Yet Thomas Harding had missed it. The senior of two journalists at the Rendlesham Chronicle, he had learned of the story only by reading of it in the Marchstoke Times.
Marchstoke was twenty-five miles to the North, and superior to Rendlesham in every way. It was a city of some 40,000 people, on the coast, with churches, theatres and restaurants. Rendlesham was built around a foul-smelling creek which had formerly been a canal. It had a population of about 5,000, swelling to 12,000 in the academic year, when its second-rate university offered second-rate courses to students of minimal ability.
Harding had found a copy of the Marchstoke Times lying on his usual table at the Fescennine Café. A journalist from Marchstoke had come to Rendlesham to write a series of stories on small town university life, focussing on the departments of Philosophy, Physics, and Anthropology, the only departments which had a positive reputation in the wider academic world, and which between them accounted for nearly a third of the total number of students.
But journalist’s attention had been captured by other aspects of life in Rendlesham. A series of unsolved murders. Stories of missing children. Rumours of unethical experiments in the university’s three leading departments. The factory. And of course, the terminus, with its family of appalling adolescents.
Harding, who had lived in Rendlesham for ten years, read the story in the Marchstoke Times with growing dread. When he had first arrived at the Chronicle as a cadet, these things had seemed to him to be the key features of life in this lifeless and dusty town. He remembered he had intended to write about them, and had been confused and dismayed by his editor’s lack of interest. Then, in the business of reporting the football results, and the proceedings of the collectors’ club, he had quietly forgotten.