Dear friends, if you like a good chuckle, dim-witted heroes, and larger-than-life villains, then you'll love this fascinating series. On Wednesdays and Sundays, I’m blogging nibble-sized chunks of new ‘Life in the Clouds’ stories. You can check in regularly and read them for free, or wait to buy the entire story when published.
#3: Gamblers who Cheat ® James Field.
Alf loitered outside his ivy-covered gatehouse one morning, scratched the stubble on his chin, and stared off into the distance with half closed eyes.
It was spring again, and birds sang in the treetops, but somehow there was no sparkle in their songs, especially when the constant drone of traffic from the nearby road dominated all other sounds. What he craved was adventure. His way of life as security guard at the Cloud Mansion was in a rut deep enough to smother him.
There was no thrill in his heart these days. He'd won his last three bare-knuckle fights with dreary ease. There had been no trespassers on the Cloud estate to deal with, and apart from his sparing fights with Bert and the company of his dumb robot, Crusher, he was almost always alone.
He missed his wild youth, when he'd been free and frank, a different woman in his arms each week and stopping men in dark alleys to steal their wallets. The only responsibility he'd toted was to himself. There were no bills, no house to keep, and it had always been easy to pick fights with stroppy guys in the pubs.
Now he lived in a comfortable tenancy, ate as much delicious food as he wanted, and had a steady income. Dull, dull, dull.
With a profound sigh, he closed the door behind him and sauntered off across the estate. He soon joined an overgrown lane that wormed its way through a dense and ancient forest. Reaching its end at a lofty stone perimeter wall, he passed through a high-security gate.
He now found himself in The Stables. In the old days, the village had been part of the Cloud Estate, a hamlet where servants and farmers lived. These days, it was a thriving privately owned riding stables for the rich.
Alf hovered at the gate and rolled his neck and shoulders. From a distance, the small village looked drowsy. But if nothing was going on, he'd soon find some mischief to liven things up.
In this post: Vehicles were banned, so why was a Mercedes parked outside the Inn?
The village clustered around a large green, formed in the shape of a triangle. In the centre flourished a great oak tree, its canopy almost as broad as the green. A stone-built church, the vicarage, and a graveyard dominated one side of the green. A blacksmith, a general store, and Mr Sykes's stately townhouse ranged along a second side of the triangle. And Ye Olde inn with its stables filled the third section.
Three dirt track roads spun off from the green at each corner. One led out to the entrance and mini zoo at the busy main road. A second led to a residential neighbourhood. The third dropped to a ford and narrow footbridge that crossed a gentle river and then opened to rich meadows. This is where the horses grazed and the farm buildings stood.
Alf made straight for Ye Olde Inn, the community's thriving centre. He usually steered away from alcohol but hoped a beer would lift his mood. As he drew close, he noticed something strange. The Stable's rules prohibited motorised vehicles in the village, but today, apart from three tethered horses, a Mercedes and a moped had parked in the forecourt.
Alf quickened his step. Whatever the special occasion, he didn't want to miss out.
To be continued…
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