, the ‘Splasher’ or simply a mugger out looking for some easy pickings. Debra, didn’t
know the answer to her own question, but she did know she was getting very frightened and she was too
scared to turn and face her tormentor.
This jaunt in the moonlight, down the canal, had not been a smart move. She was feeling very
vulnerable. Debra chastised herself, as her blood chilled. She should have waited for the bus, or even
tried to hail a cab and now, anything could happen. She glanced back again into the darkness. Nothing,
but the creepy sound kept on getting closer and with the proximity narrowing, the volume of this
unknown scrapping grew in her ears. With growing alarm, she realised her instincts had been right all
along, there was something on the path with her! Something malevolent. A sudden feeling of dread
overwhelmed her and she started to run. It was only a matter of covering a hundred yards, perhaps a
little more to Jenkins Walkway and then another hundred and she would be on the up ramp. From there,
it was just a few more paces to the main road and she would be safe from whatever it was, behind her.
As she ran, so the ominous cacophony following her, increased its pace. The distance between
Debra and her would-be unseen assailant was closing fast. A flood of abject panic started to overwhelm
her, it caused her to carelessly trip on an unseen stone and she stumbled forwards on the uneven surface
but did not fall. Debra, somehow regained her balance and her headlong flight continued unabated
towards the cobbled incline and salvation. Behind her, came the weird scraping sound of her pursuer,
forming a curious kind of harmony with the beating of her own heart. Her unseen tormenter, was
gaining ground, quickly she continued her desperate flight along the towpath, towards Jenkins’
Walkway. The muscles in her legs, were burning and her breathing was becoming ragged from all the
effort. Yet still, the sounds of her assailant’s pursuit along the gravel, grew louder with each passing
second and she could run no faster. It was then, with a sickening realization, she knew ‘it’ was going to
catch her before she could make her escape.
The pounding of her own blood coursing through her temples, grew louder and louder in her ears
and just as Debra took one last great gulp of air, to get her to the span of Jenkins’ Walkway, she felt a
huge thump in her back, from a powerful blow. The burning pain was excruciating and Debra let out a
muffled scream as she felt the intense agony flowing through her stricken body, but she did not fall to
the ground. Something was preventing it, holding her up. As she writhed and wriggled in her burning
torture, Debra vaguely realised that she was suspended above the ground. As her feet kicked at the thin
air seeking some purchase, she looked down towards the hard ground in puzzlement. Protruding from
her chest, she saw the four white spikes, that had pierced her body from the rear and were now sticking
out through her chest. Then, almost instantaneously from the left side, something reached out and slit
her throat, cleanly and swiftly. Just as Debra Foxx died, she thought that she saw the four white blades,
that were piercing her chest, holding her aloft, disappear. She screamed silently, one last time to the
heavens, at what she could see, out of the corner of her eye standing there on the towpath, grinning
mercilessly, before it released its hold and let her riven body fall to the ground, like a discarded rag doll.
Her murderous assailant, then effortlessly rolled her lifeless body into the water, with a soft
“splosh.” As the ripples died down, the water once more resumed its previous peaceful condition, as if
nothing had ever disturbed its tranquility and an enveloping silence returned to the darkness along the
“Arch, could you call Jinx and see if she’s got any prelim’s for us on the Canal Bank job?” The sound of
his DCI’s voice behind him, made Arch Deacon jump so he almost
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