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Extras

During the editing process for the Witchfinder trilogy 3 significant sequences were cut out. In all cases this was to keep the pace as breakneck as possible. The wonderful thing about a website like this is that I can now share these sequences with you – so all that hard work wasn’t for nothing! Please bear in mind that these are raw, unrevised, unedited pieces! I hope you enjoy…

This first sequence comes from the Chapter 18 mark of the first book, in which Jake and Simon go in search of the mysterious witch Sidney Tinsmouth of Marmsbury Cove. My editor Jasmine Richards rightly pointed out that, in order to keep up the pace of the story, we should skip forward and join the boys in Marmsbury. In this original version I included their flight from Hobarron’s Hollow and the Elders who do not want them to leave… 

Another interesting titbit: in this early draft of the first book Jake Harker was called Tom. Another smart suggestion by Jasmine was to change the hero’s name as there were, at that time, a LOT of lead characters called ‘Tom’ in Young Adult fiction.

Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide

Chapter 18: Abracadabra

          Unlike many English villages, Hobarron’s Hollow had its own train station. Located just over the brow of the hill, it was not much more than a shed built on a raised concrete platform. Caked beneath layers of dust and cobwebs, a timetable set out the comings and goings of the trains. From what Tom could make out, the station was visited twice a day, once in the morning and again in the late evening.

            “We’ll have to change trains to get to Marmsbury Cove,” he said.

            Simon checked the timetable and nodded.

            They took a seat on a bench at the back of the platform. It was a beautiful day. In the field next to the railway, a heat haze shimmered over a sea of golden barley. The train tracks sparkled in the sunshine. Peaceful, tranquil, it was difficult to imagine that any danger threatened Hobarron’s Hollow.

            Footsteps clacked along the road. Tom heard them first. He went to the door of the old waiting room and slipped inside. A reek of damp, stagnant water and animal droppings made him splutter. He crossed the room and wiped a spy hole in one of the filthy windows. Postmaster Eric Drake, Dr Saxby and Alice Splane, the ornithologist, walked together up the hill. They were heading for the station.

            Tom raced back to the platform. His gaze swept the station, seeking out any potential hiding place. There was the waiting room, the station master’s office and the signal box. Each of these buildings would offer only temporary concealment.

            “What is it?” Simon asked.

            “The Elders. I don’t think they want me to leave.”

Three shadows slipped across the waiting room windows. Within seconds they would pass through the station gate and be on the platform.

            “The fields,” Simon barked.

            The boys jumped down onto the tracks. It was a high risk strategy. One false step and it was death by electrocution. They picked their way across the tracks, listening out for the creak of the gate. Tom followed Simon over the low fence that ran alongside the railway. As the Elders stepped onto the platform, the boys dived into the field of barley. Huddled under a loose blanket of crops, they listened.

            “He’s not here,” Dr Saxby exclaimed. “You’re sure you saw him, Drake?”

            “Absolutely. He was with another boy – tall, big build, very pale. Dressed in corduroy trousers and a checkered shirt. Looked like he was wearing his father’s clothes.”

            “Doesn’t sound like anyone from the village. Might’ve been a New Town friend come to visit,” Saxby said.

            “Maybe they headed off in another direction,” Drake suggested.

            “Where else would they be going? There’s only the station out here…”

            Alice Splane’s cold voice cut across Dr Saxby. “Let’s go down to Susan Daniel’s. It’s the last house before the station; maybe she caught sight of them.”

            “That voice,” Tom murmured. “Of course, it’s her…”

“Ah, here comes the 9:35,” Saxby said. “We can at least make sure he doesn’t escape via this route.”

            Tom craned his head sideways. Through a gentle sway of stalks, he saw the train blink in the distance. It came closer, its tread a thunderous clatter on the rails. For a minute, it looked like it was going to steam through without stopping. Then its brakes squealed and it rolled into the station.

            “Doors on both sides,” Simon whispered. “Come on.”

            The boys broke cover. Quick as a flash, they vaulted the fence and made for the train. Simon reached for a door handle and his face fell.

            “Locked.” He tried a few others. “Damn it.”

            Dr Saxby’s voice rang out over the putter of the engine.

“I’m going to check the other side, make sure they don’t cut in across the fields. You two wait here.”

            Simon locked eyes with Tom. “Under the train.”

            “What?!”

            “You heard him – he’ll check this side and then the field. It’s our only chance.”

            There was no time for arguments. Simon grabbed Tom by the shoulder and bundled him to his knees. In the darkness beneath the carriage, the train’s engine sounded like the grumble of a hungry beast. Tom shuffled over the track as quickly and as carefully as he could. He cleared the rail and tumbled onto his back. The train’s undercarriage, a dirty network of pipes and wires, filled his view. He strained his neck in time to see a pair of feet jump down from the platform. Dr Saxby headed around the nose of the train.

            “What are you doing, you lunatic?!” a voice shouted. “You can’t come onto the tracks!”

            Saxby took no notice of the driver.

            Simon was half under the train when his shirt snagged on the carriage step.

            “I said stop right there!” the driver bellowed.

            Saxby hesitated. He was now at the corner of the train. One more step and Simon would be in plain view.

            “Hurry up!” Tom whispered.

            Simon’s fingers worked feverishly as he tried to unhook his shirt. He tore at it but the stitching resisted.

            “Don’t make me get out of this cab,” the driver warned.

            “I just need to take a look on the other side,” Saxby said.

            “You can’t come onto the line! It’s against the bleedin’ law!”

            “One quick look. It’ll only take a moment.”

            Dr Saxby stepped forward.      

            Tom reached out and grabbed Simon’s shirt. Together, they tore it free. Simon scooted under the train. Glancing back, Tom saw Dr Saxby turn the corner. He heard the driver’s cab door open and a pair of heavy boots land beside the rail.

            “Get back on the platform. NOW!”

Saxby sighed. “Very well.”

            The doctor turned and walked away. A few moments later, the cab door slammed shut.

            “They’re not here,” Saxby muttered.

            The voice of the engine deepened from a grumble to a roar. Tom and Simon exchanged panicked glances. Time to go. They slipped from under the carriage just as the wheels found their traction on the rails. Grunting, the train started to move out of the station.

The boys darted around the rear carriage and scrambled onto the platform. The Elders were nowhere to be seen. Simon tore open the last door and launched himself into the compartment. Tom belted alongside the train and managed to join him just before he ran out of platform. The door snapped shut. Half a minute of breathless giggles followed until they were cut short by the uniformed man in the corridor.

            “Tickets please.”

            Tom got to his feet and paid their fare.

Before moving away, the guard muttered under his breath –

“S’always the weird ones that get on here.”

            The boys relaxed in their seats. They had the carriage to themselves and could talk freely.

            “So, Tommy-boy, that was odd,” Simon said gruffly. “Why don’t these people want you to leave?”

            “That’s the million pound question. I think I know but, if I tell you, it must be kept secret. Especially from Rachel. Do you promise?”

            Tom filled in the parts of the story he had kept hidden from Rachel: believing that there was no alternative, the Elders of Hobarron had once murdered a young boy; somehow the sacrifice of Luke Seward had sealed the Door and kept the world safe for another generation. Now, on the cusp of another Demontide, the Elders were again tempted to sacrifice a child for the greater good. Tom believed that he was that child.

            “One man believes that this sacrifice is the only solution,” Tom said. “Dr Saxby.”

            “Is Rachel close to her father?”

            “Simon, she can never know”

            Simon glanced out of the window. “She’s a special girl. Brave, clever, strong. Maybe you’re underestimating her.”

            The softness of Simon’s words, and the slight criticism behind them, made Tom bristle.

            “Yeah, well you don’t really know her.”

            “No, I don’t. I wouldn’t underestimate her, though. She’ll surprise you.”

            It took a while before Tom could bring himself to speak. An irrational jealousy burned in his chest and he tried to put out the fire with cold dose of reason. There was nothing in Simon’s words to suggest he had any romantic feelings for Rachel. He was simply pointing out those strong aspects of her character that anyone might admire. Anyway, Tom had no right to be resentful towards Simon. He had risked his life on Tom’s behalf, and now Tom needed his help again.

            “There’s something else I haven’t told Rachel,” he said. “I don’t want her and Eddie putting themselves in danger on my behalf. As I was walking home last night, I was stopped by a woman in the lane…” Tom told the story of his encounter with the cloaked stranger. “I thought I recognised her voice from somewhere. I heard it again this morning – it was Alice Splane.”

            “Why would she tell you this?” Simon asked. “And what does she think you can do about it?”

            “I don’t know, but I need your help. Will come with me tonight?”

            “Of course. Your dad’s a great man, Tom. I’ll do anything I can to help him.”

            Tom’s eyebrows drew together. “You know my father?”

            Simon turned back to the rolling landscape. “I’d see him walking home along the canal some evenings. Sometimes he would give me a few quid, you know.”

            A few quid? Tom thought that such generosity hardly made his dad ‘a great man’. What wasn’t Simon telling him…? Another mystery to add to the collection. Figuring that, in the terrible scheme of things, this particular puzzle couldn’t amount to much, Tom let it go.

            “We’ve got an hour before we have to change trains,” Tom said. “Why don’t we pick up where we left off six months ago? Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney. I watched ’em all. Do you want to hear my film report?”

            A lighthearted discussion about the classic movie monsters followed. Meanwhile, the train drew them ever closer to Marmsbury Cove, and to a murderer who held the key to many mysteries…

Coming soon – the Battle of the Painted Warriors cut from Witchfinder 2….