Hood

The first in the twisted fairy tale series brought to life with sinister tales, mystery and suspense.

Little Red Riding Hood (or Hood to her immediate friends and family,) has just celebrated her fourteenth birthday when a series of mysterious murders happens...

Yet soon Hood is swept up into the investigation- trying hard to suss out who is behind it all. But as she delves deeper into the clues, she realises that the obvious is good; and the hidden is bad...

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4. The Paper

"Oh! Mr and Mrs Riding! Come quick!" our distressed-looking neighbour Mrs Davis called to us as we pulled up by the side of our house. Pa and Ma sighed quietly; jumping down from the cart. She rushed over to us from where she had stood in her doorway, her pink dressing gown flying everywhere as she ran; curlers wrapped in her hair.

"What's up now, Meredith?" Pa asked, a voice crossed between exasperated and annoyed.

"This! This!" she replied, frantically waving a piece of crinkled and eroded paper in Pa's face. He tutted in frustration and snatched it out of her shaking hand; exchanging a quick glance with Ma- (who also seemed slightly irritated.) He took it in both hands and peered at it closely, sighing every now and then at Meredith's excited squeaks as she hopped about on her feet. I watched Pa read it. He was mouthing the words as he read them; his giant back arched over as his shoulders merged with his beefy neck. Then his expression changed. I decided to ignore the concept- after all, Meredith was known in this part of the village to babble on and on about something completely insignificant; and most times Pa just pretended to be amazed and agree with her just to let the conversation be considerably shorter. So, I allowed Dobbin to walk himself to his stable, enjoying the last few yards of my journey in the back of the cart. He stopped just outside of his stable, reaching in with his head to gnaw at his old hay.

"You're a good boy, aren't you?" I muttered to him quietly; as I stepped out of the cart and  started to stroke his fluffy neck.

"You knew something wasn't right back there- didn't you?" I continued, my head cocked to one side questioningly. How gimpish. Talking to a horse. As if I hadn't already gone barmy- now I was "the freak gimp who talked to animals." Great.

But much to my surprise, he looked up; leaving his hay and staring me right in the eyes. It was almost as if he understood every word I said. He knew just as much as me- if not slightly more.

"Oh my God!" Pa's voice sounded from the front door.

"What? What is it?" I heard Ma question; only able to hear the sound of the words from where I was standing. She was probably going along with the act too; no doubt. I turned to Dobbin, who had also turned his attention to where the conversation was coming from.

"Good boy," I said, patting him on the neck. He looked at me once, as if trying to say something; but gave up when I didn't get it; going back to his hay.

"This is bad..." I heard Pa say. But this time, there was a hint of genuine fear, or concern. I couldn't make my mind up which was the strongest. It wasn't like Pa to sound truthfully interested in one of Meredith's discoveries; yet there was something noticeably different about today...

What was happening? I thought as I closed the stable door shut. Should I get involved? Or should I just leave it for the adults? I lingered about, like a bad smell in the air; not knowing what the best thing to do was. If it was important, we'd have known about it in Granny's newspaper... but what if it was new news? What if it was...the Wolf? No. It can't have been. If a Wolf had managed to make it that far unnoticed into a bustling village it would unquestionably have been spotted- and killed. But, despite my doubts, I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about; after all, it was my birthday still and I was obliged to know anything... mysterious that was going on- (a new rule I quite liked.)

I rushed over to the front of the house, where Pa and Ma were standing with Meredith.

"Have you got to the good part yet?" Meredith asked in her diminutive voice.

"Shut up Meredith." Pa replied, still reading the text.

"W-what's up?" I asked cautiously, stepping into the "semi-circle" they had made.

"Vermillion!" Meredith cried when she saw me; grabbing me into a strangling hug.

"Erm... it's Hood."

"What?" she said, pushing me away and peering at me in a confused way, "since when has it been... Hood?" she emphasised my name with slight distaste.

"It's always been Hood, Meredith," Ma chipped in, giving me a small wink before returning to peering over Pa's tall shoulder- without much success.

"Hood?" Meredith repeated, "I-I'm not sure I like that."

"Well that's too bad, it's my name," I replied; not as angry as I should have been if your enlivened neighbour was trying to re-name you.

"I'll- I'll... just call you Vermillion; I think."

I sighed, "right." Ever since I was born, Meredith had got it into her head that I was called Vermillion. Even to this day we don't know how she had come to the conclusion that I was named after a certain shade of red... but mind you Hood wasn't any better.

"Oh my goodness..." Pa said again, and I was slightly shocked to hear his voice- he had been so quiet I had forgotten he was there.

"What is it darling?"

"Yeah, tell us Pa," I urged, stepping closer to hear every word. Meredith copied me, leaning in closer. I shuffled away from her as an overwhelming aroma of Pixie dust rose from her gown and up my nose. She had been sniffing too much Pixie dust- it did awful things to your head.

"M-mu-" Pa stuttered, barely unable to speak. Suddenly, my stomach twitched like it always did when bad things happened- yet I didn't quite know why.

Ma sighed and took the paper from Pa. She skimmed it through with her eyes, much to Meredith's aggravation as she huffed and patted her toe continuously on the ground; her arms folded.

"Oh!" Ma gasped; dropping the paper and covering her mouth with her hands- and the feeling hit me again. This really must be bad- Ma very rarely found it hard to speak her point.

"Mu-murder." She stuttered.

Suddenly, my feet felt like they had collapsed. My lungs tightened, making it practically impossible to breath and even harder to regain my whereabouts as my head seemed to fall onto my shoulders; my vision all fuzzy and a shattering feeling of nausea overcoming me. Murder. That just backed up my whole Wolf theory.

"Ooh goodie!" Meredith yelled, clapping her hands excitedly, "finally there's some real interest in this booor-ing village!" when she spoke, she seemed like a child getting their first bag of sweets- almost too excited for the topic.

"I don't think this is a matter to be laughing about Meredith," Pa said sternly, his worried-filled eyes flickering to our neighbour's rosy face.

"Y-yes," she replied, suddenly hanging her head down in obvious shame, "whatever you say, Reginald."
"Bert."

"Sorry, Reginald."

Pa sighed and rose from where he had been sitting on the ground- (another action I had utterly missed.)

"You wouldn't mind if you left us with this copy?" Pa asked, intending it more like an order.

Meredith's face lightened again, "oh no of course not! I have seventeen more at home!" I couldn't help but smile despite this devastating occasion- I had finally found someone sadder than myself!

"Thank you," Pa replied with a gentle nod of his head; and I could tell that the matter had ended. He got up, taller than I had thought he was; picked up the newspaper, and started walking towards the door. "Eliza, Hood- it's time to come in."

We obeyed silently, obediently lining up behind him as he unlocked the door and walked through the low doorframe. We were like two bad puppies.

"Bye Reginald, Doris and... erm... Vermillion!" Meredith called behind us rather cheerfully. We all ignored her.

Once inside, Ma shuffled over into the kitchen, brewing up some tea and handing Pa and I a cup each. We all sat down the dining room table, which was placed halfway into the living room. I watched Pa and Ma in turn. Pa had opened the newspaper out onto the table and was skimming his finger along the article again. Ma was sat opposite and was leaning over the table; her tea in hand whilst she supposedly read the article upside-down. I just sat there, aimlessly doing nothing.

"Ahem." Pa suddenly cleared his throat, shifting about in the tiny wooden chair which was straining to keep his weight under control, "Mrs Pickett of number four, Thriftshead Avenue has been found murdered in her Farellfair Village home in the early hours of this morning," he started.

My heart stopped. Farellfair Village was practically just down the road from us.

"Found at 2:15pm when fellow neighbour and friend: Martha Dew, curiously clamoured inside after ringing the bell eleven times; she suffered from two bullet wounds in the left side of her stomach. It was thought that she died almost instantaneously."

I watched Pa closely with every word he spoke. His face was as blank as a brick wall. It wasn't everyday we heard about murders; especially as close to us as Farellfair.

He continued with a deep breath, "detectives and experts believe it was down to a maniac gunman; perhaps having a strong hatred towards this innocent woman. Friends and family describe Mrs Pickett as: "a lovely, kind, generous, quiet woman who never got involved with any bad crimes; and never turned a blind eye to any type of cruelness. She lived a life eliminated of enemies or rivals- so it was naturally a huge surprise to have heard she died from a...hater. She will be dearly missed." The investigation still carries on, as such occasions like this are vary rare in this part of the world."

"My goodness." Ma said, quiet with astonishment.

"I know," Pa agreed, pushing the paper towards Ma. She set her tea down with a clink on the table, and started to read it slowly.

Pa turned to me, his face red with apprehension, "I don't want you visiting your Granny- not when this has happened. We're only down the road from Farellfair and there's nothing stopping the killer from moving down here for his next victim," then he turned to Ma, "I'll pick your Mum up first thing tomorrow morning; Dobbin will be tired from his journey and it's getting dark now. She'll be fine for the night. Knowing her, she'd either be completely oblivious to the whole escapade or will be double-bolting all her doors and windows."

Ma never looked up from the paper she held in her hands, "ok love."

Pa nodded, satisfied slightly; before shoving his chair back from the table and moving onto the couch. I stayed at the table with Ma- awaiting to hear her verdict too. But she never said anything. She simply rose from the table, dropping the newspaper onto the table and walked into the kitchen.

"I'm putting tea on," she stated, and she never spoke again.

I leaned back in my chair; too scared in a way to pick up the paper in case the murderer leapt out from it. But surely someone in this region couldn't be that sick-minded and vile to have killed an innocent woman? Then a thought came across my mind. Those eyes... that growl. It all twigged! What if it wasn't a person? What if it had nothing to do with humans at all? What if those twisted, sapphire, somewhat engaging eyes belonged to the murderer itself? What if our land was being taken over by...Wolves?

 

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