“Ever get Deja Vu? When I write I often get the feeling I’ve written the story before. I can see myself telling it as I say the words into my headphones. Its quite bizarre. Anyway, here’s another Deja vu at work.”
I wrote this story for the following prompts.
#Writephoto – The picture of the crown by KL Caley
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Clink
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Colour – Fast – Whitewash
Your Daily Word — Lexicon
Fandango’s One Word Challenge — Ostracize
Word of the Day – Therapeutic
Deja View to a Crown
“Here we are, Madam. The Livermore Insurance office block is that one there. Entrance is around the corner in the ‘No vehicles’, green zone” the taxi driver indicated a tall building with whitewash walls studded with lines of glass windows.
“Thank you,” Claire paid him using her card.
“Enjoy your stay.” The taxi driver saluted and drove away.
Claire stood on the pavement with her suitcase, gazing around at the cobbled streets of the city centre. The area was a mix of almost a thousand years of history, and modern shopfronts.
‘Maybe, managing to ostracise myself won’t be too bad after all,’ she thought. Claire was an insurance manager from Manchester. She had been trying to broker a deal between her company ‘Fortuna and Francis Insurance and Livermore for months without success. As a result, her bosses at Fortuna had grown tired of the back and forth. Blaming her for the failure and losses in income. They’d put her on a plane and told her not to return without sealing the deal.
Claire took a deep breath, smoothed her navy skirt suit and stepped into the flow of fast-moving pedestrians. Groaning as the wheels of her case bumped over the rough cobblestones.
She smelled coffee being brewed at a café bustling with people sitting beneath gaudy yellow umbrellas. The city clock chimed 10 AM from its lofty perch in the redbrick and green copper tower upon the City Hall building.
Claire gazed over the marketplace and smiled. It was nice to hear a traditional city clock. Making a left turn her eyes fell upon an old clockmakers shop. At that moment, the modern pedestrians vanished. She saw people in Victorian dress. Horses drawing carriages, a man doffing his top hat to her and …
“Oof, don’t stop in the way like that!” moaned a scowling woman having cannoned into her back whilst chatting into her mobile phone.
“Err – S-sorry.” Claire shook herself. Looking about she felt recognition. She scoured her lexicon for a word. This wasn’t ‘Déjà Vu. It was more ‘Been here before.’ “I know this place but I’ve never been to this city,” she said aloud.
“Are you crazy?” questioned a young man looking annoyed.
Claire ignored him and set off walking again. She continued right past the Livermore insurance building. “There should be an alley on the left leading to the castle here. Two flights of stone steps with an iron railing on each,” she recalled.
Sure, enough between an electronics store and one selling fashionable boots was the alley.
Feeling the colour drain from her face, she walked up the two sets of steps holding the iron railings. Reaching the top froze gazing at the white stone castle on the grass mound above.
“What is this?”
“Norman Castle Keep. Built in 1066. Never saw battle, but became a prison a hundred years ago,” offered a tour guide from beneath his green and yellow hat.
“Erm … Not what I meant, but thanks,” Claire blinked and looked about her. She could see the gallows on the mound. A familiar man in rags with a thick rope about his neck. A crowd in Victorian dress jeering at him. The hangman threw his murderous lever back, sending the prisoner to his death.
“When was the last person hanged here, please?” She asked the guide while shaking the awful yet oddly pleasing image from her mind
“That would be Geoff or George Harmer, I don’t remember which, in 1886, I believe. It’s an odd question, why do you ask?”
Claire looked into his smiling blue eyes, “Don’t think me crazy. But — well, I think I was stood right here when it happened.”
The guide stepped back in shock, “Pardon me! I don’t understand,” he stammered with a nervous chuckle in his voice. “I … I mean you don’t look a day over thirty.”
Claire grinned. “I’m flattered, I’m thirty-eight.”
“Then what do you mean, you were here?”
“Well, I’m Claire by the way …”
“David, nice to meet you,” he said over the roar of a bus rumbling by.
“Hi, David. I just flew in from Manchester. Never been here before. Yet I keep seeing visions from the past. I also know precisely where I am and where everything is. Or at least was in what I think is Victorian times.”
David furrowed his eyebrows, “Hmm, you mean, like past life regression?”
“Maybe. This will sound strange …”
“At least it will fit with everything else you told me so far,” David grinned as she rolled her eyes at him, “Carry on I’m listening,”
“Okay. The man I saw hanged just now. I wanted him dead. I feel sure he killed my husband over a crown.”
“Well, if you did see Geoff Harmer hanged. That was his sentence for murdering a man called Harry —”
“Last.” Claire cut in. “His name was Harry Last.”
David gawped at her, “Yes, it was.” Taking out his phone he began tapping away. “This is incredible! You’re not messing with me somehow, are you? I mean you aren’t some kind of historian around here, right?”
“No, I swear I’m just an ordinary insurance worker from Manchester.” Claire rubbed her forehead hoping to dispel the confusion – she failed. “Whats —”
“Ho-lee shitballs!” David spluttered his eyes almost on stalks as he studied his screen.
“Something like that!” Claire wasn’t sure she wanted to know even as she asked, “What did you find?”
“Er … ha! Well, Geoff and Harry are rumoured to have stolen a box of crown jewels belonging to Queen Victoria. According to this, it was never proven. Geoff killed Harry and then remained silent about the theft until he was hanged. With nothing to go on the police were forced to stop investigating and the crown and jewels were never seen again.”
Claire gazed at the castle as another bus thundered passed. The vision of a window overlooking the countryside appeared. In front of the window was a regal golden crown studded with massive pearls and diamonds. The vision darkened and an oak barrel spun in her mind. She saw two men wearing Victorian coats and tails. Flat caps bounced on their heads, as their hobnailed boots clicked over the cobbles as they ran. They hauled the barrel between them. A police whistle rang out as they dashed into a large redbrick building with white marble columns and castellations. The men entered a large space and —
“Claire, you, okay?”
“I’m … Fine …” Claire gasped finding herself out of breath.
“What happened?” David questioned while steadying her with a friendly hand on her shoulder.
Claire grinned, “Want to know where the crown is?”
“No, we need to go to the city’s first public library.” Claire felt excitement welling within her. This was far more fun than insurance, that’s for sure.
“Okay, follow me.” David turned toward the steps.
“No,” Claire bounced in her shoes. “Follow me.” She bounded down the steps — David on her heels.
“If you find the right building, I might just pass out. Promise you’ll get medical assistance if I do.”
Claire giggled, “Course, I will.” She confidently returned to the cobbled street and followed it into the bustling marketplace. Beyond that, she arrived at an old flint-built building with a small clock tower, on the hill. “This was a gaol back then.”
“Sure was. It’s a wonderful little café now, but the old courtroom is still there.” David told her.
Claire nodded and walked around the building. There was a Tesco and a furniture shop here. Beyond them was a dead-end alley. Without stopping to think, she entered the alley knowing this was the place.
There filling the end was the redbrick building with the white marble columns and castellations on the roof.
“That’s it. We need to get in there.”
“Yup, that was the library,” David gasped as he used the wall to hold himself up. “Problem is. The restaurant used to be there went bust. It’s been shut for a couple of years.”
Claire groaned. “So, we can’t get inside?”
David smiled, “I didn’t say that.” Beckoning, he left the alley and walked past Tesco’s. Making a left down the alley, he passed rows of old-world shops and charities selling all manner of things from jewellery to pet supplies. Making another left, they passed some loading bays along the back of the medieval church.
“Where are we going?” Claire asked. She couldn’t help thinking she was allowing a stranger to lead her to places unknown.
“In here.” David stepped through an almost hidden arch. A small courtyard garden flanked a pair of red peeling doors within the castellated walls of the old library. “The restaurant kitchen is beyond these doors.”
“How did you know that?”
“My son used to work there as a chef.” David produced a set of lock picks and began working on the doors.
“Hey, that’s illegal!” Claire felt her heart hammering in her chest. With the problems at work, all she needed now was to get arrested.
A loud clink issued from the lock. David grinned and swung the door open. “Not to worry. Nobody will see a thing.”
Claire took a deep breath, “Fine.” Her desire to know carried her into the building.
She was soon stood in a large room akin to an auditorium, its walls adorned with original and beautifully carved oak bookcases. The high domed ceilings revealed a stunning gallery running around the entire circumference. Large windows provided the only light made eerie by dust motes floating like spectres as they glittered in the sun’s rays.
“Wow, this whole building is a treasure!”
“It sure is,” David agreed, turning circle and taking it all in. “Which way?”
Claire closed her eyes and tried to recall Geoff and Harry evading the police with their barrel. Her body began to tingle. She saw them vanish among the bookcases and followed. “Over here.”
Running, Claire dashed out of the main room. Moving too fast she cannoned into a wall and shoved herself along a corridor. Reaching a nondescript door bearing a fire safety label she stopped. “Cellar, Ready?”
David engaged his phone’s torch function and nodded.
She pulled open the door revealing wooden steps vanishing into the darkness. Phone leading the way, she dashed down them two at a time. Her footsteps echoed like those hobnailed boots in her vision.
A musty stale air greeted her at the bottom. The cellar was large and empty save for a couple of empty boxes and a broken ladder.
“There’s nothing in here,” David remarked scanning his torch over the stone walls.
“Oh, yes there is.” Claire ran straight back wall and threw the ladder askance with the crash. “Ever seen a cellar wall with a grate before?”
David glanced at the wrought-iron rectangle. His eyes began to sparkle in the light. “No, I haven’t.
Claire saw a vision of Geoff and Harry stowing the barrel and replacing the stones in the wall, leaving the grate to mark the spot.
David took up the ladder and used it as a battering ram. Every hit sent splinters flying across the cellar. When the metallic clunk of the grate turned into a dull thump, he stepped aside.
Claire levered it from the wall and dropped it noisily to the floor. It was easy then to remove a few of the stones. There within a dark recess was the barrel.
“Here let me.” David rolled it onto the floor and beamed. “Treasure hunting is so much fun!”
“Quite therapeutic, isn’t it?” Claire agreed with a toothy grin.
“Beats a massage, that’s for sure.” David hammered his way around the lid of the barrel until it flipped open.
Claire pulled it free revealing hessian sacking inside. As she unwrapped it, the rich warm glow of gold sparkled from the barrel. “Oh, my golden saint!” she breathed as she gingerly lifted the crown into the light.
It had eight delicately carved golden arches sporting magnificent pearls surrounded by diamonds. A diamond and pearl-studded star sat high in the centre. The band was equally magnificent and bore the largest pearls on the priceless piece.
David’s jaw almost brushed the floor, “I was going to utter something a little ore impolite. That’d be wrong in front of such a regal crown.”
“Yeah, and the barrel is full of jewels and gold coins too!” Claire squealed.
At that moment, Claire knew her life was about to change forever. In the days that would follow, she’d be arrested for trespass as she delivered the crown to the Castle Museum. She’d then be released and dubbed a hero for discovering the lost Crown jewels. She’d be sequestered by the media around the world for her story of déjà vu, past life regression or whatever it was that lead her to the treasure. More than that she’d quit being an insurance worker in favour of becoming a historian to learn about her Victorian life.
Never again would she doubt the thoughts and visions that came to her mind. Neither should you if what an adventure of your own.
Don’t forget Holly Ward investigates, Stolen Treasures is out on Amazon now!
A recent bank robbery. A saddened man. A coded message. Can they all be connected?
Young Sleuth Holly Ward is determined to help the man. It’s not long before she too comes under assault from a group of dangerous individuals. In the face of intimidation, abduction and even murder can Holly solve the clues and catch the criminals before she becomes the next Stolen Treasure?
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!