Read On Beulah Height Online

Authors: Reginald Hill

On Beulah Height



A Dalziel/pascoe Mystery

"Reginald Hill," writes the Dallas Morning News, "is not only a talented writer of detective fiction, he is a shrewd observer of human nature." Now, in On Beulah Height, Hill uses riveting psychological detail to create a chilling tale about the powerful need to be loved, its blind desires and hopes, its illusions and truths. And its deadly consequences.

With modernity raising its ugly head in Yorkshire, the grand idea of the Water Board was to flood a local valley to make a reservoir. Of course they had to bulldoze the homes of Dendale, the farming town inconveniently situated in that valley, first, and relocate the families. That was when the children began to disappear.

Andy Dalziel was a young detective in those days, and he took the case hard. Three little girls were missing in all. No bodies were ever found, and the best suspect, a strange lad named Benny Lightfoot, was held for a time, then released. The only child that escaped an attack, a plump, dark-haired girl named Betsy, said it was Benny who grabbed her. But he escaped so cleanly, even Dalziel couldn't find him.

Twelve years later, with one of the driest summers on record, the ruins of Dendale have begun to reappear in the reservoir. And the child-snatching has started again. Dalziel, older, wiser, and more caustic, is determined to get his man this time. But his partner Peter Pascoe soon has a life-and-death problem with his own daughter distracting him. Now, as the threads of past and present wind tightly into a chilling mosaic of death and vengeance, a drowned valley begins to yield up its secrets--of bones, memories, and desire--until the identity of a killer rests on what a small child saw and what another, now grown, feared with all her heart to remember. ...

Published by: Delacorte Press, New York, New York.

Copyright 1998 by Reginald Hill


"The real joy of the Dalziel/pascoe books is the writing and the characterizations. Mr. Hill has such disparate writers as Trollope, Beerbohm, Sayers and Shaw in his blood." --The New York Times

"A lot of people write classic detective stories, but Reginald Hill is one of the elite few who write classy classics." --The Baltimore Sun

"Hill's polished, sophisticated novels are intelligently written and permeated with his sly and delightful sense of humor. More than most other mystery novels, Hill's Dalziel/pascoe novels are enjoyable as much for their characters as for their complicated, suspenseful mystery plots." --The Christian Science Monitor

"Hill blends civility and madness in a most agreeable way." --New York

REGINALD HILL has been widely published both in England and in the United States and has been justly compared with P. D. James and Ruth Rendell. He received Britain's most coveted mystery writers award, The Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, as well as the Golden Dagger, for his Dalziel/pascoe series. Reginald Hill writes thrillers under the name of Patrick Ruell. He lives with his wife in Cumbria, England.

By the same author:

The Wood Beyond

Pictures of Perfection

Blood Sympathy

Recalled to Life

Bones and Silence


There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union

Child's Play

Exit Lines


A Killing Kindness

Pascoe's Ghost

A Pinch of Snuff

Another Death in Venice

An April Shroud

A Very Good Hater

Ruling Passion

A Fairly Dangerous Thing

An Advancement of Learning

Fell of Dark

A Clubbable Woman

The Collaborators

No Man's Land

Traitor's Blood

Who Guards the Prince

The Spy's Wife

For Allan a wandering minstrel, he!

Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven. John Bunyan: The Pilgrim's Progress

O where is tinye Hew? And where is little Lenne? And where is bonny Lu? And Menie of the Glenne? And where's the place of rest-The ever changing hame? Is it the gowan's breast, Or 'neath the bells of faem?

Ay, lu, lan, dil y'u Anon: The Gloamyne Buchte

Wir holen sie ein auf jenen Hoh'n Im Sonnenschein. Der Tag ist schon auf jenen Hoh'n Friedrich Ruckert: Kindertotenlieder IV


DAY 1 A Happy Rural Seat

of Various View


Transcript 1 No. 2 of 2 Copies

The day they drowned Dendale I were seven years old.

I'd been three when government said they could do it, and four when Inquiry came out in favor of Water Board, so I remember nowt of that.

I do remember something that can't have been long after, but. I remember climbing up ladder to our barn loft and my dad catching me there.

"What're you doing up here?" he said. "Tha knows it's no place for thee."

I said I were looking for Bonnie, which were a mistake. Dad had no time for animals that didn't earn their keep. Cat's job was keeping rats and mice down, and all that Bonnie ever caught was a few spiders.

"Yon useless object should've been drowned with rest," he said. "You come up here again after it and I'll get shut of it, nine lives or not."

Before I could start mizzling, sound of a machine starting up came through the morning air, not a farm machine but something a lot bigger down at Dale End. I knew there were men working down there, but I didn't understand yet what they were doing.

Dad went to the open hay door and looked out. Low Beulah, our farm, were built on far side of Dender Mere from the village, and from up in our loft you got a good view right over our fields to Dale End. All on a sudden Dad picked me up and swung me onto his shoulders.

"Tek a good look at that land, Betsy," he said. "Don't matter a toss now that tha's only a lass. Soon there'll be nowt here for any bugger to work at, save only the fishes."

I'd no idea what he meant, but it were grand for him to be taking notice of me for a change, and I recall how his bony shoulder dug into my bare legs, and how his coarse, springy hair felt in my little fists and how he smelled of sheep and earth and hay.

I think he forgot I were up there till I got a bit uncomfortable and moved. Then he gave a little start and said, "Things to do still. Nowt stops till all stops." And he dropped me to the floor with a thump and slid down the ladder. That were typical. Telling me off for being up there one minute, then forgetting my existence the next.

I stayed up a long while till Mam started shouting for me. She caught me clambering down the ladder and gave me a clout on my leg and yelled at me for being up there. But I said nowt about Dad, 'cos it wouldn't have eased my pain and it would just have got him in bother too.

Time went on. A year maybe. Hard to say. That age a month can seem a minute and a minute a month if you're in trouble. I know I got started at the village school. That's where most of my definite memories start too. But funny enough, I still didn't have any real idea what them men were doing down at Dale End. I think I just got used to them. It seemed like they'd been there almost as long as I had. Then sometime in my second year at school, I heard some of the older kids talking about us all moving to Danby Primary. We hated Danby Primary. We just had two teachers, Mrs. Winter and Miss Lavery, but they had six or seven and one of them was a man with a black eye-patch and a split cane that he used to beat the children with if they got their sums wrong. At least that's what we'd heard.

I piped up and asked why we had to move there.

"Dost know nowt, Betsy Allgood?" asked Elsie Coe, who was nearly eleven and liked the boys. "What do you think they're building down the dale? A shopping center?"

"Nay fair do's," said one of her kinder friends. "She's nobbut a babbie still. They're going to flood all of Dendale, Betsy, so as the smelly townies can have a bath!"

Then Miss Lavery called us in from play. But I went to the drinking fountain first and watched the spurt of water turn rainbow in the sun.

After that I started having nightmares. I'd dream I were woken by Bonnie sitting on my pillow and howling, and all the blankets would be wet, and the bed would be almost floating on the water which were pouring through the window. I'd know it were just a dream but it didn't stop me being frightened. Dad told me not to be so mardy and Mam said if I knew a dream were just a dream I should try and wake myself up, and sometimes I would, only I wouldn't really have woken up at all and the water would still be there, lapping over my face now, and then I really would wake up screaming.

When Mam realized what were troubling me, she tried to explain it all. She were good at explaining things when she wasn't having one of her bad turns. Nerves, I heard Mrs. Telford call it one day when I was playing under the window of the joiner's shop at Stang with Madge. It was Mrs. Telford I heard say, too, that it were a pity Jack Allgood (that's my dad) hadn't got a son, but it didn't help anyone Lizzie (that's my mam) cutting the girl's hair short like a boy's and dressing her in trousers. That was me. I looked in the mirror after that and wondered if mebbe I couldn't grow up to be a boy.

I was saying about my mam explaining things. She told me about the reservoir and how we were all going to be moved over to Danby, and it wouldn't make all that much difference 'cos Dad were such a good tenant, Mr. Pontifex had promised him the first farm to come vacant on the rest of his estate over there.

Now the nightmares faded a bit. The idea of moving were more exciting than frightening, except for the thought of that one-eyed teacher with the split cane. Also the weather had turned out far too good for young kids to worry about something in the future. Especially about too much water!

That summer were long and hot, I mean really long and hot, not just a few kids remembering a few sunny days like they lasted forever.

Winter were dry, and spring, too, apart from a few showers. After that, nothing. Each day hotter than last. Even up on Beulah Height you couldn't catch a draft, and down in the dale we kept all the windows in the house and school wide open but nowt came in save for the distant durdum of the contractors' machines at Dale End.

Fridays at school was the vicar's morning, when Reverend Disjohn would come and tell us about the Bible and things. One Friday he read us the story about Noah's Flood and told us that bad as it seemed for the folks at the time, it all turned out for the best. "Even for them as got drowned?" cried out Joss Puddle, whose dad were landlord at the Holly Bush. Miss Lavery told him not to be cheeky, but Reverend Disjohn said it was a good question and we had to remember that God sent the Flood to punish people for being bad. What he wanted to say was that God had a reason for everything, and mebbe all this fuss about the reservoir was God's way of reminding us how important water really was and that we shouldn't take any of His gifts for granted.

When you're seven you don't know that vicars can talk crap. When you get to be fourteen, you know, but.

Slowly day by day the mere's level went down. Even White Mare's Tail shrank till it were more like a white mouse's. White Mare's Tail, in case you don't know, is the force that comes out of the fell near top of Lang Neb. That's the steep fell between us and Danby. It's marked "Long Denderside" on maps, but no one local ever calls it owt but Lang Neb, that's because if you look at it with your head on one side, it looks like a nose, gradually rising till it drops down sudden to Black Moss col on the edge of Highcross Moor. On the other side it rises up again, but more gradual, to Beulah Height above our farm. There's two little tops up there and because they look a bit like a mouth, some folk call it the Gob, to match the Neb opposite. But Mrs. Winter said we shouldn't call it owt so common when its real name was so lovely, and she read us a bit from this book that Beulah comes into. Joss Puddle said it were dead boring and he thought the Gob were a much better name. But I liked Beulah 'cos it were the same as our farm and besides it sort of belonged to us, seeing as my dad had the fell rights for his sheep up there and he kept the fold between the tops in good repair, which Miss Lavery said was probably older than our farmhouse even.

Any road, no one could deny our side of the valley were much nicer than Lang Neb side, which was really steep with rocks and boulders everywhere. And in the rainy season, while there'd be becks and falls streaking all of the hillsides, on the Neb they just came bursting straight out of fell, like rain from a blocked gutter. Old Tory Simkin used to say there were so many caves running through the Neb, there was more water than rock in it. And he used to tell stories about children falling asleep in the sunshine on the Neb, and being taken into the hill by nixes and such, and never seen again.

But he stopped telling the stories when it really started happening. Children disappearing, I mean.

Jenny Hardcastle were the first. Holidays had just started and we were all splashing around in Wintle Pool where White Mare's Tail hits fell bottom. Usually little ones got told off about playing up there, but now the big pool were so shallow, even the smallest could play there safe.

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