Novel Name : Masters & Lovers Box Set Three

Chapter 34

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Taking us over the river, across his beautiful bridge, my Master hums as he drives.

“You sound happy.”

Dark eyes flash side-long to me. “Counting my blessings. I have so many of them. It’s easy to forget it
sometimes but being here reminds me.”

“Here?” Confused, I look right and left: the river, the City, people milling, traffic flowing… “Why here?”

“This bridge,” he says, then thumps at the horn as some idiot in a roadster swerves and cuts in front.

“Moron,” he mutters, then, “Yes, this bridge.” Lights turn to red and we ease to a halt.

“Master, I’m not following you.”

“This bridge was the start of everything I have now. Winning the contract for the design work brought
me wealth, the friendship with Richard, the directorship...” He lays a hand on my thigh, squeezes, then
jolts back to the steering wheel as traffic lights switch to green. “But most of all, it brought me the
money to bid in your auction. It brought me you.”

“I’d not thought of it like that.”

He stares directly ahead. “I think of it every time I come here.”

Winter is still here, but with the promise of early Spring. The wind bites, but the sunshine is bright. I feel
good. “So, all your skies are blue, Master?”

That sideways look again, his eyes crinkling. “Very blue.” Then his smile fades and he looks away.


We park up. Some distance away, there is movement in an area I know only too well. A man in a hi-vis
jacket and hard hat moves with purpose, setting up a theodolite; one of the modern ‘total stations’ with
EDM and GPS. However the new park is laid out, the exact position of Blessingmoors will never be
lost. Even if it were under a retail complex or a sports centre or a car park, it could be found again…

… if needed…

“What’s happening?”

“They’re about to move in with the earthmovers again and finish the demolition process.” He scans the
area, settling on the portable site office squatting on its trailer amid mud, stacks of black piping, spools
of blue piping, pallets and paraphernalia. “I need a word with Sam. I’ll not be long.” He hands me a file,
then waves out over the sea of rocky debris and once-were-roads. “Outline plans for the park. You can
entertain yourself lining it up with the reality. I’ll come find you.”

He moves off in search of the site foreman. In the distance, the Haswell offices tower, surrounding by
buildings already up or under construction; warehouses, the retail complex, the residential area which
edges the slope down to the river.

But close by, bulldozers are moving, shifting piles of earth and rubble.

And despite my Master’s instruction, with the file hanging limply in my hand I find myself wandering…

… drawn…

… towards my childhood ‘home’.

All that remains is the outline of now-defunct roads and a gash in the ground; the old cellars.

When I was a child, they were vast black pits; places of terror, punishment and dread of what might
come next…

Unholy ground…

Now as I watch the earthmover at its work, I can see the work won’t take long.

I stand there, mesmerised, simply watching as with a crash, a ton of broken brick and stone tumbles
down. Despite the damp, clouds of dust billow up. Coughing, I slide my sleeve over a hand, covering
my nose and mouth.

It’s not comfortable, but I want to see this.

“Hello, Jenny.” I whirl. A figure stands behind me. “It is you, isn’t it, Jenny?”

The clothes are thin and worn, cheap to begin with. The skin of his hands is red and rough, the fingers
pinched white with cold, the skin splitting around the nails. A stick-thin figure and narrow face speak of
in-ground poverty. But it’s a face I know of old.

“Hello, Benny. Yes, it’s me.”

He shifts from one foot to the other then, “I thought I saw you here once before, but you didn't want to

Guilt grinds inside me. Heat rises up my neck. “I’m sorry. Yes, that was me too, but…. I was in a bad
place just then. I’m sorry I wouldn’t talk to you.”

But he smiles. “That’s okay. If you were here…” He gestures vaguely over the outline shadow of where
the prison we both once occupied used to stand… “I suppose you wouldn’t have been feeling so good.”
He pokes at the ground with a toe. “I saw them starting…” He looks to where the bulldozer shoves and
another great scoop of smashed rock and earth topples down. “… so, I came to watch. You too?”

“Yes, me too.”

By the bridge, I see my Master, together with Sam, but it seems his conversation is done. His head
swings, taking in the landscape…

Looking for me?

He was here that day too…

The day it all really started…

The day I confessed…

… to a murder I’d not committed….

He sights me, then heads my way, taking great long-legged distance-eating strides. His movements
urgent, the slight limp barely shows.

The earthmover beeps as it backs up, scraping up another load. Benny and I watch.

“So, how are you, Benny? How’s your life been going?”

He exhales. “I escaped that night of the break-in, with all the others… You know about that? That man
who let us out?”

“Yes, I know about it. I know him.”

“You know him? Who he was?”

“Yes, he’s… a friend of mine.”

“Yeah?” He smiles, displaying yellowed teeth; some missing, one blackened. “Well, say thank you to
him from me.”

He lapses into silence and I scratch around for something to say, something appropriate.

What’s appropriate? Here? Now?

With a whine of hydraulics, another load falls.

They buried the murdered here…

Now they bury the burial ground…

“So, what are you doing now?” I ask.

“Oh, not much. I get by I suppose…”

Trying now to be obvious about it, I look at him. He tugs the threadbare jacket about himself, shivering
as the breeze nips at nose and ears.

And here I am in my fine warm clothes, as much to eat as I want. My husband. My wonderful Master…

… who reaches us, his eyes scanning Benny. “Everything alright?”

“Yes, everything’s fine, Mas… James. This is an old friend of mine, Benny.”

My Master’s head tilts. “Really?” He offers his hand. “James Alexanders.” He looks Benny over again.
“Haven’t we met before?”

Benny looks at the offered hand, takes it tentatively. “Yes, you were here with Jenny that day, weren’t

“Yes, I was.” His gaze travels the boy I once knew, and I can see wheels turning behind the gaze.
“Benny,” he says, “we were about to have some lunch…”

We were?

“… Would you like to join us?”

The boy’s gaunt features distort. “I’m not really dressed…”

“Oh, that’s alright.” He smiles broadly, my Master at his most charming. “It’s only the site canteen.
Everyone’s in work-clothes. Overalls covered in mud and muck. Do join us. I’d like to meet Charlotte’s
old friends.” He turns, gesturing to the portable canteen across the site.

Benny blinks, looks to me. “Charlotte?”

“I changed my name.”

“Don’t blame you,” he mutters, following my Master’s lead.


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