As far back as she could remember Jane had an affinity with the creatures of the air.
None more so than Nimrod, her pet Merlin. She had owned birds of prey since she was a child but the Merlin was by far her favourite. It was not the fastest bird or the greatest of hunters but Nimrod had more spirit than a bird twice his size.
Today, Jane wandered the lower field beyond the paddock and let Nimrod fly free. His silhouetted form was a darting black shadow against the pale cloudless sky. Soaring and diving at the mice and small creatures which constantly plagued Mister Pool the estate manager.
It was a resiprical areangent which meant the vermin were kept to a minimum while Nimrod received some much needed exercise.
As the bird swooped above her, circling and dipping, Jane pondered the events a few nights earlier. Mrs Covington had told Jane that the old woman had clearly been playing a joke on her and had dismissed any further convocation on the topic.
Jane had tried to point out that it wasn’t a particularly funny joke and that the old woman had seemed to be quite shaken by the whole thing.
Mrs Covington in return had been annoyed that Jane was unwilling to drop the subject, She concluded by saying that the best thing for Jane to do would be go out for a nice spot of exercise.
Rather than argue her point further, Jane took Mrs. Covingtons advice, slipped on her long weather proof coat and rubberised boot.
She headed as far from Lazarus Hall as her legs could take her without actually leaving the family estate muttering about Mrs. Covington as she walked, her boots gently sucking at the mud.
As listeners go, Nimrod tried his best but as a bird he was not the conversationalist that Jane craved.
Jane always loved this end of the estate; whenever she was away from home she always felt an ache in her heart calling her back home. And yet when she was home she often felt an uncontrollable itch for adventure and far off places.
One of the things that Jane liked about this particular field was that Mister pool had not gone down the same road as so many of here neighbours. He had not erected any of the barbed wire which seemed to suddenly dominate the landscape, he had chosen to keep with tradition and maintain the stark eldritch hedges around the property.
He did this despite knowing that this was an ideal home for the very vermin which made his job so much harder than it ought to have been and yet he could not bring himself to abandon the old ways.
His father had tended the hedge rows and he was sure that his descendants would do the same.
With some small pride, Jane looked at the twisted mass of thorns and brambles and caught herself thinking that there ought to be a word to describe the tiny and perfectly ballenced world that existed inside the hedgerow.
Larger animals eating the smaller ones which in turn would eat the small fruit and berries, a tiny world without laws in perfect balance.
Nimrod was the epitome of joy and Jane watched him fly with a tiny touch of jealousy. In her gloved hand she held his tiny leather hood ready for the journey home.
It was while she was watching her beloved pet that she saw something beyond the hedgerow, a suddenly glint.
It was only for a fraction of a second but it was clearly something artificial and it certainly peaked her curiosity.
Jane stroked the back of her neck with her ungloved hand and thought to herself.
This was not the first time she had been observed and she was sure that it would not be the last but she was still curious as to the nature of the onlooker.
From the depths of her coat she removed a tiny device.
With a flick from her wrist she carefully unravelled the twine. It was a simple lour with a place for some food embedded into a small noise maker at one end. She dropped the weighted end then and started to swing it high above her head like a lasso.
In usual training sessions Jane used this to allow Nimrod to practice his skills at hunting but today she had something else in mind.
The lour made an almost inaudible whirring sound at it travelled through the air getting faster and faster .
Nimrod had played this game before, he darted left then climbed vertically only to dive straight at the noise making apparatus above Janes head, attempting to swipe it from the air.
At the last moment, Jane retracted the device then let out a call. A sound, which for all the world sounded exactly like the Latin name for hedge. Nimrod changed direction and headed towards the source of the reflection.
In a second he was gone from view and had vanished deep into the brambles. There was a moments silence followed by the distinct cry of a middle aged man in a surprisingly large amount of pain.
“You can come out now.” called Jane over to the interlopers. Slowly and rather clumsily, the figures gained their full height from their crouching position behind the hedge.
The shorter of the two men turned to his wounded colleague and said “It looks like the things we have been told are true, she really does have the natural instincts of an animal.”
The taller of the men gently dabbed at is scratched cheek with a pristine white handkerchief at the same time as he and tried to ignore the constant screeching in is right earl from the firmly ensconced Nimrod.
He had decided that perching on his quarries shoulder was his best cause of action and he also wanted to show Jane that he had caught the largest prey of the day.
Jane beamed with pride. “Well gentlemen.” She said. “ How can I help you?”
END OF CHAPTER THREE