If you go down to the woods today

Music, Journalism, Stretch


The woman came to me, court ordered. She was elegantly dressed but her demeanour was one of a broken person. I asked her to sit down. She kept looking in each direction, as if there was something just out of sight that was waiting for her.

I asked her to tell me her story. Not the one in the newspapers. She nodded assent. I took out my pad. Her handkerchief was well used and twirled around her fingers.

“Derrick had gotten depressed you see. He was always an expert at his craft.”

“His craft being shoemaking?”

“Sorry, yes. We were ticking along fine and then he just stopped. One day he just stopped. I tried to push him to continue but he got angry and shouted at me that there was no point. I cried and cried, but that made him angrier. I eventually got him to try to make a few pairs of shoes to see if it would spark something in him.”

“Was he ever violent?”

She shifted nervously and said no.

“We were losing money fast. He got the mental strength up to make a pair. They sold quickly. People would knock on the shop door but he wouldn’t answer them or would shout that we were doing renovations.”

“How did this make you feel?”

“Powerless, as you could imagine. He aged beyond his 40 years. Friends stopped calling. Food became our only purchase. He got more and more down until..”


“I watched him from the doorway one night and he toiled away battering a not so great piece of leather into submission. He cut the shoe shapes and sat there with knife…just staring into space. He moved the knife close to his wrist. I barrelled through the door and demanded he go to bed and finish the shoes in the morning.”

“Then what happened?”

“We went to sleep. I woke up a few hours later and he wasn’t there. I opened the door and he was standing there dead eyed. He said he just needed a glass of water.”

“Had he ever shown signs of self harm before?”

“God no. He was a jovial character. Pillar of the community type of guy. Not that the community stood by us when things went wrong.”

She fiddled with her handkerchief again.

“We went to sleep and he drifted off whispering, ‘What’s to become of us?’”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Still powerless. Still stressed. I heard noises downstairs but couldn’t muster up the energy to see what they were. Mice probably. The next morning he comes running into the room shouting. ‘Marjory! Marjory!’ He brought me this beautiful pair of pink ankle boots and pointed at the stitching. How good they were! I was delighted he was back working.”

“Well, that was good news then?”

“It was, but he claimed he didn’t make them.”

“Who made them?”

“I didn’t know, but he was so happy. He put them in the window, threw open the door of the shop and within an hour a trendy woman came in and paid him twice what we usually charged. She didn’t want anyone else to see them. We danced around. I made him a lovely dinner and he started cutting shapes from newly purchased leather.”

“So he got back to work?”



“No..em. He left the shapes and went to bed. I had had a few glasses of wine and slept deeply and soundly for the first time in a long time. The next morning, he came running in. ‘It happened again.’ I laughed to see him so happy. I went downstairs and there were two pairs of beautiful brogues on the table. His work had exceeded anything he had ever done before. Again, he claimed that he had no idea who finished the shoes.”

“Did you not find this behaviour odd, Marjory?”

“If you’ve been married as long as we had been, you sometimes took the happy times when they came and tried not to question things. He was happy, so I was happy. This continued on night after night. The shoes went flying out of the shop. People paid way over the odds. The community hung around the shop and laughed when he told his story. Not at him, but with him as if they were all in on the joke. We began to make real money for the first time in my life. I allowed myself to be blinded by the change in fortunes. It was nice Doctor. Really nice.”

“When did the things change for the worse?”

“Well.” She sniffed and touched her nose with the handkerchief.

“The shop was full of shoes and people. I dealt with the floor. He sat in the back and cut shape after shape and left them ready. I was drunk a lot at night. I assumed he got up after I blacked out and went downstairs to work. But he was bright eyed and happy in the morning.”

“Happy with you?”

“Eh, yeah. So…We were sitting around one night and after a few drinks he said very strangely, ‘Should we stay up tonight. To see who it is that helps us?’

“I stared at him for a long time looking for the crack in his features. But, he just smiled and sipped wine.”

“You went along with this plan?”

“I..I just assumed he was going to shout surprise or something. I mean what else was I to think?”

“Then what happened Marjory?”

“We stood behind a cupboard in the corner of the dimly lit room. I lit a candle. Then at midnight, a door unlocked automatically in the corner and two small boys dressed in rags slowly walked out and over to the bench. One of them looked straight past me at my husband. Derrick was standing behind me, and whispered in my ear, ‘Elves.’ I..I..”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Derrick was holding his cutting knife in his belt but it was pushed gently in to my lower back. From then on I was never out of his sight and he always had the knife in his hand. Even in bed.”

“You must have been terrified? Why did you not tell someone?”

“I was. He was so well regarded, I didn’t think anyone would believe me. We were wealthy now, set for life but I was terrified of running. He was always happy but with a malevolent look in his eye. One day, just before Christmas, he came to me and said that we should make the ‘elves’ new clothes and shoes as they had helped us out so much.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Yeah. I was so scared. I..” She broke down crying.

“Go on Marjory.”

“I made those boys suits, very smart. Derrick made two amazing pairs of brown brogues. Some of his finest work. Walking behind me down to the cellar, he whispered to me how happy the elves would be to have these new clothes. We laid them on the benches. I drank a lot of wine and passed out. Derrick woke me in a sweat. He told me that he’d sneaked down and watched the elves dress in these new clothes. With no leather shapes, he said, they danced about and cheered and sang, and he whispered this bit straight into my ear,

“Now we are boys so fine to see,

We need no longer cobblers be.

“Then he said they left the house arm-in-arm.”

“And then they found the bodies?”

“Then they found the bodies.”

A man, Derrick Washall, has been charged with the murder of two boys in a village just outside Bremen.

It is believed Mr Washall kidnapped the two boys and was using them as slave workers in the basement of his cobblers at Leibnitz Platz.

Mr Washall is pleading not guilty and claims the two boys were actually ‘elves’ and had been helping him in his endeavours.

The two boys’ identities remain a mystery and police say they are working with Interpol to establish their origin.

A local woman believed to be the man’s wife handed herself into the station last night.

She is claiming she was also a hostage of Mr Washall’s and has yet to be charged with any offence.

The boys were found buried in a shallow grave in a forest in an area known as Witches Glover.

A local athlete came upon the scene when trying to retrieve his golden retriever, who was digging under some tree bark.

On closer inspection, the man saw a shoeless foot sticking out from the ground.

The athlete’s dog, Benny, had a brand new shoe in his mouth.

Benny would not release the shoe, said the athlete, named Mr Foot.

Mr Foot chased the dog out of the forest onto a nearby autobahn where the dog caused a small collision between a truck and a police car.

The police were flagged down by Mr Foot, who described the grisly discovery.

The athlete and the dog are helping the police with their enquiries.

Bremen courthouse: Personal statement to the jury from Mr Derrick Washall, charged with murder in the first degree..

“Marjory was a very demanding woman. She wanted and wanted and I could never provide enough. I made shoes. I sold shoes. Shoes, shoes, shoes. It was never enough. Eventually I ran out of money and at rock bottom, I visited a local bar in Woolfhoopstrasse and drank vodka until I was numb. There, I met a man called Bob. A giant of a man. Spoke very slowly. As if he was mentally retarded but not, y’know. I told him my story and he said he could get me some help. I asked him what kind of help. He said labour. Labour always helps. I told him I couldn’t afford to pay anyone. He said no mind. He could get me two skilled workers and when I made money, I could pay him a dividend and we’d go from there.

The two boys came and I was shocked at their appearance. I knew it would look bad if anyone saw them, so I hid them downstairs in the cellar and fed them scraps. They were excellent at cobbling so I let them at it. I figured once I made some money I could sort them out, pay for clothes. Maybe give them rooms in the house.

I started making money and immediately saw my wife changing. She was happy again. I was happy. She drank very heavily but I didn’t mind. As long as she was happy. But she demanded more from me. Clothes, fine foods, wine. It was never enough. I got the boys to work harder. They were exhausted, the poor mites.

One morning Bob arrived and surveyed the shop. He sneered at me. You see, he said, labour is all you needed. But, now for my dividend. I gave him the agreed amount. He looked at it and shook his head. ‘No. No. I want half.’ I told him that was not possible. He laughed and asked did I realise that I had two trafficked humans in the basement. He would tell the police. So, I agreed to pay him half of every sale.

Eventually I became very wealthy and in turn so did Bob. We became friends of a kind. It was nice to have a friend, even if it was money based. One day my phone rang. It was Bob calling from an airport. He said that an informant had told the police of his career providing labour and that he’d have to leave the country. He urged me to get rid of any evidence.

I felt sorry for the boys and told them we would take a day off. My wife was so deluded from booze at this stage that she didn’t find it strange that I had told her we had two elves in the basement. We come from a very superstitious town. I convinced her to help me make the boys suits and shoes. She happily agreed, although she looked worried sometimes. That night I put sleeping tablets in her wine.

I brought the boys out and gave them sups of vodka. They were tired, nervous, but seemed to enjoy the air. We walked into the forest and with my lamp I found the tree stump where I had dug the grave. They didn’t think anything was wrong. I told them I was going to get some wood for a fire, then I doubled back and quietly slit their throats and watched them fall helplessly into the grave. I should have dug it deeper but I felt under a lot of pressure.

It seems my wife may have not been as superstitious as I thought. The following day when I told her the tale of their leaving, she seemed to accept it readily. Then I heard our truck roar past the house and she had fled from me. It was probably wise. I had intended to kill her next. She had some kind of accident on the motorway involving a dog and the police and that’s when everything went y’know, wrong for me.”


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