The Railway Child

“If I’m not here when you wake up in the morning I’ll be out,” I said to my wife.

“So if you’re not here you’re somewhere else?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. I’m only a woman. I would never have worked that out on my own.”

I let the sarcasm pass. What I meant, of course, was ‘I won’t be here to bring you a cup of tea.’ But judging by her expression she expected to survive.

I was off scouting. I’m halfway through book two. It’s a murder mystery. And if there’s one thing a murder mystery needs, it’s a body.

And if there’s one thing a body needs…

But where? That was what I was going to find out.

I climbed into the car well before sunrise.

No, I didn’t. Some mystic sixth sense came to me in the night. ‘Don’t wake her up to say goodbye,’ it said. ‘Not a wise career move…’

I parked the car in Grosmont which – if you know your Harry Potter – is where the train from platform 9¾ pulled into Hogwarts station.

Down the lane, across the bridge and turn right onto the bridleway.

My aim was to walk along by the side of the river. I’d fondly imagined a nice, straight path by a nice, straight river.

The Esk had other ideas. It twisted and turned and meandered along like a candidate for a Geography text book. Ox-bow lakes – it was all coming back to me.

But twists and turns and meanders were no use to me. The river was on the right, I was heading left.

So were the pheasants. Two of them sauntered casually across the track in front of me.

The field on my right was full of pheasants. I’d never seen so many. A nye, a bevy, a covey of pheasants. But Google was saving the best until last. A bouquet of pheasants.

The sort of collective nouns that make you wish you were Dr Watson. ‘Great Scott, Holmes,’ I ejaculated. ‘A parliament of rooks!’

Sorry. Where was I?

Trying to reach the river. Well, it’s down there on the right and here’s a convenient track. I’d fondly imagined the farmer in my book ploughing a field. ‘That’s his alibi? A ploughed field? That isn’t going to testify, is it?’

Forget that. The track was so wet it looked like his only option would be planting rice.

The track led to a five-barred gate. Penalty for failing to close this gate £1,000. Fair enough, I closed it behind me.

…And found myself standing on a railway line. Trains on the Whitby – Middlesbrough line are few and far between. But it’s still probably not a good idea to stand on the tracks.

There was another gate between me and the river.

Stuck. Jammed. Wouldn’t open.

Regular readers will know that climbing over a gate does not end well for me.

Four years ago on the Pennine Way it led to me falling in a bog. So dramatically that I became the first person to walk a mile of England’s longest national trail in his underpants, while everything else dried out. A year later I confidently climbed over a gate on the North York Moors. And found myself inside Fylingdales, one of the UK’s missile defence bases.

So I should know better than to climb a gate. But I’m on my own. Alex can usually be relied on to talk sense into me. Carelessly, he’s 200 miles away in Edinburgh.

I’m also just plain useless at climbing over gates. As I get older I have the grace and agility of a plank of wood.

And sure enough, 20 seconds later I’m neatly balanced on the gate. One leg one side, one leg the other side and my weight resting squarely on my testicles.

And no closer to the river. The pheasants look on and sadly shake their heads…

Absolutely brilliant, great plot, fantastic characters.

I got to halfway in no time and then couldn’t put it down, finished it in one sitting. Leaves you wanting to know more, can’t wait for Brady 2. Has brought back my love of reading.”

Salt in the Wounds’ is now available in paperback and on your Kindle