In the excerpt (to be provided the day of my hosting session), where does the Rutherford family bull, Caedmon, chase main character, Eileen Morgan? A. Into a well B. off a cliff C. into an abandoned mine shaft
To find the answer, read your copy of The Estate or from the excerpted pages below….
The wind was up. Eileen pulled her hood over her head and tied it with the draw string and stuffed her hands into her pockets. Charlie pulled off his leash.
“Charlie, your timing…”
He darted off weaving through barley stalks, then doubled back and bounced at her heels. His hair was full of the usual burrs and bristles. Today he’d latched onto a particularly mean-looking thistle. It had a fluffy purple flower like a ball of goose down and some awful-looking thorns. They stung as Eileen tried to remove them, and he pawed mournfully at the ear where they clung.
Suddenly Charlie drew back from Eileen. He showed his teeth and growled. Eileen turned in the direction he was looking. A pounding noise was approaching. It vibrated the nearby leaves, the very air. In its wake, barley stalks flew.
Though her view was obscured by the grain, Eileen knew what was coming. Hoof beats, heavy breaths. Charlie backed into the barley and disappeared.
“Wait!” Where had he gone? The barley trembled in every direction. She tore her phone out of her pocket but her hands were shaking so badly she couldn’t press the keys. So she ran toward the castle, the same direction she’d seen Charlie go.
“Help! The bull’s out! Ewan, someone!”
The closer she got to the castle, the safer she would be. Right? Caedmon would pull up, retreat. Someone would put his leash back on.
But the hoof beats didn’t retreat. Nor the awful panting.
Her progress was fast but erratic. She ran toward the farm, then turned sharply uphill, then tripped over a fallen branch. She righted herself and shouldered into thick brambles.
When the castle came into view, the hooves seemed quieter. She stood up part way, peering through the barley to see if Caedmon had followed. But then out of nowhere, she was falling.
She found herself in almost total darkness. In a well? A rabbit hole? She braced herself against a savage pain in her hip. She’d fallen well landing on her side, just above her hip, with the majority of shock absorbed in the tissue and not the bone. Still, the angle of the fall had been severe. Her entire left side throbbed.
She tried to stand. That hurt, a lot. But she could do it. She hobbled to the edge of the shaft and braced herself against the earthen wall. What was this—Middle Earth? She’d escaped one danger aboveground only to find something worse below. The light above was visible but faint. Could be a coalmine service tunnel. She prayed it wasn’t prone to cave-in.
Eileen felt the prickle of sweat at her armpit. Her throat scratched like sandpaper. Don’t panic. She surveyed the walls. Gritty, irregular earthen sides about five feet across, depth, some thirty feet, wet soil with small pebbles, nearby dripping sound. Maybe there was a ladder somewhere as an escape from this kind of fall. Mine accidents happened all the time, so, ladders, right? She ran her hands over the damp walls digging her fingers into the earth. But she didn’t find any metal. Her hands came away with chunks of dirt and a little moss. Lucky the shaft wasn’t full of water. Regardless, climbing out was not an option.
Phone. If it was still charged, she had a lifeline. She pulled the iPhone out of her pocket and held it as high as she could toward the light at the opening of the shaft, then pushed the speed-dial number for Ewan. It rang and rang and rang.
“You’ve reached Ewan Stalker. I’m out with the sheep. Leave a message if you want. Beep.”
“Ewan, I’ve fallen down a mine shaft in some barley field. Hurry. I hear these things collapse.” She clicked the phone off.
So here were the facts: She’d been chased into a hole by the bull. The bull had no business in a barley field. And furthermore, someone ought to seal this outrageous hole in the middle of an open field. Maybe it had been opened for her to fall in. That was it! She was the pinball being chased. Fifty points to Temple or Hugh who had prepped Caedmon for the charge. They’d been a little careless, though. She’d survived. Now if she could just get out of here, she’d squeal on both of them.
She sank onto the floor, easing her back side slowly downward. That hurt. And there was something sharp poking in her back. She swiveled to remove whatever it was. It was wedged in tight, though. There was a little shine on its surface revealing a regular shape, circular or oval, sticking out of the side of the tunnel wall. Having nothing better to do, she began to free it.
She dug a trench around one side where the earth was porous and came away easily. There was more rock and sand on the other side, so Eileen set to it with a ballpoint pen she found swimming in her pocket. Within a few minutes, she’d freed two -thirds of her treasure. Levering with the ballpoint, she dislodged the stone with a pop and flung it across the cavern onto the wet sand.
Having seen the collector’s piece, Eileen was fairly sure this was a rune. It was the same shape and size as Temple’s, only where his version was chipped at the edge, this was whole. It had the same bull outline as the one Eileen had held, but where she wiped the mud away, this carving was much deeper cut. Its creator had carved a very dainty animal, its horns curved over its head in a heart formation, the shaggy hair hanging down between its forefeet like a beard. Its profile was determined, and though the shoulders showed obvious strength, violence, even, it wore a ring in its nose with a lead rope attached.
The tail of this creature curled up over its back like Temple’s carving had, with a tuft of hair at the end erupting in four directions, like from a fountain. No question what that image brought to mind. This must be an amulet of male power. Eileen wondered if it was meant as a gift or a totem against bad luck. It was crosshatched on the back side with foreign markings, a slogan perhaps or password, maybe even the artist’s name. What would this be worth? A month’s salary? A farmhouse? A tribal estate?
Eileen put the stone slowly into her coat pocket, where it rested cold against her hip. She wondered if that’s how the first owner carried it around. It was heavy, two to three pounds, and it could pack a wallop from a sling shot if someone got too close on an Iron Age night.
Overhead Eileen heard a rustling. She held the stone close and scrunched her body against the wall. If it was the bull master, come to finish her off, she’d stay well out of view. The rustling sound turned into a snuffle, though, and a furry head popped over the aperture.
“Charlie!” Eileen waved. “Good dog! Go get help. Get Ewan. Go boy. Go to the farm!”
Charlie barked, wagged his tail and bounded away.
Now the waiting. And it could be a while. Charlie had spent a good half day stalking an abandoned bee hive a few week ago. Finding Ewan might involve the same detours.
But the look on his face when she showed the rune to him! He’d be amazed. And proud! This must be the artifact Jenkins had been digging for all this time. Temple believed it existed on the estate, the archaeologists from London did. But check it out—a Yank visitor had found it on her own. And…God. This was the very trinket Emily had died for, failing to give it over to the man in control of the bull. It was a treasure with a curse attached, for sure. Not the kind of thing you wanted on you very long.
A noise jerked Eileen’s attention upward: jangling keys.
“Ewan! Thank God. Throw something down! I can’t climb but maybe you can pull me.”
“Be there in a mo, dear.” It wasn’t Ewan. It was Temple. And he wasn’t with Charlie. Eileen felt a wave of nausea. How did Temple know she was in this shaft? He was fastening ropes overhead. He was lowering something. This wasn’t good. He’d finish her off with a collectable dagger.
“Hi, er, Mr. Temple. What are you doing up there?”
“I’m here to rescue you, what else? I can lower meself down or hoist you up. It happens to lambs all the time, you’ll be glad to know. You’re not the only—well, you are the only lass this has happened to. But not the only lost lamb.” He chuckled again.
“Uh, I’d rather wait.” Eileen twisted her jacket zipper. Keep clear of him. He’d take the stone. He’d tie her up with those ropes, she was sure of it.
“Wait?” Temple said, astonished. “Wait for what?”
She still hadn’t seen Temple’s face, but she could hear him assembling something overhead. Something with crampons and sharp corners. She shuddered.
“You’re still injured,” she shouted up at him. “Get Ewan to hoist me up.”
“Och, lass. If you go waitin’ for your true love every time…Oi, Ewan. Didn’t see you there. I was just about…”
Eileen almost puked for relief. In twenty minutes, she was out. Ewan took hold of Temple’s gear and lowered himself to her on a rope and cage assembly, then brought her back up via pulley. It was all very Coal Miner’s Daughter.
“How did Temple know where I was?” Eileen asked half an hour later with a mug of tea at the farmhouse.
“I was wondering that, too.” Ewan stroked her hair. He’d thrown a comforter around her and stoked the fire. She’d refused Dr. Marshall. Something fishy with that guy. “Charlie found me. But I don’t know how Temple got your whereabouts. Or how you fell down that shaft in the first place.”
“The bull chased me.” Eileen set her tea down.
She nodded. “He charged me, Ewan. He was loose in the barley field and went for me. I ran every which way to lose him, wound up tripping and falling in that hole. I’m sure Temple saw the whole thing—planned the whole thing. He arrived much too quickly for it to have been spontaneous. It was him provoking the stampedes.
“Eileen—that wasn’t Caedmon in the barley.” He poured Eileen more tea. “He’s been at the vet since nine this morning.”
“How do you know?” she struggled to say.
“I helped Hugh board him into the trailer this morning.”
“But you didn’t see him come back, did you?”
“He’s still there, love.”
“Could have been a grouse in the field or a hare.”
“Ewan.” She raked a hand through her hair. Her hands smelled of coal. They trembled visibly. “Something chased me.”
“It’s all right, lass.”
What was he, coddling her? “I didn’t imagine it.”
“You’ve heard a lot of stories. A lot of things could sound like a stampeding bull. And there was that careening car. It’s understandable.”
She crossed her arms.
“All I’m saying is that whatever chased you might also have been one of the staff. Someone in a farm vehicle. You said Temple appeared awfully fast at the top of that shaft. It could have been him with a mower or combine, winding you up—herding you into that hole. What worries me worse is the fact that the shaft was sealed until today. Sealed with a steel cover and a blowtorch. There’s no reason it should have been reopened. And if anyone would have known about it, the gardener of the estate would.”
“Would he also know about this?” Eileen brought out her rune and set it with a thump on his kitchen table. Against the unpainted wood, it looked like an old gray meat loaf outlined with a bull design.
“Where did you find that?” He reached to touch the stone, his hand trembling.
“At the bottom of the mine shaft. Think it’s what the archaeologists were looking for?”
Ewan followed the design with his finger and nodded. “This has been on the list of missing world heritage objects for seventy-five years. It was considered pillaged by the English, like the Stone of Scone. They stole everything from us, down to the last little pebble. This was reclaimed by some Rutherford in one of the Highland wars and, they say, got reburied to save it from another future looting. The archaeologists got an anonymous tip that it was on the estate. But they were just…”
“Digging in the wrong place.”
“What do we do with it?” Eileen leaned toward him.
“For now, keep it hidden.”