Fields of Ashmere, p.1Ronald Brandenburg III
Fields of Ashmere
By Ronald Brandenburg
Copyright 2016 Ronald Brandenburg
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Ashmere is a small farming community located hours away from a major city. It wasn’t near any major roads either. Only a seldom used railway and back country roads connected this hamlet to civilization. To say that the people who lived there were strange would be an understatement. Anybody who accidentally passed through reported that the folk watched them with blank stares until they left. A perpetual fog always seemed to hang over the place, leaving everything permanently damp. This did not seem to disturb the citizens of Ashmere.
The town had its own administrators. Anybody sent from the outside government seemed to resign shortly thereafter or go missing. As a result, Ashmere handled its own business in a methodical way. In some ways, it was a beacon of efficiency in a time when the government was caught up in scandal after scandal. Ashmere never made the news in surrounding counties. Shipments of grain and beef left Ashmere, bound for larger markets while farm machinery and petrol products flowed in.
This arrangement followed its course for years before anybody noticed anything odd about Ashmere. It wasn’t until the government appointed a new beef inspector to Ashmere and hadn’t reported in for weeks that a query was sent to Ashmere, and no answer came back. With no answer from Ashmere, an investigation was opened into the absence of the inspector and detective Derrick Cowley was dispatched to find the wayward man. After some initial research into Ashmere from the comfort of his home office, Derrick found a series of missing persons that were linked to Ashmere. Understandably, he didn’t want to go there alone, so he enlisted the assistance of another officer, Chin Po, and Chin’s K9 Leonard.
Derrick and Chin had known each other for years and were friends. Derrick felt much better about having both Chin and Leonard backing him up as he went to Ashmere to investigate the missing persons case. With nothing else to hold him up, Detective Derrick picked up Chin and Leonard in his unmarked police vehicle and began the three hour drive to Ashmere.
The day was sunny as they made their way southwest towards the remote hamlet, but about halfway there the sky turned cloudy and darker. Leonard had slept on the back seat for the whole trip up to this point was now awake and looking out the passenger window. The miles rolled by as Derrick turned onto a small country road that led to Ashmere. Immediately after making the turn, Leonard started whining and turning, looking out one window and turning to the other.
“What is wrong with Leonard?”
“I don’t know; he is usually pretty good in a car. Maybe he needs to get out and stretch his legs.”
“I don’t want to stop until we are in Ashmere; it looks like it could rain any minute now. It is less than an hour until we arrive, do you think he can wait?”
“Yeah, he can wait.”
The ride continued in silence, the radio station they had been listening to began to break up. Chin started switching stations but found that they were in some sort of dead zone, so instead of listening to static they shut the car’s radio off. The ride continued in silence as each man listened to their own thoughts. Leonard’s whining was the only noise in the car as they continued down a well-kept but deserted road to Ashmere, no cars in either lane for as far as they could see. About half an hour before their arrival, they entered an evergreen forest. The forest, coupled with the ominous dark grey clouds overhead, made the drive seem as if it were nearly dark, when according to Derrick’s watch, the time was just after two.
In the gathering darkness, Derrick’s thoughts grew depressing. He began to feel as if he was being watch, but his speedometer was reading forty five miles an hour. There were no other cars around; nothing could keep up with him. Derrick shook the feeling off, thinking that it must be a result of the fading light. He couldn’t wait to find the inspector, file a report and get the hell out of there.
They drove through the forest and came in sight of the town. Immediately, the gloominess lifted and Leonard stopped whining, for which Derrick was extremely thankful. The radio came on too, as if they had been listening to it the whole time. Odd, thought Derrick, but at least it was some kind of noise to combat the silence that had pervaded the car for almost an hour.
The unmarked police car rolled into town. To Chin’s eye, there were no vehicles parked anywhere in the town. Derrick pulled up to the local police station. The three of them exited the car. Derrick looked about himself and had the feeling that he was being watched again. The sun was not visible in the sky either. He shrugged it off and walked into the station. The Ashmere police station was tiny, just a lobby, small office room, two interrogation rooms and two holding cells. The first person that Derrick saw was the receptionist, a dour faced woman who looked to be in her late fifties.
“Hello, I am here to investigate the absence of Inspector Drumwell. He came to Ashmere over a week ago and nobody has heard from him since.”
The lady had her eyes locked on Derrick but did not say anything. The detective waited a few minutes before turning back to Chin.
“This place is quite odd. I don’t understand the people here.”
Chin simply shrugged and Derrick turned back to the receptionist.
“Is the sheriff here?”
Again, no answer.
“I’m just going to go look for him.”
Derrick pushed open the door that led from the lobby to the office, looking for anybody that could tell him where the sheriff could be found. The office was completely deserted. Sticking his head through every door in the place, Derrick came to the realization that the receptionist was the only person in the building, and she wasn’t being helpful.
“Come on Chin, we are wasting time here.”
The three of them left the police station and got back in the car. Chin switched the radio over from the music station to the local police station. Derrick didn’t expect anyone to be talking over the airwaves, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“We need to figure out where to stay while we’re here. Since we couldn’t contact anybody in Ashmere, I couldn’t book a room.”
After driving around for a few minutes, Derrick and Chin came to the realization that Ashmere did not have a hotel. However, Chin spotted a hand painted sign advertising a bed and breakfast a few minutes out of town. Seeing no other options, Derrick pointed the car out of town and headed towards the bed and breakfast.
Just outside the city limits, the police scanner emitted a shriek that startled everybody in the car. With hair standing on end, Derrick pulled over and waited for the signal to repeat itself, but it never did. With his breath light and fast, he put the car back on the road and made their way to the bed and breakfast. The light was fading fast but Derrick did manage to see the house that they would be staying at. It really was a charming place, with white wooden walls. The two story house had oak trees planted around it and a tire swing hanging off of one of the branches in the front yard. The bed and breakfast had a simple country charm to it that Derrick was immensely relieved to see, especially compared to the chilling, damp, unfriendly brick and mortar feeling of town.
Derrick pulled up to the front of the house in a neat round about driveway. By the time he stopped the car, a grandmotherly woman with stark white hair was standing on the wide front p
“Good afternoon ma’am, I’m Detective Cowley. We’re investigating the disappearance of Inspector Drumwell and need a place to stay while we conduct the search. Do you have a couple of rooms available?”
“Oh yes, nobody here except me.”
“Is it alright if we bring the dog in too?”
“Of course, I love dogs. He is trained isn’t he, won’t mess on the rug?”
“He won’t make a mess. Leonard is very well trained.”
“Well, by all means, bring your bags in and I will show you to your rooms.”
The little old lady hurried inside to ready their rooms while Chin and Derrick grabbed their bags out of the back of the car.
“I guess I can just leave the car here, she said there are no other guests.”
The two of them entered the house with Leonard on Chin’s heals. The first thing they saw was a gigantic wooden cross that stood taller than Derrick. Neither of them were religious, but clearly this lady was. The old woman leaned over the railing and called them both to come upstairs. Again, with Derrick in the lead, they made their way upstairs.
“This first room is yours. I figured closer to the stairs so that you can take sweet Leonard out if he needs
Fields of Ashmere by Ronald Brandenburg III / Horror have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on34 votes