Authors: Deborah Mailer
© Deborah Mailer 2014
Mailer has asserted her rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in 2014 by Endeavour Press Ltd.
The boy crouched behind the stall in the great barn. He knew they were forbidden from being here. His heart beat so loud he was sure the older man would hear it and some how find him. He pressed his back hard against the rough wooden wall, praying it would swallow him up. He could see the girl through a small hole in the wood of the old animal stall. She was lying on the dirt floor whimpering, blood ran from her face and head. Her skin so filthy, you could barely see that she was naked. The older man smiled at her and gently drew his hand over her head and down her long red hair, matted with blood and dirt and straw.
cry, child, it’s time.” His tone was gentle. Almost soothing. He rolled her on to her back, with one knee on her chest. He placed his giant hands around her throat and began to squeeze. The boy gasped, frozen to the spot he pushed harder against the barn wall. Squeezing his eyes closed tight. But he could still hear the gasping, the weak thrashing as the already half dead girl dug her heels into the dirt floor in a futile attempt to escape. Then silence. He could hear nothing, except his own heartbeat and the raspy deep breaths of the older man.
Jess pulled the quilt over her head. She could hear her Dad in the kitchen below. The watery sun seeped through her bedroom curtains, only hinting at spring, still favouring the winter chill.
it was. The disembodied voice that floated up the stairs along with the aroma of bacon. Jess pealed back the quilt. She was exhausted from her night of broken sleep. Images, she could not quite remember disturbed her. Everything slipping away as she woke leaving only a feeling of dread in its wake. She slipped her feet into her oversized cat slippers and plodded down the stairs.
you dressed yet? Here eat this and then move it. I have to leave in ten.” Tom spooned the scrambled eggs and bacon on to Jess’s plate. Jess felt a sense of safety being here with her Dad. A tall man, she had always regarded him as indestructible. But there was a vulnerability about him now since the heart attack. In the cosy warmth of the kitchen, the dreams from the night before were fading.
all right, Dad, I’ll walk today,” Jess said.
sure? There is still a nip in the air. Don’t let the sun fool you, this isn’t Edinburgh, and the hills up here get mighty cold.”
I’ll be fine.” Jess pushed her dark curls behind her shoulders and began to eat. Tom smiled to himself. She was getting more like her mother every day. Tom’s late wife Sarah had a mane of dark curly hair when he met her.
told Gemma I would walk with her.”
right, but straight to school,” Tom said.
will Uncle Matt get back from Singapore?”
was gone for three months; he should be back by now. Why?” Tom was swallowing back the last of his coffee and placing the cup in the sink.
you ask him if I could go up there and go riding, maybe help look after the horses?”
don’t see why not.” Tom looked at Jess; she had a paleness about her this morning. “You’re sure you’re all right?” Jess nodded as she ate her bacon and eggs. “Tell you what, how about you and I have a movie fest tonight?”
?” Jess said with a smile.
, give us a break. It’s total fantasy. Full of vampires and werewolves. I vote for
Dad.” Jess looked up at him. “Yeah, because a warp drive spaceship is far more believable.”
you go for
, I’ll throw in take out.
made popcorn with butter and you’ve got a deal.”
you drive a hard bargain, Jess, but you’re on.” Tom lifted his jacket from the back of the kitchen chair. “I’ll see you tonight, love.” He kissed Jess on the top of her head. “Now remember, straight to school, you know where to reach me or Aunt Lee if you need to.”
know, I know, just go already.”
smiled as he headed out the door and climbed into his police jeep, he knew he had become ridiculously over protective since Olivia. He had moved back here to put the horror of all that behind them. He drove the short distance through the village to the police house.
and Jess lived in the house his late wife had grown up in; Tom had never felt the police house that went with the post was suitable for Jess, and especially now that it looked as though he was going to be retired from the force since having a heart attack. It was a relief to know they still had a home. The only thing he had to do now was an orientation period with the new constable, Danny, to help him settle in. Danny would, of course, be staying at the police house in the back of the station. Tom, opened up the station. Switching on the lights and heating. Checking his answer machine and fax. As usual, there was nothing. The crime rate here was low, with a population of only 700 it was difficult to get away with anything.
switched on the kettle. He had been here a year and had never got round to buying a percolator. He hated instant coffee. The bell over the door at the front of the station rang. Tom lifted another mug.
is, Sarge. Got the kettle on?”
poured the two coffees as his new constable walked through to the back of the station house to meet him.
are you counting the days, Sarge.”
not official yet, Danny, I have to wait till all the medical reports come back etcetera.”
but you know it’s pretty much in the bag. The DI has all but said as much.”
you think you will be able to manage this place without me?” Tom asked.
laughed. He knew the biggest problems in Coppersfield were on a Friday night when the hotel bar closed.
I think I can cope. Anyway, Tom, it’s not as though you’ll be far away if I do get in to any trouble.”
sat in the armchair by the fire and winced at the bitter taste of his coffee. “Well you know you can always call me, Jess and I aren’t going anywhere. You know, Danny, You never did tell me who you pissed off to get this post.”
I must have been bad. No, I was born in Arrochar, so I know the area. They must have thought I would be the easiest one to fit in at short notice. Why were you landed up here? They don’t normally have a detective sergeant manning a post in the back of beyond?”
they don’t, I grew up here. This is where I met Sara, my late wife. I requested the move to help Jess. She needed to get away from Edinburgh. Too many memories there, after Olivia disappeared and all the crap that went with it we both felt a new start would do us the world of good.”
I see that worked well; was the heart attack part of the plan?”
looked over his mug at the young officer. “Yeah, you’re cocky now, lad, but give it another twenty years and you might find yourself on the other end of that joke.”
laughed. He enjoyed working with Tom. He knew he would miss him around the station house. “Well, my brother’s coming up at the weekend to help me move my stuff in here, will that be all right for you?”
Danny. I don’t have much here anyway, I never really moved in. I always stayed up at the farm for Jess.”
I ask you, Sarge, what are you thinking of doing with your time when you finish up here?” Danny sounded more serious now.
thought for a moment. “I’ve got lots to keep me busy, why.”
took another drink of his coffee and looked silently at Tom. He put his cup down and walked over and retrieved a file from his desk drawer, he handed it to Tom. Tom opened the file. A picture of an attractive young girl with sparkling blue eyes and blonde hair stared back at him. Her name printed on a missing person sheet below her picture.
Harrison? Why does that sound so familiar?”
was originally from Coppersfield, Sarge. She went missing from Aberdeen in 1978, she was about to start her nurse’s training.”
rubbed his hand over his chin as he tried to remember her. “Wait a minute, I do know her. She was a couple of years above me at school. I was about 14 when she disappeared. Word at the time was she had gone off after a fight with her boyfriend. Are you saying she has never been found?” Danny nodded. “If memory serves me, she lived on Church Street just across from here.”
right, Sarge; her parents are still in the same house.”
looked up. “Why are you showing me this, Danny?”
was looking through some cold cases on the data base your mate set up for the 'new improved force’ this one caught my eye because she lived here. When I went to check into it our chief inspector informed me that if we had no new information then I was just wasting police time and resources.”
creased his brow, not fully understanding why Danny would be warned off any case. “But the whole point of the new system that Matt set up was to allow officers in remote areas access to all cases, what did he mean, a waste of time?”
was no evidence of foul play Sarge.”
flicked through the file. “My arse, I tell you what there is evidence of, shoddy police work.”
the thing, Sarge, I can’t touch it, but if you find you’ve got some time on your hands, maybe you could look into some cold cases. And I can always help you out with any records you might need.” Danny gave Tom a wide grin.
considered the thought of making his last few weeks here a little more interesting.
, he thought.
it or not, he would have to look into the Angela Harrison case, he could not let this one go, that just was not in his nature.
The lunchtime bell echoed round the high school. Jess packed her Physics books into her bag and headed for the canteen. She didn’t need to rush; she knew Gemma would keep a place for her. Gemma was always first in line for food. Jess heard her name being called; the tall willowy girl had indeed kept her a space. Jess lifted her tray and followed the line while Gemma prattled on about some guy in Maths. After piling burger and chips on to her tray, Gemma grabbed a table and gestured for Jess to hurry.
from Edinburgh, so he thinks he knows everything.”
is?” Jess is only just tuning into the conversation.
From Maths. God, Jess, do you listen to any thing I say.”
Gem, go on.” Jess picked at her baked potato, pretending to be interested.
he was banging on about knowing you from the papers, and …”
could feel that familiar tightening in her stomach as the hair on the back of her neck rose.
did he say?” she asked.
he didn’t get to say much, he said that your Dad was investigated about the disappearance of one of your friends and you were being interviewed by the
. Then I thought, that is just enough. The last thing you want is every one here knowing your business. So I decked him.”
gasped in surprise. “You did what?”
decked him, it’s Mrs Mitchell's class, she doesn’t care.” Gemma took a bite of her burger and poured some Tomato sauce on to her chips.
but he won’t be talking about you any more.”
could feel warm tears well up in her eyes, partly of relief, but part for Gemma’s loyalty. This clumsy footless girl was a better friend than Jess deserved. Jess realised that she had to stop comparing everyone to Olivia. Jess reached her hand across the table and touched Gemma’s forearm.
don’t deserve a friend like you, Gemma, thank you,” she said.
you have to do something really bad to deserve a friend like me.” Gemma laughed.
a moment, it crossed Jess’s mind that she could maybe tell Gemma her secret. But as the table next to them filled with people and the noise in the canteen rose, the moment was gone.
you here, Tom?”
Lee, come on through.” Tom rose from his desk to greet her. She was so different from his wife he often forgot they were sisters. His late wife had been a psychologist and a teacher, Lee, on the other hand was a free spirit,
type. She had however been a godsend to him since he moved back here. She was a female influence in Jess’s life. Tom had never felt she needed this before, for five years he and Jess had muddled on without her mother but after they lost Olivia things changed.
come bearing gifts.” The smell of freshly ground coffee wafted through the doorway ahead of Lee.
now, that doesn’t smell like instant.” Tom reached out a hand to take the paper cup from her.
I said, bearing gifts, Tom. I just called in to see if you needed me to pick up Jess, or make dinner tonight?”