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Authors: Andy Mulligan

Return to Ribblestrop

BOOK: Return to Ribblestrop
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Also by Andy Mulligan

RIBBLESTROP

TRASH

First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd, a CBS company.

Text copyright © 2011 Andy Mulligan
Map copyright © 2009 Andrea Kearney

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.

The right of Andy Mulligan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act,
1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1
st
Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN: 978-1-84738-812-4
eBook ISBN: 978-0-85707-666-3

Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Cox & Wyman, Reading RG1 8EX

www.simonandschuster.co.uk

www.andymulliganbooks.com

For 11AC

CONTENTS

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Chapter Forty-three

Chapter Forty-four

Chapter Forty-five

Chapter Forty-six

Chapter Forty-seven

Chapter Forty-eight

Chapter Forty-nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-one

Chapter Fifty-two

Chapter Fifty-three

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Chapter One

Rules about hitch-hiking, when you’re a child: rule number one – don’t hitch-hike; rule number two – don’t hitch-hike on your own; rules three,
four etc – if you
have
to hitch-hike alone, tell people where you’re going, start early, take a phone, keep the door unlocked, and don’t ever ever
ever
find yourself
penniless, on the side of a deserted road, in some wilderness you’ve never been before, without a map, just as it’s getting dark.

Millie had broken all the rules.

She was on her way to school. She’d spent her train fare on unbeatable bargains in a duty-free shop, and now she was stuck. Her plane had got in early, but getting out of Heathrow had
taken hours; she’d finally been picked up by a milk lorry which took her close to Stonehenge. She’d had no lunch, so she smoked several cigarettes. Light-headed, she got into the car of
a farmer with an accent so thick she could barely understand him. He had a sheepdog on the back seat and, in a short while, they were off the road bumping over farm tracks. They had to pull over
once for a convoy of army tanks, and there was the distant sound of gunfire left and right. The farmer chuckled while his dog yapped, and after some time they came to a little bus stop and Millie
clambered out with relief. The farmer drove off into a field, leaving her to study a weathered timetable. It was the sort of stop that might see one bus a week.

Amazingly, however, a bus did struggle into view within ten minutes. No passengers, just a toothless driver who accepted a box of cigarettes instead of Millie’s fare, nodding and grinning.
This got her to a main road and she stood on the kerb wondering which way was west. It was very cold and the streetlamps were coming on; there was sleet in a spiteful wind. Millie was now
frightened.

‘You bring this on yourself,’ she said, aloud.

She thought of her friend Sanchez back on the ranch in Colombia. He would shake his head and say, ‘Millie, you’re crazy.’

‘This
is
crazy,’ said Millie.

She had slept rough once before, after someone’s party, and it had been a night of shivering in a shed. She dreaded the thought of sitting through a long, freezing night – she
wondered if she would survive it. She drew her gold-striped blazer tighter around her. It was good quality wool, at least, so there was some warmth to it. Her hands, however, were freezing:
particularly the left thumb, which was extended hopefully at the speeding traffic.

Darkness fell.

Millie was virtually invisible until a vehicle’s headlights hit her, and no driver was going to see her in time to stop. The sleet became rain and her blazer soaked it up. It ran down her
legs into her shoes and Millie began to realise just how vulnerable she was. She decided to walk on, but just as she did so, a white van shot past, buffeting her in its slipstream. It braked hard,
hooting and squealing, and somehow veered left into the lay-by. It hooted again, long and hard, and Millie ran through mud to the passenger door. Peering in, she could see it was crowded with young
men; she could hear thumping music and laughter, and she caught a whiff of beer.

A window came down halfway.

‘Where you goin’?’ said a boy. It was a builders’ van, and the men were in paint-spattered overalls.

‘Ribblestrop,’ said Millie. ‘It’s the other side of Taunton, but if you’re—’

‘Ribblestrop? Hey!’

‘She’s goin’ to Ribblestrop!’

‘That’s where we’re goin’, my beauty!’ The van revved loudly. ‘An’ we’ll get there before you! Yahhhhh!’

The driver accelerated fast into the rain and the passengers’ laughter spun away down the road.

Millie swore quietly. She was trembling now and she started to walk, just to keep warm. The mud turned into soaking grass and her shoes were soon saturated. It was hard to keep upright. She
decided she must find a village. Someone would take pity on her, as they did in those sentimental films where a waif gets taken in by some kindly childless couple, to be given soup by the fire. A
large lorry thundered by and Millie nearly fell in its slipstream.

The rain turned into a pelting downpour.

‘Oh, why do you take unnecessary risks?’ shouted Millie at herself. ‘Why put yourself through this, if – in the end – you’re just a scared little, weak
little, stupid, useless little girl who’s afraid of the dark?’

She came round a bend. There was a stationary car ahead, with two wheels up on the verge. Millie hadn’t seen it stop, but it couldn’t have been there long. The traffic was braking to
get round it – a car hooted angrily; it was a bad place to stop, especially in this rain.

Millie ran towards it. As she ran, the car shunted forward – it was trying to get off the road completely, up onto the grass. It was a small family car, and she could make out a driver and
a passenger. She got to the passenger’s window, and stared in, trying to look lost and forlorn. The occupants didn’t notice her; they were deep in conversation.

Millie tapped on the glass. Still they didn’t look up – they were engrossed in a map and appeared to be arguing.

She tapped again, louder, and frightened eyes turned to meet Millie’s. The glass came down a few centimetres.

‘I’m sorry to bother you,’ said Millie. ‘I’m stuck – I need help.’

‘Pardon me?’

It was the passenger who spoke. He had a soft, Irish brogue.

‘I said, I’m stuck,’ replied Millie. ‘I missed my bus. Could you give me a lift to the next town?’

‘Open the window!’ said the driver. His voice was louder than the passenger’s. It was broad Irish again, but fierce and bad-tempered. ‘Get the blessed thing down, Doonan,
and ask him the way!’ He was leaning across his passenger, peering up at her. Millie saw that he wore a dog-collar. She closed her eyes briefly and rejoiced.

‘We’re trying to get to Taunton,’ called the driver. ‘We missed our road and Doonan’s led us way off the beaten track. We’re both new to this,
and—’

‘I think we left the A30 by mistake,’ said Doonan. ‘There were some roadworks—’

‘I know the way to Taunton!’ lied Millie. ‘Could you give me a lift?’

‘Oh no, we don’t pick up hitch-hikers,’ said the driver. ‘There’s no reason for hitch-hiking, not with all the trains and buses. If you give a lift to one hiker,
then suddenly it’s every one and his mother saving their bus-fares and taking advantage.’

‘I’m so cold,’ said Millie. ‘The bus didn’t come and I’m stranded.’

A car behind hooted loudly.

‘Oh, for the love of God, Doonan, we’re still in the way!’

‘We
could
take her to the next town, Father,’ said Doonan. ‘It’s a wild night for a young girl to be out on her own.’

The driver leaned forward as far as he could and stared harder at Millie. He had a lobster-red face under a bald, flaking cranium. The nose was big and hooked, and the eyebrows were thick white,
over tiny black eyes. A huge truck revved behind them and sounded its horn, long and ferocious. The noise was like a gale and the car rocked from side to side.

‘Very well, get in,’ said the driver. ‘Hurry, now!’

Both men struggled to open the back door. There were suitcases over the seat, but Millie was inside in seconds, shoving her own bag in hard. ‘We’ll get you to the next town, but
I’m not sure . . . Oh, look at this mad fool, Doonan! Alright, alright!’

BOOK: Return to Ribblestrop
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