The village was dark to someone used to the city. There was a single streetlamp but that not near the cottage and the moon had been full the night before so still shone brightly. Other than the shadows of house and hedgerow there was gloom enough for Charlie to check the Audi whose boot she opened and in which was bagged her whole life.
The air was rich with dark earth and lingering honeysuckle. Restful as she had always thought the catastrophe would be. Cumbria was a good place to see out the depopulation of the earth, there was bound to be an eco-farm somewhere with a windmill and stocks laid in. She checked her phone, pleased to see it still had a signal. Automated Charlie supposed and so it might be days yet before a fault needing human attention sprung up and the signal went down. Not so for the satnav. That was all battery and satellites made after all not to need much upkeep, maybe. Here then and staying over before she equipped herself in the morning. There were probably more camping outfitters up here than bakeries. Her shoes and skirt were not really suitable for a huntress and she would need weapons. A shotgun to start with but there would be something better in a TA centre. Sellafield was somewhere hereabouts; there must be plenty of guns littering the place now that the guards had fallen to the mysterious illness.
“Can I speak to you?” said the hiker from the Punch.
“Must you?” said Charlie. She tossed her phone into the boot, banging it shut. This boy would not last a week on his own. But Charlie was not going to carry passengers and could not see what he might contribute. He looked like a victim, just the sort to trip and make a noise where here in the early days those not quite dead would be preying on the fit and healthy.
“Can I come inside?”
“Look, this place. I arrived today too. Please understand I don’t think it’s safe for you here. I’ve been hearing about this place for ages. It’s old. The people here are old. Old traditions, there’s no church did you notice? How many villages don’t have a church?”
“Are there bees? Has someone been killed? If there’s a mysterious past then someone must have been murdered, yes?”
Even in the gloom he looked perturbed, “Bees?”
“Bees, only you can see the hills and they’ve not built a wicker man. So whilst I don’t mind Christopher Lee in a dress I would hate to be in the remake. What do you want?”
“Please, this place,” he said. He hesitated perhaps trying to find the words before, “It’s not right. But it’s not what I thought. I came here expecting... Roger Delgado. But everywhere I look there’s only Anthony Ainley. So can I? Come inside?”
“No. Go home.”
“I’m camping. But I still think you should leave. I’m quite serious; there’ve been stories for ages about this part of the country, articles. I’ve been all over and this morning they were taking down the bunting. There’re the remains of a bonfire on the other side of the village. Why should there be bees again?”
But Charlie did not answer. Charlie raised a hand to forestall any more of the young man’s longing for mystery and unlocked the door. There he stood still until she shut it again and there he might have remained but Charlie did not care. Camping? Was that the absolute best he could do? There was a world of empty houses. She found a pencil, paper and a box of candles. She had a list to make for the morning and the first thing she wrote down was a spade.