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Authors: Mo Hayder

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General

Hanging Hill

BOOK: Hanging Hill
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About the Book

What if you found yourself divorced and penniless? With no skills and a teenage daughter to support? What if the only way to survive was to do things you never thought possible?

These are questions Sally has never really thought about before. Married to a successful businessman, she’s always been a bit of a dreamer. Until now.

Her sister Zoe is her polar opposite. A detective inspector working out of Bath Central, she loves her job, and oozes self-confidence. No one would guess that she hides a crippling secret that dates back twenty years, and which – if exposed – may destroy her.

Then Sally’s daughter gets into difficulties, and Sally finds she needs cash – lots of it – fast. With no one to help her, she is forced into a criminal world of extreme pornography and illegal drugs; a world in which teenage girls can go missing.

Two sisters intent on survival. Until one does something so terrifying that there’s no way back …

Contents

Cover

About the Book

Title Page

Prologue

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Part Two

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Part Three

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Also by Mo Hayder

Copyright

HANGING
HILL

MO HAYDER

The funeral was held in an Anglican church on a hill just outside the ancient spa town of Bath. Over a thousand years old, the church was no bigger than a chapel, and its driveway was too small for the reporters and photographers who jostled each other for a good vantage-point. It was a warm day, the smells of grass and honeysuckle drifting across the graveyard as the mourners arrived. Some deer, which were used to coming here in the afternoons to nibble moss from the gravestones, were startled by the activity. They bounded away, leaping the low stone walls and disappearing into the surrounding forests.

As people filed into the church two women stayed outside, sitting motionless on a bench under a white buddleia. Butterflies swatted and flitted around the blooms over their heads but the women didn’t raise their eyes to look. They were united in their silence – in their numbness and disbelief at the string of events that had led them to this place. Sally and Zoë Benedict. Sisters, though no one would know it to look at them. The tall, rangy one was Zoë, the elder by a year; her sister Sally, much smaller and more contained, still had the round, uncluttered face of a child. She sat looking down at her small hands and the tissue she’d been kneading and tearing into shreds.

‘It’s harder than I expected,’ she said. ‘I mean – I don’t know if I can go in. I thought I could, but now I’m not so sure.’

‘Me neither,’ Zoë murmured. ‘Me neither.’

They sat for a while in silence. One or two people came up the steps – people they didn’t recognize. Then some of Millie’s friends: Peter and Nial. Awkward-looking in their formal suits, their formal expressions.

‘His sister’s here,’ Zoë said, after a while. ‘I spoke to her on the steps.’

‘His sister? I didn’t know he had one.’

‘He does.’

‘Strange to think he’d have a family. What does she look like?’

‘Nothing like him, thank God. But she’s asked if she can speak to you.’

‘What does she want?’

Zoë shrugged. ‘To apologize, I suppose.’

‘What did you say?’

‘What do you think I said? No. Of course the answer’s no. She’s gone inside.’ She glanced over her shoulder at the doors to the church. The vicar was standing there, talking in a quiet voice to Steve Finder, Sally’s new boyfriend. He was a good man, Zoë thought, the sort who could hold Sally together without ever suffocating her. She needed someone like that. He glanced up, caught Zoë looking at him and nodded. He held up his wrist, tapping his watch to indicate it was time. The vicar put his hands on the doors, ready to draw them closed. Zoë got to her feet. ‘Come on. We may as well get it over with.’

Sally didn’t move. ‘I need to ask you something, Zoë. About what happened.’

Zoë hesitated. This wasn’t the right time to be talking about it. They couldn’t change the past by discussing it. But she sat down again. ‘OK.’

‘It’s going to sound strange.’ Sally turned the bits of tissue over and over in her hands. ‘But do you think, looking back … do you think you could have seen it coming?’

‘Oh, Sally – no. No, I don’t. Being a cop doesn’t make you a psychic. Whatever the public wish.’

‘I just wondered. Because …’

‘Because what?’

‘Because looking back I think
I
could have seen it. I think I got a warning about it. I know that sounds nuts, but I think I did. A warning. Or a premonition. Or some kind of foresight, whatever you call it.’

‘No, Sally. That’s crazy.’

‘I know – and at the time that’s what I thought. I thought it was stupid. But now I can’t help thinking that if I’d been paying attention, if I’d foreseen all of this …’ she opened her hands to indicate the church, the hearse pulled up at the bottom of the steps, the outside-broadcast units and the photographers ‘… I could have stopped it.’

Zoë thought about this for a while. There had been a time, not so long ago, when she’d have laughed at a statement like that. But now she wasn’t so sure. The world was a strange place. She glanced up at Steve and the vicar, then back at her sister. ‘You never told me about a “warning”. What sort of warning? When did it happen?’

‘When?’ Sally shook her head. ‘I’m not completely sure. But I think it was the day the business with Lorne Wood started.’

Part One

1

It had been a spring afternoon in early May, the time of year when the evenings were lengthening, and the primulas and tulips under the trees had long frayed and gone blowsy. The signs of warmer weather had made everyone optimistic, and for the first time in months Sally had come to Isabelle’s for lunch. The sun was still high in the sky and their teenage children were out in the garden, while the two women opened a bottle of wine and stayed in the kitchen. The windows were open, the gingham curtains fluttering lightly in the breeze, and from her place at the table Sally watched the teenagers. They’d known each other since nursery, but it wasn’t until the last twelve months or so that Millie had shown any interest in coming up here to Isabelle’s house. Now, however, they were a gang – a proper little group – two girls, two boys, two years apart in age, but at the same private school, Kingsmead. Sophie, Isabelle’s youngest at fifteen, was doing handstands in the garden, her dark ringlets bouncing all over the place. Millie, the same age, but a head shorter, was holding her legs up. The girls were dressed in similar jeans and halter-necks, though Millie’s clothes were faded and threadbare in comparison to Sophie’s.

‘I’ll have to do something about that,’ Sally said ruminatively. ‘Her school uniform is falling to pieces too. I went to Matron to see if I could get a second-hand one, but she didn’t have any left in Millie’s size. Seems all the parents at Kingsmead want second-hand now.’

‘That’s a sign of the times,’ said Isabelle. She was making treacle tart – weighting the pastry base with the handful of marbles she kept in a jar on top of the fridge. The butter and golden syrup were bubbling in the pan, filling the kitchen with a heavy, nutty smell. ‘I’ve always passed on Sophie’s things to Matron.’ She dropped the marbles and pushed the pie dish into the oven. ‘But from now on I’ll save them for Millie. Sophie’s a size up from her.’

She wiped her floury hands on her apron and stood for a moment, studying her friend. Sally knew what she was thinking – that Sally’s face was pale and lined, that her hair wasn’t clean. She was probably seeing the pink HomeMaids cleaning-agency tabard she wore over her faded jeans and floral top and feeling pity. Sally didn’t mind. She was slowly, after all this time, beginning to get used to pity. It was the divorce, of course. The divorce and Julian’s new wife and baby.

‘I wish I could do something more to help.’

‘You do help, Isabelle.’ She smiled. ‘You still talk to me. Which is more than some of the other mums at Kingsmead do.’

‘Is it that bad? Still?’

Worse, she thought. But she smiled. ‘It’ll be fine.’

‘Really?’

‘Really. I mean – I’ve spoken to the bank manager and I’ve moved all my loans around so I’m not paying so much interest. And I’m getting more hours with the agency now.’

‘I don’t know how you do it, working like you do.’

Sally shrugged. ‘Other people do it.’

‘Yes, but other people are used to it.’

She watched Isabelle go to the hob and stir the treacle. There were bags of flour and oats opened on the side. Every article bore names like ‘Waitrose’, or ‘Finest’ or ‘Goodies Delicatessen’. At Sally and Millie’s cottage all the packets had ‘Value’ or ‘Lidl’ written on them and the freezer was full of the feeble, stringy vegetables she’d struggled to grow in the back garden – that was a money lesson Sally had learned in a hurry: vegetable-growing was for the idle rich. It was far cheaper to buy them in the supermarket. Now she nibbled her thumbnail and watched Isabelle moving around the kitchen – her familiar, sturdy back in the sensible mud-coloured shorts and blouse. Her apron with the flower sprigs on it. They’d been friends for years, and she was the person Sally most trusted, the first person she’d go to for advice. Even so, she felt a little shy of talking about what was on her mind.

Eventually, though, she went to her bag and pulled out a blue folder. It was shabby and only held together with an elastic band. She carried it to the table, set it down next to the wine glasses, pulled off the band and emptied out the contents. Hand-painted cards, embellished with beads, ribbons and feathers, all sealed down with varnish. She placed them on the table and sat there uncertainly, half ready to snatch them up and shovel them back into the bag.

‘Sally?’ Isabelle lifted the pan off the heat and, still stirring, came over to look. ‘You didn’t do these, did you?’ She peered at the top one. It showed a woman wearing a violet shawl, sprinkled with stars, that she had pulled across her face so only her eyes were showing. ‘God – they’re beautiful. What are they?’

‘Tarot cards.’

‘Tarot? You’re not going all Glastonbury on us, are you? Going to tell us all our futures?’

‘Of course not.’

Isabelle put down the pot and picked up the second card. It showed a tall woman holding a large, transparent star at arm’s length. She seemed to be gazing through it at the clouds and the sun. Her tangly dark hair, flecked with grey, hung long down her back. Isabelle gave a small, embarrassed smile. ‘That’s not me, is it?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh, honestly, Sally – you’re a bit too flattering with the cleavage, if you don’t mind.’

‘If you look through them all you’ll see lots of faces you know.’

Isabelle shuffled through the paintings, stopping from time to time when she recognized someone. ‘Sophie! And Millie too. You’ve painted us all – the kids too. They are
beautiful
.’

‘I was wondering,’ Sally said tentatively, ‘if I might be able to sell them. Maybe to that hippie shop in Northumberland Place. What do you think?’

Isabelle turned and gave her an odd look. Half puzzled, half amused, as if she wasn’t quite sure whether Sally was joking or not.

Instantly Sally knew she’d made a mistake and began hastily pulling the cards together, a blush of embarrassment racing up her neck. ‘No – I mean, of course they’re not good enough. I knew they weren’t.’

‘No. Don’t put them away. They’re great. Really great. It’s just that … Do you really think you’d get enough from them to help you with the – you know … the debts?’

Sally stared down at the cards. Her face was burning. She shouldn’t have said anything. Isabelle was right – she’d make hardly anything from selling the cards. Certainly not enough to make a dent in her debt. She was stupid. So stupid.

‘But not because they aren’t good, Sally. They’re brilliant! Honestly, they’re great. Look at this!’ Isabelle held up a painting of Millie. Little crazy Millie, always smaller than the others and surely not a product of Sally, with the choppy fringe and mad, shaggy red hair, like a little Nepalese street child. Her eyes as wild and wide as an animal’s – just like her aunt Zoë’s. ‘It’s just great. It really looks like her. And this one of Sophie – it’s lovely. Lovely! And Nial, and Peter!’ Nial was Isabelle’s shy son, her older child, Peter Cyrus his good-looking friend – the hell-raiser and the favourite of all the girls. ‘And Lorne – look at her – and another of Millie. And another of Sophie, and me again. And—’ She stopped suddenly, looking down at one card. ‘Oh,’ she said, with a shiver. ‘Oh.’

‘What?’

‘I don’t know. Something’s wrong with the paint on this one.’

Sally pulled it towards her. It was the Princess of Wands – pictured in a swirling red dress, struggling to hold back a tiger that strained on a leash. Millie had been the model for this one too, except that something had happened to her face on this card. Sally ran a finger over it, pressed it. Maybe the acrylic had cracked, or somehow faded, because although the body and clothing and background were as she’d painted them, the face was blurred. Like a painting by Francis Bacon, or Lucian Freud. One of those terrifying images that seemed to see beyond the skin of the subject right through into their flesh.

‘Yuk,’ said Isabelle. ‘Yuk. I’m glad I don’t believe in this stuff. Otherwise I’d be really worried now. Like it’s a warning or something.’

Sally didn’t answer. She was staring at the face. It was as if a hand had been there and stirred Millie’s features.

‘Sally? You don’t believe in stuff like that, do you?’

Sally pushed the card into the bottom of the pile. She looked up and blinked. ‘Of course not. Don’t be silly.’

Isabelle scraped the chair back and carried the pot to the hob. Sally pulled the cards into an untidy pile, shoved them into her bag and took a hurried sip of wine. She’d have liked to drink it all at once, to loosen the uneasy knot that had just tied itself in her stomach. She’d have liked to get a little squiffy, then sit out in the sun on deckchairs with Isabelle the way they used to – back when she still had a husband and the time to do what she wanted. She hadn’t realized how lucky she was back then. Now she couldn’t drink in the sun, even on a Sunday. She couldn’t afford the good sort of wine Isabelle drank. And when lunch was finished here, instead of the garden she was going to work. Maybe, she thought, rubbing the back of her neck wearily, it was just what she deserved.

‘Mum?
Mum!

Both women turned. Millie stood in the doorway, red-faced and out of breath. Her jeans were covered with grass stains, and her phone was held up to face them both.

‘Millie?’ Sally straightened. ‘What is it?’

‘Can we switch on your computer, Mrs Sweetman? They’re all tweeting about it. It’s Lorne. She’s gone missing.’

BOOK: Hanging Hill
8.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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