Every writer will, from time to time, write a scene that seems to have little bearing on the story. My solution in that event is to let those scenes play out of their own accord. After all, each and every one of us can be our own worst critics and when it comes to the literary craft, sometimes what we think is bad, isn’t and what we deem excellent is in reality, utterly boring.

Often those apparently useless parts end up linking dramatic events in the unfolding plot. And if they don’t, they can be tossed out during the editing process. In short, its better to have the scene and not need it, then to need it and not have it.

Overthinking a chapter is tantamount to overcooking your morning breakfast: Basically a stupid and wasteful activity. Better, in my opinion to allow the story to unfold naturally and organically, even if you have no idea about the purpose of a particular scene.

I’ll admit that I have absolutely no idea as of yet what will happen in the next chapter of Ellen Fisher’s story – whenever she again sees fit to show up and pester my psyche. What I do know is that after some eight hundred words and in the final line of the last paragraph of the below chapter, her guidance disappeared . Therefore, I bowed to the inevitable and ceased writing. It seemed to be the correct thing to do.

I’ll admit it was frustrating Dear Reader, but both you and I will simply have to accept Ellen Fisher’s sudden absence – and hope she returns soon.

Those of you who are new to the story of The Girl From the Paper-Mill can find the relevant links below. For those readers who are up to date, please scroll down.

As usual any and all comments and/or hate-mail are welcome.

Many thanks and kind regards,
Chris O’Connell
August 19th 2017




The tavern-keeper brings a bowl of lamb and vegetable soup, a plate of rye bread and a mug of hot buttered tea. Later he returns to collect my empty crockery and comments on my appetite. I thank him for his hospitality though in truth I have no memory of eating the meal or of how the food tasted. Perhaps it is the fear that at any moment men from the ship will burst through the doors and arrest me. It could also be the fear of being identified for what I am – a woman wearing a man’s suit. The light from the fire-place and the low burning oil-lamps seems bright and accusing. I feel exposed and vulnerable though I cannot bring myself to leave the room and the songs emanating from the man and the piano in the corner.

Despite not knowing the language, the music plays on my imagination. I imagine vast forests, snow-capped mountains and high towered castles. The heat emanating from the fireplace combined with the heavy meal and lilting music evokes new images that transcend time and space and I drift…

I jerk awake and stare up at the tavern-keeper. He in turn stares back at me for a moment before his leathery features crumple into frown.


“What is it?”

The tavern-keeper arches an eyebrow. “You were talking in your sleep.”

It’s at that moment that I realise the music has stopped and that all the patrons are staring at me with expressions ranging from concern to bemusement. I feel the heat of embarrassment in my face and neck.

The tavern-keeper clears his throat. “Perhaps I can show you to your room sir?”

I nod and punctuate the action with a cough. “I think that might be best” I croak.

He leads me from the room and up two flights of stairs, pausing outside a wooden door. As he hands me my room key, I hear laughter from the dining area followed a moment later by the sound of piano chords.

“I think you will find the room to your liking sir”.

“Thank you. Who is that man singing, downstairs?”

My host cocks his head and a proud smile creases his broad face. “That is my nephew Malthe.”

He looks at me expectantly for some kind of explanation for my query. I say “He’s very good.”

“A local favourite” the tavern-keeper nods. “Will you be staying for breakfast?”

“Yes please.”

The tavern-keeper nods and turns away. From the last look he gives me, I can tell he is not entirely pleased.


My room is small, the furnishings simple but it is clean and the bed-linen smells of lilac. Fearing that I may have to flee the tavern, I try sleeping in the clothes I am wearing – the suit that Beth Bradshaw stole from her husband- but the hotel room is warm and the sheets are too inviting. Finally I strip off the suit. As I slide into bed I hear a final burst of laughter from downstairs followed by the tavern-keeper bellowing a command. Then as my head settles into the soft feather pillow I fall into a deep dream filled sleep.

I dream that I am climbing up a steep mountain side. The higher I climb, the steeper the incline. Nevertheless I find myself, climbing higher and faster, my hands and feet seeking holds in the rock surface. Then as I approach the summit, I feel the mountain begin to crumble beneath me. I scramble upwards but by then there are no hand-holds and then I am tumbling backwards, the summit fading into the distance as jagged shards of rubble pour down on top of me…

I sit bolt upright in bed gasping for air and drenched in sweat. From outside, the faint glow of the street lamps casts shadows on the bedroom wall. For several minutes I scan the darkness and wonder what monsters may be lurking therein. But as the minutes pass and the thunder of my blood diminishes in my ears and my ragged breathing becomes more regular it occurs to that the only demons haunting me are the ones I carry in my heart and mind and the dread fear – always the fear – that accompanies them.

Eventually I fall asleep but the dreams return. When morning comes, I awake feeling only marginally rested. The dreams are like faded memories and fragments of images: The foreman at the paper-mill. The laughing face of Tom Bradshaw. Beth Bradshaw’s gentle kiss turning into the savage bite of a slathering pit-bull. Though I cannot remember the context in which they appeared in my dreams, I remain shaken and alone. Accepting the last part is the worst part, for indeed I am a fugitive and I am indeed alone.

Copyright Chris O’Connell 2017. The right of the author has been asserted.



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