The Body On The Beach: 12

In the middle of the night something stirred Simmonds and he noticed an orange light dancing beneath the folds of the heavy bedroom drapes. He rose and parted the curtains to look out and thought for a while he must be in the midst of a nightmare. But it was all too real. He dressed quickly over his borrowed night shirt instructing the now roused Piccolo, in a quite uncharacteristically authoritarian voice, to ‘remain here’. Simmonds left the room and Piccolo got up, pulling a blanket off the bed and wrapping it around her shoulders. She crossed to the window and stood staring out across the snow covered lawn. At first, somewhat bleary, she could just discern that there was a large fire, the winter wind blowing long tongues of flame into the air. As the scene swam into clearer vision she began to make out the most awful apparition — that of a flaming crucifix with a burning body lashed to it. This could not be true! The Devil’s own work! She felt physically sick but stood transfixed and watched as men assembled below.

Simmonds had arrived on the scene at the same time as a few members of staff. Ladders and poles were called for and, with great effort and at no small danger to themselves, they managed to push over the cross, it falling on to it’s back. The men then kicked the deep snow over the edifice to douse the flames. There was obviously nothing they could do for the poor individual who had been totally incinerated. Simmonds and the men stood for some time in exhaustion, sweating profusely, spitting and blowing out the grim dirty smoke from their mouths and nostrils. Little more would be achieved until the clarity of the morning, so Simmonds called for sheets – what he got was a more ideal large tarpaulin – which they pinned down to cover the by now steaming remains.

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