As I sat on the bench just outside the St. Michael’s Mount gift shop I savoured a Cornish ice-cream and gazed at the blazing sunshine above the castle. It was unseasonably warm and despite myself I had taken childish pleasure from crossing the causeway, the waves still brushing against my feet. I was waiting for my appointment with the mystery person who claimed to have information about the “Piskies of Bodmin”, at least that is what I assumed they wanted to talk about. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warm caress of the sun, I then became aware that the warmth had diminished and I opened my eyes to see the cause was a heavy-set man in a blue suit.
The man before me had a cold countenance and a very neat demeanour, his head of grey hair swept into a side parting, he smiled at me and offered me his hand. The smile was definitely of a man who was used to public appearances and he quickly confirmed my suspicions. “Dr. Manning I presume”, he laughed, clearly amused by his own wit. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Councillor Cliff Jackson, also owner of Jackson and Sons bakery, the oldest family run bakery in Cornwall” I shook his hand, it was a clammy shake that suggested despite his confident outward demeanour that he wasn’t entirely comfortable. It was certainly odd that he knew so much about me and he had chosen to meet me here. Bodmin wasn’t far away but there was still something odd about the choice of venue, something off about the whole thing. I sensed a scandal, this story was getting better by the minute.
“Well you appear to already know me Councillor Jackson, I assume you are the author of my mysterious letter” I eyed him carefully and he applied his vote winning smile once more.
“Please forgive the cloak and dagger Dr. Manning, I have my position within the community to think of and I didn’t want it to be common knowledge that I was talking to a journalist about Piskies, it’s all rather infantile, wouldn’t you agree.”
The old man over enunciated the word journalist as if it was a concept he found difficult to digest. I was though rather amused by the pompous politician act so I smiled and decided to play along. “Well Councillor, I’m here, what is the important information you wanted to impart” Jackson affected a troubled expression, as if this was a difficult thing for him.
“I know what the press is like Dr. Manning” Jackson spat the word press at me and it was as if he had literally chewed up the letters and they were now dripping from the side of his mouth. I braced myself for what was coming, I was used to a little bit of press bashing from time to time. Jackson continued his speech with vigour “And what I have to think about is the community and how you represent it, I am concerned that you will make us look like silly backwards yokels and maybe misrepresent us all in the cause of journalistic integrity.”
So that was it, he was worried that I was bad for tourism. “Counsellor, I can assure you that I have been sent here to speak to people who genuinely believe what they have seen and I will take that seriously. You are clearly aware of my background, so you know my interest is genuine and you will also be aware that I am no hack” I was definitely over-egging it at this point, this was a pointless story about idiots who thought that fairies actually existed.
Jackson considered this for a moment, staring at something back on the mainland. “I understand you have arranged to see Seth Chambers” This unnerved me slightly and made me consider whether there was more going on here than I had initially surmised, I had only arranged with Chambers this morning to meet the next day on Bodmin Moor, Jackson certainly was well-connected.
“Yes Mr Chambers has kindly agreed to show me where he saw the Piskies and the location of what he believes is, as he describes it, their lair” I managed to say all of this with a completely straight face, in fact I was so convincing I was considering a career in politics. Jackson’s expression changed and for a brief moment there was a look in his eye that I couldn’t quite read, was it worry? No it was more like fear.
“Mr Chambers is an ill old man Manning and it is exactly this sort of thing I wanted to avoid, the media exploiting a hard-working war veteran, poking fun at an honest citizen, just to sell a few papers”
I had grown tired of whatever it was that was going on and had decided this would make an intriguing sub-plot for my story but a sub-plot that needed no further input from Counsellor Jackson. “Look Jackson, you listen to me for one second and let’s just drop the politicians crap alright.” Jackson made no reply but nodded his assent. “I have been sent here to write a story about bloody fairies ok, and to be honest it is not exactly a career highlight for me, but what I can assure you is I am not in the habit of poking fun at people or exploiting the elderly, so Mr Chambers is perfectly safe with me. Furthermore, I like Cornwall, it is idyllic and charming, I have no interest whatsoever in belittling it in any way”
Jackson seemed satisfied, the odd look in his eye was gone and his winning smile and “man of the people” hauteur had returned. “Ok Dr. Manning, you have convinced me, write your story but if you need anything just give me a call” He handed me a business card and without a farewell headed back to the start of the causeway. I started back towards my bench bemused by this strange turn of events, I really didn’t know what to make of Jackson. Suddenly I felt a jolt of pain in the back of my head and all was blackness.
I groggily opened my eyes and I could barely move my neck, I realised that I was led on my back. I couldn’t move my arms or legs and my immediate thought was that maybe the pain in my head was some sort of stroke and now I was paralysed. But as I became more conscious I could see that in fact I was wrapped up in some kind of sack, and when I tried to move I could feel that my legs and arms were bound with what felt like chains. I then became aware that I was gagged and led flat-out in the middle of the causeway. I struggled but it was useless, I couldn’t move at all.
The sea had almost completely covered the path, within less than two minutes I would be drowned and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.