Brytewood, England September 1940
ISBN 10: 0-7582-3481-3
ISBN 13: 978-0-7582-3482-7
In the first of a trilogy of the supernatural battle for WWII, Dr. Alice Doyle finds the power to fight evil comes from places she'd never believe...
At the height of the Battle of Britain, a lady doctor has more than enough trouble to keep her busy even in a sleepy hamlet outside London. But the threat is nearer home than Alice knows. German agents have infiltrated her beloved countryside— Nazis who can fly, read minds, and live forever. They're not just fascists. They're vampires.
Alice has no time for fantasy, but when the corpses start appearing sucked dry, she'll have to accept help from a lowly Conscientious Objector, an able-bodied young man who says he's no coward though he refuses to fight. And, of course, from her grandmother, a sane, sensible woman who insists that she's a Devonshire Pixie. Indeed, whatever it takes to defend home and country from an evil both ancient and terrifyingly modern...
Alice Doyle was exhausted. Staying up half the night to deliver twins will do that to you. The elation and adrenaline of her first set of twins had carried her this far home, but as she turned into the lane that ran through Fletchers Woods, weariness set in. It had been a good night's work though. She wouldn't easily forget the rejoicing in the Watson farmhouse and Melanie's happiness through her fatigue as she breast-fed her lusty sons.
"A fine brace of boys. Gives one hope for the future, doesn't it, Doctor?" Roger Watson said as smiled at his grandsons. "If only Jim were here to see them." The Watsons' only son, Jim, was somewhere in Norfolk with the army and Alice couldn't help worry how Melanie, a Londoner born and bred, would fare with her in-laws in a farm as remote as any you could find in Surrey.
Still, Farmer Watson was right: whatever the politicians did or however many bombs fell, life went on.
The numerous cups of tea, she'd consumed through the night were having their effects and she still had several miles to go over bumpy country roads. She pulled over to the verge and got out. Other traffic was unlikely out here. Few locals enjoyed the supply of petrol allocated to doctors. Even so, Alice climbed over the gate and ventured into the woods for a bit of privacy.
She was straightening her clothes back, when she realized she was not alone. Darn! A bit late to be worrying about modesty. Deeper into the woods, someone crawled towards her. Assuming injuries, Alice called, "I'm coming. I'm a doctor."
It was a stranger. One of the workers from the hush hush munitions camp up on the heath, perhaps? What in heaven's name was he doing rolling on the damp ground? As Alice bent over him, he looked up at her with glazed eyes. Drunk perhaps? But she didn't smell anything on his breath.
"What happened?" as she spoke, she saw the stains on his sleeve. Blood loss might well account for his weakness. She looked more closely at him and gasped. Part of the branch of a tree was embedded in his upper arm. How in heaven's name? Had to be drunk. If there wasn't enough to do, she had to cope with boozers who impaled themselves on trees. Seemed that was his only injury. No bleeding from the mouth or nose. Heartbeat was abnormally slow but steady, his breathing shallow and his skin cold to the touch. Shock and exposure would explain all that. Best get him out of the damp.
"Look," she said, trying her utmost to keep the fatigue out of her voice. "I need you to walk to my car. I've my bag there and I'll have a look at your arm. Then I'll take you down to my surgery in Brytewood and call an ambulance."
The odd, glazed eyes seemed to focus. "Thanks," he croaked.
"What's your name?"
He had to think about that one. Definitely recovering from a wild night. "Smith." Really? Aiming for anonymity perhaps? "Paul Smith."
Alice got behind him and propped his shoulders until he was sitting. "Come along, Mr. Smith," she told him. "I'm going to give you a boost and you have to stand. I can't carry you."
They succeeded on the second go and made slow progress toward her car, Alice supporting Mr. Smith from his good side. He was a lot lighter than anticipated as he slowly staggered toward the road. He supported himself against the hedge, as Alice opened and closed the gate, but once they emerged from the shade into the thin afternoon sun, he collapsed.
Thank heaven for her father's old shooting brake. She got her patient into the back so he was lying against the sack of potatoes the Jacksons had insisted she take with her.
"Mr. Smith, I'm going to examine your arm. I'm afraid I'll have to cut your shirt sleeve."
Taking the nod as agreement, Alice snipped off the sleeve. The shirt was good for nothing but rags anyway. Her first observation had been right: several chunks of fresh wood had penetrated the flesh of his upper arm. "How did you did this, then?" she asked as she opened her bag and reached for sterile swabs and Dettol.
And cried out as he grabbed her free hand in a viselike grip and bit her wrist.
He was more than drunk. He was insane. Alice tried to push him away but he held on, digging his teeth into her flesh. She finally grabbed his nose until he gasped for breath and released her.
"Behave yourself! I'm a doctor. I'm here to help..." She broke off when she saw he'd passed out.
Something was really wrong. Maybe she should take him straight to the hospital in Dorking but she had patients waiting to take care off. She'd call for an ambulance at home.
Throwing a blanket over him, she got into the front and drove home as fast as safety and the twisting lanes permitted.
As luck would have it, Sergeant Pendragon was sitting at the kitchen table with Gran. He might be getting on a bit, but he was still hale and brawny and had no difficulty getting the semiconscious Mr. Smith to her examining room. Gran pulled back the curtains to let the last of the daylight in.
"Anything else I can do you for, Doctor?" Howell Pendragon asked. He'd lived in Brytewood forty years but still retained the sing song cadence of his native Anglesey.
Alice shook her head. "Thank you, no. I'll just clean up his wound."
It was easy enough too. Mr. Smith lay still, muttering as she probed for the deeper splinters, but seemingly still semiconscious. She'd never seen shock quite like this and, not for the first time, she wished her father were here, with his lifetime of experience.
But he wasn't.
Alice made her strange patient as comfortable as she could, covered him with a couple of blankets and carried the used kidney dish and bundle of bloody gauze away.
In the kitchen, Gran handed her bread and cheese. "I know you've had no lunch and it's a while yet before I'll have tea ready."
"Thanks, Gran." Still chewing, Alice picked up the phone. "Dorking 207, please."
"Doctor Doyle?" the telephonist said, "It's Jenny Longhurst. How are things up at the Watsons'?" News traveled fast and working in the telephone exchange, Jenny kept up with most of it.
"Melanie had a pair of beautiful boys."
"Oh! Lovely! Can't wait to tell everyone. Now, the ambulance depot you said? Anyone hurt?"
"Nothing serious." Alice hoped. She was connected in a trice, while, no doubt, Jenny and her cohorts spread the news about the Watsons' new arrivals over the wires.
"An ambulance for a splinter in the arm? We're busy down here. There's a war on, you know."
Alice was almost too weary to be polite. Almost, but not quite. Thirteen years of convent education left its mark. "He has massive injuries to his right arm from multiple penetration of wood shards. Also appears to be suffering from shock, aggravated by exposure over an undetermined period. I need an ambulance just as soon as you can get one up here." She never felt comfortable pulling the 'Me Doctor, you mere subordinate' line but if needs must...
"Alright then, Doctor Doyle. We'll have someone out there to pick him up. Might be late." Better late than never. "You have his particulars?"
"Yes." She'd appropriated his wallet from his jacket pocket. "Name: Paul Smith. Address on the driver's license is Chelmsford, same as his ration book and..."
"What's he doing down here then?"
"He's going?" Gran asked as Alice put up the receiver. "Good thing too. Something's not right about him."
"Yes, Gran, his right arm is injured."
"Not that, my girl. I mean wrong." Alice held back the sigh, Gran was starting off again. "Howell Pendragon thought so too and if you'd use the talents your were born with, you'd see as clearly as I do. That Mr. Smith has no life presence. No soul."
Alice took a deep breath. She was too weary to deal with Gran's scolding about ignoring her heritage and gifts. "Yes, Gran we'll talk about it later. How many patients are waiting?" She'd love to tell every last one of them that she'd been up half the night and was dead on her feet but they counted on her and she was still struggling to convince the village skeptics that she was every bit as much a 'real' doctor as her father had been.
"Half a dozen by the look of things." Not too bad at all. "One is Mrs. Jenkins." The local hypochondriac who read medical encyclopedias with the enthusiasm other women reserved for a good Mills and Boon.
"Give me ten minutes and send the first one in."
"I'll put a cup of tea on your desk."
God bless grandmothers!
The ambulance arrived somewhere round about five, just as Alice was writing out a prescription for stomach powder. She'd let Gran take care of things. "There you are Mr. Grace. Give it a couple of weeks and if it doesn't help. Come back and we'll try something else."
Mr. Grace left with his prescription and Alice put her head round the door to call in the last patient. Someone she didn't recognize. Perhaps one of the evacuees? She was in her twenties, slight and tired looking.
"Dr Doyle? I'm June Groves, one of the teachers evacuated with the school children. I hate to bother you but I cut my hand a few days ago and it's gone a bit nasty."
A 'bit nasty' wasn't the word. "How did this happen?" Alice frowned and the red, angry wound.
"I was in a hurry one morning. Trying to open one of those tins of dried milk. Like an ass, I used a kitchen knife and it slipped. I washed it off at the time but..."
Washing off hadn't been enough. "Do you have any kaolin poultice at home?"
She shook her head. "I've no idea, it's a billet. Mrs. Roundhill has a houseful of us and I hate to cause extra trouble."
So she was up at the vicarage. "Never mind." Alice filled a clean specimen jar with several spoonfuls scooped from a new tin. "Warm this up. An enamel plate balanced over a saucepan of boiling water is the easiest way. Put half on tonight and bandage it up and the other half in the morning. That should draw everything to a head. Come back after school tomorrow and I'll lance it." And hope it works. "If it gets painful overnight, take a couple of aspirin.
"Thanks." June Groves took the bottle. "What do I owe you?"
"We'll sort that out tomorrow."
Alice shut the door behind her, knowing she should have talked to the young teacher more, made sure her charges were settling in, or if they'd returned to London during the quiet months without bombing. She'd make up for that tomorrow when she came back.
"Alice." It was Gran, "The ambulance is here. They need to talk to you."
"Well, then," the surly-faced driver asked. "Where is he?"
A very good question.
Four off them, including the rather good looking driver's helper, crowded into the examining room. Gran looked bewildered-and worried. Sid Mosley, the older driver Alice had met before, shook his head. "Flown the coop has he? Can't have been as hurt as you thought, doctor."
Obviously. "He certainly had me fooled. He could barely stand a few hours ago. I needed Sergeant Pendragon's help to get him in here." The discarded and bloody dressing tossed on the floor and the crumpled blankets were sure proof she had not dreamed the entire incident. How Mr. Smith had managed to stand and walk, much less disappear was beyond her.
"He must have gone out through through the house," Gran said. "We'd surely have noticed if he'd come through the surgery.
Odd that Susie, her spaniel, hadn't barked but... "I'm sorry you had a wasted journey." There'd no doubt be a round of laughs over this. She could hear just Sid Mosley: "You know that new lady doctor over in Brytewood? Called us out there because a chap was half dying and he got up and walked away before we arrived."
"How about a nice cup of tea before you head back?" Gran asked. Trust her to offer the eternal panacea.
Sitting at the kitchen table while the kettle boiled and Gran lined up cups and saucers, Alice had a chance to sum up the other man. Not as young as she'd thought at first, close to her own age, probably. Not bad looking either. Not that she was about to start ogling the ambulance crews. Quiet, not quite meeting anyone's eyes, but when she did meet his gaze. He returned her look, his calm brown eyes cautious and intelligent.
"I didn't catch your name," she said as Gran put plates and a custard tart on the table. More experiments with dried egg. Alice hoped it tasted better than the mayonnaise last week.
"Why that looks delicious, Mrs. Burrows," Sid Mosley said, all but smacking his lips together.
"It's Watson. Peter Watson," the younger one replied, as if Mosley hadn't spoken.
Alice took the hand he held out. His fingers were long, his grip strong and when he smiled, his eyes crinkled at the corners. Nice smile too: even down to the little dimple in his chin. Definitely worth looking at twice.
"Watson?" Gran looked up from spooning tea into the pot. "There are a lot of Watsons around here." And two more since last night. "Any connection?" Gran asked as she reached for the boiling kettle.
"No, Madam," Peter Watson replied. "My family is from Devon."
The lid met the pot with a loud ding. "Really? Where? I'm from near Dunstead. Came here when my daughter - Dr. Doyle's mother - married.
When Peter Watson smiled, his face lit up. "I went to Blundells but my home was in Broad Clyst, down near Exeter."
Gran was positively beaming as she handed him a cup of tea. "The most beautiful county in England. What brought you up here? The war?"
"He's a conscie. A bloody CO!" Sid Mosley muttered.
The tick of the clock over the door was the only noise, apart for the dull sound of a clinker of burned coke shifting in the boiler. Even Gran stared, before pouring another cup and handing it to Alice.
As if she wanted to eat and drink at the same table as a coward! Gran should be offering him a white feather, not a cup of tea.
"Yes," Peter Watson replied, his voice tight but steady. "I'm a Conscientious Objector. I was a student in London when the war broke out, so I went before a review board in London. Did my nine months in Pentonville. When I got out, they looked at my records, saw I was a couple of years off qualifying as a vet, so decided I was fit to be an ambulance driver."
Alice couldn't miss the irony in his voice, or the tinge of defiance, daring her to pass judgment. Well, darn it, she already had. They should have found him fit to shovel sludge.
"The ambulance service always needs drivers." Trust Gran to break the silence. 'And we'll need every one of you if the bombing gets worse. Alice was up in London last week..." She shook her head and reached for the custard tart.
They'd have eaten in silence if Gran hadn't kept the conversation going, asking the darn CO about his family. He had two half-brothers, his father dead and his mother still living and, hopefully, suitably ashamed of her eldest son.
Sid Mosley answered Gran, even volunteered or comment or two of his own, but never, Alice noticed, did he say a word to his assistant.
"That was wonderful," Mosley said, as he polished of the last few crumbs. "Very welcome before a drive back in the dark." After a fruitless trip out here, Alice added to herself. "But we'd best be back." Without a word or a nod to Peter Watson, he left.
Peter Watson thanked Gran and shook hands, and darn it, she even invited him back to talk about Devon. He gave Alice a cautious look. How she felt was no doubt written all over her face. "Thank you." He didn't offer his hand but said quietly. "Don't judge me too harshly."
The cheek of him! Alice gave a curt nod. She'd judge him just however she pleased.
"Gran! How could you invite him to come back?" Alice was close to bursting by the time the ambulance pulled away. "He's a..."
"Young man a long way from home and lonely. And I'm an old woman who likes to talk about my home."
Point taken. Deep breath needed. "Gran, Simon is sitting in a prison camp in Germany. Alan is risking his life on the high seas and you are inviting a coward to tea." She had to make her understand.
"Alice, my love," somehow, the soft Devon burr in her voice seemed more apparent that usual. "I lived though the other war and let me tell you, cowardice is usually the last reason for a man to be a CO. The cowards go along with the committed, not willing to stand up and be noticed. Whatever drove that young man to declare himself, it wasn't cowardice. It takes backbone to stand against the opinion of the entire country and be willing to go to gaol for your convictions. You should perhaps talk to him."
Never. "Yes, Gran. Where's Susie? She's usually right here when we're eating." And scrounging shamelessly.
Susie was in the lounge, by the open French windows. Stiff and cooling. She'd been Alice's pet for twelve years, as she picked up the surprisingly light body, she fought back tears.
"I'll help you bury her," Gran said. "Let's put her under the plum tree."
"I wonder what killed her?"
"She was an old dog." Gran replied.
Old but not sick. Maybe she should ask the not-quite-a-vet-conscie to look at Susie. No way in hell.
From June 2009 Publisher's Weekly:
A starred review for Bloody Good
" In Evans's sparkling debut, mythic “Others” from English folklore must band together to protect their homeland during WWII. When country doctor Alice Doyle encounters a mysterious stranger injured in the woods, his quick recovery and disappearance leave her puzzled. Then a farmer is found dead and drained of blood, trouble brews at a secret munitions plant, and conscientious objector Peter Watson begins making eyes at Alice. Gerhardt Eiche, a Nazi vampire with sabotage and conquest on his mind, hides among villagers and refugees, many of whom—including Alice and Peter—are not quite what they seem. Treating childhood stories of fairy folk as historical records, Evans presents convincing characters in an intriguing story that will have readers eager to dive into Bloody Awful and Bloody Right, due later this summer."