My Name Is Lydia (Jack Nightingale short story)

BOOK: My Name Is Lydia (Jack Nightingale short story)
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MY NAME IS LYDIA

By Stephen Leather

***

 
 

Jack Nightingale
appears in the full-length novels Nightfall, Midnight, Nightmare, Nightshade
and Lastnight. He has his own website at
www.jacknightingale.com
  
The
Jack
Nightingale time line is complex, this story is probably set between Midnight
and Nightmare.

 
 

She woke up exactly at
two a.m. It was always easy to take control while the bitch slept, though in
time she would be able to overcome all resistance no matter what the time.
Enough moonlight filtered through the thin curtains to allow her to inspect the
naked body. The budding breasts were developing nicely, and she cupped each one
in turn, feeling the nipples harden. She ran her fingers between the legs,
lingering long enough to feel the moisture start to flow. This body would be so
much more fun, now that the transition to womanhood had begun. Still, time
enough for that later, once she’d started on the process of subjugation. And
spread a little more unhappiness. She took a slow, deep breath, enjoying the
feel of the warm night air entering and leaving her lungs. It was good to be
alive.

She sat up and
stretched. She found the packet of cigarettes in the top drawer of the bedside
table, placed one between her lips and lit it with a plastic lighter. It had
been easy enough to persuade one of the Year Ten boys at school to buy them for
her, especially with the suggestion of a little reward to come. She inhaled
deeply and blew a smoke ring up towards the ceiling. The parents might smell
the smoke, but that would be the least of their worries. She smiled at the
thought of what was to come. She was going to have such fun.

She crushed the last
of the cigarette out on the top of the
clock-radio
,
which read 2.08. She swung her feet onto the floor and stood up, a little
unsteadily at first because being in control still took some getting used to.
She took a long look at the body in the mirrored door of the wardrobe. Yes, it
would do. It would certainly do, and it held the promise of much more to come.

The room was warm, the
window open to the August night air, and she ignored the dressing gown hanging
behind the door. She turned the knob and walked out onto the landing, past the
door of the parents’ bedroom and on into the bathroom. She closed the door
behind her before turning on the light,
then
opened
the medicine cabinet over the basin. What she needed was on the top shelf, and
the eleven-year-old body wouldn’t stretch that far, so she pulled over the
wicker towel box and stood on it. She pushed aside the mother’s sleeping pills
and Prozac to ensure they wouldn’t fall as she reached for the father’s
Gillette Fusion razor and the box of spare blade cartridges. She stepped down
from the box and pushed it back to its usual place by the wall.

She slipped off her
nightdress and sat on the edge of the bath as she loaded one of the cartridges
into the razor, just as she’d seen the father do many times before, as she’d
watched through the bitch’s eyes. She carefully ran the blade across the left
wrist, pressing just hard enough to open three shallow cuts that ran the whole
width of the arm. There was hardly any pain at all. Blood started to seep out,
and she transferred the razor to the left hand and repeated the procedure on
the right wrist. As the blood started to cover the wrists, she wiped them
across the breasts and stomach, leaving ragged red trails.

She climbed into the
bath, leaned forward to put the plug into its hole, placed the lever of the
mixer tap into the middle position, then lifted it to start the flow of water
into the bath. She lay down in the deepening water and
watched
as it slowly turned red and waited. She didn’t think it would take long before
they heard and the fun would begin.

She was right. Inside
two minutes, she heard the sound of the parents’ door opening and the pad of
slippers along the landing. The
door knob
rattled as the
father spoke. “Christine? Are you all right in there, sweetheart?”

She said nothing, just
continued to watch as the reddening water crept slowly around the body.

“Christine? What are
you doing in there? What’s the matter?”

She heard another set
of feet as the mother joined him, and her voice rang out. “Christine? Open the
door, darling. Please.”

The water was covering
the stomach now. The head rested against the back of the bath, still well clear
of danger. She heard the whispered conversation outside the door, though she
couldn’t make out the words. Finally the father spoke again. “Christine, you
need to come out now, or we’ll have to come in. Please, darling. You’re
worrying us. Please open the door.”

Still she waited, and
then she smiled as the doorknob turned. She heard the impact of a shoulder
against the door. The door itself was strong, but the tiny bolt was held in by
shallow screws and burst away from the frame as fifteen stone of the father’s
full weight smashed against it. The parents tumbled into the room, stopping in
horror when they saw the small figure in the bath.

“Christine,” screamed
the mother. “Oh my God, Christine.”

She raised the head a
little further out of the water and stared malevolently at the two adults, her
eyes flashing contempt. The voice was harsh, deep and angry “Don’t you fucking
dare to call me that. My name is Lydia.”

 

* * *

 

Jack Nightingale knew
that it was illegal to smoke in a place of business. On the other hand, with a
complete absence of cases for the last two weeks, he was beginning to doubt
whether his office fitted that description any longer. He decided to open the
window before lighting up a Marlboro, which he figured probably let in fumes
far more harmful than his cigarette produced. He sat down at his computer and
continued checking his emails, most of which seemed to be offering him dates
with Russian women and Chinese Viagra pills to make his relations with them
last longer. No sign of anything that would top up his bank account. In fact he
was starting to wonder why he’d bothered to show up at the office at all today,
when the door swung open and Jenny walked in.

Nightingale just had
time to notice her dark blue blazer and light blue jeans before she pointed an
accusing finger at him. “Seriously? You promised not to smoke in the office
anymore.”

“Well, to be fair, I
think what I actually said was that I wouldn’t let you see me smoke here
anymore.”

“That wasn’t what you
said. You promised.”

“I had my fingers
crossed. This is the last one for the day.
In here anyway.
Now sit down and I’ll make you a coffee.”

“Coffee isn’t actually
an infallible way to get round me, you know.”

Nightingale raised an
eyebrow. “So, you don’t want one?”

“Well…yes.”

Nightingale crushed
out his cigarette and did the necessary with the coffee maker. By the time he
handed Jenny her cup she was sitting at her desk with her computer fired up,
checking invoices and payments. Not many of either recently. She sipped her
coffee and looked up at him.

“Jack, I need a
favour.”

“Ask and ye shall receive,”
he said. “Unless you need a loan in which case you’re out of luck. My bank
balance is under some strain at the moment.”

“No, it’s not money. I
just want you to see a friend of mine, well, more a friend of my mother’s
really. He’s in a bit of a quandary apparently, and he says it sounds like your
sort of thing. I sort of gathered it’s to do with another friend of mother’s
but…”

“Hold on a minute,”
said Nightingale. “You’re losing me already. Why don’t you start from the
beginning and take it slowly.”

She sipped her coffee.
“Well, I’m not sure I can really, he didn’t tell me all that much about it. It
would be easier if you talked to Maurice yourself. That’s his name, Maurice
Mahoney.”

“So it’s a case?”

“Not really, he just
needs some advice. Pro bono.”

“You know I hate that
band, Jenny.”

“You make the same U2
joke every time I mention Pro Bono.”

“I have a limited
repertoire,” he admitted. “Bit like U2. Sure, bring him in. It’s not as if I’m
worked off my feet at the moment.”

Jenny smiled. “He’ll
be here in twenty minutes. I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

“You sneaky madam.
Gives you just enough time to nip over to Starbucks and get the muffins in. One
for your mate too if he’s the muffin type.”

 

* * *

 

Nightingale’s
detective skills hadn’t been given much exercise in recent weeks, but they were
still up to the task of deducing that Maurice Mahoney was a Catholic priest.
The long black cassock and dog collar were a dead giveaway. Mahoney looked to
be in his mid-fifties, the brown in his hair losing the war to the grey. He was
quite a big man still in pretty good shape. Nightingale waved him to a
chair.
 
“Sit down, please, Father.”

Nightingale didn’t
miss the quick glance the priest gave to the packet of Marlboro and the ashtray
on the desk as he sat down. A lot of Catholic priests seemed to smoke and
drink. Nightingale wondered if that was because it helped make up for the vow
of chastity thing. “You a smoker, Father Mahoney?” he asked, though the
nicotine stains on the fingers of his right hand were a dead giveaway.

“When I can find a
place where it’s still legal. We even have to put up ‘No Smoking’ notices in
the church now.”

“Well, I’ve got one of
those notices too, but I’m the boss so I think I have some leeway.”
 
He pushed the packet and lighter across
the desk despite the angry look from Jenny.

“I won’t say no,” said
Mahoney. “My nerves need a little soothing at the moment.” The priest lit a
Marlboro, blew smoke at the ceiling, and sighed. “Jenny’s talked about you a
little, so I know I can rely on your discretion. This has to stay between us,
Jack. This concerns a friend of hers, or at least her parents, and it couldn’t
be more personal. My friend’s name is Susan Warren.”

Nightingale nodded,
though the name meant nothing to him. He had met Jenny’s parents but only knew
a few of their friends.

The priest continued.
“She’s quite a prominent solicitor, works for a firm in London, though she
lives in Twickenham. I met her at one of Jenny’s parents’ dinner parties.”

“Married?” asked
Nightingale.

“Oh, yes. Matthew’s a
doctor.
Very nice chap. Devoted to each other.
And to their daughter, Christine.
She’s eleven now. And that
seems to be where the problem lies.”

He flicked ash into
the one ashtray on Nightingale’s desk. “It seems that Christine has been
displaying some …rather…unfortunate behaviour lately.”

“Teenagers can be
difficult, I’m told.”

“Yes, I’ve been told
that too. But this seems to go a little further than sullenness and defiance.
If the Warrens are to be believed, it seems that Christine has developed a complete
alternate personality, and an extremely dangerous and unpleasant one at that.”

“For example?”

“For example, she’s
started to associate with much older boys, to smoke, swear and abuse her
parents, she damaged her father’s car and the most recent incident involved her
cutting her own wrists.”

“A suicide attempt?”

“Not a serious one,
apparently.
More a gesture.
As her mother puts it, her
new personality seems determined to make their lives a misery.”

“So she’s changed
completely?”

“No, that’s the strange
thing. Most of the time she’s her normal self, a lovely girl. The new and nasty
persona only takes over occasionally. When it does, she even refuses to answer
to her own name. Insists on being called Lydia.”

“So what has all this
got to do with me?” asked Nightingale. “Or, come to that, with you? Sounds like
a job for a child psychologist, rather than a priest and a private detective.”

Father Mahoney closed
his eyes and shook his head. He opened his eyes after a few seconds and took a
long pull on his cigarette. “The parents sent her to a psychiatrist but he said
there was nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. He gave her a completely clean
bill of health. That was the day before she cut her wrists.”

“She fooled the
psychiatrist? Is that what you’re suggesting?”

“Or maybe when she
went to see the psychiatrist there wasn’t a problem. The girl the psychiatrist
saw was perfectly
well-adjusted
. But maybe the
psychiatrist didn’t get to see Lydia.”

“I’m not sure I follow
you,” said Nightingale.

“Susan wants me to perform
an exorcism.”

“A what?” said
Nightingale
incredulously.
“You can’t be serious. A
few behavioural problems and the mother
thinks
she’s
possessed by the Devil? What century is she living in?”

The priest gave a wry
smile.

“It’s not quite as
medieval as you might think, Mr Nightingale. You might be surprised to learn
that the Roman Catholic Church introduced a modernised Rite of Exorcism in
1999. There is even an International Association of Exorcists within the Church
which has over two hundred members.”

“Fair enough, but it
still seems pretty drastic for an eleven year old girl’s behaviour problems.”

BOOK: My Name Is Lydia (Jack Nightingale short story)
11.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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