A bit of a cheat this one, but then I’m stepping in at the last minute to fill an empty day. One of the places the torch passes through today is Macclesfield, and one road to Macclesfield from Buxton (a place I’m far more familiar with) is the infamous Cat and Fiddle road. The road has always been popular with bikers, and earned its reputation for dangerous curves back when speed traps were relatively uncommon and far less sophisticated than they are today.
One of my novels-in-need-of-editing is set around the area between Buxton and Ashbourne, taking in Bakewell and Matlock Bath (another popular biker haunt). In Searching for Julia, set in 1976, Linda has run away to Derbyshire after a tragedy, and finds herself strangely fascinated by a portrait of Lady Julia Peveril, who ‘ran away’ ten years earlier, never to be heard from again. In trying to find out what really happened, Linda is dragged into a series of secrets surrounding the aristocratic Peveril family, and our excerpt begins as she lurks in one Matlock Bath pub waiting for Edward, the Duke of Derwent Dale, to emerge from another.
Edward emerged from the pub when Linda was halfway down her drink. The man leaving with him appeared to be the one who had passed the cigarette to him earlier.
Linda sat up. Was she about to witness a drug deal? Was Edward buying, or selling? Should that matter? After making a point of glancing at her watch, she finished her drink. Then she got to her feet, pulling on her jacket as she walked out of the pub.
Unaware they were being followed, Edward and his associate strolled into the public gardens. Dusk was falling, and the paths had emptied of people. The gates would be locked soon, but the men presumably calculated on having a way out after that.
Linda hung back as much as she could without losing sight of them, until they stopped in the shadow of an oak tree. She edged forward, and found a tree of her own that gave her cover while still affording her a good view of the men.
Placing one hand against the tree trunk above his associate’s shoulder, Edward leaned forward, and whispered something in the man’s ear. The man nodded. Edward moved his other hand towards the man’s hip. Was this the point at which money would change hands? Did the man’s pocket contain money or ‘merchandise’?
Edward pulled the man towards him, and into a kiss.
Linda clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle her gasp. She should go. Leave Edward in peace, and talk to him tomorrow. Her feet stayed rooted to the spot, as Edward unzipped his companion’s trousers, then dropped to his knees.
She felt a niggle of disquiet that Edward had hidden this side of himself from her, all the while making snide remarks about her interest in Brigit. Remarks that had stopped, she now realised, once she had admitted the attraction to herself. What about his flirting? Had he been leading her on all this time, never intending to following through? But he’d loved Julia, hadn’t he? They definitely needed to have that talk tomorrow.
What was Edward thinking, anyway? This was a public place, for all that Linda was the only other person present. He was risking arrest, loss of reputation, blackmail even. Was blackmail the hold Reynard had over him? Had he been caught doing this before, in some other park? Had Reynard been his companion then, or an observer, as Linda was now, of what ought to be a private act?
She started to take a step back, and felt stones shift under her heel. She brought her foot forward again, unwilling to make any noise that might reveal her presence. There was nothing for it, but to stay right where she was. When the men left, she would leave.
Her eyes had adapted to the deepening gloom, and she could see more detail now. Edward’s hands were on the man’s hips, controlling his movements. That simple detail turned what Linda thought men regarded as a degrading act into something more dynamic. She knew so little of what homosexual men did together. She had heard all the locker room talk, all the snide remarks from Vice, all the ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ comments about certain prisoners. Her colleagues had implied something more brutal, more base, less… erotic.
Linda was becoming light-headed. She felt as if she was a part of what the men were doing rather than simply a voyeur. No blue-movie down at the station had ever had this effect on her.
The man threw his head back, arching his hips towards Edward.
Linda clenched her thighs, and took a deep breath. Now was her opportunity to leave, and yet her legs had turned to rubber. She put a hand against the tree trunk to steady herself.
Edward stood, pulling the man into another kiss. In a blink of Linda’s eyes, their positions had been reversed, and Edward was the one leaning against the tree. The man had one hand between them, and the other on the trunk level with Edward’s shoulder. He was shorted than Edward, whose eyes were shut tight as the man stood on the balls of his feet to whisper in Edward’s ear.
Linda was burning up. If she had dared move – if she had been that kind of woman – she would have hitched up her dress, and got her hand down inside her knickers. Anything to relieve the tension that was building up inside her. She needed to think. She needed to get away before Edward saw her here watching.
Slowly she reached down, and lifted her foot, to remove first one shoe, and then the other. Part of her wanted to keep watching, to see if Edward at the point of climax matched her fantasies. A greater part of her argued that she had intruded enough already. She edged around the tree until it completely blocked her view of the men. Then she turned and walked slowly, silently back to her car.
In case you’re still wondering about how the Cat and Fiddle fits in, have a small excerpt from a scene set the following day:
“How did you find me last night?” Edward asked. Not ‘why?’, which was interesting in itself.
“I knew you’d taken the bike. Matlock seemed the most obvious place to look.”
“I should have grabbed my tent and gone up to the Cat and Fiddle. You wouldn’t have thought of that, would you? Not being a local or a biker.” He picked up his glass. “In my defence, I’d just like to say that my plan only involved getting drunk. I told you when we met: what I do in London generally stays down there.”