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This book is for Kylie, Catelyn and Siena

The future is yours

Chapter One

The most depressing place in all of England is the great, brooding Baskerville moor. Bleak, featureless, cold and damp, even tourists who have journeyed from afar specifically to view it are disappointed. Known as a pest hole since the time of the Romans, the moor and its lackluster environs provide a sparse living to its unfortunate inhabitants, good English yeoman stock gone to seed.

Nestled in the armpit of the bog, lies the quaint, grimy and unremarkable village of Aphterthot by the Rummy, a decidedly minor river that flows from the moor and then disappears back into it. The village, little more than a cob clot, marks the absolute end of the Royal West-Midland Southern Arterial Railway Spur, which (in the early days of railroading before the invention of the pneumatic brake) provided the morally nimble residents a ready livelihood, commensurable to that of their Cornish cousins in the south.

The only bright spot in the entire county, a solitary rose amongst the bog thistles, was a nine year old farm girl named Rebecca Pepperidge. An elfin child with raven black hair and a heart shaped face that possessed the most marvelous lavender eyes, she was so pretty that even quite good looking people went unnoticed when standing beside her. Rebecca’s story begins on the first day of spring in the Year of Our Lord, 1906. Throughout the county strange things had been happening in the night. Sheep had gone missing, and an American writer on holiday was gone too. Children, women, old people and even strong healthy men were afraid to go out after dark. A large dog, or wolf, had been seen running in the moonlight. Sometimes it howled, a wild eerie sound carrying for miles in the murky gloom that served for night in the barren waste of the great, brooding Baskerville moor.

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