Candy and Scruffy

Chapter 1.

By the Moonlight

The engine back fired with a loud bang and the brakes squealed as she brought her old van to a halt on the quiet country back road. She sighed for a moment and looked at the early evening dusk, with the growing fog settling on the rolling hills. Bending over the steering wheel she stared through the windscreen at the hazy sunset of golden light floating through the mist when her thoughts were interrupted by a high pitched bark

A little white Scottish terrier scrabbled with his paws to reach her lap. She picked him up, and gave her road companion a long slow pat as they both enjoyed the fading sunset, now a hazy yellow ball receding below the hillside. She had found peace up here, away from…well stuff. She looked at Scruffy, as she patted the white wild fur now peaceful and quiet in her lap.

She roused herself, "Come on 'Scruff' we need some fresh air."

The side door opened with a healthy clunk and they jumped down into the roadside gravel. Rubbing her hands briskly against her old green parker and hugging herself close against the cold, she called out to the white haired terrier, "Come on 'Scruff,' I don't know how long I can stand this, but we need to stretch for a bit." Scruffy jumped around excited at her feet.

Looking about she saw a gap in the shrubs to a field.

Come on 'Scruff,' this way looks good, and the terrier took off at a scampering run in front of her.

It soon turned cold dark and grey. She was about to call 'Scruff' back when she heard, a loud rattle and then a pair of head lights turned towards her. She ducked down low in the scrub. Probably a farmer she thought, but either way she didn't want to be seen. She watched as the headlights went away into the low light.

She saw a small white pick up bouncing along a faintly marked wheel rutted track. She got up then to see it going away into the distance with something like a roll of carpet rolling about in it's back. It went down the hill and bounced onto the tar. Then she heard it accelerate and disappear along the deserted country road.

'SCRUFF' she yelled, "where are you? Come on it's gett'in cold out here." Then she smelt it, freshly dug earth.

She followed the tangy soil smell and as she got closer she could hear Scruffy yipping and scratching at a small mound of grey dirt. "Come on 'Scruff' it's just farmer's stuff." Then she trod on something hard. She bent down, and picked up what appeared to be a small ring. She held it up to the moonlight. The gold band shone, it wasn't even tarnished. 'Must have been dropped only a short while ago.'

It was too small and plain to be a wedding ring, maybe a friendship ring. Didn't look like something a farmer would choose to wear though, it was so thin and dainty.

Then it came together in her mind, the fresh dirt, a roll of rug in the back, a lonely back road and a well worn women's ring.

'Oh no it couldn't be, surely not?'

She looked at the grey mound of dirt in front of her in the failing light. She had a horrible thought for a moment of what might be under there. What if she handed the ring in to the local police, would they know who's it was? And then of course there going to want to know where she found it, and what she was doing there, and then there was her van it wasn't exactly road worthy, and then where would she'd be with out it? It was all she had, besides Scruffy of course.

'Ahh,' she thought, 'Maybe it belonged to a lady farmer, maybe she came back to look for it, but what about the rug she saw in the back? Nahh could have been anything.' But somehow her instincts were telling her, she was making up excuses to avoid what she really felt was the truth. Her thoughts always went on when she heard about other peoples business. She sighed and knew she couldn't help it.

The side door made a loud creak as she opened it and she followed Scruffy as he jumped inside. She grabbed a thick much worn blanket, and hunkered down for the night. Holding Scruffy close, she pondered the situation. 'No she thought she would hand it in, saying that she found it on the street near the shops. Yes that was it, that would be as far as she would go. Let them figure it out from there. If indeed there was anything to figure out. Yes that was it . She would have done her bit, but somehow the thought didn't satisfy her conscience and she had a fitful nights sleep.

The van putted down the main street of the small village leaving a trail of wispy white smoke giving everything away as to it's condition. She pulled into a small lane, well short of the main shops and shut off the noisy engine.

She searched the pockets of her old green parker, and pulled out a few pieces of paper, and some coins. It was all that was left after her last job some months back. It had been too long, she would have to find work soon, but it had been difficult these last six months. Times were tough and for some one like her even tougher.

She saw her worried face in the mirror for a moment, and flicked it a quick smile. 'Yeah come, on Candy, that's' more like it, no one hires someone who looks like they need work.' She smiled once more at the mirror and put the side window down a fraction and turned around. "Back soon, 'Scruff.' No barking at strangers, okay." She gave him a quick pat and shut the driver door.

'The Police' she thought, that was the last place she wanted to go.'

She looked at the ring, in her hand, and knew it couldn't be helped. Still maybe they could help her out. 'One good turn deserves another,' or at least she could hope it did.

She was almost on the door step of the white and blue trimmed little village local police shop when she stopped in her tracks. 'What about the dirt mound sitting in that remote farmers paddock? What if they took the ring and put it in lost property and did nothing more?

She took it out of her pocket and studied it for a moment. 'No markings, just smooth and polished. Maybe she should keep it for a bit longer…maybe…' Her thoughts stopped when she saw the pub at the end of the shops on the other side. 'Well no time like the present to try my luck.' She pocketed the ring and walked on past the police station.

Standing behind the bar was a rather stout man with short blond wisps of hair attempting curls upon his also rather large head. He didn't look up from his busy job of polishing glasses as she walked across and stood there. It was almost lunch and a few patrons had already taken their seats. He seemed to be by himself, which was good, well good for her that is, as she calmly watched him finish off the glasses. Again without looking up he asked, "What'll it be luv?"

She purveyed the alcoholic drinks for a moment, and thought better of it. "Oh an iced ginger ale, would be fine thanks." He gave her a smile as he poured the glass in front of her and she gave what she hoped was a casual friendly smile back. "Umm… you handle all this by yourself then." "What, oh no not usually, me wife will be back soon, and we did have a casual, but she seems to have dipped out on us." "Umm…I see…well…" "Just a moment luv…" The barman went across to a small group of adults that had entered with their children, he rushed over to show them to some seats outside in the beer garden. When he came back he seemed a little flustered, "Hope my wife shows soon, the lunch crowds a little early today." "Umm… would you like some help?" "Sure would luv, know anyone reliable send em, on over." "Well you're looking at her actually." He glanced up and looked at her closely for the first time. "Oh… I see. You have experience then?" "Sure do…" Just then a group of elderly people walked in all dressed in white just come from bowls no doubt, she thought. She saw the look of anguish on his face. "E-ere," he said loudly to her, "Go round back and grab an apron," He looked at her face for a moment, "You can start now cant'cha?" "Yes, yes of course, " she blurted out and dove quickly behind the counter grabbing the apron and with quick fingers wrapped it around tying it on.

She groaned as she put her feet up sometime in the late afternoon, she wasn't used to this, but she would be back in the swing, it never took too long.

Graham and his wife 'Tildy'; the hotel owners, brought over a tray of beers.

She quickly put her feet back down on the ground as they sat down with her,. "You do drink don't cha, luv?" She grabbed one of the cold glasses and took a careful sip. He smiled, "Never knew a waitress who didn't," he said. They chatted on happily for a while, confirming her employment status, when she said, "Well I'd better go and change… " "Where you staying luv?." 'Oh I haven't had time to look yet…" "There's a spare room here. I'm sure we could work something out with the wages if you like."

'Scruff' came to her mind then, and she was about to refuse, when she looked over at the table in the corner, a couple of elderly men had their dogs, beside them while they drank. She decided to take a chance, "Well you see I have a little Scottish terrier, his real friendly, he never barks," she said with a shy smile. He frowned a little, but his wife 'Tildy' smiled and said that'll be fine luv, I have an old rug he can have.