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(A short story of 3218 words)

All Hallows

Crime and Thrillers Literary

by Cherry Potts

Keith's obsession with naming things, and with Gerda the newspaper seller outside his office, leads him into danger.

Keith had a good view of the upper storey and roof of St. Gerda's church from his office window. When his eyes grew tired of the flickering of the computer screen, he would lean against the coolness of the glass and gaze at the worn, acid-stained stone. If he squinted sideways, he could see the top of Gerda's head and a blur of burgundy red from her coat. Not that she ever glanced up; why should she? All the same, he gained the impression that she knew Keith was there, watching her.

He called her Gerda, having no idea what her name might be. His secretary claimed that this was a sign of insecurity; that Keith had an obsession with owning things, a need to name them, even the computer, which was called Maurice. Given this habit, the woman selling papers by the church gate had no hope of remaining anonymous. However, in this instance naming her did not satisfy Keith's impetus to own.

Keith chose ‘Gerda’ partly for the church, but also because she reminded him of an illustration of the girl in The Snow Queen. Bundled up in layers of clothes against the ice cold, her dark plaits on her shoulders, and that curiously angry innocence of the very young in her face. The illustration might have been of the Robber Princess, but as that character lacked a name, Keith had chosen to ignore the inconvenience of that possibility, and the newsvendor remained Gerda.

Keith passed her every day, going to and from the station. He used the churchyard as a short cut, stealing a few moments peace from the rush hour cacophony, before crossing the road to the office.

When it was warm enough, Keith took his sandwiches across the road, to eat his lunch in the slip of park which replaced the graveyard after the blitz disturbed the burials, astonishingly leaving the church itself untouched. If the bench nearest the gate were free it was possible, on a late lunch break, to get a little sun and to watch Gerda furtively...

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