The crows always gathered in the eastern part of the grounds, the ones that held the giant weeping willow trees that hung mournfully over the grey yawning ponds. The crows would roost and jabber on the branches, squawking up a storm as they watched the silent world of the estate coil around them.Jeremiah watched them now as he sipped his tea from a chipped mug bearing the hotel’s motif on it, twin trees that sprawled out into veins along the bottom supporting a huge F and R nestled in-between. The pattern was faded on the mug, the royal purple dulled now to a weak lilac like a bloodied gum.
His tea steamed in the cold morning air, the vapour disappearing out of the cup like souls travelling up to heaven. He stood alone by the small utility shed, which itself, was hidden by a large horse chestnut tree. Though he was the groundskeeper for the hotel, Jeremiah had allowed it to grow wild, almost concealing his shed from view entirely. This was his little kingdom, his own place of refuge which he liked to keep hidden from prying eyes.
Not that many of the guests came to this area of the grounds. They were usually drawn to the large manicured lawns where they whiled away their leisurely days playing croquet, or down by the small maze that offered beauty and puzzlement. Still, he did his best to go unnoticed, a notion welcomed by the management who liked to keep the staff out of sight of the guests, yet always close by.
The crows took flight suddenly, a large sound off into the woods nearby traveling with magnitude over to where they were roosted in the bowels of the weeping willows. He watched them take flight, disappearing off into the grey sky above. Setting his now empty mug down, Jeremiah picked up the shearers that stood idly propped against the side of the door, and set off in direction of the ponds. He checked his watch, noticing it was nearly lunch time, and guessed it would take him around an hour to finish trimming the thicket by the fish pond that had exploded in growth in the last few weeks.
He was glad the crows had departed, he hated their cries and clucks that seemed to echo through the air like cries from another world. They were not the only creatures that dwelled in the grounds at FolkRoot, but they were the most annoying, to him at least. He could deal with the rats and mice that found their way into the fruit cellars and the drains. They were easy to deal with. They had two cats on the property, one black one called Sabre and a ginger one called Sphinx which would roam around keeping many of the unwelcomed rodents away and the giving the more tenacious ones a new home.
Sabre was a bit of curiosity with the guests, finding his way into their rooms to surprise them in the middle of the night. They would usually find things missing the following day, small trinkets and shiny things that the magpies usually got the blame for. No-one would ever suspect a cat of spiriting things away to keep nestled under cat eyes and fur. But Jeremiah knew, and he knew where they were to be found; Sabre’s favourite hiding place. Both cats would patrol the hotel, getting into all kinds of nooks and crannies. But they would never come here, never down to the ponds. Which was probably why, he thought to himself, the crows had such domain over the trees that grew here. Weeping mournfully into the pools below, crying leafy tears perhaps to those who failed to float, and now resided at the bottom.
Jeremiah knew of these souls, the ones the crows guarded and longed to peck at. He had seen many go in over the years at the hotel, and he knew many more would join them. As he got closer to the edge of the pond, looking down into the watery waste beneath him, he twisted the wedding ring on his finger idly.
“Morning Sybil. How you doing today my love?”