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Authors: Nicola Morgan

Deathwatch

BOOK: Deathwatch
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Watcher – One Month Ahead: October

Chapter 2 Introducing Cat McPherson September

Chapter 3 Footsteps in the Dark

Chapter 4 An Insect-Lover

Chapter 5 Monday Morning News

Chapter 6 The First Duel

Chapter 7 Bad Feelings

Chapter 8 Phiz

Chapter 9 The Canal

Chapter 10 An Insect Man Visits

Chapter 11 The Madagascan Hissing Cockroach

Chapter 12 Death

Chapter 13 Humiliation

Chapter 14 Sinister Happenings

Chapter 15 Sirens

Chapter 16 Insects Watching

Chapter 17 The Second Duel

Chapter 18 The Watcher Again – Two Weeks Ahead: October

Chapter 19 Athletics

Chapter 20 Chips

Chapter 21 The Insect Man

Chapter 22 Losing Control

Chapter 23 Sacred Days

Chapter 24 Time to Talk

Chapter 25 No Resolution

Chapter 26 A Psychiatrist’s Life

Chapter 27 Hospital Smells

Chapter 28 Swimming

Chapter 29 Danny Behaving Oddly

Chapter 30 Followed Again

Chapter 31 Confession by Candlelight

Chapter 32 Madness

Chapter 33 The Watcher Now – Hallowe’en

Chapter 34 Face to Face

Chapter 35 Chased by Fear Itself

Chapter 36 Caught

Chapter 37 Conversation

Chapter 38 Truth

Chapter 39 Running for Life

Chapter 40 Motorbike

Chapter 41 David

Chapter 42 Curling Up

Chapter 43 Some Truths

Chapter 44 More Flowers

Chapter 45 The Watcher – Final Chapter

Epilogue

CHAPTER 1
THE WATCHER
ONE MONTH AHEAD: OCTOBER

IN
the hooded darkness, he watches from a high window. Staring into the night. October has begun and leaves twist and fall. Between the trees he has an almost perfect view of a nearby street, and one particular house, the one with the black door.

Sometimes he sees the people in it come and go. Then he knows when the house is empty. Or when only one person is in it.

It is someone he thinks about often now, perhaps too often for his own good.

He is reading his notes. Notes about many things. About everything in his head. Or almost everything. In a notebook with creamy, thick, unlined paper, which he has bought for exactly this purpose.

Some of the things he writes are painful to remember and hard to put into words. There is a wetness on his cheek. He brushes it away angrily and takes a deep breath, hardening his mouth and the muscles in his jaw. His eyes narrow.

He has almost reached the hardest part of his work. He feels in a hurry to move on but he must be patient. Precise by nature, he is military in his need for order, and things must be just right.

And now he has something else to consider, someone else. This has begun to intrude and to worry him. He wishes he did not need to think about it but he feels partly responsible. Guilty.

Trickles of rain run down the window. Stretching the stiff fingers of his left hand as if in pain, he touches the glass and traces the wriggling lines as they slither.

He stops watching and turns to something else. He needs a break from his note-making. There is something he had wanted to do earlier in the evening but he had made himself wait, tantalizing himself. Now he allows himself this small treat. He takes a pen with a good nib and begins to write slowly, on a small card, in well formed letters: Odonata Anisoptera
Libellula forensis.
And he blows the ink dry before placing it next to the insect sitting waiting in its plastic box: his new dragonfly.

He smiles. His insect collection has a new addition.

CHAPTER 2
INTRODUCIN
G
CAT McPHERSON
SEPTEMBER

ON
the surface, life seems good for Cat McPherson. It is, you might say, perfectly imperfect – if it was perfect, people might be jealous of her. It has all the imperfections that keep her normal.

She is pretty, though she doesn’t think so herself. She thinks her eyes are a murky grey, though someone more creative might call them steely dolphin blue; her nose, she thinks, is too long, though it isn’t; she’d like her hair to be a paler blonde, even though many people pay good money for the colour that is naturally hers.

She’s not annoyingly clever, though she can do well enough when she works. She isn’t good at maths, but, let’s face it, many people survive without being good at maths. She has all the normal worries, stresses, things to bug her, parents to say no to her more often than she’d like; but nothing she’d really need to wish away.

Personality-wise, she isn’t perfect either. She’s often angry inside, or snappy or self-centred or wishes she was someone else or had different parents or more money or a whole new wardrobe. Or could eat chocolate without getting fat.

Pretty normal.

She has a younger brother – so, no, her life is
not
perfect. Perfect would be if he was older, and had fanciable friends who would fancy her. Instead of which, he’s twelve years old, cocky and plays the saxophone, a lot, loudly, and irritatingly well.

Cat McPherson is known as a talented athlete. She’s going to do it as a career. Everyone assumes. Her parents have nurtured this ambition. They are proud of their daughter’s talent. What they don’t realize is that the ambition is now more theirs than hers. Cat has had enough of the freezing early morning training sessions, weekends constrained by competitions or more training, loss of a social life, pulled muscles and feeling guilty about eating junk food. She is beginning to be irritated by being pushed and nagged or being told to read articles on sports psychology or books by Olympic heroes.

She’s looking ahead – and whereas she used to imagine a life of medals and glory, now she sees regimes and injuries and not being allowed to eat rubbish if she wants. Winning is always important to Cat. It is part of her and gives her a buzz. But maybe that buzz is not enough.

She has not yet admitted this out loud. It is too new.

Well, she may have moaned vaguely about going to training on a rainy day or getting up in the dark for swimming, but her parents have not taken this as anything important. They have continued to push her, in a normal parenty way.

Besides, her grandfather was a brilliant athlete and all her life she has seen his trophies at her grandmother’s house and been made to feel proud of him. He’d run in the Olympics, won a silver medal, and only injury had prevented him competing the next time and maybe winning gold. He died five days after she was born and his death was tangled in her birth. There’s a photo of her tiny and screwed up in his arms, both of them in the same hospital, his eyes full of misty pain and pride and a huge smile on his face as though nothing would matter to him now that he had held her.

Cat’s father is a GP and her mother a psychiatrist at the nearby psychiatric hospital. So they don’t struggle for money, though at the end of each month they do wonder where it all went. They have avoided private school fees and they don’t go skiing, but things still cost: the kids, two cars, meals out, an annual holiday, a large mortgage in one of Edinburgh’s better districts, cosmopolitan Morningside.

It’s an area where all sorts of people live side by side: writers and arty types, including some famous ones, alongside old ladies wielding walking sticks like weapons of mass obstruction as they battle their way into the charity shops; and frothy-haired judges, politicians, students, lecturers – all sorts.

It’s a safe area.

You would think.

Cat lives in a tall, terraced, Victorian house. There are wooden floors, a Labrador, and a woman who comes to clean every week, wearing slippers and gliding around the house like polish, leaving behind her the scent of orange oil. The family eats together in the evening, though Cat’s father is often not home in time: he comes back slightly tense and smelling of antiseptic.

Good, fresh food arrives on the table, usually cooked by her mother, who is not bad-looking, in a forty-five-year-old sort of way, and who will then spend the evening doing whatever women like her do.

Cat’s bedroom in the loft conversion is decorated in two shades of purple and has an unused fireplace where Cat is allowed to put her collection of scented candles and incense burners. She has the usual technological gadgets, though not a television in her bedroom. And she’s given up arguing about that one.

Her brother, though entirely capable of being intensely irritating, actually could be a whole lot worse. Besides, she is entirely capable of being pretty annoying in return. She practises hard.

All in all, even with the minor imperfections, you’d definitely say Cat was one of life’s lucky ones. A winner.

Charmed, almost.

Safe.

Bad things happen to other people.

CHAPTER 3
FOOTSTEPS IN
THE DARK

IN
the darkening air of an early September evening, Cat McPherson breathed deeply. She shivered. Sweet tobacco smells floated from two smokers walking quickly home. A shout from her left made her turn – three winos fighting over a bottle of something. One saw her looking, and shouted abuse at her, before they all began laughing, or fighting: it was hard to tell.

Normal city life. Nothing new; nothing to fear.

She looked at her watch. Nine thirty. Late. Later than she should be. She often lost track of time when she was swimming, or she’d just do five more lengths, or ten, or whatever. Though it was sometimes an effort to get started, she had to admit that once she’d done a few lengths it became automatic, and even relaxing. And with a biathlon competition only three days away, she needed to do all she could.

Cat should have phoned home as soon as she left the fitness centre. She knew that. Now she put her hand in her bag to find her phone. As she did so, it rang.

“Sorry, Dad!” Always better to get the sorries in first. “I was about to phone; I’ll be home in five, ten at the most.”

“I’ll come and get you. Where are you?”

“No point. I’m on the main road already.”

Actually, she wasn’t. She was just about to walk along the edge of the park, but if she ran – which she planned to do – she could be home in five minutes. She didn’t fancy waiting while he came. There was a cold breeze and her hair was damp. She zipped her tracksuit up to the neck.

Besides, if he came to get her he’d make such a big deal about how a) she knew she should have phoned for a lift and b) he’d had to make sure he hadn’t had a drink in case she phoned.

“But I told you I wouldn’t need a lift,” she’d say.

“You can never be sure, Cat,” her mother would say, taking his side, as usual. “It’s always better to be safe.”

But what could happen here? In the middle of Edinburgh, at nine thirty in the evening, with people near by? And streetlights.

She could outrun any attacker anyway, she reckoned. You didn’t train every day, several hours at weekends, get selected for the Scottish Schools Athletics Association Under 16 team and win two medals at the last international competition, just to be outrun by some skinny creep who wanted your mobile phone. She could probably outrun most adults too, she thought. Adults were mostly unfit.

Her dad had been in the Territorial Army ages ago, before she was born; had been called up as a doctor in the first Gulf War and gone to Iraq: though he rarely talked about it and Cat found it hard to imagine him leaping off things on ropes or climbing over assault courses with branches sticking out of his helmet. If she was honest, she felt faintly ashamed that he’d been in the army, so she didn’t think about it much. OK, so it wasn’t the proper army, more a weekend activity for fitness and excitement, and none of them had really expected to fight in a war, he said, but still, it was army, and he was trained to kill. Not very nice. She was quite happy for him not to talk about it.

BOOK: Deathwatch
2.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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