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Best Before End – Flash fiction

You woke me, something woke me.  A change in the temperature or the tension in the mattress.  I watch in the gloom and see you standing beside the window.  Your back is to me and the moonshine kisses your shoulders.  Though I know the weight is falling from your frame I am shocked at the edges and angles that look new to me.

Still you are, frozen in the night and the silver light gleams on the cap of your hair and I see you sigh.  I hear you sigh.

I know what you are looking at, looking for.  I know that you can’t see what you need to.  You are thinking of the children, of Sam and Trish and of Bobby.  I close my eyes and behind them I can see the track of tears across your face and the pain in your eyes as you watch in the darkness.

I will take you.  It is the only thing that you have asked of me through this whole sad, ghastly, dreadful debacle.

“Take me to the children.”

I told you I would, when the roadblocks have been cleared.  When the fires in the cities have died.  We are safe here, in our haven away from the worst of the horror and the fighting.  I told you there would be time and we would go.

How many days, I can’t count them anymore, how many weeks since it began.  How long since the phones went down and the radio and television were lost.

“Take me to the children.”

I will take you I said, when the risk of infection is gone.  They will still be there, they’ll be fine.  I’ll take you when we know that we won’t die of some horrible illness.

We are still safe here, the officials who came, was it last week?  They told us that we should be safe for a while longer.  Stay at home, wait for news they told us

“Take me to the children.”  You said when they had gone on their brown horses with the guns on their backs.

I will take you, when they tell us it is safe.

Now you are moving, your body a wraith under the flimsy nightdress.  I see you turn and there is the shine of water in your eyes and the gleam of metal in your hand and I know, I know.  I don’t push up on the bed, there is no point.  Your naked feet make soft sounds as you cross the carpet and now you stand beside me.

I wait for you to speak, to ask again for your one desire.  You speak to me through the despair but the words are new, there is no request there is only resignation and I know, I know I have waited too long.

“I have seen the fire in the sky, the world is lost and it’s all too late.”

“I’ll take you.  We’ll dress and go now.  We can be there by noon.  We will be with them tomorrow.”

You shake your head and as the thunder crashes and the sky turns red I understand that I will never take you to the children.

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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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Another Drabble drip

Into the Light

Kirsty flew down the alley behind Mr Khan’s convenience store. There was a doorway down here she could hide in. She’d used it before when the bloody gang with Pansy at the head and the baying bitches behind her, chased her into the dark. She couldn’t face it, the spitting, the hair pulling. She pushed in, leaning against the old door, blinked away tears. Someone had tagged the wall, Stevo.

Steve. Her hero brother, dead in Afghanistan. Steve who never ran from anything, who died saving his mates. She felt him there beside her and stepped out into the light.

 

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The End – a drabble

It was the birds we noticed first. We knew it would happen but when the great flight of geese didn’t return that first Spring it was chilling. The crops failed that summer. Then we had to use the stockpiles. They lasted a long time, more than ten years. Now they’ve gone. The earth is dead, it can’t support the trees and so now even the ancient ones are fading.

We can never say that we didn’t have warning but it was all talk. Not much action and so here we are. Our kind is doomed. The birds never came back.

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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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Happy everything

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and the New Year brings all that is good and peaceful.

If I may I want to take the opportunity to link to my Amazon Author Page. Thank you to everyone who has bought my books in 2016 and especially to those who took the time to leave a review. I hope that for all of my author friends the coming year is successful and fulfilling and for all of our marvelous readers you find books to thrill, delight and satisfy you.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B001KC8S2E

and now… …

Chapter 13

Fuzz had quickly overtaken Simon and sped on glancing down the side roads and alleys but when he reached the junction at the far side of the square he stopped and waited. “They’ve gone, I reckon they nipped down one a them ginnels.”

“Yeah, you’re right. What the hell was that about then? I mean why would they run away? She can’t have known we were looking for her. Shit.  Look, you carry on, do a coupla turns round the square, maybe even a street over on each side. I’ll go back into that office, where you saw her come out, and see if I can find out what she was doing.”

“Okay, then we’ll go and get some breakfast yeah?”

“What, oh you and your belly. I’ll see. Just go on. If you see her ring me and I’ll come straight out. If you do, try not to spook her again.” Fuzz turned away and jogged down the road at right angles to where they stood. Simon walked back to the office building and pushed through the heavy glass doors.

As he approached the reception desk the girl lifted her head and smiled at him. He saw her eyes lock on the disfigured side of his face but her smile didn’t waver. “Good morning, how can I help you?”

He introduced himself and then described Flora, as much as he could from the picture and the fleeting glimpse he’d had as the two girls had sped away from himself and Fuzz. He had the print in his pocket but surely it would look a bit odd were he to bring it out. “She was supposed to meet me this morning and I think I missed her. She was planning on popping in here first…”

“Oh yes. She left in a bit of a rush, knocked the table.” The girl waved a hand towards the centre of the space. “She seemed a bit upset. I was trying to make her an appointment with Mr Rowntree but he wasn’t free. I wonder, when you meet her, could you suggest she gives us a ring.” She slid a business card from the top of a small pile on the desk and held it out. “I felt bad but it was the morning meeting you see.”

“Yes, I’ll tell her. Is he free now, Mr Rowntree? Only I could do with a word.”

“I’m afraid not. What is it you need, investment advice, savings… …? Only Mr Jones is free and for general advice it might be better if you see him.”

“No, it was Mr Rowntree I needed. Any chance I could see him later?”

“What name is it?” he told her, “just hold on.” She poked at the buttons on the complicated telephone in front of her and as she spoke into her headset Simon turned to the door. He could see Fuzz on the far side of the square, leaning against a fence post. No luck there then. He sighed.

“Will eleven thirty be alright?”

“Yes. Lovely thank you, erm Rebecca.” As Simon leaned to read the badge pinned to her uniform jacket the girl blushed, he smiled at her. “You’ve been very helpful, thank you.”

“See you later Mr Fulton.”

As he jogged down steps to the pavement Fuzz crossed over to join him. “No, luck. They’ve vanished. ‘ow did you get on in there.”

“Yeah okay, I’ve got to go back later but at least I know who she was going to see. Okay, I’m going to ring Carol and let her know that at least we’ve seen Flora and she looked okay. Then we’ll get a drink and think about our next move.”

“Ace, there’s a café just down ‘ere, got pasties.”

Simon used his mobile on the way to the little coffee shop. “Hello, Carol. It’s Simon. I just thought you’d like to know that I think we saw Flora. She was with her friend. A skinny girl, short darkish hair.”

“Oh, I wonder who that was. Did you speak to her? Is she coming home?”

“No, we didn’t get a chance to speak I’m afraid. We will stay here a bit longer, in case she comes back.”

“Thanks so much, try and bring her home Mr Fulton, please.”

“I’ll do what I can. Just one other thing though, does the name,” he glanced at the card in his hand, “Alan Rowntree mean anything?”

“Alan, yes, he worked with Mark. One of his friends, the same office.”

“Ah, right. So, he’d be a friend of Flora as well I suppose.”

“Well, funny you should say that he wasn’t really. She didn’t like him. I don’t know why and they had to see each other now and then, socially you know. What has he to do with it though?”

“It might be nothing, don’t worry about it. Look, if you hear from her let me know, yeah. I’ll keep you up to date.”

“Thanks so much Mr Fulton, I’m impressed you found her so soon.”

He clicked off the call and followed Fuzz up to the counter where the boy was already pointing at pasties and cake. “Huh, she wouldn’t have been so impressed if she’d seen us careering up the bloody road and losing them would she.”

“Aye well, you don’t need to tell ‘er that bit do ya. D’ya want a pie or owt?”

“Yeah, go on why not. Then we get back out there and keep on looking until I have to go back to that office.”

“Great, can I ‘ave a bun an’ all.”

“Oh aright, make yourself sick why don’t you.”

“Grumpy sod.”

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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 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 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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The magic name changing WIP

Okay – Trevor, became Kevin and he has now become Mark. – Bear with. I’m a writer.

Chapter 7

Carol stood beside the little table in the hall, tears had tracked down her cheeks, dripped from the end of her chin and darkened the front of her pyjama top. In her hand the little notebook that they used for telephone messages and shopping lists quivered. She took in a deep breath and turned away.

She had feared that this might happen. Even though her friend had seemed stronger, seemed to be recovering, the darkness was still there as a shadow in the back of her eyes.

She went through to the dining room and booted up her laptop. She began to enter words into the address bar. She hadn’t told Flora what she had done, in the past, how she had thought she might help. It had never come to anything and she didn’t know whether the address would still be in the list.

Yes, there it was. An investigator locally. She had laughed on first seeing it. Why would a private detective set up in Ramstone? It was silly, but maybe it wasn’t really. This Simon Fulton may have his base in Ramstone but he could be everywhere, he was anywhere it was reasonable for him to travel to. She lifted the receiver.

“Simon Fulton.”

“Oh, hello. I thought I’d get your reception.” She glanced at her watch. Oh, God, I’m sorry it’s too early, I didn’t realise it was only seven.”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Who am I speaking to?”

“My name is Carol, Carol Price. I need your help.”

“Okay.”

“My friend has disappeared. She’s run away. We live together and all I have is a note from her. It tells me not to look for her and that she’ll come back when she’s sorted everything out.”

“Right. So, she’s just gone away for a while. I don’t see how I can help to be honest. I don’t really do searches for missing people, at least I haven’t up to now. But, seems to me that she’s just gone off to do something and when it’s done she’ll be back. I don’t see why you need me. Maybe you should just give her space, let her handle her business. Is she your girlfriend?” At his end Simon was standing in front of the window, rubbing at the sleep in his eyes and sipping his morning coffee. He had known there had always been a risk that he would be asked to search for missing partners, and indeed he had fielded several just such calls, even some for runaway children. He didn’t want the task with the associated heartbreak and betrayal that might accompany it. There were many other organisations much better equipped than he was. He didn’t want to be rude and as he was about to read out the number of the Salvation Army that he had stuck on his notice board for just these calls he heard the woman at the other end begin to sob.

“Please don’t be upset Carol. How long has she been missing?”

“She must have gone sometime during the night.”

“Well, you know, maybe she’ll be back very soon.”

“No, no you don’t understand. It’s dangerous, she could put herself in great danger. She’s not my girlfriend no, but I love her. Please, I need to find her quickly. I know you’re thinking I’m over reacting, that’s why I can’t go to the police, but you don’t know what’s happened. She’s fragile, just starting to get better, at least I thought she was. For a while now she’s been dealing with stuff and there’s Mark ?”

“Mark ?”

“Yes, he was her boyfriend. He vanished. They thought she’d killed him. Of course, she didn’t, but she always thought nobody believed her. Well, they didn’t not for a while and now she says she’s got to try and find him.  Please help me Mr Fulton.”

She sounded so desperate, frantic, he didn’t have the heart to turn her down. “Look, why don’t you come and see me? Are you local, where are you calling from?”

“Near Bradford, I can come there. I know Ramstone, a bit anyway. Where are you?”

“My office is in Stonebridge Road, off Bradford Road.”

“I’ll find it, I’ll use my Satnav. Do I need an appointment?” Simon smiled to himself, he had no other jobs, had nothing since the work he’d done for Charlie Clegg.

“I can fit you in this morning. Just come along when you’re ready. I’m in the office all morning as it happens.”

“Oh that’s brilliant. Thank you so much. I’ll come straight away. Thank you.”

As he clicked off the phone and swigged back the last of his coffee his forehead wrinkled in thought. This woman wasn’t even really missing was she, she had simply gone away for a while. He realised then that he hadn’t even asked for the girl’s name. He peered out into the grey morning. Gloria was away in Salford, looking at flats in a new development, he had no work, nothing planned. It would be good to pretend for a while that he was what his business card and website said he was. He would reassure this woman and maybe sometime in the future she would remember and tell someone who truly needed him that he was one of the good guys.

He went down to the office, it was tidy as always. There was no reason for it to be anything else, he pulled out a legal pad and wrote her name at the top of the page. He’d make it look as though he knew what he was doing. It was good practice at least and when all was said and done, she had called him so for this morning at least, he had a client.

 

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