Prelude

Late September, 2012

Mourning the death of summer, the roundabout groaned in the wind as the young lass waded through the shin-high grass. The time for merry freedom was dead and gone, so the groundskeeper no longer acted with any sense of urgency; the green, bereft of its August community, had been left to grow some five weeks, now, filling the village park with that familiar eerie feeling Eleanor Beeforth had known every year since she was deemed sufficiently old and responsible enough to make her own way home from school. The dolorous song of the roundabout and the soft susurrus of the long grass melted into an uneasy brooding atmosphere and, attempting to distract herself from the ambience, Eleanor was plucking plump, ripe blackberries from the hedgerow dividing the park and the churchyard. Their juice was steadily staining her fingers a deep purple-red.