Category Archives: Serials

Revisiting an old Flash Fiction

This was from a year ago. I wrote a part 2.

 

So,  was complaining about a lack of inspiration. A face book friend gave me this challenge. Thanks Polly.

****

“It was midnight and yet another walrus was making its way down Main Street. A trail of water sizzled behind it and the town band followed in its wake, weeping quietly…”

I changed it very slightly and came up with this:

*************************

‘It was midnight and yet another walrus was making its way down Main Street. A trail of water sizzled behind it and the town band followed in its wake, it was weeping quietly…

The sky was purple, yellow and green clouds fled before a diamond studded wind.

Charlotte tied her dragon to the hitching post. She wrapped her cloak around her and strode into the middle of the road. She held up her hand, she waited. Nothing happened. The crowd were singing Yellow Submarine, the trees swayed in time and the birds danced a Pavanne along the verges.

She had to stop them. She had to let them know. It wasn’t for her. She knew that she could climb aboard Stenflo and be away in moments, away to the rainbow mountains where the danger couldn’t reach her. But here, here on Main Street the laughing children, clutching cotton candy sticks and sucking on lollipops were in mortal danger. The happy teens, hand holding, hip touching, heart hoping, teens were in danger and the elders, mostly her fear was for the elders.

Their silvered heads, their wisdomed faces and their overknuckled, work worn hands, they would make them prey. When it came it came mainly for them, for the years of knowing, the decades of learning and the centuries of loving that they carried in their hearts. It needed all of that. The Walrus knew, the mermaid on the corniche knew. Though unlike her marine brother she didn’t try to tell them. She smirked and tossed her sea green curls and with nary a final glance she dove into the harbour and Charlotte caught just the edge of her laugh as she lost herself in the waves.

She ran to the bandstand and tore up the shallow steps, she tried to take the microphone but the Town Cryer was in full flow and snatched it back and pushed her roughly aside.

She ran to the wind section who by now had formed a semi circle around the percussionists. She chose the smallest musician, a small girl child and she snatched the gleaming instrument. Raising it to her lips she blew as hard as she could blow, she called on the north wind, the tempest and the hurricane. She implored help from the whirlwind itself and she blew and the note that she made left the end of the bugle and it flew into the air, a purple storm of sound, swirling and whirling upwards ever upwards until it met the feet of heaven and cascaded back to the town as the sound of a million weeping angels.

The people gasped, they screamed, they clutched and grasped at each other. They cowered in the corners and they ran down the alleys into darkness. Only the old ones didn’t run, they didn’t flee. They knew that it was coming for them. For eons this had been foretold and they knew that the only thing they could do was to wait, and to hold onto each other and speak words of love because letting it take them was the only way to save the young.

As she remounted her dragon and swept into the sky Charlotte took one last look at Main Street, at the elders, at the wise ones. They had turned to the west, their eyes were open, their faces were calm and as it came and they gave themselves to it she heard them. They were singing.

 

-Part 2-

Charlotte’s eyes were full of tears. She was gutted and empty. When the moment had come she had failed them.

The dragon wheeled and soared and carried her across the moon, and in the distance, she could see the roiling of the blood red and ink black clouds, pulsing as they moved ever nearer to the singing townspeople.

She glanced back and saw that now they held hands and though there were drops of sadness on their cheeks, they stood as straight as their worn out frames would allow and smiled at one another.

It broke her heart.

Many years before the Great One had gifted her a silver whistle. He had told her that there would be but one chance to use it. When it was placed to her lips then she was calling death upon her own soul. It was her destiny and though she had carried the knowledge with her always she had hoped for longer. The Great One had told her she would know when it was time.

It was time.

She leaned down and placed a kiss on the head of her beloved, winged friend. She glanced around at the realm of heaven, sprinkled with stars and painted with grey ribbons of light cloud, and she glanced down at the mountains where the snow gleamed along the summits. She sighed. She would have liked longer.

The old people in the town had raised their voices ever louder and the song soared above the tree tops and the chimneys and the notes flew like moths into the darkness. The were singing Imagine.

Charlotte raised the silver whistle to her lips. The dragon raised its head, it’s golden eyes glinted with moisture. Earth and heaven held their breath. … …

 

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A Dribble of Drabbles

You may have noticed that I have a small badge now calling myself a Drabbler. Book Hippo is a site for connecting readers and books and they have a lovely little feature where you can enter a drabble.

I have never done them before but they are fun.

These are a couple of those that have been accepted and featured on the site. Inkeeping with the site requirements it is a few weeks since these were accepted.

I am sure you know but for the avoidance of doubt – a drabble is a complete story of exactly 100 words. Great discipline.

https://bookhippo.uk/

Stanley: 

Stanley watched the rainbow. It was much cooler now, he had come out onto the porch. The darned Zimmer was a squeeze through the door and they always said he should wait for an assistant. But, he needed to be out here now, right now when the grass and leaves still sparkled with newly cried raindrops, and the clouds were not quite gone.

He watched the rainbow and he sat in the old rocking chair and he waited, because he knew that Sarah was coming today. He closed his eyes and waited for her to come and take him home.

 

***

The Tube: 

Wind rushed at her face. Wind from the tunnel, with that unique smell. Damp, chemical, age. Stephanie moved a little closer to the edge, her feet were half way over the white line. She let the strap from her bag slip from her shoulder. Perspiration slipped down her back, her underarms were clammy. She tried to swallow, but her throat was too dry. She coughed. She moved a half step further forward.

The gabble of the crowd faded into a muddled hum. She could hear the train. She leaned forward. That was when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 58 – The Legacy

So, anyway – When I started this I thought it might be a short story and a bit of a break from writing novels – and The Truth Series. However the story had other ideas and so we now have this. I have really enjoyed writing it and the good news is that there is a real possibility that it will be published – after edits and so on and with a different title.- in a few months from now.

I am chuffed of course but I am also aware that when I started this I promised that I would post the complete story. And so, here we are the final chapter. Due to the developments I will take it down in a couple of days. If you have been following the story but have missed any just contact me in any of the usual ways and I’ll send you a PDF of the whole thing.

The Legacy.  Final Chapter 

See note above.

 

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Names

The names in this story will be changed. I mention this because it will be clear to anyone who has read any of my previous stuff that Colin and Lily feature quite large in other work – not as these characters but obviously I am a writer of little brain and only have a small lexicon of names at my fingertips. I will change the names, I know what they will be but for now we will leave them incognito.

As you were.

 

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The Legacy

Chapters 1 to the final chapter have been removed for safe keeping. Just in case this ever does make it to publication. The final chapter will be available for another couple of days.

When I started it I didn’t intend it to but it’s grown a life of its own so we’ll see. If anyone is interested in reading just leave a comment and I will send you a pdf of the missing chapters to get ou up to date.

Cheers.

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Chapter 12

Flora didn’t get any further than reception. The young woman behind the counter was polite, sympathetic even but, without an appointment she couldn’t issue a visitor’s badge and without a visitor’s badge Flora could not go up to the offices. “You’re welcome to wait here and I can call up to see if he’s free, but right now it’s the morning meeting and I can’t interrupt.”

She had given the name of Mark ’s mate, the one he had lunch with, teamed up with at away days. Alan was on the scene before her and though she had never liked him, he was a part of the circle and so she had put up with his unwelcome advances and off colour comments. Now she would force herself to see him, he had been close to her missing boyfriend after all, he could have some ideas.  She couldn’t expose herself to this girl on reception by mentioning Mark, couldn’t face the look that would sweep across her face, the lowering of her eyes, the cough of embarrassment. The thought of sitting and waiting in the public area with the real chance that he wouldn’t talk to her anyway was too much on top of everything else. She felt eyes on her back, people huffing behind her as they waited to speak to the receptionist.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll come back. I’ve got some other stuff to do. Really don’t disturb him.” She turned and scurried from the building, bumping into a small table holding advertising blurb and a pink orchid in a pot. It skidded across the polished boards but she didn’t turn to replace it. Now she knew there would never be another time to go there, never, never, never.

She was surprised to find Cill not on the bench but under the concrete awning outside the office building. It was raining though so it made sense. She drew in a breath and took the couple of steps towards the other girl. Cill reached out a hand and pulled her into corner. “Okay, look over there, by that stupid statue thing, see that young lad? No, don’t move out, stay close.”

“Yes, yes I see him. The one in the blue jacket?”

“Do you know him?”

“No, I don’t think so. No.”

“Right. I reckon he’s been watching me. I don’t know him either. He’s walked back and forth three times since you went in there and he’s been on his phone. I know he was giving me the once over.You get a sort of feel for that stuff. He’s watching me.”

“But why? What would he have to do with you? Are you sure?

“Well, I’m sure enough to want to move away. I wondered if he’d seen us together and it was you he was after though. Oh, hello?”

“What?”

“Right, that bloke, that older bloke. Do you know him?”

“No.” Flora was shaking her head, frowning as she peered through the drizzling rain to where Fuzz met Simon.

***

“What’s going on Fuzz?” Simon glanced around the small open space and couldn’t see the woman they were looking for.

“Okay, don’t turn round.” Fuzz was putting on an act, keeping his head down, pretending to search in his pocket, turning back and forth. “Over there by those offices, behind me. There’s a coupla girls. I spotted ‘em pretty soon but the blonde went into the building. The scruffy one waited outside. I think it could be ‘er. The blonde not the skinny one. She’s just come out agen. Don’t let ‘em see you lookin’ I think she might have clocked me. She were sittin’ waitin’ but she went over there just now.”

Simon walked to one of the benches and sat, gesturing to Fuzz to join him and then turning his head, back and forth, as natural as he could make it. “It’s no good, I can’t see well enough. I’m just going to take the bull by the horns. If it’s not her then I’ll just apologise, if it is I’ll wing it but if it really is her I don’t want to lose this chance. Good work Fuzz.”

“It were easy, I di’n’t even ‘ave to try, she were just there. I guess we’ve been lucky.”

“Okay, you wait here I don’t want to go over there mob handed.” Simon stood and turned towards where Cill and Flora were watching him from the shadow of the porch.

“I think he’s coming over here. What the hell is this about.” Cill had panic in her voice. As she hissed at Flora she picked up the bag and thrust it into her arms. “Come on, come on, let’s get outta here.” With that she scurried away, keeping close in to the damp walls, her head down, shoulders hunched. Flora hurried after her, but turned again and again to peer back at the older man who had left the square and was trying to cross the road. The flow of traffic held him. He turned so that he was looking straight at her now and raised a hand, the palm outward facing towards her patting the air, ‘wait, just wait.’.

The unease that she felt became fear and then panic and as Cill began to jog, Flora sped up to keep pace and followed down a dark alley between the buildings, past a row of bins and a pile of old boxes beginning to sag in the wet. Cill was running even faster and she turned and grabbed Flora’s hand pulling her along as their feet slipped and splashed on the damp ground and through dirty puddles. “This way, stick with me. Keep up,”

Simon had made it across the busy road now, he turned back to call over to where Fuzz had started to follow. “Hurry up, come on.”

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Chapter 11

Simon picked up his phone and clicked through to the contact list. His finger hovered for a moment and then he gave a shrug and dialled. “Fuzz, are you busy?”

“Hiya Simon. No, I’ve got nuthin’ on. Back at the garden centre tomorra but nuthin’ today. Why, do you fancy a game of pool?”

“No, I just wondered if you wanted to give me a hand with something?”

“Oh right, erm, is it decoratin’? only I ‘ave to say I didn’t really think it were for me.” Simon smiled as he thought of the debacle when he’d asked Fuzz to help him with some of the painting only to have to do it all again when the boy had gone home with a few pounds in his pocket and paint covering most of his clothes and much of his hair.

“No, the decorating’s finished. You should come up and see it, it looks good. No, I’ve got a job and I thought maybe two would be better than one.”

“Cool. So, like an assistant?” Simon sighed, this could be a massive error.

“Well, yes a bit. I’m going to Kirkhall. I’m trying to find a missing woman.”

“Brilliant. Will ya pick me up?”

“Okay. I’ll be with you in ten minutes.”

When he had first met the young lad he had tried to hold him at arm’s length and had been absolutely against asking for his help but then, in the face of danger and confusion Fuzz had been an unlikely hero. He didn’t want an assistant, couldn’t afford one, but maybe two of them covering the town centre would give them more chance of finding Flora. He was making an assumption, believing she was still near home and he had to start somewhere after all.

As he drew to the kerb in front of Fuzz’s gran’s little terraced house the skinny figure made a big show of pressing back against the tiny garden wall. Simon raised his eyebrows. Okay, he knew Fuzz had a very low opinion of his driving skills but felt he was improving, albeit slowly. He didn’t enjoy the car and the busy roads. He would much rather stride out on the hills. Often he would go on his own and spend hours hiking across the tops but lately Fuzz had gone with him a few times and they were comfortable and easy with each other. They were in tune, just moving through the landscape their boots pounding in time and their eyes resting on the endless sky and the surge of grass before the wind.

He pushed open the passenger door. “Yeah, yeah, very funny. Come on get in.”

As Fuzz settled in and fastened his safety belt Simon handed him a print of the picture Carol had provided. “Okay, so this woman has gone missing. We are going to Kirkhall as a start in the hope that she is still there. Quick background is that her boyfriend vanished quite a while ago and she hasn’t been well since then. Now, she’s gone off and her friend thinks she’s gone looking for him. So, to start with we’re going to try and find her and then, maybe we will take it on to the next stage and see if we can find out what happened to him, this bloke – Mark .”

“Maybe he’s just buggered off ‘cos he’s sick of her. But, she looks pretty fit… Shit, Simon, signal will ya, that bloke ‘ad right of way anyway. Bloody ‘ell.”

“Sorry, sorry. I wasn’t concentrating. He might just have, as you say, ‘buggered of’ but there’s more to it. So, for a while Fuzz listened in silence as Simon told him the rest.

“So, the police ‘aven’t got a clue then?” Simon shook his head.

“Apparently not. They’ve looked and they insist that they are still looking but Flora is in a bit of a state and doesn’t think they are doing enough.”

“Well, p’raps they’re not. It’s been a while ‘asn’t it.”

“Yes, but fair play they’re probably doing the best they can. They haven’t got much to go on. He just vanished in the night.”

“I don’t know ‘ow you can say that. After the way they treated you.”

“It’s in the past, all that. Okay they made mistakes and I was the one that paid but you know Fuzz, I can’t hold a grudge forever. It screws you up that sort of thinking, I see that now, plus they did sort everything out for Charlie Clegg.”

“Aye, ‘appen they did but then agen that Colin ‘ad been in jail a long time for sommat ‘e ‘adn’t done.”

“Yes, but that was partly his own fault for lying to cover up for himself and his wife and let’s not go through all that again. It’s over.”

“Aye well, as I say, I don’t think I could be so forgivin’. You just missed the turn by the way. You should ‘ave gone left there.”

“Oh shit. That’s your fault, distracting me.”

“No. It’s your fault ‘cos you’re such a crap driver. ‘Ere, turn in ‘ere and then you can go back.”

“Alright, okay – I’ve got this.”

“Yeah, course you ’ave.”

It had started to rain and between watching the sign posts and concentrating on driving in reduced visibility Simon was quiet and Fuzz plugged in his ear buds and sat beside him, legs jiggling up and down and fingers thrumming in time to music that Simon could only hear as an irritating fizz and burble.

By the time they reached the outskirts of the little town he was glad the journey was over.

“Did you bring a rain coat?”

“What?”

“Something waterproof. It’s pissing down”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re not – you’ll be soaked. My other anorak is on the back seat. Put that on.”

“No, bloody way. I’m not walking round in that.” As Simon turned and glared at him Fuzz shrugged his shoulders and stuck out his bottom lip.

“Put the sodding jacket on. We’re wasting time and I’m the boss. I bet you don’t talk back to the woman at the garden centre.”

“Well, she doesn’t make me wear naff bloody anoraks does she? Oh, awright. Bloody ‘ell.”

“Thank you. Now, I suggest we start at the centre, all the busier parts and then work our way out from there. If you see her don’t approach her. Just call me on the phone, keep an eye on her and we’ll see how we go. She’s not properly well, she’s worried and confused and Carol said that she has panic attacks so let’s make sure we don’t scare her. I’m parking in the pay and display over there. You go down that road, the one to the station and I’ll go the other way. Do a couple of circuits, try and look in the cafes and shops and keep your eyes open. Right let’s get on with it. Hey, you look good in that coat, almost respectable.”

“Bugger off Simon.”

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Chapter 10

“How long have you been here?” Flora and Cill had finished two huge doorstop bacon sandwiches and were on their second mugs of tea. It had been a long time since Flora had eaten anything like the food her granny used to make and she had loved it. Now, in the muggy warmth of the café with food in her belly and the damp coldness of the early hours dissipating she felt so much better. Almost normal. It could have been any day, except it wasn’t and the woman across the table from her was a little dishevelled, a little grubby and there was a hardness around her eyes that was wrong in someone so young.

“Here?”

“Yes, you know just around? Oh, sod it, how long have you been sleeping rough?” Cill smiled at her.

“A while. Sometimes I stay with a mate but it wasn’t on this weekend so…” She shrugged.

“But isn’t it dangerous.”

“Yeah, it can be. Look, I’m not being funny but I don’t want to talk about me. My life is what it is and it’s what I’m doing right now. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year, even next week but, well, it’s my business.”

“Sorry, yes of course. It’s just that, I couldn’t do it.”

“What.”

“Sleep in the street, have nowhere to go.”

“So, what are you going doing? You said you don’t want to go back until you found out what happened to him, that bloke of yours. So, what are you going to do? To be honest I reckon the best thing for you to do is just get yourself back to that house, your friend and just carry on.”

“No, no I can’t. I want to have my life back. I want to return to work but I can’t not until I know what happened to him. It’s wrong just going back to how things were before, I can’t imagine what that would be like.”

“Why? Why not just accept he’s probably dead?” She shrugged now and ran a finger through a tiny thread of tomato sauce left on her plate and then licked it clean. “Just go back, tell yourself he’s dead, grieve and then carry on. Live.”

Flora had no answer, the comment had been harsh but sounded so simple, so logical. The bald statement had confused her, her mind refused to process it and she felt the quiver start, way down in her stomach. “No, not right now. I need to feel as though I did something at least.”

“You didn’t even love him anymore.”

“No, no that’s true but I did care, I do care. It’s not right that he should just be forgotten, brushed to one side.”

“So then, where do you start?”

“Perhaps, yes perhaps I should start by going back to before it happened. Just try and find out what was going on with him. We were hardly talking, spending less and less time together. Maybe that would be a start. Maybe that’s why I came here, to his office. Do you think?”

“Whatever.”

“I know it’s not your concern Cill and thanks. I was a mess when I first saw you, you’ve helped me.” The sudden smile was as unexpected as the sun bursting through a rain cloud and transformed the sullen, cynical looking face into the young girl’s that it should have been.

“Yeah well, I got a breakfast out of it.” But there was a different lift to her shoulders and a sparkle in her eyes. “Are you going to his office then, is that your plan?”

“I think so, yes.”

“Well, if you like I’ll look after your bag, wait for you in the square. You’d look a bit odd carting all that stuff with you.”

“Thank you. That would be excellent. Thank you.”  There it was again, the brightening.

They went back. The day was in full swing by this time and travellers heading for the station rampaged down the pathways. A couple of people were walking dogs, there were prams and people speaking into mobile phones. Flora had been out in the months since Mark  disappeared but never alone and never into the full swing of a busy town centre. She moved closer to Cill, she wanted to cling to the girl’s arm but knew she shouldn’t and felt the ground swirl a little beneath her feet, the buildings tipped. She gasped. “You okay?” Cill had turned to look at her.

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just that I have these – things, sort of panic attacks. I’ll be fine.” As she spoke she felt the sweat break out on her forehead.

“You really shouldn’t be here, doing this. You need to go back.” There was real concern in the young girl’s eyes now and she put a hand under Flora’s elbow and ushered her toward the bench where the old man had spent the night.

“Oh God, you’re right. I know you’re right. I’m such a bloody failure, I’m a mess. I didn’t used to be like this you know. I had a good job, in a solicitor’s office, I had responsibilities and staff under me. Shit look at me now?”

“Well, after all you’ve been through though…”

“Yeah right, but look at you. You must have had some problems; nobody ends up on the streets unless they’ve had stuff go wrong and you’re together. You’re okay.”

“Am I – well, maybe. What the hell are you going to do though?”

“I’m going to leave my bag with you. I’m going into his office and see his closest mates and ask them about him. Ask them about how he was, in the weeks before.”

“But surely you’ve done that already?” Flora shook her head violently.

“No, I wasn’t allowed to at first and then by the time the police decided I hadn’t done anything they’d all gone. They didn’t answer my calls, they didn’t come round. Well, I was at my mum’s but anyway they didn’t. The only person who stood by me was Carol. She never wavered.”

“So, you’ve left her to worry about you. That’s not fair is it?”

“No, no I didn’t I left her a note.”

“Huh…”

“I’ll call her later. I will. You’re right I shouldn’t let her worry. Just give me a minute to catch my breath and then I’m going over there. To the office.”

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Chapter 9

When he heard the tapping on his front door Simon looked up from the screen where he’d been reading the news. He was surprised, if this was the woman who’d called him then she was younger than he had expected. He smiled and waved, minimised the display and went to open the front door.

“Hi.” He held out a hand as she stepped into the warmth of his office space. “Ms Price?” She nodded and glanced around. “Come on in, can I get you a coffee?”

“Lovely, that’d be great.” When Charlie Clegg had come to him with his problem, they had met in the street outside and then gone straight up to the flat and talked over glasses of whisky in the gathering gloom. Now the office had been refurbished, it looked more organised, more professional but he was having trouble getting rid of the feeling that it was all pretense. He brought her in, led her to the seating area. She was nervous, he had felt the tremor in her fingers.  She was dressed in business clothes, a dark suit, and heels. Her auburn hair was loose around slender shoulders but held back from her face with a band. She placed her black leather bag on the floor beside her and pulled at her skirt, covering a fraction more of slender, shapely legs. He tried not to look but she was a pretty girl, with unusual hazel eyes, flecked with gold. She raised a hand to her throat and he saw there were no rings.

“Milk and Sugar?”

“A splash of milk please, that’s all.” He had recently bought a coffee machine for the downstairs space. Not because he was inundated with clients to be plied with drinks but because it saved him having to trudge upstairs when he was in the middle of a particularly tricky game of patience on his computer. He hoped he’d got it right. Simon liked his coffee strong and black and had only ever made it for himself in this contraption. He placed the small porcelain mug in front of her on the table and sat down opposite, sipping at his own drink.

“So, I honestly don’t know what I can do for you. From what you told me this morning it doesn’t seem your friend is missing. It sounded more as though she has just gone off for a while to sort some stuff out.” Carol Price was struggling, trying not to stare at the long scar that ran down the side of his face. He never thought of it until he met someone new and that happened so infrequently that it still took him aback when he watched them struggle to pull their gaze away. Gloria and his solicitor had both suggested he have a plastic surgeon take a look, see if his appearance could be improved and he had told them it didn’t bother him. It didn’t, but he felt sorry for this young woman and didn’t know how to make her feel at ease. He raised a finger to his face. “Cut myself shaving.” He gave a laugh but it was the wrong thing to have done. She blushed now and looked away.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.” She put the cup down, picked up her bag.

“That was clumsy of me. I apologise. I know it’s a bit of a – well a thing but please don’t worry. Look, drink your coffee and tell me about your friend. Why are you so worried? What’s all this about a murder? If you really think that she’s in danger do you not think you’d be best off going to the police?”

“No, I couldn’t do that to her. They treated her so badly, they accused her of killing Mark, her boyfriend. They didn’t even know what had happened to him, still don’t. But, they threw her in a cell, badgered and questioned her. They pulled her place apart, searching everything, even the loft, poking sticks into the garden, her car boot. It was horrible for us all and it really affected her. She had to have therapy. I thought she was getting so much better but she doesn’t think they are still looking and it torments her.”

“Okay, hang on while I get my pad. He retrieved the paper and pencil from his desk and then went back to the seating area. Tell me what’s happened. Right from the start.” It was odd to him, but in the face of this woman’s distress and nervousness he felt a calm come over him. The things that he had been through had shown him how quickly things go wrong and how, what at first may appear to be a simple can be terribly complicated. He smiled at her and waited. She took a breath and then began the tale.

***

”And what about Mark , does your friend not have any idea what might have happened to him?”

Carol lowered her eyes and shook her head slowly from side to side. “She has no idea. She has hardly any memory after coming home from the pub. She says she can recall an argument but even then, they had so many rows round about then she isn’t really sure questions that it happened that night. She doesn’t know why she was in their room, she had moved out weeks before.”

“The blood that was on her, was that his or…?”

“It was his.”

“Okay. Look, I want to suggest something.”

“Right.”

“I’ll give it a go, looking for your friend. While it’s so soon after her leaving, well maybe I will be able to do something. But, more than that, I would like to have a go at finding out what happened with Mark . I won’t go into details but I know what your friend is going through. I know very well and if I can I’d like to help her, and you. What do you think?” He was shocked and embarrassed as her eyes filled with tears and she wiped them away with the heel of her hand. He handed her the box of tissues, they had been Gloria’s idea and he’d thought them daft but she took them from him as if they were a lifeline thrown to a beleaguered swimmer and dragged out several and used them to mop her face and then she sat with them in her hand, shredding them between her fingers.

“Thank you Mr Fulton, thank you so much.”

“Call me Simon,” he passed her one of the business cards. “Now, let’s get down as much as we can of the details. Have you time?” She glanced at her watch. “Oh, I’m late already but I think I’ll take a leave day. I won’t be able to settle at work anyway. I have to go and look for her.”

“Can I ask you not to? I think it might be better if you stay at your house. I assume you’ve already tried to phone her?”

“Yes, the phone is off I think, it just goes straight to voice mail. I don’t know that I can just stay at home though.”

“She might come back. If she has gone off in a panic she may very well come back when she feels calmer. There’s no point me running around looking for her if she’s already home.”

“Right, yes I see. Okay, I’ll do that.”

“And the suitcase. Don’t throw it away will you?  I don’t know whether it’ll help but I’d like to look at it.”

By the time she left she was much more controlled and she turned at the door, “Thank you so much Simon. I know you can help us. I can feel it.”

He watched the small car pull away from the kerb and then went back to his chair by the desk. Maybe she felt that he could help her, and for sure he was going to do his very best but heaven knew where he should start.

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Chapter 8

The town came to life, bus tyres swished on wet tarmac. Lights shone from the windows of offices and shops. The sky streaked with pink and pigeons gathered around the bases of the waste bins. It was time to move but Flora didn’t know what to do. She had run in despair from the house, from the suitcase full of his things and now it felt silly, illogical. She should just go back. As the thought pushed its way to the front of her mind she was swept by a wave of depression.

The girl beside her had rooted in her bag, taken out a packet of breakfast bars. She held one towards Flora. Her first reaction was to refuse. This girl obviously had very little and surely it was wrong to take from her. It was a friendly gesture though and right now friendship was a treasure she couldn’t turn away from. “Thanks.” She tore back the paper and as her teeth sank into the sweet, fruity bar she realised how hungry she was. “Do you know anywhere to get breakfast?” The girl raised her eyebrows.

“Breakfast?”

“I thought, maybe if you have nothing else planned you’d like to have something to eat.”

“I can’t afford breakfast.” There was no hidden subtext it was a simple statement, fact, bare and bald.

“I wondered if you’d let me treat you?”

“Why, why the hell would you do that?” The girl was shaking her head; she was suspicious and Flora understood.

“Well, you listened to me. You were kind. I promise you there is nothing odd happening.” She felt her insides sink, she didn’t want to be on her own, not right now. “I just thought it would be nice to spend a bit more time together. Look, I’m sorry I don’t want to pressure you but – to be honest I’m feeling really wobbly right now.  I suppose I should just go back home, but the thought of giving up, accepting that I’ll always have this empty hole as part of my life, well quite frankly it fills me with dread. I want to be strong. I’ve struggled with this so much and still it isn’t over. I want to try and find out what happened but I don’t know how and I – oh I don’t know, I just thought if I could talk about it more it might help me to sort things out in my mind. It’s okay if you don’t want to. It’s fine. I’m sorry.”

“No, go on then, why not? I understand, least maybe I do. We all have stuff that follows us around and I respect that you want to make things right. It’s a long time since I had a bacon butty to be honest and I’d love one. There’s a little caf’ Just down the road. It’s nothing special but it’ll be warm and you get a big mug of tea.”

Flora reached across and touched the other girl on the arm. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, you’re buying breakfast.” And with that she stood and slid her arms through the straps on her bag.

“What can I call you? I’d just like something to call you?”

“I’m Cill.”

As they walked through the square she noticed the others had already gone. The only evidence of their night-time residence was a few torn bags under the seat where the old man had been. A couple of community police officers strolled through the space, one of them nodded at Cill as they passed.

They were walking in a different direction to most of the other pedestrians. Away from the shops and offices, jigging and dodging through the crowd. When she saw a face she recognised it took her breath away. One of his colleagues, someone she hadn’t seen for nearly a year. She stepped across the footpath and pretended to stare into the window of a small greeting card shop. Cill, walked on for a few more paces and then stopped and turned her head. She retraced her steps and stood beside her, she touched her arm.

“Someone you know?” Flora nodded. Cill linked her arm and walked on the outside of the pavement, “I reckon he’s gone now, or she, whatever. Come on we’re nearly there.” She turned into a narrow road, the crowd thinned and the smell of hot grease and coffee drew them on.

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